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Sinfulness of Sin (Puritan Paperbacks) Paperback – December 1, 1996
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'Works like Ralph Venning's The Sinfulness of Sin have steered me into a greater understanding of God, his word, and indeed even my own heart. Few today would dare think so carefully and comprehensively about the Bible's teaching on the stuff of sin. Fewer still would dare write it. Perhaps even fewer have sat to read Venning's cogent study. But any who read this book will never think the same way about sin, evil, and God s grace in Christ Jesus. Thank you, Banner.' --David Garner
About the Author
Ralph Venning was born in Devon around the year 1621 to Francis and Joanne Venning, and spent his childhood and early adult life in the vicinity of Tavistock, where his father was a yeoman farmer. There Venning encountered the Puritan preacher, George Hughes, under whose diligent pastoral ministry he was converted, along with two other young men who also went on to become gospel ministers. Venning later acknowledged the debt he owed to Hughes, whose devotion of time and energy both to Venning s conversion and early discipleship, led to him describing Hughes in affectionate terms as his spiritual father .
His academic and, perhaps, ministerial potential having been recognised, Venning left Devon for Cambridge. He was admitted to Emmanuel College as a sizar in April 1643 a category of student which would have required him to carry out menial jobs around the college in part payment of his fees. Despite these additional duties he also served as chaplain in the Tower of London, and found the time to write and publish two books Venning completed his BA and MA degrees before entering into the preaching ministry.
Apart from a short period in Devon, Venning ministered primarily in London, in fellowship with both Independent and Presbyterian preachers such as Joseph Caryl, John Owen, Richard Baxter and George Griffith. Indeed, London was a hub for godly preaching at that time. Venning, although known for his moderation and as one who avoided partisanship, was unequivocally committed to the goals of the Reformation and of the Puritan revolution , and served in a number of capacities during the Commonwealth period and under the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. These included the Commissions for assessing candidates for chaplaincy posts in the navy and for the County of Surrey, as well as promoting evangelical enterprise amongst the indigenous peoples of New England. Of greatest importance to Venning, however, was the promotion of godliness in every aspect of daily life.
During the 1650s Venning was primarily occupied as Lecturer at St Olave s, Southwark. The church was fully demolished by 1928, and Olaf House, part of London Bridge Hospital, now occupies the spot. Venning also ministered at St Mary Magdalen from 1657. In 1661 he married Hannah Cope, a widow; they had at least two children.Refusing to conform to the 1662 Act of Uniformity, Venning was ejected from this post. In the years that followed, he served as co-pastor with Robert Bragge to a nonconformist congregation which met at the Pewterers Guild Hall in Lime Street. His last sermon, after which he was taken ill and died (March 1674), was preached to a similar congregation meeting at Joiners Hall.
In addition to his ministry among the Reformed churches during the heady days of the 1650s, Venning also preached on occasions at Paul's Cross, an open air pulpit adjacent to St Paul's Cathedral, and described by historian Patrick Collinson as the seventeenth century equivalent of national broadcasting. Those who listened would have included the Aldermen and Mayor of London, as well as a broad spectrum of both Londoners and visitors to the capital. This was a platform to present to the widest possible audience sermons on matters of national importance. The Trust's Puritan Paperback The Way to True Happiness is a record of one such sermon.
Venning's works The Sinfulness of Sin and Learning in Christ's School,/em> are available in the Trust's Puritan Paperbacks series.
[Adapted from S. Bryn Roberts' 'Introduction' to The Way to True Happiness,/em>]
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'God is angry with the wicked every day'(Psalm 7:11)-p.98 "Though judgement does not come every day,yet God is angry every day." Men foolishly postulate that because God is patient and long-suffering that His anger is abated and judgement will never come but death and judgement are absolute certainties.Fleeing to Christ for mercy is the only safe haven.
Sin opposes God in His nature,being and the exercise of His will.That God has a right to rule over His creatures any rational mind would concede.Sin would remove God from His throne(if it had the power to do so).Sinful men through out history have cast off His Sovereign rule over them.When Moses went to Pharaoh(the most powerful ruler on the earth at that time)to appeal to Him to let the Israelites go and worship the Lord their God,Pharaoh's response reveals mans arrogant heart towards 'the King of Kings'-'who is the Lord,that I should obey His voice to let Israel go.' Venning succinctly states "The voice and language of sin is,'our lips are our own,who is Lord over us.'(Psalm 12:4).Sinful man will not have God govern his creation according to His holy will but fallen sinful man desires autonomy,even though it leads to his own ruin.
Some think the Puritans were morbid and overly introspective,too negative in their thinking.A positive mental attitude is what leads to a happy and wholesome life,so many philosophize in our generation.So much dwelling on sin cannot be healthy and is ultimately much ado about nothing.That is certainly not the perspective that Biblical revelation gives us.The Banner of Truth editors were right on the mark in stating the importance of a right understanding of sin(on the back cover of the book)"we cannot understand the Christian gospel until we know what sin is".This book will be extraordinarily helpful in gaining an in-depth understanding of that which is at the root of man's depraved heart.
I have to admit, this book has sat on my shelf for nearly two years because I feared its truth. The darkness of sin, while ever-present, is often veiled in the monotony of life. Sin is our default setting; sin often seems so reasonable. Just as Adam and Eve, we too often seek our own way and try to create a world that feels comfortable for ourselves, even though as we do we shun God's law and what he knows is best for us.
In reading this book during the final weeks of the Lenten season, it afforded me a challenging glimpse at not only my own guilt and failure, but a perspective of the suffering of Christ and the sacrifice he made on our behalf. Venning does a thorough treatment of Christ's own experience of living amongst sinful humanity, and how that alone for Almighty God much have been vexing. To live among us, then to take on that burden, becoming our sin, is all the more awe-inspiring!
Not only does Christ's amazing sacrifice cleanse us from sin, but it drives and motivates us to live for him. As Ralph Venning talks about sin, rather than feeling tormented by its description, in light of Christ's finished work it becomes a commission and motivation to strive to live more like him and to be a light to those seeking for their own salvation and freedom from sin.
This is definitely one of those books that I will be reading again. Venning draws a deep line in the sand, challenging us to live in such a way as to draw us to the heart of God, in spite of what the world may say to the contrary, all for the sake of the glory of God.