'I do forgive you, Hester,' replied the minister at length, with a deep utterance, out of an abyss of sadness, but no anger. 'I freely forgive you now. May God forgive us both! We are not, Hester the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man's revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violate, in cold blook, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I Hester, never did so!' (XVII)
Thus speaks the Reverend Dimmesdale in a pivotal chapter of "The Scarlet Letter" in which Hawthorne closely examines the hypocrisy of Puritanism which allows no penitence for sin, thus almost forcing people to hide their sins. It is the secret sins that damage the soul the most, and Chillingworth's sin of "violating the sanctity of a human heart" is the worst. For, like the Devil himself, he would possess the soul of the poor minister. He is, as the sensitive minister declares, "An enemy! And under my own roof!" The "secret poison of his malignity" and his malicious attendance upon the minister have brought about the constant "irritated state" of the man's soul. The revenge that Roger Chillingworth seeks against the minister and Hester is the worst sin.