Rick Holland has often said that books don’t change lives, paragraphs do. I remember where I was the first time I read Ralph Venning’s The Sinfullness of Sin. Sitting on my couch in my apartment, I was in the second chapter when I came across these two paragraphs that really did change my Christian life (Section II, p. 31):
God is holy, without spot or blemish, or any such thing, without any wrinkle, or anything like it, as they also that are in Christ shall one day be (Ephesians 5.27). He is so holy, that he cannot sin himself, nor be the cause or author of sin in another. He does not command sin to be committed, for to do so would be to cross his nature and will. Nor does he approve of any man’s sin, when it is committed, but hates it with a perfect hatred. He is without iniquity, and of purer eyes than to behold (i.e. approve) iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13).
On the contrary, as God is holy, all holy, only holy, altogether holy, and always holy, so sin is sinful, all sinful, only sinful, altogether sinful, and always sinful (Genesis 6.5). In my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7.18). As in God there is no evil, so in sin there is no good. God is the chiefest of goods and sin is the chiefest of evils. As no good can be compared with God for goodness, so no evil can be compared with sin for evil.
When I read that, I had been a beleiver for only a few years and had only recently discovered the writings of John Piper. I was new to the doctrines of grace, I was wrestling with some basic theological and philosophical questions about sin and sovereignty. I had over-corrected from my man-centered thinking, and in an attempt to establish God’s sovreignty in my thinking, I had lost sight of the sinfulness of sin.
Those paragraphs above served as an anchor. They stopped my drifting toward hyper-Calvinism, and nailed my conscience down on the solid fact that God hates sin.
Look at the adverbs Venning strings together: all, only, altogether, always. Just as there is everything good in God, there is nothing good within sin. The Lord used these paragraphs from a 17th-century pastor to open my eyes to the gravity of sin, and the holiness of God.
And, in case you were wondering, Venning did teach at The Cripplegate.