The acknowledgment of oneself as deserving of temporal and eternal punishments precedes the knowledge of the Savior and leads to the knowledge of the Savior, as we see from the example of the robber who inherited Paradise. Perhaps you will say that the robber was a flagrant criminal, and therefore confession was easy for him, but how is a person who has committed no crime to make a confession of that sort?
We reply that the other robber who was crucified beside the Lord was also a flagrant criminal, but he did not acknowledge his sinfulness, because awareness of sin is a result of love and humility, while unawareness is a result of pride and hardness of heart.
God’s saints were constantly aware that they were sinners, in spite of the obvious spiritual gifts with which they were so lavishly endowed. On the other hand, the greatest evildoers and criminals have always justified themselves. While drowning in crime, they never stopped proclaiming their virtue.