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he cried out: "Lord, whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy face?
I said: Perhaps darkness shall cover me. But darkness shall not be dark to thee, and night shall be light as day."1
2o. God is nigh unto us; He is in our heart. Is not this sentiment calculated to inspire us with courage and confidence in time of temptation or persecution? When oppressed by interior trials, let us call on the strong God within us: "O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!"—and how violent soever the temptation, our victory is assured. We can say with confidence: "The Lord is my light and my salvation,— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? . . . If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear," 2 for He is with me.
When assailed by enemies from without, when our actions are impugned and our motives misrepresented, how reassuring it is to know that there is a God looking on who will vindicate our innocence in His own good time; who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart; who will one day reverse the false judgments of men! "They shall fight against thee," says the Lord to Jeremias, shall not prevail; for I am with thee, to save thee
1 Ps. CXXXVIII., 12.
2 Ps. XXVI., 1, 3.
and to deliver thee." He does not say: I shall be with thee, but I am with thee, to denote that His presence is constant and abiding without any interval of absence.
It was the consideration of the presence of the Holy One that sustained the chaste Susanna when solicited to commit a secret crime. She was asked by two wicked men to yield to their desires under penalty of being falsely accused of a similar offence before a public tribunal. And those men were to be her accusers and her judges, and they were held in great esteem before the people. What a trying situation! "I am straitened," she says, " on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death to me; and if I do it not, I shall not escape your hands. But it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord." She was falsely accused and condemned to death. "Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said: "O eternal God, who knowest hidden things, who knowest all things before they come to pass, Thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me."" But God, whom she feared to offend, did not abandon her in her distress. Her innocence was proclaimed by an inspired youth, the Prophet Daniel, who appeared as she was being led to execution. The trial was renewed. The perjury of the witnesses was clearly shown, and her
1 Jer. XV., 20.
2 Dan. XIII., 22, 23, 42, 43.
accusers suffered the very death that they had attempted to inflict upon the innocent Susanna.
3o. The presence of God should inspire us with profound reverence in prayer. If I am penetrated with the thought that the Almighty reads my heart, and listens to the faintest echo of my voice, that without Him I could not give utterance to speech, I shall not fail to observe exterior decorum and interior recollection in my devotions. Then, indeed, whether I pray in church or in my room, I shall be filled with the sentiments of the Patriarch Jacob when he exclaimed: "Indeed, the Lord is in this place and I knew it not. This is no other than the house of God and the gate of heaven." Wherever God is, there is His mercy; and wherever His mercy is, there is the gate of heaven.
4o. Charles Reade in one of his works gives us a vivid description of the mental tortures endured by a young man condemned to solitary confinement. One night seemed to him an age; his hair turned prematurely grey. He was devoured by his own thoughts, and driven almost mad. He had no one to whom he could speak, and he heard no voice save the echo of his own, which terrified him. Contrast with this man St. Paul, the first hermit, who lived in the third century. He spent ninety years of voluntary solitude in the desert, and those ninety years seemed no longer to him than did so
1 Gen. XXVIII., 17.
many hours to the young man of whom I have spoken. The roar of the elements, the chirping of the birds, and the hum of the insects, were the only sounds that reached his ears. And yet he was happy-and why? Because he communed with God, and God communed with him. He enjoyed the delight of God's abiding presence.
Cardinal Wiseman's exquisite story of Fabiola contains an instructive dialogue between Syra, a Christian slave, and Fabiola as yet a Pagan. After Syra had expounded to her mistress the sublime doctrine of God's omnipresence and omniscience, Fabiola exclaimed in alarm: "If all you say is true; if I am under the perpetual gaze of an eye of which the sun is but a shadow; for this Eye penetrates beyond matter into my secret thoughts, is not the apprehension of this truth sufficient to tempt me to suicide?"
If the sense of God's presence is a terror to evildoers, what delight, consolation, and joy is it to the devout man to bask in the sunshine of His protecting providence! Under that sweet care, he feels that he is in the company of his Father, his Friend, and his Benefactor.
As God is nigh unto us, so should we draw near to God in thought, affection, and desire. Then, indeed, we shall never be alone. "Never less alone than when alone." Then will the solitude of .our room be instinct with divine life, and we shall 99 1 taste and see that the Lord is sweet." We shall
1 Ps. XXXIII., 9.
say with St. Peter on Mount Thabor: "Lord, it is good for us to be here." We shall have a foretaste of the joy experienced by the Apostles on beholding their transfigured Lord. We shall be lifted up from earth to the clear atmosphere of God's presence. And after walking with God, like the Patriarchs, in the light of faith, we shall one day behold Him in the light of glory. "We now see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known." 2
1 Matt. XVII., 4.
2 I. Cor. XIII., 12.