Calvin: On Condeming Sin in General and Sinning in Particular

John Calvin

J. Calvin

John Calvin brilliantly observes

That homicide, putting the case in the abstract, is an evil, no man will deny; and yet one who is conspiring the death of his enemy deliberates on it as if the thing was good. The adulterer will condemn adultery in the abstract, and yet flatter himself while privately committing it. The ignorance lies here: that man, when he comes to the particular, forgets the rule which he had laid down in the general case.

In sum, people are happy to admit that things are wrong.  They just aren’t as quick to admit their own deeds are evil.  The adulterer admits adultery is a sin.  But doesn’t admit that he is sinning when he’s cheating on his wife.  The murderer admits that murder is sin, except when he himself is murdering someone that he finds offensive.