The advice I have given about continence is by no means unimportant. If someone follow it he will not be sorry: he will save himself and me too, as the giver of this advice. It is no small reward, to take a lost and wandering soul and bring it to safety. For this is how we can pay God back for creating us, by making sure that whoever speaks or listens, speaks or listens in faith and love.
Let us keep firm in what we believe, in righteousness and holiness, so that we can trustingly pray to the God who told us Even while you are still speaking I will answer, Behold, I am here. This saying is a sign of a great promise, because it says that God is quicker to give than we are to ask. Since we all have a share in his generosity, let us not be envious of one another for receiving such great blessings. For just as these words bring happiness to those who follow them, so do they bring condemnation to those who do not.
So, brethren, this is no small opportunity for penitence that we have been given. Let us take advantage of it, let us turn to God who has called us, while we still have time, while we have someone who will receive us. If we renounce these desires and we conquer our souls and do not follow their evil impulses, we shall share in Jesus’s mercy. But be aware that the day of judgement is coming, a day like a blazing furnace, that a part of the heavens and the entire earth like lead melting in a fire, and all the deeds of men will be revealed, whether they were hidden or open. Therefore almsgiving is good, as penance for sin: fasting is better than prayer but almsgiving is better than both. Charity covers a multitude of sins, but prayer done with a good conscience liberates us from death. Blessed is anyone who is perfect in these ways: for almsgiving lifts the weight of sin.
So let us do penance wholeheartedly, lest any one of us perish. For if we have been commanded to draw people away from the worship of idols, and to teach them, how much more important it must be that a soul that already knows God should not perish. Let us help one another so that we lead even the weak to goodness, so that we may all be saved, may be converted together and guide each other.
Let us therefore find ourselves among those who give thanks, those who have served God, and not among the wicked who are judged. Although I myself am a sinner in all things, and still ensnared by the devil, I aim for righteousness and hope to get close to it in the end; for I fear the judgement that is to come.
So, brothers and sisters, after we have heard the words of the God of truth, I read you this exhortation. I hope to turn your souls’ full attention to what has been written, so that you bring salvation not only to yourselves but to me as I read the word of God to you. I beg for this reward: that you should do penance wholeheartedly and thus bring salvation and life on yourselves. If we do this then we shall be able to show an example to all the young who want to turn their lives towards the love and goodness of God. And if someone sees our folly and tries to turn us from evil to righteousness, let us not be angry or indignant; for often when we do evil we do not pay attention to the fact – either from inner duplicity or from lack of faith – and our minds are clouded by our worthless desires.
Therefore let us be righteous so that in the end we may be saved. Blessed are those who obey these precepts: even if they suffer evil in this world for a short while, they will reap a harvest of eternal life. Let the good man not be saddened if he suffers present troubles: a blessed time awaits him, when he will be raised to life and will rejoice with his fathers through an untroubled eternity.
We should not be perturbed if we see the wicked living in comfort while the servants of God suffer want. Brothers and sisters, let us be firm in faith: in this life we are suffering trials that come from the living God, so that we may wear crowns in the next life. None of the righteous receive the fruits of their goodness instantly, but all have to wait for them. If it were otherwise, if God gave quick rewards for righteousness, then it would not be piety that drove us to good acts but a simple matter of business. We would see virtue not as a good thing but as a profitable thing. For this reason the judgement of God shakes a spirit that is not filled with righteousness and loads chains upon it.
To the one invisible God, the Father of truth, who sent us our saviour as the founder of our immortality and showed us the truth through him and the way to eternal life – to God be glory for ever and ever. Amen.