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[§ 25. The condition of the sinner.] I feel no little fear when I look back upon the sins I have committed, and bethink me of the pains and torments which I deserve to suffer for them; and so, in my great anxiety and my great alarm lest I should be lost, I look about me to see if haply I may anywhere discover any means of consolation. But, alas poor me! I find none; for not only my Creator, but my Creator and the whole creation He has made, are, I know full well, enlisted as my adversaries. Thus my Creator with His whole creation, grievously offended at my sins, condemns me; whilst my conscience, too well assured of its evil deeds, accuses me at every point. So that I find no consolation, nor do I think that I shall readily procure it from any source whatever.


What, then, am I to do? Whither shall I turn, desolate as I am, entangled as I am in the meshes of my sins? If I resolve to turn again to Him who made me upright, and so supplicate His unspeakable mercy to have pity on me, I greatly fear lest by my so great rashness I should move Him to all the greater anger against me, and lest He should all the more severely on this account avenge Himself on those enormities of mine by the which I have not feared to provoke His loving-kindness.

What then? Am I to lie still, as though in despair, without counsel, without help? My Creator even now suffers me to live, even now fails not to supply me with all that is needful for the sustentation of this present life; and, for I find it by actual experience, my sins avail not to conquer His goodness, and induce Him to determine now at last to cover me with confusion, as I have long ago deserved, and destroy me altogether. Of all certainties this is most certain, that He is merciful to me, inasmuch as He lavishes on me such inestimable blessings, and that even now He does not seek to avenge Himself on my iniquities.

[§ 26. The Divine mercy before the Incarnation.] 71I have heard, and what I have heard is true—for they who have had experience of a fact are in a position to attest it—that He the Fountain of Mercy, which began to flow from the very be ginning of the world, flows still. He was abundantly merciful, as they tell us, and very pitiful to Adam our first father, in that He did not punish him forthwith with the eternal perdition he had deserved on committing that sin of eating the forbidden fruit; but patiently waited for his amendment, and gave him merciful helps to enable him to return into the grace of Him whom he had offended. Indeed, He often sent him and those who sprang from him angels, for this very end; admonishing them to return and do penance for their iniquities; for He was still willing to receive them, should they with all their hearts repent of their sins. But they, still persisting in their sins and despising His admonitions, added fresh sins to the old; and grown mad, as it were, frantic, and hateful in their iniquities, began against their nature, although created in honour by reason of God’s likeness, to imitate the behaviour of brute beasts.

Then again He sent patriarchs, He sent prophets; but even then men chose not to forsake 72their crooked and perverse ways, but, of those who gave them counsels of salvation, slew some, and afflicted others with various and unheard-of tortures. Still, like a merciful father, He chastened them for a season, not to avenge Himself on their affronts and scorn, as though goaded to it by their evil deeds, but that they thus corrected might have recourse to His mercy, who in no wise desires the perdition of those whom He of His goodness created out of nothing.

[§ 27. The Divine mercy in the Incarnation.] But when, visited and visited again, first by admonition, then by correction, they still refused to be converted, the Fountain of Mercy could restrain Himself no longer, but, descending from the Bosom of the Father, took our true humanity, took our sinful likeness, and began all sweetly to admonish them that they should do salutary penance for their sins, and should own Him to be the very Son of God. For He had come for their salvation, and they must not lose hope, but must believe most firmly that pardon was now theirs for all their sins, if only they forsook them and did penance. For there is no sin so grievous that it cannot be washed out by penance, and so washed out as that 73the devil himself can no more henceforth call it to remembrance. Then, therefore, sinners beholding the so great sweetness of their Creator, began of their own accord to run in eager crowds to the Fountain of Mercy, and to wash away their sins in Him. Nay more; He on His part proceeded, Fountain of Mercy, to live with sinners, proceeded to throw open to them the sacred doors of that sacramental confession by means of which every burden of sin is lightened and removed, for in true confession every stain is cleansed and washed away.

After this, as the time drew near when He must suffer for the redemption of sinners, the Jews, of whose stock He was sprung according to the flesh, moved with envy for that He was merciful and compassionate, crucified Him. And yet He, even in His very death, not unmindful of His compassion, prayed to His Father for His murderers, that He would forgive them this sin, ‘for they know not’—were His words—‘for they know not what they do’ (St. Luke xxiii. 34). Thus does that sweetest compassion of our Lord find excuses for them; our Lord who desires not the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his way and live (Ezech. xxxiii. 11). Who, then, has heart so hard, so stony hard, that the so great 74loving-kindness of his Creator cannot soften it; whom, though His creature made by Him out of nothing to His image and likeness, he treated with dishonour; yet He punished not revengefully, but, dishonoured as He was and provoked by men’s many evil deeds, yet endured all with patience, and sweetly admonished them to return to Him with out doubt and without delay. Ay, indeed; our Lord Jesus Christ is merciful and sweet; as where He says by His prophet, ‘Is it my will that a sinner should die, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live’ (Ezech. xviii. 23), and so, doing penance, should return to the grace of his Creator? And how merciful He is to the sinful soul He declares by another prophet, when He implores it, even after the sin committed, to turn again and find mercy, saying, ‘Thou hast prostituted thyself to many lovers’ (Jer. iii. 1); that is to say, thou, who hadst pledged thy faith to Me in baptism, hast stained and desecrated thy conjugal fidelity with many lovers; yet do penance and re turn to Me, and I will receive thee. Let no sinner, then, lose heart when, after having been defiled with many lovers, his soul is received again; for the Fountain of Mercy, Jesus Christ, is exhausted by the iniquities of none, polluted by the crimes of 75none; but, always pure and always full to over flowing with grace and sweetness, receives all who return to Him, weak though they be, sinful though they be, and whatever be the sins that have defiled them. And that all sinners, and all unjust, may be sure that they receive forgiveness of their sins, if they do really strive to put away their sins and do penance, He, the Fountain of Mercy, has suffered the very same Flesh which, as I have said, He assumed in their behalf, to be crucified; that those who were dead in sins, and could by no other means return to life again unless redeemed by the price of His Blood, might not despair at all when they should see what price has been offered for their sins.

[§ 28. The sinner’s contemplation of himself.] When, then, I contemplate the so great compassion 06 my Lord Jesus Christ, and see that, although so many sinners and unjust run to the Fountain of Mercy, none are shut out, but all are welcomed, am I alone to give up hope? am I alone to fear that He who washes others clean cannot wash away my sins? I know, I know assuredly, and I truly believe, that He who cleanses others is able to cleanse me also, and, if He will, for He is most 76mighty, to remit me all my sins. Still, however, there are great differences between one sinner and another; between, that is to say, him who sins more grievously, and him who sins less. And I, contemplating in this respect the greatness of my sins and the deep dye of the iniquities that my soul has been stained withal, see clearly that I am not in like case with other sinners, but that I am sinner more than any other sinner, and far beyond all other sinners. For many have sinned, and then desisted; some, although they have often sinned, have yet at some time set a limit to their evil courses; others, again, even if they have done many evil deeds, have not failed also to do many good, and have thus merited either that those evil deeds should be remitted altogether, or else have gained that even the pains of hell should be more tolerable for them. But I, poor I, sinful and wretched above all sinful and all wretched mortals, understanding well and knowing well to what dire perdition my sin and the fascination of sin was leading me, have never cared to desist from sins and evil deeds, but have ever aggravated old sins by new, and thus all wittingly and wilfully have plunged myself, wretch that I am, into the perdition of sin; and, but that the infinite goodness 77of my Lord still bore with me, long, long ago must I have been devoured by hell itself. I then, after living as I have lived, after committing so great enormities and involving myself in so great iniquities, how shall I dare to fly to the Fountain of Mercy in the company of others, sinners, it is true, but sinners who have not done so great ill , for fear lest by reason of the foulness of my crimes He who has washed others whose foulness is more tolerable should refuse to wash me? Help me therefore, O Lord Jesus Christ, help Thy creature, overwhelmed though I be by a multitude of sins; but rather, seeing in me Thine own creation, help me lest I despair; for, as we do believe, no load of sins can be so enormous in guilt as to conquer Thee, if only the sinner despair not of Thy mercy.

[§ 29. The sinner’s prayer to Jesus Christ.] Suffer me therefore, O Lord Jesus Christ, to gaze on Thy unspeakable mercy, and to tell abroad Thy sweetness and goodness towards the sinful and the wretched. I have said it already, but O, it delights me much, whenever fit occasion offers, to make remembrance of Thy sweetness and Thy grace to sinners, and to say how great they are. For, out of love for sinners and for their redemption78—not merely sinners who are sinners more or less, but sinners who are sinful beyond measure, if only they repent—Thou earnest down from the Bosom of the Father, Thou didst enter the Virgin’s womb, didst take true flesh of her, and living in the world didst call all sinners to penance, at last didst endure the gibbet of the Cross for them, and dying thus according to the flesh, didst restore to them the life which by their sin they had justly lost. Therefore, when I consider the evil deeds that I have done, I am sure that I shall be lost, if Thou shouldest please to judge me according to my deserts; but, when I consider that death of Thine which Thou didst undergo for the redemption of sinners, I do not despair of Thy mercy. Why; the thief who for his sins was crucified by Thy side lived on in sin, to the very passing away of his soul in death; and yet, in the very hour of his dissolution, because he confessed his faults and proclaimed his guilt, found mercy and was that very day with Thee in Paradise. And I, beholding Thee, as I do, dead for the redemption of sinners, Thy Hands and Thy Feet fastened by the nails, Thy Side opened by the soldier’s lance, the river of Blood and Water flowing from that dear Side of Thine, am I to despair? One thing, and one 79thing only, dost Thou desire; that is, that we re pent of our wickednesses, and endeavour to amend as best we may. If we do this, we are safe; for if our last day finds us thus—since we have the instance of the thief who thus in his last hour merited to be saved—confiding in the unspeakable mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may have little or no fear of the accusation of the enemy. Having, therefore, before our eyes the price of our redemption, the Death, that is to say, of our Redeemer, and His Blood which was shed for us; having, besides, the example of the thief and of many who, having been entangled in many and great sins, have been mercifully forgiven by Him, the Fountain of Mercy, Jesus Christ, let us not despair, but fly, sure of the remission of our sins, to Him the Fountain of Mercy, in whom we see and know that so many and so great sinners have been washed clean; and let us be sure that we in like manner shall be cleansed by the same Fountain of Mercy, if we abstain from our wickednesses and our sins, and, as far as we can, have a care to do what is right. But, to abstain from evil and do good, is what we cannot compass by our own strength and without His help. Let us, therefore, implore His unspeakable compassion, whose care it was to 80create us when we were not, that He would grant us thus in this life, before we go forth hence, to amend our faults; that, this life ended, we may have strength to travel home to Him in a straight unfettered flight, and so may dwell with Him in everlasting glory, joined with the angelic choirs who now enjoy it, rejoicing in unending bliss.

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