by Jeremiah Burroughs
This treatise has been lightly edited to reflect the modern spelling of some unrecognizable old English words.
The Evil of Evils was published in 1654 consisting of sixty-seven chapters encouraging believers to choose affliction over sin. Being a treatise of the evil of evils, or the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Wherein is shewed, 1 There is more evil in the least sin, than there is in the greatest affliction. 2 sin is most opposite to God. 3 sin is most opposite to mans good. 4 sin is opposite to all good in general. 5 sin is the poison, or evil of all other evils. 6 sin has a kind of infiniteness in it. 7 sin makes a man conformable to the Devil. All these several heads are branched out into very many particulars.
THE creatures vanity and emptiness, the abounding sinfulness of sin, and Christ's all-sufficiency and fullness, and how to live the life of faith in Christ, are subjects containing the sum and substance of religion, and much treated on promiscuously amongst divines. And I think amongst all the treatises of this blessed man, Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs (now triumphing in glory above all sin and sorrow) which have been received with so much acceptation amongst the Saints, there has not been presented to thy view a more practical piece than this now under thy hands: And though divers divines have written and spoken much concerning this Subject, yet in my poor judgment, this out-goes all of this nature, that ever my eyes beheld, setting forth with life and spirit the Subject in hand, and bringing it down powerfully in a practical way to convince the judgment, and work upon the affections of the weakest reader. That which is the undoing of those who think themselves no small Christians, is resting in a bare notion of the creatures emptiness, sins filthiness, Christ's fullness, and having some high towering speculations concerning the nature and object of faith: and to be able to discourse of these things in company, and upon occasion, is the religion of the world, and more especially of our formal professors.
Now the reality of these confessed principles are not made powerful upon the conscience by the clearest natural acquired light in the world: but when the Lord is pleased to set home those over-awing, soul ballasting-thoughts of Eternity, then, and never till then, shall we live, act, and walk as a people who acknowledged these principles of Christianity to be true: Whilst the things of religion, and thoughts of eternity lie swimming only in our brains, they never conquer, command, and subdue the heart in a way of practical obedience. Many mens thoughts language, and lives are such, that if they were certain there is no God, no sin, no Hell, no wrath to be feared, no grace to be minded and attained, no judgment day when they must give an account, they could not be worse than they are, nor do worse than they do.
Oh the horrid atheism bound up in mens hearts, and they see it not, how else durst men be so profane in their lives under Gospel light? how durst they sit so stupidly under the powerful awaking means of grace? how else could such vile thoughts be cherish’d, and such cursed practises and principles maintained? how else durst men choose sin rather than affliction when they are brought into straights? how otherwise are men more afraid of open shame than of secret sins? In a word, how durst men walk without God in the world, at least without secret prayer and communing with their own hearts, days, weeks, months, years together?
I am persuaded more souls drop down to Hell in our days under the abuse os Gospel light, than ever did in the gross darkness of popery; they then better improved their talents according to the light afforded, and walked better and more suitably to the light they received; whereas these Gospel truths which now shines more fully and clearly in the faces of so many thousands, are not so much improved in a more circumspect, holy, and humble walking, but rather abused to a more loose and wanton carriage and censorious judging of one another, men sinning the more because grace so much abounds; how could the Saints then love and embrace with singleness of heart? but now the foundations of love are shaken, and a perverse spirit is mingled amongst us.
Oh how heavily does the wrath of God lie upon the professors of our age for the abuse of Gospel light, and they feel it not; God's administrations in this latter age of the world, being more subtile and Spiritual, and therefore more undesirable than in former ages: Oh how many have we nowadays, who think they walk clearly in the midst of Gospel light, magnifying and exalting free grace, triumphing in their Christian liberty, looking upon others as kept in bondage, who come not up to their pitch and practice, and yet are no better than Solomon's fools, who make a mock of sin, being conceitedly set at liberty, but really sin and Satan's bond slaves.
Certainly, till mens consciences be made tender and fearful of the least touches and appearances of evil, they have good cause to suspect, not only the strength, but the soundness of their hearts in grace: Whilst men are bold with sin, and can put it off at an easy rate of sorrow, let their attainments seem never so high in understanding the Mysteries of the Gospel, they never yet knew truly what it is to exalt Christ and free grace, for look in what measure we slight sin, in the same measure we slight God himself in his persons and attributes; And how can that great Gospel duty of walking humbly with God, be expressed? how can Christ be rightly lifted up and advanced in our souls without a right sight and sense of sin? Never will Christ be wonderful Christ, and grace wonderful grace, till sin be wonderful sin, and experimentally apprehended as out of measure sinful; never till sin be seen and sorrowed for as the greatest evil, will Christ be seen and rejoiced in as the greatest good.
Were we once thoroughly convinced of the infinite evil in sin, as containing in it the Evil of all Evils (nothing being an evil indeed properly, but as it has the bitter ingredient and cursed sting of sin in it) how would sin be hated and shunned more than the most deadly poison, and feared more than the Devil, more than Hell it self? seeing nothing has made and founded Hell but sin, nor made the Devil such a black fiend but sin; nay, nothing is so much a Hell, I mean a torment, as sin it self; nothing binds the creature in such chains of misery as when it is held in the cords of its own sin, Prov. 5. 22. Men look upon sin through false mediums, and believe the reports and interpretations which the world and the flesh gives of sin, and thus are cheated to their own destruction: Could we but a little lay our Ears to Hell and hear the howlings and yelling of those damned spirits aggravating sin, we should then have a true comment upon the subject in hand: afflictions in this world now and then awaken the conscience, reviving the sight and sense of sin by some grievous pains; but one half hour in Hell, being separated from the comfortable presence of all good and blessed•… will make the evil of sin rightly understood. Certainly there’s an evil in sin beyond what the largest created understanding is able to fathom, sin being one of those things which can never be punished enough, which appears in that all those unspeakable, insufferable torments inflicted upon the damned through all eternity, is but a continual paying this sad debt, and giving satisfaction to Divine justice for the wrong which sin has done, in regard Divine justice shall not otherwise sufficiently in time have taken it’s due out of the sinner. Now the Judge of all the world who is the standard of justice it self, neither can, nor will do any wrong to his creature in punishing it more than it’s iniquity deserves.
Reader, I shall say no more now, but beseech the Lord to carry home these truths by his Spirit into thy bosom, that there may be a Divine impression made upon thy heart in reading, suitable to the authors in preaching, and that thou mayest (out of love to Holiness) so fear and hate sin now, that thou mayest never suffer the vengeance of eternal fire (the wages of sin) hereafter: Which is the unfeigned and earnest desire of
Thy souls well-wisher in Christ Jesus, John Yates.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
To the Reader
CHAP. 1 That it’s a very Evil choice, To Choose sin, rather than affliction.
Chap. 2 The Servants of God, have Chose the most dreadful afflictions, rather than the least
Chap. 3 There is some good in affliction, but none in sin: First, No good of Entity: Secondly, No good of Causality: Thirdly, No good Principle from whence sin can come: Fourthly, No good annexed as is to afflictions, viz. 1 Of Promise. 2 Of Evidence. 3 Of Blessing. Also Five different workings of the hearts of the Saints under sin, and under affliction. Fifthly, It’s not capable of any Good, 1 Add all the good to sin that all the creatures in heaven and earth have, yet it cannot make sin good. 2 Good ends, though 1 To help against temptation, 2 To do good to others, 3 To glorify God, cannot make sin good, 4 God cannot make sin good. Sixthly, It’s not comparatively good.
Chap. 4 Uses: And Nine consequences of excellent use, viz. 1 sin is not the work of God. 2 sins promises are all Delusions. 3 sin cannot be the Object of a rational creature. 4 Nothing that’s good should be ventured for sin. 5 Nothing that’s good to be made serviceable to sin. 6 The mistake of making sin the chief good. 7 Time spent in sin, lost. 8 The wicked, useless members. 9 sin needs no debate whether to be done, or not.
Chap. 5 There is more Evil in the least sin, than in the greatest affliction; Opened in six Particulars, being the General Scope of the whole Treatise.
Chap. 6 sin most opposite to God the chief Good, Opened in Four Heads: 1 sin most opposite to God's Nature. 2 sin opposite in its working against God. 3 sin wrongs God more than any thing else. 4 sin strikes at God's Being.
Chap. 7 sin in it self opposite to God, shewed in five things: 1 Nothing directly contrary to God but sin: 2 God would cease to be God, if but one drop of sin in him: 3 sin so opposite to God, that he cease to be God, if He did but cause sin to be in another: 4 He should cease to be God, if he did but approve it in others: 5 sin would cause God to cease to be, if he did not hate sin as much as he does.
Chap. 8 The workings of sin is always against God. The Scripture calls it, 1 Enmity. 2 Walking contrary. 3 Fighting. 4 Resisting. 5 Striving. 6 Rising against God.
Chap. 9 How sin resists God: 1 It’s a hating of God. 2 It’s rebellion against God. 3 It’s a despising of God.
Chap. 10 sin is a striking against God. 1 The sinner wishes God were not so Holy, &c. 2 It seek the destruction of God. Also sin is a wronging of God.
Chap. 11 How sin wrongs God: 1 In his Attributes. 2 Relation of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 3 His Counsels. 4 In the End for which God has done all he has done. And First, sin wrong God's Attributes: 1 His All-sufficiency, shewed in Two Particulars. 2 It wrong his Omnipresence, and Omniscience. 3 sin wrong his wisdom. 4 Wrong his Holiness. 5 sin wrong-God, in setting mans Will above God's. 6 sin wrong God's Dominion. 7 sin wrong God's Justice. 8 sin wrong God in his Truth.
Chap. 12 How sin wrongs God in his personal Relations. 1 The Father. 2 The Son. 3 The Spirit.
Chap. 13 sin wrongs the Counsels of God in setting that Order in the world that he has set.
Chap. 14 sin wrongs God in the End for which he has made all things.
Chap. 15 The First Corollary. It appears by this, That but few men know what they do, when they sin against God.
Chap. 16 The Second Corollary. The necessity of our Mediators being God and Man.
Chap. 17 The Third Corollary.That but few are humbled as they should for sin. 1 It will not be deep enough, except it be for sin as it’s against God. 2 It will not Sanctify the Name of God. 3 It will not be lasting. 4 Else it will never make a divorce between sin and the soul.
Chap. 18 The Fourth Corollary. Admire the Patience of God, in seeing so much sin in the world, and yet bear it.
Chap. 19 The Fifth Corollary. Hence see a way to break your hearts for sin: And also to keep you from Temptation.
Chap. 20 A Sixth Corollary. If sin be thus sinful, it should teach us not only to be troubled for our own sins, but the sins of others.
Chap. 21 A Seventh Corollary. If sin has done thus much against God, then all that are now converted had need do much for God.
Chap. 22 The Eight Corollary. If sin does so much against God, hence see why God manifest such sore displeasure against sin as he does: 1 Against the Angels that sinned. 2 Against all Adams Posterity. 3 See it in God's giving the Law against sin. 4 See it in God's punishing sins that are accounted small. 5 See it in God's destroying all the world for sin. 6 See his displeasure in punishing sin eternally.
Chap. 23 A Seventh Discovery of God's displeasure against sin, opened from the sufferings of Christ. First, See the several expressions of Scripture: 1 He was sorrowful to death. 2 He began to be amazed. 3 He began to be in an Agony. Secondly, See the effects of Christ's being in an Agony: 1 He fell grovelling on the ground. 2 He sweat drops of Blood. 3 He cries to God, if it be possible to let this cup pass from me. Thirdly, There is eight Considerations of Christ's sufferings.
THE SECOND PART.
sin is most opposite to Mans Good; and far more opposite to the Good of man than affliction.
Chap. 24 First, sin make a man evil, but no affliction can make him so: 1 Those that are in affliction are not the worse, 2 But those that are wicked, are vile persons, though they be the greatest Princes.
Chap. 25 Secondly, sin is more opposite to the good of man than afflictions, because most opposite to the Image of God in man: Three Particulars instanced, and a Question resolved.
Chap. 26 Thirdly, sin is opposite to the Life of God in Man.
Chap. 27 Fourthly, sin is opposite to mans good, because it is most opposite to the last End for which man was made.
Chap. 28 Fifthly, sin is more opposite to mans good than affliction, because ’tis a defilement of the Soul. 1 It defiles all a man meddles with. 2 sin is the matter the worm shall gnaw upon to all Eternity.
Chap. 29 Sixthly, sin is more opposite to mans good than affliction, because sin is the object of God's hatred; but God does not hate anyone for affliction.
Chap. 30 Seventhly, sin is more opposite to mans good than affliction, because sin brings guilt upon the soul.
Chap. 31 Eightly, sin is a greater evil to man than affliction, because it’s that which put the creature under the Sentence of Condemnation.
Chap 32 Ninthly, sin is a greater evil to man than affliction, because it breaks the union between God and the Soul.
Chap. 33 Tenthly, sin is more against mans good than affliction, for that it stirs up all in God to come against a sinner in way of enmity.
Chap 34 XI. sin is more opposite to mans good than affliction, for that sin makes all the creatures of God at enmity with a sinner.
Chap. 35 XII. sin is a greater evil to man than affliction, because it puts a man under the Curse of God.
Chap. 36 XIII. sin is the Seed of Eternal Evil, therefore more hurtful to man than affliction. An Use thereof, Then see that those men are deceived that think to provide well for themselves by sin. Use 2 The Ministry of the Word is for our good, as well as God's Glory.
Chap. 37 XIV. sin is worse than affliction, because it hardens the heart against God, and the means of Grace.
Chap. 38 XV. sin is worse to us than affliction, because sin brings more shame than affliction▪
Chap. 39 He that sins, wrongs, despises, and hates his own Soul. Use 1 Then see the maliciousness that is in sin. Use 2 To pity those that go on in sinful ways. Use 3 Let sin be dealt hardly with.
THE THIRD PART.
Chap. 40 sin is opposite to all good, and therefore a greater evil than any affliction, opened in five things: 1 sin take away the excellency of all things: 2 It brings a Curse upon all: 3 sin is a burden to Heaven and Earth, and all creatures: 4 sin turn the greatest Good into the greatest Evil: 5 sin (if let alone) would bring all things to confusion.
THE FOURTH PART.
Chap. 41 That sin is the Evil and Poison of all other Evils, shewed in several Particulars: First, It’s the strength of all Evils. Secondly, It’s the sting of affliction. Thirdly, It’s the Curse of all Evils, opened in Five Particulars. Fourthly, sin is the shame of all Evils. Fifthly, The Eternity of all Evil comes from sin.
THE FIFTH PART.
Chap. 42 sin has a kind of Infiniteness in it: Opened in Seven Particulars. First, Because nothing but an Infinite Power can overcome it. Secondly, sin has a kind of infiniteness, because it has an infinite desert in it, expressed in Three Particulars: 1 The desert of the loss of an infinite Good. 2 It deserves to put an infinite distance between God and thee. 3 It deserves infinite misery. Thirdly, sin has a kind of infinite Evil, because there is required an infinite Price to make an Atonement between God and Man. Fourthly, There is a kind of infinite Evil in sin, because we must hate it infinitely. Fifthly, sin is an infinite Evil, because it is the universal Cause of all Evil. Sixthly, The Scripture make use of Evil things, to set out the Evil of sin. Seventhly, There’s an infiniteness in sin, because the Scripture set out sin, by sin it self.
THE SIXTH PART.
Chap. 43 sin makes a man conformable to the Devil, opened in Six Particulars. First, sin is of the same Nature with the Devil. Secondly, sin is from the Devil. Thirdly, sin is a furtherance of the Devils Kingdom in the world: For 1 By sin we oppose Christ's destroying the Devils Kingdom in the world. 2 By sin thou opposest thy prayers when thou prayest, Thy Kingdom come. 3 By going on in a way of sin, thou becomest guilty of all the sin in the world. Fourthly, sinning is a fulfilling the will of the Devil. Fifthly, sin sells the Soul to the Devil. Sixtly, sin, it turns the Soul into a Devil.
Corollaries and Consequences from all the former Particulars.
Chap. 44 The First Corollary. It’s worse for a man to be sinful, than to be turned into a Beast
Chap. 45 The Second Corollary. It’s worse to be sinful, than to be afflicted with Temptation from the Devil.
Chap. 46 The Third Corollary. It’s worse to be under sin, than to be haunted by the Devil.
Chap. 47 The Fourth Corollary. It’s worse to be given up to any way of sin, than to be given up to the Devil. Quest. How the delivering up to Satan can be for the saving of the Soul.
Chap. 48 The Fifth Corollary. It is worse to be given up to one sin, than to be actually possessed by the Devil.
Chap. 49 The Sixth Corollary. sin brings to wicked men, the same Portion the Devils have
Chap. 50 Use 1. Shew that trouble of conscience for sin, is another manner of business than melancholy, or timidity
Chap. 51 The former Use further prosecuted. First, Against those that have slight thoughts of trouble of conscience, which arises either from gross Ignorance, or Atheism, or desperate slighting of God. Secondly, Trouble of conscience is the beginning of eternal death. Thirdly, Those that have slight thoughts of trouble of conscience, can never prize Christ. Fourthly, Those that have slight thoughts of trouble of conscience now, shall one day alter their opinion. Fifthly, It were just with God to let those sink under the burden of conscience that have slight thoughts of it now. Sixthly, Those that have slight thoughts of trouble of conscience, those very thoughts do take away a chief restraint from sin. Seventhly, Slight thoughts of trouble of conscience for sin, are, 1 A high degree of Blasphemy. 2 And a degree towards the unpardonable sin.
Chap. 52 Six Differences between Melancholy and Trouble of conscience. Diff. 1 Melancholy may be in those that are most grossly ignorant; but trouble of conscience comes with some enlightening work. Diff. 2. Melancholy prevails on men by degrees, but trouble of conscience many times comes suddenly, as lightening. Diff. 3 Melancholy trouble is exceeding confused, but troubles of conscience are more distinct. Diff. 4. The more Melancholy any has, the less able are they to bear outward affliction; but the more trouble of conscience, the more able to bear outward afflictions. Diff. 5. Melancholy puts a dulness upon the spirits of men, but trouble of conscience for sin puts a mighty activity upon mens spirits. Diff. 6. Trouble of conscience cannot be cured the ways melancholy may.
Chap. 53 A Second Use from the whole Treatise, shewing that a man may be in a most miserable condition, though he be delivered from outward affliction. First, If a man be prosperous by sin, if a man raise himself to a prosperous condition by any sinful way, let such men consider three things: 1 What is got by sin, it cost dear. 2 What is got by sin is accursed to thee. 3 What is got by sin, must he cast away, or thy soul is cast away. Secondly, When men come to be more sinful by their prosperity: explained in three Particulars: 1 When prosperity is fuel for their sin. 2 When it gives men further liberty to sin. 3 When it hardens in sin.
CHAP. 54. Use 3. If there be so much Evil in sin, then it’s a mighty mercy to get the pardon of sin.
CHAP. 55. Use 4. If there be so much Evil in sin, this justifies the strictness and care of God's People against sin. Two Directions to those that make conscience of small sins. First, Be even in your ways, strict against all sin. Secondly, Be very yielding in all Lawful things.
CHAP. 56. Use 5. If there be so much Evil in sin, hence then is justified the dreadful things spoken in the Word against sinners.
CHAP. 57. Use 6. If there be so much Evil in sin, it shew the miserable condition of those whose hearts and lives are filled with sin.
CHAP. 58 Use 7. If there be so much Evil in sin, how dreadful a thing it is for men or women to delight in sin.
CHAP. 59 Use 8. If there be so much Evil in sin, then every soul is to be humbled for sin.
CHAP. 60. Use 9. If there be so much Evil in sin, this should be a loud cry to stop men, and turn them from sin.
CHAP. 61 Use 10, & 11. If there be so much Evil in sin, then turn to Christ, and bless God for Christ.
CHAP. 62. Use 12. If there be so much Evil in sin, then it is of great concernment to be Religious betimes, and thereby prevent much sin.
CHAP.63. Use 13. If there be so much Evil in sin, then it’s a fearful thing for any to be instrumental to draw others to sin. 491
CHAP. 64. Use 14. If there be so much Evil in sin, then there ought to be no pleading for sin.
CHAP. 65. Use 15. If there be so much Evil in sin, then of all JUDGEMENTS, spiritual Judgments are the greatest.
CHAP. 66. Use 16. If there be more Evil in sin than in affliction, then when sin and affliction meet they make a man most miserable.
CHAP. 67. Use 17. Being of Reprehension to six sorts of People. First, It reprehends those that are more afraid of affliction than sin. Secondly, It reprehends those that are careful to keep themselves from sin, but it’s merely for fear of affliction. For 1 This may be without change of Nature. 2 Thy obedience is forced. 3 Thou art not released from thy self. 4 Thou art not like to hold out. Also two Answers to an Objection of those that think they avoid sin for fear of Hell: 1. Thy Sensitive part may be most stirred up by fear; but yet thy Rational part may be most carried against sin as sin. 2. Those that avoid sin merely for fear, never come to love the Command that forbid the sin. 3. They are willingly ignorant of many sins. 4. Those that avoid sin, and not out of fear; even when they fear, God will destroy them; then they desire God may be glorified. 5. Those that avoid sin out of fear, do not see the excellency of Godliness, so as to be enamored with it. Thirdly, It reprehends those that will sin to avoid affliction. Fourthly, It rebukes such, as when they are under affliction, they be more sensible of affliction than of sin. Also there is five Discoveries whether mens affliction or sin trouble them. Fifthly, It reprehends those that get out of affliction by sinful courses, and yet think they do well. Sixthly, It reprehends those, that after deliverance from affliction, can bless themselves in their sins.