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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Inequality of Sin.

Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.


Q. 1. Whence ariseth the first difference of sin?
A. The first difference betwixt one sin and another, ariseth from the immediate object, against which the sin is committed; on this account, sins immediately committed against God, are more heinous than sins immediately committed against man; 1 Samuel 2:25. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: But if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him? And all sins of the first table are greater than those of the second: yet there are crying sins against the second.

Q. 2. What is the first sin noted for an heinous sin?
A. The sin of murder is in scripture set down for an heinous and crying sin in its own nature; Genesis 4:10. The voice of thy brotherís blood crieth unto me from the earth.

Q. 3. What other sin is noted for a crying sin?
A. The sin of oppression is noted in scripture for a crying sin; Habakkuk 2:11. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. Especially the oppression of the widow and fatherless; Exodus 22:22-23. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry.

Q. 4. What is reckoned in scripture an heinous sin against the first table.
A. The sin of atheism, or denying the being of a God, is a sin of the first magnitude; Job 31:28. This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God that is above. This was the sin of Pharaoh; Exodus 5:2. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.

Q. 5. What other sin is heinous in Godís account?
A. The sin of idolatry is a most heinous sin, and goes nearer to the heart of God than other sins do; Ezekiel 6:9. And they that escape of you, shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives; because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols; and they shall lothe themselves, for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations. Jeremiah 44:4. O do not this abominable thing that I hate.

Q. 6. What is the most heinous of all the sins in the world?
A. The sin against the Holy Ghost is the most heinous of all other sins, and shall never be forgiven by him; Matthew 12:31. All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

Q. 7. From whence doth this scripture aggravate sin?
A. The Spirit of God in scripture aggravates and estimates sin, from the degree of light and knowledge men sin against; Luke 12:47. And that servant which knew his Lordís will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. John 15:22. If I had not come, and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: But now they have no cloak for their sin.

Q. 8. What is the second thing that aggravates sin?
A. The more mercies any man sins against, the greater is his sin; Romans 2:4. Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? And especially when it is against spiritual mercies, and means of salvation; Hebrews 2:3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? &c.

Q. 9. Are heinous and crying sins capable of forgiveness?
A. Yes; great and heinous sins are capable of forgiveness, upon true repentance; Isaiah 1:18. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Q. 10. From what fountain doth the pardon of all sins, both great and small, flow?
A. They all flow from the free grace of God; Luke 7:41-42. And when they had nothing to pay, he forgave them both. And through the meritorious, satisfying blood of Christ; Ephesians 1:7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Q. 11. What is the first inference hence?
A. Though some sins are more heinous than others, yet no sinner should absolutely despair of mercy; for the vilest have been pardoned; 1 Corinthians 6:11. And such were some of you: But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, &c.

Q. 12. What is the second inference hence?
A. That there are different degrees of torments in hell, proportioned to the different degrees of sins on earth; Matthew 11:21-22: Wo unto thee, Chorazin, wo unto thee, Bethsaida: For if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the day of judgment, than for you.

Q. 13. What is the third inference hence?
A. That great sinners, when pardoned and received to mercy, should excel all others in love to Christ; Luke 7:42-48. Which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

Q. 14. What is the last inference hence?
A. Let no man neglect Christ, because his sins are not so heinous as others; because the least sin without Christ is damning; Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death, &c. And greater sinners are often called when lesser are not; Matthew 21:31-32. The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

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