Wo to thee, Corozain, wo to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. Such is the word of Our Saviour. Hark I pray you, Theotimus, how the inhabitants of Corozain and Bethsaida, instructed in the true religion, and having received favours so great that they would effectually have converted the pagans themselves, remained nevertheless obstinate, and never willed to use them, rejecting this holy light by an incomparable rebellion. Certainly at the day of judgment the Ninivites and the Queen of Saba will rise up against the Jews, and will convict them as worthy of damnation: because, as to the Ninivites, though idolators and barbarians, at the voice of Jonas they were converted and did penance; and as to the Queen of Saba, she, though engaged in the affairs of a kingdom, yet having heard the renown of Solomon's wisdom, forsook all, to go and hear him. Yet the Jews, hearing with their ears the heavenly wisdom of the true Solomon, the Saviour of the world; seeing with their eyes his miracles; touching with their hands his virtues and benefits; ceased not for all that to be hardened, and to resist the grace which was proffered them. See then again, Theotimus, how they who had less attractions are brought to penance, and those who had more remain obdurate: those who have less occasion to come, come to the school of wisdom, and those who have more, stay in their folly.
Thus will be made the judgment of comparison, as all doctors have remarked, which can have no foundation save in this, that notwithstanding some have had as many calls as others have, or more, they will have denied consent to God's mercy, whereas others, assisted with the like, yea even lesser helps, will have followed the inspiration, betaking themselves to holy penance. For how could one otherwise reasonably reproach the impenitent with their impenitence, in comparison with such as are converted?
Certainly Our Saviour clearly shows, and all Christians in simplicity understand, that in this just judgment the Jews shall be condemned in comparison with the Ninivites, because those have had many favours and yet no love, much assistance and no repentance, these less favour and more love, less assistance and much penitence.
The great S. Augustine throws a great light on this reasoning, by his own arguments in Book XII. of the 'City of God,' Chapters vi., vii., viii., ix. For though he refers particularly to the angels, still he likens men to them in this point.
Now, after having taken, in the sixth chapter, two men, entirely equal in goodness and in all things, attacked by the same temptation, he presupposes that one resists, the other gives way to the enemy; then in the ninth chapter, having proved that all the angels were created in charity, stating further as probable that grace and charity were equal in them all, he asks how it came to pass that some of them persevered, and made progress in goodness even to the attaining of glory, while others forsook good to embrace evil unto damnation, and he answers that no other answer can be rendered, than that the one company persevered by the grace of their Creator in the chaste love which they received in their creation, the other, having been good, made themselves bad by their own sole will.
But if it is true, as S. Thomas extremely well proves, that grace was different in the angels in proportion and according to their natural gifts, the Seraphim must have had a grace incomparably more excellent than the simple angels of the last order. How then did it happen that some of the Seraphim, yea even the first of all, according to the common and most probable opinion of the ancients, fell, while an innumerable multitude of other angels, inferior in nature and grace, excellently and courageously persevered? How came it to pass that Lucifer, so excellent by nature and so superexcellent by grace, fell, while so many angels with less advantages remained upright in their fidelity? Truly those who persevered ought to render all the praise thereof to God, who of his mercy created and maintained them good. But to whom can Lucifer and all his crew ascribe their fall, if not, as S. Augustine says, to their own will, which by their liberty divorced them from God's grace that had so sweetly prevented them? How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? Who didst come out into this invisible world clothed with original charity as with the beginning of the brightness of a fair day, which was to increase unto the mid-day of eternal glory? Grace did not fail thee, for thou hadst it, like thy nature, the most excellent of all, but thou wast wanting to grace. God did not deprive thee of the operation of his love, but thou didst deprive his love of thy co-operation. God would never have rejected thee if thou hadst not rejected his love. O all-good God! thou dost not forsake unless forsaken, thou never takest away thy gifts till we take away our hearts.
We rob God of his right if we attribute to ourselves the glory of our salvation, but we dishonour his mercy if we say he failed us. If we do not confess his benefits we wrong his liberality, but we blaspheme his goodness if we deny that he has assisted and succoured us. In fine, God cries loud and clear in our ears: Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in me.