Neglect of Duty — a Sin
There are sins of omission — as well as sins of commission. There are sins of neglect — as well as sins of misdoing. Every Scriptural precept is given to be obeyed — and neglect treats the lawgiver with contempt. Therefore the apostle James testifies, "To him who knows to do good, and does no do it — to him it is sin." James 4:17.
WHAT IS NECESSARY IN ORDER TO WELL-DOING. Light goes before duty; and information before requirement; we must know — in order to do. But if we do know — then obedience is imperative. We must know by what authority a thing is commanded, and if anything is commanded of God, or of the Lord Jesus Christ — then, as professed believers, we are bound to obey. Everything in the New Testament is based on the authority of him who . . .
created us by his power,
redeemed us by his blood,
called us by his grace, and
who has promised us everlasting life.
We must have a knowledge of the command. Not only that there is a command — but what it requires of us; and God's commands are generally very plain. Knowing who commands, and what is commanded of us — we should feel our obligation to obey, even to the very letter what God has commanded.
Our obligation arises from our relation to the law-giver — but it is heightened by our dependence upon him, and the favors we receive from him. If he have afforded us a knowledge of the design with which the duty is required of us — it often helps to make the duty both easy and pleasant. If in addition to this, we see the goodness and excellency of the thing commanded — our duty appears, if possible, still more imperative.
Some things required of God, are good in themselves, as to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. So also the requirements of the moral law, as supreme love to God, and love to our fellow-men, equal to that which we have for ourselves.
But many things are good — simply because God requires them. As in old times, God required the sacrifice of beasts, the burning of incense, the wearing of vestments, the sprinkling of blood, and various washings — these were good, not in themselves — but simply because God prescribed them, and employed them as types of better things. Just so now, baptism and the Lord's supper, have no intrinsic excellency in them — but because the Lord Jesus instituted them, and required his disciples to observe them, are they good. Baptism without faith, or the supper without discerning the Lord's body — do us no good — but when believing we attend to them, in order to obey and honor him who instituted them — then is our service acceptable to God.
If a thing is clearly commanded us of God — then we are bound to do it, and it is good. Good, though it may be strange and unusual, as the making of the ark of the covenant, and the building of the Tabernacle was. Good, though it may appear simple and undignified, as the carrying of the ark round the walls of the city of Jericho, in the days of Joshua did. Good, though it may appear to some imprudent, as the circumcision of Abraham at his advanced age may have done. Good, though it may even seem to be unnatural, as the offering up of Isaac on the mountain of Moriah. Good, though it may appear to some to be unworthy of God, as the killing of bulls, and goats, and sheep, and lambs, and the offering them up in sacrifice to the Most High. Good, though it may expose us to the greatest sufferings, and even death itself — as the preaching the gospel, and bearing witness for Christ — as did the apostles, martyrs, and others. Good, though it may appear very unnecessary, as the requirements in the case of the Nazarites of old. Good, even though it may provoke others to sin, as in the case of Abel, when God had respect unto him, and to his offering.
Many of these remarks may be made to bear upon some who raise objections to the ordinances of the gospel, and endeavor to excuse themselves, and even justify their neglect of them. But we may be sure of this: that whatever God has instituted — whatever God commands us to do, is good; and if we knowing to do good, and neglect it — then to us it is sin.
WHAT IS THE CHARACTER OF OUR NEGLECT? All neglect of any of God's commandments, is sin. We may wish to soften it down, and to use some gentler term — but God designates it sin. Can God, the God of wisdom, holiness, and love — require anything that is not good? If God requires anything of us — we are bound to revere his authority, and obey his command! If we refuse, or even neglect to do so — it is wrong. It is sin.
Do we not set up our own judgment above the judgment of God? Do we not leave the position of the subject, to invade the rights of the Sovereign? If the Sovereign is our Father — if our Father has pardoned in us the greatest sins, and saved our lives at the greatest expense — then our neglect and disobedience is gross ingratitude! God's precepts should be our rule. God's authority should be our reason. We ought to obey without questioning. We ought scrupulously to observe without hesitation. Be it as it may, we cannot get rid of our responsibility, or shake off our obligation.
We must give account of ourselves to God. We must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Every one shall be rewarded according to his works. "But if you do what is wrong — you will be paid back for the wrong you have done." That servant, who knew his Lord's will and did not obey it — shall be beaten with many stripes. These portions of God's word must mean something. They apply to those who have knowledge — but who do not reduce their knowledge to practice. To those who know to do good — but do not do it.
Let us then bring home the subject to ourselves. Do we practically observe God's precepts? Do we observe the requirements of Jesus — ALL of them, so far as we know them? Or, do we see that there are in the New Testament things required of the disciples of Jesus — and yet we, though we profess to be his disciples — live in the neglect of them? Are we in the habit of looking at the omission of any duty — as sin? Or, do we excuse ourselves from observing anything that Jesus has commanded, because we consider that it is not essential to salvation, and may therefore be omitted without affecting our eternal safety?
Let us beware, lest directly or indirectly, we make the Lord Jesus the minister of sin. Let us beware of so making use of gospel doctrines — as to interfere with gospel precepts. Let us not put the blood of the cross — in the place of filial obedience. Doctrine rightly understood and properly employed — becomes a stimulus to good works. And the promises of grace — urges us to carefully keep the precepts of the Scripture.
We cannot too carefully exclude every good thing of our own, from the foundation on which we build for our acceptance with God; nor can we be too cautious lest we should make God's glorious grace, and the Savior's finished work — an excuse for neglecting moral duties, or the observance of Christ's positive institutions. Let us trust in the work of Christ alone for eternal life — as though there were no duties to perform; and then perform our duties — as though we had no work of Christ wherein to trust.
All that I am, and all I have
Shall be forever Thine,
Whatever my duty bids me give
My cheerful hands resign.
Yet if I might make some reserve,
And duty did not call,
I love my God with zeal so great
That I should give him all.