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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

FALSE CONFIDENCE OF SALVATION by Fr. Buckley, 1891

FALSE CONFIDENCE OF SALVATION  by Fr. Buckley, 1891
Dearly Beloved Brethren:--We were sent into this world for no other end than that we might labor in the vineyard of the Lord; that we might work for the promotion of His glory, and thus earn our eternal reward. Reason as you will on the condition of man; account as you please for his position in life; argue on the past, and conjecture on the future, as wisdom or fancy may suggest; at the end of all this intellectual struggle for truth, an inward voice ever rings out clear and convincing within your soul--you were placed in the world for no other object than that you might labor in the vineyard of the Lord. Everything proclaims it: the shortness of life; the vanity of earthly pursuits; the emptiness of human pleasures; the fate of millions who have lived since the world began, and of whom there is now no trace; their ambition thwarted: their hopes deceived; their schemes baffled; their theories disproved; God's Providence vindicated, and His Gospel taught and revered, unchanged and unchangeable, by the infallible Church, which ever reigns triumphant amid the ruins of man's works and speculations. 


You believe in this high destiny of yours, otherwise you were not here to-day; your conscience has impelled you hither; that silent monitor, which ever whispers within you that you were sent to labor in the vineyard of the Lord. And yet, strange fatuity of man! unmoved by the conclusions of reason, and the dictates of religion; untaught by the experience of the past; and submitting to the delusion to which millions have fallen victims before you, you too postpone till to-morrow, till next year, till some indefinite period of your life, the hour of your conversion to God, as if time were your own, and you could command it; as if your Lord and Judge had never cried out, "Unless you do penance, you shall all perish." To-day He comes forth once more into the highway of life. He has called you at early morning; He has called you at the third hour, at the sixth, at the ninth; He now comes at the eleventh hour, and perhaps for the last time, with pity, with warning, but ever with plenteous mercy; He exclaims to you, "Why stand you here all the day idle?"

And why stand you idle? Because you have a false confidence in God. Because you trust that, somehow or other, you will be saved. It is well then that we should see what kind of foundation for your eternal hopes this false confidence is. I will show you two features of this kind of confidence in God's goodness, which I trust will be sufficient to convince you how unreliable it is. I will show you how foolish it is, and how criminal. If you were convinced that you would be lost forever, oh! what would be the anguish of your mind. I will prove to you that the presumptuous sinner will be lost forever unless at the eleventh hour he enters and labors in the vineyard of the Lord. And just behold the folly of his presumption. The habitual sinner must live in the constant apprehension of being lost forever; for his sinfulness is certain, and his repentance is very uncertain. Without Divine grace he cannot be rescued from sin, and this grace he cannot give himself; it comes from God.

Do you intend to die in your sins, or to abandon them?

Alas! the former is much more likely to happen than the latter; it is so much easier. It requires no effort to remain in sin, you have only to let corrupt nature have its way, to yield to the impetuosity of your passions, and they will speedily bear you to destruction. You have only to let the poison of sin pass into your soul and kill it. You have not energy to apply an, antidote, and your fate will be that of the wicked man described by Job:

"His bones shall be filled up with the vices of his youth, and they shall sleep with him in the dust." Thus to die in your sins is easy, but to rise from them requires a force from without, a supernatural force, which you cannot apply yourself, and which you can only obtain by flinging yourself at the feet of God and imploring it.

And it is by no ordinary grace that you can be rescued from your sinfulness, but by a singular, a miraculous intervention of Providence; by such a change as excites the surprise of all men, from its suddenness, and its wondrous working: for, remember that the conversion of a hardened sinner is a prodigy of Divine grace, the examples of which are very rare in the world. Who can promise himself the good fortune of a Magdalen, or a penitent thief? We hear of souls from time to time turning themselves to God; we hear that such and such a sinner has been converted; but alas! how seldom. If God should act according to the ordinary laws of grace, which He has established, you perish: if you are saved from the slough of sin, it must be by some special interposition of His unspeakable mercy.

Again, you who persist in sin paralyze the action of God's grace. You wait for God to convert you? You always hope for the coming of this inward change of soul, by which you are to turn to God. And how do you adapt your soul for this salutary change? By placing fresh obstacles in the way of God.

How can you expect God to give you His healing grace, if you constantly oppose Him? If you seek the danger every day, every hour of your life, how can you hope that God will do liver you, in spite of yourself? God is ever willing to give grace, but He requires your co-operation. How can a man who is drowning be saved, if, instead of helping his rescue by another, he does all in his power to resist him in his benevolent attempt?

The foolish virgins were excluded, because they showed no anxiety to meet their Lord when He would come; they neglected to trim their lamps, and to watch: they fell asleep--they were indifferent--and so, when the bridegroom came, they cried, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" But He answering said, "Amen, I say to you, I know you not. Watch ye therefore," says Christ, "for ye know not the day or the hour." Do not deceive yourself, O sinner, for the grace of God will not always come of its own accord.

Years ago, when you were lost in a vortex of passions, you trusted that the heavenly gift would come at last and save you. Has it come yet? Has the world lost its charms for you? Have your passions cooled down? Are you a better man or woman to-day, than you were ten years ago? I fear not; and yet you still hope for the coming of this peaceful day. Alas! the delights of sin will be forgotten; and you will start fresh on the road to Heaven, in the serene sunshine of a soul from which the clouds of temptation will have passed away. Delusive hope! Know you not, that to the sinner grace will not come without tears, and ceaseless importunity--without longing desire and earnest entreaty? Do you ever pray for the grace of conversion? Do you ever ask of God to change your heart? Do you seek to propitate Him with alms-deeds and good works? Do you ever really and sincerely desire to be converted to the Lord--to enter His vineyard, and work for Him? On the contrary, does not your conscience every day upbraid you with standing idle in the market-place, frittering away precious hours in the pursuit of toys and vanities, which were intended by your Creator to be spent in working for His glory, and your own eternal salvation?

One of the greatest of all graces is the grace of conversion; and yet, this is the grace you expect God, out of His pure bounty, to give you; although you are every day making yourselves more and more unworthy of it. You are unworthy of it because you persist in sin--because you abuse the lights and inspirations which God is every day shedding over your soul. You despise the instructions, the warnings, the threats, the allurements, the thousand artifices, so to speak, by which He seeks to win you from the love of passing things, to the love of Him who alone is beautiful, good, unchanging, and Eternal. You are unworthy of the grace of conversion, because you neglect to have recourse to those means by which grace is imparted to the soul. Where is your respect for the Sacraments of Christ? Do you not rush from them as if they were engines of destruction, instead of being mediums of salvation? Is not the bare mention of them, at times, unpleasant, perhaps disgusting, to you? Do you not seek to change the subject to some topic more agreeable to the ears of one whose only pleasure is beneath the sun, and not beyond it? You are unworthy of God's grace; because you deride and mock those who are pious and godly. You are unworthy of it, because you repose, in a profound ease and security of soul, heedless of God, of His admonitions and judgments, of His goodness, His mercy, and His love; thus turning your conduct into perpetual insult to His Almighty Providence! and yet, you are the person who expects that God is to work one of His greatest miracles for you--to grant you the grace of being converted--while you are doing all in your power, while you employ every energy of your mind and body--while you turn every moment of your time to place obstacles in His path, to rouse His wrath, and provoke His vengeance on your unhappy head. Truly, then, is this presumption, this false confidence in God's goodness, a folly!

But let us see, for a moment, the pretexts by which a sinner defends his persistence in iniquity. Age, he says, will blunt my passions; they cannot be always thus violent; the maddest fire must burn out at last. Let us grant it. But, are you so sure that, when your passions have disappeared, repentance will come for the past? Does it follow, that, if a man can no longer sin, he grieves for having sinned before? No, for the truth is, that the desire to sin survives the capacity to commit it. A man may have a passion without being able to gratify it ; and experience proves that the passions only grow stronger by age. Like old trees, they fix themselves year after year more firmly in the ground and cannot be uprooted, except with the ground itself. I speak not of the insult to God implied in the sinner's saying, I will turn to Thee, O God, when I can sin no more; I speak not of the folly of saying, I will be converted next year, or twenty years hence, when we cannot promise ourselves one hour, one second of existence.

The farther you keep from God, the more will He sunder Himself from you; He constantly invites you to come to Him, and you as constantly decline. What can you expect from Him, who has said, "Vengeance is mine, and I will repay," but the punishment due to love despised, and favors only treated with ingratitude? Yes, and if terror has still any influence left on your heart, hear what the wise man proclaims, and tremble: "I called," saith the Lord, "and you refused; you have despised all my counsel, and have rejected my reprehension. I also will laugh in your destruction, and will mock, when that shall come upon you which you feared. When sudden calamity shall fall on you, and destruction, as a tempest, shall be at hand; when tribulation and distress shall come upon you, then shall they call upon me, and I will not hear; they shall rise in the morning and shall not find me; because they have hated instruction, and received not the fear of the Lord."

But you hear these threats with indifference, O sinner! these appalling words do not disturb the repose of your mind. Alas! this is your crowning misery, that every sting of conscience should be torn away by the friction of sin--that your soul, once keenly sensitive to remorse, should now after years become tranquil and imperturbable to all guilt and its attendant bitterness. This is the direst visitation God had in store for you, that you should deem a curse a blessing--that you should mistake a calm of conscience for innocence of life, nor dream that it is only the forerunner of that most frightful of tempests, the storm of God's inexorable and inextinguishable wrath. In delivering you over to this desolation of the reprobate, He inflicts the severest penalty of your guilt; He acts according to the extremest rigor of His justice; for if He ever again intended to visit you with His converting grace, it would be by exciting fear and uneasiness in your mind, that you might see your deplorable condition, and cry for mercy.

But woe to Him who is familiar with sin, and a stranger to sorrow! Sorrow eternal is his doom.

False confidence in God is not only a folly--it is a crime. It is an insult to the wisdom, to the justice, to the mercy of God. It is an insult to His wisdom. For the sinner argues thus;--God is infinitely wise. He has established a system by which He acts toward man in a spirit of infinite wisdom. So far we agree with the sinner. But He goes farther. He says, justifying his sinfulness, God holds in His hands the hearts of men--He can change them in a moment at His pleasure; and so He can change mine. What tribute is this to the wisdom of God, which the sinner praises so much? Is it not rather an insult to the Divine wisdom? Is it not to say that God, although infinitely wise, acts blindly and without discernment? That He will save the presumptuous sinner, as well as the humble penitent? That He treats the just and the unjust with the same measure of His bounty? But the sinner insults not only the wisdom but the justice of God; he says--I was born with those weaknesses; they are inherent in my nature; other men are free from them, but I am their victim; God will have it so. My deplorable tendency to sin ought rather to excite God's pity than arm His wrath against me. This is a false reasoning, my brethren; God is not the cause of your corrupt nature. Sin is the cause of it--it sprung from the crime of Adam, and is fostered by your own self-indulgence.

Again, whatever be the weakness of your nature, you are always master of your passions, otherwise God would doom you beforehand to inevitable destruction, which is inconsistent with the nature of Him who is infinitely just and good. And, if you are weak, God knows it, and rather than permit you to be lost, He is ready, when you ask Him, to fling around your soul a fortification of graces which all the forces of hell itself cannot undermine. But speak the truth, examine your soul, and be candid; are not these all flimsy excuses you make merely to compromise with your corrupt inclinations; is not the real secret that you love your passions, and that you will not part from them?

The sinner, in fine, insults the mercy of God. Nothing is so common as to hear men say, who are estranged from the ways of piety: "Oh! God is infinitely merciful; He does not will the death of a sinner!" But what does the sinner mean by this exclamation? What balm does he gather from it for his own soul? Does he mean that God never punishes crime? he will scarcely say that: that He never abandons the sinner. Did He not abandon Pharaoh? Did He not abandon Saul and Antiochus? Did He not abandon the impenitent thief while He saved the repentant? Will the sinner say that God will save the drunkard, the immoral man, the avaricious, the proud, and the blasphemer? We all know that nothing defiled can enter heaven; what consolation is this to the sinner? Let him then cease to insult the mercy of God, by saying that such as he can enjoy eternal joy hereafter. Let him rather tremble at the words of God, as recorded in His sacred writings--"add not sin to sin; and say not the mercy of the Lord is great. He will have mercy on the multitude of my sins, for mercy and wrath quickly come from Him, and His wrath looketh upon sinners. Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day; for His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the day of vengeance He will destroy thee."

I have shown you, my brethren, the folly and criminality of the sinner, in presuming on the goodness of God. Will you any longer be guilty of this folly and this crime? Oh! do not delude yourself with the idea that you may be saved. Why should you leave to chance a matter in which all your happiness for eternity is concerned? You will not be saved without your own co-operation. You must begin the work, and God will perfect it. As you sow, you shall reap: "If you sow in corruption, you shall reap in corruption," saith the Apostle; but if you sow in tears, you shall reap in joy. Why should you put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day? There is no to-morrow for a Christian. "Thou fool, perhaps this night thy soul shall be required of thee."

Oh! if thou art to be lost hereafter, how amply will God be able to vindicate His conduct toward you. He will point to the Gospel of this day, and He will say to you, "I was the householder, who went out to hire thee into my vineyard. I went at early morning. In the dawn of thy life I sought thee in Baptism; I gave thee my grace. At the third hour when the light of reason beamed on thy soul, I called thee in the Sacrament of Penance. At the sixth hour I invited thee to the banquet of my love at the Holy Eucharist. At the ninth hour I confirmed thee in my grace and my love. But now I come at the eleventh hour, and I find thee here idle. I find with thee many who never heard my voice, or heeded it. Some, who refused my call at early morning, at the sixth and at the ninth hours; they are thy companions; and thou hast left my vineyard; thou hast obeyed the call and grown weary of the labor; why stand you here all the day idle?"

Oh! sinner, if thou art lost, how amply, I repeat, will God's justice and goodness be vindicated by these words! Hear Him then even at the eleventh hour: "If this day you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts." "Seek ye the Lord," saith the prophet, "while He may be found; call upon him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way; and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He is bountiful to forgive."

O good and merciful God, soften our hard hearts; illumine our darkened souls, that we may love Thee at length, who alone art worthy of our love; that we may no longer be dazzled by the false glare of worldly pleasure; but that we may see Thee as Thou really art, the true light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world, and that shines on him for all eternity with the effulgence of glory never to be extinguished. Amen.





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A Prayer Composed by St. Augustine, and Recommended to the Devotion of all Catholics by Urban VIII

Before thy eyes, O Lord, we bring our sins, and with them compare the stripes we have received. If we weigh the evil we have done, we find what we suffer to be much less than what we deserve. "What we have committed far outweighs what we endure. We feel the punishment of sin, and yet we turn not from our willfulness in sinning. Our weakness faints under Thy scourges; but our perverseness is still the same. Our diseased mind is racked with pain, and our neck is as stiff as ever. Our life is spent in sighs and grief; but in our actions we are not reformed. If Thou expect our amendment, we grow no better; if Thou take revenge, we are not able to subsist. When we are chastised, we acknowledge what we have done; but when thy visitation is over, we forget what we have wept for. If Thou stretch out Thy hand, we promise duty; if Thou suspend Thy sword, we keep not our promise. If Thou strike, we cry for pardon; and if Thou pardon, we provoke Thee again to strike. Here, O Lord, are criminals confessing their guilt; we know that unless Thou forgive Thou mayst justly destroy us. Grant, without our merit, what we ask, O Almighty Father, Who out of nothing didst create us to ask Thee, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Anthem. We wait in expectation of our Saviour's coming,
Who will reform our frail bodies according to the model of his glorious Body.

V. Behold, the God of heaven is our Redeemer.
R. In Him, without fear, we will put our trust.

Let us pray:



Almighty God, who, for the redemption of mankind, didst send Thy only Son to take our flesh, and suffer death on the cross, we humbly pray that as our Saviour has left us here the example of His patience, He may vouchsafe to make us hereafter partakers of his glory, Who liveth and reigneth one God, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, forever and ever. Amen.




Prayer for the Conversion of a Child To the Heart of Jesus


O Heart of Jesus, I humbly prostrate myself before You, adoring You as the Heart of my Lord and my God! Pardon the sins by which I have offended You and rendered myself unworthy of Your mercies. For Your own sake, O Lord, for the honor and glory of Your infinite mercy, have pity on me! Hearken to my supplications for grace and salvation for my strayed child. From all eternity You have loved it and borne it in Your Heart. Have mercy on it. You will that it should be converted and live. Effect in it what You have decreed. You can do all that You will! You do not will the perdition of my child. Draw him (her) from the deep abyss into which he (she) has sunk. From Your cross You drew all to Yourself--loosen the bonds in which he (she) lies chained. You have bought him (her) at a great price --take possession of Your property. He (she) was once dedicated to You in holy Baptism--let not Your enemies rejoice longer over him (her.) You have opened in Your Church a fountain of pardon and grace--lead him (her) to where he (she) may imbibe new life. O give me back the child that hell has torn from my embrace! You, O Heart of Jesus, can do this! Hearken to the prayers of Your Blessed Mother, of Your saints, and of all the elect for this my child, that once belonged to their society, but now is so far astray, Listen to my prayers, the prayers of a mother, O You Who cannot hear unmoved a mothers supplication for her child! Grant me what is dearest to me on earth, the salvation of my child, and I will eternally praise Your holy name! Amen.