THE FOUR LAST THINGS ---- DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN
FATHER MARTIN VON COCHEM, O.S.F.C.
Father Martin von Cochem was born at Cochem, on the Moselle,
in the year 1625, and died at Waghausel in 1712.
“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
HOLY REDEEMER LIBRARY
Nihil Obstat: Thomas L Kinkead, Censor Liborium
Imprimatur: Michael Augustine --- Archbishop of New York (New York October 5, 1899)
Copyright, 1899, by Benziger Brothers
PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT.
VIII. On the Reason why Christs Appearance on the Day of Final Judgment will be Terrible,
and on the Heinousness of Mortal Sin.
THE reader may, perchance, be inclined to ask the reason why Christ, the same Christ who lived amongst us on earth in all gentleness and meekness, should wear so terrible an aspect when He comes to be our Judge? There are a great many reasons why Christ in this capacity should judge mankind with such awful severity. The principal one is because He has been most grievously outraged by the sins of men.
Theologians assert that every mortal sin is in itself an infinite evil, and is an infinite affront to the Divine majesty. It is an offence of such magnitude that neither the tongue of Angels nor of men is capable of describing it. It will be understood, therefore, that as in every mortal sin there is malice of so deep a dye, it must deeply wound the Divine Heart of Jesus, and provoke Him to just anger against the individual who has been guilty of that sin. And in order that it may be more apparent how just the ire of God is, when roused by mortal sin, it will be well to explain more clearly how great is the insult offered to God by wilful sin. Imagine the three Divine persons of the Most Holy Trinity to be on one side, with their infinite treasures of grace and glory, and on the other side the spirit of evil with all the punishments and torments of Hell; and a man standing in the midst betwixt the two, debating within himself whether he should show honour to God by doing His will, or whether he should act in violation of His will, and thereby cause the devil to rejoice. If the man commits the sin, he acts towards God, and God regards his action, exactly as if he uttered these blasphemous words, or others of the same nature:
"I do indeed believe, O God, that I was created by Thine almighty power, redeemed by Thy mercy, made a child of predilection by Thy bounty, I know that Thou hast promised me eternal life, all the sweetest bliss of Heaven. I am also well aware that this accursed Satan, Thy great enemy and mine, is prepared to strip me of all that is good, and hurl me down into everlasting perdition. And yet because Satan tempts me now, because he suggests to me a thought of unchastity, a desire for revenge, a movement of envy, I choose rather to yield to this impulse and thereby render myself deserving of everlasting punishment, than resist and repel the evil suggestion and thus merit Heaven hereafter and spiritual graces now. Therefore, I deliberately and of my own free will, turn from Thee, O God; I follow by choice this hateful demon, whom I obey in preference to Thee. Although Thou art my God and my Lord, although Thou hast forbidden us to transgress Thy law, although sin is an infinite offence against Thee, yet I do not care, I will commit sin all the same, I will not desist because it is an outrage to Thee.
Nay, more, if I could do all that in the malice of my heart I would do, I should rob Thee of Thy God head, I should cast Thee down from Thy throne, and in Thy place I should set up sin, and worship that as my god. I love sin, I desire to revel in it, and find in it my sole happiness."
Such blasphemies as these words express are terrible, and cannot be read without a shudder. Yet every man who wilfully and in defiance of God’s law commits a mortal sin is guilty of blaspheming God in the like manner. What wonder, then, that God is so deeply offended by mortal sin. But we have not yet shown the full extent of the malice of sin it goes still farther ; it is doubly offensive to God because the sinner not only manifests contempt for God the Father, he also sets at naught His beloved Son, the Second Person of the Divine Trinity. By every wilful sin he seems to say: "It is true Thou didst become man for me, Thou didst seek for me for three and thirty years, as a sheep that was lost; Thou didst endure hunger and thirst, heat and cold, and all manner of hardships for my sake, whilst Satan has done nothing of the sort for me; on the contrary, he pursues me day and night and strives to ensnare me. In spite of this I prefer to belong to him rather than to Thee. I prefer to please him, and grieve Thee.
"Is it true, O my Redeemer, that for my sake Thou wast torn with scourges, crowned with thorns, fastened with nails to the Cross and put to death amid bitter tortures; yet for all this I offer Thee no thanks. Nay more, although I know that by my sins I scourge Thee, I crucify Thee, I put Thee to death anew, yet I will not forsake my sins; I will trample upon Thy precious blood, I will adore Satan instead of Thee; I will make him my dearest friend and do my utmost to give him pleasure."
Again I ask, are not these utterances blasphemous in the extreme? Do they not show the blackest ingratitude on the part of the sinner towards his Saviour? One can scarcely imagine that a Christian would grieve his Redeemer in so shameful a manner. And yet there are many thousands who, if not in words, yet in deeds, address such language to their Saviour.
In the third place, the audacious sinner outrages and defies the Holy Spirit of God, for his actions are equivalent to expressions such as these: "Thou, O Holy Ghost, hast certainly sanctified my soul, cleansed it in the blood of Christ and beautified it by Thy grace. I know that Thy sanctifying grace is so precious that every soul which is adorned by it thereby becomes a daughter of the heavenly Father, a sister of the Divine Son, a spouse of the Holy Ghost, the dwelling-place of the Most Holy Trinity, a temple of the sovereign Godhead, an heir of eternal felicity, a friend of Angels and Saints, yet what do I trouble myself about these exalted prerogatives, what do I care for this priceless pearl, this costly jewel? Away with them; I will cast this pearl, this jewel to the dogs and swine, to wit, my evil passions. I will sacrifice all to them, I will serve sin and live in sin."
Seest thou not now, O reader, how hateful sin is, how shocking the nature of the sinner, how infinite the offence against God, the contempt of God which is inseparable from sin? Art thou not convinced that God has just cause to feel holy indignation against sin and the slaves of sin, and to condemn the sinner to everlasting damnation?
And if the wrath of God, who is infinite in sanctity and justice, is aroused to such an extent by one single mortal sin, how greatly must He, the just and holy One, be angered and offended by the millions upon millions of shameless and shameful sins daily committed not only by Jews and heathens, but also by Christians! All this anger, all this sense of outraged dignity at insult offered, which the sinner arouses within the Heart of God, is treasured up until the Day of Judgment. The holy sacrifice of the Mass and the powerful intercession of the Saints as yet restrains the Divine arm from executing vengeance.
But when mankind have filled up the measure of their iniquities, the day of wrath shall come. No one can form a conception of how awful the outpouring of the wrath of God upon sinners will be. In the Psalms we read: "Who knoweth the power of Thy anger, and for Thy fear can number Thy wrath?" (Ps. Ixxxix. ii.)
Woe, then, to us poor sinners ! Then for the first time we shall appreciate aright what we have done and how deeply we have offended God by our grievous sins. The wrath of God is so boundless that neither the Mother of God, nor all the Angels and Saints have any power to diminish or restrain it; it will turn with holy zeal and mete out to every man his deserts with rigorous justice. Hear what the Judge Himself says of this, His wrath, by the mouth of the prophet Ezechiel: "Now, thou son of man, is an end come upon thee, and I will send My wrath upon thee, and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and I will set all thy abominations against thee, and My eye shall not spare thee, and I will show thee no pity" (Ezech. vii. 3, 4).
These are truly terrible words, and the threat they contain is most appalling. Oh, how unsparing will be the judgment to which God, who has been offended by transgressions so innumerable, will summon all mankind.
Alas for me and for thee, if we find ourselves amid the countless multitude of sinners, and God cannot in justice spare us ! What shall we do, that we may not fall into the hands of the angry Judge?
We must abandon the way of iniquity, and now, while there is yet time, make our peace with the Judge whom we have offended. Let us awaken from time to time sincere contrition for our sins, employing these or similar expressions of sorrow:
Most just Judge of the living and the dead, I acknowledge before Thee that I have sinned often and grievously. I have forsaken my Father in Heaven; I have crucified Thee, my Redeemer; I have grieved the Holy Spirit and trifled away His grace. I have done this by the countless sins I have committed in thought, word and deed. Through my transgressions I have incurred the penalty of everlasting death. But since Thou willest not the death of the sinner, but rather that he should do penance and live, let me experience here the effect of Thy justice, which is ever wedded to mercy. All the trials that Thou sendest me in this life I will thankfully receive from Thy hand, and kiss the rod whereby Thou dost chastise me with paternal 1 severity in order that at the Day of Judgment I may find mercy, and Thou mayst grant me a place in the ranks of Thine elect. Amen.