"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."

St Philip Neri

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"A man should keep himself down, and not busy himself in mirabilibus super se."

St Philip Neri

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Venerable Louis of Granada, OP  (1504-1588)

 
 

THE SINNER'S GUIDE

   

By Venerable Louis of Granada, OP

 

Motives for Practising Virtue

 

Ch 6. The Sixth Motive which obliges us to practice Virtue: Gratitude for the Incomprehensible Benefit of Election


To all the benefits which we have just enumerated we must add that of election, or predestination, which belongs to those whom God has chosen from all eternity to be partakers of His glory. The Apostle, in his Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 1:3-5), thus gives thanks, in his own name and that of the elect, for this inestimable benefit: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ; as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight, in charity; who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the purpose of his will." The Royal Prophet thus extols this same benefit: "Blessed is he whom thou hast chosen and taken to thee: he shall dwell in thy courts." (Ps. 64:5).

Election, therefore, may be justly called the grace of graces, since God, in His boundless liberality, bestows it upon us before we have merited it; for, while giving to each one what is necessary for his salvation, He wills, as absolute Master of His gifts, to bestow them in greater abundance upon certain souls, without any injury, however, to others less favored. It is also the grace of graces not only because it is the greatest, but because it is the source of all the others. For in predestining man to glory, God determines to bestow upon him all the graces necessary to attain this happiness. This He has declared by the mouth of His prophet: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee." (Jer. 31:3). This truth is still more clearly expressed by the Apostle: "For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren. And whom he predestinated, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Rom. 8:29-30). A father who destines his son for a special career in life prepares and educates him from his boyhood with a view to this career. In like manner, when God has predestined a soul to eternal happiness, He directs her in the path of justice, that she may attain the end for which He has chosen her.

All, therefore, who recognize in themselves any mark of election should bless God for this great and eternal benefit. Though it is a secret hidden from human eyes, yet there are certain signs of election, as there are of justification; and as the first mark of our justification is the conversion of our lives, so the surest mark of our predestination is our perseverance in the good thus begun. He who has lived for a number of years in the fear of God, carefully avoiding sin, may hope that God, in the words of the Apostle, "will confirm him unto the end without crime, in the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Cor. 1:8).

No man, however, can be certain of his perseverance or election. Did not Solomon, the wisest of kings, after having lived virtuously for many years, fall into iniquity in his old age? Yet his example is one of the exceptions to the rule, which he himself teaches in these words: "It is a proverb: A young man according to his way, even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6); so that if his youth has been virtuous, his old age will likewise be honorable. From these and similar indications to be found in the lives of the saints a man may humbly hope that God has numbered him among the elect, that his name is written in the Book of Life.

How great, then, should be our gratitude for such a benefit! God Himself tells His Apostles, "Rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven." (Lk. 10:20). What, in fact, can be a greater happiness than to have been from all eternity the object of God's love and choice; to have had a privileged place in His Heart throughout the eternal years; to have been chosen as the child of His adoption before the birth of His Son according to nature; and to have been always present to His Divine Mind, clothed in the splendor of the saints!

Weigh all the circumstances of this election, and you will find that each of them is an extraordinary favor, a new motive to love and serve God. Consider first the greatness of Him who has chosen you. It is God Himself, who, being infinitely rich and infinitely happy, had no need of you or any other creature. Next represent to yourself the profound unworthiness of the object of this election a miserable creature exposed to all the infirmities of this life, and deserving by his sins the eternal torments of the future. Reflect, too, how glorious is this election, by which you are raised to the dignity of a child of God and heir to His kingdom. Consider, further, how generously and gratuitously this favor is bestowed. It preceded all merit on our part, and sprang solely from the good pleasure and mercy of God, and according to the Apostle, turns "unto the praise of the glory of his grace." (Eph. 1:6). Now, the more gratuitous a favor is, the greater the obligation it imposes.

The origin and the antiquity of this election also merit special consideration. It did not begin with this world; it preceded the existence of the universe; it was coeval with the very existence of God. From all eternity He loved His elect. They were ever present to Him, and His will to render them eternally happy was as fixed at His own Being.

Observe, finally, what a singular benefit this is. Among the many nations plunged in the darkness of paganism, among the many souls condemned to perdition, you have been selected to share the happy lot of the elect. Out of the mass of perdition He has raised you, and the leaven of corruption and death He has changed into the bread of angels and the wheat of the elect. The value of this benefit is still further increased when we reflect how small is the number of the elect and how great is the number of the lost. Solomon says that "the number of fools" that is, the reprobate is infinite." (Eccles. 1:15).
But if none of these considerations moves you, be touched at least by the sight of all that it has cost God to confer this immortal benefit on you. He purchased it for you with the Life and Blood of His only Son; for He resolved from all eternity to send Him into this world to execute His loving and merciful decree. Who, then, would be so base as to wait until the end of his life to love God, who has loved him from eternity? "Forsake not an old friend," we are told in Scripture (Ecclus. 9:14), "for the new will not be like to him."

Who, then, will forsake this Friend whose love for us had no beginning, and whose claim to our love is likewise from eternity? Who will not give up all the goods of this world; who will not bear all the evils of this world, to share in this blessed friendship? How great would be our respect for the poorest beggar were we assured by divine revelation that he was predestined to share God's glory! Would we not kiss the ground upon which he trod? "O happy soul!" we would cry. "O enviable lot! Is it possible that thou art surely to behold God in all the splendor of His majesty? Art thou to rejoice with the angels forever? Will thy ears be ravished with sweet music for all eternity? Art thou to gaze upon the radiant beauty of Christ and His Blessed Mother? Oh! Happy day when thou wast born! But happier still the day of thy death, which will introduce thee to eternal life. Happy the bread thou eatest and the ground upon which thou dost tread! Happier still the pains and insults thou endurest, for they open to thee the way to eternal rest! For what clouds, what tribulations, can overcome the power and joy of such a hope as thine?"

We would doubtless break out into such transports as these did we behold and recognize a predestined soul. For if people run out to see a prince, the heir to a great kingdom, as he passes through the street, marveling at his good fortune, as the world esteems it, how much more reason have we to marvel at the happy lot of one who, without any previous merit on his part, has been elected from his birth, not to a temporal kingdom, but to reign eternally in Heaven!

You may thus understand, dear Christian, the gratitude the elect owe to God. And yet there is no one, provided he do what is necessary for salvation, who may not consider himself of this happy number. "Labor, therefore, the more," as St. Peter tells you, "that by good works you may make sure your calling and election." (2Pet. 1:10). We should never lose sight, therefore, of our end, for God's grace is never wanting to us, and we can do all things in Him who strengthens us.