Sin (6)

c. In the next place, a fight view of sin is the best antidote to that sensuous, ceremonial, formal kind of Christianity, which has swept over England like a flood in the last twenty-five years, and carried away so many before it. I can well believe that there is much that is attractive in this system of religion, to a certain order of minds, so long as the conscience is not fully enlightened. But when that wonderful part of our constitution called conscience is really awake and alive, I find it hard to believe that a sensuous ceremonial Christianity will thoroughly satisfy us. A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys and dolls and rattles, so long as it is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that nothing will satisfy it but food. Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul. Music and flowers and candles and incense and banners and processions and beautiful vestments and confessionals and man-made ceremonies of a semi-Romish character may do well enough for him under certain conditions. But once let him 'awake and arise from the dead', and he will not rest content with these things. They will seem to him mere solemn triflings and a waste of time. Once let him see his sin, and he must see his Saviour. He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician. He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life. I may seem bold in what I am about to say, but I fearlessly venture the assertion that four-fifths of the semi-Romanism of the last quarter of a century would never have existed if English people had been taught more fully and clearly the nature, vileness and sinfulness of sin.

d. In the next place, a right view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the overstrained theories of perfection of which we hear so much in these times. I shall say but little about this, and in saying it I trust I shall not give offence. If those who press on us perfection mean nothing more than an all-round consistency, and a careful attention to all the graces which make up the Christian character, reason would that we should not only bear with them, but agree with them entirely. By all means let us aim high. But if men really mean to tell us that here in this world a believer can attain to entire freedom from sin, live for years in unbroken and uninterrupted communion with God, and feel for months together not so much as one evil thought, I must honestly say that such an opinion appears to me very unscriptural. ! go even further. I say that the opinion is very dangerous to him that holds it, and very likely to depress, discourage and keep back inquirers after salvation. I cannot find the slightest warrant in God's Word for expecting such perfection as this while we are in the body! believe the words of our fifteenth Article are strictly true: that 'Christ alone is without sin; and that all we, the rest, though baptized and born again in Christ, offend in many things; and if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' To use the language of our first homily, 'There be imperfections in our best works: we do not love God so much as we are bound to do, with all our heart, mind and power; we do not fear God so much as we ought to do; we do not pray to God but with many and great imperfections. We give, forgive, believe, live and hope imperfectly; we speak, think and do imperfectly; we fight against the devil, the world and the flesh imperfectly. Let us, therefore, not be ashamed to confess plainly our state of imperfection.' Once more I repeat what I have said: the best preservative against this temporary delusion about perfection which clouds some minds - for such I hope I may call it - is a clear, full, distinct understanding of the nature, sinfulness and deceitfulness of sin.

e. In the last place, a scriptural view of sin will prove an admirable antidote to the low views of personal holiness, which are so painfully prevalent in these last days of the church. This is a very painful and delicate subject, I know, but I dare not turn away from it. It has long been my sorrowful conviction that the standard of daily life among professing Christians in this country has been gradually falling. I am afraid that Christ-like charity, kindness, good temper, unselfishness, meekness, gentleness, good nature, self-denial, zeal to do good and separation from the world are far less appreciated than they ought to be and than they used to be in the days of our fathers.

to be continued