God is not the Author of Sin.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God can not be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. - James i:13.
It may well excite astonishment that, culpable as man is, he manifests a strong reluctance to own his guilt. And so far from admitting his blameworthiness, he is prone to indulge a self-justifying disposition. He may readily concede that to be placed in the moral circumstances which surround him is his misfortune, but that it involves his own personal criminality, he is very slow to believe. Hence the multiplied and multiform excuses sinners make in palliation of their iniquities. No one acquainted with depraved human nature is ignorant of these excuses, nor of the obstinate earnestness displayed in attempts to establish their validity.
But this is not all. Men are not only disposed to exonerate themselves from blame, but frequently become so impious as to charge their wickedness on God. Adam did this indirectly, after eating the forbidden fruit. He said to God, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat." This
was equivalent to his saying, "it is true I have eaten the fruit of the interdicted tree, but that fruit was offered to me by my companion in the garden, and thou gavest me that companion; therefore thou art the real author of the act performed at her solicitation." What a charge was this? A charge brought against God by the ancestor of our race. His posterity might well weep over this awful impiety, did not similar impiety in themselves call for all their tears. Adam's disposition has been transmitted from generation to generation. It existed in apostolic times. Men were then inclined to adopt the sentiment that God tempted them to commit evil. But, says the apostle in the text, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God can not be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."
It is manifest from this language, that the sins of men can, with no semblance of propriety, be charged on God. No man is tempted of God. It is proper here to remark that the word tempt is used in two senses in the Scriptures. It sometimes means to try, as when it is said, "God tempted Abraham" - tried him - put to the test the strength of his faith. The words tempt and temptation, however, are most frequently used to denote solicitation to evil. In temptations of this kind, there are motives presented to the mind - motives adapted to prompt the commission of evil. As the devil is preeminently engaged in the presentation of these motives, he is emphatically called
the tempter. Now, the apostle assures us in the text, that in this sense of the terms tempt, and temptation, and tempter, God never tempts, never places a temptation before the mind, never acts in the capacity of tempter. "He can not be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."
It is highly important that we form proper views of sin. Unless we do, we can never adequately appreciate the scheme of redemption through Jesus Christ. If we adopt any sentiment which suggests the inference that God is the author of sin, then it will be natural to conclude that salvation is not of grace, but of debt. For let the sinner feel that God is the instigator of his sins - the sins that have involved him in ruin - and he will at once feel that God is under obligation to save him from that ruin. Thus, instead of coming before the Lord as a subdued suppliant pleading for mercy, he will come as a presumptuous Pharisee claiming salvation as a matter of justice.
But let a sinner feel that God is infinitely free from all the blame attached to sin; that he has ruined himself; that he has no being in the universe to accuse but himself, and then will he most cordially espouse the doctrine of salvation by grace - he will gladly acquiesce in the plan of redemption through the Mediator's blood. After this long introduction, I announce the following as the proposition which I wish to establish and illustrate: GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF SIN.
In proof of this proposition:
1. I refer to the immaculate purity of the divine nature. - How impressive the testimony of the Scriptures in favor of the holiness of God. Moses said, "A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?" cried the men of Bethshemesh in the days of Samuel. Jehovah is emphatically termed "the Holy One, the Holy One of Israel." He is said to be "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and can not look upon iniquity." The inhabitants of heaven are represented as saying, "Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come." "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy great name? for thou only art holy." These portions of the Bible prove the holiness of the divine character. And if God be holy, it follows that he can not be tempted with evil. Evil can have no influence on the divine mind, because of its infinite purity - nor can God, consistently with his own nature, tempt any of his creatures to sin. Immutability belongs inalienably to the character of God. He is unchangeably the same. If, then, God is immutable, and now possesses the attribute of holiness, he has always possessed it. And if so, it has always been morally impossible for him to tempt any of his creatures to commit sin - it is morally impossible now, and will be morally impossible to all eternity. If God does not tempt men; if he does not present to the mind considerations adapted to prompt the commission of
sin, how can he be the author of sin? For when he is spoken of as the author of sin, it is not meant that God himself commits sin, but that in some way he exercises his agency in influencing men to sin. But this can not be, for that he "tempteth no man," the text plainly declares. To make God the author of sin, is to make a bitter stream flow from a sweet fountain. For such a stream to flow from such a fountain is inconsistent with all the analogies of nature - and for God to be the author of sin, would be a flagrant violation of all the analogies of the moral universe. He is not, and can not be the author of sin.
2. The nature of the Divine law illustrates the truth of our proposition. - The law of God may be considered an expression of his will in reference to his creatures. It would be absurd to suppose that the law of God and his will ever come into collision. The will of every being necessarily partakes of the nature of that being. A depraved being, in the exercise of his will, always gives indications of depravity. In proportion to the holiness of a being, in that proportion are the exercises of the will holy. God is infinitely holy, and it is, therefore, morally certain that his will can not be controlled in its determination by evil i/ifluences. It is a holy will, and is expressed in a law which is of necessity holy, just and good. Now, the law of God shows us what sin is, and prohibits its commission. We should remember, too, that this law takes cognizance of the feelings of the heart, as well as the words of the mouth
and the actions of the life. Here it differs from all human laws. They have nothing to do with the intentions of the heart, unless they are developed in word or deed. If then, a man offends not in word or deed, human laws can bring no accusation against him. It is not so with the divine law. It condemns every evil desire - every evil thought, whether it results in action or not. It approves everything good in word, thought and deed. Nor can we conceive of any thing God has required of us which he ought not to require - neither can we name one thing which he has forbidden that ought not to be prohibited. The object of the law of God is to promote holiness in his creatures - holiness in heart and life. If this is the design of the law, and the tendency of its operation, then God, the Lawgiver, is not, and can not be the author of sin.
3. The inseparable union between holiness and happiness shows that God is not the author of sin. - The desire of happiness is not artificially created in the soul, but is inherent in it. The desire has its origin in the peculiar mental constitution which God has given us. Owing to our depravity, we often seek to gratify this desire in unworthy objects. We practically overlook the fact that God has made holiness a prerequisite to happiness. Holiness sustains to happiness the relation which a cause sustains to its legitimate effect. In whatever part of the divine empire it exists, it is invariably productive of felicity. Every holy being in the universe is a happy
being. God himself enjoys infinite felicity because he is the source of holiness. Angels are happy because their natures are stamped with holiness.
Heaven itself is happy, because it is a holy place. The spirits of just men made perfect owe their bliss to the fact that they have been made perfect. The saints on earth are happy in proportion to their holiness. There are true joys in piety in the present life. "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Christ's yoke is easy and his burden light. The peace of God reigns in the hearts of all who love the Savior. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace. The Divine Spirit most graciously makes the human heart the theater of His operation, and the result of the operation is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, that is produced by the Divine Spirit. Christians are commanded to rejoice evermore. There is an obvious propriety in the command, for they are possessed of all the elements of genuine happiness. Now, if holiness is productive of happiness, then God, in requiring us to be holy, makes a powerful appeal to our desire of happiness. He virtually says, "You wish to be happy; then be holy, that you may be happy."
The desire of happiness is exceedingly strong, and the greater its strength the better adapted is the appeal which God makes to it to take effect; the greater is the probability that it will be effective. The matter stands thus: God, in
establishing an inseparable connection between holiness and happiness, urges us, by our aspirations after happiness, to be holy, that those aspirations may be gratified. How evident then is it, that God is not the author of sin.
4. The alliance between sin and misery may be referred to in proof of our proposition. - It will not be denied that sin is the prolific source of all the miseries of the universe. Before the birth of sin, sorrow and wretchedness were unknown in the dominions of God. Holiness reigned and happiness abounded. But as soon as sin was introduced, sorrow and suffering followed, and they have walked in the footsteps of transgression to this hour. Man does not desire happiness more strongly than he deprecates misery. The desire and the deprecation must, of necessity, be precisely equal in energy. Every one must see that, as misery is the result of sin, the dread of misery, so natural to man, is adapted to deter him from sin. Thus God makes His appeal not only to our desire of happiness, but to our fear of misery. It is a twofold appeal, and from its very nature we can not conceive how it could be more influential.
In establishing an alliance between sin and misery, God may be considered as throwing impediments in the way of transgression, to prevent His creatures from walking therein. How then can He be regarded as the author of sin? No supposition can be more ineffably absurd. The connection between sin and misery speaks a language
on this subject, which the intelligent universe can not misunderstand.
5. That God presents the most powerful considerations to prompt us to holiness and deter us from sin, proves that He is not, the author of sin. - Some of these considerations have been indirectly alluded to, but the topic deserves greater prominence. Among the powerful considerations prompting to holiness, I may mention, the divine approbation, the value of the soul, and the bliss of Heaven. Let us consider these points:
The divine approbation - Jehovah's approving smile - rests on every holy being. "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous." If this is true, then the approbation with which God regards His creatures is in the ratio of their conformity to His law, which is the standard of holiness. It surely accords with rationality to suppose that creatures should desire the Creator's approbation. How desirable is the light of God's countenance! How often does David refer to it. And this is a phrase which implies the divine approbation, whatever else it may imply. If, then, the approbation of God is so desirable, and if it can not be rationally expected without holiness, what a powerful motive is this to prompt to holiness.
Consider the value of the soul. Who can compute its worth? It is endowed with noble powers. Its faculties are susceptible of indefinite enlargement. "Who can solve the problem propounded by Jesus Christ? "What is a man
profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? "How immensely valuable must he the soul if the acquisition of all the world is no compensation for its loss! The soul's immortality adds immeasurably to its value. The mysterious spark lighted up in man's bosom will never be extinguished - it will burn forever. Now, the mighty question must be decided, whether the soul is to be saved or lost. Holiness will secure its salvation. Do you not see, then, that God presents a motive to prompt you to holiness as powerful as the soul is valuable? The motive grows out of the soul's worth, and the energy of its operation should be proportionate to the value of the soul. O! that we all felt as we should do the strength of this motive.
But think of the bliss of Heaven. You have often heard and read of Heaven. You have learned that it is a place of perfect joy. There God has established his home - there he displays his glory - there the holy angels dwell - there the redeemed from the earth have found their long-sought rest. Yes, "there the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." They rest from their labors. The hallelujahs of angels and the songs of the blood-bought multitude before the throne, indicate triumphant joy - ecstatic bliss. This joy will never cease - this bliss will continue forever. Holiness is indispensable to admittance into Heaven. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. The pure in heart shall see God. It follows, therefore, that, by everything
desirable in a dwelling place on high - by everything attractive in the bliss of the upper world, we are urged to be holy. God presents this motive, and it is a powerful one, originated, as it is, by everything desirable and attractive in celestial glory - glory eternal as the divine existence. How can God be the author of sin when He presents motives so operative to prompt holiness? He can not be - it is impossible.
But there are considerations to deter from sin. Let us notice a few of them, such as the displeasure of God, condemnation at the judgment, and everlasting perdition in hell.
The displeasure of God. Everything which renders the divine approbation desirable, renders the divine displeasure dreadful. How awful must it be for the wrath of God to abide on His creatures. The wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion. How tremendous, then, must be the vengeance of the King Eternal. Now it is sin that excites the divine displeasure. Nothing else in the universe can do it. How effectually, then, should we be deterred from sin by considerations of divine wrath.
The sinner will be condemned in the judgment. "Depart from me ye cursed," will be the language of the Judge to the trembling multitude on His left hand. How fearful the sentence, and from it there will be no appeal.
Those on whom this sentence is pronounced will sink into the abyss of damnation. Their souls will be lost, and the loss will be eternal.
The agonies of the second death are everliving agonies. I ask if God does not present the most powerful considerations to deter from sin? How manifest then that he is not the author of sin!
Thus I have employed five arguments to establish and illustrate the proposition we have been considering. May I not ask if it is not awfully impious for men to charge their sins on God? He who does this would make darkness the offspring of light; would attempt to establish concord between Christ and Belial; would cause a pure fountain to send forth bitter waters; would endeavor to identify immortality and death; would coerce heaven to form a treaty and enter into fellowship with hell. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God can not be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." If the sun is not the source of darkness, God is not the author of sin.
1. In view of this subject, we may observe that although God has permitted the introduction of sin into the universe, neither the sins of angels nor men are chargeable on him. It must be allowed that Jehovah has suffered the existence of sin. He made angels, and he made our first parents moral agents, capable of retaining their primitive integrity - capable also of sinning and falling from their exalted position. That it was possible for them to remain holy is manifest
from the fact that they did, for a period, so remain. They might have continued sinless forever. But I have admitted that it was possible for them to sin. And I deny that God could have made them naturally incapable of sinning without dispensing with their moral agency. To complain that angels and men were created capable of sinning, is to complain that they were not made machines, but moral agents. The matter stands thus: While God has suffered the introduction of sin into his empire, he has not exercised his agency in its introduction, and is therefore infinitely exempt from all the blame attached to its existence.
2. The sins of men are chargeable on themselves. "Every man is tempted when drawn away of his own lust." The combustible materials are in man, though Satan may apply the torch. The devil has no compulsory power. He can compel no man to sin against his inclination. He presents his temptations - it is optional with the tempted to yield or resist. Moral agency is voluntarily exercised in sinning against God. How guilty is man! How inexcusable! His culpability is beyond dispute. Were all intelligent beings impaneled as a jury to act on his case, the verdict of "guilty" would be rendered in a moment.
3. The finally impenitent will forever suffer a self-procured damnation. The wages of sin is death. The sinner labors in the service of sin until the close of his short day of life, and then
receives his wages. Awful thought! Let an inquest be held over any lost sinner, and the marks of self-destruction will be so evident, that the result of the inquest will be given in the words, "died of moral suicide" and echo - such fearful echo as is heard only in the chambers of perdition, will answer, "suicide!"
4. With what superlative glory does the grace of God shine forth in human salvation. Self-ruined sinners that deserve the damnation of hell are saved and exalted to heaven. Eternal life is conferred on those who might justly be consigned to the horrors of everlasting death. Glory to God in the highest.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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