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get or lose degrees, and that is the different proportions of our affections. This indeed relates to God more iminediately, and by him alone is judged; but the former being invested with material circumstances, can be judged by men: bứt all that God reserves for his own portion of the sacrifice, is the heart; that is, our love and choice; and therefore the degrees of love or hatred, is that measure by which God makes differing judgments of them. For by this it is, that little sins become great, and great sins become little. If a Jew had maliciously touched a dead body in the days of Easter, it had been a greater crime, than if in the violence of his temptation he had unwillingly willed to commit an act of fornication. He that delights in little thefts, because they are breaches of God's laws, or burns a prayer-book, because he hates religion, is a greater criminal than he that falls into a material heresy by an invisible or less discerned deception: secure but to God your affections, and he will secure your innocence or pardon ; for men live or die by their own measures. If a man spits in the face of a priest to defy religion, or shaves the beard of an ambassador to disgrace the prince (as it happened to David's messengers), his sin is greater than if he killed the priest in his own just defence; or shot the ambassador through the heart, when he intended to strike a lion. For every negligence, every disobedience, being against charity or the love of God, by interpretation; this superaddition of direct malice is open enmity against him; and therefore is more severely condemned by him, who sees every thought, and degrees of passion and affection. For the increase of malice does aggravate the sin, just as the complication of material instances. Every degree of malice being as distinct and commensurate a sin, as any one external instance that hath a name; and therefore many degrees of malice combine and grow greater as many sins conjoined in one action, they differ only in nature, not in morality; just as a great number and a great weight : so that, in effect, all sins are differenced by complication only, that is, either of the external or the internal instances.
8. IV. Though the negligence or the malice be naturally equal, yet sometimes by accident the sins may be unequal, not only in the account of men, but also before God too ;but it is upon the account of both the former. It is when
the material effect being different upon men, God hath with greater caution secured such interests. So that by interpretation the negligence is greater, because the care was with greater earnestness commanded; or else because in such cases the sin is complicated : for such sins which do most mischief, have, besides their proper malignity, the evil of uncharitableness, or hating our brother. In some cases God requires one hand, and in others both. Now he that puts but one of his fingers to each of them, his negligence is in nature the same, but not in value; because where more is required, the defect was greater. If a man be equally careless of the life of his neighbour's son, and his neighbour's cock, although the will or attendance to the action be naturally equal, that is, none at all, yet morally, and in the divine account, they differ, because the proportions of duty and obligation were different, and therefore more ought to have been put upon the one than upon the other: just as he is equally clothed, that wears a single garment in summer and winter, but he is not equally warm, unless be, that wears a silk mantle when the dog-star rages, claps on furs when the cold north-star changes the waters into rocks,
9. V. Single sins, done with equal affection or disaffection, do not differ in degrees as they relate to God, but in themselves are equally prevarications of the divine commandment. As he tells a lie that says the moon is foursquare, as great as he that
there were but three apostles, or that Christ was not the son of man: and as every lie is an equal sin against truth ", so every sin is an equal disobedience and recession from the rule. But some lies are more against charity, or justice, or religion, than others are, and so are greater by complication ; but against truth they are all equally opposed : and so are all sins contrary to the commandment. And in this sense is that saying' of St. Basil : “Primò enim scire illud convenit, differentiam minorum et majorum nusquam in Novo Testamento reperiri. Siquidem una est et eadem sententia adversus quælibet peccata, cum Dominus dixerit, ' Qui facit peccatum, servus est peccati :' et item, •Sermo quem loquutus sum vobis, ille
k Nibil invenies rectis recto, non magis quàm verius vero, quam temperalo temperatius ; omnis in modo est virtus : modus certa mensura est. Conslantia non habet quò procedat, non magis quàm fiducia, aut veritas, aut fides. Sen.
' In regul. brevior.
judicabit eum in novissimo die:' et Johannes vociferans dicat, ` Qui contumax est in filium, non videbit vitam æternam ; sed ira dei manet super eum: cum contumacia non in discrimine peccatorum, sed in violatione præcepti positam habeat futuri supplicii denunciationem :" The difference of great and little sins is no where to be found in the New Testament. One and the same sentence is against all sins; our Lord saying, “He that doth sin, is the servant of sin;' and, “The word that I have spoken, that shall judge you in the last day; and John crieth out, saying, 'He that is disobedient to the Son, shall not see eternal life, but the wrath of God abideth on him:' for this contumacy or disobedience does not consist in the difference of sins, but in the violation of the divine law; and for that it is threatened with eternal pain.” But besides these arguments from Scripture, he adds an excellent reason: “ Prorsus autem si id nobis permittitur, ut in peccatis hoc magnum, illud exiguum appellemus, invicto argumento concluditur magnum unicuique esse illud, a.quo quisque superatur : contraque exiguum, quod unusquisque ipse superat. Ut, in athletis, qui vicit fortis est; qui autem victus est, imbecillior eo unde victus est, quisque ille sit:" “ If it be permitted that men shall call this sin great, and that sin little; they will conclude that to be great which was too strong for them; and that to be little which they can master. As
As among champions, he is the strongest, that gets the victory.”—And then, upon this account, no sin is venial that a man commits; because that is it which hath prevailed upon, and mastered all his strengths.
10. The instance is great whatsoever it be that God hath chosen for our obedience. To abstain from the fruit of a tree, not to gather sticks or dew after a certain hour, not to touch the curtains of the ark, not to uncover our father's shame, all is one as to God; for there is nothing in all our duty that can add any moments to his felicity, but by what he please he is to try our obedience. Let no man, therefore, despise a sin, or be bold to plead for it, as Lot for Zoar; “Is it not a little one?" For no man can say it is little, if God hath chosen the commandment which the sin transgresses, as an instrument of his glorification and our felicity. Disobedience is the formality of sin; and since the
instance or the matter of sin is all one to God, so also is the disobedience. The result of this consideration is this: 1. That no man should indulge to himself the smallest sin, because it is equally against God as the greatest: and though accidentally it may come not to be so exacted, yet of itself it may, and God is just if he does. 2. There is no sin, but if God enters into judgment with us, he may justly sentence us for it to the portion of accursed spirits. For if for any, then for all, there being (as to him) no difference. But these things are to be proved in the following section.
That all Sins are punishable as God please, even with the
Pains of Hell. 11. I. In the aggravation of sins, the injured person is as considerable as any other circumstance. He that smites a prince, he that fires a temple, he that rails upon the Bible, he that pollutes the sacraments,-makes every sin to be a load : and, therefore, since every sin is against God, it ought. not to be called little, unless God himself should be little esteemed. And since men usually give this account, that God punishes a transient sin with an immortal pain, because though the action is finite, yet it was against an infinite God; we may, upon the same ground, esteem it just, that even for the smallest sin, God, in the rigour of his justice, can exact the biggest calamity. For an act of murder, or a whole year of adultery, hath no nearer proportion to an eternity of pains, than one sinful thought hath: for greater or less are no approaches towards infinite; for between them both, and what is infinite, the distance is equally infinite.
12. II. In the distinction of sins, mortal and venial, the doctors of the Roman church define venial sins to be such which can consist with the love of God, which never destroy or lessen it"; in the very definition, supposing that thing which is most of all in question; and the ground of the defi
m Venialia peccata, ex consensu omnium theologorum, negrie tollunt neque minuunt habitum caritatis, sed solom actum et forvorem ejus impediunt. Bellarm. do amiss. grat, c. 13. sect. alterum est.
nition is nothing but the analogy and proportion of the intercourses and usages of men, who, for a small offence, do not neglect or cast away the endearments of an old friend": of which when I have given account, I suppose the greatest difficulty of the question is removed. Against this, therefore, I oppose this proposition,—the smallest sins are destructive of our friendship with God.—For although God's mercies are infinite and glorious, and he forgives millions to us that grudge to remit the trifles of our brother; and therefore, whatsoever we can suppose a man will forgive to his friend, that and much more, infinitely more, may we expect from the treasures of his goodness and mercy; yet our present consideration is, not what we can expect from God's mercy, but what is the just demerit of our sins; not what he will forgive, but what he may justly exact; not what are the measures of pardon, but what are the accounts of his justice: for though we have hopes upon other reckonings, yet upon the account even of our smallest sins, we have nothing but fear and sadder expectations. For we are not to account the measures and rules of our friendship with God, by the easiness and ignorance, by the necessities and usual compliances of men. For,
13. I. Certain it is, that in the usual accounts of men some things are permitted, which are not so in the accounts of God. All sorts of ignorance use to lessen a fault amongst men, but before God some sorts of ignorance do aggravate; such as is the voluntary and malicious, which is the worst sort of vincible. Not that men do not esteem him vicious and unworthy who inquires not for fear he should know, but because men oftentimes are not competent judges whether they do or no. . 14. II. Because inen know not by what
their neighbours' action is directed, and therefore reckon only by the next and most apparent cause, not by the secret and most operative and effective.
15. III. Because by the laws of charity we are bound to think the best, to expound things fairly, to take up things by the easier handle; there being left for us no other security of not being confounded by mutual censures, judgments, and inflictions, but by being restrained on the surer side of cha
* Idem ib. cap. 11. secl. quartuin argım.