John A. Broadus
He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18
Men are too apt to
think of sin as residing only in outward actions, and not as well in desires and
dispositions-or only of positive transgression, and not of negative sin also. The idea of
sin in general is vague and unimpressive. Any particular sin will hardly be applicable to
all, and some who are not wholly innocent will excuse themselves by thinking of others
much more guilty. But the text presents a sin of which all who hear it are guilty, all
without exception, all alike-the sin of unbelief.
I. Unbelief a great sin, because the source or the occasion of all other sins.
1. It is seen in the fall. "Ye shall not surely die"-and the woman began to doubt whether God would fulfill his threatenings-the tree was pleasant looking, the fruit inviting-the prospect of being as God awakened sinful pride-she ate. In unbelief it commenced. This led to disobedience.
2. The Israelites "could not enter in because of unbelief"-they had no sufficient confidence in the divine protection. So when unbelieving messengers made fearful report, the people refused to enter, and were condemned to wander, that generation to perish in the wilderness.
They did not believe the clear promise of God's blessing, so amply attested, but did believe the exaggerated report of difficulties. Men are ready to believe what falls in with their feelings or their carnal fears, while they are slow to believe what God hath spoken. Unbelief of the truth always connected with the belief of a lie-that earth is better than heaven, sin lovelier than holiness, time more important than eternity. These and a thousand such lies men are believing, and acting accordingly, while the pure light of divine truth shines all unheeded upon them.
3. Unbelief the occasion of other sins-perverted passions and depraved desires may be the inciting cause, yet but for unbelief these would not suffice. With a true faith we should appreciate the evil of all sins, and be impressed with the beauty of holiness-and faith working by love would purify, etc. Unbelief is to the life as a bitter fountain to the stream. An evil heart of unbelief is like a great marsh sending up noxious vapors. Men often see and deplore the evil effects, and try to correct, but in vain.
II. Unbelief a grievous sin in itself.
We are in God's world-we are bound to receive his teachings as truth, to rest upon his promises, and obey his precepts.
But it is unbelief with respect to the Son of God, which is denounced in the text and elsewhere as a flagrant sin. In the text, dignity of Christ's character seems presented as magnifying guilt of unbelief-"the only begotten Son of God." Consider Jesus as the mediator, the offered object of faith, in condescension to our infirmity-consider too his love, sympathy, invitations-and then estimate the sin of rejecting Christ.
This removes all possibility of question as to one's being a sinner-"but now they have no cloak for their sin." Men often seek to cover up their sin beneath the cloak of various pretences and shadowy, vain excuses. But no question about this sin, whether they realize its guilt or not. This of itself is sufficient to condemn! Would you know your standing before God? There is no need to argue concerning your various excellencies and faults, comparing with others, extenuating and excusing-the text settles the question. Suppose the catalogue of your sins were read to decide your character before God. Whenever this sin is reached, "he hath not believed," etc., then and there the examination will cease, the question is decided. Already, without examining further, the man is condemned.
This is true, dear friends who are unconverted, of you all. As Peter on the day of Pentecost spoke to the people, so would I to you. He did not stop to accuse them of particular sins, nor to consider how much merit there might be in particular excellencies, he did not speak of all that terrible wickedness which then so much abounded, nor of Pharisaic pride nor of Sadducean skepticism-he dwelt upon their rejection of Jesus, the Son of God, both Lord and Christ. It was the consciousness of this crowning sin that pricked them to the heart, and made them cry, etc. And so now. I do not stop to speak of vices, nor even of general alienation of heart-I solemnly say, what God's Word declares, you are condemned as unbelievers in Christ. We may recognize your personal worth in many respects, but you have been rejecting Christ. Often his salvation has been offered, and you have refused to accept it. Do not say you are not an avowed infidel-with-out that, one may be guilty of unbelief-without that, the Scriptures declare you are guilty.
But some one may say, bow can unbelief be a sin (though this Scripture declares it), when I cannot help it? I am unable to believe. The Saviour said, "No man can come unto me," etc. Ah, my friend, do not deceive yourself by that specious excuse.
The Scripture also said, "Ye wilt not come," etc.-are not willing. If a man is unable to believe, it is only because he is unwilling. Inability is not like that to fly to the stars, nor to know the future-not to lack capacity, but unwillingness. And does this diminish guilt? The more opposed a man is to doing his duty, the more he is blameworthy. If a servant neglects a plain duty, does his lack of inclination exculpate him? The more averse is one's heart to Christ, the more unwilling be is to believe, so much the greater must be the guiltiness of unbelief. No, no, you are verily guilty.
But why this argument and appeal? Why, might someone say, does a man who wishes others to be happy, labor to convince them that they are very sinful, condemned to destruction? Why should it be said of the Comforter, that he would convince the world of sin? Is there any comfort in such a conviction? Is it not more pleasant, is it not wiser, to forget sin and judgment, than to be reminded of it? No, for this conviction may lead to Him who forgives sin. The man who feels it true of himself that he is condemned already, may know that other gracious truth that "there is no condemnation," etc. "He that believeth on Jesus is not condemned." That very sin of unbelief, which seals your condemnation, may suggest the way of pardon. Cease to reject Jesus, receive him as your Saviour. Acknowledging guilt, pray for mercy, through him. Jesus is able to save you! Will you ask him to save you, and continue to ask? Oh, that you would!
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