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Concerning the Terrors of the Day of Judgment. An Incentive to Tears.
I AM afraid of my life because, when I diligently examine it, I perceive that it is altogether sin, or if, where most is barren, there be any fruit found, it is either feigned fruit or imperfect or in some manner corrupt, so that what there is that displeaseth not God is yet not pleasing unto Him.
Therefore, thou sinner, almost all thy life—nay not almost all, but of a truth all thy life—is either in sin and deserveth condemnation, or unfruitful and deserveth contempt. But why do I divide what is unfruitful from that which deserveth condemnation? For if it be unfruitful, it must therefore be condemned. For we know that the saying is true which He spake who is the Truth: Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.132132 Matt. iii. 10.90
Nay, if I do anything that profiteth, it is too little to recompense God for the food and drink which I misuse. But who feedeth a flock133133 Cp. 1 Cor. ix. 7. which is worth less than the cost of the food which it consumeth? Yet Thou, O God, art more gracious than men, in that Thou dost feed me and lookest for profit from me, Thy vile worm, Thy sinful one that rotteth with the corruption of sin. For more tolerable to a man is the stench of a dog’s carcase than to God the soul that sinneth; yea, far more foully doth this stink in the nostrils of God than that in those of man. Alas, I am no man but the scorn of men,134134 Ps. xxii. 6. viler than a beast, baser than a dead carcase. My soul is weary of life; I am ashamed to live, I am afraid to die. What is left for thee, poor sinner, but all thy life through to lament thy whole life, so that it may weep for itself, no part not mourning, no part not mourned?
But this is a marvellous thing, and marvellously is my soul to be pitied therein135135 The play upon words here,—one very characteristic of Anselm, with whom this particular kind of phrase is a trick of style so common as often to become tedious—miserabiliter mirabilis et mirabiliter miserabilis—cannot be exactly reproduced in English.; that her knowledge exceedeth her sorrow so that she resteth in security as though she knew not her condition. O thou barren soul, what art thou about? Why sleepest thou, thou sinful one? The day of judgment cometh; the great day of the Lord 91is near, it is near and passeth greatly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm.136136 Zeph. i. 15, 16.
O bitter voice of the day of the Lord!137137 Zeph. i. 14, acc. to the Vulgate. Why slumberest thou, thou lukewarm soul, meet to be spued out of the mouth of the Lord?138138 Rev. iii. 16. He who awaketh not, who trembleth not at these mighty thunderings, is not asleep but dead. Thou unfruitful tree, where is thy fruit? Thou tree worthy of the axe, thou tree worthy to be hewed down and burned, what are thy fruits? Verily they are thorns and bitter sins; would that the thorns would prick thee with repentance so that they might be broken off, and the bitterness of the sins grow bitterer to thee till they perish altogether!
Peradventure thou thinkest some sin of thine but a little thing; would that thy severe Judge thought any sin a little thing! But alas, doth not every sin transgress the commandment of God and dishonour Him? What then? Shall the sinner dare to call his sin a little thing? When is it a little thing to dishonour God? O thou dry and useless branch, worthy of everlasting fires, what wilt thou answer in that day, when God shall require an account of the manner wherein thou hast spent the whole time of life that He hath allotted to thee, even to the 92least moment that is past in the twinkling of an eye? Then shall be condemned whatsoever is found in thee, in thy work or in thy play, in thy speech or in thy silence, down to the least thought, nay, thy very living, so thy life is not ordered according to God’s will. Woe unto thee! How many sins will rush forth upon thee then of a sudden, as from an ambush, whereof now thou takest no note! yea, more sins and more grievous than those of which thou takest note. How many evil things thou dost, which thou thinkest not to be evil! how many, which now thou thinkest good, will then be revealed unto thee as sins most black! There wilt thou receive the things done in thy body, according to that thou hast done139139 2 Cor. v. 10.; then, when the time of mercy shall be past; then, when there shall be no room left for repentance, nor any hope of amendment.
Consider now what thou hast done, and what thou oughtest to receive. If thou hast done much good and little evil, rejoice greatly; if much evil and little good, mourn greatly. O thou unprofitable sinner, are not these thoughts enough to move thee to wail mightily? are they not enough to melt thy blood and marrow into tears? Ah marvellous hardness of heart, that hammers so heavy are too light to break! O profound lethargy, which pricks so sharp are too blunt to rouse! O deadly slumber, which thunderings so terrible are too hoarse to disturb! 93O unprofitable sinner, well may these things suffice to draw forth from thee a river of tears; well may they suffice to make thee weep dry the fountain of thy tears.
But why must I dissemble, why not utter the greatness and the grievousness of the misery that hangeth over me, why hide it from the eyes of my soul? is it that the woes may come upon me unawares? that the intolerable tempest of wrath should suddenly break forth upon me? Nay this were not expedient for a sinner.
But if I speak, whatsoever I can conceive cannot be compared unto the truth thereof. Therefore let thine eyes weep day and night and keep not silence. Make all the woes thou hast endured hitherto heavier; add terror unto terror, wailing unto wailing; for He shall be thy Judge, who hath been set at nought in all my sins of disobedience and transgression, who hath rewarded me good for evil, and I have rewarded Him evil for good; who is now most patient, but in that day will be most severe; now most merciful, but then most just.
Alas, alas! against whom have I sinned? I have dishonoured God, I have provoked the Almighty to anger! What have I done, poor sinner? to whom and how wickedly? Woe is me, woe is me! thou anger of the Almighty, break not out upon me! There is nothing in me that can endure Thine anger, O God. Into what straits am I come! On this side are my sins accusing me; and on that the justice of 94God making me afraid: above is my angry Judge, below the horrible pit of hell laid open, within my conscience on fire, without the world being burned up. The righteous shall scarcely be saved140140 1 Pet. iv. 18.; as to the sinner thus taken in his sin, whither shall he turn? I am fast bound, where shall I hide myself; and how shall I appear? To hide myself is impossible, to show myself intolerable. I shall desire to hide myself and hate to show myself, but there will be no hiding-place at all, and everywhere shall I be manifest.
What, ah what will then become of me? Who will deliver me out of the hands of God? where shall I look for counsel? where for salvation? Who is He that is called the Angel of the Great Counsel141141 This title of Christ is taken from the LXX. version of Isa. ix. 6, which St Jerome quoted in his commentary on the verse. It was also employed in one of the Christmas introits. and the Saviour that I may call upon His name? It is none other than He, Jesus Himself, the Judge in whose hands I tremble.
Breathe again, poor sinner, breathe again; despair not, hope in Him whom thou fearest. Fly to Him, from whom thou didst flee away. Cease not to call upon Him whom thou didst provoke to wrath. O Jesus, Jesus, for Thy name’s sake, do unto me according to Thy name!142142 See Matt. i. 21. Jesus, Jesus, forget the proud sinner that provoked Thy wrath, and look upon me 95the unhappy one that calleth upon Thy sweet name, Thy pleasant name, Thy name that comforteth the sinner and openeth to him the hope of blessing. For what signifieth Jesus but Saviour. Therefore, O Jesus, for Thine own sake be a Jesus to me. Thou who didst create, suffer me not to perish; Thou who didst redeem me, condemn me not; Thou who didst make me by Thy goodness, suffer not the work of Thy hands to perish by my own wickedness. I pray Thee, most gracious Saviour, let not mine iniquity destroy what Thine almighty goodness hath wrought. Acknowledge in Thy goodness what is Thine own in me; and what is not Thine own, wipe off from me. For what profit is there in my blood if I go down into everlasting corruption?143143 Ps. xxx. 9. For the dead praise Thee not, O Lord, neither all they that go down into hell.144144 Ps. cxv. 17. If Thou wilt receive me into the broad bosom of Thy mercy, Thy bosom will not be straitened because of me, O Lord. Receive me therefore, O Jesus my beloved, receive me into the number of Thine elect, that with them I may praise Thee, enjoy Thee, and have my glory in Thee among all that love Thy name,145145 Ps. v. 12, acc. to the Vulgate. who with the Father and the Holy Ghost art glorious for ever, world without end. Amen.96
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