Actual Sin

Cardinal Manning distinguishes original sin from actual sin. Original sin refers to Adam’s transgression of God’s law. Actual sin is “the conscious variance of a creature to the known will of its Creator; and that conscious variance includes the light of the intellect, and the consent of the will, and the knowledge and intention of what we are doing. The essential malice of sin is in the will.”

“No men know the light of God’s presence so little as those who are covered with sin; and the more sin they have upon them the less they can see it. Though all the perfections of God, like the rays of the sun which encircle the head of the blind man, are round about them all the day long, they are unconscious of His presence. . . . because they do not see the light of God, therefore they do not see His perfections, and therefore they do not see themselves; for the light of the knowledge of self comes from the light of the knowledge of God. How shall a man know what unholiness is, if he does not know what holiness is? How shall he know what falsehood is, if he does not know what truth is: or impurity, if he does not know purity: or impiety, if he does not know the duty we owe to God, and the majesty of God, to whom worship is due?”

“In the proportion in which the light of the perfections of God is clouded, we lose the light of the knowledge of ourselves; and the end of it is that when men hear such words as I am speaking now, they say, ‘That is just the character of my neighbour—that is the very picture of my brother’: they do not see themselves in the glass. You may describe their character, and they will not recognise it; you may tell them, ‘This is yourself,’ and they will not believe it. There is something within them which darkens the conscience; and why is it? Because sin stupefies the intellect and the heart: it draws a veil and a mist over the brightness of the intelligence, and it darkens the light of the conscience.”

Quotations from Henry Edward Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, 2d ed. (London: Burns and Oates, 1874).

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