How can he ever abhor death who is in the grace of God? He that abideth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.1 He, therefore, that loves God is secure of his grace, and, thus dying, he is sure of going to rejoice for ever in the kingdom of the blessed; and shall such a one fear death? David truly said, Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.2 This means that no man may presume to be saved by his own merits; for no one but Jesus and Mary can say that he has been without sin throughout his life. But he ought not to fear death, if, with true repentance for his sins, he trusts in the merits of Jesus Christ, who came on earth to save sinners. The Son of man came to save that which was lost.3 And for this end he died, and poured forth his blood to save sinners. The blood of Christ Jesus, says the Apostle, speaks more in favor of sinners than the blood of Abel spoke against Cain, who slew him.4
It is true that, without a divine revelation, no man can possess an infallible certainty of his own salvation; but he that has given himself with a true heart to God, and is ready to lose everything, even life itself, rather than lose the divine grace, has a moral certainty that he will be saved. This certainty is founded on the divine promises; no man, says the Scripture, ever trusted in God and was confounded.5 Almighty God declares in many passages that he does not desire the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live. Is it My will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live?6 In another place he makes the same declaration, and adds an oath: As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.7 And, in the same chapter, God laments over those obstinate sinners who choose to perish because they will not leave their sins, and says, Why will you die, O house of Israel?8 And to those who repent of their sins he promises to forget all their iniquities. If the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed he shall live, . . . I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done?9
When a sinner also hates the sins he has committed, it is a certain sign that he has been pardoned. A holy Father10 says that whoever can say, with truth, “I hate and abhor my iniquities,”11 may be certain that they are forgiven. We have another sign of pardon when we recover grace and persevere in a good life for a considerable time after having sinned. It is also a sure sign to the same effect when we have a fixed resolution to die rather than lose the friendship of God, as also when we earnestly desire to love him, and to see him loved by others, and when we feel distress at seeing him offended.
How is it, then, that certain great saints, after having given themselves wholly to God, and after a life of mortification and detachment from all earthly things, at the hour of death have felt great terror at the thought of appearing before Christ their judge? I reply that those great saints who have suffered these fears at the moment of death have been very few, and that it was the will of God that they should thus purge away the remains of their sins before entering on eternal blessedness; but that, ordinarily speaking, all the saints have died in remarkable peace, and with earnest desires to depart to the presence of God. And for the rest, this is the very difference between sinners and saints at the hour of death, that sinners from fear pass on to despair, and saints from fear pass on to confidence, and thus die in peace.
Therefore, every one who has a hope that he is in the grace of God ought to desire death, repeating the prayer which Christ Jesus has taught us, “Thy kingdom come;” and he ought to embrace death with joy when it comes that he may thus be freed from sin, and leave this world where no one lives without imperfections, and go to behold God, face to face, and love him with all his powers in the kingdom of love.
O my beloved Jesus and my judge! when Thou dost judge me, for Thy mercy condemn me not to hell. In hell I cannot love Thee, but must hate Thee forever; and how can I hate Thee who art so worthy of love, and who hast so loved me? If Thou wilt condemn me to hell, at least grant me grace to be able to love Thee there with all my heart. This grace I do not deserve, through my sins; but if I do not deserve it, Thou hast purchased it for me with the blood which Thou didst shed with such anguish for me upon the cross. O my Judge! inflict on me every pain, but deprive me not of the power of loving Thee. O Mother of God! behold the peril in which I stand of being condemned to be unable to love thy Son, who deserves an infinite love; help me; have pity on me.
1“Qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, et Deus in eo.” -- 1 John, iv. 16.
2“Et non intres in judicium cum servo tuo, quia non justificabitur in conspectu tuo omnis vivens.” -- Ps, cxlii. 2.
3“Venit enim Filius hominis salvare quod perierat.” -- Matt, xviii. 11.
4“Accessistis ad . . . Mediatorem Jesum, et sanguinis aspersionem melius loquentem quam Abel.” -- Heb. xii. 22.
5“Nullus speravit in Domino, et confusus est.” -- Ecclus. ii. 11.
6“Numquid voluntatis meæ est mors impii, dicit Dominus Deus, et non ut convertatur a viis suis, et vivat?” -- Ezek. xviii. 23.
7“Vivo ego, dicit Dominus Deus, nolo mortem impii, sed ut convertatur impius a via sua, et vivat.” -- Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
8Et quare moriemini, domus Israel?
9“Si autem impius egerit pœnitentiam . . . vita vivet . . . omnium iniquitatum ejus, quas operatus est, non recordabor.” -- Ezek. xviii. 21.
10Bas. M. Reg. brev. int. 12.
11“Iniquitatem odio habui, et abominatus sum.” -- Ps. cxviii. 163.