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§ 4. On Courageous Hope.
Hope in the benignity and mercy of God. For since thou hast purified thyself by fitting contrition, confession, and satisfaction, thou art already reconciled to God, even if thou alone shouldst have perpetrated all the iniquities and transgressions of all mankind. He has already received thee into His favour, and He will neither impute to thee nor reproach thee with the past sins which He has pardoned. He has so covered them, He has so blotted them out, (if thy repentance has been true, holy, and supernatural), as if they had never been committed. But it behoveth thee to persevere henceforth in a good and pious life, and when thou fallest through frailty, quickly to rise again. Thy God is a most liberal King; He most willingly remits all thy debts, how great soever they may be; He is an all-powerful Physician, He speedily heals by His word every disease of thy soul, however grievous and incredible. King David (2 Kings, xii.), St. Mary Magdalen (St. Luke, vii.), the thief on the cross (St. Luke, xxiii. 43), and innumerable others are 113thy examples. It is indeed as easy to God to forgive many mortal sins as one. And it is extremely pleasing Him that thou shouldst so regard Him, and say to Him with humility: “O Lord Jesus, I trust in Thy measurable goodness, that Thou wilt never suffer me to perish, whom Thou hast created to Thy image and likeness, and hast redeemed with immense labour.” Although thy sins be very great, what are they compared to the infinite mercy of God?
Some men of little faith abandon the hope of their salvation on account of the evil they have done, or because of the dire temptations with which Satan as sails them; thinking that their consciences are so bound and entangled, that God either will not or cannot come to their assistance. They are miserably agitated by unconquerable fear: they imagine that all they do is displeasing to God, and that they are already condemned and lost. This is a great and most hurtful error, and he who consents to it, greatly dishonours God. God wills and is able to forgive every man who is truly contrite, and to deliver him from all that may hinder his salvation, whatsoever it may be He did not will to forgive the converted sinner, He would not so patiently wait for his conversion, nor give him contrition and good will, but would punish him with eternal damnation when he sinned, according to the measure of his iniquities. Sometimes, however He permits His faithful servants and chosen friends to be assaulted by despair, or other horrible and evidently infernal temptations, and to be vexed by them throughout a long time; but He does this out of His immense 114love for them, protecting them meanwhile and sustaining them lest they should fail.
There are yet many who, not rightly understanding the greatness of the mercy of God, lose their souls, because they amend not their wicked life, but say, if not in words, at least by their deeds, “Why should we not do what we will? for, whenever we shall be converted to God, God will pardon us, and will remit all our sins.” But, alas, such men, promising themselves a long life, and true repentance, often by the just judgment of God obtain neither, and die in their sins.
But how is it possible that he who is willing to amend his life should despair of the most gracious mercy of God? For God saith by His Prophet, “If the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done: in his justice which he hath wrought, he shall live. Is it my will that a sinner should die, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live?” (Ezech. xviii. 21-23). Again, He saith, “Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? and, if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee in my hands” (Isaias xlix. 15, 16). And, again, He speaks thus, “Shall anything be hard for me?” (Jerem. xxxii. 27). He saith also, “I have blotted out thy iniquities as a cloud, and thy sins as a mist” (Isaias xliv. 22). Again He saith, “Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from My 115eyes; cease to do perversely, learn to do well. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow; and, if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaias i. 16-18). God, who willeth that none should perish, consoleth thee by these and many other similar sayings in the Holy Scriptures, that them mayest confide in His most merciful loving-kindness. Confide, therefore, man of goodwill, confide in the mercy of thy God, even if thou hast to pass out of this world soon after having begun to amend thy life For so doth the Gospel bear witness, that those who had laboured but one single hour in the vineyard, receive the wages of eternal bliss (St. Matth. xx. 9); that is, those who have lived justly and piously for a very short time: and those are pronounced blessed by the Lord who are found ready in the third watch, that is, in their old age (St. Luke xii. 38). But, if thou art not called away out of this life immediately after thou hast been converted and turned to God, do thou persevere with constancy in thy holy resolutions, and in the fear of the Lord.116
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