But you will say to me, what is this value, I pray you, which holy love gives to our actions? Oh! Theotimus, verily I should not have the assurance to say it, if the Holy Ghost himself had not declared it in most express terms by the great Apostle S. Paul, who speaks thus: What is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory. For God's sake, let us ponder these words. Our tribulations, which are so light that they pass in a moment, work for us the solid and stable weight of glory. I beseech you, behold these wonders! Tribulation produces glory, lightness gives weight, and moments work eternity. But what is it that can give such power to these fleeting moments and light tribulations? Red purple, or fine crimson violet is a most precious and royal cloth, yet not by reason of the wool but of the colour. The works of good Christians are of such worth that heaven is given us for them; but, Theotimus, it is not because they proceed from us and are the wool of our hearts, but because they are dyed with the blood of the Son of God, -- I mean because our Saviour sanctifies our works by the merits of his blood. The vine-sprig, united and joined to the stock, brings forth fruit not by its own power but in virtue of the stock. Now we are united by charity unto our Redeemer as members to their head, and hence it is that our fruits and good works, drawing their worth from him, merit life everlasting. Aaron's rod was dry, and incapable by itself of bringing forth fruit; but as soon as the name of that great high priest was written upon it, in one night it brought out its leaves, its flowers and its fruits. We of ourselves are withered branches, unprofitable, fruitless, not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also hath made us fit ministers, and able to do his will, and therefore as soon as by holy love the name of our Saviour, the great bishop of our souls, is engraven in our hearts, we begin to bear delicious fruits unto life everlasting. And as seeds which of themselves would only bring forth insipid melons, would bring forth sugared and musked ones, if they were steeped in sugared or mucked water; so our souls, which of themselves are not able to produce one single good thought towards God's service, being steeped in sacred love by the Holy Ghost who dwells within us, produce sacred actions, which tend towards and carry us to immortal glory. Our works as proceeding from ourselves are but frail reeds; but these reeds become golden by charity, and with the same we measure the heavenly Jerusalem, which is given us by that measure: for as well to men as to angels, glory is distributed according to charity and its actions. So that the measure used by men and that used by angels is the same, and God has rendered and will render to every man according to his works, as all the divine Scripture teaches us, assuring us of the felicity and eternal joys of heaven in reward of the labours and good works which we have performed on earth.
A magnificent reward, and one that savours of the Master's greatness whom we serve. He indeed, Theotimus, if so he had pleased, might most justly have exacted our obedience and service without proposing unto us any salary or hire at all, because we are his by a thousand most legitimate titles, and because we can do nothing of worth save what is in him, by him, for him, and from him. Yet his goodness has not disposed thus, but, in consideration of his Son, our Saviour, has willed to treat with us at a set price, receiving us for hire, and engaging himself by promise to pay us, according to our works, eternal wages. Nor is it that our service can either be necessary or profitable unto him, for when we shall have accomplished all his commands, we are yet to avow with most humble truth or most true humility that indeed we are most unprofitable servants, and utterly useless to our Master, who by reason of his essential superabundance of riches can have no profit by us; but, converting all our works to our own advantage and good, he ordains that we shall serve him with as little profit to him as there is much to us, who by such small labours gain such great rewards.
He was not bound to pay us for our service if he had not given his promise to do so. But do not think, Theotimus, that he would so manifest his goodness in this promise as to forget to glorify his wisdom; yea, on the contrary, he most exactly observed the rules of equity, mingling seemliness (bienseance), with liberality in an admirable manner; for though our works are indeed very small and in no wise comparable with glory by their matter, yet in regard to their quality they are very proportionate thereunto, by reason of the Holy Ghost, who, by charity dwelling in our hearts, works in us with so exquisite an art, that the same works which are wholly ours are still more wholly his, since he produces them in us as we again produce them in him, he does them for us as we do them for him, he operates them with us as we co-operate with him.
Now the Holy Ghost dwells in us if we be living members of Jesus Christ, who therefore said unto his disciples: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; and this, Theotimus, is because he that abides in him is made partaker of his divine Spirit, which is in the midst of man's heart as a fountain of living water springing up unto life everlasting. So the holy oil which was poured upon our Saviour as upon the head of the Church militant and triumphant, spreads itself over the society of the Blessed, who as the sacred beard of this heavenly Master are continually attached to his glorious face, and runs down upon the company of the faithful, who as garments are joined and united by love to his Divine Majesty; and both companies, as being composed of brethren of the same family, have reason to cry out: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity: like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, which ran down to the skirt of his garments.
Our works, therefore, as a little grain of mustard-seed, are in no sort comparable in greatness to the tree of glory which they produce, yet they have the vigour and virtue to produce it, because they proceed from the Holy Spirit, who by an admirable infusion of his grace into our hearts makes our works his, and yet withal leaves them our own, since we are members of a head of which he is the Spirit, and ingrafted in a tree whereof he is the divine sap. And as he thus acts in our works, and we after a certain manner operate or co-operate in his action, he leaves us for our part all the merit and profit of our services and good works, and we again leave him all the honour and praise thereof, acknowledging that the commencement, the progress, and the end of all the good we do depends on his mercy, by which he has come unto us and prevented us, has come into us and assisted us, has come with us and conducted us, finishing what he had begun. But, O God! Theotimus, how merciful is his goodness to us in thus distributing his bounty! We give him the glory of our praise, forsooth! and he gives us the glory of possessing him. In fine, by these light and passing labours we obtain goods which endure for all eternity. Amen.