THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN
Mortal sin makes a man supremely unhappy. Many are the scourges of the sinner (Ps. xxxi. 10). God calls to the sinner, saying: “Know thou and see that it is an evil and bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God” (Jer. ii. 19). A man who has forsaken God meets with a similar fate to the man who went from Jerusalem the dwelling place of the living God down through rough ways to Jericho. The punishment of sin follows immediately upon it, although the Day of Judgment is not yet come.
1. Mortal sin deprives a man of sanctifying grace, and delivers him into the power of the devil.
The Holy Ghost departs immediately from one who has committed a mortal sin. As the dove will not remain in unclean places, so the Holy Ghost will not remain in a heart that is denied by mortal sin. The ungodly say to God: “Depart from us” (Job xxii. 17). Mortal sin is a thief, for if it gains access to the soul, it robs it of grace, its most precious treasure. It is the death of the soul; a man killeth in deed through malice (Wisd. xvi. 14). Sin when it is completed, begetteth death (Jas. i. 15). Thus there are men who live and yet are dead. “Sinners,” says St. John Chrysostom, “are dead while they live, and the just live after they are dead.” “Thou dost weep,” says St. Augustine, “over a body from which the soul has departed, but not over a soul from which God has withdrawn Himself.” When God abandons the soul, the devil enters into it. By mortal sin the temple of the Holy Ghost is transformed into a den of robbers, the sister of the angels into the companion of fallen spirits. As a ship that has lost her rudder is driven about at the mercy of the current, so the soul that has lost divine grace is driven by Satan into perdition. Sin gives the devil power over the soul, for through sin man places himself under servitude to obey the devil (Rom. vi. 16). As every one thinks he may treat a widow as he chooses, as she has no one to protect her, so the demons do not hesitate to set upon the sinner; they cry: “God hath forsaken him; pursue him and take him, for there is none to deliver him” (Ps. Ixx. 11). The loss of sanctifying grace entails upon the sinner the following terrible consequences: (1) He loses the supernatural beauty of the soul and becomes un clean before God; (2) He loses charity towards God and towards his neighbor; (3) His understanding is completely darkened, arid his will immensely weakened; (4) He loses the merit of all the good works he had previously performed, and none of those which he does in a state of mortal sin gain for him a reward hereafter; (5) Finally, he is liable to fall into other mortal sins.
Through mortal sin we lose the supernatural beauty of the soul and become unclean before God.
Mortal sin is to the soul what decay is to an apple; the rottenness destroys the color, the scent, the flavor of the fruit, all, in short, that gives it worth and beauty; so sin robs the soul of all that makes it fair and precious. It would be a sore blow to a bride if she were to be so much disfigured by a severe illness as to become an object of repulsion to her betrothed; it is much the same with the soul that is guilty of mortal sin; she is thereby so much disfigured that Christ, her Spouse, regards her with aversion. Through mortal sin charity to God and to one’s neighbor is lost. When the earth travels away from the sun, winter sets in; so the heart of man becomes cold when it is estranged from God by mortal sin; the flame of charity is then extinguished. The understanding is completely darkened by mortal sin. As heavy clouds hide the light of the sun from our sight and involve us in darkness, so mortal sin obscures the eye of reason, and renders us incapable of perceiving the brightness of the Sun of justice. A man who has fallen into mortal sin perceiveth not, as the Apostle says, the things that are of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. ii. 14). As a mirror covered with mildew no longer reflects the objects presented to it, so the soul which is sunk in sin can no longer receive the impressions of divine grace. The sinner is blinded, and fails as fully to see the misery and danger of his condition as one who wanders in the darkness of night beside a quarry; were the sinner in a state of grace, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he would be no less startled and alarmed at his spiritual condition than the traveller would be on perceiving in the daylight what a perilous path he had trodden. By reason of this blindness sinners are often gay and light-hearted in spite of their deplorable state. As the maniac laughs frantically while he tears his own flesh, so our erring brethren make merry while in their madness they inflict serious in jury on their soul. A living body feels the prick of a needle; not so a corpse. Thus it is with the soul: As long as it preserves its life, it is sensitive to the least sin; but if it be dead, it experiences no stings of conscience, even if it be guilty of grievous crimes. Through mortal sin the will is immensely weakened. When the cold is extreme one’s limbs are benumbed and paralyzed; so by mortal sin man loses the power to do what is good. He is held captive by mortal sin, as a bird is by bird-lime. Through mortal sin we lose the merit of all the good works we have previously performed. God says by the mouth of His prophet: “If the just man turn himself from his justice and do iniquity, all his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered” (Ezech. xviii. 24). The just man who falls into mortal sin, may be compared to a merchant who has accumulated great treasures, and whose vessel founders just as he enters the harbor. Mortal sin sweeps away at one stroke all our good works and our merits, as a sharp frost cuts off all the fair flowers in one night, or as a hailstorm ruins the crops of a whole year. He who falls into mortal sin earns no reward in heaven for the good works he performs while in a state of sin. As a branch cut off from the vine withers away and bears no fruit, so a man who has lost sanctifying grace can do no works that are meritorious. The apostles labored all night and took nothing; so the sinner during the night of sin cannot, in spite of his utmost exertions, gain any merit for heaven. The soul of a sinner is like a desert where nothing grows, but which is the haunt of reptiles and beasts of prey. How desolate is that spot where God is not! how parched without the dew of heaven, how sterile without the vivifying Sun of grace! One mortal sin makes it easy to commit others. When the soul has left the body, decomposition begins; and spiritual decay soon sets in v/hen the Holy Spirit has departed from the soul. A grievous sin which has not been effaced by penance is the precursor of many others, which follow it as its punishment. “The man,” says St. Augustine, “who persists in his iniquity, adds sin to sin.”
2. Mortal sin brings down upon the sinner both eternal damnation and temporal chastisement.
By mortal sin we incur eternal damnation. As one throws away an apple that is rotten throughout, so God repudiates the soul that is stained with mortal sin. He who has fallen into mortal sin has lost the wedding garment, i.e., sanctifying grace; he will be cast into the exterior darkness (Matt. xxii. 13). Mortal sin is an act of high treason against the King of kings. This crime of high treason is punished on earth by a long term of imprisonment; as the majesty of God infinitely exceeds that of any earthly monarch, the punishment of mortal sin is of eternal duration. The man who commits mortal sin is as foolish as Esau, who for one mess, sold his first birthright (Heb. xii. 16), since for the sake of a momentary gratification he relinquishes his title to the kingdom of heaven. Blessed Thomas More, when sentenced to death, would not be persuaded to acknowledge the royal supremacy, for he said: “How foolish should I be, were I to barter everlasting honor and felicity for the transient happiness of a few fleeting years.” Mortal sin brings temporal chastisements upon the sinner. God sends earthly punishments to restore the spiritual health of the sinner. The temporal penalty most certain to follow upon mortal sin is interior disquietude. Mortal sin destroys the serenity, the cheerfulness of the soul, as a high wind disturbs and ruffles the smooth surface of a lake. “The wicked are like the raging sea, that cannot rest” (Is. Ivii. 20). Apprehension and terror follow mortal sin like its shadow. He who lives in mortal sin, carries hell about with him (St. John Chrysostom). Remember the fate of the fratricide Cain (Gen. iv. 14). The sinner’s evil conscience daily calls to him: “Where is thy God?” (Ps. xli. 4.) What peace can the sinner enjoy when he knows that an almighty arm is uplifted against him? A flash of lightning, a peal of thunder, affects the sinner as much as the devout prayers of the faithful; in every sound he thinks to hear his sentence of condemnation. God has ordained that inordinate passions should be their own punishment. Spiritual consolations and sensual gratifications can no more co-exist than fire can mingle with water. Those who delight in worldly vanities are not capable of tasting spiritual joys. Mortal sin, moreover, brings temporal misfortunes on the sinner. Of this our first parents afford a striking example. They were driven out of paradise, condemned to labor in the sweat of their face, and made subject to death, because of their sin. The most ordinary consequence of sin is sickness; hence Our Lord said to the man whom He had cured: “Sin no more, lest some worse thing happen unto thee” (John v. 14). Want is sometimes the punishment of sin; witness the prodigal son (Luke xv.). The loss of property and of reputation are also consequences of sin, as is the case with thieves and drunkards. The guardian angels cease to protect those who give themselves up to sin. St. Basil says that as smoke drives away bees, so sin causes our good angel to depart. If a slave betrays his master, not his master alone, but all the members of his master’s household are enraged with him. As David’s servants were angry with Semei, who threw stones at the king, so the holy angels are displeased with the sinner who offends God. How great is man’s folly! He is afraid of eating anything deadly, but he does not fear deadly sin, which causes the death of the soul.
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