For this is a heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.
Read Chapter 31
Gregory The Dialogist
There is this difference between ‘sin’ and ‘crime,’ that all crime is sin, but not all sin is crime. And in this life there are numbers without crime, but no one can be without sins. And hence the holy preacher, when he was describing a man worthy of the grace of the priesthood, never said, ‘if any be without sin,’ but if any be without crime. [Tit. 1, 6] But who can be without sin, when John saith, If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [1 John 1, 8] In which same distinction of sins and crimes it deserves to be considered, that occasional sins pollute the soul, while crimes slay it; whence blessed Job in characterizing the crime of lust says, It is afire that consumeth to destruction, in this way, that the heinousness of this atrocity not only stains to the length of defilement, but devours to the extent of destruction. And because howsoever many other good deeds there may be, if the enormity of lust is not washed out, they are overwhelmed by the immensity of this crime, he added going on, and rooting out all offsprings, for ‘the offsprings’ of the soul are good practices. Which soul, nevertheless, if the right order being reversed, the flesh exercises dominion over, all the things that are put forth well are consumed by the fire of lust. For before the eyes of Almighty God the works of righteousness and of pitifulness are none at all, which are shewn to view unclean by the infection of corruptness. For what does it profit, if a man heartily [‘pie’] compassionates the need of his neighbour, whilst he heartlessly [‘impie’] destroys himself, being the habitation of God? So then if by purity of the heart the flame of lust be not quenched, any virtues whatever spring up in vain, as it is spoken by Moses; For a fire is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth, with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. For ‘a fire consumes the earth and her increase,’ when lust consumes the flesh, and all things done well thereby. For whatsoever comes forth belonging to the fruitage of righteousness, this, surely, the flame of corruption burns up. So, then, let him say, For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and that rooteth up all increase. Because if there be no stand made against the mischief of corruptness, even those things assuredly come to nought, which seemed to be good. But some there are whom bad qualities are apt to bring down to humility, and good ones exalt to pride of heart. So then it is necessary for us to enquire, whether blessed Job in this extraordinary pureness of chastity was at the same time humble? Now the holy man, whilst he held the highest range of virtues, plainly discourses what low thoughts he entertained of himself.