The Sin Problem – By Howard Miller

Chapter 1

The Fact of Sin

Humanity no longer able, in the vernacular of the sea, to box the compass of moral direction, we cannot take too much for granted in the discussion of spiritual problems. The very term “spiritual” itself, once pertinent and meaningful, has long since been broadened to an almost unbelievable comprehensiveness. It no longer refers merely to the inner nature of man and his vital relation to Deity, but rather often hides a multitude of ethical cant. It is now quite a common thing to hear prominent speakers refer to the most common values of life as spiritual qualities thereby ignoring those deeper and genuine spiritual facts.

Sin is a strange term to modern thinking, a misnomer in modern speech. In the old-fashioned days, sin meant the violation of God’s love and law. It included antagonism toward a finely fibered social fabric, but now sin is out of date. Professed intellectuality states plainly and boldly that the moral conceptions of the past were too highly colored with pagan superstition and were crudely unscientific; that now in this day of research and brilliant discovery in the several branches of science we should no longer undignify humanity with references to sin and its behavior. It is now superiority and inferiority complexes, various forms of mania, glandular reaction, yes even “the worm striving to be God,” the growing pains of evolution, mutation of chemical change. Yet the awful fact of sin still stares man hideously in the face. It is written in his every act and deed. Its sharp talons still cling Cruelly to his human flesh and spirit.

By multiplied means Satan has endeavored to obscure that awful stroke that unbalanced the human race. It would be superfluous for one to endeavor to recount his zealous and untiring efforts, and although his attack has shifted through the centuries past, his supreme objective has ever been the same-a bald denial of sin. [1]

What the world needs today beyond all else is a renewed conception of sin. Sin has become too common. A proper sense of sin is the balance wheel of good society. Truly did Dr. Parker say, “Jesus Christ cannot be understood until sin is understood.” It is of little use to point men to a Saviour when they have nothing to be saved from. To such the cross of Christ is but an overwrought spectacle, a bit of pagan mysticism. To such, religious ardor and faith are either the reflex of pagan superstition or the crudity of an underdeveloped mentality. what a challenge there is for a revival of preaching against sin and its horrors in this present hour of human experience! Uncertain trumpets fill many pulpits of the land looking askance at one who would raise the voice of alarm. A so-called social gospel and religious education without a Christ eases the conscience of the well-to-do while its tepid touch brings only indifference from the multitudes of common people. The world at large today is not only immoral but is unmoral as well.

But when the excruciating consciousness of sin and its terror flashes upon a human heart for the first time, the dim and colorless outline of Calvary is suddenly changed to a scene eloquent with hope encircled with the rainbow of God’s promise to a despairing soul. It is then the soul rises to its greatest heights of spiritual capacity and appreciation, grasping a well-nigh incomprehensible sense of eternal truth that can express itself only in the words of the poet:

When I survey the wondrous Cross On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small, Love so amazing, so divine Demands my life, my soul, my all.

There is but One who really understands sin, and that is God. If we could look through His eyes and see sin as He sees it, how our hearts would burn within us! If our hearts could beat with His own, how our spirits would be wrung with anguish as we look upon sin’s cruel dominion over men! Surely a cry to God for a glimpse of the awfulness of sin is a proper plea for a human heart. There is at least one reason for the insipidness of the modern pulpit — a well-nigh total absence of warning of the consequences of sin. There is at least one reason for the appalling listlessness of the pew today — the lack of a vision of sin.

There are two experiences in the life of our Lord which reveal to us with tremendous force the exceeding sinfulness of sin. It is here, at least, that we can see sin through the eyes of Deity. The first is that scene which the scripture describes with those words, “Jesus wept.” What soul-stirring words! There He stood over against the tomb of a beloved friend, that of Lazarus. Why did He weep thus? Was it from a heart of sympathy and yearning tenderness for those two precious heartbroken sisters? True, He was moved by their grief as He is yet moved by our grief and touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but this was not the reason He wept for He knew in a moment of time that Lazarus would again stand forth in their midst. Did He weep for the friends of Lazarus? Yes, but far greater was His grief than this. He wept when He saw personified in Lazarus the devastation of sin. God weeping over the havoc of sin! Jesus saw the tombs of the centuries in that one concrete instance. He saw the stroke that had unbalanced the human race. He saw its sweeping scourge as it leaped from decade to decade, from century to century until every creature had felt the awful sting. We are all kin. Sin is a contagion so virulent that it leaves its smirch at birth. David caught a fleeting glimpse that day in his own horrible act as he cried, “In sin did my mother conceive me!” Educational barriers cannot impede it. Mountains of gold cannot isolate it. Moral restraint cannot check it. On, on through the centuries it sweeps with horrible malignancy.

Dr. A. T. Pierson used to tell an incident filled with pathos which but faintly visualizes the awfulness of sin. A terrible plague had swept through a community until death was everywhere. There was no time for decent burial but rather bodies were heaped in trenches in rough boxes and funeral trains passed wearily all the day through. At last the plague subsided. An investigation ensued. The beginnings of the dreadful plague were at last traced back to a one-time happy home. All had been swept away except two heartbroken souls. The verdict of the authorities was finally reached and this unfortunate home was compelled to bear even more. The two remaining members of the home were informed that the building would have to be burned and they themselves could leave only under the strictest surveillance. They must leave all behind. Bowing before the dictate of the law they left with every appearance of obedience to the welfare of the community. Shortly after, the plague broke out again. Startled and shocked the authorities endeavored to trace down the cause only to learn that the two members of the home had carried away secretly a tiny pillow. They had longed for a tie to the memories of the past little realizing that there lurked within that pillow millions of tiny germs that would again bring havoc and death. This touching instance but illustrates the virulency and devastation of the curse of sin. Jesus was weeping that day over the devastation of sin.

Again we see Him in the garden. He had left the disciples yonder. Mark gives us the record in the fourteenth chapter of his Gospel. “He began to be sore amazed.” Luther said these words were to him the most astonishing in the whole Bible. It was sin that sore amazed Him. He was now looking into the depths of sin. He had wept over sin as He had seen its awful and terrific sweep. He had watched its hellish duplicity as it worked before Him in the Pharisaism of His day, but now as sin was actually placed upon Him, “He was sore amazed.” As its yawning chasm opened before Him, as He felt the awful stench and blast upon His holy face, as He felt the quaking sands beneath His feet, as He gazed into the black abyss of the depraved heart of humanity, “He was sore amazed.” He had seen angels of light transformed into demons of the night. He had seen man bearing the very image of God degraded to the level of the beast, but now as sin drew up close to Him, and His own heart assumed the curse, “He was sore amazed.”

John Wesley said that the fundamental difference between natural and revealed religion was in their respective doctrines of man. Natural religion says that both good and ill reside within, that “There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.” So with a hearty cultivation of the good, eventually the evil will be routed. However, revealed religion says, “There is none that doeth good, no not one.” . . . . “All we like sheep have gone astray and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. . . . Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 1:19-25). Sin has not only touched the acts of man but has poisoned and palsied his very nature till he cannot do aught but miss the mark of the perfect will of God. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

Shall we be so vain and blindly presumptuous as to deny this cruel reality? Look upon the hillsides and in the vales and see the cities of the dead, the silent sentinels guarding the past. Every limping step, every shriveled arm, every smothered groan, every piercing cry is but the shrieking evidence of the awful presence of sin amongst the children of men. How truly does the Word of God cry out, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now.”

Deny sin? How blind and foolish for us to deny its awful fact! Gaze upon the bloody trail across the pages of time! Blood trickling warm in the fresh footprints of the first human pair! The blood of Abel crying from the very ground! The martyrdom of the saints! The inquisition! The French revolution! It is blood,blood, blood, all the way along. Watch its crimson tide creeping higher and higher each century accumulating an awful carnage of woe until that great Apocalypse and revelation of the Christ of God when, in the words of the Scripture, the blood shall be even to the bridles of the horses. Sin is the most cruel, the most real fact of human experience.