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ST. BONAVENTURE, CARDINAL BISHOP AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
From his works, Wadding’s Annals of the Friar Minors, the discourse of Octavian de Marinis for his canonization, and from his Life, written by Peter Galesini, by order of Sixtus V See also Boule, Raynaud, de Colonia, and the Bollandists.
A. D. 1274.
ST. BONAVENTURE, the great light and ornament of the holy Order of St. Francis, for his extraordinary devotion, ardent charity, and eminent skill in sacred learning, is surnamed the Seraphic Doctor. He was born at Bagnarea in Tuscany, in the year 1221, of pious parents, named John of Fidenza and Mary Ritelli. He was christened by the name of John; but afterward received that of Bonaventure on the following occasion. In the fourth year of his age he fell so dangerously sick that his life was despaired of by the physicians. The mother in excessive grief had recourse to the Almighty physician by earnest prayer, and going into Umbria cast herself at the feet of St. Francis of Assisium, with many tears begging his intercession with God for the life of her son. Would Christians address themselves to God with an humble confidence in all their corporal necessities, their afflictions would never fail to be turned into divine blessings. But their neglect of this duty deserves to be chastised by spiritual misfortunes, and often also by temporal disappointments without comfort or remedy. St. Francis was moved to compassion by the tears of the mother, and at his prayer the child recovered so perfect a state of health that he was never known to be sick from that time till the illness of which he died.1 The glorious saint, at whose petition God granted this favor, saw himself near the end of his mortal course, and foretelling the graces which the divine goodness prepared for this child, cried out in prophetic rapture; O buona ventura, that is, in Italian, Good luck. Whence the name of Bonaventura was given our saint. The devout mother in gratitude consecrated her son to God by a vow, and was careful to inspire into him from the cradle the most ardent sentiments of piety, and to inure him betimes to assiduous practices of self-denial, humility, obedience, and devotion. Bonaventure from his infancy entered upon a religious course, and appeared inflamed with the love of God as soon as he was capable of knowing him. His progress in his studies surprised his masters, but that which he made in the science of the saints, and in the practice of every virtue was far more extraordinary. It was his highest pleasure and joy to hear by how many titles he belonged to God, and he made it his most earnest study and endeavor to devote his heart with his whole strength to the divine service.
In 1243, being twenty-two years of age, he entered into the Order of St. Francis, and received the habit in the province of Rome from the hands of Haymo, an Englishman, at that time general of the Order.* St Bonaventure mentions in his prologue to the life of Saint Francis, that he entered this state, and made his vows with extraordinary sentiments of gratitude for the preservation of his life through the intercession of St. Francis, resolving with the greatest ardor to serve God with his whole heart. Shortly after, he was sent to Paris to complete his studies under the celebrated Alexander of Hales, surnamed the Irrefragable Doctor.* After his death in 1245, St. Bonaventure continued his course under his successor, John of Rochelle. His penetrating genius was poised by the most exquisite judgment, by which, while he easily dived to the bottom of every subtle inquiry, he cut off whatever was superfluous, dwelling only on that knowledge which is useful and solid, or at least was then necessary to unravel the false principles and artful sophistry of the adversaries of truth. Thus he became a masterly proficient in the scholastic philosophy, and in the most sublime parts of theology. Whilst he referred all his studies to the divine honor and his own sanctification he was most careful not to lose the end in the means, and suffer his application to degenerate into a dissipation of mind and a vicious idle curiosity. This opens an avenue into the heart for self-conceit, jealousy, envy, and a total extinction of the spirit of prayer, with a numberless train of other spiritual evils, which lay waste the affections of the soul, and banish thence the precious fruits of the Holy Ghost. To shun those rocks often fatal to piety, he seemed never to turn his attention from God, and by the earnest invocation of the divine light in the beginning of every action, and holy aspirations with which he accompanied all his studies, he may be said to have made them a continued prayer. When he turned his eyes to his book, they were swimming with tears of love and devotion excited by his assiduous meditation on the wounds of Christ, and his heart still continued to inflame its affections from that its beloved object, which he seemed to read in every line. St. Thomas Aquinas coming one day to pay a visit to our saint, asked him in what books he had learned his sacred science. St. Bonaventure, pointing to his crucifix before him, said, “This is the source of all my knowledge. I study only Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
Not content to make his studies in some sort a continuation of prayer, he devoted entirely to that heavenly exercise the greater part of his time, knowing this to be the key of divine graces and of a spiritual life. For only the Spirit of God, as St. Paul teaches, can lead us into the secrets and designs of God, and engrave his holy maxims on our hearts. He alone can make himself known, as no other light can discover the sun to us but its own; and it is in prayer that God communicates himself to us. He here enlightens the souls of his servants, and is their interior instructor. But as St. Austin says, honey cannot be poured into a vessel that is full of wormwood: neither can this excellent grace or gift of prayer find place in a soul which is not first prepared to receive the sensible presence of the Holy Ghost by holy compunction, and by the practice of penance, humility, and self-denial. These virtues fitted the soul of our saint to be admitted to the chaste embraces of the heavenly bridegroom. Such was the innocence and purity in which he lived, and so perfect a mastery he had obtained over his passions, that Alexander of Hales used to say to him, that he seemed not to have sinned in Adam. An eminent spirit of penance was the principal guardian of this grace of innocence. The austerities of Saint Bonaventure were excessive, yet amidst his penitential tears a remarkable cheerfulness appeared always in his countenance, which resulted from the inward peace of his soul. Himself lays down this maxim:2 “A spiritual joy is the greatest sign of the divine grace dwelling in a soul.”
To his mortifications he added the practice of the greatest humiliations. In attending the sick he was particularly ambitious to serve them in the lowest and most humbling offices. In this charitable duty he seemed prodigal of his own life and health, and chose always to be about those whose distempers were most loathsome or contagious and dangerous. He had no eyes to see anything in himself but faults and imperfections, and wonderful was the care with which he endeavored to conceal from others his extraordinary practices of virtue. When their rays broke through the veil of his humility, and shone forth to others, the saint in order to cast a shade over them before men, or at least to strengthen his own heart against the danger, and to indulge his love of abjection, embraced the greatest humiliations. He always regarded himself as the most ungrateful and the basest of sinners, unworthy to walk upon the earth, or to breathe the air; and these humble sentiments were accompanied with the deepest compunction, and abundan tears. This humility sometimes withheld him from the holy table notwithstanding the burning desires of his soul to be united daily afresh to the object of his love, and to approach the fountain of grace. But God was pleased by a miracle to overcome his fears, and to recompense his humility. “Several days had passed,” say the acts of his canonization, “nor durst he yet presume to present himself at the heavenly banquet. But whilst he was hearing mass, and meditating on the passion of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, to crown his humility and love, put into his mouth, by the ministry of an angel, part of the consecrated host, taken from the hand of the priest.” By this precious favor his soul was drowned in a torrent of pure delights; and from that time he was encouraged to approach with an humble confidence to the bread of angels which gives life and strength.
From this time his communions were accompanied with overflowing sweetness and consolations, and with raptures of divine joy and love. If in our communions we seem to receive, instead of torrents, scarce a small portion of heavenly grace, the reason is, because our hearts are too narrow. The vessel which we bring is too small. If we dilated our souls by humility, burning desires, and love, we should receive, like the saints, an abundant supply of these living waters. St. Bonaventure prepared himself to receive the holy order of priesthood by long fasts, humiliations, and fervent prayer, that he might obtain in it an abundant measure of graces proportioned to so high a function. He considered that sacred dignity with fear and trembling, and the higher and more incomprehensible it appeared to him, so much the more did he humble himself when he saw himself invested with it. As often as he approached the altar, the profound annihilation of himself, and the tender love with which he offered, beheld in his hands, and received into his breast, the Lamb without spot, appeared by his tears, and his whole exterior. A devout prayer which he composed for his own use after Mass, beginning with these words, Transfige dulcissime domine, is recommended by the Church to all priests on that most solemn occasion.
Bonaventure looked upon himself as called by the obligations of his priestly character to labor for the salvation of his neighbor, and to this he devoted himself with extraordinary zeal. He announced the word of God to the people with an energy and unction which kindled a flame in the hearts of those that heard him; everything was inflamed that came from his mouth. For an assistance to himself in this function he compiled his treatise called Pharctra, consisting of animated sentiments gathered from the writings of the fathers. In the meantime, he was employed in teaching privately in his own convent, till he succeeded his late master, John of Rochelle, in a public chair of the university. The age required by the statutes for this professorship was thirty-five, whereas the saint was only thirty-three years old; but his abilities amply supplied that defect, and on this literary theatre he soon displayed them to the admiration of the whole Church. He continued always to study at the foot of the crucifix. The disagreement between the university and the regulars being terminated by pope Alexander IV. in 1256, Saint Thomas and St. Bonaventure were invited to take the doctor’s cap together. As others contend for precedence, the two saints had a vehement contest of humility, each endeavoring to yield the first place to the other. They knew no pretexts of the interest of their Orders, nor were they sensible of any prerogatives but those of humility. St. Bonaventure prayed and entreated him with so much earnestness, that at length St. Thomas acquiesced to receive the degree first, and our saint triumphed over both his friend and himself.
The holy king of St. Lewis honored St. Bonaventure with his particular esteem, invited him often to his own table, and consulted him in his most intricate concerns, placing an entire confidence in his advice. He engaged him to compile an office of the passion of Christ for his use. St. Bonaventure drew up a rule for St. Isabella, the king’s sister, and for her nunnery of mitigated Clares at Long-Champs. His book On the Government of the Soul, his Meditations for every day in the week, and most of his other lesser tracts were written to satisfy the requests of several devout persons of the court. The unction which every word breathes in the writings of this holy doctor pierces the heart, and his concise expression is an abyss, or rather a treasure of most profound sentiments of humility, compunction, love, and devotion, the riches of which a pious heart finds everywhere boundless. Especially his tender sentiments of the love of God, and on the sacred passion of Christ, exceedingly recommend to all devout persons his meditations on this latter subject, and express the burning affections with which his pure soul glowed towards that stupendous mystery of infinite love, goodness, and mercy, that perfect model of all virtue and sanctity, and source of all our good.
The celebrated Gerson, the most learned and devout chancellor of Paris, writes of the works of St. Bonaventure.3 “Among all the Catholic doctors, Eustachius (for so we may translate his name of Bonaventure) seems to me the most proper for conveying light to the understanding, and at the same time warming the heart. In particular his Brevioloquium and Itinerarium are written with so much force, art, and conciseness, that nothing can be beyond them.” In another book he says:4 “St. Bonaventure’s works seem to me the most proper for the instruction of the faithful. They are solid, safe, pious, and devout; and he keeps as far as he can from niceties; not meddling with logical or physical questions which are foreign to the matter in hand. Nor is there any doctrine more sublime, more divine, or more conducive to piety.” Trithemius recommends this doctor’s writings in the following words: “His expressions are full of fire, they no less warm with divine love the hearts of those who read them, than they fill their understanding with the most holy light. His works surpass those of all the doctors of his time if we consider the spirit of divine love and of Christian devotion that speaks in him. He is profound in few words, penetrating without curiosity, eloquent without vanity; his discourse is inflamed without being bloated. Whoever would be both learned and devout, let him read the works of St. Bonaventure.”5
This is chiefly to be understood of his spiritual tracts. In these the author discovers everywhere a most profound spirit of humility and holy poverty, with a heart perfectly disengaged from all earthly things, and full of the most ardent love of God, and the most tender devotion to the sacred passion of our Divine Redeemer. The eternal joys of heaven were the frequent entertainment of his pious soul, and he seems never to have interrupted his ardent sighs after them. He endeavored by his writings to excite in all others the same fervent desires of our heavenly country. He writes6 that “God himself, all the glorious spirits, and the whole family of the eternal King wait for us, and desire that we should be associated to them; and shall not we pant above all things to be admitted into their happy company? He would appear amongst them with great confusion, who had not in this valley of tears continually raised his soul above all things visible to become already, in ardent desire, an inhabitant of those blessed regions.” He clearly shows that he was not able to express the transports of holy joy that overflowed his soul, as often as he contemplated its future union with God in immortal bliss and uninterrupted love and praise. He revolved in mind the raptures of gratitude and joy in which the blessed spirits behold themselves in the state of security for ever, whilst they see so many souls on earth every day overthrown by their spiritual enemies, and so many others lost in hell. He was strongly affected with the thought of the glorious company of millions of angels and saints, all most holy, loving, and glorious, adorned each with their distinguishing trophies and graces; in which every one will possess in others every gift which he hath not, and all those gifts which himself hath, doubled so many times as he hath partners in bliss. For loving every companion as himself he will rejoice for the felicity of each no less than for his own. Whereupon, with St. Anselm, he often asked his own heart, here so poor, so weak, and overwhelmed with miseries, if then it would be able, without being strengthened and raised above itself by an extraordinary grace, to contain its joy for its own felicity; how it could be able to contain so many and such excess of joys. But this saint’s sublime sentiments of piety and devotion are best learned from his own works. His love of an interior life did not hinder his application to promote the divine honor in others by various exterior employments; but these he animated and sanctified by a constant spirit of recollection and prayer.
Whilst he continued to teach at Paris he was chosen general of his Order in a chapter held in the convent called Ara-Cœli, at Rome, in 1256. The saint was only thirty-five years old. Nevertheless pope Alexander IV. confirmed the election. St. Bonaventure was thunderstruck at this news, and prostrating himself on the ground, he with many tears implored the divine light and direction. After which he set out immediately for Rome. The Franciscan Order was at that time divided by intestine dissensions, some of the friars being for an inflexible severity, others demanding certain mitigations of the letter of the rule. The young general no sooner appeared among them, but by the force of his exhortations which he tempered with mildness and charity, he restored a perfect calm; and all the brethren marched under this new Josue with one heart, in the same spirit, and in the same path. William of Saint-Amour, a member of the university of Paris, having published a bitter invective against the Mendicant Orders, entitled, “On the Dangers of the Latter Times,” St. Thomas answered it. St. Bonaventure also confuted it by a book, which he called, “On the Poverty of the Lord Jesus,” in which his mildness in handling the controversy against a most virulent adversary reflected a double advantage on his victory.
Our saint, in his return to the schools at Paris, visited several of his convents in the way, in which he showed everywhere that he was only become superior to be the most humble, the most charitable, and the most compassionate of all his brethren, and the servant of his whole Order. Notwithstanding his great employments, he never omitted his usual exercises of devotion, but laid out his time and regulated his functions with such wonderful prudence as to find leisure for everything. He composed several works at Paris, but often retired to Mante for greater solitude. A stone, which he used for his pillow, is shown to this day in that convent. In 1260 the saint held a general chapter at Narbonne, and in concert with the definitors, gave a new form to the old Constitutions, added certain new rules, and reduced them all into twelve chapters. At the request of the friars assembled in this chapter, he undertook to write the life of St. Francis; but went first from Narbonne to Mount Alverno, and there assisted at the dedication of a great church. In a little oratory, built upon the very place where Saint Francis had received the miraculous marks of the wounds of our Saviour, St. Bonaventure continued a long while abstracted, and in an ecstasy, in holy meditation. He there wrote his incomparable treatise, called Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, or the Way of the Soul to God, showing that all her comfort and riches are to be found in God alone, and tracing out the sure way that leads to him. Whilst he was in Italy he gathered the most authentic memoirs for the life of St. Francis, which he compiled with the spirit which shows him to have been filled with all the heroic virtues of his founder, whose life he wrote. St. Thomas Aquinas coming one day to pay him a visit whilst he was employed in this work, saw him through the door of his cell, raised in contemplation above the ground, and going away, said: “Let us leave a saint to write for a saint.” In 1230 St. Bonaventure assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Antony, which was performed at Padua. From that city he went to hold a general chapter at Pisa, in which, by words and example, he exhorted his brethren to a great love of holy solitude. He gave on that and every other occasion proofs of his tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. When he was first made general he put his Order under her special patronage. He regulated many pious exercises of devotion to her, composed his Mirror of the Virgin, setting forth her graces, virtues, and prerogatives, with many prayers, which are tender and respectful effusions of the heart, to implore her intercession. He wrote a pathetic paraphrase in verse of the anthem Salve Regina.* He published the praises of the Mother out of devotion to the Son, and to extend His glory. To propagate his honor and saving faith he sent, by the pope’s authority, preachers into many barbarous nations, and lamented his situation that he could not go himself, and expose his life among the infidels.
The venerable brother Giles, the third companion of St. Francis at Assisio,* said one day to St. Bonaventure: “Father, God has shown us great mercy and bestowed on us many graces. But we who are poor and ignorant idiots, what can we do to correspond to his immense goodness, and to be saved?” St. Bonaventure answered; “If God were to bestow on any one no other talents besides the grace of loving him, this alone suffices, and is every spiritual treasure.” B. Giles said,—“Can a dull idiot love God as perfectly as a great scholar?” St. Bonaventure replied: “A poor old woman may love him more than the most learned master and doctor in theology.” At this brother Giles, in a sudden fervor and jubilation of spirit, went into a garden, and standing at a gate toward the city (of Rome) he looked that way, and cried out with a loud voice,—“Come, the poorest, most simple, and most illiterate old woman, love the Lord our God, and you may attain to a higher degree of eminence and happiness than brother Bonaventure with all his learning.” After this he fell into an ecstasy, in which he continued in sweet contemplation without motion for the space of three hours.”7
Pope Clement IV. in 1265, nominated St. Bonaventure archbishop of York, being assured how agreeable he would be to that church, to the king of England, and his whole kingdom. But St. Bonaventure having first by earnest prayer, begged that God would preserve him from so great a danger, went and cast himself at the feet of his holiness, and by tears and entreaties extorted from him a discharge from that burden. He held a general chapter at Paris in 1266; and in the next, which he assembled at Assisium, he ordered the triple salutation of the Blessed Virgin called the Angelus Domini to be recited every evening at six o’clock, to honor the incomprehensible mystery of the Incarnation, which ought to be the object of our perpetual praises and thanksgiving.
In 1272, Theobald, the holy archdeacon of Liege, a native of Placentia, then absent in the Holy Land, was chosen pope, and took the name of Gregory X., a person of such eminent sanctity that a process has been set on foot for his canonization; and Benedict XIV., in 1745, ordered his name to be inserted in the Roman Martyrology. He was a man of an extraordinary reputation throughout all his life, for prudence in the conduct of his affairs; for courage, greatness of mind, and contempt of money; for devotion, clemency, and charity to the poor. He died on the 10th of January, 1276, on his return from the council at Abruzzo in Tuscany, of which city he is the titular patron. Miracles have rendered his name illustrious. Bonaventure fearing this holy pope would compel him to accept of some ecclesiastical dignity, left Italy and went to Paris, where he wrote his Hexaëmeron or pious exposition of the creation, or work of six days. He had scarce finished it, when at Whitsuntide he received from the pope a brief by which he was nominated cardinal, and bishop of Albano, one of the six suffragans of Rome. His holiness added a precept to him to accept that double charge without alleging any pretext against it, and immediately to repair to Rome. He sent two nuncios to meet him on the road with the hat and other ensigns of his dignities. They found the saint reposing on his journey in a convent of his Order at Migel, four leagues from Florence, and employed in washing the dishes. He desired them to hang the cardinal’s hat on the bough of a tree, because he could not decently take it in his hands, and left them to walk in the garden till he had finished his work. Then taking up the hat he went to the nuncios, and paid them the respect due to their character. Gregory X. came from Orvietto to Florence, and there meeting Bonaventure ordained him bishop with his own hands; then ordered him to prepare himself to speak in the general council which he had called to meet at Lyons for the reunion of the Greeks.
The emperor Michael Palæologus had made proposals to pope Clement IV. for a union. Pope Gregory X. zealously pursued this affair. Joseph, patriarch of Constantinople, made a violent opposition, but was obliged by the emperor to retire into a monastery. To bring this affair to a happy conclusion, Gregory X. invited the Greeks to come to the general council which he assembled at Lyons for this very purpose, and also to concert measures for pushing on a war for the recovery of the Holy Land, which the pope promoted with all his might. This was the fourteenth general council and the second of Lyons. At it were present five hundred bishops, seventy abbots, James king of Arragon, and the ambassadors of the emperor Michael and of other Christian princes. St. Thomas of Aquin died on the road to this synod. St. Bonaventure accompanied the pope through Milan to it, and arrived at Lyons in November, though the council was only opened on the 7th of May, 1274.8 Bonaventure sat on the pope’s right hand, and first harangued the assembly. Between the second and third sessions he held his last general chapter of his Order, in which he abdicated the office of general. He found leisure to preach, and he established at Lyons a pious confraternity called Del Gonfalone, which he had formerly instituted at Rome. In it pious persons associated themselves in certain daily devotions, under the patronage of the mother of God. The deputies of the Greeks being arrived at Lyons, St. Bonaventure was ordered by the pope to confer with them. They were charmed with his sweetness, and convinced by his reasoning, and they acquiesced in every point. In thanksgiving the pope sung mass on the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, and the gospel was sung first in Latin, then in Greek. After this St. Bonaventure preached on the unity of faith. Then the creed was sung first in Latin, then in Greek, and as a seal of the reunion of the two Churches, those words were thrice repeated: “Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son.” In memory of this solemn function two crosses are placed on the high altar of the metropolitan church of St. John at Lyons.* St. Bonaventure was taken ill after this session; nevertheless he assisted at the fourth, in which the Logothete or high chancellor of Constantinople abjured the schism. But the next day the saint’s strength began entirely to fail him, insomuch that he was no longer able to attend business. From that time he gave him self up entirely to his private devotions, and the constant amiable serenity of his countenance demonstrated the holy peace and joy of his soul in those most awful moments. The pope himself gave him extreme unction, as is attested by an inscription which hath been preserved in the same chamber in which he died, to our times. The saint kept his eyes constantly fixed on a crucifix, and expired in great tranquillity on the 14th of July, in the year 1274, of his age the fifty-third. The pope and the whole council solemnized his obsequies on the same day in the church of the Franciscans at Lyons. Peter of Tarentaise, a Dominican friar, cardinal and bishop of Ostia, after, ward pope under the name of Innocent V., preached his funeral panegyric, in which he said,—“No one ever beheld him who did not conceive a great esteem and affection for him; and even strangers, by hearing him speak, were desirous to follow his counsel and advice; for he was gentle, affable, humble, pleasing to all, compassionate, prudent, chaste, and adorned with all virtues.”
The body of St. Bonaventure was translated into the new church of the Franciscans on the 14th of March, 1434. King Charles VIII. founded their new convent at Lyons, at the foot of the castle of Pierre Incise, in 1494, with a rich chapel in which the saint’s remains were enshrined, except a part of the lower jaw, which that king caused to be conveyed to Fontainbleau, and it is now in the church of the Cordeliers in Paris: the bones of an arm are kept at Bagnarea, and a little bone at Venice. In 1562 the Calvinists plundered his shrine, burned his relics in the market-place, and scattered the ashes in the river Saone, as is related by the learned Jesuit Possevinus, who was then at Lyons.9 They stabbed to death the guardian with a Catholic captain whom they had made prisoner; they burned the archives of the library and set fire to the convent. The saint’s head and some other relics escaped the fury of the rebels by having been concealed. St. Bonaventure was canonized by Sixtus IV. in 1482. Sixtus V. enrolled his name among the doctors of the Church, in the same manner as Pius V. had done that of St. Thomas Aquinas. The acts of his canonization record several approved miracles wrought by his intercession. The city of Lyons, in 1628, being grievously afflicted with the plague, the raging distemper began to cease from the time in which certain relics of our saint were devoutly carried in procession. That and other cities have experienced the divine mercy in like manner, in several other public calamities, by invoking St. Bonaventure’s intercession. Charles of Orleans, father of Louis XII. king of France, was taken prisoner by the English in the battle of Agincourt, in 1425. During his captivity he fell ill of a fever, under which no human remedies gave him any relief. The more desperate his situation appeared, with the more earnestness he set himself to implore the patronage of St. Bonaventure, and a perfect recovery was the recompense of his devotion. In gratitude, as soon as he was set at liberty, he went to Lyons to offer up his thanksgivings and prayers at the tomb of the saint, on which he bestowed magnificent presents.*
St. Bonaventure, this great master of a spiritual life, places not the perfection of Christian virtue so much in the more heroic exercises of a religious state as in the performing well our ordinary actions. “The best perfection of a religious man,” says he, “is to do common things in a perfect manner.10 A constant fidelity in small things is a great and heroic virtue.” It is a continual crucifixion of self-love and all the passions; a complete sacrifice of all our actions, moments, and affections, and the entire reign of God’s grace throughout our whole lives. Quintilian lays it down for the great rule in forming an orator, that he accustom himself never to write or speak care lessly even on the most trifling subject or in common conversation, but that he study always to express himself in the most proper manner possible; with far greater diligence ought every one to strive to perform all even the meanest of his actions in the most perfect manner, and to improve every grace, every moment of time to advance in virtue.