1. The Nature of Sin:
1. Sin is any willful transgression of the
law of God.
II. Mortal and venial sin:
2. There are two kinds of sin: (a) original sin,
which is that guilt and stain of soul with which we were all born,
and which we have inherited from our first parents; (b) actual
sin, which is that transgression of which man is personally guilty
after coming to the use of reason.
3. The effects of original sin
are: (a) the loss of divine grace and the right to paradise; (b)
the loss of certain extraordinary gifts, such as immortality, freedom
from sickness, etc.; (c) the infliction of certain wounds on
the soul, namely ignorance, malice, weakness, and concupiscence.
The guilt of original sin and the debt of eternal and temporal
punishment incurred by it are removed by Baptism. The miseries
of life, such as sickness, labor and death, remain after Baptism in
order that they may be a source of merit to the baptized.
things are necessary for actual sin: (a) that it be a violation of
the law of God, i.e., that a person transgress a commandment
given either by God Himself, or by lawful human authority; (b)
that it be willful, i.e., that a person knows, or should know, that
what he does is wrong, and that he freely chooses to do it.
Actual sins, then, are committed in four ways: (a) by willful
thoughts and desires against the law of God, e.g., rash judgment,
doubts in matters of faith, jealousy, impure wishes, etc.; (b) by
willful words against the law of God, e.g., blasphemies, lies, back-
biting, obscene language, etc.; (c) by willful deeds against the law
of God, that is, all forbidden acts, such as murder, theft, adultery, etc.,
which a person commits himself, or leads others to commit, or
does not prevent when he can and should prevent them; (d) by
omissions, that is, by failure to do what one can and is
1. Mortal sin is a willful transgression of
the divine law by which a person seriously fails in his
duties towards God, his neighbor, or himself. It is called mortal
because it causes the death of the soul by depriving it of sanctifying
2. Venial sin is a transgression of the divine law by
which one fails slightly in his duties towards God, his neighbor, or
himself. There are two kinds of venial sin: (a) those that are
due to ignorance, frailty, or surprise, and from which even pious
persons are not free (Jas. iii. 2) ; (b) those that are due to malice,
and which are usually habitual, such as lying, uncharitableness,
3. The effects of mortal sin are: (a) it is an act of disobedience,
ingratitude, contempt and rebellion against God; (b) it
deprives the sinner of the divine friendship; (c) it incurs the
debt of eternal punishment.
4. The effects of deliberate venial
sin are: (a) it offends God, and is the greatest evil after mortal
sin; (b) it disposes us for mortal sin because it diminishes God's
graces, cools the fervor of charity, and makes one accustomed to
sin: "He that contemneth small things shall fall little by little"
(Ecclus. xix. i) ; "He that is unjust in that which is little is unjust
in that which is greater" (Luke xvi. 10) ; (c) it renders us deserving
of great temporal chastisements, both in this world
(examples are Lot's wife, David and Moses), and in the world to
come (Apoc. xxi. 27).
5. For a sin to be mortal it is necessary:
(a) that the offense be seriously forbidden; (b) that it be committed
with full knowledge and consent. If either of these conditions
be wanting the sin is only venial. But a venial sin may
become mortal: (a) through an erroneous conscience, that is, if
the sinner thinks he is committing a mortal sin; (b) if he sins out
of contempt for law and authority; (c) if he intends or foresees a
grave consequence of his sin, as in the case of scandal.
LESSONS, 1. We must not excuse ourselves on the plea that we
are weak or have many temptations, because God's grace, which
we can obtain by prayer and the use of the Sacraments, is at all times
sufficient for us. Furthermore, if we are weak and easily tempted, we
should be careful. If we have weak health we are careful to avoid things
injurious to our health. 2. We should guard against venial sins which
gradually lead to mortal sins. 3. We should seriously examine our consciences and make ready for a good confession as the necessary means of making straight the paths of our souls.
BY THE REV. RAPHAEL MOSS, O.P.
The wages of sin is death.--ROM. vi. 23.
hen St. Paul tells us that the wages of sin is death, he sums up in a few brief words a most important truth, and one which seems patent to our reason, even unaided by the light of faith. "The wages of sin is death"--and indeed whether we consider the material world as revealed to us by our senses, or that more wonderful spiritual world, visible to the understanding alone, we are brought face to face with the evidence of this truth; and change and dissolution of parts in the one, no less than failure and disappointment in the other, alike proclaim and testify to the existence of a discord which can only have been caused by sin or evil. And if we appeal to our faith, and make use of its unfailing light, this judgment of our reason is not only confirmed, but we are enabled to see clearly, where before we saw but dimly. We
have explained to us the nature of that death, which is the miserable consequence of sin, for our faith shows us how sin is nothing less than the total absence of that Divine Life-Giver, in whom all creatures "live and move and have their being." Nay, so bright is the light of faith, that the feeble reason shrinks back dazzled and blinded, and confesses its own inability to look further by admitting that sin is a mystery. And our faith approves of this confession. It reminds us of One who came to make atonement for sin, and then in the very darkest hour of His agony and sacrifice, prayed His Almighty Father to forgive sinners, for that they knew not what they did. These beautiful words of self-forgetting love are not merely the last outpouring of a Heart whose every beat had been an act of supreme generosity--they are likewise
the solemn proclamation of a great truth--that man knows not what he does when he sins. To sin, says St. Paul, is to
trample under foot the Son of God, it is to crucify Him afresh, and could any Christian knowingly so outrage His Maker, when even the hard-hearted Jews, had they known, would never have crucified the Lord of Glory?
f we sin, then, we sin because of ignorance. But we must not deceive ourselves and plead our ignorance in excuse. Real ignorance excuses from sin, but the ignorance which makes sin is an ignorance for which we are responsible, and so we may meditate for a few moments on the nature of sin, that by the consideration of its intrinsic foulness we may enkindle in our hearts a horror of an ignorance which leads us into such piteous depths of shame and degradation. We have said that sin was nothing less than the absence of Him whose presence is the life of every creature. It is, therefore, a separation, a cruel divorce between the poor creature and its great Creator, and in order to understand the exceeding horror of such a separation we have but to look at the work of sin in the heart of him who yields to it, and its consequences in the infinitely loving mind of Him who is sinned against.
Effects of sin in man
riefly and clearly, its work is this. Instead of the mutual love which binds together naturally the Infinite Creator and the work of His hands, sin breeds a most unnatural mutual hate! Could anything more terrible be imagined ? To hate One who is infinitely deserving of love! to be hated by One who is infinitely loving!
ealize this, and you will have gone a long way toward understanding the mystery of sin. Ponder over it well, and you will begin to sympathize with the heartbroken cry of David, "Wash me yet more from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin, for I know mine iniquity, and my sin is always before me" (Ps. 1.4, 5). When we ask our faith to tell us why God broke in upon the loneliness of His eternity, and poured forth the bright loveliness of this mighty universe into the darkness of space, we are answered that it was all for His glory. God, the all-holy, all-powerful, self-sufficing God, could have no purpose, no motive outside Himself, and, therefore, everything that He created He created for Himself, and for the manifestation of His greater glory. And, therefore, it is, as Holy Writ says: "The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands" (Ps. xviii. 2). But that divine glory was not perfectly shown forth, that song of praise could not be rightly sung, until man came forth from God's creative hand--man, with the understanding heart and power of free will--and bowed himself down in lowly obedience to his Maker. All creatures glorify their Creator by the fulfillment of the end for which He made them, but whereas their obedience is blind and unconscious, the obedience of man is the outcome of knowledge, it is the free and loyal service of the heart.
I. Sin is disobedience
ut, dearest brethren, precisely because man is raised so high, therefore can he fall so low, precisely because he can glorify his Maker so perfectly, therefore can he outrage Him so vilely, precisely because he can honor Him by his obedience, therefore can he dishonor Him by disobedience, and this dishonor, this outrage, this fall is what we call sin. Sin, then, is primarily an act of disobedience, a willful refusal to conform to the law of God, whether in thought, word, or deed--a stubborn resistance to the voice of our own reason ever loudly proclaiming that obedience to the Creator is the first duty of the creature. It is to follow in the footsteps of the proud and stiff-necked King of Egypt, whose only
answer to the divine message was an insolent refusal--"Who is the Lord that I should hear his voice? I know not the Lord" (Exod. v. 2). And this act of rebellion is all the more hateful because God asks nothing but what is infinitely just and reasonable He might ask a thousandfold more! He might ask all! He has a right to all, and He might exact all. He might take all by force, whereas He has willed to ask for but a little, and that as a free gift. Compare human laws and human lawgivers with that divine Almighty Providence of which they are the faint reflection! How different is their mode of action!
ar from being free to conform to them or not, according to His will, man is forced to comply with their most minute requirements, or, in case of refusal, to submit to the penalty. Nor can he violate the law and hope to escape the penalty by sorrow and repentance, as most certainly he can in the case of the divine judgments. Repentance has
no place in human justice, but the punishment must inevitably follow the crime, and the dreary prison, with its bleak walls and hard and thankless toil continued for days and months and years, or the still more terrible scaffold, with its brief but sharp agony of death--these are the avenging consequences of the violation of human laws, these, too, are the stern safeguards of their fulfilment. Then again our obedience to these laws must be its own reward, our submission can bring us no recompense beyond the avoidance of these penalties. Moreover, when we submit our wills to the gentle and easy laws of God, every such act of submission, no matter how small and insignificant and easy, merits for us a
reward so much above us that our imagination cannot even picture it. And whilst we have everything to gain by our obedience, that great and mighty God whom we obey, and Who will not force our service, but stoops to buy it of us, can gain absolutely nothing but the glory of our happiness. Yet with all this staring him in the face, with every faculty of his soul protesting against such senseless folly--man sins!
here was a time when God came down amongst His creatures in the midst of lightnings and thunders and clouds to manifest to them His law. And the multitudes around the mountain were smitten with great terror, and fell prostrate on the ground, sending up from their trembling lips the cry, "Let not God show Himself to us? let not God speak to us lest we die!" And yet whilst the hills around them were even yet echoing with the thunders, the mighty voice of God, "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have other gods before me"--whilst the dark clouds still hung on the mountain top, the visible token of His dread presence, they made to themselves a golden calf and set it up and worshipped it, saying,
"These be thy gods, O Israel!" And the same pitiful sight is repeated, and will be repeated, day by day, as long as the sun
shines upon the earth. "The Lord our God is the Lord, him only shalt thou adore, him only shalt thou serve." This is the voice that is ever sounding over the world, ringing through the darkest caverns of man's sinful heart, and obliging him to listen to its unchanging commands. But it cannot or it will not oblige him to obey, and so man ever lifts his head against his Maker, and defies Him to His face. "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before me." "Who is the Lord that I should hear His voice? I know not the Lord." I will adore whom I choose, I will make gods of my own wayward inclinations, my own vile passions, my own sinful desires. I will place them on the throne of my heart and bow down before them and proclaim to the world the gods whom I have chosen--these be my gods, O Israel. And as I have made them my gods, so also will I serve them and them only, and all other commandments I will despise. But there is a lower depth still:
2. Sin is ingratitude
hat hast thou," says the Apostle, "what hast thou that thou hast not received, and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory ?" (i Cor. iv. 7). But if we may not even glory in the powers of our being and the joys that they bring us, simply because they are not our own, but the gifts of the Creator, what are we to say of the man who not only seizes them as his own, but even dares to employ them against Him who bestowed them ? The servant who lifts his hand against his master forfeits his place; the subject who rebels against his king forfeits his life; but what if the master had
found that servant dying of hunger by the roadside and by his loving care and attention had nursed him back to life and
strength! What if the king had raised that subject from his lowly state and set him to rule in his place over kingdoms and empires? Rebellion! treason! These are not the words to express such a crime, and it is only because language fails that we call it ingratitude! Yet no earthly master, no monarch of this world, could give those beneath them what God has given to us, for He has given us all, even our being! This body which we love so dearly, and honor so madly, it is His gift--the soul that quickens it, and makes us what we are, it came from His life-giving breath. Our home, our friends, our parents, our children, our pleasures, our enjoyments, they are all from Him, they are the tokens of His love, He holds them and us in the hollow of His hand. And then in the order of grace! Each individual soul knows its own history,
and what has passed between that soul and God is a secret until the great Day of Judgment.
ut each of us knowing his own special wants, his own special failings, and God's special patience and most loving kindness, each one can speak for himself and confess that nowhere on earth is there a soul so laden with God's gifts his own. In the early ages of the Church, when the gates of hell were making every effort to prevail against it, they brought before the heathen judge an old and feeble man, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and threatened him with the wild beasts and the stake
if he would not blaspheme Christ. "Eighty-six years have I served Him," replied the saint, "and He never did me wrong, but ever blessed me in many ways. How, then, can I blaspheme Him, my Lord and Saviour?" And gladly and joyously he chose the savage wild beasts and the burning fire. We wonder at his courage and we praise his devotion to duty, and we speak of such a sacrifice as a duty, because, in spite of ourselves, and no matter how we stop our ears, our reason is ever telling us that to Him, who has given us everything, everything, even life itself, is due in return.
ll this we must admit, or else deny the light of reason within us. And yet whilst he admits it in theory, the sinner by his acts denies it, when God is concerned. His hands and his feet, his eyes and his ears, his health and his strength, his understanding
and his will, all the bright gifts that God has bestowed upon him, are turned into weapons against the generous Giver. And who is it that does this? Who so disgraces our nature? The sinner! But who is the sinner? Ah, my dearest brethren, it is not someone imagined by preachers, someone we have never met, but it is we ourselves--it is you, it is I! Louder than the accusing voice of the prophet Nathan, striking down the royal David in all the pride of his sin, with the bitter reproach, "Thou art the man," is the voice of conscience in our hearts, tearing away the veils of sham piety and worldly respectability and, perhaps, unconscious hypocrisy, in which we wrap ourselves, and piercing our hard, cold
hearts with the same terrible accusation, "Thou art the man! Thou hast forsaken the Lord that begot thee, thou hast forgotten the Lord that created thee."
3. Sin is hatred of God
ow, dearest brethren, see for a moment how this disobedience and this ingratitude on the part of the sinner must beget in his heart a real hatred of his Creator and his God. If we despise a law, is it not because we despise the lawgiver? If we do not even think of it, is it not because we simply do not think it worth our while? A command which comes from one we love is obeyed with ready joy, no matter what the cost; if it come from one to whom we are indifferent, we coldly weigh its justice in our minds and act accordingly. But if we do not even give it a thought, it is surely because we despise and hate the one from whom it comes.
ow, in which way do we listen to the commandments of God? With eagerness, with indifference, or with contempt? Sin is contempt of the law of God, and therefore to indulge in sin is to hate God. Then again, ingratitude implies hate, even as gratitude implies love. Polycarp could not blaspheme his benefactor, because he loved Him. Had he yielded to the temptation, it would have proved his love was dead. But when, instead of resisting temptation and resisting unto blood a man revels in the filthy waters of sin, when its occasions are his joys, its obstacles his unhappiness, when instead of fighting against the tempter, he himself tempts his neighbor, and endeavors to increase the number of God's foes, is it not manifest that in his heart lurks a hatred of Him who hates nothing but sin! He does what evil he can, he
would do more if he could, and because he finds there are limits to his powers of evil, he turns upon his Master, his Creator, and would destroy Him if he could.
Effects of sin on God
ut there is another side to this most dismal picture, for so far we have only considered the work of sin in the soul of man. We have now to contemplate its effect on our all-merciful Creator, and this sight at least must convince us of its utter foulness. When creation lay first before the face of God in all its unsullied beauty, He blessed it and loved it, for He saw that it was good. His Almighty love was poured out upon the things that He had made--it surged around them like a limitless ocean preserving in them the life and the existence that His power had bestowed. But like a cloud over the face of the deep, troubling all its beauty, sin came into the world, and God, Who is love itself, found Himself compelled to hate. It could not be otherwise. He is goodness itself, sin is evil itself, and therefore He must necessarily hate it
with an infinite, unchanging hate. Nay, more! When this most hateful stain appeared on the creatures He had made, and called out of nothing, the eternal love with which He had hitherto cherished them died away on the instant, and gave place to an unspeakable loathing.
I. Manifested in the punishment of the angels
illions and millions of angelic beings stood around Him, each one of them a world of unimaginable loveliness--their leader Lucifer, a very masterpiece of the Divine Mind, and lo! of a sudden, that leader and a third part of those glorious beings were cast into the bottomless pit. Sin appeared amongst them, and swift, hopeless, and eternal ruin was its instant fruit.
2. Manifested in the punishment of man
n another part of creation dwelt other beings, but a little lower than angels in beauty and in power; they also stained themselves with sin, and the anger of God was kindled against them likewise. It would take long to tell of all that they lost, and, indeed, only they themselves could rightly tell the bitterness of their loss--but the terrible consequences of their sin reached forward to succeeding ages, and on millions of their children yet unborn the hand of God fell heavily. All nature rose up in rebellion against those who had rebelled against the Creator of all, and the beautiful home that God had given to man became a weary vale of tears. For six thousand years at least. God's curse had been upon our race in consequence of that sin; for six thousand years man has been weeping bitterly, oh so bitterly under its heavy burden, and yet that curse is unrecalled, and will never be recalled until the end. For some unfortunates there will be no end, and God's undying hatred of sin will make their unrepenting souls the companions and the victims of the fallen angels in an
3. Manifested in the Redemption
ll this we know, for God Himself has told us, yet lest we should mistake it or grow forgetful. He would give us another and a greater proof of His hatred of sin, and so He Himself came down amongst us and made Himself one of us, and then offered Himself up as a victim for sin. How He accomplished His task a glance at the cross will tell you. There you will see stretched out on that tree of shame the gracious form of Him who was beautiful above all the sons of men, because He was likewise their God. His body is all torn with cruel wounds--there is a deep rent in His sacred side. His head bowed down in death is encircled with a wreath of prickly thorns, and from His hands and feet pierced by long, iron nails--and indeed from every part of His mangled body the great red drops of blood trickle slowly, and
every drop of blood and every gaping wound proclaims God's hatred of sin. O, then, my beloved brethren, if sin demanded a sacrifice of such infinite worth, it must be that sin is an infinite evil. If it could only be atoned for by the death of Him who was infinite to God, it must be that it is the mortal enemy of God. If the blood of Jesus Christ, if the shameful death of Jesus Christ, the coequal Son of the Eternal Father alone could blot out this terrible stain, it must be that God alone can know its full exceeding horror. And we, looking upon all this, realizing all this, hear in our sin-stained hearts the whispering of a reproachful voice:
"Know thou and see, that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee, to have left the Lord thy God" (Jer. ii. 19).
t is an evil and a bitter thing! How evil, how bitter we cannot truly realize, but we can do our best. Our own nature will help us in every way. "Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil" (Rom. ii. 9). And as reasonably might we expect the sun to fail us as that this law of divine justice should be made void. True, there are some who seem to escape, some who go through life revelling in every sin and laughing at the thought of punishment, but none the less is it true that "the wages of sin is death," and in their souls death is already at work. The world may not notice it, but to God, and to the angels, and generally to himself as well, the sinner is a reflection of that fallen
"seraph on whose cheek sate care," for, in spite of himself, his soul is ever longing and yearning for a lost glory which can be his no more. For though he may repent, and God in His loving mercy may forgive, yet has sin done its work, and though repentance may efface the stain, it can never, never give back innocence. And oh! the sorrow of that thought for a soul that is sincere in its repentance! Holy Scripture tells us how God appeared to Solomon, and bade him ask whatsoever he would, and Solomon prayed for the gift of wisdom and understanding. Had that gracious vision been vouchsafed to him in later years, he would have surely made another prayer in the words of his father, David, "Wash me from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin, for I know my wickedness, and my sin is ever before me." And
that prayer we also would reecho, for weak as we are, sinful as we are, even we, sometimes at least, have some faint lingering memories of the days of our innocence, those bright, happy days, when we knew not what sin was, and their half-remembered fragrance fills our hearts with regret and makes them ache with sorrow. "Oh give me back my innocence, give me back the purity that once was mine, give me back those happy days when Thy light shone over my head and I walked before Thee in justice."
hese would be the words that would come to our lips, when at such moments we kneel down and speak to God in prayer--but the glory of that innocence is gone, and gone forever; and our prayer must be like David's, a cry of repentance, a pleading entreaty for that innocence which is born of forgiveness (Ps. xxxvii) : "My iniquities are gone over my head, and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me." "I am become miserable and bowed down even to the end. I walked sorrowful all the day long." "Lord! all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee." "For in thee, O Lord, have I hoped--thou wilt hear me, O Lord my God!" "For I will declare my iniquity,
and I will think of my sin."
hat is our only hope. We have sinned and done evil, and the burden will indeed lie heavy upon us, unless we replace the lost innocence of sinlessness by the innocence of repentance, and so escape the consequences of our folly. And then even the approach of that death, which is the wages of man's first sin, will fail to make us fearful, since, as Holy Writ assures us, to keep innocence and to take heed to what is right, is the only sure way to bring a man peace at the last.
BY THE REV. J. A. MCMULLAN, C.SS.R.
Know thou and see that it is an evil and bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God.--JER. ii. 19.
Sin an abandonment of God
e can never leave God. "If I ascend into heaven. Thou art there. If I descend into hell, Thou art there. If I take my wings early in the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Thy hand shall lead me and Thy right hand hold me" (Ps. cxxxviii. 8, 9). Yet God regards the heart, and when a sinner wishes in his heart to be away from God that he might sin, then that sinner is to God as the prodigal "who went into a distant country." Sin, then, is leaving the Lord our God, in thought and affection; and the prophet would have us "know" and "see" that this is "an evil and bitter thing." We need serious and prayerful thought to realize this profitably in our souls.
The World makes light of sin
he world makes light of sin, and of God's punishment of sin, for the very reason that it makes no effort to consider these things. "With desolation is the whole world desolate because no one thinketh in his heart" (Jer. xii. n). "He was in the world and the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not," for the majority of men and women do not trouble to think about Him. They do not "attend and see that He is God." He is not for them a Personal Being, whose punishment they fear and whose approval they prize. For them it practically is as it He were not. And as they ignore Him they think nothing of offending Him and despise His punishments. They have imbibed the poison of the devil's lie to our first parents.
ou shall not die the death." And it has made them utterly irresponsible and entirely defiant. "We have sinned," they cry, "and what harm hath befallen us?" And because God hath spared them, they despise the "riches of His goodness and patience and long suffering." But God is not mocked; nor hath He left Himself without witness of His hatred for sin. Our first parents did die the death; and we are all condemned to death for their sin. The angels of heaven, the greatest of His created beings, were for sin hurled from their lofty thrones into the depth of hell. "I saw Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven," said our Blessed Lord. And most of all does "Christ crucified" preach trumpet-tongued to man from His every wound "the evil and bitterness of sin." There does the wisdom of God deign to become our Teacher. How can worldlings look on their Saviour dying for sin upon the Cross and say that sin is a small matter in the eyes of God. How can they flatter themselves that they can sin with impunity? If "God hath spared not His only begotten Son," what will become of sinners? "Weep not for Me," said Christ to the sorrowing women, "but weep for yourselves. For if in the
green wood they do these things, what will they do in the dry?"
f the strict justice of God demanded the death of a God-made-man an adequate atonement for sin, how can man say hell is too great a punishment for the sinner who defies his God by his sin, and dies in rebellion against Him? And yet outside the Church of Christ men nowadays will brook no allusion to hell. They resent the mention of it as an insult to good taste. Hell is out of date, it is obsolete, it is medieval. Priests were ridiculed for pointing to the disasters at St. Pierre, at Messina, and the wreck of the Titanic, as punishments from God. Let us be quite clear. It is true they may not have been punishments. "No man hath known the mind of the Lord and no one hath been His counsellor." We know that. And it may have been but a coincidence, merely, that these disasters should in each separate instance have followed fast on sins that cried to heaven for vengeance. I say it may have been a coincidence merely. It is a matter of evidence, and we can form our own opinion, and I know what I think. But
when these critics speak as though these disasters were too great a punishment for sin, and worse than the sins themselves, then we can only conclude that they have not profitably studied the lessons of the Crucifix.
or in that school of Christ Crucified we can learn with St. Augustine that if the whole world were suddenly destroyed by some violent convulsion of nature, and every man, woman and child living in it were annihilated, that disaster, frightful and appalling though it might be, could not in God's sight equal the disaster of one single mortal sin committed only in thought. To repair the ruin of a destroyed world God had but to speak a word: by a word He had made it; by a word He could remake it; but to repair the disaster of one mortal sin the Son of God, obedient to His Father's Will, must needs come down from heaven and die a shameful death upon the Cross. And yet men with the crucifix before them, men and women calling themselves Christians, commit mortal sin and never give it a thought. They sin and sin
again; they drink in iniquity like water, yet they eat and drink, they go to rest, they rise to work or play again, as though nothing had happened.
y friends, what can be the explanation of it except just this: that men will not think. As of old, so now God sends His
preachers to make men think. "Cry out, cease not," He says to them. "Let your voice sound like a trumpet; tell the men of Juda their sins, and the people of Israel their iniquities" (Is. Iviii. i). God wants to warn them and to save them. But, alas! over how many has He now to weep as once He wept over Jerusalem. "How have I longed to gather thee as a hen gathered her chickens under her wing; and thou wouldst not." They heed not their Saviour. They pass their lives in eating and drinking, and in a moment they go down to hell. Such is the spirit of the children of the world, and such is the destruction that threatens them.
ow dear children in Christ, you live in the world and there is danger of your inhaling the tainted atmosphere of its spirit, this moral poison of thinking lightly of sin. It would be the beginning of your spiritual decay. God has called you to this sermon perhaps for this reason above the rest to warn you against it; to renew in your soul a healthy horror of mortal sin; to let you see it in the way as He sees it; to convince you once and for ever of its intrinsic evil and its cruel bitterness. He has called you here into His presence. He has gathered you round His sacramental throne where "He, the Merciful and Gracious Lord, gives to them that fear Him the Food wherein He has left a Memorial of all His wonderful works." For He is Himself that Food. "I am the living Bread that came down from heaven." We are looking,
then, at Jesus. At Jesus, the God-made Man, our Creator and our Redeemer; the great God that made us and the loving God who died for us. These are His works for us, the works of which He is Himself the Living Memorial in that Blessed Sacrament, and we have sinned against Him. We have all sinned and do need the grace of God. We have lived in the world, and like the world we have forgotten God. But now at least when we are in His presence and call to mind all that He has done for us we should, like His great servants, feel abashed and awestruck before Him. Jacob after the vision, Moses at the burning bush, Elias on the mountain side, have bowed them low and trembled when they
knew that God was near. "Depart from me," cries Peter, realizing that Jesus was God. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful
man, O Lord."
efore that same God are we now assembled. Surely our only attitude can be that of the contrite and humbled sinner wishing to do penance for sin. When the proud and self-sufficient Pharisees came to John entirely devoid of this spirit they were sternly reminded of what was wanting in them. "Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewn ye to flee from the wrath to come. Bring forth, therefore, works worthy of penance, and think not to say; "We have Abraham for our father,' for I tell you of these stones could God raise up children to Abraham. Whose fan is in His hand and He will most thoroughly cleanse His floor. And the wheat He will gather into His barn, but the chaff He will burn
with unquenchable fire" (Matt. iii. 7, seqq.). Let us be warned, then, and come to our God in penance and humility of heart. He is our Creator, and by sin we have rebelled against Him: this is the evil of mortal sin. He is our Redeemer, and we have despised Him: this is the bitterness of mortal sin.
espisest thou," asks the Apostle, "the riches of His goodness and patience and long suffering, knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance" (Rom. ii. 4). The benignity of God in creating us should move us to penance. They who cry, "We have sinned, and what evil hath befallen us, despise the riches of His goodness." Let our cry rather be, "I have sinned, and indeed I have offended; I have not received what I have deserved, for by my sin I actually defied and rebelled against the God, whose love has created me and bestowed on me all I had, and whose power alone sustained me even in my sin." When you come to die, my brethren, the priest will recommend your soul
to God in the words of the Ritual, "Remember, he is Thy creature, not made by strange gods but by Thee, the only true God." And each day holy Church makes the same plea for mercy in her office. "Let us weep before the Lord who made us, for he is the Lord our God and we are His people and the sheep of His pasture" (Ps. xciv). It reminds God of His love for us. For only out of love could God have made us. Unaided reason might have told us this, but God's word has set it beyond a doubt: "With an everlasting love have I loved thee, therefore have I drawn thee taking pity on thee." It was because He loved us with an everlasting love that He has drawn us out of our nothingness and created us .
And He has made us so that He must be ever near us. "He made me and placed His hand upon me." Yes! nearer than a mother is to her child is the great God to your soul. "Can a mother forget her child so as not to have pity upon it? yea, though she should forget I will not forget thee!" His hand must ever be upon us. His mind must ever be thinking of us, or we should cease to be. Creation has brought our God so near to us that, as the Apostle says, "In Him we move and live and have our being."
s a bird in the air, as a fish in the sea, so is your soul in the hand of God. Now, do we realize this ? Had we lived by our faith and understood we were in God's hand, should we have dared to sin? For sin is defying God. Sin is, as we have seen, rebelliously leaving the Lord our God in thought and affection. The devil holds up some forbidden fruit which he knows will allure our concupiscence, our evil propensities, our bad desires; a means of taking revenge, an opportunity of acquiring an unjust gain, the gratification of our sensuality: like Eve our passion sees the fruit, that it is fair to the eye and good to the taste and beautiful to behold, and longs to possess it. Conscience, which is the echo the voice of God, forbids it, "Thou shalt not." Then comes the pause and the struggle: a hesitation, less and less as the
sinner hardens in sin, but always sufficient to allow the will to make a conscious choice of evil, and in that deliberate choice of a great evil is mortal sin. "I know that it is wrong; I know, great God, that Thou dost say, 'Thou shalt not"; but I am my own master, I can do as I like, and I tell Thee that I will." "They have broken my yoke, they have burst my hands, they have said, 'I will not serve.'"
ow, I say, were God really at a distance in the far off heavens, as the sinner imagines Him to be, this would still be bad enough. But, remember, even when you sin, God is holding you. In very truth you sin in the hand of God. Not merely in His presence or under His eye, but whilst He holds you helpless in His hand.
od took His prophet Jeremias and shewed him the potter working at his wheel. He was fashioning vessels out of clay. But one piece was hard and would not fashion. The potter tried to mould it, but failed. At last, losing patience, he cast it from him and it broke into a thousand fragments. And said God to his prophet, "Cannot I do with you, O House of Israel, as the potter with his clay?" (Jer. xviii. 6.)
ou are His member, body and soul. You belong to Him, for He made you. "What hast thou that thou hast not received,
and if thou hast received, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" (i Cor. iv. 7.) And if you harden your heart against Him, if you will not let Him fashion you as He wishes, if you turn a deaf ear to His inspirations, may not that word be said to you, "Can not I do with thee as the potter with his clay?" "He has lifted you up with infinite love," drawing you out of nothingness, taking pity on you with infinite love, holding and supporting you in your existence. If you defy Him, I say, cannot He cast you down ? And if He has not done so, is it not because He loves
you and wants to pardon you ? And should not this goodness of your Creator move you to penance?
hen, by a holy device, the saintly hermit Paphnucius had made the sinful woman Thais understand that all her sins had
been committed in the presence of God, she was filled with shame and remorse. She threw herself in bitterest grief at his feet and asked how she could ever atone to God for the scandal of her wicked life. He gave her a great penance. At his command she gathered together all her possessions: her robes, her ornaments, her treasures, the rewards of her sin, and of them all she made a great bonfire in the square of the city, which her life had scandalized. Then she followed him into the desert where he prepared a cell for her, in which she passed the remaining three years of her life in awful austerity. And he gave her as a penance to say this prayer: "Thou who has fashioned me, have mercy on me." It was the only prayer she had the courage to say. She dare not call on the name of God, she felt too keenly her unworthiness.
She could plead no one good act in all her life of sin. But this she could say; this she could plead, she was the work of God's hand: "Thou who has fashioned me, have mercy on me." And we can plead that, too, we too have sinned. We make no boast of being His creatures as the Jews boasted they were children of Abraham. We have lost all right to that, but we are His creatures still, and if His benignity moveth us to penance, we can hope for pardon now. "Let us weep before the Lord that made us, for He is the Lord our God, and we are His people and the sheep of His pasture."
ut now besides the evil of rebellion we must see in sin the bitterness of ingratitude. "Hear, oh ye heavens, and give ear, oh earth, for the Lord hath spoken, 'I have brought up children and exalted them, and they have despised Me' " (Is. i. 2). If God so felt the bitterness of sin under the old law, how keenly must He feel it now. Has He not manifested his love by acts expressed in terms of human tenderness? "My thoughts toward you," He had said, "are thoughts of peace." These thoughts, though indeed thoughts of love, were hidden in the bosom of God. But when the fulness of time was come and God sent His Son, then was that love at last made manifest. "The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour hath appeared" (Tim. iii. 4).
t appeared in the manger at Bethlehem, in the workshop at Nazareth, in the hamlets of Galilee, in the streets of Jerusalem, and above all, on the Cross of Calvary. "And we have seen it" and have known it was the love of God for us. "He hath loved me and delivered Himself for me." Poor Jesus! As St. Alphonsus sighs. He had thought to draw us with the cords of Adam. "When I shall be lifted up I shall draw all things unto Me." And yet when He was lifted up, when He had manifested His love by dying upon the Cross for us, though the sun was darkened and the rocks were rent and all nature was thrown into confusion, man remained callous and unmoved, nay, scoffing and defiant. And what has been our attitude? "They who sin grievously crucify again to themselves the Son of God, making Him a mockery." In heart and desire, as far as in you lay, you have taken part in this cruel outrage against your God. With the Jews you have cried, "We will not have this man to rule over us. We have no king but Caesar."
ooot God, but Mammon. Not Jesus, but my passion, my pride, my impurity. Let these rule over me. Away with Jesus.
"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, making Him a mockery. Worse than the Jews, for "had they known they would never have put to death the King of Glory." You have known you are a child of the Faith whom God Himself has enlightened. And oh, how bitterly has God felt it. "Had an enemy done this," He cries, "I could well have borne it; but that you, one who has broken sweetmeats with Me." And that has been hard to bear. "Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, ye earth, I have brought up children and exalted them, and they have despised Me." Oh, think how the good God has brought you up and exalted you. Recall to mind the church of your home and of your childhood. See there the font where you were baptized. God made you His child there. He rescued you
from hell and without any merit on your part gave you a strict right to heaven.
here in that confessional He cleansed your soul from its stains and washed it in His own most precious Blood: how generously and how often! And at those altar rails He prepared for you the banquet "containing in itself all sweetness," feeding your needy soul with that Bread that came down from heaven, His own Body and Blood. And after all this and a thousand other manifestations of an infinitely tender love He has to lament and cry, "They have despised me." That is what we have done when we sinned. "Hear, oh ye heavens and give ear, ye earth, I have brought up children and exalted them, and they have
despised me." Despised our God. My dear brethren, think of this. Consider and see what an evil and bitter thing it is for thee to have left the Lord thy God. I leave you now in the presence of your God, your Creator and your Redeemer. Remember just as, if repentant, we can plead that we are His creatures and be sure of obtaining pardon from our Creator, so even more efficaciously still can we plead the Precious Blood with our Redeemer and hope for mercy.