Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Quieting Fear in the Sinner; Inciting Fear in the Righteous

The Lᴏʀᴅ is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
    he also hears their cry and saves them.
The Lᴏʀᴅ preserves all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.  (Ps 145:18-20)

If [God] frightens the sinner and the person who is remaining in his sins, he carries him into despair and rejection of hope.  But if he blesses the righteous man, he weakens the intensity of his virtue and causes him to be neglectful of zeal as one who has already been blessed.  For this reason he has mercy on the sinner, but frightens the righteous man.  “He is fearful,” [scripture] says, “to all around him,”* and “The Lord is good to all.”†  “He is fearful,” [scripture] says, “to all around him,” and who would these be but the saints?  “For God,” David says, “who is glorified in the counsel of saints, is great and fearful to all around him.”  If he sees someone fallen, he extends a hand of kindness.  If he sees someone standing, he applies fear.  This, too, belongs to righteous judgment.  For he causes the righteous man to stand fast through fear, and raises up the sinner through kindness.  And do you want to learn of his timely goodness and severity that is useful and suited to us?  Pay careful attention in order that the greatness of the thought may not escape your notice.… He says to sinners, “If your sins are like scarlet, I will make [them] white as snow.”‡  And he changes the darkness into light by the change of repentance, and puts an end to so great an abundance of evils by the voice of his goodness.  To the man who walks in righteousness he says, “Whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!,’ is liable to the hell of fire.”§  He applies such severity to one word, and measures out so much liberality to so many sins.

Severian of Gabala, On Repentance and Contrition, II.13

*  Psalm 89:7
†  Psalm 145:9

‡  Isaiah 1:18
§  Matthew 5:22

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