by William Gurnall
"The way of transgressors is hard!" Proverbs 13:15.
The terror of sin. A soul in a state of sin may possess much — but enjoys nothing. One thought of its state of enmity to God, would drop bitterness into every cup. All he has, smells of hell-fire; and a man at a rich feast would enjoy it but little if he smelt fire, ready to burn his house and himself!
The love of sin. Sin is as truly the offspring of the soul, as children are of our bodies, and it finds as much favor in our eyes.
The pleasures of sin. The pleasures of sin must needs be short, because life cannot be long, and they both end together. Indeed, many times the pleasure of sin dies before the man dies: sinners live to bury their joy in this world. The worm breeds in their conscience, before it breeds in their flesh by death. But be sure the pleasure of sin never survives this world. The word is gone out of God's mouth, every sinner "shall lie down in sorrow" and wake in sorrow.
The carnal heart is all for the present; his snout is in the trough, and while his draught lasts, he thinks it will never end. Who would envy the condemned man his feast, which he has in his way to the gallows?
Where guilt is contracted in the getting of an enjoyment, there can be little sweetness tasted when it comes to be used. There is a great difference between the joy of the gardener, at the getting in of his corn at the harvest — and the thief's joy, who has stolen some sheaves out of another's field, and is making merry with his booty.
No sin goes single. It is impossible to embrace or allow one sin — and be free of others. Allow one sin, and God will give you over to others. When Judas began to play the thief, I question whether he meant to turn traitor. No, his treason was a punishment for his thievery.
Secret sins. God is privy to your most secret sin, "You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance" (Psalm 90:8). As He sees when you shut your closet to pray, and will reward your sincerity — so when you do it to sin in secret, He will reward your hypocrisy. The word tells you of an informer which you have in your own bosom — conscience, which goes along with you, and is witness to all your fine-laid plots, and what it sees, it writes down, for it is a court of record. You cannot sin so fast, but it can write after you; and the pen with which conscience writes down our sins has a sharp point, it cuts deep into the very heart and soul of the sinner.
Consult the word, and you will find that God usually has put them to shame in this world, those who have promised themselves most secrecy in their sinning. So Gehazi played his part cunningly enough, which made him so bold to come before his master, and impudently lie to his face, not dreaming the least that he was aware of his sin! Yet this man is found out, and for the garments he got of Naaman by a lie, he had another given of the Lord, which he was to wear as a punishment for his sin, for he was clothed with a leprosy! This garment more lasting than the two changes of clothes he had from the Syrian; for this lasted him all his life; neither was it then worn out — but to be put on by his children after him! (2 Kings 5:27).
Yes, be he a saint — yet if he goes about to save himself from the shame of a sin, by any secret plot of wickedness — he takes the direct way to bring that upon him which he contrives to keep off. Uriah's blood was shed only as a sinful expedient to save David's credit. Ah, poor man! all comes out to his greater shame. David shall know that God will be as tender of His own honor — as he is of his credit; "For you did it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun!" (2 Sam. 12:12).
Bosom sins. Satan labors to provoke the Christian to heart sins, to stir up and foment these inward motions of sins in the Christian's bosom. He knows his credit now is not so great with the soul as when it was his slave; he must not think to command another's servant as his own; no, all he can do, is to watch the fittest season, when the Christian least suspects, and then to present some sinful motion handsomely dressed up to the eye of the soul, that the Christian may, before he is aware, take this brat up, and handle it in his thoughts, until at last he makes it his own by embracing it; and maybe, this boy, sent in at the window, may open the door to let in a greater thief.
There may be more wickedness in a sin of the heart, than of the hand. The more of the heart and spirit is let out, the more malignity is let in to any sinful act.
To backslide in heart, is more than to backslide. It is the comfort of a poor soul when tempted and troubled for his relapses, that though his foot slides back — yet his heart turns not back — but faces Heaven and Christ at the same time. So to err in the heart, is worse than to have an error in the head. Therefore God aggravates Israel's sin with this, "They always err in their heart" (Hebrews 3:10). Their hearts run them upon the error; they liked idolatry, and so were soon made to believe what pleased them best. Peter lays the stress of Simon Magus' sin on the wicked thought, which his words betrayed to be in his heart: "Pray God, if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven" (Acts 8:22).
Do not say that you love Christ, so long as you can lay those sins in your bosom — which plucked His heart out of His bosom! It were strange if a child should keep, and delight to use, no other knife but that with which his mother was stabbed to death!
Deliberate sins. Take heed of deliberate sin; like a stone thrown into a clear stream, it will so disturb your soul, and muddy it, that you, who even now could see your interest in Christ, will now be at a loss, and know not what to think of yourself. Like a fire on the top of the house, it will be no easy matter to quench it. If you have been so unhappy as to fall into such a slough, take heed of lying in it by impenitence. The sheep may fall into a ditch — but it is the swine that wallows in it!
Presumptuous sins. Presumptuous sins are the thieves that break through and steal the saint's comfort away. When the Christian comes to look into his soul after such a bold act, and thinks to entertain himself, as formerly, with the comforts of his pardoned state, interest in Christ, and hopes of Heaven through Him — alas! he finds a sad change; no promise that will give out its consolations to him. The door is locked, Christ withdrawn, and the keys carried away with Him.
Have you fallen into the hands of any such presumptuous sins; that have stolen your peace from you? Send speedily your moans and cry after them, renew your repentance, and raise Heaven upon them by a spirit of prayer. This is no time to delay; the further you let these sins go without repentance, the harder you will find it to recover your lost peace and joy out of their hands.
As presumptuous sins are the thieves, that with a high hand rob the Christian of his comfort. So sloth and negligence are as the rust, that in time will fret into his comfort, and eat out the heart and strength of it.
A thorn in the foot will make any way uneasy to the traveler, and guilt in the conscience will make any condition uncomfortable to the Christian — but most of all a suffering one. Oh it is sad, to go with sore and smarting consciences into a suffering condition.
Forsaking sin. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). Some men's sins forsake them; "the unclean spirit goes out," and is not driven out; occasions to sin cease, or bodily ability to execute the commands of sin is wanting.
To forsake sin, is to leave it without any thought reserved of returning to it again. It were strange to find a drunkard so constant in the exercise of that sin, but some time you may find him sober; and yet a drunkard he is, as well as if he was then drunk. A man forsakes his sin, when he throws it from him, and bolts the door upon it, with a purpose never to open more to it: "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" (Hosea 14:8).
Forsake all or none. Save one lust, and you lose your soul. What will you get, poor sinner, if you go to Hell, though you go there by your ignorance, unbelief, or spiritual pride — yet escape the plague of open profaneness? This is as ridiculous as it was with him, who about to be hanged, desired that he might by no means go through such a street to the gallows, for fear of the plague that was there.
Soul, take your lust, your only lust, which is as the child of your dearest love, your Isaac, the sin which has caused most joy and laughter, from which you have promised yourself the greatest return of pleasure or profit — and offer it up! Run the sacrificing knife of mortification into the very heart of it — and all this now, before you have one embrace more from it.
From The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall