Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Commentary on Malachi 3

Commentary on Malachi 3


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

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Micah 3

What the apostle says of another of the prophets is true of this, who was also his contemporary – “Esaias is very bold,” Rom 10:20. So, in this chapter, Micah is very bold in reproving and threatening the great men that were the ringleaders in sin; and he gives the reason (Mic 3:8) why he was so bold, because he had commission and instruction from God to say what he said, and was carried out in it by a higher spirit and power than his own. Magistracy and ministry are two great ordinances of God, for good to his church, but these were both corrupted and the intentions of them perverted; and upon those that abused them, and so abused the church with them, the prophet is very severe, and justly so. I. He gives them their lesson severally, reproving and threatening princes (Mic 3:1-4) and false flattering prophets (Mic 3:5-7). II. He gives them their lesson jointly, putting them together, as acting in conjunction for the ruin of the kingdom, which they should see the ruins of (Mic 3:9-12).


Micah 3:1-7

Princes and prophets, when they faithfully discharge the duty of their office, are to be highly honoured above other men; but when they betray their trust, and act contrary to it, they should hear of their faults as well as others, and shall be made to know that there is a God above them, to whom they are accountable; at his bar the prophet here, in his name, arraigns them.

I. Let the princes hear their charge and their doom. The heads of Jacob, and the princes of the house of Israel, are called upon to hear what the prophet has to say to them, Mic 3:1. The word of God has reproofs for the greatest of men, which the ministers of that word ought to apply as there is occasion. The prophet here has comfort in the reflection upon it, that, whatever the success was, he had faithfully discharged his trust: And I said, Hear, O princes! He had the testimony of his conscience for him that he had not shrunk from his duty for fear of the face of men. He tells them,

1. What was expected from them: Is it not for you to know judgment? He means to do judgment, for otherwise the knowledge of it is of no avail. “Is it not your business to administer justice impartially, and not to know faces” (as the Hebrew phrase for partiality and respect of persons is), “but to know judgment, and the merits of every cause?” Or it may be taken for granted that the heads and rulers are well acquainted with the rules of justice, whatever others are; for they have those means of knowledge, and have not those excuses for ignorance, which some others have, that are poor and foolish (Jer 5:4); and, if so, their transgression of the laws of justice is the more provoking to God, for they sin against knowledge. “Is it not for you to know judgment? Yes, it is; therefore stand still, and hear your own judgment, and judge if it be not right, whether any thing can be objected against it.”

2. How wretchedly they had transgressed the rules of judgment, though they knew what they were. Their principle and disposition are bad: They hate the good and love the evil; they hate good in others, and hate it should have any influence on themselves; they hate to do good, hate to have any good done, and hate those that are good and do good; and they love the evil, delight in mischief. This being their principle, their practice is according to it; they are very cruel and severe towards those that are under their power, and whoever lies at their mercy will find that they have none. They barbarously devour those whom they should protect, and, as unfaithful shepherds, fleece the flock they should feed; nay, instead of feeding it, they feed upon it, Eze 34:2. It is fit indeed that he who feeds a flock should eat of the milk of the flock (1Co 9:7), but that will not content them: They eat the flesh of my people. It is fit that they should be clothed with the wool, but that will not serve: They flay the skin from off them, Mic 3:3. By imposing heavier taxes upon them than they can bear, and exacting them with rigour, by mulcts, and fines, and corporal punishments, for pretended crimes, they ruined the estates and families of their subjects, took away from some their lives, from others their livelihoods, and were to their subjects as beasts of prey, rather than shepherds. “They break their bones to come at the marrow, and chop the flesh in pieces as for the pot.” This intimates that they were, (1.) Very ravenous and greedy for themselves, indulging themselves in luxury and sensuality. (2.) Very barbarous and cruel to those that were under them, not caring whom they beggared, so they could but enrich themselves; such evil is the love of money the root of.

3. How they might expect that God should deal with them, since they had been thus cruel to his subjects. The rule is fixed, Those shall have judgment without mercy that have shown no mercy (Mic 3:4): “They shall cry to the Lord, but he will not hear them, in the day of their distress, as the poor cried to them in the day of their prosperity and they would not hear them.” There will come a time when the most proud and scornful sinners will cry to the Lord, and sue for that mercy which they once neither valued nor copied out. But it will then be in vain; God will even hide his face from them at that time, that time when they need his favour, and see themselves undone without it. At another time they would have turned their back upon him; but at that time he will turn his back upon them, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. Note, Men cannot expect to do ill and fare well, but may expect to find, as Adoni-bezek did, that done to them which they did to others; for he is righteous who takes vengeance. With the froward God will show himself froward, and he often gives up cruel and unmerciful men into the hands of those who are cruel and unmerciful to them, as they themselves have formerly been to others. This agrees with Pro 21:13, Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he shall cry himself and shall not be heard; but the merciful have reason to hope that they shall obtain mercy.

II. Let the prophets hear their charge too, and their doom; they were such as prophesied falsely, and the princes bore rule by their means. Observe,

1. What was their sin. (1.) They made it their business to flatter and deceive the people: They make my people err, lead them into mistakes, both concerning what they should do and concerning what God would do with them. It is ill with a people when their leaders cause them to err, and those draw them out of the way that should guide them and go before them in it. “They make them to err by crying peace, by telling them that they do well, and that all shall be well with them; whereas they are in the paths of sin, and within a step of ruin. They cry peace, but they bite with their teeth,” which perhaps is meant of their biting their own lips, as we are apt to do when we would suppress something which we are ready to speak. When they cried peace their own hearts gave them the lie, and they were just ready to eat their own words and to contradict themselves, but they bit with their teeth, and kept it in. They were not blind leaders of the blind, for they saw the ditch before them, and yet led their followers into it. (2.) They made it all their aim to glut themselves, and serve their own belly, as the seducers in St. Paul’s time (Rom 16:18), for their god is their belly, Php 3:19. They bite with their teeth, and cry peace; that is, they will flatter and compliment those that will feed them with good bits, will give them something to eat; but as for those that put not into their mouths, that are not continually cramming them, they look upon them as their enemies; to them they do not cry peace, as they do to those whom they look upon as their benefactors, but they even prepare war against them; against them they denounce the judgments of God, but as they are to them, as the crafty priests of the church of Rome, in some places, make their image either to smile or frown upon the offerer according as his offering is. Justly is it insisted on as a necessary qualification of a minister (1Ti 3:3, and again Tit 1:7) that he be not greedy of filthy lucre.

2. What is the sentence passed upon them for this sin, Mic 3:6, Mic 3:7. It is threatened, (1.) That they shall be involved in troubles and miseries with those to whom they had cried peace: Night shall be upon them, a dark cold night of calamity, such as they, in their flattery, led the people to hope would never come. It shall be dark unto you, darker to you than to others; the sun shall go down over the prophets, shall go down at noon; all comfort shall depart from them, and they shall be deprived of all hope of it. The day shall be dark over them, in which they promised themselves light. Nor shall they be surrounded with outward troubles only, but their mind shall be full of confusion, and they shall be brought to their wits’ end; their heads shall be clouded, and their own thoughts shall trouble them; and that is trouble enough. They kept others in the dark, and now God will bring them into the dark. (2.) That thereby they shall be silenced, and all their pretensions to prophecy for ever shamed. They never had any true vision; and now, the event disproving their predictions of peace, it shall be made to appear that they never had any, that there never was an answer of God to them, but it was all a sham, and they were cheats and impostors. Their reputation being thus quite sunk, their confidence would of course fail them. And, their spirits being ruffled and confused, their invention would fail them too; and by reason of this darkness, both without and within too, they shall not divine, they shall not have so much as a counterfeit vision to produce, they shall be ashamed, and confounded, and cover their lips, as men that are quite baffled and have nothing to say for themselves. Note, Those who deceive others are but preparing confusion for their own faces.

Micah 3:8-12

Here, I. The prophet experiences a divine power going along with him in his work, and he makes a solemn profession and protestation of it, as that which would justify him, and bear him out, in his plain dealing with the princes and rulers. He would not, he durst not, make thus bold with the great men, but that he was carried out to do it by a prophetical impulse and impression. It was not he that said it, but God by him, and he could not but speak the word that God put into his mouth. It comes in likewise by way of opposition to the false prophets, who were full of shame when they lived to see themselves proved liars, and who never had courage to deal faithfully with the people, but flattered them in their sins; they were sensual, not having the Spirit, but truly (says Micah) I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, Mic 3:8. Having in himself an assurance of the truth of what he said, he said it with assurance. Compare him with those false prophets, and you will say, There is no comparison between them. What is the chaff to the wheat? Jer 23:28. What is painted fire to real fire? Observe here, 1. What the qualifications were with which this prophet was endured: He was full of power, and of judgment, and of might; he had an ardent love to God and to the souls of men, a deep concern for his glory and their salvation, and a flaming zeal against sin. He had likewise courage to reprove it and witness against it, not fearing the wrath either of great men or of great multitudes; whatever difficulties or discouragements he met with, they did not deter him nor drive him from his work; none of these things moved him. And all this was guided by judgment and discretion; he was a man of wisdom as well as courage; in all his preaching there was light as well as heat, and a spirit of wisdom as well as of zeal. Thus was this man of God thoroughly furnished for every good word he had to say, and every good work he had to do. Those he preached to could not but perceive him to be full both of power and judgment, for they found both their understandings opened and their hearts made to burn within them, with such evidence and demonstration, and with such power, did the word come from him. 2. Whence he had these qualifications, not from and of himself, but he was full of power by the Spirit of the Lord. Knowing that it was indeed the Spirit of the Lord that was in him, and spoke by him, that it was a divine revelation that he delivered, he spoke it boldly, and as one having authority, set his face as a flint, knowing he should be justified and borne out in what he said, Isa 50:7, Isa 50:8. Note, Those who act honestly may act boldly; and those who are sure that they have a commission from God need not be afraid of opposition from men. Nay, he had not only a Spirit of prophecy, which was the ground of his boldness, but the Spirit of sanctification endued him with the boldness and wisdom which were requisite for him. It was not in any strength of his own that he was strong; for who is sufficient for these things? but in the Lord, and in the power of his might; for from him all our sufficiency is. Are we full of power at any time, for that which is good? It is purely by the Spirit of the Lord, for of ourselves we are weak as water; it is the God of Israel that gives strength and power both to his people and to his ministers. 3. What use he made of these qualifications – this judgment and this power; he declared to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. If transgression be found in Jacob and Israel, they must be told of it, and it is the business of God’s prophets to tell them of it, to cry aloud and not to spare, Isa 58:1. Those who come to hear the word of God must be willing to be told of their faults, and must not only give their ministers leave to deal plainly and faithfully with them, but take it kindly, and be thankful; but, since few have meekness enough to receive reproof, those have need of a great deal of boldness who are to give reproofs, and must pray for a spirit both of wisdom and might.

II. The prophet exerts this power in dealing with the heads of the house of Jacob, both the princes and the prophets, whom he had drawn up a high charge against in the former part of the chapter. He repeats the summons of their attendance and attention (Mic 3:9), the same that we had Mic 3:1, directing himself to the princes of the house of Israel, yet he means those of Judah; for it appears (Jer 26:18, Jer 26:19, where Mic 3:12 is quoted) that this was spoken in Hezekiah’s kingdom; but, the ten tribes being gone into captivity, Judah is all that is now left of Jacob and Israel. The prophet speaks respectfully to them (hear, I pray you) and gives them their titles of heads and princes. Ministers must be faithful to great men in reproving them for their sins, but they must not be rude and uncivil to them. Now observe here,

1. The great wickedness that these heads of the house of Jacob were guilty of, princes, priest, and prophets; in short, they were covetous and prostituted their offices to their love of money. (1.) The princes abhorred all judgment; they would not be governed by any of its laws, either in their own practice or in passing sentence upon appeals made to them; they perverted all equity, and scorned to be under the direction or correction of justice, when it could not be made pliable to their secular interests. When, under pretence of doing right, they did the most palpable wrongs, then they perverted equity, and made it serve a purpose contrary to the intention of the founder of magistracy and fountain of power. It is laid to their charge (Mic 3:10) that they build up Zion with blood. “They pretend, in justification of their extortion and oppressions, that they build up Zion and Jerusalem; they add new streets and squares to the holy cities, and adorn them; they establish and advance the public interests both in church and state, and think that therein they do God and Israel good service. But it is with blood and with iniquity, and therefore it cannot prosper; nor will their intentions of good to the city of God justify their contradictions to the law of God.” Those mistake who think that a burning zeal for holy church, and the propagating of the faith, will serve to consecrate robberies and murders, massacres and depredations; no, Zion’s walls owe those no thanks that build them up with blood and iniquity. The sin of man works not the righteousness of God. “The office of the princes is to judge upon appeals made to them; but they judge for reward (Mic 3:11); they give judgment on the side of those that give the bribe; the most righteous cause shall not be carried without a fee, and for a fee the most unrighteous cause shall be carried.” Miserable is the people’s case when the judge’s enquiry upon a cause is not, “What is to be done in it?” but, “What is to be got by it?” (2.) The priests’ work was to teach the people, and for that the law had provided them a very honourable comfortable maintenance; but that will not content them, they teach for hire over and above, and will be hired to teach any thing, as an oracle of God, which they know will please and gain them an interest. (3.) The prophets, it should seem, had honorary fees given them by way of gratuity (1Sa 9:7, 1Sa 9:8); but these prophets governed themselves in their prophesying by the prospect of temporal advantage and that was the main thing they had in their eye: They divine for money. Their tongues were mercenary; they would either prophesy or let it alone, according as they found it most for their advantage; and a man might have what oracle he would from them if he would but pay them for it. Thus they were fit successors of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. Note, Though that which is wicked can never be consecrated by a zeal for the church, yet that which is sacred may be, and often is, desecrated, by the love of the world. When men do that which in itself is good, but do it for filthy lucre, it loses its excellency, and becomes an abomination both to God and man.

2. Their vain presumption and carnal confidence, notwithstanding: They lean upon the Lord, and because they are, in profession, his people, they think there is neither harm nor danger in these their wicked practices. Faith builds upon the Lord, rests in him, and relies upon him, as the soul’s foundation; presumption only leans upon the Lord as a prop, makes use of him to serve a turn, while still the world is the foundation that is built upon. They speak with a great deal of confidence, (1.) Of their honour: “Is not the Lord among us? Have we not the tokens of his presence with us, his temple, his ark, his lively oracles?” They are haughty because of the holy mountain and its dignities (Zep 3:11), as if their church-privileges would palliate the worst of practices, or as if God’s presence with them were intended to make the priests and people rich with the sale of their performances. It was true that the Lord was among them by his ordinances, and this puffed them up with pride; but, if they imagined that he was among them by his favour and love, they were mistaken: but it is a cheat the children of men often put upon themselves to think they have God with them, when they have by their sin provoked him to depart from them. (2.) They are confident of their own safety: No evil can come upon us. Many are rocked asleep; in a fatal security by their church-privileges, as if those would protect them in sin, and shelter them from punishment, which are really, and will be, the greatest aggravations both of their sin and of their punishment. If men’s having the Lord among them will not restrain them from doing evil, it can never secure them from suffering evil for so doing; and it is very absurd for sinners to think that their impudence will be their impunity.

3. The doom passed upon them for their real wickedness, notwithstanding their imaginary protection (Mic 3:12): Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field.

This is that passage which is quoted as a bold word spoken by Micah (Jer 26:18), which yet Hezekiah and his princes took well, though in another reign it might have gone near to cost him his head; nay, they repented and reformed, and so the execution of this threatening was prevented, and did not come in those days. (1.) It is the ruin of holy places that is here foretold, places that had been highly honoured with the tokens of God’s presence and the performances of his worship; it is Zion that shall be ploughed as a field, the building burnt to the ground and levelled with it. Some observe that this was literally fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, when the ground on which the city stood was ploughed up in token of its utter desolation, and that no city should be built upon that ground without the emperor’s leave. Even Jerusalem, the holy city, shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the house, on which the temple is built, shall be overgrown with briars and thorns, as the high places of the forest. If sacred places be polluted by sin, they must expect to be wasted and ruined by the judgments of God. (2.) It is the wickedness of those who preside in them that brings the ruin: “It is for your sake that Zion shall be ploughed as a field; you pretend to build up Zion, but, doing it by blood and iniquity, you pull it down.” Note, The sin of priests and princes is often the ruin of states and churches. Delirant reges, plectuntur AchiviThe kings act foolishly and the people suffer for it.


AW Pink (1886-1952): The Doctrine of Human Depravity 1 of 10

The Doctrine of Human Depravity 1 of 10
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Chapel Library

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LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.


This book is likely to meet with a decidedly mixed reception. Some of our readers will probably be very disappointed when they see the title, deeming the subject quite unattractive and unedifying. If so, they are to be pitied, and we would fain cherish the hope that God may bless these contents unto them. Medicine is proverbially unpleasant, but there are times when all of us find it necessary and beneficial. Others will be thankful that, by Divine grace, we seek to glorify God rather than please the flesh. And surely that which most glorifies God is to declare “all His counsel,” to insist on that which puts man in his proper place before Him, and to emphasize those portions and aspects of the Truth which our generation is most in need of. As we shall endeavour to show, our theme is one of immense doctrinal importance and of great practical value. Since it is a subject which occupies so prominent a place in God’s Word, no apology is needed for our engaging in such a task.

It is our deep conviction that the vital question most requiring to be raised today is this: Is man a totally and thoroughly depraved creature by nature? Does he now enter the world completely ruined and helpless, spiritually blind and dead in trespasses and sins? According as is our answer to that question, so will be our views on many others. It is upon the basis of this dark background that the whole Bible proceeds. Any attempt to modify or abate, repudiate or tone down the teaching of Scripture thereon is fatal. Put the question in another form: Is man now in such a condition that he cannot be saved without the special and direct intervention of the Triune God on his behalf? In other words, is there any hope for him apart from his personal election by the Father, his particular redemption by the Son, and the supernatural operations of the Spirit within him? Or, putting it in still another way: If man be a totally depraved being, can he possibly take the first step in the matter of his return unto God?

The Scriptural answer to that question makes evident the utter futility of the schemes of social reformers for “the moral elevation of the masses,” the plans of politicians for the peace of the nations, and the ideologies of dreamers to usher in a “golden age” for this world. It is both pathetic and tragic to see many of our greatest men putting their faith in such chimeras. Divisions and discords, hatred and bloodshed, cannot be banished while human nature is what it is. But during the past century the steady trend of a deteriorating Christendom has been to underrate the evil of sin and overrate the moral capabilities of men. Instead of proclaiming the heinousness of sin, there has been a dwelling more upon its inconveniences, and the abasing portrayal of the lost condition of man as set forth in Holy Writ has been obscured, if not obliterated, by flattering disquisitions upon human advancement. If the popular religion of “the churches”—including nine-tenths of what is termed “Evangelical Christianity”—be tested at this point, it will be found that it clashes directly with man’s fallen, ruined, and spiritually dead condition.

There is therefore a crying need today for sin to be viewed in the light of God’s Law and Gospel, so that its exceeding sinfulness may be demonstrated, and the dark depths of human depravity exposed by the teaching of Holy Writ—that we may learn what is connoted by those fearful words, “dead in trespasses and sins.” The grand object of the Bible is to make God known unto us, to portray man as he appears in the eyes of his Maker, and to show the relation of one to the other. It is therefore the business of His servants not only to declare the Divine character and perfections, but also to delineate the original condition and apostasy of man, as well as the Divine remedy for his ruin. Until we really behold the hole of the pit in which by nature we lie, we can never properly appreciate Christ’s so-great salvation. In man’s fallen condition we have the awful disease for which Divine redemption is the only cure, and our estimation and valuation of the provisions of Divine grace will necessarily be modified in proportion as we modify the need it was meant to meet.

It was truly pointed out by one of the Puritans that “The end of the ministry of the Gospel is to bring sinners unto Christ. Their way to this end lies through the sense of their misery without Christ. The ingredients of this misery are our sinfulness, original and actual; the wrath of God, whereto sin has exposed us; and our impotency to free ourselves either from sin or wrath. That we may therefore promote this great end, we shall endeavour, as the Lord will assist, to lead you in this way, by the sense of misery to Him who alone can deliver from it. Now the original of our misery being the corruption of our nature, or original sin, we thought fit to begin here, and therefore have pitched upon these words as very proper for our purpose: ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me’ ” (from introduction of David Clarkson’s sermon on Psalm 51:5—around 1660).

This subject is indeed a most solemn one, and none can fitly write or preach thereon unless his own heart be deeply awed thereby. It is not something from which any man can detach himself and expatiate thereon as though he were not directly involved in it, still less as from a higher level looking down upon those whom he denounces. Nothing is more incongruous and ill-becoming than for a young preacher glibly to rattle off passages of Scripture which portray his own vileness by nature. Rather should they be read or quoted with the utmost gravity. “As no heart can sufficiently conceive, so no tongue can adequately express the state of wretchedness and ruin into which sin has cast guilty, miserable man. In separating him from God, it severed him from the only source of all happiness and holiness. It has ruined him body and soul: the one it has filled with sickness and disease; in the other it has defaced and destroyed the image of God in which it was created. It has made him love sin and hate God” (J. C. Philpot).

The doctrine of total depravity is a very humbling one. It is not that man leans to one side and needs propping up, nor that he is merely ignorant and requires instructing, nor that he is run down and calls for a tonic: but rather that he is undone, lost, spiritually dead. Consequently, he is “without strength,” thoroughly incapable of bettering himself; exposed to the wrath of God, and unable to perform a single work which can find acceptance with Him. Almost every page of the Bible bears witness to this truth. The whole scheme of redemption takes it for granted. The plan of salvation taught in the Scriptures could have no place on any other supposition. The impossibility of any man’s gaining the approbation of God by works of his own appears plainly in the case of the rich young ruler who came to Christ. Judged by human standards, he was a model of virtue and religious attainments, yet, like all others who trust in self-efforts, he was ignorant of the spirituality and strictness of God’s Law, and when Christ put him to the test his fair expectations were blown to the winds, and “he went away sorrowful” (Matt. 19:22).

It is therefore a most unpalatable doctrine. It cannot be otherwise, for the unregenerate love to hear of “the greatness, the dignity, the nobility of man.” The natural man thinks highly of himself and appreciates only that which is flattering. Nothing pleases him more than to listen to that which extols human nature and lauds the state of mankind, even though it be in terms which not only repudiate the teaching of God’s Word, but which are flatly contradicted by common observation and universal experience. And many there are who pander to him by their lavish praises of the excellency of civilization and the steady progress of the race. Hence, to have the lie given to the popular error of “Evolution” is highly displeasing to its deluded votaries. Nevertheless, the first office of God’s servants is to stain the pride of all that man glories in, to strip him of his stolen plumes, to lay him low in the dust before God. However repugnant such teaching be, he must faithfully discharge his duty, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” (Ezek. 3:11).

This is no dismal dogma invented by the Church in “the dark ages,” but a truth of Holy Writ. Said the much-used George Whitefield, “I look upon it not merely as a doctrine of Scripture—the great Fountain of Truth—but a very fundamental one, from which I hope God will suffer none of you to be enticed.” It is a subject to which great prominence is given in the Bible. Every part of the Scriptures has much to say upon the awful state of degradation and slavery into which the Fall has brought man. The corruption, the blindness, the hostility of all Adam’s descendants unto everything of a spiritual nature are constantly insisted upon. Not only is man’s utter ruin fully described, but his powerlessness to save himself from the same. In the declarations and denunciations of the Prophets, of Christ, and His Apostles, the bondage of all men unto Satan and their complete impotence to turn unto God for deliverance are repeatedly set forth—not indirectly and vaguely, but emphatically and in great detail. This is one of a hundred proofs that the Bible is no human invention, but a communication from the Thrice Holy One.

It is a sadly neglected subject. Notwithstanding the clear and uniform teaching of Scripture thereon, man’s ruined condition and alienation from God are but feebly apprehended and seldom heard in the modern pulpit, and are given little place even in what are regarded as the centres of orthodoxy. Rather is the whole trend of present-day thought and teaching in the opposite direction, and even where the Darwinian hypothesis has not been accepted, its pernicious influences are often seen. In consequence of the guilty silence of the modern pulpit, a generation of churchgoers has arisen which is deplorably ignorant of the basic truths of the Bible, so that perhaps not more than one in a thousand has even a mental knowledge of the chains of hardness and unbelief which bind the natural heart, or of the dungeon of darkness in which they lie. Instead of faithfully telling their hearers of their woeful state by nature, thousands of preachers are wasting their time by relating the latest news of the Kremlin or development of the atom bomb.

It is, therefore, a testing doctrine, especially of the preacher’s soundness in the Faith. A man’s orthodoxy on this subject determines his viewpoint of many other doctrines of great importance. If his belief here be a Scriptural one, then he will clearly perceive how impossible it is for men to improve themselves—that Christ is their only hope. He will know that unless the sinner be born again there can be no entrance for him into the Kingdom of God. Nor will he entertain the idea of the fallen creature’s free will unto good. He will be preserved from many errors. “I never knew a person verge toward the Arminian, the Arian, the Socinian, the Antinomian schemes, without first entering diminutive notions of human depravity or blameworthiness” (Andrew Fuller). Said the well-equipped theological instructor, J. M. Stifler, “It cannot be said too often that a false theology finds its source in inadequate views of depravity.”

It is a doctrine of great practical value as well as doctrinal importance. The foundation of all true piety lies in a correct view of ourselves and our vileness, and a Scriptural belief of God and His grace. There can be no genuine self-abhorrence or repentance, no real appreciation of the saving mercy of God, no faith in Christ, without it. There is nothing like a knowledge of this doctrine so well calculated to undeceive vain man and convict him of the worthlessness and rottenness of his own righteousness. Yet the preacher who is sensible of the plague of his own heart knows full well that he cannot present this Truth in such a way as to make his hearers actually realize and feel the same, so as to make them out of love with themselves and cause them to renounce forever all hope in themselves. Therefore, instead of relying upon his faithfulness in presenting the Truth, he will be cast upon God to apply it graciously in power to those who hear him and bless his feeble efforts.

It is an exceedingly illuminating doctrine. It may be a melancholy and humiliating one, nevertheless, it throws a flood of light upon mysteries which are otherwise insoluble. It supplies the key to the course of human history and shows why so much of it has been written in blood and tears. It supplies an explanation of many problems which sorely perplex and puzzle the thoughtful. It reveals why the child is prone to evil and has to be taught and disciplined unto anything that is good. It explains why every improvement in man’s environment, every attempt to educate him, all the efforts of social reformers, are unavailing to effect any radical betterment in his nature and character. It accounts for the horrible treatment which Christ met with when He wrought so graciously in this world, and why He is still despised and rejected of men. It enables the Christian himself better to understand the painful conflict which is ever at work within him, and which causes him so often to cry, “Oh, wretched man that I am!”

It is therefore a most necessary doctrine, for the vast majority of our fellows are ignorant of the same. God’s servants are sometimes thought to speak too strongly and dolefully of the dreadful state of man through his apostasy from God, but the fact is that it is impossible to exaggerate in human language the darkness and pollution of man’s heart or to describe the misery and utter helplessness of a condition such as the Word of Truth describes in these solemn passages: “But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4). “Therefore they could not believe, because . . . He hath (judicially) blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:39, 40). This is yet more evident when we contrast the state of souls of those in whom a miracle of grace is wrought—see Luke 1:78, 79.

It is a salutary doctrine—one which God often uses to bring men to their senses. While we imagine that our wills have power to do what is pleasing to God, we never abandon dependence on self. Not that a mere intellectual knowledge of man’s fall and ruin is sufficient to deliver from pride. Only the Spirit’s powerful operations can effect that: yet He is pleased to use the faithful preaching of the Word unto that end. Nothing but a felt sense of our lost condition lays us in the dust before God.

1. Its Origin—Part 1

That something is radically wrong with the world of mankind requires no laboured argument to demonstrate. That such has been the case in all generations is plain from the annals of history. This is only another way of saying that something is radically wrong with man himself, for the world is but the aggregate of all the individual members of our race. Since the whole of anything cannot be superior to the parts comprising it, it necessarily follows that the course of the world will be determined by the characters of those who comprise it. But when we come to inquire exactly what it is that is wrong with man, and how he came to be in such a case, unless we turn to God’s inspired Word no convincing answers are forthcoming. Apart from that Divine revelation no sure and satisfactory reply can be made to such questions as: From where have been derived the unmistakable imperfections of human nature? What will furnish an adequate explanation of all the manifold evils which attend man’s present state? Why is it that none is able to keep God’s Law perfectly, do anything which is acceptable to Him while in a state of nature?

To ascertain how sin, which involves all men in it, came into the world is a matter of no little importance. To discover why it is that all men universally and continually are unrighteous and ailing creatures supplies the key to many a problem. Look at human nature as it now is: depraved, wretched, subject to death. Ask philosophy to account for this, and it cannot do so. None can deny the fact that men are what they ought not to be, but how they became so, human wisdom is unable to tell us. To attribute our troubles to heredity and environment is but an evasion, for it leaves unanswered the question, How came it that our original ancestors and environment were such as to produce what now exists? Look not only at our prisons, hospitals, and cemeteries, but also upon the antipathy which is ever to be seen between the righteous and the wicked, between those who fear God and those who fear Him not. The antagonism between Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, is repeatedly duplicated in every age and clime—and the Bible alone traces that antagonism to its fountain head.

The more judicious of the ancients recognized and bemoaned the universal tendency of men to be law-breakers, but were entirely unaware of its real source. They were agreed that the practice of virtue was the chief thing necessary for the promotion of man’s good, but they had to lament an irregular bent in the wills and corruption in the affections of their disciples, which rendered their precepts of little use, and they were completely at a loss to assign any reason why mankind, who have the noblest faculties of any beings on earth, should yet generally pursue their destruction with as much eagerness as the beasts avoid it. Plato, in the second book of his Republic, complained that men by their natures are evil and cannot be brought to good. Trully acknowledged that “man is brought forth into the world, in body and soul, exposed to all miseries and prone to evil, in whom that Divine spark of goodness, and wisdom, and morality, is opposed and extinguished.” They realized that all men were poisoned, but how the poison came to be in the human constitution they knew not. Some ascribed it to fate; others to the hostile influences of the planets; still others to an evil angel which attends each man.

Most certainly we cannot attribute man’s natural inordinancy and defectiveness unto his Creator. To do so would be the rankest blasphemy, as well as giving the lie to His Word, which declares that “God hath made man upright” (Eccl. 7:29). Even on a much lower ground, such a conclusion is self-evidently false: it is impossible that darkness should issue from the Father of light, or that sin should come from the ineffably Holy One. It is infinitely better to confess our ignorance than to be guilty of grossest impiety—to say nothing of manifest absurdity—by placing the onus upon God. But there is no excuse for anyone to be ignorant thereon: the Holy Scriptures supply a definite solution to this mystery, and show that the entire blame for his present wretchedness lies at man’s own door. And therefore, to say that man is a sinful creature, or even to allow that he is totally depraved, is but to acknowledge half of the truth, and the least humbling half at that. Man is a fallen creature. He has departed from his original state and primitive purity. So far from man’s having ascended from something inferior to an ape, he has descended from the elevated and honourable position in which God first placed him; and it is all-important to contend for this, since it alone satisfactorily explains why man is now depraved.

Man is not now as God made him. He has lost the crown and glory of his creation, and has plunged himself into an awful gulf of sin and misery. By his own perversity he has wrecked himself and placed an entail of woe upon his posterity. He is a ruined creature as the result of his apostasy from God. This requires that we should consider, first, man in his original estate, that we may perceive his folly in so lightly valuing the same and that we may form a better conception of the vastness, and vileness of his downward plunge, for that can only be gauged as we learn what he fell from as well as into. By his wicked defection man brought himself into a state as black and doleful as his original one was glorious and blessed. Second, we need to consider most attentively what it has pleased the Holy Spirit to record about the Fall itself, pondering each detail described in Genesis 3, and the amplifications of them supplied by the later Scriptures: looking unto God graciously to grant us an understanding of the same. And then, third, we shall be in a better position to view the fearful consequences of the Fall and perceive how the punishment was made to fit the crime.

Instead of canvassing the varied opinions and conflicting conjectures of our fallible and fallen fellows concerning the original condition and estate of our first parents, we shall confine ourselves entirely to the Divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the only unerring rule of faith. From them, and them alone, can we ascertain what man was when he first came from the hands of his Creator. First, His Word makes known God’s intention to bring him into existence: “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). There are two things exceedingly noteworthy in that brief statement, namely the repeated use of the pronoun in the plural number, and the fact that its language suggests the idea of a conference between the Divine Persons at this point of the “six days” work. We say at this point, for there is nothing resembling it in the record of what occurred during the previous days. Thus, the Divine conference here conveys the impression that the most important stage of creation had now been reached, that man was to be the masterpiece of the Divine workmanship, the crowning glory of the mundane sphere—which is clearly borne out in his being made in the Divine image.

It is the usage of the plural number in Genesis 1:26, which, in our judgment, intimates the first signification of the term “image.” God is a trinity in unity, and so also is the man that He made: consisting, in his entirety, of “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23)—while in some passages, “spirit” and “soul” are used as synonyms—in Hebrews 4:12, they are distinguished. The fact that the plural number occurs three times in the brief declaration of Genesis 1:26, supplies confirmation that the one made in Their likeness was also a threefold entity. Some scholars consider that we have an allusion to this feature of man’s constitution in the Apostle’s statement, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), pointing out that each of those three verbs has a philological significance: the first to our animal life, the second (from which is derived the Greek word used by ethical writers for the passions—such as fear, love, hatred, and the like) not, as our English verb suggests, to man’s bodily motions in space, but to his emotional nature—the soul; the third to that which constitutes our essential being (the “spirit”)—the intelligence and will of man.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:27). This sannounces the actual accomplishment of the Divine purpose and counsels referred to in the preceding verse. The repetition of statement, with the change of the pronoun from the plural to the singular number, imports a second signification to the term “image.” Viewing it more generally, it tells of the excellency of man’s original nature, though it must needs be explained consistently with that infinite distance there is between God and the highest creature. Whatever was this glory which God placed upon Adam, it is not to be understood that he was made to participate in the Divine perfections. Nor is the nothingness of the best of finite beings any disparagement when they be compared with God: for whatever likeness there is to Him, either as created, regenerated, or glorified, there is at the same time an infinite disproportion. Further, this excellency of man’s original nature must be distinguished from that glory which is peculiar to Christ, who, so far from being said to be “made in the image of God,” “is the Image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “the express Image of His Person” (Heb. 1:3). There is a oneness and equality between the Father and the Son which in nowise pertains to any “likeness” between God and the creature.

Examining the term more closely, “the image of God” in which man was made refers to his moral nature. Calvin defined it as being “spiritual,” that it “includes all the excellence in which the nature of man surpasses all the other species of animals,” and “denotes the integrity Adam possessed”; that it may be more clearly specified “in the restoration which we obtain through Christ.” Without an exception, all the Puritans we have consulted say substantially the same thing, regarding this “image of God” as moral rectitude, a nature in perfect accord with the Divine Law. It could not be otherwise: for the Holy One to make a creature after His likeness would be to endow him with holiness. When it is said of the regenerate that he has been “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (Col. 3:10), that clearly implies the same image in which man was originally made, and which sin has defaced. Not only did that “image” consist of knowledge (i.e. of God) but, as Ephesians 4:24 informs us, of “righteousness and true holiness” also. Thus, man’s original state was far more than one of innocence (sinlessness, harmlessness), which is mainly a negative thing.

That man was created in positive holiness is also taught in Ecclesiastes 7:29, “God hath made (not is now “making”) man upright”: not only without any improper bias, but according to rule—straight with the Law of God conformed to his will. As Boston expressed it, “original righteousness was con-created with him.” The same Hebrew word occurs in “good and upright is the LORD” (Psa. 25:8). We have dwelt the longer on this point because not only do Romanists and Socinians deny that man was created a spiritual (and not merely natural) and holy (not simply innocent) being, but some hyper-Calvinists—who prefer logic and “consistency” with their own principles to the Word of God—do so too. One error inevitably leads to another: to insist that the unregenerate are under no obligation to perform spiritual acts obliges them to infer the same thing of Adam. To conclude that “if Adam fell from a holy and spiritual condition, then we must abandon the doctrine of final perseverance” is to leave out Christ and lose sight of the superiority of the covenant of grace to the original one of works.

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). This supplies us with additional information upon the making of Adam. First, the matter of which his body was formed: to demonstrate the wisdom and power of God in making out of such material so wondrous a thing as the human body, and to teach man his humble origin and dependence upon God. Second, the quickening principle bestowed which was immediately from God, namely an intelligent spirit, of which the Fall did not deprive him (Eccl. 12:7)—that “the breath of life” included reason or the faculty of understanding is clear from “the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Third, the effect thereof: his body was now animated and made capable of vital acts. Man’s body out of the dust was the workmanship of God, but his soul was an immediate communication from “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9), and thereby earth and Heaven were united in him.

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him an help meet for him. . . .And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man” (Gen. 2:18, 21-22). It seems that God chose this mode of making the woman, instead of forming her also out of the dust, to express the intimate union which was to take place between the sexes—to denote their mutual relation and dependence, and to show the superiority of man to the woman. Those two were so made that the whole human race, physically considered, were contained in them and to be produced from them, making them all literally “of one blood” (Acts 17:26).

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Those words intimate that there was yet another meaning to “the image of God,” for the position of headship and authority which He conferred upon Adam shadowed forth the Divine sovereignty. Psalm 8:5, 6, tells us, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands. Thou hast put all things under his feet.” Adam was constituted God’s viceroy on earth, the government of all inferior creatures being conferred upon him. That was further demonstrated when the Lord brought all before Adam for him to give names to them (Gen. 2:19, 20), which not only evinces that he was a rational creature, endowed with the power of choice, but manifested his superiority over all mundane creatures, a propriety in them, and liberty to use them unto God’s glory and his own good.

But more. God not only endowed Adam with righteousness and holiness, thereby fitting him to fulfill the end of his creation by glorifying the Author of his being; bestowed upon him the gift of reason, which distinguished him from and elevated him above all the other inhabitants of the earth; conferred upon him the charter of dominion over them; but brought him into a pure and beautiful environment. “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed . . .and the LORD God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden (which the Septuagint renders “the paradise of joy”) to dress it and keep it” (Gen. 2:8, 15)—Genesis 3:24 confirms the fact that “the garden of Eden” was distinct from the earth. The whole world was given him for a possession, but Eden was the special seat of his residence, a place of pre-eminent delight. It presented to his view the whole earth in miniature, so that he might, without travelling long distances, behold the lovely landscape which it afforded. It epitomized all the beauties of nature, and was, as it were, a conservatory of its fairest vegetation and a storehouse of its choicest fruits.

That the garden of Eden was a place of surpassing beauty, excelling all other parts of the earth for fertility, is evident from other Scriptures. When prophesying, in a day of wretchedness and barrenness, the bountiful spiritual blessings which would attend the Gospel era, Ezekiel used this figurative but graphic language: “This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden” (36:35). Still plainer was the promise of Isaiah 51:3: “For the LORD shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places: and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD: joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” From those words it is clear that nothing was wanting in Eden, in its pristine glory, to give the most complete happiness to man. That it was a place of perfect bliss is further evident from the fact that Heaven itself—the habitation of the blessed—is called “paradise” in Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7—may we not see in that threefold allusion (there are no others!) a pledge for the complete satisfaction of the glorified man’s spirit and soul and body?

In the statement that the Lord God put the man into the garden of Eden “to dress it and keep it,” several things are imported and implied. First, and most obviously, that God takes no pleasure in idleness, but in an active industry. That such an appointment was for Adam’s good cannot be doubted and sure it is that regular employment preserves us from those temptations which so often attend indolence. Second, that secular employment is by no means inconsistent with perfect holiness, or a person’s enjoying intimate communion with God and the blessings arising therefrom; though Adam’s work would, of course, be performed without any of the fatigue and disappointment which accompany such today. The holy angels are not inert, but “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14); yea, of the Divine Persons Themselves, our Lord declared, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17); thus this employment assigned Adam was also a part of his conformity to God. Third, it implied the duty of keeping his own heart—the garden of his soul—with all diligence (Prov. 4:23), tending its faculties and graces so that he might ever be in a condition to pray, “Let my Beloved come into His garden and eat His pleasant fruits” (Song. 4:16).

Further, in the “dress it”—Hebrew “serve,” “till”—we are taught that God’s gracious bestowments are to be highly treasured and carefully cultivated by us: “neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Tim. 4:14), “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” (2 Tim. 1:6). In the additional “and to keep it,” we believe there was a tacit warning given by God unto Adam. Not only does the English term convey that thought, but the Hebrew word (shainar) here used requires it. Nineteen times it is rendered “preserve,” twelve times “take heed,” four times “watch,” and once it is actually translated “beware.” Thus it signified a caution against danger, putting Adam on his guard, bidding him be on the look out against the encroaching of an enemy. The Dutch Puritan, Herman Witisus, pointed out that the “keeping of Paradise virtually engaged him of all things to be anxiously concerned not to do anything against God, lest as a bad gardener be should be thrust out of the garden, and in that discover a melancholy symbol of his own exclusion from Heaven.” Finally, in that “paradise” is one of the names of Heaven, we may conclude that the earthly one in which Adam was placed was a pledge of that celestial blessedness which, had he survived his probation and preserved his integrity, he had become possessed of.

In addition to the institution of marriage (Gen. 2:23-25; 1:28), God appointed the weekly Sabbath. “On the seventh day God ended His work He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made” (2:2, 3)—should any raise the cavil that the term “Sabbath” is not found in those verses, we would remind them that in Exodus 20:11, Jehovah Himself expressly terms that first “seventh day” of rest “the Sabbath day.” The word “blessed” signifies to declare blessedness: thus, on the frontispiece of His Word, God would have every reader know that special Divine blessing attends the observance of the Sabbath. The word “sanctified” means that it was a day set apart for sacred use. For Adam it would be a means for his more intimate communion with God, wherein he would enjoy a recess from his secular employment and have opportunity of expressing his gratitude for all those blessings of which he was the partaker.

2. Its Origin—Part 2

Though Adam had been made in the image of God, taken into communion with Him, fitted to rejoice in all the manifestations of His wisdom and goodness which surrounded him in Eden, nevertheless he was capable of falling. Since it is a point which has sorely puzzled many of the Lord’s people, how it was possible for a holy person, devoid of any corruption, to sin, we will endeavour to explain. First, Adam’s liability to fall lay in the fact that he was but a creature. As such he was entirely dependent upon Him “which holdeth our soul in life” (Psa. 66:9). As our natural life continues only so long as God sustains it, so it was with Adam’s spiritual life: he stood only so long as he was Divinely upheld. Moreover, as a creature, he was but finite, and therefore possessed of no invincible power with which to repel opposition. Nor was he endowed with omniscience, so that he had been incapable of being deceived or mistaking an evil for an apparent good. Thus, though man’s original condition was one of high moral excellence, with no evil tendency in any part of his nature, yea, with nothing in him which in the least deviated from the moral law, yet, being but a creature, he was capable of falling.

Second, Adam’s liability to fall lay in his mutability. Changeableness is the very law or radical characteristic of the creature, to distinguish it from the Creator. God alone is “with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:18). Therefore, it is that “He cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13) i.e., induced to sin: a statement which clearly implies that the creature as such has a capacity to be so tempted—not only a depraved creature, but even an unfallen one. Immutability and impeccability (non-liability to sin) are qualities which essentially distinguish the Creator from the creature—the angels possess neither, as the fall of at least onethird of their number (Rev. 12) demonstrated. Further, as the excellent Goodwin pointed out, God alone acts from His own power, whereas the creature acts by a power given to him which is distinct from himself. “God’s own goodness and happiness is His ultimate end, therefore He can never act but holily, for He acts by Himself, and for Himself, and so cannot fail in acting, but is holy in all His ways and works, and cannot be otherwise.” But man neither acts immediately by his own power nor is himself the legitimate end of his acting, but rather God. Thus, with all his faculties, man may falter when using them.

Third, Adam’s liability to fall lay in the freedom of his will. He was not only a creature and a rational creature, but also a moral one. Freedom of will is a property which belongs to man as a rational and responsible being. As we cannot separate understanding from the mind, neither can we liberty from the will, especially in connection with things within its own sphere, and most especially still when considering that all the faculties of man’s soul were in the state of perfection before the Fall. With Adam and Eve the freedom of the will consisted in a power of choosing or embracing what appeared agreeable to the dictates of their understandings, to be good, or in refusing and avoiding what was evil; and that without any constraint or force laid upon them to act contrary to the dictates thereof. Such freedom also supposed a power to act pursuant to what the will chooses, otherwise it could not obtain the good desired or avoid the evil detested, and in such cases its “liberty” would be little more than a name. Freedom of action is opposed to that which is involuntary or compelled, and the will is both self-inclining and self-determining in the acting, both internally and externally; for then only can it, strictly speaking, be said to be free.

Our first parents had that freedom of will, or power to retain their integrity. This is evident from the clearly revealed fact that they were under an indispensable obligation to yield perfect obedience unto God, and liable to deserved punishment for the least defect thereof: therefore, they must have been given a power to stand, a liberty of will to choose that which was conducive to their happiness. The same thing is also evident from the difference there is between man’s primitive and present state. As fallen, man is now by a necessity of nature inclined to sin, and accordingly he is denominated “the servant of sin” (John 8:34)—a slave to it, entirely under its dominion—but it was far otherwise with Adam, whose nature was holy and furnished with everything necessary to his yielding that obedience demanded of him. Nevertheless, his will being free, it was capable of complying with an external temptation to evil, though so long as he made a right use of his faculties he would defend himself and reject the temptation with abhorrence. It pleased God to leave our first parents without any immediate help ab extra, to the freedom and mutability of their own will. But that neither made Him the author of their sin nor brought them under any natural necessity of falling.

Before considering the probation under which Adam was placed, and the test to which his loyalty and subjection to God was submitted, it should be pointed out that Scripture requires us to regard him as far more than a private person—the consequences of whose action would be confined to himself. As we purpose showing, that is made very plain from the event itself. Adam was more than the father of the human race. By Divine constitution he was made the covenant head of all his natural seed, so that what be did was Divinely regarded and reckoned as being done by them—just as Christ came into the world as the covenant Head of all His spiritual seed, acting and transacting in their name and on their behalf. God willing, this will be considered more fully under the next division of our subject, when we shall treat of the imputation of his offence to all his posterity. Suffice it now to point out that in Romans 5:14, Adam is expressly called “the figure of Him that was to come.” In what was he a type of the Redeemer? The principal respect in which he was distinguished from all other creatures lay in his being the federal head and legal representative of all his offspring. This is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, where the first Adam and the last Adam are designated “the first man” and “the second man,” for they were the only two who sustained that covenant and federal relation unto others before God.

“And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:8, 9). That is the first mention of those two notable trees, and it is to be duly observed that, like all the others surrounding them, they were both pleasing to the eye and suitable for eating. Thus God not only provided for Adam’s profit, but his pleasure also, that he might serve Him with delight. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16, 17). This, as the following verses indicate, took place before Eve was created, and thus the Covenant of Works was made with Adam alone as the head of our race. Far more was implied in those words than is actually expressed, as we hope to show when considering them more closely under our next division. Meanwhile, a few general remarks thereon may be of interest.

“The tendency of such a Divine precept is to be considered. Man was thereby taught: (1) That God is Lord of all things—that it is unlawful for man even to desire an apple but with His leave. In all things, therefore, from the greatest to the least, the mouth of the Lord is to be consulted as to what He would or would not have done by us. (2) That man’s trite happiness is placed in God alone, and nothing to be desired but with submission to God, and in order to employ it for Him. So that it is He only on whose account all other things appear good and desirable to man. (3) Readily to be satisfied without even the most delightful and desirable things, if God so commands; and to think that there is much more good in obedience to the Divine precept than in the enjoyment of the most delightful thing in the world. (4) That man was not yet arrived to the utmost pitch of happiness, but to expect a still greater good after his course of obedience was over. This was hinted by the prohibition of the most delightful tree, whose fruit was, of any other, greatly to be desired and this argued some degree of imperfection in that state in which man was forbidden the enjoyment of some good” (H. Witsius).

In forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil his Maker asserted His dominion and enforced His authority. That it was proper for Him to do so cannot be lawfully questioned, and as the sole Proprietor of the garden it was fitting that He should emphasize His rights by this restriction. Moreover, man having been created a rational creature and endowed with freedom of will, he was a fit subject for command, and accordingly was placed under law. Thereby Adam’s loyalty and subjection to his Creator and Lord was put to the test. Trial of his obedience was made to discover whether the will of God was sacred to him. It was both meet and just that he remain in the state of holiness in which God had made him, if he would continue to enjoy His favour. Thus he was placed on probation, made the subject of Divine government. Adam was not an independent creature, for he did not create himself: being made by God, he owed a debt to Him, he was a mortal being, and therefore responsible to serve and please God. The commandment given to him was no arbitrary infliction, but a necessary injunction for making evident and enforcing the relationship in which man stood to God.

The particular injunction laid upon our first parents (Gen. 2:17) has been a favourite subject of ridicule by the opponents of Divine revelation. They who are wise in their own conceits have deemed it unworthy of the Almighty to interpose His authority in a matter so trifling, and have insisted it is incredible to believe that He exposed Adam and Eve to the hazard of ruining themselves and all their progeny by eating the food of a particular tree. But a little reflection ought to show us that there was nothing in that prohibition unbecoming over all creatures here below, it was surely fitting that He should require some peculiar instance of homage and fealty to Him as a token of his dependence and an acknowledgment of his subjection to his Maker—to whom he owed the most absolute submission and obedience. And what mark of subjection could be more proper than being interdicted to partake of one of the fruits of Paradise? Full liberty was granted him to eat of all the rest, and that single abstention was well suited to teach our first parents the salutary lesson of self-denial and of implicit resignation to the good pleasure of the Most High.

In addition to what was noted by Witsius, it may be pointed out that the character of this prohibition taught Adam and Eve to keep their sensitive appetites in subjection to the reasoning faculty. It showed them they must subordinate their bodily inclinations unto finding their highest delight in God alone. It intimated that their desire after knowledge must be kept within just bounds, that they must be content with what God deemed to be really proper and useful to them, and not presume to pry with an unwarrantable curiosity into things which did not belong to them, and which God had not thought well to reveal unto them. It was not sinful per se (in itself abstractedly considered) for Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but only because the Lord God had expressly forbidden them to do so. Accordingly, solemn warning of the dire consequences that would certainly follow their disobedience was given, for even in Eden man was placed under the holy awe of Divine threatening, which was a hedge placed around him for his protection. Man’s supreme felicity lies in God Himself and the enjoyment of His favour and in Eden he was forbidden to seek satisfaction in any other object. In that single restriction upon his liberty was his integrity put to the proof.

So far from that arrangement being unworthy of the Divine majesty, such an enforcing of His will and authority upon the creature of His hand was most becoming. It was not only necessary in the nature of the case if the responsibility of a free agent was to be enforced, and his subjection to the Divine government insisted upon, but the very triviality of the object withheld from our first parents only served to give greater reality unto the trial to which they were subjected. As Professor Dick pointed out, “It is manifest that the prohibition did not proceed from malevolence or an intention to impair the happiness of man: because, with this single reservation, he was at liberty to appropriate the rich variety of fruits with which Paradise was stored. It is certain that, situated as he was, no command could be easier, as it properly implied no sacrifice, no painful privation, but simple abstinence from one out of many things; for who would deem it a hardship, while he was sitting at a table covered with all kinds of delicate and substantial foods, to be told that there was one, and only one, that he was forbidden to taste? It is further evident that no reason could be assigned why Adam should not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil but the Divine prohibition.

“The fruit was as good for food as that of any tree, and as pleasant to the eye; and there was nothing sacred in it which would have been profaned by human touch. Hence you will perceive that if God had an intention to make trial of the newly formed subject, He could not have chosen a more proper method, as it indicated nothing like a harsh or tyrannical exercise of authority, and was admirably fitted to ascertain whether His simple command would be to him instead of all other reasons for obedience. It is not a proper trial of reverence for a superior when the action which he prescribes is recommended by other considerations. It is when it stands upon the sole foundation of his authority; when, having no intrinsic goodness, it becomes good only by his prohibition; when the sole inducement to perform it is his command. It is in these circumstances it is known whether we duly feel and recognize our moral dependence upon him. The morality of an action does not depend upon its abstract nature, but upon its relation to the Law of God. Men seem often to judge of actions as they judge of material substances—by their bulk. What is great in itself, or in its consequences, they will admit to be a sin; but what appears little they pronounce to be a slight fault, or no fault at all.

“Had Adam, it has been remarked, been possessed of preternatural power, and wantonly and wickedly exerted it in blasting the beauty of Paradise, and turning it into a scene of desolation, men would have granted that he was guilty of a great and daring offence, for which a curse was justly pronounced upon him. But they can see no harm in so trifling a matter as the eating of a little fruit. Nothing, however, is more fallacious than such reasoning: the essence of sin is the transgression of a law, and whether that law forbids you to commit murder or to move your finger, it is equally transgressed when you violate the precept. Whatever the act of disobedience is, it is rebellion against the Lawgiver: it is a renunciation of His authority, it dissolves that moral dependence upon Him which is founded on the nature of things, and is necessary to maintain the order and happiness of the universe. The injunction therefore to abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a proper trial of our first parents, and the violation of it deserved the dreadful punishment which was denounced and executed. He was put to the test whether the will of God was sacred in his eyes, and he was punished because he gave preference to his own will.” Our apology for making a longer quotation than we are accustomed to do from the writings of others. The one just given is of particular weight and importance and greatly needed in this day. We hope the reader will give it a second and more carefu1 perusal.

It only remains for us to add now that the foundation of Adam’s obligation to render such obedience unto God lay, first, in his relations to Him. As his Maker, his Governor, his Benefactor, it behooved him to render full subjection to His revealed will. Second, in the privileges and favours bestowed upon him: these required that he should express his gratitude and thanksgiving by doing those things which were pleasing in His sight. Third, in his endowments, which qualified him so to do: created in God’s image, with a nature that inclined his will unto obedience—ability and obligation then being co-extensive. Fourth, in the relation he sustained to the race: as the head and father of all his progeny, their welfare or ruin was bound up in how he conducted himself, thus greatly augmenting his responsibility to abstain from wrong-doing. Fifth in that the command forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge was accompanied by a solemn threat of dire punishment to be inflicted in case of disobedience. Not only should that have acted as an effectual deterrent, but the penalty necessarily implied a promise: since death would be the sure result of disobedience, life would be the reward of obedience—not only a continuation of the blessedness and happiness which he then enjoyed in fellowship with his Maker, but such an augmentation of the same as He might be pleased further to make in the exercise of His bounty. That also ought to have served as a powerful incentive unto continued fidelity. Thus there was every reason why Adam should have preserved his integrity.

3. Its Origin—Part 3

Though created in the image and likeness of God, man was not endowed with infallibility. In body perfectly sound, in soul completely holy, in circumstances blissfully happy, still man was but a mutable creature. Pronounced by God “very good” (Gen. 1:31) on the day of his creation, man’s character was not yet confirmed in righteousness, and therefore he was (like the angels) placed on probation and subjected to trial—to show whether or not he would render allegiance to his Lord. Though “made upright,” he was not incapable of falling; nor did it devolve upon God to keep him from so doing. This is clear from the event, for had there been any obligation upon God, His faithfulness and goodness had preserved Adam. Nor would He have upbraided our first parents had their defection been due to any breach of His fidelity. As moral agents, Adam and Eve were required to maintain their pristine purity unsullied, to walk before God in unswerving loyalty and loving submission. But a single restriction was put upon their liberty, which was necessary in order to the testing of their fealty and the discharge of their responsibility.

Alas, man in honour did not abide. He valued at a low rate the approbation of his Maker and the inestimable privilege of communion with Him. He chafed against the love-lined yoke that had been laid upon him. Quickly did he supply tragic evidence of his mutability and disrupt the tranquillity of Paradise. The beauty of holiness in which the parents of our race were arrayed was soon succeeded by the most revolting depravity. Instead of preserving their integrity, they fell into a state of sin and misery. They were speedily induced to violate that commandment of God’s—obedience to which was the sole condition of their continued felicity. Not for long did they enjoy their fair heritage. Notwithstanding the ideal conditions in which they were placed, they became dissatisfied with their lot, succumbed to their very first testing, and evoked the holy displeasure of their Benefactor. How early did the fine gold become dim! How soon did man forfeit the favour of his Maker, and plunge himself into an ocean of wretchedness and woe! How swiftly was the sun of human happiness eclipsed by man’s own folly!

It has been generally held among devout students of God’s Word that our first Parents remained unfallen for but a very brief season. Such a view is in full accord with the general Analogy of Faith, for it is a solemn and humbling fact that whenever God has been pleased to place anything in the hands of human responsibility, man has proved unfaithful to His trust; that when He has bestowed some special favour upon the creature, it has not been long before he has sadly abused the same. Even a considerable part of the angels in Heaven “kept not their first estate,” though how soon they apostatized, the Scriptures do not disclose. Noah, when he came forth on to a judgment-swept earth to be the new father of the human race, defiled his escutcheon at a very early date and brought a curse upon his son. Within the space of but a few days after Israel had solemnly entered into a covenant with Jehovah at Sinai, they were guilty of the horrible sin of idolatry, so that the Lord complained to Moses, “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made themselves a molten calf, and have worshipped it” (Exo. 32:8)—how tragically did that portend the whole of their future national history!

No sooner were the “times of the Gentiles” inaugurated by Nebuchadnezzar’s being made “a king of kings” (Dan. 2:37), so that his dominion was “to the end of the earth” (4:22), than pride led to his downfall. While he was boasting “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” a voice from Heaven announced, “They shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will” (Dan. 4:30, 32). Alas, what is man? Even the honour of the primitive Christian Church was speedily tarnished by the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Thus it has been all through the piece, and there is no evidence to show that at the commencement of human history Adam and Eve were any exception. Rather are there clear indications to the contrary, so that God had reason to say of them also “they have turned aside quickly out of the way.”

Personally, we doubt if our first parents preserved their integrity for forty-eight hours, or even for twenty-four. In the first place, they were bidden to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), and had they complied with that injunction and the blessing of God had attended the same, then a sinless child had been begotten and conceived, which, following the fall of Adam and Eve, would be born into a depraved family—a terrible anomaly, involving the utmost confusion. Second, if those words concerning Christ are to be taken without qualification, “that in all things” He might have the preeminence (Col. 1:16), then He is the only One who kept the Sabbath perfectly on this earth, and consequently Adam fell before the seventh day ended! Third, in Psalm 49:12, the Hebrew word for “man” is Adam—the same as in Genesis 2 and 3 and Job 31:33, while that for “abode” signifies “to stay or lodge for a night.” Manton rendered it “Adam being in honour abideth not for a night,” and Thomas Watson (in his Body of Divinity) said, “Adam, then, it seems, did not take up one night’s lodging in Paradise—quoted by Spurgeon in his Treasury of David. Fourth, the Devil “was a manslayer from the beginning,” (John 8:44)—not from the beginning of time, for there was no man to slay during the first five days, but “from the beginning” of human history. In the morning holy; by night a sinner!

It is the melancholy and disastrous episode of the Fall itself we are now to consider. The event is described in Genesis 3, upon which George Whitefield rightly said, “Moses unfolds more in that chapter than all mankind would have been capable of finding out of themselves though they had studied it to all eternity.” It is indeed one of the most important chapters in all the Bible, and it should be pondered by us frequently with prayerful hearts. Here commences the great drama which is now being enacted on the stage of human history, and which well-nigh six thousand years have not yet completed. Here is given us the Divine explanation of the present debased and ruined condition of the world. Here we are shown how sin entered it, together with its present effects and dire consequences. Here we have discovered to us the subtle devices of our great enemy the Devil, and are shown how we permit him to gain an advantage over us. On the other hand, it is a most blessed chapter, for it reveals the grace and mercy of God, and assures us that the head of the serpent will yet be crushed by the victorious Seed of the woman—Romans 16:20, telling us that His redeemed will also participate in Christ’s glorious triumph. Thus we see, from the commencement, that in wrath our God “remembered mercy”!

A careful reading of Genesis 3 indicates that much is there compacted into an exceedingly small space. The historical account of this momentous incident is given with the utmost conciseness—so very different from how an uninspired pen had dealt with it! Its extreme brevity calls for the careful weighing of every word and the implications of each clause. That there is not a little contained “between the lines” is plainly intimated in the Lord’s words to Adam, “Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife” (v. 17), yet the preceding verses nowhere tell us that she even spoke to him! Again, from the judgment pronounced upon the serpent, “upon thy belly shalt thou go” (v. 14), we may warrantably infer that previously it had stood erect. Again, from that part of the Divine sentence passed upon the woman, “thy desire shalt be subject to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (v. 16), it is to be concluded that Eve had acted unbecomingly and exerted all undue influence and authority in inducing Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit. Thus if we fail to ponder thoroughly every detail and meditate thereon, we are certain to miss not a little of interest and importance.

“Now the serpent was more subtle (wiser) than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made” (Gen. 3:1). Great care needs to be taken in the interpreting of this sentence. On the one hand, we must not give free rein to our imagination; on the other, it is not to be hurriedly and thoughtlessly skimmed over. Other passages require to be compared in order for their light to be thrown thereon, if a fuller understanding is to be obtained of it. Personally we believe that the statement refers to a literal “serpent,” yet as being the instrument of a superior being. We consider that the terms of verse 14 make it clear that an actual serpent is here in view, for the Lord’s words there are only applicable to that beast itself: “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle . . . upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” Nevertheless, what immediately follows in verse 15 makes it equally plain that more than a beast of the field was involved, namely Satan. Putting the two statements together, we gather that Satan made use of a literal serpent as his mouthpiece in the beguiling of Eve—as the Lord spoke through the mouth of Balaam’s ass (Num. 22:30).

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AW Pink (1886-1952): The Doctrine of Human Depravity 2 of 10

The Doctrine of Human Depravity 2 of 10
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Chapel Library

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Confirmation of what has just been said is found in John 8:44, where our Lord declared that “the Devil is a murderer (or more literally “man-slayer”) from the beginning”—designating him such because by his wiles he brought death upon our first parents. Moreover, in Revelation 12:9, and 20: 2, Satan is called “that old serpent” in manifest allusion to the transaction of Genesis 3. “And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” The thoughtful reader is at once struck by the abruptness of this remark, and is almost forced to conclude that the serpent was replying to what Eve had said previously, for his opening “Yea” plainly implies something going before and with which it was connected. This leads us to raise the question, Where was Eve when she was thus addressed and assailed? With many others, we believe the answer is, Standing before the very tree whose fruit had been forbidden them to eat! It is apparent from the immediate sequel that she was at least within sight of the tree, and it was from her beholding of it that the serpent took occasion to speak about and commend it unto her.

We also agree with those who have concluded that Adam was not with Eve when the serpent first engaged her in conversation, though we know that soon after he had rejoined her. Ridgley, George Whitefield, Gill, and many others held that Eve was alone when she confronted the serpent. For ourselves, we base that belief upon what we are told in 1 Timothy 2:13, 14, where the Holy Spirit has emphasized the fact that the woman was first in the transgression, and then became the seducer of the man. That could hardly be said  had Adam been present from the beginning, for in such a case he had been a partaker of her evil doing—by suffering her to yield to the temptation instead of making every effort in causing her to reject it. Furthermore, it is to be carefully noted that when the guilty couple were arraigned before their Maker, Eve passed no blame upon her husband for making no attempt to dissuade her, but instead sought to throw the onus on the serpent. Nor did the Lord Himself charge Adam with any complicity in his wife’s crime, as He surely would have done had Adam been a passive spectator. The serpent, then, tempted Eve in the absence of her husband.

We consider that Eve’s being alone, and more especially her near approach unto the fatal tree, casts considerable light on what then occurred. “Had she kept close to the side out of which she was lately taken, she had not been so exposed” (Matthew Henry); and had she kept away from that which threatened certain death, she had been upon safer ground. Satan cannot injure any of us while we are walking with God and are treading the paths of righteousness. We are expressly told that there is no lion “in the way of holiness,” that no ravenous beast “shall be found there” (Isa. 35:8, 9). No, we have to step out of that way and trespass on the Devil’s territory before he can “get an advantage of us” (2 Cor. 2:11). That is why we are so emphatically enjoined, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it” (Prov. 4:14, 15). We certainly do not regard Eve as being guilty of any sin at this initial stage, but the sequel shows plainly that she incurred great danger and exposed herself to temptation by approaching so near unto that tree whose fruit had been Divinely prohibited, and we need not be surprised to discover, as she also did, that that ground was already occupied by the serpent! Such has been recorded for our learning and warning.

“And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?” The serpent must have looked a very different object then from the repulsive reptile it now is, not only standing erect, but—in keeping with his pre-eminence above all other beasts, and as the Hebrew word intimates—of a striking and beautiful appearance. Apparently he then stood before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and it seems more than likely that he personally took and ate of its fruit in Eve’s presence. His so doing evoked from her some ejaculation of surprise or look of horror, which explains why he then said what he did. As Samuel Hopkins long ago pointed out, “It is probable that the serpent told the woman that by eating of the fruit of that tree he had obtained the use of reason and the faculty of speech which she now saw in exercise—and therefore said that, from his own experience, he could assure her that if she would eat of this fruit she would be so far from dying that she would reach to a higher degree of perfection and knowledge.” While such an inference must not be pressed dogmatically, we have long felt it possesses much probability, and that it is an illuminating one.

Quite recently we discovered that in his “Family Bible” that devout and renowned scholar, John Brown, of Haddington, wrote concerning the serpent’s words to Eve, “Perhaps he pretended that himself had acquired what knowledge he had above other beasts by eating of this forbidden fruit. It is certain that he attempted to confirm his contradiction of the threatening by a solemn appeal to God.” This requires us to examine closely the tempter’s words. It is to be noted that the margin of our Bibles gives an alternative rendering: “Yea, because God hath said,” which regards his language as a declaration rather than a query—Genesis 13:9; Psalm 35:10; Matthew 26:53; Luke 22:35, are other examples where a strong affirmation and appeal is put (for the sake of emphasis) in the form of an interrogation. Considering it thus here, we may regard the serpent’s opening words to Eve as answering her previous expression of surprise. Is it “because God hath said” that you are so startled at seeing me eating the fruit? Thomas Scott also pointed out, “Indeed we cannot satisfactorily account for the woman’s entering into conversation with the serpent, and showing no marks of surprise or suspicion, unless we admit a supposition of this kind.” It is one of the first duties of an expositor to show the connection, explicit or implicit, of each statement of Holy Writ.

“And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Therein we perceive the guile and enmity of the enemy. His allusion to the Divine restriction made it appear much greater and more severe than it actually was. The Lord had in fact made a free grant for them to eat freely of “every tree of the garden” with but a single exception (Gen. 2:16, 17). Thus, Satan sought to bring reproach upon the Divine Law by misrepresenting it! It was as though he said, “Can it be that your Maker has given you appetites and also placed before you the means of gratifying them, only to mock you? You surely must have misunderstood His meaning!” We therefore regard this opening utterance of the serpent’s as an attempt not only to make Eve doubt God’s veracity, but also to cause her to suspect the Divine beneficence. That is the poison Satan is ever seeking to inject into our hearts: to distrust God’s goodness—especially in connection with His prohibitions and precepts. That is really what lies behind all evil lusting and disobedience: a discontent with our position and portion, a craving for something which God has wisely withheld from us. The more clearly we perceive the precise nature of the serpent’s poison the better enabled are we to judge its workings within ourselves. Hearken not to any suggestion that God is unduly severe with you! Put from you with the utmost abhorrence anything which causes you to doubt God’s lovingkindness. Allow nothing to make you call into question His love.

4. Its Origin—Part 4

In the preceding chapter we called attention to the exceeding brevity of the narrative of Genesis 3 and the need for us to weigh carefully every word in its opening verses and ponder the implication of each clause. We pointed out that not a little is contained “between the lines” and therefore, while we must refrain from reading into it what is not there, we must be careful not to overlook anything of importance which is there, either explicit or implicit—by definite statement or necessary inference. We also gave our reasons for believing that Eve was away from the side of her husband, and that it was because she had entered dangerous ground by approaching so closely unto the fatal tree that she was there confronted by the serpent and subjected to temptation. Further, we intimated that the sentence passed upon the serpent by the Lord in verse 14 warrants us to conclude that before he seduced the woman he stood erect, and that his form and appearance at that time were very different from the present repulsiveness of that reptile. We also made reference to the opinion of many reputable writers that there seems reason to think that Eve beheld the serpent himself eating of the forbidden fruit, that such a spectacle evoked from her an ejaculation of surprise, and that this alone accounts for the abruptness of his opening statement.

“And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). As Matthew Henry pertinently pointed out, “Satan tempted Eve that, by her, he might tempt Adam; so he tempted Job by his wife, and Christ by Peter. It is his policy to send temptations by unsuspected hands, and theirs that have most interest in us and influence over us.” Eve’s suspicions ought at once to have been aroused when the serpent introduced such a subject for conversation, and she should have turned away immediately from him. “Those that would keep from harm, must keep out of harm’s way” (Henry). Or, as one infinitely greater than any human commentator bids us, “Go from the presence of a foolish man when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge” (Prov. 14:7). And again, “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge” (Prov. 19:27). The serpent’s opening word was designed to produce in Eve a spirit of discontent. It was really a sly insinuation which amounted to this: If you cannot eat of all the trees, you might as well eat of none—as Ahab, with all his royal possessions, was dissatisfied while denied Naboth’s vineyard; and Haman, though he had found favour with the king, petulantly exclaimed “all of this availeth me nothing” so long as Mordecai refused to pay him deference.

If Eve were not already secretly desiring the forbidden fruit, would she have paid any attention to the cunning query made to her? We very much doubt it. Still less can we conceive of her entering into a discussion with the serpent on the subject. Dalliance with temptation always implies a lusting after the object presented. Had she been content with God’s grant in Genesis 2:16, and were she satisfied with the knowledge He had given her by creation, she would have abhorred the false knowledge proposed by the tempter, and that would have precluded all parleying with him! That is more than a supposition of ours, for it is obviously confirmed by what follows. Compare her conduct with Christ’s, and observe how very differently He acted! He steadfastly refused to enter into any debate with the Devil. He did not dally with temptation, for He had no desire for anything but the will of God. Each time He firmly repulsed the enemy’s advances by taking His stand upon God’s Word—as Eve ought to have done—and concluded by thrusting away Satan’s solicitation with the utmost detestation. A greater contrast cannot be imagined: the woman’s Seed met Satan’s temptation with holy loathing; the woman was in a condition to respond to the serpent’s wiles with unholy delight.

“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Gen. 3:2, 3). Instead of fleeing in dread from the serpent, Eve conferred with him, which, as the outcome showed, was both foolish and fatal. Satan is much wiser than we are, and if we attempt to meet his own ground and argue with him the result will be disastrous. His evil influence had already begun to affect Eve injuriously, as appears from a close examination of the first part of her reply. The Lord had said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,” and Eve’s omission of that word “freely” was both significant and ominous—indicating that the generosity of the Divine grant was not influencing her heart as it should. But on the other hand we do not agree with those who charge her with adding to God’s word in verse 3, for while the “neither shall ye touch it” was not distinctly expressed in Genesis 2:17, nevertheless it was clearly and necessarily implied—how could she eat of the fruit without “touching” it?—the one act requires the other.

There is a very important principle involved in what has just been pointed out: one which it behooves us to understand clearly and make conscience of. That principle may be stated thus: when God forbids any act He at the same time forbids everything tending thereto and leading up to it. Our Lord made that very plain in His sermon on the mount, as He enforced the spirituality and strictness of the Law when repudiating the errors of the Jewish religious leaders, who were guilty of modifying its holy requirements. He insisted that “thou shalt not kill” is by no means to be restricted unto the bare act of murder: that it also prohibits every evil exercise of the mind and heart preceding it—such as hatred, ill-will, malice. In like manner He declared that “thou shalt not commit adultery” included very much more than interdicting unlawful intercourse between the sexes, but, even impure imaginations and desires. That commandment is broken as soon as there is an unchaste lusting or even looking. God demands very much more than merely keeping clean the outside of the cup and platter (Matt. 23:25, 26). So too “thou shalt not steal” includes not even thinking of so doing, nor handling what is not yours—still less borrowing anything when you have no intention of returning it.

Eve, then, was quite right in concluding that the Divine commandment forbidding them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil comprehended “neither shall ye touch it,” for the act of eating involves not only the desire and intention so to do, but the touching, handling, plucking, and placing of the fruit in the mouth. But we are not so sure about the exact force of her words “lest ye die.” Many have supposed she was there toning down the Lord’s “thou shalt surely die” of 2:17. They may be right, but we are not at all sure. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry” (Psalm 2:12) is obviously not the language of uncertainty. The Hebrew for “lest” here is pen and in Genesis 24:6, is rendered “that . . . . not.” If the reader will compare John 3:20; 12:42; 1 Corinthians 1:17; he will see that the force of “lest” in these passages is “otherwise.” Gill also states that Eve’s employment of the “lest” is “not at all conclusive that she expressed any doubt, since the word may also be used of the event of anything as in Psalm 2:12, and hence may be rendered “that ye die not.” We therefore prefer to leave it as “an open question.”

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (v. 4). Perceiving his advantage, that he had now gained Eve’s ear, the tempter grew bolder and flatly contradicted the Divine threatening. He began by seeking to instill a doubt—Is it so or not?—by casting a reflection upon the Divine goodness and making Eve dissatisfied with God’s most liberal grant; and then he denied that there was any danger in eating of the fruit. First he had, by implication, slandered God’s character; and now he told a downright lie. If, as we believe was the case, he had himself eaten of the forbidden tree in the woman’s presence, then his action would lend colour to his falsehood. It was as though he said, You need not hesitate, God is only seeking to frighten you. You can see for yourself the fruit is quite harmless, for I have partaken of it without suffering any ill effects. Thus does the great enemy of souls seek to persuade man that he may defy God with impunity, inducing him when “he heareth the words of this curse” to “bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst” (Deut. 29:19).

No excuse can be made for Eve now. If she had acted foolishly in approaching so near to the fatal tree, if her suspicions were not at once aroused by the serpent’s opening remark, she certainly ought to have been deeply horrified, and turned away immediately, when she heard him giving the lie to the Lord her God. If Joseph “fled” from his temptress (Gen. 39:12), much more reason had Eve now to run from the serpent with loathing. Instead, she remained to hear him add, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). Therein he declared that not only would no harm be suffered, but they would be the gainers by heeding his suggestion and doing as he had done. A threefold promise or inducement was set before the woman. First, that by eating of this fruit their capacity of discernment and perception would be considerably increased, for that is the force of “your eyes shall be opened”—those of their bodies were so already, therefore his reference must be to the eyes of their understanding. Second, their position would be improved and their power enlarged: they should be as “gods” or angels. Third, their wisdom would be much augmented: “knowing good and evil”—as though that were most desirable. And all of this at once—“then,” without any delay.

It will be observed from the above that the serpent addressed himself not to Eve’s bodily appetites but to the noblest part of her being, by the inducement of such an increase of wisdom as would elevate our first parents above their then condition and fit them to be meet companions for the celestial creatures. Therein lay the force of his temptation: seeking to fan a desire for forbidden knowledge and self-sufficiency—to act independently of God. From then until now, Satan’s object has been to divert men from the only Source of wisdom and cause them to seek it from him. Nevertheless, the bait dangled before Eve in nowise hid the barb he was using to catch her. Taking together the whole of his statement in verses 4 and 5, the serpent not only charged God with making a threat which He had no intention of fulfilling, but also accused Him of being tyrannical in withholding from them what He knew would be for their good. Said he, You need have no fear that God will be as severe and rigorous as His language sounded. He is only seeking to intimidate you. He is well aware that if you eat this fruit, your knowledge will be greatly enlarged, but this He is unwilling should be your portion, and therefore He is seeking to prevent it by this unreasonable prohibition.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (v. 6). Ere examining the details of this tragic verse, let us carefully consider two questions, and endeavour to supply answers thereto. First, why did not the Divine threat in Genesis 2:17 deter Eve from disobeying God? David declared, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart (to be awed thereby, to put it into practice), that I might not sin against Thee” (Psa. 119:11). It is clear from Genesis 3:3, that God’s word was at least in Eve’s thoughts when the serpent accosted her: then how was it that it did not preserve her from sin? Surely the answer is that she did not make use of it, but instead dallied with temptation, parleyed with God’s enemy, and believed his lie; and therein is to be found a most solemn warning for us. If we would have God deliver us from the destroyer, then we must determine to shun every occasion of evil and, as Joseph, flee from temptation when it is presented to us. If we really take to heart the solemn failure and fall of Eve, then we shall pray with ever-increasing earnestness, “Lead me not into temptation,” and if Thou art pleased for me to be tested, “deliver me from evil.”

Second, in 2 Corinthians 11:3, we are informed that “the serpent beguiled (or “cheated”) Eve through his subtlety,” and in 1 Timothy 2:14, that she was “deceived.” How then are we to explain what is recorded of her in Genesis 3, where the historical account seems to make it very plain that she committed the act after due deliberation, with her eves wide open? Wherein was she “deceived” if she knowingly disobeyed God? The answer is that, as soon as she ceased to be regulated by the light of God’s word, her imagination became filled with the false impressions presented to her by Satan, and her foolish mind became darkened. Unholy lustings were be14 gotten within her. Her affections and appetites overrode her judgment, and she was persuaded to disbelieve what was true and believe what was false. Oh, the “deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13), which calls good evil and bitter sweet. She was beguiled by consenting to listen to another voice than God’s, and because she disregarded her allegiance to her husband. Oh, my reader, the prelude to every fall from grace is the alienation of the heart from Christ (the Christian’s spiritual Husband), with the consequent beclouding of the judgment. When the truth be rejected, error is welcome. Satan, in his efforts to induce souls to seek their happiness in departing from God, ever adapts his temptations to the cases and circumstances of the tempted.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes” (Gen. 3:6). Let it be duly considered at what point this statement comes in the narrative: not at the commencement, but after all that is recorded in the preceding verses had transpired! Let us also observe the order of those two clauses. We would naturally expect to find it said that Eve saw the tree was “pleasant to the eyes” before mention being made that it was “good for food.” Why, then, are the two things reversed? Does not the raising of these queries the better enable us to understand exactly what is meant by “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food”? The time-mark must not be ignored, for it cannot be without significance. We suggest that it looks back to the foregoing action of the serpent, which we believe to be clearly implied in the context, namely her seeing him personally eat of the forbidden fruit. How else could she perceive the tree was “good for food” before she had herself partaken of it? Does not the third clause of the verse confirm and clinch this interpretation, for how else could Eve possibly know the fruit was “to be desired to make one wise” unless she had previously witnessed what appeared to her to be an ocular demonstration of the same?

Is it not evident, then, that the words “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food” signify that since she had beheld the serpent eating thereof without dying or even suffering any injury she need have no fear to emulate him; yea, could infer that it was from his so doing that he had acquired the faculty of reason and the power of speech, and she too would be much advantaged by partaking of the same? Instead of acting faith on the word of God, she walked by sight, only to discover—as her sons and daughters often do—that appearances are very deceptive. Moreover, she saw “that it was pleasant to the eyes”: there was nothing in the outward appearance of the fruit to denote that it was unfit for eating; on the contrary, it looked attractive. In Genesis 2:9, we read that “out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food,” and, as the remainder of that verse shows, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was no exception. All creation was beautiful and agreeable to the senses, but by her yielding to the serpent’s temptation, that tree was now particularly appealing unto Eve: she had a secret hankering after it and unlawfully coveted the same.

Had there been any uncertainty in her mind, her course was plain—to consult her husband, which is ever the wife’s duty and privilege. Instead, we are told that she saw the tree was “to be desired to make one wise.” That is to say, she judged it entirely by what the serpent had told her—and not by what God had said—as a reference to the preceding verse shows. She was flattered with the false hope which the enemy had held out to her. She first gave credence to his “ye shall not surely die.” Next she was attracted by the prospect of becoming like the “gods” or angels. And then, on her believing the promise of augmented knowledge, lustful longing consumed her. The Hebrew word for “desired” in Genesis 3:6, is the one that is rendered “thou shalt not covet” in Exodus 20:17. It is the same thing as is termed “concupiscence” in Romans 7:8, and “lust” in James 1:15. Indeed, we may see how that latter passage traces for us in detail the course of Eve’s downfall, and how in turn her conduct solemnly illustrates James 1:14, 15. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away (from the path of rectitude) of his own lust (as Eve evidently was in approaching the forbidden tree), and enticed (as she was by the serpent). Then when lust hath conceived (in her by the seductive promises of the serpent), it bringeth forth sin (externally): and sin, when it is finished (i.e. the outward act is completed), bringeth forth death”!

“God’s commandment, in its full form, was, Thou shalt not lust after but abhor the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not choose but refuse it. The prohibition in the instance of the Eden statute, as in that of the Ten Commandments, involved both the inward desire and the outward act, both inclination and volition” (W. Shedd). Note well that the holiness of Christ is described as a refusing of the evil and choosing the good (Isa. 7:15). He who desires the prohibited evil does in effect choose it; as he who hates another violates the Sixth Commandment though he does not actually slay him. The fruit was not to be “desired” by Eve, for God had forbidden her to eat it. Instead of desiring, she should have dreaded it, but she turned from God as her everlasting portion and chief end. In lusting after what God had prohibited, she preferred the creature to the Creator. Unspeakably solemn warning for us. If we estimate things by our senses or by what others say of them, instead of accepting God’s valuation, we are certain to err in our judgment. If we resort to carnal reasoning, we shall quickly persuade ourselves that wrong is right. Nothing is good for you, my reader, save that which you can receive from God’s hand and thank Him for it!

“She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (Gen. 3:6) without consulting Adam. So strong was the unlawful lusting of her heart that she could no longer abstain, and thus she committed the overt act, thereby completing “the transgression.” Yes, “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat”—it was not the serpent who put it into her mouth! Satan may tempt, but force anyone, he cannot. It was by her own free act she took of the fruit, and therefore she could rightly blame none but herself. By this time Adam had rejoined her, for we are told that she “gave also unto her husband with her”—the first time he is mentioned in the sacred narrative as being by her side! Such is the vile nature of sin: ourselves yielding to temptation, and then becoming the tempters of others—seeking to drag them down to our level. “And he did eat,” instead of refusing what his God-defying wife proffered him. He “was not deceived” (1 Tim. 2:14), which, if possible, made his guilt the greater. He “hearkened unto the voice of his wife” (Gen. 3:17): probably she repeated to him what the serpent had said unto her, commending the fruit, and possibly pointing out that they must have misunderstood the Lord’s words, since she had eaten and was still alive.

Thus did man apostatize from God. It was a revolt from his Maker, an insurrection from His supremacy, a rebelling against His authority. He deliberately resisted the Divine will, rejected God’s word, deserted His way. Thereby he was despoiled of his primitive excellence and forfeited all his happiness. Adam cast himself and all his posterity into the deepest gulf of woe and wretchedness. Such, my reader, was the origin of human depravity. Genesis 3 gives us the Divinely inspired account of how sin entered this world, and supplies the only adequate and satisfactory explanation both of its six thousand years’ history and of its present-day condition.

5. Its Imputation—Part 1

We are now to consider the bearing which Adam’s sin had upon his posterity, and the different effects which it entailed and produced—though the latter will come before us in another chapter (D.V.), wherein we shall treat more specifically with the consequences of the Fall. What we are here to examine particularly requires us to turn unto and look more closely at what was briefly alluded to in Part 2 of Its Origin, namely that in Eden Adam acted not simply as a private person, the results of whose conduct affected none but himself, but rather that he transacted as a public person, so that what he did directly concerned and judicially involved others. Adam was very much more than the father of the human race: he was also their legal agent, standing in their stead. His descendants were not only in him seminally as their natural head, but were in him also morally and legally as their moral and forensic head. In other words, by Divine constitution and covenant arrangement, Adam acted as the federal representative of all his children. By an act of His sovereign will, it pleased God to ordain that Adam’s relation to his natural seed should be like unto that which Christ sustained to His spiritual seed—the one acting on the behalf of many.

The whole human race was placed on probation in the person of its legal representative and covenant head. This is a truth of great importance, for it casts light not only upon much in Scripture, but upon human history, too. While Adam retained the approbation of God and remained in fellowship with Him, the whole of his constituency did likewise. Had he survived the appointed trial, had he faithfully and fitly discharged his responsibility, had he continued in obedience unto the Lord God, then his obedience had been reckoned to their account, and they had entered into and been fellow partakers of the reward bestowed on him. Contrariwise, if the head failed and fell, then all his members fell in and with him. If he disobeyed, then his disobedience was charged unto those whom he represented, and the frightful punishment pronounced upon him fell likewise on those on whose behalf he transacted. Justice required that the whole human race should be legally regarded and dealt with as sharing the guilt of its representative, and subjected to the same penalty as was inflicted upon him. In consequence of this arrangement, when Adam sinned, we sinned, and therefore, “by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Rom. 5:18).

Instead of placing each member of the human race on probation separately and successively, it pleased God to put the whole of them on formal trial once and for all in the person of their head. Probably it will make it easier for the reader to grasp the nature of Adam’s legal relation unto his descendants if we make use of a simple contrast and analogy, which have been employed by other writers on this subject. God did not treat with mankind as with a field of corn, where each stalk stands on its own individual root; but rather has He dealt with our race as with a tree—all the branches of which have one common root. While the root of a tree remains healthy and unharmed, the whole of it flourishes. But if an axe strikes at and severs the root, then the whole of the tree suffers and falls—not only the trunk, but all the branches, and even its smallest twigs wither and die. Thus it was in connection with the Eden tragedy. When Adam’s communion with his Maker was broken, all his posterity were alienated from His favour. This is no theory of human speculation, but a fact of Divine revelation: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

Adam, then, occupied a unique position. At his creation all his unborn children were germinally created in him. Not only so, but God entered into a solemn covenant with him in their name. The entire human family was represented by him and stood in him before the Lord. The future well-being of his progeny was suspended on his conduct. He was therefore placed on trial, to show whether he would promote the interests of his Creator, or refuse to be subject to His government. Some test must needs be given him in order for the exercise of his moral agency and the discharge of his responsibility. He was made to love and serve God, being richly endowed and fully capacitated thereunto. His supreme blessedness and continued happiness consisted in his so doing. In what follows we shall submit scriptural proof that Adam did transact on the behalf of his descendants, and so stood in their stead before the Divine Law that what he did was, in effect, what they did. Or, as Manton expressed it, “We saw the forbidden fruit with his eyes, gathered it with his hands, ate it with his mouth; that is, we were ruined by those things as though we had been there and consented to his acts.”

We propose to show, first, that Adam was the federal head of the race. Second, that he entered into a covenant with God on their behalf. Third, that the guilt of his original sin was Divinely imputed to his descendants. Concerning the first we shall confine ourselves unto two proof texts. “Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come” (Rom. 5:14). That is truly an astonishing statement. Occurring in such a setting it is really startling and should at once arrest our attention. With what accuracy and propriety could it be said that the father of our fallen race foreshadowed the Lord Jesus? Adam, when tempted yielded and was overcome; Christ, when tempted resisted and overcame. The former was cursed by God, the latter was owned by Him as the One in whom He was well pleased. The one is the source of sin and corruption to all his posterity, but the other is a fount of holiness unto all His people. By Adam came condemnation, by Christ comes salvation. Thus they are as far apart as the poles. Wherein, then, was Adam a “figure” of the coming Redeemer?

The Greek word for “figure” in Romans 5:14, signifies “type,” and in the scriptural sense of that term, a type consists of something very much more than a casual resemblance between two things or an incidental parallel between them. There is a designed likeness, the one being Divinely intended to shadow forth the other. From all eternity it was foreordained that the first man should prefigure the incarnate Son of God. Again we ask, In what particular respect? Certainly not in his conduct. Nor in his natural constitution, as con16 sisting of sprit and soul and body, for in that matter all who lived before Christ was born might as properly be called figures of Him. The whole context makes it clear that it was in the official position which he occupied that Adam was a type of the Lord Jesus—as the federal head and legal representative of others. If Romans 5:12-19 be read attentively, it will be seen that all through it the fact which is there given the greatest prominence is that of the one acting on behalf of the many, the one affecting the destiny of the many. What the one did is made the legal ground of what befalls the many. As the disobedience and guilt of Adam entailed condemnation for all who were legally one with him, so the obedience and righteousness of Christ has secured the justification of all in whose place He served as Surety.

The other passage by which it may be proved that Adam sustained the relation of federal head to his posterity is 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul: the last Adam was made a quickening spirit . . . . The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from Heaven . . . . And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” Here again, despite marked contrasts between the type and the Antitype, there is that which is common to both of them. A mundane origin had the one: the other’s was celestial. The former was but a man; the latter was “the Lord.” The first Adam was made “a living soul,” the last Adam is a Quickener of others. In the one “all die,” in the other, “shall all be made alive” (v. 22). But that which marked each alike was his representative character—he was the head of an appointed seed, communicating his distinctive “image” to them. Adam is designated “the first man” not simply because he was the first in order—like the first day of the week—but because he was the first to act as the legal representative of a race. Christ is called “the second man,” though He lived so long afterward, because He was the second to sustain a federal relation to an appointed seed, and “the last Adam” because there is to be no further covenant head.

We turn next to show that a covenant was entered into between the Lord God and Adam. Our first appeal is unto Genesis 2:16, 17, but before considering that passage let us remind the reader of the extreme brevity of the early chapters of Genesis, and that more is definitely implied by their contents than is distinctly expressed. Let us also point out what are the principal elements in a covenant. A covenant is a formal compact and mutual arrangement between two or more parties whereby they stand solemnly bound unto each other to perform the conditions contracted for. On the one side there is a stipulating of something to be done; on the other side a restipulation of some thing to be done or given in consideration thereof. There is also a penalty included in the terms of the agreement—some evil consequence which shall result unto the party who violates or fails to carry out his engagement. That penalty is added as a security. Where it is not expressly stated, it is implied by the promissory clause, just as the promise is to be necessarily inferred from a mention of the punishment therein (cf. Gen. 31:43-53; Matt. 26:14-16).

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16, 17). Here are all the constituent elements of a covenant. First, here are the contracting parties: the Lord God and man. Second, here is the condition defined and accepted. As the Creator and Governor of His creatures, it behooved God to exercise His authority; owing his being to Him, Adam was in duty bound to comply, and as a sinless and holy person he would heartily consent to the stipulation. Third, there was a penalty prescribed, which would be incurred if Adam failed to carry out his part of the compact. Fourth, there was by clear implication a promise made and reward assured—“do this, and thou shalt live”—to which Adam was entitled upon his rendering the obedience required. Where there is a stipulation and a restipulation between two parties, and a binding law pertaining to the same, there is a covenant (cf. Gen. 21:22-32).

Adam was placed not only under Divine Law, but under a Covenant of Works. The distinction is real and radical. A law requires obedience, and a punishment is threatened, in proportion to the nature of the offence, in case of disobedience. A subject is bound to obey the law, but he cannot be justly deprived of that which he has a natural right to, except in case of disobedience. On the other hand, while obedience to the law gives him a right to impunity, yet nothing more; whereas a covenant gives a person the right, upon his fulfilling the conditions thereof, to the reward or privilege stipulated therein. A king is not obliged to advance a loyal subject unto great honour; but if, as an act of favour, he has promised to elevate him upon his yielding obedience in some particular instance, then he would have a right to it—not as yielding obedience to a law, but as fulfilling the terms of a covenant. Thus Mephibosheth had a natural and legal right to his life and to the estate which had descended to him from his father, because he had lived peaceably and had not rebelled against David. But this did not entitle him to the special favour which the king conferred upon him, of sitting at his table continually (2 Samuel 9:13). That was the result of a covenant between David and Jonathan, in which David had promised to show kindness unto his house after him (1 Sam. 20:11-17, 42).

We consider that it should be obvious to the thoughtful reader that Adam had the promise of life upon his performing the condition agreed, for “in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” necessarily implied the converse—If thou eatest not thereof thou shalt surely live. Just as “thou shalt not steal” inevitably requires “thou shalt act honestly and honourably,” and as “rejoice in the Lord” includes “murmur not against any of His dealings with thee.” So according to the simplest laws of construction, the threatening of death as the consequence of eating affirmed the promise of life unto obedience. This is an essential feature of a covenant—a reward guaranteed upon the fulfillment of its terms. Let it also be duly noted that the threat denounced in Genesis 2:17, not only signified God’s intention to punish sin, but was also designed as a motive unto obedience, and therefore it included in it a promise of life upon man’s maintaining his integrity. Again, had Adam been given no such promise, then he had been without a well-grounded hope for the future, for the hope which makes us not ashamed is always grounded upon the Divine promise (Rom. 4:18-20). Finally, Romans 8:10 expressly states that the commandment was “to life”—adapted to and setting before its complier such a prospect.

A few words need to be said here upon the nature of that “life” which was promised unto Adam. In his original state he was already possessed of spiritual life: what then did the reward consist of? Two different answers have been returned by the best of the theologians. First, that it was the ratifying of the life which he then had. Adam was placed on probation, and it was his response to the test that had been given him which would determine whether or not he remained in the favour of God, in communion with Him, and continued to enjoy his earthly heritage; whether they should be confirmed, and would then become the inalienable portion both of himself and his posterity. Such was the view long entertained by this writer. But of late we incline much more to the second alternative, namely that by the “life” promised Adam we are to understand a yet higher degree of happiness than he then possessed, even heavenly blessedness. Those benefits which Christ came into the world to procure for His people, and which are assured to them by the Covenant of Grace, are, for substance, the same as those which man would have enjoyed had he not fallen. This we consider is clear from those prophetic words of Christ: “I restored that which I took not away” (Psa. 69:4); and again, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came to secure “eternal life” (with all that that means), and therefore that had been man’s portion had he maintained his integrity.

The same may also be concluded from the nature of that “death” denounced in Genesis 2:17. When God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” something far more dreadful than the loss of physical, or even spiritual life was involved, even the “second death,” namely eternal punishment and suffering in the lake of fire. Contrariwise, the “life” promised included more than physical immortality or even the confirmation of spiritual life, even everlasting life, or unclouded fellowship with God in Heaven forever. We also concur with many able expositors that Romans 8:3. 4, treats of the same thing “The law” there looks back to that which was written on man’s heart at the beginning—of which the Sinaitic was but a transcript. The statement that the Law was “weak through the flesh” alludes to the delectability of Adam. What the Law “could not do “ with such material was to produce an indefeasible righteousness. Therefore God, in His sovereign grace, sent His own incarnate Son, impeccable and immutable, to make full atonement for the guilt of His people and bring in an “everlasting righteousness” (Dan. 9:24) for them. In a word, Christ performed that perfect obedience which the first man failed to render, and thereby obtained for all His seed the award of the fulfilled Law.

What has last been pointed out should remove any misconception that the view we have just propounded derogates in the slightest degree from the glory of the Saviour. Romans 8:3, 4, is treating of something far more essential and weighty than whether or not Christ, by His infinite merits, obtained for us something more than we lost in Adam: undoubtedly He did—our establishment in righteousness, our glorification, etc. Rather does that passage intimate what was the highest motive and ultimate end which God had before Him when He foresaw, foreordained and permitted our fall in Adam. Christ is the grand Centre of all the Divine counsels, and the magnifying of Him their principal design. Had God withheld Adam from sinning, all his race had been eternally happy. But in that case Adam had been their saviour and benefactor and all his seed had gloried in him, ascribing their everlasting felicity to his obedience. But such an honour was far too much for any finite creature to bear. Only the Lord from Heaven was worthy of it. Accordingly God designedly made the flesh of the first man “weak” or mutable and suffered his defection, in order to make way for His laying our help “upon One that is mighty” (Psa. 89:19), that we might owe our endless bliss unto Him! Moreover, that obedience which Christ rendered to the Law magnified it and made it infinitely more honourable than could the conformity to it of any mere creature.

Returning now to the scriptural evidence that God entered into a covenant with Adam. In Hosea 6:7, we read that God complained of Israel, “But they like men have transgressed the covenant, they have dealt treacherously against Me” (margin)—the Hebrew word for “men” there is Adam, as in Job 31:33. Adam, then, was placed under a covenant, the requirement or condition of which was his continued subjection unto God—whether or not the Divine will was sacred in his eyes. But he failed to love God with all his heart, held His high authority in contempt, disbelieved His holy veracity, deliberately and presumptuously defied Him. Thereby he “transgressed the covenant” and “dealt treacherously” with his Maker. In like manner did Israel, centuries later transgress the covenant which they entered into with the Lord at Sinai, preferring their own will and way, lusting after those false gods which He had forbidden under pain of death. Finally, let it be pointed out that the fact of Adam’s having stood as the covenant head of his race is conclusively demonstrated by the penal evils which come upon his children in consequence of his fall. From the dreadful curse entailed upon all his descendants, we are compelled to infer the covenant relationship which existed between him and them—for the Judge of all the earth, being righteous, will never punish where there is no crime. “In Adam all die,” because in him all sinned.

6. Its Imputation—Part 2

Having proved from Scripture that God constituted Adam the covenant head and federal representative of his race, we are now to show that the guilt of his original sin was imputed unto all his posterity. Were there no explicit statements to that effect in the Bible we should be obliged to infer the same, for with those principles such a conclusion is inevitable. If the one was acting in the name and on the behalf of many, then the latter are legally responsible for what he did and must suffer the consequences of his conduct, be it good or evil. Had Adam survived the test to which he was subjected, had he remained obedient to his Maker and Lord, then his obedience had been reckoned to the account of all his seed, and they had been joint partakers of his reward. But if he revolted from the Divine government and preferred his own will and way, then the punishment he incurred must be visited also upon the whole of his constituency. Such a procedure is neither merciful nor unmerciful, but a matter of righteousness. Justice requires that the penalty of a broken law shall be visited upon its transgressors. A precept without penalty is simply advice, or at most a request, and compliance therewith merely a species of self-pleasing, and not submission unto authority. To divest the Divine Law of its sanction would be to reduce God to a mere supplicant—begging His creatures to behave themselves.

Not only had God the sovereign right to constitute Adam the covenant head of his race; not only was it strictly and legally just that its members should be held accountable for what he did, whether it issued in their weal or woe; but consider the meetness of such an arrangement. Since the loyalty and subjection of man to his Maker must be put to the proof, only two alternatives were possible: either the human race must be placed on probation in the person of a suitable representative and responsible head, or each individual member must enter upon probation for himself. “The race must either have stood in a full-grown man, with a full-orbed intellect, or stood as babies, each entering his probation in the twilight of self-consciousness, each deciding his destiny before his eyes were half-opened to what it all meant. How much better would that have been? How much more just? But could it not have been some other way? There was no other way. It was either the baby, or it was the perfect, well-equipped, all-calculating man—the man who saw and comprehended everything. That man was Adam” (G. S. Bishop).

Fresh from the hands of his Creator, with no sinful heredity behind and no depraved nature within him, but instead endowed with holiness and indwelt by the Spirit of God, Adam was well equipped for the honourable position assigned him. His fitness to serve as our head, and the ideal circumstances under which the decisive test was made, must forever close every honest mouth from objecting against the Divine arrangement and the fearful consequences which Adam’s failure has brought down upon us. It has been well said that, “Had we been present, had we and all the human race been brought into existence at once, and had God proposed to us that we should choose one who was to be our representative, that He might enter into covenant with him on our behalf—should not we, with one voice, have chosen our first parent for this responsible office? Should we not have said, ‘He is a perfect man and bears the image and likeness of God—if anyone is to stand for us, let it be this man Adam’? Since the angels which stood for themselves fell, why should we wish to stand for ourselves? And if it be reasonable that one stand for us, why should we complain when God has chosen the same person for this office that we should have chosen had we been in existence and capable of choosing ourselves?” (G. S. Bishop).

Ere proceeding farther, let it be insisted upon that God is nowise to be blamed for Adam’s fall. After a thorough and extensive investigation Solomon declared, “This only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29). There the streams of human folly and iniquity are all traced back to their fountain-head of corruption. Man was created without irregularity or blemish; but he departed from his original rectitude. And why? Because he vainly supposed he could better himself. “They,” that is, Adam and Eve, at first, followed by their crazed descendants, “sought out many inventions.” Significant and suggestive words! What are “inventions” but devices to improve things? And what gives rise to such attempts but dissatisfaction with present conditions? Our first parents thought to find a superior way of happiness by kicking off their traces. Instead of being content with what their Maker had given and appointed them, they preferred their own will to God’s, their inventions rather than His institutions. They forsook their rest in the Lord and sought to improve their case. They promised themselves liberty, only to become the slaves of Satan.

The course taken by our first parents is that which has been followed ever since by all their children, as is intimated in the change from the singular number to the plural in Ecclesiastes 7:29. As indicated above, we do not (as most expositors) regard the prime reference in that passage as being to the “aprons of fig leaves” which Adam and Eve sewed together, but rather to their original sin in being dissatisfied with the state in which God had placed them—vainly imagining to improve their lot by leaning unto their own understanding, following the desires of their hearts and responding to the evil solicitation of the serpent. Thus it has been, and still is, with their descendants. They have turned from the Creator to the creature for their comfort: having forsaken the Living Fountain, they engage themselves in hewing out “cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13)—preferring the “far country” to the Father’s house. Their search after wisdom, their mad quest for pleasure, their pursuit of wealth and worldly honours, are but so many “inventions” or attempts to better their lot, and proofs of a restless and dissatisfied heart! Had our first parents been content with the goodly heritage which their Maker assigned them, they would not have coveted that which He had prohibited. And today the remedy for covetousness is contentment—see Hebrews 13:5.

We therefore subscribe unhesitatingly to the dictum of Calvin, “It is clear that the misery of man must be ascribed wholly to himself, since he was favoured with rectitude by the Divine goodness, but has lapsed into vanity through his own folly.” God expressly forbade Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He plainly warned him what would be the consequence of disobedience. Though He made man a mutable creature, yet not evil—Adam had ability to stand as well as to fall. He was fully capable of loving God as his chief good and of moving toward Him as his last end. There was light in his understanding to know the rule he was to conform unto. There was perfect harmony between his reason and his affections. It was therefore easier for him to continue in obedience to the precept than to swerve from it. Though man was created with defect, yet he was not determined by God influencing his will, by any positive act, to apostasy. God did not force him, but suffered him to act freely. He did not withdraw any grace from him, but left him to that power with which He invested him at his creation. Nor was God under any obligation to sustain him supernaturally or withhold him from sinning. God created Adam in a righteous state, but Adam deliberately cast himself and his posterity into a forlorn state.

Adam took things into his own hands, revolted from God, trampled His Law beneath his feet. It behooves us to consider well the relation between that foul deed and the universal miseries consequent thereon, for it supplies the clue to all the dark confusion which perplexes us within and without. It tells us why infants die, why they are estranged from God from the womb (Psa. 57:3), and why each of us is born into this world with a heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. It is because Adam forfeited his Maker’s approbation and incurred His awful displeasure, with all the terrible effects thereof. In Adam we broke the Covenant of Works: we offended in his offence and transgressed in his transgression; and thereby departed from God’s favour and fell under His righteous curse. “Thus man apostatized, God was provoked, the Holy Spirit forsook His polluted temple, the unclean spirit took possession, the Divine image was defaced and Satan’s image imposed in its place” (Thomas Scott). Through the sin of its head the race was ruined and fell into a state of most horrible moral leprosy. Ours is a fallen world: averse to God and holiness, iniquity abounding in it, death reigning over it, lust and crime characterizing it, suffering and misery filling it.

Accordingly it is written, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). In the light of Genesis 3 that is surely a strange and startling statement, for that chapter makes it clear that Eve fell before Adam did! Why then is it not said, “by one woman,” or at least “by one man and woman sin entered the world”? Because, as Thomas Goodwin long ago pointed out, “Moses tells us the history of Adam’s fall, and Paul explains the mystery and the consequences thereof”: in other words Romans 5 opens to us the significance and scope of the Eden tragedy. The opening word of verse 12 indicates that a logical proposition is there advanced, which is confirmed by the “as” and “so.” The reason why no notice is taken of Eve is that throughout what follows the Apostle is treating of the condemnation of all mankind, and not of the vitiation of human nature. That condemnation is due solely to our having revolted from God in the person of our legal representative, and since Adam alone sinned in that capacity no mention is made of Eve—headship always pertains to the man and not to the woman.

Before proceeding farther, let us say a few words upon the relation of this most important passage. In the preceding chapters Paul had dealt at length with the depravity and sinfulness of mankind (especially in 1:18-32; 3:10-20) and had declared that even Christians in their unregenerate days were ungodly, without strength—enemies to God (5:6, 10)—here he shows why they were so, Adam’s offence being the cause and source thereof. Second, he had refuted the proud but erroneous view of the Jews, who regarded themselves as holy because the seed of a holy father (2:17-3:9), and consequently they utterly lacked a true estimate of their desperate condition by nature and practice or a sense of their dire need of Divine grace—here the Apostle takes them back to a higher ancestor than Abraham, even Adam, who was equally the father of Jew and Gentile, both alike sharing his guilt and inheriting his curse. Third, Paul had presented the grand doctrine of justification by faith (3:21-31) and had illustrated the same by the cases of Abraham and David—here he shows Adam was a “figure” of Christ (5:14), that the one sustained an analogous relation to his race as the other did to His seed, that each transacted as the one for the many, and that therefore the Gospel principle of imputation (Christ’s righteousness reckoned to the account of the believer) is no novelty, but identical with the one on which God acted from the beginning.

To proceed. Observe that it is not “through” but “by one man.” But exactly what is meant by “sin entered the world”? Three explanations are possible. First, sin as an act of disobedience: by one man’s rebellion against God began. But Genesis 3 shows otherwise: transgression of God’s law was initiated by Eve! Second, sin as a principle of depravity: by one man originated our sinful nature. This is the view generally taken. But it is equally untenable, for the corruption of our nature is as much by the mother as by the father. Moreover, if such were the force of “sin” in the first clause, then the closing one would perforce read, “for that all are sinful.” Furthermore verses 13 and 14 explain and furnish proof of what is asserted in verse 12, and it would be meaningless to say “a sinful nature is not imputed.” Finally, all through this passage “sin” and “righteousness” are contrasted, and righteousness here is judicial and not experiential, something reckoned to our account and not infused into us. “Righteousness” in this passage signifies not a holy nature but conformity to the Law’s demands; and therefore “sin” cannot be corruption of nature but rather the cause of our condemnation. Thus, third, by one man guilt entered into the world, exposing the race unto God’s wrath.

“By one man sin entered.” Sin is here personified as an intruding enemy, coming as a solemn accuser as well as a hostile oppressor. It entered “the world,” not the universe, for Satan had previously apostatized. “And death by sin,” which is not to be limited to mere physical dissolution, but must be understood of the penal consequences of Adam’s offence. All through this passage death is opposed unto “life,” and life includes very much more than physical existence or even immortality of soul. When God told Adam, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” He signified, first, die spiritually, that is be alienated from the source of Divine life. Second, in due course, die physically: “thy body shall go to corruption and return to the dust. Third, die eternally, suffer “the second death” (Rev. 20:14), be cast into the lake of fire, there to suffer forever, unless a miracle of grace redeems and delivers thee—of which there is no record anywhere in Holy Writ.

“And so death passed upon all men” because of their complicity in the one man’s sin. It is not that “death” as a principle of evil gained admittance and polluted the nature of his offspring, but that the penal sentence of death was pronounced upon them. Having been charged with his transgression they must suffer the consequence of the same. The Apostle’s design was to show the connection between the one man’s sin and the resultant misery of the many. By his disobedience all men were constituted sinners—guilty criminals before God—and therefore sharers of the sentence passed upon Adam. “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). Those words explain the “by man came death” of the preceding verse, and show that all die by virtue of their relation to the covenant head of our race—die because of their legal union with him. Even physical death is far more than “nature’s debt,” or the inevitable outcome of our frail constitution: it is a penal affliction, a part of sin’s “wages.” We are subject to mortality because we were “in Adam” by federal representation—we partake of his fallen nature because we are partners of his guilt and punishment. We are born into this world neither as innocent creatures nor to enter upon our probation: rather do we come into it as culprits condemned to death by the Divine Law.

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AW Pink (1886-1952): The Doctrine of Human Depravity 3 of 10

The Doctrine of Human Depravity 3 of 10
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Chapel Library

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Every man, woman and child is adjudged guilty before God. The ground of our condemnation is something outside of ourselves. Inward corruption and alienation from God are the consequences and not the cause of our condemnation. Antecedent to any personal act of ours (as such), we stand accursed by the Divine Law. Since “death” came as the result of “sin,” since it is the penal sentence upon it, that sentence cannot be passed upon any save those who are guilty. If, then, death was “passed upon all men,” it must be because all are guilty, all participated legally in Adam’s offence. Clear and inevitable as is that inference, we are not left to draw it ourselves. The Apostle expressly states it in the next words: “for that all have sinned”—“for that” or “because,” in consequence of. Here then is the Divinely given reason why the death penalty is passed upon “all men”—because “all have sinned,” or, as the margin and the R.V. more accurately render it, “in whom all sinned.” The Apostle is not here saying that all men sinned personally, but representatively. The Greek verb “sinned” is in the aorist tense, which always looks back to a past action which has terminated. The curse of the Law falls upon us, first, not because we are sinful, but because we were federally guilty when our covenant head sinned.

In Romans 5:12, the Apostle was not referring to the corrupting of man-kind. It is true that as a result of our first parents’ sin the springs of human nature were polluted; but this is not what Paul was writing of. Instead he went behind that, and dealt with the cause of which moral depravity is but one of the effects. A corrupt tree can indeed produce nothing but corrupt fruit, but why are we born with corrupt hearts? Such is more than a terrible calamity: it is a penal infliction visited upon us because of our prior criminality. Punishment presupposes guilt, and the punishment is given to all because all are guilty, and since God accounts all guilty, then they must be participants in Adams offence. Well did George Whitefield say, “I beg leave to express my surprise that any person of judgment should maintain human depravity, and not immediately discover its necessary connection with the imputation, and how impossible it is to secure the justice of God without having recourse to it; for certainly the corruption of human nature, so universal and inseparable, is one of the greatest punishments that could be inflicted upon the species . . . . Now if God has inflicted an evident punishment upon a race of men perfectly innocent, which had neither sinned personally nor yet by imputation; and thus while we imagine we honour the justice of God by renouncing imputation, we in fact pour the highest dishonour upon that sacred attribute.”

Death, penal death, has been passed upon all men because all sinned in Adam. That the “all have sinned” cannot signify their own personal transgressions is clear: because the manifest design of Romans 5:12, is to show that Adam’s sin is the cause of death; because physical death (a part of sin’s wages) is far more extensive than personal transgression—as appears from so many dying in infancy; and because such an interpretation would destroy the analogy between Adam and the One of whom he was “the figure,” and would lead unto this comparison: as men die because they sin personally, so all earn eternal life because they are personally righteous! Equally evident is it that “all have sinned” cannot mean death comes upon men because they are depraved, for this too would clash with the scope of the whole passage: if our subjective sinfulness be the ground of our condemnation, then our subjective holiness (and not Christ’s merits) is the ground of our justification. It would also contradict the emphatic assertion of verse 18: “by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” Thus we are obliged to understand the “all have sinned” of verse 12 as meaning all sinned in Adam.

If the federal headship of Adam and the imputation of his sin unto all his posterity be repudiated, then what alternative is left us? Only that of the separate testing of each individual. If the race were not placed on probation in the first man, then each of his offspring must stand trial for himself. But the conditions of such a trial make success impossible, for each probationer would enter upon it in a state of spiritual death! The human family is either suffering for the sin of its head or it is suffering for nothing at all. “Man is born unto trouble,” and from it there is no escape. What then is the explanation of the grim tragedy now being enacted on this earth? Every effect must have a previous cause. If we be not born under the condemnation of Adam’s offence, then why are we “by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3)? “Now either man was tried and fell in Adam, or he has been condemned without trial. He is either under the curse (as it rests upon him from the beginning of his existence), for Adam’s guilt, or for no guilt at all. Judge which is more honouring to God: a doctrine which, although profoundly mysterious, represents Him as giving man an equitable and most favourable probation in his federal head, or that which makes God condemn him untried, even before he exists” (R. L. Dabney).

7. Its Imputation—Part 3

At the close of our last chapter we carefully considered the solemn teaching of Romans 5:12, and we now propose to examine the verses which immediately follow, for they are not only of deep importance in connection with the present aspect of our subject, but their meaning is very little apprehended today, for they receive scarcely any notice either in the pulpit or the religious press. In Romans 5:13, 14, the Apostle takes no notice of our personal transgressions, but shows the effects of Adam’s sin. His design in these verses is to intimate that the universality of physical death can only be satisfactorily accounted for on the ground that it is a penal infliction because of the first man’s offence. The argument of verse 13 is as follows: the infliction of a penal evil presupposes the violation of a law, for death is the wages of sin. The violation of the Mosaic law does not account for the universality of death, because multitudes died before that law was given. As therefore death implies transgression, and the law of Moses explains not all of death’s victims, then it dearly and necessarily follows that the whole human race is subject to the penal consequence of the primitive law being transgressed by their first father.

“For until the law sin was in the world.” The opening “For” imports that the Apostle is now about to furnish proof of the assertion made in verse 12. “The law” here has reference to the Mosaic. “Sin,” as all through this passage, signifies guilt or the judicial ground of condemnation, and not the corruption of human nature. “The world” includes the entire race: all were accursed, and are so regarded and treated by the Judge of all the earth. Having stated in Romans 5:12 that all mankind participated in Adam’s original sin, and that in consequence all share in its punishment, Paul pauses to vindicate and amplify his assertion that “all sinned in” Adam. The method he follows is by reasoning backward from effect to cause. The argument is somewhat involved and calls for close attention, yet there is no difficulty in following its course if we perceive that it moves back from death to sin, and from sin to law—the one, in each case, being necessarily implied by the other. Sin was in the world before the law of Moses was given, as was evident from the fact that death held universal sway from Eden to Sinai—witness the oft-repeated “and he died” in Genesis 5. Thus far the argument is simple, but the next point is more difficult.

“But sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Romans 5:13). The meaning of this clause has been missed by many, through failing to follow the course of the Apostle’s reasoning. They have imagined it signifies that, though sin was in the world prior to Moses, yet it was not reckoned to the account of those who were guilty. Such an idea is not only erroneous but manifestly absurd. Where sin exists the Holy One must deal with it as sin. And He did so from earliest times, as the flood demonstrated. “Sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Why? Because “sin” or guilt is the correlative of “1aw.” Sin or condemnation implies the law: one cannot be without the other—“sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). None is guilty where no law exists, for criminality presupposes the viola tion of a statute. Thus, for any to be adjudged guilty is the same thing as saying he has broken the law. This prepares us for verse 14, where proof is adduced that a law, given previous to Moses, had been violated, and consequently God dealt with sinners as sinners long before the time of Moses.

“Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses.” Though it be truth that there is no sin where there is no law, and that where there is no law transgressed there can be no death, yet it is a Divinely certified fact that death reigned during the first twenty-five centuries of human life. Therefore the conclusion is so self-evident that Paul leaves his readers to draw it—the human race must have transgressed an earlier law than the Mosaic. Thus verse 14 clinches the interpretation we have given of verses 12 and 13. Since men died prior to the Sinaitic transaction, there must be some other reason and ground for their exposure to death. Note well “death reigned”: it held undisputed and rightful sway. If then men were justly subject to its power, they must have been criminals. Death is far more than a calamity: it is a punishment, and that argues the breaking of a law. If men were punished with death from the beginning, then it inevitably follows that they were law transgressors from the beginning. Moreover, death furnished proof that sin was “imputed”—because men were guilty of Adam’s offence.

“Even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” has reference unto those who in their own persons and conduct had never violated any law by which their exposure to death could be accounted for. The word “even” here suggests a contrast. Generally speaking, death had reigned from Adam to Moses over all alike; but, to particularize, it did so even over a class who had not (in their own persons) sinned as Adam had. If we bear in mind that in verses 13 and 14 Paul is proving his assertion (at the end of verse 12) that death comes on all because of the first man’s sin, then his line of reasoning is easier to follow. The word “even” here implies that there was a particular class who it appears ought to have been exempted from the dominion of sin, namely infants. Thus the death of infants supplied a conclusive proof of the doctrine here inculcated. Physical death is a penal infliction, and falling as it does on infants it must be because of Adam’s sin. On no other ground can their demise be accounted for. They furnish the climacteric demonstration that all sinned in Adam and suffer the penal consequences of his offence.

At the close of Romans 5:14 the Apostle stated that Adam was “the figure of Him that was to come”—he foreshadowed Christ as the federal Head and legal Representative of His people. In verses 15-17 it is pointed out that there were contrasts as well as resemblances between the first man and Christ. “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift” (v. 15). The Fall differed radically from the restoration: though they are alike in their far-reaching effects they are quite unlike in the nature of those effects. “For if through the offence of one many be dead”—literally “many died,” legally. The “many” includes infants, and since they die because of the one man’s offence, that proves they are adjudged guilty of it, and therefore that God imputed it unto them, for He never punishes where there is no sin.

“Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (v. 15). Here the first contrast is drawn—between justice and grace. The “much more” does not mean numerically, for Christ cannot restore more than Adam ruined, and he encompassed the downfall of all his posterity. Nor does this “much more” signify that grace is more abundant and efficacious than the offence in its effects—that is brought out in verse 20. No, it is employed argumentatively, as a logical inference and as a note of certainty. If God willed it that one man should ruin many, much more can we suppose it to be agreeable that His Son should rescue many. If many be suffering from the offence of Adam, much more should we expect that many will benefit from the merits of Christ. Thus it is not a “much more” either of quantity or quality, but of assurance and certainty. If it were a meet arrangement in the Divine government that the principle of representation should operate though it entailed the curse, much more may we look for that principle to operate in producing blessing. If Scripture teaches the imputation of sin, we should not stumble when we find it affirming the imputation of righteousness. If God dealt in inflexible justice with the original sin, then, from all we know of Him, much more may we look for a display of the riches of His grace through Christ.

“And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification” (Rom. 5:16). Here the second contrast is drawn. Though there be a close resemblance between ruin and redemption, in that each was accomplished by the one man, yet there is a great difference between the scope of their respective effects. The destroying power of the former went not beyond the one sin of Adam, whereas the restoring power of the latter covers our countless iniquities. How vastly more extensive, then, is the reach of the “free gift”! Thus this verse explains itself—the second clause interpreting the first. The Divine sentence of condemnation fell upon the entire human family because of the single offence of their head, but believers are justified by Christ from many offences—“having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13). Christ does very much more than remove the guilt which came upon His people for the first man’s sin: He has also made full satisfaction or atonement for all their personal sins—who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus 2:14).

“For the judgment was by one to condemnation.” Each term requires to be carefully weighed. The word “judgment” obviously signifies a judicial sentence—pronounced by God—and that judgment was “to condemnation” and not, be it noted, to “corruption” or vitiation of nature. The judgment “was by one”—not (here) by one man, but rather by one sin, for it is set over against the “many offences” which we have personally committed. Thus it is expressly asserted that judgment came by Adam’s initial transgression, and if all be condemned for that sin then all must be accounted guilty of it, for the righteous Judge will not condemn the innocent. “But the free gift is of many offences unto justification”—where sin abounded grace did much more abound. The finished work of Christ not only provides for the cancellation of original sin, but acquits from the accumulated guilt of all our sins. Moreover, believers in Christ are not merely pardoned, “but justified”—exonerated, pronounced righteous by the Law. They are not only restored to their unfallen state, but given a title to enjoy the full reward of Christ’s obedience. As Adam’s posterity participate in his guilt, depravity, and death, so Christ’s seed receive through Him righteousness, holiness, and eternal life.

“For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one (better, “by the offence of the one man death reigned”); much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). Here is the third contrast—death and life, issuing from the two heads. Here again the central truth of the whole passage is reiterated: death comes on men not because their natures have been corrupted, nor because of their own personal transgression, but as a judicial sentence passed on account of Adam’s crime. It is here expressly said that death reigned “by (because of) the one man’s offence,” and therefore everyone over whom death has dominion must be regarded as guilty. The word “reigned” here is very impressive and emphatic: those who die are looked upon as death’s lawful subjects, for it is regarded as their king. In other words, death has a legal claim upon all men. The forceful language of Hebrews 2:14, 15 contains the same concept: “that through death He (Christ) might destroy him that had the power (authority) of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them,” i.e., free death’s lawful prisoners. Note how this verse indirectly confirms Romans 5:14—death could have no dominion over infants unless they were charged with Adam’s sin.

“Much more they which receive abundance of grace,” etc. The “much more” of this verse emphasizes a different thought from that of verse 15. There it refers to God dealing with Adam and his posterity consistently with His own perfections: if God could righteously condemn all mankind because of the disobedience of their first parent, then much more could He justify the seed of Christ (Isa. 53:10) on the ground of the obedience of their Representative. But here the “much more” has reference to the modus operandi of condemnation and justification. If death has come upon us as a judicial infliction for an offence in which we did not actively participate, then much more shall we share the reward of Christ’s righteousness which we voluntarily “receive” by faith. There is a double thought conveyed by “the gift of righteousness,” which it is important to observe, for most of the commentators have missed the second. First, it signifies that righteousness is entirely gratuitous, neither earned nor merited. Second, it implies that it is imputed, for a “gift” is something which is transferred from one person to another. Not only pointless but senseless is the objection that if righteousness were transferred from Christ to us it would leave Him without any. Does God’s gift of life unto sinners leave Him without any life?

“Shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” They who by faith receive the gift of His righteousness are not only saved from the consequences of the Fall, but are partakers of eternal life and made joint-heirs with Christ and sharers of His celestial glory. They who have been wholly under the power of death are not only completely freed from it and spiritually quickened, but as one with the King of kings they are made “kings unto God” (Rev. 1:6). They are not reinstated in the earthly paradise, but shall be brought to honour and glory and immortality in Heaven—given title to a state of eternal and supernal blessedness. The careful student should have observed both a threefold comparison and a threefold contrast between the first and last Adams in verses 15-17. Both are sources of radical influence—“abounded unto many” (v. 15); both are conveyors of a judicial sentence—condemnation, justification (v. 16); both introduce a sovereign regime—“death reigned,” “reign in life” (v. 17). But by Adam we lost, whereas in Christ we gain; we were charged with the one offence, but are cleared from many; we were the subjects of death, but are made co-heirs with Christ. By Adam we were ruined; by Christ we are more than restored. In Adam we occupied a position a little lower than the angels; in Christ we are instated far above all principality and power.

“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18). In verse 12 only the first member of the contrast was given (vv. 13-17 interrupting the extension by a necessary parenthesis), but here the case is stated in full. Throughout the whole passage Paul contrasts a state of Divine wrath and Divine favour, and not the states of depravity and holiness. Here it is plainly asserted that all are condemned for Adam’s sin. Infants are therefore included, for they would not be punished if innocent—if Adam’s sin were not legally theirs. In precisely the same way all for whom Christ transacted as their covenant Head are justified by His merits being legally reckoned to their account. As something outside of ourselves is the judicial ground of our falling under the Divine curse, so something outside of ourselves is the judicial ground of our being under the blessing of God. The second half of this verse speaks not of something which is provided for all mankind, but that which God actually imputes to all believers (cf. 4:20-24).

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (v. 19). This goes farther than the preceding verse. There it was the causes of condemnation and justification which were stated; here it is their actual issue or results. From verse 11 onwards the Apostle has shown that God’s sentence is grounded upon the legally constituted unity of all with their covenant heads. By his breaking of the Divine Law, all who were federally one with the first Adam were made sinners, and all who were federally one with the last Adam are made righteous. The Greek word for “made” (kathistemi) never signifies to effect any change to a person or thing, but means to “ordain, appoint,” to “constitute” legally or officially, as a reference to Matthew 24:45, 47; Luke 12:14; Acts 7:10, 27, clearly shows. Note well that it is not here said that Adam’s disobedience makes us unholy: Paul goes farther back and explains why such should follow, namely because we are first constituted sinners by imputation.

Romans 5:12-21, is one of the most important passages in the bible. In it the fundamental doctrine of federal representation is openly stated, and the fact of imputation is emphatically affirmed. Here is revealed the basic principle according to which God deals with men. Here we behold the old and the new races receiving from their respective heads. Here are set before us the two central figures and facts of all history—the first Adam and his disobedience, the last Adam and His obedience. Upon those two things the Apostle hammered again and again with almost monotonous repetition. Why such unusual reiteration? Because of the great doctrinal importance of what is here treated of; because the purity of the Gospel and the glory of Christ’s atonement turned thereon; because Paul was insisting upon that which is so repulsive to the proud heart of fallen man. Plain as is its language, this passage has been wrested and twisted to mean many things which it does not teach; and Socinians, Arminians and Universalists refuse to accept what is so plainly asserted.

Wherever this passage has been plainly expounded it has, in all generations encountered the fiercest opposition—not the least so from men professing to be Christians. The doctrine of imputation is as bitterly hated as those of unconditional election and eternal punishment. Those who teach it are accused of representing God as dealing unjustly. The only reply necessary is, What saith the Scriptures? As we have seen, Romans 5 declares that death has passed upon all men because all sinned in Adam (v. 12), that “through the offence of one many be dead” (v. 15), that “the judgment was by one to condemnation” (v. 16), that “by one man’s offence death reigned” (v. 17), that “by one man’s offence judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (v. 18), that “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (v. 19). “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). God deals with men on the principle of imputation. “The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children” (Exo. 20:5). The curse of Canaan fell on all his posterity (Gen. 9:25). The Egyptians perished for Pharaoh’s obduracy. His whole family died for Achan’s crime (Josh. 7:24). All Israel suffered for David’s sin (2 Samuel 24:15, 17). The leprosy visited upon Gehazi passed to “all his seed forever” (2 Kings 5:27). The blood of all the prophets was exacted of the members of Christ’s generation (Luke 11:50).

If there be one word which fitly expresses what every man is by nature, it is “sinner.” Waiving all theological systems, if we inquire what be the popular meaning of that term, the answer is, “one who has sinned” or one who makes a practice of sinning. But such a definition comes far short of the scriptural import of that word. “By the disobedience of one many were made sinners.” They are such, legally made so, neither because of what they have done personally nor by what they are in the habit of doing; but rather by the action of their first parent. It is quite true that it is the nature of sinners to sin, but according to the unmistakable testimony of Romans 5 we are all sinners antecedent to and independent of any personal transgressing of God’s Law. It was by the offence of Adam that we were legally constituted sinners. The universal reign of death is the proof of the universal power of sin, yet so far from representing death as the consequence of individual acts of disobedience, it is expressly insisted upon that death reigns over infants, who are incapable of acts of disobedience. Human probation ended with the original offence, and, in consequence, not only was human nature vitiated at its fountain-head, but all of Adam’s descendants fell under the curse of God, the guilt of his transgression being imputed to them.

No finite creature, and still less a fallen and depraved one, is capable of measuring or even understanding the justice of the infinite God. Yet this we may ask: Which appears to be more consonant to human conceptions of justice—that we should suffer through Adam because we were legally connected with him and he transacted in our name; or that we should suffer solely because we derive our nature from him by generation, though we had no part in or connection with his sin? In the former we can perceive the ground on which his guilt is charged to our account; but by the latter we can discover no ground or cause that any share of the fatal effects of Adam’s sin should be visited upon us. The latter alternative means that we are depraved and wretched without any sufficient reason, and in such an event our present condition is but a misfortune and in no wise criminal. Nor is God to be blamed: He made man upright, but man deliberately apostatized. Nor was God under any obligation to preserve man from falling. Finally, let it be remembered that our salvation depends upon the self-same principle and fact: if we were cursed and ruined by the first Adam’s disobedience, we are redeemed and blessed by the last man’s obedience.

8. Its Consequences—Part 1

The key which opens to us the mystery of human depravity is to be found in a right understanding of the relations which God appointed between the first man and his posterity. As the grand truth of redemption cannot be rightly and intelligently apprehended until we perceive the federal connection which God ordained between the Redeemer and the redeemed, neither can the tragedy of man’s ruin be contemplated in its proper perspective unless we view it in the light of Adam’s apostasy from his Creator. He was the prototype of all humanity. As he stood for the whole human race, so in him God dealt with all who should issue from him. Had not Adam been our covenant head and federal representative, the mere circumstance that he was our first parent would not have involved us in the legal consequences of his sin, nor would it have entitled us to the legal reward of his righteousness had he maintained his integrity and served his probation by rendering to his Maker and Lord that obedience which was His due and which he was fully capacitated to perform. It was the Divinely constituted nexus (connecting principle or tie) and oneness of the first man and all mankind in the sight of the Law which explains the latter’s participation in the penalty visited upon the former.

In the previous chapters of this book we dwelt at some length upon the origin of human depravity, and the Divine imputation of the guilt of Adam’s transgression unto all his descendants. We are now to consider the consequences entailed by the Fall. Abominable indeed is sin, fearful are the wages it receives, dreadful are the effects which it has produced. Therein we are shown the Holy One’s estimate of sin—the severity of His punishment expressing its hatefulness unto Him. Conversely the dire doom of Adam makes evident the enormity of his offence. That offence is not to be measured by the external act of eating the fruit, but by the awful affront which was offered against God’s majesty. In his single sin there was a complication of many crimes. There was base ingratitude against the One who had so richly endowed him, and discontent with the goodly heritage allotted him. There was disbelief of the holy veracity of God, a doubting of His word and a believing of the serpent’s lie. There was a repudiation of the infinite obligations he was under to love and serve his Maker, a preferring of his own will and way. There was a contempt of God’s high authority, a breaking of His covenant, a flying in the face of His solemn threat. The curse of Heaven fell upon him because he deliberately and presumptuously defied the Almighty.

Very much more was included and involved in Adam’s transgression than is commonly supposed or recognized. Three hundred years ago that profound theologian James Usher pointed out that it had wrapped up in it “the breach of the whole Law of God.” Summarizing in our own language what the Bishop of Armagh developed at length, Adam’s violation of all the Ten Commandments of the moral Law may be set forth thus. The first commandment he broke by choosing him another “god” when he followed the counsel of Satan. The second, in idolizing his palate, making a god of his belly by eating the forbidden fruit. The third, by believing not God’s threatening, therein taking His name in vain. The fourth, by breaking the sinless rest in which he had been placed. The fifth, thereby is dishonouring his Father in Heaven. The sixth, by slaying himself and all his posterity. The seventh, by committing spiritual adultery, and preferring the creature above the Creator. The eighth, by laying hands upon to which he had no right. The ninth, by accepting the serpent’s false witness against God. The tenth, by coveting that which God had not given to him.

We by no means share the popular idea that the Lord saved Adam very soon after his fall, but rather take decided exception thereto. Negatively, we cannot find anything whatever in Holy Writ on which to base such a belief: positively, much to the contrary. First of all it is clear that his sin was not one of “infirmity,” but instead a “presumptuous” one, pertaining to that class of willful sins and open defiance of God for which no sacrifice was provided (Exo. 21:14; Num. 15:30, 31; Deut. 17:12; Heb. 10:26-29), and therefore, an unpardonable sin. There is not the slightest sign that he ever repented his sin or record of his confessing it to God: on the contrary, when charged with it, he attempted to excuse and extenuate it. Genesis 3 closes with the awful statement: “So he drove out the man.” Nothing whatever is mentioned to his credit afterwards: no offering of sacrifice, no acts of faith or obedience! Instead we are merely told that he knew his wife (4:1, 25), begat a son in his own likeness, and died (5:3-5). If the reader can see in those statements intimations or even indications that Adam was a regenerated man, then he has much better eyes than the writer—or, possibly, a more lively imagination.

Nor is there a single word in his favour in the later Scriptures: rather is everything to his condemnation. Job denied that he covered his transgression or hid his iniquity in his bosom “as Adam” did (31:33). The Psalmist declared that those who judged unjustly and the persons of the wicked should “die like men” (82:7), for the Hebrew word there “men” is Adam! In the New Testament he is contrasted in considerable detail with Christ (Rom. 5:12, 21; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45-47), and if he were saved, then the antithesis would fail at its principal point. Moreover, such a glaring anomaly is quite out of keeping with what is revealed of God’s justice—that the great majority of those whom he represented should eternally perish, while the responsible head should be recovered. In 1 Timothy 2:14 specific mention is made of the fact that “Adam was not deceived,” which emphasizes the enormity of his transgression. In Hebrews 11 the Holy Spirit has cited the faith of Old Testament saints, and though He mentions that of Able, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., He says nothing about Adam’s! His being omitted from that list is solemnly significant. Thus, after his being driven out of Eden, Scripture makes no mention of God having any further dealing with Adam!

Before taking up the consequences upon his descendants of Adam’s defection, we will consider those which fell more immediately upon him and his guilty partner. These are recorded in Genesis 3. No sooner had he revolted from his gracious Maker and Benefactor than the evil effects thereof became apparent. His understanding, originally enlightened with heavenly wisdom, became darkened and overcast with crass ignorance. His heart, formally fired with holy veneration toward his Creator and warm with love to Him, now became alienated and filled with enmity against Him. His will, which had been in subjection to his rightful Governor, had cast off the yoke of obedience. His whole moral constitution was wrecked, had become unhinged, perverse. In a word, the life of God had departed from his soul. His aversion for the supremely excellent One appeared in his flight from Him as soon as he heard His approach. His crass ignorance and stupidity were evinced by his vain attempt to conceal himself from the eyes of Omniscience. His pride was displayed in refusing to acknowledge his guilt: his ingratitude when he indirectly upbraided God for giving him a wife. But, let us turn to the inspired account of these things.

“And the eyes of them both were opened. and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). Very, very striking is this. We do not read of any change taking place when Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, but as soon as Adam did so, “the eyes of them both were opened.” This furnishes definite confirmation of what we dwelt upon in the preceding chapters. Adam was the covenant head and legal representative of his wife, as well as of the future children which were to issue from them. Therefore, the penalty for disobedience was not inflicted by God until the one to whom the prohibition had been made violated the same—and then the consequences thereof began to be immediately felt by both of them. But what is meant by “the eyes of them both were opened”? Certainly not their physical eyes, for those had previously been open—thus we have here another intimation that we must not slavishly limit ourselves to the literal meaning of all the terms used in this chapter. The answer, then, must be the “eyes” of their understanding: or, more strictly, those of their conscience—which sees or perceives, as well as hears, speaks and chastises. In that expression, “the eyes of them both were opened,” is to be found the key to what follows.

The result of eating the forbidden fruit was not the acquisition of supernatural wisdom, as they fondly hoped, but a discovery that they had reduced themselves to a condition of wretchedness. They knew that they were “naked,” and that in a sense very different from that mentioned in Genesis 2:25. Though in their original state they wore no material clothing, yet we do not believe for a moment that they were without any covering at all. Rather do we agree with G. H. Bishop that they “were not without effulgence shining from them and around them, which wrapped them in a radiant and translucent robe—and in a certain lovely way obscured their outlines. It is contrary to nature and it is repugnant to us that anything should be unclothed absolutely bare. Each bird has its plumage and each animal its coat, and there is no beauty if the covering be removed. Strip the most beautiful bird of its feathers, and, though the form remain unchanged, we no longer admire it. We conceive, then, that artists are wholly at fault and grossly offend against purity when they paint the human form unclothed, and plead as an excuse the case of Adam in Eden. Could the animals in all their splendid covering coats have bowed down as to the vice-regents of God (Gen. 1:28) before beings wholly unclothed? Should Adam, the crown and king of creation, be the only living thing without a screen? Impossible. To the spiritual sense there certainly is a hint of something about our first parents that impressed and overawed the animal creation. What was that thing? What, but that shining forth like the sun, which describes the body of the resurrection (Daniel 12:3)? If the face of Moses so shone by reflection that the children of Israel were afraid to come near him, how much more must the (unimpeded) indwelling Spirit of God in Adam and Eve have flung around them a radiance which made all creation do them reverence at their approach—beholding in them the image and likeness of the Lord God Almighty—glorious in brightness—shining like a sun?

Supplementing the above, let it be pointed out that of the Lord God, it is said, “Thou art clothed with honour and majesty: who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment” (Psa. 104:1, 2), and man was made, originally, in His image! God “crowned him with glory and honour,” and made him “to have dominion over the works of His hand” (Psa. 8:5, 6), and accordingly covered him with bright apparel, as will be the ultimate case of those recovered from the Fall and its consequences, for “they are equal unto the angels” (Luke 20:36)–compare “two men stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4). Further, the implication of Romans 8:3, is irresistible: “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Note how discriminating is that language: not merely in “the likeness of the flesh,” but literally “sin’s flesh.” Upon those words R. Haldane rightly remarked, “If the flesh of Jesus Christ was the likeness of sinful flesh, there must be a difference between the appearance of sinful flesh and our nature or flesh in its original condition when Adam was created. Christ, then, was not made in the likeness of the flesh of man before sin entered the world, but in the likeness of his fallen flesh.” And since Christ restored that which He took not away (Psa. 69:4), then its resurrected state shows us its primitive glory (Phil. 3:21).

Following the statement “the eyes of them both were opened,” we would naturally expect the next clause to read “and they saw that they were naked,” but instead it says, “they knew that they were naked”—something more than a discovery of their woeful physical plight being included therein. The Hebrew verb is rendered “know” in the vast majority of references, yet eighteen times it is translated “perceive” and three times “feel.” As the opening of their eyes refers to those of their understanding, so we are informed of what they now discerned, namely the loss of their innocence. There is a nakedness of soul which is far worse than an unclothed body, for it unfits it for the presence of the Holy One. The nakedness of Adam and Eve was the loss of the image of God, the inherent righteousness and holiness in which He created them. Such is the awful condition in which all of their descendants are born. That is why Christ bids them buy of Him “white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear” (Rev. 3:18). The “white raiment” is “the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10), the “wedding garment” of Matthew 22:11-13, without which the soul is eternally lost.

“They knew that they were naked.” As Bishop expressed it, “Their halo had vanished, and the Spirit of righteousness who had been to them a covering of light and purity withdrew, and they felt that they were stripped and bare. But more: they realized that their physical condition imaged their spiritual loss. They were made painfully conscious of sin and its dire consequences. This was the first result of their transgression: a guilty conscience condemned them, and a sense of shame possessed their souls. Their hearts smote them for what they had done. Now that the fearful deed of disobedience had been committed, they realized the happiness they had flung away and the misery into which they had plunged themselves. They knew that they were not only stripped of all the bliss and honours of the Paradise state, but were defiled and degraded, and a sense of wretchedness possessed them. They knew that they were naked of everything that is holy. They might now be rightly termed “Ichabod,” for the glory of the Lord had departed from them. Such, my reader, is ever the effect of sin: it destroys our peace, robs of our joy, and brings in its train a consciousness of guilt and a sense of shame.

There is, we believe, a yet deeper meaning in those words, “they knew that they were naked,” namely a realization that they were exposed to the wrath of an offended God. They perceived that their defense was gone. They were morally naked, without any protection against the broken Law! Very striking and solemn is this. Before the Lord appeared unto them, before He said a word or came near to them, Adam and Eve knew the dreadful state they were now in, and were ashamed! Oh, the power of conscience! Our first parents stood self-accused and self-condemned! Before their Judge appeared on the scene, man became, as it were, the judge of his own fallen and woeful condition. Yes, they knew of themselves that they were disgraced: their holiness defiled, their innocence gone, the image of God in their souls broken, their tranquillity disrupted, their protection against the Law removed. Stripped of their original righteousness, they stood defenseless. What a terrible discovery to make! Such is the state into which fallen man has come—one of which he is himself ashamed!

And what did the guilty pair do upon their painful discovery? How did they now conduct themselves? Cry unto God for mercy? Seek unto Him for a covering? No indeed. Not even an awakened conscience moves its tormented possessor to turn unto the Lord, though it must do its work ere the sinner flies to Him for refuge. A lost soul needs something more than an active conscience to draw him to Christ. That is very evident from the case of the scribes and Pharisees in His very presence, for “being convicted by their own conscience, they went out” (John 8:9). Instead of a convicted conscience causing them to cast themselves at the feet of the Saviour, it resulted in their leaving Him! Nothing short of the Holy Spirit’s quickening, enmity-subduing, heart-melting, faith-bestowing operations brings anyone into saving contact with the Lord Jesus. He does indeed wound before He applies the balm of Gilead—makes use of the Law to prepare the way for the Gospel, break up the hard soil of the heart to make it receptive to the Seed. But even a conscience aroused by Him, accusing the soul with a voice which cannot be stilled, will never of itself bring one into “the way of peace.”

No, instead of betaking themselves to God, Adam and Eve attempted by their own puny efforts to repair the damage they had wrought in themselves. “They sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Here we see the second consequence of their sin: a worthless expedient, a futile attempt to conceal their real character and hide their shame from themselves. As others have pointed out, our first parents were more anxious to save their credit before each other than they were to seek the pardon of God. They sought to arm themselves against a feeling of shame and thereby quieten their accusing conscience. There was no concern at their unfitness to appear before God in such a plight, but only that they might stand unabashed before each other! And thus it is with their children to this day. They are more afraid of being detected in sin than of committing it, and more concerned about appearing well before their fellows than about obtaining the approbation of God. The chief object which the fallen sons of men propose unto themselves is to quieten their guilty conscience and to stand well with their neighbours. And hence it is that so many of the unregenerate assume the garb of religion.

“And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). Here was the third consequence of their fall: a dread of God. Up to this point they had been concerned only with their own selves and wretchedness, but now they had to reckon with Another. It was the approach of their Judge. Apparently they saw not His form at this moment, but heard only His voice. It was to test them. But instead of welcoming such a sound, they were horrified, and fled in terror. But where could they flee from His presence? “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:24). In the attempt of Adam and Eve to seclude themselves among the trees we behold how sin has turned man into an utter fool, for none but an imbecile would imagine that he could conceal himself from the eyes of Omniscience.

9. Its Consequences—Part 2

When Adam and Eve, by an act of willful transgression, broke the condition of the covenant under which they had been placed, they incurred the double guilt of disbelieving God’s Word and defying His will. Thereby they forfeited the promise of life and brought upon themselves the penalty of death. That one act of theirs completely changed their relation to God and, at the same time, reversed their feelings toward Him. They were no longer the objects of His favour, but instead the subjects of His wrath. As the effect of their sinfulness and the result of their spiritual death, the Lord God ceased to be the object of their love and confidence, and became the object of their aversion and distrust. A sense of degradation and of God’s displeasure filled them with fright and inspired them with an awful enmity against Him. So swift and so drastic was the change which sin produced in their relations and feelings toward their Maker that they were ashamed and afraid to appear before Him, and as soon as they heard His voice in the garden they fled in horror and terror, seeking to hide from Him among the trees. They dreaded to hear Him pronounce formal sentence of condemnation upon them, for they knew in themselves that they deserved it.

Each action of our first parents after the Fall was emblematic and prophetic, for it shadowed forth how their descendants would conduct themselves. First, upon the discovery of their nakedness, or loss of their original purity and glory, they sewed themselves aprons of fig leaves in an attempt to reserve their self-respect and make themselves presentable to one another. Thus it is with the natural man the world over: by a variety of efforts he seeks to conceal his spiritual wretchedness, yet at best his religious exercises and altruistic performances are but things of time, and will not endure the test of eternity. Second, Adam and Eve sought to hide from the One they now feared and hated. So it is with their children. They are fallen and depraved; God is holy and righteous: and despite their self-manufactured coverings of creature respectability and piety, the very thought of a face-to-face meeting with their Sovereign renders the unregenerate uneasy. That is why the Bible is so much neglected—because in it God is heard speaking. That is why the theatre is preferred to the prayer meeting. Proof is this that all shared in the first sin and died in Adam, for all inherit his nature and perpetuate his conduct.

How clearly did the actions of the guilty pair make evident the serpent’s lie. The more closely verses 4 and 5 be scrutinized in the light of the immediate sequel, the more will their falsity appear. The serpent had assured them. “Ye shall not surely die,” yet they had done so spiritually, and now fled in terror lest they lost their physical lives. He had declared that they should be advanced—for that was the evident force of his “your eves shall be opened”; instead, they had been abased. He had promised that they should be increased in knowledge, whereas they had become so stupid as to entertain the idea that they could conceal themselves from the omniscient and omnipresent One. He had said they should “be as gods,” but here we behold them as self-accused and trembling criminals. Well do we ever bear in mind the Lord’s pronouncement concerning the Devil: “He is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44)—the perverter and denier of the Truth, the promoter and instigator of falsehood of every kind throughout the earth, ever employing dissimulation and treachery, subtlety and deception to further his evil interests.

Behold the terrible consequences of listening to the Devil’s lies. See the awful ravage which sin works. Not only had Adam and Eve irreparably damaged themselves, but they had become fugitives from their all-glorious Creator. He is ineffably pure, and they were polluted, and therefore sought to avoid Him. How unbearable the thought to a guilty conscience that the unpardoned sinner will yet have to stand before the thrice Holy One! Yet he must. There is no possible way in which any of us can escape that awful meeting. Writer and reader must yet appear before Him and render an account of their stewardship, and unless we fled to Christ for refuge, and had our sins blotted out by His atoning blood, we shall hear His sentence of eternal doom. Then seek Him while He may be found in mercy; call upon Him while He is near in His gracious overtures of the Gospel, for “How shall we escape” the lake of fire if we neglect so great a salvation? Assume not that you are a Christian, but examine well your foundation; yea, beg God to search your heart and show you your real condition. Take the place of a Hell-deserving sinner and receive the sinner’s Saviour.

In the verses that follow we may discover a solemn shadowing forth of the day to come. “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Gen. 3:9). It was the Divine Judge summoning him to an account of what he had done. It was a word designed to impress upon him the guilty distance from God to which sin had removed him. His offence had severed all communion between them, for “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness?” Observe well that the Lord ignored Eve and confined His address to the responsible head! God had plainly warned him about the forbidden fruit, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” And death, my reader, is not annihilation, but alienation: as physical death is the separation of the soul from the body, so spiritual death is the separation of the soul from the Holy One—“Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you” (Isa. 59:2). Such is the terrible plight of us all by nature—“far off” (Eph. 2:13)—and unless Divine grace saves us, we shall be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9).

“And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden (which suggests that He was now seen in theophanic manifestation), and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). Mark how utterly unable sinful man is to meet the Divine inquisition. He could offer no adequate defense. Hear his sorry admission, “I was afraid”: his conscience condemned him. Such will be the woeful plight of every lost soul when, brought out from “the refuge of lies” in which he formerly sheltered, he now appears before his Maker—destitute of that righteousness and holiness which He inexorably requires, and which we can obtain only in and from Christ: filled with horror and terror. Weigh well those words, “I was afraid, because I was naked.” His apron of fig leaves was of no avail! Thus it is even now when the Holy Spirit convicts a soul. The garb of religion is discovered to be naught but filthy rags when one is given to see light in God’s light; the heart is filled with fear and shame as he realizes he has to do with One before whom all things are naked and opened. Have you passed through any such experience?—seen and felt yourself to be a spiritual bankrupt, a moral leper, a lost sinner? If not, you will in the day to come.

“And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked?” (v. 11). To which inquiry Adam made no reply. Instead of humbling himself before his aggrieved Benefactor, the culprit failed to make answer. Whereupon the Lord said, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” It is striking to notice that God made no reply to the idle and perverse excuses which Adam had at first proffered. They were unworthy of His notice. If the words of Adam in verse 10 be carefully pondered, a solemn and fatal omission from them will be observed: he said nothing about his sin, but mentioned only the painful effects which it had produced. As another has said, “this was the language of impenitent misery.” God therefore directed him to the cause of those effects. Yet observe the manner in which He framed His words. The Lord did not directly charge the offender with his crime, but instead interrogated him: “Hast thou eaten?” That opened the way and made it much easier for Adam contritely to acknowledge his transgression. But alas, he failed to avail himself of the opportunity and declined making broken-hearted confession of his iniquity.

God did not put those questions to Adam because He desired to be informed, but rather to provide him with an occasion penitently to own what he had done; and in his refusal to do so we behold the fourth consequence of the Fall, namely the hardening of the heart by sin. There was no deep sorrow for his flagrant disobedience, and therefore no sincere owning of the same. To the second inquiry of God, the man said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Here was the fifth consequence of the fall: self-justification by an attempt to excuse sin. Instead of confessing his wickedness, Adam sought to mitigate and extenuate it, by throwing the onus upon another. The entrance of evil into man produced a dishonest and disingenuous heart: rather than take the blame upon himself, Adam sought to place it upon his wife. And thus it is with his descendants. They endeavour to shelve their responsibility and repudiate their culpability by attributing the wrongdoing to anyone or anything rather than themselves, ascribing their sins to the force of circumstances, an evil environment, temptations, or the Devil.

But in those words of Adam we may behold something still more heinous, and a sixth consequence of his fall, namely a blasphemous impugning of God Himself. Adam did not simply say, “my wife gave me of the tree, and I did eat,” but “the woman whom Thou gavest me.” Thus did he covertly reproach the Lord. It was as though he said, Hadst Thou not given me this woman, I had not eaten. Why didst Thou put such a snare upon me? Behold here the pride and hard-headedness which characterizes the Devil, whose kingdom has now been set up within man! So it is with his children to this day. That is why we are enjoined: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man” (James 1:13). It is because the depraved mind of the fallen creature is so prone to think that very thing he seeks shelter therein. If God had not ordered His providences, I had never been so strongly tempted; if He had disposed things differently, I should not have been enticed, still less overcome. Thus do we, in our efforts at self-vindication, cast reflection on the ways of Him who cannot err.

“The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD” (Prov. 19:3). This is one of the vilest forms in which human depravity manifests itself: that after deliberately playing the fool, and discovering that the way of transgressors is hard, we murmur against God instead of meekly submitting to His rod. When we pervert our way—through self-will, carnal greed, rash conduct, hasty actions—let us not charge God with the bitter fruits thereof; since we are the authors of our misery, it is but reasonable that we should fret against ourselves. But such is the pride of our hearts, and unsubdued enmity against God, that we are fearfully apt to fret against Him, as though He were responsible for our troubles. We must not expect to gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles! Charge not the unpleasant reaping on the severity of God, but upon your own perversity. Say not, God should not have endowed me with such strong passions if I may not indulge them. Ask not, Why did He not give grace so that I would have resisted the temptation? Impeach not His sovereignty, question not His dispensations, harbour no doubts about His goodness. If you do, you are but repeating the wickedness of your first father.

“And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” He indeed recited the facts of the case, yet in so doing made it worse rather than better. He was the woman’s head and protector, and therefore should have taken more care to prevent her falling into evil. When she had succumbed to the serpent’s wiles, so far from following her example, he should have rebuked her and refused her offer. To plead we were allured by others is no valid excuse; yet it is one commonly offered. When Aaron was charged with making the golden calf, he admitted the fact, but sought to extenuate the fault by blaming the congregation (Exo. 32:22-24). In like manner, the disobedient Saul sought to transfer the onus unto “the people” (1 Sam. 15:21). So too Pilate gave orders for the crucifixion of Christ, and then charged the crime upon the Jews (Matt. 27:24). Finally, we behold here yet another consequence of the Fall: it produced a breach of affection between man and his neighbour—in this case his wife, whom he now loved so little as to thrust her forth to receive the stroke of Divine vengeance.

“And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?” Behold here both the infinite condescension of the Most High and His fairness as Judge. He acted not in high sovereignty, disdaining to parley with the creature; nor did He condemn the transgressors unheard, but gave them opportunity to defend themselves or confess their crime. So it will be at the Great Assize: it will be conducted in such a manner as to make it transparently evident that every transgressor receives “the due reward of his iniquities,” and that God is clear when He judges” (Psa. 51:4). “And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:13). Eve followed the same course and manifested the same evil spirit as her husband. She humbled not herself before the Lord, gave no sign of repentance, made no broken-hearted confession. Instead, there was a vain attempt to vindicate herself by casting the blame upon the serpent. Idle excuse was that, for God had capacitated her to perceive his lies and rectitude of nature to reject them with horror. Equally useless for her children to plead, “I had no intention of sinning, but the Devil tempted me,” for he can force none, nor prevail without our consent.

Standing before their Judge self-accused and self-condemned, He now proceeded to pronounce sentence upon the guilty pair. But before so doing He dealt with the one who had been instrumental in their fall. “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed: It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:14, 15). Observe that no question was put to the serpent: rather did the Lord treat with him as an avowed enemy. His sentence is to be taken literally in its application to the serpent, mystically in relation to Satan. “The words may imply a visible punishment to be executed on the serpent, as the instrument in this temptation; but the curse was directed against the invisible tempter, whose abject, degraded condition, and base endeavours to find satisfaction in rendering others wicked and miserable, might be figuratively intimated by the serpent’s moving on his belly, and feeding on the dust” (Thomas Scott).

The Lord began His denunciations where sin began—with the serpent. Each part of the sentence expresses the fearful degradation which should henceforth be his portion. First, he was “cursed above all cattle”—the curse has extended to the whole creation, as Romans 8:20-23 makes clear. Second, hereafter it would crawl in the dust: from which it is to be inferred that originally it stood erect—compare our remarks on Genesis 3:1. Third, God Himself now put an enmity between it and the female, so that where there had been intimate converse there should now be mutual aversion. Fourth, passing from the literal snake to “that old serpent, the devil,” God announced that he should ultimately be crushed—not by His hand dealing immediately with him, but by One in human nature, and what would be yet more humiliating, by the woman’s Seed. Satan had made use of the weaker vessel, and God would defeat him through the same medium! Wrapped up in that pronouncement was a prophecy and a promise, yet let it be carefully noted that it was in the form of a sentence of doom on Satan, and not a gracious declaration made unto Adam and Eve—intimating that they had no personal interest therein!

The sentences pronounced upon our first parents need not detain us, for their language is so plain and simple that they call for neither explanation nor comment. Since Eve was the first in the transgression, and had tempted Adam, she was the next to receive sentence. “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception: in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). Thus was she condemned to a state of sorrow, suffering and servitude. “And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt Thou eat of it all the days of thy life (definitely precluding the idea that, later, God saved him!); thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. . . . In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (vv. 17-19). Sorrow, toil and sweat were to be the burden to fall most heavily upon the male. Here we behold the eighth consequence of the Fall: physical suffering and death—“unto dust shalt thou return.”

“And Adam called his wife’s name Eve (that is “living”); because she was the mother of all living” (v. 20). This is manifestly a detail communicated by God to Moses the historian, for Eve gave birth to no children until after she and her husband had been expelled from Eden. It seems to be introduced here for the purpose of illustrating and exemplifying the concluding portion of the sentence passed upon the woman in verse 16. As Adam had made proof of his dominion over all the lower creatures (1:28) by giving names to them (2:19), so in token of his rule over his wife he bestowed a name upon her. “Unto Adam also and to his wife, did the LORD God make coats of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). With what design we are not told: so that each reader is free to form his own opinion. In the face of everything that makes directly against any such theory, many have supposed these words intimate that God now dealt (typically at least) in mercy with the fallen pair, and that emblematically they were robed in Christ’s righteousness and covered with the garments of salvation. To the contrary, this writer sees therein the ninth consequence of the Fall: that man had thereby descended to the level of the animal—observe how in Daniel 7 and Revelation 17, where God sets before us the character of the leading kingdoms of the world (as He sees them), He employs the symbol of beasts!

“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil” (v. 22), which is obviously the language of sarcasm and irony—“See the one who vainly imagined that by defying Us he should “be as gods” (3:5), now degraded to the level of the beasts!” “Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken,” i.e., bade him leave the garden. But as Matthew Henry intimates, such an order did not at all appeal to the apostate rebel. “So He drove out the man: and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden, Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24), thereby effectually preventing his return. Therein we behold the tenth consequence of the Fall: man an outcast from God, estranged from His favour and fellowship—banished from the place of delight, sent forth a fugitive into the world. Observe how the closing verse corroborates our interpretation of verse 21. The Lord does not drive from Him any child of His! And this is the finally recorded act of God in connection with Adam! As He cast out of Heaven the angels that sinned, so He drove Adam and Eve out of the earthly paradise, in proof of their abhorrence to Him and alienation from Him.

10. Its Consequences—Part 3

Having considered those consequences which fell more immediately upon our first parents for their original offense, we shall now look at those they entailed upon their descendants. Nor do we have to go outside of Genesis 3 to find proof that the penal consequences of their transgression are visited upon their posterity. What God said to them was said to the whole of mankind, for the sin was common to all, so was the penalty too. “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16), and such has been the lot of all Eve’s daughters. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life . . . . In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground. . . for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (vv. 17, 19), and such has been the portion of Adam’s sons—in every generation and in all parts of the earth. The calamity or evil which then descended upon the world continues unto this hour: all of Adam’s and Eve’s children are equally involved in the sentence of the pain of childbirth, the curse upon the ground, the obligation to live by toil and sweat, the decay and death of the body.

But let it be pointed out that the things just mentioned above, severe and painful though they be, are trivial in comparison with the Divine judgment which has been visited upon man’s soul, that they are but the external and visible marks of the moral and spiritual calamity which overtook Adam and his race. By his disobedience he forfeited the favour of his Maker, fell under His holy condemnation and curse, received the awful wages of his sin, came under the sentence of the Law, was alienated from the life of God, became totally depraved, and as such, an object of abhorrence to the Holy One—driven from His presence. Since the guilt of his offense was imputed or judicially charged unto all those he represented, it follows that they participate in all the misery that came upon him. Guilt consists of an obligation or liability to suffer punishment for an offense committed, and that in proportion to the aggravation of the same. In consequence thereof, every child is born into this world in a state of ante-natal disgrace and condemnation, and with an entire depravity of nature or disposition which inevitably leads to and produces actual transgression, and with a complete inability of soul to change its nature or do anything pleasing to God.

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AW Pink (1886-1952): The Doctrine of Human Depravity 4 of 10

The Doctrine of Human Depravity 4 of 10
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Chapel Library

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“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Psa. 58:3). First, from the moment of birth every child is morally and spiritually cut off from the Lord—a lost sinner. “Estranged from God and all good: alienated from the Divine life, and its principles, powers, and blessings” (Matthew Henry). Adam lost not only the image of God, but His favour and fellowship too—being expelled from His presence: and each of his children was born outside Eden, born in a state of guilt. Second, in consequence thereof they are delinquents, perverts, from the beginning. Their very being is polluted, for evil is bred in the bone with them, their “nature” being inclined unto wickedness only: and if God leaves them unto themselves they will never return therefrom. Third, quickly do they supply evidence of their separation from God and the corruption of their hearts—as every godly parent perceives to his sorrow. While in the cradle itself they evince their opposition to truth, sincerity, integrity. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15): not “childishness” but “foolishness”—that positive propensity to evil, the entering into an ungodly course, the forming and following of bad habits: “bound in the heart”—held firmly there by chains invincible to human power.

But in all ages there have been those who sought to blunt the sharp edge of Psalm 58:3, by unwarrantably narrowing its scope, denying that it has a race-wide application: those who are determined at all costs to rid themselves of the unpalatable truth of the total depravity of all mankind. Pelagians and Socinians have insisted that that verse is speaking only of a particularly reprobate class, those who are flagrantly wayward from an early age. Rightly did John Owen point out: “It is to no purpose to say that he speaks of wicked men only: that is, such as are habitually and profligately so. For whatever any man may afterwards run into by a course of sin, all men are morally alike from the womb, and it is an aggravation of the wickedness of men that it begins so early and holds on in an uninterrupted course. Children are not able to speak from the womb, as soon as they be born. Yet here are they said to speak lies. It is therefore the perverse acting of depraved nature in infancy that is intended, for everything that is irregular, that answers not the law of our creation and rule of our obedience, is a lie.”

“And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3). That statement is, if possible, even more awful and solemn than Psalm 58:3. It signifies much more than that we are born into the world with a defiled constitution, for it is not simply “children of corruption,” but “of wrath”—obnoxious to God, criminals in His sight. Depravity of our natures is no mere misfortune: if it were, it would evoke pity, and not anger! The expression, “children of wrath” is a Hebraism, a very strong and emphatic one. In the margin of 1 Samuel 20:30, and 2 Samuel 12:5, we read of “the son of death,” that is, one unto whom death is due. In Matthew 13:15, Christ used the fearful term “the child of Hell”—one whose sure portion is Hell; while in John 17:12, He designated Judas “the son of perdition”—Divinely appointed thereto. Thus “children of wrath” connotes those who are deserving of wrath, heirs thereto, meet for it. They are born unto wrath, and under it, as their heritage. Not only defiled and corrupt creatures, but the objects of God’s judicial indignation. But why so? Because the sin of Adam is imputed unto them, and therefore they are regarded as guilty of having broken God’s Law.

Equally forcible and explicit are the words “by nature the children of wrath,” for it is in designed contrast with that which is artificially acquired. Many have insisted (contrary to the facts of common experience and observation) that children are corrupted by external contact with evil, that they acquire bad habits by imitation of others. We do not deny that environment has a measure of influence, yet if any baby could be placed in a perfect one and surrounded only by sinless beings it would soon be evident that he was corrupt. We are depraved not by a process of development, but by genesis. It is not “on account of nature,” but “by nature,” because of our nativity: it is innate, bred in us. As Goodwin solemnly pointed out, “They are children of wrath in the very womb, before they commit any actual sin.” The depraved nature itself is a penal evil, and that is because of our federal union with Adam, as partaking of his transgression. We are the children of wrath because our federal head fell under the wrath of God: “there would be no truth in the assertion of Paul that all are by nature the children of wrath if they had not been already under the curse before their birth” (Calvin).

But a greater than Calvin has informed us: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:11-13). This goes back still farther: Esau was an object of God’s hatred before he was born. Obviously, a righteous God could not abominate one who is pure and innocent. But how could Esau be guilty prior to doing any good or evil? Because he shared Adam’s criminality, and for precisely the same reason all of us are by nature the children of wrath—obnoxious to Divine punishment—not only by virtue of our own personal transgressions, but first because of our constitution—it is coeval with our very being. We are members of a cursed head, branches of a condemned tree, streams of a polluted fountain—in a word, the guilt of Adam’s sin lies hard upon us. No other explanation is possible; since our guilt and liability unto punishment be not, in the first place, due to our personal sins, they must be because of Adam’s being imputed to us.

It is for the same reason that infants die naturally, for sin is not merely the occasion of physical dissolution, but the cause of it. Death is the wages of sin, the sentence of the broken law, the penal infliction of a righteous God. Had Adam never sinned, neither he nor any of his descendants would have become subject to death. Death is altogether unnatural and abnormal to man, as the longevity of the patriarchs evidenced. Had not the guilt of Adam’s offense been charged to his posterity, none would die in infancy. Yet it does not necessarily follow that any who expire in early childhood are eternally lost. That they are born into this world spiritually dead, alienated from the life of God, is clear; but whether they die eternally, or are saved by sovereign grace, is probably one of those secret things which belong unto the Lord. If they be saved, it must be because they are among the number elected by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit—without which none can enter Heaven; but concerning these things, Scripture appears to us to be silent. The Judge of all the earth will do right, and there we may submissively yet trustfully leave it. Parenthood is an unspeakably solemn matter!

In the opening verses of Ephesians 2, the Holy Spirit has described our fallen state. First, as being dead in trespasses and sins (v. 1): dead judicially, under sentence of the Law; dead experientially, without a spark of spiritual life. Second, the outward course of such is depicted (vv. 2, 3): as completely dominated by “the flesh,” or evil principle, inspired unto an ungodly walk by Satan, so that our every action is sinful. Third, the resultant punishment (v. 3): obnoxious to the Divine Judge, born in such a condition, and remaining so while in a state of nature. Until the sinner believes, “the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). Though the sentence be not yet executed, it is suspended over him. The word “abideth” here denotes perpetuity: as Augustine said, “It hath been upon him from his birth, and remains to this day upon him.” “The children of wrath, even as others”: this is the case of all of Adam’s descendants, and it is equally so. It is a common heritage: by nature no man is either better or worse than his fellows. The very fact that this awful visitation is universal can only be accounted for by our relation to the first man, as our covenant head and legal representative.

It would hardly be fair to conclude this chapter without taking some notice of those who attempt to dismiss all which has been pointed out above by dogmatically insisting that “Christ made atonement for original sin,” so that the guilt of our first father’s transgression rests not on his sons. But such an arbitrary assertion is manifestly contrary to those patent facts which confront us on every side. The judgment which God pronounced upon Adam and Eve is being as surely visited upon their children today as ever it was before the Son of God died upon the Cross. The curse upon the ground, the peculiar sufferings of females and all the pain of childbirth, the necessity to toil for our daily bread, the universal reign of death, including the demise of so many infants, are all just as evident and prevalent in the New Testament era as ever they were in the Old. But obviously such things could not be were the Arminian view sound, for if the guilt of original sin has been removed, the effects thereof could no longer continue. Such an affirmation is baseless, unconfirmed by a single clear statement in Scripture: though some do make a far-fetched attempt to substantiate it by appealing to John 1:29.

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We wonder how many of our readers can perceive anything in those words which strikes them as relevant to the point. Men must surely be hard put to it when they have to press such a verse into service in order to bolster up their theory. Our Lord’s forerunner was here presenting the Messiah unto the people in that sacrificial character which both type and prophecy had prepared them to look for Him, and not raising an abstruse question in theology, which is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture. Had those words occurred in one of Paul’s profound doctrinal discussions, we should be ready to look for a deeper meaning in them, though we would require something very specific in the context obliging us to define “the sin of the world” as the sin of Adam! John was the herald of a new dispensation: one which would be radically different in its scope from the previous one, and one which should be inaugurated by breaking down the “middle wall of partition.”

For two thousand years the grace of God had been restricted almost entirely unto a single nation; but now it was on the point of flowing out unto all. The Baptist was there announcing Christ as the Heaven-appointed sacrifice which was to expiate the sin not of believing Jews only, but of Gentiles also. Though “the world” be a general expression, it is not to be regarded as comprehending a universality of individuals, as synonymous with mankind. It is an indefinite expression, as “The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isa. 40:5) and “all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour” (Isa. 49:26). “The sin of the whole world” signifies all the sins of all God’s people as a collective whole, as one great and heavy burden—just as in Isaiah 53:6, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” It was the entire penalty and punishment of sin which Christ took on Himself, and bore away from before the Divine Judge. As Hebrews 9:26, tells us, “But now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” and since that sacrifice was a vicarious one, it necessarily removed the guilt of all those in whose place it was made.

Not only is the theory we are here opposing without any scriptural evidence to support it, but it is refuted by very considerable evidence to the contrary. If attention be paid to the relations which Christ sustained to those in whose stead He obeyed and suffered, it at once appears that His work was no mere indefinite and general one, but with a particular and restricted design. He transacted as a Shepherd on behalf of His sheep (John 10:11, and contrast 10:26)—if He died also for the goats and the wolves, then there was no point in saying He laid down His life for the sheep. It was in the relation of a Husband He served (Eph. 5:25-27): there is singleness of affection, the exclusiveness of conjugal love! He sustained to His beneficiaries the relation of Head, there being a federal and legal unity between them (Heb. 2:11). The redemptive work of Christ was like His coat, “without seam,” one complete and indivisible whole, so that what He did for one He did for all—and not merely took away the guilt of original sin.

If it were true that Christ atoned for Adam’s offense, then it would necessarily follow that the government under which the human race is now placed is one which recognizes not the original curse. But such is far from being the case. From the Fall until now, all are born dead in sin, the objects of God’s displeasure. That is very evident from the teaching of Romans 3, where, in unequivocal language, the whole world is pronounced to be under condemnation, brought in “guilty before God” (vv. 10-19)—not merely a possible condemnation, but an actual one; not one which may be incurred, but which has been incurred already, and under which all are now living; and the only way of deliverance therefrom is by faith in Christ. Precisely the same representation is given in the New Testament of the condition of all when first visited by the Gospel. They are addressed as those who are sinners, lost, living beneath the curse of a broken law, for the dark background of the Gospel is that “the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18), and until the terms of that Gospel are met, men have no hope (Eph. 2:12).

The very scene into which we are born confronts us with innumerable evidences that the earth is under the curse of its Maker. “The frowning aspect of Providence which so often darkens our world and appalls our minds, receives the only adequate solution in the fact that the Fall has fearfully changed the relations of God and the creature. We are manifestly treated as criminals under guard. We are dealt with as guilty, faithless, suspected beings that cannot be trusted for a moment. Our earth has been turned into a prison, and sentinels are posted around us to awe, rebuke, and check us. Still, there are traces of our ancient grandeur; there is so much consideration shown to us as to justify the impression that those prisoners were once kings, and that this dungeon was once a palace. To one unacquainted with the history of our race, the dealings of Providence in regard to us must appear inexplicably mysterious. But the whole subject is covered with light when the doctrine of the Fall is understood. The gravest theological errors with respect alike to the character of God and the character of man have arisen from the monstrous hypothesis that our present is our primitive condition, that we are now what God originally made us” (J. Thornwell).

11. Its Transmission

In introducing this aspect of our subject we cannot do better than set before the reader what A. A. Hodge pointed out are “the self-evident moral principles which must ever be certainly presupposed in every inquiry into the dealings of God with His responsible creatures. (1) God cannot be the Author of sin. (2) We must not believe that He could consistently with His own perfections create a creature de novo (anew, originally) with a sinful nature. (3) The perfection of righteousness, not bare sovereignty, is the grand distinction of all God’s dealings. (4) It is a heathen notion that the ‘order of nature’ or ‘the nature of things’ or ‘natural law’ is a real agent independent of God, limiting His freedom or acting with Him as an independent concause in producing effects. (5) We cannot believe that God would inflict either moral or physical evil upon any creature whose natural rights had not been previously forfeited.

“State the two distinct questions thence arising, which, though frequently confused, it is essential to keep separate. First, How does an innate sinful nature originate in each human being at the commencement of his existence, so that the Maker of the man is not the cause of his sin? If this corruption of nature originated in Adam, how is it transmitted to us? Second, Why, on what ground of justice, does God inflict this terrible evil, the root ground of all other evils, at the very commencement of personal existence? What fair probation have infants born in sin enjoyed? When, and why, were their rights as new created beings forfeited? It is self-evident that these questions are distinct and should be treated as such. The first may possibly be answered on physical grounds. The second question, however, concerns the moral government of God and inquires concerning the justice of His dispensations. In the history of theology, of all ages and in all schools, very much confusion has resulted from the failure to emphasize and preserve prominent this distinction” (0utlines of Theology).

The “why” has been discussed by us at some length in preceding chapters: the guilt of Adam’s offence was imputed to all his posterity because he served as their covenant head and federal representative. Since they were legally one with him, the punishment passed upon him falls on them too, involving them in all the dire consequences of his crime. One of the most terrible of those consequences is the receiving of a sinful nature, which brings us to consider the “how” of the great human tragedy. We do not propose to make any attempt to enter into a philosophical or metaphysical inquiry as to how God can be the Creator and Maker of our beings (Job 31:15), the “Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9), and yet not be the Author of the sin now inherent in our natures. Rather shall we confine ourselves to an examination of the bare facts which Scripture presents thereon. Nowhere in the Word is the pollution of fallen man ascribed unto the Holy One, rather is it uniformly attributed unto human propagation, that by natural generation a corrupt offspring is begotten and conceived by corrupt parents.

It was a Divinely instituted law of the original creation that like should produce like, as plainly appears in that word “whose seed is in itself” (Gen. 1:11, 12), and that oft-repeated expression “after his kind” (vv. 21, 24, 25), and that law has never been revoked—as the biology of every department of nature demonstrates. Hence it follows that since the whole human race sinned in its covenant head, and since every member of it receives its nature from him, when the fountain itself became polluted all the streams issuing therefrom were polluted too. A corrupt tree can bring forth nothing but corrupt fruit: since the root became unholy, its branches must also be unholy. All of Adam’s offspring do but perpetuate what began in him: from the first moment of their existence they become participants of his impurity. Though our immediate parents be the occasion of conveying a depraved nature unto their children, yet it is because that nature is derived originally from the first man. In other words, the present relation of sire and son is not that of cause and effect, but that of an instrument or channel, in transmitting the sinfulness of Adam and Eve.

In Genesis 5:3, we are told, “Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” That occurred after his fearful defection, and the statement is in designed and direct contrast with the declaration of verse 1: “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him.” Adam communicated not to his descendants the pure nature which he had originally, by creation—but the polluted one which he acquired by the Fall. It is very striking to note the precise place where this statement is made in the sacred narrative: not at the beginning of Genesis 4 in connection with the begetting of Cain and Abel, but here as introducing a lengthy obituary list—showing that dying Adam could only beget mortals. The image of God included both holiness and immortality, but since Adam had lost them and become sinful and mortal, he could propagate none but those in his own fallen likeness, which had in it corruption and death (1 Cor. 15:49, 50, and cf. v. 22). The copy answered to the original. He could not beget in any other way than in his own image, for a clean thing will not issue from an unclean. A depraved parent could produce nothing but a depraved child.

Born in Adam’s fallen likeness, not only in substance but in qualities also, all of his posterity are but a continuous repetition of himself. Remarkably is this intimated in the opening verse of that Psalm which has for its theme the awful depravity of the human race. As J. Owen pointed out, “there is a peculiar distinguishing mark put upon this Psalm, in that it is found twice in the Book of Psalms. The fourteenth and fifty-third Psalms are the same, with the alteration of one or two expressions at most. And there is another mark put upon its deep importance in that the Apostle transcribed a great part of it in Romans 3. That Psalm opens with the statement, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The careful reader will have noticed that the words “there is” have been supplied by the translators, and we consider unwarrantably so in this instance. The fool says not “in his head” there is no God, but rather “in his heart—no God” for me: I decline allegiance to Him. It is not intellectual unbelief denying the existence of Deity, but the enmity of a rebel who refuses to practically own or be in subjection to God.

“The fool hath said in his heart—no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” (Psa. 14:1). Most significant and noticeable is that change of number in the pronouns, though for some strange reason it appears to have escaped the notice of the commentators—at any rate none whom we have consulted makes any reference thereto. As stated above, the verses which follow give a full description of the deplorable condition of all mankind, and that is prefaced with a statement about “the fool.” Nor is there the slightest difficulty in identifying him. Were we to ask our readers carefully to ponder and answer the question, Who is the fool of all fools? we believe they would unanimously reply, Adam, for none has ever acted so madly and wickedly as he. This is confirmed by the fact that the Hebrew word for fool in Psalm 14:1, and 53:1 is nowhere else prefaced by the definite article—some render it “The apostate.” Adam was the arch-fool: his heart had become not only devoid of wisdom, but filled with hatred against it. Such was now the father of our race, and what could his children be like? Our verse answers, “they are corrupt,” and prove themselves to be so by doing abominable works.

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:5). Such is the sad confession which every one of us makes. Born in the likeness of Adam as a fallen creature, all of his descendants are but replicas of himself, and since moral corruption be transmitted by him to them by a fixed constitution or law of heredity, then that corruption dates from the very beginning of their existence. Because by being Adam’s children they are depraved, it necessarily follows that they must be so as soon as they are his children. David was the son of a lawful and honourable marriage, yet from his parents he received Adam’s vitiated nature with all its evil dispositions. Note well that he was careful to intimate that it was not by Divine infusion, but by natural generation and human propagation. He mentioned it not to excuse his fearful fall, but to aggravate the same. “Had I duly considered this before, I should not have made so bold with the temptation, nor have ventured among the sparks with such tinder in my heart” (Matthew Henry). A realization that our being is horribly degenerated from its pristine purity and rectitude should make us thoroughly distrustful of self and cause us to walk most warily.

Because our very nature is contaminated, we enter the world a mass of potential wickedness, which is one reason why Job declared, “I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister” (17:14). Hervey tells us the Hebrew word there for “worm” signifies a grub, which is bred by and feeds upon putrefaction. I commenced my existence with all sorts of impurity in my nature, with every cursed propensity to evil, with everything earthly, sensual, devilish in my mind. That depraved nature is the source of all our other miseries, the root from which proceed all evil actions. This solemn and sad fact is demonstrated by antithesis. Why was it necessary for Christ to be incarnated supernaturally, by the miracle of the Virgin birth? So that what was born of her should be “that holy thing” (Luke 1:35), which had not been the case if He had been begotten by natural generation from a man. Though this doctrine of original sin, of ante-natal defilement be purely a matter of Divine revelation, yet it explains what nothing else does, namely that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21)—in every instance, Christ alone excepted.

“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent” (Psa. 58:3, 4). There are three indictments here made against fallen human nature. First, that from the beginning of his existence man is alienated from God, divorced from His favour, cut off from fellowship with Him. Second, that he evidences his deplorable state as soon as he enters this world, manifesting his sinfulness in the cradle. But, third, why is it that everyone turns to his own way, and the very first steps he takes are in that broad road which leads to destruction? Because his very being is poisoned and poisonous, malicious: at ill will with God and goodness, and his fellows—“hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Our poison “is like the poison of a serpent.” The serpent does not acquire his venom, but is generated a poisonous creature. Poison, deadly poison, is its very nature from the outset, and when it bites it only acts out that with which it was born. Though its poison be hid, it is there lurking, ready for use as soon as the serpent be provoked.

“Antecedent to all trespasses and acts of sin, before any apprehension of good or evil has dawned upon our hearts, before any notion respecting God has been formed in our souls, before we have uttered a word or conceived a thought, sin—essential sin—is found to dwell within us. Bound up with our being, it enters into every sensation, lives in every thought, sways every faculty. If the senses, by means of which we communicate with the external world, had never acted—if our eye had never seen, and our ear had never heard; if our throat had never proved itself to be an open sepulchre, breathing forth corruption; if our tongue had never shown itself to be set on fire of Hell—still sin would have been the secret mistress of that world of thought and feeling which is found within us, and every hidden impulse there would have been enmity against God” (B. W. Newton). When therefore Scripture speaks of men as sinners, it refers not to their practice alone, but chiefly to their evil nature—a nature which is entailed by Adam and transmitted from parent to child in successive generations.

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it from him” (Prov. 22:15). This foolishness is not merely intellectual ignorance, but a positive principle of evil, for in the book of Proverbs the “fool” is not the idiot, but the sinner. Deep-rooted is this corruption. It lies not on the surface, like some of the child’s habits, which may easily be corrected. That moral madness, as Matthew Henry pointed out, “is not only found there, but bound there; it is annexed to the heart.” It is rooted and riveted in him from the first breath he draws. This is the birthright of all Adam’s progeny. “A little innocent” is but the miscalled name of fondness and fancy. Said John Bunyan “I do confess it is my opinion that children come polluted with sin into the world, and that oft-times the sins of youth, especially while they are very young, are rather by virtue of indwelling sin than by examples that are set before them by others; not but they may learn to sin by example too, but example is not the root, but rather the temptation to sin.” The rod of correction (not of caprice or passion) is the means prescribed by God, and under His blessing it will prevent many an outburst of the flesh.

‘The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame’ (Prov. 29:15). Discipline is the order of God’s government. Parents are His dispensers of it to their children. The child must be broken in, to “bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27). Let reproof be tried first; and if it succeed, let the rod be spared (Prov. 17:10). If not, let it do its work” (C. Bridges). If parents fail to do their duty, sad will be the consequences—the “mother” only is mentioned as being brought to shame, because she is usually the most indulgent, and because she (normally) feels most keenly the affliction brought upon herself by her own neglect. But fathers, too, are disgraced. Eli gave reproof, but spared the rod (1 Sam. 2:22-25; 3:13), and paid dearly for his folly. What dishonor was brought upon David’s name and what poignant grief must have filled him because his perverted fondness brought his sons to their ruin—one palliated in the most aggravated sin (2 Sam. 14:28-33; 15:6; 18:33), another having been not even corrected by a word (1 Kings 1:5-9). As E. Hopkins said, “Take this for certain, that as many deserved stripes as you spare from your children, you do but lay up for your own backs.”

A child does not have to be taught to sin: remove all inhibitions and prohibitions and he will bring his parents to the grave in sorrow. If the child be humoured and no real efforts are made to counteract its evil propensities, it will assuredly grow more self-willed and intractable. How very far are the Scriptures from flattering us, my reader! A “transgressor from the womb” (Isa. 48:8) is one of the hereditary titles of everyone entering this world. We are transgressors by internal disposition before we are so in external acts. Because every parent is the channel of moral contagion to his offspring, they are by nature, “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). Original sin is transmitted as leprosy is conveyed to the children of lepers (2 Kings 5:27). That is one reason why the corruption of nature is designated our “old man”: it is coeval with our beings. Our very “heart,” the center of our moral being, from which are “the issues (or “outgoings”) of life,” is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked from the first moment of its existence.

It is argued against what has been advanced above that if corruption be derived unto all men from their first parents, then all will be equally corrupt: and this is quite contrary to known fact, for we see some who are subject to no inordinate affections, respectable and law-abiding citizens. A number of answers may be given in reply to that objection, though all of them may be reduced into these two. First, though everything else being equal, such a conclusion is logical, yet even then it will not necessarily follow that all men will manifest the corruption in the same manner, nor even to the same extent. When we say “everything else being equal,” we include such things as the watchful care of pious parents, the discipline of a good education, the demands and effects of a refined environment, the positions and circumstances in which one and another may be placed; for while none of these things, nor all of them combined, can produce any change in a person’s nature, they are factors which exert an influence upon his outward conduct. Nevertheless, though one man may have less dissolute manners than another, yet his imaginations are not pure, and though his bodily lusts be under better control, he may yield more to the lusts of the mind. There are diversities in men’s lives, but original sin has the same defiling effects upon all hearts.

Second, though all men be made in the likeness of fallen Adam, God restrains—in different ways and in varying degrees, the outbreakings of the corruption which has been transmitted to them. Nowhere is the sovereignty of God more evident than in His disposing of the lot of one, and another: denying to some the opportunity to satisfy their evil desires, hedging up their way by poverty, ill-health, or putting them in isolated places; whereas others are given up to their hearts’ lusts and God so orders His providences that they fatten themselves as beasts for the slaughter. Some men’s callings draw out their sins more than do those of their fellows, so that they are subject to frequent and fierce temptations. Various dispositions are excited to action by the conditions in which they are placed: as Jacob was induced to impose upon his father by an unscrupulous mother, or as a sight of the spoils of Jericho stirred up the cupidity of Achan. It was for this reason that holy Agar was moved to pray, “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:8, 9).

12. Its Nature—Part 1

In our last chapter we showed how Scripture casts light upon the great moral problem of how an inherently corrupt nature originates in each child from the beginning of its existence without its Creator being the Author of sin. David declared, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:5). Carefully did he describe his depravity as innate and not created, as derived from his mother and not his Maker, that defilement is transmitted directly from Adam through the channel of human propagation. The same fact was expressed by our Lord when He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). In the Old Testament the word “flesh” is used as a general term for human nature or mankind: “let all flesh bless His holy name” (Psa. 145:21)—that is, all men; “all flesh is grass” (Isa. 40:6)—the life of every member of our race is frail and fickle. The term occurs in the New Testament in the same sense: “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved” (Matt. 24:22); “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20)—i.e., by his own obedience no man can merit acceptance with God.

But since mankind be fallen and human nature is depraved, the term “flesh” becomes the expression of that fact, and every time it is used in Scripture in a moral sense has reference to the corruption of our entire beings, without any distinction between our visible and invisible parts—body and mind. This is evident from those passages where “the flesh” is contrasted with “the spirit” or the new nature: Romans 8:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 2:11; Galatians 5:17. When the Apostle declared, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18), he had reference to far more than his body with its appetites, namely his entire natural man, with all its faculties, powers and propensities: the whole was polluted, and therefore nothing good could issue from him until Divine grace was imparted. Again, when we find included in that incomplete list of the horrible “works of the flesh” supplied by Galatians 5 such things as “hatred, emulations, wrath, and envyings,” it is quite plain that the word takes in far more than the corporeal parts of our persons; the more so when we find that these works are set over against “the fruit of the spirit,” each portion of which consists of the exercise of some inward quality or grace.

Thus it is clear that when Christ declared “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” He signified that that which is propagated by fallen man is depraved, that whatever comes into this world by ordinary generation is carnal and corrupt, causing the heart itself to be deceitful above all thing and desperately wicked. It is evident also from the immediate context (vv. 3-5), for what He affirmed in verse 6 was in order to demonstrate the absolute need of regeneration. Our Lord was there opposing the first birth to the new birth, and showing how imperative is the latter by the fact that we are radically tainted from the outset. All by nature are essentially evil, nothing but “flesh,” everything in us contrary to holiness. Our very nature is vitiated, and by no process of education or culture can it be refined and made fit for the kingdom of God. The faculties which men receive at birth have a carnal bias, an earthly trend, a disrelish of the heavenly and Divine, and are inclined only to selfish aims and groveling pursuits. In the most polished or religious society, equally with the vulgar and profane, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” and can never be anything better. Prune and trim a corrupt tree as much as you will, it can never be made to yield good fruit. Every man must be born again before he can be acceptable to a holy God.

Coming more directly to our present subject, we shall now attempt to supply an answer to the still more difficult question, In what does the vitiation of man by the Fall consist, precisely what is the nature of human depravity? That is far more than a question of academic interest which concerns none but teachers of theology: it is one of deep doctrinal and practical importance, and which it behooves all of us, especially preachers, to be quite clear upon, for a mistake at this point is very liable to lead to the most erroneous conclusions and serious consequences. Such has indeed proved to be the case, for not a few who were sound and Orthodox in many other respects have answered this question in such a way as inevitably led them seriously to weaken, if not altogether to repudiate, the full responsibility of fallen man, and caused them to become hyper-Calvinists and Antinomians. We shall therefore endeavour most carefully to define and describe the present condition of the natural man, beginning with the negative side, under which will be a number of things in which human depravity does not consist.

First, the Fall does not result in the extinguishment of that spirit which was a part of man’s complex being when created by God: it did not either in the case of our first parents or in any of their descendants. It has, however, been argued from the Divine threat made to Adam, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” that such was the case, that since Adam did not immediately die physically, he must have done so spiritually. That is certainly a fact, yet it requires to be interpreted by Scripture. It is quite wrong to suppose that because Adam’s body died not, his spirit did. It was not something in Adam which died, but Adam himself—in his relation to God. The same is true of his offspring: they are indeed “dead in trespasses and sins” toward God, from the beginning of their existence, but nothing within them is positively dead in the ordinary meaning of that word. In the scriptural sense of the term, “death” never signifies annihilation, but separation. At physical death the soul is not extinguished but separated from the body: and the spiritual death of Adam was not the extinction of any part of his being but the severance of his fellowship with a holy God.

The same is true of all his children. The exact force of the solemn statement that they are “dead in trespasses and sins” is Divinely defined for us as “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18). When Christ represented the Father as saying, “this My son was dead, and is alive again” (Luke 15:21), He most certainly did not mean that he had ceased to exist, but that while the prodigal remained “in the far country” he was cut off from Him, and that he had now returned to Him. The lake of fire into which the wicked shall be cast is designated “the second death” (Rev. 20:14), not in order to signify that they shall then cease to be, but because they are “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:9). That fallen man is possessed of a spirit is clear from “the Lord, which . . . formeth the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1), from “what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him” (1 Cor. 2:11), and from “the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). Man was created a tripartite being, consisting of spirit and soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23), and no part thereof ceased to exist when he fell.

Second, the Fall did not issue in the loss of any man’s faculties. It did not divest man of reason, conscience, or moral taste—for that would have been to convert him into another species of being. As reason remained, he still had the power of distinguishing between truth and falsehood; conscience still enabled him to distinguish between what was right add wrong, between what was a duty and a crime; and moral taste capacitated him to perceive the contrasts in the sphere of the excellent and beautiful. It is most important that we should be quite clear at this point: the Fall has not touched the substance of the soul—that remains entire with all its original endowments of intellect, conscience and will. These are the characteristic elements of humanity, and to deprive him of them would be to unman man. They exist in the criminal as well as in the saint. They all have an essential unity in the unity of the human person: that is to say, they are co-ordinate faculties, though each has a sphere that is peculiar to itself. Collectively, they constitute the rational, moral, accountable being. It is not the mere possession of them which renders men evil or good, but the manner and motive of their exercise which makes their actions sinful or holy.

No, the Fall deprived man of no mental or moral faculty, but it took from him the power to use them aright. They were all brought under the malignant influence of sin, so that he was no longer capable of doing anything pleasing to God. Depravity is all-pervading, extending to the whole man. It was not, as different theorists have supposed, confined to one department of his being—to the will as contradistinguished from the understanding, or to the understanding as contradistinguished from the will. It was not restricted to the lower appetites, as contrasted with our higher principles of action—nor did it obtain in the heart alone, considered as the seat of the affections. On the contrary, it was a disease from which every organ has suffered. As found in the understanding, it consists of spiritual ignorance, blindness, darkness, folly. As found in the will, it is rebellion, perverseness, a spirit of disobedience. As found in the affections, it is hardness of heart, a total insensibility to and disrelish of spiritual and Divine things. The entrance of sin into the human constitution has nor only affected all the faculties, so as to produce a complete disqualification for any spiritual exercise in any form, but it has crippled and enervated them in their exercise within the sphere of truth and holiness. They were vitiated in respect to everything wearing the image of God: of goodness and excellence.

Third, the Fall has not resulted in the loss of man’s freedom of will, or his power of volition as a moral faculty. Admittedly this is a much harder point to treat of than either of the above: not because Scripture is ambiguous in its teaching, or even because it contains any seeming contradictions thereon, but because of the philosophical and metaphysical difficulties it raises in the minds of those who give careful thought thereto. Certain it is that the Fall did not reduce man to the condition of a stock or stone, or even into an irrational animal: he retained that rational power of volition which was a part of his original constitution, so that he was still able to choose spontaneously. Equally certain is it that man is not free to do as he pleases in any absolute sense, for then he would be a god, omnipotent. In his unfallen state Adam was made subservient to and dependent upon the Lord. So it is with his children: their wills are required to be fully subordinated to that of their Maker and Governor. Moreover, their freedom is strictly circumscribed by the supreme rule of Divine Providence, as it opens doors for or shuts doors against them.

As pointed out above, though each distinct faculty of the soul has a sphere that is peculiar to itself, yet are they co-ordinate, and therefore the will is not to be thought of as an independent, self-determining entity, standing apart from the other faculties and superior to them, capable of reversing the judgments of the mind or acting contrary to the desires of the heart—rather is the will influenced and determined by them. As G. S. Bishop most helpfully pointed out, “the true philosophy of moral action and its process is that of Genesis 3:6—‘And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (sense-perception, intelligence), and a tree to be desired (affections), she took and ate thereof (the will).’ ” Thus the freedom of the will is also limited by the bounds of human capabilities: it cannot, for example, go beyond the extent of knowledge possessed by the mind—it is impossible for me to cognize, love and choose any object I am totally unacquainted with. Thus it is the understanding, rather than the will, which is the dominant faculty and factor: hence, when Scripture delineates the condition of fallen men it attributes their alienation from God to “the ignorance that is in them” (Eph. 4:18), and makes regeneration to begin with “renewed in knowledge” (Col. 3:10).

The limitations of human freedom pointed out above pertain alike to man unfallen or fallen, but the entrance of sin into the human constitution has imposed much greater limitations. While it be true that man is as truly free now as Adam before his apostasy, yet he is not so morally free as he was. Fallen man is free in the sense that he is at liberty to act according to his own choice, without compulsion from without; yet, since his nature has been defiled and corrupted, he is no longer free unto that which is good and holy. Great care needs to be taken at this point, lest our definition of the freedom of fallen man clashes with such scriptures as Psalm 60:3, John 6:44, Romans 9:16, for he only wills now according to the desires and dictates of his evil heart. It has been well said that, “The will of the sinner is like to a manacled and fettered prisoner within a cell: his movements are hampered by his chains and circumscribed by the walls that confine him. He is indeed free to walk, but in a manner so constrained and within an area so bounded that his freedom is bondage”—bondage to sin.

Whether we understand by “the will,” simply the faculty of volition by which the soul chooses or refuses, or whether we regard the “will” as the faculty of volition together with all else within us which affects the choice—reason, imagination, longing—yet fallen man is quite free in exercising volition according to his prevailing disposition and desire at the moment. Internal freedom is here used in contrast with external restraint or compulsion, and where such be absent, then the individual is at liberty to decide according to his pleasure. Where the Arminian errs so seriously on this point is to confound power with “will,” insisting that the sinner is equally able to choose good as evil, for that is a repudiation of his total depravity or complete vassalage to evil. By the Fall man came under bondage to sin, and became the captive of the Devil: yet, even so, he first yields voluntarily to the enticements of his own lusts before he commits any act of sin, nor can Satan lead him into all wrongdoing without his own consent.

The natural man does as he pleases, but he pleases himself only in one direction—selfward and downward, never Godward and upward. As Romans 6:20 says of the saints while in their unregenerate state, “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” In all his sinning man acts as a free agent, for he is forced neither by God nor Satan. When he breaks the law he does so by his own option, and not by coercion from another: in so doing he is freely acting out his own fallen nature. Thus it is a mistake to say that a bias of the mind or propensity of heart is destructive of his volition. Both must be self-moved in order for there to be responsibility and guilt, and both are self-moved. The murderer is not compelled to hate his victim. Though he cannot prevent his inward hatred by any mere exercise of will, yet he can refrain from the outward act of murder by his own volition, and therefore is he blameworthy when he fails to do so. These are indisputable facts of our own consciousness!

Fourth, the Fall has not resulted in any reduction, still less the destruction, of man’s responsibility. If all of the above be carefully pondered this should be quite evident. Human responsibility is the necessary corollary of Divine sovereignty. Since God be the Creator, since He is supreme Ruler over all, and since man be but a creature and a subject, there is no escape from his accountability unto his Maker and rightful Lord. If we be asked to define more distinctly—responsible for what?—we reply that man is obligated to answer unto the relationship which exists between him and his Creator: he occupies the place of creaturehood, subordination, utter dependency for every breath he draws, and therefore must he acknowledge God’s dominion, submit to His authority, and love Him with all his strength and heart. The discharge of human responsibility is simply the recognition of God’s rights and acting accordingly, a rendering to Him of His due. It is the practical acknowledgment of His ownership and government. We are justly required to be in constant subjection to His will, to employ in His service the faculties He has given us, to use the means He has appointed, to improve the opportunities and advantages He has vouchsafed us. Our whole duty is to glorify God.

From the above definition it should be crystal clear that the Fall did not, and could not to the slightest degree, cancel or impair human responsibility. The Fall did not change the fundamental relationship subsisting between the Creator and the creature. God is the Owner of sinful man as truly and as fully as He was of sinless man. God is still our sovereign, all we His subjects. Furthermore, as pointed out above, fallen man is still in possession of all those faculties which qualify for discharging his responsibility. Admittedly, the babe in arms and the poor idiot are not morally accountable for their actions, but, by parity of reason, those who have reached the age when they are capable of distinguishing between right and wrong are morally accountable for their deeds. Fallen man, though his understanding be spiritually darkened, is still possessed of rationality. Fallen man, though under the dominion of sin, has his power of volition, and is under binding obligation to make, every time, a right and good choice, to resist temptations and refrain from evil doing, as very human court of justice worthy of the name rightly insists.

Whatever difficulties may be theoretically involved by the fact that man’s nature is now totally depraved and that he is in bondage to sin, yet God has not lost His right to command because man has lost his power to obey. While the Fall has cast us out of God’s favour, it has not released us from His authority. It was not God who took from man his spiritual strength and deprived him of his ability to do that which is well pleasing in His sight. Man was originally endowed with power to meet the requirements of his Maker, and it was by his own madness and wickedness that he threw away his power. But as a human monarch does not forfeit his rights to allegiance from his subjects when they turn rebels, but rather maintains his prerogative by demanding that they cease their insurrection and return to their fealty: so has the King of kings an infinite right to demand that lawless rebels shall become loyal subjects. If God could justly require of us no more than we are able to render Him, it would follow that the more we enslave ourselves by evil habits, the less our liability—a palpable absurdity!

Not only is man’s responsibility insisted upon throughout the Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, but it is also asserted by man’s own conscience! Whatever quibbles the individual raises from depravity, and however he argues from his moral impotency that his deeds are not criminal, he repudiates such reasoning where his fellow sinners are concerned. When others wrong him, he neither denies their accountability, nor offers excuse for them. If he be cruelly slandered, robbed of his possessions or maltreated in his body, instead of saying of the culprit, “Poor fellow, he could not help himself: Adam is to blame,” he promptly applies to the police and seeks redress in the law courts. Moreover, when the sinner is quickened and awakened by the Holy Spirit, so far from complaining against God’s righteous demands, he freely owns himself as deserving to be eternally damned for his vile rebellion, acknowledges that he was fully responsible for the same, that he is “without excuse,” feels the burden of his guilt, and lies in the dust before God in sincere repentance.

13. Its Nature—Part 2

Under this aspect of our subject we are endeavouring to supply an answer to the questions: What is connoted by the term “total depravity”? Wherein lies the essential difference or differences between man as unfallen and fallen? Precisely what is the nature of that awful malady which now afflicts us? In the last chapter we dwelt upon what it does not consist of, showing that man has not ceased to be a complete and tripartite being, that he is in possession of that spirit which is a necessary part of his constitution; that the Fall has not resulted in the loss of any faculties of his soul; that he has not been deprived of the freedom of his will or power of volition; and that there has been no lessening of his responsibility as an accountable creature unto God. Turning now to what has resulted from the Fall, it will be found that there is here both a privative and a positive side, that there were certain good things of which we were deprived, and that there were other evil things which we derived. Only as both of these are taken into consideration can we obtain a full answer to our question.

First, by the Fall man lost the moral image of God. As briefly pointed out in the second chapter of this book, the “image of God” in which he was originally created refers to his moral nature. It was that which constituted him a spiritual being, and, as Calvin expressed it, “It includes all the excellencies in which the nature of man surpasses all the other species of animals.” More particularly what that “image” consisted of is intimated in Ephesians 4:24, and Colossians 3:10, where a detailed summary of the same is supplied, for our being “renewed” therein (at regeneration) clearly implies it to be the same Divine image in which man was made at the beginning. In those two passages it is described as consisting of “righteousness and true holiness” and the “knowledge of God.” Let us now enlarge a little upon each of those component parts.

By “righteousness” we are to understand, as everywhere in Scripture, conformity to the Divine Law. Before the Fall there was an entire harmony between the whole moral nature of man and all the requirements of that Law which is “holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). This was very much more than a merely negative “innocence” or freedom from everything sinful, or even bias or tendency toward it, which is all that Socinians allow; namely something nobler, higher and more spiritual. There was perfect agreement and concord between the constitution of our first parents and the rule of conduct set before them, not only in their external actions, but also in the very springs of those actions, in the innermost parts of their beings—in their desires and motives, in all the tendencies and inclinations of their hearts and minds. As Ecclesiastes 7:29 declares, God “made man upright,” which refers not to carriage of his body, except so far as that shadowed forth his moral excellence. That righteousness was lost at the Fall, but is, in principle, restored at regeneration, when God writes His laws in our hearts and puts them in our minds—imparts to us a love for and relish of them, makes us willingly subject to their authority.

By “holiness” we are to understand chastity and undefilement of being. As righteousness was that which made Adam en rapport with the Divine Law, so holiness was that which rendered him meet for fellowship with his Maker. There was in him that spotless purity of nature which fitted him for communion with the Holy One, for “holiness” is not only a relationship, but moral quality too—not only a separation from all that is evil, but the endowment and possession of that which is good. Jehovah is “glorious in holiness” (Exo. 15:11), and therefore those with whom He converses must be personally suited to Himself—none but the pure in heart shall see God (Matt. 5:8). It is inconceivable that God would, by an immediate act, have created any other kind of rational and responsible being than one that was pure and perfect, the more so since he was to be the archetype of mankind. As Thornwell so aptly expressed it, “Holiness was the inheritance of his nature—the birthright of his being. It was the state in which all his faculties received their form. “That holiness was lost when man fell, but by regeneration and sanctification it is restored to the elect who are made “partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:10)—a principle of holiness being communicated to them at the new birth, which develops as they grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.

By “knowledge” we are to understand the cognition of Grid Himself. As Adam’s holiness or purity of heart capacitated him to “see God” in the spiritual sense of the word, so also was he enabled thereto by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of him. As Goodwin pointed out, “Where holiness was, we may be sure the Spirit was too . . . the same Spirit (as in the regenerate) was in Adam’s heart to assist his graces and to cause them to flow and bring forth, and to move him to live according to those principles of life given to him” (Vol. 6, p. 54). It is clear from the nature of the case that since Adam was created in maturity of body he must have been created in maturity of mind, that there was then resident in him what we acquire only by slow experience. Adam was able to apprehend and appreciate God for what He is in Himself: he had a true and intuitive knowledge of the perfections of Deity, the heartfelt realization of their excellence. That knowledge of God was lost at the Fall, by Adam, and to his offspring, but it is restored to the elect at regeneration, when He shines “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

Second, by the Fall man lost the life of God. The soul was not only made by God but for God: fitted to know, enjoy, and commune with Him—and its life is in Him. But evil necessarily severs from the Holy One, and then instead of being alive in God, the soul is dead in sin. Not that the soul has ceased to be, for Scripture distinguishes sharply between life and existence, as in “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). It is a moral or spiritual death, not of being, but of well-being. “He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). To have the Son of God for my very own is to have everything that is really worth having: to be without Him, no matter what temporal things I may momentarily possess, is to be an utter pauper. “Life,” spiritual and eternal life, is a comprehensive expression to include all the blessedness which man is capable of enjoying here and hereafter. He that hath life is eternally saved, accepted in the Beloved, admitted into the Divine favour, made partaker of the Divine nature, is righteous and holy in the sight of God: he that is without “life” is destitute of all these things.

To be separated from God is necessarily to be deprived of everything which makes life worth living, for He is “the fountain of life” (Psa. 36:9), and therefore of light, of glory, of blessedness. No finite mind can conceive, still less can any human pen express, the fullness of those words “the fountain of life.” We can but compare other passages of Scripture which make known something of their meaning. As we do so, we learn that there is at least a threefold life which His people receive from God. First, His benign approbation: “in His favour is life” (Psa. 30:5). In Leviticus 1:4, it is tendered “accepted” and in Deuteronomy 30:16, “the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush.” But the verse which best enables us to understand its force is “0 Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord” (Deut 33:23)—those who are favourably regarded by Him need nothing more, can desire nothing better. To have the “good will” of the triune Jehovah is life indeed, the acme of blessedness: contrariwise, to be out of His favour is to be dead unto all that is worth while.

Second, joy and blessedness of soul. “0 God, Thou art my God: early will I seek Thee . . . to see Thy power and Thy glory . . . because Thy lovingkindness is better than life” (Psa. 63:1-3). The life which His people receive from God is that which capacitates them to delight themselves in Him. Thus it was here. David had been rapt in adoration by the Divine attributes. It was the longing of his soul to have further communion with God, and this he was resolved to seek diligently, to have enlarged views of the Divine perfections and experiential discoveries of His excellence, as an anticipation of the felicity of Heaven. That he prized more than anything

else. The natural man values his life above all else. Not so the spiritual: to him God’s “lovingkindness” is better than all the comforts and luxuries of temporal life, better than the longest and most prosperous natural life. The lovingkindness of God is itself the present spiritual life of the saint, as it is also both an earnest and a foretaste of the life everlasting. It refreshes their hearts, strengthens their souls and sends them on their way rejoicing.

Thousands of his fellows are weary of life, but no Christian is ever weary of God’s lovingkindness. The latter is infinitely better than the “life” of a king or a millionaire, for it has no sorrow added to it, no inconvenience in it, no evils attendant upon it. Physical death will put a period to the earthly existence of the most privileged, but it will not to God’s lovingkindness, for that is from everlasting to everlasting. It is esteemed by the believer beyond everything else, for it is the spring from which every blessing proceeds. It was in God’s lovingkindness that the Covenant of Grace originated. It was His lovingkindness which gave Christ unto His people and them unto Him. It is by His lovingkindness they are drawn to Him (Jer. 31:3), given a saving knowledge of Him, brought to know personally the love which He bears to them. Without God’s lovingkindness life is but death. Well then may each believer exclaim, “Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee”—I will revel in Thy perfections and exult in Thyself: I will seek to render somewhat of the homage which is Thy due.

Again, that life which His children receive from God consists not only in being the objects of His benign approbation, in the experiential enjoyment of His lovingkindness, but also in the reception of a principle of righteousness and holiness by which they are fitted to appreciate Him, and for want of which the unregenerate cannot enjoy Him, for they are “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). It is clear, both from the immediate context and from the remainder of the verse, that the “life of God” there has a particular reference to holiness, for the contrary thereto appears in “that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.” The contrast is further pointed in “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the light of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” The unconverted are wholly dominated by their depraved nature. Their minds are in a state of moral fatuity, engaged only with vain things: their understandings are devoid of spiritual intelligence, lacking any power to apprehend Truth or appreciate the beauties of virtue. Their souls are estranged from God, with an inveterate aversion from Him—their hearts are calloused, steeled against Him. Thus the corruption and depravity of the natural man are set over against the grace and holiness communicated at the new birth, here termed “the life of God.”

Third, by the Fall, man has lost his love for God. There are two cardinal affections that influence unto action: love and hatred. The one cannot be without the other, for that which is contrary to what is desired will be repellent—“Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psa. 97:10). Of the perfect Man the Father said, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Psa. 45:7). So of the triune Jehovah, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). It is the great work of grace in the redeemed to direct and fasten those affections upon their proper objects: when we put right our love and hatred, we prosper in the spiritual life. Fallen man differs from unfallen in this: they both have the same affections, but they are misplaced in fallen man, so that they now love what they should hate, and hate what they should love: their affections are like bodily members out of joint—as if the arms should hang down backward. To bestow their love and hatred aright is the very essence of true spirituality: to love all that is good and pure, to hate all that is evil and vile, for love moves us to seek union with and make our own, as hatred repels and makes us leave alone what is loathsome.

Now love was made for God, for He alone is its adequate and suited object: for all that is of Himself—His attributes, His Law, His ordinances, His dealings with us. But hatred was made for the serpent and sin. God is infinitely lovely in Himself, and if things are to be valued according to the greatness and excellence of them, then God supremely so, for every perfection centres and is found in its fullness in Him. To love Him above everything else is an act of homage due to Him, for who and what He is. There is everything in God to excite esteem, adoration and affection. Goodness is not an object of dread, but of attraction and delight. Now all that God required from Adam He freely furnished him with. Since he was created with perfect moral rectitude of heart and with a holy temper of mind, he was fully competent to love Him with all his being. He saw the Divine perfections shining forth. The heavens declared His glory, the firmament showed His handiwork, and His excellence was mirrored in everything around him. Thereby he realized what God deserved from him, and he was duly affected with His blessedness. His heart was filled with a sense of His ineffable beauty, and admiring and adoring thoughts of Him filled his mind, moving him to render unto Him that worship and submission to which He is infinitely entitled.

Love for God was what gave unity of action to all the faculties of Adam’s soul, for since it was the dominant principle in him, it rendered all the exercises of them as so many expressions of devotion to Him. Hence, when love of God died within him, his faculties not only lost their original unity and orderliness, but the power to use them aright. All his faculties came under an evil and hostile influence, and were debased in their action. The natural man is without a single spark of true affection for God: “But I know you,” said the omniscient Searcher of hearts to the religious Jews, “that ye have not the love of God in you” (John 5:42). Being without any love to God, all the outward acts of the natural man are worthless in His sight: “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8), for they lack the root from which they must proceed in order for any fruit to be desirable unto Him. Love is that which animates the obedience which is agreeable to God: “If a man love Me, he will keep My words” (John 14:23). Love is the very life and substance of everything which is gratifying unto God.

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AW Pink (1886-1952): The Doctrine of Human Depravity 5 of 10

The Doctrine of Human Depravity 5 of 10
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Chapel Library

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As the principle of obedience, love takes the precedence, for faith works by love (Gal. 5:6): hence the order in that injunction “let us consider one another to provoke (1) unto love and (2) to good works” (Heb. 10:24)—stir up the affections and good works will follow, as a stirring up of the coals causes the flames to arise. It is love which makes all the Divine commandments to be “not grievous” (1 John 5:3). We heartily agree with Charnock’s dictum, “In that one word love God hath wrapped up all the devotion He requires of us,” and certainly our souls ought to be ravished with Him, for He is infinitely worthy of our choicest affections and strongest desires. Love is a thing acceptable in itself, but nothing can be acceptable to God without it. “They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23)—the most decorous and punctilious forms of devotion are worthless if they lack vitality and sincerity. True worship proceeds from love, for it is the exercise of heavenly affections, the pouring out of its homage to Him who is “altogether lovely.” Love is the best thing we can render God, and it is His right in every service. Without it we are an abomination unto Him: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Mararnatha” (1 Cor. 16:22).

Fourth, by the Fall our first parents and all mankind lost communion with God. This was enjoyed at the beginning, for God made man with faculties capable of this privilege, and designed them to have holy converse with Him. Indeed this was the paramount blessing of that covenant which Adam was placed under, and it was a foretaste of that more intimate communion which would have been his eternal portion had he survived his probation. But the apostasy of Adam and Eve could not but first deprive them and then all their posterity, of this inestimable privilege. This was the immediate and inevitable result of their revolt, whether we contemplate it from either the Divine or the human side, “for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). Two cannot walk together except they be agreed (Amos 3:3). The Holy One will not favourably manifest Himself unto rebels or admit them into His presence as friends. Nor had our first parents any longer the desire that He should do so, but rather very much to the contrary. Having lost all love to God, they had no relish for Him, but now hated and dreaded Him.

Here, then, my reader, is the terrible nature of human depravity. From the privative side, it consists of man’s loss of the moral image of God—consciously felt by our first parents in the shameful sense they had of their nakedness. The loss of the life of God, so that they became alienated from His favour, devoid of joy, emptied of holiness—faintly perceived by them, as was evident from their attempt to make themselves more presentable by manufacturing aprons of fig leaves. The loss of their love to God, so that they no longer revered and adored Him, but were repelled by His perfections—manifested by their fleeing from Him as soon as they were conscious of His approach. The loss of communion with God, so that they were utterly unfit for His presence—adumbrated by His driving them from Eden. None but a regenerate can estimate how irreparable was man’s forfeiture by the Fall, and how dreadful is the condition and case of the natural man: and their apprehension thereof is exceedingly meager in this life.

14. Its Nature—Part3

We have already pointed out a number of things in which the depravity of human nature does not consist: and, in the last chapter, some of the inestimable blessings of which man was deprived by the Fall. We now turn to the affirmative side, or a consideration of those evils which have come upon human nature as the result of our first parents’ apostasy from God. We do not agree with those who teach that what is transmitted from Adam and Eve to their descendants, via the channel of natural generation and propagation, is a merely negative thing—the absence of good. Rather are we fully persuaded that something positive, an active principle of evil, is communicated from parents to their children. While we do not consider that sin is a substance or material thing, we are sure that it is very much more than a mere abstraction and nonentity. Man’s very nature is corrupted: the virus of evil is in his blood. While there is privation in sin—a nonconformity to God’s Law—there is also a real positive potency in it to mischief. Sin is a power, as holiness is a power, but a power working to disorder and death.

It has been said by some orthodox divines that “Men’s natures are not now become sinful by putting anything in them to defile them, but by taking something from them which should have preserved them holy.” But we much prefer the statement of the Westminster Catechism: “The sinfulness of that estate into which man fell consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of the righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed and disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to evil, and that continually, which is commonly called original sin, and from which sin proceed all actual transgressions.” That fallen human nature is not only devoid of all godliness, but also thoroughly impregnated with everything that is devilish, may surely be argued from the two different kinds of sin of which every man is guilty—those of omission, wherein there is failure to perform good works, and those of commission, or positive contumacy of the Law of God. Something answerable to both of those must exist in our sinful nature, or otherwise we should predicate a cause inadequate to produce the effect: while the absence of holiness explains the former, only the presence of positive evil accounts for the latter.

There are many names given in Scripture to original sin or the depravity of human nature which serve to cast light upon its nature. The following list makes no claim to being complete, though it probably contains the most significant ones. It is called the plague of the heart (1 Kings 8:38), “foolishness bound up in the heart” (Prov. 22:15), “the stony heart” (Ezek. 11:19), “the evil treasure” of the heart (Matt. 12:35). It is designated “the poison of asps” (Rom. 3:13), “the old man,” because it is derived from the first man and is part and parcel of us since the beginning of our existence, and “the body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), for it is a whole assembly of evils, “sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom. 7:17). It is denominated “another law in my members” (Rom. 7:23), because of its unvarying nature and power, “the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2), “the carnal mind” which is “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). It is frequently spoken of as “the flesh” (Gal. 5:17), because conceived by natural generation, “the old man, which is corrupt” (Eph. 4:22), “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1), man’s “own lust” (James 1:14), which inclines him to evil deeds.

It should be quite plain from the above definitions and descriptions of congenital sin that the human constitution is not merely negatively defective but positively depraved. There is not only in man’s heart the lack of conformity unto the Divine Law, but a positive deformity. Not only is the natural man without any desire for holiness, he is born with a disposition which is now radically opposed thereto, and therefore not only has he no love for God, but he is full of enmity against Him. Sin is also likened to “leaven” (1 Cor. 5:6, 7), and that is far more than the negation of the right savour which should be in bread, namely a positive sourness which affects it in and makes it unsavoury. Sin is not only the absence of beauty, but the presence of horrid ugliness: not simply the unlovely, but the hateful; not only the want of order, but real disorder. As “righteousness” expresses objectively the qualities which constitute what is good, and “holiness” the subjective state which is the root of righteousness, so sin includes not only outward acts of transgression, but the evil and rotten state of the whole inner man which inclines to and animates those external iniquities. Very far from being only an “infirmity,” indwelling sin is a loathsome disease.

In seeking to define and describe the nature of depravity from the positive side, we would say, first, that the Fall has brought man’s soul into subjection to death. But it must be remembered that for the soul to be under the dominion of death is a very different thing from the body being so. When the body dies it becomes as inactive and insensible as a stone. Not so in the case of the soul, for it still retains its vitality and all its powers. Fallen man is a rational, moral, responsible agent: but his internal being is thoroughly deranged. Alienated from the life of God, he can neither think nor will, love nor hate, in conformity to the Divine Rule. All the faculties of the soul are in full operation, but they are all unholy, and consequently man can no more fulfill the design of his being than does a physical corpse. Dreadful and solemn are the analogies between the two. As a dead body is devoid of the principles which formerly vitalized it, so the soul has been abandoned by the Holy Spirit who once inhabited it. As a physical corpse rapidly becomes a mass of corruption and a repulsive object, such is the depraved soul of man unto the thrice holy God. As a lifeless body is incapable of renewing itself, so is the spiritually dead soul completely powerless to better itself.

“And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). “The design of the Apostle in this and some following verses is to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and to set forth the sad estate and condemnation of man by nature, and to magnify the riches of the grace of God, and represent the exceeding greatness of His power by conversion” (John Gill). More clearly and fully did Thomas Goodwin, the Puritan, expound the striking coherency of this passage with its context. In the nineteenth verse of the preceding chapter Paul had prayed that saints might duly apprehend and appreciate the greatness of that power which had been exercised by God in their salvation: that it was precisely the same as the Divine might put forth for the resurrection and exaltation of His Son, and which had now wrought an analogous change in them: the mighty power which had quickened Christ had also quickened them. Thus the blessed scope and end of the Holy Spirit here was to bring out the answerable parallel or show the analogous change which God had so wondrously wrought in them: that what had been effected for Christ, their Head, had been also in them, His members, the one being a glorious pattern for the other.

In connection with Christ’s exaltation three things were conspicuous. First, the condition of humiliation and death from which He was delivered and raised. Second, the sublime state of life and honour unto which He was exalted. Third, the Author thereof: God, whose almighty power was eminently manifested by the vast difference there was between those two states. Corresponding to the glorious miracles described in the closing verses of Ephesians 1 is what is so graphically portrayed in the opening verses of chapter 2. First, the dreadful state in which God’s elect were by nature, namely one of death in sin, and such a death as brought its subjects under complete bondage to sin and Satan, so that they walk not in conformity to the Divine Law, but according to the corrupt maxims and customs of the world: being guided not by the Holy Spirit, but energized and directed by the evil spirit, here denominated “the prince of the power of the air.” Without any regard for God’s will or concern for His glory, they gave free rein to the lusts of the flesh and the desires of their carnal minds. But second, notwithstanding their horrible condition, God, who is rich in mercy, had raised them from the grave of sin and made them one with Christ in the heavenlies, by a vital and indissoluble union. And third, this marvel had been effected solely by the invincible power and amazing grace of God, without any co-operation of theirs.

That death which has come upon man’s soul is at least a threefold one. First, he is dead in law, like a murderer in the condemned cell awaiting execution. Second, he is dead vitally, without a single spark of spiritual life. Thus, he is totally dead unto God and holiness, cast out of His favour, without any power to recover it. He is dead in opposition to justification, and also dead in opposition to being regenerated and sanctified. And third, he is dead to all that is excellent. As “life” is not simply existence, but well-being, so “death” is not the negation of existence, but the absence of all the real pleasures of existence. In its scriptural sense life signifies happiness and blessedness; death, wretchedness and woe. As the utmost natural misery which can befall man is for him to die—for “a living dog is better than a dead lion” (Eccl. 9:4)—so spiritual death is the strongest expression which can be used to import our moral wretchedness. The former divests him of all those excellencies which are proper to him as man, but the latter makes him worse than a stone, for when he is dead he stinks, which a stone does not. So it is spiritually: the natural man is not only without any comeliness in the sight of God, but he is a stench in His nostrils.

In the first three verses of Ephesians 2 “there is an exact description of the state of man by nature, so complete and compendious a one as is nowhere together, that I know, in the whole Book of God” (Goodwin). The careful student will have observed that there is one detail in it upon which the Holy Spirit has placed special emphasis, namely the one we are here treating of, for in verse 5 He repeats the words “dead in sin.” Three things are outstanding in sin, its guilt, its pollution, and its power, and in each of those respects man is in his natural estate—“dead in sin.” “Thou art but a dead man,” said God to Abimelech (Gen. 20:3): that is, thou art guilty of death by reason of this act of thine. It is said of Ephraim that “when he offended in Baal, he died—sentence of condemnation came upon him (Hosea 13:1). So of its pollution, for in Hebrews 6:1, we read of “repentance from dead works,” because every deed the natural man performs issues from a principle of corruption. So too of its power, for every sin man commits disables him the more unto good: his very activity in sin is his death, and the more lively he be in sin the more dead will he become toward God.

That there is such a threefold death of which fallen man is the subject is further evident from the nature of the work of grace in the elect, for their spiritual death must needs answer to their spiritual quickening, and that is clearly threefold. There is a threefold life to which we are restored by Christ. There is, first, a life of justification from the guilt of sin and the condemnation and curse of the Law—termed by Christ “passing from death unto life” (John 5:24), and by the Apostle, “justification of life” (Rom. 5:18). This is entirely objective, having respect to our status or standing before God, and is a greater relative change than for a condemned murderer to receive pardon. Second, there is a life of regeneration from the power and dominion of sin, called by Christ a being “born again” (John 3:3), when a new nature or principle of holiness is communicated. This is wholly subjective, having respect to the change wrought in the soul when it is Divinely quickened. Third, there is a life of sanctification from the pollution of sin, promised by God through the prophet: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Ezek. 36:25). This is something experiential, consisting of a purifying of the heart from the love of sin, referred to as “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). The first is judicial, the second spiritual, and the third moral: the three comprising the principal parts of God’s so-great salvation—the glorification of the saint is yet future.

Second, the Fall has brought man into hopeless bondage to sin. When the Holy Spirit assures the saints, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14), He necessarily signifies that all those still under the covenant of works are beneath sin’s dominion, that it holds sway over them. As the Lord Jesus declared, “Whoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34): that is to say, sin is his master. Nevertheless, he yields voluntary and ready submission to sin’s orders: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey: whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16). No one outside themselves coerces and compels them. The dominion of sin is not even an indwelling force against the will and endeavours of those who are under it, but it is connatural and congenial to them. Even though, occasionally, conscience feebly protests, it’s voice is silenced by the clamourings of lust, to which the will freely complies. The dominion of sin over the natural man is entire, for it pervades the spirit with all its powers, the soul with all its faculties, the body with all its members, and it does so at all times and under all circumstances.

Sin is likened unto a monarch ruling over his subjects—“as sin hath reigned unto death” (Rom. 5:21). Its kingdom is world-wide, for all the children of Adam are its subjects. Sin occupies the throne of the human heart until almighty grace deposes it. Sin has taken possession of the complete soul, and under its direction and influence it constantly acts. The mind is in subjection to evil as a governing principle which determines all its volitions and acts, for sin’s lustings are so many imperial and imperious edicts. Yet we say again, this rule of sin is not a force upon the mind to which it makes opposition, for the soul is a subject—as a king continues to occupy the throne only by the consent and free allegiance of his subjects. While the soul cannot but will evil because of the reign of sin, yet its volitions are spontaneous. The dominion of sin consists in its determining influence upon the will, and this sway it retains to the end, unless victorious grace makes a conquest of the soul by the implantation of a contrary principle, which opposes the influences of indwelling sin, and disposes the will to contrary acts. Let conscience remonstrate never so sharply against the fatal choice, sin ever regulates the decisions and deeds of the natural man.

This dominion of sin “is not a propensity to some particular evil, but an inclination to deviate from the rule of our duty taken in its full compass. Yet, as the mind is incapable of exerting itself in all manner of ways and about all sorts of objects at once and in an instant, it is sometimes acting in one manner and sometimes in another as it is variously affected by the different objects about which it is conversant: but all its actions are evil. And those who study their hearts most will best understand the surprising variety of ways wherein evil concupiscence acts its part in the soul. In the several stages of human life this sway of sin discovers itself. In childhood, by folly proper to that age. In youth it exerts itself in various ways: by a low ambition, pride, and a strange fondness for sinful pleasures. In the state of manhood, by a pursuit of the transitory things of this world, and this is often under specious pretences of more extensive usefulness: but, in fact, men are acted upon by a spirit of covetousness. In an advanced age, by impatience, etc” (Brine).

The dominion of sin is made to appear more plainly and openly in some than in others, by their following a course of gross and flagitious evil, though it is just as real and great in those whose wickedness is more confined to the mind and heart. Scripture speaks not only of the “filthiness of the flesh,” but of “the spirit,” too (2 Cor. 7:1), i.e., vile imaginations, envy and hatred of our fellows, inward rebellion, and ragings against God when His will crosses ours. A sovereign God permits and controls the direction and form it takes in each one. Our lot is cast in a day when the power and reign of sin is more manifest in the world than it has been for several generations. Nor is the reason for this far to seek. It is not because human nature has undergone any deterioration, for that is impossible— it has been rotten to the core since the time of Cain and Abel. No, rather is it because God would the more evidence the lie of evolutionism and men’s proud boasts of “human progress” by increasingly removing His restraining hand, and thereby allowing the horrid corruptions of men’s hearts to become more visible and obvious. There are indeed degrees of wickedness, but none in the root from which it proceeds: every man’s nature is equally depraved, and everyone in an unregenerate state is wholly dominated by it.

So mighty is the power of sin that it has made all the sons of men its slaves. Few indeed realize that they are held fast by the cords of their sins (Prov. 5:22), and still fewer wherein its strength lies. Sin is a powerful thing in itself, for it has a will of its own (John 1:13), a mind of its own (Rom. 8:6, 7), passions (Rom. 7:5), yea, fiery ones (Rom. 1:27)—but as 1 Corinthians 15:56 informs us, “The sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law.” The first part of the statement is obvious, but the second calls for some explanation. Sin is manifestly what puts venom into the dart of death and gives it its power to hurt and slay. Sin places a painful sting in death from the fact that it was what brought death into the world: had there been no sin, there had been no death. But more: it is sin, unpardoned sin, which makes death so dreadful, for not only does the king of terrors put a final end to all the pleasures of sin, but it conducts its subject unto certain judgment. But wherein is the Law of God “the strength of sin”? The Law is holy . . . and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12): how, then, can it be the strength of that which is corrupt, evil, and abominable?

Most assuredly the Law does not give the slightest encouragement to sin: rather does it sternly forbid it. The Law is not the essential but the accidental strength of sin, because of sin’s inherent depravity, as the pure rays of the sun result in the horrid steams and noxious stenches rising from a dunghill. As the presence of an enemy calls into exercise the malice which lies dormant in the heart, so the holy requirements of the Law presenting themselves before man’s corrupt heart stir it unto active opposition. Thereby the exceeding sinfulness of sin is the more fully demonstrated, for its potency to evil is drawn forth by any restraint being laid upon it—the more a thing be forbidden, the more it is desired. Though fire and water be opposite elements, that is not so evident while there is distance between them, but let them meet together and great is the spluttering and striving betwixt them. If the heart of man were pure, the Law would be acceptable unto it: but since it be depraved, there is fierce resentment against its spiritual precepts.

As the Law makes no provision for pardon, the natural effect of guilt is to widen the breach between the sinner and God. Sensible (as in some measure the most degraded are) of the Divine displeasure, he is prone to withdraw farther and farther from the Divine presence. Every augmentation of guilt is an augmentation of his estrangement: the more the sinner sins, the wider becomes the gulf between himself and God. This it is which gives strength to sin. It provokes the malignity of the heart against the Law, against all holy order, against the Judge. It exasperates the spirit of rebellion to unwanted fierceness, and makes the sinner desperate in his sin, causing its subjects to become increasingly reckless, and, as they perceive the brevity of life, to plunge more eagerly into profligacy. As frosty weather causes the fire to burn more fiercely, so the Law renders man’s enmity against God more violent. So Saul of Tarsus found it in his experience, for when the Divine prohibition “thou shalt not covet” was applied in power to his heart, he tells us that, “sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence” (Rom. 7:7, 8).

15. Its Nature—Part 4

Third, the Fall has resulted in man’s mind being enveloped in darkness. As physical blindness is one of the greatest natural calamities, spiritual blindness is much more so. It consists not of universal ignorance, but a total incapacity to take in a real knowledge of Divine things. As it is said of the Jews, “blindness in part is happened to Israel” (Rom. 11:25). Men may become very learned in many things, and by exercising their minds upon the Scriptures they may acquire a considerable letter knowledge of its contents: but they are quite unable to obtain a vital and effectual knowledge thereof. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14), and spiritual perception he has none. This darkness which is upon the mind renders the natural man incapable of receiving the excellence of God, the perfection of His Law, the real nature of sin, or his dire need of a Saviour. Should the Lord draw near and ask him, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” his answer ought to be, “Lord, that I might receive my sight” (Mark 10:51).

This darkness is upon the noblest part of man’s being, his soul; and upon the highest faculty of it, the mind, which performs the same office for it as the eye to the body. By means of our visive organ we cognize material objects, distinguish between them, recognize their beauty or repulsiveness. By the mind we think, reason, understand and are enabled to weigh and discern between the true and the false. Since the mind occupies so high a place in the scale of our beings, and since it be the most active of our inward faculties, ever working, then what a fearful state the soul must be in for its very eye to be blind! It is “like a fiery, high-metalled horse whose eyes cannot see, furiously carrying his rider upon rocks, pits and dangerous precipices” (John Flavell). Or, as the Son of God declared, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:22, 23).

Much is said in the Scriptures about this terrible affliction. Men are represented as groping at noonday (Deut. 28:29), yea, “they meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night” (Job 5:14). “They know not, neither will they understand.” And why? “They walk on in darkness” (Psa. 82:5) It cannot be otherwise: alienated from Him who is light, they must be in total spiritual darkness. “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19)—insensible of the very things which are leading to everlasting woe. Moral depravity inevitably results in moral darkness. As a physically blind eye of the soul excludes all spiritual light, it renders the Scriptures profitless to them, for in this respect the case of the Gentiles is identical with that of the Jews: “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament” (2 Cor. 3:14). Consequently, the highest wisdom they count folly, and objects which are in themselves the most glorious and attractive are despised and rejected.

It is a great mistake to suppose that depravity is confined to the heart or to any one of the faculties which is more immediately conversant with the distinctions of right and wrong. As a radical disease extends its influence to all the functions of the body, so depravity extends to all the powers of the soul. Sin is as really blindness to the mind as it is hardness to the heart, and therefore has it departed from its original tendencies. Its actions, however intense, are only in the wrong direction. This it is which alone affords a satisfactory explanation of the mental aberrations of men and the immoral conceptions they have formed of Deity. As we attempt to contemplate the manifold forms of religious error, both ancient and modern, the various superstitions, the disgusting rites of worship, the monstrous and hideous symbols of the Godhead, the cruel flagellations and obscenities which prevail in heathen lands: when we consider all the abominations which have long passed and still pass under the sacred name of Divine worship, and ask how such delusions originated and have been propagated, it is not sufficient to trace them to sin in general: rather must they be attributed to a deranged mind. Only a debased and darkened understanding adequately accounts for the horrible lies which have taken the name of truth, and the fearful blasphemies which have been styled worship.

This moral darkness which is upon the mind appears in the speculations about Deity by philosophers and metaphysicians, for they are ever erroneous, defective and degrading, when not corrected by Divine revelation. All such speculations are necessarily vain when they attempt to deal with things which transcend the scope of our faculties—which undertake to carry knowledge beyond its first principles, and essay to comprehend the incomprehensible. The creature being dependent and finite can never hope to compass an absolute knowledge of anything. “Intelligence begins with principles that must be accepted and not explained: and in applying those principles to the phenomena of existence, apparent contradictions constantly emerge that require patience and further knowledge to resolve them. But the mind, anxious to know all and restless under doubts and uncertainty, is tempted to renounce the first principles of reason and to contradict the facts which it daily observes. It seeks consistency of thought, and rather than any gaps should be left unfilled it plunges everything into hopeless confusion. Instead of accepting the laws of intelligence and patiently following the light of reason, and submitting to ignorance where ignorance is the lot of his nature as limited and finite, and joyfully receiving the partial knowledge which is his earthly inheritance, man, under the impulse of curiosity, had rather make a world that he does understand than admit one which he cannot comprehend. When he cannot stretch himself to the infinite dimensions of truth, he contracts truth to his own little measure. This is what the Apostle means by vanity of mind” (J. H. Thornwell).

The only way of escape for fallen man from such vanity of mind is for him to reject the serpent’s poison. “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,” and submit unreservedly to Divine revelation, according to our Lord’s word in Matthew 9:25, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes”—to renounce all such self-acquired knowledge, forsake all our own erroneous conclusions and fancies, and take the place of a little child before Him. But that is just what the pride of the depraved creature refuses to do. Sin has not only counteracted the normal development of reason; it has so thoroughly deranged the mind that, as Christ declared, “men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). They are so infatuated with their delusions that they prefer error to the Truth. That which may be known of God is clearly manifested on every hand, but man refuses to see. But though they be carried away with the darkness of their corruptions, the light still shines all around them. As created, all men may and ought to know God; but, as fallen, practical atheism is their sad heritage.

But if the acutest intellects of men, in their fallen and degenerate condition, could not of themselves form any accurate or just speculative knowledge of God and His government, there is yet a more profound ignorance which requires to be noticed, namely that theoretical knowledge of God which there is in those countries that have been favoured with the Gospel. By the light of the Christian revelation many a humble peasant has been made familiar with truths of which Plato and Aristotle knew nothing. Thousands are notionally sound upon questions which perplexed and confounded the understandings of presumptuous sophists. They believe that God is Spirit: personal, eternal, and independent; that He made the heavens and the earth, and controls all His creatures and all their actions. They are persuaded that He is as infinitely good as He is infinitely great; yet despite this knowledge they glorify Him not as God. They lack that loving light which warms as well as convinces. They have no communion with Him: they neither love nor adore Him. In order to a spiritual, vital and transforming knowledge of God their dead hearts must be quickened, and their blind eyes opened, and in order to that there must be an atonement, redemption, reconciliation with God. The Cross is the only place where men find God, and the incarnate Son, the only One in whom God can be adequately known.

If man’s mind were not enveloped by darkness, he would not be deceived by Satan’s lies or allured by his baits. If man were not in total spiritual darkness, he would never cherish the delusion that the filthy rags of his own righteousness could render him acceptable to the Holy One. If he were not blind, he would perceive that his very prayers are an abomination unto the Lord (Prov. 15:8). Though this incapability of understanding heavenly things be common to all the unregenerate, it is more heightened in some than in others. As all are equally under the dominion of sin yet some forge themselves additional fetters of evil habits by drinking in iniquity like water, so many of the sons of men immerse themselves in greater darkness by the strong prejudices of their own contracting, through pride and self-will. Others are still further incapacitated to take in spiritual things, even theoretically, by a judicial act of God, giving them over wholly to follow the dictates of their own minds. “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted” (John 12:40, and cf. 2 Thess. 2:10-12).

Fourth, the Fall has issued in man’s becoming the bondslave of Satan. That is another mysterious but very real thing, about which we can know nothing except what is revealed thereon in Holy Writ: but its teaching leaves us in no doubt upon the fact. It reveals that men are, morally, the Devil’s children (Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:10), that they are his captives (2 Tim. 2:26), under his power (Acts 26:1; Col. 1:13), that his lusts they are determined to do (John 8:44). He is described as the strong man armed, who holds undisputed possession of the sinner’s soul, until a stronger than he dispossesses him (Luke 11:21, 22). It speaks of men being “oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38), and declares, “The god of this world (the inspirer and director of its false religions) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image (Revealer) of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). The heart of fallen man is the throne on which he reigns, and all the sons of Adam are naturally inclined to yield themselves slaves to him, The awful reality of his indwelling sin was authenticated beyond the possibility of doubt by the cases of demoniacal possession of Christ’s day.

Their corrupt nature gives Satan the greatest advantage against men, for they are as ready to comply as he is to tempt. No age or condition of life is exempted from his assaults and suiting his evil solicitations according to their varied temperaments and tempers they are easily overcome. The longer he rules over men, the more guilt they contract, and the more do they come under his dominion. To be his bondslave is a state of abject misery, for he purposes nothing but the eternal ruin of his victims, and every step they take in that direction furthers his evil designs and increases their wretchedness. He is as ready to laugh at and mock them for the pangs and pains which their folly brings upon them as he was to tempt and solicit their service. Yet he has no right to their subjection. Though God permits him to rule over the children of disobedience, He has given him no grant or warrant which renders it lawful for him to do so. Thus he is an usurper, the declared enemy of God, and though sinners are suffered by Him to yield themselves up to the Devil’s control, that is far from being by Divine approbation.

Ephesians 2:2, 3 contains the clearest and most concise description of this awful subject, and to it we now turn. “Wherein (a status and state of being dead in trespasses and sin) in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” The first thing we would observe about this verse is that the world and the prince of the power of the air are definitely linked together, for the dead in sin are said to “walk according to” the one equally as the other—the only difference being that the second statement is amplified by the clauses which follow, wherein we are shown why they so walked. The identifying of the world with Satan is easily understood. Three times our Lord denominated him “the prince of this world,” and 1 John 5:19 declares “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” The world is distinguished from the Church of Christ—the children of God. The two opposing companies and the radical difference between them was intimated at the beginning, in the word of Jehovah unto the serpent, when He made mention of “thy seed” and “her seed.” Those two seeds were referred to by Christ in His parable of the parable of the Tares, and designated by Him, “the children of the kingdom” and “the children of the wicked one” (Matt. 13:38).

Our Lord also spoke of the “kingdom” of Satan (Matt. 12:26), by which He referred not only to his power and dominion, but to his subjects and officers being an organized company—in opposition to the “kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:1, 3). Thus, by the world, “the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5) is meant: not only the sum total of the children of the Devil, in contradiction from the children of God, but more especially the joining together of all the unregenerate, which greatly augments their strength and malignity.

“As in coals, though each coal hath fire in it, yet lay all those coals together and the fire is strengthened: so there is an intensification from this union of all the parts, from the connecting of this world. The collection of all carnal men in one and the same principles, practices and ways, are meant by ‘the world’ ” (Goodwin). By its “course” is connoted, first, its “age” or time, each generation having a more or less distinct dress or character, but ever essentially the same “evil world” (Gal. 1:4). Second, its mold or manner, its custom or way of life—its “spirit” (1 Cor. 2:12) and “fashion” (1 Cor. 7:31). The unregenerate walk according to the same maxims and morals, and do as the generality of their fellows do, because in each is the same depraved nature.

“According to the prince of the power of the air.” The world is what it is because it is under the dominion of Satan. The mass of the unregenerate are likened unto the sea (Isa. 57:20), for being bound by a common nature they all move together as the waters of the sea follow the tide. But as Goodwin said, “If the wind comes and blows upon the sea, how it rageth, how strong are the streams then! There is a breath, a spirit, the spirit of the power of the air, namely the Devil sendeth forth an influence whereby, as the wind that bloweth upon the trees which way it bloweth, so he bloweth and swayeth the hearts of the multitude one way . . . when all the coals lie together, they make a great fire, but if the bellows be used they make the fire more intense.” Thus, the Holy Spirit has here given the double explanation of why the unregenerate follow the course which they do: as each one enters and grows up in the world, being a social creature, he naturally goes with the drove of his fellows, and being possessed of the same evil lusts he finds their ways agreeable to him. The world, then, is the exemplary cause according to which men shape their lives, but the Devil is the impelling cause.

Since the Fall this malignant spirit has entered into human nature in a manner somewhat analogous to that in which the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers. He has in intimate access to our faculties, and though he cannot, like God’s Spirit, work at the roots so as to change and transform their tendencies, yet he can ply them with representations and delusions without effectually incline them to fulfill his behests. He can cheat the understanding with appearances of truth, fascinate the fancy with pretences of beauty, and deceive the heart with semblances of good. By a whisper, a touch, a secret suggestion, he can give an impulse to our thoughts and turn them into channels which exactly subserve his evil designs. Men not only do what he desires, but he has a commanding power over them, as his being termed a prince plainly implies, and therefore are they said to be “taken captive . . . at his will” (2 Tim. 2:26), and when converted they are delivered from his power (Col. 1:13). Yet he does not work immediately in all hearts, as the Spirit in the regenerate, for he is not omnipresent, but employs a host of demons as his agents therein.

One man can influence another (only from without by external means), but Satan can also affect from within. He is able not only to take thoughts out of men’s minds (Luke 8:12), but to place thoughts in them, as we are told he “put into the heart of Judas” to betray Christ (John 13:2), and he works thus indiscernibly as a spirit—as he sowed his tares secretly in the night. As men yield to and comply with the Devil’s insinuations, he gains increasing control over them, and God permits him to enter and indwell them, as Matthew 12:29 shows. So too, when Satan would move anyone unto some particularly awful sin, he takes possession of him, as we read that after Judas had consented to the vile insinuation which the Devil had put into his heart he “entered into” him (Luke 22:3) in order to ensure the carrying out of his design by strengthening the traitor to do his will, for the word for “entered” there is the same as in Mark 5:13 where the unclean spirits entered into the herd of swine, which brought about their destruction. He is able to “fill the heart” (Acts 5:3), giving an additional impulse to evil as a person filled with wine is abnormally fired. But let it be pointed out, there is no record in Scripture of either the Devil or a demon ever taking possession of a regenerate person.

But though the Devil works thus in men, and works effectually, yet all their sins are their own, for the Spirit is careful to add “worketh in the children of disobedience.” Man consents first, and then the Devil strengthens his resolution. That appears again in Peter’s reproaching of Ananias for yielding to temptation—“Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.” He does no violence either to the liberty or the faculties of men, disturbing neither the spontaneity of the understanding nor the freedom of the will. As the work of God’s Spirit in His elect is by no means inconsistent with their full responsibility and their entire moral agency, so the work of the Devil in the reprobate makes it none the less their work, and therefore the dupes of his craft are without excuse for their sins. Unlike the Holy Spirit, the Devil has no creative power. He can impart no new nature, but can only avail himself of what is already there for him to work upon. He avails himself of the constitution of man’s nature, especially of his depravity as a fallen being. He gives an impetus and direction to man’s free but evil tendencies. Rightly did Goodwin point out that “as no man doth sin because God decrees him to sin, therefore none can excuse himself with that: so no man can excuse himself with this, that Satan worketh in him.”

Here then, my reader, is the nature of human depravity as seen from the positive side. The Fall has brought man into subjection to the power of death, into hopeless bondage to sin, has completely enveloped his mind in darkness, and has issued in his being the bondslave of Satan. From that dreadful state he possesses not a particle of power to deliver himself or even to mitigate his wretchedness. In addition, it has filled him with enmity against God, but that aspect we reserve for our next chapter, when (D.V.) we shall consider the vileness of human depravity.

16. Its Enormity—Part 1

The theology of the last century has failed lamentably at two essential points, namely its teaching concerning God and its teaching concerning fallen man. As an Australian writer recently expressed it, “On the one hand, they have not ascended high enough . . . on the other hand, they do not descend low enough.” God is infinitely greater and His dominion far more absolute and extensive, and man has sunk much lower and is far more depraved than they will allow. Consequently a man’s conduct unto his Maker is vastly more evil than is commonly supposed. Its horrible hideousness cannot really be seen except in the light supplied by Holy Writ. Sin is infinitely more vile in its nature than any of us realize. Men may acknowledge that they sin, but it appears sin to very, very few. Sin was the original evil. Before it entered the universe there was no evil: “God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Sin is the greatest of all evils. There is nothing in it but evil, nor can it produce anything but evil—now, in the future, or forever. As soon as sin was conceived, all other evils followed in its train.

We may take a survey of everything in and on the earth, and we cannot find anything so vile as sin. The basest and most contemptible thing in this world has some degree of worth in it, as being the workmanship of God. But sin and its foul streams have not the least part of worth in them. Sin is wholly evil, without the least mixture of good—vileness in the abstract. Its heinousness appears in the author of it: “He that committeth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (1 John 3:8)—sin is his trade, and he is the incessant practitioner of it. Sin’s enormity is seen in what it has done to man: it has completely ruined his nature and brought him under the curse of God. Sin is the source of all our miseries: all unrighteousness and wretchedness being its fruits. There is no distress of the mind, no anguish of the heart, no pain of the body, but it is due to sin. All the miseries which mankind groan under today are to be ascribed to sin. It is the cause of all penal evils: “Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee: this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart” (Jer. 4:18). Had there been no sin, there had been no wars, no national calamities, no prisons, no hospitals, no insane asylums, no cemeteries! Yet who lays these things to heart?

Sin assumes many garbs, but when it appears in its nakedness it is seen as a black and misshapen monster. How God Himself views it may be learned from the various similitudes used by the Holy Spirit to set forth its ugliness and loathsomeness. He has compared it with the greatest deformities and the most filthy and repulsive objects to be met with in this world. Sin is likened to the scum of a seething pot, wherein a detestable carcass is being destroyed (Ezek. 24:11, 12); to the blood and pollution of a newly born child, before it is washed, salted and swaddled (Ezek. 16:4, 6); to a dead and rotting body (Rom. 7:24); to the noisome stench and poisonous exhalations which issue from the mouth of an open sepulchre (Rom. 3:13); to the image of the Devil (John 8:44); to putrefying sores (Isa. 1:5, 6). To a menstruous cloth (Isa. 30:22), (Lam. 1:17); to a canker or gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17); to the dung of filthy creatures (Phil. 3:8); to the vomit of a dog and the wallowing of a sow in the stinking mire (2 Peter 2:22). Such comparisons show us something of the vileness and horribleness of sin, yet in reality it is beyond all comparison.

There is a far greater malignity in sin than is commonly supposed, even by the great majority of church members. Men regard it as an infirmity, and tem it a “human frailty” or “hereditary weakness.” But Scripture calls it “an evil thing and bitter” (Jer. 2:19), an abominable thing which God hates (Jer. 44:4). Few people think it to be so: rather do the great majority regard it as a mere trifle, as a matter of so little moment that they have but to cry in the hour of death, “Lord, pardon me; Lord, bless me,” and all will be eternally well with them. They judge sin by the opinion of the world. But what can the world which “lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19) know about God’s hatred of sin! It matters nothing what the world thinks, but it matters everything what God says thereon. Others measure the guilt of sin by what conscience tells them—or fails to! But conscience needs informing by the Bible. Many of the heathen put their female children and old folk to death, and conscience chided them not. A deadened conscience has accompanied multitudes to Hell without any voice of warning. So little filth do they see in sin that tens of thousands of religionists imagine that a few tears will wash away its stain. So little criminality do they perceive in it that they persuade themselves that a few good works will make full reparation for it.

That all comparisons fail to set forth the horrible malignity which there is in that abominable thing which God hates appears in the fact that we can say nothing more evil of sin than to term it what it is: “but sin, that it might appear sin” (Rom. 7:13). “Who is like unto Thee, O LORD?” (Exo. 15:11). When we say of God that He is God we say all that can be said of Him. “Who is a God like unto Thee” (Micah 7:18). We cannot say more good of Him than to call Him God. So we cannot say more evil of sin than to say it is sin. When we have called it that, we have said all that can he said of it. When the Apostle would put a descriptive epithet to sin, he invested it with its own name: “that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Rom. 7:13). That was the worst he could say of it, the ugliest name he could give it—just as when Hosea denounced the Ephraimites for their idolatry: “so shall Bethel do unto you because of the evil of your evil” (10:15 margin). The Prophet could not paint their wickedness in any blacker colour than to double the expression.

The hideousness of sin can be set forth no more impressively than in the terms used by the Apostle in Romans 7:13. “That sin . . .might become exceeding sinful” is a very forcible expression. It reminds us of similar words used by him when magnifying that glory which is yet to be revealed in the saints, and with which the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared, namely “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” No viler name can be found for sin than its own. “If we speak of a treacherous person, we call him a Judas: if of Judas, we call him a devil; but if of Satan, we want a comparison, because we can find none that is worse than himself: we must therefore say, as Christ did, ‘when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.’ It was thus with the Apostle when speaking of the evil of his own heart: ‘that sin by the commandment might become”—what? He wanted a name worse than its own: he could find none: he therefore unites a strong epithet to the thing itself, calling it ‘exceeding sinful’ ” (Andrew Fuller).

There are four great evils in sin: the total absence of the moral image of God, the transgression of His just Law, obnoxiousness to His holiness, separation from Him—entailing the presence of positive evil, guilt which cannot be measured by any human standard, defilement the most repulsive, and misery inexpressible. Sin contains within it an infinite evil, for it is committed against a Being of infinite glory, unto whom we are under infinite obligations. Its odiousness appears in that fearful description, “filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” (James 1:21), which is an allusion to the brook Kidron, into which the garbage of the temple sacrifices and other vile things were cast (2 Chron. 29:16). Its hatefulness to God is seen in His awful curse upon the workmanship of His own hands, for He would not anathematize man for a trifle. If He does not afflict willingly, then most certainly He would not curse without great provocation. The virulence and vileness of sin can only be gauged at Calvary, where it rose to the terrible commission of Deicide: at the Cross it “abounded” to the greatest possible degree. The demerits of sin are seen in the eternal damnation of sinners in Hell, for the indescribable sufferings which Divine vengeance will then inflict upon them are its righteous wages.

Sin is a species of atheism, for it is the virtual repudiation of God; to make of God no God, to set up our wills against His: “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?” (Exo. 5:2). It is a malignant spirit of independence: whether imperceptibly influencing the mind or consciously present, it lies at the root of all evil and human depravity. Man would be lord of himself, hence his ready reception, at the beginning, of the Devil’s lie, “Ye shall be as gods,” and his credence thereof was the dissolution of that tie which bound the creature in willing subjection to the Author of his being. Thus sin is really the denial of our creaturehood, and in consequence, a rejection of the rights of the Creator. Its language is, “I am: I am my own, and therefore have I the right to live unto myself.” As Thornwell pointed out, “Considered as the renunciation of dependence upon God, it may be called unbelief; as the exaltation of itself to the place of God, it may he called pride: as the transferring to another object the homage due to the Supreme, it may be called idolatry; but in all these aspects the central principle is one and the same.”

An atheist is not only one who denies the existence of God, but also one who fails to render unto God that honour and subjection which are His due. Thus there is a practical atheism as well as a theoretical one. The former obtains wherever there is no genuine respect for God’s authority and no concern for His glory. There are many who entertain theoretical notions in their heads of the Divine existence, yet whose hearts are devoid of any affection to Him. And that is now the natural condition of all the fallen descendants of Adam. Since there be “none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11), it follows that there are none with any practical sense of His excellency or His claims. The natural man has no desire for communion with God, for he places his happiness in the creature. He prefers everything before Him and glorifies everything above Him. He loves his own pleasures more than God. His wisdom being “earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15), the celestial and Divine are outside of his consideration. This appears in man’s works, for actions speak louder than words. Our hearts are to be gauged by what we do, and not by what we say. Our tongues may be great liars, but our deeds tell the truth, showing what we really are.

How little is it recognized and realized that all outward impieties are the manifestations of an inward atheism! Yet such is indeed the case. As all bodily sores are evidences of the impurity of our blood, so our actions demonstrate the corruption of our natures. Therefore is sin so often termed ungodliness: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 14, 15). How vain it is, then, to deny atheism in the heart when there is so much of it in this life! Here too the tree is known by its fruits. As an active and operative principle in the soul, sin is the virtual assertion not only of self-sufficiency, but also of self-supremacy. Rightly did Stephen Charnock point out, “Those therefore, are more deserving of being termed atheists who acknowledge a God and walk as if there were none, than those (if there can be any such) that deny God, and walk as if there were one.” To the writings of that eminent Puritan we are also indebted for part of what precedes and part of what follows.

As all virtuous actions spring from a due acknowledgment of God, so all vicious actions take their rise from a lurking denial of Him. He who makes no conscience of sin has no regard to the honour of God: and consequently none to His being. This is clear from that declaration, “By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil” (Prov. 16:6), for it clearly follows that it is in the absence of any awe of Him that they rush into evil. Every sin is all invading of the rights of God. When we transgress His laws we repudiate His sovereignty. When we lean unto our own understanding and set up reason as the guide of our actions, we despise His wisdom. When we think to find happiness in gratifying our lusts, we slight His excellence and deem His goodness insufficient to satisfy our hearts. When we commit those sins in secret which we would be ashamed to do in public, we virtually deny both His omniscience and omnipresence. When we lean upon the arm of flesh or put our trust in the means, we disbelieve His power. Sin is called a turning the back upon God (Jer. 32:33), a kicking against Him (Deut. 32:15), i.e., a treating of Him with the utmost contempt.

People do not like to regard themselves as practical atheists. No, they entertain a much better opinion of themselves than that. They pride themselves on possessing far too much intelligence to harbour so degrading an idea that there is no God. Instead they are persuaded that creation clearly evidences a Creator. But no matter what their intellectual beliefs may be, the fact remains that they are secret atheists. He who disowns the authority of God disowns His Godhead. It is the unquestionable prerogative of the Most High to have dominion over His creatures, to make known His will unto them, and to demand their subjection thereto. But their breaking of His bands and their casting away of His cords from them (Psa. 2:3) are a practical rejection of His rule over them. Practical atheism, my reader, consists of an utter contempt of God, a conducting of ourselves as though there were none infinitely above us, who has an absolute right to govern us—to whom we must yet render a full account of all that we have done and left undone, and who will then pronounce sentence of eternal judgment upon us.

The natural man renders that homage to himself which is due alone unto God. When he obtains something which makes him glitter in the eyes of the world, how happy is he, for they “receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only” (John 5:44). They dote upon their own accomplishments and acquisitions, but delight not in the Divine perfections. They think highly of themselves, but contemptuously of others. They compare themselves with those lower than themselves, instead of with those above. He who deems himself worthy of his own supreme affection regards himself as being entitled to the supreme regard of his neighbours. Yet it is nothing but self-idolatry to magnify ourselves to the virtual forgetfulness of the Creator. When self-love wholly possesses us, we usurp God’s prerogative by making self our chief end. This consuming egotism appears again in man’s proneness to ascribe his achievements unto his own virtue, strength and skill, instead of unto Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?” (Dan. 4:30). God smote Herod for not giving Him the glory when instead of rebuking the people he accepted their impious adulations.

The same profane spirit is evidenced by man’s envying the endowments and prosperity of others. Cain was angry with God, and hated and slew Abel, because his brother’s offering was received and his own refused. Since it be God who assigns unto each his portion, to look with such a grudging eye upon that enjoyed by our fellows has much of practical atheism in it. It is an unwillingness for God to be the proprietor and distributor of His favours as He pleases. It is assuming the right to direct the Creator what He shall bestow upon His creatures, and a denial of His sovereignty to give more unto one than to another. God disposes of His benefits according to the counsel of His own will, but vain man thinks he could make a better distribution of them. This sin is to imitate that of Satan’s, who was dissatisfied with the station which the Most High had allotted him (Isa. 14:12-14). It is a desiring to assume unto ourselves that right which the Devil lyingly asserted was his—to give the kingdoms of this world to whom he would. Thus would man have the Almighty degrade Himself to the satisfying of his whims, rather than His own mind.

There is in fallen man a disinclination unto any acquaintance with God’s rule. He hates instruction and casts His words behind his back (Psa. 50:17). God has revealed unto man the great things of His Law, but they are counted as a strange thing (Hosea 8:12). What He accounts valuable they despise. The very purity of the Divine Rule renders it obnoxious to an impure heart. “Water and fire may as well kiss each other, and live together without quarreling and hissing, as the holy will of God and the unregenerate heart of a fallen creature” (Charnock). Not only is man’s darkened understanding incapable of perceiving the excellency of God’s commandments, but there is a disposition in his will which rises up against it. When any part of God’s revealed will is made known to men, they endeavor to banish it from their thoughts: they like not to retain God in their knowledge (Rom. 1:28), and therefore do they resist the strivings of the Spirit unto an obedient compliance (Acts 7:51). How can a fleshly mind relish a spiritual Law? Since the palate of man be corrupted, Divine things are unsavoury to him, and forever remain so until his taste be restored by Divine grace.

The same atheistic spirit is seen again in man’s denials of Divine providence. They will not allow that God presides over this scene, directing all its affairs, shaping the circumstances of each of our lives. Rather do they ascribe their lot to fortune or fate, to good or ill “luck.” Even where intellectually convinced to the contrary, they continually quarrel with God’s governing of this world, and particularly with His dealings with them. Whenever His will crosses theirs, they rebel and rave. Yes, if our plans be thwarted, how fretful are we! Men appraise themselves highly, and are angry if God appears not to value them at the same rate—as if their estimation of themselves were more accurate than His. What an evidence of practical atheism is this, that, instead of meekly submitting to God’s will and adoring His righteousness, we proclaim Him as an unjust Governor, and demand that His wisdom be guided by our folly, and asperse Him rather than ourselves!

What proof is the whole of the foregoing of the fearful enormity of human depravity!

17. Its Enormity—Part 2

In the last chapter we showed that the heart of the natural man is filled with a secret and unsuspected, yet a real and practical, spirit of atheism: that whatever theological notions he may hold, by his attitude and conduct he repudiates the very being of God. Even that fearful aspect of man’s state does not fully express the desperate and deplorable condition to which the Fall has reduced him. Not only is he living in this world “without God” (Eph. 2:12)—without any due acknowledgment of or practical subjection to Him—but he has a disposition which is directly contrary to Him. With no desire for communion with the true God, he devises false gods and is devoted to them—mammon, pleasures, his belly. Fallen man has cast off all allegiance to God and set up himself in open and undisguised opposition to Him. Not only has he no love for God, but his very nature is wholly averse to Him. Sin has wrought in the whole of his being a radical antipathy to God: to His will and ways, for Divine things are holy and heavenly, and therefore bitter to his corrupt taste. He is alienated from God—inveterately opposed to Him.

As an operative principle in the soul, sin is virtually the assertion of self-sufficiency and self-supremacy, and thus it cannot but produce opposition to God. Sin is not only the negation but the positive contrary of holiness, and therefore it can bear naught but antagonism to the Holy One. He who affirms and asserts himself must deny and resist God. The Divine claims are regarded as those of its rival: God is looked upon as an enemy, and the carnal mind is enmity against Him; and enmity is not simply the absence of love—a condition of mere indifference—but is a principle of repugnance and virulent resistance. Hence as Owen said (Indwelling Sin, chapter 4): “Sin’s proper formal object is God. It hath, as it were, that command from Satan which the Assyrians had from their king: ‘fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.’ It is neither great nor small, but God Himself, the King of Israel, that sin sets itself against. There lies the secret, the formal reason of all opposition to good, even because it relates unto God . . . The law of sin makes not opposition to any duty, but to God in every duty.” Thus sin is nothing less than high treason against the absolute sovereignty of God.

Terrible beyond words is it that any creature of His hands should harbour enmity against such a glorious being as the great God. He is the sum of all excellency, the source of all good, the spiritual and moral Sun of the universe. And yet fallen man is not only His enemy, but his very mind is “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). Enemies may be reconciled, but enmity cannot be; yea, the only way to reconcile enemies is to destroy their enmity. In Romans 5:10, the Apostle spoke of enemies being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, but when he makes reference to enmity he says, “having abolished in His flesh the enmity” (Eph. 2:15): there is no other way of getting rid of enmity except by its abolition or destruction. Now enmity operates along two lines: aversion and opposition—God is detested and resisted. Sin brings us into God’s debt (Matt. 6:12) and this produces aversion of Him. As debtors hate the sight of their creditors and are loath to meet them, so do they who are unable to meet the just claims of God—exemplified at the beginning, when fallen Adam fled as soon as he heard the voice of his Maker.

Sin is a disease which has ravaged the whole of man’s being, rendering God obnoxious to him. As in inflamed eye cannot endure the light, the depraved heart of man cannot endure to look upon God. He has a deeply rooted and inveterate detestation for Him, and therefore against everything that is of Him. The more spirituality there is in anything, the more it is disliked by the natural man. That which has most of God in it is the most unpalatable to him. Concerning those in whom enmity is most dominant, God says, “Ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof” (Prov. 1:25)—not simply this or that part of His revealed will was unacceptable to them, but the whole thereof. This enmity is universal in its manifestations. Not only is the unregenerate heart indisposed to all holy duties, finding them irksome and burdensome, but it hates God’s Law and rejects His Christ. It abuses His mercies, despises the riches of His goodness and longsuffering. It mocks His messengers, resists His Spirit, flouts His Word, and persecutes those who bear His image. Those at enmity with God serve His adversary the Devil, and are heartily in love with that world of which he is prince.

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AW Pink (1886-1952): The Doctrine of Human Depravity 6 of 10

The Doctrine of Human Depravity 6 of 10
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Chapel Library

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Enmity is a principle which ever expresses itself by opposition against its object. It contends with what it loathes: as in the regenerate the flesh lusts against the spirit, so in the unregenerate it fights against God. Enmity is the energy behind every sinful act. Though the interests of particular sins may be contrary to one another, yet they all conspire in a joint league against God Himself. As an able expositor expressed it, “Sins are in conflict with one another: covetousness and profligacy, covetousness and intemperance agree not. But they are one in combining against the interest of God. In betraying Christ, Judas was actuated by covetousness; the high priest by envy, Pilate by popularity: but all shook hands together in the murdering of Christ. And those varied iniquities were blended together to make up one lump of enmity” (Part 2, p. 522, by W. Jenkyn on Jude, 1665). Though there be not in all sins an express hatred of God, nevertheless, in every sin there is an implicit and virtual hatred against Him. So deeply rooted is man’s enmity that neither the most tender expostulations nor the direst threats will allay it. God may entreat, but men will not heed: He may chastise, but as soon as He lifts His rod they, like Pharaoh, are as defiant as ever.

The language of men’s hearts and lives unto God is, “Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways” (Job 21:14). Hence man is compared to a wild ass in the wilderness, that “snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure,” rather than come under the yoke of God (Jer. 2:24). Fearfully was that fact exemplified all through the long history of Israel, and the carriage of that people was but a reflection and manifestation of the nature of all mankind, for “as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Prov. 27:19). The exercise of this enmity is continued without interruption from the very beginning of man’s days to the end of his unregenerate life (Gen. 6:5). It varies not at all, ever being consistent with itself. Never does sin call a truce or lay down the weapons of its rebellion, but persists in its active hostility to God. Then if Divine grace works not a miracle in subduing such enmity and planting in the heart a contrary principle which opposes the same, what must be the doom of such creatures? “Thinkest thou this, O man . . . that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3). Vain imagination. Christ will yet say, “Those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before Me” (Luke 19:27).

But so far from owning that they hate God, the vast majority will not only vehemently deny it, but affirm that they respect and love Him. Yet if their fancied love be analyzed, it will be found to have respect only to their own interests. While one concludes that God is favourable and lenient with him, he entertains no hard thoughts against Him. So long as he deems God to be prospering him, he bears Him no ill will. He hates not God as One who confers benefits, but as a Sovereign, Lawgiver, Judge. He will not yield to His government or take His Law as the rule of his life, and therefore does he dread His tribunal. The only God against whom the natural man is not at enmity is one of his own imagination. The deity whom he professes to worship is not the living God, for He is truth and faithfulness, holiness and justice, as well as being gracious and merciful. The soul of man is a complete stranger to holiness, even when his head be bowed in the house of prayer. But God is not deceived by any verbal acknowledgments or external homage: “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). It is a god of their own devising and not the God of Holy Writ they believe in. It is an awful delusion to fancy they admire God’s character while refusing His Son to reign over them.

This enmity against God is seen in man’s insubordination to the Divine Law. That is the particular indictment which is made against him in Romans 8, for in proof of the statement that “to be carnally inclined is death,” the Apostle declared, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God,” and then added by way of demonstration, “for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” It should be quite evident that that final clause was not brought in by way of extenuation (for that had greatly weakened his argument), but instead to give added force unto the awful fact just affirmed. A servant who performs not his master’s bidding may or may not be guilty of revolt. He cannot be so charged if the task assigned be altogether beyond his physical powers (the absence of eyesight, or the loss of a limb, or the infirmities of old age); but if nothing but moral perversity (a spirit of malice and defiance) prevents the discharge of his duty, then he is most certainly guilty of open revolt. When we are told that the brethren of Joseph “hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (Gen. 37:4, 5), so far from excusing their evil conduct, that only intensified it—they bore him so much ill will as to be morally incapable of treating him amicably.

Such is the inability of fallen man to be in subjection to God’s Law. Originally made upright, created in the Divine image, given a nature in perfect harmony with God’s statutes, endowed with faculties both mental and moral which fully capacitated him to meet their requirements, he is now so hostile to his Maker as to be thoroughly averse to His government, so that he cannot but cherish what He abominates. Our respect for God is judged by our conformity to His Law. As love unto God is to be gauged by obedience (John 14:21), so is hatred of Him both measured and manifested by disobedience (Deut. 5:9, 10). The natural man knows that God opposes the gratification of his corrupt desires, and because His Law prohibits the indulging of his lusts with that freedom and security which he covets, he hates Him. God commands that which he loathes, and forbids what he longs after. Consequently, man’s warfare against God is a double one: defensive and offensive. Defensively, he slights His Word, perverts His gifts, resists the motions of His Spirit (Acts 7:51). Offensively, he employs all his members and faculties as weapons of unrighteousness against God (Rom. 6:13). To slight and resist the Divine Law is to hold God Himself in contempt, for the Law is an expression of His goodness, the transcript of His righteousness, the image of His holiness.

Here, then, is the ground of the enmity of the carnal mind: it is not subject to the Law of God. “The secret is now revealed. God is the moral Governor of the universe. Oh, this is the casus belli between Him and the sinner! This constitutes the real secret of his fall, inveterate hostility to the Divine being. The question at issue is: who shall govern—God or the sinner? The non-subjection of the carnal heart to God’s Law—its rebellion against the Divine government—clearly indicates the side of this question which the carnal mind takes. You may, my reader, succeed in reasoning yourself into the belief that you admire, adore, and love God as your Creator and Benefactor, and only feel a repugnance, and manifest an opposition to Him as a Lawgiver. But this is impossible in fact, however specious it may be in theory . . . God’s nature and His office, His person and His throne, are one and inseparable. No individual can possibly be a friend to the being of God, who is not equally friendly to His government. Why is the oral Law offensive to the carnal mind? Because of the holiness of its nature and the strictness of its requirements. It not only takes cognizance of external actions, but it touches the very springs of action, the motives that lie concealed in the human heart and regulate the life. It demands supreme affection and universal obedience. To this the carnal mind demures” (O. Winslow).

Alas, there are multitudes today, even in so-called Christian countries, who are almost totally ignorant of even the terms of God’s Law—so intense is the darkness that has settled upon us. The majority of those who have been brought up under a knowledge of the Law, so far from valuing such a privilege, despise the same. The language of their hearts against God’s faithful servants is that which Israel used of old unto His Prophet: “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee” (Jer. 44:16). They “refused to walk in His law” (Psa. 78:10). They had rather be their own rulers than God’s subjects, and thereby guide themselves to destruction, than be directed by Him to blessedness. They desire unbridled liberty and will not tolerate the restraints of a command which checks them. Whatever compliance there may be—for the sake of respectability—to any Divine precept which forbids a gross outward sin, the heart still rises up against the more spiritual part of the law which requires inward purity. The more man’s inward corruptions be curbed and condemned, the more is he enraged. Therefore not only does God charge him with despising His judgments (precepts), but says that his soul abhors His statutes (Lev. 26:43).

The contrariety there is between man and God appears in an unwillingness that His Law should be observed by any. Not satisfied with being a rebel himself, he would have God left without any loyal subjects in the world, and therefore does he employ both temptations and threats to induce his fellows to follow his evil example: now painting the pleasures of sin in glowing colours, then sneering at and boycotting those who have any scruples. Ordinarily the workers of iniquity consider such as walk with God to be freaks and fools, and take delight in railing at them (1 Peter 4:4). Yet it is not because the righteous have wronged them in any way, but that the wicked hate them because they refuse to have fellowship with them in defying God. What proof is this of their awful enmity: not only are they themselves angry at God’s laws, but they cannot bear to see anyone else respecting them. Thus the Apostle, after enumerating some of the vilest abominations, brought this indictment against the Gentiles, that they “not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32)—delighting in accomplishing the downfall of their fellows.

Another form taken by man’s enmity is his manufacturing of false gods. Though this act be not so palpably committed by some, yet none is entirely clear of the setting up of something in the place of God, for this sin is common to all mankind, as history clearly shows. From the days of Nimrod until the appearing of Christ, the whole Gentile world was abandoned to this impiety: having “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). Even Abraham originally, as well as his parents, were guilty of the same (Josh. 24:2). From the making of the golden calf at Sinai until they were carried captives into Babylon, the Israelites repeatedly committed this crime. Even today the whole of heathendom abounds with hideous idols, and those parts of Christendom now under the accursed dominion of the Papacy are given up to the worship of idols and the adoration of a woman who acknowledged her own need of a Saviour (Luke 1:47). Yet the awfulness of idolatry is perceived by but a few. Satan himself cannot invent a more absolutely degrading and vilifying of the Most High, for it is a calling Him by the names of those senseless objects and repulsive creatures which men erect as representations of Him. The giving to an image that homage which belongs to God is making it equal to Him, if not above Him. It portrays the Glorious One as though He had no more excellency than a block of stone or piece of carved wood.

Man’s enmity against God is a practical repudiation of His holiness, for it cherishes what is directly contrary thereto: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:3). Since God be infinitely good, He has an infinite detestation of evil. But sin is the very element in which man lives, and therefore does he hate everything opposed thereto. Nothing is more distasteful to him than the company of the godly, and the stricter they be in performing the duties of piety, and the more the image of God is seen shining in and through them, the greater the longing of the unregenerate to be free from their presence. So much is man in love with sin that he seeks to justify himself in the very commission of it; yea, he goes farther and charges it upon the Holy One. Thus it was at the beginning. When arraigned by his Maker, instead of confessing the enormity of his offence, Adam sought to excuse himself by blaming it upon God: “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” John Gill and others thought (and probably rightly so) that when Cain was charged with the murder of Abel, and answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he blatantly threw the onus on the Lord—Thou art the One who should have preserved him from harm. Holy David unholy charged the crime he had contrived upon Divine providence (2 Sam. 11:25). And man still blames God by attributing his sins to his constitution or his circumstances.

This fearful hostility is exercised against the very being of God. That was clearly demonstrated when He became incarnate. The Son of God was not wanted here, but was despised and rejected of men. They provided no better accommodation than a manger for His cradle. Before He reached the age of two such a determined effort was made to slay Him that Joseph and Mary had to flee with Him into Egypt. Though constantly engaged in going about doing good, both to the souls and bodies of men, He had to declare, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). They called Him the vilest names they could think of: a glutton and winebibber, a Samaritan, a devil. Again and again they took up stones to cast at Him. His miracles of mercy allayed not their enmity: “This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him,” and no ordinary death would satisfy them. After heaping the worst possible indignities upon His sacred Person and inflicting most barbarous suffering, they nailed Him to a convict’s gibbet, and then mocked and reviled Him while He was fastened hand and foot to the Cross. And as the Lord Jesus declared, “He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also” (John 15:23).

Now such an attitude against God inevitably recoils upon ourselves. Alienated from the Source of all real good and purity, what can the consequence be but to be polluted in every part of our beings—a mass of putrefaction? Fearful indeed is the havoc that sin has wrought in the human constitution. Man’s very nature is abased. No creature is so degraded as man, for he alone has erased the image of God from his soul. Man that was once the glory of creation has become the vilest of all creatures. He who was given dominion over the beasts is now sunk lower, for they are not guilty of mad and wicked intemperance, they are not without natural affection toward their offspring (as so many of the human species now are), nor do any of them commit suicide. Man’s apostasy from His Maker could not result in anything less than the complete mutilation of his soul, depriving it of that perfect harmony and balance of its faculties (with which it was originally endowed), robbing them of their primitive excellence and beauty. The whole of our inner man has been seized by a loathsome disease, so that there is now no soundness in it.

Oh, what a mass of villainy is there in fallen man’s heart! No wonder that the Scriptures ask, “Who can know it?” (Jer. 27:9). None but the very One against whom it lifts its vile head. What an awful spectacle is this: to behold the finite in deadly opposition to the Infinite! The creature and the Creator are at direct odds, for while a serpentine nature and a devilish disposition remain unsubdued within him, fallen man will no more seek to glorify the Lord than will Satan himself. The unregenerate detest Him who is light and love. The ox knows its owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but the one who has been endowed with rationality and immortality deigns not to “consider” the hand that daily ministers in mercy throughout his life. With what longsuffering does He bear with those who treat Him so basely! What abundant cause has the Christian to abhor himself and hang his head in shame as he contemplates the sinfulness of all the sin that still indwells him!

18. Its Extent—Part 1

Neither the scientist, the philosopher, nor the psychologist can correctly diagnose the fatal malady which has seized upon all mankind, and still less is any of them able to gauge the full extent thereof. For a right and true knowledge of the latter, as much as of the former, we are shut up to what the Holy Spirit has revealed in Holy Writ. There we are shown that man has become not only a fallen and corrupt creature, but a totally depraved one: that he is not only a criminal before the Divine Law, but a foul and repulsive object in the eyes of his Maker. There are two inseparable properties or effects in connection with sin: pollution and guilt, for neither of them can be detached from its being. Where there is sin, there is a stain. Uncleanness, ugliness, filthiness, and such-like expressions, indicate not only a property of sin objectively considered, but also the effect which it produces in its subjects. It defiles, leaving the imprint of its odious features behind it, making the soul the reflection of its own hideousness. Wherever it touches, it leaves its filthy slime, rendering its subject hateful and abominable.

No representations of sin are more common in the Scriptures than those taken from its defiling effects: throughout it is portrayed as ugly and revolting, unclean and disgusting. It is figured by leprosy, the most loathsome disease which can attack the human frame. It is likened to wounds, bruises and putrefying sores. It is compared to a cage of unclean birds. The inseparable connection of the two notions of the beautiful and good and the ugly and sinful pervades the moral teaching of both Testaments. That connection is ethical and not aesthetical: to reverse the order would be to reduce righteousness to a matter of taste, and to make regulating authority dependent upon its appeal to our sentiments. As another has said, “The aesthetical sentiment should be regarded as a reflection from the moral sphere, a transfer to the sensitive world of those perceptions which are found in their purity only in the realm of the spiritual and Divine. Sin is the really and originally ugly, and nothing else is ugly except in consequence of its analogies to sin.” The ugliness which it creates is its own blot. It has deranged the whole structure of the soul, and morally ulcerated man from head to foot.

“We are all as an unclean thing” (Isa. 64:6) is how God’s Word describes us—foul and filthy. That pollution is a deep and unmistakable one: of a crimson dye (Isa. 1:18). It is likened unto the blackness of the Ethiopian (Jer. 13:23), which cannot be washed away by the nitre of repentance or the soap of reformation (Jer. 2:22). It is an indelible pollution, for it is “written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of the heart” (Jer. 17:1). The great deluge did not remove it from the earth, nor did the fire that came down upon Sodom wash it out. It is ineradicable, for the fire of Hell to eternity will not take away the stain of sin in the souls that shall be there. It is spreading, like leaven and leprosy—yea, it is universal, for it has defiled all the faculties of the inner man, so that there is “no soundness in it” (Isa. 1:6). Soul and body are alike contaminated, for we read of the “filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1). It extends to the thoughts and imaginations, as well as to words and deeds. It is malignant and deadly—“the poison of asps” (Romans 3:13). “I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live” (Ezek. 16:6)—the doubling of that expression shows the deadly nature of the pollution.

Sin is as loathsome as it is criminal, exhaling foul vapours which are a stench in the nostrils of the Lord. Hence, the very day that man corrupted himself, his Maker could no longer endure him, but drove him out of the Garden (Gen. 3:24). The Scriptures liken man to foxes for their subtlety, to wild bulls for their intractableness, to briars and thorns for their hurtfulness, to swine for their greediness and filthiness, to bears and lions for their cruelty and bloodthirstiness, to serpents for their hatefulness. However unpleasant and forbidding this subject, it is an integral part of “the counsel of God” which His servants are not at liberty to withhold. They are not free to pick and choose their themes, still less to tone them down: rather is each one bidden by his Master, “speak unto them all that I commanded thee be not dismayed at their faces” (Jer. 1:17). Insane asylums, prisons and cemeteries are depressing sights, yet they are painful facts of human history. Refusal to consider fallen man’s condition helps no one. Until we are brought to believe and realize this truth, we shall never despair of self and look away to Another. This solemn side of the picture is indeed dark, yet it is the necessary background to redemption.

The effects of the Fall are not only more terrible, but much wider-reaching than are commonly supposed. Yet this would not be the case were our thoughts formed by the teaching of Holy Writ thereon. God’s Word is plain enough. It declares that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Those words are as impressive as they are solemn. In Genesis 1:31, we read, “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” but here the Omniscient One is portrayed as taking a universal survey of the condition of mankind, and recording His righteous verdict unto their utter condemnation. They announce His unerring diagnosis of their inward state in terms which fully explain their outward conduct. The spring of all their actions is thoroughly corrupt. It is to be duly noted that the translators of the Authorized Version have given a fuller rendering in the margin, informing us that the Hebrew word signified “the whole imagination,” including the purposes and desires. The very fount of man’s being was defiled, and a most offensive sight did it present unto the Holy One.

The heart is the moral center from which all the issues or outgoings of life proceed, and none but God knows how “evil” it is. The thoughts which are formed within such a heart are vain and sinful. The imagination or formation of them, their very first motions, are evil. The Hebrew word for “imagination of the heart” signifies matrix, the frame in which our thoughts are cast. Observe that “every imagination” is evil: no good ones are intermingled with them—they are unrelieved badness. It is not simply the outward acts, but the first movements of the soul unto an object. There we have the source from which all the wickedness of men proceeds: the corrupt humour within us are in a constant fermentation. Man’s heart is such that, left to itself, it will always be producing inordinate affections and motions. They are “only evil“ without exception, wholly so, not a single virtuous one among them. Furthermore, they are “evil continually,” without intermission all the days of our lives. Such is the habitual state of every unregenerate soul, and therefore are all his works evil and dead ones.

“The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). The former verse described human nature and conduct as it was prior to the flood: this one shows what man still is after it. The great deluge had swept away the whole of that corrupt generation to which Enoch had prophesied and Noah had preached in vain, but it had not cleansed man’s nature: that remained as vile as hitherto. Man continued to be conceived in iniquity and born in sin. and that which is bred in the bone ever comes out in the flesh. From the first moment of his existence, every descendant of Adam is a defiled creature, fit only for God’s abhorrence. His very thoughts while in embryo are essentially evil: every one of them is so. The Hebrew word for “youth,” (neurim), is rendered “childhood” in 1 Samuel 12:2, and both personal experience and observation sadly verify this solemn fact. As Charnock said, “not a moment of a man’s life wherein our hereditary corruption doth not belch its froth.”

“Behold, He putteth no trust in His saints (for they are but mutable creatures, in themselves); yea, the heavens are not clean in His sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:15, 16). What a description of human nature is this—obnoxious to God, corrupt in itself! Filthy indeed is man, for sin is of a defiling nature, polluting the soul with all its faculties and the body with all its members. Man is thoroughly unclean, as his life bears witness, his very righteousness being “as filthy rags”—so impure that nothing but the blood of Christ can cleanse him. With such a character man is never weary of sinning. Even when worn out by age, his lusts are still active within: as Peter expresses it, “they cannot cease from sin,” for it is their very nature to be sinful. Possessed of a disposition which craves indulgence with a greedy appetite, seeking satisfaction thereof with as passionate an earnestness as parched throats in the burning desert long for the quenching of their thirst, man delights in iniquity and, so far as he is left to follow his inordinate propensities, he is continually seeking to take his fill thereof.

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). Such is the perversity of corrupt human nature that it abuses the very patience and forbearance of God: since the Divine judgment is not visited at once upon evil-doers, they set themselves against the Lord and promise themselves immunity. Thus it was with those in the days of Noah: God deferred the flood for one hundred and twenty years, giving them ample “space for repentance,” but instead of availing themselves thereof, they regarded His threats as idle ones, and became increasingly corrupt and violent. Thus it was with Pharaoh, who only hardened his heart when respite was granted him. And thus it is still: though the marks of the Divine displeasure against our generation are multiplied, they grow more and more daring and desperate in defying God’s Law, sinning with a high hand and presuming on their security.

“The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (Eccl. 9:3). As Christ was, and is, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), the natural man is filled with unrighteousness and wickedness. He is filled with such enmity against God that as his corruptions kindle the same, so Divine and spiritual things stimulate and stir it into action. That awful enmity comprises the sum of all evil. “Madness is in their heart”: they are so infatuated as to seek their pleasures in the things which God hates. They cast off all the restraints of reason and conscience as their heady and violent passions press them forward into sin; and, as we have just seen above, the Divine delay in taking vengeance upon them but emboldens them unto more wickedness. Who but a madman would strengthen himself against the Almighty and rush into evil heedless of danger and disaster? Who but madmen would plan a “festival” of money-squandering and merriment when the clouds of war hang so darkly over the nation? They are maddened by their lusts, mad against piety. “After that they go to the dead” signifies more than the grave, namely, gathered to their own company—the dead in sin, and not “the spirits of just men made perfect.”

The teaching of the Lord Jesus was, of course, in perfect harmony with that of the Old Testament. He never flattered human nature or extolled its excellencies: instead, He painted it in the darkest of colours, announcing that He had “come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). For the benefit of young preachers, here is an outline. Fallen man has lost all likeness to God, all communion with God, all love for God, all true knowledge of God, all delight in God, all favour with God, all power toward God, and has thrown off all subjection to God. The Saviour was not deceived by religious pretences or fair profession. Even when many believed in His name as they saw the miracles which He did: “Jesus did not commit Himself unto them . . . for He knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25). By declaring, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matt. 9:13), He had not only intimated the needs-be for His mission—for there had been no occasion for His coming among men unless they were perishing—but imported there were none righteous, for He called upon all to repent (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:5).

When Christ asserted, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God,” He showed how desperate is his plight, for the new birth is not a mere correcting of some defect—nor the righting of a single facility, but an entire renovation of the soul: the same Spirit which formed Christ in the virgin’s womb must form Him in our hearts to fit us for the presence of God. When he averred that “men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19), He exposed their awful depravity: that they were not only in the darkness, but delighted therein, and that “because their deeds were evil.” When He stated that “the wrath of God abideth on” the unbeliever, Christ testified to man’s awful condition. When he said, “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you” (John 5:42), He again revealed their fearful state, for since all goodness or virtue consists in love to God and our neighbour, then where love be wanting, goodness or virtue has no existence. His “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him,” (John 6:44), plainly showed the moral impotency of every descendant of Adam—an impotency which consists of turpitude and baseness, namely an inveterate opposition to God, due to its bitter hatred of Him—none will seek unto one he loathes: before ever he does so he must be given an entire change of disposition.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Note well that Christ employed “heart” in the singular number, for such is the common and uniform one of all mankind. Here the Lord made known what a loathsome den is the center of man’s being, and that out of the abundance of its evil issues all those horrible crimes—they take their rise from that fountain which is poisoned by sin, being the external expressions of corrupt nature. Man is vile and polluted. “If ye then, being evil” (Matt. 7:11). In those words, too, the Son of God expressed His estimate of fallen mankind; they not only do that which is evil, but are so in their very nature—as the Psalmist said, “their inward part is very wickedness” (5:9). It is to be duly noted that those words were spoken by Christ not unto open enemies but to His own disciples, and that His language affirmed that by birth they were defiled both root and branch. How they abase human pride! Those who prate about the dignity and nobility of human nature fly in the face of Christ’s solemn verdict to the contrary.

“The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him” (John 14:17). O, my reader, what a truly dreadful condition this world is in! As Christ said to the auditors of His day, “Because I tell you the truth, ye believe Me not” (John 8:45), so now—men are so infatuated with lies, they cannot receive the Spirit of Truth. In those fearful words the Son of God represented the unregenerate as not having the least degree of spiritual discernment and knowledge, which is the same thing as being completely destitute of holiness. Nothing but total depravity can render men so wholly blind to spiritual things as to be thoroughly opposed to and blankly despise and reject them.

19. Its Extent—Part 2

Let us now define our terms more closely, and thus prevent anyone arguing with us at cross purposes. Our English word “depraved” is taken from depravatus, which means twisted, wrenched from the straight line, and thus moral disturbance—its root being pravits, “crooked,” “bad.” Total depravity connotes that this distortedness has affected the whole of man’s being to such an extent that he has no inherent power of recovery left to restore himself to harmony with God, and that this is the case with every member of the human race. Yet “total depravity” does not import that sin has reached its highest intensity in a person, so that it is incapable of augmentation, for men add unto their sins (1 Sam. 12:19); and over and above their native spiritual blindness, God judicially blinds some (John 12:40), and then their doom is irrevocably sealed. No, fallen man does not enter this world as bad as he can be, but he has “no good thing” in him (Rom. 7:18); instead, he is wholly corrupt, entirely vitiated throughout his constitution.

The children of Adam are possessed of no degree of moral rectitude, but have hearts that are desperately wicked. In so affirming, we are but saying that the effect corresponds to the cause: as the apostasy of the first man was total, so his descendants are wholly sinful. That this is the case with all mankind was clearly and abundantly proved from Scripture in the last chapter. The entire corruption of the whole human race could not be stated more strongly and decisively than in the passages there cited. The natural man has not one iota of holiness in him, rather is he born with the seeds of every form of evil, radically inclined to sin. In our nature we are vileness itself, black as Hell, and unless a miracle of grace be wrought upon us we must inevitably be damned for all eternity. It is not that man has a few imperfections, but that he is altogether polluted—“an unclean thing,” with “no soundness” in him (Isa. 1:6). Not only has man no holiness, but his heart is inveterately averse thereto.

The solemn doctrine of total depravity does not mean that there are no parents with a genuine love for their children, and no children who respectfully obey their parents; that there are none imbued with a spirit of benevolence to the poor and kindly sympathy unto the suffering; that there are no conscientious employers or honest employees. But it does mean that, where the unregenerate are concerned, those duties are discharged without any love for God, any subjection to His authority, or any concern for His glory. Parents are required to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and children to obey their parents in the Lord (Eph. 6:1, 4): while servants are bidden to serve their masters “in singleness of heart, as unto Christ.” Do the unconverted so act and render compliance with those injunctions? They do not, and therefore their performances not only possess no spiritual value, but are polluted. Every act performed by the natural man is faulty: “the plowing of the wicked is sin” (Prov. 21:4)—because done for selfish ends. Then better not plow at all? Wrong, for slothfulness is equally sinful! There are different degrees of enormity, but every act of man is sinful.

The condition of the natural man is such that in the discharge of his first responsibility unto his Maker he is utterly recreant. His chief obligation is to live unto the glory of God and to love Him with all his heart, but while he remains unrenewed, he has not the least spiritual, holy true love unto Him. Whatever there may be in his domestic and social conduct which is admirable in the eyes of his fellows, it is not prompted by any respect for the Divine will. So far as man’s self-recovery and self-recuperation be concerned, his depravity is total, in the sense of being decisive and final. “Man is fallen: every part and passion of his nature is perverted: he has gone astray altogether, is sick from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet; yea, is dead in trespasses and sins and corrupt before God. O pride of human nature, we plow right over thee! The hemlock standing in thy field must be cut up by the roots. Thy weeds seem like fair flowers, but the plowshare must go right through them, till all thy beauty is shown to be a painted Jezebel, and all human glorying a bursting bubble” (C. H. Spurgeon).

What makes this awful view of man’s total depravity yet more solemn is the fact that there is no exception to it, for it is universal. Corrupt nature is the same in all. The hand that writes these lines is as capable of perpetrating the foulest crime on the calendar, and the heart of the reader of devising the worst deed committed by the vilest wretch who ever lived. The only distinction of character between man and man is that which the sovereign power and grace of God effects. “We are all as an unclean thing” (Isa. 64:6), our original purity gone. “There is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” In his comments on Romans 3:10-18. Calvin said, “In this terrible manner the Apostle inveighs not against particular individuals, but against all the posterity of Adam. He does not declaim against the depraved manners of one or another age, but accuses the perpetual corruption of our nature. For his design in that passage is not simply to rebuke men in order that they may repent, but rather to teach us that all men are overwhelmed with an inevitable calamity, from which they can never emerge unless they are extricated by the mercy of God.”

When the Lord Jesus called Paul, He informed him that He was about to send him to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). In those words Christ indicated what was the character of the whole Gentile world: they were all as ignorant of God, and of the way of acceptance with Him, as blind men are of the true objects of sight. True, there were then, as now, devout religionists, esteemed poets and boastful philosophers who gloried in their wisdom, professing to teach what was the true happiness of man. There were renowned sages, with innumerable disciples, whose schools were engaged solely with the study of virtue, knowledge and felicity; nevertheless, “the world by wisdom knew not God,” and He declared, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Cor. 1:19), for it deceived and deluded them. The schools themselves were darkness, and the minds of their authors—men like Pythagoras and Plato, Socrates and Aristotle—“blinded by the god of this world,” completely under the control of the Devil.

“The LORD looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God” (Psa. 14:2). “Behold the eyes of Omniscience ransacking the globe, and prying among every people and nation. He who is looking down knows the good, is quick to discern it, would be delighted to find it; but as He views all the unregenerate children of men His search is fruitless, for of all the race of Adam no unrenewed soul is other than an enemy to God and goodness. ‘They are all gone out of the way.’ Without exception, all men have apostatized from the Lord their Maker, from His laws, and from the eternal principles of right. Like stubborn heifers, they have sturdily refused to receive the yoke. The original speaks of the race as a totality, humanity as a whole has become depraved in heart and life. ‘They have altogether become filthy.’ As a whole they are spoiled and soured like corrupt leaven, or, as some put it, they have become putrid and even stinking. The only reason why we do not more clearly see this foulness is because we are accustomed to it, just as those who work daily among offensive odors at last cease to smell them” (Treasury of David).

That terrible indictment, “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7), is not restricted to particularly reprobate persons, but is an unqualified statement which applies to every individual. It is “the carnal mind”: whatsoever mind may properly be designated “carnal,” i.e., natural, unspiritual. The undeveloped mind of the infant is “enmity against God.” Moreover, that description is true at all times, though it is not equally so evident. But though the wolf may sleep, he is a wolf still. The snake which lurks amid the flowers is just as deadly as when it lies among noxious weeds. Furthermore, that solemn declaration holds good of the whole mind, of all its facilities. It is true of the memory: nursery rhymes, silly jokes and foolish songs are retained without effort, whereas passages of Scripture and spiritual sermons are quickly forgotten. It is so with the affections: the creature is idolized and the Creator slighted. So of the judgment: what erroneous conceptions it forms of the Deity and how fearfully it wrests His Word! It is true even of the conscience, for there have been those who, while killing the saints, thought they did God a service (John 16:2)—witness Saul of Tarsus.

As might well be expected, fierce opposition has been made against this flesh-withering truth of the total depravity of man, and ever will be where it is faithfully preached. When men are informed that they are suffering from something far more serious than a defect in their characters or an unhappy bias of disposition, namely that their very nature is rotten to the core, it is more than human pride can endure. When told that the center of their moral being is corrupt, that their heart—the potent fountain from which issues their desires and thoughts—is desperately wicked, that it is inherently and radically evil from the first moment of their existence, hot resentment is at once aroused. It is indeed awful to contemplate that not only is sin the element in which the natural man lives, but the whole of his life is one unmixed course of evil: and it is scarcely surprising that those who are not subject to the Word of Truth should revolt at such a concept, especially as it is contrary to what appears in not a few characters who must be respected for many amiable qualities. Nevertheless, since all sin be a coming short of the glory of God, then every act of fallen man has in it the nature of sin.

Even with Christendom this doctrine has been strongly and steadily resisted. The great controversy between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century turned upon whether that moral corruption which pertains to all mankind be total or partial. If the latter, then of course it follows that man still has within him something which is good, something which is accordant to the Divine Law, something which enables him at least partly to discharge the obligations lying upon him as a creature of God. Ever since the days of Augustine there have been those posing as Christians who, while acknowledging that man is a fallen and depraved creature, have flatly denied that he is totally depraved. Those who repudiate the inward and invincible call of the Spirit realize not the actual state of man’s soul, nor perceive that a miracle of grace is necessary before he is made willing to comply with the demands of the Gospel. Arminians acknowledge the aid of the Spirit, but at once negate their admission by affirming that He can be successfully resisted after He has put forth all His efforts to woo the sinner unto Christ.

It is important to recognize that the principles of faith and love are not produced by mere moral suasion, by the external presentation of Christ to a person. Rather are they wrought by a miracle of Divine power and grace in the soul. Such a glorious work must be done by an efficient cause, and not by an deficient one. The natural man is blind, yea, dead, to spiritual things, and what can make the blind to see or the dead to act! Suasion is so far from giving a faculty that it presupposes one: the use of it is not to confer a power, but to stir and move it to act. God is far more than an Orator beseeching men, namely a mighty operator quickening. His word of power is a commanding one: as He said, “Let light be,” and there was light, so He calls for a new heart and brings it into existence. God is no mere Helper, but a Creator. “We are His workmanship,” and not our own. It is God who makes us new creatures, all not we ourselves: “born not . . . of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). To say that we are in part born of our own wills is to blaspheme the Author of our spiritual beings and to place the crown on nature instead of grace.

Likewise does the evolutionist emphatically deny the total depravity of man, for the only fall he believes in is an upward one. He is loud in insisting that there is a Divine spark of life in the soul of every human being, burning very feebly it may be in some, yet capable of being fanned into a flame if the right influences be brought to bear upon it. A Divine “seed” of goodness, others term it, a seed which only needs cultivating in order to the ultimate development of a noble and virtuous character—a blank repudiation of the teaching of Christ that the human tree is essentially “corrupt.” Now since the whole system of redemption rests upon this basic fact of man’s total depravity, and since every false system of religion originates in the repudiation thereof, it is incumbent upon us to expose the fallacy of those objections which are commonly made against it—the principal ones of which we will now consider.

The first is an attempt to show that we do not enter this world in a defiled condition. The engaging simplicity, dependence and harmlessness of little ones is dwelt upon, and reference is even made unto Scripture in support of the contention that they are born in a state of innocence. But this need not detain us very long, for it scarcely presents even an apparent force. Appeal is made to, “And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan” (Psa. 106:38), which simply means they sacrificed their little ones, who had not been active participants in their idolatry. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil” (Rom. 9:11) is nothing to the point, for those words refer not to their nature, but to a time before they committed any deeds. While in contrast with adults, infants possess a relative innocence in that they are guiltless of personal transgressions, yet that they partake of original sin is clear from Psalms 51:5; 58:3; Proverbs 22:15. Scripture never contradicts itself.

In rebuttal of this doctrine it is insisted that there is some good in the very worst, that even the most confirmed villains, though it be but momentarily, turn away shudderingly from certain deeds of wickedness when temptation unto the same is first presented to them. From that the conclusion is drawn that, deeply buried under the ashes of a life of unbridled crime, the sparks of some power of goodness still remain. But that is to confound the faint motions of man’s moral nature with potential spirituality. Moreover, it is nothing but confusion of thought which leads people to infer that because there are degrees of wickedness there must still he a modicum of good. Because one stage of depravity is lower than another, this does not warrant us to deny that the first stage is degraded. The development of wickedness is one thing, the presence of any measure of holiness or virtue is another. The absence of certain forms of sins does not imply any innate purity. It might as well be affirmed that a recent corpse, which is less loathsome, is therefore less dead than one which is far gone in decay and putrefaction.

Not a few have argued that the strivings of conscience in the unregenerate demonstrate that they are not totally depraved. It is pointed out that every man is possessed of that faculty which bears witness within him in countless instances of what is right and wrong: that this inward monitor exerts considerable influence even on wicked men, so as to impel them to the performance of actions which are relatively good, and to deter them from others which are evil. That is freely admitted, but it makes nothing whatever against the truth we are here contending for. In the first place, while conscience he necessary to the performance of both good and evil, it does not itself partake of either the one or the other, for it is that part of the mind which takes cognizance of the virtue or vice of our actions, but is itself quite distinct from both. It is that ethical instinct which passes judgment upon the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our desires and deeds. The conscience itself needs instructing, for its dictates go no farther than the knowledge it possesses. It does not reveal anything, but simply declares the character of what is presented to the mind’s eye, and that according to the light it has.

It is important that we should be quite clear upon this point. The conscience is not in itself a standard of duty, for that of the heathen speaks very differently from that of a Christian who is taught by the Holy Spirit. It is an ear to hear, and the character of what it hears—whether true or false—is the measure of its intelligence. In proportion as this inward eye is tutored will be the truthfulness of its perception. The term defines itself: conscience, with knowledge—to know with oneself—informing and impressing us with the difference between good and evil. But, since all duty consists of and is contained in love (unto God and our neighbour), then good and evil must consist entirely in the disposition of the heart: and the mere dictates of conscience including no such dispositions, then neither good nor evil can, strictly speaking, be predicated of those dictates. Both men and demons will forever possess consciences witnessing to them what is good and evil, even in Hell itself—being “the worm that dieth not”—when, as all must allow, they will be utterly destitute of any virtue or goodness. We do indeed read in God’s Word of a good conscience and an evil one; and so too we read of “an evil eye,” yet there is neither good nor evil in the sight of the eye, only as it is under the influence of a holy or unholy disposition of the soul. So it is with the dictates of the conscience.

The conscience, then, bears solemn witness unto the loss of man’s purity and the presence of depravity. But to regard the resistance which conscience makes to each successive stage of sin as an evidence of innate goodness asserting itself is to ignore the very real distinction there is between the authority of conscience and a soul’s love for God. The conscience certainly remonstrates and enforces the right in the form of an unconditional and absolute imposition: it also threatens man with the destruction of his peace if he persists in his course of wrongdoing: but that remonstrance and threatening comes to him as a restraint, as a force, as something against which the current of his soul is set. There is no love for God in it, no respect to His will as declared by it, no reward for His honour. The struggle is not between good and evil (as is the case in a saint), but between sinful inclination and positive prohibition. To know duty and yet be reluctant to perform it is no evidence of any goodness of heart; even to find satisfaction in the performing of duty at the dictate of conscience argues no complacence whatever in God Himself.

Let it be clearly understood that the conflicts which the natural man experiences are most certainly not between any love he has for God and the inordinate desires of his fallen nature, but rather between his conscience and his lusts; and that any remorse which he may suffer is not sorrow for having offended his Maker, but a vexation under the sense of his degradation, which is naught but the injury done to his pride. There is no grief before God for having been a reproach unto Him. Nor does the wretchedness which dissipation produces in any wise dispose its subject unto a more favourable reception of the Gospel. The groaning under the chains which sinful habits forge and the sighing for deliverance therefrom are not longings to be freed from sin, but rather desires to escape from its painful consequences, both to the conscience and to the body. It is mental tranquillity and physical health that are coveted, and not the approbation of the Lord. Any misery suffered by the natural man is not from having offended God, but because he cannot defy Him with impunity and immunity. None but the Holy Spirit can produce a hatred of sin as sin, for that is something the conscience never does.

20. Its Extent—Part 3

While we do not wish to labour unduly any particular point in these pages, there are some aspects of the Truth which call for a greater emphasis and fuller treatment than do others. That is not because of any ambiguity in them, for our failure to apprehend the teaching of Holy Writ is not due to its indistinctness, but because of our unwillingness to receive God’s Word at its face value, or the obscuring of the same by the clouds of dust raised by the opposition of men against the same. Noticeably is that the case with the one now before us, for though the evolutionists and even openly avowed infidels cannot get away from the fact that man, as yet, is a very imperfect creature, they are far from allowing that he is totally depraved—averse to all that is good, prone to all that is evil. Such a declaration is much too humbling and humiliating for any natural heart honestly to accept and be duly affected by it. Plain and insistent as is God’s Word upon the subject, not a few professing Christians find it so distasteful that, if they do not repudiate it in toto, they go to a great many shifts in order to blunt its sharp edge and remove its most cutting features. The language of Hazael well expresses their resentment against the dark picture which the Divine Artist has drawn of them.

When the Syrian beheld Elijah weeping, and inquired what was the occasion of his distress, God’s servant replied, “Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child” (2 Kings 8:12). So little was Hazael aware of the vileness of his nature that he became highly indignant, and answered, “But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?” He fondly imagined himself to be incapable of such foul deeds. Nevertheless the sad sequel fully vindicated the Prophet, for albeit Hazael supposed himself to be as gentle as a lamb, when he came into power he proved himself to be as fierce as a savage dog and as cruel as a tiger, for he not only murdered his royal master, usurped the throne of Syria, burnt the cities of Israel and slew their inhabitants with the sword, but barbarously conducted himself toward the women and children, until, as 2 Kings 13:7 states, he went on destroying Israel till he “had made them like the dust by threshing.”

Every passage in the Word of Truth which declares the impossibility of the natural man doing anything acceptable to God (such as Jer. 13:23; Matt. 7:18; Rom. 8:8; Heb. 11:6) demonstrates man’s total depravity. If men performed any part of their duty toward God it would be pleasing to Him, for He is not a capricious or hard Master, but delights in righteousness wherever He sees it. But as the Lord Jesus pointed out, men will gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles before unrenewed nature will yield any fruit unto God. Every passage in the Bible which insists upon the necessity of the new birth imports the total depravity of man, for if there were any degree of virtue in the human heart it could be cultivated and increased, and in that case regeneration would be obviated, since the development and improvement of what is already in man would suffice. But our Lord informed a devout religionist, a master in Israel, that except he were born again he could not enter the kingdom of God. Likewise, every passage which calls on men to repent and believe the Gospel presupposes their present sinful and lost condition, for they that are whole need not a physician. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5) was the decisive verdict of Christ.

We will now resume our notice of the different forms taken by the repudiation of this truth. They are varied and numerous, for unbelief is very fertile. That is but another way of saving that the carnal mind is enmity against God, and at no one point is that enmity more active and evident than in its antipathy to God’s Word in general, and the opposition it makes more particularly unto those aspects of it which expose and condemn mankind. Thus, when we are told that all the actions of the unregenerate are not only mixed with sin, but are in their own nature sinful, many sneeringly reply that such is a palpable absurdity. They argue that there be many actions performed by men, such as eating and drinking in moderation, which, being merely natural actions, can have in them neither moral good nor moral evil. But that is a bare assertion rather than a logical argument, and is easily refuted.

When we affirm that all the actions of the unregenerate are sinful, we refer only to those which are performed voluntarily, and which are capable of being exercised unto a good end. Whatever falls into that category is not a merely natural but a moral action. That eating and drinking, and all other voluntary exercises, are moral actions is evident, for Scripture expressly exhorts us, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). In an irrational being such actions would be merely natural ones, but in a moral agent it is otherwise—the manner in which he attends to them rendering the same good or evil. It is the motive which, largely, determines the quality of the act. Eating and drinking are virtuous when, from a gracious principle, the agent thankfully acknowledges God as the Giver, prayerfully seeks His blessing upon the food, and purposes to use the strength therefrom to His praise. But the unregenerate lack that gracious principle, eating and drinking out of no respect to God’s authority, without any love to Him in their hearts, and with no concern for His glory: merely to satisfy their appetites and to provide fuel for the further gratification of their lusts.

If every act of the unregenerate be sinful, then, asks the objector, how is the fact to be accounted for that God Himself regards favourably and even rewards some of the performances of the wicked—such as the case of Ahab and the repentance of the Ninevites at the preaching of Jonah? The first answer is, We must distinguish between God’s governmental ways in connection with this world, and that which He requires in order to admittance into Heaven. Though the Most High knows the secrets of all hearts, He does not always proceed accordingly in His administration of the affairs of earth. When God approves of any of the deeds of the wicked, it is not because He regards the same as theirs, but because those deeds tend to further His own wise counsels. “God rewarded Nebuchadnezzar for his long siege against Tyre, in giving him the land of Egypt, yet Nebuchadnezzar did nothing in that undertaking which in its own nature could approve itself unto God. The only reason why he was thus rewarded was that what he had done subserved the Divine purpose in punishing Tyre for her insulting treatment toward His people (Ezek. 26:1-7; 29:17-20). God rewarded Cyrus with the treasures of Babylon (Isa. 14:3), not because he did anything that was pleasing in His sight, for his motive was the lust of dominion: but because what he did effected the deliverance of Judah, and fulfilled the Divine predictions upon Babylon”(Andrew Fuller, to whom we are indebted for part of what follows).

In God’s governmental dealings with men, actions which possess no appearance of having any intrinsic goodness in them may well be rewarded without any compromise of holiness and righteousness, yea, even those which have such an appearance though it be nothing but appearance. God does not always deal with men according to His omniscience, but rather does He generally treat with them in this life according to what they profess and appear to be. Thus, the Lord’s design in punishing the wicked person and house of Ahab was to make manifest His displeasure against their idolatries. If, then, when Ahab humbled himself and rent his garments, God had proceeded toward him on the ground of His omniscience, knowing him to be destitute of godly sorrow, and made no difference in His treatment of him, that design would not have been answered. Whatever might be Ahab’s motives, they were unknown to men, and had no difference appeared in the Divine treatment they would have concluded it was vain to repent and serve Him. It therefore seemed good unto Jehovah to deal with him in this life as though his reformation were sincere, leaving his insincerity to be called to account in the day to come.

As Fuller pointed out, there is a case much resembling that of Ahab in the history of Abijah, the son of Rehoboam. In 2 Chronicles 13 we read of his wars with Jeroboam, king of Israel, and how he addressed the apostate Israelites previous to the battle. Having reproached them for forsaking the God of their fathers and turning to idolatry, he added, “But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the priests, which minister unto the Lord, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business: and they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table: and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God: but ye have forsaken Him” (vv. 10, 11). To all appearance this prince was very zealous for the Lord, and one might conclude that the signal victory given him over Jeroboam was an expression of Divine approbation, but if we consult the account given of his reign in 1 Kings 15 (where he is called Abijam), we learn that he was a wicked king, and that he walked in all the sins of his father, and although God granted success to his arms, it was not out of regard to him, but for David’s sake, and for the establishment of Jerusalem.

Much of what was said above about Ahab holds good of the Ninevites, and Pharaoh too. Concerning the former, there might have been sincere and spiritual penitents among them for all we know, but whether godly sorrow or slavish fear actuated them they professed and appeared to be humbled before God, displaying the external marks of contrition; and for God to treat with them on the ground of their repentance being apparently sincere was obviously an exemplification of Divine wisdom, for it magnified His righteous and merciful government in the sight of the surrounding nations. In like manner, the acknowledgments of Pharaoh’s sins, and his requests for Moses to entreat the Lord on his behalf, were repeatedly followed by the removal of those judgments which so appalled his proud spirit; yet who would insist that there was any good or spirituality in Egypt’s king? Not only God, but Moses himself, per57 ceived his evident insincerity; nevertheless, it became the Most High to remove His rod when that guilty tyrant made confession, even though he might laugh to himself for having imposed upon Moses so far as to gain his point.

In their strictures upon the doctrine of man’s total depravity some have appealed to Christ’s words in Mark 13:28-34, where He assured the scribe who answered Him “discreetly” that “thou art not far from the kingdom of God”; arguing therefrom that though he was unsaved, yet our Lord found in his character which was praiseworthy. But if the passage be read attentively it will be found that Christ was not approving of his spirit or his conduct, but instead was simply commending his confession of faith. When this Jew acknowledged that the love of God and man was of more importance and value than whole burnt offerings—that the moral Law was more excellent than the ceremonial, which was soon to be abolished—he gave utterance to sound doctrine, and approximated so closely to the spirit of the Gospel dispensation that Christ very properly informed him he was not far from the kingdom of God, i.e., the principles which he had avowed, if truly embraced and duly pursued, would lead him into the very heart of Christianity, for it is by the Law that a knowledge of sin is obtained, and thereby our need of mercy is discovered. The things to which the scribe assented were the very ones Christ insisted upon in His teaching.

Dissenters against the Truth ask, If all men alike be totally depraved, then how is it that some lead less and others more vicious lives? This objection was briefly noticed by us in an earlier chapter of this book, but since it be the one most likely to occasion difficulty to our readers, we will offer a few more remarks thereon. In examining the same it is necessary to revert unto our definition of terms, and bear in mind that total depravity consists not, in the first place, of what a man does, but what he is in himself: and second, what is his relation and attitude unto God. Because particular persons are not swearers, morally unclean, drunkards or thieves, they are very apt to imagine that they are far from being wholly corrupt, yea, that they are good and respectable people. Such are included among those described in Proverbs 30:12, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” However irreproachable be the walk of the natural man, his nature is polluted and his heart thoroughly defiled: and the very fact that he is quite unaware of his vileness is sad proof of the blinding power of indwelling sin.

The total depravity of human nature does not mean that it actually breaks forth into open acts of all kinds of evil in any man. It is freely granted that there are marked differences among the unregenerate in the eruption of sin in their conduct: some being more honest, sober and benevolent than their fellows, running into less excess of not than do others: nevertheless, the seeds of all evil are present in every human breast. “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Prov. 27:19). It has been truly said of all that “If they were in Cain’s circumstances, and God should suffer them, they would do as he did. If they were in Pharaoh’s circumstances, and left of God, they would be as cruel, false, and hard-hearted as he. If they were in the like circumstances with Doeg, though they condemn him for his hypocrisy, flattery, and cruelty, they would do every whit as bad as he. If they were in like circumstances as Judas was, whatever indignation they feel against him, they would be as false and impudent, and as very traitors as he. If they were under the circumstances that the fallen angels are, they would be as very devils as they” (Mr. T. Stoddard, The Nature of Conversion, 1710).

It is indeed true that their fearful enmity against God and the hatred which is in their hearts against their fellows (Titus 3:3) are less openly displayed by some than others, yet that is not because they are any better in themselves than those who are flagrantly irreligious and who cast off all pretences of decency. Not at all: their moderation in wickedness must be attributed unto the greater restraints which the Governor of this world places upon them: either by the secret workings of His Spirit upon their hopes and fears or by His external providences, such as a godly home, early education, the subduing influence of pious companions. But none is born into this world with the smallest spark of love to God in him. Instead, “their poison is like the poison of a serpent” (Psa. 58:4), and the poison of a serpent is radically the same in all its species. God estimates us by what we are internally, though we shall yet be called to an account for all that we have done externally. It is ever to be borne in mind—for our humbling—that there is very much evil within each of us that God does not suffer to break forth into particular actings of sin, sovereignly preventing temptations and opportunities unto the same.

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