Copyright
John McQuirk.

Sermons and discourses (Volume 3) online

. (page 7 of 43)
Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 7 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


This truth is the foundation of our faith. For,
if there be no Trinity, there is no incarnation, no
satisfaction, no redemption, no offering of grace,
no descent of the Holy Ghost.

The Adorable Trinity is intimated or obscurely
revealed in those passages of the Old Testament, in
which God is represented as speaking of Himself
in the plural number. It was then a hidden truth;
not directly and for itself, but, as it were, inci-
dentally and because of its inherent connection with



92 ON THE TRINITY

some other truth, disclosed now and then emerging
through the veils in which it was enveloped ; to be
revealed in the fullness of time by the revelation of
Jesus Christ. The minds of men were not yet pre-
pared ; for till then "no one hath seen God at any
time; the Only Begotten Son Who is in the bosom
of the Father, He hath revealed Him." "Let us
make man to Our image and likeness." — Gen. i, 26.
"Behold, Adam is made as one of us." — Gen, iii, 2-3.
"The Lord said to me : Thou art my Son, this day
have I begotten Thee." — Ps. ii, 7. This Son was
the "Wisdom conceived before all time in the bosom
of God," according to Solomon, and which David
saw "engendered before the aurora" ; He was the
word of God and the eternal thought which was
always in God and with God, through whom He
has made all things and without whom was made
nothing that was made ; the Father's love for whom
and whose love for the Father is the Holy Ghost —
the Third Person of the Adorable Trinity.

In the New Testament it is explicitly declared :
"When Jesus was baptized, forthwith He went up
from the water: and behold the Heavens were
opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending
from Heaven as a dove and coming upon Him.
And behold a voice from Heaven, saying: This is
My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." —
Matt. iii. "Going therefore, teach ye all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." — Matt, xxviii.
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another
Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever." —
John xiv. "When the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of



ON THE TRINITY 93

Truth who proceeds from the Father, will come, He
will give testimony of Me." Proceeds, not who is
made or created, but who emanates. ''Holy Father,
keep those in Thy name, whom Thou hast given
Me, that they may be one as we are one
that they all may be one, as Thou Father in Me, and
I in Thee, that they may be one in us . . . that
they be one as we are one . . . that they may
be made one." — John. 'T am in the Father, and
the Father is in Me." "There are three that give
testimony in Heaven : the Father, the Word, and
the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." — I, John
V. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the char-
ity of God, and the communication of the Holy
Ghost be with you all." — St. Paul; — H Cor. xiii.
"Peter the Apostle, the elect of Jesus Christ, ac-
cording to the foreknowdedge of God the Father,
for the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience
and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." —
I, Peter i.

In all these passages we are let into the unfathom-
able depths of the Divine Essence : we see the in-
finite fecundity of the Divine Nature, the myster-
ious operations of the Divine Essence, communicat-
ing itself to the Three Divine Persons, without
diminution or division of Its Unity, without dis-
parity or confusion of the Persons. We are taught
by these passages that as man is created unto the
image of the Trinity and the Adorable Persons,
unto the same is he re-created in baptism and re-
generated unto his spiritual life and destiny. Bap-
tizing men in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost : "in the name" pro-



94 ox THE TRINITY

claims the unity of the Divine Nature : the names
proclaim the Trinity, and distinction of Persons.

All the proofs by which the Son is proved to be
God, and the Holy Ghost God, are so many proofs
of the Trinity ; for these Divine Persons, each being
God, have the same Divine nature which remains
undivided and indivisible.

Can we explain this Divine Mystery? Can we
bring it to the level of our comprehension? Can
we solve the difficulties which it involves? If we
could, it would not be a mystery. Of their nature,
mysteries are above reason: therefore, they are
impervious to it, and unsearchable. Yet they can-
not be opposed to reason. Reason demonstrates
that there is nothing in this mystery opposed to
reason or contradictory to the laws of evidence.
We do not say that in this truth, God is one and
three in the same sense; that would be intrinsically
impossible ; but that God is one in one sense, that is,
in His nature ; and that God is three in another,
that is, in the Personalities of His being. Of course,
no one but God Himself can fathom His own na-
ture. "Oh! the depth of the riches of God, how in-
comprehensible is His wisdom, and how unsearch-
able His ways!"

The most that can be said is that reason cannot
prove nor disprove the Trinity. It can be known
only by faith. Reason is powerless to disclose and
discourse on the hidden truths of God, particularly
on this, the most secret and impenetrable of the
mysteries that Revelation teaches. "No one hath
known the Son, except him to whom the Father
hath revealed Him : and no one hath known the



ON THE TRINITY 95

Father except him to whom the Son hath revealed
Him." To prove or disprove this truth of Three
Persons in One God, we would need to compre-
hend clearly and fully the meaning of nature and
person and substance, as they exist in God. But
while we may have some idea of these terms as
they are found in creatures, their comprehension as
they exist in the infinite and eternal and incompre-
hensible God head, is forever beyond our finite
capacity. Creation can supply us with no knowl-
edge of the Trinity. From creation we learn of the
existence of God ; but, because it is the work of God
not as three but as one, it can teach us nothing of
this inscrutable mystery.

This truth rests upon the authority of God Him-
self in the revelation made by Jesus Christ, His
adorable Son. Extrinsic evidence can be greater
than that which results from the light of evidence.
When then there is no contradiction in the truth
or mystery proposed, and this is secured by in-
fallible extrinsic authority, we have metaphysical
evidence and divine sanction for what we believe.
He who believes on the unerring word and unim-
peachable veracity of God, acts upon the most lum-
inous and transcendent evidence which even God
Himself can supply. For such testimony is the un-
deceived and undeceivable work of God Himself :
''the same yesterday, to-day and forever; and like
God Himself, its record is from generation to gen-
eration."

I have said that creation, while it manifests God
the Creator, does not indicate that there are three
Divine Persons. Yet, once we know that there is



g6 ON THE TRINITY

this Trinity, we easily trace resemblances which
shadow forth this August Mystery. And it is in
man, made in God's image and likeness, that we
should naturally look for, and do actually find some
resemblance. There are the three powers of the
human soul, will, memory and understanding : three
attributes, each distinct from the other, inherent in
the one essence, which remains undivided. The
human family, too, with its threefold relations of
father, mother, child, is suggestive, though at an
incalculable distance, of the same ineffable myster}^
The sun in Heaven, diffusing light and heat and
splendor: the earth itself, with its land and water
and fire, bear out St. Augustine's saying that all
the works of God image forth, however feebly and
remotely, their Architect and Maker. We are, of
course, far from meaning that these illustrations
are anything but the veriest suggestions of this
Mystery — absolutely inadequate from every point
of view to declare in even the remotest degree this
inexplicable and incomprehensible truth. Yet, it is
instructive to dwell upon even the feeblest resem-
blance which we may find between the Almighty
Creator and the works of His hands. Contempla-
tion of them leads our thoughts to Him ; and this
is always reverential to Him, and consolatory to our
souls : such elevations of the mind become so many
acts of prayer and worship.

''Let us make man to our image and likeness,"
said the Creator in the creation of man. If we look
closely we shall find that this likeness is realized, in
a manner, in the intrinsic and essential operations
of the mind of man. The soul by reflexion forms



ON THE TRINITY 97

a thought or conception : this may be truly accounted
the offspring or child of its intelligence. Thus the
Eternal Father, contemplating His essence, con-
ceives from eternity the Word, His Son — ''the fig-
ure of His substance and the splendor of His glory."
As we love the thought and the soul which has gen-
erated it; so eternal love proceeds from the Eternal
Father for the Son, Who comprehends the Father,
and from' the Eternal Word for the Father : and
this love, consubstantial and co-eternal with both,
is the Holy Ghost. Thus the triple operations of
the one soul substance in some sort shadows forth
the relations of Three Persons in One Nature.

Take any substance that has length, breadth and
thickness, and you have an illustration of how unity
can exist in plurality, one in substance, manifold in
relations. Divide this substance, it will always re-
tain length, breadth and thickness, and always retain
its unity.

Consider space, than which nothing seems to be
more familiar to us. We need not attempt to define
it ; whatever it is, it has length, breadth and height ;
these relations are truly distinct, because one is not
the other: they relate to one another, because they
determine one another : they are equal to one an-
other, because each is equally essential to one an-
other : while distinct in conception, they are insepar-
able from one another, because essentially adhering
to their subject : yet they constitute but one indi-
visible substance or nature.

These relations or distinctions in creatures are,
of course, necessarily finite: when contemplated in
God, they are infinite and personal. Individuality



98 ON THE TRINITY

makes a thing what it is : if it is conscious of itself,
it is a person. Now God, being an infinite Spirit,
His substance and its relations or distinctions are
spirit. Consequently, each one of these three rela-
tions, being a spirit, is conscious of Itself, and is
therefore a Person; hence the Three Divine Per-
sons.

In everything that God has made, spiritual or
corporal, rational or irrational, animate or inani-
mate, there is a principle of self-conservation, self-
protection, self-development, self-propagation, which
for want of an adequate word, we call activity.
This principle is universal in its extent, abiding in
its duration, indestructible in its nature. Not a drop
of water in the ocean, nor an atom of matter of
whatever kind, is any more lacking in this essence,
than the heavenly bodies, stupendous in size and
perpetual in motion : the most inanimate and life-
less, .not less than the most sensible and lifeful. In
all, it works according to their nature : in some sim-
ply preserving their innate essence; defending it
against the action of rival elements or contrary
forces : in others preserving them in existence : in
others unfolding their inherent potential expansion
and growth : in others rendering fertile their inher-
ent productiveness and germinating their species.
This principle abides under all changes forever until
overtaken by annihilation ; and annihilation is un-
known in all God's works.

Now, as this principle essentially abides in and
is the essential characteristic of all things, and as
all things are in some way fashioned after the
Divine Essence, we may assume that this principle



ON THE TRINITY 99

is found in some form in God Himself. As all crea-
tion images forth and is the illimitable external pro-
duction of Divine power and activity, we naturally
look for some internal activity and life or operation
in the Divine Essence. Behold it in the intercom-
munion and triple operations of the Adorable Trin-
ity, in the mysterious relations of the Father, Son
and Holy Ghost : the Father eternally generating
the Son, by His infinite consciousness of Himself;
and the Holy Ghost, eternally proceeding or spirat-
ing, as the eternal efBuent love of the Father for
Himself as reflected in the Son and of the Son for
the Father as reflected or expressed or known in
Himself as the eternal Logos. And as the external
activity of God results in creation — a work not in-
finite, yet proportioned to an infinite being whose
power cannot be exhausted; so the infinite activity
belonging to the Divine Nature is exhausted in the
triple operations of the God head. Here we have
most marvellously, nay, divinely, unfolded for us
the prototype of the principle of activity inherent
in all God's works. We are reminded that all God
has made is fashioned in some way upon His own
Divine Exemplar; and what He has made helps us
to rise to some feeble idea of His own nature.

Far be it from us, as it was from the mind of the
saints and theologians who have made use of these
illustrations, to think of exploring or comprehend-
ing by them what is in its nature, and by reason of
our finite capacity, incomprehensible and unfathom-
able. Yet, under the direction and guidance of these
saints and doctors, it is allowed us, repressing idle
curiosity that "would rush in where Angels fear to



SiiQimc,



lOO ON THE TRINITY

tread," to nourish our piety and love, by these feeble
illustrations and childish efforts to render familiar
to our minds what no created intelligence can com-
pass : even the effort will teach us the mysterious-
ness and majesty of God : our hearts will profit by
the inability of our minds, devotion will triumph
where the mind fails. While after all our medita-
tions we shall be as far as ever from comprehending
the incomprehensible, yet we shall be impressed with
the awful grandeur and unapproachable majesty of
the God head. We shall be made more humble,
more docile, more loving, more worshipful, more
ready to obey His law and to do His Holy Will.

Belief in this Mystery is the foundation of faith,
the anchor of hope, the unshaken principle of char-
ity. For, if there be no Trinity, there can be no
Incarnation: and, if there be no Incarnation, there
is no salvation; no sacrifice for sin, no redeeming
mercy, no revelation : and if no salvation, what room
or ground for faith: and if there be no redemption
and revelation, what have we to hope for or be-
lieve? What is in prospect for us, if hope and
trust in a Redeemer and the gracious promises and
assurances of an Allgood God is to be cast aside,
except misery, confusion and blank despair? And
"we are of all men the most miserable, as having
hope only in this world." What motive for charity
if the charity of God, that "He so loved the world
as to give His only begotten Son that all who should
believe in Him should not perish, but have life, and
life more abundantly," is but a fable or a myth!
How love God with supernatural love, and our
neighbor for God's sake, if we know not the love



ON THE TRINITY lOI

of God for US, and are forever strangers to His
knowledge, and outcasts from His favor, and repro-
bates of His justice; prone to misery here and sub-
ject to suffering hereafter; only too happy if our
lot was one with that of the beasts of the field that
sink into the earth, or the grass that is cast into the
oven; happier by far if we had never seen life, nor
heard of God : not know^ing Him, nor tasting His
goodness, we would have never sought to know Him
or possess Him. We would have been content with
the content that satisfies irrational beings or material
objects.

To the Triune God, therefore, be eternal praise,
worship, and glory.



THE INCARNATION

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among
us. — St. John 1 ; 14.

Man was made in the beginning but Httle less
than the angels. For man was not originally cre-
ated as he is now born — subject to misery and sin.
He came forth from the hand of God, ''upright,"
as the Scripture expresses it. He was made in
righteousness, and endowed with supernatural gifts.
All the impulses and tendencies of his lower nature
were obedient to reason. Reason was in perfect
harmony with the will of God. Man had all that
was required to his perfection in the natural order,
but he had more. For, besides this natural integrity
or perfection — the result of the original justice with
which he was endowed — he was raised to a super-
natural state. This elevation was entirely gratu-
itous on the part of God : man had no claim to it ; and
God could have created him without it; He could
have made man in a state of pure nature, or even as
he is now born. While not necessary to our nature,
this supernatural elevation and the gifts that went
with it, improved all our natural faculties ; perfected,
strengthened, and ennobled our whole being.

Among the gifts more closely related to the na-
tural order were enlightenment of mind, rectitude

102



THE INCARNATION IO3

of will, exemption from sickness, death and all the
other ills to which we are at present subject, and
the God-like gift of immortality, by which man
would forever have defied the dominion of death,
and, w^ithout dying, been translated to the presence
of God.

But, in an evil hour, man transgressed ; he sinned
against that law of obedience, which every creature
owes to its Creator. He fell from the righteousness
in which he had been created; he was stripped of
its accompanying gifts. Deprived of grace, he in-
curs God's anger. He is overwhelmed with misery.
His passions, freed from the control of grace, burst
forth; terror and anguish seize him. He becomes
a slave of the devil ; he feels a mighty proneness and
subjection to sin. The prospect of immortal hap-
piness closes upon him ; he is pursued by the fear
and certainty of death, temporal and eternal; he is
condemned to endless and unutterable woe.

Nor was this curse and its consequences confined
to our first parents; but have entailed upon their
posterity all the misery brought upon themselves.
As their fidelity would have been meritorious of
eternal happiness to all men, so their prevarication
consigned them to everlasting woe. By an inscru-
table decree of God, they have been made partakers
of this primal guilt.

Adam, stript of original justice and its attendant
gifts, could not transmit them to his children. He
could not bestow what he had forfeited. A King,
bereft of his kingdom and crown, cannot hand them
dow^n to his descendants. It is this deprivation of
original justice that chiefly constitutes original sin.



I04 THE INCARNATION

Thus the whole race was involved in a terrible
estrangement from its Creator. Adam's guilt in-
flicted all the evil, eternal and temporal, upon his
posterity, w^hich it had upon himself — loss of origi-
nal justice, loss of sanctifying grace, loss of a super-
natural destiny and supernatural gifts preparing him
for it, eternal loss of God, everlasting misery in hell.
He was made subject to pain, sickness and death,
and all the other evils which we now inherit.

It was the sovereign grace of God in man that
held his lower nature in subjection to reason, and
reason in harmony vvdth God; this grace forfeited,
his passions rebelled against reason; and reason,
weakened and obscured, was no longer conformed
to the will and pleasure of God. As it is the strong
arm of the law that restrains and governs the dis-
cordant and riotous elements of society, and, as
when the law is suspended or contemned, confusion,
anarchy, bloodshed, and all evil passions prevail ;
so, in like manner, when the grace of God, which
repressed and subdued man's impulses and passions,
which harmonized and strengthened all his moral
faculties, was withdrawn, selfishness, avarice, un-
belief, pride, cruelty, and all other perverse propensi-
ties, broke loose, over\Vhelming society with sin and
misery, turning a paradise into a hell. It is to this
mystery of original sin that is to be ascribed the
prevalence of sin, evil, and corruption that from
then even to the present time pervade human society.

Man, fallen from his supernatural estate, soon
forgot God ; he gave to the creature the worship and
glory due Him alone. Soon idolatry, superstition,
demon-worship, depraved the hearts and blinded the



THE INCARNATION IO5

minds of men ; even human sacrifices were resorted
to in the vain hope of appeasing the sense of guilt
that agonized the human conscience.. All flesh soon
corrupted its way; and there was found no justice
upon earth. "It repented God that He had
made man." Deep in the human soul was the in-
destructible consciousness of sin and transgression :
far from men's hopes, and farther from their power,
was the possibility of pardon and reconciliation.
With absurd external rites, they sought to w^ash
away this inherent guilt. With still absurder rites
and more unmeaning incantations they sought to
prognosticate the future. So dark and depraved had
the human soul become that, in the religious ordin-
ances which pretended to propitiate the offended
Deity sin was adored, and passions that provoked
sin were deified. "Men became vain in their
thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened ;
for professing themselves to be wise, they became
fools. And they changed the glory of the incorrupt-
ible God into the likeness of a corruptible man, and
of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping
things. They changed the truth of God into a lie,
and worshipped and served the creature instead of
the Creator, blessed forever." This is St. Paul's de-
scription of the lights of the human race before the
advent of Christ. "If their light was darkness, what
must the darkness itself have been" ; what must have
been the state of the rest of men, if the philosophers
were sunk in such ignorance, misery, and corrupt
tion?

The true God was unknown outside of the Syna-
gogue, and there, if known, but poorly and feebly



I06 THE INCARNATION

served. Even there His presence was but a reminis-
cence, rather than a Hving force or ever-guiding
principle. The deluge of human depravity which
swept the earth was not stopped by the boundaries
of the land of God's chosen people. St. Paul, again,
is our witness that the state of the Jews, among
whom God was known, was much the same as
among the pagans, among whom altars were erected
''to the unknown God." After characterizing the
pagans that "they were filled with all unrighteous-
ness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full
of envy, quarrelling, murder, deceit, malignity;
whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, spiteful,
proud, disobedient to parents, covenant-breakers,
without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful";
of the Jews he asks, "What, then, do we excel them
(the pagans) ? By no means. As it is written there
is not any man just. There is none that under-
standeth, there is none that seeketh after God. All
have turned out of the way, they have become un-
profitable together, there is none that doeth good,
there is not so much as one. Their throat is an
open sepulchre, with their tongues they have dealt
deceitfully. Their mouth is full of cursing and
bitterness, their feet swift to shed blood : destruc-
tion and misery are in their ways."

This was the abject misery into which sin had
plunged mankind. This was the consequence of
the fall from the original justice and sanctifying
grace in which the race in Adam had been consti-
tuted.

And, what was worse, this doom was irreversible,
the evil was irremediable so far as man's own efforts



THE INCARNATION 10/

could go. It was not in his power to raise himself
to the eminence whence he had fallen. Nor was
God bound in justice to afford him any redemption.
Men had no claim to the original supernatural state
in which His gratuitous goodness had placed them.
He could have made man without this supernatural
elevation; He could even have made him as he is
now bom. In the exercise of his free will, Adam
had lost for himself and his posterity what he could
have gained by his obedience. There was, therefore,
no injustice in leaving men in the evil which they
had invoked upon themselves, and in the depriva-
tion which was truly self-imposed. The actual sins



Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 7 of 43)