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condemnation here mentioned by Christ plainly imports an eternal punishment; for in the day of judgment there will be no condemnation to a temporal punishment. And that therefore the least sins deserve eternal punishment is evident; because, otherwise, the punishment which shall be inflicted for these sins would not be just and proportionable to their demerit.
Nor can the Papists shun the force of this argument, by saying, that it is merely by accident that venial sins are punished with eternal death ; not in regard of themselves, but because of the condition of the subject of these venial sins; which sins by accident in reprobates cannot be repented of, because they are joined with mortal sins that exclude grace necessary to repentance. This pitiful shift, I say, will not at all help the Papists ; for these smaller sins, which they call “venial,” are, of and by themselves, the cause of condemnation to an eternal punishment, as is evident from this place, Matt. xii. 36, 37; where Christ proves that an account shall be given of “every idle word,” because by our “words we shall be condemned ;”. by which expression he manifestly shows, that those “idle words of which he spake, though Papists count them venial, are yet of themselves a sufficient cause of condemnation to eternal punishment. And besides, if it be unjust, as Bellarmine blasphemously speaks, to punish venial sins with eternal death, because they deserve it not; and if a venial sin by its conjunction with a mortal sin in a reprobate is not made greater or deserving of a greater punishment, but retains the same nature that it had before ; it will then unavoidably follow, if of itself and in its own nature it deserves not eternal punishment, that as it is in a reprobate joined with a mortal sin, it cannot deserve eternal punishment, and, by consequence, it is not punished with an eternal punishment; for if it were, God should punish sins beyond their desert.
Nor can the Papists come off, as Baronius well observes, by saying, “ Though a venial sin by a conjunction with mortal sin is not made more grievous and heinous, yet it is more durable by that conjunction, as having thereby an eternal duration of that stain which follows it; because without repentance, which by a mortal sin is hindered, there is no taking away of that stain.”
This subterfuge, I say, is very insufficient ; for the faults in reprobates, which Papists call “ venial,” either in themselves do or do not deserve eternal death : if they do not deserve eternal death, then they are punished beyond their desert, which is blasphemy to say ; if they do deserve eternal death, then that desert of eternal death is founded in the heinousness of the faults themselves; and eternal death is inflicted, not alone for the duration of the stain of those sins, but for the demerit of the offences themselves; to which the scripture expressly agrees, which testifies, that eternal punishment in the day of judgment shall be inflicted for those “ things done in the body.” (2 Cor. v. 10; 80, Matt. xxv. 42, 43.)
And hence it was that Scotus, Biel, Vega, and Medina,—because they saw that if venial sins were punished eternally, they should be so punished because of what they were in themselves, and in their own nature, and by the demerit of the offence,-labour to put off all, by asserting that the punishment wherewith the damned in hell are punished for
dreds of years.
venial sins is not eternal, but temporal, and that it shall at length have an end, though their punishment inflicted on them for mortal sins shall last for ever. * But others of their own fraternity condemn this justly for an absurd opinion, particularly their great Vasquez, the Jesuit, thus confuting it: “If,” saith he, “the opinion of Scotus be true," namely, that the venial sins of reprobates shall not be punished in hell eternally, "it will follow, that we may pray for those in hell, that they may be freed from the punishment due to their venial sins ; if that punishment, after they have suffered long enough, be by God to be taken off.”+
ARGUMENT X. Lastly. I argue from the ridiculous absurdity of the doctrine of veniality of sin, to the erroneousness of it.—The way, say the Papists, how sins venial come to be expiated and removed is either in this life, or in the next : in this life, by "sprinkling with holy water, confession to a priest, beating the breast, whipping, saying the Lord's Prayer, crossing, eating no flesh, giving to the church,” &c. ; I in the next life, venial sins are only expiated by the most torturing flames of purgatory, greater than any tortures here in this life,-yea, as tormenting as hell-fire, setting aside its duration, as the Papists say,--and oft to be endured many hun
I demand then, If in this life a venial sin may be expiated with a toy, as sprinkling with holy water, and crossing, or the doing that which oft is, and always should be, done with cheerfulness, as giving alms, and yet in the next world it requires so many years of torturing flames to expiate it, what is the reason of this difference of the ways of expiating venial sin, that here it may be done with a sport, and there it requires such long and inexpressible tortures in fire a thousand times hotter than any here in this world, and as grievous as the torments of hell ? To this question the Papists answer : “The sinner is in the fault, who did not by so light and easy a way expiate his sin while here he lived. Here he neglected his duty; and therefore there he smarts for it.” “But then I demand again, Was that neglect of doing his duty in this world a mortal sin, or was it a venial sin? If a mortal or damnable sin, it should have carried the offender to hell; if a venial sin, the difficulty again returns, Why may it not be expiated as easily as other venial sins are ?"$
Having now produced what I judged sufficient for confirmation of this truth against the veniality of sin, I could add many allegations out of the fathers, which abundantly testify their consent with Protestants, in this point. As out of Jerome, who hath these words in Gal. v. :
" It matters not whether a man be excluded from blessedness by one sin, or by more ; since all alike exclude.”'ll Out of Nazianzen : Every sin is the death of the soul.” Out of Augustine especially, beside what I have
Scotus in Quart. Sentent. distinct. xxi. quæst. 1. † Si vera sit sententia Scoti, sequitur posse nos orare pro iis qui sunt in inferno, ut citius solvantur a paná debitá pró his peccatis ; siquidem illa tundem, postquam satis passum sit, a Deo dimittenda est.–VASQUEZ in Primam Secundæ, disp. cxli. cap. 2.
| Confiteor, tundo, conspergor, conteror, oro,
Signor, edo, dono : per hæc venialia pono. $ At ego rursus quæro, Istud peccatum sitne mortale, an veniale ? Si mortale, in purgatorium non venit ; si veniale, cur non codem jure censetur quo reliqua venialia ?-SADEEL De verá Peccat. Remissione, p. (mihi) 609. || Non refert an uno quis eroludatur peccato a beatitudine, an a pluribus cum omnia similiter ercludant.-- HIERONYMUS in Gal. v. Masa å uaptia Savatos COTI Yuxns.--NAZIANZENDs in Orat. funeb. in Mortem Patris.
formerly mentioned in this discourse; who (Epist. cviii.) saith, “Onr little sins, if gathered together against us, will press us down as much as one great sin. What difference is there between a shipwreck caused by one great wave, and by the water that sinks the ship which comes into it by little and little ?"* The same father (In Johan. tract. xii.) speaks thus : “Little sins, neglected, destroy as well as great ones.”+
But, to avoid needless prolixity, I shall but very briefly dispatch this whole discourse, with but naming the heads of those many inferences from it, which have taken me up much time elsewhere : and these inferences might be,
1. Speculative and controversial.
First. If every sin, even venial, be damnable, (as breaking the law, as hath been proved,) and none can live without them, (as Papists confess,) it is clear then, that now none can in this life perfectly keep the law.
Secondly. If no sins be venial, but all mortiferous and damnable, and make us guilty of eternal death, then down falls meritum ex condigno, “merit by the worthiness of any works.”—For to be guilty of death, and to deserve eternal life, cannot stand together.
Thirdly. Purgatory is but a fable, if no sins be venial.-—Why should that fire burn, if it be not purgative? Or rather, how can it burn, if it have no fuel ?
2. The practical inferences, which are many, I shall but name.
First. If every sin be damnable and mortiferous, then sin is of a very heinous nature. There is more malignity in an idle word, and injustice against God in a vain thought, than that all the world can expiate; more weight in it than all the strength of angels are able to bear.
Secondly. If the least sins are mortiferous, what then are the greatest? ---If a grain presseth to hell, if an atom can weigh down like a mountain, what then can a mountain do? If whispering sins speak so loud, what then do crying ones,—bloody oaths, adultery, murder, oppression ?
Thirdly. If every single sin be damnable, what then are all our sins, millions of sins, sins of all our ages, conditions, places that ever we lived in, relations ?—If all were, as St. Austin speaks, contra nos collecta, “ gathered into one heap against us,” what a heaven-reaching mountain would they make ?
Fourthly. If every sin be damnable and mortiferous, God is to be justified in the greatest temporal severities which he inflicts upon us.-As God never punisheth so severely here but he can punish more, so he never here punisheth so severely but we deserve more and greater severities. Pains, flames, sword, pestilences, those tonsure insolescentis generis humani, " those mowings down of so many millions,” are all short of damnation, deserved by sin. God is to be justified in sending such judgments as the Fire of London, and the Tempest lately in Utrecht.
• Peccata parva, si contra nos collecta fuerint, ita nos oppriment sicut unum aliquod grande pecculum. Quid interest ad naufragium, utrum uno grandi fluctu navis obruatur, un paulatim subrepens aqua navem submergat ?- AUGUSTINI Epist. cviii. † Minuta pcecata, si negligantur, occidunt.- In Johan. tract. xii.
Fifthly. They who instigate others to sin, are damnable and mortiferous enemies to souls.—They draw to an eternal punishment. Soul-murder is the greatest ; and soul-murderers most resemble the devil in carriage, and shall in condemnation. How deeply dyed are those sins and sinners that are dipped in the blood of souls !
Sixthly. It is no cowardice to fear sin.-Of all fear, that of sin is most justifiable. It is not magnanimity, but madness, not valour, but foolhardiness, to be bold to sin. Surely, the boldness of sinners, since sin deserves eternal death, is not from want of danger, but discerning.
Seventhly. How excusable are ministers and all Christian monitors, that warn against sin !—They bid you take heed of damnation ; to warn against which with the greatest, is the mercifullest, severity.
Eighthly. What a madness is it to be merry in sin! to make a mock of it !—What is this but to sport with poison, and to recreate ourselves with damnation? If here men are counted to play before us when they are sinning, it will be bitterness in the end. There is no folly so great as to be pleased with the sport that fools make us, nor are any fools like those that dance to damnation.
Ninthly. Unconceivably great is the patience of God toward sinners, especially great ones.—God's patience discovers itself eminently, in that he spares damnable sins, though he sees them, hates them infinitely more than we can do, is able to punish them every moment, is infinitely the sinners' superior ; yea, seeks to prevent their punishment by warning, entreaties, threats, counsels ; yea, puts forth daily acts of mercy and bounty toward those who sin damnably; yea, he waits, and is longsuffering, oft scores and hundreds of years, though this waiting shows (not that he will always spare, but) that we should now repent.
Tenthly. It is our interest to be holy betimes.—It is good that as much as may be of that which is so damnable should be prevented. Shouldest thou be converted in old age, it will be thy extreme sorrow that it was so late, though thy happiness [that] it was at all. Early repentance makes an easy death-bed, and makes joyful the last stage of our journey unto eternal joys.
Eleventhly. No smallness of sin should occasion boldness to commit it.
(1.) Parvitas materiæ aggravat.-In some cases the smallness of the inducement to sin, “the slightness of the matter of thy sin, aggravates the offence.” To deny a friend a cup of water, is a greater unkindness than to deny him a thousand pounds : what, wilt thou stand with God for a trifle, and damn thy soul for a toy? Wilt thou prefer a penny before God and glory?
(2.) Parva difficiliùs caventur.-—" Small sins are more difficultly shunned.” A small bone of a fish easily gets into the throat, and it is hard to avoid it. And,
(3.) Parva viam muniunt ad majora.—"Small sins dispose to greater ;" the wimble makes
way (4.) Minuta et multa sunt ut unum grande.—“Sins many, though small, are as one great one :” a heap of sands presseth to death, as well as a sow of lead. A ship may sink by water coming in at a leak, drop by drop, as well as when overwhelmed with a great wave, as Austin speaks.
for the auger.
Twelfthly. I note the great reason why Christ should be dear to us. Thou canst not be without him, no, not for thy little, thy least sins, and those of daily incursion. O that this doctrine might make you and me prize Christ more, as long as we live! Because the best cannot live without small sins, neither can they live without a great Saviour. None of us can live without these smaller sins, as the very Papists grant ; but o that we may take a wiser course to get pardon of them than they do, by our looking upon God's pity through Christ's blood as our only purgatory! The Pharisees of old saw that we could not live without breaking the law in smaller things, as we have shown before ; but let us more study than they did God's design in giving a law which fallen man is not able to keep. The apostle tells us God's design herein : He aimed at Christ, (Rom. x. 4,) who was intended by God as his end in giving such a law which fallen man could not keep; namely, that sinners might seek after his righteousness, by seeing their own inability to keep it. How much do we want Christ at every turn, for our smallest inadvertencies, impertinent, wandering thoughts, in the adjacent defects and defilements of our holy things! Lord, I want thy blood as often as I fetch my breath!
Lastly. I infer the happiness of believers under the covenant of grace. -Ex rigore legis [“ According to the rigour of the law”] the least sins damn, and none of us but every day and in every duty commit them. But here is the comfort,—we are delivered through Christ from that damnation which we deserve for all those unavoidable defects and evils that attend the best in their best observing [of] the law of God; we being loosed under the covenant of grace from that rigid exaction of the law which suffers no sin to go without eternal punishment, and delivered by Christ from the necessity of perfect and exact fulfilling [of] the law of God under pain of damnation. It is true, the law still commands even believers' perfect obedience; and it is a sin in believers under the covenant of grace, that they do not obey the law of God to the utmost perfection thereof. But here is our happiness, that Christ hath obtained that the imperfection of our obedience shall not damn us ; but that our imperfect obedience to the law shall through him be accepted. . If indeed there were only the law and no Christ, no obedience but that which is absolutely perfect could be entertained by God; but now, though by the law perfect obedience be required, yet by grace imperfect (if sincere) obedience is accepted. For under the covenant of grace, strictly and precisely, under pain of damnation, we are only obliged to that measure of obedience which is possible by the help of grace ; and hence it is that Christ's yoke is called “easy ;” (Matt. xi. 30 ;) which cannot be understood of the law in its rigour, but as mitigated by the covenant of grace : that yoke would not be easy, but intolerable, if it propounded no hope of salvation but under that impossible condition of perfect obedience to the law. And “His commands are not grievous ;” (1 John v. 3 ;) but so they would be, if their exactions were rigorous in requiring perfect obedience, under pain of damnation, of us that cannot perform it. But for ever blessed be God, that though our best obedience be imperfect, yet the perfect obedience of Christ imputed to us supplies the defect of ours; yea, that our imperfect obedience doth not only not damn