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It was not in the power of Paganism to inspire such noble sentiments, and at the same time so pure from all self-love and vain glory. Hæc omnia faciunt, non propter ardorem inanis gloriæ, sed propter caritatem felicitatis æternæ. "All this they do, not through a "desire of vain glory, but of eternal life." Nothing but the school of Christ was capable of raising man to so high a degree of perfection, as to make him absolutely forget himself in the midst of the greatest actions, that he might refer them only to God, wherein his entire greatness and glory consists. For whilst a man centers every thing in himself, let him make what efforts he will to appear great, and exalt himself, he continues still what he is, that is, meanness and nothing, and can only become great and exalted, by uniting himself to Him, who is the sole source of all glory and greatness.

Hence arose that innumerable multitude of Christian heroes of every condition, sex, and age. The greatest, the most distinguished by the fortunes of the world have come to lay down at the foot of the cross, riches, grandeur, magnificence, dignities, science, eloquence, and fame, and counted all these sacrifices as nothing. S. Paulinus, the honour of France and glory of his age, whilst all the world stood in admiration at his generosity in distributing the immense riches he possessed in several provinces among the poor, thought he had yet done nothing, and compared himself to a wrestler preparing to engage, or a man that was ready to swim over a river, who had neither of them made any great progress, though they had stript off their clothes.

What shall I say of the multitude of illustrious ladies, who were some of them descended from the Scipios and the Gracchi, S. Paula, S. Olympias, S. Marcella, S. Melania, who in honour of the Gospel trod under foot the pomps and vanities of the world? What greatness of soul is there in that saying of Man


cella's, when, after she had distributed all her goods to the poor, seeing Rome taken and pillaged by the Goths, she thanked God she had secured her wealth before, and that the loss of the city had found her poor, and not made her so! [b] Quòd pauperem illam non fecisset captivitas, sed invenisset.

No triumph ever equalled that which Christian humility gained in the person of S. Melania the grandmother, when she went to Nola, to visit S. Paulinus. We have an eloquent description of it given us by the saint himself. All her family, that is, the greatest and most eminent persons in Rome waited upon her, and resolved by way of honour to attend her in this journey with all the usual pomp belonging to persons of their quality. The Apian way was covered over with gilt and splendid coaches, with horses richly harnassed, and chariots of all kinds in abundance. In the midst of this pompous train marched a lady venerable for her age, and still more so for her grave and modest deportment, mounted on a little lean horse, and clothed in a garment of plain serge. All eyes however were turned and fixed upon the humble Melania. No body took any notice of the gold, the silk, and purple, which glittered around her; the coarse stuff extinguished all that vain splendor. There was seen in the children what the mother had quitted and trampled under foot, as a sacrifice to Jesus Christ.

The great lords and ladies, who made up this pompous retinue, instead of being ashamed of the vile and abject condition the holy widow appeared in, thought it an honour to draw near her, and touch her garments, thinking by this humble and respectful condescension to expiate the pride of their own riches and magnificence. Thus, upon this occasion the pomp of the Roman greatness paid homage to the poverty of the Gospel.

Some such passages as these, intermixed from time to time with select portions of profane history, may [5] S. Hieron. 1. 3. Ep. ad Principiam.

serve to correct and amend whatever is amiss in them, supply what is wanting on the part of motive and intention, and give youth a perfect idea of true and solid Greatness. For, in laying before them the beautiful actions and laudable sentiments of the pagans, as we have done here, we must be careful from time to time to remind them of the principle [c] St. Augustine so frequently repeats, that without true piety, that is, without knowledge and love of the true God, there can be no real virtue; that it ceases to be such, when produced by no other motive than human glory. It is true, adds he, these virtues, though false and imperfect, do however enable those who have them to be much more serviceable to the public, than if they had them not. And it is in this sense we may say that it were sometimes to be wished that those who govern were good pagans, good Romans, and acted according to the great principles, which were the soul of their conduct. [d] But the state is then absolutely happy, when it pleases God to advance such to an high station, as unite true and solid piety with the great qualities which we admire in the ancients.



I SHALL reduce what I have to say upon the study of Sacred History to two heads.

First I shall lay down the principles I think necessary for making a proper advantage of this study; and then I shall make the application of them to some examples.

[c] Dum illud constet inter omnes veraciter pios, neminem sine verâ pietate, id est veri Dei vero cultu, veram posse habere virtutem, nec eam veram esse, quando gloriæ servit humanæ. S. Aug. de Civit. Dei, 1. 5. c. 19.

[d] Illi autem, qui verâ pietate præditi bene vivunt, si habent scientiam regendi populos, nihil est felicius rebus humanis, quàm si Deo miserante habeant potestatem. Ibid.




BEFORE I set down the observations necessary to be made in the studying of Sacred History, or teaching it to others, I think it proper to begin with giving a general idea of it, which may explain the character peculiar to it, and assist us in shewing wherein this history differs from all others.



SACRED History is very different from all other history whatsoever. The last contains only human facts and temporal events, and often full of uncertainty and contradiction. But the other is the history of God himself, the supreme Being; the history of his omnipotence, his infinite wisdom, his universal providence, his holiness, his justice, his mercy, and all his other attributes, set forth under a thousand forms, and displayed by abundance of wonderful effects. The book which contains all these wonders is the most ancient book in the world, and the only one before the coming of the Messiah, in which God has shewn us, in a clear and certain manner, what he is, what we are, and for what ends designed.

Other histories leave us deeply ignorant in all these important points. Instead of giving a clear and distinct idea of the Godhead, they render it obscure, dishonour and disfigure it by numberless extravagant fables, differing only from one another in a greater or less degree of absurdity. They give us no insight into the nature of the world we inhabit, whether it


had a beginning, by whom or to what end it was created, how it is supported and preserved, or whether it is always to subsist; we learn nothing what we are ourselves, what our original, nature, design, or end.

Sacred History begins with clearly revealing to us in a few words the greatest and most important truths, That there is a God, pre-existing before all things, and consequently eternal; that the world is the work of his hands, that he made it out of nothing by his word alone, and that thus he is almighty. [e] In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

It then represents man, for whom this world was made, as coming forth from the hands of his Creator, and compounded of a body and a soul; a body made out of a little dust, the proof of its weakness; and a soul, breathed into it by God, and consequently distinct from the body, spiritual, intelligent, and from the very substance of its nature and constitution, incorruptible and immortal.

It describes the happy condition in which man was created, righteous and innocent, and destined for eternal happiness, if he had persevered in his righteousness and innocence; his sad fall by sin, the fatal source of all his misfortunes, and the twofold death to which he was condemned with all his posterity; and lastly, his future restoration by an all-powerful Mediator, which was even then promised and pointed out to him for his consolation, though at the distance of a remote futurity; all the circumstances and characters whereof are afterwards described, but under the faint shadows of figures and symbols, which like so many veils, serve at the same time to disclose and hide it.

It teaches us, that in this restoration of mankind, the great work of God, to which all is referred, and in which all terminates, is to form to himself a kingdom worthy of him, a kingdom which shall alone. subsist to all eternity, and to which all others shall give place; that Jesus Christ shall be the founder and [e] Gen. i. 1.


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