by J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)
“Catch the little foxes that ruin the vineyards; for our vines have tender grapes” (Song of Songs 2:15).
Resolve at once, by God’s help, to break off every known sin, however small.
Look within, each one of you. Examine your own hearts. Do you see there any habit which you know is wrong in the sight of God? If you do, resolve at once to cast it off!
Nothing darkens the eyes of the mind so much, and deadens the conscience so surely–as an allowed sin. It may be a little one — but it is not any less dangerous.
A small leak will sink a great ship.
A small spark will kindle a great fire.
In the same way, a little allowed sin will ruin an immortal soul.
Take my advice, and never spare a little sin! Israel was commanded to kill every Canaanite, both great and small. Act on the same principle–and show no mercy to little sins.
You can be sure that no wicked man ever meant to be so wicked at his first beginnings. But he began with allowing himself some little sins, and that led on to something greater, and that in time produced something greater still, and thus he became the miserable being that he now is.
Brethren, resist sin in its beginnings. Some sins may look small and insignificant, but mind what I say–resist them, make no compromise, let no sin lodge quietly and undisturbed in your heart. Remember the Apostle’s words, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough!” 1 Corinthians 5:6
Many a man could tell you with sorrow and shame, that he traces his ruin to the point I speak of–to giving way to sin in its beginnings. He began habits of deception and dishonesty in little things–and they grew on him. Step by step, he has gone on from bad to worse–until he has done things that at one time he would have thought impossible. At last he has lost his character, lost his peace, and almost lost his soul. He allowed a gap in the wall of his conscience, because it seemed a little one–and once allowed, that gap grew larger every day, until in time the whole wall came down!
Whatever the world may like to think–there are no little sins! All habits are formed by a succession of little acts, and the first little act is of mighty consequence.
The ax in the fable, only begged the trees to let him have one little piece of wood to make a handle–and he would never trouble them any more. He got it, and then he soon cut them all down!
The devil only wants to get the wedge of a little allowed sin into your heart–and you will soon be all his own.
It is a wise saying, “There is nothing small between us and God–for God is an infiniteGod.”
There are two ways of coming down from the top of a ladder.
One is to jump down–and the other is to come down by the steps.
Both will lead you to the bottom.
Just so, there are two ways of going to Hell.
One is to walk into it with your eyes open–few people do that.
The other is to go down by the steps of little sins–and that way is only too common. Put up with a few little sins–and you will soon tolerate a few more. Even a heathen could say, “Who was ever content with only one sin?” If you put up with little sins, then your path in life will be worse and worse every year.
Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) very clearly described the progress of sin in a man:
First sin startles him,
then it becomes pleasing,
then it becomes easy,
then it becomes delightful,
then it becomes frequent,
then it becomes habitual,
then it becomes a way of life.
Then the man feels no guilt,
then he becomes obstinate,
and then he is damned!
Friends, if you don’t want to come to this, remember the rule I give you this day — resolve at once to break off every known sin!