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Sin the Occasion of great Good.
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man.)
God forbid ! For then how shall God judge the world ? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?
And not rather (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) let us do evil that good may come? whose damnation is just.
ROMANS iii. 5-8.
In these words I shall take notice of two things, which are to my present purpose, viz. :
First. An objection against the reasonableness and justice of God's charging that on men as a crime, and punishing them for that which answers some very good end, and is, in the event, greatly to his glory. This we have in the 5th verse. “ But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?” When the apostle says, I speak as a man, he means, that in these words he states an objection that blind, sinful men were ready to make.* And this objection is more particularly stated in the seventh verse. “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” The question is, how God can justly find fault with and punish that unrighteousness and wickedness of men which is the occasion of the exercise and manifestation of his righteousness, truth and holiness, by which there is made a bright display of his glory. How can that conduct of men, which answers such good purposes, be hated, condemned, and punished by God? If sin is so much for God's glory, then surely sin is, on the whole, a good, and consequently the more sin there is the better. Why, then, does God forbid it? Why is he angry with the sinner? And where is the justice of punishing him for it? Does not this give full license, yea, the greatest imaginable encouragement, to sin! If such great good comes of sin, then let us do evil that good may come.*
* "I speak as a man, i. e., I object this as the language of carnal hearts , it is suggested like a man, a vain, foolish, proud creature.” Henry on the place.
"Here I represent the reasoning of an unbelieving Jew." - Dr. Taylor's Paraphrase in loc.
Secondly. The objection rejected as groundless, absurd, and impious. (Verse 6.) God forbid! For then how shall God judge the world? As if the apostle had said, “ Such a suggestion is to be rejected with abhorrence, as absurd and blasphemous as it is directly against God, the righteous Judge of the world."
Some suppose that the whole of the eighth verse is an answer to the foregoing objection, which the apostle gives in these words, by showing where the objection would lead them, if granted to be just, viz., that we ought to commit sin, because God made it the occasion of good, and would some way turn it all to his glory.f But I rather think, with Mr. Locke and others, f that these words, “and not rather — let us do evil that good may come," are a continuation of the objection; and that the words, “as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say," which are a parenthesis, together with the last words, “whose damnation is just," contain the apostle's answer.
He rejects it as an unjust and groundless consequence from the premises, which was the doctrine of the apostle, viz., that sin was the occasion of God's glory, and so of the greatest good; and condemns those who made this objection and practised upon it, by this short and severe sen. tence, whose damnation is just.
But be this as it will, whether the objection is continued in the eighth verse, or is the whole of it, the apostle's answer, the passage taken together holds forth the following truth, which I design to make the subject of my discourse from these words, viz.:
“ Carnal hearts might from hence take occasion to encourage themselves in sin. He [the apostle) had said, that the universal guilt and corruption of mankind gave occasion to the manifestation of God's righteousness in Jesus Christ. Now it may be suggested, if all our sin be so far from overthrowing God's honor that it doth commend it, and his ends are secured so that there is no harm done, is it not unjust for God to punish our sin and unbelief so severely?” – Mr. Henry in loc.
† Dr. Taylor paraphrases the words thus: " And why do you not draw this into a general rule and maxim, that in all cases we ought to do wickedly, because God can one way or other turn it to his own glory? An impious sentiment, which some charge upon me, etc." -- See Dr. Taylor's Paraphrase on Romans ; also Dr. Doddridge on this verse.
Locke, Pool's Synopsis, and Henry in loc.
THOUGH SIN IS THE OCCASION OF GREAT GOOD, YET THIS AF
FORDS NO EXCUSE FOR SIN, OR THE LEAST ENCOURAGEMENT TO IT.*
In this doctrine two propositions are contained, one implied and the other expressed, viz.,
I. Sin may be, and actually is, the occasion of great good. II. This affords no excuse for sin, or encouragement to it.
I shall endeavor to prove and illustrate these propositions in their order.
I. Sin may be, and actually is, the occasion of great good.
This is supposed in the passage of Scripture on which the doctrine is grounded. The apostle does not deny, but implicitly grants, that men's unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God; that the truth of God does by men's lies and wickedness abound to his glory, and so that evil or sin is the occasion of good.
But we are not left to learn this truth from this passage only. The Holy Bible abundantly reveals to us, not only that sin may be the occasion of good, but that it actually is so, by becoming the means of promoting the good of man in many instances, and advancing the declarative glory of God.
The Bible is full of instances of this, a few of which I will mention.
We have an instance in the sin of Joseph's brethren, in selling him into Egypt. It is expressly said (Gen. 1. 20) God meant it unto good; i. e., God intended good by their wickedness. And God's end was abundantly answered. By this, and what Joseph suffered in a state of bondage in consequence of it, he was fitted for that honorable and useful station God designed him for. This was the means of providing for God's church and people, and saving them alive, as well as preserving the kingdom of Egypt in the time of famine. This sin of Joseph's brethren, therefore, was one means by which God fulfilled his covenant promises to his people, and so was the occasion of his truth's abounding to his glory. And this was the means of God's name becoming great through the land of Egypt, and was an introduction to all the mighty works God did there, and in the wilderness, in the deliverance
“I think this implies that there are certain rules which God has laid down for us, disobedience to which, in any imaginable circumstances, is universally a moral evil, even though the quantity of good arising from thence to our fellow-creatures should be greater than that arising from observing those rules. For if this be not allowed, there can be no shadow of force in the apostle's conclusion.” — Doddridge in loc.
of Israel from Egypt, and their return to the land of Canaan; and so was one necessary and important step towards all that glory God obtained hereby, and all that good which his church received. Thus this evil was the means of good, and the sin of Joseph's brethren in selling him into bondage had a train of good consequences attending it, and was the occasion of more good than I have time now particularly to mention, yea, more than can be easily reckoned up, or even conceived of.
We have another instance in the wickedness of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. Pharaoh was an instance of remarkable wickedness. He cruelly oppressed the children of Israel, he bid open defiance to Jehovah, and repeatedly refused to obey him and regard his prophets and messengers, though they wrought many miracles and wonders before his eyes, to convince him that they were sent by the omnipotent Governor of the world. Yea, though when in sore distress by the hand of God, that was heavy upon him, he repeatedly confessed his sin and promised reformation, if God would deliver him, yet he as often hardened his heart, and broke all his promises. And after the Israelites were gone out of Egypt, with a mighty hand, not only by his leave, but by his urgent desire, he soon hardens his heart, and pursues them, resolved to take revenge. What an instance of cruelty, pride, obstinacy, daring presumption and impiety was Pharaoh! Yet God made all his wickedness the occasion of good good to his people, and the glory of his great name. For this we have God's own express declaration : “ And in very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Ex. ix. 16.) This was the end God bad in raising up Pharaoh, in preserving him, and suffering him to go on and grow thus great in wickedness, that, by destroying him at last, and delivering his people from his oppressive hand, he might bestow the good on his church he had in store for them, and fulfil his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that in such a way as to get to himself a great name through all the earth. And this end was answered; God triumphed gloriously in the destruction of Pharaoh and his host, and in the salvation of his people from their hand.
Again, the sin of the Jews and Gentiles in putting our Lord Jesus Christ to death was the occasion of great good. The death of Christ, considered in all its consequences, was one of the most glorious events that ever happened; most necessary for the good of men, and most for the glory of God. Now, the death of Christ, so full of good to man, and so much to the glory of God, was brought about by the wickedness of