John Hales on the distinction between great and ordinary sins

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Sins are of two sorts, either great and capital, or small and ordinary sins: I know it were a paradox in nature to tell you, that the greatest and mightiest things are of least force; yet this is true in the case we speak of, the greatest things are the weakest. Your own experience tells you, that rapes and murders, parricide, poisoning, treason, and the rest of that rabble of arch sins, are the sins of the fewest, and that they have no strength at all but upon the weakest men; for doubtless if they were the strongest, they would reign with greatest latitude, they would be the commonest, they would be the sins of the most: But wandering thoughts, idle words, petty lusts, inconsiderate wrath, immoderate love to the things of the world, and the rest of that swarm of ordinary sins, these are they that have largest extent and dominion, and some of these, or all of these, more or less, prevail with every man.

As the Magicians in Exodus, when they saw not the power of God in the Serpents, in the Blood, in the Frogs; at the coming of the plague of the Lice presently cried, Digitus Dei hic est; this is the finger of God: so I know not how it comes to pass, though we see and confess that in those great and heinous crimes, the Devil hath least power; yet at the coming of Lice, of the rout of smaller and ordinary sins, we presently yield our selves captives, and cry out, Digitus Diaboli, the strength of the Devil is in these: as if we were like unto that fabulous Rack in Pliny, which if a man thrust at with his whole body, he could not move it, yet a man might shake it with one of his fingers. Now what an error is it in us Christians, when we see the principal and captain sins so easily vanquished, to think the common soldier or lesser sort invincible? For certainly, if the greatest sins be the weakest, the lesser cannot be very strong.

For the reference, see John Hales on the distinction between great and ordinary sins.