A Brief Meditation for the Month

May 2022

John Owen, considered by many to be one of the most outstanding theologians among the Puritans, said “He that hath slight thoughts of sin never had great thoughts of God.” The Apostle John describes sin as being “the transgression of the law,” 1John 3:4. Every transgression or violation of God’s law, however slight we might consider it to be, whether deliberate or committed in ignorance, is a sin committed against a good and holy God. Our knowledge and understanding of who God is, does inevitably influence our thinking about our relationship with him and our attitude to what pleases and what offends him. God’s holy and justified hatred of sin is evidenced in his dealings with his Son as the sin-bearer. Although God the Father testified “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” Matthew 3:17; 17:5, nevertheless, when he dealt with him bearing the sins of his people, the Saviour experienced the full weight of divine wrath upon him. Christ’s sonship could not shield him or alleviate his suffering and agony as the substitute sin-bearer for his people. We dare not, therefore, think lightly of our sin or treat lightly God’s attitude to that which always provokes his holy anger. Since we have been created in God’s image, we ought to hate sin in every and any form as our creator hates it, but the sad reality is so different. It is thus our condemnation that we are so ready not only to commit sin but excuse it or so often refuse to acknowledge it and repent for it. As Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam blamed Eve when they both disobeyed the commandment of God, so we by nature are inclined to do the same. Thomas Manton, another one of the Puritans, wrote, “First we practice sin, then we defend it, then boast of it.” Such an attitude to our sin accompanies us from birth. We need no one to teach us to sin. We are naturally inclined to sin and thus commit it as readily as we breathe. It is very easy for us to make excuses when we sin, but it is impossible for us ever to atone for it. Even if we can make amends with our fellows when we offend them, such is the heinousness of sin against God that it is impossible for us ever to make amends or atone for it. Humanly speaking our case is one of despairing hopelessness of ever being reconciled to God.

Our hopelessness is however God’s opportunity to display his grace and his mercy. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he informed them that they had been chosen by God that, they, “should be holy and without blame before him in love,” Ephesians 1:4. This is the great marvel of grace; that blame-worthy sinners can stand in God’s presence without blame. None of Satan’s accusations, or any other, are sufficient to bring condemnation upon them: Romans 8:1. Such grace, when it is experienced, inevitably has a humbling effect upon the forgiven and accepted sinner. In addition, it develops an ever-strengthening hatred for sin and increasing gratitude that though God so hates sin, he is so ready to forgive and accept his beloved Son’s perfect substitutionary atonement on behave of all those who put their trust in him and rely upon the redeeming efficacy of his atoning death. It is impossible therefore to be in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and at the same time be in love with our sin. In the experience of a true believer, there is a growing sensitivity to personal sin and inward corruption so that grief because of it and repentance for it becomes a constant occurrence. Love for the Saviour and hatred of sin grow in tandem. This is genuine in growth in grace. If we seek evidence of spiritual life in our souls we cannot avoid the consideration of our attitude to our sins. As John Bunyan once said, “Take heed of little sins.”

G. G. Hutton.