Sin nibbles at our soul in small steps.
Eight steps, to be precise, according to John Witherspoon in his sermon on Hebrews 3:13 entitled “The Deceitfulness of Sin”:
1. Men enter and initiate themselves in a vicious practice by small sins.
2. Having once begun in the ways of sin, he ventures upon something great and more daring; his courage grows with his experience; and he gives himself more liberty to walk in the ways of his own heart, and the sight of his own eyes.
3. Open sins soon throw a man into the hands of ungodly companions.
4. In the next stage, the sinner begins to feel the force of habit and inveterate custom.
5. The next stage in a sinner’s course is to lose the sense of shame; and sin openly and boldly.
6. Another stage in the sinner’s progress is to harden himself so far, as to sin without remorse of conscience.
7. Improved sinners often come to boast and glory of their wickedness. It is something to be above shame; but it is more still to glory in wickedness and esteem it honorable.
8. Not to be content with being wicked themselves, but to use all their art and influence to make others so too. This is to be zealous in sinning, and industriously to promote the interest of the infernal cause. How often do we find those who have no fear of God before their own eyes, use their utmost endeavors to extinguish it before others, to laugh down qualms of their consciences, and break any reluctance they may seem to have at running to same excess of riot with themselves? (Works, 2:61-69)
From small sins to bigger sins, to bad friends and bad habits, to loss of shame and loss of conscience, to boasting in what is evil and being zealous for others to do the same–that is the devilish nature of sin’s grip on the human heart.
Was true in Scotland in the eighteenth century. Is true in America now. And everywhere else for that matter.