“WE ARE CHASTISED BY THE LORD THAT WE MAY NOT BE CONDEMNED WITH THIS WORLD.”
God is as clement and kind when He chastises as when He bestows favours. His chastisements are the effects of His love. They are most certainly punishments, but punishments which ward off eternal penalties, and bring us to eternal happiness. We are chastised by the Lord that we may not be condemned with this world.
We have not been created for this earth: We have been created for the blessed kingdom of Paradise. For this reason it is, says St. Augustine, that God mingles so much bitterness with the delights of the world in order that we may not forget Him and eternal life. If, living as we do amid so many thorns in this life, we are strongly attached to it, and long so little for Paradise, how little should we not value Paradise if God were not to embitter continually the pleasures of this earth?
If we have offended God, we must needs be punished for it either in this world or in the next. St. Ambrose says that God is merciful as well when He punishes as when He does not punish. The chastisements of God are the effect of His love; they are, to be sure, punishments, but only temporal punishments which ward off from us eternal punishment, and bring us to everlasting happiness. But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world (1 Cor. xi. 32). And Judith reminded the Hebrews of the same truth when they were under the scourge of the Lord: Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which like servants we are chastised have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction (Judith viii. 27). Sara, the wife of Tobias, says the same: But this every one is sure of that worshippeth thee … if his life be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to thy mercy, for thou art not delighted in our being lost (Tob. iii. 21, 22). Lord, she said, Thou chastisest us here in order that Thou mayest spare us in the other life, for Thou dost not desire our destruction.
God Himself tells us that those whom He loves in this life He chastises, in order that they may be converted: Such as I love I rebuke and chastise (Apoc. iii. 19). Where God loves, says St. Basil of Seleucia, severity is usually the pledge of His graces. Unhappy are the sinners who, living in the state of sin, prosper in this life: it is a sign that God reserves them for everlasting punishment. The sinner hath provoked the Lord; according to the multitude of his wrath, he will not seek him (Ps. ix. 25). St. Augustine says, speaking of the passage quoted, behold the most grievous chastisement! When God does not appear to take notice of the sinner, and leaves him unpunished, it is a sign that He is very wroth. I call you, says God to him whom He chastises, and will you be deaf to my voice? Son, be converted, otherwise you shall confirm My anger, since I shall cease to regard your salvation, and allow you to live on in your sins without punishment, but only that I may punish you in the life to come. And my indignation shall rest in thee; and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will cease and be angry no more (Ezech. xvi. 42). The Apostle warns you not to be deaf to the voice of God, for that on the Day of Judgment your obstinacy will be rewarded with a dreadful chastisement, and that chastisement eternal. But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his works (Rom. ii. 5, 6).