one man has committed towards another person will not obtain pardon before an earthly judge, it is quite clear that
these methods will not avail to procure forgiveness of sin and to obtain salvation in the sight of God, who is the just
and holy judge and the absolute ruler of all things.
And, as nothing is gained by reciting fixed formulas of prayer and by washings and sacrifices and such things, so too
pardon and salvation are not to be obtained through oblations and asceticism and self-torture; for, since sin does not
originate in man's body but within him, that is to say in evil thoughts and desires, in wicked inclinations and lusts,
how is it possible that through offerings and ascetic practices and self-torture a man should cleanse himself of sin and
purify his heart from defilement? The utmost that these things can accomplish is that the thought of them may sometimes
deter a man from the commission of open sin; but they will never prevent inward and secret sin, nor can they ever
cleanse a man's heart from evil desires and lusts.
Let us suppose that a sick man beats himself or torments himself in some other way, will his illness in this way
become at all slighter or better? In the same way, even if we compare sin to a diseasethough it is worse than a leprosy
of the soul, and worse than any disease, being rebellion against God Most Highstill it is impossible that man's inner
and spiritual disease of sin should
be healed through the medicine of oblations and ascetic observances and self-torment. Sin needs forgiveness, and how
can these things purchase forgiveness or possess any healing power? Even if we consider the question of the due
punishment of sin and desire to escape from it, it is evident that such measures are ineffectual. As a thief or a robber
or any other criminal cannot, in the sight of the human judge, deliver himself from punishment and the penalty due to
him by practising asceticism and torturing himself, in precisely the same way sin cannot be atoned for in the sight of
the just and holy God by asceticism and self-torture, nor can these methods deliver any one even from punishment. And,
since the all-wise and just God will Himself punish for sin and no mere creature will be able to interfere in the
matter, therefore the man who undertakes of himself to inflict punishment on himself for his sins by subjecting his body
to ascetic practices and to suffering does not thereby acquire merit, but rather incurs fresh sin by his presumption.
Accordingly, if a person, of his own will and pleasure and contrary to reason, spend in ascetic practices the time,
strength and ability which it is his duty to devote to obeying God's commandments, he thereby increases his sin instead
of blotting it out. Hence, even to sacrifice one's life in order to do away one's sin would not be a work of merit, but
on the contrary would be committing suicide.