The Hell of Sin In the Awakened Conscience

Charles Spurgeon, sermon 1068:

Only let a man once feel sin for half-an-hour, really feel its tortures, and I warrant you he could prefer to dwell in a pit of snakes than to live with his sins. Remember that cry of David, “My sin is ever before me” [Psalm 51:3]; he speaks as though it haunted him. He shut his eyes but he still saw its hideous shape; he sought his bed, but like a nightmare it weighed upon his breast; he rose, and it rose with him; he tried to shake it off among the haunts of men, in business and in pleasure, but like a blood-sucking vampire it clung to him. Sin was ever before him, as though it were painted on his eye-balls, the glass of his soul’s window was stained with it. He sought his closet but could not shut it out, he sat alone but it sat with him; he slept, but it cursed his dreams. His memory it burdened, his imagination it lit up with lurid flame, his judgment it armed with a ten-thonged whip, his expectations it shrouded in midnight gloom. A man needs no worse hell than his own sin, and an awakened conscience.

What is there to say after reading that quote except to sing: “Hallelujah! All I have is Christ / Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.”

At All Cost, Get This

Romans 5:20–21:

…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Assurance (Banner of Truth, 1971), pages 299–300:

What grace has done is not merely to counteract exactly what sin has done. If grace had done that, and that alone, it would still be something wonderful. If the effect of grace had merely been to wipe out, and to cancel, all that had happened on the other side, we should have had a theme for praising God sufficient to last us through all eternity.

But, says the Apostle, it is not an exact counterbalance; what I have on the right side does not exactly tally with that I have on the left. In fact there is no comparison; it is a superfluity, an abounding, and engulfing, it is an overflowing on the side of grace. We must hold on to this truth at all costs and get it clear in our minds. The point is that grace does not merely exactly balance, it does not just undo what sin has done; it does much more.

On Dispensing Religious Jargon

Here’s a wise caution for all preachers, teachers, and writers who frequently draw from the vocabulary of the faith — words like sin, grace, Christ, and a host of other sanctified terms that emerge over time within our particular circles — but who are tempted to use the terms without ever stopping to explain their meaning. Helmut Thielicke explains the danger, and then proposes one helpful practice, in his book The Trouble with the Church: A Call for Renewal (Harper & Row, 1965), pages 36–38:

Where is the average person today who, when he hears the word “sin,” really hears what the New Testament meant by that word? For whom today does this word still say that here man is being addressed at the point of his resistance and opposition to God, that this means man in his will to assert his autonomy, his insistence that everything centers in man, his incredible passion for security, his lostness in preoccupation with the moment and that which is tangible and immediately at hand? And yet all this must be heard when we hear the word “sin,” if for no other reason than to understand that it is possible for a sinner to be at the same time an example of moral perfection and that he need by no means be a criminal, an antisocial, or even a person who lacks seriousness. Were not the Pharisees ethically very respectable people? And yet for Jesus they were more drastic examples of sin than publicans and prostitutes.

And the word “Christ” itself? What would really be the result if we were to investigate the exchange value of that term in the psychological substructure of the average man today? What we would come out with would probably be some idea of a fabulously wise man or a perfect human being.

The point is that we need to say what we mean by these terms; we dare not throw them at people as supposedly valid coins whose value is immediately recognized. Otherwise we shall all too thoughtlessly reach out for them with the notion that they are perfectly familiar, whereas the truth is that the metal begins to glow and burn only when we have some idea of what these coins really signify. …

I once experimented with students, having them prepare sermons in which the conventional terms like “God,” “sin,” “grace,” etc. did not appear. The words had to be paraphrased. I think this is a good exercise, even though it has importance only as an interim practice. For we should not discontinue the use of these words in the pulpit; all we need is a withdrawal-cure because of the thoughtless use we make of them. We need to learn to overcome the temptation to string together the old words in different variations, because then souls remain underfed and are lost.