“On the Love of God”
by St. Francis de Sales
How we often reject God’s Inspirations and refuse to love Him.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matt. xi. 12).”
It is the Lord Himself Who says that these men, who were taught the true faith, and had received grace enough to have converted the uttermost heathen, yet persisted in rejecting it, and rebelling against that holy Light. He too has declared that in the Judgment Day the men of Nineve and the Queen of Sheba shall rise up and condemn the Jews; since the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonas, and the Queen of Sheba came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon (Luke xi. 31, 32), while they who heard the Divine Wisdom of One greater than Solomon, who saw His Miracles and received His tangible Gifts, hardened their hearts and resisted His Grace.
They who had least to draw them came to repentance, they to whom most was given resisted; they who least need to learn hasten to the Teacher, they whose need is greatest abide in their foolishness. Nothing can be plainer than this our Lord’s teaching, i.e., that the Jews will be condemned as compared with the Ninevites, because with so much favor they showed no love, with so much leading no repentance; while those who had little favor and little leading abounded in love and penitence.
St. Augustine throws great light upon our Lord’s teaching in his ” City of God (Bk. xii. c. 6-9);” for, although speaking more particularly of the angels, he applies the subject no less to man. Thus in chap, vi. he sets forth two men absolutely equal in all things pertaining to goodness, assaulted by a like temptation, one resisting, the other yielding to the enemy. Then in chap, ix., having proved that all the angels were created in love, and that probably grace and love were alike in all, he asks how it came to pass that some persevered until they attained to glory, while others fell away to condemnation. To which (he replies) there is no answer, save that while some have persevered through God’s Grace, in the pure love they received when created, the others fell therefrom by their own self-will.
But if, as St. Thomas has proved, grace was diversely bestowed upon the angels, and the Seraphim received a much higher degree than the lower angels, how was it that among them the chiefest (for so the Fathers held) should have fallen, while a countless multitude of other angels, inferior both in nature and grace, persevered admirably? Whence comes it that Lucifer, so high by nature, exalted yet higher by grace, fell, while less favored angels remained stedfast? Doubtless they who persevered owe their perseverance to God, Who in His Mercy made and kept them good; while Lucifer and his tribe owe their fall, as St. Augustine says, to their own free-will, which forsook the Divine Grace upholding them.
“How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of the morning! (Isa. xiv. 12)” thou who didst begin “as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day (Prov. iv. 18).” Grace was not lacking to thee, thou hadst it above all others; but thou wast lacking to grace. God did not withhold His Love from thee, but thou wouldest not co-operate with His Love: He would never have rejected thee, if thou hadst not rejected His kindness. O Loving Lord, Thou never leavest those who leave not Thee; Thou never takest away Thy Gifts save from those who withdraw their hearts from Thee.
We defraud God when we take to ourselves the credit of our salvation, but we offend His Mercy if we say that it has ever failed us. We sin against His liberality if we fail to acknowledge His Gifts; but we blaspheme His Goodness if we deny that it has succored us. Briefly, God speaks clearly and loudly to us all, saying, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help (Hos. xiii. 9).”