For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Is there a human being to be found who, after reflection, and speaking honestly, would affirm of himself, "I have never sinned"? We are aware of the existence of great ignorance concerning the extent of sin, and the evil of sin; and we know men are exceedingly reluctant to confess even those sins of which they are conscious; but we do not think there is a man who, after serious reflection, is entirely unconscious of guilt. Furthermore, is there a man who would say of a fellow human being, however dearly loved and highly prized, "I do not believe that person has ever sinned"? Verily, our consciousness and our observation confirm the Bible doctrine, "There is none that doeth good; no, not one!"
I. THE FACT AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MAN'S FIRST SIN.
1. The first sin was Adam's failure under trial as the representative of the human race. Say that this test was simple; then how adapted to inexperience, and how fitted to show whether, in filial dependence, man would serve God or not. Do you refuse to judge of the quarter whence the wind blows by the course of the thistle down, or by the path of the smoke; and would you wait for information until you could see the vane of some lofty tower? Do you not measure the heat of a summer's day by the moistened brow, and judge of the cold of winter by the smarting skin, far more frequently than by the scale of the thermometer?
2. Man was specially tempted to the first sin.
3. Temptation was necessary in man's probation. Could probation be conducted apart from this trying process? Is not the coin tested in the balance? Is not silver proved in the fining pot? Is not gold tried in the furnace? Are not the elements of a chemical compound made manifest by analysis? Is not the strength of metal or timber relied upon after proof? As in our law courts, no prisoner is recognised as guilty until his crime has been proved; so, in God's moral government, no procedure is based on character until the character is made manifest by the light of conduct.
4. The first sin of man was (tested by any standard) a great transgression. Actions must be judged by the principle involved in them. In eating the forbidden fruit did not Adam transgress a law? In transgressing this law did not Adam reject the Divine authority and cast off his allegiance to God? In thus sinning did not Adam resist the power of the strongest motives on the side of obedience? — motives arising from his obligations to the kindness of God; motives connected with the full and flowing fountains of pleasure and of advantage by which he was encompassed; and from the fact that he was being proved, and that upon his conduct were suspended tremendous results? Moreover the image of God was within him — revelations of God surrounded him; and under the power of these multiplied motives and influences his attention was fixed on one defined, intelligible, and distinct requirement. It was not an easy thing for Adam to sin against God.
(1) Observe that human nature, at its best state, is not to be trusted; and that it universally fails where the failure is of most consequence.
(2) See the tremendous responsibility which our influence over each other involves.
(3) Learn the utility of experience in the trial of temptation.
(4) Look, by the aid of the facts we are considering, into the philosophy of sinning.
II. THE RESULTS OF MAN'S FIRST SIN. Trace them in the transgressors themselves. We know not what interval existed between the evil act and a sense of its iniquity. Delusion may have continued through some time. At length, however, an inward monitor gave notice of the fault; disapprobation and self-condemnation, with their keen smart, succeeded; and Adam tasted the bitterness of sin.
1. Learn hence the enormous evil of any one sin; and profit in this department of knowledge by the experience of others.
2. Know also the certainty of punishment where pardon is not vouchsafed.
3. Mark the limit of Divine interference with human conduct.
Parallel VersesKJV: For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.