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suade himself that there is no harm for himi, can he
persuade himself that there is no harm for the other?
To-day, we hear a great deal about Tango. The
present Holy Father, when Bishop of Bologna, de-
clared that the word proclaimed its meaning and its
danger. Some years ago, and even yet, but less
since Tango came upon the scene, we heard of what



656 ON THE DEVIL

was called round dances, which were strictly forbid-
den, while there was leniency shown to what was
called square dances. Yet it is a question whether
there is such a thing as a square, — that is an honest
and upright dance.

I heard lately of a person who was present during
the performance of Tango; which was so offensive
tO' his moral susceptibilities, that he felt compelled,
by his conscience, to flee from the place, lest by con-
tinuing longer thereat, he would be guilty of griev-
ous sin.

Whether people can reason themselves out of a be-
lief in the existence of a devil, because of the rea-
sons which they give and which I have enumerated,
they cannot destroy the truth of the existence of the
devil, laid down so clearly and unmistakably in the
teaching of the Church and in the revealed Word of
God. For it is not their belief that determines his
existence; but his existence should determine their
belief, as taught by the Church and the Holy Scrip-
tures.

For, if there be nO' devil, pray how was our
mother Eve and our father Adam tempted so dis-
astrously with the forbidden fruit? What becomes
of the words of Holy Job, that the devil sought en-
trance among the sons of God and besought the
Lord for permission to tempt His chosen servant ;
permission which was granted him upon the express
condition that he should inflict no injury upon him.
How are we taught that King David was led,
through the crime of pride, to adultery and murder
by the temptation of the devil, leading him to count
his people and to glory in his might. What be-



ON THE DEVIL 657

comes of the words of the Apostle, that the Devil
as a roaring lion goes around seeking whom he may
devour? Whom we are told to resist with all our
strength; for the Lord God does not allow any man
to be tempted beyond what he can bear. Are we to
consider it a mere fiction that our Blessed Lord
Himself was tempted by the devil and afterwards
was hungry ; that the devil took Him to a high pin-
nacle of the temple and commanded Him to cast
Himself down, for the Lord had given His angels
charge over Him, lest He should dash His foot
against a stone; and the Lord Jesus reproved him,
saying, "Begone Satan, for not in bread alone does
man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the
mouth of God." It were an almost endless task to
cite any but a few of the passages in Sacred Scrip-
ture clearly implying the existence of the evil spirits,
Lucifer and his angels, and those who with him fell
from Heaven, being cast out because through pride
they rebelled against God.

There are three places in the new Testament in
which is contained the most signal proof of the
existence of these evil spirits and of their legions.
These three places are those in which Christ Jesus
casts the devil out of men; not to speak of the num-
berless unrecorded cases in which Christ showed
His power over them and His profound sympathy
and consolation for the obsessed, and every manner
of suffering. We refer to Mark, Chapter i; 32 to
34. "And when it was evening after sun-set, they
brought to himi all who w^ere ill, and those possessed
with devils, and all the city was gathered together
at the door and He healed many that were troubled



658 ON THE DEVIL

with various diseases and cast out many devils and
suffered them not to speak because they knew Him."

Luke ix; 38-44. "And behold, a man among the
crowd called out, saying: Teacher I beseech Thee
look on my son, because he is mine only one. And
lo! a spirit seizeth him and he suddenly crieth out
and it throweth him down and teareth him so that
he foameth and bruising him, it hardly departed
from him, and I besought thy disciples to cast it out
and they could not. And Jesus answering, said :
Oh, unbelieving and perverse generation, how long
shall I be with you and suffer you? bring hither thy
son." And as he was coming to Him the devil threw
him down and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the
unclean spirit and cured the boy and restored him
to his father. And all were astonished at the mighty
power of God."

Luke xi : 14. seq : "And He was casting out a
devil and it was dumb; and when He had cast out
the devil, the dumb man spake : and the crowds
wondered. But some of them said 'He casteth out
devils by Beelzebub, Prince of devils.' "

Those who desire to learn more on this subject
of the Devil and his character, can find it in the
Summa of St. Thomas, in the places already re-
ferred to. I have said enough for the purpose of
my instruction.



ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION

"For our present tribulation, which is momen-
tary and light, worketh for us above measure ex-
ceedingly an eternal weight of glory : while we con-
sider not the things which are seen, but those which
are not seen. For the things which are seen are
temporal, but those which are not seen are eternal."
—II Cor. iv; 17-18.

We all understand very well what is meant by
being in earnest about religion or any other subject :
not listless or thoughtless or indifferent, but stren-
uous, serious, active, vigilant.

Some people are in earnest about nothing. They
would fain persuade themselves and others that they
are in earnest because they have some kind of a wish
or desire for something or some purpose, but which
is so feeble, and sO' destitute of any real intention,
that it should be accounted as a mere velleity. When
they feel the pinch of hunger or thirst or any other
want, they bestir themselves for the time, but soon
relapse into their habitual indifference. They are
very much in begging help or even work; but ease
soon relaxes their resolve, or the stimulation created
by their necessities. As for applying themselves so
as to persevere in their newly awakened pursuit, the

659



66o ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION

great bulk are satisfied to live from hand to mouth :
sustained endeavor is rarely found. People fail to
apply the means necessary to any given end ; and
which alone can afford any rational hope of perse-
verance : for he only really wishes the end who truly
wishes and applies effectually the necessary means
or instruments. Of course there is a sort of earnest-
ness which becomes necessary to save people from
hunger, or thirst, or nakedness. But this is far from
true earnestness which is desiderated in religious
belief and practice.

True earnestness in any walk of life or in any
pursuit is necessary to success : it is only those who
employ it that are destined to or are capable of suc-
cess. Hence it is that we see on every side the
earnest successful, while the laggard or indifferent
fall behind and leave the good things of life to the
strenuous and persistent ; though frequently they are
endowed by nature with parts and qualifications far
superior to the others. Just as tact takes the place
and outstrips talent, so do vigilance and perseverance
supply the place of even superior endowments.

Earnestness should be proportioned to the ur-
gency or importance or necessity of the end or pur-
pose sought. Hence we find that those seeking the
objects of this life — whether riches or honors or
pleasures, whatever they apprehend or imagine to
constitute their happiness, this they seek with pro-
portionate earnestness. Now what can be more
necessary, or more bound up with our eternal salva-
tion, and, therefore, our only tnie liappiness, than
the great verities of religion, — salvation, eternal
bliss, eternal woe, the application to our souls of the



ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION 66 1

blood of the Redeemer poured out for us as the
price of our souls?. Yet men contemplate them not,
or at least the great majority of men. Why? What
is the cause of this insensibility or blindness? Be-
cause they do not realize, do not see or feel these
truths; as if, forsooth, what is seen is more real or
necessary than the unseen ! We are deluded by
sense, blinded by sensible error. Is not the word of
God through our hearing more authoritative than
the sense of sight or seeing, which can easily lead
us into error? Do we imagine that what we see is
more unerring, than the word of God speaking in
our souls, and made known to us by His church
speaking through our hearing? We look upon the
world with opened eyes : we close them, and we see
it not. Has it ceased to exist in the interim before
opening themi again? No, surely; it continues to
exist. Cannot the unseen, upon which we never
looked, exist without being seen ? The unseen once
was not ; it is now ; when we die, it goes forever
from us — ceases to be relativelv to us. When the
last day comes, the world will cease absolutely, so
that if we could imagine beings surviving that day,
they would see no world. Faith, therefore, is surer
than sight. Sense and human knowledge deceive:
Faith, never; for, founded upon the word of God,
it abides forever from generation unto generation.

What is seen, according to St. Paul, is temporal :
what is unseen is eternal ; pregnant words : the whole
philosophy of the Gospel and true religion. For
faith is the substantial realizing of truths which not
seen, human intelligence could never compass ; which
God alone could make known.



662 ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION

If we could take the wings of the morning and
fly to the uttermost bounds of creation, we would
realize the immensity of God. If we could trans-
port ourselves in thought back to the everlasting,
unbeginning, untold ages of the past, we would feel
feebly the eternity of the God-head. If we could be
borne aloft into the highest heavens, with St. Paul,
and be so absorbed in the contemplation of the Deity
as not to know whether we were in the body or out
of the body, and hear those things that he was not
permitted to utter, we would receive an enlargement
of mind, an elevation of soul, an expansion of all
our faculties to which all human knowledge, even
the highest, were less than elemental. If we could
pass in review the successive periods of duration
from what we are forced to call the beginning, when
truly there was no beginning, we might comprehend
that a thousand years are but a day in God's sight.
If God would allow us a glance of His eternity, we
would learn that in eternity there is no time, no suc-
cession, but one complete and simultaneous moment.
If we could witness the sufferings of the souls in
Purgatory, or hear the cries of the damned bewail-
ing their misery, that fill the bottomless abyss, we
would have so actual and realized a sense of religi-
ous truths that no knowledge derived from sense
could for an instant be compared therewith, and we
should be no longer capable of thinking of aught
else.

It is strange that men are earnest about every-
thing but their souls and their salvation. All world-
ly objects can receive their undivided attention and
exclusively occupy their minds, so that it is rare to



ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION 663

find one who, from^ time to time, bestows upon it a
half hour's reflection, and there are very many who
not only defer its consideration continually, but
the great bulk of men, even professing Christians,
put it back until the end of their days, and may be
even to the last day of their lives; what did I say:
to the last day ? even to the last few hours, and may
be their last hour. And these too, are among those
who look upon nothing further from them than
to die without due preparation, and without that
spirit of repentance without which they know there
can be no salvation. They look forward continually.
It is not that they intend to be lost; far from it.
But they cheat themselves by believing that they
are not now with the dispositions which they would
like tO' have when about to reconcile themselves to
God, and which they trust to have at some future
and more acceptable time; when the cares of life
and family ceasing, they will be able to bestow upon
this momentous matter the undivided and absorb-
ing reflection which, forsooth, they are not ready
to give it now. But this expected time never comes ;
nor is its advent hastened by long continued delay,
or by deferring it from day to day, or from year
to year. Nor does the reluctance or obstacles which
are encountered diminish ; but on the contrary, they
are intensified to a greater degree and are multiplied
indefinitely.

There seems to be nothing to awake men from
this profound lethargy, this unholy insensibility,
nothing but the sovereign grace of God. Without
this, Christians are threatened to be engulfed in
eternal misery and blank despair. Who is the man



664 ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION

who should allow his soul to be lost through neglect
to save it? for we cannot believe that any man in
his senses, would willingly imperil, or with malice
aforethought, could resolve on his own destruction
and irretrievable ruin. It should be unnecessary
to urge men to be truly earnest about those truths
which faith teaches, no less truly and surely than
our senses proclaim the visible objects and truths
around us. For who, believing in the truths of
religion, death, judgment, heaven, hell and the
momentous consequences depending thereon, can
view without fear and trembling the alarming pros-
pect which they open upon us, and which certainly
will be our eternal doom, unless we arouse ourselves
to action before it is too late. Why should we be
impressed by our senses and pay so little regard to
the words of the living God? Making due allow-
ance for the dominion of the senses which control
and blind us, the words and authority of God should
exert far higher and more irresistible influence
upon us, and carry far greater convictions to our
souls.

Who, beholding death, judgment, heaven, hell
could think, even for a moment, on the objects of
sense or things of this world, or aspire to anything
that this world affords, or that our hearts could
conceive? If the veils of sense were torn away,
and we could contemplate the eternal verities as
seen in the light of God, we would indeed be filled
with fear unutterable that would leave no room in
our souls for aught else; our faith or, rather, our
sight, would animate us to cast aside all human
thoughts, and prostrate ourselves before God and



ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION 665

His eternal truths. Then we would understand
what here below, obscured by sense, and distracted
by worldly concerns, we so feebly or not at all con-
ceive. Then heaven, hell, eternity, the majesty of
the Infinite God would be brought home to us, and
our marvel would be that we could have remained
so long in darkness and neglect of these salutary
truths; and failed in our' earnestness to practice and
apply them to our lives.

Who can ever think of eternity without a shud-
der? Who can think of the future life, whether
of bliss or woe, without ineffable consolation, or
inexpressible anxiety? If we would have these sub-
jects exert due influence upon us, repentance, earn-
est and sustained, is absolutely necessary.

How can they be of any effect upon those who
never think of them, or even reject them from their
mind? who even decry them; or contemn them?
What is it that makes a man earnest? What but
continual thought and unflagging interest and pro-
found meditation upon any cause or subject which
interests him? What makes a man warm in his
advocacy of any just cause, or helps to enlist his
feelings in support of what he believes is right, or
in condemnation of what he believes is wrong?
What impels him to follow the dictates of his con-
science, either in approval or censure ? Earnestness,
not mock or insincere, but true and from the heart :
not the warmth that men seek by chafing the hands,
which soon subsides and cools, but that which comes
from a vigorous circulation of the blood through
the veins and heart. This is akin to true earnest-
ness in pursuit of any purpose. And it is this true



666 ON EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION

earnestness and this alone, which we must apply to
the study with the view of realizing, the truths made
known by God, and for the purpose of applying
them to our souls, and of compelling our souls to
give them ready acceptance, and of abiding always
under their light and guidance and influence. Thus
we may obtain, with God's grace our eternal sal-
vation and all things necessary thereto. This is
what we should hope for and live for : this is what
God is sure to confer upon us, if we be faithful to
His truth and cherish His grace.

I beseech you, brethren, by your souls and their
salvation, by the blood shed for them by Him Who
knew their value, by hell's woe that you would shun,
by heaven's bliss that you would gain, by the short-
ness of time, which, if you fail to realize here, you
shall realize hereafter throughout the unending days
of eternity in miserable despair; — ^by eternity meant
to be the glory and bliss of the soul, I implore you
that you now seek God, that you be truly earnest in
your religious belief and practice while there is yet
time, and ''before the night cometh when no man"
worketh."



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