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§ 25. Of Sin in General.

According to 1 John 3:4, sin is every deviation from a law of God (HOLL., 488: “Sin is a deviation from the divine Law”), whether that law be written in our hearts, or be communicated externally by positive precept. [1] It can proceed only from a being endowed with reason and free will. But from this general conception of sin it does not, therefore, necessarily follow, that every such act as may be a deviation from the Law of God must be performed with the consciousness and purpose that such a deviation from the Law of God shall take place. [2] God is in no sense the author of sin; He did not create sin in man, since of all that was created, it is said that it was good (Gen. 1:31): neither did He decree that at any particular time man should become a sinner. He has neither urged man on to that which is sinful (James 1:13), nor did He approve of sin when it entered. Much rather does He hate it at all times (Ps. 5:5; Zach. 8:17; 1 John 2:16.) [3] The origin of sin lies, therefore, only in the will of the creature who, of 232his own accord, departed from God, and acted in opposition to the divine command. [4] And here Satan made the beginning, and then led man also astray to sin. [5]

The immediate consequence of sin is that the sinner, who broke the commandment which he was bound to obey, incurred guilt which deserves punishment. HOLL. (502): “The consequence of sin is responsibility for guilt and liability to punishment.” [6] The punishment is partly temporal, partly eternal.

[1] BR. (388 sq.): “By the Law is to be understood the eternal and immutable wisdom and decision of God concerning those things which belong or do not belong to a rational creature, as such, united with His will, that they may or may not be done.”

[2] HOLL. (497): “A sinner is a rational creature, endowed with a free will, and subject to the divine Law, who departs from it, by doing what it forbids, and neglecting what it enjoins.” (501): “That which is voluntary (το εκουσιον), does not enter into the definition of sin generically considered. Sin is called voluntary, either subjectively, as far as it inheres in the will, or effectively, according as it proceeds from a deliberate volition. Not every sin is voluntary in the latter mode. Sin is called voluntary, either formally, which is committed by one’s own volition, or virtually, which was voluntary in the root and stock of the human race, from which it has been propagated to posterity, whose will would have been the same as that in Adam, had they lived at the same time with him” [i.e., sin may be voluntary, when not volitionary]

[3] MEL. (Loc. Th., 56): “God is not the cause of sin, nor is sin a thing contrived or ordained by Him, but it is a horrible destruction of the divine work and order.”

CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 146): “The explanation also must be noted, of what is intended when it is said that God is not the cause of sin, viz., that He neither desires or approves of sin, neither does He influence the will to sin. For some understand that He is not the author of sin in such a sense, as in the beginning to create it, or to have it in Himself, or to produce it through Himself, but that men sin nevertheless by the will of God, and that God produces sins not only permissively, but also efficiently, in men and by men; yet He is not, in their view, therefore to be called the author of sin. Therefore is added, as if for the sake of explanation: ‘author and cause of sin.’”

QUEN. (II, 49): “God is in no manner the efficient cause of sin. Neither in part nor in whole, neither directly nor indirectly, 233neither accidentally nor per se, whether in the form of Adam’s transgression or in that of any other sin, is God or can He be called, the cause or author of sin. God is not the cause of sin, (1) physically and per se, because thus the evil or sin has no cause; (2) not morally, by commanding, persuading, or approving because He does not desire sin, but hates it; nor (3) by way of accident, because nothing can happen to God either by chance or fortuitously. This conflicts with the divine wisdom, prescience, goodness, holiness, and independence, as is proved from Ps. 5:5; 45:7; Is. 65:12; Zach. 8:17; 1 John 1:5; James 1:13, 17.”

How God stands related to sin was shown in the discussion on the doctrine of concurrence.

[4] QUEN. (II, 49): “Whatever want of conformity to Law (ανομια) there ever is in a rational agent must be ascribed to the free will of the creature itself, as being spontaneously deficient in acting. Ps. 5:5; Hos. 13:9; Matt. 23:37. A rational agent, or creature, which possesses reason, and the power of knowing those things which the Law given either commands or forbids, is properly said to be the cause of sin, viz., the will of the devil and of man. But this rational agent ought to be viewed, not in respect of any real influence, but in respect of a deficiency; for sin has rather a deficient than an efficient cause.”1414Cf. Chap. IV, Note 13.

[5] CONF. AUG. (19): “Concerning the cause of sin, they teach that, although God creates and preserves nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, namely, the devil and impious men, which without the assistance of God turns itself away from God.”

CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 148): “The devil is the first author of sin: (1) because by his own free will he himself turned away from God; (2) because he is the cause of sin in the human race in this way, that he deceived and seduced Eve in the state of integrity, so that she departed from God.”

[6] HOLL. (502): “Guilt is a moral foulness or deformity, resulting from an act inconsistent with the Law and unworthy of a rational creature, and inhering in the sinner as a shameful stain. Responsibility for guilt (reatus culpae) is an obligation, by which man, on account of an act inconsistent with the moral Law, is held, as if bound, under sin and its blemish, so that in consequence of this act, the sinner is regarded and pronounced detestable.”

“The divine punishment is a grievous evil by which God, the offended Judge, punishes the guilt before incurred and not yet forgiven, so as to display His justice and majesty, and vindicate from contempt the authority of the Law. Liability to punishment 234(reatus poenae), is an obligation by which the sinner is held bound, by God, the offended Judge, to endure the punishment of the unforgiven guilt. Guilt differs from punishment. The former precedes, the latter follows. Guilt deserves punishment; punishment is due to guilt, and is, as it were, its wages. Rom. 6:23. Guilt proceeds from the will; the will of the sinner revolts from punishment. The sinner contracts guilt by his acts; he endures punishment by suffering.”


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