The truth of the wickedness of mankind is not popular, nor is it spoken of in our day as it should be; to label sin for what it is will cause sinners to gnash their teeth at the messenger. However, if sin is not rightly proclaimed and understood, how can an unregenerate sinner see the need for a Savior? Today's gospel is watered down and has no power, it is accursed; many feel they need to hammer home about the love of God, but they fail to reveal how wicked the heart of man is or how holy the God of heaven is.
If there's an incorrect understanding of man's wickedness, there will be no understanding of anything else. How can such wicked, vile, evil sinners ever come to Christ? Surely it isn't based on any 'decision' or 'choice', for the heart of man will always choose sin and evil over Christ and His Gospel. The fact that the whole human race is fallen and sinful prevents any nonsense known as 'free will'. With that said, I present to you J.C. Ryle's excellent writing on holiness. This is part one...enjoy!!!
I have had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country. Politics, or controversy, or party-spirit [factious contention], or worldliness, have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us. The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background. The standard of living has become painfully low in many quarters. The immense importance of “adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Tit 2:10), and making it lovely and beautiful by our daily habits and tempers, has been far too much overlooked. Worldly people sometimes complain with reason that “religious” persons, so-called, are not so amiable and unselfish and good-natured as others who make no profession of religion. Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification.
Sound protestant and evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt. It is my firm impression that we want a thorough revival about scriptural holiness, and I am deeply thankful that attention is being directed to the point.
“Sin is the transgression of the law.”—1 John 3:4
Knowledge of Sin Is Fundamental
He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness, must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume about holiness by making some plain statements about sin.
The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are “words and names” which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart, and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with “light,” and so also does the spiritual creation. God “shines into our hearts” by the work of the Holy Ghost, and then spiritual life begins (2Co 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief wants of the church in the nineteenth century has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.
I. Definition of Sin
I shall begin the subject by supplying some definition of sin. We are all of course familiar with the terms “sin” and “sinners.”
We talk frequently of “sin” being in the world, and of men committing “sins.” But what do we mean by these terms and phrases? Do we really know? I fear there is much mental confusion and haziness on this point. Let me try, as briefly as possible, to supply an answer. I say, then, that “sin,” speaking generally, is, as the Ninth Article of the Church of England declares, “the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone (quam longissime is the Latin) from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth alway against the spirit; and, therefore, in every person born into the world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.” Sin, in short, is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race, of every rank, and class, and name, and nation, and people, and tongue; a disease from which there never was but one born of woman that was free. Need I say that One was Christ Jesus the Lord?
I say, furthermore, that “a sin,” to speak more particularly, consists in doing, saying, thinking, or imagining, anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God. “Sin,” in short, as the Scripture saith, is “the transgression of the law” (1Jo 3:4). The slightest, outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God’s revealed will and character
constitute a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God’s sight.
Of course, I need not tell any one who reads his Bible with attention, that a man may break God’s law in heart and thought, when there is no overt and visible act of wickedness. Our Lord has settled that point beyond dispute in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5:21-28). Even a poet of our own has said, “A man may smile and smile, and be a villain.”
Again, I need not tell a careful student of the New Testament, that there are sins of omission as well as commission, and that we sin, as our Prayer-book justly reminds us, by “leaving undone the things we ought to do,” as really as by “doing the things we ought not to do.” The solemn words of our Master in the Gospel of Matthew place this point also beyond dispute. It is there written,
“Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink” (Mat 25:41-42). It was a deep and thoughtful saying of holy Archbishop Usher, just before he died: “Lord, forgive me all my sins, and specially my sins of omission.”
But I do think it necessary in these times to remind my readers that a man may commit sin and yet be ignorant of it, and fancy himself innocent when he is guilty. I fail to see any scriptural warrant for the modern assertion that “Sin is not sin to us until we discern it and are conscious of it.” On the contrary, in the 4th and 5th chapters of that unduly neglected book, Leviticus, and in the 15th of Numbers, I find Israel distinctly taught that there were sins of ignorance which rendered people unclean, and needed atonement (Lev 4:1-35; 5:14-19; Num 15:25-29). And I find our Lord expressly teaching that “the servant who knew not his master’s will and did it not,” was not excused on account of his ignorance, but was “beaten” or punished (Luk 12:48). We shall do well to remember, that when we make the measure of our sinfulness to be our own miserably imperfect knowledge and consciousness, we are on very dangerous ground. A deeper study of Leviticus might do us much good.
Continue reading J.C. Ryle's excellent book, Holiness, here...
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan