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admission to repentance is thy own glorious production, thou hast obtained it for us with a mighty purchase: but then be pleased also to take me in, to partake actually of this glorious mercy. Give to thy servant a perfect hatred of sin, a great displeasure at my own folly for ever having provoked thee to anger; a perpetual watchfulness against it, an effective resolution against all its tempting instances, a prevailing strife, and a glorious victory; that the body of sin being destroyed, I may never any more serve any of its baser interests; but that by a diligent labour, and a constant care, I may approve myself to thee my God, mindful of thy covenant, a servant of thy will, a lover of thy glory; that being thy minister in a holy service, I may be thy son by adoption and participation of the glories of the Lord Jesus. O let me never lie down in sin, nor rise in shame; but be partaker both of the death and the resurrection of our Lord; that my imperfect and unworthy services may, by passing into the holiness of thy kingdom, be such as thy servant desires they should, and fit to be presented unto thee in the perfect holiness of eternity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
OF THE DISTINCTION OF SINS, MORTAL AND VENIAL, IN WHAT SENSE то BE ADMITTED; AND HOW THE SMALLEST SINS ARE TO BE REPENTED OF, AND EXPIATED.
MEN have not been satisfied with devising infinite retirements and disguises of their follies to hide them from the world; but, finding themselves open and discerned by God, have endeavoured to discover means of escaping from that eye, from which nothing can escape but innocence, and from which nothing can be hid, but under the cover of mercy. For besides that we expound the divine laws to our own purposes of ease and ambition, we give to our sins gentle censures, and adorn them with good words, and refuse to load them with their proper characters and punishments; and at
last are come to that state of things, that since we cannot al low to ourselves a liberty of doing every sin, we have distinguished the question of sins into several orders, and have taken one half to ourselves. For we have found rest to our fancies in the permissions of one whole kind, having distinguished sins into 'mortal' and 'venial' in their own nature; that is, sins which may, and sins which may not be done, without danger; so that all the difference is, that some sins must be taken heed of, but others there are, and they the most in number, and the most frequent in their instances and returns, which we have leave to commit, without being af frighted with the fearful noises of damnation; by which doctrine, iniquity and confidence have much increased and grown upon the ruins and declension of the Spirit.
2. And this one article hath almost an infinite influence to the disparagement of religion in the determination of casęs of conscience. For supposing the distinction to be believed, experience and certain reason will evince, that it is impossi ble to prescribe proper limits and measures to the several kinds; and between the least mortal, and the greatest venial sin, no man is able with certainty to distinguish: and therefore (as we see it daily happen, and in every page written by the casuists) men call what they please venial, take what measures of them they like, appoint what expiation of them they fancy, and consequently give what allowance they list to those whom they please to mislead. For in innumerable cases of conscience it is oftener required, whether a thing be venial or mortal, than whether it be lawful or not lawful; and as purgatory is to hell, so venial is to sin, a thing which men fear not, because the main stake they think to be secured for if they may have heaven at last, they care not what comes between. And as many men of the Roman persuasion will rather choose purgatory, than suffer here an inconsiderable penance, or do those little services which themselves think will prevent it; so they choose venial sins, and hug the pleasures of trifles, warming themselves at fantastic fires, and dancing in the light of the glow-worms; and they love them so well, that rather than quit those little things, they will suffer the intolerable pains of a temporary hell; for so they believe: which is the testimony of a great evil and a mighty danger; for it gives testimony, that little sins can be
beloved passionately, and therefore can minister such a delight as is thought a price great enough to pay for the sufferance of temporal evils, and purgatory itself,
3. But the evil is worse yet, when it is reduced to practice. For in the decision of very many questions, the answer is, It is a venial sin; that is, though it be a sin, yet there is in it no danger of losing the favour of God by that, but you may do it, and you may do it again a thousand thousand times; and all the venial sins of the world put together, can never do what one mortal sin can, that is, make God to be your enemy:" so Bellarmine expressly affirms. But because there are many doctors who write cases of conscience, and there is no measure to limit the parts of this distinction (for that which is not at all, cannot be measured), the doctors differ infinitely in their sentences; some calling that mortal which others call venial (as you may see in the little summaries of Navarre and Emanuel Sà); the poor souls of the laity, and the vulgar clergy who believe what is told them by the authors or confessors they choose to follow, must needs be in infinite danger, and the whole body of practical divinity, in which the life of religion and of all our hopes depends, shall be rendered dangerous and uncertain, and their confidence shall betray them unto death.
4. To bring relief to this state of evil, and to establish aright the proper grounds and measures of repentance; I shall first account concerning the difference of sins, and by what measures they are so differenced. 2. That all sins are of their own nature punishable as God please, even with the highest expressions of his anger. 3. By what repentance they are cured, and pardoned respectively.
Of the Difference of Sins, and their Measures.
5. I. SINS are not equal, but greater or less in their principle as well as in their event. It was one of the errors of
Jovinian, which he learned from the school of the Stoics, that all sins are alike grievous;
Cam dicas esse pares res
Furta latrociniis, et magnis parva mineris
For they supposed an absolute irresistible fate to be the cause of all things; and therefore what was equally necessary, was equally culpable, that is, not at all: and where men have no power of choice, or (which is all one) that it be necessary that they choose what they do, there can be no such thing as laws, or sins against them. To which they adding that all evils are indifferent, and the event of things, be it good or bad, had no influence upon the felicity or infelicity of man, they could neither be differenced by their cause, or by their effect; the first being necessary, and the latter indifferent. Against this I shall not need to oppose many arguments; for though this follows most certainly from their doctrine, who teach an irresistible decree of God to be the cause of all things and actions; yet they that own the doctrine disavow the consequent; and in that, are good Christians, but ill logicians. But the article is sufficiently cleared by the words of our blessed Lord in the case of Judas, whose sin (as Christ told Pilate) was 'the greater,' because he had not power over him but by special concession; in the case of ⚫ the servant that knows his master's will, and does it not;' in the several condemnations of the degrees and expressions of anger in the instances of Raca, and Mape, 'Thou vain man,' or 'Thou fool:' by this, comparing some sins to gnats, and some to camels: and in proportion to these, there are πολλαὶ πληγαὶ in St. Luke, 'many stripes ;' a μείζον κρίμα in St. James, a greater condemnation.' Thus to rob a church is a greater sin than to rob a thief; to strike a father is a higher impiety than to resist a tutor; to oppress a widow is clamorous, and calls aloud for vengeance, when a less repentance will vote down the whispering murmurs of a trifling injury, done to a fortune that is not sensible of smaller diminutions.
f Matt. xxiii. 24. Luke, vi. 41.
e Horat. serm. l. 1. sat. 3. 121.
Nec vincet ratio hoc, tantundem ut peccet idemque
Et qui nocturnus Divùm sacra legerit.
He is a greater criminal that steals the chalice from a church, than he that takes a few coleworts, or robs a garden of cucumbers. But this distinction and difference is by something that is extrinsical to the action, the greatness of the mischief, or the dignity of the person; according to that,
Omne animi vitium tanto conspectius in se
Crimen habet, quanto major, qui peccat, habetur h.
6. II. But this, when it is reduced to its proper cause, is, because such greater sins are complicated; they are commonly two or three sins wrapped together, as the unchastity of a priest, is uncleanness and scandal too: adultery is worse than fornication, because it is unchastity and injustice, and by the fearful consequents of it, is mischievous and uncharitable.
Et quas Euphrates, et quas mihi misit Orontes,
Me capiant; Nolo furta pudica tori.
So sacrilege is theft and impiety. And Apicius killing himself, when he supposed his estate would not maintain his luxury, was not only a self-murderer, but a gluttonous person in his death:
Nil est, Apici, te gulosius factumi.
So that the greatness of sins is in most instances by extension and accumulation; that as he is a greater sinner who sins often in the same instance, than he that sins seldom; so is he who sins such sins as are complicated and entangled, like the twinings of combining serpents. And this appears to be so, because if we take single sins, as uncleanness and theft, no man can tell which is the greater sin; neither can they be differenced but by something that is besides the nature of the action itself. A thought of theft, and an unclean thought, have nothing by which they can excel each other; but when you clothe them with the dress of active circumstances, they grow greater or less respectively; because then two or three sins are put together, and get a new
7. III. There is but one way more, by which sins can