On Concupiscence, & that Desires of & Pre-Motions to Sin are Sinful, Even Without an Explicit Consent of the Will

“Thou shalt not covet…”

Ex. 20:17

“…for I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’  But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence…  but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I… Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am!”

Rom. 7:15-24

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

James 1:14-15




Classifications & Degrees of Sin, & on Venial vs. Mortal Sin



Order of Contents

Heidelberg & Westminster
Articles  12+
Book  1
Quotes  7+

Does Ignorance Excuse Sin?  7+
Wet Dreams  1
Romanist Distinction Between Guilt of Culpability & of Punishment  3
Latin  12+






Heidelberg Catechism  1563

“113th Question:  What does the Tenth Commandment require of us?

Answer:  That not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any of God’s commandments should ever arise in our heart.  Rather, we should always hate all sin with all our heart, and delight in all righteousness.[1]

[1] Ps. 19:7-14; 139:23, 24; Rom. 7:7, 8″




Shorter Catechism

“Q. 14. What is sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (1 John 3:4)”


Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called Original Sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.[f]

[f] Rom. 5:12,19Rom. 5:10-20Eph. 2:1-3James 1:14,15Matt. 15:19


Confession of Faith

Ch. 6.2-6

“II.  By this sin they [our first parents] fell from their original righteousness, and communion with God,[c] and so became dead in sin,[d] and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.[e]

[c] Gen. 3:6-8Eccl. 7:29Rom. 3:23.
[d] Gen. 2:17Eph. 2:1.
[e] Tit. 1:15Gen. 6:5Jer. 17:9Rom. 3:10-18

III…  and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.[g]

[g] Ps. 51:5Gen. 5:3Job 14:4Job 15:14

IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good,[h] and wholly inclined to all evil,[i] do proceed all actual transgressions.[k]

[h] Rom. 5:6Rom. 8:7Rom. 7:18Col. 1:21.
[i] Gen. 6:5Gen. 8:21Rom. 3:10-12.
[k] James 1:14,15Eph. 2:2,3Matt. 15:19.

V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated:[l] and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.[m]

[l] 1 John 1:8,10Rom. 7:14,17,18,23James 3:2Prov. 20:9Eccl. 7:20.
[m] Rom. 7:5,7,8,25Gal. 5:17

VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto,[n] doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner,[o] whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God,[p] and curse of the law,[q] and so made subject to death,[r] with all miseries spiritual,[s] temporal,[t] and eternal.[u]

[n] 1 John 3:4.
[o] Rom. 2:15Rom. 3:9,19.
[p] Eph. 2:3.
[q] Gal. 3:10.
[r] Rom. 6:23.
[s] Eph. 4:18.
[t] Rom. 8:20Lam. 3:39.
[u] Matt. 25:412 Thess. 1:9


Larger Catechism

Q. 99.1-2

“1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth every one to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience for ever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.[o]

[o] Ps. 19:7James 2:10Matt. 5:21,22.

2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.[p]

[p] Rom. 7:14Deut. 6:5 compared with Matt. 22:37-39Matt. 5:21,22,27,28,33,34,37-39,43,44


Q. 194. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?

A. In the fifth petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,[v]) acknowledging, that we and all others are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt:[w] we pray for ourselves and others, that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin,[x] accept us in his Beloved;[y] continue his favour and grace to us,[z] pardon our daily failings,[a]…

[v] Matt. 6:12.
[w] Rom. 3:9-22Matt. 18:24,25Ps. 130:3,4.
[x] Rom. 3:24-26Heb. 9:22.
[y] Eph. 1:6,7.
[z] 2 Pet. 1:2.
[a] Hos. 14:2Jer. 14:7




Early Church


City of God, 14.19-26

On Marriage & Concupiscence, 1.7 & 25

Against Julian, 5.3, 6.18

On Augustine, see Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3, p. 142.



Chemnitz, Martin –  5 sections  in Examination of the Council of Trent, vol. 1

Chemnitz was a Lutheran.

Willet, Andrew – Synopsis Papismi…  (1592)

12th Controversy, Of Baptism, Question 6, 1st Part, ‘Whether in Baptism our Sins be Clean Taken Away?’, pp. 437-8

Controversies on the Benefits of Our Redemption, 2nd Part, 1st Question, Of Sin, 1st Part, ‘Of Original Sin’, pp. 558-9

Willet (1562–1621) was a reformed, conforming Anglican clergyman, controversialist and prolific writer.  He was known for his anti-papal works.

Perkins, William – ch. 2, ‘Of Original Sin [After Baptism]’  in A Reformed Catholic…  ([Cambridge] 1598)

Perkins (1558-1602) was a father of puritanism in England.



Abbot, Robert – ch. 2, ‘Original Sin [After Baptism]’  in The Second Part of the Defense of [William Perkins’s] The Reformed Catholic…  (London, 1607)

Abbot (1560-1617) was a reformed Anglican and a professor of divinity at Oxford who wrote extensively against Romanism.

A Roman seminary professor, Dr. Bishop had systematically replied to William Perkins’s The Reformed Catholic, which was a systematic refutation of Romanism.  Perkins was deceased, so Abbot systematically refuted Bishop.  Block quotes of Bishop alternate with Abbot’s commentary thereon.

Davenant, John – The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846)  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846)

Question 1, ‘Concupiscence in the Regenerate is Sin’, pp. 209-217

Question 16, ‘A Proneness to Evil does Not Flow From the Principles of Uncorrupt Nature’, pp. 301-306

The philosophical doctrine of many Romanists has been that Adam, by nature, in his uncorrupt state, was prone to what is sinful by the lower attractions and impulses of his nature not being fully subordinate to his higher reason.  Thus he was given supernatural grace to prevent this.

However, at the Fall, Romanists hold, this supernatural grace was taken away, and the attractions and impulses of man’s lower nature unto sin, not being fully subordinate to good ends by his higher reason, remains; but this concupiscence (Rom. 7) is not actually sinful, they hold, when it is not fully consented to by the will.

“Certain Jesuits have eagerly embraced this error, with no other design (as it appears to me) than that they might ground their other most grievous errors upon this foundation.” – p. 301

Rutherford, Samuel – in Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism:
The Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter  trans. Johnson & Fentiman  (1638-43; 1668; 2019)

Ch. 5, ‘Of the Estate of the First Man’

4. ‘Whether sinful concupiscence is a negative entity or positive quality?  We distinguish.’, pp. 82-83

Ch. 6, On Original Sin

2. ‘Whether, because original sin is not committed by personal volition, it is therefore not sin, properly so-called?  We deny against the Arminians.’, pp. 83-84

6. ‘Whether concupiscence is sin when one does not give consent of the will?  We affirm against the Pelagians.’, pp. 84-85

Turretin, Francis – Institutes (P&R)

vol. 1, 9th Topic

Q. 2, ‘Whether the Hekousion or Voluntary (inasmuch as it is of him who Knowingly & Willingly does Anything) is of the Essence of Sin?  We Deny Against the Papists & Socinians.’  in Institutes, 1.593-94

vol. 2, 11th Topic, ‘The Law of God’

Q. 21, ‘What Concupiscence is Prohibited by the Tenth Precept?  Are the Incipient Motions Sins?  We Affirm.’  134-137

van Mastricht, Peter – Theoretical-Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 3, bk. 4, ch. 2

section 22, ‘For the Constitution of Sin, is the Consent of the Will Prerequisite?’, pp. 457-9

section 28, ‘Is Concupiscence, at Least in the Baptized, Not Sin?, pp.  466-8



Wedgeworth, Steven – ‘Is Concupiscence Sin?– Gay Christianity, Desire & Orientation’  (2018)  37 paragraphs  at Calvinist International





Owen, John – The Nature, Power, Deceit & Prevelancy of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers





The Augsburg Confession

Article 2, ‘Of Original Sin’, sections 1-2

“Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.”


Peter Vermigli

Commentary on Romans  (London, 1568), Ch. 7, p. 166

“[W]e ought certainly to hold, that in this precept, ‘Thou shalt not lust’, are prohibited our corrupt inclination and evil motions of the mind, which we should not acknowledge to be sins, unless the law had showed them unto us.  Aristotle, Pigghius and such other like, for that they were ignorant of the law of God, contend that these are not precepts.”


The Anglican 39 Articles

Article 9, ‘Of Original or Birth Sin”

“Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess that concupiscence and lust hath itself the nature of sin.”


Zacharias Ursinus

Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (1852; repr. P&R), p. 606

“The design and end of this [10th] commandment is the internal obedience and regulation of all our affections towards God, and our neighbor and his goods…  it is not superfluous, seeing that it is added to the other commandments, as a general rule and interpretation, according to which the internal obedience of all the other commandments must be understood, because this is spoken of the whole Decalogue generally.

This commandment, therefore, enjoins original righteousness towards God and our neighbor, which consists in a true knowledge of God in the mind, with an inclination in the will to obey the will of God as known.  It also forbids concupiscence, which is an inordinate desire or corrupt inclination, coveting those things which God has forbidden.”



William Perkins

Works (RHB), vol. 4, pp. 484-485

“They [Romanists] disannul the last Commandment [of the Ten Commandments] by holding concupiscence before consent to be no sin, when as we know by God’s Word that the first evil motions in us are sins.”


William Ames

Conscience with the Power & Cases Thereof  (1639), bk. 3, ch. 19, ‘Of a Voluntary Act’, p. 93

“Question 5.  What are we to judge of those actions which are done through concupiscence.

10th Answer.  Concupiscence does not make an act cease to be voluntary, neither does it indeed diminish the voluntariness of it in respect of the act, but increases it rather.  For he that does a thing out of concupiscence, has a will strongly inclined to that which it does, as is appears either delightful or profitable to him; if therefore the concupiscence be fixed, the sin’s the greater, as it was in Judas, who betrayed Christ out of covetousness of [money].”


John Davenant

A Treatise on Justification  trans. Allport  (1844), vol. 1, ch. 18, pp. 126-7

“…original sin consists in this, that it opposes the same law as to the inclination or habitude.  Consequently this inbred propensity or habit of inordinate concupiscence, which makes man prone to transgress the law of God, is Original Sin.

…he who has within him a defect, habit, or propensity contrary to the law of original creation is infected by Original Sin…

…we must understand that the word concupiscence sometimes denotes the mere faculty of desire… we grant that it is a good creature of God. Sometimes it denotes the contagion or unruly tendency, which has infected the faculty itself; and this disorder, we say, is formally repugnant to that rectitude which God has impressed upon the same faculty….

…the corrupt disposition, which inclines internally to actual sin, is most properly Original Sin.  …so although the faculty of desire itself is not sin, yet the inclination and propensity of it to evil is sin; even in one asleep, when it does not at all actually incline to sin.”


Samuel Rutherford

Free Disputation, p. 346

“I may argue no man can pretend to be free of sin in the inclination of the heart and original guiltiness, Job 4:4; Ps. 51:5; Gen. 8:21; Prov. 20:9; 1 John 1:8,10; Eccl. 7:20.”


Owen, John

The Nature, Power, Deceit & Prevelancy of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers, ch. 4

“And this also lies in it as it is enmity, that every part and parcel of it, if we may so speak, the least degree of it that can possibly remain in any one, whilst and where there is any thing of its nature, is enmity still.  It may not be so effectual and powerful in operation as where it has more life and vigor, but it is enmity still.  As every drop of poison is poison, and will infect, and every spark of fire is fire, and will burn; so is every thing of the law of sin, the last, the least of it, — it is enmity, it will poison, it will burn.

That which is any thing in the abstract is still so whilst it has any being at all.  Our apostle, who may well be supposed to have made as great a progress in the subduing of it as any one on the earth, yet after all cries out for deliverance, as from an irreconcilable enemy, Rom. 7:24.  The meanest acting, the meanest and most imperceptible working of it, is the acting and working of enmity.

Mortification abates of its force, but does not change its nature. Grace changeth the nature of man, but nothing can change the nature of sin.  Whatever effect be wrought upon it, there is no effect wrought in it, but that it is enmity still, sin still.”


Peter van Mastricht

Theoretical Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 3

bk. 3, ch. 9, section 44

5. Was original righteousness natural to man?  The opinion of the papists

XLIV.  It is asked, fifth, whether original righteousness was natural to man.  The Pelagianizing papists—so that they may obtain: (1) that concupiscence, whose second acts only does original righteousness control, and whose first act it does not take away, is not itself sin, and accordingly, if it does not stand in the way, man can be perfect here and now; (2) that man was created in purely natural things, that is, by nature, neither just nor unjust; (3) that the natural things of man survived whole after the fall—admit indeed an original righteousness, but one that is supernatural to man, added to nature, so that it may check the natural discord of the flesh and spirit. Meanwhile, they do not deny that it arose with man, and that it would have helped him even in natural things.  And the opinion of the Reformed with their reasons

The Reformed, although they do not acknowledge that original righteousness (as Flacius [a radical Lutheran] desired) is the very nature of man, yet do acknowledge that it is natural to man, insofar as it was owed to his integral nature in such a way that it could not be morally whole without it.  For if (1) it were supernatural, then its opposite, that is, carnal concupiscence or the discord of flesh and spirit, would be natural to man, and thus good and from God, which is contrary to the Scriptures (Rom. 7:7–8; 1 John 2:16). (2) Thus the rebellion of the flesh against the spirit would be natural to man, without any previous demerit, by the condition of nature that was conferred by God, and accordingly, God would be the author of sin.  Then (3) blessedness was the natural end of man, and accordingly, so also was righteousness and holiness, without which he could not have achieved blessedness (Rev. 21:27; 1 Cor. 15:50).


The arguments of the papists for the most part coincide with the Socinian arguments against original righteousness.  For they allege:

(1) that there is a natural contrariety of flesh and spirit, of body and soul, and thus original righteousness was not natural.  I respond, We previously denied against the Socinians that this obtained in the state of integrity, where a most perfect harmony thrived until the point of sin.

(2) That the gifts conferred upon the first man are called honor and glory (Ps. 8:5), which without a doubt are extrinsic and accessory to man, not natural. I respond: (a) The psalmist calls “honor and glory” not only original righteousness, but also the rule of man over the earthly creatures. Then also (b) in a sound sense, original righteousness is honor and glory (Rom. 3:23), insofar as it is the foundation of all honor and glory, and in that sense it was not something extrinsic to man, but something especially intrinsic. Bellarmine has certain other arguments (vol. 4, bk. 1), but they are of no significance; if anyone desires to know more, he may consult his antagonists: Ames, Pareus, and others.85

85. Bellarmine, De controversiis Christianae Fidei in Opera Omnia (Paris: L. Vivès, 1870–91), 5:169–213; William Ames, Bellarminus Enervatus, 4 vols. (Amsterdam: Joannes Janssonius, 1628–29), 4: 5–12; e.g. David Pareus, Quaestiones controversae theologicae…adversus Bellarminum (Schönfeld, 1612); idem, Rob. Bellarmini de justificatione impii libri explicati et castigati studio Davidis Parei (Heidelberg: Jonah Rosa, 1615).”


bk. 4, ch. 3, section 21

2. Are the primary-first motions of concupiscence sins?
XXI. It is asked, second, whether actual concupiscence toward evil, with respect to its primary-first motion, is sin…  The papists, so that they may keep safe the idea of a perfection of every sort in man, at least in the regenerate, since they observe that the primary-first motions obtain even in the most holy persons, conclude that they are not sins, because they are devoid of all consent of the will, that the secondary-first motions are only venial sins, because they lack the full consent of the will, and moreover that only the second motions are mortal sins, because they are perpetrated with full consent.  In this sense Bellarmine (vol. 4, bk. 5, “On Sin,” ch. 5–7) upholds that concupiscence, in itself and from its own nature, the sort that is found even in the baptized and justified, is not properly sin.

The Reformed on the contrary state that all the acts of concupiscence, even the primary-first, are sins, because the contrary opinion is: (1) contrary to the express words of the apostle (Rom. 7:7); (2) contrary to the express demand of the law (Ex. 20:17); (3) contrary to the force and strictness of the law, which under the penalty of an eternal curse demands the most exact obedience (Matt. 22:37; Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10), and therefore condemns all concupiscence.  Finally, (4) it is also the cause of all sin (James 1:14–15).  Therefore it is sin, for nothing is the cause of sin that does not sin, since the causation of sin, if it is permitted to speak this way, is a transgression of the law.

Accordingly, it is not valid to say: (1) it begets sin, therefore it is not sin.  For a man, because he begets a man, does not cease to be a man; indeed, as we have said, it is sin by the very fact that it begets sin.  And (2) that there is said to be no condemnation (κατάκριμα) in those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) does not argue that there is nothing in them that is condemnable, or sin, but that there is no actual condemnation, as its guilt has been transferred to Christ.  Furthermore, (3) that in baptism concupiscence is taken away, as sin.  I respond, It is taken away with respect to guilt and dominion…  not with respect to its existence.”



Does Ignorance Excuse Sin?

See also, ‘On Non-Moral Actions, Ignorance, Fear & Guilt’.



Samuel Rutherford

A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649), ch. 2, p. 34

“That a man should duly, and as he ought, believe, and receive the decision of a synod, it must be both true and he must believe and know that it is true; but [on the other hand,] that it may oblige him and does oblige him, whether his conscience be erroneous, or no[t], is as true, for then this Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’, should lay no obligation on a man that believes it is service to God to kill the apostles, as, John 16, some do.  For no man is exempted from an obligation to obey God’s Law because of his own sinful and culpable ignorance, for we speak not now of invincible ignorance of these things which we are not obliged to know or believe.

But if our sinful and erroneous conscience free us from actual obligation to be tied by a law, then our erroneous conscience frees us from sinning against a law, and so from punishment; for whatever frees a man from actual obligation frees him also from actual sinning: for all sin is a doing against a Law-obligation; and if so, then are none to be led by any rule but their own conscience: the written Law and Gospel is not henceforth our rule any more.”


A Peaceable & Temperate Plea...  (1644), p. 145

“…the meat is infected to me, whether I know it or no[t], and if I be obliged to know it, and know it not, my ignorance is sinful, and does not excuse me.”


The Due Right of Presbyteries… (1644), Ch. 3, Section 3,
Question 4, pp. 41-49

“1. Because in a question of law all ignorance is moral and culpably evil to any who undertakes actions upon conscience of obedience to others; for to all within the visible Church the Word of God is exactly perfect for faith and manners, and
everyone is obliged to know all conclusions of law that are determinable by God’s Word.

2. Every one in his actions is to do out of a plerophory, and a full persuasion, of heart, that what he does pleases God, Rom. 14:14, ‘I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean of itself.’

3. We are to do nothing but what is lawful and what in our consciences we are persuaded is lawful, and are to know what is sin and what is no sin… because every one is obliged to know morally what concerns his conscience, that he be not
guilty before God…”


A Free Disputation...  (1649)

p. 34

“For no man is exempted from an obligation to obey God’s Law because of his own sinful and culpable ignorance, for we speak not now of invincible ignorance of these things which we are not obliged to know or believe.

But if our sinful and erroneous conscience free us from actual obligation to be tied by a law, then our erroneous conscience frees us from sinning against a law, and so from punishment, for whatever frees a man from actual obligation, frees him also from actual sinning, for all sin is a doing against a Law-obligation, and if so, then are none to be led by any rule but their own conscience, the written Law and Gospel is not henceforth our rule any more.”


p. 106

“…for the most malicious sin against knowledge has an interpretative ignorance conjoined with it, as the Pharisees who sinned against the Holy Ghost, in crucifying Christ (some of them as is clear, John 8:28; 9:40-41 and elsewhere) yet they sinned ignorantly also, for had thy known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, 1 Cor. 2:8.”


p. 189

“…yet while they are heathen fathers and heathen masters, they neither can, nor are obliged actually to teach anything of the Gospel, they never hearing of the Gospel, are obliged not to believe in a Christ of whom they never heard, Rom. 10:14-16, and those that Christ was never preached to, are not condemned for Gospel-unbelief, John 15:22.”


p. 190

“it’s a sin in an Indian prince, and he sins against his magistratical office in that he punishes not an Indian false-teacher who teacheth against the Law of nature [which is universally known], because an Indian should not worship the Devil; but the Indian ruler invincibly ignorant of the Gospel sins not against his office as a magistrate because he punishes not a Gospel-heretic, for he is not obliged to every magistratical act as a magistrate, not to those of which he is invincibly and faultlessly ignorant, as an Indian husband and master invincibly ignorant of the Gospel sins not against the duty of a husband and head of a family, though he teach not wife, children and servants, the principles of the Gospel, which a Christian husband and head of a family is obliged to do, not as a husband and head of a family simply, but as such a husband and head as hears the Gospel, and so either hears and knows, or may hear these Gospel principles if he were not thereof ignorant through his own sinful neglect.”


p. 343

“If he take vincible, as opposed to invincible ignorance, he Popishly then says that the Scripture offers to us many things whereof we may be invincibly ignorant.  Now invincible ignorance, Protestants acknowledge only in matters of fact, or of gospel-truths never so much as in the letter revealed, as heathens may be invincibly ignorant of Christ, and their ignorance not be sinful, as John 15:22, and Jacob was invincibly ignorant in lying with Leah instead of Rachel.

There can be no such vincibleness, or invincibleness, in an heretic that hears the Gospel, for whoever hear the Gospel and yet remain ignorant, their ignorance is not invincible, Nulla est invincibilis ignorantia juris [Nothing is invincible ignorance in law].”


Lex Rex…  (London, 1646), pp. 119-121

“If a people trusting in the goodness of their Prince, enslave themselves to him, and he shall after turn tyrant; a rash and temerarious surrender obliges not, Et ignorantia facit factum quasi involun∣tarium: Ignorance makes the fact some way involuntary; for if the people had believed that a meek king would have turned a roaring lion, they should not have resigned their liberty into his hand; and therefore the surrender was tacitly conditional to the king as meek, or whom they believed to be meek, and not to a tyrannous lord; and therefore, when the contract is made for the utility of the one party [only], the law says their place is for after wits, that men may change their mind, and resume their liberty…”


The Due Right of Presbyteries  (1644)

pt. 1, p. 45

“…and the ignorance of any questions which may be cleared by God’s Word, is vincible and culpable, for the Law says, ‘The ignorance of these things which we are obliged to know is culpable, and excuses not.’ (Reg. juris Culpabilis est ignorantia rerum quas scire tenemur.)

But thirdly, a question of fact is properly a question whether this Corinthian committed incest or no, whether Titus committed murder, or no, and in this there is sometimes invincible ignorance when all diligence morally possible is given to come to the knowledge of the fact.”


pt. 2, p. 378

1.  The object of these opinions would be distinguished:  2. The persons, weak or strong. 3. The manner of refusing instruction, or of admitting light, of mere weakness, or of obstinacy.  For the first, if the matter be faultless or light, as eating meats or not eating meats, in time when they are merely indifferent, and the person weak and scarce capable of disputation, he is to be tolerated, and not received into knotty and thorny disputations about things indifferent: for so Paul, Rom. 14, is to be understood, when he will not have the weak taken in [Greek]: so Michael strove with the angel [the Devil] disputing, [Greek].

If the matter concern an institution of Christ, and our necessary practice in a Church, and the party be not weak: It is a question what makes obstinacy, and what tenderness and weakness.  Turrecremata says, he who is ready to yield to light, is not obstinate; Scotus: gross ignorance; Canus says, affected ignorance makes obstinacy; Malderus says that gross ignorance may leave a man ready to yield to the information of the Church; Alphonsus a Castro says better, he is obstinate who 1. defends an opinion against the Scripture, or, says he (which is his error) against the definition of a general Council, or of the Pope.  2. Who being admonished, does not amend. 3. Who seeks not resolution from the learned, with a purpose to render himself truth’s captive. 4. Who swears that he shall adhere to the end to that opinion.

By the light and knowledge of the holder of the opinion, it may be collected whether he seeks truth, and is ready to yield himself and his understanding thereunto: and except the point be fundamental, it can hardly be judged heresy: if the point may be holden without any scandal, or breach of peace, much tolerance is required where error seems to be a temptation to holy men, but final tolerance, and unlimited, where the party is of great knowledge, and has sway in the minds of many, to prevail to draw others after him, is harder.”



“Q. 14. What is sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (1 John 3:4)”




Davenant, John – Question 45, ‘Ignorance Does Not Excuse Sin’  in The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846), pp. 469-74  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2

Rutherford argues above from Scripture that invincible ignorance excuses from sin.  Davenant argues the contrary.

van Mastricht, Peter – Theoretical Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 3, bk. 4, ch. 3, section 23, ‘Ought there be admitted the distinction of actual sin into philosophical [done out of ignorance] and theological sin? [No]’

“Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (bk. 3): ‘Ignorance of good and evil does not make an action involuntary, but vicious; by ignorance of right and of duty guilt is not excused, but rather increased.'”


Latin Articles


Aretius, Benedict – Locus 98, ‘Ignorance’  in Sacred Problems of Theology: Common Places of the Christian Religion Methodically Explicated  (Geneva, 1589; Bern, 1604), pp. 296-99

Aretius (1505–1574)



Rutherford, Samuel – Ch. 1, ‘On the Scriptures & Fundamental Articles’, 6. ‘What is Overcomeable Versus Absolute Ignorance of the Fundamentals [of the Christian Faith]? Explained.’  in The Examination of Arminianism  (1639-42; Utrecht, 1668), pp. 38-42

Voet, Gisbert – Select Theological Disputations  (Utrecht, 1659), vol. 3, pp. 632-68

42. Ignorance  632
43. pt. 2  642
44. pt. 3  652
45. On having been Taught Ignorance  668
46. pt. 2  681

Maetz, Carolus – A Forest of Eminent Questions: Philological, About Antiquity, Philosophical, a True & Most Able View of Theology  (Utrecht, 1650)  ToC

‘Of invincible ignorance’

‘Of prayer for ignorant persons’

Maetz (1597-1651) was of Flemish lineage and a professor of theology at Utrecht.  This is not a systematic theology, but it treats of quite a number of systematic topics.

van Mastricht, Petrus – ch. 4, ‘Of Knowledge & Ignorance’  in Theoretical & Practical Theology…  new ed.  (Utrecht, 1724), The Idea of Moral Theology, bk. 1, ‘Of the Observance of Faith in General’, p. 1205



On Wet Dreams


Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government  (London, 1646), ch. 7, pp. 284-85

“Night pollutions are not altogether against our will; they are sinful pollutions except concupiscence and lustful habitual day lusts, the cause of them, be not sinful pollutions, yea and forbidden in the Seventh Commandment…

…we conceive legal [Mosaic] uncleanness, as the monthly diseases of women, night pollutions, want [lack] of circumcision, did typify much natural and original heart corruption, which cannot be punished by men or the Church…”



On the Romanist Distinction Between the Guilt of Culpability & the Guilt of Punishment  We Deny.



Willet, Andrew – 14th Controversy, Of Penance, 7th Question, Of Satisfaction, 1st Part, ‘Whether the Punishment Remain, the Sin being Once Pardoned?’  in Synopsis Papismi…  (1592), pp. 437-8

Willet (1562–1621) was a reformed, conforming Anglican clergyman, controversialist and prolific writer.  He was known for his anti-papal works.



Davenant, John – Question 33, ‘When Guilt is Remitted, its Punishment is Remitted’  in The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846), pp. 391-93  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846)

Turretin, Francis – Institutes  (P&R), vol. 1, 9th Topic

Q. 3, ‘Whether Guilt is the Formal of Sin, or its Inseparable Adjunct, or Only its Effect.  And Whether it May Well be Distinguished into Guilt of Culpability & of Punishment.’, pp. 594-96

Romanists, in not considering a nature of concupiscence to be sin, thus explain its existence after the Fall to not be due to the guilt of culpability, but only as the punishment due upon Adam’s transgression, which does not involve culpability itself.



Latin Articles


Szegedin Pannonius, Stephan – II. ‘Of Man’, ‘Things which are of Man’, ‘Concupiscence’  in Common Places of Pure Theology, of God & Man, Explained in Continuous Tables and the Dogma of the Schools Illustrated  (Basil, 1585/93), pp. 223-24

Szegedin (1515-1572) also was known as Stephan Kis.



Pareus, David – 6 Books on the Loss of Grace & the State of Sin by Robert Bellarmine…  to which three following are joined, on Original Sin, are Explicated & Castigated  (Heidelberg, 1613)

Selections 88-100  ToC

Selection 108  ToC

Pareus (1548-1622) was a German Reformed Protestant theologian and reformer.

Rutherford, Samuel – An Examination of Arminianism…  (c. 1639-43; Utrecht, 1668)

4. ‘Whether concupiscence is sin, particularly after baptism and regeneration?  We affirm against the Remonstrants and Papists.’, pp. 314-316

5. ‘Whether concupiscence is formally prohibited by the law of God?  We affirm against the Remonstrants and Papists’, pp. 316-18

7. ‘Whether the wrestling between the flesh and the Spirit in the reborn is simply natural, and on the part of the resisting flesh, so minimally culpable?  We deny against the Remonstrants.’, p. 319

8. ‘Whether the wrestling between the Spirit and the flesh in the regenerate is perpetual and culpable?  We affirm against the Remonstrants.’, pp. 524-7

Chamier, Daniel

Panstratiae Catholicae, or a Body of the Controversies of Religion Against the Papists, vol. 3 (Man)  (Geneva, 1626)

Bk. 10, ‘Of Sanctification & Justification’, chs. 4-20, pp. 274-313  ToC

Chamier (1564–1621)

“The name of Chamier (d. 1621) is one of the greatest, not only among Calvinistic divines, but in all theological literature.  His Panstratiae Catholicae (1626) is the ablest work from a Calvinistic hand in in the great Roman Catholic Controversy, and takes its general rank with books like Chemnitz’s Examen and Gerhard’s Confessio Catholica.  It was prepared at the request of the Synod of Larochelle.  There is no difference of opinion among competent judges as to its distinguished merits, and it is justly regarded among all Calvinists as one of the highest authorities.” – Krauth, a Lutheran, p. 47

A Body of Theology, or Theological Common Places  (Geneva, 1653)

Bk. 4, ch. 11, ‘Of Concupiscence’, pp. 141-43

Bk. 5, ch. 18, ‘Of Concupiscence in the Regenerate’, pp. 233-36

Du Moulin, Pierre – ch. 54, ‘Of the Perfection of Righteousness, or the Fulfillment of the Law, & is Concupiscence a Sin?’  in A Collection of the Theological Disputations held at Various Times in the Academy of Sedan, vol. 1  (Geneva, 1661), pp. 474-81

Du Moulin (1568-1658)

Hoornbeek, Johannes – Bk. 10, ch. 23, ‘Of Concupiscence’  in Practical Theology, vol. 2  (Utrecht, 1663; 1689), pp. 607-611

Rissen, Leonard – Locus 9, ‘Of Sin’, Controversy 2, ‘Whether Concupiscence, which Remains in the Regenerate After Baptism, is Truly Sin, Worthy of Death?’  in A Sum of Didactic and Elenctic Theology, out of Our Theologians, especially out of Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Theology, so augmented & Illustrated  (Bern, 1676; 1690)

Here is an introduction to the life of Rissen (1636-1700).



Vitringa, Sr., Campegius – ch. 10, ‘Of Concupiscence’  in The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, Summarily Described through Aphorisms, vol. 2  (d. 1722), pp. 292-295

Vitringa, Sr. (1659-1722) was a professor in Franeker and a Hebraist.  “…Vitringa…  maintained a fairly centrist Reformed position…  Vitringa and De Moor serve as codifiers and bibliographers of the earlier tradition, the former from a federalist, the latter from a nonfederalist perspective.”

“Admirable text-book, full of quotations.” – Howard Malcom

van Mastricht, Petrus – Bk. 3, ch. 8, ‘Of Contention & Perverse Concupiscence’  in The Idea of Moral Theology  in Theoretical & Practical Theology  (Utrecht, 1724), pp. 1257-1258

Van Mastricht (1630-1706)




“whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Mt. 5:28




Related Pages

Expositions of the Ten Commandments

On Ethics & Virtue

How did the First Human Sin Happen?

Original Sin


Classifications & Degrees of Sin, & Venial vs. Mortal Sin