The encouragement which the Fathers give in their divine writings and the help for repentance which is found in the writings of the apostles and the prophets must not be employed by us as an aid for sinning and for breaking the Lord’s inviolable decrees. For by the power of God these things were decreed from ancient times through the mouth of all the saints in all their writings and legislations in order to abolish sin. But the fact that repentance furnishes hope should not be taken by us as a means to rob ourselves of the feeling of fear, so that one might more freely and fearlessly commit sin. For behold how God in every wise preached fear in all the Scriptures and showed Himself to be a hater of sin. Why indeed was the generation of men in the days of Noe drowned in the deluge? Was it not because of their lasciviousness when they raved over the beauty of the daughters of Cain? At that time there was no avarice, no idolatry, no sorcery, no wars. Why were the cities of the Sodomites consumed by fire? Was it not because they gave their members over to lust and impurity, such that it dominated over all of them in every abominable and unnatural act, even as they willed? Was it not because of the fornication of one man that in one instant five and twenty thousand of the sons of Israel, the firstborn of God, fell and died? Why was the mighty man Samson rejected by God, he who was set apart and consecrated to God while still in the womb; whose birth was announced by an angel, like John, the son of Zacharias; who was granted great power and worked great wonders and who by the supernatural strength which God poured into his body smote a thousand men with a jawboen of an ass and became a saviour and judge unto Israel? Was it not because he defiled his holy members by union with a harlot? For this reason God departed from him and surrendered him to his enemies. And David, who was a man after God’s own heart, who because of his virtues was found worthy to generate from his seed the promise of the Fathers, and to have Christ shine forth from himself for the salvation of all the world, was he not punished because of adultery with a woman, when he beheld her beauty with his eyes and was pierced in his soul by that arrow? For it was because of this that God raised up a war against him from within his own household, and he who came forth from his loins pursued him. These things befell him even after he had repented with many tears, such that he moistened his couch with his weeping, and after God had said to him through the prophet, “The Lord hath forgiven thy sin.”
I wish also to bring to mind certain men before David. For what reason did wrath and death come upon the house of the priest Eli, the righteous elder who was eminent for forty years in his priesthood? Was it not because of the iniquity of his sons? For neither did he sin, nor did thy with his assent, but it was because he did not have the zeal to demand from them the Lord’s vindication and he love dthem more than the statutes of the Lord. Lest anyone surmise that the Lord manifests His wrath only upon those who pass all the days of their life in iniquities, behold how for this unseemly sin He manifests His zeal against His genuine servants, against priests, judges, rulers, men consecrated to Him, to whom He entrusted the working of miracles, and He in no wise overlooks the transgressions of His statutes, as it is written in Ezekiel, “I said to the man whom I commanded to go into Jerusalem with an invisible sword: Begin at My sanctuary, and have no mercy upon the old man and the youth.” Thus he showed that His true servant and friends are those who walk before Him in fear and reverence and do His will, since virtuous deeds and purity of conscience are things holy and beloved of God. But when men repudiate His paths, the Lord repudiates them, casts them away from His face, and takes from them His grace. For why was the sentence against Baltasar issued so swiftly and why did it strike him down, as it were, by the form of a hand? Was it not because he acted with audacity toward the untouchable vessels of offering which he seized from Jerusalem, drinking out of them, both he and his concubines? In the same manner, those who have consecrated their members to God, but are so audacious as to use them once more for worldly deeds, the same perish, being smitten by an invisible blow.
Therefore, let us not disregard the oracles and threats of God by reason of our confidence in repentance and the good courage given us by the divine Writings, and so to make Him wrothful by our wicked deeds and defile our members that have been consecrated once and for all for the service of God. For lo, we have consecrated ourselves to Him, as Elias, Elisseus, the sons of the prophets, and all the other saints and virgins, who worked great wonders and spoke to God face to face. And further, as all those who came after them: John the Virgin, the holy Peter, and the other heralds and preachers of the New Testament, who consecrated themselves to the Lord, from Whom they received the knowledge of mysteries—some from His very mouth, others through revelation—and who became intercessors between God and men and receptacles of His revelations, and preachers of the Kingdom to the whole world.
St Isaac the Syrian. First Collection: Homily Ten