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God is merciful for a season, then executes judgment, and punishes

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
The Sacrifice of Jeroboam to the idol in Bethel

Lord, thou hast often pardoned this people; thou hast threatened it with destruction by earthquake, by pestilence, in neighboring countries; by the infirmities and death of its own citizens; but thou hast afterwards taken pity on them: "Thou hast been favourable to the nation, O Lord, thou hast been favourable to the nation; hast thou been glorified?"

Thou hast pardoned us, thou hast dealt mercifully with us; what hast thou received in return? Have thy people abandoned their sins? Have they changed their lives? No, they have gone on from bad to worse; that momentary fear passed, they have begun afresh to offend thee and provoke thy wrath.

But my brethren, perhaps you imagine that God will always wait, always pardon, and never punish? No; God is merciful for a season, God is merciful for a season, then executes judgment, and punishes.

We must persuade ourselves that God cannot do otherwise than hate sin, he is holiness itself, and therefore cannot but hate that monster, his enemy, whose malice is altogether opposed to the perfection of God. And if God hates sin, he must necessarily hate the sinner who makes league with sin, "But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike."—Wisdom xiv, 9.

O God, with what an expression of grief, and with what reason dost thou not complain of those who despise thee, to take part with thine enemy. "Hear, o ye Heavens, and give ear, o earth, for the Lord hath spoken; I have brought up children, and exalted them; but they have despised me."—Isa. i, 2. Hear, o ye Heavens, he says, and give ear, o earth, witness the ingratitude with which I am treated by men. I have brought them up, and exalted them as my children, and they have repaid me with contempt and outrage."

"The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel hath not known me, they are gone away backwards."—Isa. i. 3, 4. The beast of the field, the ox and the ass, continues the Lord, know their master, and are grateful to him, but my children have not known me, and have turned their back upon me. But how is this ? "Beneficia etiam ferae sentiunt," says Seneca; the very brutes are grateful to their benefactors; see that dog how he serves and obeys, and is faithful to his master, who feeds him; even the wild beasts, the tiger and the lion are grateful to those who feed them.

And God, my brethren, who, till now has provided us with everything, who has given us food and clothing: and what else? Who has kept us in existence up to the moment when we offended him: how have we treated him? how do we purpose to act in future? Do we not think to live on as we have been living? Do we not perhaps think that there is no punishment, no hell for us? But harken and know that as the Lord cannot but hate sin, because he is holy, so he cannot but chastise it when the sinner is obstinate, because he is just.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
Nine sermons to be made in times of affliction (Sermon III)