CHAPTER XXI Twelfth degree -- Habitual sin. (The opposite of the first degree of humility -- constant abstinence from sin for fear of God. ) But when, by the awful judgment of God, his first offences have been unpunished, the pleasure that he has derived from them is freely repeated, and its repetition engrosses him. Lust is quickened, reason lulled, and habit becomes bondage. The wretched man is drawn into the abyss of evil, made prisoner to the despotic rule of vice, and so overwhelmed by the whirlpool of his carnal desires that he forgets alike his own reason and the fear of God, and says madly in his heart, There is no God. (1) He now, without scruple, puts pleasure in the place of law, his mind, his hands and his feet are no longer forbidden to consider, execute and pursue courses that are unlawful; but whatever comes to his heart, his mouth or his hand, he designs, discusses and carries out, with evil intent, idle utterance, and sinful action. 1. Ps. xiii. 1. St. Bernard describes more fully the spiritual state of the abandoned sinner in his treatise on 'The Rule and Dispensation' (C, xiv, sect. 40). Just as a righteous man, when he has risen through all the degrees, is able by his habitual goodness to run eagerly and easily to life ; so does the wicked man, who has gone down through the same degrees, in consequence of his evil practice emancipated from the rule of reason and unres- trained by the bridle of fear, hasten undaunted to his death. There are some in the middle who are wearied and worried who, alternately tortured by the fear of hell, and hindered by longstanding habit, find the descent or ascent hard work. The first one and the last one alone move quickly and without hindrance. The latter hastens to death the former to life the one more speedily, the other with greater care. Love makes the one eager, lust renders the other inert. The affection of the one, the indifference of the other make both insensible to toil. So in the one perfect love, in the other consummate wickedness drives out fear. Loyalty gives confidence to the one, blindness does the same for the other. So the twelfth degree may be called the habit of sinning, because in it the fear of God is lost, and its place is taken by scorn.