There was then in the eternal providence an incomparable privilege for the queen of queens, mother of fair love, and most singularly all perfect. There were also for certain others some special favours. But after this the sovereign goodness poured an abundance of graces and benedictions over the whole race of mankind and upon the angels, with which all were watered as with a rain that falleth on the just and unjust, all were illuminated as with a light that enlighteneth every man coming into this world; every one received his portion as of seed, which falls not only upon the good ground but upon the highway, amongst thorns, and upon rocks, that all might be inexcusable before the Redeemer, if they employ not this most abundant redemption for their salvation.
But still, Theotimus, although this most abundant sufficiency of grace is thus poured out over all human nature, and although in this we are all equal that a rich abundance of benedictions is offered to us all, yet the variety of these favours is so great, that one cannot say whether the greatness of all these graces in so great a diversity, or the diversity in such greatness, is more admirable. For who sees not that the means of salvation amongst Christians are greater and more efficacious than amongst barbarians, and again that amongst Christians there are people and towns where the pastors get more fruit, and are more capable? Now to deny that these exterior means were benefits of the divine providence, or to doubt whether they did avail to the salvation and perfection of souls, were to be ungrateful to the divine goodness, and to belie certain experience, by which we see that ordinarily where these exterior helps abound, the interior are more efficacious and succeed better.
In truth, as we see that there are never found two men perfectly resembling one another in natural gifts, so are there never found any wholly equal in supernatural ones. The angels, as the great S. Augustine and S. Thomas assure us, received grace according to the variety of their natural conditions; now they are all either of a different species or at least of a different condition, since they are distinguished one from another; therefore as many angels as there are, so many different graces are there. And though grace is not given to men according to their natural conditions, yet the divine sweetness rejoicing, and as one would say exulting, in the production of graces, infinitely diversifies them, to the end that out of this variety the fair enamel of his redemption and mercy may appear: whence the church upon the feast of every Confessor and Bishop sings |There was not found the like to him.| And as in heaven no one knows the new name, save him that receives it, because each one of the blessed has his own apart, according to the new being of glory which he acquires; similarly on earth every one receives a grace so special that all are different. Our Saviour also compares his grace to pearls, which as Pliny says are otherwise called unities, because each one of them is so singular in its qualities that two of them are never found perfectly alike; and as one star differeth from another in glory, so shall men be different from one another in glory, an evident sign that they will have been so in grace. Now this variety in grace, or this grace in variety, composes a most sacred beauty and most sweet harmony, rejoicing all the holy city of the heavenly Jerusalem.
But we must be very careful never to make inquiry why the supreme wisdom bestows a grace rather upon one than another, nor why it makes its favours abound rather in one behalf than another. No, Theotimus, never enter into this curiosity, for having all of us sufficiently, yea abundantly, that which is requisite to salvation, what reason can any creature living have to complain if it please God to bestow his graces more amply upon one than another? If one should ask why God made melons larger than strawberries, or lilies larger than violets, why the rosemary is not a rose, or why the pink is not a marigold, why the peacock is more beautiful than a bat, or why the fig is sweet and the lemon acid, -- one would laugh at his question, and say: poor man, since the beauty of the world requires variety it is necessary there should be difference and inequality in things, and that the one should not be the other. That is why some things are little, others big, some bitter, others sweet, the one more, the other less beautiful. Now it is the same in supernatural things. Every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that, says the Holy Ghost. It is then an impertinence to search out why S. Paul had not the grace of S. Peter, or S. Peter that of S. Paul; why S. Antony was not S. Athanasius, or S. Athanasius S. Jerome; for one would answer to these inquiries that the church is a garden diapered with innumerable flowers; it is necessary then they should be of various sizes, various colours, various odours, in fine of different perfections. All have their price, their charm and their colour, and all of them in the collection of their differences make up a most grateful perfection of beauty.