II. What is sin?

Sin is the transgression of the law, or whatever is in opposition thereto, whether it be the want of righteousness (defectus), or an inclination, or action contrary to the divine law, and so offending God, and subjecting the creature to his eternal wrath, unless forgiveness be obtained for the sake of the Son of God, our Mediator. Its general nature is a want of righteousness, or an inclination, or action not in accordance with the law of God. To speak more properly, however, it may be said that the want of righteousness is this general nature of sin, whilst inclinations and actions are rather the matter of sin. The difference, or formal character of sin, is opposition to the law, which the Apostle John calls the transgression of the law. The property, which necessarily attaches itself to sin, is the sinner's guiltiness, which is a desert of punishment, temporal and eternal, according to the order of divine justice. Sin has, therefore, what is usually termed a double form, or a two-fold nature, which may be said to consist in opposition to the law, and guilt; or it may be regarded as including two sides, the former of which is opposition to the law, and the latter desert of punishment. The accidental condition of sin is thus expressed, unless forgiveness be obtained, ic., for it is not according to the nature of sin, but by an accident, that those who believe in Christ are not punished with eternal death; because sin is not imputed to them, but graciously remitted for Christ's sake.

This want of righteousness, which is comprehended in sin, includes, as it respects the mind, ignorance and doubt with regard to God and his will; and as it respects the heart, it includes a want of love to God and our neighbor, a want of delight in God and an ardent desire and purpose to obey all his commandments; together with an omission of such actions as the law of God requires from us. Disordered inclinations consist in a stubbornness of the heart, and an unwillingness to comply with the law of God, and the judgment of the mind, as it respects actions which are proper and improper; together with a depravity and propensity of nature to do those things which God forbids, which evil is called concupiscence.

That this want of righteousness and these disordered inclinations are sins, and condemned of God, may he proven: First, from the law of God, which expressly condemns all these things, when it declares, "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law, to do them"; and "Thou shalt not covet." (Deut. 27:26, Ex. 20:17) The law also requires of men the opposite gifts and exercises, such as perfect knowledge and love to God and our neighbor, saying: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c." "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, &c." "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Deut. 6:5. John 17:3. Ex. 20:3.) Secondly, the same thing is proven by the many testimonies of Scripture which condemn and speak of these evils as sins, as when it is said: "Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually." "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." "I had not known lust, (that is, I had not known it to be sin,) except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." (Gen. 6:8; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:7) See also John 3:5; 1 Cor. 2:14; 15:28. Thirdly, by the punishment and death of infants, who, although they neither do good, nor evil, and sin not after the similitude of Adam's transgression, nevertheless have sin, on account of which death reigns in them. This is that ignorance of and aversion to God of which we have already spoken.

Obj. 1. That which we do not will, as well as that which we cannot avoid, is no sin. But we do not will this want of righteousness, neither can we prevent disordered inclinations from arising within us. Therefore, they are no sins.

Ans. The major proposition is true in a civil court, but not in the judgment of God, before whom whatever is in opposition to his law, whether it can be avoided or not, is sin, and as such deserves punishment. The Scriptures clearly teach these two things, that the wisdom of the flesh cannot be subject to the law of God, and that all those who are not subject thereto, stand exposed to the curse of the law.

Obj. 2. Nature is good. Our inclinations and desires are natural. Therefore, they are good.
Ans. Nature is, indeed, good, if we look upon it as it came from the hands of God, and before it became corrupted by sin; for all things which God made, he declared to be very good. (Gen. 1:31.) And even now, nature is good as to its substance, and as it was made of God; but not as to its qualities, and as it has become corrupted.

Obj. 3. Punishments are no sins. Disordered inclinations and a want of righteousness are punishments of the first sin of man. Therefore, they are no sins.

Ans. The major proposition is true in a civil court, but not in the judgment of God, who often punishes sin with sin, as the Apostle Paul most clearly shows in Rom. 1:27; 2 Thess. 3:11. God has power also to deprive his creatures of his spirit, which power none of his creatures possess.