Sin (2)

2. Concerning the origin and source of this vast moral disease called 'sin', I must say something. I fear the views of many professing Christians on this point are sadly defective and unsound. I dare not pass it by. Let us, then, have it fixed down in our minds that the sinfulness of man does not begin from without, but from within. It is not the result of bad training in early years. It is not picked up from bad companions and bad examples, as some weak Christians are too fond of saying. No! It is a family disease, which we all inherit from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and with which we are born. Created 'in the image of God', innocent and righteous at first, our parents fell from original righteousness and became sinful and corrupt. And from that day to this all men and women are born in the image of fallen Adam and Eve and inherit a heart and nature inclined to evil. 'By one man sin entered into the world.' 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh.' 'We are by nature children of wrath.' 'The carnal mind is enmity against God.' 'Out of the heart [naturally, as out of a fountain] proceed evil thoughts, adulteries' and the like (Rom_5:12; Joh_3:6; Eph_2:3; Rom_8:7; Mar_7:21). The fairest babe, that has entered life this year and become the sunbeam of a family, is not, as its mother perhaps fondly calls it, a little 'angel', or a little 'innocent', but a little 'sinner'. Alas! As it lies smiling and crowing in its cradle, that little creature carries in its heart the seeds of every kind of wickedness! Only watch it carefully, as it grows in stature and its mind develops, and you will soon detect in it an incessant tendency to that which is bad, and a backwardness to that which is good. You will see in it the buds and germs of deceit, evil temper, selfishness, self-will, obstinacy, greediness, envy, jealousy, passion, which, if indulged and let alone, will shoot up with painful rapidity. Who taught the child these things? Where did he learn them? The Bible alone can answer these questions! Of all the foolish things that parents say about their children there is none worse than the common saying: 'My son has a good heart at the bottom. He is not what he ought to be, but he has fallen into bad hands. Public schools are bad places. The tutors neglect the boys. Yet he has a good heart at the bottom.' The truth, unhappily, is diametrically the other way. The first cause of all sin lies in the natural corruption of the boy's own heart, and not in the school.

3. Concerning the extent of this vast moral disease of man called 'sin', let us beware that we make no mistake. The only safe ground is that which is laid for us in Scripture. 'Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart' is by nature 'evil', and that 'continually'. 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked' (Gen_6:5; Jer_17:9). Sin is a disease which pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution and every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will, are all more or less infected. Even the conscience is so blinded that it cannot be depended on as a sure guide, and is as likely to lead men wrong as right, unless it is enlightened by the Holy Ghost. In short, 'from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness' about us (Isa_1:6). The disease may be veiled under a thin covering of courtesy, politeness, good manners and outward decorum, but it lies deep down in the constitution.

I admit fully that man has many grand and noble faculties left about him, and that in arts and sciences and literature he shows immense capacity. But the fact still remains that in spiritual things he is utterly 'dead', and has no natural knowledge, or love, or fear of God. His best things are so interwoven and intermingled with corruption, that the contrast only brings out into sharper relief the truth and extent of the Fall. That one and the same creature should be in some things so high and in others so low; so great and yet so little; so noble and yet so mean; so grand in his conception and execution of material things and yet so grovelling and debased in his affections; that he should be able to plan and erect buildings like those at Carnac and Luxor in Egypt and the Parthenon at Athens, and yet worship vile gods and goddesses and birds and beasts and creeping things; that he should be able to produce tragedies like those of AEsehylus and Sophocles, and histories like that of Thucydides, and yet be a slave to abominable vices like those described in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans - all this is a sore puzzle to those who sneer at 'God's Word written', and scoff at us as bibliolaters. But it is a knot that we can untie with the Bible in our hands. We can acknowledge that man has all the marks of a majestic temple about him, a temple in which God once dwelt, but a temple which is now in utter ruins, a temple in which a shattered window here, and a doorway there, and a column there, still give some faint idea of the magnificence of the original design, but a temple which from end to end has lost its glory and fallen from its high estate. And we say that nothing solves the complicated problem of man's condition but the doctrine of original or birth-sin and the crushing effects of the Fall.

Let us remember, beside this, that every part of the world bears testimony to the fact that sin is the universal disease of all mankind. Search the globe from east to west and from pole to pole; search every nation of every clime in the four quarters of the earth; search every rank and class in our own country from the highest to the lowest - and under every circumstance and condition, the report will be always the same. The remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, completely separate from Europe, Asia, Africa and America, beyond the reach alike of Oriental luxury and Western arts and literature, islands inhabited by people ignorant of books, money, steam and gunpowder, uncontaminated by the vices of modem civilization, these very islands have always been found, when first discovered, the abode of the vilest forms of lust, cruelty, deceit and superstition. If the inhabitants have known nothing else, they have always known how to sin! Everywhere the human heart is naturally 'deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked' (Jer_17:9). For my part, I know no stronger proof of the inspiration of Genesis and the Mosaic account of the origin of man, than the power, extent and universality of sin. Grant that mankind have all sprung from one pair, and that this pair fell (as Genesis 3 tells us), and the state of human nature everywhere is easily accounted for. Deny it, as many do, and you are at once involved in inexplicable difficulties. In a word, the uniformity and universality of human corruption supply one of the most unanswerable instances of the enormous 'difficulties of infidelity'.

After all, I am convinced that the greatest proof of the extent and power of sin is the pertinacity with which it cleaves to man, even after he is converted and has become the subject of the Holy Ghost's operations. To use the language of the ninth Article: 'This infection of nature doth remain - yea, even in them that are regenerate.' So deeply planted are the roots of human corruption, that even after we are born again, renewed, washed, sanctified, justified and made living members of Christ, these roots remain alive in the bottom of our hearts and, like the leprosy in the walls of the house, we never get rid of them until the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved. Sin, no doubt, in the believer's heart, has no longer dominion. It is checked, controlled, mortified and crucified by the expulsive power of the new principle of grace. The life of a believer is a life of victory and not of failure. But the very struggles which go on within his bosom, the fight that he finds it needful to fight daily, the watchful jealousy which he is obliged to exercise over his inner man, the contest between the flesh and the spirit, the inward 'groanings' which no one knows but he who has experienced them - all, all testify to the same great truth, all show the enormous power and vitality of sin. Mighty indeed must that foe be who even when crucified is stiff alive! Happy is that believer who understands it and, while he rejoices in Christ Jesus, has no confidence in the flesh and, while he says, 'Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory,' never forgets to watch and pray lest he fall into temptation!

to be continued