The Abominable Nature of Sin
by Edward D. Griffin(1770-1835)
"Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, O do not this abominable thing that I hate" —Jer. 44:4
It is impossible for any man to form an exaggerated opinion of his own guilt. This is evident from a single consideration. Every sin deserves eternal death, according to the plain decision of the divine law. But no finite mind can comprehend, much less overrate, that guilt which deserves everlasting burnings. We may confine our views too much to sin, and exclude a sense of mercy, and thus sink into gloom. This is a fault. But no man can possibly overrate his guilt. Here he may give full latitude to his convictions and still fall infinitely short of the mark. To these reflections I am led by that pathetic burst of entreaty and indignation which appears in the text. God had long labored with the Jewish nation, and they had turned a deaf ear to all his entreaties. At length he sent Nebuchadnezzar against them, who destroyed their temple and cities, and carried the mass of the people to Babylon. The few that were left took Jeremiah and removed with him to Egypt. There the prophet received a commission from heaven to renew his expostulations with that stubborn people, and to call their attention once more to the reasons of the divine conduct towards them. After charging them in the name of the Lord with their sins, particularly their idolatry, he subjoins the words which I have read: "Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, O do not this abominable thing that I hate." By the abominable thing was meant idolatry; but the same may be said of every sin.
The doctrine then which we may draw from the text is this, that sin is the abominable thing which God hates. It will be my object to illustrate and apply this doctrine. That sin is abominable to God appears,
- I. From the nature of things.
- II. From the expressions he has made of that abhorrence.
- I. From the nature of things.
Sin is directly opposed to all the wishes and designs of God. "God is love." The object which he pursues with infinite desire, and indeed his only object, is to raise an immense kingdom of creatures to the highest eternal happiness, and to enjoy himself the blessedness which he imparts. In order for this they must possess the same love that he does, and be formed into an orderly kingdom, owning him for their Head and submitting affectionately to his dominion. To accomplish these ends he has issued a law, requiring them to love him with all the heart and their neighbor as themselves, and to express this temper in all their words and actions. The particular forms of conduct which are calculated to promote their mutual happiness, and which are therefore expressive of love, are marked out in the details of his law, whose grand object it is to secure a united, harmonious, and happy kingdom. He has left nothing unforbidden which is contrary to the good of the universe, and has tolerated no hostile principle by silence. His law of course is the universal standard of right.
Now sin consists in that dissociating principle which sets up a private interest against the public good. It splits up the universe into contending units; and that which was a kingdom of love and blessedness is now a hell. Though the social affections may sometimes set up the interest of a private circle in opposition to the public good, the chief thing that is arrayed against the universe is self-interest. The grand root of sin is inordinate self-love. Out of this arises pride and all those malignant passions which set themselves to defend our own name or estate. Out of this arises that undue regard to personal gratification which shows itself in the idolatrous love of the world,—which shows itself in all those indulgences which imbrute the man,—which shows itself in all the crimes committed against society. Out of this arises the strenuous opposition which the carnal heart makes to the divine law, and all the enmity which on that account it feels towards God. In short, out of selfishness, and other affections which brood over a limited interest, arise all those malignant passions which hurry men and devils into war against heaven, and constitute all the sin of earth and hell. Sin is thus the struggle of a private interest against the public good; and because it meets with opposition from God, it becomes his malignant enemy. It completely disjoints the universe, and, when it is mere selfishness, it arms each man against all other beings. In every motion it breaks in upon the order which the divine law has established. It cannot be sin without violating that order; for the very definition of sin is, that it is "the transgression of the law." Sin and transgression are synonymous terms. As nothing is morally good which does not conform to the divine law, so nothing is morally evil which does not violate that system of precepts.
This being the nature of sin, it is manifestly the enemy of public order and happiness, and therefore infinitely offensive to the God of love, and contrary to all that he has prescribed for the happiness of his kingdom, and to all the wishes and designs of his benevolence. As the Friend and Guardian of the universe, he must of course abhor and proscribe and punish sin. He must pursue it with infinite indignation as the disturber of the peace of his kingdom, the traitor and conspirator against his government, the implacable foe of every thing dear to his heart. The benevolent Father of the universe cannot but hate such an enemy with infinite detestation. It is love that abominates it, and infinite love must hold it in infinite abhorrence.
Sin not only disturbs the public peace by being itself the death of happiness,—not only by rebelling against God in the character of a Lawgiver,—but it opposes him in all the relations in which he acts for the good of his creatures. Has he created a world and assumed the relation of a Father? Sin refuses to acknowledge him as a Parent. Has he taken upon himself the office of providential Governor? Sin would take the management of the world out of his hands. Has he undertaken the work of a Saviour? Sin refuses to receive him in that character. In whatever office he acts for the happiness of his creatures, sin sets itself to oppose him. He cannot make a motion to gratify his love, but sin instantly moves to resist his purpose. Can it be otherwise than that he should hate such an enemy with the whole strength of his nature? That this is the case I am to show,
- II. From the expressions which he has made of this abhorrence.
1. In the penalty which he has annexed to his law. This is nothing less than an eternal exclusion from all good and the eternal endurance of all evil. "The wages of sin is death." This death is explained to be the endurance of eternal and unutterable torments. This endless and therefore infinite evil is to be regarded as the exact measure of God's abhorrence of sin. The threat of this infliction is not the effusion of a transient feeling; it is with great solemnity incorporated with the public law of his empire; which we are taught to regard, not only as the great standard of right, but as the deliberate and unchangeable expression of his heart: and we are assured that "heaven and earth shall pass" away before "one jot or one tittle" of that law shall fail.
2. In his providential government. When the angels sinned, those eldest sons of God, not all his love for his first born sons, not all the dignity of their nature, could save them. He hurled them from heaven and locked them up in the prison of eternal despair. When our first parents sinned, he turned them out of Eden, turned this beautiful world into a wilderness of thorns, deposited his curse in the ground, lodged it in the blood of man, and entailed upon hundreds of generations sorrow and disease and death. When the earth became filled with violence, he loathed it, and, (to use a strong eastern figure,) "repented—that he had made man," and he swept the world with a flood. When the inhabitants of the vale of Siddim had corrupted their ways beyond endurance, he rained fire from heaven upon them and hid the very ground which they had polluted under the waters of the Dead Sea. When Egypt rebelled, he lashed her with ten successive plagues, and at last buried her king and all her glory in a watery grave. When Israel rebelled in the wilderness, did he spare the favorite race whom he had gone down into Egypt to redeem? At one time he brought upon them the heathen, then fiery serpents. Now fire from heaven devoured them, then the ground opened and swallowed them up; and at last he swore by his holiness that, with two exceptions, all the adults should drop their carcases in the wilderness. During the fifteen centuries that the posterity of Abraham possessed the promised land, his providence was almost a constant remembrancer of his hatred of sin. Though they were his beloved family, whenever they openly sinned he would wound them "with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one." He often gave them into the hands of the heathen. He blotted out the name of ten of the tribes from under heaven. He sent the rest to Babylon. He gave them at last into the hands of the Romans, who strewed their native mountains with their bones, and drove out the rest to wander as vagabonds through the world.
It was the anger of God against sin which destroyed Ninevah and Babylon and Tyre, and Edom and Moab and the Philistines. It is this which has covered the earth with blood and turned it into one vast prison-house in which little else is heard but the groanings of the prisoners. There never was a pain that was not caused by sin. Collect all the sufferings of six thousand years, and the whole is but a faint expression of God's indignation against sin. The rear of all is brought up by death. See that beauteous frame dissolved,—that masterpiece of divine art,—that mechanism which seemed intended to lodge a deathless angel. See the agonies of dissolving nature. See the offensive mass a few days after. And is the glory of man reduced to this? Has sin thus unmade the noblest work of God? The grave yards, the vaults stored with human bones, the ashes of a hundred generations, proclaim the anger of God against sin. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." In every death you see a criminal executed according to the sentence of the divine law. Here mortal eyes lose sight of the object and faith must begin her vision. The providence of God extends to the eternal world. There lie the implements of his justice. There are collected all his magazines. While wrath sleeps in this world, sinners dream that God is "altogether such a one as" themselves. That is the world to correct all mistakes. As sure as God is true, he will put sinners into an eternal hell. He will lay upon them a punishment exactly proportioned to their guilt; and not one sin of thought, word, or deed shall escape. Sins which were long forgotten by them, will be found to have been laid up in the repositories of his memory; and what they thought was overlooked, will be seen to have been uniformly regarded with infinite abhorrence. To each sin will be attached its proper degree of punishment, and each degree will run parallel with eternity. The most minute transgression will be loaded with an endless curse. Eternal providence, like the divine law, will be found an infinite enemy of every sin. What wrath against sin must that be, which can impel the infinitely tender Father to resign the souls which he has made to everlasting burnings? He has not a particle of resentment against their persons. His love reaches after their happiness with unbounded desire. Nothing but hatred of sin can force the dreadful execution. O the amazing strength of that abhorrence which can accomplish all this! What overwhelming views will they then have of his implacable, eternal, omnipotent displeasure against sin. When they shall be brought out of their graves and arranged at his bar; when the frowns of God shall convulse the universe; then shall they know that he was not trifling with them when he forbade sin,—when he raised the threatening voice,—when for so many ages he uttered the vehement cry, "O do not this abominable thing that I hate."
But there is one exhibition of his displeasure against sin which is more amazing than all the rest. When his compassions yearned over a dying world and had infinite longings for their relief, he would not pardon one of their sins unless his beloved Son, in whom he took infinite delight, would descend from a God to a servant and die like a malefactor on the torturing cross, to convince the universe that he would support the authority of the law by executing its penalty on future offenders. And when his obedient Son had presented himself in the form of a servant, and brought the Father's heart to the solemn test, whether he would strike at sin through the bleeding heart of his own Son, he drew his sword,—he smote the monster though laid on one so dear,—and the monster and his only Son died in one day. And if he spared not his own Son, thinkest thou, O sinner, that he will spare thee? If these things were done "in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"
It becomes then a question of solemn import, Who are sinners? Often has this question been discussed in our presence, when it excited but little interest. But if such are the feelings of God towards sin, the question is too infinitely important to be turned aside. Who then are sinners? To this question the Scriptures have given a decided answer: "There is not a just man upon the earth that doth good and sinneth not." "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
Not only so, but all men by nature, so far as they are influenced by moral feelings, are under the entire dominion of sin. Through all their souls God sees not one trace of love to him or holy love to man. Except so far as they are restrained by conscience and the social affections, and by other things intended to fit them to live together in society, they are entirely governed by a debasing selfishness, that, as soon as these restraints are taken off, stands ready to sacrifice the universe to serve a private end. "God saw—that every imagination of the thoughts of" man's "heart was only evil continually." "The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness,—but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores." And as is the fountain so are the streams. So far as the words and actions of the natural man are of a moral nature, they are nothing but sin. "The plowing of the wicked is sin." The very "sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." Now then we may understand what feelings God has towards impenitent men. He regards them, so far as he contemplates them as moral beings, as one entire mass of pollution, which his heart abhors infinitely more than we do the most filthy viper. If the sinner could have a full view of the feelings which God has towards his sins, he would die as though ten thousand thunders burst upon his head. Sinner, if God hates one sin with infinite detestation, how does he feel towards you, who have been constantly sinning for so many years? Not a waking moment has passed in which you have not transgressed that law which says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." His eyes have followed you into every corner. He has watched you as constantly as though he had no other object of attention. All the sins of your life are this moment spread out before him, as though they had all been committed today. They appear to him like mountains piled on mountains, reaching to the very heavens and crying for vengeance. This enormous weight of guilt is crushing you to the lowest hell, while you are at ease and blessing yourselves that you are not thieves or murderers.
What a wonder that any of us are this side of eternal despair! Considering the abhorrence which God has always felt towards our natural character; considering that there has been nothing in us by nature to give him pleasure, but every thing to give him disgust; how astonishing that he has preserved us so long, and doubly astonishing that he has fed and clothed us, and sent us Bibles and sabbaths and the Holy Spirit, and sent his Son into the world to die for our salvation. O "the breadth and length and depth and height" of the love of God "which passeth knowledge."
What abundant cause have we for humility and self-loathing. What reason to lay our hands on our mouths and our mouths in the dust,—to weep and mourn and break our hearts. How strange to see such polluted worms take airs of self-importance, and erect themselves into attitudes of conscious worth. Dust and ashes should rather be their covering, and the rending sigh of a breaking heart their only language.
And what would have become of us had not the Son of God left the heaven of his glory "to seek and to save that which was lost"? We wanted one not merely to teach us lessons of morality and to spread before us a holy example, but to come down into our dungeon, to strike off the chains from wretched prisoners and "to loose those that" were "appointed to death." We wanted one to take our place and die before the gates of our prison, to prevent the law from taking its course upon us. We needed one whose death should do as much to uphold the authority of the law as the eternal destruction of Adam's race would have done. We wanted a Saviour absolutely divine. Wrap yourself up in a superficial morality and call it a coat of mail; I will hide myself in the righteousness of my Saviour. Those veins bled balm to heal my wounds. Those sighs dispelled the clouds which were ready to burst on me. That final groan completely drained the cup of wrath prepared for us. Let others push aside a Saviour to show their own fair form; I will wrap me in the garment which he has prepared, and die with my eye fixed upon his cross. Let my last words be those which trembled on the lips of the dying martyrs: None but Christ, none but Christ.
Poor impenitent sinners, covered over with pollution, condemned and abhorred of God, here is your only remedy. Take this away and all hope expires. You lie under an infinite load of guilt; you cannot atone for one sin; you must have this Saviour or perish forever. Why then, under the weight of all this guilt, do you reject the Saviour? The heavenly invitation calls you to his arms, and yet you refuse. For so many years has God been pleading with you, "O do not this abominable thing that I hate." It is affecting to hear the great God thus plead with worms. And it is greatly affecting to see those worms reject his entreaties. This rejection is infinitely offensive to God. It is a direct rejection of him. It is the blackest ingratitude. It is a most profane resistance of all the light he has shed. On these accounts the Jews were more severely punished than any other nation, and in the day of judgment will find it "more tolerable for—Sodom and Gomorrah" than for them. Do not act over again the rebellion of the Jews. Remember that it is written, "Because I—called and ye refused,—I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh." "Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Today. This and not tomorrow is the time fixed by heaven. Infinite rebellion and guilt attend upon delay. Infinite danger and folly accompany delay. If ever you wish for salvation, seize the offered blessing now. You need it as much now as you ever will. It is as easy to obtain it now as it ever will be. God gives you no cause for delay. Come, for "all things are ready." Say not that you cannot. If there is any deficiency in yourselves, it is only for you to cast yourselves on God. Go and rest yourselves wholly on him for strength. The more you feel your own weakness, the more you should rely on him. If you do not practice this reliance, you do not fully feel your own weakness, and this plea is only an excuse. Would to God that you felt your own utter insufficiency, and then you would take hold of his strength and do the work at once. There is no reason for delay. Just relax your grasp from every other object and fall into the arms of a Saviour. Do it now. The eyes of God are upon you. O let him see it done. Let him see it done before he rouses his wrath and swears, Ye shall not see my rest.