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Jonathan Edwards

WICKED MEN'S SLAVERY TO SIN

JOHN 8:34

Jesus answered them Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.


THIS whole chapter is composed of nothing but excellent speeches and discourses of Christ to Jews in the temple on the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the great feasts wherein all the males were to appear before the Lord at Jerusalem, the city which he had chosen to put his name there. So that these discourses were delivered in the most public manner, at the most public time, and in the most public place that could be: before the whole nation of the Jews, and many of other nations, who went up to Jerusalem to worship.

In these discourses arc contained many glorious and mysterious truths of the gospel, by the divine light of which many were convinced and believed on him, as in the thirtieth verse.

Which, Christ, who knew what was in man, perceiving, directs his discourse to them in particular, and tells them plainly, as he was always wont to do, that if they intended to be his disciples, they must be so rooted and established in their belief, and to persevere therein in spite of all opposition; "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed."

And [he] tells them for their encouragement, if they were established in the truth they should be made free by it, having respect to the bondage they were in to the Romans, as much as if he had said, "Although you are under the heavy yoke of the Romans, yet if you heartily embrace my doctrine, you shall be made free, and shall enjoy a better and more glorious liberty than [if] you were perfectly delivered from their servitude and enjoyed freedom under your own kings and rulers, under your own vines and your own fig trees" (which was but a type of this gospel liberty; see Zech. 3: 10).

To which the Jews, agreeably to their pride and self‚righteousness, make answer, signifying that they did not want to be made free, being naturally free by the nobleness of their birth and excellency of descent: being the children of Abraham, not acknowledging that it was possible for them to be bound.

This same national pride has continued amongst the Jews ever since, even to this day, for they claim to themselves a natural right of being masters of the whole world, and expect actually to be made such when their messiah comes.

But Christ assures them, in our text, that whatever they might think of themselves as to the Romans, yet that they are under a base servitude unto sin; for, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that committeth sin is a servant of sin."

1. Observe in the words who are the persons of whom Christ speaks, and that is "whosoever committeth sin." That is, whosoever allowedly cloth it, for that must be the sense of the words: whosoever accustoms himself to sin, and is habituated to it.

Let him be who he will that so cloth, he is a servant of sin: let him be a child of Abraham, in their sense, or not a child of Abraham, let him be a Jew or a heathen; let him he bond or free in other respects; let him be a prince or monarch, that holds all the world in servitude and slavery, or the meanest subject.

2. What is affirmed of them, to wit, that they are servants; however great rule they may hear in the world, yet if they commit sin they themselves are servants and slaves to this master.

DOCTRINE.

Wicked men are servants and slaves to sin.

We shall explain and clear up this doctrine by answering these two queries: first, how does it appear that wicked men are slaves to sin, and second, in what respects are they so? But,

[Query] I. How does it appear that wicked men are servants and slaves to sin? Perhaps you may think with yourself, "I don't see but that wicked men are happy, and live as free as the best men in the world." Or it may be you may object in your mind that you are very wicked yourself, and take yourself to be as free, and no more of a slave, than the best saint upon earth. But, however though you can't see that you are under slavery now because of your blindness, which is one effect of your servitude, yet you will plainly see it when you get into the other world, and will be made sensible of it before that time if ever you are set at liberty. And 'tis to be hoped that you will see it now, if you duly attend to the following particulars.

First. Wicked men labor hard and undergo many difficulties in the service of sin. Wicked men generally think that the way of holiness and religion is much the hardest, and theirs to be much the easiest. They wonder that men will be such fools as to tie themselves up to such strictness, so that they can't have the liberty to enjoy their pleasure but must be forced to live by rule, and must live a sober, strict and mortified life, must be forced to be tied up to the rules of religion. They don't like this way of living; they love to have more liberty, and therefore think that a wicked life is a great deal most eligible.

But they are very much mistaken, for godly men have a great deal the best of it, even in this world. 'Tis true a strict religious life is most contrary to corrupt nature, but yet, after all, the service of God is a great deal easier than the service of sin. The yoke of Christ is abundantly lighter than the iron yoke of Satan.

What infinite pains and labors do men take to satisfy their insatiable lusts which enlarge their desires as hell, like the horseleach which says, "Give, give," and the fire which saith, "It is not enough" [Prov. 30: 15‚16]. The lusts of men are very fitly compared to the fire, for the more fuel you throw on, the more furiously will they burn and rage.

What infinite pains will wicked men take to get riches, who know of nothing better. They keep seeking, pulling and drawing, and are never satisfied. The covetous man, if he should get the whole world in his possession, would be no more satisfied than when he has nothing. Alexander, after he conquered the world, was so far from being satisfied that he sat down and wept that there were no more worlds to conquer; found more grief that there never [would be] another world than joy and comfort that he had conquered this.

What pains do men take, what anxieties do they undergo, in the service of pride, in pursuit after honors and great places, and what an infinite number of disappointments and discontents do they meet with!

How many accusations of conscience do wicked men sin under! Job 15:20‚21 "The wicked man travails in pain all his days . . . a dreadful sound is in his ears." He trembles for fear that he shall die, but yet sin, his master, makes him go on in his service notwithstanding.

He undergoes the fear of hell and the great judgment in his service, and at the same time hastens these things upon him which he fears; for sin and lust greatly shorten the life of man, as well because it provokes God to cut him off in the midst of his days-"Be not wicked overmuch . . . for why should you die before thy time," says Solomon [Eccles. 7:17] ‚ and then because it naturally tends to drink up the animal spirits, [and] eat up the principle of life in men. Lust is like a worm that continually gnaws at the root of life.

And there are multitudes of other ways whereby sin destroys the comfort, happiness and good things of this life, which might be mentioned if the time would allow, so much labor and so many difficulties do men undergo in the bondage of sin. How truly then may it be said, "He that commits sin is a servant of sin."

Second. The wicked man is devoted to the commands of sin, and therefore may be said to be under slavery to it. Wicked men are very obedient servants to sin. All things in the world must give way to the commands thereof: the commands of God must not stand in competition with them, hut must all how clown and be trampled upon by sin. His own interest and happiness must also give place when sin requires it, and so devoted are wicked men to their lord and master, sin, that they will rather burn in hell forever than disobey him and rebel against him. They stand ready to be sent on any errand that sin requires them to go [on]; they wait at sin's gates, and watch at the posts of his doors, like an obedient lackey, to hear what commands he has for them to clot Thus if sin requires them to steal, swear, defraud or commit fornication, it is done; if sin commands them to do that which tends to their own ruin and destruction, it is done; if sin commands them to run and jump into the bottomless pit, the sinner immediately obeys, and runs with all his might towards this pit of fire and brimstone. And whatever fears and dreadful apprehensions he may have on his mind, yet he is such a devoted servant to sin that it shall be performed. Thus he is entirely given up to obey this tyrant, sin.

Third. It appears that a wicked man is under slavery to sin because he himself receives no manner of advantage by sinning. He undergoes all this hard service, attended with so many intolerable difficulties, all for nothing. The poor sinner will moil and toil, night and day, all his life‚long for sin, and he himself not at all the better for it. He has nothing from sin but his labors for his pains; there is no happiness that he is to receive after he has done his work, but he labors for nothing but to please sin and the devil, and because sin commands him so to do.

Sin serves them worse than any poor slave upon earth is served. There are many servants that are dealt cruelly by, but none so hardly dealt with as the servants of sin. Many servants are allowed [recompense] for their service, but just so much as to keep them alive; but sin don't do that, but instead of that, nothing but destroys their life continually.

There is never any advantage accrues to men from any sin. They never are the happier for pride, malice, revenge, drunkenness, lasciviousness, swearing, cursing and damning: these things do a man no manner of good, neither in this world or the world to come. All the good they do is to lay up great stores of wrath in the other world for them. Every oath and every curse makes hellfire a great deal hotter for 'em, against they come into it, and that is all the profit they get by it.

Neither is there any good got by those sins which seem, at first sight, as if they had a tendency at least to increase his outward good things, such as theft, fraud and deceit, covetousness, etc. If their money or lands are increased by these means, yet a curse goes along with them, and such kind of goods are cankers that eat out a man's substance. And besides, they are never enjoyed with any pleasure or comfort, but are like spectres and apparitions that continually affright the conscience. Prov. 16:8, "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right." Thus the sinner cloth the hard service and drudgery of sin for nothing in the world.

Query II. In what respects is a wicked man servant to sin?

First Ans. The wicked man serves sin with his soul. The sinner serves this master with his whole heart and soul, and all that is within him. His understanding is given up to the obedience of sin; [he] won't see the truth of the plainest thing in the world because sin bids him shut his eyes. [He] won't be made to understand any spiritual truth because sin won't allow of it. The eye of his reason must be open only to those things that sin allows him to see; he must keep his eyes fast shut, only when sin gives him leave to open them. Sin will not suffer the understanding of a sinner to see the gloriousness of God and the excellency of Christ, what is his own happiness, and the great danger he is in of misery. No, but sin makes him serve him blindfold and with his eyes shut.

So, likewise, the will and affections are given up to sin. The sinner wills those things which arc agreeable to sin, and avoids everything that is contrary thereto. It will not allow him to choose that which will make him happy and blessed forevermore, but causes him to choose death and misery rather than life.

It will not suffer him to love that which is truly lovely and amiable, such as a most excellent and glorious God, a most lovely Jesus, holiness, amiable Christianity, the saints and the like, but only those things which are most loathsome and hateful. [It] causes him to hug devilish and filthy lusts and sins, which are more filthy than a toad, and will stab him to the heart while he is embracing of them. Thus sin maintains a tyranny over our very hearts and souls: never was poor slave so tyrannized over as sinners are by sin. Other masters have only the outward man in their service, can rule only their outward actions and have no dominion over their thoughts and wills, but sin enslaves the very soul, so that he believes wills, loves, nor thinks nothing but what sin allows of and commands When sin commands him not to think about a future state of' happiness, or misery and an eternal judgment, forbids him to consider of the great things of the gospel ‚ the hatefulness of sin, the excellency of Christ, the necessity of faith, repentance and the like the wicked man obeys sin in all this. Sin commands him to think of the pleasantness, of the enjoyments, of his lusts, the sweetness of sensual pleasure, of worldly riches, prosperity and case, and herein the sinner obeys this tyrannical master. There is no man in the world has so absolute a command over his servant as to command his thoughts; every servant [can think what he] will, for all his master [can do], but sin has dominion over the very thoughts of a sinner.

Second [Ans.] The body of a wicked man is also enslaved to sin. Whenever the wicked man exercises his body, it is in the service of sin. Prov. 2 1 :4, "And the plowing of the wicked is sin." The hands, feet, tongue, eyes, ears and all are about the devil's work. Rom. 6:19, "For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, to iniquity unto iniquity..." Thus sin governs the whole man, both soul and body, and all the actions of both.

Third [Ans.] The substance of a wicked man is devoted to the service of sin ‚ neither to the service of God, nor of his fellow‚creatures, nor his own service, but the service of sin ‚ to be fuel to his lusts, to pamper his pride, to nourish his luxury, to strengthen him to sin and fat him for the slaughter: such a slave as this, is the wicked person to sin.

APPLICATION

I. Hence, learn that we are all by nature servants and slaves to sin. We are all sinners by nature, and all sinners, by the assertion of Christ, are servants or slaves to sin (Eph. 2:3), so that we see what state and condition we are born into the world in, even bondage and servitude. We are all born slaves; our souls and our bodies, with every power of both, come into the world bound to sin. We are born not only with the livery, but also with the fetters and chains of sin upon us. And as soon as ever we come to the use of our reason, as soon as we can speak or go, sin is such a hard master to us that he sets us to his drudgery, and makes us labor in his service as soon as we are able to stand on our feet by our own strength. And in this condition are all mankind, but only those that are redeemed by Christ: they are all born under bondage to sin.

II. Hence, learn how much all wicked men are to be pitied. When we see a servant that is cruelly dealt with by his master, made to labor hard perpetually and without ceasing, night and day; to go through fire and water, cold and heat, amongst briers and thorns, in perpetual danger of his life; and all this for nothing; his master will neither allow him food nor clothing, nor anything else for his service, we pity and have compassion on such an one.

But wicked men that are under the service of sin are much more to [be] pitied. Their master is more barbarous, their labor more difficult, and all for nothing, but only to please sin, their master. The servant of sin is in a more pitiable condition than ever a poor caitive slave that is condemned to labor in the mines, or forced to work himself to death in chains, and moil and toil himself till he rots in the prison of his servitude.

What heart is so hard, and who is so inhuman, as not to pity and compassionate the poor sinner who is in such dreadful bondage to sin, Who won't allow him to have his eyes open, but causes him to labor blindfold, least if he should sec. he should find out a way to escape from his captivity Who won't allow [him] to take care of' his own welfare, hut snakes him do his work upon the very edge of a dreadful precipice where the ground is slippery, and upon a hillside, and he is [in] imminent danger every moment of slipping and falling into a bottomless pit of liquid fire; [or] makes him labor in a wilderness, full of wild beasts ‚ lions, tigers, dragons, and fiery serpents- where those that come are generally tore to pieces? What heart cannot pity those that are under such a tyranny?

What objects of pity are those kings and princes that serve sin at this rate; what objects of pity are all rich men that put confidence in riches and are slaves to the sin of covetousness; what objects of pity and compassion are men that are in great worldly honor and glory, and are under the dominion of pride! How ought the Christian to weep as if his head were waters and his eyes fountains of tears over these, though perhaps they have multitudes of slaves under them. Alas, the servitude of their Negroes is better than theirs, a thousand times better than theirs.

But especially how ought we to pity, and be moved with compassion, for those poor creatures, those miserable, undone men who are given to swearing, rioting, luxury, drunkenness and lasciviousness. There is never a poor creature that is burnt in a brazen bull or is roasted alive, that is in such a miserable, lamentable and pitiable condition as they are, although they may swim in sensual, sinful and devilish pleasures and delights.

III. Exh. To leave off the service of sin and assert your own liberty. You that arc in such a miserable and lamentable condition, and are laboring in sin's mines. are now invited to leave off his service and become free. Why will you he a slave to sin? Do you love to be a servant Is it not much better to be free and al liberty? There is no need that you should be a servant wherefore, let all poor servants of sin come out of their bondage and resolve that they will serve sin no more. Come, be bold and courageous, and don't be afraid to disobey sin; if you 50 do, you will not be hurt for it; the devil can't hurt you for rebelling against sin. You have no more need to serve sin than to cut your own throat, which indeed you are doing as long as you serve sin; wherefore, continue no longer in his services. Consider for motive:

First. How base a master you serve. You have the most base, hateful and shameful master in the world. If the master that you serve were honorable, you would have some excuse for continuing in his service, but instead of that you serve the most dishonorable and mean master in the world. You serve that base, hateful and detestable thing, even sin. If you search all over the creation, from end of it to the other, you will not find another such an ignominious master.

You, to your shame and disgrace, are servant to the filth of the creation, which is too filthy to be allowed in it, and therefore at last shall be cast out of it and burnt in unquenchable fire. You serve that master who is the very loathing and stink of the universe; if this master is so vile, how vile is the servant?

'Tis a thousand times as dishonorable a thing to be a servant of sin as it is to be [a] servant of the meanest beggar. You would be ashamed to be servant to a loathsome and filthy vagabond, clothed in rags and all over defiled with filth and pollution; and why are you not ashamed to be a servant of that which [is] infinitely more vile and contemptible?

Sin is a thing vastly beneath man's nature. When you serve sin, you serve a master that is vastly beneath yourself, and make yourself a slave to that which is not worthy of anything but loathing and detestation. You admit him not only into your house, and the best room of it, but into your very hearts, into the inward closet of your soul; and there place him in the throne of your affections where reason, your most excellent [faculty], and religion, which vastly exalts reason, ought to sit, and subject your reason and all those excellent faculties which your Maker has given you to him: strip yourself of all manner of wisdom, prudence, and innocency to prepare yourself to serve him, and then like an abject slave, bow down before him and suffer him as it were to set his foot upon your neck, and entirely give yourself up to his commands. How mean and vile do you make yourself, and how do you expose yourself to the scorn and derision of the whole creation!

But perhaps you may say to yourselves, "However mean and base a thing it may be to serve sin, yet it is so common in this world that it is no disgrace to me here; I am not the less respected for it amongst my fellow‚men, and therefore I will continue in my wicked course." But consider in answer to that, how small a part of the world of intelligent beings are the inhabitants of the earth; although you don't get disgrace by serving sin in the world of wicked men, yet what dishonor and shame do you get in the invisible world. What open shame will you be put to before the whole world, visible and invisible, before long, when God himself will laugh at your calamity and mock when your soul comes before the whole universe: when you will be exposed to the derision of saints and angels, when your own conscience will upbraid you and call you a fool a thousand and a thousand times, when the devil himself, who now speaks so fair to entice you, will mock and deride you!

Second. Consider how mean is the service you do. The master whom you serve not only is mean, but also the service you serve under him is above all things vile and contemptible: to serve sin is to become a fool and divest one's self of reason and understanding, and act more filthily than the brute beasts. Sinners often in Scripture are called fools, fools because their transgressions are afflicted, says the psalmist, and indeed they [are] eminently and enormously foolish, so foolish as to run into hellfire. They are also in Scripture called beasts: "1 fought with beasts at Ephesus" [I Cor. 15:32], says the apostle Paul; and again, "Beware of dogs" [Phil. 3:2], So that the service of sin is to act the fool, the madman, the beast, and further than that, the devil. Wicked men very often are called the children of the devil, and sometimes the devil. Christ tells his disciples that one of them was a devil; that is, a wicked [man].

The service of sin is to wallow in the mire of our lusts like swine, to swallow down loathsome iniquity like water. How wonderful and astonishing is it that ever a man that was born into the world with the faculty of understanding, and endowed with an immortal soul, should debase himself and bring himself down, as to such mean and base servitude. Wherefore, resolve no longer, like a man of a mean and low spirit, thus to submit yourself to such filthy drudgery.

Third. Consider how cruelly and tyrannically you are dealt with by sin. If you were but sensible how cruelly you are handled by sin, you would immediately resolve to cast off his iron yoke and serve him no longer. The service of sin is a most tyrannical service; men therein lose their reason and understanding. Sin makes all his servants labor till they are blind and mad, till they are not able to see whereabouts they are, and then leads [them] away towards their own destruction.

In the service of sin man becomes sick and weak. Wicked men are spiritually sick, and this sickness is occasioned by the cruel service of sin. The wicked man labors in the fire of his own conscience, which is the flashes of hell‚flames, till at last he kills himself in his service if he continues in the same. Thus cruelly are you dealt with by your master; the work he sets you about is to whet a knife whereby your own throat is to be cut, to sharpen and poison arrows that are to be thrust into your own he‚arts, to make a fire for yourself to be burnt in. For every sin a wicked man commits is a laying up wrath against the day of wrath, is a whetting the sword of vengeance, a poisoning the arrows of wrath that are to be wet in your own heart's blood, and a throwing fuel into hellfire. They do by you as I have heard they do in Guinea, where at their great feasts they eat men's flesh. They set the poor ignorant child who knows nothing of the matter, to make a fire, and while it stoops down to blow the fire, one comes behind and strikes off his head, and then he is roasted by that same fire that he kindled, and made a feast of, and the skull is made use of as a cup, out of which they make merry with their liquor. Just so Satan, who has a mind to make merry with you.

Fourth. Consider what poor wages you will have for your services. Death, eternal death, is all the wages that ever you will receive for your service: Rom. 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death"-after all your pains to please the devil, after all your hard labor, after all those difficulties you undergo in obeying sin's commands; after you have given up your reason, understanding and innocency, and made yourself a beast and a fool that you may serve this, your abject master.

After you have spent your life and your soul in this slavery, after you have been vexed by the fears of death and been scorched by your conscience, and have rotted in sin's prison and Satan's chains, all the wages you shall have for your pains is nothing but one of the chiefest that is, one of the deepest and hottest ‚ places in the lake of fire and brimstone.

This is the wages due to you for your hard service and cruel servitude. Satan is willing enough you should have it ‚ he'll not begrutch it you ‚ nor God is not so unjust as not to pay it: the harder you labor, and the more work you do for sin, the greater will be your wages. You shall have a larger cup of vengeance and a hotter place than others who have sinned but little in comparison of you. God will deal justly with everyone, will do with all according to their works, and they that do most work for sin will have a reward accordingly, and a proportionable retribution.







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