1 John 3:4
Everyone who practices sin practices lawlessness as well. Indeed, sin is lawlessness.
Sermons
A Christian's High Condition and HopeJ. N. Pearson, M. A.1 John 3:1-6
Adopting Love of the FatherJohn Eadie, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
Children of GodNewman Smyth.1 John 3:1-6
Children of GodD. Wilcox.1 John 3:1-6
Christians UnknownW. H. Lewis, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
God's Adoptive LoveJ. Morgan, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
Slighted by the WorldScraggs.1 John 3:1-6
Sons of GodS. E. Pierce.1 John 3:1-6
The Dignity of Human Nature and its Consequent ObligationsCharles Lowell.1 John 3:1-6
The Divine Birth -- the Family LikenessR. S. Candlish, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
The FatherJ. J. Eastmead.1 John 3:1-6
The Father's Love and the Children's BlessednessM. G. Pearce.1 John 3:1-6
The Hidden LifeC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 3:1-6
The Love that Calls Us SonsA. Maclaren, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
The Manner of Love Bestowed Upon UsW. Mudge, B. A.1 John 3:1-6
The Present Relationship and Future Prospects of the FaithfulH. P. Bower.1 John 3:1-6
The Privileges of the GoodSamuel Roberts, M. A.1 John 3:1-6
The Sons of GodT. Manton, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
The Spiritual Sonship1 John 3:1-6
The Wonderful Love of God as Displayed in Human RedemptionW. Lloyd.1 John 3:1-6
The World Does not Know ChristC. Stanford, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
The World Knoweth Us NotT. Manton, D. D.1 John 3:1-6
What Manner of LoveA. H. M. H. Aitken.1 John 3:1-6
Righteousness and Sin in Relation to Children of GodR. Finlayson 1 John 3:1-12
Nature of SinN. Emmons, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
SinE. S. Pierce.1 John 3:4-5
SinBp. Ryle.1 John 3:4-5
SinBp. Ryle.1 John 3:4-5
SinT. Boston, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
Sin and its RemovalJ. Morgan, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
Sin and PenaltyC. Stanford, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
Sin the Transgression of the LawT. Manton, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
Sin, the Transgression of the LawD. Savile.1 John 3:4-5
Sins, Small and GreatJ. Trapp.1 John 3:4-5
The Evil of SinT. Manton, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
The Knowledge of Sin Necessary to RepentanceJohn Venn, M. A.1 John 3:4-5
The Law of GodC. Watson, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
The Lawless Nature of SinBp. S. Wilberforce.1 John 3:4-5
The Lawless Nature of SinD. N. Sheldon,, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
The Nature of SinBp. S. Wilberforce.1 John 3:4-5
The Perpetual Obligation of the Moral LawIsaac Watts, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
What is SinJ. J. Lias, M. A.1 John 3:4-5
What is SinL. Abbott, D. D.1 John 3:4-5
What Sin IsJames Cranbrook.1 John 3:4-5
Dissuasives from SinW. Jones 1 John 3:4-6


Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth also the Law, etc. The apostle, having stated that the influence of the hope of the Christian stimulates him to seek for moral purity, proceeds to present forcible reasons against the commission of sin. Of these reasons we have three chief ones in the text, and these are repeated, with some additional particulars, in verses 7-9.

I. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE HOLY LAW OF GOD. "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness: and sin is lawlessness."

1. Sin in its abstract nature. "Sin is the transgression of the Law," or "lawlessness." This is said of sin in general: it is true of every sin, that it is a violation of the Law of God. This is opposed to several modern theories concerning sin. Some say that sin is a natural imperfection of the creature - the crude effort of untrained man for right conduct. Our text says that it is not imperfection, but transgression of a holy Law. And others charge all sin upon defective social arrangements: human society is not rightly organized, and because of this men err. But St. John charges sin upon the individual, and charges it as a disregard or a breach of Divine Law. And others apply the word "misdirection" to what the Bible calls sin, and thus endeavour to get rid of guilt. But misdirection implies a misdirector; that misdirector is man. And sin is more than misdirection; it is the infraction of the holy Law and beautiful order of the Supreme. The sacred Scriptures everywhere assert this. The cherubim and the flaming sword of Eden (Genesis 3:24), the awful voices of Sinai (Exodus 20), and the mournful but glorious sacrifice of Calvary unite in. declaring that sin is the transgression of the Law of God. And the voice of conscience confirms this testimony of Holy Writ. The unsophisticated and awakened conscience cries, "I acknowledge my transgression," etc. (Psalm 2:3, 4).

2. Sin in its actual commission. "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness." The expression seems to indicate the practice of sin - voluntariness, deliberateness, and activity in wrong-doing. It is the antithesis of the conduct of the child of God in purifying himself. It is not sin as an occasional or exceptional thing, but as a general thing. Persistent activity in doing evil is suggested by the form of expression. We are reminded by it of the expression of the royal and inspired poet, "the workers of iniquity" - persons who habitually practice sin, who work wickedness as though it were their business. Here, then, are reasons why we should not sin.

(1) Sin is a violation of the Law of God; it is a rebellion against his will - the wise, the good, the Holy One. Therefore in itself it is an evil thing, a thing of great enormity.

(2) Law carries with it the idea of penalty. It has its rewards for those who observe it; its punishments for those who transgress it. Hence our interests plead with us against the practice of sin.

II. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. The holy will of God the Father and the redemptive work of God the Son are both essentially antagonistic to iniquity. "Ye know that he was manifested to take away sins; and in him is no sin."

1. The end of Christ's mission was the abolition of sin. "He was manifested to take away sins. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." The bearing of our sins in his own body on the tree is not the fact here mentioned. It is involved; for "once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26); but it is not brought out in this place. The manifestation denotes his incarnation, and his life and work in the flesh. His entire mission was opposed to sin. He became incarnate, he prayed and preached, he wrestled with temptation, and wrought mighty and gracious works, he suffered and died, he arose from the dead, and he ever lives, to take away sins. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

2. A great characteristic of Christ's Person was his freedom from sin. "In him is no sin." He asserted his own sinlessness: "Which of you convicteth me of sin?... The prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me." And this claim he consistently maintained. His enemies tacitly or openly confessed that they could find no sin in him. The Pharisees keenly watched him to discover some matter of accusation against him, but their watching was vain. And when they had preferred a false charge against him before Pilate, the Roman judge said, "I, having examined him before you, found no fault in this Man touching those things whereof ye accuse him;" "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous Man." Judas Iscariot had known Jesus intimately for three years, and after he had traitorously betrayed him, in intolerable anguish he cried, "I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood." And his friends, who had been closely and constantly associated with him for three years, invariably asserted the perfect moral purity of his character and conduct. The sinlessness of our Lord should check every inclination to sin in his disciples, and stimulate them to the pursuit of holiness. To commit sin is to run counter to our Saviour's personal character, and to the gracious spirit and grand aim of the redemption which he has wrought.

III. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE DIVINE LIFE IN MAN. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him."

1. Participation in the Divine life precludes the practice of sin. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not." We abide in Christ by believing on him, loving him, communing with him, drawing our life from him (cf. John 15:1-7). That this part of our text cannot mean that sin is impossible to a Christian is evident from 1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 2:1,

2. But in so far as the child of God abides in Christ he is separated from sin. In the degree in which the Divine life is realized by him, in that degree he is unable to sin (cf. verse 9).

2. The practice of sin proves the absence of a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. "Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him." The sight and knowledge here spoken of are not merely intellectual, but spiritual; not theoretical, but experimental. And the "sinneth" does not denote sin as an occasional and exceptional thing, but as general and habitual. He who lives in the practice of sin thereby proclaims that he does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. By all these reasons let Christians watch and pray that they sin not, and "follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord." - W.J.









Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law
I. A GENERAL ACCOUNT OR DECLARATION concerning "Whosoever committeth sin." What such an one doeth. "He transgresseth the law." By the law is here to be under stood the law of God, in and by which He hath commanded perfect obedience to every precept of it. Which law is as immutable as the nature and will of God: it can no more change than God Himself.

II. WHAT SIN IS IN ITS CONSEQUENCES: even in any, in the least act of it: yea, in any act of it: "Sin is the transgression of the law." It is therefore most carefully to be avoided. Sin in its nature and quality, matter and manner, may seemingly to us be more or less sinful; yet it is one and the same as to the essence of it. Herein it is we are ourselves so often deceived and overcome by it. If we can dish up the sin we are in our own persons most inclined to, so as to have the gross parts of it so refined as to render it palatable, and that it may go down glibe, we are then able to act the same; yet as the nature of sin cannot be changed, so it is not the less pernicious, because we have so contrived as to swallow it most easily. It is in many instances so much the more poisonous. Sin is like a poisonous plant. The root, the leaves, the every part is full of it. Be it weaker or stronger in any part of it, yet it diffuses itself in and throughout the whole. There is the nature of sin in every act of it: and this more than we can, or ever shall be able to comprehend.

III. THE ANTIDOTE THESE SAINTS HAD, which was all-sufficient to bear up their minds, and lift up their hearts with holy confidence, above and beyond the law, sin, and its curse. "And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin."

(E. S. Pierce.)

I. SHOW THAT ALL MANKIND IS UNDER THE LAW OF GOD, WHICH STILL REMAINETH IN FORCE AS AN INVIOLABLE RULE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. That man is God's creature, and therefore His subject. The subjection of man to God is built upon his absolute dependence upon God, both as to creation and preservation.

2. Man being God's subject, hath a certain law given to him, which doth require obedience from him, and doth determine his duty, particularly wherein it shall consist (Micah 6:8).

3. Man being under a law, should be very tender of breaking or disobeying it, for God never dispenseth with it, as it is purely moral, and standeth much upon keeping up His legislative authority; which may appear by these considerations(1) If man could have kept it, he would have gotten life by it; that was God's first intention; and the reason why it succeeded not was through our sin.(2) In that God would not release the penalty of the law, nor pardon any sin against it without satisfaction first made by the blood of Christ; the law is both the rule of our duty and God's judgment; it showeth what is due from us to God, and also what is due from God to us in case of disobedience.(3) Before man can have actual benefit by this satisfaction, he must consent to return to the duty of the law, and live in obedience to God (Acts 26:18).(4) Christ merited regeneration, or the spirit of holiness, that all new creatures might voluntarily keep this law, though not in absolute perfection, yet in sincere obedience (Titus 3:5, 6).(5) The more we keep this law, the more pleasing we are to God, and the more communion we have with Christ.(6) That we cannot have full communion with God till we are perfectly conformed to His law; for we are not introduced into the heavenly glory till we are perfect and complete in holiness (Ephesians 5:27).(7) That the law is the rule of all God's judgments in the world, and His righteous process, whether against nations or persons (Romans 1:18).(8) That He will not spare His own children when they transgress it by heinous sins (Proverbs 11:31).(9) That Christ came not to dissolve our obligation to God, or ever intended it, but to promote it rather.

II. THE NATURE AND HEINOUSNESS OF SIN IS TO BE DETERMINED BY A CONTRARIETY OR WANT OF CONFORMITY TO THIS LAW; for sin presupposeth a law and law giver, and a debt of subjection lying upon us.

1. By omitting what is commanded as a duty to God or man; as suppose invocation of God (Jeremiah 10:25).

2. By committing what God hath forbidden, or breaking through the restraints God hath laid upon us, in worshipping idols, or satisfying our revenge, or fulfilling our lusts.

III. THAT THOSE THAT LIVE IN SIN, OR ANY ALLOWED BREACH OF THIS LAW, ARE STILL UNDER THE CURSE OF IT, AND CANNOT LOOK UPON THEMSELVES AS GOD'S ADOPTED CHILDREN.

1. It is certain that when we come to take the law out of the hand of a redeemer, we are all sinners and transgressors before God.

2. Though God findeth us sinners, and we apprehend ourselves to be so, yet when He taketh us into His family He doth not leave us so; but on God's part regeneration maketh way for adoption (John 1:12, 13).

3. None are so exact with God in the obedience of His law but that still they need the same grace that brought them into the family to keep them in the family, and to pardon their daily failings.

4. Though God's adopted children may through infirmity break His law, yet there is a manifest difference between them and others that live in a state of sin, either in enmity to godliness, or in a course of vanity, sensuality, or any kind of rebellion against God, rejecting His counsels, calls, and mercies, which should reclaim them.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. WHAT LAW THE APOSTLE MENTIONS IN THE TEXT. There is no reason to think that He means any law given to Adam, or to Noah, or any law given by Moses, except the moral law, which is founded in the reason of things, and is of perpetual obligation. This He calls the law, in distinction from all positive laws and particular precepts. By the law, therefore, he means the first supreme and universal law of God's moral kingdom, which is binding upon all rational and accountable creatures.

II. WHAT THIS MORAL LAW, WHICH IS BINDING UPON ALL MANKIND, REQUIRES. It certainly requires something that is reasonable, because it is founded in reason. Our Saviour perfectly understood the true import and perpetual obligation of the law, and came to fulfil and magnify it. There are but two things really valuable and desirable in their own nature. One is happiness, and the other is holiness. Happiness is valuable and desirable in its own nature, or for what it is in itself. And holiness is valuable and desirable in its own nature, or for what it is in itself. The moral law therefore which is founded in the nature of things, requires men to love and seek holiness and happiness for themselves and others. It requires them to love and seek the holiness and blessedness of God supremely; because He is supremely great and good. And it requires men to love and seek one another's holiness and happiness as their own. And when they exercise such disinterested love to God and man, they fulfil the law, or do all that the law requires them to do.

III. WHAT IT FORBIDS. Every law has both a precept and prohibition. It forbids whatever is directly contrary to what it requires, and requires whatever is directly contrary to what it forbids. It appears from what has been said under the last head that the Divine law requires disinterested love to God and man; and from this we may justly conclude that it forbids whatever is directly contrary to disinterested love to God and man. Improvement:

1. If the transgression of the Divine law consists in positive selfishness, then it does not consist in a mere want of conformity to it.

2. If the Divine law requires pure, disinterested love, and forbids selfishness, then every free, voluntary exercise of the heart is either an act of obedience or disobedience of the law of God.

3. If every selfish exercise be a transgression of the law, then those are under a deep deception who imagine that they have no sin.

4. If every selfish exercise is a transgression of the law, and every transgression of the law is sin, then every sin deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come.

5. If the law of God forbids all selfish and sinful affections upon pain of eternal death, then mankind are all naturally in a very guilty and wretched condition.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

1. There is folly in it, as it is a deviation from the best rule which the Divine wisdom hath given unto us. They who reject that which is able to make them wise to salvation, that in which all true wisdom consisteth, how can they be wise men? Every soul in hell is brought there by sinful folly.

2. Laws are not only rules to direct, but have a binding force from the authority of the lawgiver. God doth not only give us counsel as a friend, but commands as a sovereign. Therefore the second notion whereby the evil of sin is set forth is that of disobedience and rebellion; and so it is a great injury done to God, because it is a contempt of God's authority.

3. It is shameful ingratitude. Man is God's beneficiary, from whom he hath received life and being, and all things, and is therefore bound to love and serve Him according to His declared will.

4. It is a disowning of God's propriety in us, as if we were not His own, and God had not power to do with His own as He pleaseth. It robbeth God of His propriety. If we consider His natural right, so sill is such an injury and wrong to God as theft and robbery. If we consider our own covenant by which we voluntarily own God's right and property in us, so it is breach of vows. If we consider this covenant as being made in a way of devoting and consecrating of ourselves from a common to a holy use, so it is sacrilege; all which aggravate sin, and should make it more odious to our thoughts.

5. It is a contempt of God's holiness and purity, as if He were indifferent to good and evil, and stood not upon His law, whether men broke it or kept it, and would not call them to an account, and judge them for it. Whereas God standeth punctually and precisely upon His law; the least point is dearer unto Him than all the world in some sense (Matthew 5:18).

6. It is a denial of the goodness of God, as if He were envious of the happiness and welfare of mankind, as if He had planted in us desires which He would not have satisfied, only to vex and torment us, and had fettered us unreasonably, and His commands were grevious and His yoke intolerable; yea, ensnared us by keeping us from that which is good and comfortable for us.

7. It is a depreciation and contempt of God's glorious majesty. What else shall we make of a plain contest with Him, and a flat contradiction to His holy will?

8. It is a questioning, if not a flat denial, of God's onmiscieney and omnipresence, as if He did not see or regard the actions of men, since we dare do that in the presence of God which we would scarce do before a little child.

9. It is the violation of a law which is holy, just, and good. The matter of it recommendeth itself to our con sciences, as tending to the glory of God, and conducing to preserve the rectitude of our natures.

10. It is a disorder in nature, or a breach in the moral order and harmony of the world, whilst man, the most excellent of all visible creatures, is so perverted and depraved, like the chief string to an instrument broken and out of tune.

11. It is a disbelief of the promises and threatenings wherewith the law is enforced; for in the law, besides the precept, there is a sanction by penalties and rewards.

12. It is a slighting of all those providences by which He would confirm and back His law. The Lord knoweth how apt we are to be guided by present sense. So all those chastisings by which God will show us the bitter fruit of sin (Jeremiah 2:19).

13. It is a contempt of all those means by which God useth to enforce His laws and quicken the sense of our duty upon our hearts; such are the strivings and pressing motions of His Spirit (Genesis 6:3).

14. The slenderness of the temptation that irritates us to break the laws of God doth also show the malignity of sin; for what is it but the pleasing of the carnal faculty (James 1:14).Practical lessons:

1. We see hence the folly of them who make a mock and sport of sin (Proverbs 14:9).

2. It showeth the folly of those that do not only make a light reckoning of sin themselves, but think also that God makes little account of it.

3. How just is God in appointing eternal punishment as the fruit and reward of sin.

4. If all sin be so odious, how much more a life of sin!

5. The necessity of entering into the gospel covenant. Now this is done by repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

6. The necessity of persevering in the gospel estate by new obedience, and a continual dependence on the grace of the Redeemer.

7. What reason we have to submit to the sharpest providences which God in His corrective discipline puts us under (Isaiah 27:9).

8. That a renewed heart should be affected, not only with the evil after sin, but with the evil in sin; for to persuade God's children to a conformity to their Father, he urgeth this argument, that it is a breach of the law.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. SIN IS DENOUNCED AS A TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW. How fitted is such a representation to warn us against it! It teaches us what sin is. The very fact that a law exists to direct our conduct is enough to claim our attention. "Do this, and live; in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die": these announcements may be regarded as beacons set up to warn us against shipwreck on the sea of life, or lights to guide us into a safe and peaceful haven. Not only, however, is it a solemn thing to know there is a law to which we are subject, but the responsibility is greatly increased when we remember it is the law of God. He is the lawgiver, and knows what to require, and has authority to enjoin it. It is the transcript of His mind, and to disobey it must be rebellion against Him. In its nature the law is absolutely perfect, being alike worthy of God and adapted to advance the best interests of those who are subject to it. It is holy — distinguishing in all cases between right and wrong, good and evil. It is just — never claiming anything beyond what God is justified to require and man is bound to render. And it is good — securing the highest advantages to all who obey it. It is well for time, and better for eternity. This law it is the purpose of God ever to maintain. No change in man can produce a change in it. It never was and can never be broken without entailing sorrow and suffering on the transgressor. Sin has been the cankerworm at the root of human happiness and prosperity. We must esteem it the enemy of God, the enemy of holiness, justice, and goodness; the enemy of man, of his peace and prosperity; the prolific source of all sorrow, because the transgression of that law which God has established as the directory of man and the safeguard of righteousness.

II. In pursuance of his argument, the apostle declares that THE VERY PURPOSE OF CHRIST'S MISSION WAS TO DESTROY SIN.

III. It strengthens these views still further to observe that THE APOSTLE REPRESENTS THE BELIEVER'S UNION WITH CHRIST TO BE PRODUCTIVE OF THE SAME RESULT (ver. 6).

IV. THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OF THE CHRISTIAN IS DECLARED TO BE RIGHTEOUSNESS. "He that doeth righteousness." He does it. He has laid the law of God before him, and seeks to walk in conformity to it.

(J. Morgan, D. D.)

Very little consideration may show us the importance of seeing wherein consists the real nature of sin. The empiric who sets himself, in dealing with any disease of the body, merely to counteract its external symptoms, often aggravates the malady with which he ignorantly meddles; and he assuredly runs a far greater risk of working a far wider ruin who attempts in such presumptuous ignorance to deal with the disorders of the soul. Weigh the effects of sin, and you must appreciate something of its deadly character; look what it has wrought in the heavenly world; remember that those natures, framed according to the wise design of the All-Wise and the All-Mighty with the largest capacities for blessedness with which created beings could be gifted, have all those vast capacities filled with anguish, unconceivable, unalleviated, and then see what sin has wrought, and measure as you can in that awful shattering of God's great work of love what sin is. Or turn to this world, and compare what it was when, as "very good," God's blessing rested upon its rejoicing dawn; and then gather into one heap the sadnesses of this present earth — its darkened imaginations, its toiling, wearied, suffering multitudes — and remember that all these are the work of sin, and see what a poison must be in it. Or look to Calvary, and know that this too is sin's work. For, secondly, all this belongs not to some distant world, not to beings of another kind from us, not to devils in hell; but it belongs to us, it touches us, nay, it is in us, in every one of us, ruling in some, struggling in ethers, present in all. What, then, is its nature? "Sin is the transgression of the law." But, then, what is "the law"? It is the manifestation to reasonable creatures by the unapproachable and incomprehensible Lord of so much of the perfection of His own necessary character as can be comprehended by the creature to whom it is revealed, in order that the character of the supreme Lord may be formed and maintained, according to his limited capacity, in the creature also. This connection of the reasonable creature's happiness with the existence of a true harmony between his own spiritual being and the character of God, is a necessary consequence of the inalienable relation between the perfect Creator, from whom we have our being and in whom we subsist, and the reasonable creatures of His hand. First, because only by this harmony of his own will with the will of his Creator can the perfection of the creature's own nature be reached or maintained. And next, because only in the Creator can the creature, created with capacities for knowing, loving, serving, resting on his Creator, ever find complete happiness. By whatever means, then, the supreme Lord reveals Himself to His reasonable creatures, that revelation is to them "the law." And as in keeping this law there is for the creature all blessedness, so in the transgression of it there is certain and inevitable misery. For, first, every variation from it is a disturbance, it may be a fatal disturbance, of the intricate and marvellous machinery of his own being, all of which was planned and executed with Divine wisdom for a purpose to which he in his waywardness is running counter. Here, doubtless, we may find the cause and the history of the fall of the apostate angels. Under some temptation of self-will they quitted that order in which God's loving wisdom had placed them; and violating that, the indwelling grace of God, whereby alone the creature can ever stand upright, was first resisted and then quenched in them, and their nature became incapable of the bliss for which they had been created. And as it was with them, so it must be with every other creature; in choosing that which is at variance with the will of Him who created them, they reject all possible perfectness in their own nature. Again, they lose that which alone can fill with perfect and enduring happiness the reasonable soul created capable of knowing it, the loving revelation to itself of the Lord of all as its abiding portion. For the creature whose will, affections, and spiritual nature are diverse from those of the Almighty, cannot rejoice in Him; the contradiction between them makes it impossible; all the boundless reach of the Creator's perfections becomes to such a fallen one the occasion of a more energetic repulsion of his own nature from that, the only true centre and rest of his being. All this leads to some most practical conclusions.

1. First, we have here some light thrown on the awful mystery of eternal death, and of the steps down which the creatures of the God of love are dragged into it. Malignity, hatred, despair, the last and blackest sins into which the smaller pleasurable sins have run, are often, even in this life, a visible anguish to their victim; and the reason of all this, and its end, is taught us as we gaze into the nature of sin. For sin is not a thing, but a certain mode of action by a reasonable creature, and that action affects his own inward constitution; and the misery of eternity is not the mere retribution appointed for something which happened in this life, but is a continuous and most intense course of action into which action here has by necessary steps run on.

2. Secondly, see here the true evil of the least allowed sin. For this, which is the consequence of the deadly nature of sin, must be in every sin; and when we give way to the least sin, we yield ourselves to it, and we cannot know how far it may prevail over us. The mere allowing our earthly hearts to fix with too much delight upon lawful things short of their true Lord — this of itself may destroy us, by being the first step which leads us away from Him as the centre of our being. Still more, one habit of sin, one allowed evil temper, one permitted lust, may be the acting of our soul against God which insures for us the eternal rebellion of a lost spirit in the blackness of despair. Doubtless, as some poisons destroy the life of the body more suddenly than others, so some sins lay waste the soul with a more awful rapidity than others, because they concentrate into themselves a more energetic contradiction of the holiness of the blessed God: but all have the evil nature in them; and one therefore which possesses the soul may, and if it remains, must, shut it out from heaven and blessedness, not because God is a severe exactor of a threatened penalty, but because sin must part the soul which it possesses from Him, who, by the necessity of His own blessed nature, cannot bear iniquity.

3. And again, see here the need we have of crying constantly to God for larger and yet larger gifts of His converting grace.

4. And, lastly, let us learn hence that lesson without which prayer for the gifts of God's grace is nothing but delusion — the lesson of striving in act against sin.

(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)

A right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind. The material creation in Genesis began with "light," and so also does the spiritual creation.

I. I shall supply some DEFINITION of sin. Sin is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race, of every rank, and class, and name, and nation, and people. "A sin," to speak more particularly, consists in doing, saying, thinking, or imagining, anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God. The slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God's revealed will and character constitutes a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God's sight.

II. Concerning the ORIGIN AND SOURCE of this vast moral disease called "sin" I must say something. Let us, then, have it fixed down in our minds that the sinfulness of man does not begin from without, but from within. It is a family disease, which we all inherit from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and with which we are born. Of all the foolish things that parents say about their children there is none worse than the common saying, "My son has a good heart at the bottom. He is not what he ought to be; but he has fallen into bad hands. Public schools are bad places. The tutors neglect the boys. Yet he has a good heart at the bottom." The truth, unhappily, is diametrically the other way. The first cause of all sin lies in the natural corruption of the boy's own heart, and not in the school.

III. Concerning the EXTENT of this vast moral disease of man called sin, let us beware that we make no mistake. The only safe ground is that which is laid for us in Scripture (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9). Sin is a disease which pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution and every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will, are all more or less infected. Even the conscience is so blinded that it cannot be depended on as a sure guide, and is as likely to lead men wrong as right, unless it is enlightened by the Holy Ghost.

IV. Concerning the GUILT, VILENESS, and OFFENSIVENESS of sin in the sight of God, my words shall be few. The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael and the Queen's Head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ. The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us have no idea that they are offensive, and are not offensive to one another. And man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect — perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope — perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping' time to a second as he rolls round the sun — perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground. But let us nevertheless settle it firmly in our minds that sin is "the abominable thing that God hateth"; and that "nothing that defiles shall in any wise enter" heaven (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13; James 2:10; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; Romans 2:16; Mark 9:44; Psalm 9:17; Matthew 25:46; Revelation 21:27).

V. One point only remains to be considered on the subject of sin, which I dare not pass over — its DECEITFULNESS. "It is but a little one! God is merciful! God is not extreme to mark what is done amiss! We mean well! One cannot be so particular! Where is the mighty harm? We only do as others!" Who is not familiar with this kind of language?

1. A Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to that vague, dim, misty, hazy kind of theology which is so painfully current in the present age.

2. A Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time.

3. A right view of sin is the best antidote to that sensuous, ceremonial, formal kind of Christianity, which has swept over England like a flood, and carried away so many before it.

4. A right view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the overstrained theories of perfection, of which we hear so much in these times.

5. A Scriptural view of sin will prove an admirable antidote to the low views of personal holiness, which are so painfully prevalent in these last days of the Church. We must return to first principles. We must go back to "the old paths." We must sit down humbly in the presence of God, look the whole subject in the face, examine clearly what the Lord Jesus calls sin, and what the Lord Jesus calls "doing His will."

(Bp. Ryle.)

What do we mean when we say of others, or of ourselves, that we are sinners? And what is the kind and degree of feeling which ought to accompany this utterance?

I. SIN CONSISTS IN ACTION, IN DOING SOMETHING. Sin, it is said, is the transgression of the law. Everyone, then, who sins acts, or does something; for transgressing is certainly acting. But in saying this, let me not be understood to imply that sinning is limited to mere external actions. In fact, we more properly say that the sin resides in the mind, and consists in the purpose there formed, even when the purpose is manifested in outward action. The outward act does not give character to the internal disposition and purpose; but the internal disposition and purpose give character to the outward act. The outward act is the internal spirit embodied; and in every case of open sin, both the mental purpose and this external embodying are sinful.

II. SIN ALWAYS IMPLIES KNOWLEDGE — knowledge of the law of which it is a transgression. It is the moral law, which is always made known, first of all, in the conscience. This peculiar faculty gives to every human being, in proportion as his nature is unfolded, the sense of moral obligation, makes him accountable, and capable of such actions as we call right and wrong, worthy of reward or of punishment. The law, in this form, is as old as man. He finds it in himself; and it reveals, in some degree, its binding power wherever man is seen on earth; though it speaks more clearly in proportion as the human faculties are improved, and man becomes more truly human. But since to the generality of men conscience, in the absence of an extraordinary revelation, speaks but feebly, God has more fully proclaimed His law in His Word. On the principle that to whom much is given, of the same will much be required, the possessors of this Word, if they fail to live answerably to it, will involve themselves in deeper and more inexcusable transgression than the heathen.

III. SIN ALWAYS IMPLIES VOLUNTARINESS, or that the action to which it is ascribed is the free action of its author. We may search indwelling grace of God, whereby alone the creature can ever stand upright, was first resisted and then quenched in them, and their nature became incapable of the bliss for which they had been created. And as it was with them, so it must be with every other creature; in choosing that which is at variance with the will of Him who created them, they reject all possible perfectness in their own nature. Again, they lose that which alone can fill with perfect and enduring happiness the reasonable soul created capable of knowing it, the loving revelation to itself of the Lord of all as its abiding portion. For the creature whose will, affections, and spiritual nature are diverse from those of the Almighty, cannot rejoice in Him; the contradiction between them makes it impossible; all the boundless reach of the Creator's perfections becomes to such a fallen one the occasion of a more energetic repulsion of his own nature from that, the only true centre and rest of his being. All this leads to some most practical conclusions.

1. First, we have here some light thrown on the awful mystery of eternal death, and of the steps down which the creatures of the God of love are dragged into it. Malignity, hatred, despair, the last and blackest sins into which the smaller pleasurable sins have run, are often, even in this life, a visible anguish to their victim; and the reason of all this, and its end, is taught us as we gaze into the nature of sin. For sin is not a thing, but a certain mode of action by a reasonable creature, and that action affects his own inward constitution; and the misery of eternity is not the mere retribution appointed for something which happened in this life, but is a continuous and most intense course of action into which action here has by necessary steps run on.

2. Secondly, see here the true evil of the least allowed sin. For this, which is the consequence of the deadly nature of sin, must be in every sin; and when we give way to the least sin, we yield ourselves to it, and we cannot know how far it may prevail over us. The mere allowing our earthly hearts to fix with too much delight upon lawful things short of their true Lord — this of itself may destroy us, by being the first step which leads us away from Him as the centre of our being. Still more, one habit of sin, one allowed evil temper, one permitted lust, may be the acting of our soul against God which insures for us the eternal rebellion of a lost spirit in the blackness of despair. Doubtless, as some poisons destroy the life of the body more suddenly than others, so some sins lay waste the soul with a more awful rapidity than others, because they concentrate into themselves a more energetic contradiction of the holiness of the blessed God: but all have the evil nature in them; and one therefore which possesses the soul may, and if it remains, must, shut it out from heaven and blessedness, not because God is a severe exactor of a threatened penalty, but because sin must part the soul which it possesses from Him, who, by the necessity of His own blessed nature, cannot bear iniquity.

3. And again, see here the need we have of crying constantly to God for larger and yet larger gifts of His converting grace.

4. And, lastly, let us learn hence that lesson without which prayer for the gifts of God's grace is nothing but delusion — the lesson of striving in act against sin.

(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)

A right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind. The material creation in Genesis began with "light," and so also does the spiritual creation.

I. I shall supply some DEFINITION of sin. Sin is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race, of every rank, and class, and name, and nation, and people. "A sin," to speak more particularly, consists in doing, saying, thinking, or imagining, anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God. The slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God's revealed will and character constitutes a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God's sight.

II. Concerning the ORIGIN AND SOURCE of this vast moral disease called "sin" I must say something. Let us, then, have it fixed down in our minds that the sinfulness of man does not begin from without, but from within. It is a family disease, which we all inherit from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and with which we are born. Of all the foolish things that parents say about their children there is none worse than the common saying, "My son has a good heart at the bottom. He is not what he ought to be; but he has fallen into bad hands. Public schools are bad places. The tutors neglect the boys. Yet he has a good heart at the bottom." The truth, unhappily, is diametrically the other way. The first cause of all sin lies in the natural corruption of the boy's own heart, and not in the school.

III. Concerning the EXTENT of this vast moral disease of man called sin, let us beware that we make no mistake. The only safe ground is that which is laid for us in Scripture (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9). Sin is a disease which pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution and every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will, are all more or less infected. Even the conscience is so blinded that it cannot be depended on as a sure guide, and is as likely to lead men wrong as right, unless it is enlightened by the Holy Ghost.

IV. Concerning the GUILT, VILENESS, and OFFENSIVENESS of sin in the sight of God, my words shall be few. The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael and the Queen's Head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ. The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us have no idea that they are offensive, and are not offensive to one another. And man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect — perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope — perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as he rolls round the sun — perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground. But let us nevertheless settle it firmly in our minds that sin is "the abominable thing that God hateth"; and that "nothing that defiles shall in any wise enter" heaven (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13; James 2:10; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; Romans 2:16; Mark 9:44; Psalm 9:17; Matthew 25:46; Revelation 21:27).

V. One point only remains to be considered on the subject of sin, which I dare not pass over — its DECEITFULNESS. "It is but a little one! God is merciful! God is not extreme to mark what is done amiss! We mean well! One cannot be so particular! Where is the mighty harm? We only do as others!" Who is not familiar with this kind of language?

1. A Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to that vague, dim, misty, hazy kind of theology which is so painfully current in the present age.

2. A Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time.

3. A right view of sin is the best antidote to that sensuous, ceremonial, formal kind of Christianity, which has swept over England like a flood, and carried away so many before it.

4. A right view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the overstrained theories of perfection, of which we hear so much in these times.

5. A Scriptural view of sin will prove an admirable antidote to the low views of personal holiness, which are so painfully prevalent in these last days of the Church. We must return to first principles. We must go back to "the old paths." We must sit down humbly in the presence of God, look the whole subject in the face, examine clearly what the Lord Jesus calls sin, and what the Lord Jesus calls "doing His will."

(Bp. Ryle.)

What do we mean when we nay of others, or of ourselves, that we are sinners? And what is the kind and degree of feeling which ought to accompany this utterance?

I. SIN CONSISTS IN ACTION, IN DOING SOMETHING. Sin, it is said, is the transgression of the law. Everyone, then, who sins acts, or does something; for transgressing is certainly acting. But in saying this, let me not be understood to imply that sinning is limited to mere external actions. In fact, we more properly say that the sin resides in the mind, and consists in the purpose there formed, even when the purpose is manifested in outward action. The outward act does not give character to the internal disposition and purpose; but the internal disposition and purpose give character to the outward act. The outward act is the internal spirit embodied; and in every case of open sin, both the mental purpose and this external embodying are sinful.

II. SIN ALWAYS IMPLIES KNOWLEDGE — knowledge of the law of which it is a transgression. It is the moral law, which is always made known, first of all, in the conscience. This peculiar faculty gives to every human being, in proportion as his nature is unfolded, the sense of moral obligation, makes him accountable, and capable of such actions as we call right and wrong, worthy of reward or of punishment. The law, in this form, is as old as man. He finds it in himself; and it reveals, in some degree, its binding power wherever man is seen on earth; though it speaks more clearly in proportion as the human faculties are improved, and man becomes more truly human. But since to the generality of men conscience, in the absence of an extraordinary revelation, speaks but feebly, God has more fully proclaimed His law in His Word. On the principle that to whom much is given, of the same will much be required, the possessors of this Word, if they fail to live answerably to it, will involve themselves in deeper and more inexcusable transgression than the heathen.

III. SIN ALWAYS IMPLIES VOLUNTARINESS, or that the action to which it is ascribed is the free action of its author. We may search among the Divine commandments in the Bible as long as we please, we shall not find one addressed to man which it is not in his power to obey, if rightly disposed. Thus falsehood, theft, and all kinds of dishonesty are sins, because everyone who chooses can refrain from these acts. The power of the will extends to everything which man can be said to do. It is a power over the movements of the body, and over the general state and exercises of the mind. It is seen in controlling the thoughts, restraining the imagination, regulating the affections, and subordinating the appetites and the desires. In confining sin to the voluntary actions, we give it then all the scope which it can have in fact, and a very wide scope; for as all our properly human actions are voluntary, they may conceivably all be sinful.

IV. SIN IS A WRONG ACT, or, as the text denominates it, a transgression. Holiness is the whole of that moral state, by which a temper of obedience to the Divine law is expressed. Sin is whatever appears in the form of disobedience. It is any and every state of mind and act of the life by which the precepts of the law are contravened or evaded. The object aimed at by the transgressor is not the commission of sin, but simply the gratification of an appetite or desire; sin, in other words, is not his end, but merely a means to his end: while yet in order to gain the end to which some whetted desire points, in order to secure a certain amount of pleasure, he commits the sin, sometimes recklessly, sometimes coolly and deliberately. Any desire of the mind, any freak of caprice or passion, the sensual appetites, the love of fame, the love of power, or the love of accumulation, may thus urge him across the boundary line which separates right from wrong, holiness from sin. Sin is thus, according to the true import of the Greek word in the text, lawlessness. No matter what the sin may be, whether evil-speaking, or dishonesty in business, or intemperance in any of its forms, or any of the legion of sins of which men render themselves guilty, all may be traced directly to that lawlessness, that denial of Divine restraint which is given as the fundamental characteristic of sin in the text. Conclusion: —(1) From this exhibition of the subject we infer that all sin is personal, by which we mean that it belongs to some personal being who has committed it; and that in the sin of one being no other being whatever can have a share.(2) Sin cannot be ascribed to the mere nature or mind of man, or to any latent principle of the mind. Everything sinful in man is his own act, or work.(3) Keeping, then, this in view, we are conducted to the further inference, that sin is a great evil. It is a virulent, positive mischief, consisting in treason against the Divine government, and resistance of the supreme source of all rightful authority.

(D. N. Sheldon,, D. D.)

I. WHAT WE MEAN BY THE MORAL LAW.

1. The moral law signifies that rule which is given to all mankind to direct their manners or behaviour, considered merely as they are intelligent and social creatures, who have an understanding to know God and themselves, a capacity to judge what is right and wrong, and a will to choose and refuse good and evil.

2. It is found in the Ten Commands; it is found in the Holy Scriptures, scattered up and down through all the writings of the Old and New Testaments, and it may be found out in the plainest and most necessary parts of it, by the sincere and diligent exercise of our own reasoning powers.

II. THIS MORAL LAW IS OF UNIVERSAL AND PERPETUAL OBLIGATION TO ALL MANKIND, EVEN THROUGH ALL NATIONS AND ALL AGES.

1. It is a law which arises from the very existence of God and the nature of man; it springs from the very relation of such creatures to their Maker and to one another.

2. This law is so far wrought into the very nature of man as a reasonable creature that an awakened conscience will require obedience to it forever.

3. This law is suited to every state and circumstance of human nature, to every condition of the life of man, and to every dispensation of God; and since it cannot be changed for better law, it must be everlasting.

4. It appears yet further that this law is perpetual, because whatsoever other law God can prescribe or man can be bound to obey, it is built upon the eternal obligation of this moral law.

5. Scripture asserts the perpetuity and everlasting obligation of the moral law (Luke 16:17).

III. THE EVIL NATURE OF SIN.

1. It is an affront to the authority and government of a wise and holy God, a God who has sovereign right to make laws for His creatures, and has formed all His commands and prohibitions according to infinite wisdom.

2. Sin carries in the nature of it high ingratitude to God our Creator, and a wicked abuse of that goodness which has bestowed upon us all our natural powers and talents, our limbs, our senses, and all our faculties of soul and body.

3. Sin against the law of God breaks in upon that wise and beautiful order which God has appointed to run through His whole creation (Proverbs 16:4).

4. As it is the very nature of sin to bring disorder into the creation of God, so its natural consequences are pernicious to the sinful creature!

5. Sin provokes God to anger, as He is the righteous governor of the world; it brings guilt upon the creature, and exposes it to the punishments threatened by the broken law.

IV. THE PROPER DEMERIT OF SIN, or what is the punishment it deserves.

1. When God made man at first, He designed to continue him in life and happiness so long as man continued innocent and obedient to the law, and thereby maintained his allegiance to God his Maker.

2. By a wilful and presumptuous transgression of the law, man violated his allegiance to God his Maker, and forfeited all good things that his Creator had given him and the hope of all that He had promised.

3. This forfeiture of life, and the blessings of it by sin, is an everlasting forfeiture.

4. There is scarce any actual, i.e., wilful sin, but carries with it some particular aggravations, and these deserve such further positive punishments as the wisdom and justice of God shall see reason to inflict.Conclusion:

1. Is the law of God in perpetual force and is every transgression of it so heinous an evil? — then let us take a survey how wretched and deplorable is the state of mankind by nature.

2. Is the moral law of such constant obligation, and is death the due recompense of every transgression of it? — then it is necessary for ministers to preach this law, and it is necessary for hearers to learn it.

3. What a holy regard and jealousy has God shown for the honour of His everlasting law, and what a sacred indignation has He manifested against sin, when He sent His own Son to obey this law, and to suffer for our disobedience of it!

4. How glorious is the wisdom and the mercy of the gospel, which does honour to the law in every respect, which prepares an honourable atonement and pardon for guilty rebels who have broken this everlasting law, and provides grace and power to renew our nature according to the demands of it!

5. Happy is the world above, where such natural and such easy obedience is forever paid to this law of God without the least transgression.

(Isaac Watts, D. D.)

Sin is the transgression of law. It is doing contrary to or without law. The first thing, in ascertaining the real nature of sin, is to get a clear notion of law, What is it? How does it arise? There seems to me but one possible way for us in this nineteenth century to ascertain what is law; and that is, by the observation of the consequences and tendencies of actions. The study of the laws of different peoples can only help us in this thus far — it enables us to see what they found to be useful and good to them, and so gives us a presumptive notion that the same may, in similar circumstances, be good and useful to us. But it is only by observing what are the consequences to which the action actually does tend under our circumstances that we can be sure of its real character in its relation to us. By our own observation alone we can arrive at certainty. But now, what is it that we are to observe in actions, in order to find out God's law? What is the test by which we may discern what we should and what we should not do? The tendency of an action to promote the highest and most perfect happiness upon the whole is the sure criterion of its being according to the law of God. There is no other which does not resolve itself into this. For, just think a little within yourselves, how can you know that it is the will of God you should act in a certain way, but from the fact that God has so created you and others that, if you do so act, it will promote your highest and truest happiness? There is no mark, no sign put upon actions, distinguishing one from another, that all men can recognise, but this. On the other hand, this test is clear, adequate, and such as every man can appreciate and feel the force of. Whatever tends to promote human happiness upon the whole, and in the long run, must be good and according to the will of God. Whatever tends, ultimately and in the end, to produce suffering, pain, or misery, must be evil and opposed to the Divine will. The only point where the test can seem to fail, is where temporary consequences are mistaken for ultimate results. Self-denial for the sake of doing good to some one, may bring temporary suffering; but the pleasure arising from the contemplation of the good conferred, the vigour and high tone imparted to the mind by the act of self-denial, and the approbation and love secured by it from our fellow creatures, together constitute an amount of happiness which, while immeasurably compensating for the trifling suffering, declare the action to be according to God's will. And so, too, the test requires that the kind or degree of happiness be taken into the account, in order to ascertain the whole law of God and our complete duty. We find, for example, that whilst some actions bring pleasure through our physical organisation, others bring pleasure through our mental constitution; and that those affecting us through the latter means, induce a more perfect sense of happiness than those affecting us through our physical organisation. And so, again, acts of kindness, love, truthfulness, honour, forgiveness, etc., bring a greater, intenser, more complete degree of happiness than mere culture of intellect; and the suffering or pain brought by neglecting them is, upon the whole, much greater; so that the Divine law requiring these is higher and more imperative than that requiring the intellectual culture. Still, in every case you will see that it is the happiness or pain which determines and makes plain the law or will of God; and it is the relative character or degree of the happiness which determines the relative stringency and imperativeness of the law. But, observe, I do not say that it is the tendency of an action to promote happiness which constitutes it virtuous, and the tendency of an action to promote misery or pain which constitutes it or causes it to be sin; but only that it is the tendency which is to us the test, criterion, or sign by which we know it to be good or bad, virtuous or vicious. But now, if you accept this test, and consider God's law as requiring whatever tends to promote happiness, you will see that sin includes a much wider range of actions than is generally contemplated. For human happiness is dependent upon physical actions as well as upon moral, and the violation of the laws of our physical and intellectual being is, therefore, quite as much sin as is the violation of the laws of our moral nature. And you have no right to select this law or the other, and say, the transgression of this is sin, whilst the transgression of the other is only an act of imprudence and folly. The same authority which renders the laws relating to morals imperative, renders the laws relating to the intellect and body imperative. The tone of Greek thought and feeling was much higher and truer upon this subject than the mediaeval and later Christian thought and feeling. To the Greeks the body was as sacred as the soul — the senses and intellect as divine as the moral powers. And they were right. They are as essential to man's happiness; they are, at least, in our present mortal condition, the very foundation of all other good — their healthful existence is the condition of all other forms of happiness. Leave the moral powers unguided by the intellect, and they lead into all sorts of errors and follies. Leave the physical powers a prey to disease, and the intellectual and moral powers sooner or later suffer the evil consequences. And you will at once discern for yourselves how this condemns the too common tendency amongst religionists to create artificial sins, that is, to denounce things which they them selves are not disposed to enjoy. No one can lawfully condemn anything which does not tend to diminish human happiness upon the whole; and therefore, however uncongenial an action may be to our own tastes, we have no right to reprove it, unless we can show that it necessarily tends to such diminution. Nay, we must go further than this. The different constitutions and temperaments of individuals are such that, what is perfectly consistent with the purest and most perfect happiness of one man, is altogether inimical to that of another. Each man must, therefore, be left free to follow his own course, and to determine for himself what is the will of God concerning him, excepting when he begins a course which, if universally followed out, would be injurious to mankind at large. From these principles there follow certain practical conclusions. First, we see the law of life allows of many modifications, according to individual circumstances and necessities. Physically, mentally, and morally, men have different requirements, which each one for himself must determine before God. Again, we may see human duty is necessarily a progressive thing, changing and purifying itself with man's advancing culture. Many actions are necessary to happiness in a barbarous state which are altogether inadmissible in a more advanced stage. Civilisation, also, gives rise to many requirements to which the savage is a stranger. There can be no stereotyped law laid down, excepting in very rudimental and fundamental principles, as I said; but the law will always be rising higher, purer, and freer as men advance.

(James Cranbrook.)

I. WHAT IS THAT LAW WHEREOF SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION? It is the law of God, even any law of His whereby He lays any duty upon any of the children of men.

1. There is a law engraven upon the hearts of men by nature, which was in force long before the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai. This is the light of reason, and the dictates of natural conscience concerning those moral principles of good and evil, which have an essential equity in them, and show man his duty to God, to his neighbour, and to himself.

2. There is another law which was given to the Jewish nation by the ministry of Moses (John 17:19). By this we are to understand the whole system of Divine precepts concerning ceremonial rites, judicial processes, and moral duties.

3. There is the moral law.

II. WHEREIN THE NATURE OF SIN CONSISTS. It consists in a want of conformity to the law of God, or a disconformity thereto. The law of God is the rule; whatsoever is over this rule is sin.

1. Sin is no positive being, but a want of due perfection, a defect, an imperfection in the creature; and therefore it is(1) Not from God, but from the creature itself.(2) It is not a thing to glory in more than the want of all things.(3) It is a thing we have reason to be humbled for, and have great need to have removed.(4) It is not a thing to be desired, but fled from and abhorred as the abominable thing which God hateth.

2. Original sin is truly and properly sin.

3. The first motions of sin, and the risings of that natural corruption in us, before it be completed with the consent of the will to the evil motion, are truly and properly sin.

4. All consent of the heart to and delight in motions towards things forbidden by the law of God are sins, though these never break forth into action, but die where they were born, in the inmost corners of our hearts (Matthew 5:28).

5. All omissions of the internal duties we owe to God and our neighbours are sins, as want of love to God or our neighbours.

6. Hence a man sins by undue silence and undue speaking, when the cause of God and truth require it; seeing the law bids us speak in some cases, but never speak what is not good.

7. Hence also a man's sins, when he omits outward duties that are incumbent on him to perform, as well as when he commits sin of whatever kind in his life.

8. The least failure in any duty is sin; and whatever comes not up in perfection to the law is sinful.

III. WHEREIN THE EVIL OF SIN LIES.

1. In the wrong done to God, and its contrariety.(1) To His nature, which is altogether holy.(2) In its contrariety to God's will and law, which is a sort of a copy of His nature. And God being all good, and the chief good, sin must needs be a sort of infinite evil.

2. In the wrong it doth to ourselves (Proverbs 8:36).(1) It leaves a stain and spiritual pollution on the soul, whereby it becomes filthy and vile (Isaiah 1:15), and shame and Confusion on the sinner himself (Genesis 3:7).(2) It brings on guilt, whereby the sinner is bound over to punishment, according to the state in which he is, until his sin be pardoned. This ariseth from the justice of God and the threatening of His law, which brings on all miseries whatsoever.

1. It is high rebellion against the sovereign Majesty of God, that gives the life of authority to the law.

2. It is an extreme aggravation of this evil, that sin, as it is a disclaiming our homage to God, so it is in true account a yielding subjection to the devil; for sin is in the strictest propriety his work. More particularly, sin strikes at the root of all the Divine attributes.(1) It is contrary to the unspotted holiness of God, which is the peculiar glory of the Deity.(2) Sin vilifies the wisdom of God, which prescribed the law to men as the rule of their duty.(3) Sin is a high contempt and horrid abuse of the Divine goodness, which should have a powerful influence in binding man to his duty.(4) The sinner disparages the Divine justice, in promising himself peace and safety, notwithstanding the wrath and vengeance that is denounced against him by the Lord.(5) Sin strikes against the omniscience of God, and at least denies it implicitly. Many who would blush and tremble if they were surprised in their sinful actings by a child or a stranger are not at all afraid of the eye of God, though He narrowly notices all their sins in order to judge them, and will judge them in order to punish them.(6) Sin bids a defiance to the Divine power. He can with one stroke dispatch the body to the grave, and the soul to the pit of hell, and make men as miserable as they are sinful: and yet sinners as boldly provoke Him as if there were no danger.Conclusion:

1. If ye would see your sins, look to the law of God. That is the glass wherein we may see our ugly face.

2. See here what presumption it is in men to make that duty which God has not made so, and that sin which God has not made so in religion.

3. Flee to Jesus Christ for the pardon of sin, for His blood and Spirit to remove the same. All the waters of the sea will not wash it out, but that blood alone. And repent and forsake your sin, or it will be your ruin.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

1. The text supposes that there is some law given by the Almighty which sin transgresses. Now, the laws of God are of various kinds, and made known in different ways. The law of God requires certain dispositions and tempers. Now, if a man is not actuated by these dispositions, he is guilty of habitually breaking the Divine law, and therefore is habitually living in a state of sin. The law of God requires you to be heavenly minded, to be meek and kind, and to love your neighbour as yourself; it requires you to be pure and chaste, and to be "holy even as" Christ is "holy": the man, therefore, who does not in the fullest degree possess these dispositions, is living, in the hourly commission of sin, however unconscious he may be of his transgression and guilt.

2. "Sin is the transgression of the law." But, their, it is the transgression of a law of which the spirit is to be regarded rather than the letter. In criminal cases the judge will not suffer a penal statute to be strained beyond its literal meaning in order to condemn a prisoner; but the law of God, which requires the highest conceivable purity, both of heart and life, is to be interpreted in the most extensive sense: it forbids not only the sin, but everything connected with it, everything leading to it. It is not necessary, therefore, to the guilt of the criminal, that the particular crime of which he is guilty should be expressly named in Scripture. It is sufficient that the general class of sins under which it may be ranked, be forbidden; or that the disposition from which, in common with many other sinful acts, it proceeds, be contrary to the pure and holy law of God.

3. Again, "Sin is the transgression of the law." But it is not necessary to the guilt of such transgression, either that the law should be distinctly known, or the transgressor be conscious that he has committed a sin in breaking it. The law may be broken, and man fall under its condemnation, without knowing or suspecting the consequences of his misconduct. For, in this case, as in that of human laws, it is sufficient that the offender might have known what the law was. How many deceive themselves by, first, so narrowing the bounds of sin as to allow only the grossest acts to be criminal; and then, by deeming themselves guiltless, merely because their consciences are at easel Man's conscience, however, is not the legitimate interpreter of the Divine law. It is the office of conscience, indeed, to accuse and reprove us when we have done wrong: but if conscience fails in its duty; if it be uninformed, or blind, or corrupt; if it becomes, as it too often does, partner in the crime, this will not alter the nature of sin, or the responsibility of man: sin will still be the transgression of the law of God, and not merely the doing of what we may know or feel to be wrong.

4. "Sin is the transgression of the law." By keeping this definition in view we shall avoid the error of those who place the guilt of sin solely in the intention with which it is committed. The drunkard, the man of pleasure, the sabbath breaker, will tell you that they did not intend anything sinful; they had no express purpose of disobeying or offending God. In short, all the various classes of sinners mean, according to their own statement, simply their own gratification. But if we gratify ourselves in a way which God has forbidden, we are guilty of sinning against God, whatever be in this respect our wish or intention.

5. Another mistake into which many persons are apt to fall, is that of judging of sin rather by its probable effects than by its intrinsic heinousness as a violation of the law of God. Without doubt, everything which God has forbidden would be injurious to man: yet the principle on which we should abstain from evil is reverence for the authority of God, rather than any view of utility or interest. Besides, were the principle true, that the evil of sin is to be estimated simply by its effects; yet who is to be the judge of those effects?

6. Another mode of judging of sin, equally common, and equally contrary to the Word of God, is that of estimating it by the opinions of the world rather than by Scripture. The chief evil of sin consists in the insult which it offers to the majesty and greatness of Him who is the Creator and Lord of all things. That this law is strict, far too strict for man in his fallen state to fulfil, cannot be denied; but a less holy law would fail of conveying to us adequate ideas of the greatness and holiness of the Being whose transcript it is. Besides, the obligation of man to obey is infinitely strong. For what is the relation in which he stands to God? Is not God the author of his being, the giver of his faculties, the bestower of all his comforts? Is the law to be relaxed to accommodate the weakness and corruption of man? Or, rather, ought not that very weakness and corruption to be exposed and corrected by the purity of the law?

(John Venn, M. A.)

? —

I. SIN IS A MISSING THE MARK. It is a failing to arrive at that high purpose which God has prepared for us; and as in the natural world the failure to fulfil the law imposed upon us would lead to the most fearful results, so the terrible results of our aberration are visible in the sorrows and sufferings of our kind.

II. SIN IS A DELIBERATE SETTING OURSELVES AGAINST GOD. This is clear if we ask what mark it is we miss. The law imposed upon us by God. Now every sin, of whatever kind, partakes of this character.

III. THEREFORE THE LEAST SIN IS MORTAL IN ITS CHARACTER.

(J. J. Lias, M. A.)

I. THE NATURE OF THE DIVINE LAW.

II. THE NATURE AND DEMERIT OF SIN, which is the transgression of it.

1. Consider against whom it is committed.

2. The humiliations and sufferings appointed, and submitted to, in order to atone for it.

3. The dreadful consequences which still result from it,

4. What would be its consequences, did it universally prevail.

(D. Savile.)

St. John has set before us the child of God as striving to shape his inner and outer life after the pattern of God's purity. This is to him a law: he must in each thought and act make himself as like God as he can. He must give himself no freedom of choice. His will must be to do what he knows to be the will of the all-wise, and truthful, and loving God. Over against him St. John puts the man who has no rule of life, who simply pleases himself, obeying the desires of his own flesh and mind, allowing neither God nor man to pass within the edge of the circle he has drawn round himself. All within it is his own, and all of that he will keep to himself; no one has any claim upon it, no one has a right to tell him what to do with it. This is lawlessness, which is indeed a form of selfishness. Nothing can be further from the mind of God. For there is no act of God which is not wrought under the great laws of truth, and justice, and love. Every time we sin, we not only set ourselves against authority, we also deny the truth of God's witness to some eternal facts. We put ourselves outside of the laws which give order, and firmness, and strength to all the world and to God. St. John goes on to give another reason why all the children of God should be righteous. It was, he says, for the sake of taking away sins, or of making man righteous that God manifested Himself to us. It may not be clear to us why, for this end, so costly a sacrifice must be made. But we know that made it was, and we see from the greatness of it that it could not but be made, and thus learn that to the laws which God lays on His children He submits Himself, and that these laws therefore have not their rise in His mere will, but are themselves eternal. There is in God a "must" and a "must not," which set bounds to Him, even as they set bounds to us. To reach this truth through the manifestation of God in Christ is in itself a large step towards righteousness. It would be well if all Christians quite understood that the great end of God when He manifested Himself in Christ was to bring men to be like Himself, in goodness and happiness, by taking away sins, or, as it is put in the kindred passage (v. 8), by destroying the works of the devil.

(C. Watson, D. D.)

? — More literally: "Whosoever committeth sin committeth lawlessness; for sin is lawlessness." The Bible does not contain many definitions. It does define sin. Sin is lawlessness. That is, it is the violation or careless disregard of law. There is what we call the criminal class in the community; that is, there are those in the community who either openly set themselves against the laws which the community has made, or who live in careless disregard of those laws. They live as if there were no law. A sinner is to God's law what a criminal is to social law. That is to say, a sinner is a man who sets himself against the Divine law. He may be a sinner in broadcloth or in fustian, he may be a sinner in a big stone house or in a common lodging house; but if in his life he counts the will of God as though it were not, and lives without regard to it; or if in any part of his life he leaves God out, not considering what God would have him do in that particular part, he is a sinner, for just in so far he is living a lawless life. Men may be divided into three generic classes. There are a few men who have seriously considered that there is a moral order in the universe, God and a law of righteousness that proceed from Him, and who endeavour to conform their life to that law of righteousness. There are also a few men at the other extreme who have said to themselves — practically, if not in words — I am going to get what I can out of life; I am going to live as though there were no future life, no judgment, no God, no law in the world. And between these two bodies of men, one at the one extreme, and the other at the other, is the great mass of men who sometimes think of God's law and often forget it, who bring it into a part of their life and leave it out of a part of their life. All men, in so far as they live thus, live lawless — that is sinful lives. What shall we say is the generic law of life? It is love. To live regardless of the law of love, or to live any part of one's life regardless of that law of love, is lawlessness. Now, what does this law of love require? What is the law of government — that is, what does love require of government? The Psalmist says, "Justice and judgment are the habitation of God's throne," so justice and judgment should be the habitation of human government: "For He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy." Will any man, looking on the governments of the world, say that that is the ideal according to which governments are organised? There is not a government which is not, in some measure, a lawless government if it be measured by the law of God. What shall we say the law of love requires of the great commercial and industrial world? What does God organise that world for? Love. And if you translate love into terms of political economy, it means the wise and equitable distribution of wealth. Business, according to the law of God, means benevolence. I leave you to judge how far business, as it is carried on today, means benevolence. What is the law of the teaching profession? Truth. What is the teacher for? what the editor? what the preacher? Primarily this: that he may give to listening people truth, absolute truth, uncoloured, unchanged; that he may speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Will any teacher here today say that truth is the atmosphere of the schoolroom? Is there any man who will take a daily paper today and say that the one inspiration and purpose of the editors is to give us the absolute truth, in all its correct proportions — without sensationalism, without misinterpretations? What is the law of society? What has God made society for? This interchange of men and women, what does it mean? What has God made the reception for? what the party for? what the social calling for? Or did not He make it — was it made in the other world? Society has for its purpose the interchange of life. The Divine function of society is the interchange of life and the impartation of life. It is said that Christ went into society; that He went wherever He was invited; but I do not think a great many Christians follow Christ's example when they go to parties and receptions. Wherever He went, because His own heart was full of the love of God and of His fellow men, love bubbled out from Him. How do we go? I wonder how many of us have worn mask and domino; how many of us have pretended to be somebody we were not that we might be polite and courteous, and keep our lives to ourselves and not give our true life forth to others. And every social circle, every social interchange that has not for its inspiration love, the ministration to the highest life of manhood and womanhood, is lawless, it is sin. Continue what I have begun; take this law of love and apply it to one phrase of life after the other. Let the lawyer ask himself how much of the law of love there is in the courtroom; and the medical man ask himself how much there is in the practice of his professional life; and the artist ask himself how much there is in the handling of his brush; and the musician ask himself how much there is in the music of his voice and the ministry of his instrument; and the writer ask himself how much there is in the writing of his story; and each individual ask himself how much there is in his individual life: how much he subjects his will to the will of God, in questions of what he shall eat, and what he shall drink, and what he shall read. Go into a great factory full of spindles and wheels and all intricate machinery; all are connected with some great water wheel below; and, when the band is connected, all the wheels begin to revolve and all the spindles to play their music. Now, imagine every wheel and every spindle with a will or purpose of its own, and keep the bands off and let every spindle dance to its own tune, every wheel revolve at its own pleasure — what product would you get from your factory? The world is out of gear with God, that is the trouble; and you and I, if we are lawless, are just in so far out of gear with God, and nothing can make our life right save bringing ourselves back into oneness with God, to will what He wills to do, do what He would have us do.

(L. Abbott, D. D.)

Infraction of law must be followed by infliction of penalty. This is a principle to which common sense subscribes. It is older than historical Christianity. Before we open the Bible, we learn it from the grand and tranquil regularities of nature. There is a law in the fire; break it, and you will be burned. There is a law in the water; break it, and you will be drowned. There is a law in mechanical force; break it, and you will be crushed. There are laws for souls as well as for bodies; these laws are all wrapped up in one: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc. Let the soul break it, and the soul will die. The full penalty does not follow close upon the transgression, but it is inevitable.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

As there is the same roundness in a little ball as in a bigger, so the same disobedience in a small sin as in a great.

(J. Trapp.)

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