Q: How Evil is Sin?

A: So evil that it's worse than the greatest of afflictions - namely, hell. Yes, sin is worse than hell.

Consider this quote by Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) from his book The Evil of Evils:

My principle business is to charge men's consciences with the evil of their sin and show to them how much evil there is in sin. All men are afraid of afflictions and troubled at affliction, but where's the man or woman that fears sin and flies from it as from a serpent, and is troubled at sin more than any affliction?...There is more evil in sin than in outward trouble in the world; more evil in sin than in all the miseries and torments of hell itself.
Suppose that God should bring any of you to the brink of that bottomless gulf and open it to you, and there you should see those damned creatures sweltering under the wrath of the infinite God, and there you should hear the dreadful and hideous cries and shrieks of those who are under such soul-amazing and soul-sinking torments through the wrath of the Almighty. Yet, I say, there is more evil in one sinful thought than there is in all these everlasting burnings...if our spirits were as they should be, we would rather be willing to endure all these torments than commit the least sin.
That's tough stuff, huh? Here's a few thoughts as I try to sum this up. Some are my own, some I gleaned from a pastor I once heard endorsing this book.
  • The smallest sin is worse than the greatest affliction.
  • The greatest affliction is found in the torments of hell.
  • Therefore, the smallest sin is worse than the torments of hell.
  • There is at least some good in hell - that is, God is glorified in hell in His just & right wrath against sinners.
  • There is no good in sin. God cannot be glorified in sin.
  • We would go to all extremes to avoid the torments of hell, yet we do very little to avoid the committal of sin.
  • We're more concerned with dying in hell than we are with living in sin.
  • If we truly understood the evil of sin and the holiness of God, we would choose the greatest affliction over the smallest sin everytime.
Lastly, once I finished this post, I looked at my archives and realized that I've already posted these very same thoughts quite some time ago. There's a few more thoughts in the previous post, but it deals with the same topic. Oh well, it was good for me to revisit this subject. I also recently found a blog devoted exclusively to Burroughs.


Jennifer said...

Great post and thanks for the Burroughs link. His book "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" is one of the most influential books I've read to date.

Udarnik said...

One word comes to mind reading this:


Aaron said...


The thought makes the cross seem that much more horrid and yet that much more glorious.

Udarnik said...

Mmmmm... yes.

Anonymous said...

I came upon your site looking for something to express why sin is so evil. I fail to see anything but an answer from the books, nothing but letters in your post. Where is your heart? Don't you have one?

Is sin only conceivably evil to you because you can imagine how bad hell would be for you? Surely if you knew Him, you would know what a plight the presence of sin is to His name, and have a better answer?

Perhaps you do better elsewhere, but how is it a genuine faith in the truth rests on you, and you do not see why God hates the very thing that has come to destroy?

How evil is sin really?

Aaron said...

Ken - thanks for your comment. You've made me realize that perhaps I don't always end my posts with a gospel grace conclusion. It would serve me & the readers well to do this.

Having said that, we should also realize that this post is only one small excerpt from an entire book wherein Burroughs examines biblical texts in order to help us understand the sinfulness of sin - with the overarching reason being that what makes sin so evil is the holiness & goodness of the One against whom we're sinning. (This agrees with your comment "what a plight the presence of sin is to His name")

As in this particular example of Hell - if I could over-simplify Burroughs for a momemnt - he's saying "The punishment fits the crime" Hell & it's torments are so evil because God & his graces are so glorious. I realize that this short quote doesn't go into all of that, and perhaps I should have in my comments. Thank you for reminding me to leave the believer & unbeliever with a hope of grace.

Now, having said that, we did actually touch on this hope earlier in the comments section as we briefly expressed our thanks for the cross.