Think Well On't: 21st day
THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY. On doing penance for our sins. CONSIDER these words of Christ: Luke xiii. 3. 5. Except you do penance, you shall all perish. Behold here a general rule; nor does our Lord make any exception. Penance then is necessary, first, for all those whose conscience accuses them of mortal sin: alas! such as these must either do penance for their sins, or burn for them for all eternity. Poor sinners! their state is most deplorable! they are playing upon the brink of hell, and every moment one or another of them is tumbling down into that bottomless pit; and is it possible they should be so unconcerned under so great and evident a danger? Why then do they not lay hold of the grace of penance, the only plank that can save them after shipwreck; the only means left for the salvation of their souls. Secondly, penance is necessary for all those, who though their conscience accuses them not at present, yet have in their past life been guilty of such mortal offences. Ah! Christians, any one mortal sin is enough for us to do penance for all our life. And how can we do less, if we consider what mortal sin is; what it is to have been the enemies of God; what it is to have been under the sentence of eternal damnation; and never certainly to know whether this sentence has been cancelled? Is not this sufficient to oblige us to a penitential life? Can we otherwise pretend to be secure? Even those, (and God knows best how few they are) who are not conscious to themselves of having committed any such sin in their whole life, must not therefore think themselves exempt from the obligation of doing penance, as well because of their hidden sins, as those which they may have occasioned in others; for no man knows whether he be worthy of love or hatred; Eccl. ix. 1. as also because a penitential life is the best security against sin, which will insensibly prevail over us, if not curbed by self-denial, mortification and penance.
2. Consider, that as to the method of penance, different rules must be prescribed to different persons. Those who have the misfortune to be actually in the state of mortal sin, or, what is still more deplorable, are plunged into the depth of a habit of one or more kinds of mortal sin, as soon as their eyes are opened to discover the hellish monster, which they carry about with them, must, like the prodigal child, arise without delay to return to their Father. A sacrifice of a contrite and humbled heart is what God above all things calls for at their hands; this ought to be the foundation of all their penance: without this, corporal austerities will be of small account. Such sinners ought to give themselves no rest, till they have made their peace with their God: their sins ought to be always before their eyes. Their first thoughts in the morning ought to be upon their misfortune, in being at so great a distance from their God, enslaved to the devil and liable to be his companions in eternal misery: the like ought to be their last thoughts at night; when, like the penitent David, they ought to wash their beds with their tears. As often as they appear before their God in prayer, it ought to be in the spirit of the humble publican, looking upon themselves as unworthy to lift up their eyes to heaven, or towards the altar of God; and with him, striking their breasts, with a: Lord be merciful to me a sinner. Thus will they certainly obtain mercy from him, who is the father of mercy.
3. Consider, that after the sinner has done his endeavours to seek a reconciliation with his offended God, by a sincere repentance and confession of his sins, he must not think himself exempt from any further penance, as if he had now no just debt to discharge to the justice of God, no obligation of making satisfaction for his sins by penitential works, and of bringing forth fruits worthy of penance. This would be a great and dangerous error. Nor must he content himself with barely acquitting himself of the penance enjoined by his confessor, which, it is to be feared, seldom is sufficient to satisfy fully the justice of God. Alas! if sinners were truly sensible of the enormous injury done to God by mortal sin, as true penitents must be, they would certainly do penance in another manner than too many do; they would be more in earnest in chastising their own sinful flesh by penitential works, thus making a more proportionable satisfaction for their past treasons.
4. Consider, that the true manner of doing penance for our sins, is better learnt from the holy fathers and doctors of the church, than from the loose maxims of worldlings, or the practice of too many penitents in this degenerate age. Let us give ear then to those lights of the church, and follow their directions on this important subject. "God himself has taught us," says St. Cyprian, (Z. de Lapsis) "in what manner we are to crave mercy of him; he himself says: return to me with your whole heart, in fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Joel ii. Let us then return to the Lord with our whole heart; let us appease his wrath by fasting, weeping and mourning, as he admonishes us. Let the greatness of our grief equal the heinousness of our sins. We must pray earnestly; we must pass the day in mourning, and the night in watching and weeping, spending all our time in penitential tears. Our lodging should be on the floor strewed with ashes; our covering hair-cloth &c. After having cast off the garment of Christ, we should not now seek any worldly clothing. We must employ ourselves now in good works, by which our sins may be purged away. We must give frequent alms, by which our souls may be delivered from death." So far St. Cyprian. With whom agrees St. Pacian, in his Exhortation to Penance. If any one call you to the bath, you must renounce all such delights. If any one invite you to a banquet, you must say: such invitations are for those that have not had the misfortune to lose their God. I have sinned against the Lord, and am in danger of perishing eternally. What have I to do with feasts, who have offended my God? You must make your court to the poor; you must beg the prayers of widows; you must cast yourself at the feet of the priests; you must implore the intercession of the church: you must try all means which may prevent your perishing everlastingly." And St. Ambrose: 2. B. of Penance, c. X. *' Can any one imagine that he is doing penance, whilst he is indulging his ambition in the pursuit of honours, whilst he is following wine &c. The true penitent must renounce the world, must abridge even the necessary time of sleep, must interrupt it with his sighs, and cut it short with his prayers." And St. Caesarius of Aries. Hom. viii. ** As often as we visit the sick, or those that are in prison, or reconcile together those that are at variance one with another; as often as we fast on days commanded by the church; give alms to the poor that pass by our door, &c. — by these, and such like works, our small sins are daily redeemed. But this alone is not enough for capital crimes; we must add tears and lamentations, and long fasts; and give large alms to the utmost of our power." Thus, as the same saint tells us: Hom. i.. '^ By present mortification will be prevented the future sentence of eternal death; thus by humbling the guilty will the guilt be consumed: and by this voluntary severity, the wrath of a dreadful judge will be appeased. These short penitential labours will pay off those vast debts, which otherwise everlasting burning will never be able to discharge." Christians, let us follow in practice these excellent guides.

 any one invite you to a banquet, you must say: such invitations are for those that have not had the misfortune to lose their God

Someone better tell our Lord. Apparently He didn't get the memo.


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