John McQuirk.

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chaos and desolation, annihilation would ensue ; all
things would be as if they had never been ; their sus-
pension for a moment would be the eternal ruin and
wiping away of all God's creations.

Similar would be the result of the complete sus-
pension of the moral laws, which Divine Omnis-
cience and the moral Ruler of men and of all be-
ings, have set up in heaven and on earth. If such
disorder exists consequent on the partial contempt
of these laws, what would be the unlimited and un-
dying evil which such moral disorders would in-
troduce into the world and into the souls of men?
Man, in the freedom of his will, should obey these
laws to which God has subjected him for his wise
governance here and his eternal salvation hereafter.
This he should do as the material universe and all
other creations obey blindly, as it were, by instinct.
Because capable of transgression, he should not
transgress ; but in the exercise of freedom, render a
blind obedience to God in all His laws and fulfill all
His purposes.

There is a life of the soul as truly as there is a
physical life of the body. For we live a twofold
life, corporal and spiritual ; one, that which organ-
izes and sustains the body : the other, which is the
life of the spiritual, or that which consists in the


soul, and is the source of its activity and the varied
functions of which the body is the instrument and
the soul the animating principle. By the soul we
live; by the body we die. Death ensues when the
soul is withdrawn : the body collapses and is dis-
solved when separated from its spiritual nature
which is the soul.

The life of the soul is the grace of God and its
vivifying influence. Deprived of this life, the soul,
if seen, would present a hideous sight; far more
hideous than the body dead, without the soul. Noth-
ing more frightful than a dead body ; no one would
find anything more distressful than tO' sleep and
make a companion of his sometime companion now
grasped in death. But, what to the horror of being
embraced by a corpse ! and compelled to live with it
for one's remaining days !

But, all this is nothing compared with the horror
and dismay of living with and making a companion
of a soul dead in God's grace and rotting in moral
putrefaction, — fit only for the society of the devil
and his companions in hell. And as God alone in
His omnipotence can resuscitate the dead, none but
God can revive that soul and restore it to the grace
which constitutes its life in which it once lived
and found its true and only bliss. He alone by His
omnipotent power and outstretched arm can resus-
citate the dead to their living body; or those dead
in sin to those living in Divine grace. For ''from
the very stones He can raise up children to Abra-
ham," radiant with grace and heavenly gifts.

When the life of the soul is quenched, damnation
ensues. No positive act of God is required* no


miracle or interposition. It would rather require
such to hinder the damnation entailed by mortal
sin on the withdrawal of Divine grace from the soul.

While thus separated from God the soul cannot
merit. To merit the soul must abide in the vine;
but separated from God's grace, the limb is ampu-
tated from the trunk; it is lopped off from the
branches. Unless the fruit abide in the tree it
withers and perishes. ''Unless ye abide in Me, and
I in you, ye cannot have life in you."

Without Divine grace the soul cannot take one
step towards its salvation. "Ye cannot say the Lord
Jesus but in the Holy Ghost." Grace is the be-
ginning, the middle, the consummation of our justi-
fication. And what is worse, while in this state of
spiritual deprivation, it loses all the merits which it
had acquired, it may be, during a long life, or of
years of virtue and holiness. It becomes spiritually
bankrupt. Though it may have shone with the
sanctity of sainthood, or, been illumed with the
blood of martyrdom, relapsed into mortal sin, and
dying therein all is shipwrecked. If before death the
soul is restored to God's grace by sincere repent-
ance, all these merits revive and are accorded just
value before Divine Mercy. Contrition is essentially
one with perfect love. But not so attrition; which
springs from motives far inferior to those that ani-
mate contrition. Hence attrition, being based upon
the fear of God, or his inceptive love, which is suffi-
cient for pardon in the Sacrament of Penance, is
not sufficient for the perfect love of God, which
everyone should seek, and according to which the
attrite should perfect their attrition. Not only


when preparing for Confession, but it should also
be the aim of a pious life, to cultivate this love of
God v^hich springs from His infinite love and


'T believe in the Communion of Saints." — Art.
ix ; Creed.

In what consists this Communion of Saints? The
previous articles which regard the Unity, Holiness
and Universality of the Church, are further ex-
plained by the present article. The abiding presence
of the Holy Ghost in the Church, of which He is
the animating principle, so unites the faithful in
fellowship in one body, and with the Father and the
Holy Ghost, that from it results a community or
participation of spiritual benefits. Thus the fruit
of all the Sacraments becomes their common prop-
erty. And these Sacraments, particularly Baptism,
the entrance by which the faithful are initiated
into the Church, unites them to Jesus Christ. After
Baptism the Holy Eucharist holds the first place;
and after it, the other Sacraments, as so many
channels of grace by which the blood of Christ is
bestowed upon our souls. Yet, this union is mainly
effected by the Eucharist, which is its direct cause.
All these graces and spiritual endowments thus
shared by the faithful are to be ascribed to the
governing, illuminating, and the unceasing inflow
upon the Church and its members of the grace of



the Holy Ghost. This Communion of Saints teems
with fruit for our souls and fills us with consolation
when we feel the inadequacy of our sterile prayers
and the tepidity of our lives. The great study to
which all our efforts should be directed, is that we
should be admitted into this glorious companionship
of the Saints ; and once admitted, our perseverance
therein, "Giving thanks, with joy, to God the Father
WhO' hath made us worthy to be partakers of the
lot of the saints in light." — Col. i; 12.

Besides this communion of the members of
Christ's mystical body in the Church, there is still
another in which we are all sharers. Every pious
and holy act of the supernatural hfe which animates
the souls of Christians, through "Charity, which
seeks not its own" is the common property of all and
becomes profitable to all ; such as in a joint stock
company, the losses of some, and the gains of others,
become the debits and the credits of all. As we
say that "a member is partaker of the entire body,
SO' are we partakers with all that fear God," as St.
Ambrose explaining the words of the Psalmist :
"I am a partaker with all them that fear thee," re-
marks. For this reason we are taught to say, "Our
bread not my bread ;" as the other petitions of the
Divine prayer are no less general, nor confined to
ourselves alone, but directed to the general good and
interest and salvation of all compacted and bound
together; even as the dough is kneaded, and al-
though many particles yet form the one mass.
Hearken to the comparison borrowed from the hu-
man body, by which this blending together and com-
munication of goods is very appositely declared. In


the human body while but one, is yet made up of
many members, each distinct with its own proper
function, but all uniting in all the functions of the
whole body. While each has its own proper office.
none perform all the same offices. All do not enjoy
equal rank, nor are all alike useful or important. No
one is bent on its own exclusive advantage, but each
and all contribute to the integrity or essence of the
w^hole body. If one suffers the rest suffer with it :
the health of one affords pleasure and well being to
all. This is the result of their cohesion and well-knit
organism which holds all in one, and divides the one
into its respective and component parts. The same
is true of the constitution of the Church; which,
made up of various members, peoples and nations,
freemen and slaves, rich and poor, sinless and the
sinful. Gentiles and Jews ; yet partakers of the same
faith and sharers of the same Sacraments, constitute
but one body with Christ, joint members of Christ's
mystical body. Who is at the same time their head,
and life-giving principle. The several members of
the Church have their peculiar offices, but all for the
common good : some apostles, some teachers, some
thus and others thus ; some to govern and teach ;
some to be subject and obey.

This communication is enjoyed by the good, and,
proportionately, by the wicked. To the former who
live in Christian charity, and are beloved by God,
in preeminent distinction : while to the latter who
dead and in the bondage of sin, and deprived of
divine grace, while not ceasing to be members of
the Church, nor deprived of these blessings, are as
dead members shut off from the life-giving prin-


ciple, which is given to the just and God-loving
Christian. Yet, because these still belong to the
Church, although dead in grace, they are helped,
by those animated by the spirit of God, in recover-
ing lost grace and life.

There are graces which are said to be gratuitously
granted; which are given not alone to the just, but
even to the wicked ; graces that are vouchsafed, not
for the sake of those to whom given, but for sake of
the general good. Such are knowledge, prophecy,
tongues, miracles; these are frequently granted even
to the impious; not, however, for their own sake,
for the building up of the Church of God. Thus,
healing not for him who heals, but for him who is
healed. Everything possessed by the Christian
should be common to all with himself. And should
be promptly given and used to relieve all. He that
will not do so is condemned of not having the love
of God in him.

Those who desire to learn more on this interest-
ing subject, will find it in the Roman Catechism, on
this article of the Creed.


"Amen I say to you, before Abraham was made,
I am." — St. John viii.

In these words our Lord manifestly claims for
Himself the prerogative which of all prerogatives
belongs essentially to the Godhead ; for it is impos-
sible to conceive God except as an Eternal Being.

This is obvious to the feeblest intelligence. No
scepticism can cjuestion the fact that I exist ; that I
did not always exist; that I did not cause myself;
yet that I must have been caused, that I am an effect.
Therefore, that I must have had a Creator; that
this Creator could not have caused Himself, or
if caused by another, this other must have re-
ceived existence from Himself or exist of Hinisdr.
For we cannot proceed in an infinite series of
causes. He, then. Who exists of Himself must be
God, and must have been from Eternity ; for He
could have had no beginning; hence God must be

Time and eternity are not the same. Time is
succession, and did not precede creation : eternity
is whole, all at once; eternity is the accompaniment
of what is immutable : time is the essence of the
changeable. Yet we use time, as the only means
we have, to measure eternity. As we use compound



things to get at a knowledge of simple; for instance,
the immateriality of the soul by the materiality of
the body; so similarly, we endeavor to know etern-
ity by time; conceiving it to be one interminable
period or unending stretch of duration. God alone
is eternal ; and He is His own eternity, because He
is His own existence. All other beings, not being
their own existence or duration, have no claim to

Eternity is the complete and simultaneous and
perfect possession of interminable life — perpetual
and uniform duration without beginning and with-
out end.

God is eternal and alone eternal, because immut-
able and alone immutable. As God exists of Him-
self, His eternity is of Himself and from Himself.
Our eternity is only a participation, or a similitude
of eternity, and having a beginning: as to its con-
tinuance, having succession ; and as tO' its termina-
tion, if it were to terminate.

Eternity differs from age, and time. Because
time has a before and an after ; age has not ; but they
can be added to age ; and thus comes medium ; but
age and time cannot be added to eternity. Also,
age has a beginning, and not an end ; time has both.
Age is a medium between eternity and time. There
is only one age as there is only one time.

Eternity is life without beginning and without
end. Not only this; but eternity is all life at once.
Not only this; but eternity is the perfection of this
life; in which there is nO' deficiency, and to which
nothing is wanting.

God and God alone is eternal; all other beings


have the hmits of duration and time essentially be-
longing to them. We cannot comprehend what is
meant by an eternal Being : it is infinitely beyond
the compass of what is finite to comprehend or at
all in any measure to explore the unfathomable
abyss of the Eternity of God. It would be utterly
beyond all powers of thought or imagination with
which we are acquainted to search the unsearchable,
to limit the illimitable, to bound the boundless : for
the finite to exhaust the inexhaustible. Or, for time
to be employed as any adequate measure of eternity;
although it is the only means by which we can ex-
ercise our imagination, and without ever coming to
the limits which even imagination can present.

Ages of ages, thousands of millions, millions of
millions of years, uncounted and counted cycles of
ages, vast stretches of periods which numbers at
their highest power could never declare, or in the
least calculate, under which the mind would sink and
collapse and be driven into madness, would be but
a lisping accent or a feeble multiplication table to
bring home to us the illimitable abysses which would
yet remain unexplored and unexplorable, and which
would only end for the renewal of the same
throughout the everlasting duration of what is, or
was, or will be in the single undivided moment
which before God constitutes eternity. For eternity
is but a moment without past, present, or future,
one and indivisible. For it is God and belongs alone
to Him; — not a continued duration, but His own
Existence which never began, never ceases, and
never will have a termination.

God's Eternity proclaims His Existence; or rather


His Eternity is His Existence. He exists because
He is eternal : He is eternal because He exists. He
could never have had a beginning : therefore He
always was. He draws existence from nothing ex-
ternal to Himself; for if He did, He would not be
eternal. Nor does He draw it from Himself as
from a cause ; self-existence is the very necessity
or exigence of His nature; it is involved in the very
idea of God. If we could see God, we would see
His existence one with Himself, or rather w^e would
see it to be Himself.

As God has eternity or continued existence all
from Himself, He must needs have all things else
from Himself : as He has the greatest of all perfec-
tions all from Himself, He must necessarily have
all perfections less than the supreme and greatest.
He who self-exists and consequently is eternal, must
have all knowledge, all power, all bliss. His nature
and existence and eternity all in Him and subsist-
ing within Him, is the infinite and unfailing source
of His power. His wisdom. His omnipotence. His
omniscience, all His attributes and perfections which
are possible to His nature or conceivable in His
mind. And there is no attribute or perfection which
is not known and possessed by an Eternal Being,
and alone possessed by Him because He alone is the
Eternal Being. All else are but His creatures, — the
conception of His intellect and the work of His

If God exists He is eternal. He is not the cause
of Himself, nor caused by another. For if He exists
He must be self-existent. Who can conceive a tem-
porary God? It were absurd to conceive a God


produced by another. In that case, the other would
be God. God must have always been, if at all.
Therefore He must be eternal, not caused by an-
other. I exist, therefore God exists : God exists,
therefore He must have always existed. God exists,
therefore I exist. I am not the cause of myself :
therefore something else is, — and this is God. As
God is eternal. He is all powerful, because He draws
all ix)wer from Himself. H, so to speak. He is pow-
erful enough to supply Himself with existence, and
to be from eternity, He is powerful enough to effect
all things outside of Himself. If His power is so
completely actual that power and act in Him cannot
be distinguished, it is obvious that He can do all
things and nothing is hard or impossible.

If God is eternal He is happy. For having all
perfections, and the greatest perfection, He has all
other perfections : having the greatest He has the
less. If we were to imagine that God was not
happy, if the contemplation of Himself did not make
Him happy, as He has all power He could make
Himself happy. For every being the work of His
hands, desires to be happy. And God could not be
indifferent to His own bliss : for the desire of bliss
shared by all things is only a reflex of God's bliss
in Himself. And it were absurd that a Being, in-
finite, eternal, could be wanting in that which would
constitute His happiness. He that has all could
want for none. An eternal Being who draws all
things from Himself must find all happiness in Him-
self. Eternity comprises all the God-head can con-
ceive or desire, and therefore must be happy by the
very exigence of His nature, as He draws self-


existence and eternity from the necessity of His

A Being Who is from everlasting and unto ever-
lasting. Who' has all perfection and conceivable at-
tributes must be omniscient : He must know all
things, past, present, and to come ; even free contin-
gent actions that are yet in the womb of the future ;
which intelligence has not yet conceived, and which
may even never be conceived, much less carried into
act. He Who is eternal can be destitute of no man-
ner or sort of knowledge of all things yet to be or
not to be, or of His own self consciousness, made
known tO' Him by the eternal Logos, Who is the
Word and Wisdom of the Eternal God, and in
Whom is reflected as in Divine Mirror, all that the
Divine Intellect contemplates in the Divine Essence.


Before Christ left the world, He promised the
Apostles that He would send them the Holy Ghost,
the Spirit of Truth, Who would teach them all truth,
bring to their minds all that He had taught, and
would abide with them for ever. And the Apostles
sadly needed this enlightenment of mind. For
though they had been three years in the discipleship
of Christ, they had but an imperfect conception of
His mission into the world, and but poorly realized
their own mission as His successors in the continua-
tion of His work. And even after Christ's Resur-
rection their blindness and incredulity and ignorance
continued. — St. Luke, xviii; 34, declared that they
knew nothing. St. Matt, xv; 16: ''Are you yet
without understanding?" "O foolish and hard to
believe," says St. Luke, xxiv; 25. With good reason
did Christ declare in St. John xix; 26: ''that the
Paraclete Whom the Father will give, will teach you
all truth and will abide with you forever."

But no sooner did the Paraclete come upon them
than they were taught and enlightened as men be-
fore were never taught or enlightened. The ignor-
ant fishermen were transformed into doctors versed
in the Scriptures, interpreters of the prophets, to
whose minds all the economy of Salvation stood
open and manifest, skilled and able to speak in all



languages, so that of all those assembled at Jerusa-
lem from all nations, Parthians, Medes, strangers
from Rome and elsewhere marvelled at hearing
every one in his own tongue all the truths with
which they were endowed by the Descent of the
Holy Ghost; — orators who had never learned the
rules of eloquence, without study or mental labor.

They became the lights of the world proving
themselves more than matches for human eloquence,
and pagan philosophy, conquering souls and per-
suading minds, not by the words of human speech,
but by the power of the Spirit and miracles which
they wrought in the name of Jesus risen from' the
dead : "In the name of Jesus risen from the dead,
arise and walk : and the paralytic arose and walked."
Greater wonders than did Christ Himself, in con-
formity with His prediction, did they accomplish.

And the world was taught by them and received
divine revelation on their testimony. All truth
came to men from them. Divine wisdom overcame
pagan philosophy. The world till then sunk in
idolatry w^as raised to the standard of the Gospel-
Virtue was exalted, vice condemned ; truth pro-
claimed, ''error writhed in pain and died among its
worshippers." In a little while the whole world
had received the Gospel. And the truth till then
unknown among men was made to illumine every
man born into the world.

The Holy Ghost sanctifies the Apostles. The
Apostles although saints after His coming, were by
no means such before. They were not bad men :
they continually abstained from sin : were given to
prayer, mortification, and were not destitute of a


certain degree of zeal. But they were gross, ma-
terial, and sought the things of this world. Like
their countrymen they looked for a temporal re-
deemer, who would bring them station, wealth, and
glory of empire. They wrangled who should be
the first. The mother of James and John probably
cherished their own sentiments, when she wanted
one to sit upon one side, and the other on the other
in the kingdom that was to come. They had not
yet the sanctif3nng influence that was to be poured
into their souls from the true wisdom of the Holy
Ghost, and the true knowledge and perfect under-
standing of Christ's mission into the world. Even
after His resurrection they were far from this per-
fection : it could only come from the Holy Ghost
Who was sent to impart it. Once they received the
seven-fold gifts of the Paraclete, they were made
real saints, prodigies of holiness and undying zeal.

And thev in turn sanctified the world and the
souls of men, by imparting the truth ; shedding upon
them the grace of redemption, the gifts of the
Sacraments, and notably that in which the Holy
Ghost abides as in His own — Baptism and Confir-
mation. Even those who were not sanctified, paid
an unconscious tribute to their divine power, by
seeking to conform to their standard of virtue ; and,
failing, confessed their inability, because of their
human weakness and the power of passion. Some
even sought to purchase with money, and Simon
the magician, gave his name for all time to those
who would barter the gifts of God and the graces
of the Sacraments. The process of the sanctifying
of the world still continues, and will until the end :


and in this work the Holy Ghost abides in the
Church as its very soul, and in men as the sanctify-
ing principle.

The Holy Ghost filled the Apostles with unfailing-
courage and unquenchable fortitude. Before His
descent, they were weak and irresolute men. In
spite of their protests of loyalty unto death, they
foreswore Him at the word oi a maid servant accus-
ing Peter of having been in His company. And
when He was seized by the mob of Jews, they fled
through fear of their lives and hid themselves from
His enemies. Loud, indeed, in their protests when
danger seemed remote : craven and crushed, when
it was imminent ; a not unknown quality of pusillani-
mous natures. No voice was raised in His defense
when foully calumniated and His life actually at
stake: while, from His crucifixion, they all igno-
miniously fled. Yet in the end because of the mani-
fest power of the Holy Ghost, they bore witness to
the truth by the new lives which He created in them

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 41 of 43)