The Sinfulness of Sin
It has been said that "the doctrine of hell should be preached in all its terribleness. It is no kindness to spread a pretty covering of leafy branches over a pit into which many have fallen and broken their necks. That may be the cunning hunter's business, as it is the business of him who hunts the world for souls. But it is not the business of preachers to ruin people's souls in order to spare their feelings."1
In this post, I would like to quote Ralph Venning in his work "The Sinfulness of Sin". My father found this PDF and forwarded it to me with a few places highlighted, and the writer has done a very thorough job. A few years after the Great Plague of London, he published the work which was originally titled "SIN, THE PLAGUE OF PLAGUES". Here are a few quotations (emphasis added):2
If the writing on the wall caused a change in Belshazzar's countenance, and trouble in his thoughts, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against the other (Daniel 5.6), what a commotion and heartquake will the day of God's wrath and vengeance produce!
Goats are very bold and adventurous animals. They climb rocks and precipices to browse and feed on what they can get with hazard. In this sinners are like them too; they run risks and many dangerous adventures for a little, indeed, no satisfaction. They venture peace, conscience, life, soul and all, to get that which is not bread (Isaiah 55. 2).
The persons on whom these torments [of Hell] will be inflicted will be universally tormented. Not merely one or two parts of the person, but all over. The whole man has sinned and the whole man will be tormented; not the soul alone, or only the body, but the soul and the body, after the resurrection and the judgment. All the members of the body have been instruments of unrighteousness, and therefore all the members will be punished. As man is defiled from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, so will he be plagued. The senses which men have indulged and gratified will be filled with pain and torment. This will be clean contrary to those pleasures with which they were gratified in this world. The eye which took so much pleasure in and was enamoured of beauty shall then see nothing but ugly devils and deformed hags of damned wretches. And the ear that was delighted with music and lovesongs, what shall it hear but hideous cries and gnashing of teeth, the howlings of damned fiends. The smell that was gratified with rosebuds and sweet perfumes shall have no pleasing scents but unsavoury brimstone and a stink. The taste that refreshed itself with eating the fat and drinking the sweet must have nothing but the dregs of the cup of God's wrath. The touch and feeling shall then be sensible, not of fine and silken things, but of burning flames and scorching fiery indignation.
Sin is contrary to the nature of God. God's name is holy, and as his name is, so is he and his nature, all holy; he is so, and cannot but be so. Therefore God takes it worse that men should think him wicked like themselves (Psalm 50.I6-22), than that they think him not to exist (Psalm 14.1). It is said to weary him when men say that evil is good in his sight (Malachi 2.17). This is the thing God glories in, that he is holy, even glorious in holiness (Exodus 15.11).
Sin is contrary to the people and children of God. It is true, sin cannot hate them as much as God loves them, nor do them as much hurt as God can do them good. Yet, out of spite and envy, it will do its worst, and hate them because God loves them. God's children are his darlings and favourites, as dear to him as the apple of his eye. In all their afflictions he bears a part, and is afflicted, and looks upon it as if he himself were treated as they are in this world (Acts 9.4-5; Matthew 25.41-45). Now the nearer and dearer they are to God and the more God's heart is set upon them for good, the more sin sets its heart against them for evil. Sin is always warring against the seed of God in them, the flesh lusts against the spirit (Galatians 5.17) and wars against their souls (1 Peter 2.11). So, by sin's ill-will, God's people should neither enjoy nor do any good in this world. It is always provoking the serpentine race to make war upon, to imprison and persecute, even to destruction, the little flock and remnant of the holy seed. It will not, further than it is rebuked by grace, let them have one quiet day. It disturbs and interrupts them, so that they cannot attend upon God without distraction. When they would do good, evil is present with them, either to keep it undone, or to make it ill done. It endeavours to spoil all they take in hand, and to turn their holy things into iniquity, by reason of which they cry out as greatly oppressed: 'Wretches that we are! Who shall deliver us from this body of death?' (Romans 7.24).
Before we pass on, let me beseech you, whoever you are who read this, to pause a little and consider what is said. For what is said of sin is to be considered by the sinner, and is meant of your and my sin. Shall I not plead for God and your soul, and entreat you to be on God's side, and to depart from the tents of wickedness? Poor soul! Can you find it in your heart to hug and embrace such a monster as this? Will you love that which hates God, and which God hates? God forbid! Will you join yourself to that which is nothing but contrariety to God, and all that is good? Oh, say to this idol, this devil, get hence, what have I to do with you, you (Elymas) sorcerer, you full of all malignity and mischief; you child, yea father of the Devil, you who are the founder of Hell, an enemy to all righteousness, who ceases not to pervert the right ways of the Lord, and to reproach the living God! Away! away! Shall I be seduced by you to grieve the God of all my joy, to displease the God of all my comfort, to vex the God of all my contentment, to do evil against a good God, by whom I live, move, and have my being? Oh no!
Sinners must part not only with these things but with the joy, pleasure and delight they had from them. These good things of which they will be deprived are most valuable for the use and comfort of them. The rich man in Luke 12 did not cheer himself in having much goods but because he expected ease and mirth from them. The wicked spend their days in mirth (Job 21.12), and have a fine time of it, as they think. They sing care away all the day long and refresh themselves with requiems and placebo songs;[Placebo songs=songs that please.] they chant to the viol. And though this frolic and joy is a misery in itself (for what truer misery is there than false joy?) yet it is the best they have in this world.
But even this must be parted with. This crackling of thorns [Ecclesiastes 7:6] will go out and their mirth will end in woe, their joy in sorrow and their light in darkness. It will add to their grief in Hell that they were so merry on earth. When this evil day comes they will say that there is no pleasure in remembering their old days. It seems Dives was loath to think of this, and so Abraham said, 'Son, remember'; but it was a sad remembrance to remember good things as being lost and gone for ever! They will say then as Adrian did, Oh my poor soul! Thou wilt laugh and joke and jest no more.
The punishment that sinners must undergo will be such a state of misery that all the miseries of this life are not to be compared with it. They are nothing to it. If you take the dregs of all the miseries of this life and extract from them an essence, the very spirit of miseries, as men take the essence from the lees and dregs of wine and beer, it will fall infinitely short of this misery which is damnation. The gripings and grindings of all the diseases and torments that men do or can suffer in this life are like flea-bites to it. To pluck out a right eye or to cut off a right hand would be a pleasure and recreation in comparison with being damned in Hell (Matthew 5.30) A burning fever is nothing to burning in Hell. Indeed--to make a sweeping but true statement--if all the miseries which have been undergone by all men in the world were united and centred in one man, it would be nothing to Hell. Hell would be a kind of paradise if it were no worse than the worst of this world.