The Nature Of Sin -- By: J. H. Fairchild

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 025:97 (Jan 1868)
Article: The Nature Of Sin
Author: J. H. Fairchild

The Nature Of Sin

J. H. Fairchild

The characteristic doctrines of the gospel — the atonement, regeneration, justification, and sanctification—all derive their form and meaning from the nature and tendency and ruin of sin. The great aim of gospel preaching, and of all the appliances of the church of God to the end of time, is man’s redemption from the curse of sin. This has been the work of the ages past, and is to be of the ages to come; and the song of Moses and the Lamb will be the rehearsal of this great achievement.

Our views, then, of the nature of sin will greatly affect our understanding of the gospel, and our sense of its adaptations to the work it proposes to do. The question, What is sin? is not a mere problem of speculative theology, to be discussed in the schools as a matter of intellectual discipline. It enters into all our practical operations, is an element in all our conceptions of human character, and gives shape to all our endeavors to elevate and save mankind. Every one is interested in it who is himself a sinner, or who has to do with sinners. Sin is the great fact in human experience, and an intelligent apprehension of that experience is essential to a

knowledge of man’s danger and his safety; his grounds of hope and fear.

The scriptures give us no philosophical definition of sin. They treat of it as. a thing essentially understood by every one. There are certain primary ideas, as those of right and wrong, duty and obligation, sin and holiness, which every moral agent has by virtue of his nature, and without which a revelation to man would seem impossible. They are awakened in the mind as it reaches moral agency, but can never be imparted, like a historical fact, from one who has them to one who has them not. The Bible addresses those possessed of these ideas, speaks to men as understanding what sin is, but gives clearer conceptions by directing attention to its nature, and distinguishing it from all other things, and thus helps them to comprehend the contents of their own thought. This is all we need — all that in the nature of the case is possible.

There is one text which in form approaches a definition: “Sin is the transgression of the law.” A careful study of the expression shows that it is a comparison of two synonymous terms; each comprehends the other. The use of the definite article with subject and with predicate indicates that the words are co-extensive in meaning; sin is the transgression of the law, and the transgression of the law is sin. There is no other sin than transgression, and there is no other transgression than sin.

The standard and test of sin is the law of God. That law is righteous, beca...

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