But, the acceptance of the supernatural depends upon a conviction of the reality of sin. Without the conviction of sin, there can be no appreciation of the uniqueness of Jesus. It is only when we contrast our sinfulness with His holiness that we appreciate the gulf which separates Him from the rest of the children of men. And, without the conviction of sin, there can be no understanding of the occasion for the supernatural act of God. Without the conviction of sin, the good news of redemption seems to be an idle tale. So fundamental is the conviction of sin in the Christian faith that it will not do to arrive at it merely by a process of reasoning. It will not do to say merely, “All men (as I have been told) are sinners. I am a man. Therefore, I suppose I must be a sinner, too.” That is all the supposed conviction of sin amounts to, sometimes.
But, the true conviction is far more immediate than that. It depends, indeed, upon information that comes from without. It depends upon the revelation of the law of God. It depends upon the awful verities set forth in the Bible as to the universal sinfulness of mankind. But, it adds to the revelation that has come from without a conviction of the whole mind and heart, a profound understanding of one’s own lost condition, an illumination of the deadened conscience, which causes a Copernican revolution in one’s attitude toward the world and toward God. When a man has passed through that experience, he wonders at his former blindness. And, especially does he wonder at his former attitude toward the miracles of the New Testament and toward the supernatural Person who is there revealed. The truly penitent man glories in the supernatural, for he knows that nothing natural would meet his need. The world has been shaken once in his downfall, and shaken again it must be if he is to be saved.
From: Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (New York: Macmillan, 1923), pp. 105-106.