John McQuirk.

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and sealed their testimony, by the highest testi-
mony which human nature is capable of, — the
spilling of their blood and the sacrifice of their life.

Dryden :

Creator Spirit, by Whose aid
The world's foundations first were laid.
Come visit every pious mind ;
Come pour thy joys on human kind ;
From sin and sorrow set us free.
And make thy temples worthy Thee.

O source of uncreated light,
The Father's promised Paraclete !


Thrice holy fount, thrice holy fire,
Our hearts with heavenly love inspire ;
Come, and thy sacred unction bring
To sanctify us, while we sing.

Plenteous of grace, descend from high,
Rich in thy seven-fold energy !
Thou strength of His Almighty hand ;
Whose power does heaven and earth command.

Proceeding spirit, our defence.
Who do'st the gifts of tongues dispense,
And crown'st thy gift with eloquence !
Refine and purge our earthly parts ;
But, oh, inflame and fire our hearts !

Our frailties help, our vice control.
Submit the senses to the soul ;
And when rebellious they are grown.
Then lay thy hand, and hold them down.

Chase from our minds th' infernal foe,
And peace, the fruit of love, bestow ;
And lest our feet should step astray.
Protect and guide us in the way.

Make us eternal truths receive,
And practice all that we believe :
Give us thyself, that we may see
The Father, and the Son, by Thee.

Immortal honour, endless fame,
Attend th' Almighty Father's name ;
The Saviour Son be glorified,
Who for lost man's redemption died :
And equal adoration be,
Eternal Paraclete, to Thee.


It is not amiss that we conjoin the two Feasts;
both being Feasts of blood : one being the Feast of
the Holy Innocent, and the other being the Feast
of the Holy Innocents'.

To-day is the feast of the Circumcision. It also
happens to be New Year's Day ; but what is that to
Christians, in view of the appalling fact that to-day
begins the life-long agony, in anticipation, at least,
endured, of the Redeemer, which will only end by
the emptying of His blood on Calvary, as truly
as in His birth He was emptied of His glory.
Away, then, with all profanity on this solemn feast.

Scarcely have the heavenly spirits returned to
their abode from their earth mission wherein they
ushered among men their Infant God, when lo!
their ears are startled with sounds of pain which
infants only make, issuing from Him whom erst-
while they had but left in the lap of His Virgin
Mother, amidst their glorious greetings, and the
protecting arms of watchful shepherds and the
wise men's love and worship, come from afar, and
Joseph's anxious custody. What! so soon does re-
demption's blood begin to flow ! What ! so soon does
the life-long agony in mind conceived and in body


CH2 the feast of the circumcision

borne, endured for three and thirty years, "when
blows huge and strong shall reach and crush His
life" till consummated on the Cross, when the sword
of grief will pierce His Mother's heart, and the
centurion's spear shall open wide His heart, at once
human and Divine! This is the piteous cry which
circumcision's knife draws forth to fulfill all law,
and keep the covenant ordained with the Lord most
high. And if angelic being has not the substance
to feel the sensible of pain, give us, at least, the
power to feel within the agony and express without
the fear, the fruit of love and pain.

These circumcision drops, the first fruits of the
Immaculate Lamb's redemptive love, the Innocents
tiny limbs, the sport of the cruel soldiery, dismem-
bered and tossed on high from spear to spear, and
bleeding hearts of mothers, and faces bathed in
infant blood, Stephen's soul ascending to his Lord
from his stone crushed body, invoking upon his
murderers Divine forgiveness ; Peter crucified with
feet aloft and head cast down ; Paul's head am-
putated rebounding from font to font, John's oil-
boiled flesh ; — all, all proclaim that the Messiah
has come not to send peace, but war throughout
the land, war to the flesh, war to the world, war to
the devil, — war to the death for man's ransom and
salvation. And this to be until He shall come
again, in glory crowned to judge all men.

At circumcision it was usual among the Jews to
give the child a name. It had already been ordained
on Him and announced by the Angel to Mary, ''And
thou shalt call his name Jesus, because He will be
the Saviour of His people." Others had been called


by this name, because in some age or manner they
had been saviours of their people; Joshua and
others. It signifies Saviour or Jehovah God with
us. It is immaterial whether we confine it to the
old meaning of God Saviour, or the new interpreta-
tion Jehovah with us. Jesus is the official name;
Christ the anointed; "J^sus God blessed for ever"
says St. Paul. "He humbled Himself, and became
obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.
Wherefore also God hath exalted Him, and given
Him the name, which is above every name: that at
the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those
that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth;
and every tongue should confess, that the Lord
Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father." —
Phil, ii; 8-11. It had been a common name in pre-
exilic times. The name emphatically belongs to Jesus
because it was given from Heaven, and because of
the verities transcendent — "which manifested the
Son of God in power and by His spirit of holiness,
and by His Resurrection from the dead." Ad
Rom. E. Chap I ; iv. Especially because of the glori-
ous redemption by which He ransomed men from
sin and slavery, and introduced them into the glori-
ous liberty of the Gospel. More than Moses who led
the children out of Egyptian slavery, more than all
others who had contributed to the welfare of par-
ticular peoples, Jesus emancipated all men from the
thraldom of sin, closed hell, opened heaven, re-
stored to them, their lost inheritances, resuscitated
them to the state in which they had been created,
and grafted them all on Him as members of His
: mystical body, led them on high, leading captivity


captive, flinging wide the portals of heaven. Thus
He accomplished the marvellous redemption which
He had voluntarily taken upon Himself. How much
more a Saviour than any other was He Who rescued
all men from the valley of death and from eternal
misery? He is truly Jesus.

"A voice in Rama was heard, weeping and
great mourning : Rachel bewailing her children, and
she would not be comforted, because they are
not."— St. Matt, ii; 18.

To-day was executed the decree of Herod that
all those infants born in Bethlehem, within two
years and under, should be slaughtered. He had
sought from the wise men information as to the
Divine Infant's whereabouts that he, forsooth,
would come to adore Him; but it was rather that
he should seize Him and put Him to death. But
the wise men deceived him, returning by another
way, into their own countr}^ that they should have
no part in the Child's cruel massacre. Then was
heard the wailing of Jewish mothers who, in imita-
tion of Rachel whose statue was erected near the
egress from Bethlehem, whence going into exile,
and forsaking home forever, they cast themselves
before her, as she was believed to grieve for them.
Shortly after Herod murdered his own son and
heir, lest he should come by his throne. For he
was succeeded by Archelaus his second son, who
was appointed to only one-half the kingdom by
the Romans. And he, too, shortly was driven from
the throne and forced into exile in Gaul.


This day is set apart for consolation to mothers
grieving for their children suffering under every
kind of misery, and sickness, and every kind of
calamity and affliction. Their hearts pierced with
agony, can to-day find consolation in the universal
sympathy which the Church extends to them. And,
of course, it must give them unmixed pain and
piercing sorrow if their consciences reproach them
with guilt of their own, any wise resembling the
cruelty of Herod. Consolation for them in their
innocence; condemnation and reproach upon the
soul of every one of them, who any wise makes her-
self sharer of Herod's murderous crime.

It must have been a fearful sight throughout
Bethlehem. For, while considering the limits of
the place and the smallness of the population —
probably not more than four or five hundred souls
— yet, because of the nature of all suffering, and
particularly, the sufferings of children, which no
one can look upon w^ithout horror and indignation
and prompt rescue, and punishment of those caus-
ing them, must liave been agonizing not only to
the mothers themselves, but to all who witnessed
or even heard of them.

History of all time and all places is replete with
atrocious cruelties inflicted upon human beings by
their fellow men : deeds of savage bloodshed and
more than demoniacal malice, which, but for un-
doubted records, would seem incredible and im-
possible to human wickedness, mark all human rec-
ords and contaminate even what otherwise were the
fairest lands and nations, and noblest pages of
history. We can conceive such things possible only


in the remembrance of the common fall of our
race, in which "man has been changed for the

There is no more agonizing sight than to behold
the tortures and sufferings of an helpless child, —
and the awfulness is in proportion to its helpless-
ness. It is awful that children should be made to
suffer from whatever cause, whether illness, or
cruel parents, or wanton positive pain. Although
the Innocents by their martyrdom became meml>ers
of Christ's body, and although by their sufferings
baptized children can, yet it is revolting to every
feeling of our souls that the innocent conscious of
no guilt, should be made to endure that which if it
must be borne, should be borne by those alone who
deserve it.

Next to the sufferings of childhood in its atro-
ciousness, is the wanton cruelty inflicted upon
men in battle. Sometimes men seem to lay aside
human nature and become diabolical in the unheard
of and unmentionable atrocities which they inflict
upon their enemies, although each feels that he is
fighting for that which he believes is right and even
dutiful to his country. Every page of history is
replete w^ith instances of this awful destruction and
uncalled for infliction of death, in even the most re-
volting forms. Not as at all exhaustive, but as
simple instances which easily come to hand, Cardinal
Newman tells us that Zingis Timour, savage con-
queror in the East, from the Danube to the Baltic
in a season, drew the people from the woods under
a promise of pardon, and put them all to death.
At one place he put to death three hundred noble


ladies. At one time, one million, three hundred thou-
sand ; at another, one million six hundred thousand ;
at another, four million six hundred and forty-seven
thousand. Timour at Delhi massacred one hun-
dred thousand. The Persian Shah fifty years ago
revelled his cruelty in gloating upon three bushels
of eyes forced from their human sockets at As-
turabad. Cromwell at Drogheda murdered five
thousand and it is said that he slaughtered five
thousand at ^^'exford ; Cromwell, himself, confesses
that it was as much as two thousand. The Sepoys
in India within living memory were tied and torn to
pieces at the mouths of English cannon.

These are all horrible and not a hundredth part
of what might be told. It is impossible to tell what
proportion of the human race, young and old, have
thus perished in all times and countries.

When we read all this we are horrified beyond
thought, and ready to sink to the deepest hell those
who have imbrued their hands in the blood of their
fellow-men. Let us not cast stones before wx
know^ if they are not first to be cast in our own
country and society, and even in our own families.
O! for the warning voice of a Rachel, who would
in trumpet tones bewail the national suicide, and
apostasy from God's ordinance which is continually
going on throughout the length and breadth of this
land; undermining it as the nations of old w^ere
undermined until their fall by moral rottenness,
physical decay and diminished population; they fell
with the curse of heaven upon them; and the
blood of men upon their souls; men upon whom
their iniquitous parents closed the gates of life:


men clamoring for existence who were denied life
by the law of prohibition invented by human pride
and selfishness; men who claimed life by virtue of
the ordinance meant to impart it : men to whom
conception was denied ; or, if conceived, destroyed
before birth, or may be even after birth; or de-
stroyed in the womb because of carelessness and
risks which, if shown to the visible child, would
be pronounced murderous. Crimes which reduced
rational beings to the lot of the horse or oxen, and
who yet, in their irrationability were more faithful
to the law and ordinance of procreation, than hu-
man beings endowed with high intelligence ! Let
every one remember that anticipated murder clos-
ing the gates of life to him who would enter; or by
abuse of the ordinance meant for the procreation
of men into a channel for the gratification of bes-
tial passion; or, by the destruction of the child
formed or unformed, is no less homicide than ac-
tual, visible murder. The dagger plunged into the
heart of the born and living child, is no more
murder than all the artifices of sin, or all the per-
versions of the ordinance of God; used to prevent
human conception, or birth, or diminish the race of
men. We marvel at the Chinese who put their girls
to death: What is the difference? What is the dif-
ference between their infanticides and the varierl
forms of child murder, prevailing in our country
and among people professing to be Christians and
followers of Him Who has said, "Suffer little
children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for
of such is the Kingdom of Heaven" ; "and that it
were better that a mill-stone be tied around your


necks, and you were cast into the sea, than that you
should scandaHze these Httle ones" ; and I may add,
or deprive of Hfe one of these Httle ones for whom
Christ died; and with whom He tells us the King-
dom of Heaven is peopled. How many of the race
have thus perished, and are perishing. But we must
forbear. . . . Consult those who have writ-
ten knowingly and learnedly on this subject.
All hail ! ye infant Martyr flowers :
Cut off in life's first saving hours;
As rose buds snapped in tempest strife,
When Herod sought your Saviour's Hfe.
You, tender flock of lambs, we sing.
First victims slain for Christ your King;
Beneath the altar's heavenly ray,
With martyr palms and crowns ye play.
For their Redemption; glory be,
O Jesus, Virgin born, to Thee!
With Father, and with Holy Ghost,
For ever from the Martyr host. Amen.
[From the Church hymn on Feast of Holy Inno-


"Be sober and vigilant, for your adversary the
devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking w^hom
he may devour : whom resist ye strong in faith :
knowing that the same sufferings befall your breth-
ren in the world." — I Pet. v; 8-9.

The word devil means the adversary; or in
Hebrew a lord. It means as well a slanderer, or
liar, or homicide. He it was who was" termed by
Christ a homicide and a liar from the beginning.
He slandered Job before God. He offered contumely
to and blasphemed God Himself by tempting
or trying God's own power. He assumed the form
of a serpent to seduce from her allegiance Eve the
mother of mankind. And he succeeded : thus he
brought sin and woe into the world. We learn from
I : Samuel xvi that an evil spirit came upon Saul. The
devil tempted or incited David to number his people.
Ezechiel has him in mind when he describes the fall
of the King of Tyre. Isaiah portrays him as breath-
ing demoniac pride and ascending beyond the stars,
beyond the heavens, and declaring that he will be
as a god. Christ declares that "He saw Lucifer
falling from heaven" ; and whether the words be
considered as relating to his actual fall in the past,
or the fall of his empire, consequent on the coming



of Christ, either view proves his existence. He is a
spirit. Eph. ii ; 2. — ''Who now worketh in the chil-
dren of unbeHef." He is a prince with spirits sub-
ject to him. The Gospel is replete with passages
where the devil was cast out by Christ. — Matt, xii ;
24-26; XXV ; 41. "This one casteth out devils, but
by Beelzebub the prince of devils." ''Depart from
Me into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil
and his angels." "Put ye on the armor of God that
ye may stand against the wiles of the devil: for
our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but
against the princes and the powers, against the
world-rulers of this darkness, against the spirits of
wickedness in the high places." — Eph. vi; 11-13.
"For God spared not the angels, nor were they in-
cluded in the scheme of redemption vouchsafed to
men." — "Eor nowhere doth He take hold of angels,
but He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham." — Heb.
ii; 16. "Not a neophyte, lest lifted up with pride,
he fall into the condemnation of the devil." — I; Tim.
iii ; 6. He is called the prince or god of this world.
"Now is the judgment of the world : now shall the
prince of this world be cast out." — St. John xii; 31.
"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ye being
gathered together, and my spirit, with the power
of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one to
Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit
may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
— I ; Cor. V ; 4-5.

The devil was not originally evil, but fell through
sin. "For if God spared not the angels who sinned,
but with ropes cast them down into hell and de-
livered them tO' chains of darkness to be tormented,


to be reserved to judgment." — II Peter ii ; 4. *'But
the angels, whO' kept not their principahty, but for-
sook their own dwelhng; He hath reserved under
darkness in everlasting chains for the judgment of
the great day." — Jude vi.

The devil, as we have mentioned, assaults and that
in various w^ays, by subtle artifice and not unfre-
quently by open violence, the souls and bodies of
human beings. He employs his associates as emis-
saries and aides in the warfare that he continually
w^ages where and when he will. St. Ignatius in his
book of exercises represents his Satanic majesty as
seated upon a lofty throne in the midst of the pande-
monium, constituted of his fell companions and
damned souls of men, affecting to be god, enveloped
in smoke, surrounded with confusion and disorder,
while he instructs and commands his subjects to go
abroad throughout the world ; and, approaching
every o^ne, tempts him on all his vulnerable sides and
where most prone to sin. Thus attacking men pro-
ceeds from malice, for every endeavor to hinder
human good, and to augment the sum of human
evil and sin, from pride, usurps the likeness of di-
vine power. He can offer no effectual opposition to
God by sending devils to tempt men. Angels serve
God by discharging duties towards men for their
salvation. He is impotent for evil except by God's
permission, as seen in the first chapters of Job. The
method or direction of his assaults is from God,
Who knows how to use evils by ordaining them to
good. Making use of the explanation of St. Thomas
we may say : All attacks of the devil proceed from
malice; for, to hinder good, from pride, usurps or


counterfeits the likeness pf divine power. The
devil can offer no further opposition to God than He
wills. About the assaults of the devils two things
are to be considered, to wit: the assault itself and
/he manner or order of the assault. The assault
itself proceeds from the malice of the devils; who
moved by envy, try to hinder the perfection of men,
and because of pride usurp a kind of similitude oi
divine power, deputing from themselves ministers
determined to lay seige to men ; as the angels min-
ister to God in specified offices for the salvation of
men. But the order or manner of the attack itself
is from God, Who according to order knows how to
use evils by ordaining them to good. But on the
part of the angels, both the custody itself, and the
method of the custody is referred or reduced to
God as to the First Author. — St. Thos. c. xiv.

The immediate end of one trying another is
knowledge: but the end of this knowledge may be
good or bad : good, when one wants to promote his
virtue or knowledge ; bad, when he wants to deceive
him or pervert him. Thus, to try is attributed to
different ones differently or in diverse mode. The
Devil always tempts that he may injure. Hence, his
proper office is to injure. When men try or tempt
they do this inasmuch as they are ministers of the
devil, recruiting agents, second causes. The devil
does not appear in proper person ; this would be his
discomfiture; sometimes he appears as an angel of
hght. He makes use of literature, art, fashions, of
really corrupt though apparently correct upright
people. Lust employs the eyes, profanity the ears,
obscenity the tongue, gluttony, necessary sustenance,


drunkenness, thirst. Demon of impurity, demon of
avarice, various other demons, all make use of hu-
man instruments. The devil is not the direct cause
of all sin, only the indirect : as the gatherers of the
wood cause not the conflagration, but only pre-
pare for it. Thus Satan did in overthrowing Eve
and her race. But temptation comes also directly
from sinful or not ordered bodily gratification, both
for bodilv sustenance and venereal. Even if the devil
were not, men would need food and lawful procre-
ation. And in these there would be always room
for sin, and therefore, temptation.

It has become fashionable nowadays to smile at
the credulity of those who dare to mention the devil
as an actual being, and to ascribe to downright sim-
plicity those who dare to make mention of his Sa-
tanic majesty. And, if one ventures to express his
belief in such a being, if seriously answered at all,
he is told that such belief may have prevailed in by-
gone ages, but that it no longer receives credence
or countenance from enlightened people who, for-
sooth, think that nothing is which they do not be-
lieve in, or which cannot be squared with their no-
tions of- probability or with what they may have
learned from those who pooh-poohed all such belief.

And yet, we must insist that the existence of the
devil is not a mere matter to believe, or not iC 're-
lieve, according to the fit that is upon us. Some
will say that they have never seen the devil; as if
forsooth they could only believe what they have
seen; others, again, will have it that the devil, if he
exists at all, is surely a tempter; which is indeed
true. Yet, they declare that they have never had


any experience of his temptations. Others will have
it that if there be a devil, why naturally, he should
have the appearance of one, not knowing that the
devil can easily change his appearance, and can
easily, at times, even assume angelic form. While
those who say that they are not tempted by the devil
easily forget that the devil does not feel it necessary
to tempt those who already belong to him by right
of conquest; and that he does not waste his ammuni-
tion, applying it to purposes already attained; and
that, in fact, the devil more easily succeeds in his fell
purposes by concealing himself than b)^ exposure ;
for if the devil made himself known, everyone would
flee from him ; but he works truly effectually only
when he is not known. Also, it should be borne in
mind that he works through his instruments, no less
but even better than when he presents himself to the

There are certain means which he is not slow to
use; because, by them, under the guise of innocent
amusement, he can achieve dastardly and irreparable
mischief. For instance, we hear much to-day of
what people call the innocent amusement of dancing.
While, doubtless, it is true that there can be innocent
dancing, it is still truer that there can be malicious
dancing ; and that while one of the dancers may per-

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 42 of 43)