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Why are we not then which we have no ways
did not afford to others for so few? more grateful for so many benefits, deserved? How grateful would a damned person be, if God should free him from those flames, wherein he is tormented, and place him in the same condition we now are! What a life would he lead, and how grateful would he be unto so merciful a Benefactor! He hath done no less for us, but much more; for if he hath not drawn us out of hell, he hath not thrown us into it, as we deserved: which is the greater favour? Tell me, if a creditor should cast that debtor into prison, who owed him a thousand ducats, and after the enduring of much affliction, at last release him; or should suffer another, who owed fifty thousand ducats, to go up and down free, without touching a thread of his garment; whether of the debtors received the greater benefit? I believe thou wilt say,The latter.' More, then, are we indebted to God almighty; and, therefore, ought to serve him better. Consider how a man would live, who should be restored to life, after he had been in hell. Thou shouldest live better, since thou art more indebted to almighty God.
Secondly: We are taught to exercise our patience, in suffering the afflictions and troubles of this life; that, by enduring of these thankfully, we may escape those of the other. He who shall consider the eternity of those torments, which he deserves, will not be troubled at the pains of this life, how bitter soever. There is no state or condition upon earth, how miserable soever, which the damned would not endure, and think it an infinite happiness, if they might change with it; neither is there any course of life so unhappy, which he, who had once experienced those burning flames, if he might live again, would not willingly undergo. He, who hath once deserved eternal torments, let him never murmur against the crosses and petty injuries offered him in this life. If thou goest into a bath, and shalt find it excessive hot, think on hell. If thou art tormented with the heat of some violent fever, pass unto the consideration of those eternal flames, which burn without end; and think, that if a bath or calenture so afflict, how shalt thou endure that river of fire? When thou shalt see any thing great in this present life, think presently of the kingdom of heaven, and so thou shalt not value it much; and when thou shalt see any thing terrible,
think on hell, and thou wilt not be much moved. When the desire of any temporal thing shall afflict thee, think that the pleasure of it is of no estimation; if the fear of laws, which are enacted here upon earth, be of that force, that they are able to deter us from evil actions; much more ought the thoughts of eternal pain to affright us. If we often think of hell, we shall never fall into it.
We ought often to call to mind the evils of the next life, that we may the more despise the pleasures of this; because temporal felicity uses often to end in eternal misery. All that is precious in this world, honour, wealth, fame, pleasure, all the splendour of the earth, is but a shadow, if we compare the small duration of them with the eternity of those torments in the other world.
Put all the silver in the world together in one heap; all the gold, all the precious stones, diamonds, emeralds, with all other the richest jewels; all the triumphs of the Romans, all the rarities and dainties of the Assyrians, &c. all would deserve to be of no other value than dirt, if to be possessed with hazard of falling at last into the pit of hell. Let us call to mind that sentence of our blessed Saviour: "What will it avail a man to gain the whole world, if he lose his soul?" If they should make us lords and masters, I say, not of great wealth, but of the whole world, we should not admit of it with the least hazard of being damned for ever. Let one enjoy all the contents and regales imaginable; let him be raised to the highest pitch of honour; let him triumph with all the greatness in the world. All this is but a dream, if, after this mortal life, he finds himself at length plunged into hell fire.
You may look upon a wheel of squibs and fire-works, which, whilst it moves, casts forth a thousand lights and splendours, with which the beholders are much taken; but all, at last, ends in a little smoke and burnt paper. So it is, whilst the wheel of felicities was in motion, according to the style of St. James; that is to say, whilst our life lasts, its fortune and prosperity appears most glorious; but ceasing, all comes to end in smoke, and he that fares best in it, at last finds himself plunged into hell.
When a fever, or some great unexpected change in a man's estate, happens to him, it makes him to forget all his
former contents in health and wealth; his sickness and adversity so taking up the whole man, as that he hath no leisure to employ his thoughts upon any thing else; and if, perhaps, any passage of his former condition chance to come to his mind, it gives him no satisfaction, but rather augments his pain; wherefore if temporal evils, though very short, are sufficient to make former felicities of many years vanish; what impression will temporal goods make in us, if we employ our thoughts upon eternal evils? Besides those torments, which are to be suffered hereafter without profit, may move in us to husband the short time of this life most to our advantage: how many miserable souls now suffer those eternal pains, for not employing one day in the service of God? What would a damned soul give for one quarter of an hour out of so many days and years which are lost, and shall not have one instant allowed him? Thou, who now livest and hast time, lose not that which imports thee so much, and once lost can never be recovered. O miserable creatures! who, for having lost a short space of time, lose an eternity of felicity; they come to know too late the importance of that which they have lost, and shall never come to regain it; let us now make use of that time, whilst we may gain eternity, and let us not lose that with pleasure, which cannot be recovered with grief.
Lastly, let us draw, from the consideration of hell, a perfect hatred to all mortal sin, since from the evil of sin proceeds that evil of pain: terrible is the evil of sin, since it cannot be satisfied even with eternal flames.
The Infinite Guilt of Mortal Sin, by which we lose the Felicity of Heaven, and fall into Eternal Evils.
So foul and horrid is a mortal sin in its own nature, that though it passed only in thought, and none knew it but God, and he who committed it, and which endured no longer than an instant, yet it deserves the torments of hell for all eternity; for by how much greater is the majesty of God, which is
despised, by so much greater is the injury offered him; and therefore as the majesty of God, which is despised by sin, is infinite, so the despite of it must contain, in itself, a certain kind of infinity: by how much greater is the reverence due to a person, by so much greater is the disrespect and affront offered him. And as to God there is due an infinite reverence, so the injury done him is of an inexplicable malice, which by no good works of a mere creature, how many and great soever, can be expiated. So great is the malignity of a mortal sin, that, being put into the balance of Divine justice, it would outweigh all the good works of all the saints, although they were a thousand times more and greater than they are; because the good works with which God is honoured by his saints, although in themselves great in value, yet in respect of God, unto whom they add nothing, and who is nothing bettered by them, they are not valuable; unto whose Divine goodness, not only they, but infinitely more, and greater, are but a debt: but for God to be despised by his creature, who, by infinite titles, is obliged to serve him, and ought to reverence him with an infinite honour, is a thing so highly repugnant to his majesty, that, if God were capable of grief, it would more afflict him, than all the pious actions of the saints content him: certainly, amongst men, the honour which is given to one who deserves it, takes not so much, as a contempt done unto him who merits it not: a king values not much the honour which is given him by his vassals, because he takes it not for a courtesy, but a duty; but to be affronted and scorned by one, especially whom he had favoured with his benefits, sticks near unto his heart; for not only kings, but all men, think honour due unto them, and disrespect an injury. There is no resentment among men so quick as that of dishonour; nor any thing which causes more grief and vexation. If some person of quality should have his hat plucked off from his head in scorn, and receive a dozen of bastinadoes from some base fellow, that affront would not be recompensed, although a thousand should put off their caps to him, and kiss his hand.
By this may appear the irreverence and great incivility towards God in a mortal sin: insomuch as St. Paul calls it "kicking, or spurning, the Son of God;" this is the reason why it was necessary that God should become man, being
the Divine justice could not be appeased with less than the satisfaction of a Divine person: let those, therefore, cease to marvel, that a momentary sin should be punished with eternal torments, who see that, for sin, God was made man, and died for man; and certainly, it is a far greater wonder, that God should die for the sin of another, than that man should, for his own sin, suffer an eternal punishment: and if the malice of sin be so exorbitant, that nothing could satisfy for it less than God; it is nothing strange, that that which hath no limit, nor bound in evil, should have no limit in punishment, but should exceed all time, and be eternal. And if a treason committed against a temporal prince be chastized with loss of life and goods of the traitor, and with the punishment also of his posterity, which, in as much as concerns the prince, is eternal; why should not the offence of a vile worm, against his Creator, be tormented with eternal pains? The greatness of honour decreases and grows less, according to the height and dignity of the person honoured; so as that honour which, done to an ordinary person, would seem excessive, given unto a prince is nothing and on the contrary, the greatness of an injury rises and grows higher, according to the worth of him who is injured; so as God, who is infinite, being the person offended, deserves that the injury done unto him should be chastised with a punishment equal to the duration of his being, and needs that he, who satisfies for it, should be a person of infinite worth and perfection, voluntarily undertaking to put himself into the sinner's place, and to suffer in his stead.
And as sin is grievous in its own nature, so it is much engreatened by the circumstances which attend it: let us consider who it is that sins; it is a most vile and wretched man, who presumes to lift up his hands against his Creator: and what is man but a vessel of dung, a stink of corruption, and, by birth, a slave of the devil? and yet he dares offend his Maker. An offence against God were more grievous, though from another god (if it were possible) infinite and equal to himself; but that this creature should be so insolent against his omnipotent Lord, is beyond amazement. But what is that which a sinner does, when he offends? It is, according to St. Anselm, an endeavour to pluck the crown from the head of God, and place it upon his own; it is,