THE COMMITTING OF SIN EXPLAINED.
Q. What is repentance?
A. Repentance, which is also called penance, is the sincere conversion of the heart from sin to God. To understand this, we must observe, that in sin there are two great evils, which Almighty God himself describes with astonishment in these words, "Be astonished, O ye havens! at this - for my people have done two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," Jerem ii. 12. In every mortal sin, then, there are these two enormous evils, to wit, the turning away from God, infinitely good, and the very fountain of goodness and life, and the embracing, in his stead, the monster sin, by the allurement of some deceitful appearance of an imaginary happiness, justly compared to a broken cistern that can hold no water, but only filth. Wherefore repentance, which is the opposite of sin, and the destroyer of sin, must have these two opposite conditions, the turning away from sin with horror, detestation, and sorrow, for having offended so great a God, and the returning back to God, to embrace him by love, and faithfully to obey his holy law.
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MORTAL SIN EXPLAINED.
Q. What is mortal sin?
A. Mortal sin is a grievous transgression of the law, whether this grievousness arises from the nature of the thing done, or from the circumstances in which it is done, or from the will of the law given who strictly requires the observance of what is commanded as was the sin of our first parents in eating the forbidden fruit.
Q. What are the effects of mortal sin?
A. It banishes the grace of God from our souls, renders us hateful and abominable in the sight of God, and worthy of eternal punishment. For th is reason it is called mortal, because it kills the soul in this life, by depriving it of the sanctifying grace of God, which is the spiritual life of the soul, and condemns us to eternal death in the life to come.
Q. Is mortal sin a great evil?
A. It is the greatest of all evils, because infinitely opposed to the infinite goodness of God. It is a bottomless pit, which o created understanding can fathom; for as none but God himself can fully comprehend his own infinite goodness, so none but God himself can perfectly comprehend the infinite malice and enormity that is found in th is opposite evil. It is the parent both of the devil and of hell; for hell was only made for mortal sin, and Lucifer was an angel of light till he was transformed into a devil by mortal sin.
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THE MALICE OF MORTAL SIN.
Q. From what does the malice of mortal sin chiefly appear?
A. From several important considerations;
1. From the greatness of the injury done to God;
2. From the hatred with which God adhors it;
3. From the severity with which he punishes it, even in this world;
4. From the ingratitude it contains against Jesus Christ;
5. From the sad effects it produces in our souls in this life; and,
6. From the loss of heaven, of which it deprives us, and the torments of hell to which it condemns us, in the life to come.
Q. How does the malignity of sin appear from the injury done to God?
A. Because it strikes directly at God himself; it is a rebellion and high treason against him, and involves in its bosom a most injurious contempt of all his divine perfections. The greatness of its malignity in this view will appear from the following considerations:
First, God is a being of infinite perfection, of infinite goodness, of infinite dignity, of infinite majesty, infinite worthy in himself of all possible honor, love and obedience; in comparison with whom all created beings are but a mere nothing. When, therefore, such wretched worms of the earth as we are presume to offend and insult this God of infinite dignity, by transgressing his command, and preferring ourselves or any creature to him, the malice of such an action is in a manner infinite; for we find among ourselves, that the grievousness of any injury always rises in proportion to the dignity of the person offended about the one that injures him. Seeing, therefore, that the dignity and majesty of God is sufficiently above all creatures, an injury done to him must rise in proportion to his dignity, and, in this respect, be of an infinite malice.
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GOD IS OUR CREATOR,
WHO GAVE US OUR VERY BEING;
OUR SOULS AND BODIES,
AND ALL OUR POWERS AND FACULTIES.
Second, God is our Creator, who gave us our very being; our souls and bodies, and all our powers and faculties, are the work of his hands; consequently, he has an indisputable and unalienable title to all our service. He is our first beginning and last end, who made us from himself, and for his own glory. He is our father to whom we own infinitely more than to our natural parents. He is the sovereign Lord of us and of all creatures, the king of the whole universe, who has the most absolute domain over us, and can do with us whatsoever he pleases. We can depend totally upon him for our continual preservation, and for every thing else that we possess and enjoy; when we had lost ourselves by sin, he redeemed us and bought us with a great price, even his own most precious blood. Each of these ties gives God a most supreme right to all honor, love, and obedience from us, which it were the height of injustice to deprive him of; but sin, at once, breaks through all these ties together, and most sacrilegiously alienates from God, what, on so many titles, is so strictly his. Parents, what do you feel in your own breasts, when your children insult you, and despise your will? Masters, what is the indignation of your hearts, when your servants disregard your orders and reproach you? Rulers, what feeling have you of the injury you receive when your subjects rebel against you? Judge then, what and how great must be the injury done to God by sin, in whom all these titles are reunited, in manner infinitely stronger than is possible for them to be between man and man! Hear how he complains of it himself," The son honoureth the Father, and the servant his master; if, then, I be a Father, where is my honour? and if I be a Master where is my fear? said the Lord of hosts." Mal. i. 6. Moses also says of his people, "They have sinned against him, and are none of his children in their filth; they are a wicked and perverse generation. Is this the return thou makest to the Lord, O foolish and senseless people? Is not he thy Father, that hath possessed thee, and made thee, and created thee!? Deut. xxxii. 5.
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THE SINNER'S WITHDRAWAL FROM GOD.
Third, God is our only true friend, our best and kindest benefactor, who has loved us with an eternal love, and every hour is bestowing the greatest favors on us; all we have, all we are, all we expect, is the pure effect of his goodness and love. To injure, then, so loving a friend, to insult and outrage him by sin, contains the malice of the blackest ingratitude; of which God thus complains: "For even the man of my peace, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, hath greatly supplanted me," Ps. xl. 10.
Fourth, To all the above ties of justice and gratitude, by which we are bound to love and serve God, is superadded that of the sacred vow we made in baptism, by which we are solemnly dedicated to him, and engaged to his service, and become heirs of his kingdom; which vow also is broken by sin, and augments its malice by the basest perfidy.
Fifth, Consider now the nature of sin itself, in opposition to all these sacred ties, and we shall clearly see how inconceivable a malice it must contain. For by sin we withdraw ourselves from this sovereign good; we condemn and despise him in the highest degree, by preferring our own will and our passions, to his Divine will; we insult his supreme dominion over us; we are guilty of the highest injustice, ingratitude, and perfidy towards him; we undervalue all his promises, laugh at his threats; we esteem the perishable riches, vain honours, and filthy pleasures of this world, more than him our supreme good; and we prefer the devil himself, and the pleasing him, before the God of infinite goodness who made us!
Q. How does the malice of sin appear from the hatred with which God adhors it?
A. From a very simple reason: For, as God is a God of infinite goodness, he must necessarily love every thing that is good, and cannot possibly hate any thing but what justly deserves to be hated; now, the hatred which God has to sin is inconceivable, and expressed in the strongest terms in his holy scripture; consequently sin must be a monstrous evil, which a God of infinite goodness so violently hates and detests. "Thou art not a God," says David, "that willest iniquity; neither shall the wicked dwell near thee, nor shall the unjust abide before thy eyes; thou hatest all the workers of iniquity," Ps. v. 5. "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike," Wisd. xiv. 9. "The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord," Prov. xv. 9. "Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, thou canst not look upon iniquity, Habbac. i. 13. "Evil thoughts are an abomination to the Lord," Prov. xv. 26. "Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord," Prov. xvi. 5. And the prophets, especially Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, are full of the like expressions.
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PUNISHMENT OF MORTAL SIN IN THIS WORLD.
Q. How does the malice of sin appear from the severity with which God punishes it in this world?
A. Because, as God is a God of infinite justice, it is impossible he should punish sin more than it deserves; may, as in this life his infinite mercy, is above his justice, he generally punishes it in the present time less than it deserves. Nothing, therefore, can show us more clearly the enormity of sin, than the severity with which he pursues it, even in this world, of which there are several very remarkable instances in Holy scripture. And
First, One sin, in a moment, stripped our first parents, and all their posterity, of that original justice, innocence and happiness, in which they were created, and of all the gifts of divine grace with which they were adorned; it wounded them in all the powers of the soul, it gave them up to the tyranny of Satan, it cast them out of Paradise, condemned them both to a temporal and eternal death, and in the meantime, let loose upon them that innumerable army of all manners of evils, both of soul and body, under which their posterity groan to this day.
Second, "God, seeing that the wickedness of men was great on the earth, and that all the thoughts of their heart was bent upon evil at all times, it repented him that he had made man upon the earth. Being inwardly touched with sorrow of heart, he said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth," Gen. vi. 5; and, accordingly, he destroyed the whole world, in punishment of sin, by the waters of the deluge.
Third, When the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was multiplied and became exceeding grievous, the Lord could not bear it longer, because it cried to heaven for vengeance; "And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven, and he destroyed these cities, and all the country about, all the inhabitants of the cities, and all things that spring from the earth," Gen. xix. 24.
Fourth, When Core and his companions rebelled against the authority of Moses and Aaron, and claimed to themselves the priesthood, Almighty God was so displeased with them, for this crime, that he punished them in a most dreadful manner. For "the earth broke asunder beneath their feet, and opening her mouth devoured them with their tents, and all their substance; and they went down alive into hell," Num. xvi. 31. Many other such examples are found in scripture, both regarding the whole nation of the Israelites, and also many particular persons, which show to a demonstration the great and inconceivable malignity of sin, from the server punishments with which a just and merciful God pursues it, even in th is world. But, above all others, the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ clearly manifest this truth; for there we see the divine justice of God the Father inflicting the most dreadful torments upon his own innocent son, for sins not his own, but ours, for which he has taken upon him to satisfy our offended Creator. What then must the enormous malignity of the monster sin be, which a just and merciful God punishes in so unheard of a manner in his own innocent Son?
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INGRATITUDE OF THE SINNER.
Q. How does the malice of sin appear from the ingratitude it contains against Jesus Christ?
A. The obligations we lie under to Jesus Christ are immense, and beyond conception. We must have been eternally miserable without him; he could in all justice have left us to our unhappy fate; he had no need of us, he was perfectly happy in himself; he could have created thousands of worlds, to serve him, though we had never been; he had no force obliging him to do any thing for us; he was perfectly master to do as he pleased. Out of pure mercy, th en, and compassion for our miseries, he undertook to save us; and who can conceive what this undertaking cost him?
Count one by one his dreadful torments, from his agony in the garden, till he expires upon the cross; see the God of heaven, made man, agonizing in the garden, buffetted, blindfold, spit upon, and the most ignominious, insulting and blasphemous things done against him; see him scourged at a pillar, tormented with a crown of thorns, and nailed to a disgraceful cross; consider the humility, the meekness, the patience, and above all, the infinite love for our souls with which he bears all these severe afflictions; behold to what an excess his love for us goes, when he bows down his head and expires upon the cross of our salvation.
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TO PROCURE FOR US EVERLASTING JOY AND HAPPINESS.
Does not such immense love, shown in so endearing a manner, and tending not only to free us from eternal damnation, but to procure for us everlasting joy and happiness, demand from us, in the strictest manner, every possible return of gratitude and love we can make to such a kind benefactor? What shall we say, then, of the monstrous ingratitude of sin, which not only refuses to make him any return of gratitude and love, but takes a most hellish pleasure in wantonly reviewing all his sufferings, and, as his holy word expresses it, "crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making a mockery of him," Heb. vi. 6.
Hear how he complains of this by his prophet David: "If my enemy had reviled me, I verily would have borne with it; and if he that hated me had spoken great things against me, I would perhaps have hid myself from him; but thou, a man of one mind, my guide and my familiar, who didst take sweetmeats together with me, in the house of God, we walked with consent!" Ps. liv. 13. How aptly do all these expressions refer to Christians, who are the familiar friends of Jesus Christ, feast at his table, and attend him in the house of God? What a monster of ingratitude, then, is sin in a Christian!
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EFFECTS OF SIN ON THE SOUL DURING THIS LIFE.
Q. How does the malice of sin appear from its effects on our souls in this life?
A. The effects which sin produces in our souls are many, and most miserable indeed, and how to a demonstration the horrid malignancy of that fatal poison which is the cause of them. To understand them properly, we must consider,
First, That a soul in grace is beautiful, like an angel, and a delightful object in the eyes of God, and of his saints. Such a soul, in the language of the scripture is a Queen, the daughter of a King, the spouse of the Lamb, and her beauty is thus described: "The Queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety. Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear - and the King shall greatly desire thy beauty; for he is the Lord thy God - all the glory of the King's daughter is within in golden borders, clothed round with varieties," Ps. xliv. 11. See also the beauty of the spouse of Christ described throughout the whole fourth chapter of the son of Solomon: and, among the rest, he says, "How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou! - thou art all fair, I my love, and there is not a spot in thee," ver. 1. 7. And in the Revelations it is said of the Spouse of the Lamb," Rev. xix. 8. What a noble idea does all this give her of the heavenly beauty of a soul in grace! What an esteem and high value, ought we to put on that happy state! But no sooner does mortal sin enter into such a soul than immediately all the heavenly beauty is lost, the race of God is banished from her, and she becomes an object of horror and detestation in the sight of God, and of his saints, ugly and filthy like the devils: "He that doth these things is abominable before God," Deut. xxii. 5. "How much more abominable and unprofitable is man that drinketh iniquity like water?" Job xv. 16. "They are corrupted, and become abominable in iniquities," Ps. lii. 2. "A perverse heart is abominable to the Lord," Prov. xi. 20. "They are become abominable, as thos things were which they loved," Hos. ix. 10. What a malignant monster then must sin be?
Second, In consequence of this beauty, and of the love which God has for a soul in the state of grace, he raises her up to the most exalted dignity of being a child of God, a spouse of Jesus Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost; so that by grace she is intimately united with God, who dwells in her, in a most especial manner. "know yet not," says St. Paul, "that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you? - the temple of God is holy, which ye are," 1 Cor. iii. 16. "If any one loves me," says Jesus Christ, "he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him," John xiiv. 23. What an exalted dignity is this? what a happiness, to have God himself dwelling in us as our father, our friend, our spouse, our protector? "If God be for us, who is against us?" Roman. viii. 31. But, alas! the moment such a soul consents to mortal sin, she loses at once all this dignity and happiness; the grace of God is banished from her; God himself forsakes her, and she becomes a slave to Satan, a vessel of filth and corruption, the habitation of unclean spirits. What a dismal change! what a sad misfortune to be deprived of her God. "Woe to them," says Almighty God," when I shall depart from them," Hos. ix. 12. What a malignant monster is sin, to cause such a direful calamity.
Third, the grace of God in the soul is "a living water, springing up to eternal life," John iv. 14. It is an inexhaustible source of heavenly riches, which sanctifies all the good works of the just man, and makes them meritorious of eternal life. It is that bond of union by which we abide in Jesus, and he in us. "He that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same beareth much fruit," says our Blessed Redeemer, John xv. 5. When, therefore, a soul continues for a space of time in this happy state, what immense treasures may she not lay up for eternity! But if, after she has long exercised herself in holy works, and laid up stores of riches in heaven by their means, she should at last fall into one mortal sin, such is the venomous poison of that monster, that in an instant it consumes all the treasures of her past virtuous life, and reduces her to a most deplorable state of the most abject poverty. This God himself declares in these strong terms: "If the just man turns himself away from his justice, and do iniquity, according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? All his justices which he had done, shall not be remembered. In the prevarication by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin which he hath committed, in them he shall die," Ezech. xviii. 24. To such as these our Savior says, "Thou sayest I am rich, I am made wealthy, and I have need of nothing; and thou knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," Rev. iii. 17.
Fourth, The grace of God is the spiritual life of the soul, and is preserved by innocence and a good life; according to that, "Keep the law and counsel, and there shall be life to thy soul, and grace to thy mouth," Prov. iii. 21.; and the wisdom of God says, "He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord," Prov. viii. 35.; and as the human person is beautiful and comely while in life; so a soul that is alive by the grace of God is beautiful and comely in his sight. But the moment sin enters the soul, the life of the soul is destroyed. It wounds, hurts, and kills the soul, and renders it more hideous and loathsome in the eyes of God, than a dead carcass is in the eyes of man. "He that shall sin against me," says the wisdom of God, "shall hurt his own soul; and that hate me love death," Prov. viii. 36. "When concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; but sin, when it is completed, begetteth death," James i. 15.; wherefore, "flee from sin as from the face of a serpent; for if thou comest near them, they will take hold of thee; the teeth thereof are the teeth of a lion, in particular, the scripture says, "They lie in wait for their own blood; they practice deceits against their own souls; so the ways of every covetous man destroy the souls of their possessors," Prov. i. 18. "He that is an adulterer for the folly of his heart, shall destroy his own soul," Prov. vi. 32. "Refrain your tongue from detraction, for an obscure speech shall not go for naught: and the mouth that belieth, killeth the soul;" Wisd. i. 11. Behold the fatal venom of the monster sin.
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THE LOSS OF HEAVEN.
Q. How does the malice of sin appear from the loss of heaven, and the condemnation of the sinner to hell?
A. From this plain reason, that, as heaven is a place of infinite happiness and never-ending bliss, great must the malignity of sin be, which alone can deprive us of that kingdom, and banish us forever from all good. As hell is a place of infinite misery, and never-ending woe, dreadful must the malice of sin be, which alone condemns a soul to that never-ending torment. Sin is the only thing that can do either of these things. All the malice of man, though joined with all the rage of devils, can never deprive us of heaven, nor bring us to hell, if we be free from the guilt of sin. But the malice of sin is so dreadful, that one mortal sin alone is sufficient for that purpose.
First, That sin for ever banishes us out of heaven, is thus declared in holy writ, "Know ye not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liars with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God," 1 Cor. vi. 9. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcraft, enmities, contentious, emulations, wrath, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envy, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like, of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold unto you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God," gal. v. 19. "Know this and understand, that no fornicators, nor unclear, nor covetous person, which is a serving of idols, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God," Eph. v. 5. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God," Heb. xii. 14.
Second, That sin condemns those who are guilty of it to the eternal torments of hell, is no less manifestly declared in these divine oracles. Thus the portion of sinners is described by the Prophet, "Their land shall be soaked with blood, and their ground with the fat of fat ones - that streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the ground thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch; night and day is shall bet be quenched, and the smoke thereof shall go up for ever and ever," Is. xxxiv. 7. Christ himself thus assures us, "At the end of the world, the Son of Many shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth," Matth. xiii. 41. "For they shall be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire, where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not extinguished - for every one shall be salted with fire, and every victim shall be salted with salt," Mark. ix. 44, 48. On the last day the Judge will say to the wicked, "Depart from ye, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," Matth. xxv. 41. But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable and murderers, and unchaste men, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool, burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death," Rev. xxi. 8.
Q. These truths are dreadful indeed, and show beyond reply what a monster sin must be; but is it not amazing that Christians who believe these truths, should ever dare to sin?
A. Amazing it certainly is to the highest degree; but the reason is given us in the holy scripture, to wit, that they never think seriously upon these things; bewitched by the pleasures, and vanities, and amusements of this world, they spend their lives in a continual round of unprofitable and hurtful dissipations, and never find a moment's time seriously to consider the great truths which their holy faith teaches them. on this account, these truths make no impression upon them; they easily forget them, and, therefore, lead the lives of heathens, as if they believed no such thing.
Thus the scripture says, "With the desolation in all the land made desolate; because there is none that considereth in the heart," Jerem. xii. 11. Again, "The harp and the lure, and the timbrel, and the pipe, and the wine are in your feasts; and the work of the Lord you regard not, nor do you consider the work of his hands - therefore hath hell enlarged her soul, and opened her mouth without any bounds, and their strong ones, and their people, and their high and glorious ones, shall go down into it," Is. v. 12. That is, as Job expresses it, "They take the timbrel and the harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ; they spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to hell," Job. xxi. 13. Oh that men would be wise and think of these things!
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EXPLANATION OF VENIAL SIN.
Q. What is venial sin?
A. It is a small transgression of the law, a more pardonable offence which, though it does not kill the soul as mortal sin does, not deserve eternal punishment; yet it obscures the beauty of the soul before God, and displeases him, and deserves a temporal chastisement.
Q. How is this explained?
A. The grace of God, which beautifies the soul, may be in the soul in a greater or less degree; and of course, the soul may be more or less beautiful in the eyes of God, more or less pure, more or less holy. The malignity of mortal sin is such, that it banishes the grace of God entirely from the soul, and makes it positively ugly and loathsome in his sight; whereas venial sin does not banish the grace of God away from the soul; but it obscures its lustre, diminishes its splendor, and stains its brightness. It does not make the soul positively hateful to God; but it makes her less pure, less holy, less beautiful, and consequently less agreeable in his sight. It does not destroy friendship between God and the soul, so as to make them enemies; but it cools the fervor of that charity and love which subsisted between them, and begets a degree of indifference on each side; and, as even the smallest venial sin is in some degree against the will of God, therefore it displeases him, and is disagreeable to him, and deserves to be punished by him.
Q. How does it appear from scripture that there are such venial sins, which do not break our peace with God?
A. That is p lain from many places of scripture.
First, It is said, "the just man shall fall seven times, and shall rise again," Prov. xxiv. 16. By these falls cannot be meant mortal sins, otherwise he would be no longer the just man; but only small imperfections, such as even good people are apt to fall into, but which do not break their peace with God. To the same purpose St. James says, "In many things we all offend," Jam. iii. 3.; and St. John, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," 1 John i. 8; where both these apostles put themselves among the number of those who sin; yet no body will say that they committed mortal sins, and were separated from Christ, or in a state of damnation; on the contrary, St. Paul assures us of himself and brethren, that "nothing should ever be able to separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," Rom. viii. 38; nay, he declares, that "there is now no condemnation (That is, nothing worthy of damnation) to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh," Rom. viii. 1. The apostles were the friends of Jesus Christ; and, therefore, any sins of imperfection in them were by no means mortal, or such as deserved damnation. The same truth we learn from our Lord's prayer; for, in it he requires of his apostles, as well as of his followers, to pray, "forgive us our sins;" now, we cannot suppose the apostles, and all the great saints of God, had mortal sins of which to ask forgiveness; yet they were not free from smaller imperfection, which being sins, stood also in need of forgiveness."
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DISTINCTION BETWEEN MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN.
Second, The scripture makes the distinction between mortal and venial sins in very plain terms. Our Savior says, "Whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (a word expressing contempt,) shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire," Matth. v. 22; where he expressly distinguishes the different degrees of guilt in sin, and declares, that the smaller degree deserves not hell fire, but the greater do. Again, he says, "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it at the day of judgment," Matth. xii. 36; but an idle word does not deserve hell fire; for even a word of anger does not deserve it, as he told in the former text; yet, an idle word is sinful, because we must give an account of it in judgment. Some sins are compared by Jesus Christ to beams in the eye, and others to small motes, Matt. vii. 3, which shows the great difference between mortal and venial sins; for a beam in ones's eye must destroy the sight entirely, whereas a mote only weakens it. To the same purpose, he says, "You pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have let along the weightier things of the law - blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel," Matth. xxiii. 23; yet, at the same time, he tell=s them, that even these small things ought to be done, and, therefore, it was a sin to neglect them, though only like a gnat in comparison of a camel, when compared to greater crimes.
Q. Are there different kinds of venial sins?
A. Venial sins, in general, are divided into two kinds;
1. Such as arise from human frailty, surprise, or inadvertency, and from objects to which the person has no inordinate attachment.
2. Such as a person commits willingly and deliberately, or out of a bad habit, which he is at no pains to amend, or with affection to the sinful object.
Q. Is venial sin a great evil?
A. Venial sins of the first kind, to which all men are more or less subject, and which, rise from human frailty, without an inordinate attachment to them, show, indeed, the corruption of our heart, and our great weakness, and, on that account, ought to be the matter of our daily humilation before God; but they are less evil in proportion as they are deliberate, and less voluntary. But venial sins of the second kind, which a person commits deliberately and with affection, or out of an unresisted custom, though, even these be but small sins in comparison of mortal sins, yet are very great and pernicious evils.
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DELIBERATE VENIAL SIN.
Q. How can the evil of deliberate venial sin be shown?
A. From the following considerations:
First, It is an offense voluntarily committed against a God of infinite goodness and infinite majesty, and on that account alone, is a greater evil than all the miseries any creature can endure in this side of time, insomuch, that no man living can be allowed, by any power in heaven or earth, to commit any one venial sin, though to save a kingdom, or even to save the whole world; because an evil done to the Creator, is, in itself, a greater evil than the destruction or annihilation of the whole creation.
Second, Deliberate venial sins, especially if often repeated, show that the person who commits them has but a weak and languid love for God, when he makes so lightly of offending him. True love has this constant property, that it makes the lover exceedingly attentive to please the beloved object, even on the most minute occasion, and studiously to avoid even the smallest thing that can displease him; and nothing more plainly proves the weakness of one's regard and affection for his friend, then when he shows an indifference about pleasing him, even in little manners. What kind of love, then must those have for God, who, provided, they can but escape his avenging justice, care not how much they displease him?
Third, They not only show the weakness of our love to God, but the oftener they are repeated, the more they cool and weaken it: for our love of God is always in proportion to the grace of God in our souls; the more the grace of God abounds in our souls, the more we love him, and the greater our love is for him, the more his grace abounds in us. Now, as every deliberate venial sin weakens and obscures the grace of God in the soul, of course it also weakens and cools the fervor of our love for him. As a little dust or smoke, though it dos not blind, yet it prejudices the sight of the eye; so the least deliberate venial sin obscures the spiritual sight of the soul, and abates the fervor of heavenly desires. The more we gratify our affection to those creatures which are the objects of our venial sins, the more our love for them must increase; and the more our love increase towards any creature, the most it must of necessity diminish towards God; for "no man can serve two masters."
Fourth, In consequence of this weakening and cooling of our love of God, the love of God diminishes and cools towards us; our indifference about pleasing him makes him the more indifferent toward us; the oftener we deliberately offend him, the more he is displeased with us; and to show how dangerous this is for a soul who, by venial sins, falls away from its first fervor, hear what Jesus Christ says to one in this state: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and they patience - and thou hast endured for my name, and hast not fainted. But I have somewhat against thee, because thou has left thy first charity. Be mindful, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and do penance, and do the first works. Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, unless thou do penance." Rev. ii. 2 &c.
Fifth, The more a person goes on repeating such sins, the more indisposed he becomes for receiving new graces from God; and God being the more displeased with him, withdraws his more abundant graces from him, in just punishment of his repeated infidelity, as he himself declares, in very affecting terms, to one in this state: "Thus saith the faithful and true witness, who is the beginning of the creation of God: I know thy works, that thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest I am rich and made wealthy, and I have need of nothing; and thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," Rev. iii. 14. Such souls are nauseous and loathsome to God, and though he does not throw them all off at once, yet he begins to vomit them out of his mouth, by withdrawing his graces from them, of which they have rendered themselves unworthy; and thus leaving them more and more to themselves, at last, if they do not alter their conduct, he rejects them entirely. Because they are not guilty of any gross mortal sin, and perform some outward duties of devotion, they fancy themselves in a good way; but Almighty God forms a very different judgment of them.
Sixth, The great evil of venial sin also appears from the severe punishments of divine justice has often inflicted, in this life, upon sins which appear to us to be of a venial nature. Witness Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt, for indulging a natural curiosity; Moses deprived of going to the Holy Land, for a small diffidence in striking the rock; Oza struck dead for touching the ark, to support it, when in danger of falling; David losing seventy thousand of his people by the plague, for his vain curiosity in numbering them; Agrippa consumed alive with worms, for taking pleasure in hearing himself praised, with many others. Now, if a God of infinite justice punished such sins so severely, they must certainly have deserved such punishment, and, therefore, are far from being small evils.
Seventh, This is further shown from the way those are treated after death who die guilty of such sins; for so displeasing in the sight of God is the guilty of the least venial sin, that no soul stained with it can ever be admitted to his presence till his guilt be purged away. God is a being of infinite purity himself, and none but the pure, "the clean of heart, shall see him," Matth. v. 8; and, therefore, into the heavenly Jerusalem "There shall not enter any thing defiled," Rev. xxi. 27; when, therefore, a soul leaves this world stained with the guilt only of venial sins, she is condemned to all the torments of purgatory, till she be perfectly cleansed by them from all stain, and rendered fit to be admitted to the divine presence; and how dreadful this cleansing shall be, appears from what the prophet declares concerning it, "Every one that shall be left in Sion, and shall remain in Jerusalem shall be called holy, every one that is written in life in Jerusalem; the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughter of Sion - by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning," Is. iv. 3. How dreadful that purgation by the very "spirit of judgment and burning!" How great an evil that stain which requires such a purgation?"
Eight, The great and fatal evil of venial sin consists in this, that it disposes and leads on the poor soul to the gulf of mortal sin, according to the express declaration of the word of God, "He that condemneth small things, shall fall by little and little," Ecclus. xix. 1.; and "he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater; and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is great," Luke xvi. 10. And for this several reasons are assigned:
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VENIAL SINS LEAD STEP BY STEP TOWARDS MORTAL SIN.
1. Experience teaches, that the greatest things we know, both in the order of nature, and in the order of grace, commonly take their rise from small beginnings; rivers from springs, trees from small seeds. "Behold how great a fire a small spark kindleth," James iii. Our bodies begin from a point; a drop of water neglected, cause the fall of a house; a slight ailment disregarded, brings on great diseases and death; the most learned man begins by the alphabet; the greatest saints were not born so, but arrived at sanctity by degrees; so also the greatest sinners begin by smaller sins, which neglected, draw onto greater. A little motion of anger indulged, led Cain to murder his own brother; an impure glance of the eye encouraged, dragged on a David to adultery and murder; and an inordinate attachment to riches, uncorrected, brought Judas to betray his master.
2. All the foregoing reasons show the same thing; for, by venial sins indulged, we become more disagreeable to God, our love to him is weakened, and his to us; we are rendered more unfit for receiving his graces, and they are given more sparingly; our passions become stronger, and we grow weaker, and then what is to be the consequence when the time of temptation comes, but that we fall into mortal sin.
3. Venial sins lead on step by step towards mortal sin, and take off by degrees our horror of it. It would be impossible for one to step from the ground to the top of a high stair all at once; taking one step after another, he goes up with the greatest ease. A modest person would be shocked at the proposal of any of the greatest crimes of impurity; but, if he gives ear to words of a double meaning, and takes pleasure in them, this will easily pave the way to bad thoughts; from this it is but a step to desires; and if these be encouraged, they will lead on to undue liberties in actions, and so step by step he will be carried on to every excess.
4. By committing small sins without remorse, or with affection, we contract a custom of transgressing the law, which, the more it is indulged, the stronger it will become.
5. It is certain that our nature, if left to itself, would lead us into all crimes; and we have no other way to hinder this, but by curbing its desires. Now, experiences teaches us, that the more we yield to these desires, the stronger they become; the more liberty we give nature, the more unruly she grows.
6. Many venial sins are of such a nature, that they become mortal, if often repeated: such are all sins of injustice, working upon forbidden days, and the like. It is often very difficult to distinguish where the limits are, between mortal and venial sins; and therefore a person who indulges himself in these last, exposes himself to the continual danger of falling into the former. Now, "he that loveth the danger shall perish in it," Ecclus. iii. 27. A thing that is in itself only venial, very often, from the circumstances, becomes mortal.
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DISPOSITION TO MORTAL SIN.
Q. How can a thing, it itself venial, become mortal, from the circumstances?
A. From different causes:
First, If his affection who commits it be so great towards the object of a sin in itself venial, that he would be ready to offend God mortally, rather than not do it, his doing it with such a disposition is a mortal sin.
Second, If one commits a venial sin for an end mortally sinful; for example, if one should steal a little poison of small value, in order to poison his neighbour, this intention makes the stealing the poison itself a mortal sin, though he should be prevented from using it as he intended.
Third, If one commits a sin in itself venial, but which, by mistake, he believes to be mortal, it becomes a mortal sin to him.
Fourth, If a sin, in itself venial, be the occasion of great scandal, it becomes mortal to the person who commits it, on account of its scandal.
Fifth, If a venial sin be committed out of a contempt of the divine law, this contempt makes it mortal.
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WHAT ARE THE PROPER REMEDIES OF SIN?
Q. What are the proper remedies of sin?
A. There are two principal remedies for the great evil of sin; one on the part of man, which is a sincere repentance; the other on the part of God, which is the grace of Jesus Christ. These two remedies are both of absolute necessity; for it is impossible that we should be delivered from the guilt of our actual sins, without a sincere repentance; and it is impossible for us to repent as we ought, without the assistance of Divine grace; and, though we have a sincere repentance, that alone cannot deliver us from our sins, without the infusion of sanctifying grace into our souls. So that the grace of our Savior is the great remedy which alone can heal the wounds which the soul receives from sin, and wash away its guilt; and repentance on our part is a condition absolutely required, to dispose the soul for receiving that grace, and without which it is impossible that this grace should be bestowed upon us.
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