The Confession - by LONGHI, Pietro - from Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
"Thou shalt not Tempt the Lord thy God" - Matthew 4:7
In this Day's Gospel, we read that having gone into the Desert, Jesus Christ permitted the Devil to set Him on the 'Pinnacle-of the Temple' and say to Him: "If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for the Angels shall Preserve Thee from all Injury". But the Lord answered, that in the Sacred Scriptures it is written: Thou shalt not Tempt the Lord thy God. The Sinner, who Abandons himself to Sin, without Striving-to Resist Temptations, or without at least asking God's Help to Conquer them, and Hopes that the Lord will One (1) Day draw him from the Precipice, Tempts God to work Miracles, or rather to show to him, an Extraordinary Mercy, not extended-to the generality-of Christians.
"God", as the Apostle says, "will have all Men to be Saved" - (1Timothy 2:4); but He also Wishes us all to Labor for our own Salvation, at least by Adopting the Means of Overcoming our Enemies, and of Obeying Him when He Calls us to Repentance. Sinners hear the Calls-of God, but they Forget them, and continue-to Offend Him. But God does not Forget them. He Numbers the Graces which He Dispenses, as-well-as the Sins which they Commit. Hence, when the Time which He has 'Fixed' arrives, God Deprives us of His Graces, and begins to Inflict Chastisement. I intend to show in this Discourse, that when Sins reach a Certain Number, God Pardons no more. Be attentive!
Saint Basil, Saint Jerome, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Augustine and other Fathers, teach that God, according to the Words of Scripture, "Thou hast Ordered all things in Measure, and Number, and Weight" - (Wisdom 11:21), has 'Fixed' for each Person, the Number of the Days-of his life, and the Degrees of Health and Talent, which He will give him; so He has also Determined-for each, the Number of Sins which He will Pardon; and when this Number is Completed, He will Pardon no more.
"The Lord hath sent Me to Heal the Contrite of Heart" - (Isaiah 61:1). God is ready to Heal those who sincerely Wish-to Amend their Lives, but cannot take Pity on the Obstinate Sinner. The Lord Pardons Sins, but He cannot Pardon those who are Determined-to Offend Him. Nor can we Demand-from God, a Reason, why He Pardons One (1) a Hundred (100) Sins, and takes Others 'Out-of-Life', and sends them to Hell, after Three (3) or Four (4) Sins. By His Prophet Amos, God has said: "For Three Crimes of Damascus, and for Four, I will not Convert it" - (Amos1:3). In this, we must Adore the Judgments-of God, and say with the Apostle: "O the Depth of the Riches, of the Wisdom, and of the Knowledge of God! How Incomprehensible are His Judgments" - (Romans 11:33). He who receives Pardon, says Saint Augustine, is Pardoned through the Pure Mercy of God; and they who are Chastised, are Justly Punished. How many has God sent to Hell, for the First (1st) Offense? Saint Gregory relates, that a Child of Five (5) Years, who had Arrived-at the Use-of Reason, for having uttered a Blasphemy, was Seized-by the Devil and Carried-to Hell. The Divine Mother revealed-to that Great Servant of God, Benedicta-of-Florence, that a Boy of Twelve (12) Years was Damned, after the First (1st) Sin. Another Boy of Eight (8) Years, Died after his First (1st) Sin, and was Lost. You say: I am Young; there are many who have Committed more Sins than I have. But is God, on that account, Obliged-to Wait-for your Repentance, if you Offend Him? In the Gospel of Saint Matthew (21:19), we read that the Savior Cursed a 'Fig Tree' the First (1st) Time He saw it, without Fruit. "May no Fruit grow on thee henceforward, Forever. And Immediately the Fig Tree withered away". You must, then Tremble at the Thought of Committing a Single (1) Mortal Sin, particularly if you have already been Guilty of Mortal Sins.
"Be not without Fear about Sin Forgiven, and add not Sin to Sin" - (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Say not then, O Sinner: "As God has Forgiven me other Sins, so He will Pardon me this One, if I Commit it". Say not this; for, if to the Sin which has been Forgiven, you add Another, you have Reason to Fear that this New Sin shall be United-to your 'Former' Guilt, and that thus, the Number will be 'Completed', and that you shall be Abandoned. Behold how the Scripture unfolds this Truth, more-Clearly in another-Place. "The Lord Patiently Expecteth, that when the Day of Judgment shall come, He may Punish them in the Fullness of Sins" - (2Maccabees 6:14). God waits-with Patience, until a 'Certain' Number of Sins is Committed, but when the Measure-of Guilt is filled-up, He waits no-longer, but Chastises the Sinner. "Thou hast Sealed up my Offenses, as it were, in a Bag" - (Job 14:17). Sinners Multiply their Sins, without keeping any Account of them; but God Numbers them, that, when the Harvest is Ripe, that is, when the Number of Sins is 'Completed', He may take Vengeance on them. "Put ye in the Sickles, for the Harvest is Ripe" - (Joel 3:13).
Of this, there are many Examples-in the Scriptures. Speaking of the Hebrews, the Lord in one-Place says: "All the Men that have Tempted Me now Ten Times . . . . shall not see the Land" - (Numbers 14:22-23). In another-Place, He says, that He Restrained His Vengeance against the Amorrhites, because the Number of their Sins was not 'Completed'. "For as yet the Iniquities of the Amorrhites are not at the Full" - (Genesis 15:16). We have again the Example-of Saul, who, after having Disobeyed God a Second (2nd) Time, was Abandoned. He entreated Samuel to Interpose-before the Lord in his Behalf. "Bear, I beseech thee, my Sin, and Return with me, that I may Adore the Lord" - (1Samuel 15:25). But, knowing that God had Abandoned Saul, Samuel answered: "I will not Return with thee, because thou hast Rejected the Word of the Lord, and the Lord hath Rejected thee, etc. - (1Samuel 15:26). Saul, you have Abandoned God, and He has Abandoned you. We have another example in Balthassar, who, after having Profaned the Vessels of the Temple, saw a Hand, Writing-on the Wall, Mane, Thecel, Phares. Daniel was Requested-to Expound the Meaning-of these Words. In Explaining the Word Thecel, he said to the King: "Thou art Weighed in the Balance, and art found Wanting" - (Daniel 5:27). By this Explanation, he gave the King to-Understand that the Weight of his Sins in the Balance-of Divine Justice, had made the Scale Descend. "The same Night, Balthassar, the Chaldean King, was Killed" - (Daniel 5:30). Oh! how many Sinners have met with a similar Fate! Continuing to Offend God till their Sins amounted to a 'Certain' Number, they have been Struck Dead and sent-to Hell! "They Spend their Days in Wealth, and in a Moment, they go down to Hell" - (Job 21:13). Tremble, Brethren, lest if you Commit another Mortal Sin, God should Cast you into Hell.
If God Chastised Sinners, the Moment they Insult Him, we should not see Him so much Despised. But, because He does not InstantlyPunish their Transgressions, and because through Mercy, He Restrains His Anger, and Waits-for their Return, they are Encouraged-to Continue-to Offend Him. "For, because Sentence is not Speedily Pronounced against the Evil, the Children of Men commit Evil, without any Fear" - (Ecclesiastes 8:11). But, it is necessary to be Persuaded, that though God Bears-with us, He does not Wait, nor Bear-with us Forever (∞). Expecting, as on Former Occasions, to Escape-from the Snares of the Philistines, Samson continued to Allow himself to be Deluded-by Delilah. "I will go out as I did before, and shake myself free" - (Judges 16:20). But "the Lord had Departed from him". Samson was at-length, taken-by his Enemies, and Lost his Life. The Lord Warns you not to say: I have Committed so many Sins, and God has not Chastised me. Say not: "I have Sinned, and what Harm hath Befallen me; for the Most High is a Patient Rewarder" - (Ecclesiastes 5:4). God has Patience for a Certain Term, after which He Punishes the First and Last Sins. And the Greater has been His Patience, the more-Severe His Vengeance.
Hence, according to Saint Chrysostom, God is more to be Feared, when He Bears-with Sinners, than when He Instantly Punishes their Sin. And why? Because, says Saint Gregory, they to whom God has shown Most Mercy shall, if they do not Cease-to Offend Him, be Chastised with the Greatest Rigor. The Saint adds that God, often Punishes such Sinners with a Sudden Death, and does not Allow them Time for Repentance. And the Greater the Light which God gives to Certain Sinners for their Correction, the Greater is their Blindness and Obstinacy in Sin. "For it had been better for them not to have Known the Way of Justice, than, after they had Known it, to Turn Back" - (2Peter 2:21). Miserable the Sinners, who, after having been Enlightened, Return-to the Vomit. Saint Paul says, that it is Morally Impossible for them to be again Converted. "For it is Impossible for those who were once Illuminated - have Tasted also the Heavenly Gifts . . . and are Fallen Away, to be Renewed again to Penance" - (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Listen, then, O Sinner, to the Admonition of the Lord: "My Son, hast thou Sinned? Do so no more, but for thy Former Sins, Pray that they may be Forgiven thee". Son, add not Sins to those which you have already Committed, but be Careful to Pray for the Pardon of your Past Transgressions; otherwise, if you Commit another Mortal Sin, the Gates of Divine Mercy may be Closed-against you, and your Soul may be Lost Forever (∞). When then, Beloved Brethren, the Devil Tempts you again to Yield-to Sin, say to yourself: If God Pardons me no-more, what shall become of me for all Eternity (∞)? Should the Devil in-reply, say: Fear not, God is Merciful; answer him by saying: What 'Certainty' or what 'Probability' have I that, if I Return-again to Sin, God will Show me Mercy, or Grant me Pardon? Behold the Threat of the Lord against all who Despise His Calls: "Because I have Called and you Refused, . . . I also will Laugh in your Destruction, and will Mock, when that shall come to you, which you Feared" - (Proverbs 1:24-26). Mark the Words "I also"; they 'Mean' that, as you have Mocked the Lord by Betraying Him again, after your Confession and Promises of Amendment, so He will Mock you at the Hour of Death. I will Laugh, and will Mock. But, "God is not Mocked" - (Galatians 6:7). "As a Dog", says the Wise Man, "that Returneth to his Vomit, so is the Fool that Repeateth his Folly" - (Proverbs 26:11). Blessed Denis the Carthusian, gives an Excellent Exposition of this Text. He says that, as a Dog that Eats what he has just Vomited, is an Object of Disgust and Abomination, so the Sinner, who Returns to the Sins which he has Detested and Confessed, becomes Hateful in the Sight of God.
O Folly of Sinners! If you Purchase a House, you spare no Pains, to get all the Securities necessary-to Guard against the Loss of your Money; if you take Medicine, you are Careful to Assure yourself that it cannot Injure you; if you Pass-over a River, you Cautiously-avoid all Danger of Falling-into it: and for a Transitory Enjoyment, for the Gratification of Revenge, for a Beastly Pleasure which Lasts but a Moment, you Risk your Eternal (∞) Salvation, saying: I will go to Confession after I Commit this Sin. And when, I ask, are you to-go-to Confession? You say: On Tomorrow. But who 'Promises' you Tomorrow? Who 'Assures' you that you shall have Time for Confession, and that God will not Deprive you of Life, as He has Deprived so many others, in the Act-of Sin? "Diem tenes" says Saint Augustine, "qui horam non tenes". You cannot be Certain of Living for another Hour, and you say: I will go to Confession Tomorrow. Listen to the Words of Saint Gregory: "He Who has Promised Pardon to Penitents, has not Promised 'Tomorrow' to Sinners". God has Promised Pardon to all who Repent; but He has not Promised to Wait until Tomorrow, for those who Insult Him. 'Perhaps' God will give you Time for Repentance, 'Perhaps' He will not. But, should He not give it, what shall become of your Soul? In the Meantime, for the Sake-of a Miserable Pleasure, you Lose the Grace of God, and Expose yourself to the Danger of being Lost Forever (∞).
Would you, for such Transient Enjoyments, Risk your Money, your Honor, your Possessions, your Liberty, and your Life? No, you would not. How then, does it happen, that for a Miserable Gratification, you Lose your Soul, Heaven, and God? Tell me: do you Believe that Heaven, Hell, Eternity (∞), are Truths of Faith? Do you Believe that if you Die in Sin, you are Lost Forever (∞)? Oh! what Temerity, what Folly is it, to Condemn yourself 'Voluntarily' to an Eternity (∞) of Torments, with the Hope of Afterwards Reversing the Sentence of your Condemnation! "Nemo", says Saint Augustine, "sub spe salutis vult aegrotare". No one can be found so Foolish, as to take Poison, with the Hope of Preventing its Deadly Effects, by Adopting the Ordinary Remedies. And you will Condemn yourself to Hell, saying that you expect to be 'Afterwards-Preserved' from it. O Folly! which, in Conformity-with the Divine Threats, has brought, and brings every Day, so many to Hell. "Thou hast Trusted in thy Wickedness, and Evil shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not know the Rising thereof" - (Isaiah 47:10-11). You have Sinned, 'Trusting Rashly' in the Divine Mercy: the Punishment of your Guilt shall Fall Suddenly upon you, and you shall not know, from whence it comes. What do you say? What Resolution do you make? If, after this Sermon, you do not Firmly Resolve to give yourself to God, I Weep over you, and Regard you as Lost.
- End of Liguori Sermon -
Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation