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true God. False worship, disgraceful errors and
morals everywhere prevailed. For they had given
to the creature the glory due to the eternal God,
and worshipped a lie instead of the truth. The
Divine Saviour undeceives the world and its false
philosophy, and teaches men the truth of primeval
revelation. In the circumstances of His Incarna-
tion and Birth He destroys the falsities which had
passed for truths among men ; and teaches them the
true principles of morality by the commandments
which He renewed and the beatitudes which He
pointed out to men.

Nor does He wait for their promulgation till His
public career, but He begins in His cradle, and from
the earliest days of His life. See the salutary les-
sons with which He instructs and forms us in His
birth before He begins tO' utter a word ! Born in
poverty ; born a stranger in an inn ; born in a vile
crib: born in the middle of night and in the depth of
winter. "Fie was born in a stable and laid in a man-
ger, because there was no room for them in the
inn." — Luke 2 : 6-7. Could the Evangelist include
in humbler words all the majesty and glory of hea-
ven and earth? There was no room for Him Who
says; ''Mine is the earth, and the fullness thereof!"
He came unto His own, and His own received Him
not." God wished to undergo the fragility and low-
liness of our nature that we might be raised to the
highest degree of rank and dignity. For that alone
sufficiently attests the excellence and rank which
God has conferred upon man, that the Saviour was



CHRISTMAS DAY 607

a man and, at the same time, was true and perfect
God. Wherefore, it is allowed us to glory, that
the Son of God is bone of our bone, and flesh of our
flesh; something not conceded to the blessed
spirits.

Christ came into the world to restore the true
worship of God, worship in spirit and in truth; not
merely external, but chiefly in the soul, where con-
viction and adoration must reside, and from which
springs true worship, and without which external
homage is little worth. Owing to the falling away
of internal religion, worship had become but
empty superstition among the gentiles or pagans ;
had even degenerated into what was provocative
of sin, because it sought to deify the passions. It
even dethroned God, by giving to the creature that
which essentially belonged to the Supreme Being.
While among the Jews it was directed to and was
not perverted from God, the true Lord of Israel.
Yet, owing to lack of inward religion, it had become
unworthy of Him, or a dead function, as a dead
corpse, or body without a soul. While no "abomina-
tion of desolation" was within Israel's borders, and
no statues of false gods were to be seen, or, much
less, worshipped in her temples ; and while the wor-
ship of the golden calf, and impatient unbelief would
at times have erected gods as the surrounding
nations, yet these ebullitions of pagan tendencies
were but occasional, and as exceptions, confirmed the
long course of the historv of the worship of the true
God.

Yet, she failed to enter into the true spirit; and,
deeming herself safe, because she fell not into the



6o8 CHRISTMAS DAY

general contagion of gross, material, corrupting idol-
worship all around her, she was altogether absorbed
in the rigid observance of her ritual, in the main-
tenance of grievous burdens, in the scrupulous ad-
herence to ordinances which began with a meaning ;
and, in process of time, because of the departure
of the spirit that gave them life, became empty
formalism ; and, for the same reason, the splendor of
temples, the pomp of sacrifices, and the order of
ceremonies absorbed all their time and attention.
They were but as monuments erected to the dead.
Their hearts were not there, but their lips. Such
merely external, could not lessen but only increase
crime and sin ; because the appearance of religion hid
from view their rampant vices and made therr^
believe that they were righteous when they were
rotten. Whitened sepulchres, on the outside, with-
in dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "Woe to
ye Scribes and pharisees," exclaimed our Lord.
His precursor John, ''Now the ax is laid to the
root," was the threat of John the Baptist.

Christ came into the world to undo all this, — to
teach that there is no such thing as external virtue,
which only festers and rots with crime and pollu-
tion. True virtue is on the inside; on the outside,
only as its outward manifestation. Hence, the
Birth of Christ in contempt of all the notions of
men and the ways of the world.

At Bethlehem there was no room for them in
the inn. And we regret the circumstances that thus
treated the Divine Infant, the Incarnate W^ord, the
God of Glory. He is no longer seeking an entrance
into the world, by a birth in the flesh. He now



CHRISTMAS DAY 6oC)

seeks to be spiritually born in our souls. And this
He ardently desires, for our salvation. It should be
our care lest He fail to find such dwelling.

As by the power of the Holy Ghost, and in a
manner transcending the order of nature, He was
made man and was born, and was not only holy,
but even holiness itself; so, it becomes our duty to
be born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
but of God; to walk as new creatures in newness
of spirit; and to keep that holiness and purity of
soul that so much becomes men regenerated by the
Spirit of God. For thus shall be reflected some
faint image of this holy Conception and Nativity of
the Son of God; which we believe with firmness of
faith, and which believing, we admire and adore the
"wisdom of God in a mystery, which is hidden."

Alas ! how numberless are the Christians who
either because of their belief, or rather, want of it;
or, because of their unbelief or not realizing the
truth, have no share in Christ's birth, either spirit-
ual or material.



THE THOUGHT OF DEATH

''Remember man, that thou art dust and into dust
thou shalt return." — Genesis iii ; 19.

There is no word more withering to the spirit ;
there is no word more grievous to the soul ; there is
no word that so unnerves the mental faculties ; there
is no word from which we start back with such re-
coil, as from the grave, than the word Death ; which,
entering into our being, paralyzes it with mortal
dread — is what we may term the ghost of Death.

If we could die, if death actually came upon us,
no doubt we would be well prepared to meet it ; or,
if we could die a second time, very great would be
the improvements we would make upon our first
death. Beyond all comprehension would be the
radical and salutary changes that would attend our
second death. Angelic would be our lives. Now
there is a way by which we can have all the profit
of dying and the lessons that go with it, and that
too, without its tremendous and eternal risks. This
can be done by the remembrance and study and con-
templation of death, while in life, before it comes
upon us, and by acting now as if it were really upon
us, at our hand, or rather with its hand upon us.

And why should this be so ? For death but frees
us from all the troubles and anxieties to which here

6io



THE THOUGHT OF DEATH 6ll

below we are continually subject. Frees us from
that which is indeed a living death, continually be-
fore us, and which with bated breath we tremble at
and would flee from ; sickness, which is Death's fore-
runner and earnest of its near approach ; it separates
us from our enemies, who can no longer do us harm ;
it separates us from temptation, thus hindering any
further relapses into sin ; it separates us and forever
from that which here below we are constantly in
dread of and which we shall know no more. Death
is truly a separation ; a long and continuing separa-
tion from all that we most abhor and fain would
flee from. Why, then, should we tremble at the
prospect of death which brings us sO' many and so
great blessings, the absence of which constitutes the
happiness which here below we so earnestly crave
and are in constant search of?

Besides, death but unites us to the company of the
great and immortal in every age; unites us forever
with parents, relations and friends ; unites us with
the choice and master spirits of every age and clime.
^'Oh, Happy day," exclaims the pagan orator "when
I shall set out from this mundane sphere and join
that great majority which have entered into celestial
bliss." It divides those who have crossed the grave
from all whom death yet leaves behind. It unites us
with the patriarchs and prophets and saints of old,
with the apostles and martyrs who have preached
the Gospel and shed their blood for salvation's sake.
Unites us with holy virgins and heroic patriots and
souls made perfect in the crucible of this world's
trials and aflhctlons. Unites us with all those to
whom we believe we must be united for our supreme



6l2 THE THOUGHT OF DEATH

bliss and everlasting glory. Opens to us the vision
of God, and to behold His Glory in Heaven. This is
true happiness and the supreme bliss of the soul.

Why, therefore, should we tremble and recoil
when the icy hand of death rests upon our brow,
when we feel death's mortal chill coursing through
our veins and warning us that Death with equal pace
comes to all, to palace portal or cottage gate, and is
this hour at our very door. It cannot be that death of
itself can thus paralyze our spirits or our faculties.
It must be that it is something after death that
puzzles the will and perplexes us with confusion and
makes cowards of us all. "For who would fardels
bear when he could his quietus make with a bare
bodkin, but that it is something after death" that
makes us tremble and grow faint and shudder at the
thought of death.

No, we need not fear death as the killer of our
body while it is the saver of our soul. We need not
fear what kills the body; but that which casts both
body and soul intO' hell. We will be ready to lay
down this body and sink it at once in the very dust
SO' long as from that dust our souls shall escape and
be forever immortal in their bliss. There is nothing
in us or around us in this world or in ourselves but
the *'lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the
pride of life" : And these produce the ignorance or
insensibility which paralyzes us from feeling what
it behooves us to know and to feel and to realize.
But the thought of death ever present to the mind
and soul removes this miserable condition and sub-
stitutes divine iight and grace and wisdom. Temp-
tations, cupidity of this world's goods, head-long



THE THOUGHT OF DEATH 613

passion, lose their hold upon him who makes death
the subject of his reflection, and at the same time it
impels him to a holy life and virtuous actions, and.
stimulates him to final perseverance. Meditation,
brings death home to us and dissipates the haziness
and deceptive delusions caused by the utter uncer-
tainty of the time of its coming.

All the objects of this life, which men seek, of
what avail are they in the presence of death ? What
is lust — as we feel ourselves sink into the cold clay?
what is all that avarice longs for when we see our,
hands relenting their grasp upon all that they have,
always stretched out for? what is honor and fame,
when we are already on the point of sinking into the
obscurity of the grave? The thought of death cures
temptation of every kind, subdues passion, chills
concupiscence and makes us realize the near ap-
proach of death.

What is death? It is not our normal condition;
it is not in the state in which we were created. It
has been introduced by sin. "It is the wages of sin" :
"By sin came death." If sin had not been done,
death would have never come upon us. We know,
but we do not stop to think. We take things as we
find them and never realize that we are outside of
God's grace, and that man was not created in the
beginning as he is now born.

We hear so much today about preparedness, as
being necessary for our nation's defense : — if we
have the same preparedness for the salvation of our
soul, we have no reason to fear death. We may
say, let him come on — I have braved him on many
a field ; "I will try his might, I'll brave his power : —
defy, and fear him not."



6l4 THE THOUGHT OF DEATH

Nor need I tremble at him when in his turn Death
comes to me to demand an account of my hfe, with
my thoughts and words and actions. Fear not him
that kills the body, but fear Him Who can kill the
body and sink the soul into everlasting misery.

So live, and pursue such a manner of life that
when the summons comes and the voice of God is
heard demanding an account of your stewardship,
and the graces that have been vouchsafed to you,
you will be found to have been the faithful and pru-
dent servant whom when the Lord came He placed
over many things, with the gracious invitation : "en-
ter thou into the reward prepared for you from the
beginning." For no man can claim exemption from
the universal law of death written upon all things
as the condition of their existence, and particularly
upon man as the penalty of his sins. For "it is ap-
pointed unto all men once to die- and after death
be judged." We should not, however, recoil from
or shudder at the grave opened to receive us. For
He Who has died for us will be present to lead us
in safety through the dark valley of death, through
the cleansing waters and the purifying fires into the
region of salvation, which He has purchased for us,
and into the vast company of the elect who have
gone before us, and who shall have trod the earth
till time shall be no more. A mighty caravan,
surely, of the souls of men, beginning with time,
continued through the ages and ending with
eternity.

The consciousness of innocence, at least restored,
can alone sustain us on that portentous and decisive
day. When for the last time we close our eyes upon



THE THOUGHT OF DEATH 615

the world and open them on eternity, this can be our
only support in that day of bitter agony and trial to
the soul ; innocence never lost or innocence regained.
Our manner of life here below wall be our unfailing
guarantee of bliss or of woe, and our unfaltering
trust in God, our Saviour. This consciousness of a
well-spent life must be our main, if not our only
support. Yet, although, like St. Paul, we may be
conscious of nothing, and yet not be justified; yet,
surely, if we be conscious of un forgiven sin, there
is no possibility of justification. From our hidden
sins, O, Lord, deliver us ; yet no less, but even more
from our open and unrepented guilt.

This manner of life, thus sustained by God's grace
during our days here, will fill the soul with consola-
tion unutterable w^hich we now fail to comprehend.
The Sacraments will sooth our days of agony, and
calm our spirits perturbed by fear; and purifying
our souls still more from any stain, or remnant of
past guilt. Our souls fortified with grace will van-
quish temptation and the assaults of the evil one.

Death is the separation of soul and body. Who
can estimate the pain involved in this sundering?
Body and soul are made for one another. Not more
the arm for the body than the body for the soul, and
vice versa. Consider the separation of two friends,
the divorce of husband and wife, the parting of child
and parent. The separation of death, of course, is
not eternal ; for it will be resumed on the last
day. Death is separation from the world, from re-
lations and friends, from riches, pleasures, honors
and all that makes it up, flesh, eyes, pride of life,
glory of descent, all that the heart craves, or the
mind delights in. This is life : its loss is death.



6l6 THE THOUGHT OF DEATH

Put yourself in thought at the hour of death. How
do we then value all these things? Not worth the
dust we tread under foot.

Death is union with the riches, pleasures, honors
of the next world, incorruptible, unfailing, supreme,
immortal.

Death is eternal union with God and all that that
implies ; or eternal union with the devil.

When a man enters the portals of eternity, and
sees heaven, hell, purgatory, for a moment before
him, what are his sentiments? He either ascends
into heaven or tarries in purgatory, or is plunged
into hell. How does he then regard the past, which
he has quitted forever?

Eternity, — pleasing, dreadful, inspiring, sadden-
ing thought ! who can fathom it or measure it ? Who
can conceive it. Ages of ages and yet indivisible, —
all continuance and no succession.

The day of decision, — of eternal decision is the
day of death. Irretrievable, irrevocable, unalterable !

How many events and great battles fought in this
world to decide the temporal state of the human
race; — countless were these but fifteen of them up
to the beginning of the last century were indeed
battles decisive of the fate of humanity. But the
one hour of death, pregnant with immortal alterna-
tives decides the eternal destiny of each and every
man. No second death. As it fells men to the right
and the left, there they remain. Soon they are com-
mingled with the dust from which they came, "Dust
thou art and into dust thou shalt return."

We are all sure that we shall die. But we do not
reahze it ; because we do not know when, we act as



THE THOUGHT OF DEATH 617

if it were never. It is because of the want of a
realizing faith that we grow indifferent to death, and
Hve as if we were never to die. Always nearing it,
it recedes from us. Never coming to us, we act as
if it were never to come; we are lulled to sleep;
the longer we live, the longer we wish to live and the
less we wish to die. We all expect to die in grace,
although w^e live in sin and flourish in iniquity.

We hear of great sinners being saved. We for-
get that before they died, they endured great pen-
ances and practiced heroic expiation and sought all
their lives to wash themselves clean in the blood and
merits of their Redeemer. We hear much of the
penitent thief; for we are not in a position to trace
the mysterious course of God's Providence in His
all-merciful dealings with his soul, that led the Lord
to promise that he would be that day with Him in
Paradise. And we are as little able to penetrate the
providence that led to the impenitence of the impeni-
tent thief. We can only say, that "His wisdom is
incomprehensible, and His ways past finding out.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who
hath been His counsellor."

Yet a few days, however, whether the days be
long or short, and we shall realize the nothingness
of our lives, the fewness of our years, the vast
infinite of the future life, the folly of our pursuits
here below, the undying importance of salvation,
the object for which we have come into the w^orld,
the vanities in which we have risked, and, may be,
lost salvation, the condemnation of all our works
except what we have done for salvation, the alterna-
tives of bliss or woe between which our soul hangs



6l8 THE THOUGHT OF DEATH

trembling in the balance. Thus shall we be torn
with the regrets, unavailing regrets, or we shall be
filled with consolation with having chosen the better
part which cannot be taken away from us, but re-
main "our portion and inheritance forever." This
certainly must compensate and more than compen-
sate us, for all our struggles : our fierce conflicts with
sin and satan ; our life from the cradle to the grave
which was truly a warfare, as every life, — as the
life of every man, according to Holy Job, as giving
the sum of human experience, has been, and is, and
shall forever be : "Alan's life upon earth is a war-
fare."

We can only know that all those who are yet to
die, are but as few or nothing to the innumerable
caravan that have already passed the border of the
grave and laid themselves to rest forever; having
joined the countless majority of those who once
were, and are no more, having embraced their
mother earth, from which they came; thus fulfilling
the solemn injunction, "Dust thou art and into dust
thou shalt return" : and "For it is appointed unto
all men, once to die, and after death be judged that
every man may receive according to the deeds he
shall have done in the days of the flesh."

The law of death reigned from Adam to Christ,
and from Christ till now, and from now till He shall
come again ; for Christ hath destroyed death — not in
the sense that it has ceased to be, but in the sense
that He has nullified it and made it of no avail.
"For a day shall come when those who are in the
grave shall rise again, some to everlasting life, some
to eternal condemnation." "For if the Spirit of



THE THOUGHT OF DEATH 619

Him Who raised Jesus fromi the dead dwell in
you, will not He Who raised Jesus from the dead
resuscitate your mortal bodies because of the Holy
Ghost dwelling in you? He that eateth My flesh
and drinketh My blood hath everlasting life, and I
will raise him up in the last day." Christ "died for
our sins and rose again for our justification." Thus
by His example, by His passion, by imparting to us
His body as the food of immortality, we shall rise
with Christ in His power and example to die no
more ; and to be forever sharers of the salvation, the
glory and bliss which He hath purchased for us by
His passion and death, and confirmed and sealed by
rising "from the dead for our justification."



MORTAL SIN

Mortal sin is defined as any deliberate thought,
word, omission, or deed against the law of God. It
must be deliberate, grievous in its character, and
imparts a serious offence to the Divine Majesty. If
not deliberate, but undeliberate, if not weighty or
grievous in its subject-matter, but venial or trivial,
it cannot be mortal, but may be venial. Although
even when venial, there must be some deliberation,
and some consent, some gravity or seriousness in its
subject-matter; and some contumely or contempt of
the Divine law. Although venial sin is incompar-
ably, not to say infinitely less than mortal, yet even
venial sin is so great an evil viewed in itself, or
relatively to mortal sin, or to God Himself as an
offence, that there is abundant margin or room for
it to be a gigantic or tremendous evil without at all
being as great as mortal sin. May we be permitted
to say that if mortal sin did not exist, venial would
be the next greatest evil that God has permitted in
the world.

Mortal sin is rising against God ; it is the usurpa-
tion of His rights and prerogatives ; it is that which,
as far as it goes, would if it were possible annihilate
thie God-head. Treason among men is of foul malig-
nity. It is punished among men in a sense in-

620



MORTAL SIN 62I

finitely, because deatli, its usual punishment is as
infinite as man is capable of inflicting. Nor is such
condign visitation of human justice deemed to be
beyond its deserts, but rather fully merited ; and
that, too, sometimes with excruciating torments. Its
inherent malice consists in its contempt and violation
of the laws which human wisdom, sanctioned by
Divine Authority, has ordained for the order and
well being and government of human society.

The same is the object and purpose of the Divine
laws which the beneficent Creator has set up to
maintain His authority and to exact the obedience
due to Him as the Creator from His creatures, that
He may lead them according to His divine economy
to the supernatural and eternal destiny to which
He ordained them.

Material nature implicitly and of its own inherent
force obeys the laws that the All wise and All
powerful God has inscribed upon it for its govern-
ment and subsistence. Without this blind obedience
the universe would be but chaos and confusion,
hastening to dissolution and destruction. What
w^ould become of the world if the great centrifugal
and centripetal forces which hold it together were
to cease to be and fall away from its obedience to
these God-given agencies ? Where would the world
go, where would it run, or on what shore stranded,
if the law of gravitation, and the great laws dis-
covered by Kepler, betokening the Divine genius of
the Almighty Creator and Conserver had never ex-
isted and were as unknown to the universe, as they
were till a few centuries ago unknown to human
thought, and as even yet but feebly comprehended



(y22 MORTAL SIN

by the highest human genius? For these laws or
divine coruscations of Divine power and wisdom,
not only secure the world's harmony, but the world's
existence, and are as necessary to its conservation as
the Creative Hand of God was necessary to summon
the world and the universes of universes into being.
Without the abiding existence of the divine forces,



Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 40 of 43)