Excerpts taken and adapted from, The Crown and Glory of Christianity, or,
HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness
Written by Thomas Brooks
It is between a holy and an unholy soul, as it is between two children…
…one will not touch the coal because it will smut him, and the other will not touch it because it will burn him. A holy heart rises against sin because of its defiling nature; but an unholy heart rises against sin because of its burning and damning nature. A holy man is most affected and afflicted with the evil that is in sin; but an unholy heart is most affected and afflicted with the punishment that is due to sin. A holy person hates sin because it pollutes his soul; but an unholy person hates it because it destroys his soul. A holy person loathes sin because it makes against God’s holiness; but an unholy person loathes it because it provokes God’s justice. A holy person detests sin because of the hell which is in sin; but an unholy person detests sin because of the hell which follows sin. A holy heart abhors all sin; but an unholy heart is still in league with some sin, Romans 12:9, and 7:15, 19; Isaiah 28:15, 18. Now because this is a point of great concernment, I shall a little more open and evidence the truth of it, in these three particulars:
The heart of a holy man rises against SECRET sins, against such as lie furthest off from the eye of man: Psalm 119:113, “I hate vain thoughts—but your law do I love.” What more secret than vain thoughts? and yet against these the heart of a holy man rises. When Joseph was tempted to be secretly wicked with his mistress, his heart rises against it: Gen. 39:9, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against the Lord?” Hezekiah humbled himself for “the pride of his heart,” 2 Chron. 32:24-26. Heart-sins lie most hidden and secret; and yet for these, a holy man humbles himself. Job would not allow his heart, in an idolatrous way, secretly to kiss his hand, Job 31:26-27.
The heart of a holy man rises against wickedness in the dark, against folly in a corner, against sin in a closet. Just so, Paul was much affected and afflicted with the operations of sin within him, “with the law in his members rebelling against the law of his mind,” Romans 7:23-24. Paul, after his conversion, never fell into any scandalous sin. Those sins that did most trouble him and distress him were of his own house—yes, were in his own heart.
A holy man knows that secret sins are sins, as well as those which are open, Psalm 19:12. He knows that secret sins must be repented of as well as others; he knows that God takes notice of secret sins as well as of open sins: 2 Sam. 12:12, “You did it secretly.” He knows that secret sins do often interpose between God and his soul: “You have set our iniquities before you: our secret sins in the light of your countenance,” Psalm 90:8. He knows that secret sins will quickly become public, except they are presently loathed and speedily mortified, Gen. 38:24-27. He knows that secret sins, like secret diseases and secret wounds, do oftentimes prove most dangerous and pernicious; he knows that secret sins are the price of blood, as well as open sinnings. He knows that secret sins are a grief to the Spirit, as well as those which are manifest. He knows that sometimes God punishes secret sins with manifest judgments, as you may see in that great instance of David, 2 Sam. 12:10, 18. Upon all which accounts, a holy heart rises in a detestation of secret sins. But,
The heart of a holy man rises against the LEAST sins, as well as against secret sins, in a strict sense. I know there is no little sin, because there is no little hell, no little damnation, no little law, nor no little God to sin against; but yet some sins may comparatively be said to be little, if you compare them with those which are more great and gross, which are more heinous and odious, Mat. 23:24. Now the hatred of a holy man rises against the least: Psalm 119:163, “I hate and abhor lying: but your law do I love.” I hate, I abhor with horror, I loathe, I detest, I abominate lying as I do hell itself—so much the original word imports. David’s heart smote him for the cutting off the lap of Saul’s garment; and his heart smote him again for numbering of the people; and yet neither of these sins were heinous or scandalous, 1 Sam. 24:5, and 2 Sam. 24:10.
Some write, that there is such a native dread and terror of the hawk implanted in the dove, that it detests and abhors the very sight of the least feather that has grown upon the hawk. Certainly, there is such a holy dread of sin implanted in the heart of a saint, that he cannot but detest and abhor the least sin—yes, the very appearance of sin: his soul rises against the least motions or inclinations to evil, though they are silvered over with the most sophisticated shows, and most glorious pretenses: for he knows that the least sins are contrary to a righteous law, a holy God, and to his blessed Savior, and the Spirit—his only Comforter. [1 Cor. 8:13; Gal. 2:3-4; Jude 23.]
[1.] First, A holy man knows that little sins, if not prevented, will bring on greater sins. David gives way to his wandering eye, and that led him to those scandalous sins for which God broke his bones, hid his face, and withdrew his Spirit, 2 Sam. 12:26, seq.
Just so, Peter first denies his Master, and then denies him, and then falls a-cursing and damning of himself, Mat. 26:70-75; as the Greek word imports, he imprecated the wrath of God to fall upon him, and that he might be separated from the presence and glory of God, if he knew the man; and then concludes with a most incredible lie, “I don’t know the man!”—though there was hardly a person who did not know Christ by sight—he being very famous for the many miracles that he daily wrought before their eyes. Ah! to what a height will sin suddenly rise!
Just so, Jacob, first he tells three lies in a breath, Gen. 27:19, 20: 1. I am Esau; 2. Your firstborn; 3. I have done according as you bade me. And then he takes the name of God in vain, by authoring God to that which he did: “The Lord your God brought it to me.” Ah, of what an encroaching nature is sin! how insensibly and suddenly does it infiltrate into the soul! [Just so, Austin confesses that his mother Monica, by sipping and supping when she filled the cup to others, came at last to take a cup of wine excessively sometimes.]
Lesser sins usually are inlets to greater sins—as the little thief let in at the window opens the door, and makes way for the greater; and the little wedge makes way for the greater. When Pompey could not take a city by force, he pretended that he would withdraw his army: only he desired that they would entertain a few of his weak and wounded soldiers, which accordingly they did. These soldiers soon recovered their strength, and opened the gates of the city, by which means Pompey’s army entered and subdued the citizens. Just so, little sins yielded to soon gather strength, and open the door to greater sins; and so a conquest is made upon the soul. This a holy heart well understands, and therefore it hates and abhors the least sin. But,
[2.] Secondly, A holy heart knows that little sins have exposed both sinners and saints to very great punishments. A gracious soul remembers the man who was stoned to death—for gathering of sticks on the Sabbath-day. He remembers how Saul lost two kingdoms at once, his own kingdom and the kingdom of heaven—for sparing of Agag and the fat of the cattle. He remembers how the unprofitable servant, for the non-improvement of his talent, was cast into outer darkness. He remembers how Ananias and Sapphira were suddenly stricken dead for telling a lie. He remembers how Lot’s wife, for a look of curiosity, was turned into a pillar of salt. He remembers how Adam was cast out of paradise for eating an apple; and the angels cast out of heaven for not keeping their standings. He remembers that Jacob smarted for his lying to his dying day. He remembers how God followed him with sorrow upon sorrow, and breach upon breach, filling up his days with grief and trouble. He remembers how Moses was shut out of the Holy Land, because he spoke unadvisedly with his lips. [Num. 15:30, 37-38; 1 Sam. 15:23; Mat. 25:25, 31; Acts 5:3- 4; Gen. 19:26 and 3 and 27.]
He remembers the young prophet who was slain by a lion for eating a little bread and drinking a little water, contrary to the command of God, though he was drawn thereunto by an old prophet, under a pretense of a revelation from heaven, 1 Kings 13. He remembers how Zacharias was stricken both dumb and deaf, because he believed not the report of the angel Gabriel, Luke 1:19-62. He remembers how Uzzah was stricken dead for holding up the ark when it was in danger to have fallen. Yes, he can never forget the fifty thousand men of Beth-shemesh who were slain for looking into the ark, 2 Sam. 6:7-8; 1 Sam. 6:19-21. Now, ah, how does the remembrance of these things stir up the hatred and indignation of a gracious soul against the least sins!
A grain of poison diffuses itself to all parts, until it strangles the vital spirits, and separates the soul from the body. A little coal of fire has turned many a stately building into ashes. A little prick with a thorn can as well kill a man, as a cut with a drawn sword. A little fly may spoil all the alabaster box of ointment. General Norris having received a slight wound in his arm in the wars of Ireland, made light of it—but his arm gangrened, and so he lost both arm and life together. Fabius, a senator of Rome, and chief-justice besides, was strangled by swallowing a small hair in a draught of milk. A fit of an fever carried away Tamerlane, who was the terror of his time. Anacreon, the poet, was choked to death, with the skin of a grape. An emperor died by the scratch of a comb. One of the kings of France died miserably by choking on a bite of pork; and his brother, being hit with a tennis ball, was struck into his grave! And thus you see little things have brought upon many great miseries.
And so little sins may expose and make people very liable to great punishments: and therefore no wonder if the heart of a holy man rises against them. Those sins which are seemingly but small, are very provoking to the great God, and very hurtful to the immortal soul—and therefore they cannot but be the object of a Christian’s hatred.