“Art thou willing to lose the grace of God, which thou hast regained, and which is worth more than all the world, in order to obtain that miserable satisfaction? Dost thou wish to write the sentence of thy eternal death to condemn thyself to burn for ever in hell?” Thou sayest, No, I do not wish to condemn myself, I wish to be saved; if I commit this sin I will confess it afterwards. Tell me, whether, if thou hadst a jewel in thy hand, which was worth a very large sum of money, wouldst thou throw it into the river saying, “Presently I will search carefully, and then I shall hope to find it again?” but thou hast in thy hand that most beautiful jewel thy soul, which Jesus Christ has bought with His Blood; and thou art willingly throwing it into hell for by sinning thou art already condemned according to the present justice and thus casting it away, thou art saying, I hope to regain it by confessing.
Thou sayest, ” I am not strong enough to resist that temptation;” this is the second delusion of the devil who tries to make thee feel that thou hast not strength to resist the present passion. Firstly, we must understand that God, as the Apostle tells us, is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. (1 Cor. x. 13.) Moreover, I ask thee, if now thou art not strong enough to resist, how canst thou gain strength afterwards? Afterwards, the enemy will not cease to tempt thee to commit other sins; and then he will be much stronger against thee, and thou wilt be much weaker. If therefore, now thou art not strong enough to extinguish that flame, how wilt thou be able to do so, when the flame is much greater?
The sinner exclaims, “But God is merciful!” This is the third delusion which is common to sinners, and through which so many are lost. A learned author observes, that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than the justice of God; because these miserable ones, boldly trusting in His mercy, never cease to sin, and thus are they lost. God is very merciful. Who is there that can say He is not? But notwithstanding this, how many are there who are daily sent to hell? God is merciful but He is also just, and for that reason He is obliged to punish those who offend Him. He uses mercy, but to whom? Even to those who fear Him. ” So great is His mercy also toward them that fear Him So is the Lord merciful unto them that fear Him.” (Ps 11-13.) But to those who abuse His mercy, He executes His justice upon them. And very rightly. God pardons sin; but He cannot pardon the wish to sin.
Bernard of Clairvaux
Talks on the Song of Songs
When you are troubled by your sin and fear God’s judgment, you have kissed the footprint of judgment. When you consider God’s love and hope to receive forgiveness, you have kissed the foot of mercy. It is a mistake to kiss one and not the other. If you consider judgment only, you will slip into depression. If you pin all your hope on God’s mercy you will not be as secure as you think.
I am a poor example, but even I have been honored to find myself at Jesus’ feet. I have lovingly kissed both of them as much as he permitted. If I became preoccupied with one or the other the results were dismaying. Concentrating too much on judgment, I became miserably dismayed. ‘Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you’ (Ps 90:11). Focusing on the foot of mercy made me neglect my soul. I prayed shallowly, worked poorly, and said inappropriate things. My experience demonstrates that it is not enough to consider only judgment, or only mercy. ‘I will sing of your love and justice.’ (Ps 101:1).”
Thomas à Kempis
Work especially to overcome those vices in yourself which most disturb you in others. Wherever you go, profit from the example of others. When you observe virtuous examples, emulate them. When you observe vicious examples, avoid them. As you consider the work of others, remember also that your works, too, are being observed.
How sweet and pleasing it is, to see our brothers who are fervent and devout, obedient and well-taught. How sad and grievous it is, to see our brothers who walk disordered paths, not applying themselves to that for which they are made.
How hurtful it is, to see our brothers neglect their calling and neglect those who have been entrusted to their care, and set their minds to what is forbidden.
Be mindful of the purpose that has been set before you. Set always before you the image of Christ Crucified. If you lovingly behold Jesus’ afflicted face, you may well be ashamed. Ashamed that you have not better conformed your life to His, despite all the time you have been on the way of God.
A man should inwardly and seriously exercise himself in the most holy life and passion of our Lord. He will find there abundantly all he needs. Neither will he need to seek anywhere else, apart from Jesus. If only Jesus crucified were more often in our hearts and minds, how quickly we would be filled with everything we need. A fervent and diligent man is thus prepared for all things and cheerfully obedient to all God’s commands.