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On the pain of loss.
I. THE greatest pain of hell is not the fire, nor the darkness, nor the stench, nor any other of all the material torments of that dreadful prison of despair, it is the pain of loss, that is, the pain of having lost God, which of itself, may be said to constitute hell. The soul was created to be for ever united to God, and to enjoy the sight of his enrapturing countenance. God is its last end, its only good, so that all the goods of earth and heaven, without God, could not make it happy. Hence it is, that if a condemned soul in hell could possess and love God, hell, with all its torments, would become to such a soul a paradise. But this will be its sovereign punishment, which will render it for ever inconceivably miserable, to be deprived of God for all eternity, without the least hope of ever again beholding him or loving him. Jesus my Redeemer, nailed to the cross for my sake, thou art my hope; O that I had died rather than offended thee!
II. The soul, being created for God, has an instinctive tendency to become united with its sovereign good, its God; but being united to the body, when it wallows in iniquity, it becomes so darkened by the created objects which allure the senses, that it loses its sight, and has so little knowledge of God, as no longer to desire to be united to him. But when separated from the body, and from sensible objects, then it will know that God is the only good that can render it happy; hence as soon as it shall have departed hence, it will feel itself drawn with most powerful attraction towards an union with God; but having left this life an enemy of God,
it will be not only kept back from him by its sins, as by a chain, but dragged by them into hell, there to be for ever separated and at a distance from God. The wretched soul in that eternal dungeon, will know how beautiful God is, but will not be able to behold him. It will know how amiable God is, but will not be able to love him; it will even feel itself forced by its sins to hate him; and this shall be its hell of hells, to know that it hates a God who is infinitely lovely. It will desire that it were possible, to destroy God, to whom it is hateful; and to destroy itself, hating God; and this will be the eternal occupation of this unhappy soul. Do thou, O Lord, have pity on me.
III. This torment will be immensely increased by the remembrance of the graces which God bestowed upon it, and the love which he evinced towards it during its life-time. It will especially call to mind the love of Jesus Christ in shedding his blood, and laying down his life for its salvation; but ungrateful soul, not to forego its own miserable gratifications, it consented to lose God, its sovereign good; and it will find that no hope will be left of ever regaining him, Ah! my God! were I in hell, I should not be able to love thee, nor to repent of my sins; but as I have it now in my power to repent and to love thee, I am sorry with my whole soul for having offended thee, and love thee above all things. Grant me to remember continually that hell which I have deserved, that I may love thee with still greater and greater fervour. O Mary, refuge of sinners, do not abandon me.
On the particular judgment.
I. IT is appointed unto men once to die, and after this, the judgment. Heb. ix. 27. It is of faith, that, immediately after death, we shall be judged according to our works in this life. And it is also of faith, that, upon this judgment, will depend our eternal salvation or perdition. Imagine yourself to be in your agony, and to have only a short time to live. Think that in a short time you would then have to appear before Jesus Christ to give an account of your whole life. Alas! how alarming would the sight of your sins then be to you. Jesus, my Redeemer, pardon me, I beseech thee, before thou judgest me. I know that I have many times already deserved to be sentenced to eternal death. No, I desire not to present myself guilty before thee, but penitent and pardoned. O my sovereign good, I am grievously sorry for having offended thee.
II. O God, what will be the anguish of the soul when it shall first behold Jesus Christ as its judge, and behold him terrible in his wrath? It will then see how much he has suffered for its sake; it will see what great mercies he has exercised towards it, and what powerful means he has bestowed upon it for the attainment of salvation; then will it also see the greatness of eternal goods, and the vileness of earthly pleasures, which have wrought its ruin; it will then see all these things, but to no purpose, because then there will be no more time to correct its past errors; what shall have then been done, will be irrevocable. Before the judgment seat of God, neither nobility, nor dignity, nor riches, will be considered; our works alone will be weighed
there. Grant, O Jesus, that when I first behold thee, I may see thee appeased; and for this end, grant me the grace to weep, during the remainder of my life, over the evil which I have done in turning my back upon thee, to follow my own sinful caprices. No, I desire never more to offend thee. I love thee and desire to love thee for ever.
III. What content will that Christian enjoy at the hour of death, who has left the world to give himself to God; who has denied his senses all unlawful gratifications; and who, if he has on some occasions been wanting, has at least been wise enough afterwards to do condign penance for it! On the other hand, what anguish shall that Christian experience who has continually relapsed into the same vices, and at last finds himself at the point of death! Then will he exclaim: Alas! in a few moments I must appear before Jesus as my judge, and I have not as yet even begun to change my life! I have many times promised to do so, but I have not done it; and now, in a short time, what will have become of me? Ah, my Jesus and my judge, I return thee thanks for the patience with which thou hast hitherto waited for me. How many times have I myself written my own eternal condemnation! Since thou hast thus waited to pardon me, reject me not now prostrate at thy feet. Receive me into thy favour through the merits of thy bitter passion. I am sorry, my sovereign good, for having despised thee. I love thee above all things. I desire never more to forsake thee. Mary recommend me to your Son Jesus, and do not abandon me.
On preparing for the particular judgment.
I. BE you ready: for at what hour you think not, the Son of man will come. St. Luke, xii. 40. The time of death will not be the time to prepare ourselves to die well: to die well and happily, we must prepare ourselves before-hand. There will not be time then to eradicate bad habits from the soul, to expel from the heart its predominant passions, and to extinguish all affection to earthly goods. The night cometh when no man can work. St. John ix. 4. All in death will be night, when nothing will be seen; and hence, nothing done. The heart hardened, the mind obscured, confusion, fear, the desire of health, will all render it almost impossible at the hour of death to set in order a conscience confused and entangled in sin.
II. The saints thought they did but little, though they spent their whole lives in preparing for death, by acts of penance, prayer, and the practice of good works; and they trembled when they came to die. The venerable John, of Avila, although he had led a very holy life from his youth, when it was announced to him that he was about to die, made answer and said, O that I had but a little more time to prepare myself for death! And what shall we say when the summons of death shall be brought to us? No, my God, I do not wish to die disquieted and ungrateful, as at present I should die, if death were to overtake me; I desire to change my life, I desire to bewail my offences against thee, I desire to love thee with my whole heart. O Lord, help me, enable me to do something for thee, before I die for thee, who hast died for the love of me.