Post-Mediæval Preachers/Joseph de Barzia
I know of no preacher of his age who comes so near to Paolo Segneri, the great luminary of Italian eloquence, as this Spaniard, De Barzia. He flourished at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and was Bishop of Cadiz.
His works are:—
Christianus animarum excitator. Auctore J. de Barzia, Soc. Jesu; Augustæ Vindelicorum, 1721, 2 vols. folio.
There is, I believe, a mistake in this title; Joseph de Barzia was not a Jesuit; at all events, the brothers Bacher have not included him in their catalogue.
Compendium excitatoris Christiani; lingua primum Hispanica vulgatum ipsomet ab Auctore Rdo. D. Josepho de Barzia Episcopo Gaditano, nunc demum Latine versum a R. P. Petro Gummersbach, Soc. Jesu; Coloniæ, 1724, 4to.
Manductio ad excitationem Christianorum; seu, Sermones Missionales. Auctore Jos. de Barzia; Augustæ Vindelic., 1732, 2 vols. in one, 8vo. Ibid. 1737, 2 vols. in one, 8vo.
The sermons of De Barzia are model mission-discourses; they are interesting, pointed, full of illustration and anecdote, and are eminently qualified to arrest the attention, and arouse the consciences of the hearers.
The good Bishop possessed the art of never suffering the attention of his audience to flag. He carefully avoided wearing his subject thread-bare, and the moment he saw that his shot had taken effect, he opened a new battery from another point altogether, yet aimed at the same object.
His knowledge of the Bible is wonderful, even for a Roman Catholic Post-Mediæval preacher; his sermons teem with Scriptural illustrations of the most apposite character, culled from every portion of Holy Writ. It is not that he affects quotations from Scripture in the manner of Helmesius, who, in an Advent sermon, could make one hundred and severity-five quotations, but that he found in his Bible an inexhaustible store of illustration for every subject which he handled.
The majority of Mediæval sacred orators, and their immediate followers, seemed to think, and consequently speak, in Scripture terms, but De Barzia preaches to unlettered men, who knew little or nothing of their Bibles, beyond the broad outlines of sacred history, and who would not recognize quotations from the prophetic books or the Epistles. He therefore avoids these to a considerable extent, unless he can point them out severally as words of Scripture, and confines himself chiefly to the narrative portions of the inspired volume. He selects an incident which can bear upon his subject, relates it in the most vigorous style, and then applies it with force and effect.
And these happy selections show such thorough acquaintance with the sacred writings, that it is impossible not to see that Holy Scripture formed the staple of the good Bishop’s meditations, night and day. His sermons are eminently practical; they are not dogmatic. De Barzia makes no attempt to instruct in Catholic doctrine, he presupposes that his hearers are orthodox, he does not suggest the possibility of there being a heretic among them, he makes no attempt to arm them for the conflict of the faith, but he goes straight as an arrow to their consciences, and stirs them to the perception of their moral obligations.
In this he differs widely from the German and French preachers of his age, who seldom preached without firing a broadside at heresy, and generally took the opportunity to furnish their hearers with arguments in favour of Catholic doctrines and practices.
De Barzia is more subjective than the other preachers of his day, and he excels in sermons calculated to strike terror into the impenitent heart. Each man has his special line, and his was the declaration of God’s judgments. Marchantius would melt the stony heart with love, De Burxia shatter it with fear. And yet his soul was full of tenderness and the love of God, which exude from him occasionally, as the aromatic gum from the frankincense.
For instance, take the following:—“Ungrateful sinner, let me speak to thee in the name of Jesus crucified—‘Why!’ says He to thee, ‘who filled thee with such rage against Me? What iniquity have your fathers found in Me?’ (Jer. ii. 5.) Of what sin canst thou charge Me, that thou ragest so furiously against Me? Many good things have I showed you; I have displayed abundant charity, I have poured forth many benefits; for which of those works do ye stone Me? (John x. 32.) Art thou enraged against Me because I brought thee into existence out of nothing? Art thou vexed because I have watchfully preserved thee? because I have brought thee to a saving faith? Dost thou count it an injury that I gave up life and honour, blood and all, upon the cross for thee? . . . . Come now, answer thou Me, wherefore art thou enraged against Me?’ O Jesu, best beloved! cease to inquire! I own that there is no cause, I acknowledge my audacity, and I bewail it! Flow, my tears, flow, and streaming over my cheeks, testify to my sorrow! Break, heart, break, through excess of love! I acknowledge, I own, I see clearly my condition. What have I done! I have returned Thee evil for good, and hatred for Thy good will. Which was it, love or enmity, which crucified Thee? O Lord! it was love, and it was enmity. Thine the love, mine the enmity.”
The following abstract is a good specimen of the Bishop’s quaintness.
The unhappy Ishbosheth, son of Saul, was slain in his own house, after the destruction of his father’s army. How, think you? Was the door open for the foe to enter? It was open: for he had been winnowing wheat; and they came about the heat of the day to the home of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon. And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him. (2 Sam. iv. 5, 6.) Here was neglect of ordinary watchfulness, a little heedlessness, a little drowsiness, a little care for the wheat, leading to loss of life. St. Eucher says truly, “When man loses the solicitude of discretion, he leaves the door open for the ingress of evil spirits to the slaying of his soul.”
Truly, many an ill has come to us through this indifference to our danger, through carelessness for our spiritual peril.
Oh, what precious swords are rusted, because they are not drawn from their scabbards!
Oh, what noble horses become sluggish in their stalls, because they are not exercised!
Oh, what crystalline pools nourish reptiles, because they are not stirred!
Oh, what great souls, living in honour and purity, have fallen into an abyss of sin, because they have been negligent! “For,” says Lessius, “he who serves God negligently, deserves in return that God should not exert Himself to care so greatly for him.”
Little venial faults begin to accumulate and increase till the whole moral nature is clouded by them. The intellect is darkened, the fervour of charity cooled, the spirit stained; the strength fails in temptation, the soul is enervated in prayer, the whole man is neglectful in the practice of good works; and why? Because he has neglected to purge himself of his little faults, to struggle against his infirmities. King David often cried to God, Incline Thine ear unto me; bow down Thine ear to me. (Ps. xvii. 6; xxxi. 2; lxxi. 2.) It was not enough that God should hear his prayer, but He must also bow down over him. Just as sick men, when their voices are broken and faint with disease, require the physician to incline his ear to their lips; so does David, well knowing how weakened and broken is his prayer through venial sins and daily transgressions, ask God in like manner to incline His ear to him.
Oh, how great is the evil arising from little ills! A grain of sand, how light it is! but many grains accumulated will sink a stately vessel! How light is a drop of rain! yet many gathered into one stream will submerge houses! How trifling is the loss of a little tile! yet it will admit the rain to rot the timber, to break down the walls, and to produce a ruin!
In like manner one little venial sin may lead to destruction, if it be neglected. It is a trifle looked at by itself, but it has brought a soul to perdition, in that, as St. Thomas asserts, a venial sin may dispose towards the commission of a deadly sin!
It is worth noting, the manner in which the sea-crab gets an oyster and cats it. In the morning early the oyster gapes, that it may bask in the sunbeams. Then up steals the crab, not boldly advancing upon the fish, or it would at once close its shell and escape him, or clutch him tight by his claws. What course does the crafty animal adopt? It takes a little pebble and tosses it into the oyster. This prevents the valves from closing, and then he rushes up and devours the oyster at his leisure.
Soul of man! just so comes the evil one towards thee; not alluring thee to some sin of horrible deadliness, but flinging a little pebble a tiny fault into thy heart, and if thou cast it not from thee at once, but keepest thy heart still unclosed, he obtaineth an entry and destroyeth thee utterly.
Take another specimen. The following passages are condensed from a sermon on the vanity of all the labour of sinners, and the lamentations of lost souls when they behold in retrospect their life squandered in empty trifles.
Those words of Job are worthy of notice, I have made my bed in the darkness. I will explain them to you by the use of a simile.
A lighted candle is given to a servant that he may retire to rest by its light, after that he has made his bed. The fellow snatches up the candle and begins to wander about the house, dawdling over this or that, gossiping with one or another, till the candle is expended, flickers up, and dies out. Then, in hurry, he runs to his chamber, but he is without light, and he is constrained to make and to retire to his bed in the darkness. O Christian soul! if you sigh for the rest of eternal glory, know that God has given to you for the very purpose of finding it, and preparing for it, the taper of life. If you consume that life in idleness and in vanities, you will have to make your bed in the darkness, and in the outer darkness lie down to rest,—to rest! oh, no! to seek rest, and find none on that ill-made couch, to toil all the night of eternity and to take nothing; for the time of preparation has been wasted, and the work which was to be done has been neglected till the allotted time for doing it has expired.
Of the virtuous woman declared King Solomon, She layeth her hands to the spindle. Where is the flax? “Spun,” says St. Ambrose. See what a mystery is involved here! The flax is attached to the head of the distaff, and the spun thread is twisted round the spindle, “On the distaff is that which is to be done, on the spindle that which is done,” says the same Father. Therefore does Solomon commend the just soul which has accomplished its work, not that which has its work to accomplish: for that soul which has finished its work is secure, not that which has to commence it. Look, then, to thy spindle, see if of the work God has set before thee any is spun off and completed; if so, there lay thy hand, for there is thy virtue, there thy security. Christian man! that the praise of the virtuous soul may be thine, it behoveth thee not to have a handful of flax at thy distaff-head, but a full spindle at thy side: not purposes, but acts; not confession to be made, but confession made; not restitution to be accomplished, but restitution accomplished; not injuries to be forgiven, but injuries already forgiven. Things that are future are but flax on the distaff-head, flax which will blaze up and leave no trace; but things of the present are thread spun, and therefore is the virtuous woman commended, who layeth her hands to the spindle.
Terrible is the sentence of God in Deuteronomy: If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold of judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies. (Deut. xxxii. 41.) And where will God whet His glittering sword? Where are blades usually whetted? Let us look. Surely on a whirling circular stone. And on what stone will God whet His sword? I reply, on that stony heart of the sinner, which is ever revolving, never at rest. Watch the grindstone a little while. See how it plunges down into a trough of turbid, foul, and muddy water. O stone, stone! why rush down into this filth? Rise up, rise up from this uncleanness. I put my hand to it, I set the stone in motion. How easily is it made to revolve! It moves—it leaves that sink of filth—it mounts upwards. In vain! It whirls round, and with a rush seeks again its bed of pollution.
Heart of sinner, hard and stony! why dost thou not emerge from the corruption in which thou wallowest? ‘I will emerge,’ thou repliest. Why dost thou not leave thy enmities, thy passions, thy shameful uncleanness? ‘I will leave them,’ is thy answer. And yet nothing comes of these fine promises. Always on the move like the grindstone, you never remove from the trough of slime; always leaving sin, that with fresh relish you may plunge into it again.
Know, you sinners who are so full of good resolutions which come to nought, so full of promises of amendment which end in relapse, that it is on whirling grindstones such as you that the glittering sword of Divine vengeance is whetted. If I whet My glittering sword, . . . I will render vengeance to Mine enemies.
To whom, I ask, will He render vengeance? To His enemies; to those such as you who have such excellent purposes, but who have never accomplished one good purpose. Then when that sword is whetted, too late will you exclaim with the lost, ‘We have erred, we have erred, we have taken nothing!’ Wretched sinners! do you hear these threats, these warnings, these words of God calling you to repentance? You hear, and yet you stop your ears as the deaf adder; you despise, you laugh, you mock, you harden into stone!
Well, then, be hard as stone, have your laugh out, despise as you will, stop your ears! you are at liberty so to do! Yet, mark me, the time will assuredly come when the laugh will be turned against you.
Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof: awful is that which follows! I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh. (Prov. i. 24—26.) O good God! O goodness immeasurable, dost Thou laugh at the destruction of Thy sons! Alas! terrible laughter is that indeed.
Hannibal is said, after the subjection of Carthage by Rome, to have walked through the city, and, as he saw the tears and heard the wailing of the people who groaned under the terrible burden imposed upon them by the conquerors, to have laughed. Then, when his fellow-citizens rose up against him in indignation, he replied, “I laugh not from joy to see your bondage; but I laugh at your tears, now too late, now in vain; for had you in proper time fought as men, now you would not be weeping as women.”
Behold, O sinners, as in a picture, your tears and God’s laughter: you bewailing your misery, and God laughing at your tears: you sobbing through eternity under the burden of the Devil’s rule, and God laughing at your sobs: you lamenting in the agony of eternal fire, and God laughing at your lamentations: and all because when as Christians you might have fought the good fight, now, when too late, you break forth into tears which are vain, and into lamentations which are fruitless.
Surely this is a very terrible, yet striking sermon, one sure to tell on rude and uncultivated minds, from the vigour of the moral application, and the richness of the imagery.
There are some very remarkable passages in the next sermon, which is on the subject of the merit of good works consisting in the inward disposition, and not in the magnitude of the outward act.
De Barzia relates the story of the anointing of David. He pictures Samuel before the sons of Jesse admiring the stalwart form of Eliab, and the stature of Aminadab, and thinking that one of these must be the destined king. Yet no—it is none of these. The word of God bids him anoint David, the youngest, the feeblest, the shepherd boy: for the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance. . . . Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. Oh! exclaims the Bishop, how different are the judgments of God from those of man!
Men often preach up some act as great and wonderful which is worthless in God’s judgment. Men estimate the quality of a work from the outside, God weighs the inward intent of the soul: as says the wisest of kings: All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. (Prov. xvi. 2.) This is the difference between the judgments of God and of man, and this difference will be made manifest when all things shall be revealed before the Divine tribunal. To that judgment-seat will come the Christian soul and there give account of all its works, its alms, its fasts, its prayers: boastfully perhaps it will advance, resting on the multitude of these, reckoning to enter through them into life everlasting, and to merit the crown of immortality.
Look! what an eminent work of mercy! a large sum of money given as dower to a poor girl! Look! what a meritorious fast! three days’ abstinence on bread and water! Look not on his countenance. To the eye these seem to be great works, and yet they are accounted as nothing by God, because they were not wrought with a right intent: whereas the crust of stale bread given in the name of a disciple, and out of love to God, is rewarded with a crown of eternal glory. I am reminded, says the preacher, of a story told by John Geminiano, which is to the point.
Two women came before a judge, contending about the ownership to a clew of wool, which each claimed to be her own.
The judge inquired as to the shred upon which the wool had been wound. One woman declared she had wound it upon a bit of black rag, another affirmed that the piece was white. Then the judge ordered the wool to be unwound, and delivered it over to the woman who had asserted that she had used a black rag; for the end of the thread was found twined round a black centre.
Oh! how carefully will all excuses, all outward appearances, be wound off at the last, and the true intent within be revealed! Now every act is like a clew, and who can tell what lies at its core, and what its origin?—all that is hidden. Now self-love persuades man that his show of virtue is wound about the best intention, as a white bobbin, but too often has it been coiled about the black one of vanity or self-will.
“Let each man fear,” says St. Bernard, “lest, in that searching examination, his righteousness prove to be sin.” The Amalekite soldier, who dealt King Saul his death-blow, came exultingly to David expecting great reward, and lo! he received the punishment of death; in like manner will many a man at the last perish eternally who has expected to triumph. . . .
When thou appearest before God the righteous Judge, say, whose will be the works thou hast wrought? Thy studies, thy labours, thy vigils, thy cares, thy traffic, thy contracts, thy business of life, whose will they be? Works of salvation to thee, or works of avarice? All the many Sacrifices of the altar at which thou hast assisted! All the pious sermons thou hast listened to, all the alms thou hast distributed, all the penances thou hast undergone, all the Communions thou hast received, all the fasts and mortifications thou hast undertaken, all the works of mercy thou hast performed! Tell me, are they to be referred to nature or to grace, to reason or to concupiscence, to self-love or to the love of God? Tell me, are they works meriting eternal salvation, or deserving condemnation? Whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?
Christian soul, all this is now veiled in mystery inscrutable, but this will be made manifest before the sun, when the Judge shall call up for examination all thy works, and pronounce upon them, one after another, according to the end, according to the method, according to the intent, according to the circumstances wherewith they have been wrought.
This admirable lesson is taken from the first sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost. I will now give a sketch of one of De Barzia’s complete sermons; and I shall select for the purpose one on the subject of the solemn account those will have to give who hinder others in their spiritual progress.
There are other sermons by the preacher on the same subject, but this is the best among discourses which are all very good. To my taste this sermon is superior to any by Paolo Segneri.
The text is from the Gospel for the day—with us, the Gospel for the Purification.
Luke ii. 40. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Exordium. Among other iniquities which Absalom committed in his rebellion, perhaps the chief was that he, by flatteries and fair promises, stole away the hearts of the men of Israel from their allegiance to David.
Foolish youth! exclaims the preacher; see the veterans of the king drawn up before thee in battle array! See the army of mighty warriors assembled to overthrow thee! Thy destruction impends; it is but a matter of a few hours more or less. Yet, lo! on the contrary, I see David fleeing; David, the mighty man of war; David, who shrank not before Goliath; David, who quailed not before Saul; he, even he, without striking a blow, turns his back to flee before an undisciplined rabble! How can we account for this? Chrysostom replies, “David fled, not because he feared, but because he did not choose to see his son slain before his eyes.” It was love, not fear, which put him to flight. So great was the guilt of Absalom in weaning the children of Israel from their duty, that it could only be washed out in the blood of the offender. And all those who by enticing words, or by evil example, allure others from their duty to God, their true King, act as did Absalom, and like Absalom will be slain, all the sort of them.
Propositio. The subject of this sermon is the severe judgment which will fall on all those who put stumbling-blocks in the way of their brethren, or who, in any way, impede their spiritual progress.
Confirmatio. We do not hear of God’s wrath being kindled against any nation so fiercely as against Amalek. I will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under Heaven, He swore, and He bade Saul again and again, Go and smite Amalek. What was the sin of this people, that Divine fury should thus be roused against it? The answer is threefold.
First, the children of Amalek opposed the progress of the Israelites to the Promised Land; and Moses reminded the people that this sin was not to go unpunished: Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindermost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God giveth thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under Heaven; thou shalt not forget it. (Deut. xxv. 17—19.)
But this is not a sufficient answer. Did not other nations rise up against Israel to withstand them in their advance? The Midianites fought against them; the Amorites blocked their way; Og, King of Basan, fell upon them; and yet against these no such fearful denunciations of wrath were launched. The Lord hath sworn, that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. And four hundred years after: Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Sam. xv. 3.) For the second reason turn to the thirty-sixth chapter of Genesis.
Timna was concubine to Eliphaz, Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek. Consequently the Israelites and the Amalekites were near of kin; they were sprung from the loins of one father, Isaac. This nation, consequently, which was bound by kindred to assist the Israelites, forgot its ties of blood, and fell upon them.
There is also a third reason for the Annihilation of Amalek. It was the first of all the nations to assault the chosen people, the first to fall upon them with the sword, the first to stop the way to the Promised Land. This was the final reason why Amalek was singled out for such overwhelming destruction that Balaam in prophecy could exclaim: Amalek was the first of the nations that warred against Israel (marg.), but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. The children of Israel were in a critical position when encamped at Rephidim: they had just escaped from Egypt, and in a few days they might return thither if their hearts failed at the prospect of war. They had begun to sigh for the leeks, and the onions, and the flesh-pots of Egypt, and but little more was wanting to bring their discontent to a climax, and to send them back to their captivity. Amalek, being the first to attack them, set an example to other nations of the land, provoking Midianite, Moabite, and Amorite to regard the chosen people of God as enemies instead of treating them as wayfarers, to impede their progress instead of opening to them a passage.
Applicatio. From this learn, Christian soul, that if God chose to annihilate this people because it hindered the chosen race in its progress to the Land of Promise, because it opposed this people which it was bound by relationship to assist, because it was the first to do so, thereby encouraging others to stand against it—then great indeed will be God’s wrath with you, if you prevent others from reaching the Heavenly Canaan, they being members of the same spiritual family, and you being the one to encourage others to destroy the souls for which Christ died.
Let infidel, heathen, and heretic persecute, their guilt is tolerable compared to yours; if you lead from the paths of righteousness, and you be the first so to lead astray, one who is of the same household of Faith, a brother, a relation, one redeemed by Christ’s blood, a member of the same mystical body, of the same Church—think what you are thereby doing! Christ, the true Moses, is leading His people from the Egypt of sin, through the wilderness of this world, into the country of everlasting felicity. And what are you doing? Barring the passage to God’s people, undoing the work of Christ, setting at nought the blood of the covenant. Terrible will be the condemnation of those who act thus!
De Barzia, after having appealed earnestly to the consciences of his hearers, and urged them to examine themselves whether they have ever put an occasion of falling in their brother’s way, bursts into a magnificent piece of irony. He says that he hears the excuse made,—“Come, now! persecution is a strong term, unjustifiably strong; I never persecuted any one for leading a holy life: I may have teased So-and-so, but that is all; just teased him in joke, you understand.” In joke! a joke more ruinous than the worst cruelty of a persecutor. A joke! Ah, ha! a right merry joke, a capital joke, indeed! Go, cut the pipes which bring water into this city—only in joke, of course—cut the pipes, then, and watch the result. Such a joke! the fountains fail, the mills cease working, the gardens are parched up, men and beasts perish through thirst. Oh, magnificent joke!
This the Bishop applies with all his vehemence and fire. He then continues by reference to the old law: Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. If a man smote another with a stone and injured him, by the law of Moses he was bound to pay for the cure of the injured man, and also for the loss of time. By which is signified, that if any one by evil example, or bad advice, cause spiritual sickness in another, he must atone for that, suffering for the sins which he has led his brother to commit.
Epilogus. Woe to such an one on the last great day, when the Judge says, “See, impious man, this child was waxing strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him, but you by your sneers and ridicule, by your jests and scoffs, turned him aside from the path of My commandments into the way of death. You have made My labours for that poor soul in vain; come now, make recompense for all that you have done,” and He shall deliver him to the tormentors till he have paid the debt.
At the risk of wearying the reader, I shall give in outline a specimen of one of De Barzia’s Saints’-day sermons, and I select the third for the festival of St. John the Divine.
Introduction. Although our Lord promised to His disciples that they should have whatsoever they asked, yet He made the condition—If ye abide in Me. Wherefore? Judas had at this time gone out, so that those to whom the promise was made were certain to abide in Christ; and He in His foreknowledge knew that of the eleven all would remain constant till death. But Jesus spake not out of His omniscience as God, but out of care for the eleven, lest they should bo elated and puffed up with spiritual pride, knowing that they were ordained to eternal life. Christ spoke conditionally, so as to teach them fear and anxiety for themselves, and in order to keep them humble.
Subject. The uncertainty in which we are as to our future condition is salutary; for it keeps us on the watch, it makes us cautious and anxious about our salvation.
Confirmation. When Jacob fled from Laban, he was pursued by his father-in-law, who had lost his household gods which Rebecca had stolen. Laban charged Jacob with the theft, and Jacob bore the charge with patience, and without resentment. But after that Laban had searched through the goods of his son- in-law, but found them not. And then, but not till then, Jacob was wroth and chode with Laban. (Gen. xxxi. 36.) How was this? At first Jacob was full of meekness, but now he is wroth. Oleaster gives the reason, he says: “At first Jacob knew not whether the idols were amongst his stuff or not, but now, the moment that he feels himself secure, his anger breaks forth against Laban for having accused him of the theft. As long as he was afraid lest the idols should be found, he was silent; but when they were not found, then he became bold.” And which of you, Christian souls, knows whether some idols may not be secreted in the dark corners of your hearts, some secret sins buried deep in your bosoms? No man knoweth. Wonderful is the providence of God which leaves us ignorant as to our final condition, so as to keep us humble. But suppose now, O man! that you were assured of your final acceptance, satisfied that there was no idol hidden in the depths of your heart, would you not be filled with pride as was Jacob, would you not break forth into words of contempt for those who are not so sure?
Epilogue. Thanks be to Thee, O infinite God, for Thy great mercy in having veiled Thy final judgment from our eyes, so that every one is rendered fearful lest he should miss the prize of his high calling, and fail to reach the crown for which he is now striving. For Thou hast concealed it solely for our good: yet is our future state foreknown to Thee; and Thou wouldst have us serve Thee not for the hope of reward, or for the fear of torment, but from love: and Thou art worthy to be loved and served though there were no future glory, no future hell.