A treatise of original sin ... proving that it is, by pregnant texts of Scripture vindicated from false glosses
Burgess, Anthony, d. 1664.
Page  82


Of the Name Law of Sinne given to Original Sinne.


ROM. 7. 25.
So then, with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the Law of Sinne.

THis Chapter is the common seat and proper place, wherein the nature of original inherent sinne is expresly handled; so that he who by reading of this Chapter shall not be convinced that there is such a thing as original sinne, and that in some measure putting it self forth in the godly to their great grief and misery, I think we may say, he would not believe any such thing, though men should rise from the dead, and come and preach it to us. I shall in time (God willing) fully improve the chief matter herein contained; for herein is described that Christian conflict which is in all the godly between the regenerate and unrege∣nerate part, as also the consequents thereof: For the present, I must take two Hypo∣theses, or Suppositions for granted, which in time (God willing) I shall fully prove.

The first is, That the Apostle speaking of such a sharp combate within him between the Law of his mind, and the Law of sinne, doth not assume the person of another, as of a carnal unregenerate man, or a Legalist convinced by the Doctrine of the Law, yet his heart carrying him in the clean contrary way, but speak it of his own Person, and that as regenerated. The former way go the Arminians, and some Papists, and all Socinians, but the later way generally go the Protestants, even as Austin of old, retracting the former opinion he once had; yea the best and choisest Commentators of the Papists, Salmeron, Pererius, Estius and Lapide, &c. do adhere to this Exposition. So that you must not think, that the com∣bate here spoken of, is like that which Aristotle describes his incontinent person by, that doth like videre and Probare meliora, but deteriora sequi, which is only a fight between an inlightned conscience, and a corrupt heart. Nor

2. Is it like those preparatory and initial works anteceding sometimes conversion, which Austin doth notably speak of in himself, desiring to be freed from sinne, and yet afraid his prayer should be heard; so that he was alwayes going, but yet never did thorowly go to God, till at last he found that gratia Dei vorti cordis, which no hard heart can resist, because it is given on purpose to take away the hard heart: But the Apostle doth here not only doctrinally affirm such a thing as original sinne, but experimentally he declareth the actings of it: So that he Page  83 doth not only write a doctrinal and dogmatical Truth, but also an History of what he observed in himself.

The second Supposition to be granted is, that by flesh the Apostle doth not only mean the sensitive or sensual part, but the whole man, so farre as corrupted. So that with the Apostle, the soul is flesh, the understanding, the will, are flesh, be∣cause all are corrupted with original sinne; Of which more in its time.

These two things premised, you may know, that this Text read is the Epilogue or summary Conclusion, which the Apostle makes from that doctrinal and pra∣ctical discourse about himself (to wit) that there are two principles in him, two selves, two men, as it were; There was both a sweet fountain and bitter within him, and from these did flow two suitable streams, The Law of the mind, did incline him to serve the Law of God, but the Law in his members, the Law of sin; Not that the Law of sinne and members are two distinct things, as Calvin and Beza thought, making the Law of sinne, to be original sinne, the Law in the members to be the actings and stirrings of this in the whole man; for ver. 23. The Law of sinne is expresly said to be in the members; And whereas the Apostle in that verse saith, He seeth a Law in his members bringing him into captivity to the Law of sinne, that doth not argue a distinction between these, but according to the use of the Scripture, the Antecedent is repeated for the Relative; the sense being. That the Law of his members did bring Paul into captivity to it, not∣withstanding the Law of the mind with in him, as Gen. 9. 16. I will remember (saith God himself) the everlasting Covenant between God (that is my self) and every living creature.

We see then in these words, that the Apostle giveth another name to that original sinne, which dwelleth in him, he calleth it very emphatically The Law of sinne in him; Original corruption is even in Paul, though converted, how much more in all unregenerate persons by way of a Law: From whence observe,

That the Scripture cals original sin the Law of sin Within us.


TO understand this, take notice of these things:

First, The Apostle in his Epistles doth delight to use the word Law, and that when speaking of contrary things, The Law of God, the Law of Works; This he mentioneth properly, but then he cals it, The Law of faith, because the He∣brew word for Law, signifieth no more than Doctrine, for Torath either comes, they say, from a word that signifieth to appoint or teach, or from a word that signifieth to rain, because (saith Chemnitius) as the raine is gather∣ed together in the clouds, not to be kept there, but to be emptied on the earth, that so it may be made fruitfull. Thus the Law of God was ap∣pointed by God, not meerly to be written in the Bible, but also to be implanted in our hearts. The word then in the Hebrew signifying Doctrine in the general, no wonder if the Gospel be called, The Law of Faith; So Regeneration, Rom. 8. is called, The Law of the Spirit of life; as in other places it is, The Law of God written in our hearts; but the Apostle doth not only apply it to these things, but especially in this Chapter he cals it; The Law of sinne, not sin only, but the Law of sinne, and the Law in our members; why the Apostle doth so, you shall hear anon. Only

In the second place, you must consider, when the Apostle cals it, The Law of sinne, it is in an improper and abusive, or allusive sense; for a Law properly is only of that which is good, the matter of a Law, must be honest and just, be∣cause a Law is pars juris, and Jus is à justo; Therefore Aquinas saith, That un∣just Laws are rather violentia, than leges. Yea Tully saith, Such Decrees are nei∣ther Page  84Leges, nor ne appellandae quidem, yet the Scripture speaks of some, who make iniquity a Law, Psal. 99. 20. or who frame mischief for a Law. Tacitus com∣plaineth of the multitude of Laws in his time, and saith, The Commonwealth groaned, ut flagitiis ita legibus; So that although the properties of a Law are to be good and profitable, yet by allusion, all unjust and hurtfull Decrees are cal∣led Laws, and thus the Apostle cals it the Law of sinne, alluding to those pro∣perties, or effects, which a Law hath; What the Law of God doth in a regene∣rate man, the contrary doth the Law of sinne in a natural man.


Original Sinne compared to a Law in five respects.

ORiginal sinne therefore may be compared to a Law, in these respects:

First, A Law doth teach and direct, Lex est lux, It informeth and teach∣eth what is to be done. Thus the Schoolmen, they make Direction the first thing necessary to a Law; The work of grace in a godly man, is called by the Apostle, The Law of the mind, in this Chapter; Because grace within a man doth teach and direct him what to do; Hence 1 John 2. 27. the godly man is said to have an anointing within him; The Law of God is written in his inward parts, and so from within, as well as by the Word without, they are taught what to do: Thus on the contrary the Law of sinne in a natural man, doth teach and prompt him to all kind of evil; This Law of sinne doth not indeed teach what we ought to do, but it doth wonderfully suggest all kind of wickedness to us; and from this cause it is, that you see children no sooner able to act, but they can with all readiness runne into evil; sinnes that they have not seen committed before their eyes, they can with much dexterity accomplish: What a deal of instruction and admonition is requisite to nurture your young ones in the fear of the Lord? And all is little enough, And why is this? The Law of God is not in their hearts, they have not that in them, which would direct and teach holiness; But on the other side, chil∣dren need not to be taught wickedness, you need not instruct them how to sinne, they have much artifice and cunning in an evil way, And why so? The Law of sinne is in them, this is that they are bred with: So that as the young ones of Foxes and Serpents, though they have no teacher, yet from the Law of na∣ture within them, they grow subtil and crafty in their mischievous wayes: Thus the Law of sinne doth in every man, he is ingenious and wise to do evil. As the ground ere it will bring forth corn doth need much labour and tillage, but of it self bringeth forth bryars and thorns: Thus all by nature are so foolish and blind, that without heavenly education and institution you cannot bring them to that which is holy, but of their own selves, men have subtilty and abilities to frame mischievous things: And why is all this? They have a Law of sinne within them, which directs, suggests and inform∣eth to do much evil: So that we are not to put all upon the Devil, to say, He put it into my minde, he suggested such thoughts to me; No, the Law of sinne within thee, can sufficiently prompt thee to all evil.

Secondly, A Law doth not onely teach, but it doth instigate and incline, it presseth, and provoketh to the things commanded by it, Thus the Law of the mind in a godly man, doth greatly instigate and provoke him to what is good; It is like a goad in his side, it is like fire in his bowels, he must do that which is good, else he cannot have any rest within him: You read when David refrained for a while from speaking good, at last he could hold no longer, but Page  85 the fire did break out: So Paul, 2 Cor. 5. The love of Christ constraineth us; Thus the true believer he hath a principle of grace within him, which is like a Law upon him, he cannot do otherwise, he must obey it: Thus on the contrary, Original sinne in a natural man, is like a Law within him, it provoketh him, it enflameth him to all evil; Whensoever any holy duty is pressed upon him, this Law of sinne stirreth him up against it, makes him rage at it, as the Apostle doth abundantly testifie in this Chapter, he tels us, This Law of sinne did warre and fight against the Law of God, it did lead him captive, it conquered and subdued him against his will: If then a godly man find this Law of sinne so powerfull, and operative in him; No wonder if men wholly carnal and natural, they finde the Law of sinne as fully prevailing over them, as the Devils did on the herd of Swine, which they hurried violently into the sea without any resistance. As then the Devil when he possessed some bodies, provoked and moved them to ma∣ny violent and sudden actions, which they could not gainsay: Thus doth the Law of sinne in men naturally, it provoketh, it instigateth, it turneth the soul upside down, it is continually pressing and enclining to evil, which makes the Scripture say, Gen. 6. That the imaginations of the thoughts of mans heart is only evil, and that continually.

Thirdly, Original sinne is a Law, because by this a man is bound and ca∣ptivated to the lusts thereof, there is an indissoluble union till death. Thus the Apostle argueth from the Law of an Husband and his Wife, she can∣not marry another, while her Husband lives; Neither can we be married to Christ, while this is predominant, yea, we must die, ere we be wholly freed of it.

Fourthly, Original sinne is called a Law of sinne within us, because of the injurious command and rule it hath in every man by nature: And this in∣deed is the most explicite and formal reason, why it is called a Law; for to a Law there is not onely required a directive power, for so counsels and admonitions have, which are no Laws; but there must be also a preceptive and commanding power; so that a Law hath vim coactivum, a compelling force; to have a thing done; and in this respect, the Apostle gives it this Title of a Law of sinne within us, for even in the person of a regenerate man; What sad complaints doth he make of this tyrannical power of sinne with∣in him? He is not his own man, he cannot do what he would, yea he doth what he would not; insomuch that he cals himself carnal, and sold under sinne: These expressions are so great, that therefore some have thought they could not be applied to a godly man; For it is said of Ahab, as a sure Character of his wickednesse, That he sold himself to do evil, 1 Kings 21. 20. but Ahab did that willingly; Paul is here passive, he is sold against his will, because sinne hath such tyranny over him: Therefore the afflicted Israelite did not more groan to be delivered from his oppression, than Paul crieth out to be delivered from this body of sinne; Well therefore may this birth-pollution be called, The Law of sinne within us, for it ruleth all, it commands the whole man; what sinne bids us think, we think; what it bids us do, we do; No natural man can do othewise: The Apostle speaks per∣emptorily, They that are in the flesh cannot please God? Rom. 8. 7, 8. And the carnal minde is not subject to God, neithe indeed can be: Oh the mise∣rable and unhappy estate we are all then in by this original sinne! We cannot but sinne, we do not love that which is good, neither can we; The Law of sinne hath wholly enslaved us: Though all the curses of the Law be denounced against us, yet we cannot but sinne: As venemous creatures can∣not vent that which is sweet, but necessarily that which is poison, yet (as Bernard of old said well)

This necessity in sinning doth not take off from Page  86 voluntarinesse and delight in it, neither doth the delight take off from the necessity.

Lastly, It may be called, The Law of sinne (saith Aquinas) Because it's that effect of Gods penal Law inflicted upon mankind, because of Adam's trans∣gression; So that upon Adam's sinne, God hath so ordered, that it should be by way of a punishment upon us, to be prone unto all evil. For (as you heard) this original sinne, is both a sinne and a punishment; So that as God hath appointed that every man should die, it is a Law that shall never be repealed; so likewise that every one born of man in a natural way should be unclean, and have a fountain within him daily emptying it self into poisonous streams.

Vse. To be informed, whence it is that thy heart is so out of all mea∣sure evil, whence it is that no godly thing is pleasing to thee, whence it is that upon searching into thy heart, thou findest a noisom dunghill there, that thou art never able to go to the bottom, whence it is that lust is so ready at hand alwayes, that sinne alwayes appeareth first in thy soul; All this is, because original corruption is by way of a Law in thee; That teach∣eth to sinne, that instigateth to sinne, yea that commands and imperiously puts thee on to all manner of evil: If you do not feel this heavy thral∣dome and pressure upon you, it is not because it is not there, but because thou art dead in sin, and hast no feeling of it. Solemon speaking of a good woman, hath this notable expression, Prov. 31. 26. The Law of kindnesse is in her lips (The Law of kindnesse) she cannot but be loving and friendly in all she saith. Now on the contrary, The Law of sinne is all over thee; The Law of sinne is in thy heart, the Law of sinne is in thy mind, the Law of sinne is in thy eyes, in thy tongue, thou canst not but sinne in, and by these.