The eighth book of Mr Jeremiah Burroughs. Being a treatise of the evil of evils, or the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Wherein is shewed, 1 There is more evil in the least sin, than there is in the greatest affliction. 2 Sin is most opposite to God. 3 Sin is most opposite to mans good. 4 Sin is opposite to all good in general. 5 Sin is the poyson, or evil of all other evils. 6 Sin hath a kind of infiniteness in it. 7 Sin makes a man conformable to the Devil. All these several heads are branched out into very many particulars.
Burroughs, Jeremiah, 1599-1646., Goodwin, Thomas, 1600-1680.
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THE EVIL of EVILS: OR, The Exceeding Sinfulness OF SIN.*. [Reader, •…is Trea∣ise was first Prea∣ched at Stepney, neer Lon∣don, on the Lordsday mornings t was be∣gun Nov. 29. 1641 and fini∣shed Feb. 27 1641. It is thought good o give the Reader Notice hereof, in espect to ome Ex∣pressions •…d in 〈◊〉 Trea∣•…e.]
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There is some good in Affliction, but none in Sin: First, no good of Entitie: Secondly, No good of Causality: Thirdly, No good principle from whence Sin can come: Fourthly, No Good anexed as is to Afflictions, viz. 1 Of Promise. 2 Of Evidnce. 3 Of Blessing. Also Five different workings of the hearts of the Saints under Sin and under Affliction: Fifthly, It's not capable of any Good, 1 Adde all the good to sin that all the Creatures in heaven and earth have, yet it cannot make sin good. 2 Good ends though 1. to help against temptation, 2. to do good to others, 3. to glorifie God cannot make sin good. 4 God can not make sin good. Sixthly, It's not comparitively good.

WEL, for further Arguments, though this one thing were enough to stop all mouths in the world, and make e¦very Soul subscribe and acknowledg that there is greater Evil in the least Sin, than in any Affliction: I shal be large in this Argument, because it is of wonderful Concern∣ment, to stop men in their course of Sin, and to humble them for sin, and make them resolve against sin, and to see their miserable estate in sin, and so see their need of Christ.

First, I shall fully make it out, That Affliction is to be chosen rather than sin.

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  • 1 First, Because there is some good in Afflicti¦on, but none in Sin.
  • 2 Because Sin hath more Evil in it, than Af¦fliction.

This Second I shal shew in the following Chapters.

First, Affliction hath some good in it, but sin hath none: You know what David saith, Ps. 119 71. It is good for me that I have been Afflicted; thus he spake of Affliction: But when St. Paul speaks of Sin, he saith, In me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good, Rom. 7. as if he should say, So far as I am Unregenerate, in my Unregenerate part there is no good at all; he cals sin by the name of flesh; there is no good at all in Sin.

First, There is no good of Entity or Being; all things that have a Being, there is some good in them; for God hath a Being, and every thing that hath a being hath some good in it, because it is of God; but Sin is a Non Entity, a no being: Its rather the deprivation of a Being then any being at al; & here is a great mystery of Iniqui∣ty, That that which is a Non-entity in it self, yet should have such a mighty efficacy to trouble heaven and earth. This is a great Mystery.

Secondly, It hath no good of Causallity: that is, Sin is so evil, as it can bring forth no good: Afflictions bring forth good: Sin is such an evil as it cannot be made good: not an instrument for good: Afflictions are made instrumental for good.

Page  12Object. No, wil you say, Cannot God bring good out of sin? And doth not God bring good out of sin?

Answ. To this I Answer, True, God brings good out of sin, that is Occasionally, but not In∣strumentally: He may take occasion to bring good out of sin committed: but (mark) God never makes sin an instrument for good; for an instrument comes under somwhat as an Effici∣ency: for an instrument gives some power to∣wards the Effect; but thus God never useth sin, God never made sin an instrument of any good; that is, that sin should have any power any influ∣ence into that good effect that God brings out of it as Afflictions have; God doth not only take occasion by Afflictions to do his people good, but he makes them Channels to convey the Mercies to their Souls: And thus Afflictions have an in∣strumental efficacy in them, to do men good: Therefore saith the Holy Ghost in Heb. 12. He Chastens them for their profit, that they might be par∣takers of his holiness: The greatest good the Creature is capable of, Affliction is made often∣times the instrument to convey: And in Isa. 27. By this the iniquity of Jacob shal be purged: That is, by this as an instrument; but sin is never thus: Sin is never sanctified by God to do good to any Soul: Afflictions are sanctified by God to do good; therefore sin is a greater evil than afflicti∣on: sin is so evil that it is not capable of any work of God to sanctifie it for good; but no Page  13 Afflictions are so evil but that they are capable of a work of God to sanctifie the•…r abundance of good. This is the Second.

Thirdly, Sin hath greater evil than Affliction in the rise of it; there is no good principle whence sin comes, but there are good princi¦ples from whence Afflictions arise: as thus, Whom he loves he chastens, he chastens every Son whom he receives; so that Chastisement hath a principle of Love, but it cannot be said whom God Loves he suffers to fal into Sin, that this can be a fruit of his Love: it can never be said that it is a fruit of Gods love that such a man or woman commits sin; but it may be said it is a fruit of Gods Love that such a man or wo¦man is afflicted, therefore there is more good in Afflictions than there is in Sin. Nay, observe this, Many times God doth not afflict a man or woman because he doth not Love them, but it can never be said God suffers not a man or woman to sin because he doth not love them: I say, There is many a man or woman goeth on in a prosperous Condition, and they meet not with such Afflictions as others meet withal; and the Reason is, Because God hath not such a love to them as to other men, but it cannot be said thus, That there be such men that keep them selves from such sins that others do wallow in, & therfore they do it because God hath not such a love to them as to others, it cannot be said so; but it may be said such be not afflicted so much as others because God doth not love them as well as others: It is a dreadful fruit of Gods hatred Page  14 that he doth not afflict them, but it is not a fruit of his hatred ot to let them fall into sin. I re∣member a Speech an Ancient hath upon that place of Hosea, I will not punish their Daughters when they commit Adultery, Hos. 4. 14. saith he, Oh dismal wrath of God that God will not afflict them and punish them! But now if this be so that want of afflictions may come from Gods wrath and the being put into affliction may come from Gods love, certainly then there is not so much evil in affliction as is in sin; for it can never be said so of sin.

Fourthly, There is no good anexed to sin as is to affliction: as thus, 1 Not the good of promise: 2ly Not the good of Evidence: 3ly Not the good of Blessing anexed to Sin as is to Affliction.

1. As now Afflictions hath abundance of Pro∣mises, I wil be with you in the Fire and in the Water: And by this shal the iniquity of Jacob be purged: and I could spend the remainder of the Book to open the many great Promises God hath annexed to Afflictions: but God hath not annexed any Promise of good to Sin; when God afflicts then you may challenge Gods Promise, Psal. 119. 75. saith David, In very faithfulness hast thou afflicted me, O Lord: this is but a fruit of thy Promise Afflictions: and thou art faithful in Afflicting, but sin hath no Promise annexed to it: Yet it may be you wil say that all shal work together for the good of them that love God: But this doth not go in way of a Promise; this Scripture will not beat it, though it be true God may occasionally work good to his people Page  15 by Sin; but this Scripture cannot bear it, that there is any Promise for it in that place: For, First it is against the Scope of that Text, for the Scope of that place is to uphold the hearts of Gods people in Afflictions: For he saith, All things: but Sin is no thing; and all things work together: and so he speaks of that which hath an Efficacy in it, that will together with God, work for good; but sin hath not any Efficacy to work on, for God will not work by that. That is one thing then, Affliction hath the good of Promise annexed to it, but so hath not Sin: therefore there is some good in Affliction, but none in Sin.

2ly. Affliction hath the good of Evidence: God makes our Afflictions signs of our Son ship and Adoption; If you be not afflicted then are you Bastards, and not Sons: And Phil. 1. Be not troubled, or terrified: trouble of the Saints is an evidence of Salvation to them, but a token of their perdition who are the terrifiers or troublers of them, but a sign of your Salvation: But it is not so of sin.

3ly. Further, There is a Blessing propounded to Afflictions, Blessed be those that mourn, and blessed be the man whom thou Chastisest and teachest in thy Law; but there is no blessing al∣lowed to Sin, it is not capable of it: there is not that good annexed to sin that is to affliction; and therefore Affliction is to be Chosen rather than Sin.

And from hence see the different working of the hearts of the Saints under their Sin, and under their Affliction; That follows from this Page  16 Head, That there is some good annexed to Af∣fliction that is not to Sin.

1. First, Hence it follows, That the Saints can Cry to God with Liberty of Spirit under Affliction, but they cannot under Sin: They can go to God, and tell God their Afflictions, and Challenge God with a holy boldness in Afflicti∣ons; but who can go to God and Challenge God because he hath told a Lye, or the like? Doth this make them go with a holy boldness to God, and Challenge Gods Promise, because I have committed such and such a sin?

Secondly, When Affliction doth come, a gra∣cious heart can kiss the rod and accept of the punishment of his sin, but now a gracious heart can never be well pleased with his sin, can never accept of sin, though God punish one sin with another sometimes, yet I say, there cannot be a well pleasedness with sin, and a kissing of that.

Thirdly, A gracious heart may rejoyce in Affliction, and have abundance of comfort in Afflictions, account it all joy (saith the Holy Ghost) when you fall into trials and afflictions, but now he can never rejoyce in sin, no man can rejoyce in sin though God should turn sin to ne∣ver so much good: one cannot rejoyce in sin, and have that comfort he may in affliction.

Fourthly, A gracious heart may bless God for Afflictions, bless God that ever he did Cast him into an afflicted estate; but he can never bless God for putting him into a sinful estate, though God do work good out of it: Nay further, Page  17 That good a gracious heart hath sometimes by afflictions may incourage him to be more willing to go into affliction again when God calls him to it, but if a gracious heart should get good occa∣sionally by sin, yet this good cannot incourage him to fall into sin again, this were a desperate wickedness if he should.

Fifthly, A gracious heart may desire of God that he would not take away Affliction till it be sanctified, and that he would continue it till it be sanctified; but no man may or ought to pray thus, Lord, continue me in this sin till I am hum∣bled: therefore you see there is abundance of difference between affliction and sin, one hath a great deal of good annexed to it, and the other hath none at all.

5. Sin it is so evil that it is not capable of any good at all; the air though it be dark, yet it is capable of light; that were a dismal darkness that were not capable of light to come to it: and that which is bitter, though never so bitter, yet it is capable of receiving that which will sweeten it: that which is never so venemous, yet is capable of such things as will make it wholsom; but sin is so dark that it is uncapable of light; so bitter, as there is no way to make it sweet; so venemous as it is no way capable of any wholsomness: now for the clearing of this, consider these three Things:

1. Put all the good in heaven and earth, and in all the Creatures in heaven and earth toge∣ther: Suppose the quintiscence of all the good of all the Creatures of heaven and earth were Page  18 put together, and bring that to sin, and ad it to it, it would not make it good: no, sin would re∣main still as evil as before it was. Now that must needs be poyson indeed, that bring all the sove∣raign things in the world and put to it, yet there would not be a deminishion of the least strength of that poyson, and so it is with sin: Therfore (I beseech you Brethren observe it) those men and women be mightily mistaken, that think (I have been a sinful creature indeed, but now I wil amend and reforme and be better) that by adding some good to their former sinful Lives, it will make all good: Oh! know that there is so much evil in sin, that the addition of all the good of all the creatures in heaven and earth cannot make it less evil than before; so that you must not only now think to live better & ad good unto your former evil, but you must take a course for the taking away of the former evil, for the delivering you from the guilt and stain and filth of your former sin.

2. Sin is not capable of good; All those good ends that any men have in the Cōmission of sin, yet do not make their sin the better: that can∣not make sin good, because they have good ends: as thus,

There may be Three good ends some may think they have in the Com∣mission of sin.

1 They may perhaps think that by Com∣mission of some sin they may further some Page  19 grace, do good to others, or glorifie God; there may be such deceit in the heart: as thus,

1 They may think such a sin will help such a Grace, and help against such a temptation, and such a sin may help my humility; and it is ordi∣nary this temptation (when in trouble of Con∣science) make away thy self, and then thou wilt sin no more; for so long as I live I shall sin a∣gainst God, & therfore make away thy self and so cease to sin: But know, if thou lay violent hands upon thy self, and think thou shalt have this good by it to sin no more; yet thy sin is wicked and abominable, though thou put this good end upon it, though it were possible to in crease Grace never so much by the least sinful thought, we must not commit this least sinful thought for never so good an end, as to help forward such a Grace.

2 A Second end may be to do good to others, and I say if it were possible, if a man might be a means to save the whole world if he would commit one sin, if he could save the whole world from eternal Torments by the Commissi∣on of one sin, you should suffer the whole world to perish rather than commit one sin, there is so much evil in sin. It is the expressi∣on of Augustine in a Tractate of his concerning an officious Lye, a friend of his wrote to him to Answer this Question about telling of a Lye, Whether he might not tell a Lye, to do good to another man? Many think, What though I do tell a Lye so I do another good; indeed if I may do hurt Page  20 then I must not, but if I may do good, may I not tell a Lye, (well) this Question was brought to Augustine, and saith he, Thou must not tell a Lye to save the whole world: this was his Answer. Sup∣pose that the Soul of thy Father, Mother, or Child, (this is but a supposition) or the like, should lie upon it to be saved, or damned if thou wilt commit one sin, suppose such a temptation should come, thou must not commit one sin, though the soul of thy father or mother, or all the world lay upon it; now it is another man∣ner of thing to commit a sin to gain a groat; Oh now by a deceitful word I may have this gain, if it were twenty shillings, thou must not venture upon sin to save the world; therefore not to gain six pence or a shilling: Certainly these be the truths of God, and for one to come and speak these things in a solemn manner in the presence of God if it were not upon deliberati∣on and good search, it were a great boldness; and therefore certainly beleeve there is such e∣vil in Sin: and though you pass by a thousand idle thoughts and evil actions and they be gone with you and you make little of them: but if you did know what the evil of Sin were, you would look upon them with amazement, and cry out, Lord what have I done! Men and wo∣men go abroad, and before they come home meet with Company, and there swear many Oaths commit lewdness, have told lyes, and done wickedness; Oh did they but know what they have done that day, they would come home wringing their hands and ready to tear Page  21 their hair, and lie tumbling upon the very ground for the evil that they have done.

3. Further, We must not commit sin though for the glory of God: for many put this end up∣on it: as the Papists, this is their Principle, To advance the Catholick Cause they think they may do any wickedness, murther Princes, blow up Parliaments, keep no Faith, Promises, Oathes: take liberty to rise in Rebellion, to commit all outrages, and cut all the Protestants throats; and to advance the Catholick Cause take the Sacrament upon it, and yet think be∣cause tis for so good an end (as they conceive) therefore they may commit any wickedness. It is certain God needs not the Devil to help his Cause: but suppose by sin Gods glory might be furthered in some particular, yet we must not com∣mit the least sin for the greatest glory of God that can be imagined: so much evil there is in sin. And ther∣fore, for such that many times strain their Con∣science to do that which their Consciences have regreet upon, and their Conscience told them they should not do it, yet meerly upon this pre∣tence, that they might do service in the Church, Oh their Ministry is dear, to do good to Souls, to preach to so many Souls, by this means God may have glory, and hereupon they venture to strain their Consciences to have liberty to Preach; this certainly is a great evil, we must not strain our Consciences in any thing to com∣mit the least sin upon imagination of the grea∣test glory that can be brought to God. Good ends put upon sins, cannot make them better. This is the Second thing.

Page  22 Fourthly, All the good that God himself can bring from sin, can never make sin good: such evil there is in it, that the infinite power and goodness of God can never make sin good: true, God may destroy Sin, Yet that which is Sin all the power of God cannot make that good: Such evil there is in Sin. This is a Fifth thing.

6. There is no good in Sin, not Comparative∣ly. That is, Though it be true one Sin is less than another; yet no sin is good in comparison of another. In Affliction, as one affliction is less than another, so one affliction is good in com∣parison of another: a less affliction is good in comparison of a greater; and all affliction is good in comparison of Sin. But in Sin, though one Sin be less than another, yet the least Sin is not good in comparison of the greatest: and take the least Sin of all it is not good in compa∣rison of any Affliction. And you shall see how this is Useful to us.