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Secret Sin

Tertullian | February 12

The LORD hates. . . A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief

—Proverbs 6:16a, 18

"We must strengthen ourselves ahead of time against secret and evident manifestations of sin."

Tertullian: Traditional icon

Most people think idolatry is only burning incense, sacrificing a victim, committing to sacred ceremonies or priesthoods. Similarly, some find adultery only in kisses, embraces, and actual fleshly contact, or murder only in the shedding of blood and the actual taking of life. But the Lord looks at these crimes in much broader terms. He says adultery exists even in lust, “if one shall have cast an eye lustfully on” and stirred his soul with immodest excitement. He sees murder even in a curse or reproach, in every impulse of anger, and in the neglect of kindness toward a neighbor. As John teaches, he who hates his neighbor is a mur­derer. If we were judged only by the faults even wicked nations consider punishable, then both the devil’s schemes and the Lord’s discipline by which He strengthens us against the devil would have little significance. For how, unless we have stood firm through an abundance of unrigh­teousness, will our “righteousness abound above that of the scribes and Pharisees,” as the Lord commanded? So if the head of unrighteousness is idolatry, we must strengthen ourselves ahead of time against both secret and evident manifesta­tions of sin.


All Scripture references are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version. Excerpts from the early Church Fathers are in the public domain, but were organized and arranged for daily reading in Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, © 1999 by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts. (No longer in print). Used by permission and in accordance with sections 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5 of Hendrickson’s “Rights and Permissions”. All rights reserved.

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