SIX VOLUMES IN ONE BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D. REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada REV. STEPHEN KEENAN REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J. REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
CHAPTER XVI. OF THE FIFTH PRIVILEGE OF VIRTUE, VIZ., THE PEACE OF CONSCIENCE, WHICH THE JUST ENJOY AND OF THE INWARD REMORSE THAT TORMENTS THE WICKED.
BESIDES the joy proceeding from the consolations of the Holy Ghost, there is another attends the just, which is the testimony of a good conscience. For the understanding of the nature and value of this privilege, you are to conceive that the Divine Providence, which has furnished all creatures with as much as is necessary for their preservation and perfection, being willing that the rational creature should be most perfect, has supplied it with all that was requisite for this purpose. And because the perfection of this creature consists in the perfection of its will and understanding, which are the two principal powers of the soul, the one made perfect by knowledge, and the other by virtue; therefore, he created the principles of all sciences, whence the conclusions flow, and the seed of all virtues in the soul, endowing it with a propensity to good, and aversion to evil, which inclination is so natural and prevalent, that though a long habit of ill life may weaken, yet it can never totally destroy it. Thus we read, that, amidst all holy Jacob's misfortunes, there was always a servant escaped to bring him the news; even so he that sins is never forsaken by that faithful servant, conscience, who still escapes alive and safe, to show the wicked man what he lost by sin, and the miserable estate he is reduced to.
This plainly demonstrates how vigilant Divine Providence is, and its love for virtue, since it has furnished us with a monitor, that never sleeps, a continual preacher, that is never silent, and a master and tutor, that never ceases guiding and directing us. Epictetus, the Stoic, was very sensible hereof, when he said, " that as fathers are wont to commit their young children to some careful tutor, who will diligently divert them from vice, and lead them to virtue, so God, as our Father, after creating, put us into the hands of this natural virtue, called conscience, as it were of a tutor, that it might still put us forward in the way of goodness, and check us in wickedness."
Now this conscience, as it is a master and tutor to the good, so it is an executioner and scourge to the wicked, inwardly punishing and accusing them of the ills they do, and mixing such bitterness among their delights, that they have no sooner tasted the Egyptian onion, but their eyes presently begin to water. This is one of the punishments wherewith God threatens the wicked by the mouth of Isaias, saying, " He will deliver Babylon into the power of the hedgehog." For God's justice delivers the heart of a wicked man, signified by Babylon, to the hedgehogs, that is, the devils, and to the pricks of conscience that attend sin, which, like sharp thorns, pierce the heart. If you would know what these thorns are, one is the deformity and hideousness of sin, which is so abominable of itself, that a philosopher was wont to I say, " If I knew the gods would forgive me, ' and men should know nothing of it, yet I could not dare commit sin, because of its own deformity." Another thorn is, when the sin is prejudicial to another, for then it appears like that blood of Abel spilt, which cried to God and craved revenge. Thus it is written, in the first book of Maccahabees, that king Antiochus had a full view of the mischiefs he had done in Jerusalem, which so afflicted him that it hastened his death, and being ready to expire, he said, " I remember the evils that I did in Jerusalem, from whence also I took away all the spoils of gold and silver that were in it, and I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judea without cause, I know, therefore, that for this cause these evils found me; and behold I perish with great grief in a strange land." Another thorn is, the shame that attends sin, which the sinner cannot be ignorant or insensible of, because it is natural for man to desire to be beloved, and to be troubled at being hated: for, as a wise man said, " There is no greater torment in the world than public hatred." Another thorn is the inevitable fear of death, the continual uncertainty of life, the apprehension of the strict account that must be given of every action, and the dreadful horror of eternal torments; for each of these things pricks and gores the sinner's heart in such a manner, that he can never think of this death, so certain on one hand, so uncertain on the other, without being extremely concerned, as the book of Ecclesiasticus says, because he is sensible that day will take vengeance of all his crimes, and put an end to all his sinful pleasures, it is impossible for any man to put this thought out of his mind, because there is nothing more natural to man than death is, and, therefore, the least indisposition fills him with a thousand fears and doubts whether he shall die or no; for the excess of self-love, added to so violent a passion as fear is, makes him afraid of every shadow, and puts him into a concern and apprehension where there is not the least ground for it; so that if any mortality should happen, any earthquakes, or thunder and lightning, the sinner is immediately disturbed by his conscience, and fancies that God sends all this to punish his iniquities.