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CHAPTER XV

How contrary to pure love is even the slightest imperfection.—Of the many means by which God ministers to our salvation.—At the point of death we shall esteem the opposition made to the divine inspirations as worse than hell itself.

“I see clearly,” said our saint, “that when pure love sees even the least imperfection in man, if the mercy of God did not sustain it, it would grind into powder not only the body, but even the soul itself, were it not immortal, knowing that so long as it is retained he must be deprived of love. I see that the cause of all these evils is that we are so blinded by the enormity of our sins that it is impossible to comprehend, as we should, the extremity of our misery, which is yet supremely necessary for us to know. When man is reduced to his last agony—and in that hour all joys flee from him and all evils present themselves without a remedy—I cannot find words to express the great pain and anguish which will then overwhelm his soul, and therefore I am silent.

“O unhappy man, in that hour wilt see how much more solicitous God has been for thy salvation than thou hast been thyself! Then thy whole life will pass before thine eyes, with all its opportunities for well-doing and all its rejected inspirations, and in one instant thou wilt clearly see the whole. Believest thou that thy soul must still live when it passes from such injustice into the presence of true justice? It is not possible for me to dwell upon this thought, for I find it so painful; I am constrained to cry out, Beware, beware, for the matter is of such infinite importance. If I thought I should be understood I would never say aught else. When I see men die as the beasts die, without fear, without light, without grace, and know how serious a thing this is, I should suffer for my neighbor the greatest pains that I could ever feel, if God did not sustain me. And when I hear it said that God is good and he will pardon us, and then see that men cease not from evil-doing, oh, how it grieves me! The infinite goodness with which God communicates with us, sinners as we are, should constantly make us love and serve him better; but we, on the contrary, instead of seeing in his goodness an obligation to please him, convert it into an excuse for sin which will of a certainty lead in the end to our deeper condemnation.

“I see that God, so long as man remains in this life, uses all the ways of mercy for his salvation, and gives him all the graces necessary to that end, like a benignant and most clement father who knows only how to do us good; and especially he does so in enduring our sins, which in his sight are so very great that if unsustained by his goodness, man would be ground into powder by them.

“But man does not comprehend this, and God graciously awaits and bears with him until his death; then he resorts to justice, although not even then is it unmixed with mercy, since in hell man does not suffer according to his deserts, yet woe be to him who falls therein, for truly he suffers greatly. And when I see man fix his affections on creatures, even, as he sometimes does, on a dog or a cat, or any other created thing, delighting greatly in it, doing all that he can to serve it, unable to admit into his heart any other love, and as it were, breathing by it, I long to exterminate these things which hold him thus employed and cause him to lose the great reward of the love of God which alone can satisfy and make him happy.

“Alas, this one word I will say about the just and holy ordinance of God, although I know not whether it will be understood. God has ordained man for beatitude, and that with more love than can possible be conceived, and all proper means to this result he gives him with infinite charity, perfection, and purity, so that man does not lose the least atom that is justly his; and, notwithstanding how many sins he may have committed, God never ceases to send him all needful inspirations, admonitions, and chastisements to lead him to that degree of happiness for which he created him with such heartfelt love. And he does this in such a way that when man shall behold it after his death, he will well understand that he never suffered himself to be led by the divine goodness, and that he has lost God solely through his own fault. Then the opposition he has made to such divine goodness will torture him more than hell itself; because all the pains of hell, however great they may be, are as nothing in comparison to the privation of the beatific vision which is caused by their own resistance.

“This is proved by divine love, which says that it esteems the smallest imperfection a greater evil than any hell that can be imagined. What, then, shall be said of that soul which in all things finds itself opposed to the divine ordinations, except that infinite woe awaits it, infinite tribulations, dolors, and afflictions, without remedy, without consolation, and without end, and that it shall be plunged in profound humiliation and infernal gloom.”

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