On Judgement and the Punishment of Sinners
Always keep in mind your last end, and how you will stand before the just Judge (Heb.10:31) from whom nothing is hid, who cannot be influenced by bribes and excuses, and who judges with justice (Isa. 11:4). O wretched and foolish sinner, who tremble before the anger of man, how will you answer to God (Job 31:14) who knows all your wickedness? Why do you not prepare yourself against the Day of judgement, when no advocate can defend or excuse you, but each man will be hard put to answer for himself? While you live, your labor is profitable and your tears acceptable, for sorrow both cleanses the soul and makes peace with God.
The patient man undergoes a great and wholesome purgation; while suffering injuries, he grieves yet more for the malice of others than for his own wrongs; he gladly prays for his enemies, and from his heart forgives their offences; he does not hesitate to ask pardon of others; he is more easily moved to compassion than to anger; he rules himself with strictness, and endeavors to make the body subject to the spirit in all things. It is better to expiate our sins and overcome our vices now, than to reserve them for purgation hereafter; but we deceive ourselves by our inordinate love of the body.
What will the flames feed upon, but your sins? The more you spare yourself now, and indulge the desires of the body, the more severe will be your punishment hereafter, and the more fuel you gather for the flames. In whatever things a man sins, in those will he be the more severely punished (Wisd.11:17). Then will the slothful be spurred by fiery goads, and the gluttonous tormented by dire hunger and thirst. Then will the luxurious and pleasure-loving be plunged into burning pitch and stinking sulphur, while the envious will howl their grief like wild dogs.
There is no vice that will not receive its proper retribution. The proud will be subjected to the deepest humiliation, and the greedy experience misery and want. One hour's punishment then will be more bitter than a century of penance on earth. There will be neither rest nor comfort for the damned; but here we sometimes enjoy rest from our toil, and enjoy the comfort of our friends. Therefore, live rightly now, and grieve for your sins, that in the Day of judgement you may stand secure in the company of the Blessed. For then shall the righteous stand with great boldness before those who have afflicted and oppressed them(Wisd. 5:1). Then will he who now submits humbly to the judgement of man stand to judge others. Then will the poor and humble have great confidence, while the proud are encompassed by fears on every side.
It will then be seen that he who learned to be counted a fool and despised for Christ's sake in this world was indeed wise (I Cor.4:10). Then will he be glad for every trial patiently borne, and the mouth of the wicked will be sealed (Ps.107:42). Then will every devout man be glad and the ungodly grieve.
Then will he who kept his body in subjection (I Col.9:27) have greater joy than he who lavished every pleasure upon it. Then will the rags of the poor shinewith splendour, and the gorgeous raiment become tarnished.
Then will the humble cottage of the poor be preferred to the gilded palace. Then will steadfast patience be of more avail than all worldly power. Then will humble obedience be exalted above all wordly cunning. Then will a good and clean conscience bring more joy than learned philosophy. Then will contempt for riches far outweigh all the treasures of the world. Then will devout prayer yield greater pleasure than fine fare. Then will you rejoice more in having kept silence than in much talking. Then will holy deeds count for more than fine words. Then will a disciplined life and hard penance prove of more worth than all worldly delights.
Learn to endure a little now, that you may spare yourself more grievous troubles. Prove here what you can endure hereafter. If you can endure so little now, how could you endure the pains of hell? Be assured that a man cannot enjoy both kinds of happiness; he cannot enjoy all the pleasures of this life, and also reign with Christ in Heaven. Moreover, if up to this very day you had lived in enjoyment of all honours and pleasures, how would all these profit you if you were to die at this moment? All, therefore, is vanity, save to love God and serve Him alone. For he who loves God with all his heart fears neither death, punishment, judgement, nor hell; for perfect love enjoys sure access to God (Rom.8:39). But he who continues to delight in wickedness, what wonder is it if he fears death and judgement? Nevertheless, it is good that, if the love of God does not restrain you from sin, the fear of hell at least should restrain you. For he who sets aside the fear of God cannot long continue in a good life, but will rapidly fall into the snares of the Devil.
Chapter 23 Table of Contents Chapter 25