The Sinner's Guide

See how the devil treated Job?

In chapter 10, “The tenth motive for practising virtue: the thought of Hell, the fourth of the Four Last Things”, on page 115:

If the thought of the Judge impress us so deeply, what ought to be our feelings when we consider who it is that will be the executioner! The executioner will be the devil. What, then, may we not expect from the malice of such an enemy? If we would form some idea of his cruelty, consider his treatment of the holy man Job, whom God delivered into his hands. He destroyed his flocks; laid waste his lands; overthrew his houses; carried off his children by death; made his body a mass of ulcers, and left him no other refuge but a dunghill and a potsherd to scrape his sores. In addition to his suffering he left him a scolding wife and cruel friends, who reviled him with words which tortured him more keenly than the worms which preyed upon his flesh. Thus was Job afflicted by Satan, but it is impossible to describe in human language his treatment of our Blessed Saviour during the night in which He was the Victim of the powers of darkness. Seeing, then, how cruel are the devil and his angels, will you not tremble with horror at the thought of being delivered into their hands? They will have power to execute upon you the most terrible inventions of their malice, not for a day, or a night, or a year only, but for all eternity.

This already sufficiently makes the point. If the devil treats people so badly in this life, where he is not given full reign to unleash his malice upon us but only what God permits for our good, then what will be our lot in the next life if we choose the devil as our companion and master, and give him full permission and authority to do whatever his terrible imagination can do to us? But then the venerable author continues by explaining part of the book of Revelation to us:

Read the appalling picture of these evil spirits given by St. John: “I saw a star,” says the Apostle, “fall from heaven upon the earth, and there was given to him the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and the smoke of the pit arose as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit. And from the smoke of the pit there came out locusts upon the earth. And power was given to them, as the scorpions of the earth, have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads. And it was given to them that they should not kill them, but that they should torment them five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when he striketh a man. And in those days men shall seek death, and shall not find it; and they shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold; and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions; and they had breast-plates as breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like to scorpions, and there were stings in their tails.” (Apoc. ix. 1-10)

Does not the Holy Ghost design to teach us by these terrible figures the fearful effects of God’s justice, the awful instruments of His wrath, and the appalling tortures of the reprobate? Does He not wish that the fear of these evils should save us from the lot of the sinner? What is that star which fell from heaven, and received the key of the bottomless pit, but that bright angel who was precipitated from Heaven to reign for ever in hell? Do not the locusts, so well equipped for battle, represent the ministers of Satan? And are not the green things which they were commanded to spare, the just who flourish under the dew of God’s grace and bring forth fruits of eternal life? Who are they who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads but men who have not His Spirit, which is the mark and seal of His faithful servants? It is against these unhappy souls that the ministers of God’s vengeance will work. Yes, they will be tormented in this life and in the next by the devils whom they willed to serve, just as the Egyptians were tormented by the various living creatures which they had adored. What terrible pictures are given us in Scripture of the monsters of this eternal abyss! What can be conceived more horrible than the behemoth, “that setfeth up his tail like a cedar, whose bones are like pipes of brass, who drinketh up rivers and devoureth mountains”?

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