Hereditary Sin Real Sin
Jeremiah 9:14
But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:

God here declares that he will punish those who have walked "after Baalim, which their fathers taught them." Therefore the fact of their having been trained in this sin by their fathers is not held to acquit them of guilt in what they do. Their sin, though hereditary, is real.

I. THIS SEEMS UNJUST. It has often been objected to that because the fathers ate sour grapes the children's teeth should be set on edge (Ezekiel 18:2). Why should I be punished for another's man's sin?

II. BUT IT IS THE DIVINE LAW. The sins of the fathers are visited on the children. "By the offence of one all men were made sinners" (Romans 5.). And in daily life how perpetually we see this law in ruthless operation! - children punished in health, fortune, character, reputation, in mind, body, and soul, all through their fathers' sin. They walk in the ways of Baalim because their fathers taught them. And yet, unjust though their punishment may appear-

III. CONSCIENCE ENDORSES IT. Who knows how much of that strong passionate nature which led David into such dreadful sin may have been inherited? Indeed, he says, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity," etc. (Psalm 51.). But this does not hinder him from taking all the blame of his sin upon himself. All the way through we hear his confession - "my sin," "my transgression," "mine iniquity." And never does the con science awakened to a sense of sin think of palliating such sin by the plea of its being the result of inheritance. Thus conscience witnesses to the righteousness of the Divine Law.

IV. AND SO DOES HUMAN LAW. What judge ever pardoned a criminal because he had a bad father? We execrate "bloody Queen Mary" notwithstanding she had a bloodthirsty father.


1. That hereditary sin does not destroy conscience. That speaks in all; it is "the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world," the inward monitor which ever condemns crime and approves righteousness (cf. Romans 2:14, 15).

2. Nor does it destroy understanding. Teachers of righteousness are on every hand, from whom all may learn.

3. Nor does it destroy the power of will. It may weaken, but it does not destroy. Therefore, in spite of hereditary sin, every man knows, and can choose if he will, that which is right; and therefore he is held accountable before every tribunal - that of God, of conscience, and of man.

4. But there is yet another reason given by St. Paul: "God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32; Galatians 3:22). A cruel Roman emperor wished that all Rome had but one neck, that he might kill it with one blow. God hath in his infinite grace gathered up all our humanity into one, even in Christ, so that, as sin had destroyed all by one stroke (Romans 5.), the grace of God in Christ might save all by the one righteousness of the One; so that where sin did abound, grace," etc. That gathering up of humanity into one in Adam, which seems at first sight to have worked such injustice, is altogether met, and far more than met, by the again gathering up of all in One, even in Christ, which works such grace. But that ultimate redemption which is in Christ does not hinder, but that meanwhile, and for a Weary while, hereditary sin may work woeful sorrow and harm. Therefore -


1. To all parents. Seek to cut off the entail. We may have received such sad inheritance, but let us, as we may, reject it for ourselves, and in so doing refuse to hand it on to others. Again and again has God given grace to some one member of a godless house - as to Josiah, son of that Amen of whom it is said, "But Amen sinned more and more" - who has for himself and those who come after him broken the bad succession and begun a new and blessed departure. When we have done our best, our children will have a sufficiently heavy burden to bear; let us not make that burden heavier, life more terrible, and holiness and heaven far less attainable for them, by handing down to them a legacy of evil example and of unhallowed habits and propensities inherited from ourselves. Do not let us sin so against our children. Yet many do.

2. To all children. Your fathers sin will not excuse yours. God has turned judgment away from many an evil son because he had a godly father, but never because he had an ungodly one. Therefore if yours be the sad and too frequent lot of those who inherit evil from their parents, reject that inheritance, and seek and gain from your heavenly Father, though you may not be helped herein by your earthly one, the better, the most blessed inheritance of the children of God. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:

WEB: but have walked after the stubbornness of their own heart, and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them;

The Wages of Sin
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