The Slavery of Sin.
TRINITY CHURCH AND ST. PAUL’S CHAPEL,
On Sunday, the 26th of July, 1835.
BY HARRY CROSWELL, D.D
RECTOR OF THE PARISH OF TRINITY CHURCH.
2 PETER II. 19.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
AMONG the evidences of human depravity, there is none perhaps which strikes the mind with more force than this—that every thing excellent in the world is so counterfeited by man, that the name is often but a very imperfect indication of the true character or quality of the thing itself. It is so common, to call evil good, and good evil—to put darkness for light, and light for darkness—to put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter—that it requires no small share of discernment, to distinguish the one from the other. Religion itself, is counterfeited by hypocrisy; and falsehood often appears in the stolen garb of truth. Few perversions of this kind, [3/4] however, are more frequent, than that of the term liberty; and in no case, has the counterfeit so often been imposed upon mankind, for genuine liberty, as in matters of religion. The adversaries of the Christian religion, have, in all ages, boasted loudly of their liberty and their privileges; while they have represented the Saviour of the world, as a hard, austere, and tyrannical master—imposing upon his followers, the most irksome and insupportable bonds—circumscribing the circle of their lawful enjoyments—laying unreasonable restraints upon their appetites—and forbidding them even the most rational indulgences. And this delusive representation has gained great credit in the world. Insomuch, that many people, who would be ashamed to acknowledge that they wish for liberty to sin, shrink from the service of the Saviour, lest he should impose shackles on their freedom! In the volume of God's word, they find nothing to support this representation; but, relying on the false and discolored statements of the enemies of Christianity, instead of its own clear and irresistible evidences, they imagine that a religious life is a sort of bondage, to which they cannot submit, without relinquishing every thing necessary to their comfort and happiness in this world.
If we can shew, however, that those who declaim so loudly in favor of this species of liberty, are themselves the most abject of slaves; and that their precepts, would subject their followers to the most wretched and deplorable of all bondage; we may perhaps become instrumental in tearing the mask from the horrid visage of [4/5] irreligion, and in convincing those, who hear to be convinced, of the error into which they have been drawn by these delusions. And for this purpose, it is only necessary to bring the boasted liberty and privileges of the adversaries of Christianity, to the test of experience, and to bestow upon them a candid and impartial investigation. It can be made to appear, as the apostle declares, that while they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.
That the sinner, who so loudly boasts of his liberty and his privileges, is in reality the most abject of slaves, may be made to appear, from the number and nature of his masters. And that the precepts of sin, subject their adherents and followers to the most wretched and deplorable of all bondage, will appear from the severity of the tasks which are imposed on them—from the sacrifices required of them—and from the duration of their servitude.
I. The sinner is the slave of many masters.
First, he is the slave of prejudice. He therefore views no object coolly, dispassionately, or impartially. This hard master will not suffer him to judge correctly, although he knows that his erroneous judgments must be rejected and despised., Truth is always contradicting and refuting his opinions; and yet his rigid and unrelenting prejudices, will not permit him to acquiesce in its decisions. All experience proves the falsity of his deductions; and yet this inexorable master, compels him to maintain falsehood, under the mortification of continual defeat. [5/6] His prejudices are constantly driving him into contention, without the slightest hope of success; and urging him to battle, with absolute certainty of being conquered.
Next, he is the slave of habit. His better reason and his conscience, are constantly admonishing him of the folly and wickedness of his courses. He is daily suffering the pains and penalties of his vicious habits. He perceives, he knows, that they are rendering him despicable in the eye of the world, and criminal in the eye of God; and that, if persisted in, they will render him eternally miserable. And yet, his habits are inveterate and unconquerable. The same habitual rounds of folly, of vice, and of sin, are continually repeated, until they become too firmly riveted, to be thrown off by any exertion in his power. He grows callous to their galling, and insensible of their weight; and although he is aware that the chains of this master, are the badges of his shame, yet to these chains he becomes wedded forever.
Lastly, he is the slave of all the passions: and these several passions, in their conflict for superiority over him, stir up a perpetual warfare and commotion in his breast, forbidding him the enjoyment of a single moment of peace or tranquillity. He cannot serve all these masters; and yet they all demand his services: so that his whole life is a chequered scene of lawless desire, of eager pursuit, of unrighteous hope, of restless disquietude, of corroding anxiety, of wasting care, of distracting doubt, of terrific fear, of disappointment, mortification, confusion, [6/7] self-condemnation, disgrace; and eventual despair.
If such, then, are among the numerous masters whom the sinner serves, what slavery can be more abject?
II. But the worst is not yet told. We are to shew, in the second place, that the followers and adherents of sin, are subject to the most wretched and deplorable of all bondage—in consequence of the severity of the tasks imposed on them the sacrifices required of them—and the duration of their servitude.
The tasks imposed on sinners are remarkably severe. Few men are so profligate and abandoned, as to sin openly and boldly, in the face of the world, and to make a boast of sinning. Indeed, sin, from its very nature, is prone. to seek obscurity, to shrink from observation, to love darkness rather than light. Hence the sinner is at more trouble to conceal his iniquity, than it might cost him to perform all the good deeds of a virtuous and religious life. Even the most hardened, are unwilling that all their depravity should be made manifest. They therefore endeavor to appear better than they are in reality; and these endeavors impose upon them the necessity of constant artfulness, dissimulation, and constraint. Instead of striving to perform good and commendable actions, their whole object is, to put a tolerable gloss on their evil deeds; and so to deceive the observer of their conduct, as to persuade him, that they are not quite as bad as the rigid or scrupulous moralist [7/8] or Christian would imagine. Hence, they are always compelled to act under a mask, and in a double character; and every new sin produces new motives for concealment, for laborious management, and for vexatious. precaution. The sins produced by irreligion, very naturally lead to the perpetration of those crimes, which are forbidden and punished by human laws; and a single crime of this nature, may require a breach of the whole moral law, to prevent or delay detection. If, then, the slightest adherence to the precepts of sin, may cause all this trouble and vexation, we perceive, that labor and fatigue, sleepless nights, unhappy days, and a conscience smarting under the lashings of remorse, are among the severities which the task-masters of sin impose upon their wretched and miserable bond-slaves.
And what are the sacrifices, required of the followers and adherents of the precepts of sin? They are truly great and unparalleled.
In the first place, the sinner is required to sacrifice all his time to the service of his master. He enjoys not even the poor privilege of the ordinary slave. The sabbath is no day of rest to him. The return of a holiday, brings no relaxation of his labors. The hours of repose, allow no peaceful slumbers to visit his pillow. The sinner's week, has no sabbath—the sinner's year, no holiday—the sinner's night, no hour of repose. The haggard image of vice, haunts him, like the night-mare, even in his transient sleep. His tortured thoughts wander, like the troubled ghost of fable, even in the dark and [8/9] silent watches of the night, He is allowed no time for retirement, or for reflection. Sin demands every moment of his life; and the master who lays his votaries under eternal bonds, is not to be defrauded even of the little span of time, which this life affords.
The sinner is also required to sacrifice his honor, his credit, his reputation, in the cause of his master. Sin is disgraceful, even among sinners themselves; and the sinner, however studious to conceal or disguise his owu vices, is never indulgent to those of his brother sinner. He will expose the sins of others, with the most malignant satisfaction; and pursues and persecutes a fellow delinquent, with unrelenting acrimony and severity. And if sinners themselves thus detest vice, when they see it in others—if they shun and avoid their brethren in iniquity—in what light must the sinner be viewed, by the virtuous part of community? How must he suffer in his honor, his credit, and his reputation! Or suppose he should make a fair shew of honor; or attempt to bolster up his credit by pretences; or cloak his reputation under assumed appearances? All his attempts would be futile and vain. His deformity would defy all the arts of disguise. Like the frail and degraded votary of pleasure, who should appear in the borrowed garb of a devotee—the look of reproach—the sneer of contempt—the pointed finger of scorn—would pursue him through all his tricks of concealment—through all the mazes of deception.
The sinner is likewise required to sacrifice his property to the service of his master. Of the [9/10] truth of this assertion, we behold daily more than sufficient to convince us. To be satisfied of the insatiable demands of sin, we have only; to look into the world, and behold the havoc that has been produced, in property, in estates, and fortunes, by devotion to its precepts. We can readily trace the footsteps of this horrid monster, in a thousand scenes of ruin, misery, want and beggary, which present themselves on every side. These are scenes which the philanthropist and the Christian, can view only with indescribable regret and pain: and who indeed can view them, without exclaiming—such, O sin, are thy sacrifices!—and such are thy trophies!
But this is not all. Health, is another sacrifice, which the sinner is required to make in the service of his master. It is well known, that a large portion of the diseases which afflict mankind; are the effects of vice; and that the practices of sin, not only destroy the bodily constitution, but that they also impair the faculties of the mind, and reduce the proud lord of creation, to a grade but little superior to the brute.
And to these, the sacrifice of the peace, the comfort, and all the enjoyments of life, may be added: Nay, it is too well known, to require the exhibition of proofs in this place, that not only health, and all the enjoyments of life, but life itself, frequently falls a sacrifice to the will of this unholy master.
AND IS NOT THIS ENOUGH? No, brethren, no! Sin is not satisfied with all these sacrifices.—After its votaries have given up their time—their honor—their credit—their reputation—their [10/11] property—their health—their peace—their comforts—all the enjoyments of life—and even life itself—Sin, like the grave, still cries for more—still is unsatisfied—until the SOUL is offered up at its unhallowed shrine! And, dreadful consideration! this demand is also complied with. THE SOUL IS SACRIFICED.
And from this sacrifice, we learn the duration of the servitude of the sinner. It is expressed in one word: THAT DURATION IS ETERNAL.
Thus have I endeavoured to shew, that the sinner, as the text asserts, while he boasts of his liberty, is the most abject of slaves; and that the precepts of sin, subject their adherents and followers, to the most wretched and deplorable of all bondage.
And now let me ask—Who would prefer this boasted liberty of the sinner, to the glorious liberty of the children of God?—to the mild reign of religion, and the pleasant and delightful service of that divine Master, whose yoke is easy and whose burthen is light? Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. The service of Christ is neither slavish nor abject. The mind, under the influence of truly religious principles, is enthralled by no narrow prejudices—by no inveterate and vicious habits—by no impetuous and resistless passions. It is swayed by no lawless schemes of ambition—by no eager pursuit of forbidden pleasures. It indulges no unrighteous hopes; nor does it run any hazard of suffering by disquietude, anxiety, care, or doubt. It fears no disappointment, mortification, confusion, or disgrace. On the contrary, under such influences, [11/12] the judgment is unbiassed, cool, and dispassionate; the habits are temperate and calm; and the passions entirely subject to the guidance and control of the renovated and sanctified affections. Religion imposes no irksome duties upon its votaries. It requires no unreasonable sacrifices—no surrender of the honor, the credit, or the reputation. It makes but a moderate demand upon the property; nor does it require any sacrifice of health; or peace, or comfort, or any of the rational enjoyments of life. None of its services are rendered upon compulsion; but those who serve Christ, serve him freely and voluntarily. The duration of this service is, indeed, everlasting; and from this circumstance, it derives its principal value and importance. It is a consideration, full of joy and comfort to the Christian, that the delightful service which he commences in this world, shall never end. Finally, the service of Christ, is not dictated by that slavish fear, which would drive its victims down the precipice of despair and ruin; but by that love, which induces the faithful votary to surmount every obstacle—to climb the most rugged steeps—that he may eventually attain to the pinnacle of that rock, whose base is faith and hope, and whose summit reaches to Heaven.
To this high destiny, may every soul aspire, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be rendered and ascribed, all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.