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Chapter VII.

The answer showing how far we ought to preserve the recollection of previous actions.

Pinufius: Your question, as has been already said above, was not raised with regard to the character of penitence, but with regard to its end, and the marks of satisfaction: to which, as I think, a fair and pertinent reply has been given. But what you have said as to the remembrance of sins is sufficiently useful and needful to men who are still doing penance, that they may with constant smiting of the breast say: “For I acknowledge my wickedness: and my sin is ever before me;” and this too: “And I will think for my sin.”21232123    Ps. l. (li.) 5; xxxvii. (xxxviii.) 19. While then we do penance, and are still grieved by the recollection of faulty actions, the shower of tears which is caused by the confession of our faults is sure to quench the fire of our conscience. But when, while a man is still in this state of humility of heart and contrition of spirit and continuing to labour and to weep, the remembrance of these things fades away, and the thorns of conscience are by God’s grace extracted from his inmost heart, then it is clear that he has attained to the end of satisfaction and the reward of pardon, and that he is purged from the stain of the sins he has committed. To which state of forgetfulness we can only attain by the obliteration of our former sins and likings, and by perfect and complete purity of heart. And this most certainly will not be attained by any of those who from sloth or carelessness have failed to purge out their faults, but only by one who by constantly continuing to groan and sigh sorrowfully has removed every spot of his former stains, and by the goodness of his heart and his labour has proclaimed to the Lord: “I have acknowledged my sin, and mine unrighteousness have I not hid;” and: “My tears have been my meat day and night;” so that in the end it may be vouchsafed to him to hear these words: “Let thy voice cease from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for there is a reward for thy labour, saith the Lord;”21242124    Ps. xxxi. (xxxii.) 5; xli. (xlii.) 4; Jer. xxxi. 16. and these words also may be uttered of him by the voice of the Lord: “I have blotted out as a cloud thine iniquities, and as a mist thy sins:” and again: “I even I am He that blotteth out thine iniquities for mine own sake, and thine offences I will no longer remember;”21252125    Is. xliv. 22; xliii. 25. and so, when he is freed from the “cords of his sins,” by which “everyone is bound,”21262126    Prov. v. 22. he will with all thanksgiving sing to the Lord: “Thou hast broken my chains: I will offer to thee the sacrifice of praise.”21272127    Ps. cxv. 16, 17.


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