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THIRD MEDITATION.

A BEMOANING OF VIRGINITY SADLY LOST.

[§ 17. The sinner’s past.] O my soul, O woe begone soul, O wretched soul of an all too wretched mortal, throw aside thy lethargy, throw away thy sin, throw into thy task all the powers of thy mind; call home to heart thine outrageous guilt, and from that heart call forth a wild and woeful cry. Be think thee, wretch, bethink thee of thy horrible crime; prolong thy horror-stricken terror and thy terror-stricken grief. For thou, thou that once wast washed white in the celestial bath, dowered with the Holy Ghost, vowed in Christian profession; thou wast a virgin betrothed to Christ. O, where does memory lead me! O, whose is this Name I name! He is now no longer the loving Spouse of my virginity, but the terrible Judge of my unchastity. Ah, memory of lost happiness, why dost thou thus aggravate afresh the burden of the woe that masters me? How sad the plight of a man debauched, to whom good and ill alike are a torture! For an evil conscience racks me, and 45those its threatened torments in which I fear that I shall burn; and the memory of a good conscience racks me, and the thought of those its rewards which I know that I have lost, and shall never more recover. O sad, O grievous loss; the loss of losing irrecoverably that which ought to be interminably kept; an inconsolable loss, alas! a losing that has not only foredone my blessings, but has won me fresh racks and torments.

O virginity, now no longer my loved, but my lost; now no more a delight, but a despair to me; whither art thou gone? What rank salt mire is this where thou hast left me? And thou, fornication, mind’s polluter, soul’s destroyer, whence didst thou creep and steal on wretched me? And O, from how bright and glad a standing-place hast thou hurled me down! Here thou with thy fever parchest me, O bitter woe, for I have let go the one; and here thou, O irksome grief, and fear of a worse yet, dost torture me, for I have let the other come. On the one hand in consolable loss, on the other intolerable torment. Woe on this side, and woe again on that! Thus equally, O good and evil, thus with exactest justice do ye both punish miserable, wicked me, even while I live. Deservedly, deservedly indeed. For 46thou, O my soul, faithless to God, foresworn to God, false spouse of Christ, hast deliberately dropped from thy virgin height, and miserably plunged into the gulf of fornication. Thou, that wast erst espoused to the King of heaven, hast made thyself mistress to the gaoler of hell. Ah, soul, cast away from God, cast forth to the devil; rather caster away of God and embracer of the devil. The act was thine, O my miserable soul; for ’twas thine, ’twas thine, become a brazen strumpet and a shameless courtesan, to give bill of divorce to thy Lover and thy Creator God, and bestow thyself on thy seducer and destroyer demon. O wretched, wretched change!

Alas, from what a height hast thou fallen, into what an abyss hast thou been hurled! Fie upon thee; thou hast scorned One, O how kind; and linked thee to one, O how malignant! What hast thou done, O madness, O unchastity all too mad, O wickedness all too unchaste? Thou hast left thy chaste Lover in heaven, and followed thy hateful seducer into hell, and prepared thee in hell’s pit a filthy lair in place of thy bridal chamber. Astounding horror, what perversity of will is this! Miracle of horror, what wilful perversity is this! Whence, then, O God, am I to draw 47for myself the corrective of such deep depravity? whence for Thee, O God, satisfaction for so black a sin? Fling thyself, miserable mortal, down into the black abyss of a woe unmedicined, thou that didst choose to fling thyself into the pit of a horrible iniquity. Wrap thee about, poor wretch, in guise of terrible grief, thou that didst all willingly launch into the slime of hellish filth. And thou, steeped in crime, muffle thyself round with horrid glooms of inconsolable wailing, thou that didst wanton wilfully in the quagmire of so grovel ling indulgence. Wallow in the gulf of bitterness, thou that didst dally in the bed of shame.

O shrinking terror, trembling grief, inconsolable distress, crowd, crowd upon me; whelm me, overwhelm me, bewilder me, encompass me, and make me all your own. ’Tis just, ’tis just. I have flouted you by my shameless daring; I have provoked you by my filthy wantonness no, no, God; God, not you and now in woebegone repentance I desire you. Torture your victim; avenge your God; let the fornicator feel betimes the hell-torment he has merited; let him have a foretaste of what he has laid up for himself; let him get accustomed to what he has to suffer. Prolong and lengthen out thy doleful penance, thou uncontrolled, 48unbridled sinner, that didst so long prolong thy impurity and thy guilt. Roll back, roll back into the same seething gulf of bitterness, thou that didst so oft roll back into the same slough of lusts. And as for you, consolation, security, and joy, I forego you, I reject you till pardon of sin restore you. Away with you, away with you, before I die; if haply forgiveness may recall you to me, albeit after death. Let perpetual penance be the sad companion of my time; let perpetual grief be the unsatisfied torturer of my life; let sadness and harsh mournfulness be the unfatigued harrowers-up of my early and my latter age. O be it so! O be it so! I desire, I pray, I long that it may be so. For though I am unworthy to lift my eyes to heaven in prayers, surely I am not unworthy to blind them with tears. If my mind from shame of conscience is too much confounded to pray, ’tis right it should be confounded by the giddy bewilderment that comes of a mourner’s distress and grief. If it fears to be displayed in the sight of God, ’tis just it should have in its own sight the torments that its guilt has earned.

[§ 18. The sinner’s future.] So, then, let my heart ponder and ponder again on what it has done 49and what it has deserved. Let my mind go down, yes, down to the land of darkness, the land covered with the shadow of death; and there let her scan the torments that await a guilty soul; let her gaze on them, and study them; let her see, and be sore troubled. What is it, O God, what is it that I descry in the land of misery and darkness? Horror, horror! What is it that I behold here, where no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth? (Job x. 22.) Ah, the jarring shrieks, the tears and hurly-burly, the gnashing of teeth, the disordered advance of multitudinous wailings, wo, and wo; how many wo’s! how many and how many wo’s, and wo’s on the heels of wo’s! Ah, the sulphurous fire, the flame from the nether most deep! You volumes of blackest smoke, with what frightful roaring do I see you wreathe and roll! You worms, alive in fire; what strange appetite for gnawing thus inflames you, you that the fire of fires does not burn? And you, ye demons, glowing through and through, chafing with rage, gnashing your teeth with frenzy, why are ye so merciless to them that are writhing in the midst of you? O all and every kind of torments, measured by justice, but measureless to power of endurance, is it so that no controlment, no respite, no end is ever 50to subdue you? Are these the things, great God, that have been prepared for fornicators and despisers of Thee, of whom I am one? I, yes I; I am one of them.

Shudder, O my soul; and faint, my mind; and break, my heart. Whither do you drag me, O punishers of my guilt? Whither dost thou thrust me, O my sin? Whither dost thou drive me, O my God? If I have contrived to be Thy culprit, say, could I have contrived not to be Thy creature? If I have robbed me of my chastity, say, have I bereft Thee of Thy mercy? O Lord, O Lord, if I have let that come whence Thou canst damn, hast Thou let that go whence Thou art wont to save? Do not, do not, O Lord, so look upon my evil as to forget Thy good. Where, where, O God of truth, is that Thy, ‘I desire not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner turn from his way and live’? (Ezech. xxxiii. 11.) O Lord, who liest not, O Lord, what means Thy nolo mortem peccatoris, if Thou bury down in hell a sinner crying unto Thee? To plunge a sinner into the bottomless pit, is this Thy volo ut convertatur, Thy volo ut vivat? I am the sinner, O Lord, I am the sinner. If, then, Thou desirest not the death of the sinner, what forces Thee to do what Thou desirest not, to give 51me over to the death? If Thou desirest that the sinner turn again and live, what prevents Thee from doing what Thou dost desire, that Thou convert me, and I live? What! does the enormity of my sin force Thee to what Thou desirest not, although Thou art Almighty God? Forbid it, Almighty God; forbid it, O Lord God; let not the wickedness of a sinner, a confessing, grieving sinner, prevail against the decree of the Omnipotent.

Remember, O just, O holy, O bountiful God, that Thou art merciful, and hast made me and re-made me. Therefore remember not, good Lord, Thy justice against Thy sinner, but be mindful of Thy condescension to Thy creature; remember not Thy fury against the guilty, but be mindful of Thy mercy to the miserable. True it is that my conscience and sense of guilt deserves damnation, and that my penance is not enough for satisfaction; but yet it is certain that Thy mercy out strips all Thy resentment. Spare, therefore, Thou good Lord, to whom salvation belongeth, and who desirest not the death of the sinner, spare my sinful soul; for it flies, frightened by Thy frightening justice, to Thy consoling mercy; that so, since the treasure of his marred virginity is now—O grief!—irrecoverable, yet the punishment due to fornication 52may not be inevitable to the penitent; for ’tis neither impossible to Thy omnipotence, nor ill-becoming to Thy justice, nor unwonted to Thy mercy; since Thou art good, and since Thy mercy reaches to eternity, Thou who art blessed for ever more. Amen.

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