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Home : Articles :
Little Sins

 

Little Sins
By C. G. Finney

"Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." --James ii.10.

The state of the heart, the intention with which every thing is done constitutes it either sin or holiness. Christ, when speaking of the outward conduct of man traces it (the outward conduct) right back to the heart; and they taught that if any action proceeded from love to God and our neighbor, it was right and good; but if not it was wicked, whatever the outward form of it might be. Christ made it a prime object of His teaching to show what was the real spirit of the law at all times: they taught that love was the fulfilling of the law; that all law was fulfilled in one word--love; and, therefore, whatever action was not from love was sin.

Christ said, if a man should so much as look upon a woman to lust after her, he had already committed adultery with her in his heart; he took every one of the precepts of the moral law, and resolved it all back into the state of the heart in which everything was done. This, to be sure, was a most terrible blow to the hopes of the self-righteous, to those who had a great regard for their own doings, but he saw that this was needed. the spirit of the law always respects the motive from which an action springs. The whole of the law is summed up in these two requirements--love to God and love to man. And this love must not be a mere emotion: the whole being must be devoted to the end to which God is devoted: it must be a voluntary devotion to God because of the end which he seeks. it is the mind in a voluntary state yielding itself up, not to self-interest, but the glory of God, and the good of all beings.

It is easy to see that the state of mind which will supremely devote itself to one great end, cannot at the same time give itself up for the promotion of a different end: his mind cannot be devoted to one end and all his outward conduct tend in a directly opposite course; the very fact that he is devoted to an end will regulate his being, and be the mainspring of all his outward actions. If a man's mind is devoted to God, his outward actions will be an illustration of his thoughts: his heart is full of love to God, and he is set upon realizing the end at which God aims; and, therefore, all his outward actions will be a succession of endeavors to realize that end. Selfishness, in all sinners, is the end at which they aim; and their outward life is nothing more than a perpetual succession of efforts to gratify themselves; hence it is easy to see that all their actions will have one great end in view--the promotion of their own interests.

When there is supreme love to God, and love to our fellow-men--we cannot consent in any way to wrong God or our neighbors. Suppose now, that a man loves God supremely, is supremely devoted to his interests, it is impossible that he could sin knowingly, and do that which is inconsistent with God's interests. His whole life is an endeavor to secure that upon which his heart is set. Suppose then that his heart is set upon pleasing and glorifying God, can he consent to sin in such a state of mind, and thus dishonor, displease, and set at naught the authority of God? It is a contradiction and an absurdity to say that he can. the gospel does not in any case set aside the law. "If he that despised Moses' law died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing?" Again: if a man loved his neighbor as himself, it is impossible that he should consent to wrong his neighbor, but on the other hand, he will seek his neighbor's interests equally with his own. (the root of intercessory prayer.)

Then let me say in the next place; obedience to God implies a supreme regard to God's authority. Now every one can see that every known sin is a rejection of his authority. For example. Suppose an individual does everything in regards to God's authority, he cannot act in any other thing in a way quite inconsistent with that authority. Suppose he does everything from a supreme regard for the authority and interests of God, he cannot, while in that state of mind, do anything which rejects the authority of God and trample it down. The thing is preposterous, as every man perceives. A man cannot act without regard to the authority of God in one thing, and yet at the same time act from supreme authority to him in another thing.

Man cannot pick and choose among the commandments of God, and obey some and disobey others. Supreme love to God is an exercise of the mind, and a man cannot have this and yet act the opposite--it is a palpable contradiction: a man with supreme love to God in his mind cannot consent to violate any commandment of God.

The apostle state this--if a man should do any or all of the things required in the ten commandments, in the letter, and yet should violate the true Spirit of one law, he would prove that he did not keep any of them from a right motive--that he did not really obey the law at all in its true spirit and meaning. If I should only keep those commandments which did not require me to deny myself and my self interest, this would prove that none of the commandments which I kept were from a right motive. Hence, if any one indulges in the commission of any one sin, and yet appears in everything else to be virtuous, you may know that he has no true motives in his heart, that he is only religious in appearance. what the apostle says in this passage is plain, that if men pretend to have faith, and pretend to have love, and yet do not obey God, that they are deceiving themselves, and are violating the spirit of the whole of God's law. if the heart is right the conduct must be, and if the heart is wrong the conduct is wrong, whatever it may appear outwardly. The conduct is sinful, because it does not proceed from right intention. If the law of God is not obeyed in the spirit of it, it is disobeyed, regardless of what the outward life may be. If there is no reverence for the authority of God, no supreme devotedness to God, and not equal love for our neighbors, the law is violated.

If the spirit of the law is violated, the spirit of the gospel is violated--for the spirit of the law is the spirit of the gospel, and the spirit of the gospel is the spirit of the law-- therefore, whoever falls short of obeying the spirit of the law, also falls short of obedience to the gospel.

In relation to God's government of men there are no little sins, because every sin is a rejection of God's authority: every sin is a renunciation, for the time being, of allegiance to the Divine government. every one of them involves a refusal to love God with all the heart, and our neighbors as ourselves; every one of them involves a setting up of our own interests above that of Jehovah.

There are great many professors of Christianity, who suppose they are truly Christian although they knew there are some forms of sin which they have not given up things which the law and the gospel both condemn. But they expect Christ to justify them. They think they are a Christian, and yet not expect to be perfect, and so they indulge in certain forms of selfishness, and are thinking all the while, that because they keep such and such other commandments in the letter, that they will be saved. Therefore they do not keep any of the commandments in the spirit of them, as God requires them to be kept, and if a man obeys not the law in the spirit, he does not obey it at all.

How can men pick and choose among God's commandments--break those, and keep these in the letter, and yet be Christian!

Now sinner, how long will you go on in this way rebelling against God and despising his authority? Will you make up your mind that this shall be no longer? Will you then turn unto God and live? or will you continue to rebel and perish for ever? Which will you do?

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