In this passage Hawthorne proclaims a fellowship with the guiltiest among us and, at the same time, strongly suggests that harsh judgment of one mortal by another would be among the most serious of moral errors. This attitude may account for his unwillingness to adopt a doctrinaire posture in his own life despite his apparent deep interest in religious matters.
Yet, with the slight fancy-work which we have framed, some sad and
awful truths are interwoven. Man must not disclaim his brotherhood, even with
the guiltiest, since, though his hand be clean, his heart has surely been polluted
by the flitting phantoms of iniquity. He must feel, that, when he shall knock
at the gate of Heaven, no semblance of an unspotted life can entitle him to
entrance there. Penitence must kneel, and Mercy come from the footstool of the
throne, or that golden gate will never open!