God has signified unto us by so many ways and means that his will is that we should all be saved, that none can be ignorant of it. To this purpose he made us to his own image and likeness by creation, and made himself to our image and likeness by his Incarnation; after which he suffered death to ransom and save all mankind, which he did with so much love that, as the great S. Denis, apostle of France, recounts, he said once to the holy man Carpus that he was ready to suffer another Passion to save mankind, and that this would be agreeable to him if it could be done without any man's sin.
And although all are not saved, yet is this will a true will of God's, who works in us according to the condition of his and of our nature. For his goodness moves him to liberally communicate unto us the succours of his grace in order to bring us to the felicity of his glory, but our nature requires that his liberality should leave us at liberty to make use of it to our salvation, or to neglect it to our damnation.
One thing I have asked of the Lord, said the prophet, this will I seek after; . . . . that I may see the delight of the Lord and visit his temple. But what is the delight of the sovereign goodness, save to pour out and communicate his perfections? Verily his delights are to be with the children of men, and to shower his graces upon them. Nothing is so agreeable and delightful to free agents as to do their own will. Our sanctification is the will of God, and our salvation his good-pleasure, nor is there any difference at all between good-pleasure and delight, nor, consequently, between the divine delight and the divine good will: yea the will which God has to do man good is called good, because it is amiable, kind, favourable, agreeable, delicious, and as the Greeks, after S. Paul, said; it is a true Philanthropy, that is a benevolence or a will entirely loving towards men.
All the celestial temple of the triumphant and of the militant Church resounds on every side with the canticles of this sweet love of God towards us. And the most sacred body of our Saviour, as a most holy temple of his divinity, is all decorated with the marks and tokens of this benevolence. So that in visiting the divine temple we behold the loving delights which his heart takes in doing us favours.
Let us then a thousand times a day turn our eyes upon this loving will of God, and, making ours melt into it, let us devoutly cry out: O goodness infinitely sweet, how amiable is thy will, how desirable are thy favours! Thou hast created us for eternal life, and, thy maternal bosom, with its sacred swelling breasts of an incomparable love, abounds in the milk of mercy, whether it be to pardon sinners or to perfect the just. Ah! why do not we then fasten our wills to thine, as children fasten themselves on to their mother's breast, to draw the milk of thy eternal benedictions!
Theotimus, we are to will our salvation in such sort as God wills it; now he wills it by way of desire, and we also must incessantly desire it, following his desire. Nor does he will it only, but in effect gives us all necessary means to attain it: we then, in fulfilment of the desire we have to be saved, must not only will, but in effect accept all the graces which he has provided for us and offers unto us. It is enough to say: I desire to be saved. But with regard to the means of salvation, it is not enough to say: I desire them; -- but we must, with an absolute resolution, will and embrace the graces which God presents to us: for our will must correspond with God's. And inasmuch as it gives us the means of salvation, we ought to receive them, as we ought to desire salvation in such sort as God desires it for us, and because he desires it.
But it often happens that the means of attaining salvation, considered in the gross and in general, are according to our hearts' liking, but considered piecemeal and in particular, are terrifying to us. For have we not seen poor S. Peter prepared to undergo in general all kind of torments, yea, death itself, to follow his master, and yet, when it came to the deed and performance, grow pale, tremble, and, at the word of a simple maid, deny his master? Everyone deems himself able to drink our Saviour's chalice with him, but when it is in fact presented to us, we fly, we give up all. Things proposed in detail make a more strong impression, and more sensibly wound the imagination. And for this reason we have advised in the Introduction that after general affections we should descend to particular ones in holy prayer. David accepted particular afflictions as an advancement towards his perfection, when he sang in this wise: O Lord, how good it is for me that thou hast humbled me, that I might learn thy justifications! So also were the Apostles joyous in their tribulations, because they were held worthy to endure ignominy for their Saviour's name.