As we revisit the truths that Thomas Brooks discovered in 1652, let us be reinvigorated by them today. Let us make war with our sin. Let us avoid the veneer of virtue signaling and resist the temptation to tuck them away like poison without dealing with it adequately. Let us flee to the arms of our dear savior for comfort, and let us stand in the power of the Spirit to live differently in the days ahead.
One of the most helpful books I have ever read was Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by the great Puritan Thomas Brooks. In that book, which is more like a handbook on how to avoid the schemes of hell, Brooks lays out common ways the enemy so quickly entraps us, along with precious Gospel remedies we can employ to avoid the temptations he brings. Last week, we began looking more closely at the first of these devices and remedies and will continue again this week, looking at how Satan paints sin with virtuous colors.
Painting Sin with Virtue Signals
In the deepest recesses of the human psyche, like a balrog sleeping in the depths of Moria, exists an unquenchable torrent of guilt that cannot be assuaged by the putting on of virtues. And yet, the madness of the human condition is this, although we cannot succeed in doing, surely we will try, try, again. In fact, virtue signaling exists to distract from the inherent guilt we all know is festering within us, like a boil ready to unleash its murky contents.
Imprinted upon the sickly soul of man is the unavoidable knowledge that all have sinned and fallen short of our creator’s glory (Romans 3:23). But, instead of reckoning with this Holy God, the brittle soul suppresses this embarrassing knowledge in abject wickedness (Romans 1:18). Faced with the foul pollution of our contaminated character, we pretend we are virtuous because we cannot stand the terror of how sin has mangled us.
This is why Planned Parenthood when referring to the grizzly murder of a million infants per year, uses the benign phrase: women’s healthcare. The human ego cannot bear the horror and culpability of creating the most extensive serial killing ring in human history. So, with euphemisms turned into ad campaigns, they disguise their awful corruptions and attempt to convince the onlooking world that they are, in fact, the righteous ones. And if you do not join them, you are the real monster.
This is why democrats in 2020 were wearing the “I can’t breathe” t-shirts commemorating the death of George Floyd. Because, with a tattered legacy of being pro-slavery, pro-racism, pro-Jim Crow, and the perpetrator of a litany of violence against non-white races, the democrats must constantly play moral whack-a-mole, to forget who they were, and to convince everyone else they are unstained. And should you defy their clever wordsmithing? You will be thoroughly canceled, tossed into a “basket of deplorables,” doxed, and then deemed unfit for polite society. Their guilt fuels their senselessness.
But let us not puff out hollow chests while doing a little conservative jig with the Pharisees. Everyone virtue signals to some degree or another because no one wants to face the dragons hiding within. We cannot, as Christians, pretend that this is just a game the pagans play. When we lie, we paint with the strokes called: “I was only kidding.” When we foment anger, it is their stupidity that causes it. When we are cut off by a reckless driver, we deem him unfit for the road or travel, and yet, when we do the exact same thing, we are the ones who have an excellent reason. Perhaps, the most constant and revolting aspect of our sin is that it is so morbidly hideous that our souls not only scramble to hide it, cloak it, or redefine it, but it also forgoes true repentance in exchange for pitiful excuses and virtue signals. Without Christ, we are truly hopeless.
The Death of Signaling and Dawn of Virtue
Two thousand years ago, the divine author we rejected penned Himself into His own epic, taking upon Himself the weight of the tragedy, His characters deserved. And unlike us, He didn’t participate in the charades or dawn the theater masks (Thalia and Melpomene). He did not feign righteousness or masquerade with contrived or pretended holinesses. Instead, he lived authentically as the God-man before us. Instead of pacifying guilt, which He had none, He assuaged the wrath of almighty God. For His elect, He came so that all who are in Christ could be set free from the toil of shame and misery to live in the glorious freedom of serving Him.