Taken and adapted from, “The Great Concern of Salvation”
Written by Thomas Halyburton,
Published posthumously in 1721,
The charge brought against you, reader, is not a slight misdemeanor that may be atoned for by a bare acknowledgment, or a heartless cry for mercy.
It is one of awful magnitude, for it is that of sin against the great Sovereign of the world. Sin is an ordinary word, and most men conclude that but little is comprehended in it. But in reality there is more in it than men or angels can ever fully unfold. Do not consider this a groundless allegation; but consider well the reasons upon which it is founded.
I. Your serious attention is first invited to some views of sin.
First. View it in the glass of God’s law.
The Most High and Holy God has exhibited his will in two tables, containing rules that are holy, just, and every way advantageous for the government of man. Here, you may see sin dashing in pieces these two tables, in a much worse sense than Moses did. Every sin throws them to the ground; for, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Is it a small thing to trample under foot the holy and righteous law of God, that law which is the image of perfect holiness and spotless purity?
Second. Take a view of sin in the nature of God, the fountain of all glory, excellency, and majesty, and how hateful will it appear!
Nothing in all the world, but sin, is opposed to God. The meanest creature, the crawling insect, has nothing in its nature really opposed to the nature of God. Sin, and sin alone, is opposed. With this he cannot dwell. “Evil shall not dwell with him, nor sinners stand in his sight.” “O, do not this abominable thing that I hate.”
Third. View sin in the threatening of God’s law, and see how it is there estimated.
All the power of heaven, and the wrath of God, are arrayed against sin. Take one instance in the seventh chapter of the book of Joshua. There, a people accustomed to victory retreat before the enemy, and fall a prey to a people devoted to destruction; and, more than this, God calls all the people accursed, and says, “Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” But why? What means this vengeance? There was a sin committed; Achan had taken some of the spoil, contrary to the Divine permission. Here a single sin brought down the threatenings of God against a whole nation. In short, look through the Bible, and you will see one threatening full of temporal, and another full of eternal plagues; one full of external, and another of internal and spiritual woes; and all directed against sin.
Fourth. View sin in the judgments of God.
In one nation, thousands are falling before the avenging enemy; the sword is glutted with blood. In another, as many are swept off by pestilence; and all are wearing out by time. Go to the churchyards, and see the rubbish of many generations. Find you nothing of sin in all this? As Jehu exclaimed, when he saw the dead sons of Ahab, “Who slew all these?” Who brought down these sons of pride, that had just been exulting in warlike glory? Who filled your churchyards with fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, high and low, rich and poor? Surely sin has done it; “for as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Fifth. Listen to one under conviction of sin.
Read the eighty-eighth Psalm; and there witness the trouble of a soul filled with the terrors of the wrath of God. Now, when you see one thus crying out in anguish of spirit, and tossed by the billows of divine wrath, were you to ask the occasion of all his distress, he would tell you, sin has caused it all.
Sixth. View sin in the hateful and enormous crimes that are committed.
They bring infamy and disgrace even in the eyes of men. Human nature, corrupt as it is, shrinks at their enormity. There are sins which “are not so much as named among the Gentiles.” Now, if a man be guilty of these, he becomes odious, even in the eyes of the world. But why? What is there so odious in these crimes, that men flee from the persons guilty of them? There is sin in them; and hence they are so hateful; and the only thing that distinguishes these from others, is their circumstantial aggravations; for in their nature all sins agree. The least of them, as well as the greatest, is a violation of the holy law of God, and a contempt of the great Lawgiver. And if sin appears so odious in these crying enormities, in reality it is as much so when less perceptible and more familiar to our corrupt natures.
Seventh. View sin in the case of the finally lost.
O, could you look into the pit of woe, and see the damned in chains of darkness, you might then have some sense of the evil of sin. It is sin which has kindled the flames of everlasting fire. It is sin which thrusts the damned down to hell; it is sin which holds them there, and will hold them there forever. Could you have a just impression of these things, how hateful would sin appear!
Eighth. View sin in the sufferings of Christ.
Here, 0 sinner, as in a glass, behold your own heart. You think it a little matter that you have sinned; you “roll sin as a sweet morsel under your tongue.” But come, now, and see it holding the sword; or rather thrusting it into the Savior’s side! Here is a sight which made the earth tremble, and the sun hide his face. Here you see how God looks upon sin. All the affection he bore to the Son of his eternal love, could not stay the hand of justice from inflicting death upon him, for the sin of the world. Here you may see more of the evil of sin than anywhere else. Deep indeed must the pollution be, if nothing but the blood of the Son of God could wash it away. Never did we have more dreadful evidence of the power of sin than when it blinded the eyes of men, so that they could not discern “the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;” though his Divine nature daily beamed through his human, in words which none but God could speak, and works which none but God could do. Yet such was the power of sin, that it hurried men to the awful crime of imbruing their hands in the blood of the Son of God.
But perhaps some may ask, what have we to do with this? We have never put to death the Son of God, and hence we cannot here see any crime of our own. But suppose we grant what you say as to your innocence in this matter, yet here we see much of the nature of sin; since all sin partakes of the same common nature, and is every way equal to, if not the very same, against which God in so awful a manner manifested his displeasure, when he “spared not his own Son,” but “laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
But does not that very sin lie at your door? Dare you raise your eyes to Heaven, and say, that you received Christ the first time an offer of him was made to you? If not, then you do as much as to say that putting him to death was no crime.
By your conduct you justify the Jews, and thus in their crimes you may see your own. There can be no neutral ground here. All to whom the Gospel comes, must be either for or against the Jews in their rejecting and crucifying Christ; and in no other way can we give testimony against them, than by believing the Gospel report, that he was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. So far as we lack this belief, we are guilty of the death of Christ; for unbelief subscribes to the charge of the Jews against him, and declares him an impostor. You are either a believer or an unbeliever. If a believer, then it was for your very sins that Christ was crucified. For “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” If you are an unbeliever, then you reject the witness Christ gave of himself; and therefore you practically declare him an impostor, and worthy of death; and you virtually give your consent to the cruelty of the Jews in the sentence of his condemnation.
II. Notice also some of the great evils implied in sin.
First. The least sin has atheism in it.
An Atheist, or one who denies the existence of a God, is a creature so degenerate, that some have doubted whether there ever was a human being who disbelieved the existence of God. But there are many practical Atheists, who “profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” The Psalmist thus describes the natural man: “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” From this state of the heart flows a train of practical impieties; “Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none that doeth good.” Now the Psalmist here speaks of the whole race of Adam; and the Apostle to the Romans employs the passage above quoted to prove that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” And, indeed, do we not all deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws? When we commit sin, do we not deny and dishonor his holiness? Do we not disparage his wisdom, when we set up our own will as the guide of our actions? And do we not deny his all-sufficiency when we find more in sin or in the creature than in him? In short, sin, one way or another, is a denial of all God’s attributes, and therefore every sin has Atheism in it; and they who are most ready to question this truth are probably the most guilty.
Second. Every sin has idolatry in it.
But you say you have never bowed down to an idol; you were better taught. But do you think that Pagan rites alone have idolatry in them? The prophet Ezekiel speaks of those who were as punctual as you are in attending upon the external duties of religion; they were externally in covenant with God as well as you. Nor is it at all improbable that they abjured external idolatry; for the Jews after the Babylonian captivity, when Ezekiel lived, never followed idols as before. Yet hear the message of the Prophet to them: “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and have put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face.” Everyone is an idolater who gives to anything but God that place in his heart which belongs to God alone. Who is not guilty of this when he serves sin? For by serving sin, he substitutes either himself or Satan in God’s room.
Third. Sin has blasphemy in it.
It reproaches God. They who “set their mouth against the heavens” are not the only blasphemers, but those also who reproach God in their actions. “But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land or a stranger, the same reproaches the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.” God in his laws designed to manifest his wisdom as the Supreme Governor of the world. But the sinner’s conduct charges God with folly, inasmuch as he prefers his own will to the divine commands. Sin also reproaches God’s goodness; for in refusing subjection to his laws, the sinner practically declares that these laws have not sufficient goodness in them to claim his obedience; that God by them has deprived him of that good which ought to have been conceded. And sin likewise reproaches the righteousness and holiness of God; for these attributes are stamped upon that law, which sinners reject and trample on. “He that believeth not God hath made him a liar,” and to disbelieve God is to accuse him either of unrighteousness or folly. Now this part of the charge goes even beyond Atheism; for the Atheist entirely disowns God, and so entertains no such unsuitable thoughts of him as he who owns him, and yet by his practice accuses him of ignorance, unrighteousness or folly.
Fourth. Every sin has robbery in it.
One part of God’s glory, which he has said he will not give to another, is his absolute dominion. Now every sinner, so far as he disobeys God, endeavors to take from him the command and exercise it himself, or give it to another, than which there can be no greater robbery. He who obeys the command, gives God the glory of his authority and owns him Governor of the world. And this is a part of God’s property; it is the revenue he requires of the world; but the sinner, by every sin he commits, endeavors to rob him of this glory. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” In tithes and offerings! Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” So sinners now may ask, “Wherein have we robbed God?” We may reply, “You have robbed him of that which is far more valuable than tithes and offerings. In every sin you rob him of that which is better to him than sacrifice.” “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Fifth. Every sin has rebellion in it.
The infamy of rebellion has often been put upon men for disobeying the unlawful and impious commands of their fellow-men, while disobedience to God has received a more mild and favorable name. But if we call things by their right names, sin alone is rebellion, and of this crime every sinner is guilty. “If ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandments of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you.” Thus you see that God has declared disobedience and rebellion to be the same thing, and hence every, sin is rebellion against God.
Sixth. Every sin has murder in it.
If he that “hates his brother is a murderer,” certainly he who sins against his own soul is no less so. It is sin that destroys the soul; and he who practices sin does that which murders not the body only, but body and soul. The sinner is therefore a self-murderer. But again, if he who “hates his brother is a murderer,” and if “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” is the latter offence deserving of a milder name than the former? Not that every one who hates his brother intends to murder him; but that hatred to a brother, so far as it goes, tends that way; nor that every sinner intends to dethrone and destroy his Maker; but that sin, so far as it goes, tends that way. If enmity to God were acted out without limit, it would take away the divine sovereignty, and with it, the divine will and glory; and without these, God, as God, could not exist.
We have now seen, that in sinning you are guilty of atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, robbery, rebellion, and murder. But, these offences are not all; for they are attended with many other evil sins and evil aggravations, which, if they were all put together, swell the number of sins in sinning to a fearfully prodigious amount.