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placed us here? To what has he bidden us aspire ? Were we placed here merely to be born and to die, — to live for a moment, continue our species, toil, suffer, drop into the grave to rot, and be no more for ever? If this be our end, true greatness will consist in living for this life only, and in being great in that which pertains to this life. The greatest man will be he who succeeds best in amassing the goods of this world, in securing its honors and luxuries,
or simply in multiplying for himself the means of sensual enjoyment. In a word, the greatest man will be he who most abounds in wealth and luxury.
We mean not to say, that, in point of fact, wealth and luxury, worldly honors and sensual gratifications, are the chief goods of even this life ; but simply that they would be, if this were our only life, if our destiny were a destiny to be accomplished in this world. It is because this world is not our home, because we are merely travellers through it, and our destination is a world beyond it, that the life of justice and sanctity yields us even here our truest and most substantial pleasure. But confine man to this life, let it be true that he has no destiny beyond it, and nothing could, relatively to him, be called great or good, not included under the heads of wealth and Juxury. Nothing could be counted or conceived of as of the least value to him that does not directly or indirectly minister to his sensual enjoyment. No infidel moralist has ever been able, without going out of his own system, or want of system, to conceive of any thing higher, nobler, more valuable, than sensual pleasure.
But this life is not our only life, and our destiny is not accomplished here. The grave is not our final doom; this world is not our home ; we were not created for this world alone ; and there is for us a life beyond this life. But even this, if we stop with it, does not answer our question. We may conceive of a future life as the simple continuation of our present natural life, and such the future life is conceived to be by not a few among us, who nevertheless flatter themselves that they are firm believers in the life and immortality brought to light through the Gospel. Every being may be said to have a natural destiny or end, which its nature is fitted and intended to gain. The Creator, in creating a being with a given nature, has given that being a pledge of the means and conditions of fulfilling it, of attaining to its natural end. Man has evidently been created with a nature that does not and cannot find its complete fulfilment in this life. He has a natural capacity for more than is actually attainable here. In this capacity he has the promise or pledge of his Maker that he shall live again. The promises of God cannot fail. Man therefore must and will live again. But this is only the pledge, so to speak, of a natural immortality, and reveals to us only a natural destiny. It is only a continuation of our natural life in another world. The end we are to labor for, and the means we are to adopt to gain it, must be precisely what they would be in case our life were to terminate at the grave. Our future life being still a natural life, what is wisest and best for that portion we are now living would be wisest and best for that portion we are hereafter to live. Hence, what is wisest and best for time would be wisest and best for eternity.
Hence it is that we find so many who, though professing belief in a future life, judge all things as if this life were our only life. They look to the future life only as the continuation of the present, and expect from it only the completion of their natural destiny. They agree in all their moral judgments, in all their estimates of the worth of things or of actions, with those who believe in no future life at all. They profess to hope for a future life, but live only for time ; because their future life is to be only a continuation of time. Hence they say, as we ourselves were for years accustomed to say, He who lives wisely for time lives wisely for eternity ; create a heaven here, and you will have done your best to secure your title to a heaven hereafter.
Hence it is that the morality of many who profess to be Christians is the same which is adopted and defended by infidels. This is so obviously the case, that we not upfrequently find men who call themselves Christians commending downright unbelievers in Christianity as good moral men, and who see no reason why the morality of the infidel should not be the same in kind as the morality of the Christian. Hence it is supposed that morality may be taught in our schools, without teaching any peculiar or distinctive doctrine of Christianity. Morality, we are told, is independent of religion, and not a few regard it as sufficient without religion. So common has this mode of thinking and speaking become amongst us, that we heard the other day a tolerably intelligent Catholic, who would by no means admit himself to be deficient in the understanding or practice of his Catholic duties, say, that, if a man were only a good moral man, he did not care what was his distinctive religious belief. Many who go farther, and contend that religion is necessary to morality, contend for its necessity only as a sort of police establishment. It is necessary, because the natural sanctions of the moral law are not quite sufficient to secure obedience, and religion must be called in by its hopes and fears to strengthen them.
Now all this is perfectly consistent and right, if it be true that man has only a natural destiny. We ought, in such a case, to judge all things which concern us precisely as if this were our only life. Religion could be of no value farther than it strengthened the police, kept people from picking one another's pockets or cutting one another's throats. But man's destiny is not natural, but supernatural
. Almighty God created him with a specific nature, but not for an end in the order of that nature, or to be attained by its simple fulfilment. He created him to his own image and likeness, but appointed him to a supernatural destiny, to an end above what is attainable by the fulfilment of his nature, — to an end not promised in his nature, and which is not bestowed as the reward of fulfilling it. This end is to know and love God; but in a sense far
higher than we can know and love him by our natural powers, and as he is now beheld through a glass darkly, or seen dimly through the medium of his works, as we see the cause in the effect. It is to see him face to face, and to know and love him with a knowledge and love the same in kind, though not in degree, with which God knows and loves himself ; this is the end for which man was intended, and which it is made his duty and his high privilege to seek. But this end surpasses the utmost capacity of our nature, and requires not only a supernatural revelation of God, but the supernatural elevation of our nature itself. It consists in our being made partakers of the divine nature in an ineffable sense, and in a sense above that in which we partake of it in being created after the image and likeness of God. Hence, St. Peter says, “By whom [Jesus Christ] he hath given us very great and precious promises, that by these you may be made partakers of his divine nature." - 2 St. Pet. i. 4. So also St. John :
66 We are now the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; because we shall see him as he is." - í St. John, iii. 2.
This fact in these times is overlooked. Men have wished to rationalize the Gospel, to find a philosophic basis for the mysteries of faith. In attempting this, they have labored to bring the whole of divine revelation within the domain of reason, and have been led to exclude, as no part of it, whatever they found themselves unable to bring within that domain. Reason is necessarily restricted to the order of nature, and can in no instance, of itself, go out of that order. Hence, revelation has come very widely to be regarded as only a republication of the natural law, as at best only a running commentary on it, designed simply to explain the natural order, and not to reveal any thing above it. Men who claim to be Christians, and even ministers of the Gospel, everywhere abound, who have no faith in the supernatural order, scarcely a conception of it. We spent nearly two hours the other day trying to enable a Protestant minister, and he by no means a weak or ignorant one, even to conceive of the supernatural ; but in vain. So perverted had his mind become by the false theologies of modern times, that he could attach no meaning to the assertion, “ There is a supernatural order.” He could use the word supernatural, but it had no meaning for his mind not within the order of nature. Thousands are in the same sad condition. To them nature is all, and all is nature. Indeed, the word nature itself has no definite meaning for them. If a man by a word raise the dead, it is natural ; if Moses smite the rock and living waters gush forth, it is natural, — all by a natural power, a natural law. Travelling in the same direction, they lose themselves in a wilderness of absurdities. Natural laws cease to be laws imposed on nature, laws she must obey, and from which she cannot withdraw herself, and become forces, agents, creators. It is not strange, then, that they lose sight of the supernatural destiny of man, and look only for a natural destiny, to be obtained not as a reward for obedience to grace, but as the natural consequence of the cultivation or development of our natural powers. Read the writings of the celebrated Dr. Channing, or of the school which he founded or to which he was attached, and you shall never find a single recognition of the supernatural order, properly so called, — any allusion to a supernatural destiny. The highest end you will find presented is that to which we may attain by the unfolding of our higher nature, of our natural sentiments of love and reverence. The school goes so far as to contend that our nature is susceptible of an unbounded good, and that our natural sentiments of love and reverence are capable of an infinite expansion. Yet these are rational Christians, and they boast of their reason! They talk of the absurdities of Catholic theology, and see no absurdity in supposing that a finite nature may be infinitely expanded, or that a nature can be something more than it is without any thing supernatural.
But this by the way. The true end for which man is to live is the supernatural end to which we are appointed, the beatitude which God hath promised to all that love and serve him here. His true end is not the fulfilment of nature, but what the Sacred Scriptures term “eternal life” ; and “ This is life eternal, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. ” — St. John, xvii. 3. We cannot know God, without loving him. Hence we say, the end of man is to know and love God. · But to know him intuitively, as he knows himself ; for we are to see him as he is,
not as he appears through the medium of his works, but as he is in himself. We cannot thus know him naturally, for thus to know him exceeds the power of the highest possible created intelligence. We must be like him, before we can see him as he is, — be made, in a supernatural sense, partakers of his divine nature. To know him intuitively as he is in himself is, however, the glorious destiny to which we are appointed, and to which we may attain, if we will. A more glorious destiny we cannot desire. In it we possess God himself
, who is the sovereign good. Even here we find our highest good in knowing the truth and loving goodness, dim as is our view of the one, and feeble as is our hold of the other. What must it be, then, when we come to behold, by the light of glory, our God face to face, with no cloud intervening to obscure his infinite beauty, no distance between us and his ineffable love? Well may it be said, “ Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what our God hath prepared for them that love him.” He will reward them with no inferior, no created good ; but will give them himself, will himself be their portion for ever.
But this supernatural destiny, since it is supernatural, is not naturally attainable. We may cultivate all our natural powers, we may fill up the highest and broadest capacities of our nature, realize the highest ideal, and yet be infinitely, the word in its strict sense, infinitely below it. It is not attained to by “self-culture,” by the development and exercise of our highest natural powers, including even the boasted sentiments of love and reverence. It is nothing that is due, or ever can be due, to our nature. It is a gift, and can be obtained only as bestowed. But it will be bestowed only on the