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Sin


It is impossible to weep enough at the corruption and wretchedness in human nature that followed after the fall. There is nothing more harmful to man than sin, but man is not so inclined to anything else as much as to sin ó man, I say, God's rational creation by God's special counsel. "Let us make man," (Gen. 1:26) created in the image of God and made in His likeness.

O how mightily, O men, has our adversary stricken us! How has that ancient serpent damaged our pure and undefiled nature by his deadly poison! Man strives unrestrainedly toward every sin. The Prophet weeps over this calamity and wretchedness, "And man being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them" (LXX-Ps. 48:13 [KJV-Ps. 49:12]). Man is genuinely compared to the dumb beasts, and is become like them. Those same passions which are in beasts are seen in man.

A beast is proud and haughty; we see the same in man. A beast becomes angry; man too becomes angry and embittered. A beast envies; man also envies. Beast fights with beast; man also fights with man. A beast steals; man steals too. A beast is ravenous; man is also ravenous. A beast is ruled by passions; man too is ruled by passions. And what is all the more bitter than this is that all these passions found individually in every beast, are found together in the individual man. He is proud and conceited. He is wrathful and malicious. He is envious. He is passionate and capricious. He is ravenous. He is desirous of others' goods, and so on.

O beloved creature of God! Where is your beautiful goodness, the image and likeness of God? Where is your holiness and innocence and truth? And man being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like them.

The holy Apostle frightfully describes the man not renewed by divine grace, and presents him before our inward eyes,  

"There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3:10-18). 

But let us see how great an evil sin is, although man loves it, so that we may turn away from sin.

1. The great and incomprehensible God is offended and angered by sin, He Who created us from nothing and made us in His own image and likeness, He Who for our sake who are fallen, sent into the world His Only-Begotten Son; He that every day and hour does us good, He that feeds us, waters us, clothes us, gives us rest, and abounds in other innumerable blessings for us, He that will finally judge the sinner for sin before the whole world.

O how truly incomprehensible an evil is sin, for thereby the incomprehensible majesty of God is offended!

2. No one is able to take sin away from man but the Son of God. He came into the world for the sake of taking away sin, and He suffered and died so as to wipe out sin. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:8). "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29). Glory to His love for man!

3. Sin works death, "for the wages of sin are death" (Rom. 6:23). Thus our ancestors sinned in paradise and died the death, and would be dead forever had not Christ the Son of God revived them with His Blood. "For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). For His holy Blood, poured out for the entire world, is as effective now as it was since the beginning of the world to revive every sinner that believes in Him.

4. Conscience so heavily and cruelly torments a man for the sin that he committed, that a man often kills himself, not being able to bear the pangs of conscience.

5. There are temporal punishments for sin such as famine, fires, battles, plagues, diseases, earthquakes, and others. "Death, and bloodshed, strife, and the sword, calamities, famine, tribulation, and the scourge; these things are created for the wicked" (Sirach 40:9-10). "Sins are the cause of all evils" says St. Chrysostom. You see how great an evil sin is, an evil more evil than any other evil. O it is truly better to go about naked than to sin. It is better to be captive and imprisoned than to sin. It is better to be wounded and have every disease than to sin. It is better never to see the light and to sit in darkness than to sin. It is better to endure curses, mockery, reproach, abuse, beatings and wounds than to sin. Finally, it is better to endure every evil that can possibly be in this world than to sin, because all this evil afflicts the body only, and afflicts temporarily, for death puts an end to all suffering. Here every misfortune comes to an end, but sin afflicts both the body and soul, and it will torment them forever without end.

For sin is the cause of each and every misfortune that occurs in this world. If it were not for sin there would be no misfortune. Sin came into being in the world and upon it followed every calamity. Sin is sweet to men, but its fruits are bitter to them. A bitter seed also bears bitter fruit. Beloved Christians! Let us know sin, that we may turn away from it, for everyone avoids a known evil. People know that poison harms, and they avoid it. They know that a serpent kills with its sting, and they keep away from it. They know that thieves strip and kill, and they avoid them.

Let us also know sin, O beloved, and the evil that proceeds from sin, and we will unfailingly avoid it. For sin harms more than any poison. Sin is more venomous than any serpent. Sin strips us bare more than any robber, and deprives us of temporal and eternal blessings, and kills the body and the soul. These are the fruits of the bitter seed of sin!

Sin is anger, wrath, and malice. Sin is pride, highmindedness, haughtiness, conceit, and scorn of neighbor. Sin is slander and judgement. Sin is shameful speech, impure talk, rough speech, blasphemy, and every corrupt word. Sin is falsehood, flattery, cunning and hypocrisy. Sin is drunkenness, gluttony, and all intemperance. Sin is theft, stealing, robbery, violence, and all unrighteous acquisition of anothers' goods. Sin is adultery, fornication, and all impurity. In a word, every transgression of the Law is sin and is more harmful an evil than any other evil that harms our body in any way. For these only harm our body, but sin harms and kills both the body and the soul. Sin is more evil than the very devil since sin made the devil, who was once a good and luminous angel, but he was poisoned and darkened by sin. Whoever does not know sin as a great evil and does not avoid it shall know and understand how cruel an evil sin is in very experience and by its effects, in the age to come, but it will be too late and useless. For this reason we must recognize this evil in the present age and guard ourselves from it.

Christ the True Light, that enlightens the blind, enlighten also the eyes of our heart that we should know sin and avoid sin! It is the beginning of salvation to know one's own misfortune.

Shun every sin as a mortal poison, because every sin offends and angers God, Who is great. It both separates the one who sinned from God and sets an obstacle to eternal salvation. Therefore shun sin, lest it put you to death eternally.

The struggle against every sin is an unfailing necessity for all Christians who wish to be true Christians and to receive eternal salvation in Jesus Christ, lest they allow it to take hold of them. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Rom. 6:12), says the Apostle of Christ. Their faith requires this of Christians, according to the words of the Apostle, "Shew me thy faith by thy works" (Jas. 2:18).

They must listen to God in Whom they believe, and not sin; they must live unto God, and not unto sin. This is demanded by that holy Baptism through which they were renewed to the holy Christian life. This is demanded by the vows made at Baptism, in which they vowed to labor for the Lord in faith and in truth. This is required by the work of salvation, since holy Baptism avails nothing to those who transgress and do not keep their vows made at Baptism, as they are false and have lied to God. Consider these things, O Christian! A Christian is not known by saying, "Lord, Lord" (Mt. 7:21), but by struggling against all sin. That soldier is a true soldier who stands and struggles against visible foes. Likewise, a true Christian is he who wages incessant war against sin. But let us see for what cause a man sins, that we may more easily stand against sin. We note five causes of sin:

1. The corruption of human nature. Man is conceived in iniquity and born in sins, as the Psalmist says, "For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me" (LXX-Ps. 50:7 [KJV-Ps. 51:5]). The sinful passions with which he is born incline and draw him to sin. "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). Corruption and accursedness have entered into man from the fall of Adam. This inclines a man to every sin. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (Jn. 3:6). But Christians must stand against inclinations and passions and struggle according to the power of holy Baptism and the vows made then, and not allow them to progress into deed.

2. The devil leads man to sin. Of this the Apostle says, exhorting Christians to be on guard against him, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Oppose him firm with faith" (1 Pet. 5:8-9). The Apostle says the same in another place, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:10-12).

These unseen enemies are always eager for our destruction, O Christian! Be vigilant and make haste to guard against every sin. We must not, therefore, slumber.

3. The seductions of the world also lead toward sin. We see that evil grows; one does such and such a thing. Another either sees it or hears of it, and recklessly imitates it. Temptation is like a pestilence that begins in one man and infects many living near him. "Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Mt. 18:7).

4. A cause of sin is often the bad upbringing of children. Such children, when they come of age hasten toward every manner of evil. This comes about from the carelessness of parents. Give heed to this, fathers and mothers!

5. Habit strongly attracts a man toward sin. We see this evil; we see that drunkards are always drawn toward drunkenness, thieves toward theft, fornicators and adulterers toward impurity, slanderers toward slander, and so on. For their habit draws them like a leash toward sin, and they are drawn toward the sin to which they have become accustomed just as a hungry man is drawn toward bread and a thirsty man toward water.

Incited by these things, men sin. A Christian man wishing to be saved and to show his faith from deeds must unfailingly struggle against these things. All these adversaries to our salvation are cruel to us. Cruel is the flesh with its passions and lusts, which lusts against the spirit. Cruel is our adversary the devil, who unceasingly deceives us and wars against us. Cruel to us also are the temptations by which the lusts of the flesh are fanned and kindled as a fire by the wind. But cruelest of all is the very habit to him who has become accustomed to evil. For that man it becomes his second nature.

The struggle against the aforementioned adversary is difficult for all, I admit, but it is necessary and most glorious. Many wage war and are victorious over people, but are captives of their own passions and become slaves. There is no victory more glorious than to be victorious over one's self and sin. There is no crown or triumph without victory, and no victory without struggle against enemies.

Beloved Christians! Let us go into this struggle, that with the help of Christ we may attain victory and receive from Him the crown of goodness, and we shall be eternally triumphant in His Kingdom. As help in the struggle against sin we note the following:

1. Listen and heed the word of God. It portrays sin and virtue, and leads us from sin and encourages us toward virtue. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Word of God is "a sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17) by which the enemy of souls is cut down.

2. God is present in every place, and He is with us wherever we may be. And we, anything we may do, we do before Him and before His holy eyes. How, then, shall we transgress before God and violate His holy Law before His eyes? We are ashamed and stand in fear before an earthly king; how much more ought we to be ashamed and fear to give offense before God, for every sin is an offense before God.

3. Remember the last things: death, the Judgement of Christ, hell, and the Kingdom of Heaven. These things deter sin. "Remember the end," says Sirach, "and thou shalt never do amiss" (Sirach 7:36).

4. Avoid occasions that lead to sin, such as banquets and feasting, and evil and useless conversations. "For evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33).

5. Keep in mind and remembrance that a man could die and perish in the very act of sin. Thus Pharaoh, king of Egypt, pursued after Israel and wished to oppress him again, but he perished in the very act of iniquity (cf. Ex. ch. 14). Thus Abessalom [Absalom] the son of David sought to kill his holy father, and perished in that pursuit (cf. LXX-2 Kings [KJV-2 Sam.] ch. 18). We see the same thing even now, we see that fornicators and adulterers are stricken in the very act of impurity, blasphemers in blasphemy, thieves and robbers in theft, and other transgressors receive according to their deeds. Thus the righteous judgement of God strikes transgressors, that we should fear to sin and transgress.

5. Consider that Christ the Son of God suffered and died for sins. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities" (Is. 53:5). Should you, a Christian, do that for which Christ the Son of God drank the bitter cup of suffering, and thus "crucify" in yourself "the Son of God afresh" (Heb. 6:6)?

7. Do not look at what other people are doing, but heed what the word of God teaches. Thus we shall avoid the temptations of the world. "Much peace have they that love Thy law, O Lord, and for them there is no stumbling-block" (LXX-Ps. 118:165 [KJV-Ps. 119:165]). O Christian, love the Law of God and the temptations of the world shall not harm you.

8. Our effort and struggle against sin is powerless without the help of God. For this reason we must make an effort and pray, that the Lord help us in this so important an endeavor. The Lord helps those that take care and labor. He strengthens those that struggle and crowns the victorious.

Beloved Christians, we see the enemies of our soul that wish to destroy us not temporally, but eternally. We also see help in the struggle against them. Let us stand, then, let us stand aright and be strengthened with the power of Jesus our almighty Saviour, and let us not allow them to overpower us, that we may be crowned with the wreath of victory by the Master of the contest.

O Lord Jesus, the Victor over death and hell, help us! We can do nothing without Thee. With Thee we can do all things.

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