(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845). [pp 19-39]
(Preached on Wednesday Morning, Oct. 29.)
John xv. 24.
Now have they both seen and hated both me and My Father.
THERE are things in this world too great for us to take into our minds. We hear of them, and believe them, and know them, and feel them, but there is more in them than we can reach, and thought is lost when it would take hold of them. Many such things there are for our good, but there is not only a 'mystery of Godliness,' but likewise a 'mystery of iniquity.' Man let sin into the world, but he knew not what he did, nor can he know, save in eternity. Sin is around us and within us, embitters our life, affrights us in death, haunts us day and night,--but what is it? On the one hand it is grounded in unsearchable nothingness. In all creation, it alone God created not; the "rich wisdom of the Word" made not it, and therefore it is a nothing. It hath no life, for it is death; no substance, for it is a corruption only and spoiling of what God made "very good." It is a departure from the unchangeable Good, the Source of all being, and so tending to not being. It issues not in life, but in death, even though that death is deathless. It is a disordering of nature, not nature itself; a privation, a defect, which, when it is healed, ceases to be. What then is that which God created not, which is the absence of all which He Is, Holiness, Righteousness, Love, which existeth only as beings are apart from Him, which when in penitence we return to Him, He blotteth out, so that it is no more? What is it that we sin for? When we do evil, where is our reward? There is indeed something that hangs before us and draws us toward it; but when we come to it, and try to see clearly what it is, where is it to be found? If we gain pleasure, where is it but in the moment? search for it after, and it is gone, and the soul is left empty and alone and desolate, with nothing to lean upon, and nothing to feed upon. We may turn again to it like a dog to his vomit, but once again all is gone, and it is a vanity, an emptiness at last. So it is with riches if we try to think what they are, and with the world's praise, ' vanity of vanities! all is vanity!'
One thing in sin is real. One thing abides, and stares us in the face when we think of it, though this also is out of our reach, and above the mastery of our minds. We cannot take it in and know it all. The truth of it glares upon us look which way we will, but we cannot grasp it and overcome it or put it aside.
One thing in sin is real--that it sets man against his Maker.
O awful truth! O deep and unsearchable gulf of misery beneath! But what eye shall dare to look into the boundless height above, and to search what it is to be at strife with the Almighty? Yet this we must learn to think of, if we would know our own dangers, and seek our only safety. How fearful a thing sin is, we cannot find out, any more than we can measure the power and goodness of God. But we must open our eyes to what is before us, and turn them outward and inward to see what we can, lest we be like the rich man who saw not things in their true light until ' in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.'
Strange it is that such weak fleeting beings as we are should have it put in their power to set themselves against the Almighty. Yet they cannot freely choose to be His and to serve Him without having the power also to refuse His service. The choice is given them not to entrap them into evil, but on their choosing a right to give them the greatest good. What He has prepared for them we know not, but we know that it is their part to choose the good, and to make trial of His goodness, and not of their own power against His.
It were enough that sin puts out the laws and order of God's work, which He made 'very good.' Strange and sorrowful it is that the beings He has made, and set in highest place in this world, should so misuse all that He has put into their hands. Good and beautiful was its order as He appointed it, and even now, as it is after man's first transgression, beautiful would be its order if man did but obey His laws. But sin mars all. The good fruits of the earth are not received with thankfulness and dispensed with justice and mercy, but grasped or grasped at with greediness, and grudgingly dealt out, or sottishly wasted. The common blessings of the light and air, almost too pure in themselves to afford matter of abuse, are made to serve the purposes of wickedness and disorder, are stinted or embittered to the weak by oppression, are forfeited or made tasteless to the low-minded by intemperance. The active mind of man is misapplied to schemes of ambition, violence, gain, fraud, deceit, or to the indulgence of accursed imaginations that make men discontented with God's real gifts. The relation of man and woman, that should be sanctified in the family, is made an occasion of vile and hurtful lust. Children, that ought to be brought up in ways of peace and godliness, are left to be the slaves of passion, or taught little save the art of getting certain earthly gains, nothing of the behaviour that is right for them as members of God's family on earth. They are brought up in the ways of their fathers, weak, headstrong, self-pleasing, envious, false, vain, greedy; and are likely rather to undo what remains of God's good order in the world, than to build up what has been pulled in pieces by those before them.
This is not a true picture of all Christian men and families, but of the common course of sin when it has its way. There are those, blessed be God, for whom the gifts of holiness are effectual though with imperfection. There are those, even without the highest gifts of the Church, who set themselves against sin according to their knowledge. But I spoke of sin as it is where people do not strive against it as sin, and but a little of its foul, corrupting, undoing, deforming work did I pourtray.
Let even one who has striven against it look back on it in his own heart and life, and think of the good it has spoiled and undone, the love it has*broken off, the purity it has sullied, the holy sanctuaries of thought and feeling it has profaned, and he will most likely find cause for even a deeper hatred of it than he would learn from knowing the outward lives of criminals and vagabonds.
And the reason why he will find more cause to hate sin from looking within than without is, that which really makes sin what it is.
There are those who see no more in sin than a putting things out of a certain order which is best for the happiness of all. But they miss of its real nature. Sin is a turning away of the mind and heart from God their true good, after things that are, one and all, vanity.
Man will have himself to himself, out of the hand of his Maker. There is the foundation of sin. Then he will have other creatures to himself, in himself, not in and for his Maker and theirs. He thinks to be his own master, and master of what more he can get. He becomes the slave of his own lust, and of the next thing he cannot get. He may seem happy outwardly, and may not offend the world by his conduct. But his slavery, and wretchedness, and corruption are within. The misery is that an immortal spirit, made for the knowledge and love of God, should be turning away from Him, madly to set up itself, and as madly to give itself up to things beneath it.
And this turning away from Him, and taking of His creatures for self-Avilled use, sets man even against Him. It is going to war with Him, and trying to seize from Him a part of His Kingdom. Vain purpose indeed, so vain that one can hardly think of it as really entertained, yet such is the aim of multitudes of men.
Now for the present God does not shew Himself so much without as within. His works indeed tell of Him, and proclaim His power; still they are but His handywork, not Himself. Those who do not know Him otherwise see but little of Him in them. They talk of vast power, every where diffused, and of infinite and yet most minute intelligence, but they scarce think of His Holy Will, His all-wise Election, His hatred of evil, His everlasting Love, His marvellous government.
He must be known within if we would really know Him. Sought far and wide, looked for in the fire, felt for in the earthquake, listened for in the mighty wind, there at last the devout soul finds Him, speaking with gentle but awful utterance-a still small voice-in the depth of its own being. There it is that He makes things known to us as they truly are, and there that we must deal with Him for life or death. There He offers to be with us, and we welcome or scorn. His Presence. There it is, therefore, that we must look, if we would see what sin is. Conscience there is His court, and, if we listen, there His Law is declared. Even there, indeed, we cannot so find Him as actually to fasten even the eyes of the mind upon His very substance. But there we meet Him unseen in such wise that it is Himself, and not any mere image or shadow, to Whom we bow down our will, and to Whom we uplift our love and thankfulness.
Our own soul is created in His Imags, and within that Image, itself the inmost thing we can steadily behold, we worship the Living God, or, if we worship not, we bring our sin into His very Presence, where it is self-condemned, and all its foulness comes to view, if there is an eye to see it. And those who are used to look for God within have an eye to see it, and they detect it there and loathe their own inward corruption as seeing it in the light of eternity, and in the presence of Himself, the very Beauty of Holiness.
Here it is that sin takes its last and true character, here it is seen as setting itself against God. In the outward world it seems only to set itself against His law and order, and the course and well-doing of His works. But within the heart it confronts and defies Himself. Such is the perfect act of sin, and such becomes the character of him who gives himself up to it. Defiance of God persevered in is hatred of Him.
Thus does sin in man work its way back to the source of all sin, and complete in him the likeness of Satan. Little is taught us in Holy Scripture of the beginning of his fall, yet perhaps we may gather it from the following connection of different passages, so taken by Holy Fathers.
Satan is called the prince of this world, and the king of Babylon is one of his types. Our Lord says of Satan, 'I saw Satan like lightning fall from heaven.' Of the king of Babylon Isaiah sings, 'How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet shalt thou be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.'
This has been taken to shew the character of the sin by which Satan fell, and it agrees with the character of the sin to which he tempted our first parents. 'Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.' The will to be a god to himself is the very essence of sin in a created being. This principle of evil runs through all sins great and small, but it is more seen in some than in others. We see it most simply in the description of Satan, in the sin of man's fall, and in the extreme cases that go before God's heavy judgments in Holy Scripture. But in every sin it is really present, and working toward death eternal.
To see what it really is, look at those cases. Satan,--a mighty angel in the very presence and amidst the glory of the Most High, once makes the choice of setting up himself against his Maker, and is condemned to the blackness of darkness for ever, cast out and fallen for eternity. One choice of sin turns an angel, perhaps the very first of angels, into a devil, for ever accursed, for ever banished from the face of God, for ever to be subject to His utmost wrath.
And even man, who in his very punishment finds mercy, for him what is the punishment of one transgression? Grace withdrawn from himself and his whole race. Death to himself and all his offspring, and after death, unless he be restored, no hope. The power of the wicked one over him, dragging him toward the second death. What a change is this to be made in the good work of the Creator! What must we think of the act, that brought down this judgment from Him, Whose mercy is over all His works? I speak of this now not in order to stir up the fear of punishment, but to open to our minds the thought of sin's real nature, and its accursedness before God. By these signs we may faintly see how He regards it, and if we cannot bring ourselves to perceive how much it is to be abhorred, we may yet learn to know that we do not enough abhor it, and that there is some mystery about it, that our eyes are not pure enough to see. This conviction may be one step towards a clearer sight, especially if it leads us to correct ourselves, and to undo the ill doing that has blinded us, and to feel after Him Whom we have left, and mourn that we have left Him. This alone, well considered, is enough to shew us that sin is really a setting one's self against God. He has His way for us, and that way He cannot forego. It would be an undoing of His own creation. He will not make us a fools' paradise when we will not have true blessedness. His work began in Truth and must end in Truth. Good must have its perfect work, and they that will not have good must have their way to the full. Man's ways are not as His ways. Men would go on halting between two opinions, one while leaning towards God, another while toward the world and self-will, and expect mercy to spare them because they did not wholly reject their Creator. But He must have a perfect work. Sin must be condemned in the flesh, if it can be only by God made Flesh. Since evil has come into His creation, the world must see the awful sight of perfect goodness in the midst of evil, and outwardly bowed down under it to the utmost. Still His work is perfect, and the very Heavens new made, when all the morning stars sung for joy, were not so pure in His sight, as shall be the New Jerusalem, the City of God, the Bride of the Lamb, when finally united to Him. Pure indeed she had not been of herself, but this again is more awful, that she is washed and made white in the Blood of the Lamb. He dies that He may be made perfect in His members that are upon earth. Good and evil are mixed now, but the good that is to be brought out is perfect.
Away then with every thought of bearing with sin for a little, and taking it easily, and letting it have its way in lesser matters. A little sin may be made great by indulging such unholy weakness. His will is that we should be pure and holy and without spot, and we must have no other will. Many, indeed, are our infirmities, and we cannot attend to all equally. But we spoil our work if while we attend to one especially, we make up our mind to give way in another. We may be tempted and give way, and yet we must not give it up. Making up our mind to spare a sin is making up our mind against God. In this sense every sin is deadly, for we can make it deadly by obstinately keeping to it against Him. Every act of sin is not deadly, because in some acts sin is not fully chosen. But in proportion as we make up our mind to do such acts we do fully choose it to ourselves, and so set ourselves against God. The first thought of sin may not be deadly, because it is not wilful, but when the thought is persisted in till it becomes thoroughly wilful, it becomes even as the deed, a deadly sin. We count the deed worse than the thought, because it makes it clear that the will consents, and because in general the thought has gone before besides, and because in it the whole man works together for evil. But the thought may be so chosen and wilfully maintained, as to make it as truly an act of the man as the outward word or deed. And every degree of approach to this is an approach toward setting ourselves against God, and declaring that we will not be ruled by Him, nor have Him for our portion. It is not easy to speak on this subject without giving occasion to the slothful to take comfort in some false hope that their sins may not be deadly, because they have some feeling against them, and some wish to give them up. But we must say the truth, that there is a difference in acts of sin, and that some are really much more acts of infirmity, and some are really much more wilful than others. Men will take the easy side with themselves, and we can only warn them to take instead the safe side, and rather to judge themselves for an infirmity as if it had been wilful, than run any risk of letting wilfulness pass for mere infirmity.
There is a wilfulness of sloth and self-indulgence, that passes itself off for infirmity, to the ruin of many souls. It is when a man will not make the effort of shaking off a bad habit. He says he 'cannot,' when after all he could if he would submit himself to God. 'The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' He 'cannot' make it as pleasant to his carnal nature to be bound by the rule of right as to follow his own will and passions. Of course he cannot. But he can by the Spirit subdue the carnal mind, and bring it captive to the law of Christ.
How miserable is it then to go on from day to day, and from year to year, doing things which we know are against the will of God, even half against our own will! Why can we not rouse ourselves to look upon them as though we saw Him present, as though we were borne for a moment out of ourselves, and could see the foolish, perverse, ungrateful wretch busied with his own little fancies of the moment, holding up his head against his fellows, discontented at every thing that is not at his beck, and all the while fretting if he is expected to be careful, and to wait a few moments, or to forego a paltry indulgence, for the sake of more exactly and punctually fulfilling the end of his being proposed by his Maker!
How would many a man turn in disgust from a mere likeness of himself and his own crooked ways lively set before him! What ugliness would he find even in the less bold and open forms of sin, where people call it by mild names, and hardly fancy any guilt that can be laid up against them for judgment! Who is sufficient to speak of these things? Who, but must say, if he would speak the truth, words that ought to cut deep into his own heart? Excuse ourselves as we will, so it is, that very many of us set ourselves against God in this way. He would have us work earnestly at making our life and conversation better. We find it easier to leave it as it is, and we in fact refuse to work. Conscience calls on us, and we turn and bow to it, much like the son to whom his Father said, 'Go and work in my vineyard,' and he said, 'I go, Sir,' and went not. We go on idling, as if we trusted that conscience would go some other way or drop asleep, and we might loiter away the next hour or two without fear of another rebuke. At last we come to fancy that we really are doing all that is required of us, and that the rebuke we have now and then from conscience merely tells us of what must be the case while we are subject to human infirmity. Thus do sins grow old upon us that are really abominable in the sight of God, and frightful to any one who looks on them really as in His presence. We get used to them, and think nothing of them, and deal gently with them, and think we are serving our Maker, while we are on good terms with His enemies.
I speak not only of good men, who may be taken to task perhaps by the wicked, as David was by Joab, when he let his own affection prevail over his duty as the King and Judge of Israel. Many there are who think perhaps that this is their case, but who are rather like Saul when he spared A gag, and brought home the Amalekitish cattle. Let it never be forgotten, that sloth and negligence are one acknowledged form of deadly sin. We are bid destroy the enemy, and it is then wilfulness to spare. Never can it be well with us till we are heartily and boldly at work warring against all the enemies of our King. It may be that one requires our first collected strength, and almost undivided attention, but the others must not therefore have peace. We may leave them till they attack us, while we go forward to storm the fenced city of another, but we must make no friendship with them, nor even let them come peaceably to us. They are against our God, and we must be against them, or we cannot be wholly for Him.
We Christians are His soldiers, and must not shrink from carrying out His orders. If we make terms with sin, we are traitors to Him Who requires that we should be ready even to resist unto blood, and proclaims, 'he that findeth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.' We cannot be as those who have not known Him and His will, nor even as those who rejected Him when they had only seen Him outwardly as the Son of Man, though of them He says that they hated the light, and came not to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved. If we hold off from opening ourselves to His searching, we are like them in not coming to the light, but we are worse, because we 'say we see' even in a sense in which they did not. They said 'we see,' thinking the light of the Law enough. We say we see the light of the Gospel. Worse then will it be with us than with them, if we will not come to that light for any affection we have toward the things it would reprove.
O let it shine full upon all your ways! Hold back nothing! Bring every thought, word, look, motion, under its pure and searching light; and wink not when your most favourite fancies and pursuits are before it. Look them through and through, if by any means you may detect in them the least spot of the canker of sin, and when you have found it, magnify it in your own eyes by a concentrated attention as though with a microscope, till you can see its horrid and monstrous shapes, and its incalculable growths and multiplications, and till you are not only emboldened to cast it from you, but loathe it, and loathe your very self for having borne it about you.
All that you can see is but a faint image of the malignity that inspires sin, of the spiritual wickedness against which you have to wrestle, and which sets itself utterly and wholly against God, and against all that is good and holy, and would turn the whole creation into loathsomeness and corruption. With this you take part, so far as you allow sin. For your souls' sake, and for the love of your Creator, your Redeemer, your Sanctifier, beware of such fellowship!
And yet such companionship you do choose, if you knowingly allow a single sin, if you suspect it even, and take not pains to uproot it. Aweful as it is, willingly to remain in one single sin, is to choose Satan, and reject God. That soul is not chaste, which loves any thing besides God. All else is matter of degree. There are heavier degrees of sin, and in God's aweful justice, deeper degrees of damnation, as, in His loving-kindness, measures of bliss, all but infinitely exceeding each other. Sins do not indeed come alone, as we may see in the aweful history of others, or in our own miserable waste of grace. Sins, seemingly wide apart from one another, are held together by a mysterious band, as are graces. If then we know or suspect of any one sin, against which we are not earnestly combating, we may with reason believe that we have many more, which we less suspect. But this is to say that it is worse with us than we suspect, not that one sin may not be fatal. Many sins are probably bound up in that one. In many a heart which little thinks of it, there are the germs, at least, of all the deadly sins. Take the most common and what seems the slightest. How common is it for persons to have too good an opinion of themselves; how very uncommon to be really humble; how few have set themselves in earnest even to seek real humility, or have made any great effort to gain it, or see whether they have it; and yet if they have it not, the very foundation of their spiritual building is wanting. Without humility, they cannot dig down to build on the Rock, a lowly Saviour, God become Man, to heal man's pride. Yet sins, as you know too well, spring up of themselves, graces are obtained with toil and prayer. If we suspect not our own want of lowliness, we have probably not begun to acquire it. What we have is too likely a gift of nature, not of grace. And then all besides is probably but seeming virtue; at best, the fruit of imperfect grace, not the deep, in worked, transforming, grace of Christ. We speak of such sin slightly as though a little thing, that "such an one thinks too well of himself;" but with this one sin, how subtly will other sins entwine themselves, until there be a deep unknown labyrinth of sin! How, e. g. with this one sin will there follow censoriousness, wrong dislikes, evil-speaking and with it slanders, then half-falsehood, detraction, readiness to believe evil, gladness at another's evil, (dreadful as this is, yet in order to keep up self-esteem,) doubting or denying the grace of God in another, acting more or less consciously for the love of the praise of man rather than of God, impatience, hard unloving words, if affronted, and then lasting breaches of love; making self the end, instead of God; how will such and many more spring up from one sin, so common as undue self-esteem. And yet in this list of subtle sins, there are the germs not of deadly sin only, or deadly sins, but forerunners of the sin against the Holy Ghost, eating out the love of God and of man, sins which where they have gained the mastery, have ended, as in the Pharisees, in entire unbelief, and of whose number single sins have alone brought damnation.
This is a specimen only of the deadly evils which will gather in every unsifted, uncleansed, conscience. People who are not strict with themselves are at ease, because their sinful tempers do not burst out in shocking overt acts. Evil acts strengthen and fix and give substance to evil tempers; but is it not frightful enough that these tempers should be within us, should be wrought into our souls, should shew their existence, if in no worse way, by slight words, or in the first spontaneous feelings of the mind, or when by some sudden emotion or more vehement disturbance, restraint is taken off and the lurking evil puts itself more forth? Single occasions in which men give way, prove more the existence of the secret evil, than a long period passed without any outbreak does its absence. Then only are we safe, when the evil is subdued; and subdual implies conscious struggles through the grace of God and victory. But who shall tell that hidden consumption of the soul, when all seems right, simply because the evil within is unexplored? The inward home of life is set thick with the seeds of death; yet men are secure, because the disease is not yet developed into strong active virulence.
Sin is, perhaps, never fully developed here; it will not be fully developed, except in Hell. And this may give us, the more, some thought of the intensity of the evil of sin, and by God's grace make us stand in awe of ourselves. Even if we saw the extremes working of the most dreadful sin, which we cannot, (we see but some outbreaks only, some lurid gleams of a smothered, raging, pent-up fire,) we could see it only, as softened by humanity. Most, blessed be God, bad as they may be, have some grace left, through which they may be converted; there is some smouldering spark left; at the worst, they are as yet men, they are not, in the extremest sense, devils. Even Judas, after our Blessed Lord had pronounced of him 'One of you is a devil,' had that in him, through which, had he used the grace given him, he might have been saved. When he had betrayed his Lord, and was going (in the aweful language of Holy Scripture) "to his own place," he had some human feelings left. He knew not what he did. He thought probably, that he should not have done it, had he known it. He repented him of it, although with a repentance unto death. He had more human feeling than the Chief Priests, although he had now done that dreadful sin, for which it "had been better for him that he had not been born." Perhaps Antichrist only, as he is described, shall have no human feeling; types of Antichrist there have been already, for whom people have felt compassion, whom the world has even admired [as Bonaparte]. We dare not wholly hate any but Satan. Of any one we must hope that by God's grace they might be converted, as of ourselves we must stand in awe, lest we be lost. It is something in the very worst that they are men and not devils; it is to us every thing that God still bears with them. The intensest evil then on earth is not yet what it shall be. It is softened still. One cannot think, of how great value one faintest spark of God's grace may be. It may be, we know, kindled by the Breath of God, His Holy Spirit, into a fire which shall melt the whole heart, burn away the sin of the whole man, change a vessel of destruction into a vessel of glory, one the sport of and almost the companion of devils, into the fellow-citizen of Angels, the beloved of God, the image of His Redeemer, the partaker of His glory, His (aweful as is the majesty of His gift) yet through His Redeemer's Blood, His Redeemer's coheir in bliss. We know from what corruption and dishonour and loathsomeness, one, the faintest spark of life, preserves the body. Leprous though it may be, and full of putrifying sores, it cannot wholly decay, while any life is in it. It may remain with scarcely an office or token of life, but it cannot yet decay. The worm had not entire power of Herod's body, even after God had stricken him, until he died. Yet the foulest decay of the body is but a slight image of the foulness of sin; for what is bodily life compared to the life of the soul, since this is the Presence of God? What an unutterable depth of mystery of love must there be in the very slightest remains of the Holy Presence of God! What an unutterable difference must there be between one whom God yet loves, and one from whom, as having finally rejected Him, God has for ever withdrawn Himself; between one who may yet love God eternally, and one who shall hate Him eternally; one whom God may yet love infinitely, as He doth all His redeemed, or whom He shall, fearful as it is to utter, hate infinitely!
But since in the very worst which we can conceive here on earth, sin is not what it shall be; if we cannot read of those whom from Holy Scripture we know to be in hell (as Cain or Balaam) without some feeling of pity for them such as they once were, some longing that they had yielded themselves to the mercy and love of God; since even in them sin had not and could not have grown to the uttermost, but its nature was still kept in check; must we not, my brethren, stand in awe of any sin in ourselves? No one can know what any sin may grow to in this life in himself, if unchecked by God's grace; none can imagine what, if he dies unforgiven, it would be in hell. No one can tell what the amount of the evil in himself would be, if the grace of God were suddenly withdrawn from him. I mean not, what he might grow to, if left on his trial, (for this, of course, might be any amount of evil,) but if that evil were in him, separate from what of good the Presence of God's Good Spirit keeps alive in him. We can form no thought of entire darkness, while any light remains. I do, not say this, as though we ought to fear lest God should leave us suddenly. When His grace is forfeited, it dies out mostly, slowly. But I mean that it should shew us the exceeding evil of any single sin in us, that as we know not in this life what is the full evil of the actual sin of those who are all but most deeply lost, still less can we our own. This only we know, that one single spot of sin would mar Heaven, Had it been less than an infinite evil, it had not been atoned for at an infinite Price, as Scripture speaks, "the Blood of God." By the sin of one man, death entered into the world. On one sin, His coming was promised, Who being God should, as Man, die, and by His Death destroy death. Would we know the nature of one sin in us, we must read it in the Death of the Son of God, Who atoned for the sins of the whole world; but all the sins He atoned for were in their germ contained in one single sin; we must read it in the miserable depths of hell, which one sin opened to the whole human race.
Could you be at ease, brethren, with asps playing around you, and hiding themselves and nestling in your bosom? Could you "eat, drink, and be merry," knowing that there was death in the cup, even though a lingering poison? Yet what is this, compared to the dreadful, aweful, mystery of having that within us, which, if it lives, will "kill both body and soul in hell?" What aweful mystery like that, that the redeemed of Christ, whom He purchased for Himself with Himself, to whom He gives Himself, should have that within them, as a part of them, twined into their very souls, infecting their actions, swaying their thoughts and words, with which they cannot enter into Heaven where nothing unholy shall enter, which may for ever sever them from Him! What a pitiable thing to have that which allies (it is too aweful to say "us")--which allies the sinner to Satan; to have something in him, which unites him to God Blessed for ever, something about him which is of Satan, who is cursed for ever! Yet such is every secret sin. Every sin, in its degree, blinds us to itself. We cannot tell what or how deep it is, while we are subject to it. Rebel against it bid it defiance in God's Name, be in earnest to subdue it, and thou wilt know the power it has over thee, thine own weakness, and if thou in earnest pray for it, the might of God's grace.
Gird we ourselves, then, the more earnestly, my brethren, to that noble warfare, wherein the whole noble army of saints made perfect have followed the Captain of their salvation and of ours. Ye came not here to gaze, but to joy with and over a penitent, and in a work which God gave him to do; ye came not to be gladdened only at God's acceptance of this temple made with hands, but yourselves to grow the more into that living temple made without hands, whereof the Lamb is the light and joy. Let us not part, my brethren, never again all to meet together, except at the Judgment seat of Christ, with mere gladness of heart or general purpose of serving God; but seek we out, if we have not yet done it, our besetting sin; if we have turned to God in earnest, gaze we by His Light upon our remaining darkness, that we may be wholly light in Him. There is a blessed harmony of graces, as well as an evil bond, link to link, of sin. There is even a blessed connection of sin with sin, to the uprooting of all our sin, as well as a destructive banding of sin to sin, to the more miserable enthralling of the whole soul. One sin wilfully or secretly indulged in binds the whole soul. As well might we assay to walk with one limb chained by a single letter, as hope to walk Heavenwards with one single admitted sin. But as one wilful sin holds fast, so one resolute purpose, in God's strength, to break one sin, gets in the end, if he perseveres, the whole man free. In the devoted city, abandoned of God, "the satyr cried to his fellow," and "the vultures were gathered every one to his mate," i. e. each thought and deed of sin called to some other to make its dreadful abode there. Affright one unclean bird, in that dark ruin of thy soul, where they have been allowed to harbour together, thou mayest well be troubled with the din, but the whole brood is disturbed; follow on, and they will take their flight, and leave thy soul bright, serene, and clear. For so good is God, one stedfast purpose by His grace to do His will more heartily, in any one thing, draws down more grace, the very Presence of the Holy Comforter, and "where He is Guide, no ill can come." A new light shall shine into thy prison, where by one sin thy soul is bound and sleeping, and He shall touch thee on thy side, and bid thee "rise up quickly," and the chains shall fall off from thy hands, and He shall bid thee "gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals," that the dust of earthliness cleave not to thee, and "cast about thee thy garment," the new robe of His Righteousness, which He shall give thee, and bid thee "follow Me," and thou shalt follow Him, often doubting whether it be true, or whether thou see a vision, and the iron gate which incloses thee, shall of its own accord open unto thee, and thou shalt "know of a surety that God hath sent His angel, and delivered thee out of the hand of "the evil one," and all the expectation of those who sought thy life.
Only be earnest; and now, especially, if you are approaching to receive the pledges of your Saviour's love, pray Him by that love (it is a most blessed practice) to give you with Himself that grace you think you most need, and resolve by His grace to answer to His grace, in rooting out every fibre of the one opposed sin. Thou couldest not endure to live for ever with thy sin, in Heaven itself; set thyself in earnest to track out one of these, the deadly foes of thy soul, and God will drive them out by little and little, until not sin, but Himself, shall reign over thee, here in the beginning and foretaste, hereafter in everlasting bliss, to which He, of His infinite mercy, bring us all, Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, One God, world without end.
O Lord, raise up (we pray thee) Thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, Thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of Thy Son our Lord, to Whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.