Romans 7:13
Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Certainly not! But in order that sin might be exposed as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
A Grave ChargeC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:13
On the Quality of ViceJ. Mackenzie, D. D.Romans 7:13
Silent Soul OperationsH. W. Beecher.Romans 7:13
Sin Established by the LawJ. Foster.Romans 7:13
The Deadly Nature of Sin ManifestedC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:13
The Exceeding Sinfulness of SinJohn Hill.Romans 7:13
The Law VindicatedA. J. Parry.Romans 7:13
The Monster Dragged to LightC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:13
The Perversion of the Moral LawJ. Caird, D. D.Romans 7:13
The Sinfulness of SinE. Woods.Romans 7:13
The Sinfulness of SinW. Bridge, M. A.Romans 7:13
The Sinfulness of SinJ. Vaughan, M. A.Romans 7:13
The Work of SinProf. Godet.Romans 7:13
The Position of the Law Under the New TestamentC.H. Irwin Romans 7:1-17
Conscience Quickened by the LawH. Ward Beecher.Romans 7:7-13
Death of the Moral SenseW. H. H. Murray.Romans 7:7-13
Experience Teaching the Value of GraceC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:7-13
Is the Law Sin?T.F. Lockyer Romans 7:7-13
Mistaken Apprehensions of the Law Destructive to the Souls of MenJ. Stafford.Romans 7:7-13
Moral Life and DeathCalvin.Romans 7:7-13
Paul Without and Under the LawF. Bourdillon.Romans 7:7-13
Paul's Early ExperienceProf. Godet.Romans 7:7-13
Place of the Law in Salvation of SinnersW. Arnot, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
Restraint QuickensRomans 7:7-13
Revelation of Sin by the LawC. Neil, M. A.Romans 7:7-13
Sin and its Work in Relation to the LawT. Robinson, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
Sin Aroused by the LawC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:7-13
Sin's Use of the LawT. Robinson, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
The Condemnatory Power of the LawJohn Russell.Romans 7:7-13
The Conviction of SinJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
The Deceitfulness and Ruinousness of SinJ. Stafford.Romans 7:7-13
The Effect of Law on ObedienceToplady.Romans 7:7-13
The Excellence of the LawJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
The Fatal Effects of the LawProf. Jowett.Romans 7:7-13
The LawJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
The Law and the GospelD. Thomas, D. DRomans 7:7-13
The Law Irritates SinAbp. Trench.Romans 7:7-13
The Law Rouses SinAustin Phelps.Romans 7:7-13
The Law Vindicated and CommendedT. Chalmers, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
The Mercifulness of the Law in the Revelation of SinT. H. Leary, D. C. L.Romans 7:7-13
The Original and the Actual Relation of Man to LawProf. Shedd.Romans 7:7-13
The Sinner Without and Under the LawJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
The Work of the Law in Awakening the SoulR.M. Edgar Romans 7:7-13
UnawakenedT. Robinson, D. D.Romans 7:7-13
Want of Conviction the Source of Mistaken ApprehensionsJ. Stafford.Romans 7:7-13
The Character Described in the Seventh Chapter of RomansJ. Leifchild, D. D.Romans 7:7-25
The Moral History of the Inner Man Illustrated by This PassageD. Thomas, D. D.Romans 7:7-25
To Whom Does the Passage ReferProf. J. A. Beet.Romans 7:7-25

The sinful passions, which were through the Law (ver. 5). What does the Law bring forth such fruit? Is the LAW SIN? Nay, that cannot be; on the contrary, we all acknowledge it, without dispute, as "holy," and every separate commandment which it gives as "holy, and righteous, and good." Nevertheless, even the holy Law has peculiar relations to the development of sin; and they are these: the Law reveals sin; the Law becomes, to a sinful man, an excitant to further sin.

I. THE LAW AS REVEALING SIN. "For," says the apostle, "I had not known sin, except through the Law; I had not known coveting, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet." Here we have a general principle, and a special instance. Law, by saying, "Thou shalt not," brings home to our conscience the knowledge that certain tendencies, which we had followed unconsciously before, are wrong; the separate commandments of the Law stamp this character of wrongness on each separate tendency respectively. Thus we learn the great distinctions of right and wrong; the particular distinctions in particular cases. To us, then, as fallen creatures, there is a great revelation of wrong. When Law first speaks, we awake to find ourselves sinful, i.e. dead! Till then? Alive, without law; yes, even as the brute beasts are alive, not being conscious of any moral disharmony or disorder. They may covet and strive and fight, but to them this is not wrong; Law is silent, and therefore sin, in its recognized character, is not - it is dead. So with us. But Law comes; sin revives; we die!

II. THE LAW AS AN EXCITANT TO SIN. To innocent creatures law would be directive, and restraining; to corrupt creatures it is galling, and incentive to yet worse outbreaks. Illustrate, unruly horse. The very curbing makes it spring forth more furiously. So sin works in us, through the commandment, all manner of coveting. And surely nothing shows the exceeding sinfulness of sin more strikingly than this, that a Law which is acknowledged as holy and good should be the means of making it more rampant and riotous! Sin works death "through that which is good." And we, meanwhile? Slain] slain, that we may desire a better life. Law the necessary preparative for redemption. But when are these successive experiences realized? When are we "alive without law"? In the days of irresponsible infancy, when we are sinful indeed, but unconsciously sinful, yielding to the wrong tendency even as we yield to the right, not knowing, not reflecting. More or less, though only partially, this is the case among the untaught heathen also; only partially, for there is law written on the heart. To some extent the case even amongst the enlightened, even amongst the regenerate; for it is only by degrees that the Law of Christ unfolds to us its sublime perfection. And when, and to what extent, are we dead, when sin revives? As childhood develops into fuller life, and the Law without awakes the law within. Also, as the heathen, the uninstructed, are taught the fuller truth. And, in accordance with above, as the Christ unfolds to us his perfection, and we do not at once respond. And so it is that

"They who fain would serve thee best
Are conscious most of wrong within." But "he giveth more grace! " - T.F.L.

Was then that which is good made death to me? God forbid.
The text is explanatory of two statements apparently contradictory, viz., that the law is holy, etc., and that this law worked death.

1. The apostle foresaw that a difficulty might arise, so, with his anxiety to be clear, he assumes the position of objector. "Was then that which was good," etc. Death here means the depraving influence of sin upon the moral nature of its victim. The expression "working in me" favours the notion, as does the result of it as described in the last clause of the verse. "Exceeding sinful" is tantamount to "death." This being so, the apostle's meaning is — The law has been shown to be holy, etc.; but death is an evil; is it then true that this evil can be wrought by that which is so good? Here is the difficulty.

2. Now for the answer. There is —(1) The usual emphatic denial. "God forbid."(2) The explanation, which is that the law is not the cause of this evil condition of death, but sin using the law as an occasion. Suppose a person afflicted with a certain disease. He partakes of food, but this food, by reason of certain ingredients, in themselves wholesome, nourishes and feeds the disease. The man dies. The cause of death was not the food but the disease, working through that which was good. In like manner sin, that it might appear in its true character, that the fearful malignity of its virus might show itself, becomes exceedingly sinful, i.e., stronger and stronger through the commandment, which is holy, etc. The extreme heinousness of sin is demonstrated by this fact — its conversion of that which was best and holiest into an instrument of so much evil.

(A. J. Parry.)

But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good
1. Sin slays by that which is good.

2. That thereby it may accomplish an act worthy of its nature.

3. And that thereby (final end) this nature may be manifested clearly.

(Prof. Godet.)

It is as though there were a certain poisoned river, and a parent had often said to his children, "Drink it not, my children, it is sweet at first, but soon it will bring on you pains most fearful, and death will shortly follow. Do not drink it." But these children were very wilful and would not believe it; and, albeit that sometimes a dog or an ox would drink of it and be sore pained and die, they did not believe in all its injurious effects to them. But by and by One made like unto themselves drank of it, and when they saw Him die in anguish most terrible, then they understood how deadly must be the effects of this poisoned stream. When the Saviour Himself was made sin for us and then died in griefs unutterable, then we saw what sin could do, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin was displayed. To use another illustration: you have a tame leopard in your house, and you are often warned that it is a dangerous creature to trifle with; but its coat is so sleek and beautiful, and its gambols are so gentle that you let it play with the children as though it were the well-domesticated cat: you cannot have it in your heart to put it away; you tolerate it, nay, you indulge it still. Alas, one black and terrible day it tastes of blood, and rends in pieces your favourite child, then you know its nature and need no further warning; it has condemned itself by displaying the fell ferocity of its nature. So with sin.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

What a loom we carry in us! We stand by the side of a Jacquard loom, and wonder how wit could invent a machine that should act so like life. We wonder how any apparatus can be constructed to produce a fabric which shall come out with figures on it of birds, and men, and all manner of figures wrought apparently by the intelligent intent of the machine itself. But, strange as that may seem, it is not to be thought of in comparison with that loom which, without crank or shuttle, is perpetually producing fabrics which every sort of figure in the form of reason, and moral sentiments, and social affections, and passions and appetites. What a vast activity there is going on in the human mind so silently that there is no clanking heard! We go by men every day in each of whom are these fiery, flashing elements of power. Here are companies of them, here is an army of them, here is a city full of them, and there is the vastest activity in the mind of each; and who can conceive what is going on in the multitude of beating, throbbing lives which are flaming forth and reaching out to the uttermost in every direction, all as silent as the dew which is distilled on the myriad flowers in the meadow? Really vast, infinite, is this activity, when you think of it; and yet it goes on in perfect silence.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. THE FORM OF EXPRESSION IS OBVIOUSLY INTENDED TO THROW EMPHASIS ON THE FALSE AND ABNORMAL RELATION OF CAUSE AND EFFECT HERE SPOKEN OF. We do not wonder at evil producing evil, and good good; but the cause to which the apostle here points us is like that of wholesome food producing the effects of poison, of pure air and other conditions of health issuing only in disease and death, and the idea he wishes to bring out is, that it is the worst and most appalling characteristic of sin that it sometimes manifests its presence by a result of this unnatural kind. It is sad enough when men become vitiated and degraded by the operation of influences that appeal directly to their evil desires. But we are here taught of a more subtle manifestation of sin. It is possible for sin to get hold of the very instruments of goodness, and to turn these to its own ends. The law of God instead of enlightening and quickening, may lead to destruction.


1. By awakening in the soul a discord which the law itself cannot heal.(1) Conscience, i.e., the sense of right in us, appealed to by the moral law, may be strong enough to disquiet where it is not strong enough to rule. The eternal realities present themselves in many instances under form of an outward law, which secures the consent of our reason and conscience, but which has no power to subdue the passions or govern the will.(2) Now for the man who is in this state of mind, the law, in itself good, becomes a minister of death and not of life. It has killed out the lower life and happiness, and yet it has not borne to the blessedness of the life of the spirit. There are many people who would have been far happier as animals than as men; and better to be a mere animal, with the animal's untroubled satisfaction, better to be a creature without reason and conscience, if reason and conscience cannot control your life, for then you would be no longer humiliated by the ever-recurring feeling that you cannot keep out of degradation; then you would be free to revel in the lusts of the flesh without one pang of remorse.

2. By infusing a new intensity into our sins.(1) We become worse people because we have a moral nature. The barren or scanty soil will grow neither a good crop nor a bad, but if a rich soil is left uncultured its very fertility and richness may manifest itself by the rampant growth of noxious weeds and thorns. So it is with man's spiritual nature. In the merely animal nature the passions are natural tendencies seeking their own needs, but in man they cannot remain as they are in the animal. They draw unto them a kind of false boundlessness stolen from the higher nature. If you ask me how this comes about, I answer that the sinful man is ever trying to find in sinful gratification the happiness which God and goodness alone can give him. Evil inclinations and desires would never be so intense in us, if it were not that we are trying to obtain a fictitious happiness out of them. The spiritual nature, capable of Divine satisfaction, could never be happy in the pleasures of the brute, if it were not that insensibly we made these things assume a deceptive show of the blessedness for which as spiritual beings we were made. But these earthly pleasures can never be commensurate with a nature made in God's image, capable of sharing in a Divine and eternal life. You have something in your craving for spiritual food which these husks can never satisfy, but we may make them seem to satisfy.(2) I may illustrate this by what sometimes happens in our social relations. We sometimes see a man of a refined nature wreck his happiness by union with a woman immeasurably his inferior, and we explain the mistake by saying that it was not the weak, silly creature that the man really loved, but a being of his own imagination, invested with ideal charms, into which he had unconsciously transformed her, and in that ease it may be said that it was the very elevation of the man's nature that made him capable of forming such an ideal that was the secret of the wreck of his happiness and the ruin of his life. In like manner may we pronounce that all men who seek their happiness in the things of the world are the fools of their fancy. The very infinitude of our nature makes it possible for us to paint the idols of time and sense with imaginary glory, and to waste upon them a disproportionate devotion.

III. THE FOREGOING TRAIN OF THOUGHT FINDS CONFIRMATION IN ONE PECULIAR FEATURE OF THE TEACHING OF ST. PAUL. In treating of particular sins it is his characteristic to place by the side of the sin of which he is speaking the grace of which it may be said to be the counterfeit. We find him rebuking the sin of drunkenness not by simply denouncing it as bad, but by contrasting the false and spurious illusion of the drunkard with another and legitimate means of spiritual exhilaration. "Be ye not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be ye filled with the Spirit." Again, with regard to the sin of covetousness. "Trust not in worldly riches, but in the living God." The covetous man is unconsciously trying to find in money the happiness that can be found only in God. Let me illustrate this.

1. There is a sense in which so common a vice even as drunkenness may be said to work death in us in virtue of its likeness to what is good. The capacity of religion is a capacity to forget and cast behind us the stains of the past, to feel no more the earthly troubles, and to rise into a region where the interests and agitations of time become dwarfed, to an ecstacy of spiritual emotion where we can have communion with things eternal and unseen. It is of this experience of religion the vice I speak of can give a spurious imitation. It can make us forget for a moment the past; it can lift for a time into a rapturous elevation above care and sorrow, and transport the sin-stained soul into a sham heaven of sensuous enjoyment. Ah! it is but a sham self-forgetfulness, and its joyous transports are succeeded by an awakening to more hideous realities. In salvation through Christ can we find complete obliteration of the sins of the past, and "the peace of God that passeth all understanding."

2. The secret of the mastery which covetousness gains over so many minds. Paul finds in this, that the love of money is misdirected worship. The covetous man is an idolator, and gives to mammon the trust, homage, and surrender that are intended for the living God. In its seeming omnipotence, in its capacity to gain us all our hearts can wish, money may present a certain sham resemblance to that to which our capacity of religion points. Now the one thing which makes man a religious being and shows that he was made for God is the capacity of absolute trust. I want in my conscious helplessness some presence near me in whose all-embracing power I can find — come good, come ill, come life, come death — the rock and refuge of my soul. Ah! but it is this capacity which can find its true object only in God, that makes it possible for me to waste on all manner of objects a boundless devotion. We cannot serve God and mammon, yet mammon presents to many a strange resemblance to Him who has power to prostrate and save. Sin, again, working ruin and death in us by that which is good.

(J. Caird, D. D.)

I. That vice possesses some unknown malignant quality may be inferred from the observation that THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT BEAR NO PROPORTION TO OUR IMMEDIATE SENTIMENTS CONCERNING IT. Revelation represents it as sweet in the mouth and bitter in the belly.

II. That vice possesses a malignity with which we are at present but very imperfectly acquainted, may be concluded from THE ACTIVITY OF THIS QUALITY AND THE UNEXPECTED BUT CERTAIN PROGRESS WHICH IT MAKES WHEREVER IT HAS BEEN ONCE ADMITTED. It is an infection which from the slightest taint spreads actively throughout the whole character. And it exhibits the very same progress in societies as in individuals.

III. That vice possesses a malignity unknown to us appears from THE REMORSE WHICH FOLLOWS IT AND THE UNACCOUNTABLE TERRORS WITH WHICH IT AGITATES THE MIND. As soon as it has gained your confidence, it stings your bosom. It is a friend who flatters you into a bad action for some purpose of his own, and then leaves you to your reflections.

IV. That vice possesses some uncommon malignity of quality is evident from this remarkable observation, that THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT ALMOST ALWAYS REACH BEYOND THE MAN HIMSELF WHO COMMITS IT AND AFFECT NUMBERS OF OTHER PEOPLE. The vices of every individual affect his neighbourhood and disturb the circle, whatever it is to which he is attached. The vices of the children affect the parents, and the vices of the parents result upon the family, and upon all who may have transactions with it. The vices of the magistrate affect the district over which he presides; the vices of the minister or sovereign affect the nation which they guide, and often pull down enormous ruin upon the community.

V. The same doctrine arises and receives new force from A GENERAL VIEW OF THE WORLD AND OF ITS ESTABLISHMENTS. Mankind are collected everywhere into societies; these societies are bound by laws and united under distinct governments. What, then, is the great object of laws and of society itself? To protect from injury, or, in other words, to restrain vice. The different establishments of religion have the same object.

VI. The malignity of vice will be made manifest from a view of THE EFFECTS WHICH, NOTWITHSTANDING ALL THE PRECAUTIONS WE CAN TAKE, IT HAS PRODUCED AND IS PRODUCING DAILY AMONG MANKIND. The earthquakes which overturn the cities are not more fatal than the extensive and continued movements with which it agitates our system. No barriers avail, no defences are found sufficient. Though mankind are everywhere arrayed against it, yet it breaks in and spreads misery and destruction round it. The happiness of individuals, the peace of families, the order of society, and the harmony of nations are swept before it. In private and public life what disorders and distress does it accumulate! It produces want, infamy, and death. But the effects of it in private life, amazing as they are, fall vastly short, both in number and extent of mischief, of its effects in public. Here it acts upon a larger theatre, and displays itself more fully as it acts without restraint.

VII. It will complete this argument to observe that REVELATION AGREES PERFECTLY WITH REASON IN HER VIEWS OF VICE AND HOLDS IT OUT AS THE SAME MALIGNANT AND FATAL ENEMY. On the other hand, representing vice as the source of misery, Scripture discovers the Supreme Being, the wise and benevolent Parent of His creation, as obstructing its progress; extracting, in the first instance, all the good possible from it; and, in the last, taking the strongest measures to defeat and expel it finally from the system.

(J. Mackenzie, D. D.)


1. In all men there is an ignorance of what sin is. Man will not come to the light lest he should know more than he wishes to know: Moreover, such is the power of self-esteem that the sinner seldom dreams that he has committed anything worse than little faults.

2. This is due —(1) To that dulness of conscience which is the result of the fall.(2) To the deceitfulness both of sin and of the human heart. Sin assumes the brightest forms even as Satan appears as an angel of light. And the heart loves to have it so, and is eager to be deceived. We will, if we can, extenuate our faults.(3) To ignorance of the spirituality of the law. If men read, e.g., "Thou shalt do no murder," they say, "I have never broken that law." But they forget that he that hateth his brother is a murderer. If I wilfully do anything which tends to destroy or shorten life, I break the command.

3. Thus you see a few of the reasons why sin cheats impenitent and self-righteous minds. This is one of the most deplorable results of sin. It injures us most by taking from us the capacity to know how much we are injured. Sin, like the deadly frost, benumbs its victim ere it slays him. Man is so diseased that he fancies his disease to be health, and judges healthy men to be under wild delusions. He loves the enemy which destroys him, and warms at his bosom the viper. The most unhappy thing that can happen to a man is for him to be sinful and to judge his sinfulness to be righteousness. The persecutor hounded his fellow creature to prison and to death, but he thought he verily did God service. With the ungodly this pestilential influence is very powerful, leading them to cry "peace, peace," where there is no peace. And also even John Newton, in the slave trade, never seemed to have felt that there was any wrong; nor Whitefield in accepting slaves for his orphanage in Georgia.

4. Before we can be restored to the image of Christ, we must be taught to know sin to be sin; and we must have a restoration of the tenderness of conscience which would have been ours had we never fallen. A measure of this discernment and tenderness of judgment is given to us at conversion; for conversion, apart from it, would be impossible. Unless sin is seen to be sin, grace will never be seen to be grace, nor Jesus to be a Saviour.


1. There is a depth of meaning in the expression, "Sin, that it might appear sin" — as if the apostle could find no other word so terribly descriptive of sin as its own name.(1) He does not say, "Sin, that it might appear like Satan." No, for sin is worse than the devil, since it made the devil what he is. Satan as an existence is God's creature, and this sin never was. Sin is even worse than hell, for it is the sting of that dreadful punishment.(2) He does not say, "Sin, that it might appear madness." Truly it is moral insanity, but it is worse than that.(3) There are those who see sin as a misfortune, but this, although correct, is very far short of the true view.(4) Others have come to see sin as a folly, and so far they see aright, for "a fool" is God's own name for a sinner. But for all that, sin is not mere want of wit or mistaken judgment, it is the wilful choice of evil.(5) Some, too, have seen certain sins to be "crimes." When an action hurts our fellow men, we call it a crime; when it only offends God, we style it a sin. If I were to call you criminals, you would be disgusted; but if I call you sinners, you will not be at all angry; because to offend man is a thing you would not like to do, but to offend God is to many persons a small matter.

2. Sin must appear to be sin against God; we must say with David, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned," and with the prodigal, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee." Think how odious a thing sin is.(1) Our offences are committed against a law which is holy, and just, and good. To break a bad law, may be more than excusable, but there can be no excuse when the commandment commends itself to every man's conscience.(2) The Divine law is binding, because of the authority of the Lawgiver. God has made us, ought we not to serve Him? Yet, after all His goodness, we have turned against Him and harboured His enemy. Had the Eternal been a tyrant, I could imagine some dignity in a revolt against Him; but seeing He is a Father, sin against Him is exceeding sinful. Sin is worse than bestial, for the beasts only return evil for evil; it is devilish — for it returns evil for good.

3. It would appear that Paul made the discovery of sin as sin through the light of one of the commands (ver. 7).

III. THE SINFULNESS OF SIN IS MOST CLEARLY SEEN IN ITS PERVERTING THE REST OF THINGS TO DEADLY PURPOSES. "Working death in me by that which is good." God's law, which ordained to life, for "He that doeth these things shall live in them," is wilfully disobeyed, and so, sin turns the law into an instrument of death. It does worse still. It is a strange propensity of our nature, that there are many things which we lust after as soon as they are forbidden.

1. How many there are who turn the abounding mercy of God, as proclaimed in the gospel, into a reason for further sin!

2. There are individuals who have greatly sinned, and escaped the natural consequences. God has been very longsuffering; and therefore they defy Him again, and return presumptuously to their former habits.

3. Look again at thousands of prosperous sinners whose riches are their means of sinning. They have all that heart can wish, and instead of being doubly grateful to God they are proud and thoughtless, and deny themselves none of the pleasures of sin.

4. The same evil is manifested when the Lord threatens.

5. We have known persons in adversity who ought to have been led to God by their sorrow, but instead have become careless of all religion, and east off all fear of God.

6. Familiarity with death and the grave often hardens the heart, and none become more callous than grave diggers and those who carry dead men to their graves.

7. Some transgress all the more because they have been placed under the happy restraints of godliness. As gnats fly at a candle as soon as ever they catch sight of it, so do these infatuated ones dash into evil. The younger son had the best of fathers, and yet he could never be quiet till he had gained his independence, and had brought himself to beggary in a far country.

8. Men who live in times when zealous and holy Christians abound, are often the worse for it. When the Church is asleep the world says, "Ah, we do not believe your religion, for you do not act as if you believed it yourselves," but the moment the Church bestirs herself, the world cries, "They are a set of fanatics; who can put up with their ravings?" Sin is thus seen to be exceeding sinful. The Lord brings good out of evil, but sin brings evil out of good.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
1. In the natural world there are several elements that are generally beneficent, notwithstanding that certain combinations among them are pernicious. But in the moral world there is an element which is wholly and always bad, viz., evil or sin. This is a mighty and permanent reality, and is perceived in some degree by all, however dull their apprehension. But to apprehend, in any due measure, its extreme malignity is a rare attainment; for it infects the very judgment which is to estimate it.

2. But nothing is more necessary than that there should be a clear understanding of the quality of sin, and a strong impression of it, because fatal consequences are involved in insensibility. The man, not aware what a dreadful serpent he has to deal with, being easy in its presence, playing with it, will certainly be destroyed.

3. In what way are men to be apprised of the quality of sin? All men, indeed, are in some general manner apprised of it, by seeing what dreadful mischief it does; but this gives but a crude and limited apprehension of it. It is the Divine law spiritually apprehended that must expose the essential nature of "that abominable thing."

4. As the Maker of creatures who are to be wholly dependent on Him, God must necessarily have them under His sovereign authority. He must have a will with respect to the state of their dispositions and the order of their actions. And He must perfectly know what is right for them. He would therefore prescribe a law unless He should will to constitute His creatures such that they must necessarily act right, leaving no possibility of their going wrong. In that case, there would be no need of a formal law. But the Almighty did not so constitute any natures that we know of. Even angels could err and fall. Therefore a law is appointed. And proceeding from a perfectly holy Being, it could not do less than prescribe a perfect holiness in all things; for a law not requiring perfect rectitude would give a sanction to sin. And again, a law from such an Author cannot accommodate itself to an imperfect and fallen state of those on whom it is imposed; for this would allow all the vast amount of unholiness beyond. The economy of mercy is quite another matter. That reveals a possibility of pardon to the creature's failure of conformity to the Divine law; but it pardons the failure as guilt. And look into the sacred volume, and see whether the Jaw has been accommodated to man's imperfection. Can we conceive how law could be more high and comprehensive than as there set forth?

(J. Foster.)

(Children's Sermon): — The course usually taken to explain the meaning of words is to use other words. We do not say that laziness is lazy, that goodness is good, that cowardice is cowardly. We try to exhibit in different words what these things mean. And yet Paul, when he tells us what sin really is, can call it by no worse name than its own. Notice the things to which the Bible likens sin — darkness, scarlet and crimson, filth, chains of slavery, incurable disease, gall of bitterness, poison, the sting of an adder, the burning of fire, death. And we obtain the proper idea of sin when we place it beside the holy law. Put coal beside a diamond, and it will seem all the blacker. Look up at the clouds some stormy day, when the sun breaks out for a moment between them, and they appear the darker and mere dismal. So God would have us look at sin in close comparison with His holy law, so that we may see how exceeding sinful it is.

I. IT IS DECEITFUL (ver. 11). It makes many fair promises, but always breaks them. It holds out many joys, but gives much sorrow. There once sailed from New Orleans a steamer laden with cotton, which, while being taken aboard, became slightly moistened by rain. During the first part of the voyage all went well, but one day there was a cry of "Fire!" and in a few moments the ship was enveloped in flames. The damp and closely packed cotton had become heated; it smouldered away, until at last it burst out into flame, and nothing could stop it. Now, that is like sin in the heart. All the while it is working away, but no one perceives it, until, in an unexpected moment, it breaks out into some awful deed of wickedness. Beware, then, of this fatal cheat. "Take heed lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

II. IT MAKES UNCLEAN. It puts a soil upon us which all the soap and water in the world cannot wash away. It defiles and pollutes the whole soul, and is likened in the Bible to leprosy.

III. IT IS RUINOUS. Sin is a master who always pays with death. Years ago a young man went to Mexico. The war which broke out not long after put an end to the business of all Americans residing there, and to his among the rest. When the war closed he presented to the Government a claim for the loss of a silver mine, which he said he owned in Mexico, and was paid £84,000. He dashed about for a time in great style. But, suspicions being aroused, gentlemen were sent to Mexico to ascertain the truth. The whole thing proved a fraud, and the young man was sentenced to solitary confinement for ten years. Unable to bear his shameful fate, he poisoned himself, thus fulfilling that passage: "Be that pursueth evil, pursueth it to his own death." Another young man, an Englishman, related to persons of high rank, having committed forgery in order to keep up a dissipated life, was sentenced to be hung. While in prison a minister went to see him, and urged him to repent of his sins, and trust in Jesus, who was able to save to the uttermost. He listened with much impatience, and then said: "Sir, I honour your motives. I am not ignorant of the truths you have been stating. But I am not so mean and cowardly as to cry for mercy, when I know it cannot be shown me. I cannot feel, and I will not pray." Then, pointing to the pavement on which he stood, he continued, "You see that stone: it is an image of my heart, insensible to all the impressions you are striving to make." Is not the way of the transgressor hard? Some of the heathen, to please their gods, go out in a little boat, with a vessel in their hand to fill it with water. By degrees the boat becomes fuller and fuller, sinks to its edge, trembles for an instant, and then goes down with its occupant. And this is just what is continually going on with every sinner.

IV. IT IS HATEFUL. It is hateful on all the accounts we have just noticed, because it is deceitful, defiling, and ruinous. And it is hateful in its own nature, because it is directly opposed to the holy God. There are three solemn scenes in the Bible which lead us to determine that sin must be unspeakably hateful in the sight of God. The drowning waters of the Deluge, the crucifixion of God's beloved Son, and the devouring fires of hell, are all most certain witnesses of the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

(E. Woods.)


1. In the general. This may appear —(1) By the names of sin. What evil is there but sin is invested with the name thereof? — filthiness (Ezekiel 36:25); nakedness (Revelation 3:18); blindness (Matthew 15:14); folly (Psalm 85:8); madness (Luke 15:17; Acts 26:11); death (Ephesians 2:1); an abomination (Proverbs 8:7); and because there is no word that can express the evil of sin the apostle calls it "exceeding sinful."(2) The effects of sin.

(a)Separation from God the chief good (Isaiah 59:2).

(b)Union to Satan (John 8:44). Sin makes us the children of the devil.

(c)The death of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

(d)A general curse upon the whole creation (Genesis 3:17).

(e)The soiling and staining of all our glory, and the image of God in us (Romans 3:23).

(f)Horror of conscience.

(g)Sin is that brimstone that hell fire feeds upon to all eternity.

2. More particularly —(1)The sin of our nature.(a) That leprosy is worst which is most universal and over-spreading. Now sin spreads over all our faculties: our understanding, reason, will, affections.(b) That disease is worst which is most incurable; and no human remedy has been found for sin.(c) That is most formidable which is most unwearied, and sin is as unwearied as the fountain in sending up water.(2) The sin of our hearts and thoughts. These are the most incurable, and are the parents of all our sinful actions (Psalm 19:12, 13). By them our former sin that was dead is revived again, and hath a resurrection by our contemplating it with delight. Thereby also a man may possibly sin that sin in effect which he never did commit in act. Thereby a man may or doth repent of his very repentance.(3) As for the sin of our lives and practice, especially living under the gospel, the evil thereof is very great; for —(a) Sin under the gospel is sinning against the remedy, and against the greatest obligations. By our sinning under the gospel we sin against mercy and grace, and thereby engage God, our greatest friend, to become our greatest adversary.(b) The more repugnancy there is betwixt the sin and the sinner the greater is the sin. Now, there is a special repugnancy betwixt the gospel and a man that sins under the gospel; for he professes the contrary, and therefore sin there is the greater.(c) The more hurtful any sin is the greater is that sin: sinning under the gospel is very hurtful to ourselves; as poison taken in something that is warm is the most venomous, so sin under the gospel is the deadliest poison, because it is warmed with gospel heat; and it is hurtful to others, because they are hardened.(d) The more that a man casts contempt upon the great things of God by his sin the greater and worse is his sin. Sins under the gospel cast contempt upon the glory of God, the glorious offer of His grace.(e) The more costly and chargeable any sin is the worse it is. Now, a man that sins under the gospel cannot sin at so cheap a rate as another (Luke 12:47).

II. THOUGH THERE BE THUS MUCH EVIL IN SIN, THIS DOTH NOT APPEAR TO MAN UNTIL HE TURNS UNTO GOD: till then his sin is dead, but then it is revived.

1. For —(1) Till then a man is in the dark; and who can see the greatness of an evil in the dark?(2) Till then, grace, the contrary, is not placed in the soul; one contrary doth show the other.(3) And till then sin is in its own place. Water is not heavy in its own place, in the river; but take but a pailful of water out of the river and you feel the weight of it. Now, till a man turn unto God sin is in its own place, and therefore its sinfulness doth not appear.

2. But you will say, How comes this to pass?(1) I answer, Sin is a spiritual thing; and a man that liveth by sense cannot see what is spiritual.(2) A man is blind unto what he loves; till a man turn unto God he loves his sin, and therefore the evil of sin doth not appear.(3) The more blinds a man hath that cover his sin the less he sees it: now, before a man turn unto God all his morality is but a blind. "True," says he, "I am a sinner; but I pray and perform duty, therefore am not so great a sinner."(4) The more a man looks upon sin the less it appears to be. There he sees profit, pleasure, and this makes his sin appear little.(5) Sometimes by the providence of God sin meets with good events; and holiness meets with bad events in the world, and so the evil and sinfulness of sin is hidden.(6) The less a mall is at the work of private examination the less sin appears to be sin.


1. He is weary and heavy laden under the burden of his sin; the more weary he is the more sin appears evil (Matthew 11:28).

2. Then he sees God, and not till then; the more a man sees the glory, goodness, wisdom, and holiness of God the more sin appears in its sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5; Job 42:5, 6).

3. Then a man sees Christ crucified, and not till then; and there is nothing can give us such a sight of sin as that (Romans 3:20).

4. When a man hath got the true prospect of hell, and of the wrath of God, then sin appears sinful.

5. When a man's heart is filled with the love of God, and possessed with the Holy Ghost, then sin appears to him to be very sinful (John 16:8).

(W. Bridge, M. A.)

I. AS TO THE SIN ITSELF. It is a sin which is inward in the heart, not outward in the life (ver. 17). A sin which gives being to all other sins, and gives strength for the performance. A sin which dwelleth in us (ver. 17), is ever present with us (ver. 21), an inherent, deceitful, tyrannical evil (vers. 11, 20, 23), is ever presenting occasion of sinning, and pushing on the soul to acts of sin. What can this be but the sin of our nature, or that perverse propensity to sin which is derived as a punishment of the first man's first offence!

1. It is a plague which has infected the whole man. The understanding, what is it but the seat of darkness, misapprehension, and error? (Romans 3:11). What is the will bat enmity and rebellion against God (John 5:40)? The affections, which are as wings to raise the soul to God and heavenly things, are turned quite downwards, being set on things on the earth. Conscience itself is become defiled by this sinful sin, so that it neither witnesses, reproves, or judges, according to God's direction, but becomes first easy, then remiss, next hardened and feared. Yea, our very memories are drawn over to the corrupt part; like leaky vessels, whatever is good and pure they let out, and keep in little but what is filthy and evil. Yea, these very bodies of ours are become vile bodies, through sin that dwelleth in us; subject to diseases and corruptions, and are tempters of the soul to sin, and servants of it in all outward acts of sinning (ver. 5).

2. It is the cause of all those sins which are in the life (James 1:14). This is the fountain, particular sins are but the streams.

3. This sin of our nature is, virtually, all sin. Sin in the gross, in all the seeds of it; the combustible matter which only waits for outward occasions and temptations to blow it into a flame; it is a body which hath many members, and it is working in order to make provision for them all.

4. It is more durable and abiding than all other sins, therefore more exceedingly sinful. It may change its course in a natural man, but it never loses its power.

5. It is exceeding sinful sin, because it is ever encompassing and warring against the soul, in whom it dwells. It envenoms every action, every thought and duty, which proceed from the regenerate themselves.

6. It is an hereditary evil; all men are defiled with it, therefore all are concerned in it (1 Corinthians 15:22).

II. HOW, OR BY WHAT MEANS, THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF THIS SIN APPEARS. "That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful."

1. By the commandment, therefore, we are in understand the whole moral law which the Spirit of God has given on purpose, and which He ever makes use of to convince of sin.

2. How sin is made by the commandment to appear exceeding sinful?(1) The law or commandment shows the soul that it is against God; it is a depravation of His whole image, a contrariety to His whole will, opposite to His justice, holiness, and truth, and enmity to all His purposes of grace and mercy. That law which condemns sin in the act, much more condemns it in the principle.(2) It shows the soul that death which God has threatened against it (Ephesians 2:3). That is the dismal peal which it rings in the sinner's ears.(3) Another way in which the law convinces of the exceeding fulness of this, and of all other sins, is by burdening the conscience with a sense of it. It brings God's word and man's sin together (Psalm 51:3). But think not that the law does this of itself. The law is but the instrument or means of conviction, the Spirit is the great efficient (John 16:10). The law is the glass wherein sin is seen, the Spirit holds it up to the sinner, and causes him to see his own face in it. The law is the hammer, but it is the Spirit that works by it.


1. Therefore such a fight as this sets and keeps open a spring of repentance towards God always. The sin of our nature is what we are to be humbled for, and to repent of, every day we live (Ezekiel 16:61).

2. Another use of the prevalency of corrupt nature in the saints is to divorce them from their own righteousness, and to slay carnal confidence in them all their life long.

3. It is to show the suitableness of Christ as the believer's surety, and to stir us up unto more earnest believing every day.

4. These workings of sin are of use to make us very watchful in our Christian walk. Where there is godly mourning there will be godly fear; both are where there is a due apprehension of the sinfulness of that sin that dwelleth in us.Uses:

1. Is there so much sin in us? Let this silence all murmurings against God under the burden of our afflictions.

2. Is the sin of our nature so exceeding sinful? Then let the youngest lay it to heart.

3. Does sin by the law become exceeding sinful? Then the law is a blessing as well as the gospel. The one shows what the disease is, the other directs to the only remedy.

4. See the wisdom of God in making the greatest contraries work together for His people's good. Even the working of sin in the regenerate is a means of quickening their trust upon Christ and their life in Him.

(John Hill.)

We can best estimate the extent of any good by filling our minds with the vastness of the evil which that good was destined to take away. If I were standing upon the margin of the sea, and pondered the greatness of its capacity, and, as I thought, some vast mountain were to roll itself into its bosom and disappear, would not the thought help me to the exceeding depth of those mighty waters? So, by God's grace, the contemplation of the enormity of my "sin" will assist me to some measure of that love in which that enormity has been absorbed.


1. The transgression of the law. Our first parents had a law — "Thou shalt not eat of it." They transgressed that one law, and it was "sin." We have one law — love. We transgress it, and it is "sin."

2. Rebellion — the resistance of a human mind against the sovereignty of its Creator. It little matters in comparison what may be the act: the fact is the important thing. Man measures "sin" by the injury it inflicts upon society, or upon the sinner. God measures it by the degree of its rebellion against Himself.

3. No "sin" is single. You commit some offence, and it breaks all God's laws. "Whosoever shall offend in one point is guilty of all."(1) The principle of obedience is a single thing: the man that has broken one law has violated this principle, and therefore he is as much a breaker of the law as if he had broken a thousand things.(2) All God's law is one — "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." He that had done one "sin," did not love God.(3) If you take anyone "sin," you will be surprised to find how many "sins" he rolled and coiled up in that little compass. Remember, first, that all "sins of commission" begin in "sins of omission." And if you add to that the thought, the desire, the motive, the act itself and its consequences, and when you put all this over against the mercies, how will that, which once looked one, swell out a thousandfold?


1. Any sin occupies a certain space, and there is a certain period of sinning. The spot and the period may be very small; nevertheless, that was God's place, and "sin" had no right to be there. Therefore that sin was a trespasser. It came wrongfully upon God's territory.

2. It did much more than "trespass." By your sin you have taken a jewel out of the crown of God. Therefore I charge upon every sin with robbery.

3. Further, when God draws the real character of a murderer, he draws it thus — "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man." Now, "the image of God" is innocence, and purity, and love. But sin violates these, and therefore breaks God's image and is a murderer. But of what sort? The most aggravated possible. For if there had been only one "sin," that one "sin" would have required the blood of Jesus Christ to wash it out. And if it he thus with all "sin," how much more must it be with some of you who "crucify the Son of God afresh"?

III. WHERE WILL IT END? I have said that every sin lies in a series; and none can calculate what will be the chain of consequences, which shall stretch on and on beyond time into eternity. The Bible tells us of an awful state in which a soul may pass into a hopeless and unpardonable condition. First there comes the grieving; then the resisting; then the quenching; then the blaspheming of the Spirit; and so the reprobate state draws on. But it is quite clear that every sin which a man wilfully does is another and another step in advance towards the unpardonable state: and in all sin there is a tendency to run faster, faster, as it makes progress. Indeed, there is not a "sin" which has not death bound up in it. A sin leads to a habit, a habit to a godless state of mind, and the godless state of mind to death.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Why didn't Paul say exceeding "black," or "horrible"? Because there is nothing in the world so bad as sin. For if you call it black there is no moral excellency or deformity in black or white; black is as good as white. If you call sin "deadly," yet death hath no evil in it compared with sin. For plants to die is not a dreadful thing; is part of the organisation of nature that successive generations of vegetables should spring up, and in due time should form the root soil for other generations to follow. If you want a word you must come home for it. Sin must be named after itself.


1. It is rebellion against God. It was God's right that whatsoever He in wisdom and goodness made should serve His purpose, and give Him glory. The stars do this. The world of matter does this. We, favoured with thought, affection, a high spiritual and immortal existence, were especially bound to be obedient to Him that made us. Ah, it is "exceeding sinful" when the crown rights of Him upon whose will we exist are ignored or contravened!

2. How exceeding sinful is this rebellion against such a God! God is good to the fullest extent of goodness. It were heaven to serve Him. Ah! sin is base indeed, a rebellion against monarch's gentlest sway, an insurrection against parent's tenderest right, a revolt against peerless benignity!

3. What an aggravation of the sinfulness of sin is this: that it rebels against laws, every one of which is just! The State of Massachusetts at first passed a resolution that they would be governed by the laws of God until they found time to make better? Will they ever improve upon the model? The law forbids that which is naturally evil, and commends that which is essentially good.

4. Sin is "exceeding sinful," because it is antagonistic to our own interest, a mutiny against our own welfare. Whenever God forbids a thing we may rest assured it would be dangerous. What He permits or commends will, in the long run, be in the highest degree conducive to our best interests. Yet we spurn these commands like a boy that is refused the edged tool lest he cut himself, and he will cut himself, not believing in his father's wisdom.

5. Sin is an upsetting of the entire order of the universe. In your family you feel that nothing can go smoothly unless there is a head whose direction shall regulate all the members.

6. If you want proof that sin is exceedingly sinful, see what it has done already in the world. Who withered Eden? Whence come wars and fightings but from your own lusts and from your sins? What is this earth today but a vast cemetery? All its surface bears relics of the human race. Who slew all these? Who indeed but Sin?

II. SOME PARTICULAR SINS ARE EXCEEDING SINFUL ABOVE ANY ORDINARY TRANSGRESSION. Of this kind are sins against the gospel. To reject faithful messengers sent from God, loving parents, earnest pastors, diligent teachers; to slight the kind message that they bring and the yearning anxiety that they feel for us. To set at naught the dying Saviour, whose death is the solemn proof of love; to play false towards Him after having made a profession of your attachment to Him; to be numbered with His Church and yet to be in alliance with the world; to sin against light and knowledge; to grieve the Holy Spirit; to go on sinning after you have smarted; to push onward to hell, all this is "exceeding sinful."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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