The Beneficence of God and the Gratefulness of Man

It is not only himself that the thoughtful reader convinces by sound arguments based upon what has been taught, that religion is indispensable as a way, a door, a forerunner of morality, and an art for saving the soul – he goes on to persuade others, too, of its indispensability and of the impossibility of communicating the principles of moral conduct without religion. He is convinced by reasonable arguments, and he convinces those who think along reasonable lines, that religion is absolutely necessary for man’s salvation, for the application of morality, and for the attainment of man’s moral objective – and that without it, man’s salvation is impossible, the communication of moral principles is impossible, and the attainment of man’s moral goal is impossible.

If all men knew, as we know, the nature of religion and its power, they would not appear indifferent to it, but would tum to it and seek its power for salvation. Nor would any lack faith in its power, nor would they be deceived and assume religion to be a grand superstition and a figment of man’s imagination, striking fear into the hearts of the crowd, but not, of course, into the hearts of the wise and intelligent – as they think they are.

We now recognize that every man is a sinner, and mortal; therefore, every man ought to be religious, because in each man’s soul there is the consciousness of guilt and of trans­gression of the moral law which regulates man’s conduct. Also in each man’s soul there is implanted at birth the consciousness of religion which seeks after its appropriate object for its fulfillment. He knows that the appropriate object which satisfies the religious feeling is Jesus Christ, who is perfect God and perfect man, and who has laid down religious laws by which man’s religious nature is nourished, and by which man himself is reconciled and restored to friendship with God, and is saved from the eternal death of sin, and is sanctified.

He knows that religion is the product of the grace and mercy of the all-good God, and the product too of His sympathetic love of mankind, because of the sin in which the whole human race is implicated. He knows that this loving sympathy saves not all, but only those who are conscious of their guilt before God, and seek His grace and mercy through repentance.

Because he knows these truths, he extols the wisdom and goodness of God, which found a way of salvation for man, whom otherwise the righteousness of God judged worthy of death-for man wandered from his appointed path and insulted his maker and creator through transgression of the divine law. Because man realizes this, in praise and thanksgiving to almighty God for the ineffable generosity which He has poured forth through His Son, our saviour, even Jesus Christ, he utters this magnificat:

“O blessed goodness of God, in truth Thou art the source of His mercy and grace, which have saved us from eternal death. Thou art the inspiring force behind our creation. Thou art the mainspring of our re-creation and salvation. For Thy sake God did create everything and caused man to come into existence in His image and likeness. And for Thy sake, when man fell and committed sin, God retrieved him,, cleansed him, and led him to the path of salvation. Thou art the perpetual source of the creation, re-creation, and perfection of man, for from Thee flow in abundance the spirit of grace, forgiveness of sins, life, movement, energy, and everything which is good and beautiful in the universe. It is Thou, the goodness of God, who hast induced Him by His Logos and His power, to create man in the image and likeness of God. And when man fell into sin by the craft and cunning of Satan, Thou didst cleanse him and bathe him thoroughly from sin through the incarnation of the Logos, through the sojourn of the Son of God in the world, and through His sacrifice for man. 0 ineffable and blessed goodness of God, eternal glory unto Thee!”

If, therefore, we were created and exist, it is through the goodness of God that we were created and are in existence. If we are alive, we live because of the goodness of God. If we have movement and understanding, it is by the goodness of God that we possess these. Thus it is right that God should be entitled to claim perfect love from us. It is right for God to demand of us that we love Him with all our mind, with all our strength, with all our heart, and with all our soul.

It is right that the gift of love should equal the acceptance of love, because what is there that can surpass God? What is more to be desired than God? What is more perfect than God? What is more beneficent than God? Is it possible for the tongue of man or for his feeble pen to set forth in detail and fully describe the excellence of God and the many acts of generosity which He has shown to us and which He still continues to manifest?

God is kind and generous to us on the natural, the moral, and the spiritual levels. God sustains us by the good things of nature. God nourishes us by moral blessings. God feeds us with blessings of the spirit. God does everything for our sake, that in His great wisdom He may guide us to the attainment of the blessed prize for which we are aiming, and which we keep in view.

All the good things of the world are as nothing compared with the one and only benefit which the soul seeks to enjoy, and in which all good things are embraced. This benefit is the greatest of gifts – it is an infinite gift, nourishing us infinitely and not growing less. It is the supreme gift and because of it we ought to be grateful, deeply grateful, infinitely grateful, to the giver of this greatest blessing – for without it we are wretched and most miserable. This blessing is the faith, the knowledge, and the full recognition of the Logos of God. This blessing is Jesus Christ, our lord and our saviour.

Who can point to another blessing greater than this? Who, if thinking along reasonable lines, can deny that Christ is the blessing by which the sinner is reconciled with God and regains friendship with Him, and by which he is saved from eternal death. and sanctified? Which sane person, being not a materialist or a fool who believes in fables, can deny that Christ is the blessing for man which satisfies not only the feeling for religion, but also the feeling for knowledge – the philosophical consciousness, and the feeling for power – the political consciousness? Who can prove that Christ is not perfect holiness, complete wisdom. impartiality, and righteousness?

Christ is wisdom, holiness, and righteousness. He is concentrated virtue itself, manifested in word and in deed. He is the highest, the infinite, the ultimate, the zenith – the greatest blessing which God has bestowed upon us, and because of Him, we owe God our Father a gratitude which also must be infinite. This blessing makes us patient in danger, firm and courageous in affliction, calm in misfortune, humble and compassionate in good fortune.

Our Lord Jesus Christ makes us holy He reconciles us with God. He saves us by the power which He alone possesses to save man from sin and death. He bestows upon us the knowledge of truth, and by this we comprehend both the origin of creation and its end, and the means by which it is led to its finest and noblest destiny. Through Christ we recognize truth and falsehood and ascertain the difference between them; we distinguish light from darkness, and do not lose our intellectual and spiritual bearings by accepting the fantasies of Darwin as scientific truths.

Christ legislates for us through righteous laws and with their aid leads us to the attainment of freedom and righteousness. Through Christ we become not only holy, but also wise and righteous. In becoming holy, wise, and righteous, we also become blessed and attain our own special goal. Therefore, truly fortunate and blessed are they who confess Christ and follow Him, for they will become completely holy, wise, and righteous, just as Christ Himself, who is the blessing of human nature – the truth, the life, and the righteousness.

Without Christ there is neither salvation nor true knowledge, nor righteousness and freedom, nor even God, for those who deny Christ thereby deny God also, for they deny the goodness of God, without which God neither exists nor continues to exist. In their denial of God, atheists are as witless fools, for they proclaim in their hearts as the fool in the psalm,“There is no God” (Psalms 13:1; LXX).

Therefore, they stray away and miss the path of reason and morality; they may be compared with simple beasts which – as an even greater indication of their stupidity – they acknowledge as their forefathers and the founders of their race. As the prophet David was inspired by God and declared that man, though he be in an honourable estate, has not understood and has been compared with the foolish beasts and likened unto them (Psalms 48:12; LXX), even so those who refuse to believe in Christ and have become atheists, trace their ancestry back to frogs, apes, and cattle, and not to human beings which were created directly by God.

Compared with this deplorable folly, what other great disaster could be caused by those who disavow the deity of Christ, and despise His holy Church which is the gateway to true morality, and the precursor of man’s perfection? Behold the wages of disbelief in Christ!

Witness the reward reaped by those who oppose the Word of God! Even Socrates, among the ancients, judged God necessary for the interpretation of the mysteries of the universe; without God, he considered the universe inexplicable, even though he lived amidst brazen idolatry.

Ancient communities, except for the Jews, were founded upon mythology, which they accepted as truth, failing to perceive it as a certain misrepresentation of truth. Contemporary societies, except for Orthodox Christian societies, are founded upon materialism and secular gain, and upon the unscientific theory of Darwin, according to which man results from a gradual development from a rudimentary creature; he is the descendant of apes and orangutans, and returns to dust just as the animals.

Such teaching, because it meets the wishes of men whose lives lack spirituality, influences sensual and brutish characters, but not reasonable, discerning men. The ancient mythology was ridiculed by the wise and undermined by Socrates. But all the sensual, brutish men believed that God was what they themselves wanted to be, and thus the escapades of Zeus even pleased them, and they in their turn imitated them.

Thus they willingly accepted mythology as being the truth itself. But no reasonable person thought that God really was what mythology taught about Him. Therefore, in the soul of the wise, mythology had the very opposite effect from that produced in the soul of those whose lives lacked spirituality. The materialists’ doctrine comparing man, made in the image of God, with cattle – in relation to the soul of those whose lives are materialistic and are led at the level of the beasts of the field – gives pleasure and instills a foolish, unseasoned faith. In relation to the soul of thinking, reasoning men, the materialists’ teaching appears to be a fable, an aberration from the logical and correct explanation, a lamentable fall from reason and from morality on the part of those who follow such crude teaching.

But to us, the teaching of Christ appears to be the light, the truth, and the life, and by it we are led and carried onward to the perfection of God. Hence we make such progress as is according to God’s will, and it leads to blessedness. He who follows Christ has the light and sees the truth and walks by it without stumbling. But he who follows Christ, first accepts religion, and in accepting it is born again into new life, a spiritual life, by the laws which Christ ordained in the Church. He is infinitely grateful to God for the generosity which He showed him infinitely through Christ, His Son.

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