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Thursday, July 14, 2016

On the Anger of God Against the Vice of Impurity

On the Anger of God Against the Vice of Impurity
"I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth, from man even to beasts, from the creeping thing even to the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them (Gen. vi. 3, 6, 7.)." The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire from Heaven. And He destroyed these cities and all the country about, all the inhabitants of the cities, and all things that spring from the earth (Gen. xix. 24, 25)

by Fr. Franz Hunolt, 1691-1746

Subject: 1. There is no vice which so excites the anger of God. 2. None against which God has given more proofs of His anger, than the vice of lust and impure love. Text: "And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers."--Matth. xviii. 34.

Introduction: It was a great act of mercy on the part of this Lord to grant the humble petition of his servant, and not only to let him go free, and unpunished, but also to forgive him his debts. This parable, my dear brethren, is an image of the great mercy of God, in admitting to His friendship the sinner who has been guilty of countless crimes, on the sole condition of his being really sorry for them, a sorrow that he may have in a moment of time; and the sins thus forgiven, are forgiven for ever. Eternal praise and thanks to Thee, O most merciful God! What a happiness for me and other poor sinners, that we have to do with a God of such infinite goodness! Alas! how could I pay the debts I have contracted towards Thee by my sins, if Thou wert not so generous in forgiving them? But, oh, how ungrateful we are; it is this very goodness which makes many sinners offend with all the greater audacity and heap debt upon debt, thinking that they will have no difficulty in obtaining pardon afterwards.

Such presumption, my dear brethren, seems to be found chiefly among those who unfortunately form the largest class of sinners, I mean those who are addicted to impurity, and unlawful indulgence in sensual passion, as we have seen in the last sermon. What harm is it, they think, to gratify myself this once? It is a mere human failing; a natural weakness, which God must take pity on; it is a sin that He will easily forgive, as He knows how weak we are, etc. In that way people make nothing of it. I mean to speak against that erroneous and presumptuous opinion in to-day's sermon, and to show that there is no sin that deserves less patience, and towards which God has shown less patience, than the sin of impurity, and that generally speaking, God deals with the impure, as the master in today's Gospel did with his servant, when the latter incurred his anger the second time; "And his Lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers." To this end I say--

Plan of Discourse.

There is no vice which so excites the anger of God, as the vice of lust and impure love. That I will show in the first part. There is no vice against which God has given more proofs of His anger, than the vice of lust and impure love. That I will show in the second part.

O God of justice, grant that the threats of Thy anger and punishment may inspire us with a horror of this odious vice, that we may serve Thee with chaste bodies and souls; this we ask of Thee through the intercession of Thy Immaculate Mother, and the holy angels guardian.

What is the reason that the good and infinitely merciful God, Whose nature is goodness itself, and who loved us men even unto death, is so exasperated by one sin, that He pursues the sinner with His bitterest anger, as the Wise Man says: "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike (Wis. xiv. 9.); " so that He punishes that sin with hell? The nature of this sin itself is the answer to my question; for it is a contempt of God, or, as theologians say: "A turning away of the heart from the Creator," whom we should love above all things, "and attaching it to creatures," whom we should love only for God's sake. Every vice has the same bad quality; the ambitious man turns away from his Creator, to whom alone honor is due, and seeks empty esteem and praise from rational creatures. The avaricious man turns away his heart from God, who is the greatest good, and fixes it on lifeless things, such as money and worldly goods. So that it is true of all vices, that, "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike."

But there is hardly any sin which so turns away the heart of man from God, and attaches it to creatures, as the sin of impurity aud unchaste love. St. Thomas says : "Lust especially turns man away from God;" for it makes him forget God altogether, and despise Him, for the sake of a vile pleasure; as the Almighty Himself complains by the Prophet Ezechiel: "Thou hast cast Me off behind thy body (Ezech. xxiii. 35)." To make this clearer; there is no one who doubts that idolatry is a detestable sin, by which God is denied and abandoned; for by it, man subjects the Most High to the judgments of his own mind, and adores senseless stocks and stones as gods. But, due proportions being ohserved, this is what the impure man does, whose heart is attached to a creature by an unchaste passion. Is it not so? I take all to witness who have experienced this passion, and I ask them, if they do not show far more honor to the object of their idolatry, than to God? They have no longer any relish for God, and for divine things, as I have shown in aformer discourse; they have no zeal for piety and good works, no desire for heavenly goods, no fervor in prayer; their only desire is to stifle the reproaches of conscience, and to forget God, that they may sin without anxiety and thus lose God altogether. Their forgetfulness of God goes so far, that they value the love of the object of their sinful passion more than the love of God; so that they are prepared to give up all hopes of Heaven, and to forfeit all the divine promises of eternal joys, provided God leaves them the creature on whom they have fixed their hearts.

We never hear an avaricious man say to his money, or an ambitious man to his dignity, thou art my God. It is only impure passion which can bring a reasoning being to such a degree of madness. My heart, my soul, my treasure, such are the titles given to a miserable worm of the earth! And what is that but placing one's last end, and highest good in creatures? What is that but denying the true God, and adoring an earthly idol? Nay, according to Tertullian, there is a far greater degree of malice in impure love, on the part of a Christian, than in idolatry and denial of the faith. And he is quite right. Why? Because the Christian who denies God, and adores an idol, does so through fear of torture; while the unchaste man gives up God freely in order to gratify his passion. The unchaste man acts with full determination of the will; the apostate Christian acts through fear of pain. Which of the two, asks Tertullian, has the most to answer for?" Which is the worst apostate: he who denies Christ in torments, or he who denies Him in pleasure?"

Unhappy Christians, who, through fear of a tyrant, denied God, and adored stocks and stones! You have committed a fearful sin; but I pity you with all my heart, for the drawn swords that were to take your lives away, the crosses, wheels and gibbets on which you were to be tortured to death, the redhot irons and burning caldrons, the melted lead, the terrible rack and other instruments of torture, were held out to terrify you; and certainly they were enough to make the bravest hang back and deny his faith. Therefore, it is not so much to be wondered at if you outwardly apostatized. But you, wicked Christians, who reject your God, and adore a wretched creature, what excuse have you? What has forced you to do so? What torments have you had to fear? None; nothing but the wilfulness of an untamed passion has brought you to such a degree of impiety. Whose apostasy is the more shameful? Who are more deserving of the anger of God, you, or the renegades of old?

Besides, in what consisted the honor shown by the apostate Christians to idols? In bending the knee, or bowing the head, or burning a little incense; that is all they did to show their adoration of a creature; in most cases, their minds and hearts were still attached to the true God. But, impure man, what do you keep for your God? Nothing. And what do you offer to your idol? Everything without exception, that you can offer. Holy Job says: "I made a covenant with my eyes that I would not so much as think on a virgin (Job. xxxi. 1)." And why, O holy Prophet, were you so careful? "For what part should God above have in me, and what inheritance the Almighty from on high (Ibid. 2)?" If I allowed my eyes to wander at will, I should soon become a prey to impure desires, and then, what part would God have in me? In other sins and vices man leaves something for God; if the soul is stained, the body is not defiled; if the mind is turned away from God, the senses at least are free from sin. Impurity alone infects the whole being like a pestilence; eyes, ears, tongue, hands, memory, imagination, understanding, heart and will, all are occupied in lustful excesses; all are sacrificed to the sinful idol. Money and wealth, honor and good name, authority and dignity, sleep and rest, freedom and health, you are all counted as of no value; you are sacrificed at once for the sake of a miserable creature!

All natural inclinations, tendencies and proclivities, no matter how violent they are, are restrained, nay, even eradicated, if the object of the sinful passion requires it; a vindictive man forgives his enemy, if his idol intercedes for him; an irascible man becomes as meek as a lamb; a proud man is ready to humble himself; a coward grows bold; a brave man, as timid as a child; a miser turns into a spendthrift; a drunkard becomes temperate, and conquers the desire for drink, that he would otherwise hardly hope to conquer; even the impious man reforms in everything that concerns the other vices, if his idol expects it of him.

Holy law of God! Gospel of Jesus Christ! Life of the Incarnate God! Example of the Saints of God! Inspirations of the Holy Ghost! Exhortations of the angels guardian! Word of God, you cry so loud and so often, and command so earnestly the mortification of the passions, the denial of one's self, true humility and meekness, patience in trials, love of one's enemies, moderation in eating and drinking, and contempt of earthly goods! And what do you effect? Nothing at all in most cases; all your commands are neglected, all your power is insufficient to move the human heart. Men close their ears and refuse to listen to you; they look on it as an impossibility to do as you command. But when a brutish passion speaks, when a miserable creature shows by a look or a smile that such is her pleasure, oh, then, everything is easy, there is no difficulty any more in any act of obedience! Every joy and sorrow, and suffering and satisfaction of soul and body is shared with the object of unlawful love. What an idolatrous dependence of one's whole being on the whim of a mere creature!

And has not that jealous God, who wishes to be loved above all things, a right to be angry at such a crime? O God of infinite perfection, Thou hast created man for Thyself alone; Thou hast placed one great command above all others, and Thou sayest to each one, "Thou shalt love;" whom? None but the Lord thy God. Thou hast given us a heart, a soul, an understanding, a memory, a will, outward senses and bodily strength, and of these things our whole nature is made up, and with all these Thou commandest us to love Thee: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind (Matth. xxii. 37)." See, O Lord, how despite of Thee, the impure man does quite the contrary; his whole heart and mind and all his faculties of soul and body are given up to lust, and not even the least part of them is given to Thee; they are all devoted to the love of a wretched creature. And can any one call that a small vice, or try to make little of it? Can a sin of that kind be considered as a mere human frailty, which the merciful God will surely pardon? No, Christians; if every mortal sin excites the anger of God, because it means a turning away of the heart from Him in order to fix it on creatures, it follows as a matter of course that the vice of impurity and unchaste love is more deserving of the divine anger than any other sin, because it takes away the whole heart, the whole being from God, and devotes it to the love of a creature. And so it is, my dear brethren, as we learn from experience, for since the beginning of the World no vice has been so severely punished by God, as the vice of impurity and unchaste love, as I shall show in the

Second Part.

There are none of the divine perfections which I find so hard to understand as the mercy and patience of God in bearing with sinners. An Almighty Lord, who by one act of His will created Heaven and earth out of nothing, and who could create infinite numbers of them with just as little trouble; a Lord of infinite wisdom, who knows every movement of all His creatures from the highest angel to the lowest worm that crawls the earth, and whose knowledge extends to all the past and the future, without being disordered or wearied by the multiplicity and variety of its objects; an all-wise Lord whom the heavens and the earth cannot contain, and whom no space can enclose; an all-wise Lord who created so many different creatures in such beautiful order, that each has its appointed work to do, and without whose Providence not even a snow-flake falls to the ground; a Lord of infinite justice who cannot allow the least good act to go unrewarded, or the least bad one to be unpunished; a most holy Lord, at whose name all in Heaven and on earth and under the earth must tremble; a Lord infinitely happy, who is not in want of any creature to increase His happiness; a Lord of infinite beauty, from whom comes all that is beautiful, who has in Himself infinite good, and is worthy of infinite love for His own sake; these are perfections that our weak understanding must wonder at, but still it must acknowledge that they all belong to God in the highest degree.

But that such a great Lord should allow a creature, whom He can annihilate at any moment without any loss to Himself, to despise and treat Him contemptuously by mortal sin, while He bears the insult with the greatest patience, and even longs for the offending creature to return to Him; that is what I find most difficult to understand. Try to remember, O sinner, how new many years you have been at enmity with this great God! Count the sins you have committed. See what harm God has done you during that time, nay, reckon up rather the benefits He has been constantly heaping upon you, when He could have easily hurled you into hell; and then you may cry out, O God of patience and long-suffering, how inconceivably great is Thy mercy, to me a wretched sinner!

What am I to conclude from this, my dear brethren? That impurity must be an intolerable vice in the sight of God, for it is the only vice almost, which makes God forget His patience and mercy, and which has at all times, provoked Him to pour out the vials of His bitterest wrath on the sinner. Read the Old and New Testaments, and you will find the words of St. Thomas of Villanova verified: "We read that the crime of lust is punished more severely than other crimes" Nay, you will find that nearly all the remarkable examples of the divine anger recorded in Scripture are due to lust alone.

You will find in the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis, the history of that fearful punishment, the Deluge, in which of the whole human race was destroyed, with the exception of eight individuals; and the most of those who thus perished, were in the state of sin, and were condemned to hell. "My spirit shall not remain in man forever, because he is flesh," said God in His anger to Noe; And being touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, He said: "I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth, from man even to beasts, from the creeping thing even to the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them (Gen. vi. 3, 6, 7.)." Certainly those expressions make the divine anger sufficiently evident. As Lessius says, the World was at that time in the bloom of its youth, and was more populous than now, because people lived then to be seven, eight, and nine hundred years old, and were allowed to practice polygamy; so that we can easily imagine what a vast number of people were born in the sixteen hundred years that elapsed between the Creation and the Deluge. Doubtless there were many innocent people amongst them, at least as little children. And yet that vast multitude found no mercy from God, because it had to bear the punishment of impurity. Even while they were engaged in their sensual gratifications, the Deluge overwhelmed them and swept them all away, innocent and guilty together; as St. Matthew says: "For as in the marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the Ark and they knew not till the Flood came and took them all away (Matth. xxiv. 38, 39.)." The waters gushed up from the earth, and poured in torrents down from the heavens; houses were carried away, the highest trees afforded no refuge, not even the mountain tops were safe resting places, "For the water was fifteen cubits higher than the mountains which it covered (Gen. vii. 20.)." With the exception of the few who were in the Ark, all human beings, as well as beasts, birds and every living thing, were destroyed; " And all men and all things wherein there was the breath of life on the earth, died (Ibid. 21, 22)." Thus God punished the impurities of the world by such a vast number of deaths, and washed away its filth by the waters of the Deluge.

You will read in the nineteenth chapter of Genesis, of a whole country, seventy miles in circumference according to Cornelius a Lapide, in which Sodom, Gomorrha and other towns were situated, being destroyed by fire sent from Heaven , and reduced to ashes, so that after so many thousand years, the fruit of that country is still nothing but ashes inside, an undying evidence of the implacable hatred that God bore to the sin of its inhabitants. And what was that sin? Nothing else but brutal lust; and therefore "The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire from Heaven. And He destroyed these cities and all the country about, all the inhabitants of the cities, and all things that spring from the earth (Gen. xix. 24, 25)." Before this terrible punishment was inflicted, Abraham, that faithful servant and friend of God, exhausted himself in prayers and tears to avert the divine anger from those unfortunate cities. How often did he not pray to God? With what persistency did he not ask Him to forgive those people? But all his prayers and tears could not avert the punishment. God, who is otherwise so ready to hear the prayers of His servants, and who allows Himself as it were to be compelled to grant them, was not in the least moved on this occasion, to mercy and pity. Those impure people were to be consumed by fire, so that all impure men might learn from their example to dread the fire of hell which awaits them.

You will read in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers, how twenty-four thousand of the chosen people of God were condemned to die, some by the cross and gibbet, others by the sword. What a terrible act of justice! Twentyfour thousand people would make a not inconsiderable town, and had they all to die a violent death? What grief there must have been amongst the spectators of that fearful tragedy! How the women wept and lamented on seeing their husbands, fathers, brothers, children and friends crucified, or hanged, or cut to pieces with the sword! How many brave generals of the Israelite army were thus massacred! How many of the noblest familes utterly extinguished! Yet the command of God had to be obeyed; the noblest were condemned to the gallows, the others were slain by their neighbors and friends: "The Lord being angry, said to Moses: Take all the princes of the people and hang them up on gibbets against the sun, that my fury may be turned away from Israel (Num. xxv. 3, 4)." Still the punishment was not enough; " And Moses said to the judges of Israel: Let every man kill his neighbors . . . . . ; And there was slain four and twenty thousand men (Num. xxv. 5, 9)" The principal reason of this severe punishment was the impurity of the people: "The people committed fornication with the daughters of Moab (Ibid. 1)."

You will read in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Judges, that only a few of the men of Gabaa were found guilty of impurely abusing a poor woman, and what was the consequence? Punishment was inflicted, not only on the evil-doers, but also on the whole town of Gabaa and the surrounding country; eighteen thousand were slain before the gates of the town, and five thousand were killed in flight, and soon after, two thousand more; so that in one day five and twenty thousand men were slain on account of the sin of impurity. Lest we should think that this was merely the result of accident and not a punishment of lust, God has shown that He was the Author of it, and that it was His Almighty power which strengthened the arms that wielded the sword: "And the Lord defeated them before the children of Israel, and they slew of them in that day five and twenty thousand, and one hundred, all fighting men (Judges xx. 35)." Besides this, all the towns and villages of the tribe of Benjamin were burned down, and all the people who were left were cut down remorselessly; not even the dumb beasts were spared. Thus that once populous country was filled with dead bodies, and only six hundred men of the whole tribe escaped, who had to keep to the mountains for one hundred and twenty days. Thus fire, bloodshed and devastation were the punishments inflicted on so many for the impurity of a few, and that by a most just, and at the same time, a most merciful God; "The Lord defeated them."

In the third chapter of the Book of Jonas you will read the terrible prophecy that resounded. through Ninive, the great city of three days journey; "Yet forty days, and Ninive shall be destroyed (Jonas iii. 4)." A prophecy that would surely have been fulfilled, and, as interpreters say, solely in punishment of impurity, if the inhabitants from the greatest to the least had not done penance in sack-cloth and ashes; "And the men of Ninive believed in God; and they proclaimed a fast and put on sack-cloth, from the greatest to the least (Jonas iii. 5)." How would it have been for them if they had not done penance?

We read in profane history that the greatest monarchies of the world were destroyed through this vice. Sardanapolus lost Assyria; Balthassar, Chaldea; Darius, Persia; Cleopatra, Egypt; all through indulgence in carnal pleasures. Salvianus shows that the dismemberment of the Roman Empire took place when the vice of impurity was most prevalent. "God wished to show thereby," he says, "how hateful and intolerable this vice is in His sight."

Do you think, my dear brethren, that God hates it less now than in former times? Were not the men of old made of flesh and blood, were they not weak mortals, as we are? Those who perished by water, fire and sword, what Holy Scripture had they to teach them chastity? What sacraments had they to strengthen them against temptation? Where was the Blood of Christ, by which we are now saved from the yoke and attacks of the devil? They defiled their bodies, but they were not made members of Jesus Christ by baptism; they had not become temples of the Holy Ghost, as we Christians have. They sinned, but they had not solemnly renounced the flesh and the devil in baptism as we have. If then the anger of God was so great against impurity in those times, what sort of punishment must unchaste Christians expect, since their sin is three and four-fold greater, so to speak, than the sins of those of ancient time?

Oh, if we could only see the cause of the chastisements and trials that afflict whole countries and provinces! If we were to ask: whence come the miseries and poverty that are now desolating Europe? Whencecome the wars, the bad harvests, the scarcity and famine, the plagues and sicknesses, the inundations, the miserable mortality amongst cattle, the general poverty and want? They are, as Salvianus says, heralds of the divine anger, which is punishing the world on account of impurity; " God wishes to show how hateful and intolerable to Him is this Vice."

Many a time has the Almighty given proofs of His anger against impurity, by miraculous signs. In England, as Ballard writes, a field of wheat ready for the sickle was once eaten up in a night by a swarm of most hideous flies; some of those flies were caught, and were found to have the words "ira," on one wing, and "Dei" on the other; " ira Dei," that is, anger of God: as if to say: The cause of the destruction of your crop is the anger of God; do not think we have come here by accident; the anger of God has sent us.

I will say nothing of the punishment that the impure sufier individually; it is a matter of daily experience. They suffer in their health by disgusting maladies which their excesses cause; in their lives, which they shorten: in their honor which they sometimes lose by public disgrace; in their repose, which is disturbed by remorse of conscience and mental anxiety, as I have already explained. And even if they had not those things to suffer, if they were left free and unhindered in the gratification of their passions, would not that be punishment enough? Can a more fearful punishment be well imagined than the blinding of the understanding and the hardening of the will which all follow on this vice as its consequence, and do not cease until the soul is buried in hell? O my God, I know that I have deserved Thy anger; punish me in this life, I beg of Thee: behold, I offer Thee my head, my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my hands and feet and my whole body; strike with Thy fatherly red, as long as it pleases Thee; but one thing I ask of Thee, "Rebuke me not in Thy indignation, nor chastise me in Thy wrath (Ps. vi. 2);" do not allow me to be blinded and hardened by my own wicked desires, for that is the worst punishment of all; it is the punishment Thou inflictest on impure Christians, by which the most of them are lost forever.

Ah, blind mortals, who are not yet terrified by those fearful chastisements, who still make so little of the shameful vice of impurity, and look upon it as a small fault that arises from human infirmity, and that God will easily pardon; blind mortals, woe to you! One day, when it is too late, you will learn that no vice so exasperates the Almighty, and incurs such severe punishment from Him in this life and in the next, as that very vice, which you fear so little to commit, and for which you hope to find pardon so easily!

To you who were perhaps formerly given to this vice, but who now, through a special grace of God, are freed from it, I have little to say, except that you must not be surprised if God sometimes sends you a fatherly chastisement in the way of crosses and trials. Oh, do not complain that you are treated harshly! Remember how you have treated the Almighty God; think of the numbers who are now in hell for the very sins, and perhaps for fewer sins than you have committed.

Say then, with humble hearts, in all trials: O my God, I accept this cross from Thy fatherly hand; I know that I have deserved it, and a thousand times more! May Thy holy name be blessed!

In the meantime, my dear brethren, that we may have none of these things to fear, let us fortify our hearts and minds once for all against this odious vice, and make a firm resolution rather to die a thousand times, than for the sake of such a short, brutish and dangerous pleasure, to offend God even by an impure thought, not to speak of impure words and actions. Such is the resolution we mean to keep with Thy help and grace O God. Amen.



Prayers for the Grace of Purity
To thee, O Virgin Mother, who was never touched by any spot of original or actual sin, I commend and entrust the purity of my heart.

(Indulgence of 300 days)

O Mary, thou didst enter the world without stain; do thou obtain for me from God, that I may leave it without sin.

(Indulgence of 300 days)

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

(Indulgence of 300 days)

Lord, burn our reins and our hearts with the fire of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may serve Thee with chaste bodies and pure minds. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

(Indulgence of 3 years)

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty and everlasting God, that we may attain to purity of mind and body through the inviolate virginity of the most pure Virgin Mary. Amen

(Indulgence of 500 days)

Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.