The Self-Propagating Power of Sin
Proverbs 5:22
His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be held with the cords of his sins.

In Scripture, Divine providence and the results of sin are often brought into immediate and close connection with each other, as if the pain attendant on sin were a direct act of God. But there are other passages where sin is looked at, as bringing its own punishment with it by the law of the world analogous to the physical laws of nature. In the text the results of sin are represented as taking place in the natural order of things. The sinner thinks that sin is over and gone when it is once committed. If you put a Divine punisher of sin out of sight, sin does the work of the executioner on the sinner. Among these consequences of sin certain ones are often insisted upon — such as bodily evils, loss of temporal advantages, fear of the wrath of God. But there is a far more awful view of sin, when we look at it on the moral side, as propagating itself, becoming more intense, tending to blacken and corrupt the whole character, and to annihilate the hopes and powers of the soul. See some of the laws of character to which these consequences of sin can be reduced.

I. THE DIRECT POWER OF SIN TO PROPAGATE ITSELF IN THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. Sin is the most fruitful of all parents; each new sin is a new ever-flowing source of corruption, and there is no limit to the issue of death.

1. Note the law of habit, or the tendency of a certain kind of sin to produce another of the same kind. This law reigns over every act, quality, or state, of the soul, to render the sinful act easier, to intensify the desire, to destroy the impression of danger, to increase the spirit of neglect and delay. Illustrate by the internal affection of envy, or an external habit, such as some sensual appetite.

2. The tendency of a sin of one kind to produce sins of another kind. The confederacy of powers in man admits of no separate action of any one wayward impulse, but as soon as evil in one shape appears, it tends to corrupt all the parts of the soul, to disorganise, to reduce other powers under its own control, and to weaken those which resist. One sort of sin puts the body or soul, or both, into such a state, that another sort becomes more easy and natural. There is an affinity between bodily lusts. Any one of them tends to derange the soul by a loss of inward peace. One wrong affection renders another easier. Even an absorbing passion, like covetousness or ambition, though it may exclude some other inconsistent passion, does not reign alone, but has around and behind it a gloomy train of satellites, which are little tyrants in turn. A more striking example of the connection between different kinds of sin is seen when a man resorts to a new kind of sin to save himself from the effects of the first. Another dark shade is thrown over the malignity of sin from the fact that it so often makes use of innocent motives to propagate its power over the soul.

II. THE TENDENCY OF SIN TO PRODUCE MORAL BLINDNESS. Sin freely chosen must needs seek for some justification or palliation; otherwise the moral sense is aroused, and the soul is filled with pain and alarm. Such justification cannot be found in moral or religious truth, and of this the soul is more or less distinctly aware. Hence an instinctive dread of truth and a willingness to receive and embrace plausible, unsound excuses for sin, which neutralise or destroy its power. The ways in which this overthrow of unperverted judgments, this rejection of light, tends to strengthen the power of sin, are manifold. It decreases the restraining and remedial power of conscience; it kills the sense of danger, and even adds hopefulness to sin; it destroys any influence which the beauty and glory of truth could put forth; in short, it removes those checks from prudence, from the moral powers, and from the character of God, which retard the career of sin.

III. SIN TENDS TO BENUMB AND ROOT OUT THE SENSIBILITIES. This view of sin shows it in its true light as a perverter of nature, an overturner of all those particular traits, the union of which, under love to God, makes the harmony and beauty of the soul.

IV. SIN CRIPPLES THE POWER OF THE WILL TO UNDERTAKE A REFORM. There are eases, very frequent in life, which show a will so long overcome by the strength of sin and by ill-success in opposing it, that the purpose of reform is abandoned in despair. The outcries of human nature under this bondage of sin are tragic indeed.

V. SIN PROPAGATES ITSELF BY MEANS OF THE TENDENCY OF MEN TO ASSOCIATE WITH PERSONS OF LIKE CHARACTER, AND TO AVOID THE COMPANY OF PERSONS OF AN OPPOSITE CHARACTER. In the operation of this law of companionship the evil have a power, and an increasing power, over each other. The worst maxims and the worst opinions prevail, for they are a logical result of evil characters. In conclusion, with the justice or goodness of this system I have at present nothing to do. The Bible did not set it on foot, the Bible does not fully explain it, but only looks at it as a dark fact. Sin does not cure itself or pave the way toward truth and right. The question still is this — Is there any cure? If there be any cure it must be found outside of the region which sin governs. I call on you, then, to find out for yourself a cure. I offer you one — Christ and His gracious Spirit.

(T. D. Woolsey.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.

WEB: The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare him. The cords of his sin hold him firmly.

The Lot of the Wicked
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