“A people laden with iniquity… they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger… Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores.”

Isa. 1:4-6

“Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.”

Isa. 48:8




Original Sin
How did the First Sin Happen?
Classifications & Degrees of Sin, & Venial vs. Mortal Sin



Order of Contents


Must Not Sin to Prevent Sin
Strong Desires do Not Excuse Sin
Downwad Course of Sin
Whether Descendants are Liable for Ancestors’ Sins?
God Not Pleased with Sin’s Existence, yet He Effectively Permitted it
.       as Useful unto his Good Purposes
Do Infants have Actual Sins?
Animals do Not Properly Sin





Church of Scotland

Causes of the Lord’s Wrath Against Scotland  (1651)  10 reasons listed and then expounded on

This will break your heart.  It is perhaps the most searching and thorough confession of sin ever confessed by a national church over its land.  Examine your own life before it every year.  May our churches and lands confess our sins before God likewise.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  – 2 Chron. 7:14

A Humble Acknowledgment of the Sins of the Ministry of Scotland  (1651)

Pastors and Elders, let us grieve and break our hearts over our sins in Christ’s ministry.  May this cause us to look to Christ for all of our righteousness, and may it spur us on to walk more humbly and closely with Him as we work in His Vineyard.  Use this in secret prayer throughout the year.

Church members, bring reformation to our land and humbly encourage your elders with this article.

A Humble Acknowledgement of the Sins of Those Preparing for Ministry  (1651)

Those preparing for the ministry, try yourselves by this heart searching and convicting piece, and look to Christ for more grace to walk worthily of Him.



Edwards, Jonathan – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Deut. 32:35  HTML  (1741)  38 paragraphs



Alexander, Archibald

‘The Deceitfulness of Sin’, no date or source info, 5 paragraphs

‘The Misery of the Lost’, no date or source info, 28 paragraphs

‘Melancthon on the Nature of Sin’ in Princeton Theological Essays, pp. 218-228

Dabney, Robert – ‘Vindicatory Justice Essential to God’  1881  17 pp.

Hodge, Charles – Commentary on Rom. 5:12-21on Adam, Original Sin, Imputation, Christ, Justification, etc.

Kennedy, John – ch. 2, ‘Man as Fallen in Relation to God’, p. 39 ff., 19 pp.  in his Man’s Relations to God

Bavinck, Herman

‘The Greatness & Miserableness of Man’, from Our Reasonable Faith  (1956), pp. 22-23

‘The Present State of the World’  from Our Reasonable Faith  (1956), pp. 44-45



Berkhof, Louis – Systematic Theology  (1950)

The Origin of Sin, 16 paragraphs

The Essential Character of Sin, 22 paragraphs

‘The Transmission of Sin’, 14 paragraphs

The Punishment of Sin  14 paragraphs



Fentiman, Travis – ‘Jesus the Friend of Sinners’  (2014)  10 paragraphs

Is Jesus in a way friendly to the unconverted?  The Bible says Yes.





Serving sin in this life is like gambling in a casino: there are lots of cheap thrills, but the longer you play, the more you inevitably lose.  However, the House, God’s justice, never loses.


Edmund Calamy the Elder

“Surely sin is more opposite to God than Hell, for God is the author of Hell, God made Hell for sinners, but God is not the author of sin; and therefore, Oh my soul, do thou hate sin more than affliction, nay more than Hell itself.”


John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

“Nothing but the death of Christ could put away sin.”

“Come, Lord Jesus.  All things are disjointed, but Thou bearest up the pillars.”



May We Sin to Prevent Sin?  No.

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), bk. 2, ch. 1, p. 10

“Divines hold absolutely that inter duo vel plura mala culpae [between two or more culpable evils] (such as things scandalous and inconvenient) nullum est eligendum [none are to be chosen]. (Alsted, Theol. Cas., ch. 12, p. 199)  That though in evils of punishment we may choose a lesser to shun a greater, yet in evils of fault, election [choosing] has no place, neither may we do a lesser fault to shun a greater: nec ullum admittendum malum, ut eveniat aliquod bonum, sive per se sive per accidens. [Neither ought any evil to be accepted so that it may bring forth some good, either through it or by the occasion of it.] (Paraeus on Rom. 3:8)”


Samuel Rutherford

A Dispute Touching Scandal & Christian Liberty, p. 83  in The Divine Right of Church Government  (1646)

“…yea there can be no sin eligible [chosen] by such and such a case [of necessary circumstance], as Lot sinned in exposing his daughters to the lust of men, to redeem abstinence from sodomy.

Hence it is clear:  we may not do a less, nor counsel another to commit a less sin, to eschew a greater, as the Jesuits wickedly teach.  So Tannerus, so Turrianus and others who make a scandalum permissum, a scandal that a Christian may hinder another to fall in, and yet he permits him to fall in it.  But God has a prerogative to permit sinful scandals, men have no such power, when they are obliged to hinder it.  The divinity of others seems better to me, who deny that the least venial [sin] should be committed to eschew a greater sin.”



That Strong Desires do not Excuse Sin

William Ames

Conscience with the Power & Cases Thereof  (1639), bk. 3, ch. 19, ‘Of a Voluntary Act’, p. 93

“Question 5.  What are we to judge of those actions which are done through concupiscence.

10th Answer.  Concupiscence does not make an act cease to be voluntary, neither does it indeed diminish the voluntariness of it in respect of the act, but increases it rather.  For he that does a thing out of concupiscence, has a will strongly inclined to that which it does, as is appears either delightful or profitable to him; if therefore the concupiscence be fixed, the sin’s the greater, as it was in Judas, who betrayed Christ out of covetousness of [money].”



On the Downward Course of Sin

John Witherspoon

The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847), pp. 461-62

“1. Men enter and initiate themselves in a vicious practice by smaller sins. Heinous sins are too alarming for the conscience of a young sinner; and therefore he only ventures upon such as are smaller, at first. Every particular kind of vice creeps in this gradual manner.

2. Having once begun in the ways of sin, he ventures upon something greater and more daring. His courage grows with his experience. Now, sins of a deeper die do not look so frightful as before. Custom makes everything familiar. No person who once breaks over the limits of a clear conscience knows where he shall stop.

3. Open sins soon throw a man into the hands of ungodly companions. Open sins determine his character, and give him a place with the ungodly. He shuns the society of good men, because their presence is a restraint, and their example a reproof to him. There are none with whom he can associate but the ungodly.

4. In the next stage, the sinner begins to feel the force of habit and inveterate custom; he becomes rooted and settled in an evil way.—Those who have been long habituated to any sin, how hopeless is their reform! One single act of sin seems nothing; but one after another imperceptibly strengthens the disposition, and enslaves the unhappy criminal beyond the hope of recovery.

5. The next stage in a sinner’s course is to lose the sense of shame, and sin boldly and openly. So long as shame remains, it is a great drawback. But it is an evidence of an uncommon height of impiety, when natural shame is gone.

6. Another stage in the sinner’s progress is to harden himself so far as to sin without remorse of conscience. The frequent repetition of sins stupefies the conscience. They, as it were, weary it out, and drive it to despair. It ceases all its reproofs, and, like a frequently discouraged friend, suffers the infatuated sinner to take his course. And hence,

7. Hardened sinners often come to boast and glory in their wickedness. It is something to be beyond shame; but it is still more to glory in wickedness, and esteem it honorable. Glorious ambition indeed!

8. Not content with being wicked themselves, they use all their arts and influence to make others wicked also. They are zealous in sinning, and industrious in the promotion of the infernal cause.—They extinguish the fear of God in others, and laugh down their own conscientious scruples. And now,

9. To close the scene, those who have thus far hardened themselves, are given up by God to judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart. They are marked out as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. This is the consequence of their obstinacy. They are devoted the judgment they deserve.

Reader! view it with terror.”



Whether Children & Descendants are Liable for the Sins of Parents & Ancestors?



Thomas Aquinas

Summa, Part 2, Q. 81, A. 2

“It is impossible for the sins of the nearer ancestors, or even any other but the first sin of our first parent to be transmitted by way of origin. The reason is that a man begets his like in species but not in individual. Consequently those things that pertain directly to the individual, such as personal actions and matters affecting them, are not transmitted by parents to their children: for a grammarian does not transmit to his son the knowledge of grammar that he has acquired by his own studies.

On the other hand, those things that concern the nature of the species, are transmitted by parents to their children, unless there be a defect of nature: thus a man with eyes begets a son having eyes, unless nature fails. And if nature be strong, even certain accidents of the individual pertaining to natural disposition, are transmitted to the children, e.g. fleetness of body, acuteness of intellect…

Other actual sins, however, whether of the first parent or of others, do not corrupt the nature as nature, but only as the nature of that person, i.e. in respect of the proneness to sin: and consequently other sins are not transmitted.

According to Augustine in his letter to Avitus [Ep. ad Auxilium ccl.], children are never inflicted with spiritual punishment on account of their parents, unless they share in their guilt, either in their origin, or by imitation, because every soul is God’s immediate property, as stated in Ezekiel 18:4.

A man can more easily transmit that which he has of himself, provided it be transmissible. But the actual sins of our nearer ancestors are not transmissible, because they are purely personal, as stated above.”



Anthony Walaeus

Synopsis of a Purer Theology  (Brill, 2020), vol. 3, Disputation 44, ‘On the Sacrament of Baptism’, section 50, p. 167

“For in the new covenant the son does not bear the iniquity of the father, and of such children God remains God just the same, as He Himself bears witness in Ezekiel 16 and 23.”


Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), Appendix, ‘An Introduction to the Doctrine of Scandal’, pp. 64-5

“We are carefully to distinguish between a law of Nature, or a perpetual binding moral law, which stands for an eternal rule to us, except the Lawgiver Himself, by a supervenient positive law, which serves but for a time, do loose us from an obligation thereunto, and [it be] a positive temporary law.

God says in an express law of nature that obliges us perpetually, ‘The son shall not be put to death for the sins of the father’; no magistrate on earth can lawfully take away the life of the son for the sin of the father, for this eternally obliges.

Yet Saul was to destroy the sucking children of the Amalekites for the sins of their fathers, but he had a positive temporary command of God to warrant his fact, 1 Sam. 15:2-3, none can infer that we are from this law, which was a particular exception, from a catholic, perpetually obliging moral law, that magistrates are now to take away the lives of the sucking infants of Papists.”


James Durham

The Law Unsealed: or, A practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments…  (Glagow, 1676), 2nd Commandment, pp. 76-77

“5. Children!  Be humbled under the sense of the iniquity of your parents when ye remember their ways, or possess what unjustly they have gotten, ye become guilty of their sins, without repentance.  Especially you have need to take notice of this that are the children of parents that have opposed the purity of God’s service and worship and the work of its reformation, and have been corrupters of it: Children may be partakers of their parents’ faults and so plagued for them several ways; and we think that this forfeiture is more than ordinary.  And therefore, as amongst men there are special crimes beyond ordinary procuring such a sentence, so is it here.  And:

1. They be guilty by following their foot-steps, in walking in their parents sins, as Jeroboam’s children did.

2. In approving their fathers’ way, praising their fathers’ sayings or doings, as it is Psalm 49:13.

3. In winking at their parents’ sins and wickedness.

4. In boasting of their oppressions, bloodshed, etc. as if they were were acts of valor and manhood.

5. In being content that their fathers sinned, if it gained any possession to them.

6. In possessing and enjoying without repentance what to their knowledge they sinfully purchased.

7. In spending prodigally and riotously what the parents covetously gathered; the sin of the parent here is the seed of the sons’ sin.

8. In professing sorrow for the want [lack] of occasion to live in ignorance, profanity, or looseness as their fathers did, as in Jer. 44:17-19, they said that things went well then.

[9.] In not being humbled before God for the sins of predecessors, nor confessing them to him, as Lev. 26:40, nor repairing the losses or injuries which we knew they did to any that were wronged or oppressed by them.”


Thomas Watson

The Doctrine of Repentance, Useful for these Times  (London, 1668), ch. 4, section 2, pp. 23-24

“1. But suppose a person has wronged ano­ther in his estate, and the party wronged be dead, what shall he do in this case?

Let him restore his ill-gotten goods to that man’s heirs and successors. Question: But what if none of them be living?  Answer: Let him restore to God; that is, let him put his unjust gain into God’s treasury by re­lieving the poor.

2. But what if the party who did the wrong be dead?

Then they who are his heirs ought to make restitution.  Mark what I say: if there be any who have estates left them, and they knew that the parties who left their estates did defraud others, and died with that guilt upon them, then the heirs or executors who possess those estates are bound in conscience to make restitution, else they entail the curse of God upon their family.

3. But if a man has wronged another, and he be not able to restore, what shall he do in this case?

Let him deeply humble himself before God, promising to the party wronged (if the Lord make him able) full satisfaction, and God will accept of the will for the deed.”


Francis Turretin

Institutes, vol. 1, p. 624

“The passage where God declares, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, but the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezk. 18:20) is not to be absolutely and simply understood as it sounds. Otherwise there would be a contradiction to the law and a denial of the substitution of Christ in our place. Rather it ought to be explained:

(1) of adult sons who depart from the iniquity of parents and do not imitate them (as appears from v. 19—“Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live.” Now such are not the sons of Adam, who are transgressors from the womb).

(2) Of personal and particular sins, not of common and general, which can involve many, such as the sin of Adam.

(3) There is not established here a general rule of providence and justice in accordance with which God either before always acted or will hereafter conform all his judgments. For He ordained in the Law otherwise and proceeded in examples.  Rather it treats of a business peculiar to the Jews on whom God bestowed this by a special concession; not to act with them in that strictness of justice which he could observe (as to impute others’ sins to them), but to punish their own sins in themselves, that in this way their mouth might be entirely closed. On this pretext, the Jews carped at the divine judgments that the undeserving were punished for the sins of their parents, as is evident from the proverb they used: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” God answers that He would not deal with them thus in the least, but would punish each one for his own sins, as we read in v. 30. Therefore He wishes in the present affair to draw and to bring them to this confession—to acknowledge God to be just in his judgments and that there was no need for Him to seek sins in the fathers in order to punish the sons; that there was sufficient criminality in themselves (even apart from the imputation of the sins of others) to justify the infliction of the punishment they had already suffered and even greater still.

So there is not here any definition of right, but only the declaration of a special agreement. He does not say what He can rightly do, but against the complaints of the people, what he wills to do. The scope of the prophet and the connection of the words lead us to this.

Finally, the highest right differs from the forbearing (epieikeia) right. In accordance with the former, God can visit the sins of parents upon their children, but in accordance with the latter He extends the punishment no further than to sinners themselves. Thus the prophet, speaking of the New Testament times, says among other things: “In those days they shall say no more, the fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity” (Jer. 31:29, 30*). He says this to teach that God would deal with them more gently than before.”



Edmund Burke

Reflections on the Revolution in France…  (1790)

“It is not very just to chastise men for the offenses of their natural ancestors, but to take the fiction of ancestry in a corporate succession as a ground for punishing men who have no relation to guilty acts, except in names and general descriptions, is a sort of refinement in injustice belonging to the philosophy of this enlightened age…  [they punish] men, many, if not most, of whom abhor the violent conduct of…  former times as much as their present persecutors can do, and who would be as loud and as strong in the expression of that sense, if they were not well aware of the purposes for which all this declamation is employed.”



God is Not Pleased with the Existence of Sin, though He has Effectively Permitted it as it is Useful unto his Good Purposes

Samuel Rutherford

The Examination of Arminianism, p. 233-234, as trans. in Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: the Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter  trans. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman  (1668 / 2019), pp. 68-69

“Whether God is able to hate sin and will its existence?

It is asked whether that distinction is frivolous by which we teach God to hate sin, and yet to will its existence? So says that Arminian against Perkins (p. 701). We deny:

1. Because for God to hate sin is not for God to intend that sin would never exist, as it is false that God decreed that the crucifixion of the Savior, the selling of Joseph, the carrying off of his people into captivity by the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the defecting of the ten tribes from the family of David and the spoiling of Job by the Sabeans, would not exist.

2. Because sin in itself is a disgraceful evil and an object of the displeasing and disapproving will [of God]. But truly for sin to exist is a useful good, conducing to the glory of God; and all good existing in time is from God, from the eternal decree.

3. Because in the explication of our distinction, Arminius falsely imputes to us that we teach that God wills and approves sin existing and that God does not hate sin existing.  For God hates sin and hates the existence of sin in the genus of a disgraceful thing, and yet He decrees to permit that it would exist under the genus of a useful thing.

4. [William] Twisse rightly says, Marcus Cato[1] willed Carthage [an enemy city] to exist inasmuch as it was a grindstone and material exercising youth of Roman virtue, and yet he willed against it, i.e. to hate Carthage.  I further add that Peter rightly willed that Christ would spare Himself, that He would not be killed by ungodly foes; and yet Christ wills against this, rightly declaring him to be of Satan; notwithstanding, Peter was bound to hate that occasion as it was sin (Mt. 16:21-23).

[1] Marcus Cato the elder (234-149 B.C.) was a Roman soldier, senator and historian known for his opposition to Hellenization.”



Do Infants have Proper, Actual Sins?


Peter van Mastricht

Theoretical-Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 3, bk. 4, ch. 3, ‘Actual Sin’, sections 8 & 24

“VIII. It belongs to man, then, to deviate from the divine law, yet not to all men: for infants, although on account of the covenant breaking committed in Adam (Rom. 5:12) they are devoid of the original righteousness which from the law of their own rational nature they are bound to have, and therefore are imbued with original sin, yet because they do not have a law prescribed for them, according to which they should order their actions, they do not commit actual sin (Rom. 5:14), for which reason they in this respect called innocent (Ps. 106:38), inasmuch as they cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand (Jonah 4:11), and thus neither can discern the law of God.

But to adolescents and to adults, to all with the exception of Christ.  Accordingly, adolescents are subject to actual sin, as soon as they are so endowed with reason that they can distinguish what is commanded from what is prohibited; but at what year of age this happens is difficult to determine, because wickedness in many makes up for the deficiency of age.  Then also adults, inasmuch as there belongs to them preeminently that verse, “It has been shown you, O man, what is good” (Mic. 6:8); but all adults (1 Kings 8:46; Ps. 14:3; Eccl. 7:20), even the regenerate (Ps. 130:3; 143:2, 10; Matt. 6:12); indeed, even the blessed virgin herself (John 2:4) with the exception only of the Savior, who knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21).”


“XXIV.  It is asked, fifth, whether infants before all use of reason are subject to actual sin…  The Cartesian theologians, because they state that the rational soul is nothing except actual thought, such as is either agreeable or repugnant to the divine law,
are also compelled to state that actual sin occurs also in infants…

The Reformed, although they acknowledge that original corruption is actually present in infants, from which by nature they are prone to all actual sins, and moreover bear in themselves the seeds of the same, nonetheless deny that they are properly subject to any actual sin, because: (1) Scripture teaches that they do not sin according to the similitude of Adam, that is, actually.  Also because (2) Scripture calls them innocent (Ps. 106:38).  For since this could not be said with regard to original sin, from which they are pronounced unclean (1 Cor. 7:14), nothing remains except that they are called innocent with regard to actual sin, inasmuch as they do not discern between their right hand and their left hand ( Jonah 4:11).  (3) They are said to have done neither good nor evil (Rom. 9:11).  (4) To infants as such, there is no law prescribed against which they would commit that which is against the law;
they recognize no law, and thus also cannot compose themselves to any law, nor deviate from any.

Nevertheless they object: (1) that the imagination of man’s heart is called evil from his youth (Gen. 8:21 with 6:5).  I respond, יצר in this passage means that the shape and disposition of the heart in infants is, not from actual sins, but from original corruption, only evil, from their very infancy (Prov. 22:15).  (2) That the human mind consists in actual thought, which can not only be congruent with divine law, but also repugnant to it.  I respond: (1) That the human mind is a
thinking substance which, with organs adequately disposed, can think, we do not doubt, just as it is a reasoning substance, not because it is always reasoning in actuality, but because it can reason, with necessary things put in place. (b) If we grant that the mind in the infant thinks in actuality, yet it does not follow from this that he actually sins, because, as we have said, the infant before all use of reason does not have prescribed to him a law which could be transgressed.  Nor is it valid to say that his actual thought can be not conformable, in fact repugnant, to the law, since even a goring ox’s killing of a man is materially repugnant to the law, and yet from this that ox is not properly a murderer, and does not sin by slaying him, because there is not prescribed to it a law which would
be transgressed.”



Why Animals do Not Properly Sin


Peter van Mastricht

Theoretical-Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 3, bk. 4, ch. 3, ‘Actual Sin’, section 7

“VII. It [sin] is a deviation of human action (Mic. 6:8), whereas although their own law of nature is prescribed for brute beasts and inanimate objects (Jer. 8:7; Deut. 32:11; Isa. 1:3; Prov. 6:6), from which they can in some sense fall short, yet whenever this happens, there is not committed by them sin in the proper sense, as in the case when the earth does not produce its fruits, or when the digestion of the stomach or liver fails; yet because they do not have the moral law, and do not acknowledge their own natural law, nor can they order themselves to it, but rather are ordered and determined by another, properly speaking they neither deviate nor sin.

Nor is it any hindrance to this that now and then they are said to be punished (Gen. 3:15; 9:5; Lev. 20:15–16; Ex. 21:28).  For that penalty, pronounced thus catechrestically, in detestation of the material fact itself, through the body of that beast assails its owner.  Nor also does their demise argue for sin, but for a fragile nature, enlarged by the occasion of human sin (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20).”




“He was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate form sinners, but the publicans and sinners felt in him an attraction.”

“He is sweet, but sin is bitter.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan


“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”

Hosea 13:9




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