Fifth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Matt.5.v.20 Saturday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634

ANGELICO, Fra 
Madonna of Humility 
c. 1418
GOSPEL Matt. 5:20-24 
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to them of old: 'Thou shalt not kill.' And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift." 

Saturday Meditation

By the three degrees of sins aforesaid, in the former meditation, to wit, inward anger, imperfect outward signs,  as muttering words, gestures, and the like, signified by this imperfect Hebrew voice (Raca) as grief is by a groan, & open contumelious words, as (thou fool) and the like, and the several different punishments thereof, it appeareth plainly, that there is a difference of sinners, and that some are mortal and some venial, for hell-fire being the punishment due only to mortal sins, and only assigned here to open contumelious words, as (thou fool) & the like, and not to inwards anger, nor to imperfect outwards signs, or voices, as (Raca) is, but other inferior punishments: it followeth, that the first, to wit open contumelious words, is a mortal sin, the other two but venial, and it is confirmed by the words of Christ in another place of the Gospel, where he sayeth, We shall give an account of every idle word in the day of judgement.

In that we are to give account, he sheweth it is some kind of sin, but not a mortal sin deserving Hell fire in any mans judgement, for no man will say, we shall go to hell for an idle word, but that it is of the nature of such hay, straw, or stubble, which St. Paul sayeth shall be purged by fire, and the offender saved at last for his foundation sake, though with some detriment unto him. 

And the same is likewise confirmed by St. James the Apostle, who showing the degrees, and progression of a mortal sin, sayeth thus: First we are tempted of our own concupiscence, carried away and enticed: then Concupiscence when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is consummated, engendreth death of the soul, the proper  stipend of a mortal sin, which St. James attributeth not to the two former degrees, of being carried away by concupiscence, and conceiving sin, which yet are some kind of sin (and so St. James calleth it,) but to the consummation of sin, which he sayeth engendreth death of the soul, as mortal sin doth.

Now as by the prohibition of these three degrees of sin (as it were by a triple guard of three several commandments every one greater, and consequently stronger then another) Christ provided much better for the safety of the corporal life of the sufferer, then if there had been no such prohibition at all, but only of man slaughter these being dangerous dispositions thereunto: so by the same did he provide much better for the spiritual life of the doer, then if he had forbidden only the outward act of man slaughter, and not the other degrees, as the pharisees taught they were not forbidden by the law; and the like is to be said almost of all other mortal sins, and therefore Christ commanded us of the new law, a much more perfect justice or righteousness then they had in the old Law: he came, as he sayth himself, not to dissolve, but to perfect the law, and to make us observe it the better: he sayth, Unless our justice or righteousness, of the new Law, abound more then that of the old, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The difference of mortal & venial sin being thus proved, and the goodness of God in providing so perfectly for the safety, and life of our body and souls by forbidding the dispositions to man slaughter and mortal sin, as well as man slaughter and mortal sin itself,  and that for no interest of his own, but the mere love of us, being thus declared, & praise & honor being given to God for the same; we will now next briefly declare the nature of mortal and venial sin, wherein it doth  consist.

The commandments of God, are grounded in a kind of friendship, between him and us, which we call charity, & this charity, or friendship, is the end and fulfilling of the law, so sayth the Apostle St. Paul.

Now the Law, and nature of friendship is, that small offenses should not break friendship, for so should there be no friendship in the world, for there is no man but shall offend hid friend in small matters, neither is he a true friend that beareth so little love to his friend, as not to beare with small faults; whereas it is rather the nature of Charity, as the Scripture sayth, to cover a multitude  of offenses. 

Such is the friendship of  God towards us, not to break friendship with us for small faults, but only for great ones, those we call venial sins, these mortal; and herein doth the true difference and distinction of mortal sin consist, which St. Thomas of Aquinas (the Prince of Divines) doth express in these terms: A mortal sin is against the precept, that is to say, against Charity which is the fulfilling of the precept, and therefore God breaketh friendship for the same; but a venial sin is not against charity which is the fulfilling of the precept, but besides it, & therefore God breaketh not friendship for the same.

Nay venial sins are not absolutely of necessity to be confessed in Sacramental Confession, there being divers other proper remedies for the same, as taking of our holy water to that end, saying our Confiteor, or the Pater noster, or a Bishops benediction, which here in England Priests have authority to give, or the like.

A man may be truly just, notwithstanding venial sins, according to this saying of the Scripture, The just man falleth seven times a day to wit into venial sins, and yet remaineth a just man, that keepeth the commandments, and shall not be debarred of the Kingdom of heaven for the same: yet because they diminish and cool our friendship with God, and oftentimes are dispositions unto mortal which breaketh friendship, therefore it standeth us much upon to be careful to avoid them also, and not only them, but also other things which are not so much as venial sins which dispose to mortal, but may be the occasion of mortal; whereof we have an excellent example ion the holy Scripture, & withal a document how careful parents should be to prevent occasions of mortal sins in their children when they are young, & prone thereunto, & want judgement to prevent them of themselves.

The example is this: Abraham's wife, & Ismael the son of Agar her handmaid, & secondary wife also to Abraham, when they were little children, they played together, & Ismael by way of play imitated, as children are apt, the sacrificing to idols, as he had seen. Sara a holy woman understanding thereof, could not endure it, but would needs have Abraham discharge Agar, & her child presently out of the house to prevent the danger of Idolatry, least this play might come to earnest, when they were grown up.

Happy is he, sayth the Prophet David, that taketh his little ones, that is to say, his sins in their infancy, and dasheth them against a stone, as a man would do any harmful thing that were not worthy to live.





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