Quotations about   sin

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The arrogance of some Christians would close heaven to them if, to their misfortune, it existed.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) French author, existentialist philosopher, feminist theorist
All Said and Done (1972)
Added on 15-Oct-18 | Last updated 15-Oct-18
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That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Experience,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
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Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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A just man is not one who does no ill,
But he, who with the power, has not the will.

Philemon (c. 362 BC – c. 262 BC) Athenian poet and playwright
Sententiæ, II

Attributed in John Booth, Epigrams, Ancient and Modern (1863). .
Added on 12-Sep-17 | Last updated 12-Sep-17
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Ambition hath one heel nailed in hell, though she stretch her finger to touch the heavens.

John Lyly (c. 1553-1606) was an English writer [also Lilly or Lylie]
Midas: A Comedy, Act 2, sc. 1 [Sophronia] (1592)
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Sometimes misquoted as "nailed in well." Sometimes misattributed to Lao-tzu.
Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 5-Sep-17
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For my own part, I consider the best and most finished type of man to be the person who is always ready to make allowances for others, on the ground that never a day passes without his being in fault himself, yet who keeps as clear of faults as if he never pardoned them in others.

[Atque ego optimum et emendatissimum existimo, qui ceteris ita ignoscit, tamquam ipse cotidie peccet, ita peccatis abstinet tamquam nemini ignoscat.]

Pliny the Younger (c. 61-c. 113) Roman politician, writer [Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus]
Epistles [Epistulae], Book 8, Letter 22 “To Geminus” [tr. J.B.Firth (1900)]
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Alt. trans.: "The highest of characters, in my estimation, is his, who is as ready to pardon the moral errors of mankind, as if he were every day guilty of some himself; and at the same time as cautious of committing a fault as if he never forgave one."
Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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If God didn’t want women to be looked at, he would have made ’em ugly — that’s reasonable, isn’t it? God isn’t a cheat; He set up the game Himself — He wouldn’t rig it so that the marks can’t win, like a flat joint wheel in a town with the fix on. He wouldn’t send anybody to Hell for losing in a crooked game.

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, ch. 27 [Patty] (1961)
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Added on 21-Jul-17 | Last updated 21-Jul-17
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‘Tis no Sin to be tempted, but to be overcome.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
Some Fruits of Solitude, #450 (1693)
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See Shakespeare.
Added on 19-Jun-17 | Last updated 19-Jun-17
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We will more easily accomplish what is proper if, like archers, we have a target in sight.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1 (350 BC)
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Alt. trans.:
  • “It concerns us to know the purposes we seek in life, for then, like archers aiming at a definite mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we want.”
  • Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?" [tr. Ross]
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He who holds the ladder is as guilty as the thief.

Other Authors and Sources
German proverb
Added on 3-Mar-17 | Last updated 3-Mar-17
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What once were vices, are now the manners of the day.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 109
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Sin is a queer thing. It isn’t the breaking of divine commandments. It is the breaking of one’s own integrity.

lawrence-sin-is-a-queer-thing-wist_info-quote

David Herbert "D. H." Lawrence (1885-1930) English novelist
Studies in Classic American Literature, ch. 8 (1923)
Added on 3-Jan-17 | Last updated 3-Jan-17
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Children will imitate their fathers in their vices, seldom in their repentance.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) British Baptist preacher, author [Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon]
Spurgeon’s Sermons, 3rd Series, Sermon 21, “Manasseh” (1883)
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Added on 22-Nov-16 | Last updated 22-Nov-16
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We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Luke 18:9-14 [KJV]
Added on 28-Oct-16 | Last updated 28-Oct-16
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Many a man is saved from being a thief by finding everything locked up.

howe-saved-from-being-a-thief-wist_info-quote

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Ventures in Common Sense, 4.29 (1919)
Added on 21-Oct-16 | Last updated 21-Oct-16
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The devil’s voice is sweet to hear

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Needful Things (1991)
Added on 14-Sep-16 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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Fashions in sin change.

Hellman - fashions in sin change - wist_info quote

Lillian Hellman (1906-1987) American playwright, screenwriter
Watch on the Rhine (1941)
Added on 25-Aug-16 | Last updated 25-Aug-16
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“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Dickens - forged in life - wist_info quote

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol (1843)

Sometimes oddly paraphrased, "We forge the chains we wear in life."
Added on 16-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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An evil-speaker differs from an evil-doer only in the want of opportunity.

[Maledicus a malefico non distat nisi occasione.]

Quintilian (39-90) Roman orator [Marcus Fabius Quintilianus]
De Institutione Oratorio, Book 12, ch. 9, l. 9
Added on 13-Jun-16 | Last updated 13-Jun-16
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Pleasure’s a sin, and sometimes sin’s a pleasure.

Byron - pleasures a sin - wist_info quote

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Don Juan, Canto 1, st. 133 (1818)
Added on 10-May-16 | Last updated 10-May-16
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One of the temptations of upper-middle class life is to create sharp edges of our moral sensitivities that allows comfortable confusions about sin and virtue. The difference between rich and poor is not that the rich sin more than the poor, it is that the rich find it easier to call sin a virtue. When the poor sin, they call it sin; when they see holiness, they identify it as such. This intuitive clarity is often absent from the wealthy, and that absence easily leads to the atrophy of the moral sense.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
Encounters with Merton (2004)
Added on 22-Apr-16 | Last updated 22-Apr-16
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Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer.
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“The Vatican Rag,” That Was the Year That Was (1965)
Added on 10-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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‘Why has sex become man’s chief stumbling block?’ But has it? Or is it only the most recognisable of the stumbling blocks? I mean, we can mistake pride for a good conscience, and cruelty for zeal, and idleness for the peace of God et cetera. But when lust is upon us, then, owing to the obvious physical symptoms, we can’t pretend it is anything else. Is it perhaps only the least disguisable of our dangers.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter (27 Sep 1954)
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Admit thy guilt and and seek forgiveness, for the denial of guilt is two iniquities.

Solomon ibn Gabirol (fl. 11th Century) Andalusian poet and Jewish philosopher [a.k.a. Solomon ben Judah, Avicebron]
Choice of Pearls, 109 [tr. Cohen (1925)]
Added on 30-Nov-15 | Last updated 30-Nov-15
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HAMLET: Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?

Shakespeare - whipping - wist_info

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 554 (1600)
Added on 23-Nov-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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The Maker of the universe with stars a hundred thousand light-years apart was interested, furious, and very personal about it if a small boy played baseball on Sunday afternoon.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Elmer Gantry (1927)
Added on 17-Nov-15 | Last updated 17-Nov-15
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Laziness is the sin most willingly confessed to, since it implies talents greater than have yet appeared.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
Added on 23-Oct-15 | Last updated 23-Oct-15
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The coldest depth of Hell is reserved for people who abandon kittens.

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
Friday [Friday Jones] (1982)
Added on 6-Oct-15 | Last updated 6-Oct-15
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Thou canst not prevent the birds from flying above they head, but thou canst prevent their building their nests in thy hair.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer
Letter to Hieronymous Weller (1530)
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On temptation, attributed to "a wise oracle."
Added on 30-Sep-15 | Last updated 30-Sep-15
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Sin? Sin like love was a word hard to define. It came in two bitter but vastly different flavors. The first lay in violating the taboos of your tribe … The other meaning of sin was easier to define because it was not molded by the murky concepts of religion and taboo: Sin is behavior that ignores the welfare of others.

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
Time Enough For Love (1973)
Added on 7-Jul-15 | Last updated 7-Jul-15
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It is not going in [to the brothel] that is a problem, but not being able to come out.

Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435 – c. 356 BC) Cyrenaic philosopher, Hedonist
Fragment 59 [Mannebach]
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Anything I like is either illegal or immoral or fattening.

Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943) American critic, commentator, journalist, wit
(Attributed)

Apparently a gag attributed by Woollcott to a Frank Rand of St. Louis on his radio show in Sep. 1933; it was then directly attributed to Woollcott in Reader's Digest in Dec. 1933. It is sometimes cited to Woollcott's essay "The Knock at the Stage Door," The North American Review (Sep 1922), but not found there. See here for more information. Variants:
  • "All the things I like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening."
  • "All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening."
  • "Everything I want to do is either illegal, immoral or fattening."
Added on 20-Mar-15 | Last updated 20-Mar-15
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HAWKEYE: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

FR. MULCAHEY: How do you figure, Hawkeye?

HAWKEYE: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

FR. MULCAHEY: Sinners, I believe.

HAWKEYE: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them — little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

Burt Prelutsky (b. 1940) American TV screenwriter, author, columnist, critic
M*A*S*H, 5×20 “The General’s Practitioner” (15 Feb 1977)
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The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Galatians 5:19-21 (CEB)

Alt. trans.:
  • Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NRSV)
  • Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (KJV)
Added on 2-Mar-15 | Last updated 2-Mar-15
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When the limit of suffering is overpassed, the most imperturbable virtue is disconcerted.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, “Saint Denis” (15.1) [tr. Wilbour (1862)]
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There is nothing in the world that renders a man more unlike to a saint, and more like to Satan — than to argue from God’s mercy to sinful liberty; from divine goodness to licentiousness.

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) English Puritan divine, writer
Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (1652)
Added on 26-Nov-14 | Last updated 26-Nov-14
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Success in war, like charity in religion, covers a multitude of sins.

William Napier (1785-1860) Irish soldier and military historian
History of the War in the Peninsula, Vol. 5, Book 25, ch. 2 (1837)
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We will be held accountable for all the permitted pleasures we failed to enjoy.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
(Unreferenced)
Added on 24-Oct-14 | Last updated 24-Oct-14
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To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul.

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) Norwegian poet and playwright
Letter to Ludwig Passarge (16 Jun 1890)

Discussing Peter Gynt, which Passarge was translating. Often paraphrased "To live is to war against the trolls."
Added on 17-Oct-14 | Last updated 17-Oct-14
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I think if the church put in half the time on covetousness that it does on lust, this would be a better world for all of us.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
Lake Wobegon Days (1985)
Added on 2-Oct-14 | Last updated 2-Oct-14
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A sense of humor keen enough to show a man his own absurdities will keep him from the commission of all sins, or nearly all, save those that are worth committing.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Life” [ed. Jones (1907)]
Added on 31-Jul-14 | Last updated 31-Jul-14
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Who, when he may, forbids not sin, commands it.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Troades, l. 290 [tr. Miller (1917)]
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A man does not sin by commission only, but often by omission.

Marcus Aurelius (121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 9, #5 [tr. Staniforth (1964)]
Added on 13-Jun-14 | Last updated 1-Mar-16
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The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.

Other Authors and Sources
Florynce R. Kennedy, in Gloria Steinem, “the Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.,” Ms. (Mar 1973)
Added on 6-Jun-14 | Last updated 6-Jun-14
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Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
James 4:17 (NRSV)

  • KJV: Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
  • NIV: If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.
Added on 30-May-14 | Last updated 30-May-14
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No sin is so light that it may be overlooked; no sin is so heavy that it may not be repented of.

Moses ibn Ezra (c. 1055 - after 1138) Spanish Jewish philosopher, linguist, rabbi, poet
(Attributed)
Added on 23-May-14 | Last updated 23-May-14
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The only sin is to be unkind.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
A Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
Added on 16-May-14 | Last updated 16-May-14
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Sin begins as a spider’s web and becomes as a ship’s rope.

Akiva ben Joseph (AD c. 40 - c. 137) Jewish Rabbi, sage
In Midrash Halakha
Added on 2-May-14 | Last updated 2-May-14
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To make our idea of morality centre on forbidden acts is to defile the imagination and to introduce into our judgments of our fellow-men a secret element of gusto.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
“A Christmas Sermon,” Across the Plains, ch. 12 (1892)
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Justice does not belong to the Christian way of life and there is no mention of it in Christ’s teaching. Rejoice with the joyous and weep with those who weep; for this is the sign of limpid purity. Suffer with those who are ill and mourn with sinners; with those who repent, rejoice. Be a partaker in the sufferings of all men. Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even men who live very wickedly. Spread your cloak over the man who is falling and cover him. And if you cannot take upon yourself his sins and receive his chastisement in his stead, then at least patiently suffer his shame and do not disgrace him.

St. Isaac of Nineveh (d. c. 700) Assyrian bishop and theologian [a.k.a. Isaac the Assyrian, Abba Isaac, Isaac of Syria, Isaac Syrus]
Ascetical Homilies
Added on 9-Dec-13 | Last updated 9-Dec-13
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Poverty is no sin.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum, # 844 (1651)
Added on 8-Jul-10 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, aye, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: “Do not drink,” answer him: “I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” One must always do what Satan forbids.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer
Letter to Jerome Weller (Jul 1530)
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "We are soon defeated if we try too hard not to sin. So when the devil says ‘Do not drink’ answer him: ‘I shall drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to!’"
Added on 17-Jul-09 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
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Added on 27-Apr-09 | Last updated 31-Jul-15
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To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“Protest,” Poems of Problems (1914)

Mistakenly attributed to Abraham Lincoln by Douglas MacArthur in a 1950 speech, and frequently since then.
Added on 21-Nov-05 | Last updated 25-May-16
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Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin
As self-neglecting.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 2, sc. 4, l. 75 [Dauphin] (1598)
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