On Natural Calamities, Divine Threats, and the Four Gates of Hell
by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Fourth Discourse – The Four Principal Gates of Hell
Part 2: Blasphemy
Let us pass on to the second gate of Hell, which is blasphemy. Some, when things go wrong with them, do not attack man, but endeavor to wreak their vengeance upon God Himself by blasphemy. Know, my brethren, what manner of sin blasphemy is. A certain author says: “Every sin, compared with blasphemy, is light;” and first of all, St. John Chrysostom says, there is nothing worse than blasphemy. Other sins, says St. Bernard, are committed through frailty, but this only through malice. With reason, then, does St. Bernardine of Sienna call blasphemy a diabolical sin, because the blasphemer, like a demon, attacks God Himself. He is worse than those who crucified Jesus Christ, because they did not know Him to be God; but he who blasphemes knows Him to be God, and insults Him face to face. He is worse than the dogs, because dogs do not bite their masters, who feed them, but the blasphemer outrages God, Who is at that very moment bestowing favors on him. What punishment, says St. Augustine, will suffice to chastise so horrid a crime? We should not wonder, says Julius III, that the scourges of God do not cease while such a crime exists among us.
Lorino cites the following fact: We read in the preface to the Pragmatic Sanction in France, that King Robert, when praying for the peace of the kingdom, was answered by the crucifix that the kingdom never should have had peace if he had not eradicated blasphemy. The Lord threatens to destroy the kingdom in which this accursed vice reigns. They have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel; . . . your land is desolate . . . it shall be desolate.
Oh, if there were always found some one to do what St. John Chrysostom advises: “Strike his mouth, and sanctify thereby thy hand.” The mouth of the accursed blasphemer should be struck, and he should then be stoned, as the old law commanded: And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die: all the multitude shall stone him. But it would be better if that were done which St. Louis, King of France, put in force: he commanded by edict that every blasphemer should be branded on the mouth with an iron. A certain nobleman having blasphemed, many persons besought the king not to inflict that punishment upon him; but St. Louis insisted upon its infliction in every instance; and some taxing him with excessive cruelty on that account, he replied that he would suffer his own mouth to be burned sooner than allow such an outrage to be put upon God in his kingdom.
Tell me, blasphemer, of what country are you? Allow me to tell you, you belong to Hell. St. Peter was known in the house of Caiphas for a Galilean by his speech. Surely thou also art one of them, it was said to him, for even thy speech doth discover thee. What is the language of the damned?—–blasphemy. And they blasphemed the God of Heaven because of their pains and wounds. What do you gain, my brethren, by these your blasphemies? you gain no honor by them. Blasphemers are abhorred even by their blasphemous companions. Do you gain any temporal advantage?
Do you not see that this accursed vice keeps us forever in beggary? Sin maketh nations miserable. Do you derive pleasure from it? What pleasure do you derive from blaspheming God? The pleasure of the damned; and that moment of madness past, what pain and bitterness does it not leave in your heart? Resolve to rid yourself of this vice in any event. Take care, if you do not abandon it now, that you will not carry it with you to death, as has happened to so many who have died with blasphemy in their mouths. But, Father, what can I do when the madness comes upon me? Good God! and are there no other means of working it off than by blasphemy? Say, cursed be my sins. Mother of God, assist me, give me patience; your passion, your anger, will pass off quickly, and you will find yourself in the grace of God after the trial. If you do not act thus, you will find yourself more afflicted and more lost than before.
Let us tremble, my brethren, when we see others punished, knowing as we do, that we ourselves have deserved the same punishments. When the tower of Siloe fell upon eighteen persons and killed them, the Lord said to many who were present: Think you that they also were debtors above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem. (Luke 13:4) Do you think that these wretches alone were in debt to God’s justice on account of their sins? You are yet debtors to it; and if you do not penance, you shall be punished as well as they: Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish. O, how many unfortunate men damn themselves by false hope in the Divine mercy? Yes, God is merciful, and therefore assists and protects them who hope in His mercy: He is the protector of all that trust in Him. (Ps. 17:31) But He assists and protects those only who hope in Him, with the intention of changing their lives, not those whose hope is accompanied by a perverse intention of continuing to offend Him. The hope of the latter is not acceptable to God, He abominates and punishes it: Their hope the abomination of the soul. (Job 11:20) Poor sinners, their greatest misery is, that they are lost, and do not know their state. They jest, and they laugh, and they despise the threats of God, as if God had assured them that He should not punish them. “Whence,” exclaims St. Bernard, “this accursed security?” Whence, O blind that you are, whence this accursed security? Accursed, because it is this security which brings you to Hell. I will come to them that are at rest, and dwell securely. (Ezech. 28:11) The Lord is patient, but when the hour of chastisement arrives, then will He justly condemn to Hell those wretches who continue in sin, and live in peace, as if there were no Hell for them.