Eternal Salvation: a Meditation

Written By Bishop George Hay

Below is an excerpt from a new TAN classic, The Enemies of Salvation: the Flesh, the World, and the Devil by Bishop George Hay, a convert to the Faith and renowned English-language theologian who lived from 1729 to 1811.   

This work is part of the TAN Books series which includes parts of old, timeless Catholic books that have been updated with selected highlights reprinted for the spiritual growth of readers.

Besides producing traditional Catholic content from living authors, TAN Books also looks to the saints and other spiritual masters of the past to guide readers in the present generation as they navigate the difficult waters of the spiritual life. 

This short book, nearly seventy pages, offers a brief but insightful exposition of eternal salvation with a focus on the last end of man, offering insight into the immense importance of salvation with a warning and precaution about three enemies of the soul: the flesh, world, and devil.

The theme ties in well with the final days of Advent.  

Below is an excerpt from Part I: Eternal Salvation:

“We shall consider eternal salvation itself, its excellence and importance; that we may see how much it is our only true interest to serve God here, since our eternal happiness, which is our last end, depends upon our so doing.

The end for which God created us is to glorify Him by loving and serving Him: this is the immediate end for which we have our being, for which we are placed in this world.

All creatures around us are made for our use, and serve to show the infinite power, wisdom, and goodness of our great Creator, with His other Divine perfections.

The wonderful things He has done for us disclose still more fully His sublime excellence, and convince us how much He deserves to be loved, praised, and glorified.

But His design in creating us does not stop here. He made us not for this present life alone, but for eternity. 

When this transitory life ends, we begin another which will continue forever. 

Such is His infinite goodness, that if we faithfully comply with the end of our being, by serving and glorifying Him here, He will hereafter reward us with eternal salvation, which is the possession of incomprehensible happiness, the enjoyment of God Himself for all eternity. 

Therefore salvation is called our last end, as being the end which God had in view with regard to us, in creating us: ‘You have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life’ (Rom. 6:22).

The supreme and ultimate end which God had in creating us was His own glory; so that not only in this life are we bound to glorify God as the immediate end of our being, but this also will be the happy employment of the blessed for eternity.

Our eternal happiness essentially consists in seeing God, and in loving, enjoying, and glorifying Him forever!

If created bodily beauty, which is nothing compared to the spiritual beauty of the soul, and still less to the supernatural beauty of being in glory, has such charms to please and delight, how much more must the infinite uncreated beauty of God beatify the souls of the blessed, filling them with inconceivable rapture and delight?

On account of His infinite beauty and numberless perfections, our happiness consists in seeing God. We find, from experience, that our nature is so framed by our Creator as to receive particular pleasure and delight from beholding any object which is beautiful and perfect in its kind.

Of material beauty, that of the human form is the most excellent, and when this is singularly remarkable, it attracts and enchants the hearts even of the wise; witness the examples of Sampson, Solomon, Holophernes, and others.

Now, if created bodily beauty, which is nothing compared to the spiritual beauty of the soul, and still less to the supernatural beauty of a being in glory, has such charms to please and delight, how much more must the infinite uncreated beauty of God beautify the souls of the blessed, filling them with inconceivable rapture and delight?

Our souls and hearts are made for God: no creature is capable of satisfying their boundless capacity; nothing but an infinite good can fill them; nothing but the sight and possession of the beauty of God, the infinite good for which they were created, can give them entire contentment.

This is impossible for us to form any just idea of what the beauty of God is in itself; for how can a finite being form any just idea of what is infinite? How can the creature have any adequate idea of what essentially belongs to the Creator?

Besides, we have no grounds to go upon, any more than a blind man has to form a just idea of light and color. The beauty of God is of a kind totally different from created beauty, and though all created beauty is from God, and therefore must be in Him, yet it is in Him after a manner so different and perfect that there is no possibility of forming any just idea of the beauty of God in itself from what we see in creatures. 

Still there are several reasons which show us, in the most convincing manner, how great, how amazing, how infinitely delightful must be the beauty of God.

The Scriptures declare that God is the first author of beauty, and from thence draw the conclusion, if men be delighted with the beauty of the creatures, ‘Let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they; for the first author of beauty made all those things’ (Wis. 13:3). 

‘By the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby’ (v. 5). This is a most just argument; for the Creator must have in Himself what he communicates to His creatures, and in a degree as much more perfectly as He is infinitely more perfect and excellent than they.

If, therefore, the numberless beauties dispersed among creatures in the universe—the splendor of the sun, the brightness of the moon, the sparkling of the stars, the colors of the rainbow, the immense variety of beauty which we see in flowers, in the productions of the earth, in birds, beasts, and all living creatures—were all collected in one, and to this were added all the beauty that ever existed in the human form, yet all this would bear no more proportion to the uncreated beauty of God than a small fire to the sun, or a drop of water to the ocean. 

Nay, what is still more, Almighty God not only is the author of all the beauty found in creatures which actually exist, but He can, if He please, create numbers of other worlds and of other creatures, as much exceeding the beauty of this universe as it exceeds a grain of sand. Consequently, He must contain in Himself all possible beauty without bounds or limitation, in presence of which the beauty of this world, and of thousands of worlds more perfect, would disappear as nothing as the stars in the presence of the sun. 

Hence Scripture says, ‘The moon shall blush and the sun shall be ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign’ (Is. 24:23). What an amazing idea does this give of the immensity of that Divine beauty and enjoyment of it must communicate to the souls of the blessed! 

The second argument is taken from the properties of the Divine beauty. That it is altogether unchangeable, so that it is absolutely impossible it should ever fail, or even be in the smallest degree diminished. 

Oh, how frail and fading is all created beauty! Take that of the human form, the greatest and most engaging we know among creatures! How soon does a fit of sickness change the comeliest countenance into an object of horror! How does this short space of a few years deprive it of all its charms! Its color fades, its luster disappears, its liveliness decays, and as old age approaches and disfigures it, it can scarcely be recognized for what it was! 

Death at last puts an end to its existence and makes the most beautiful countenance even loathsome to behold!”

Bishop George Hay (1729-1811), was a convert to the Catholic Faith and a writer who in his later years authored various works.  After studies in Rome he was ordained a priest.  Later in life he became bishop of the Lowland District in Scotland.  His first insight into Catholic teaching had occurred when he spent a year in jail in London after his involvement in an uprising, an event that prompted his conversion at age 20.