« PreviousContinue »
rity, on which the errors of men are not judged criminal and mischievous, as on the other side they are. But God knows the hearts of men, their little obliquities and intricate turnings, every propensity and secret purpose, what malice is ingredient, and what error is invincible, and how much is fit to be pitied, and therefore what may justly be exacted. For there are three several ways of judgment, according to the several capacities of the judges. First, the laws of men judge only by the event, or material action, and meddle not at all with the purpose, but where it is opened by an active sign. He that gives me a thousand pounds to upbraid my poverty, or with a purpose to feed my crimes, is not punishable by law, but he that takes from me a thousand shillings, though secretly he means to give it to my needy brother. Because as in the estimation of men nothing is valuable but what does them good or hurt; so neither can their laws and tribunals receive testimony of any thing but what is seen or felt. And thus it is also in the measures of sins. To break order in a day of battle, is but a disorder; and so it is to break order at St. George's show, at a training, or in a procession; and yet that is punished with death, this with a cudgel; the aptness to mischief, and the evil consequent, being in human judicatories the only measures of judgment: men feel the effects, and the laws do judge accordingly. 2. In the private judgments of men, mercy must interpose; and it can oftener than in the public because in the private intercourses of men, there is a sense, and can be a consideration of particulars, and little accidents and significations of things, and some purposes may be privately discerned, which cannot publicly be proved. He that went to help his friend out of a river, and pulled his arm out of joint, was excused by the wronged preserved person: the evil accident was taken off by the pious purpose: but he that, to dishonour his friend, throws a glass of wine in his face, and says he did it in sport, may be judged by his purpose, not by his pretence; because the pretence can be confuted by the observation of little circumstances and adherences of the action, which yet peradventure cannot legally be proved. "Alitèr leges, alitèr philosophi tollunt astutias: leges, quatenus tenere manu res possunt; philosophi, quatenus ratione et intelligentiâ:""Laws regard the great materialities of obedience, the real, sensible effect.
But wise men, philosophers, and private judges, take in the accounts of accidental moments and incidences to the action," said Cicero. But, 3. God's judgment is otherwise yet; for he alone can tell the affection, and all that which had secret influence into the event: and therefore he can judge by what is secret, by the purpose and heart, which is indeed the only way of doing exact justice. From hence it follows, that what ought not to dissolve the friendship of man, may yet justly dissolve our friendship with God, for he takes other measures than men may or can.
16. IV. Because offences against God may be avoided ; but it is not so in our intercourses with men; for God hath told us plainly what is our duty, what he expects, what will please and what will displease him: but men are often governed by chance; and that which pleases them to-day, shall provoke them to-morrow; and the next day, you shall be their enemy, for that for which, three days ago, they paid you thanks.
17. V. If men exact little things, it becomes their own case; for we sin against our brother and need his pardon : and therefore
Hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim ;
We give and ask pardon;
Det ille veniam facilè, cui veniâ est opus:
But we never found iniquity in God, or injustice in the Most High, and therefore he that is innocent may throw a stone at the criminal.
18. VI. God hath in the smallest instance left us without excuse; for he hath often warned us of small offences. He hath told us their danger. He that despiseth little things, shall perish by little and little.'-He hath told us, they asperse us with a mighty guilt; for he that offends in one commandment, is guilty of all.' He hath told us, that we are not certainly excused, though our conscience do not manifestly accuse us; for so St. Paul; "I am not hereby justified, for God is greater than my conscience." He hath threatened loss of heaven to him that is guilty of the breach of one, kav axiorwv, "though of the least of these commandments" (TOÚTwv, 'these' which Christ hath reckoned in his sermon, where fetters are laid upon thoughts and words),
• Offic. lib. 3.
"shall be called the least in the kingdom," that is, he shall be quite shut out: for 'minimus' here is as much as 'nullus;' 'minimus vocabitur,' that is, 'minimi æstimabitur,'' he shall not be esteemed at all' in the accounts of doomsday mercy, ἐν τῇ μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἀποκαταστάσει, ἐν ᾗ γίνεται κολαζομένων τε καὶ δοξαζομένων ἡ διαίρεσις, in the accounts of the doomsday book, "where there shall be a discerning of them who shall be glorified, from them that are to be punished"." And this, which is one of the severest periods of Holy Scripture, can by no arts be turned aside from concluding fully in this question. Bellarmine says it means only to condemn those, who by false doctrines corrupt these severe precepts, and teach men as the Pharisees did of old; not all those who break them themselves, if they teach others to keep them. "He that breaks one of these, and shall teach men so to do;" so are the words of Christ. But it is a known thing that kaì is oftentimes used for ; "He that breaks one of these, or shall teach others." The words were spoken to the persons of the apostles, who were to teach these doctrines Kar' EπíTαow exactly as Christ preached them;' but without peradventure they were also intended to all the church and the following words, and the whole analogy of the adjoined discourse, make it clear to every observing reader; and the words plainly say this, 'He that shall break one of these least commandments,' and 'He that shall teach men so,' each of them shall be called the least in the kingdom.' -But, 2. Why did our blessed Lord so severely threaten those that should teach others to break any of these severe commandments by false interpretation, but only because it was so necessary for all to keep them in the true sense, and so fearful a thing to any to break them? 3. Those who preach severe doctrines to others, and touch them not with one of their fingers, are guilty of that which Christ reproved in the Pharisees; and themselves shall be castaways, while they preach to others: so that the breaking it by disobedience is damnable, as well as the breaking it by false interpretation :
Odi homines ignavâ operâ, philosopha sententiâ,
Indeed it is intolerable to teach men to be vicious; but it is
In resp. ad orthod. apud Justin.
De amiss. grat. cap. 12. sect. Restat ultim.
a hateful baseness to shew others that way which ourselves refuse to walk in. Whatever therefore may not be allowed to be taught, may not also be done; for the people are not to be taught evil, because they must not do evil; but may the teachers do what they may not teach, and what the people may not do, or is not the same punishment to them both? 4. Now upon these grounds, this very gloss which Bellarmine gives, being a false interpretation of these words of Christ (which are a summary of his whole sermon, and as it were the sanction and establishment of the former and following periods into laws), must needs be of infinite danger to the inventor and followers of it: for this gloss gives leave to men to break the least of these commandments, "some way or other (if they do not teach others so to do)" without being affrighted with the fears of hell; but in the meanwhile this gloss teaches, or gives leave to others to break them, but allows no false interpretation of them but its own. 5. But then it is worse with them who 'teach others so to do,' and command all men to teach so; and if the Roman doctors who teach that some breach of these commandments is not of its own nature, and by the divine threatenings, exclusive of the transgressors from the kingdom of God,-be not in some sense a teaching men so to do, then nothing is for when God said to Adam, "That day thou eatest of the forbidden" fruit, thou shalt die ;" the tempter said, " Nay, but ye shall not die ;" and so was author to Adam of committing his sin. So when our blessed Saviour hath told us, that to break one of these least commandments is exclusive of us from heaven, they that say, that not every solution or breaking of them is exclusive from heaven (which are the words of Bellarmine, and the doctrine of the Roman church), must even by the consequence of this very gloss of his, fall under the danger of didátovτes, of the false teachers, or the breakers of them by false interpretation. However, fearful is the malediction even to the breakers of the least: ἐλάχιστος κληθήσεται, that is, ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει ἔσχατος καὶ ἀπεῤῥιμμένος εἰς γεένναν (that I may use the words of Theophylact), "He shall be last in the resurrection, and shall be thrown into hell :" for that is the meaning of" least in the kingdom of heaven:""et fortasse ideo non erit in regno cœlorum, ubi nisi magni esse non possunt," said, St. Austin; 'least' is none at all;" "for into heaven none can enter, but they which are great in God's account."
19. VII. Lastly, God hath given us the perpetual assist ances of his Spirit, the presence of his grace, the ministry of his word, the fear of judgments, the endearment of his mercies, the admonition of friends, the severity of preachers, the aid of books, the apprehension of death, the sense of our daily dangers, our continual necessities, and the recollection of our prayers, and above all, he hath promised heaven to the obedient, which is a state of blessings so great and infinite, as upon the account of them, it is infinitely reasonable and just, if he shall exact of us every sin, that is, every thing which we can avoid.
20. Upon this account it is, that although wise and prudent men do not despise the continual endearments of an old friend, yet, in many cases, God may and doth; and from the rules and proper measures of human friendship, to argue up to a presumption of God's easiness in not exacting our duty, is a fallacious proceeding, but it will deceive nobody but ourselves.
21. I. Every sin is directly against God's law; and therefore is damnable and deadly in the accounts of the divine justice, one as well, though not so grievously, as another. For though sins be differenced by greater and less, yet their proportion to punishment is not differenced by temporal and eternal, but by greater and less in that kind which God hath threatened. So Origen. "Unusquisque, pro qualitate et quantitate peccati, diversam mulctæ sententiam expendit. Si parum est quod peccas, ferieris damno minuti, ut Lucas scripsit,―ut verò Matthæus, quadrantis. Veruntamen necesse est hoc ipsum, quod exstitisti debitor, solvere. Non enim inde exibis, nisi et minima quæque persolveris:" "Every one, according to the quantity and quality of his sin, must pay his fine;" but till he hath paid he shall not be loosed from those fearful prisons; that is, he shall never be loosed, if he agree not before he comes thither. The smallest offence is a sin, and therefore it is avoμía, a transgression of the law,' a violation of that band by which our obedience unites us unto God. And this the Holy Scripture signifies unto us in various expressions. For though the several words are variously used in sacred and profane writers, yet all of them signify that even the smallest sin is a preva
Homil. 35. 12. Lucam.