It is the opinion of many holy fathers –of St. Basil, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and others–that as God (according to the words of Scripture, Wis. xi. 21–“Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight”) has fixed for each the number of his days, the degrees of health and talent which He will give to him, so He has also determined the number of sins which he will pardon; and when this number is completed, he will pardon no more. And these fathers have not spoken at random, but resting on the sacred Scriptures. In one place the Lord says that He restrained His vengeance against the Amorrhites, because the number of their sins was not as yet filled up– “For as yet the iniquities of the Amorrhites are not at the full.” –Gen. xv. 16. In another place He says, “I will not add any more to have mercy on the house of Israel.” –Osee i. 6. Again he says, “All the men who have tempted me ten times . . . . shall not see the land.”–Num. xiv. 22, 23. “Thou hast,” says Job, “sealed up my offences as it were in a bag.” –Job xiv. 17. Sinners keep no account of their sins; but God keeps an account of them, that when the harvest is ripe,–that is, when the number of sins is completed,–he may take vengeance on them. “Put ye in the sickles; for the harvest is ripe.”–Joel iii.
St Alphonsus Liguori writes these terrifying words in his book on meditations of death. This book, Preparation for Death: Considerations on Eternal Truths, is a book I wish I had read in my twenties. Now, in my late middle-age, I see that I have not understood God’s ways.
His ways are not our ways, the Scriptures tell us, but St. Alphonsus presents the hard truth about God’s discipline regarding sins. This saint scares the hell into us. Let me quote another section and then make a few comments.
St. Gregory relates that a child of five years, for uttering a blasphemy, was condemned to hell. The most holy Virgin revealed to that great servant of God, Benedicta of Florence, that a girl twelve years old was damned after her first sin. A boy of eight years died after his first sin, and was lost. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we find that the Lord instantly cursed the fig-tree the first time he saw it without fruit. “May no fruit grow on thee forever. And immediately the fig-tree withered away.”–Matt, xxi. 19. Another time God said, “For three crimes of Damascus, and for four, I will not convert it.”–Amos i. 3. Perhaps some daring sinner may have the temerity to demand an account of God why He pardons some three sins, but not four. In this we must adore the judgments of God, and say with the apostle, “O depth of the riches, of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments, and unsearchable His ways!”–Rom. xi. 33. The Lord, says St. Augustine, knows whom He spares, and whom He does not spare. To those who receive mercy He gives it gratuitously; from those who do not receive mercy, it is justly withheld.
There are millions of Catholics who do not believe that most people go to hell, even most Christians. This false security is owing to years of bad teaching from the pulpit and in the schools regarding salvation. Yes, everyone who has ever been born has been given salvific grace, that is, grace for salvation. God gives this to all humans….ALL.
However, God is under no rule of ours to keep giving grace after grace in order to bring us back to Him. He has numbered our sins. This should cause us to fear losing our souls for all eternity. To keep sinning and to think one has one more hour to live or day to get to Confession, is folly.
King Saul disobeyed God only twice, was deprived of further graces, fell into depression, and then committed suicide. He was not given more graces to repent, and is an example to this day of the arrogance of those who “push the envelope” with God. Look at the references to the great Doctors of the Church who wrote that God has given us a number of days and a number of sins. When that number is met, there is no more pardon.
Scary, but true.
There are millions of Catholics who think that there are no children in hell. St. John Bosco assured us there were. Even, Mary Our Mother, the Perfect Woman, told the children at Fatima that one young lady would be in purgatory until the end of the world for her sins.
Let me quote St. John Bosco, from his vision of hell. This is a short section from a longer treatise the saint wrote after being taken to hell by an angel.
I looked up in terror and saw in the distance someone racing down the path at an uncontrollable speed. I kept my eyes on him, trying to identify him, and as he got closer, I recognized him as one of my boys. His disheveled hair was partly standing upright on his head and partly tossed back by the wind. His arms were outstretched as though he were thrashing the water in an attempt to stay afloat. He wanted to stop, but could not. Tripping on the protruding stones, he kept falling even faster. “Let’s help him, let’s stop him,” I shouted, holding out my hands in a vain effort to restrain him.
“Leave him alone,” the guide replied.
“Don’t you know how terrible God’s vengeance is? Do you think you can restrain one who is fleeing from His just wrath?”
Meanwhile the youth had turned his fiery gaze backward in an attempt to see if God’s wrath were still pursuing him. The next moment he fell tumbling to the bottom of the ravine and crashed against the bronze portal as though he could find no better refuge in his flight.
“Why was he looking backward in terror?” I asked.
“Because God’s wrath will pierce Hell’s gates to reach and torment him even in the midst of fire!”
As the boy crashed into the portal, it sprang open with a roar, and instantly a thousand inner portals opened with a deafening clamor as if struck by a body that had been propelled by an invisible, most violent, irresistible gale. As these bronze doors — one behind the other, though at a considerable distance from each other — remained momentarily open, I saw far into the distance something like furnace jaws sprouting fiery balls the moment the youth hurtled into it. As swiftly as they had opened, the portals then clanged shut again. For a third time I tried to jot down the name of that unfortunate lad, but the guide again restrained me. “Wait,” he ordered.
Three other boys of ours, screaming in terror and with arms outstretched, were rolling down one behind the other like massive rocks, I recognized them as they too crashed against the portal. In that split second, it sprang open and so did the other thousand. The three lads were sucked into that endless corridor amid a long-drawn, fading, infernal echo, and then the portals clanged shut again. At intervals, many other lads came tumbling down after them. I saw one unlucky boy being pushed down the slope by an evil companion. Others fell singly or with others, arm in arm or side by side. Each of them bore the name of his sin on his forehead. I kept calling to them as they hurtled down, but they did not hear me. Again the portals would open thunderously and slam shut with a rumble. Then, dead silence!
“Bad companions, bad books, and bad habits,” my guide exclaimed, “are mainly responsible for so many eternally lost.”
We could add bad music, bad movies, bad video games, wasting time, blasphemy, cursing, fornication, and the long list of sins we see those in our world committing daily.
Sobering, as our sins are numbered.
The above boys died as children. When St. Alphonsus refers to children, it makes me understand even more the rigours of raising children to be saints. How many parents will go to hell for not tending to the souls of their children?
There is a famous story of St. Pio, Padre Pio, regarding a woman who wanted to come to Confession to him. He sensed she was in the room and raced out of the confessional and yelled at her, and I paraphrase, “Go away and repent. Your son is in hell because of you.”
Remember this, parents and grandparents.
Pray for mercy. Pray to Our Lady as St. Alphonsus teaches us. Pray to Our Gracious Lord.
Give me grace, then, O my Jesus, through Thy merits, to recommend myself to Thee, and to ask Thy aid in my wants. I love thee, O Sovereign Good, amiable above every good ; I wish to love Thee alone; but it is from Thee I must receive aid to love Thee. O Mary, my mother, do Thou also assist me by Thy intercession; keep me under Thy protection, and make me always invoke Thee when I shall be tempted. Thy name shall be my defence.
Jamie Hunter is a political commentator and writer living in Great Britain.
JMJ, Pray for us!
God is good,