Sin Is Against Man’s Present Good, In this Life

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I. SIN IS AGAINST MAN’S PRESENT GOOD, IN THIS LIFE, against the good of his body and the good of his soul. For on both it has brought a curse and death.

(1) Against the good of man’s body. It has corrupted man’s blood, and made his body mortal, thereby rendering it a vile body. Our bodies, though made of dust, were more precious than the fine gold; but when we sinned, they became vile bodies. Before sin our bodies were immortal (for death and mortality came in by sin), but now alas they must return to dust. It is appointed to all men once to die, and it is well if they die but once, and the second death have no power over them. They must see corruption, or the equivalent of death, i.e. a change; for this flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, as that with which we were created might possibly have done (1 Corinthians I5.50). Our body is sown in corruption, in dishonour, in weakness (I Corinthians 15.42-43), and is therefore called vile (Philippians 3.21). Before this body is laid in the grave, it is languishing, in a continual consumption, and dying daily, besides all the dangers that attend it from without.

(2) Against the good of man’s soul. The soul is transcendently excellent beyond the body, and its good is beyond that of the body; so that a wrong done to the soul is much more to man’s hurt than a wrong done to the body. Therefore our Saviour says, Fear not them that can kill the body, and do no more (which is little in comparison of what God can do to the soul, if it sins), but fear him that can destroy, i.e. damn, soul and body in hell (Matthew 10.28). It is not very ill with a man if it is well with his soul. We can more easily and cheaply die than be damned, and may better venture our bodies to suffering than our souls to sinning, for he that sinneth wrongs his soul (Proverbs 8.36). Nothing but sin wrongs a man’s soul, and there is no sin which does not do so.

Thus we see in a general way that sin is against the good of man’s body and soul. But in order to exhibit this more clearly and fully, I shall consider and speak of man {1) in a natural sense, (2) in a moral sense.

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(1) In a natural sense

If we consider man in a natural or physical state, we shall find sin to be (i) against the well-being, and (ii) against the very being of man. It will not suffer him to be well or long in the world, nor if possible to be at all.

(i) It is against man’s well-being in this life. Well-being is the life of life, and sin bears us so much ill-will, that it deprives us of our livelihood, and of that which makes it worth our while to live. Man was born to a great estate, but by sin, which was and is treason against God, he forfeited all. Man came into the world as into a house ready furnished; he had all things prepared and ready to hand. All the creatures came to wait on him and pay him homage; but when man sinned, God turned him out of house and home, and all his lands, goods and chattels were taken from him. Paradise was man’s inheritance, where he had everything pleasant to the eye and good for food (he needed no clothes while innocent). But when he sinned, God dispossessed him of all, and drove him out into the wide world, like a pilgrim or a beggar, to live by his own hands and to earn his meat by the sweat of his brow, as you may read at length in Genesis 3.

Thus, by sin, man, who was the Emperor of Eden, is banished from his native country, and must never see it again but in a new and living way; for the old is closed up, and besides that, it is kept against him with flaming swords. Ever since, it has been every man’s lot to come into and go out of this world naked, to show that he has no right to anything, but lives on the alms of God’s charity and grace. All we have or hold between our birth and death is clear gain and mere gift. God might choose whether he would allow us anything or not, and when he has given he may take back again, and none of us has cause to say anything but what Job did: ‘Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I return; the Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1.21). All we have, our food and raiment, is only lent to us. We are only tenants at will, and therefore, seeing we deserve nothing, we should be content with, and thankful for anything (1 Timothy 6.7,8).

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To show that man by sin had lost all, when our Lord Jesus came into this world for the recovery of man, and stood as in the sinner’s stead, he had not where to lay his head. ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’ (Luke 9.58). This plainly shows that the sin of man had left the Son of man nothing. Though Christ were Lord of all, yet if he will come in the likeness of sinful flesh, he must not go like the Son of God, but the Son of man, and be a man of sorrows, destitute, forsaken and afflicted. Though we fare the better for his suffering, he fared the worse for our sin; and among the other miseries he underwent, he had not where to lay his head.

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To add yet another evidence of the venomous nature of sin in this matter, it is not a little remarkable that God did not take the full forfeiture, nor strip us so naked and bare as he might have done, but allowed us a competent subsistence and accommodation. Also, as the first fruits of his goodness, he made the first suit of clothes which Adam and Eve wore. Yet sin is against that good which God left us, and fills it with vanity and vexation, with bitterness and a curse. God left Adam many acres of land to till and husband, but he has it with a curse, sweat and sorrow; many a grieving briar and pricking thorn stick fast to him (Genesis 3.17-19). God left him ground enough (v. 23), but, alas, it is cursed ground! So sin is against man’s temporal good, either in taking it from him, or cursing it to him. Sin is so envious, that it would leave man nothing, and if God is so good as to leave him anything, sin’s eye is evil because God is good, and puts a sting in it, viz. a curse. To be more specific:

a. Sin is against man’s rest and ease, of which man is a great lover; and, indeed, he needs it as a great part of the well-being of his life. It is a sore travail which the sons of men have under the sun. What hath man of all his labour, and the vexation of his heart wherein he laboured? for all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief (Ecclesiastes 1.13; 2.22,23). This is so whether he increase wisdom and knowledge, or pleasure and riches. He takes no rest in the night, but is haunted with vain and extravagant, if not terrified by frightful dreams; and his fancies, which are waking dreams by day, are more troublesome than those of the night. Man’s ground is overgrown with thorns, so that he has many an aching head and heart, many a sore hand and foot, before the next year comes round, to get a little livelihood out of this sin-cursed ground. Man’s paradisical life was easy and pleasant, but now it is labour and pain, such as makes him sweat. Even his recreations fall short of his labour, for pain and sweat (Ecclesiastes 2.1-2). The old world was very conscious of this, as may be gathered from Genesis 5.29: ‘He called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work, and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.’ Sin, curse and toil keep company.

b. Sin is against man’s comfort and joy. In sorrow shalt thou eat all the days of thy life (Genesis 3.17). Not one whole merry day! It would be some comfort to a man, after he had toiled and moiled all day, if he could eat his bread with joy, and drink his wine with a merry heart. But sin will not allow him to do so; if he laughs, sin turns it to madness (Ecclesiastes 2.2), or else it is no better music than the crackling of thorns (Ecclesiastes 7.6). In Paradise, the blessing of God on Adam’s diligent hand made him rich, and there was no sorrow with it (to allude to Proverbs 10.22); but now man’s sweetmeats have sour sauces–‘in sorrow shalt thou eat’–and his bread is the bread of affliction.

The female, the woman, has a peculiar sort and share of sorrow, for the time of conception, breeding, bearing and birth are tedious. Yet, alas! many who feel the pain which sin brought are not sensible of the sin which brought the pain, though their sorrow and pain also is greatly multiplied, as we find it expressed in Genesis 3.16, and the more so for the want of faith and sobriety (I Timothy 2.15).

c. Sin is against man’ s health. From it come all diseases and sicknesses; till sin there were no such things. For this cause, in general, many are weak and sickly among you. Let man take the best air he can, and eat the best food he can, let him eat and drink by rule, let him take ever so many antidotes, preservatives and cordials, still man is but a shaky, sickly thing for all this. Verily every man in his best estate is a frail and brittle thing yea altogether vanity (Psalm 39.5); this text is spoken with reference to diseases and sickness. Take him while his blood dances in his veins, and his marrow fills his bones; even then he is a brittle piece of mortality.

d. Sin is against the quiet of a man’s natural conscience. It wounds the spirit and makes it intolerable: ‘A wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18.14). While that is sound and whole, all infirmities are more easily borne, but when that is broken, the supports fail, which has a great influence on the body: ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (there is no cordial like it) but a broken spirit drieth the bones’ (Proverbs 17.22); it sucks away the marrow and radical moisture. ‘Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop’ (Proverbs 12.25). A good conscience is a continual feast, but sin mars all the mirth. When Cain had killed his brother, and his conscience felt the stroke of the curse, he was like a distracted man, and mad. When Judas had betrayed his Master, he was weary of his life.

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e. Sin is against the beauty of man. It takes away the loveliness of men’s very complexions; it alters the very air of their countenance. ‘When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty (or, as it is in the margin, that which is to be desired in him) to consume (or melt) away like a moth: surely every man is vanity (his beauty vain)’ (Psalm 39.11). There was no such thing as vanity or deformity till sin entered; everything was lovely before, and man above anything in the inferior world.

f. Sin is against the loving and conjugal co-habitation of soul and body. They were happily married, and lived lovingly together for a while, till sin sowed discord between them, and made them jar. There is now many a falling out between body and soul, between sense and reason; they pull in different directions; there is a self-civil war. Even in this sense the flesh lusteth against the spirit; the poor man is dragged and pulled this way and that, tossed to and fro as with several winds. Man is full of contradictions: time was when the mind commanded the body, but now this servant rides on horseback, while that prince walks on foot. Man is inverted: his head is where his heels should be; his soul is become a prisoner to the body, rather than a free man, far too often. The beast is too hard for the man, and the horse rides the rider. Sense lords it, and domineers over reason.

g. Sin is against man’s relative good in this world. Man’s comfort or sorrow lies much in his relationships; the weal or woe of his life is as his relationships are. That which was made for a help proves only too often a hindrance. Sin has spoiled society, so that one man is a wolf, even a devil to another. Sin will not let husband and wife, parents and children live quietly, but sets them at variance, and many times a man’s enemies are they of his own house and bosom; they who eat bread at our table lift up the heel against us, and familiar friends become enemies. Lust makes wars (James 4.1), and from pride comes contention (Proverbs 13.10). It breeds divisions and factions in Church and State, so that there is little union or order, harmony, society or friendship in the world.

Thus sin sets itself to oppose man’s well-being,

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(ii) Sin is against the very being of man. Sin aims not only that man should not be well, but that man should not be at all. How many it strangles in the womb! How many miscarriages and abortions it causes! How many it sends from the cradle to the grave, who have run their race before they can go! Others die in their full strength, beside the havoc it makes by war, and some always eat their bread in darkness (Job 21.23,25). Man no sooner begins to live, but he begins to die; and after a few days, which are but as a span, and pass away more swiftly than a weaver’s shuttle, sin lays all in the dust, princes as well as beggars. Sin has reduced man’s age to a very little pittance, from almost a thousand to a very uncertainty, not only to seventy, but to seven, for among men no man’s life is valued at more. Man’s time is short and uncertain: he that is born today is not sure to live a day. And what is our life but as a vapour, which soon passes away. I could enlarge here, but this may suffice, to show that sin is against all the good of man in this life, considered in a natural sense.

(2) Sin is also against the good of man in a moral sense

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(i) It has degraded man, by defiling him, and has almost unmanned him; for, as our text speaks of sin as a man, so the Holy Scripture speaks of man as if he were sin, and every man were a man of sin (i.e. a man made up of sin) whether we consider the outer or inner man. Man was a very noble thing, made little lower than the angels (Psalm 8.5). But, alas, by sin he is made almost as low as devils. Man was once a companion for God himself, but sin has separated between God and him, and has robbed man of his primitive excellence. From being a lord he is become a servant, indeed, a slave to creatures, to devils, and lusts of all sorts. Now this debasement came by defilement, which cleaves

a. To his body, for the flesh is filthy (2 Corinthians 7.1), and the body needs sanctifying and cleansing (1 Thessalonians 5.23). The body is a body of sin, the members are servants to uncleanness and to iniquity (Romans 6.19). Take him from head to foot, from the crown of the one to the sole of the other, there is no whole (because no holy) part of him; but all is filthy, and full of putrefactions and sores. If we dissect and anatomize man, we shall find this only too true, for without naming every sin that cleaves to the whole or every part, but speaking in a more general way, it is thus said of sinful men: their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, with their tongues they use deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips, their throat is an open sepulchre (Romans 3.13,14); eyes full of adultery (2 Peter 2.14); the eye-lids haughty (Proverbs 30.13) ears dull of hearing (Hebrews 5.11), yea, deaf as the adder {Psalm 58.4); the forehead is as impudent as a brow of brass (Isaiah 48.4); both hands are employed to work iniquity (Micah 7.3); the belly is an idol-god (Philipplans 3.19); the feet are swift to shed blood (Romans 3.15); and if we look within, their inward part is very wickedness–the Hebrew is ‘wickednesses’ (Psalm 5.9); the gall is a gall of bitterness, in a moral, as well as in a spiritual sense; the spleen is affected, indeed infected with envy and malice. What part is there which is not the seat of one or other evil?

 

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