Cardinal Manning discusses a second effect of mortal sin, namely, that “one mortal sin destroys all the merits that the soul has ever heaped up.”
“Merit does not signify that the creature can by any right of his own, either in the order of nature or of grace, challenge and demand of God the gift or the possession of anything. . . . Merit signifies the connection or link that exists between certain actions done in grace and certain awards; and that connection or link is constituted sovereignly and gratuitously by the grace and promise of God. So that every man who does acts of faith, or of charity, or of self-denial, or of piety, will receive a reward, both in this life and the next, according to those actions.”
“There is a link then between the measure of our charity here and the measure of our glory hereafter. . . . If we are living faithfully in the grace of God, we are thereby heaping up merits, and acquiring in virtue of the promise a greater reward and a greater bliss.” But, “one sin then, unto death, unless afterwards repented of, utterly cancels all these merits of a whole life.”
“Take the history of David, the ‘man after God’s own heart’ (Acts 13:22). You remember his faith, his patience, his fidelity, his courage, his prayer, his spirit of thanksgiving. . . . In one moment, by the twofold sin of murder and adultery, he cancelled before God every merit of his youth and of his manhood.”
Another example: “Judas, in his childhood, and in his boyhood, and in his youth, was perhaps as faithful to the light of his conscience as you have been. He left kindred, and all that he had, to follow his Master. . . . But there crept upon him the sin of covetousness. He carried the bag, and that which was put therein; and Satan tempted him, and then entered into him, and he sold his Master.”
Thus, the prophet Ezekiel says: “When the just man turneth away from justice he hath done and committeth iniquity, in the iniquity he hath done, in the sin he hath committed, in that he shall die, and his justice shall be no more remembered” (Ez 3:20).
Quotations from Henry Edward Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, 2d ed. (London: Burns and Oates, 1874).