HOLINESS and SIN
by Bishop J.C. Ryle
[The following is taken from Bishop Ryle's great book Holiness . The selections are from the first chapter on sin. This is a very appropriate topic for meditation during Lent.]
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. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption.
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 material creation in Genesis began with “light,” and so also does the spiritual creation. Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day.
I say, then, that “sin,” speaking generally, is, as the Ninth Article of our Church 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 from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always against the spirit; and, therefore, in every person born into the world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation.”
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” (I John 3:4). The slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God's revealed will and character constitutes a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God's sight.
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 Prayerbook justly reminds us, by “leaving undone the things we ought to do,” as really as by “doing the things we ought not to do.” 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.”
Let us, then, have it fixed down in our minds that the sinfulness of man does not begin from without, but from within. It is not the result of bad training in early years. It is not picked up from bad companions and bad examples, as some weak Christians are too fond of saying. No! It is a family disease, which we all inherit from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and with which we are born. The fairest babe that has entered life this year, and become the sunbeam of a family, is not, as its mother perhaps fondly calls it, a little “angel,” or a little “innocent,” but a little “sinner.” Of all the foolish things that parents say about their children there is none worse than the common saying, “My son has a good heart at the bottom. He is not what he ought to be; but he has fallen into bad hands. Public schools are bad places. The tutors neglect the boys. Yet he has a good heart at the bottom.” The truth, unhappily, is diametrically the other way. The first cause of all sin lies in the natural corruption of the boy's own heart, and not in the school.
Sin is a disease which pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution and every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will, are all more or less infected. Even the conscience is so blinded that it cannot be depended on as a sure guide, and is as likely to lead men wrong as right, unless it is enlightened by the Holy Ghost.
For my part, I know no stronger proof of the inspiration of Genesis and the Mosaic account of the origin of man, than the power, extent, and universality of sin. Grant that mankind have all sprung from one pair, and that this pair fell (as Gen. 3 tells us), and the state of human nature everywhere is easily accounted for. Deny it, as many do, and you are at once involved in inexplicable difficulties.
No proof of the fullness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming, and unanswerable as the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane, and cry at Golgotha , “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46).
One point only remains to be considered on the subject of sin, which I dare not pass over. That point is its deceitfulness. We are too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself to us in its true colours, saying, “I am your deadly enemy, and I want to ruin you for ever in hell.” Oh, no! Sin comes to us, like Judas, with a kiss; and like Joab, with an outstretched hand and flattering words. The forbidden fruit seemed good and desirable to Eve; yet it cast her out of Eden . The walking idly on his palace roof seemed harmless enough to David; yet it ended in adultery and murder. It is a wise prayer in our Litany: “From the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, good Lord, deliver us.”
I ask my readers to observe what deep reasons we all have for humiliation and self-abasement. Let us sit down before the picture of sin displayed to us in the Bible, and consider what guilty, vile, corrupt creatures we all are in the sight of God. How well that language suits God's children which the Prayerbook puts in the mouth of every Churchman before he goes up to the Communion Table, “The remembrance of our misdoings is grievous unto us; the burden is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, forgive us all that is past.” How true it is that the holiest saint is in himself a “miserable sinner,” and a debtor to mercy and grace to the last moment of his existence!
For my part I am persuaded the more light we have, the more we see our own sinfulness; the nearer we get to heaven, the more we are clothed with humility.
I ask my readers to observe how deeply thankful we ought to be fore the glorious Gospel of the grace of God. There is a remedy revealed for man's need, as wide and broad and deep as man's disease. We need not be afraid to look at sin, and study its nature, origin, power, extent, and vileness, if we only look at the same time at the Almighty medicine provided for us in the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Though sin has abounded, grace has much more abounded.
Awful and tremendous as the right view of sin undoubtedly is, no one need faint and despair if he will take a right view of Jesus Christ at the same time.
The Annual Parish Meeting was moved up to January 31 this year. A Pot Luck meal preceded the meeting. The event was well attended! God be praised for all the good reports this year on attendance, finances, new parishioners, outreach, meetings, etc.!
Bishop Franklin H. Sellers went to be with the Lord January 17, 2016 at the age of 89. A Memorial Service took place at the church on Saturday, February 6, at 11 a.m. Bishop Royal U Grote officiated. A reception followed in the Parish Hall .
Bishop Sellers was a father, a pastor, a denominational leader, a friend and will be greatly missed. Please be in much prayer for his sons, Frank, Walter, David, & Paul and their families.
MISSONARY OF THE MONTH
Please pray for Judy King, retired Amazon missionary, who now lives in Illinois , but returns to the Amazon on a yearly basis to visit and help out.
Begin Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, Soup Suppers at 6:30 p.m
GUILD BAKE SALE
Sunday, Feb. 14