Book Review: The Sinfulness of Sin, by Ralph Venning
Synopsis: The doctrine of sin is a doctrine that pervades every part of the bible from Genesis to Revelation, and helps to shape and define every other aspect of biblical teaching. Without an understanding of the utter sinfulness of sin, redemption is not so great, grace is not so mighty, salvation is not so sweet, the work of the God-man is not so powerful. The need for an exhaustive treatment on the biblical teaching of the horrific extent of sin is, therefore, an eminently needful and salutary thing; and thankfully, that need has already been admirably fulfilled in Ralph Venning's classic work, The Sinfulness of Sin.
In modern Christianity it is neither appreciated nor very long tolerated to dwell on the ugly sinfulness of sin. One may speak of God's â€œwonderful plan for your lifeâ€ with impunity, and dwell on the pleasant gifts of the gospel with little fear of opposition or reprisal. But the gospel is not the gospel until sin is sin; and it is better not to heal people at all than to heal them lightly, and so blind them to their eternal jeopardy.
So why, in a culture in which it is not acceptable to dwell on sin, would it be advantageous to print a book that speaks of nothing but the doctrine of sin? I would suggest at least three reasons:
1. The great salvation which Christ freely offers to us in the gospel cannot be understood or received until sin is seen to be exceedingly sinful. It is primarily the glory of Christ's redemptive work that he saves us, not just from physical afflictions, maladies, or oppression, but from our sin. In proportion as sin is minimized, the gospel is slighted and Jesus the Savior is reproached.
2. In modern Christianity, there is no doctrine so minimized and railed against than the doctrine of sin's hyperbolic sinfulness. When the gnostics blasphemed against the doctrine of Christ's coming in the flesh, the apostle John emphasized that doctrine in particular to the churches to whom he was writing; when the corrupt medieval church distorted beyond recognition the precious doctrine of justification, the reformers emphasized free justification by grace, through faith, as a result of double imputation. And today, when our sinful rebellion against God's commandments is glossed over, and salvation is cast in terms of positive thinking, easy-believism, and so on, it is imperative that we emphasize the doctrine of sin's exceeding sinfulness.
3. The doctrine of sin's utter sinfulness and God's terrible judgment of wrath has often been used to bring about times of great revival and refreshing. When the Ninevites repented, it was because of Jonah's simple message that their city would be destroyed for their sins. When the Jews on the Day of Pentecost cried out for salvation, it was when they had been indicted with the terrible crime of crucifying the Son of God. When God's Spirit moved in the hearts of thousands, during the days of the Great Awakening, it was largely through a sermon speaking of man's great sin and God's great wrath, Edwards' famous â€œSinners in the Hands of an Angry Godâ€. So today, if we would see great blessing, we must first acknowledge in all its seriousness the great sinfulness of sin.
For these reasons and many more, what Venning undertakes is a project most necessary for us today. And so vastly beneficial a theme could scarcely have been broached with a greater exhaustiveness, a more trembling tearfulness, a more earnest zeal, a more passionate pleading with men's souls, than Venning's work is characterized by. May God bring its pages into the hands of a great many more Christians, professing or genuine, and burn its truths into their hearts. I can think of almost no writing extant today that might with more reason be ardently commended to a modern audience than The Sinfulness of Sin, by Ralph Venning.
Available at Monergism Books.