31 December 2009

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

(No Salvation Outside the Church)

Today's pluralistic and godless society creates an environment of indifference in matters of religion in order to achieve a false and empty unity and liberty. It is said that everyone must be allowed to believe as they see fit and do what makes them happy. The implication is that God is not very concerned about whether one believes in what is true, for all will be saved as long as they are "nice." Some come to this conclusion by asserting that there does not exist any objective truth for us to adhere to, which in turn leads to a denial of the existence of God. Others say that there exist only a few basic objective truths that we need to believe in order to be saved. Both opinions miss the plain reality of the order established by God – one must believe all and everything that the Catholic Church teaches to be saved.

This assertion implies that all non-Catholic religions are false, that only the Catholic Church contains the entire deposit of Truth given to the Apostles by Christ, and that this entire deposit – not a majority of it or a part of it – is necessary for salvation. Although these truths are denied and scorned by today's world, they are fully in accord with common sense and the constant teaching of the Church. Christ gave to the Apostles the entire deposit of faith ("The Holy Ghost will teach you all things" John 14:26), told them to pass it on to the world ("Going therefore, teach ye all nations" Matt. 28:19), and threatened damnation for those who did not believe them ("He who believes not will be condemned" Mark 16:16). He would not have condemned to hell the disbelievers if either it was not important to believe all that the Apostles taught or if He was not certain that the Apostles were teaching the truth ("He that heareth you heareth Me" Luke 10:16). The Apostles themselves knew that all who believed in any way different from their infallible teaching would perish – "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8).

Christ did not intend for only men who lived in the Apostles' lifetime to know and live the Truth. He ensured that the deposit of faith would be passed on throughout the generations so that all might have an opportunity to believe all that He entrusted to the Apostles – "I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Matt. 28:20). His truth, the actual truth, never changes, and it is as important to hold it today as it was in the first century. It is only by holding to what is true that we can love and serve God and be saved, for false principles lead to evil actions. Since there is only one truth and it is unchanging and indispensable, it is impossible for more than one of the systems of belief or religions that exist in the world to lead to salvation. Any other position negates the words of Our Lord.

It is certainly through the Catholic Church that Our Lord has guided men to keep the deposit entrusted to the Apostles throughout the centuries. It is the Catholic Church that defeated the many heresies against the nature and person of Christ, long before Protestant denominations appeared, such as Arianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Apollonarism, etc.. – all of these had to be opposed vigorously with the true doctrine before they were extirpated, and some still exist today. It is the Catholic Church that holds to the same doctrines that the Fathers, who had the words of the Apostles "resounding in their ears", taught and defended and which all but the schismatics reject today – auricular confession, veneration of images, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the existence of seven sacraments, the Church as the final arbiter of all doctrinal disputes, and many more. It is only the Catholic Church that has not changed and it is only She that has existed since the time of Christ.

The Church has certainly always been aware that she has been given by Christ the entire deposit of revelation to guard until the last day and thus asserts the infallibility of her Supreme Pastor, appointed by Christ to be His Vicar on earth, and also that salvation can be found only within her maternal bosom. Whenever the Pope, 1.) using his full apostolic authority, 2.) defines, 3.) as supreme teacher of all Christians, 4.) a matter of faith or morals 5.) that must be held by the universal Church, he is infallible and is expressing a doctrine that is part of the deposit of the faith entrusted to the Apostles and which has been believed always and everywhere by Catholics.

The Catholic Church has solemnly defined three times by infallible declarations that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation. The most explicit and forceful of the three came from Pope Eugene IV, in the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441, who proclaimed ex cathedra: "The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her... No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

The other two infallible declarations are as follows: There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved. Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215).

We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. Pope Boniface VIII, (Unam Sanctam, 1302).

This means, and has always meant, that salvation and unity exist only within the Catholic Church, and that members of heretical groups cannot be considered as "part" of the Church of Christ. This doctrine has been the consistent teaching of the Popes throughout the centuries.

Further, it is dogmatically set forth that no authority in the Church, no matter how highly placed, may lawfully attempt to change the clear meaning of this (or any) infallible dogma. Vatican I taught: "The meaning of Sacred Dogmas, which must always be preserved, is that which our Holy Mother the Church has determined. Never is it permissible to depart from this in the name of a deeper understanding." This same Vatican I defined solemnly that not even a Pope may teach a new doctrine.

Naturally, the truth that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church has been supported by all the saints from every age. Following are several examples:

St. Irenaeus (130-202), Bishop and Martyr: "The Church is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them . . . . We hear it declared of the unbelieving and the blinded of this world that they shall not inherit the world of life which is to come . . . . Resist them in defense of the only true and life giving faith, which the Church has received from the Apostles and imparted to her sons."

St. Augustine (354-430), Bishop and Doctor of the Church: "No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the Name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church."

St. Fulgentius (468-533), Bishop: "Most firmly hold and never doubt that not only pagans, but also Jews, all heretics, and all schismatics who finish this life outside of the Catholic Church, will go into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604): "The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that all who are outside of Her will not be saved."

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226): "All who have not believed that Jesus Christ was really the Son of God are doomed. Also, all who see the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and do not believe it is really the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord . . . these also are doomed!"

St. Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274), the Angelic Doctor: There is no entering into salvation outside the Catholic Church, just as in the time of the Flood there was not salvation outside the Ark, which denotes the Church."

St. Louis Marie de Montfort (1673-1716): "There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone who resists this truth perishes."

St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), Bishop and Doctor of the Church: "Outside the Church there is no salvation...therefore in the symbol (Apostles Creed) we join together the Church with the remission of sins: 'I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins"...For this reason the Church is compared to the Ark of Noah, because just as during the deluge, everyone perished who was not in the ark, so now those perish who are not in the Church."

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), Bishop and Doctor of the Church: "All the misfortunes of unbelievers spring from too great an attachment to the things of life. This sickness of heart weakens and darkens the understanding, and leads to eternal ruin. If they would try to heal their hearts by purging them of their vices, they would soon receive light, which would show them the necessity of joining the Catholic Church, where alone is salvation. We should constantly thank the Lord for having granted us the gift of the true Faith, by associating us with the children of the Holy Catholic Church ... How many are the infidels, heretics, and schismatics who do not enjoy the happiness of the true Faith! Earth is full of them and they are all lost!"

Pope Pius XII (1939-1958): Some say they are not bound by the doctrine which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing. Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation. Others finally belittle the reasonable character of the credibility of Christian Faith. These and like ERRORS, it is clear, have crept in among certain of our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science." (The dates for the two Popes are the years they reigned as Sovereign Pontiffs.)

The greatest act of charity that one can perform is to bring others to the truth. The Catholic Faith is a gift from God, one that can be shared, one that gives life and salvation. Mother Church, being solicitous for the welfare of all mankind, has always sought to bring all into the One Fold (John 10:16), and to unite all in the profession of the one Faith given to us by Christ through the Apostles. If She were to hide the truth, or be content to leave others in their error, She would be cruel and indifferent.

This is a great lesson for Catholics, for many do not esteem the priceless value of their Faith as they should. It must be given to others at every opportunity; it must be passed on to those who languish without the true sacraments, who struggle to interpret the Bible without an infallible teaching authority, or who lead often immoral lives without the guidance of the "pillar and ground of truth" (I Tim. 5"15).

Let all Catholics then, be both like the martyrs of old, who died rather than relinquish one doctrine of their Catholic Faith, and like the great missionaries, who endured extreme privations and sufferings in order to bring salvation to even one soul. It is only a firm belief in the importance of the Catholic Faith for salvation that motivated these heroic actions and it is only such a faith that can "overcome the world" today (I John 5:4).

20 December 2009

Saint Sebastian

Saint Sebastian

Outside the Catholic Church there is No Salvation


Testimony of the Scriptures

By Bishop George Hay

IF EVER THERE WAS A TIME [the Eighteenth century] wherein the conduct of the Church was necessary, this present age seems in a particular manner to demand it. At present, the gates of hell seem to be quite set open, and infidelity of every kind stalks lawless on the earth; the sacred truths of religion are reviled and denied, the gospel adulterated by innumerable opposite and contradictory interpretations fixed upon it; its native simplicity disguised by loftiness of speech and the persuasive words of human wisdom, and a thousand condescensions and compliances are admitted and received, by which the inflexible purity of its maxims is enervated both in faith and practice, and the "narrow way that leads to life" converted, in the opinion of men, "to the broad road that leadeth to destruction." This observation is particularly true in regard to that latitudinarian principle so common nowadays, that man may be saved in any religion, provided he lives a good moral life, according to the light he has; for by this, the faith of Christ is evacuated, and the gospel rendered of no avail; a Jew, a Turk, a Heathen, a Deist, an Atheist, are all comprehended in this scheme, and if they live a good moral life, have as good a right to salvation as a [Catholic] Christian! To be a member of the Church of Christ is no longer necessary to salvation, whether we belong to it or not! What a wide field does this give to the passions of men! What liberty to all the whims of the human mind! It is, therefore, to the utmost consequence to examine upon what ground this principle stands; to see if it be sterling coin; to be satisfied whether we can trust our salvation to it or not. It is no doubt in the interests of Atheists and Deists to adopt this maxim, to extol it with the highest praises, to adorn it with the most specious veil of liberality of sentiment and charity; but a Christian who believes the gospel, will not so readily receive it; he knows the scripture contains the Truth of the Most High God, and that it is perfectly unsafe to trust our soul to any maxim, however specious it may appear, which is not grounded in their sacred oracles; and, therefore, before he adopt it, he will rigorously scrutinize it by what they teach.

It is the design of the following inquiry, or rather to show from the most precise declarations of the word of God, that the above freethinking maxim is diametrically opposite to all the lights of revelation. For there we learn, that the Son of God made man, and appeared among men on purpose to instruct them in the knowledge of those divine Truths, on which their salvation depends; and, therefore, that He absolutely requires true faith in Him, and in the sacred Truths which He revealed, as a necessary condition for salvation. There also he learns, that He instituted a holy Church upon earth, to be the depository of these truths, and that He absolutely requires of all to be united with that Church in order to be saved. The Church of Rome solemnly acknowledges and holds that without the true faith of Jesus Christ, and without being a member of His true Church, there is no salvation.

Direct Proofs from Scripture

(1) The prophet Isaiah, foretelling the glory of the Church of Christ, says, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that resisteth thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn," (Isaiah 3:17). "For the nation and the kingdom that will not serve thee, shall perish," (Isaiah 9:12). Here we see declared in express terms, that all those who oppose the Church of Christ, and refuse to submit to her authority, shall be condemned by her, and shall perish. Our Savior declares the same in still stronger terms, when He says to the pastors of His Church, in the persons of the Apostles, when He sent them to preach the gospel: "Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, going forth out of that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for that city." (Matt. 10:14).

(2) Our Savior, after ordering us to admonish our offending brother in private, or before a few witnesses, concludes thus: "If he will not hear them, tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to the as a heathen or a publican." (Matt. 18:17). The heathens are those who know not the True God, and who worship sticks and stones, and the very devils themselves, instead of God; the publicans [tax collectors] were a set of people among the Jews, remarkable for their crimes [mainly, of extortion and irreligion], and looked upon by all as abandoned by God, and given up to a reprobate sense, with these, then, all those who obstinately resist the voice of the Church, are classed and condemned by the Mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.

(3) Our Savior speaking of His Church under the figure of a flock, of which He Himself is the Good Shepherd, says: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, that they shall hear My Voice, and there shall be one flock and One Shepherd." (John 10:16). He is here speaking of those who were not then joined in communion with His Apostles and other disciples, and he calls them, at that time, "His sheep;" but to show that there was no salvation for them in the state they were in, unless they were united to the fold, He says, "them also I must bring;" which shows, that according to the disposition of the Divine decrees, it was absolutely necessary, and that all who belong to Jesus Christ, all of whom He acknowledges for His sheep, should be brought to, and united in communion with, that one fold, which is His Church.

(4) In consequence of this, we are assured, that, when the Apostles began to publish the gospel, "the Lord daily added to the Church, such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47) which points out in the strongest manner, by what God actually did, that the being added to the Church is a condition absolutely required by Him, in order to be saved; and, if that were so then, it must be so now, and will be so to the end of the world; for the conditions of salvation, ordained at the beginning, and revealed by Jesus Christ, could never be altered by any other, and He never made any new revelation by which He altered them Himself.

(5) The Church is the Body of Christ, and all who belong to the Church are members of His Body, and as such are united with Jesus Christ, as the Head; but those who are out of the Church, are not members of His Body, and of course are not united with Jesus Christ, as the Head. Now, speaking of His Church and all her members, under the figure of a vine, with all its branches united to it, He says, "I am the Vine, ye the branches; he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing. If anyone abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth." (John 15:5). What Christ here says, under the figure of a vine, is equally true as to the members of the Body; for no member who is separated from the body can do anything, it has neither life nor sense, nor motion, but corrupts and rots; which expressly shows, that if we be not united to the Church of Christ, whether we consider this Church as a Body consisting of Head and members, or as a vine with all its branches, we are not united with Church, and on that account are on the road to perdition.

Proofs from the Necessity of the True Faith

(1) Jesus Christ, addressing Himself to His Eternal Father, says: "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent," (John 17:3). Hence it necessarily follows, that all those who do not know Jesus Christ cannot have eternal life. Now, this knowledge of Jesus Christ, is not the bare knowledge that there was such a person, but believing Him to be what He is, the Eternal Son of God, made man for the salvation of mankind; and, therefore, He says again: "God so loved the world as to give his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting." (John 3:16). Hence the believing in Jesus Christ, is one condition positively required by God, in order to gain salvation; so that without this belief there can be no salvation; for, as He Himself again declares: "He that believeth not, is already condemned; because he believeth not in the Name of the Only Begotten Son of God." (John 3:18), and "He that believeth not the Son, shall not see light; but the wrath of God abideth on him," (John 3:36). And the beloved disciple adds, "Many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not the Name of Christ in the Flesh; this is a seducer and an anti-Christ," (2 John 7). Where it is manifest, that those who do not know Jesus Christ, and consequently do not believe in Him; and also that those who do not know there was such a person, who heard of Him, but refuse to believe, and confess that He is the Son of God COME IN THE FLESH, cannot be saved; and therefore, that the knowing and believing in Jesus Christ, is appointed by Almighty God, as an absolute condition for salvation.

(2) But it is not enough to believe in the person of Jesus Christ; it is required to believe His doctrine, to believe His Words, to believe those divine Truths which He has revealed; and, indeed, how can we believe Him to be God, if we refuse to believe what He says? Hence, when He gave the pastors of His Church, in the person of His Apostles, their commission to preach the gospel He ordered them to teach the world "to observe," says He, "all those things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Mt. 28:20) And He immediately adds, "He that believeth not, shall be damned." (Mk 16:16) Where it is manifest that the belief of His doctrine, the observance, and consequently the belief of all those things which He commanded His Apostles to teach, is required as a necessary condition for salvation. Nay, He adds to another part, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me, and of My Words, in this sinful and adulterous generation, him also the Son of Man shall be ashamed of, when he shall come in the glory of His Father, with His holy angels." (Mk 8:38) Now, if the being ashamed of His Words shall bring on such a condemnation, what shall the denial of them do? It is evident, therefore, that the True Faith of Jesus Christ comprehends the belief of both His Person and of His Words, that is, of His doctrine, and that this True Faith is laid down by Almighty God as a necessary condition for salvation.

(3) As it is impossible that Jesus Christ should reveal contradictions, or say to one that a thing is true, and to another that it is false; hence it follows that the True Faith of Jesus Christ cannot contain contradictions; and, therefore, that it must be one and the same everywhere, and in no point contrary to itself; and this the scripture expressly affirms, saying, "One Lord, one Faith, one baptism," (Eph. 4:5). Now, St. Paul positively declares that "without Faith, it is impossible to please God." (Heb. 11:16) Consequently, this one True Faith of Jesus Christ is so absolutely required as a condition of salvation, that without it, let a man do what he wills, it is impossible to please God, or be saved.

(4) The Scripture declares that, when the Apostles published the Truths of the Gospel, "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48); consequently, those who did not believe were not ordained to eternal life; whence it evidently follows, that Faith is a condition absolutely required by God or obtaining eternal life. For St. Paul affirms, "The sure foundation of God standeth firm, having this seal, the Lord knoweth who are His," (2 Tim. 2:19).; that is to say, God, from all eternity, most certainly knows who are His; who those are, who, by obeying His holy grace, will continue faithful till the end, and to be happy with Him Forever; and all such He ordains to eternal life. When, therefore, the scripture affirms, that as many as were ordained to eternal life believed, it evidently shows, that the belief of the Truth of the Gospel, or True Faith, is appointed by God as a necessary condition for salvation, as none are so ordained but those who believe.

(5) Our Blessed Savior, speaking of those who belong to Him says, "I know Mine, and Mine know Me ... My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall not perish forever" (Jn. 10:14, 10:28). Can any words express more clearly, that to know Jesus Christ, and to hear His Voice, and to follow Him, that is to believe and obey Him, are the distinguishing characters of His sheep, to whom He gives eternal life? Consequently, those who do not believe Him are none of His, and therefore will not be saved; as he expressly says to the Jews, "but ye do not believe because ye are not of My sheep," (Jn. 10:26).; which shows to a demonstration, that Faith in Jesus Christ is expressly appointed by Almighty God, as a condition of salvation; "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

(6) St. Paul, expressing that of the Psalmist, "Today if ye shall hear his voice," etc., says, "And to whom did He swear that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that were incredulous; and we see that they could not enter in, because of unbelief." (Heb. 3:18) On this account he exhorts thus: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief to depart from the living God," (Heb. 3:12); and again, "There remaineth the day of rest for the people of God ... Let us hasten, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall into the same example of unbelief," (Heb. 4:9, 11). In all this passage, we see that the main scope of the Apostle is to show that unbelievers cannot go to heaven, and that this truth is confirmed by Almighty God, even with a solemn oath.

(7) The Holy Scripture declares that unbelievers, instead of going to heaven, shall be condemned to hell fire, and classes all such in company with the words of criminals. Thus, the Almighty Himself declares to St. John the Apostle, "But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.," (Apoc. 21:8). If, therefore, Almighty God has sworn that unbelievers shall not enter into His rest, and if he declares that their portion shall be in hell, one must shut his eyes on purpose not to see that True belief, True Faith in Jesus Christ and His Words, namely, that Faith, WITHOUT WHICH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE GOD, is absolutely required by Almighty God as a condition for salvation.

(8) The Word of God assures us, that, antecedently to Faith in Christ, all mankind are under sin, and that it is impossible to be justified from sin but by Faith in Jesus Christ, which is set forth by God as a means for obtaining justification. Thus, "we have charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin, as it is written: There is not any man just (Rom. 3:9). But the justice of God is by Faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that belief in Him; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned, and do need the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through Faith in His Blood." (Rom. 3:22). Also, "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by Faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Gal. 3:22).

(9) The Athanasian Creed begins: "Whosoever will be saved, before all things, it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly." Then after explaining the great mysteries of the Catholic Faith, concerning the Unity and Trinity of God, and the Incarnation and Death of Jesus Christ, it concludes with these words: "This is the Catholic Faith, which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved." This speaks plain indeed, and needs no application.

Now, seeing the True Faith, or the firm belief of those Truths which Jesus Christ revealed, is thus absolutely required as a condition for salvation, it follows as a necessary consequence, that, out of the True Church of Christ, there is no salvation, because this True Faith can only be found in the True Church of Christ; to her the sacred charge of the Truths of eternity was committed, the words of Jesus Christ were first put in her mouth, and an express covenant made by God, THAT THEY SHOULD NEVER DEPART FROM HER MOUTH. It is therefore from the pastors of the Church alone we can learn the True Faith, since they alone are authorized to preach it, and, hearing them, we hear Christ Himself. Hence, St. Paul says, "How shall they believe Him, of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent?" (Rom. 10:14). Now, the pastors of the Church were ordained and sent by Jesus Christ to "teach all nations, and to preach the gospel to every creature," consequently, it is only from them that the Truths of the Gospel can be learned.

Proofs Regarding Those Separated From the Church

In this section we are to consider what judgment the scriptures pronounce upon all those who are separated from the Church of Christ by teaching and believing doctrines contrary to hers; and, for the greater clearness, we shall first consider those who begin such separation, and teach false doctrine, and then those who follow such leaders. With regard to the former:

(1) Our Blessed Savior, foretelling the coming of false teachers, says, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves; by their fruits ye shall know them;" and then He tells us, going on with the similitude of a tree, what shall be the portion of such false prophets. "Every tree," says He, "that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire." (Mt. 7:15,19). Such is the fate of false teachers, according to Jesus Christ. St. Paul describes them in the same light, and exhorts the pastors of the Church to watch against them, that they may prevent the seduction of the flock. "I know," says he, "that, after my departure, ravening wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch." (Acts 20:29). Such is the idea the Word of God gives of all those who depart from the doctrine of the Church of Christ, and teach falsehood, that they are RAVENOUS WOLVES, SEDUCERS OF THE PEOPLE, WHO SPEAK PERVERSE THINGS, and whose end is HELL FIRE.

(2) St. Paul concluding his epistle to the Romans, cautions them against all such teachers in these words: "Now, I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who cause dissentions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and to avoid them: for they that are such serve not Christ our Lord, but their own belly, and by pleasing speeches, and good works, seduce the hearts of the innocent," (Rom. 16.17). Can such as these, who cause dissentions contrary to the old doctrine, and seduce the souls redeemed by the Blood of Jesus, who are not the servants of Christ, but His enemies, and are slaves to their own belly: can these, I say, be in the way of salvation? Alas! the same holy Apostle describes their fate in another text, saying, "That they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame." (Phil. 3:18)

(3) In St. Paul's absence, some false teachers had come in among the Galatians, and persuaded them, that it was NECESSARY for salvation to join circumcision with the Gospel; on this account, the Apostle writes his epistle to them to correct them from this error; and though it was but an error in one point, and in appearance of no great importance, yet, because it was false doctrine, see how the holy Apostle condemns it: "I wonder how you are so soon removed from him that called you to the grace of Christ, unto another gospel; which is not another; only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you, besides that which ye have received, let him be anathema." (Gal. 1:6). This shows with a witness, indeed, the great crime and dismal fate of false teachers, though but in only one point of false doctrine.

(4) St. Peter describes these unhappy men in the most dreadful colors. "There shall be among you," says he, "lying teachers, who shall bring sects of perdition, and denying the Lord who brought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction," (2 Pet. 2:1); And going on to describe them, he says, "Their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their destruction slumbereth not," (verse 3); "the Lord knoweth how ... to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be tormented; and especially them who ... despise governments, audacious, pleasing themselves, they fear not to bring in sects, blaspheming," (verse 9); "leaving the right way, they have gone astray," (verse 15); "these are wells without water, and clouds tossed with whirlwinds, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved," (verse 17). Good God! what a dreadful state to be in.

(5) St. Paul, speaking of such as are led away by what St. Peter calls DAMNABLE HERESIES, says, "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid; knowing that he is such a one, is subverteth and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment," (Titus 3:10). Other offenders are judged, and cast out of the Church, by the sentence of the pastors of the same Church; but heretics more unhappy than they, run out of the Church of their own accord, and, by so doing, give judgment and sentence against their own souls.

(6) St. John brands all such false teachers who go out from the True Church of Christ with the horrid name of antichrists; "even so,' says he, "there are become many antichrists ... they went out from us, but they were not of us; remained with us; but that they may be manifest that they are not of us." (1 John 2:18); and to show that not only those ho deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, but also those who do not embrace His doctrine, fall under the same condemnation, he immediately adds, "Whosoever revolteth, and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son." (verse 9). What stronger terms could be used to show that all such as separate from the Church of Christ, and receive not His Sacred Doctrine, are out of the way of salvation?

Now, if all those who break off from the Church of Christ, and all those who teach false doctrine, contrary to the "faith once revealed to her, and which shall never depart out of her mouth," are condemned in such strong and severe terms by the Holy Ghost in His Holy Scriptures, what condition must those be in who follow such teachers, and hold such pernicious doctrine? Is there the smallest reason to suppose, that salvation can possibly be found among "ravenous wolves, seducers of the flock, speakers of perverse things?" Is it possible to be saved in "pernicious sects, damnable heresies, false doctrines, dissentions and offenses contrary to the doctrine received from the Apostles?" Can those be sure guides to heaven whom the word of God declares to be "enemies of the cross of Christ," and "antichrists, whose end is destruction," who fall under the anathema of the Apostle "to whom the mist of darkness is reserved?" But let us hear the scripture itself for the answer to these questions.

(1) St. Paul, in the black catalogue he gives of the works of the flesh reckons SECTS, or as the Protestant translation has it, HERESIES, and the rest of that hideous crew, he concludes in these words, "of which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God." (Gal. 5:20)

(2) Our Savior, foretelling the evils of the latter times, says, "and many false prophets shall arise, and shall seduce many ... but the that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved." (Mt. 24:11,13). Is it not evident from this, that those who are seduced by these false prophets shall not be saved? And that salvation will be the happy lot only of those who persevere in the Faith and love of Christ to the end?

(3) St. Peter, foretelling that "there shall be lying teachers who shall bring damnable heresies, and bring upon themselves swift destruction, " immediately adds, "and many shall follow their riotousness, through whom the way of Truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Pet. 2:2). Now, to whom are these ways pernicious, but to those who follow them?

(4) The whole epistle of St. Jude contains a description of all those who follow these pernicious ways, and of their miserable fate, and says, "that they are raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion, wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved forever." (verse 13)

(5) St. Paul, giving an ample description of heretics, says, among other things, that they have "an appearance of godliness, but deny the power thereof ... ever learning and never attaining the knowledge of Truth ... that they are men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the Faith ... and that being evil men and seducers, they grow worse, erring and driving into error," (2 Tim. 3). What grounds can such as these have to expect salvation?

(6) But our Blessed Savior, in one short sentence, clearly shows the miserable fate of all those who follow these blind teachers, when He says, "they are blind leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the pit," (Mt. 15:14), which evidently shows that the lot of both shall be the same, and that all the above dreadful condemnations of false teachers equally belong to such as follow them.

(7) We shall add one proof more with regard to Jews, Turks, Heathens, and Idolaters, and all who know not the True God, nor Jesus Christ His Son, and who do not obey His Gospel; of these the scripture says, "The Gentiles have stuck fast in the destruction which they prepared ... the wicked be turned into hell, and the nations that forget God," (Ps. 9:16,18). "The Lord shall reign to eternity, yea, forever and ever. Ye Gentiles (THE HEATHENS) shall perish from his land," (Ps. 10:16) But particularly what follows: "Jesus Christ shall be revealed from Heaven with the angels of His Power, in a flame of fire, yielding vengeance to them who know not God and who obey not the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction from the face of Our Lord, and from the glory of His Power," (2 Thess. 1:7). This is no less clear and precise than it is dreadful and terrible, and cuts off all evasion, as it declares in the most express terms, that all those who know not God, and who obey not the Gospel of Christ, shall be lost forever; which evidently shows that the knowledge and belief of God, and of Jesus Christ and obedience to His Gospel, are absolutely required by Him, as essential conditions for salvation.

The Holiness of Saint Joseph

15 December 2009

The Maxims and Sayings of St. Philip Neri


1. Frequent confession is the cause of great good to the soul, because it purifies it, heals it, and confirms it in the service of God: we ought not therefore to omit confession on our fixed days for any business whatsoever; but go to confession first, and to business afterwards, and the first will help the last.

2. When we go to confession, we ought to persuade ourselves to find Jesus Christ in the person of our confessor.

3. Give me ten men really detached from the world, and I have the heart to believe I could convert the world with them.

4. He who communicates often, as he ought to do, brings forth good fruit, the fruit of humility, the fruit of patience, the fruit of all the virtues.

5. Penitents ought not to go to confession for temporal ends, to get alms and the like.

6. We ought to make no account of an immodest person, notwithstanding that he may possess other virtues.

7. The Holy Spirit says of prelates and pastors, He who hears and obeys his superiors, hears and obeys Me, and he who despises them, despises and disobeys Me.

8. If the servant of God would fain walk with more security through so many snares scattered in every place, he should have our Blessed Lady as his mediatrix with her Son.

9. The sick man may desire to get well, provided he seals his desire always with an “If it please God,” “If it is good for my soul;” for we can do many good things in health, which sickness hinders us from doing.

10. In sickness we ought to ask God to give us patience, because it often happens, that when a man gets well, he not only does not do the good he proposed to do when he was sick, but he multiplies his sins and his ingratitude.

11. The mole is a blind rat, which always stays in the ground; it eats earth, and hollows it out, but is never satisfied with it: so is the avaricious man or woman.

12. Penitents should never make vows without the advice of their spiritual fathers.

13. If we do make such vows, it is best to make them conditionally: for example, “I make a vow to have two masses said on S. Lucy’s day, with this bargain, If I can, If I do not forget it, because if I do not remember it I do not wish to be bound.”

14. When a man has to buy anything, he ought not to do so because he is moved by an attachment to the thing, but from want and necessity; for it will never do to buy attachments.

15. Certain little voluntary attachments of self-love must be cut through, and then we must dig round them, and then remove the earth, till we get down deep enough to find the place where they are rooted and interlaced together.

16. A person must be ready to endure, when through a virtuous motive he is mortified by others, and even when God permits him to be in bad odour with others, and regarded and driven away as an infected sheep.

17. Our enemy the devil, who fights with us in order to vanquish us, seeks to disunite us in our houses, and to breed quarrels, dislikes, contests, and rivalries, because while we are fighting with each other, he comes and conquers us, and makes us more securely his own.

18. He who does not think on the benefits he receives from God in this life, and on those greater ones his mercy has prepared in that other life of bliss, does not nourish love to God, but chills and freezes it.

19. If a soul could altogether abstain from venial sins, the greatest pain it could have would be to be detained in this life, so great would its desire be of union with God.

20. In the persecutions which bad men excite against piety and devotion, we must keep our eyes on God, whom we serve, and on the testimony of a good conscience.

21. How patiently Christ, the King and Lord of heaven and earth, bore with the apostles, enduring at their hands many incivilities and misbeliefs, they being but poor and rough fishermen! How much more ought we to bear with our neighbour, if he treats us with incivility.

22. We must give ourselves to God altogether.

23. God makes all his own the soul that is wholly given to him.

24. It is as a general rule a bad sign when a man has not a particular feeling of devotion on the chief feasts of the year.

25. Let us reflect that the Word left heaven, and stooped to become man for us.

26. Besides pardoning those who persecute us, we ought to feel pity for the delusion they are labouring under.

27. To one who really loves God, there is nothing more harassing or burdensome than life.

28. Let young men be cheerful, and indulge in the recreations proper to their age, provided they keep out of the way of sin.

29. Not to know how to deny our soul its own wishes, is to foment a very hot-bed of vices.

30. All created things are liberal, and show the goodness of the Creator: the sun scatters its light, the fire its heat; the tree throws out its arms, which are its branches, and reaches to us the fruit it bears: water, and air, and all nature express the liberality of the Creator, and we, who are his lively image, do not represent him, but through our degenerate manners deny Him in deeds while we are confessing Him with our mouths.

31. The hour is finished - we may say the same of the year; but the time to do good is not finished yet.

20 November 2009

The Pains of Hell


On the pains of Hell.

" Gather up first the cockle, and bind into bundles to burn." MATT. xiii. 30.

I shall first speak of the fire, which is the principal pain that torments the senses of the damned, and afterwards of the other pains of hell.

1. BEHOLD! the final doom of sinners who abuse the divine mercy is, to burn in the fire of hell. God threatens hell, not to send us there, but to deliver us from that place of torments. " Minatur Deus gehennem, 1 says St. Chrysostom, " ut a gehenna liberet, et ut firmi ac stabiles evitemus minas." (Horn. v. de Poenit.) Remember, then, brethren, that God gives you to-day the opportunity of hearing this sermon, that you may be preserved from hell, and that you may give up sin, which alone can lead you to hell.

2. My brethren, it is certain and of faith that there is a hell. After judgment the just shall enjoy the eternal glory of Paradise, and sinners shall be con demned to suffer the everlasting chastisement reserved for them in hell. "And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting." (Matt. xxv. 46.) Let us examine in what hell consists. It is what the rich glutton called it a place of torments. " In hunc locum tormentorum." (Luc. xvi. 28.) It is a place of suffering, where each of the senses and powers of the damned has its proper torment, and in which the torments of each person will be increased in proportion to the forbidden pleasures in which he indulged. " As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her." (Apoc. xviii. 7.)

3. In offending God the sinner does two evils: he abandons God, the sovereign good, who is able to make him happy, and turns to creatures, who are incapable of giving any real happiness to the soul. Of this injury which men commit against him, the Lord complains by his prophet Jeremy: "For my people have done two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have digged to themselves cisterns broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jer. ii. 13.) Since, then, the sinner turns his back on God, he shall be tor mented in hell, by the pain arising from the loss of God, of which I shall speak on another occasion [see the Ser mon for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost], and since, in offending God, he turns to creatures, he shall be justly tormented by the same creatures, and princi pally by fire.

4. " The vengeance on the flesh of the ungodly is fire and* worms." (EccL vii. 19.) Fire and the remorse of conscience are the principal means by which God takes vengeance on the flesh of the wicked. Hence, in con demning the reprobate to hell, Jesus Christ commands them to go into eternal fire. :t Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire." (Matt. xxv. 41.) This fire, then, shall be one of the most cruel executioners of the damned.

5. Even in this life the pain of fire is the mosUemolc of all torments. But St. Augustine says, that in com parison of the fire of hell, the fire of this earth is no more than a picture compared with the reality, ^ In cuius comparatione noster hie ignus depictus est. Anselm teaches, that the fire of hell as far surpasses the fire of this world, as the fire of the real exceeds that of painted fire. The pain, then, produced by the nre ot hell is far greater than that which is produced by our fire because God has made the fire of this earth for the use of man, but he has created the fire of hell purposely for the chastisement of sinners ; and therefore, as ler- tullian says, he has made it a minister of his justice. " Longe alius est ignis, qui usui humano, alms qui l> justitiS, deservit." This avenging fire is always kept alive by the wrath of God. " A fire is kindled in my rage " And the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell." (Luke xvi. 22.) The damned are buried m the fire of hell ; hence they have an abyss of fire below, an abyss of fire above, and an abyss of fire on every side. As a fish in the sea is surrounded by water, so the un happy reprobate are encompassed by fire on every side. The sharpness of the pain of fire may be inferred from the circumstance, that the rich glutton complained of no othei torment. " I am tormented in this flame." (Ibid, v 23.)

7 The Prophet Isaias says that the Lord will punish the guilt of sinners with the spirit of fire. u If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion by the spirit of burning" (iv. 4). " The spirit of burning" is the pure essence of fire. All spirits or essences, though taken from simple herbs or flowers, are so penetrating, that they reach the very bones. Such is the fire of hell. Its activity is so great, that a single spark of it would be sufficient to melt a mountain of bronze. The disciple relates, that a damned nerson, who appeared to a religious, dipped his hand into a vessel of water; the religious placed in the vessel a candlestick of bronze, which was instantly dissolved.

8. This fire shall torment the damned not only exter nally, but also internally. It will burn the bowels, the heart, the brains, the blood within the veins, and the marrow within the bones. The skin of the damned shall be like a caldron, in which their bowels, their flesh, and their bones shall be burned. David says, that the bodies of the damned shall be like so many furnaces of fire. " Thou shalt make them as an oven of fire in the time of thy anger." (Ps. xx. 10.)

9. O God ! certain sinners cannot bear to walk under a strong sun, or to remain before a large fire in a close room ; they cannot endure a spark from a candle ; and they fear not the fire of hell, which, according to the Prophet Isaias, not only burns, but devours the unhappy damned. " Which of you can dwell with devouring fire V 9 (Isaias xxxiii. 14.) As a lion devours a lamb, so the fire of hell devours the reprobate ; but it devours without destroying life, and thus tortures them with a continual death. Continue, says St. Peter Damian to the sinner who indulges in impurity, continue to satisfy your flesh ; a day will come, or rather an eternal night, when your impurities, like pitch, shall nourish a fire within your very bowels. " Venit dies, imo nox, quando libido tua vertetur in picem qua se nutriet perpetuus ignis in visceribus tuis." (Epist. 6.) And according to St. Cyprian, the impurities of the wicked shall boil in the very fat which will issue from their accursed bodies.

10, St. Jerome teaches, that in this fire sinners shall suffer not only the pain of the fire, but also all the pains which men endure on this earth. " In uno igne omnia supplicia sentient in inferno peccatores." (Ep. ad Pam.) How manifold are the pains to which men are subject in this life. Pains in the sides, pains in the head, pains in the loins, pains in the bowels. All these together torture the damned.

11. The fire itself will bring with it the pain of dark ness ; for, by its smoke it will, according to St. J ohn, produce a storm of darkness which shall blind the damned." " To whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever." (St. Jude 13.) Hence, hell is called a land of darkness covered with the shadow of death. " A land that is dark and covered with the mist of death a land of misery and darkness, wheie the shadow of death, and no order but everlasting horror dwelleth." (Job x. 21, 22.) To hear that a criminal is shut up in a dungeon for ten or twenty years excites our compas sion. Hell is a dungeon closed on every side, into which a ray of the sun or the light of a candle never enters. Thus the damned " shall never see light." (Ps xlviii. 20.) ^The fire of this world gives light, but the fire of hell is utter darkness. In explaining the words of David, " the voice of the Lord divideth the flame of fire," (Ps. xxviii. 7,) St. Basil says, that in hell the Lord separates the fire that burns from the flame which illuminates, and therefore this fire burns, but gives no light. B. Albertus Magnus explains this passage more concisely by saying that God " divides the heat from the light." St. Thomas teaches, that in hell there is only so much lig;ht as is necessary to torment the damned by the sight of their associates and of the devils: " Quan tum sufficit ad videndum ilia qua3 torquere possunt." (3 p., q. 97, art. 5.) And according to St. Augustine, the bare sight of these infernal monsters excites sufficient terror to cause the death of all the damned, if they were capable of dying. " Videbunt monstra, quorum visio postet illos occidere."

12. To suffer a parching thirst, without having a drop of water to quench it, is intolerably painful. It has sometimes happened, that travellers who could procure no refreshment after a long journey, have fainted from the pain produced by thirst. So great is the thirst of the damned, that if one of them were offered all the water on this earth, he would exclaim : All this water is not sufficient to extinguish the burning thirst which I endure. But, alas ! the unhappy darned shall never have a single drop of water to refresh their tongues. " He cried out and said : Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. 1 (St. Luke xvi. 24.) The rich glutton has not obtained, and shall never obtain, this drop of water, as long as God shall be God.

13. The reprobate shall be likewise tormented by the stench which pervades hell. The stench shall arise from the very bodies of the damned. " Out of their carcasses shall arise a stink." (Isaiah xxxiv. 3.) The bodies of the damned are called carcasses, not because they are dead (for they are living, and shall be for ever alive to pain), but on account of the stench which they exhale. Would it not be very painful to be shut up in a close room with a fetid corpse ? St. Bonaventure says, that if the body of one of the damned were placed in the earth, it would, by its stench, be sufficient to cause the death of all men. How intolerable, then, must it be to live for ever in the dungeons of hell in the midst of the immense multitudes of the damned ! Some foolish worldlings say : If I go to hell, I shall not be there alone. Miserable fools ! do you not see that the greater the number of your companions, the more insufferable shall be your torments ? " There," says St. Thomas, " the society of the reprobate shall cause an increase and not a diminution of misery." (Suppl., q. 86, art. 1.) The society of the reprobate augments their misery, because each of the damned is a source of suffering to all the others. Hence, the greater their number, the more they shall mutually torment each other. " And the people," says the prophet Isaias, " shall be ashes after a fire, as a bundle of thorns they shall be burnt with fire." (Isa. xxxiii. 12.) Placed in the midst of the furnace of hell, the damned are like so many grains reduced to ashes by that abyss of fire, and like so many thorns tied together and wounding each other.

14. They are tormented not only by the stench of their companions, but also by their shrieks and lamentations. How painful it is to a person longing for sleep to hear the groans of a sick man, the barking of a dog, or the screams of an infant. The damned must listen inces santly to the wailing and howling of their associates, not for a night, nor for a thousand nights, but for all eternity, without the interruption of a single moment.

15. The damned are also tormented by the narrow ness of the place in which they are confined; for, although the dungeon of hell is large, it will be too small for so many millions of the reprobate, who like sheep shall be heaped one over the other. " They are," says David, "laid in hell like sheep." (Ps. xlviii. 15.) We learn from the Scriptures that they shall be pressed together like grapes in the winepress, by the vengeance of an angry God. " The winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty." (Apoc. xix. 15.) From this pressure shall arise the pain of immobility. * Let them become unmoveable as a stone." (Exod. xvi. 16.) In whatever position the damned shall fall into hell after the general judgment, whether on the side, or on the back, or with the head downwards, in that they must remain for eternity, without being ever able to move foot or hand or finger, as long as God shall be God. In a word, St. Chrysostom says, that all the pains of this life, however great they may be, are scarcely^ shadow of the torments of the damned. " Hcec omnia ludicra sunt et risus ad ilia supplicia : pone ignem, ferrum, et bestias, attamen vix umbra sunt ad ilia tormenta." (Horn, xxxix. ad pop. Ant.)

16. The reprobate, then, shall be tormented in all the senses of the body. They shall also be tormented in all the powers of the soul. Their memory shall be tormented by the remembrance of the years which they had received from God for the salvation of their souls, and which they spent in labouring for their own damna tion ; by the remembrance of so many graces and so many divine lights which they abused. Their under standing shall be tormented by the knowledge of the great happiness which they forfeited in losing their souls, heaven, and God ; and by a conviction that this loss is irreparable. Their will shall be tormented by seeing that whatsoever they ask or desire shall be refused. "The desire of the wicked shall perish." (Ps. cxi. 10.) They shall never have any of those things for which they wish, and must for ever suffer all that is repugnant to their will. They would wish to escape from these torments and to find peace ; but in these torments they must for ever remain, and peace they shall never enjoy. 17. Perhaps they may sometimes receive a little com fort, or at least enjoy occasional repose ? No, says Cyprian : " Nullum ibi refrigerium, nullum remedium, atque ita omni tormento atrocius desperatio." (Serm. de Ascens.) In this life, how great soever may be the tribulations which we suffer, there is always some relief or interruption. The damned must remain for ever in a pit of fire, always in torture, always weeping, without ever enjoying a moment s repose. But perhaps there is some one to pity their sufferings? At the very time that they are so much afflicted the devils continually reproach them with the sins for which they are tor mented, saying : Suffer, burn, live for ever in despair : you yourselves have been the cause of your destruction. And do not the saints, the divine mother, and God, who is called the Father of Mercies, take compassion on their miseries ? No ; " the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven." (Matt. xxvi. 29.) The saints, represented by tbe stars, not only do not pity the damned, but they even rejoice in the vengeance inflicted on the injuries offered to their God. Neither can the divine mother pity them, because they hate her Son. And Jesus Christ, who died for the love of them, cannot pity them, because they have despised his love, and have voluntarily brought themselves to perdition.

taken from the Sermons of Saint Alphonsus

The Malice of Mortal Sin



" Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 1 LUKE ii. 48.

MOST holy Mary lost her Son for three days : during that time she wept continually for having lost sight of Jesus, and did not cease to seek after him till she found him. How then does it happen that so many sinners not only lose sight of Jesus, hut even lose his divine grace ; and instead of weeping for so great a loss, sleep in peace, and make no effort to recover so great^a bless ing ? This arises from their not feeling what it is to lose God by sin. Some say : I commit this sin, not to lose God, but to enjoy this pleasure, to possess the property of another, or to take revenge of an enemy. They who speak such language show that they do not ^ understand the malice of mortal sin. What is mortal sin ?

First Point. It is a great contempt shown to God. Second Point. It is a great offence offered to God.

First Point. Mortal sin is a great contempt shown to God.

1. The Lord calls upon Heaven and Earth to detest the ingratitude of those who commit mortal sin, after they had been created by him, nourished with his blood, and exalted to the dignity of his adopted children. " Hear, O ye Heavens, and give ear, Earth ; for the Lord hath spoken. I have brought up children _ and exalted them ; but they have despised me." (Isa. i. 2.) Who is this God whom sinners despise ? ; He is a God of infinite majesty, before whom all the kings of the Earth and all the blessed in Heaven are less than a drop of water or a grain of sand. As a drop of a bucket, . . . as a little dust/ (Isa. xl. 15.) In a word, such is the majesty of God, that in his presence all creatures are as if they did not exist. " All nations are before him as if they had no being at all." (Ibid. xl. 17.) And what is man, who insults him? St. Bernard answers: " Saccus vermium, cibus vermium." A heap of worms, the food of worms, by which he shall be devoured in the grave. " Thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." (Apoc. iii. 17.) He is so miserable that he can do nothing, so blind that he knows nothing, and so poor that he possesses nothing. And this worm dares to despise a God, and to provoke his wrath. " Vile dust," says the same saint, " dares to irritate such tremendous majesty." Justly, then, has St. Thomas asserted, that the malice of mortal sin is, as it were, infinite : " Pecca- tum habet quandam infinitatem malitiae ex infinitatem divine majestatis." (Par. 3, q. 2,^ a. 2, ad. 2.) And St. Augustine calls it an infinite evil. Hence Hell and a thousand Hells are not sufficient chastisement for a single mortal sin.

2. Mortal sin is commonly defined by theologians to be <( a turning away from the immutable good." St. Thorn., par. 1, q. 24, a. 4 ; a turning one s back on the sovereign good. Of this God complains by his prophet, saying: " Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord; thou art gone backward/ (Jer. xv. 6.) Ungrateful man, he says to the sinner, I would never have separated myself from thee ; thou hast been the first to abandon me : thou art gone backwards; thou hast turned thy back upon me.

3. He who contemns the divine law despises God; because he knows that, by despising the law, he loses the divine grace. " By transgression of the law, thou dishonourest God." (Rom. ii. 23.) God is the Lord of all things, because he has created them. " All things are in thy power... Thou hast made Heaven and Earth." (Esth. xiii. 9.) Hence all irrational creatures the winds, the sea, the fire, and rain obey God, " The winds and the sea obey him." (Matt. viii. 27.) " Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil his word." (Ps. cxlviii. 8.) But man, when he sins, says to God : Lord, thou dost command me, but I will not obey ; thou dost command me to pardon such an injury, but I will resent it ; thou dost command me to give up the property of others, but I will retain it ; thou dost wish that I should abstain from such a forbidden pleasure, but I will indulge in it. " Thou hast broken my yoke, thou hast burst my bands, and thou saidst : I will not serve " (Jer. ii. 20.) In fine, the sinner when he creaks the command, says to God: I do not acknowledge thee for my Lord. Like Pharaoh, when Moses, on the part of God, commanded him in the name of the Lord to allow the people to go into the desert, the sinner answers : " Who is the Lord, that I should hear his voice, and let Israel go ?" (Exod. v. 2.)

4. The insult offered to God by sin is heightened by the vileness of the goods for which sinners offend him. " Wherefore hath the wicked provoked God." (Ps. x. 13.) For what do so many offend the Lord ? For a little vanity ; for the indulgence of anger ; or for a beastly pleasure. " They violate me among my people for a handful of barley and a piece of bread." (Ezec. xiii. 19.) God is insulted for a handful of barley for a morsel of bread ! God ! why do we allow ourselves to be so easily deceived by the Devil ? " There is," says the Prophet Osee, t( a deceitful balance in his hand." (xii. 7.) We do not weigh things in the balance of God, which cannot deceive, but in the balance of Satan, who seeks only to deceive us, that he may bring us with him self into Hell. " Lord," said David, " who is like to thee ?" (Ps. xxxiv. 10.) God is an infinite good ; and when he sees sinners put him on a level with some earthly trifle, or with a miserable gratification, he justly complains in the language of the prophet: " To whom, have you likened me or made an equal ? saith the Holy One." (Isa. xl. 25.) In your estimation, a vile pleasure is more valuable than my grace. Is it a momentary satis faction you have preferred before me ? " Thou hast cast me off behind thy back." (Ezec. xxiii. 35.) Then, adds Salvian, " there is no one for whom men have less esteem than for God." (Lib. v., Avd. Avar.) Is the Lord so contemptible in your eyes as to deserve to have the miserable things of the Earth preferred before him ?

5. The tyrant placed before St. Clement a heap of gold, of silver, and of gems, and promised to give them to the holy martyr if he would renounce the faith of Christ. The saint heaved a sigh of sorrow at the sight of the blindness of men, who put earthly riches in comparison with God. But many sinners exchange the divine grace for things of far less value ; they seek after certain miserable goods, and abandon that God who is an infinite good, and who alone can make them happy. Of this the Lord complains, and calls on the Heavens to be astonished, and on its gates to be struck with horror: " Be astonished O ye Heavens, at this ; and ye gates thereof, be very desolate, saith the Lord." He then adds : " For my people^have done two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jer. ii. 12 and 13.) We regard with wonder and amazement the injustice of the Jews, who, when Pilate offered to deliver Jesus or Barabbas, answered : " Not this man, but Barabbas." (John xviii. 40.) The conduct of sinners is still worse ; for, when the Devil proposes to them to choose between the satisfaction of revenge a miserable pleasureand Jesus Christ, they answer: "Not this man, but Barabbas." That is, not the Lord Jesus, but sin.

6. " There shall be no new God in thee," says the Lord. (Ps. Ixxx. 10.) You shall not abandon me, your true God, and make for yourself a new god, whom you shall serve. St. Cyprian teaches that men make their god whatever they prefer before God, by making it their last end ; for God is the only last end of all : " Quidquid homo Deo anteponit, Deum sibi facit." And St. Jerome says : " Unusquisque quod cupit, si veneratur, hoc illi Deus est. Vitium in corde, est idolum in altari." (In Ps. Ixxx.) The creature which a person prefers to God, becomes his God. Hence, the holy doctor adds, that as the Gentiles adored idols on their altars, so sinners wor ship sin in their hearts. When King Jeroboam rebelled against God, he endeavoured to make the people imitate him in the adoration of idols. He one day placed the idols before them, and said : " Behold thy gods, Israel !" (3 Kings xii. 28.) The Devil acts in a similar manner towards sinners: he places before them such a gratifica tion, and says: Make this your God. Behold! this pleasure, this money, this revenge is your God: adhere to these, and forsake the Lord. When the sinner con sents to sin, he abandons his Creator, and in his heart adores as^ his god the pleasure which lie indulges. " Vitium in corde est idolum in altari".

7. The contempt which the sinner offers to God is increased by sinning in God s presence. According to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, some adored the sun as their god, that during the night they might, in the absence of the sun, do what they pleased, without fear of divine chas tisement. " Some regarded the sun as their God, that, after the setting of the sun, they might be without a god." (Catech. iv.) The conduct of these miserable dupes was very criminal ; but they were careful not to sin in presence of their god. But Christians know that God is present in all places, and that he sees all things. " Do not I fill Heaven and Earth ? saith the Lord," (Jer. xxiii. 24) ; and still they do not abstain from insulting him, and from provoking his wrath in his very presence : * A people that continually provoke me to anger before my face." (Isa. Ixv. 3.) Hence, by sinning before him who is their judge, they even make God a witness of their iniquities : " I am the judge and the witness, saith the Lord." (Jer. xxix. 23.) St. Peter Chrysologus says, that, " the man who commits a crime in the presence of his judge, can offer no defence." The thought of having offended God in his divine presence, made David weep and exclaim : " To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee." (Ps. i. 6.) But let us pass to the second point, in which we shall see more clearly the enormity of the malice of mortal sin.

Second Point. Mortal sin is a great offence offered to God.

8. There is nothing more galling than to see oneself despised by those who were most beloved and most highly favoured. Whom do sinners insult ? They insult a God who bestowed so many benefits upon them, and who loved them so as to die on a cross for their sake ; and by the commission of mortal sin they banish that God from their hearts. A soul that loves God is loved by him, and God himself comes to dwell within her. " If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him." (John xiv. 23.) The Lord, then, never departs from a soul, unless he is driven away, even though he should know that she will soon. banish him from her heart. According to the Council of Trent, " he deserts not the soul, unless he is deserted."

9. When the soul consents to mortal sin she ungrate fully says to God: Depart from me. " The wicked have said to God : Depart from us." (Job xxi. 14.) Sinners, as St. Gregory observes, say the same, not in words, but by their conduct. " Recede, non verbis, sed moribus." They know that God cannot remain with sin in the soul : and, in violating the divine commands, they feel that God must depart ; and, by their acts they say to him : since you cannot remain any longer with us, depart farewell. And through the very door by which God departs from the soul, the Devil enters to take possession of her. When the priest baptizes an infant, he com mands the demon to depart from the soul: " Go out from him, unclean spirits, and make room for the Holy Ghost." But when a Christian consents to mortal sin, he says to God : Depart from me ; malce room- for the Devil, whom I wish to serve.

10. St. Bernard says, that mortal sin is so opposed to God, that, if it were possible for God to die, sin would deprive him of life ; " Peccatum quantum in se est Deum perimit." Hence, according to Job, in committing mortal sin, man rises up against God, and stretches forth his hand against him : " For he hath stretched out his hand against God, and hath strengthened himself against the Almighty." (Job. xv. 25.)

11. According to the same St. Bernard, they who wil fully violate the divine law, seek to deprive God of life in proportion to the malice of their will ; " Quantum in ipsa est Deum perimit propria voluntas." (Ser. iii. de Res.) Because, adds the saint, self-will " would wish God to see its own sins, and to be unable to take vengeance on them." Sinners know that the moment they consent to mortal sin, God condemns them to Hell. Hence, being firmly resolved to sin, they wish that there was no God, and, consequently, they would wish to take away his life, that he might not be able to avenge their crime. * He hath," continues Job, in his description of the wicked, " run against him witb his neck raised up, and is armed with a fat neck." (xv. 26.) The sinner raises his neck ; that is, his pride swells up, and he runs to insult his God ; and, because he contends with a power ful antagonist, " he is armed with a fat neck." " A fat nech" is the symbol of ignorance, of that ignorance which makes the sinner say : This is not a great sin ; God is merciful ; we are flesh ; the Lord will have pity on us. O temerity! illusion! which brings so many Christians to Hell.

Moreover, the man who commits a mortal sin afflicts the heart of God. " But they provoked to wrath, and afflicted the spirit of the Holy One." (Isaias Ixiii. 10.) "What pain and anguish would you not feel, if you knew that a person whom you tenderly loved, and on whom you bestowed great favours, had sought to take away your life ! God is not capable of pain ; but, were he capable of suffering, a single mortal sin would be suffi cient to make him die through sorrow. " Mortal sin," says Father Medina, u if it were possible, would destroy God himself : because it would be the cause of infinite sadness to God." As often, then, as you committed mortal sin, you would, if it were possible, have caused God to die of sorrow ; because you knew that by sin you insulted him and turned your back upon him, after he had bestowed so many favours upon you, and even after he had given all his blood and his life for your salvation.

taken from the Sermons of Saint Alphonsus

The Eternity of Hell


On the eternity of hell.

" And his Lord, being angry, delivered him to the torture until he paid all the debt." MATT, xviii. 34.

IN this day s gospel we find that a certain servant, having badly administered the affairs of his master, was found to owe him a debt of ten thousand talents. The master demanded payment ; but the servant falling down said : " Have patience and I will pay thee all." The master took pity on him, and forgave the entire debt. One of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred pence, besought him to have patience, and promised to pay him the last farthing ; but the wicked servant cast him into prison. Hearing of this act of cruelty to his fellow-servant, the master sent for him, and said to him: "Wicked servant, I have forgiven thee ten thousand talents, and for a debt of a hundred pence thou hast refused to show compassion to thy fellow-servant. He then delivered him to the tortures till he paid all the debt. Behold, dearly beloved brethren, in these last words, a description of the sen tence of the eternal death which is prepared for sinners. By dying in sin, they die debtors to God for all their iniquities ; and being unable to make any satisfaction in the other life for their past sins, they remain for ever debtors to the divine justice, and must suffer for eternity in hell. Of this miserable eternity I will speak to-day : listen to me with attention.

1. The thought of eternity is a great thought: so it was called by St. Augustine : Macjna cogitatio. Accord ing to the holy doctor, God has made us Christians, and instructed us in the maxims of faith, that we may think of eternity. " We are Christians that we may always think of the world to come." This thought has driven from the world so many of the nobles of the earth, has made them renounce all their riches, and shut themselves up in the cloister, there to live in poverty and penance. This thought has sent so many young men into caves and deserts, and has animated so many martyrs to embrace torments and death, in order to save their souls for eternity. " For," exclaims St. Paul, " we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come." (Heb. xiii. 14.) This earth, dearly beloved Christians, is not our country ; it is for us a place of passage, through which we must soon pass to the house of eternity. " Man shall go into the house of his eternity." (Eccl. xii. 5.) In this eternity the house of the just, which is a palace of delights, is very different from the house of sinners, which is a dungeon of torments. Into one of these two houses each of us must certainly go. " In hanc vel illam seternitatem," says St. Ambrose, " cadam necesse est. ; (S. Amb., in Ps. cxviii.) " Into this or that eternity I must fall."

2. And where the soul shall first go, there she shall remain for ever. " If the tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall there shall it lie." (Eccl. xi. 3.) On what side does a tree fall when it is cut down ? It falls on the side to which it inclines. On what side, brethren, will you fall, when death shall cut down the tree of your life ? You will fall on the side to which you incline. If you shall be found inclining to the south that is, in favour with God you shall be for ever happy ; but if you i- h ill fall to the north, you must be for ever miserable. There is no middle place : you must be for ever happy in heaven, or overwhelmed with despair in hell. We must all die, says St. Bernard or some other author (de Quat. Noviss.), but we know not which of the two eternities shall be our lot after death. " Necessi morem, post ha3c autem dubia ceter- nitatis."

3. This uncertainty about his lot for eternity was the constant subject of the thoughts of David : it de prived his eyes of sleep, and kept him always in terror. " My eyes prevented the watches: I was troubled, and I spoke not : I thought upon the days of old, and I had in my mind the eternal years." (Ps. Ixxvi. 5, 6.) What, says St. Cyprian, has encouraged the saints to lead a life, which, on account of their continual austerities, was an uninterrupted martyrdom? It was, he answers, the thought of eternity that inspired them with courage to submit to such unceasing rigours. A certain monk shut himself in a cave, and did nothing else than constantly exclaim : " eternity ! eternity !" The famous sinner converted hy the Abbot Paphnutius, kept eternity always before her eyes, and was accustomed to say : " Who can assure me of a happy eternity, and that I will not fall into a miserable eternity." The same uncertainty kept St. Andrew Avellino in continual terrors and tears till his last breath. Hence he used to ask every one he met, " What do you say ? shall I be saved or damned for eternity ?"

4. 0! that we, too, had eternity always before our eyes ! We certainly should not be so much attached to the world. ^ " Quisquis in aeternitatis disiderio figitur, nee prosperitate attollitur, nee adversitate quassatur : et dum nihil habet in mundo quod appetat, nihil est quod de mundo^pertimescat." He who fixes his thoughts on eternity, is not elated by prosperity nor dejected by adversity; because, having nothing to desire in this world, he has nothing to fear : he desires only a happy eternity, and fears only a miserable eternity. A certain lady, who was greatly attached to the world, went one day to confession to Father M. D Avila. He bid her go home, and reflect on these two words always and never. She obeyed, took away her affections from the world, and consecrated them to God. St. Augustine says that the man who thinks on eternity, and is not con verted to God, either has no faith, or has lot his reason. : acternitas ! qui te cogitat, nee poonitet, aut certo fidem npn habet, aut si habet, cor non habet." (In soliloq.) eternity ! he who thinks on thee, and does not repent, has certainly no faith, or has lost his heart. Hence St. Chrysostom relates, that the pagans upbraided the Chris tians with being liars or fools : liars, if they said they believed ^ what they did not believe ; fools, if they believed in eternity and committed sin. " Exprobabant gentiles aut mendaces, aut stultos esse Christianos; mendaces si non crederent quod credere dicebant ; stultos si credebant et peccabant."

5. Woe to sinners, says St. Cesarius of Aries ; they enter into eternity without having known it ; hut their woes shall be doubled when they shall have entered into eternity, and shall never be able to leave. " Yae pecca- toribus, ineognitam ingrediuntur." To those who enter hell, the door opens for their admission, but never opens for their departure. " I have the keys of death and of hell." (Apoc. i. 18.) God himself keeps the keys of hell, to show us that whosoever enters has no hope of ever escaping from it. St. John Chrysostom writes, that the condemnation of the reprobate is engraved on the pillar of eternity, so that it never shall be revoked. In hell there is no calendar ; there the years are not counted. St. Antonine says, that if a damned soul heard that she was to be released from hell after so many millions of years as there are drops of water in the sea, or grains of sand in the earth, she would feel a greater joy than a criminal condemned to death would experience at hearing that he was reprieved, and was to be made the monarch of the whole world ! But, no ! as many millions of years shall pass away as there are drops of water in the ocean, or grains of dust in the earth, and the hell of the damned shall be at its com mencement. All these millions of years shall be mul tiplied an infinite number of times, and hell will begin again. But of what use is it, says St. Hilary, to count years in eternity ? Where you expect the end, there it commences. " Ubi putas finem invenire, ibi incipit." And St. Augustine says, " that things which have an end cannot be compared with eternity." (In Ps. xxxvi.) Each of the damned would be content to make this com pact with God Lord, increase my torments as much as thou pleasest ; assign a term for them as distant as thou pleasest ; provided thou fix a time at which they shall cease, I am satisfied. But, no ! this time shall never arrive. * My end," the damned shall say, " is perished." (Lamen. iii. 18.) Then, is there no end to the torments of the damned ? No ! the trumpet of divine justice sounds in the caverns of hell, and continually reminds the reprobate that their hell shall be eternal, and shall never have an end.

6. If hell were not eternal, it would not be so frightful a chastisement. Thomas a Kempis says, that everything which passes with time is trifling and short." Any pain which has an end is not very appalling. The man who labours under an imposthume or a cancer, must submit to the knife or the cautery : the pain is severe ; but because it is soon over it can be borne. But a tooth-ache which lasts for three months without inter ruption is insupportable. Were a person obliged to lie in the same posture for six months on a soft bed, or even to hear the same music, or the same comedy, night and day for one year, he would fall into melancholy and despondency. Poor blind sinners ! When threatened w r ith hell they say: " If I go there I must have patience." But they shall not say so when they will have entered that region of woes, where they must suffer, not by lis tening to the same music or the same comedy, nor by lying in the same posture, or by tooth -ache, but by en during all torments and all evils. " I will heap evils upon them." (Deut. xxxiii. 23.) And all these torments shall never end.

7. They shall never end, and shall never be diminished in the smallest degree. The damned must for ever suffer the same fire, the same privation of God, the same sad ness, the same despair. Yes, says St. Cyprian, in eternity there is no change, because the decree is im mutable. This thought shall immensely increase their sufferings, by making them feel beforehand, and at each moment, all that they shall have to suffer for eternity. In this description of the happiness of the saints, and the misery of the reprobate, the Prophet Daniel says : " They shall wake some unto life everlast ing, and some unto reproach to see it always." (Dan. xii. 2.) They shall always see their unhappy eternity. Ut videant semper. Thus eternity tortures each of the damned not only by his present pains, but with all his future sufferings, which are eternal.

8. These are not opinions controverted among theo logians ; they are dogmas of faith clearly revealed in the sacred Scriptures. " Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire." (Matt. xxv. 41.) Some will say : The fire, but not the punishment of the damned is ever lasting. Such the language of the incredulous, but it is folly. For what other purpose would God make this fire eternal, than to chastise the reprobate, who are im mortal ? But, to take away every shadow of doubt, the Scriptures, in many other places, say, that not only the fire, but the punishment, of the damned is eternal. " And these/ 7 says Jesus Christ, " shall go into ever lasting punishment." (Matt. xxv. 46.) Again we read in St. Mark, " Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished." (ix. 43.) St. John says : " And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever." (Apoc. xvi. 11.) "Who," says St. Paul, " shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction." (2 Thess. i. 9.)

9. Another infidel will ask: How can God justly punish with eternal torments a sin that lasts but a moment ? I answer, that the grievousness of a crime is measured not by its duration, but by the enormity of its malice. The malice of mortal sin is, as St. Thomas says, infinite. (1, 2, q. 87, art. 4.) Hence, the damned deserve infinite punishment ; and, because a creature is not capable of suffering pains infinite in point of inten sity, God, as the holy doctor says, renders the punish ment of the damned infinite in extension by making it eternal. Moreover, it is just, that as long as the sinner remains in his sin, the punishment which he deserves should continue. And, therefore, as the virtue of the saints is rewarded in Heaven, because it lasts for ever, so also the guilt of the damned in Hell, because it is everlasting, shall be chastised with everlasting torments. " Quia non recipit causse remedium," says Eusebius Emissenus, " carebit fine supplicium." The cause of their perverse will continues : therefore, their chastise ment will never have an end. The damned are so obstinate in their sins, that even if God offered pardon, their hatred for him would make them refuse it. The Prophet Jeremias, speaking in the name of the repro bate, says: Why is my sorrow become perpetual and my wound desperate, so as to refuse to be healed?" (Jer. xv. 18.) My wound, they say, is incurable, be cause I do not wish it to be healed. JSTow, how can God heal the wound of their perverse will, when they would refuse the remedy, were it offered to them ? Hence, the punishment of the reprobate is called a sword, a vengeance which is irrevocable. " I, the Lord, have drawn my sword out of its sheath, not to be turned back." (Ezech. xxi. 5.)

10. Death, which is so terrible in this life, is desired in hell by the damned ; but they never shall find it. " And in these days men shall seek death, and shall not find it : and they shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them." (Apoc. xi. 6.) They would wish, as a remedy for their eternal ruin, to be exterminated and destroyed. But " there is no poison of destruction in them." (Wis. i. 14.) If a man, condemned to die, be not deprived of life by the first stroke of the axe, his torture moves the people to pity. Miserable damned souls ! They live in continual death in the midst of the pains of hell : tleath excites in them all the agony of death, but does not give them a remedy by taking away life. u Prima mors," says St. Augustine, " animam nolentem pellit de corpore, secunda mors nolentem tenet in corpore/ The first death expels from the body the soul of a sinner who is unwilling to die : but the second death that is, eternal death retains in the body a soul that wishes to die. " They are laid in hell like sheep ; death shall feed upon them." (Ps. xlviii. 15.) In feeding, sheep eat the blades of grass, but leave the root untouched ; hence the grass dies not, but grows up again. It is thus that death treats the damned ; it torments them with pain, but spares their life, which may be called the root of suffering.

11. But, if these miserable souls have no chance of release from hell, perhaps they can at least deceive or flatter themselves with the hope, that God may one day l>e moved to pity, and free them from their torments ? No : in hell there is no delusion, no flattery, no perhaps; the damned are as certain as they are of God s existence that their hell shall have no end. " Thou thoughtest unjustly that I shall be like to thee ; but I will reprove thee, and set before thy face." (Ps. xlix. 21.) They shall for ever see before their eyes their sins and the sentence of their eternal condemnation. " And I will set before thy face."

12. Let us conclude. Thus, most beloved brethren, the affair of our eternal salvation should be the sole object of all our concerns. " The business for which we struggle/ says St. Eucharius, " is eternity." There is question of eternity : there is question whether we will be saved, and be for ever happy in a city of delights, or be damned, and confined for eternity in a pit of fire. This is not an affair of little importance ; it is of the utmost and of eternal importance to us. When Thomas More was condemned to death by Henry the Eighth, his wife Louisa went to him for the purpose of tempting him to obey the royal command. Tell me, Lousia, replied the holy man, how many years can I, who am now so old, expect to live ? You might, said she, live for twenty years. O foolish woman ! he exclaimed, do you want me to condemn my soul to an eternity of torments for twenty years of life ?

13. God ! Christians believe in the existence of hell, and commit sin ! Dearly beloved brethren, let not us also be fools, like so many who are now weeping in hell. Miserable beings ! What benefit do they now derive from all the pleasures which they enjoyed in this life ? Speaking of the rich and of the poor, St. John Chrysostom said : " unhappy felicity, which has drawn the rich into eternal infelicity ! O happy infelicity, which has brought the poor to the felicity of eternity ! " The saints have buried themselves alive in this life, that after death they may not find themselves buried in hell for all eternity. If eternity were a doubtful matter, we ought even then make every effort in our power to escape an eternity of torments ; but no, it is not a matter of doubt ; it is a truth of faith, that after this life each of us must go into eternity, to be for ever in glory or for ever in despair. St. Teresa says, that it is through a want of faith that so many Chris tians are lost. As often as we say the words of the Creed, life everlasting, let us enliven our faith, and re member that there is another life, which never ends ; and let us adopt all the means necessary to secure a happy eternity. Let us do all, and give up all; if necessary, let us leave the world, in order to secure eter nal happiness. When eternity is at stake no security can be too great. " Nulla nimia securitas," says St. Bernard, " ubi periclitatur Eeternitas."

taken from the Sermons of Saint Alphonsus