You have a choice.

Option 1: The tiniest sin imaginable, a sin that would bring you tremendous wealth and other material pleasures.

Option 2: The greatest suffering imaginable, for rejecting that one tiny sin.

Your selection, please. Or maybe you want to read this first.

In his sermon on Moses’ choice of Christ’s reproach instead of the pleasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:25), the Puritan Thomas Manton argues that the healthy Christian will choose the greatest affliction before the least sin. He then gives a number of reasons “why the greatest affliction is better than the least sin.”

1. In suffering the offence is done to us, but in sinning the offence is done to God; and what are we to God?

2. Sin separates us from God, but suffering and affliction doesn’t, and therefore the greatest affliction is to be chosen before the least sin.

3. Sin is evil in itself, whether we feel it or no; but affliction is only evil in our sense and feeling.

4. Affliction brings inconvenience upon the body only, and the concerns of the body; but sin brings inconvenience upon the soul.

5. An afflicted state is consistent with being loved by God; but a sinful state is a sign of God’s displeasure.

6. Affliction may be good, but sin is never good.

7. There is nothing that debases a man more than sin.

8. Afflictions come from God, but sin from the devil.

9. Affliction is sent to prevent sin; but sin must not be committed to prevent affliction.

10. The evil of suffering is for a moment, but the evil of sin is forever.

11. In sufferings and persecutions we lose the favor of men, but by sins we lose the favor of God.

12. To suffer is not in our choice, but to sin, that is in our choice. Afflictions are inflicted, sins are committed.

13. An afflicted man may die cheerfully, but a man in sin cannot.

14. Sin is contrary to the new nature; but affliction is only contrary to the old nature

15. When you deliberately choose sin, it will within a little while bring greater affliction.

Still want to stick with your choice?

Read Manton’s full explanation below (Vol. 14, 450-454), or access the 22 volumes of his Collected Works in different online formats here.  

  • Aimee Byrd

    This sounds exactly like Jeremiah Burrough’s book, “The Evil of Evils.” In discussing why it is far more evil to choose the smallest sin over the greatest affliction, he holds out Jesus Christ and Paul as two glorious examples. Paul counted his horrible afflictions as light, but when talking of his sin, “Oh wretched man that I am!” And, as we know, Christ suffered the greatest of all afflictions, not for his own sin, but for even the least of ours.

    • Mrs. Erven

      I thought the same thing. :) Reading it now, and it has been excruciatingly humbling.

    • David Murray

      Yes, Aimee, someone else pointed out that similarity to me. Maybe there’s some Puritan plagiarizing going on here!

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  • Luke Simmons

    Thanks, David. So helpful. The one that particularly struck me was “Affliction is sent to prevent sin; but sin must not be committed to prevent affliction.” Sin is too often a refuge I seek to prevent perceived affliction. Thanks for helping me “renew my mind” with refreshing truth.

    • David Murray

      With you there, Luke. Yes, we need constant renewal, don’t we!

  • http://@SPURGEONdotUS Kerry James Allen

    Great article, David, thank you. And thank you for your book on depression. It was very well done and I have recommended it to others.

    • David Murray

      Thanks Kerry, Glad you found the book helpful.

  • Jen Harris

    Wow. I’ve been involved in multiple online discussions this morning about the blessings of suffering, so this post is really timely for me. What a perspective-fixer! Going to save this to chew on for a while. Thanks.

    • David Murray

      It’s amazing how often that “coincidence” happens on the Internet isn’t it!

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  • Ben Williams

    It seems that this is quite disjointed from reality. It’s easy to say you agree with it, but there’s no sane person on the planet who truly does.

  • Korky

    If this isn’t a good examply of why Christianity is an immoral religion, I don’t know what is. Thanks for making more atheists!