by A.W. Pink
THE subject which this chapter is designed to introduce is likely to meet
with a decidedly mixed reception. Some readers will probably be very
disappointed when they sec the title of this book, considering the subject
quite unattractive and unedifying. If so, they are to be pitied; we hope that
God will bless the contents to 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 endeavor to show, our theme is
one of immense doctrinal importance and of great practical value. Since it
is a subject which occupies
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 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 on 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 on the matter 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 is a totally depraved being, can he possibly take the
first step in the matter of his return to God?.3
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 on
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 to 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
horror 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.
David Clarkson, one of the Puritans, pointed out this fact in his sermon on

Psalm 51:5:
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.4
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 endeavor, 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.”
This subject is indeed a most SOLEMN one, and none can fitly write or
preach on it unless his own heart is deeply awed by it. It is not something
from which any man can detach himself and expatiate on it as though he
were not directly involved in it; still less as from a higher level looking
down on those whom he denounces. Nothing is more incongruous and
unbecoming 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. J. O. Philpot stated:
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.
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; he is 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.5
ignorant of the spirituality and strictness of God’s law; when Christ put him
to the test his fair expectations were blown to the winds and „he went
away sorrowful” (

Matthew 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 are flatly
contradicted by common observation and universal experience. And there
are many 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 theory of evolution is highly displeasing to its deluded
votaries. Nevertheless, the duty 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 is, God’s emissary
must faithfully discharge his duty “whether they will hear, or whether they
will forbear” (

Ezekiel 3:11).
This is no dismal dogma invented by the church in „the dark ages,” but a
truth of Holy Writ. George Whitefield said, „I 1ook 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 on 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 to everything of a spiritual nature are
constantly insisted upon. Not only is man’s utter ruin fully described, but
also 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 to Satan and their complete impotence to turn to 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 not a human invention but a communication from the thrice holy
It is a SADLY NEGLECTED subject. Notwithstanding the clear and uniform
teaching of Scripture, man’s ruined condition and alienation from God are
but feebly apprehended and seldom heard in the modern pulpit, and are.6
given little place even in what are regarded as the centers of orthodoxy.
Rather the whole trend of present-day thought and teaching is 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. Thousands of preachers, instead of
faithfully telling their hearers of their woeful state by nature, are wasting
their time by relating the latest news of the Kremlin or of the development
of nuclear weapons.
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 is 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 is 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 to attain
goodness. He will be preserved from many errors. Andrew Fuller stated, „I
never knew a person verge toward the Arminian, the Arian, the Socinian,
the Antinomian schemes, without first entertaining diminutive notions of
human depravity or blameworthiness.” 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 spiritual importance.
The foundation of all true piety lies in a correct view of ourselves and our
vileness, and a scriptural belief in God and His grace. There can be no
genuine 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 aware 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, to help them stop being in love with themselves
and to cause them to forever renounce all hope in themselves. Therefore,
instead of relying upon his faithfulness in presenting the truth, he will be.7
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 to 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 worked so graciously in this world, and why He is still
despised and rejected by men. It enables the Christian himself to better
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
fellowmen are ignorant of it. God’s servants are sometimes thought to
speak too strongly and dolefully of the dreadful state of man through his
apostasy from God. 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 Corinthians 4:34).
„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 soul 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.8
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 to that end. Nothing but a
real sense of our lost condition lays us in the dust before God..9
That something is radically wrong with the world of mankind requires no
labored 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 is wrong with man, and how he came to be in such a condition, 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 these: What is the source of the unmistakable
imperfections of human nature? What will furnish an adequate explanation
of all the evils which infest man’s present state? Why is it that none is able
to keep God’s law perfectly or do anything which is acceptable to Him
while in a state of nature?
To ascertain how sin, which involves all men, 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 an evasion, for it leaves
unanswered the question How did it come about 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 at the antipathy between
the righteous and the wicked, between those who fear God and those who
do not fear Him. The antagonism between Cain and Abel, Ishmael and.10
Isaac, Esau and Jacob, is repeatedly duplicated in every age and area; but
the Bible alone traces that antagonism to its fountainhead.
Judicious ancients recognized and bemoaned the universal tendency of men
to be lawbreakers, 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 a 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 men, 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. Tully
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 did not know. 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 inordinance and
defectiveness to his Creator. To do so would be the rankest blasphemy, as
well as giving the lie to His Word, which declares, “God hath made man
upright” (

Ecclesiastes 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 on God. But there is no excuse for anyone to be ignorant on the
matter. 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 to acknowledge only 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. Man, far from having ascended from
something inferior to an ape, has descended from the elevated and
honorable 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
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 a consequence of
woe on his posterity. He is a ruined creature as the result of his apostasy
from God. This requires that we consider, first, man in his original state,
that we may perceive his folly in so lightly valuing it 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 to God to
grant us graciously an understanding of the same. 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 surveying the varied opinions and conflicting conjectures of our
fallible and fallen fellow creatures 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, God’s Word makes known His intention to
bring man into existence:
“And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness”

Genesis 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.12
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 He made, consisting, in his entirety,
of “spirit and soul and body” (

1 Thessalonians 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 pronoun occurs three times
in the brief declaration of the Deity in

Genesis 1:26 supplies
confirmation that the one made in Their likeness was also a threefold
entity. Some scholars consider that there is an allusion to this feature of
man’s constitution in the apostle’s averment “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”

Genesis 1:27).
This announces the actual accomplishment of the divine purpose and
counsel referred to in the preceding verse. The repetition of the statement
with the change of the pronoun from plural to singular number, implies a
second meaning for the term “image.” Viewing it more generally, it tells of
the excellence of man’s original nature, though it must be explained
consistently with the infinite distance that exists between God and the
highest creature. Whatever this glory was which God placed on Adam, it
does not infer that he shared the divine perfections. Nor is the nothingness
of the best of finite beings any disparagement when 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
excellence of man’s original nature must be distinguished from that glory
which is peculiar to Christ who, far from being said to be “made in the
image of God,” “is the image of the invisible God” (

Colossians 1:15),
“the express image of his person” (

Hebrews 1:8). The oneness and.13
equality between the Father and the Son in no way pertain 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,” and
stated 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.” He stated further 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. The statement that
the regenerate has been
“renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”

Colossians 3:10)
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

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 Thomas Boston expressed it, “Original
righteousness was con-created with him.” The same Hebrew word occurs
in “good and upright is the LORD” (

Psalm 25:8). We have dwelt long
on this point because not only do Romanists and Socinians deny that man
was created a spiritual (not merely natural) and holy (not simply innocent)
being, but some hyper-Calvinists—who prefer 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 over the original one of works..14
“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” (

Genesis 2:7).
This supplies us with additional information on the making of Adam.
First, the matter from which his body was formed, to demonstrate the
wisdom and power of God in making out of such material so wonderful
a thing as the human body, and to teach man his humble origin and
dependence upon it.
Second, the quickening principle bestowed on Adam, which was
immediately from God, namely, an intelligent spirit, of which the fall
did not deprive him (

Ecclesiastes 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 on Adam. 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” (

Hebrews 12:9), and thereby earth and heaven were
united in him.
And the LORD God said, It 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 thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man,
made he a woman, and brought her unto the man (

Genesis 2:18-22). 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. 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” (

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion.15
over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every
living thing that moveth upon the earth” (

Genesis 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 showed 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 honor. 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 (

Genesis 2:19-20), which not only evinced that he was
a rational creature, endowed with the power of choice, but manifested his
superiority over all mundane creatures, his proprietorship in them, and his
liberty to use them for 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. He also bestowed on him the gift of reason, which
distinguished him from and elevated him above all the other inhabitants of
the earth, conferring on him the charter of dominion over them. Further,
He 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 into the garden of Eden [which the Septuagint
renders ‘the paradise of joy’] to dress it and to keep it”

Genesis 2:8-15).

Genesis 3:24 confirms the fact that the garden of Eden was distinct
from the earth. The whole world was given Adam for a possession, but
Eden was the special seat of his residence, a place of preeminent delight. It
presented to his view the whole earth in miniature, so that without
traveling long distances he might 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..16
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.
Ezekiel, when prophesying in a day of wretchedness and barrenness the
bountiful spiritual blessings which would attend the gospel era, 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

“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.”
It is clear that nothing was wanting in Eden, in its pristine glory, to give the
completest 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. Some see in that threefold allusion (there are no
others) a pledge for the complete satisfaction of the glorified man’s spirit,
soul and body.
Several things are imported and implied in the statement that the Lord God
put the man into the garden of Eden “to dress it and to keep it.” First, and
most obvious, God takes no pleasure in idleness, but in active industry.
That such an appointment was for Adam’s good cannot be doubted.
Regular employment preserves us from those temptations which so often
attend indolence. Second, secular employment is by no means inconsistent
with perfect holiness, or with a person’s enjoying intimate communion with
God and the blessings resulting from it. Of course Adam’s work would be
performed without any of the fatigue and disappointment which
accompany ours today. The holy angels are not inert, but “ministering
spirits” (

Hebrews 1:14). 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 (

Proverbs 4:23), tending its faculties and graces so
that he might always be in a condition to pray,
“Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits”

Song of Sol. 4:16)..17
Further, in the words “dress it” (Hebrew “serve,” “till it”) we are taught
that God’s gracious gifts are to be highly treasured and carefully cultivated
by us. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (

1 Timothy 4:14). “Stir up
the gift of God, which is in thee” (

2 Timothy 1:6). In the Genesis
phrase “and to keep it” we believe there was a tacit warning given by God
to Adam. Not only does the English term convey that thought, but the
Hebrew word (shamar) 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 the phrase signified a caution against
danger, putting Adam on his guard, warning him to be on the lookout
against the encroaching enemy. The Dutch Puritan, Herman Witsius,
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 he should be thrust out of the garden, and in that discover a
melancholy symbol of his own exclusion from heaven.” Finally, since
paradise is one of the names of heaven, we may conclude that the earthly
one in which Adam was placed was a pledge of celestial blessedness. Had
he survived his probation and preserved his integrity, he would have
enjoyed “heaven” on earth.
In addition to the institution of marriage (

Genesis 2:23-25; 1:28), God
appointed the weekly Sabbath.
“On the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and
he rested on the seventh day from all his work 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”

Should any raise the objection 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, in which 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..18
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, we will endeavor to explain how it was possible for a holy person,
devoid of any corruption, to sin.
First, Adam’s liability to falling lay in the fact that he was just a creature.
As such he was entirely dependent on Him “which holdeth our soul in life”

Psalm 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 finite and therefore
possessed no invincible power with which to repel opposition. Nor was he
endowed with omniscience, which would have made him 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. with nothing in him which in the least
deviated from the moral law, yet, being only a creature. he was capable of
Second, Adam’s susceptibility to falling lay in his mutability.
Changeableness is the very law or radical characteristic of the creature, to
distinguish it from the Creator. God alone is without variableness or
shadow of turning (

James 1:17). Therefore He “cannot be tempted
with evil” (

James 1:13),that is, induced to sin. This statement 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. Further, God
alone acts from His own power, whereas the creature acts by a power
given to him which is distinct from himself. Goodwin, pointed this out:
“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
faculties, man may falter when using them..19
Third, Adam’s liability to falling lay in the freedom of his will. He was not
only 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 part liberty from the
will, especially in connection with things within its own sphere, especially
when considering that all the faculties of man’s soul were in a state of
perfection before the fall. With Adam and Eve the freedom of their will
consisted in a power of choosing or embracing what appeared agreeable
and good to the dictates of their understandings, or in refusing and
avoiding what was evil. There was no constraint or force laid upon them to
act contrary to the dictates of their own wills. Such freedom also infers 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 a case 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 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 to God, and liable to
deserved punishment for the least defection. 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 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
provided 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 from without, 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 were submitted, it should be
pointed out that Scripture requires us to regard him as far more than.20
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 he 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. This is
considered more fully under the next division of our subject, where we
treat of the imputation of his offense to all his posterity. Suffice it 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 to 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” (

Genesis 2:8-9).
That is the first mention of those two notable trees, and it is to be observed
that, like all the others surrounding them, they were both pleasing to the
eye and suitable for eating. Thus God provided not only for Adam’s profit
but for 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 shalt surely die” (

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 show when considering them more closely under our next division.
Meanwhile, a few general remarks may be of interest.
Herman Witsius stated:.21
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 true 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
(3) Readily to be satisfied without even the most delightful and desirable
things, if God so command: 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.
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, since man was 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 were put to the test. Trial of his obedience was
made to discover whether the will of God was sacred to him. It was both
fit and just that man should remain in the state of holiness in which God
had made him, if he would continue to enjoy His favor. 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 moral being, and therefore responsible to
serve and please God. The commandment given to him was no arbitrary
infliction, but a necessary injunction for evidencing and enforcing man’s
relationship to God..22
The particular stipulation laid upon our first parents (

Genesis 2:17) has
been a favorite subject of ridicule by the opponents of divine revelation.
Those who are wise in their own conceits have considered it unworthy of
the Al-mighty 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 nothing in that
prohibition was unbecoming to God’s wisdom and goodness. Since He had
been pleased to give Adam dominion over all creatures here below, it was
surely fitting that He should require some peculiar instance of homage and
fidelity to Him as a token of Adam’s dependence and an acknowledgment
of his subjection to his Maker—to whom he owed absolute submission and
obedience. And what mark of subjection could be more proper than being
prohibited from eating one of the fruits of paradise? Full liberty was
granted him to eat all the rest. 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 their reasoning faculty. It showed them they must
subordinate their bodily inclinations to 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 knew to be really
proper and useful for them, and not presume to pry with unwarrantable
curiosity into things which did not belong to them, and which God had not
thought well to reveal to them. It was not sinful per se 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 happiness lies in God Himself and the enjoyment of His
favor, and in Eden he was forbidden to seek satisfaction in any other
degree. His integrity was put to the test in that single restriction of his
Far from that arrangement being unworthy of the divine majesty, such an
enforcing of His will and authority on the creature of His hand was most
becoming. The arrangement was necessary in the nature of the case if the.23
responsibility of a free agent was to be enforced, and his subjection to the
divine government insisted on. Also the very triviality of the object
withheld from our first parents only served to give greater reality to 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 offense, 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.24
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 the universe. The injunction therefore to abstain from the tree
of knowledge of good and evil was a proper trial of our first parent, 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
Our reason for making a longer quotation than usual from the writings of
others is that 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 careful perusal.
It only remains for us to add that the foundation of Adam’s obligation to
render such obedience to God lay, first, in his relations to Him. As his
Maker, his Governor, his Benefactor, it was fitting for him to render full
subjection to His revealed will. Second, in the privileges and favors
bestowed on 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 to do so : he was created in God’s
image, with a nature that inclined his will to obedience—ability and
obligation then being coextensive. 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 wrongdoing. Fifth, in that the command
forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge was accompanied by a
solemn threat of dire punishment 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 an
augmentation of them. That also ought to have served as a powerful
incentive to continued fidelity. Thus there was every reason why Adam
should have preserved his integrity..25
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” (

Genesis 1:31) on the day of his
creation, man’s character was not yet confirmed in righteousness, 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 doing so. This is clear from the event, for had there
been any obligation on God, His faithfulness and goodness would have
preserved Adam. Nor would He have censured 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, which was necessary for the testing of
their loyalty and the discharge of their responsibility.
Regrettably man did not endure honorably. 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 on him. How
quickly he supplied tragic evidence of his mutability and disrupted the
tranquillity of paradise. The beauty of holiness in which the parents of our
race were clothed 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 which was the sole condition of their continued bliss. They did
not long enjoy their fair heritage. In spite of 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 the fine gold became dim! How soon man forfeited the favor of
his Maker, and plunged himself into an ocean of wretchedness and woe!
How swiftly the sun of human happiness was 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 only a brief time. 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. When He has
bestowed some special favor on the creature, it has not been long before he.26
has sadly abused the same. Even a considerable part of the angels in heaven
“kept not their first estate,” though the Scriptures do not disclose how
soon they apostatized. Noah, when he came out onto 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 on his son. Within the space of 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 them a molten calf, and have
worshipped it” (

Exodus 32:8).
How tragically that portended 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” (

Daniel 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
honor 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” (

4:30, 32).
Man is a sad failure. Even the honor of the primitive Christian church was
speedily tarnished by the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Thus it has been all
through the past, 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 told to “be fruitful, and multiply”

Genesis 1:28); and had they complied with that injunction and the
blessing of God had been on them, a sinless child would have been
conceived, which, following the fall of Adam and Eve, would have.27
been part of 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”

Colossians 1:18), 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 honor 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.”
Fourth, the devil “was a murderer from the beginning” (

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 man was holy; by night he was a sinner!
We now consider the melancholy and disastrous episode of the fall itself.
Genesis 3 describes the event, about 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 nearly six thousand years have not yet
completed. Here is given the divine explanation of the present debased and
ruined condition of the world. Here we are shown how sin entered the
world, together with its present effects and dire consequences. Here are
revealed to us the subtle devices of our great enemy the devil. We 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 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
that in wrath our God from the commencement “remembered mercy”!.28
A careful reading of Genesis 3 indicates that much is compacted into an
exceedingly small space. The historical account of this momentous incident
is given with the utmost conciseness—so very different from the way an
uninspired pen would have dealt with it! Its extreme brevity calls for the
careful weighing of every word and clause, and their implications. That
there is not a little contained between the lines is plainly intimated in the
Lord’s words to Adam: “Because thou hast hearkened unto 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 on the serpent,
“Upon thy belly shalt thou go” (v.14), we may infer that previously it had
stood erect. Again, from that part of the divine sentence passed on the
woman, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”
(v.16), it may be concluded that Eve had acted unbecomingly and exerted
an undue influence and authority in inducing Adam to eat of the forbidden
fruit. If we fail to ponder thoroughly every detail and meditate on it, we are
certain to miss points of interest and importance.
“Now the serpent was more subtil [wiser] than any beast of the
field which the Lord God had made” (

Genesis 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, this
fact is not to be hurriedly and thoughtlessly skimmed over. Other passages
should be compared if a fuller understanding is to be obtained. Personally
we believe that the statement refers to a literal “serpent” as being the
instrument of a superior being. We consider that the terms of verse 14
make it clear that an actual serpent is 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 later spoke through the mouth of Balaam’s ass

Numbers 22:30-31).
Confirmation of what has just been said is found in

John 8:44, where
our Lord declared that the devil is “a murderer [literally manslayer] from.29
the beginning”—designating him as such because by his wiles he brought
death on 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. Where was Eve when she
was thus addressed and assailed? We believe, as do many others, that she
was standing before the very tree whose fruit they had been forbidden to
eat. It is apparent from the immediate sequel that she was at least within
sight of the tree. The serpent, taking advantage of Eve’s looking at the
tree, spoke about and commended it to 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 afterward he rejoined her. Ridgley, Whitefield, Gill and many
others held that Eve was alone when the serpent confronted her. 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
then he would have been partaker of her evildoing-by allowing her to yield
to the temptation instead of making every effort to cause her to reject it.
Furthermore, it should 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, must have tempted Eve in the absence of her
We consider that Eve’s being alone, and more especially her approach to
the fatal tree, casts considerable light on what then occurred. Matthew
Henry stated, “Had she kept close to the side out of which she was lately
taken, she had not been so exposed.” And had she kept away from that
which threatened certain death, she would have been on safer ground.
Satan cannot injure any of us while we are walking with God and treading
the paths of righteousness..30
We are expressly told that there is no lion in the “way of holiness,” that no
ravenous beast shall be found there (

Isaiah 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 Corinthians 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” (

Proverbs 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 to 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. This 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 of the garden?” The serpent must have looked very different
from the repulsive reptile it now is, not only standing erect but—in keeping
with his preeminence above all other beasts, and as the Hebrew word
intimates—of a striking and beautiful appearance. Apparently be stood
before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and it seems more than
likely that he personally took and ate its fruit in Eve’s presence. This no
doubt evoked from her an ejaculation of surprise or a 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
While such an inference must not be pressed dogmatically, we have long
felt it possesses much probability, and that it is an illuminating one.
Recently we discovered what John Brown of Haddington wrote in his
family Bible concerning the serpent’s words to Eve: “Perhaps he pretended
that himself had acquired what knowledge he had above other beasts by.31
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. The margin of some Bibles
gives an alternative rendering, “Yea, because God bath said,” which makes
his statement a declaration rather than a query. (

Genesis 13:9;

Psalm 25:12;

Matthew 26:53;

Luke 22:35 are other examples
where a strong affirmation or appeal is, for the sake of emphasis, put 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 bath said’ that you are so startled at seeing me
eating the fruit?” Thomas Scott 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.
In the serpent’s statement we perceive the guile and malice 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 generous provision
for them to eat freely of “every tree of the garden” with but a single
exception (

Genesis 2:16). Satan sought to bring reproach on 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 as
an attempt not only to make Eye doubt God’s veracity but also to cause
her to suspect the divine beneficence. Satan is ever seeking to inject that
poison 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 we are enabled to judge its workings within us. Reject any
suggestion that God is unduly severe with you. Resist with the utmost
abhorrence anything which causes you to doubt God’s loving kindness.
Allow nothing to make you question His love.
We have called attention to the 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. While we must refrain from reading.32
into it what is not there, we must be careful not to overlook anything of
importance which is there. 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 to have been aroused when the serpent
introduced such a subject for conversation, and she should have turned
away immediately. Those who would escape harm must keep out of harm’s
“Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not
in him the lips of know1edge” (

Proverbs 14:7).
“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the
words of knowledge” (

Proverbs 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.” King Ahab took
this view. With all his royal possessions, he was dissatisfied while denied
Naboth’s vineyard. And Haman, though he had found favor with the king,
petulantly exclaimed, “All of this availeth me nothing” because Mordecai
refused to pay him deference.
If Eve was 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. Toying with temptation always implies lusting after
the object presented. Had Eve been content with God’s grant in

Genesis 2:1, and 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 on God’s Word, and concluded by thrusting
away Satan’s propositions with utmost revulsion. A greater contrast
cannot be imagined : the woman’s Seed met Satan’s temptation with holy.33
loathing; the woman was in a condition to respond to the serpent’s wiles
with unholy compliance.
“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” (

Genesis 3:2-3).
Instead of fleeing in dread from the serpent, Eve conferred with him, which
was both foolish and fatal, as the outcome showed; Satan is much wiser
than we are, and if we attempt to meet him on 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.” Eve’s omission of that word “freely” was both
significant and ominous—indicating that the generosity of the divine
provision was not influencing her heart as it should have. 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 Eve 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. It may be stated thus: When God forbids any act He at he same time
forbids everything encouraging or 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 rabbis, who were
guilty of modifying its holy requirements. He insisted that “Thou shalt not
kill” is by no means restricted to the bare act of murder, but that it also
prohibits every evil exercise of the mind and heart preceding the act, such
as hatred, ill will, malice. In like manner He declared that “Thou shalt not
commit adultery” includes very much more than outlawing intercourse
between the sexes even impure imaginations and desires. That
commandment is broken as soon as there is unchaste lusting or even
looking. God demands very much more than merely keeping clean the
outside of the cup and platter (

Matthew 23:25-26). “Thou shalt not
steal” includes not even thinking of doing so, nor handling what is not
your—nor borrowing anything when you have no intention of returning it..34
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
included not ‘touching it, for the act of eating involves not only desire and
intention but also touching, handling, plucking, and placing 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 toning down the Lord’s “thou shalt
surely die.” 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” is rendered “that… not” in

24:6. 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”

Genesis 3:4).
Perceiving his advantage, now that he had 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 liberal provision.
Then he denied that there was any danger in eating 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 color to his falsehood. It
was as though he said, “You need not hesitate. God is only trying to
frighten you. You can see for yourself the fruit is quite harmless, for I have
eaten it without suffering any ill effects.” Thus the enemy of souls seeks 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” (

Deuteronomy 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, turning immediately away, when she heard him imply that.35
the Lord her God had lied. Joseph fled from his temptress (

39:12). Eve had much more reason 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”

He declared that not only would no harm be suffered, but they would
benefit by heeding his suggestion and doing as he had done. A threefold
promise or inducement was set before the woman.
First, that by eating this fruit their capacity of discernment and
perception would be considerably increased. That is the force of “your
eyes shall be opened.” Their physical eyes were open already, therefore
his reference must have been 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 directed his attack not
at Eve’s bodily appetites but at the noblest part of her being, by the
inducement of an increase of wisdom that would elevate our first parents
above their condition and fit them to be companions for the celestial
creatures. There 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 no way hid the barb he was using to catch her.
Putting together the whole of his statement in verses 4 and 5, we see 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. He said,
“You need have no fear that God will be as severe and rigorous as His
language sounded. He is only trying to intimidate you. He is well aware
that if you eat this fruit, your knowledge. will be greatly enlarged; but He is.36
unwilling for this to happen, and therefore He wants 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” (

Before examining the details of this tragic verse, we shall carefully consider
two questions, and endeavor to answer them. First, why did not the divine
threat in

Genesis 2:17 deter Eve from disobeying God? David
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart [to be awed thereby, to put it
into practice] , that I might not sin against thee”

Psalm 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. Here is a most solemn warning for us. If we wish God to
deliver us from the destroyer, then we must determine to shun every
occasion of evil and, as Joseph did, flee from temptation. If we really take
to heart the solemn failure and fall of Eve, then we shall pray with ever
increasing earnestness, “Lead us not into temptation” and, if the Lord sees
fit to test us, “Deliver us from evil.”
Second, in

2 Corinthians 11:3, we are informed that “the serpent
beguiled [cheated] Eve through his subtilty,” 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 eyes wide open?
How 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 mind became darkened. Unholy desires were born 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” (

Hebrews 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. The.37
prelude to every fall from grace is the alienation of the heart from Christ,
the Christian’s spiritual Husband, with the consequent clouding of the
judgment. When the truth is rejected, error is welcome. Satan, in his effort
to induce souls to look for their happiness in departing from God, adapts
his temptations to the cases and circumstances of the tempted.
Eve saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was “pleasant to the
eyes.” Let us consider 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 expect to find the phrase “pleasant to the eyes” mentioned
before “good for food.” Why then are the two descriptions reversed? Does
not this better enable us to understand exactly what is meant by “when the
woman saw that the tree was good for food”? The time element 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 is clearly
implied in the context, namely, his personally eating the forbidden fruit in
Eve’s presence. How else could she perceive the tree was “good for food”
before she had tasted 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 a visual demonstration of the fact?
Is it not evident that the words “when the woman saw that the tree was
good for food” signify that since she had seen the serpent eating it without
dying or even suffering any injury, she need not fear following his example?
Could his action not infer that from his so doing he had acquired the
faculty of reason and the power of speech, and that she too would be
benefited by doing the same? Instead of acting in faith on the word of God.
Eve walked by sight, only to discover-as her sons and daughters often
do—that appearances are very deceptive. 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.” 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 Eve, by yielding to the serpent’s temptation, found that tree
particularly appealing. She had a secret hankering after its fruit and
unlawfully coveted it..38
Had there been any uncertainty in Eve’s mind, she could have consulted
her husband; this is a wife’s duty and privilege. Instead, she saw the tree
was “to be desired to make one wise.” She judged it entirely by what the
serpent had told her-and not by what God had said-as the preceding verse
shows. She was flattered with the false hope 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
translated “covet” in

Exodus 20:17. The same word is termed
“concupiscence” in

Romans 7:8, and “lust” in

James 1:15. Indeed,
that latter passage traces for us in detail the course of Eve’s downfall, for
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 was in approaching the forbidden tree],
and enticed. 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.
Shedd stated that God’s commandment in its full form was essentially this:
“Thou shalt not lust after but abhor the knowledge of good and evil; thou
shalt not choose but refuse it.” The Eden statute, as well as the Ten
Commandments, involved both the inward desire and the outward act.
Note that the holiness of Christ is described as a refusing of the evil and a
choosing of the good (

Isaiah 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 kill him. Eve was not to desire
the fruit, for God had forbidden her to eat it. Instead of desiring, she
should have dreaded it. In lusting after what God had prohibited. she
turned from God as her everlasting portion and chief end; she preferred the
creature to the Creator. This is an unspeakably solemn warning for us. If
we estimate things by our senses or by what others say of them, instead of
accepting God’s evaluation, 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 us except that which we receive from God’s
“She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (

Genesis 3:6) without
consulting Adam. So strong was the desire of her heart that she could no.39
longer check it, and she committed the act which completed “the
transgression.” Yes, “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.” The
serpent did not put it in her mouth. The devil may tempt, but he cannot
force anyone. By Eve’s own free act she took of the fruit; therefore she
could rightly blame no one 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 as being by her side. This is the progression of sin:
one yielding to temptation. and then becoming the tempter of others—
seeking to drag them down to the same level. “And he did eat,” instead of
refusing what his God-defying wife proffered him. He “was not deceived”

1 Timothy 2:14), which, if possible, made his guilt the greater. He
“hearkened unto the voice of …. [his] wife” (

Genesis 3:17). Probably
she repeated to him what the serpent had said to 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 man apostatized from God. It was a revolt against his Maker, an
insurrection from His supremacy, a rebellion against His authority. He
deliberately resisted the divine will, rejected God’s word, deserted His
way. In consequence he forfeited his primitive excellence and all his
happiness. Adam cast himself and all his posterity into the deepest gulf of
anguish and wretchedness. This 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 of both its six
thousand years’ history and of its present-day condition..40
We are now to consider the bearing which Adam’s sin had on his posterity,
and its different effects. In Eden Adam acted not Simply as a private
person, the results of whose conduct affected none but himself, but rather
as a public person, so that what he did, directly concerned and judicially
involved others. Adam was 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 generatively as their natural head, but also morally and
legally as their moral and legal head. In other words, by divine constitution
and covenant 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 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 on 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 to the Lord God, then his obedience would have
been reckoned to their account, and they would have entered into and
shared his reward. Contrariwise, if the head failed and fell, then all his
members fell with him. If he disobeyed, then his disobedience was charged
to those whom he represented, and the frightful punishment pronounced on
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. In
consequence of this arrangement, when Adam sinned we sinned, and
“by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to
condemnation” (

Romans 5:18)..41
Instead of placing each member of humanity on probation separately and
successively, it pleased God to put the whole race on formal trial once and
for all in the person of their head. Probably it will make it easier to grasp
the nature of Adam’s legal relation to 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 act with mankind as with a field of corn, where
each stalk stands on its own individual root. Rather He has 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 ax strikes 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 with the Eden tragedy. When
Adam’s communion with his Maker was broken, all his posterity were
alienated from His favor. 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”

Romans 5:12).
Adam, then, occupied a unique position. At his creation all his unborn
children were germinally created in him. Not only that, 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 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 to that end. His supreme blessedness and
continued happiness consisted in his doing so. Scripture proves that Adam
did transact on the behalf of his descendants, and so stood in their stead
before the divine law. 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.”.42
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 confine ourselves to two proof texts. The first is

Romans 5:14:
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.
That is truly an astonishing statement. Occurring in such a setting it is
startling and at once arrests 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 to all His people. By Adam came condemnation, by Christ
comes salvation. Thus they are as far apart as the poles. Then how was
Adam a “figure” of the coming Redeemer?
The Greek word for “figure” in this verse means “type,” and in the
scriptural sense of that term a type consists of something more than a
casual resemblance between two things or an incidental parallel. There is a
designed likeness, the one being divinely intended to show forth the other.
From all eternity it was foreordained that the first man should prefigure the
incarnate Son of God. In what particular respect? Certainly not in his
conduct. Nor in his natural constitution, as consisting of spirit, soul and
body; for in that respect all who lived before Christ was born, might as
properly be called figures of Him. The whole context makes it clear that
Adam was a type of the Lord Jesus in the official position which he
occupied—as the federal head and legal representative of others. In

Romans 5:12-19 prominence is given to 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 disobedience and guilt of
Adam entailed condemnation for all who were legally one with him, so the
obedience and righteousness of Christ secured the justification of all in
whose place He served as surety..43
The other passage which proves 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.
Again, despite marked contrasts between the type and the Antitype, they
had something in common. The one had a mundane origin; 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 the 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. He was called “the last Adam” because there
is to be no further covenant head.
A covenant was entered into between the Lord God and Adam: “And the
Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou
mayest freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt
not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”

Genesis 2:16-17). 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 to each other to perform
the conditions contracted for. On the one side there is a stipulation of
something to be done; on the other side a re-stipulation of something to be
done or given in consideration of the former provision. There is also a
penalty included in the terms of the agreement—some unpleasant
consequence to the party who violates or fails to carry out his commitment.
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 necessarily inferred.44
from a mention of the punishment (cf.

Genesis 31:43-53;

Let us closely look at

Genesis 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, God was obliged to exercise His
authority. Adam, owing his being to God, was 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 a reward assured—“Do this, and thou shalt live”—to
which Adam was entitled upon his rendering the required obedience.
Where there are a stipulation and a re-stipulation between two parties, and
a binding law pertaining to the same, there is a covenant (cf.

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
punishment is threatened in proportion to the nature of the offense. A
subject is bound to obey the law, but he cannot be justly deprived of that to
which he has a natural right, except in case of disobedience. On the other
hand, obedience to the law gives him a right to impunity, nothing more;
whereas a covenant gives a person the right, upon his fulfilling the
conditions, to the stipulated reward or privilege. A king is not obliged to
advance a loyal subject to great honor; but if, as an act of favor, he has
promised to elevate him upon his yielding obedience in some particular
instance, then the subject 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 favor of sitting at the royal table continually, which the king
conferred on him (

2 Samuel 9:13). That was the result of a covenant
between David and Jonathan, in which David had promised to show
kindness to Jonathan’s house after him (

1 Samuel 20:11-17, 42).
It should be obvious that Adam had the promise of life upon his performing
the condition agreed on, for “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt
surely die” necessarily implied the converse, “If thou eatest not thereof.45
thou shalt surely live.” Just as “Thou shalt not steal” inevitably requires
“Thou shalt act honestly and honorably,” and as “Rejoice in the Lord”
includes “Murmur not against any of His dealings with thee,” according to
the simplest laws of construction, the threatening of death as the
consequence of eating affirmed the promise of life upon obedience. This is
an essential feature of a covenant—a reward guaranteed upon the
fulfillment of its terms. Certainly the threat in

Genesis 2:17 not only
signified God’s intention to punish sin, but was also designed as a
motivation to obedience; therefore it included a promise of life upon man’s
maintaining his integrity. Had Adam been given no such promise, he would
have been without a well-grounded hope for the future, for the hope which
“maketh not ashamed” is always grounded on the divine promise

Romans 4:18-20). Finally,

Romans 7:10 expressly states that the
commandment was “to life”—adapted to life, and setting before its
complier such a prospect.
A few words need to be said here on the nature of that “life” which was
promised Adam. In his original state he was already possessed of spiritual
life. What then did the reward consist of? Two different answers have been
given by the best of theologians. First, that it was the ratifying of the life
which he then had. Adam was placed on probation, and his response to the
test would determine whether or not he remained in the favor of God, in
communion with Him, and continuing to enjoy his earthly heritage. Adam’s
conduct would decide whether these conditions would be confirmed and
then become the inalienable portion of both himself and his posterity. The
second solution is that the “life” promised Adam connotes 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 for them by the covenant of grace, are the same in
substance as those which man would have enjoyed had he not fallen. This,
we consider, is clear from these prophetic words: “I restored that which I
took not away” (

Psalm 69:4). “The Son of man is come to seek and to
save that which was lost” (

Luke 19:10). Christ came to secure “eternal
life” (with all that that means), therefore that would have been man’s
portion had he maintained his integrity.
This fact may also be concluded from the nature of that “death” declared 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, namely, the “second death,” eternal.46
punishment and suffering in the lake of fire. Conversely, the promised “life”
included more than physical immortality or even the confirmation of
spiritual life, namely, everlasting life, or unclouded fellowship with God in
heaven forever. We agree 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 law was
merely a transcript. The statement that the law was “weak through the
flesh” alludes to Adam’s tendency to error. What the law “could not do”
with such material was to produce an indestructible 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 to bring in an “everlasting righteousness” (

Daniel 9:24) for
them. 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.
This point should remove any misconception that the view propounded
detracts in the slightest degree from the glory of the Savior.

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, and much more. Rather that passage intimates 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 center of
all the divine counsels, and the magnifying of Him is their principal design.
Had God kept Adam from sinning, all his race would have been eternally
happy. But in that case Adam would have been their savior and benefactor,
and all his seed would have gloried in him, ascribing their everlasting
blessedness to his obedience. But such an honor 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 allowed his defection in order to make way for His laying our
help “upon one that is mighty” (

Psalm 89:19), that we might owe our
endless bliss to Him. Moreover, that obedience which Christ rendered to
the law magnified it and made it infinitely more honorable than any mere
creature’s conformity could have made it.
Further scriptural evidence that God entered into a covenant with Adam is
found in

Hosea 6:7, where God complained of Israel, “But they like
Adam have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously
against me.” The Hebrew word for “men” there is Adam, as in

31:33. Adam was placed under a covenant, the requirement or condition of
which was his continued subjection to 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. He “transgressed the covenant” and “dealt
treacherously” with his Maker. Centuries later Israel likewise transgressed
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, the fact of Adam’s having stood as
the covenant head of his race is conclusively demonstrated by the penal
evils which came upon his children in consequence of his fall. From the
dreadful curse which 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.
Having proved from Scripture that God appointed Adam as covenant head
and federal representative of his race, we are now to show that the guilt of
his original sin was imputed to all his posterity. Even if there were no
explicit statements to that effect in the Bible, we would be obliged to infer
the fact, for such a conclusion is inevitable from the principles involved. 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, 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 would have been reckoned to the account of all his seed, and
they would have 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 is merely a species of self-pleasing,
not submission to 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 the to constitute Adam the covenant head
of his race; not only was it strictly just and legal that its members should be
held accountable for what he did, whether it issued in their well being or.48
distress; but such an arrangement was fully valid. 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. G. S.
Bishop stated it thus:
The race must either have stood in 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.
Fresh from the hands of his Creator, with no sinful heredity behind and ~
depraved nature within him, but instead endowed with holiness and indwelt
by the Spirit of Cod, Adam was well equipped for the honorable 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. We again
quote Bishop:
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 stands 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?.49
Before proceeding further, it is essential that we realize that God is in no
way to blame 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” (

Ecclesiastes 7:29).
There the streams of human foolishness and sin are all traced back to their
fountainhead of corruption. Man was created without irregularity or
blemish; but he departed from his original integrity. And why? Because he
vainly supposed he could better himself. 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 meant 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 relinquished their rest in the
Lord and tried to improve their situation. They promised themselves
liberty, only to become the slaves of Satan.
The course taken by our first parents 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 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 hoping to
improve their lot by leaning to 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” (

Jeremiah 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 honors, 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 good heritage their Maker
assigned them, they would not have coveted that which He had prohibited.
Still today the remedy for covetousness is contentment (see

We subscribe unhesitatingly to this assertion of Calvin “It is clear that the
misery of man must be ascribed wholly to himself, since he was favored
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 told him what would be the
consequence of disobedience. God 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
to. 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 as capable of failing, yet he was
not determined by God’s influencing his will, by any positive act, to
apostasy. God did not induce him, but allowed 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 he deliberately cast himself and his posterity into a
dismal state.
Adam took things into his own hands, revolted from God and trampled His
law beneath his feet. It behooves us to study the relation between Adam’s
action and the universal miseries consequent on it, for it supplies the clue
to all the confusion which perplexes us within and without. It tells us why
infants are estranged from God from the womb (Psalm 58: 3) , and why
each of us is born into this world with a heart that is deceitful above all
things and desperately wicked (

Jeremiah 17:9). It is because Adam
forfeited his Maker’s approbation and incurred His awful displeasure, with
all its terrible effects. In Adam we broke the covenant of works; we
offended in his offense and transgressed in his transgression; and thereby
we departed from God’s favor and fell under His righteous curse. Scott
said: “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.” 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 Cod and holiness, iniquity.51
abounding in it, death reigning over it, lust and crime characterizing it,
suffering and misery filling it.
Therefore 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”

Romans 5:12).
In the light of Genesis 3 that is 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, not its debasement. That condemnation is due solely to our
having revolted from Cod 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, let us consider the relation of this most important
passage in Romans 5. In the preceding chapters Paul had dealt at length
with the depravity and sinfulness of mankind (especially in


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 offense being the cause and source.
Second, he had refuted the proud but erroneous view of the Jews, who
regarded themselves as holy because they were the seed of a holy father

2:17-3:9). Consequently they lacked a true estimate of their desperate
condition by nature and practice, nor did they sense their dire need of
divine grace. Here the apostle takes them back to a higher ancestor than
Abraham—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
it 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.52
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 principle on which God acted from the beginning.
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: rebellion against God began by one
man. But Genesis 3 shows otherwise: transgression of Cod’s law was
initiated by Eve!
Second, sin as a principle of depravity: by one man our sinful nature
originated. 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 necessarily 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 that 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; 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 to 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 as the penal consequence of Adam’s offense. All through this
passage death is opposed to 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, to
die spiritually, that is, to be alienated from the source of divine life.
Second, In due course, to die physically: the body shall go to corruption
and return to the dust. Third, to die eternally, to suffer “the second death”.53

Revelation 20:14), to be cast into the lake of fire, there to suffer
“And so death passed upon all men” because of their complicity in the one
man’s sin. Not that death as a principle of evil gained admittance and
polluted the nature of Adam’s offspring, but that the penal sentence of
death was pronounced upon them. Having been charged with his
transgression they must suffer its consequence. The apostle’s design was to
show the connection between the one man’s sin and the resultant misery of
the many. By Adam’s disobedience all men were constituted sinners—
guilty criminals before God—and therefore sharers of the sentence passed
on Adam. “In Adam all die” (

1 Corinthians 15:22). Those words
explain the clause “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 share his fallen
nature because we share in his guilt and punishment. We are born into this
world neither as innocent creatures nor to enter upon our probation.
Rather we come into it as culprits condemned to death by the divine law.
Every man, woman and child is judged guilty before God. The ground of
our condemnation is something outside ourselves. Inward corruption and
alienation from God are the consequence 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”
because it is the penal sentence on it, that sentence cannot be passed on
any except 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 offense.
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” meaning “because,” or “in consequence of.” Here
then is the divinely given reason why the death penalty is passed on “all
men”: “all have sinned,” or, as the margin and the Revised Version more
accurately render it , “in whom all sinned.” The apostle is not here saying
that all men sinned personally, but representatively. The Greek verb for
“sinned” is in the aorist tense, which always looks back to a past action
which has terminated. The curse of the law falls on us not because we are.54
sinful, but because we were federally guilty when our covenant head

Romans 5:12 the apostle was not referring to the corrupting of
mankind. 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 just one of the effects. A corrupt tree can indeed produce
nothing but corrupt fruit, but why are we born with corrupt hearts? This is
more than a terrible calamity: it is a penal infliction visited on us because of
our prior criminality. Punishment presupposes guilt, and the punishment is
given to all because all are guilty; and since God regards all as guilty, then
they must be participants in Adam’s offense. George Whitefield put it well:
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 [He would be
unjust]; and thus while we imagine we honor the justice of God by
renouncing imputation, we in fact pour the highest dishonor upon
that sacred attribute.
Death, penal death, has been passed on all men because all sinned in Adam.
That “all have sinned” cannot signify all men’s 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 to this comparison: As men die because they sin personally, so
all earn eternal life because they are personally righteous! It is equally
evident that “all have sinned” cannot mean that death comes upon men
because they are depraved, for this too would clash with the scope of the
whole passage. If our subjective sinfulness were the ground of our
condemnation, then our subjective holiness (and not Christ’s merits) would.55
be the ground of our justification. It would also contradict the emphatic
assertion of verse 18: “By the offense 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 to all his
posterity are repudiated, then what alternative is left us? Only that of the
separate testing of each individual. If the race was 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 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 are not born under the
condemnation of Adam’s offense, then why are we “by nature the children
of wrath” (

Ephesians 2:3)? Either man was tried and fell in Adam, or
he has been condemned without trial. He is either under the curse (as it
rests on him from the beginning of his existence) for Adam’s guilt, or for
no guilt at all. Judge which is more honoring to God: a doctrine which,
although profoundly mysterious, represents God as giving man an equitable
and most favorable probation in his federal head, or one which makes God
condemn man untried, even before he exists.
Examine the verses which immediately follow

Romans 5:12. They are
not only of deep importance in connection with the present aspect of our
subject, but their meaning is little apprehended today, for they receive
scarcely any notice either in the pulpit or in 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. In these verses Paul
intimates 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 offense. The argument of verse 13 is as follows: The infliction of a
penalty presupposes the violation of the 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. Therefore as
death implies transgression, and the law, of Moses does not explain all of
death’s victims, it clearly and necessarily follows that the whole human
race is subject to the penal consequence of the primordial law being
transgressed by their first father..56
“For until the law sin was in the world” (v.13). The opening “for” indicates
that the apostle is now about to furnish proof of the assertion made in
verse 12. “The law” here has reference to the Mosaic law. “Sin,” as all
through this passage, signifies guilt on 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 verse 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 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. Note 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, it was not reckoned to the
account of those who were guilty. Such an idea is not only erroneous but
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 law. Sin or
condemnation implies the law: one cannot be without the other. “Sin is the
transgression of the law” (

1 John 3:4). No one is guilty where no law
exists, for criminality presupposes the violation of a statute. Thus, for any
to be judged guilty is the same thing as saying he has broken the law. This
prepares us for

Romans 5:14, proof that a law given previously to
Moses had been violated, and consequently God dealt with the violators as
sinners long before the time of Moses.
Read the verse. “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses.”
Though it is true 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 history. The conclusion is so self-evident that Paul leaves his
readers to draw it The human race must have transgressed an earlier law.57
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
that “death reigned”; it held undisputed and rightful sway. If then men
were justly subject to its power they must have been guilty. Death is far
more than a calamity: it is a punishment, and that indicates the breaking of
a law. If men were punished with death from the beginning, it inevitably
follows that they were lawbreakers from the beginning. Moreover, death
furnished proof that sin was imputed: men were guilty of Adam’s offense.
“Even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s
transgression” refers to 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 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 conclusive proof of the doctrine here taught.
Physical death is a penal infliction; falling as it does on infants, it must be
because of Adam’s sin. On no other ground can their dying be accounted
for. They furnish the prime demonstration that all sinned in Adam and
suffer the consequences of his wrong.
At the close of verse 14 the apostle states 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 offense, so also is the free gift” (15a). 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 offense of one many be dead [’many died,’ legally]” (15b). The
“many” includes infants, and the fact that they die because of the one man’s
offense proves that they are judged guilty of it, and that God imputed it to
them, for He never punishes where there is no sin..58
“Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man,
Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (15c). Here the first contrast is
drawn—between justice and grace. The “much more” does not mean
numerically, as Christ cannot restore more than Adam ruined, for he
encompassed the downfall of all his posterity. Nor does this “much more”
signify that grace is more abundant and efficacious than the sin in its
effects; that is brought out in verse 20. No, it is used 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 suffer from the offense 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 was arranged 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 offenses unto
justification” (v.16). Here the second contrast is drawn. Though there is a
close resemblance between ruin and redemption, in that each was
accomplished by one man, yet there is a great difference between the scope
of their respective effects. The destroying power of the former did not go
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! This verse explains itself, the second clause
interpreting the first. The divine sentence of condemnation fell on the entire
human family because of the single deviation of their head, but believers
are justified by Christ from many infractions: “having forgiven you all
trespasses” (

Colossians 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:.59
“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 needs to be
carefully weighed. The word “judgment” obviously signifies a judicial
sentence—pronounced by God—“to condemnation” and not to corruption
or destruction 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 offenses”
which we have personally committed. It is expressly asserted that judgment
came by Adam’s initial transgression, and if all are condemned for that sin
then all must be counted guilty of it, for the righteous Judge will not
condemn the innocent. “But the free gift is of many offenses unto
justification.” Where sin abounded grace abounded much more. 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 offense death reigned by one [if by the offense 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”
(v.17). Here is the third contrast: death and life, issuing from the heads.
Here the central truth of the whole passage is reiterated: Death comes to
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 expressly states that death reigned “by [because of] the
one man’s offense,” 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 on 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 [free
death’s lawful prisoners].” Note how this passage indirectly confirms

Romans 5:14 which shows that death could have no dominion over
infants unless they were charged with Adam’s sin..60
“Much more they which receive abundance of grace.” The “much more” of
this verse emphasizes a different thought from that of verse 15. There it
refers to God’s 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, much more could He justify the seed
of Christ (

Isaiah 53:10) on the ground of the obedience of their
Representative. But here the phrase has reference to the modus operandi
of condemnation and justification. If death has come upon us as a judicial
infliction for an offense 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 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 to sinners leave Him without any?
“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”

Revelation 1:6). They are not reinstated in the earthly paradise, but
shall be brought to honor and glory and immortality in heaven-given title to
a state of eternal and supernal blessedness. The careful student observes
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” (15c). Both are conveyers of a judicial sentence:
condemnation, justification (16). Both introduce a sovereign regime:
“death reigned,” “reign in life” (17). But by Adam we lost, whereas in
Christ we gain. We were charged with the one offense, but are cleared
from many. We were the subjects of death, but are made coheirs 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 established far above all principality and power..61
“Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to
condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon
all men unto justification of life” (18). In verse 12 only the first member of
the contrast was given (vv. 13-17 interrupting as a necessary parenthesis),
but here the case is stated in full. Throughout the whole passage Paul
contrasts the states of divine wrath and divine favor, and not the states of
depravity and holiness. He plainly asserts that all are condemned for
Adam’s sin. Infants are therefore included, for they would not be punished
if innocent-if Adam ,sin was not legally theirs. In precisely the same way all
for whom Christ acted as their covenant Head are justified by His merits
being legally reckoned to their account. As something outside ourselves is
the judicial ground of our falling under the divine curse, so something
outside 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 of 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” (

5:19). This goes
farther than the preceding verse. There the causes of condemnation and
justification were stated; here their actual issue or results are given. From
verse 11 on the apostle has shown that God’s sentence is grounded upon
the legally constituted unity of all men with their covenant heads. By the
first Adam’s breaking of the divine law all who were federally one with him
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 in a person or thing, but means “to ordain, appoint,” “to
constitute” legally or officially (cf.

Matthew 24:45, 47;


Acts 7:10, 27). Note that Paul does not here state that Adam’s
disobedience makes us unholy. He goes further back and explains why this
should follow, namely, because we are first constituted sinners by

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 see the old and
the new races receiving from their respective heads. Here are 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.62
hammered again and again with almost monotonous repetition. Why such
unusual reiteration? Because of the great doctrinal importance of what is
here dealt with; because the purity of the gospel and the glory of Christ’s
atonement pivoted on these points; because Paul was insisting on 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, Universalists and others 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 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. What do the Scriptures
say about it? As we have seen, Romansdeclares that death has come upon
all men because all sinned in Adam (v.12), that “through the offense of one
many be dead” (15), that “the judgment was by one to condemnation”
(16), that “by one man’s offense death reigned” (17), that “by the offense
of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (18), that “by one
man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (19). “In Adam all die”

1 Corinthians 15:22). God deals with men on the principle of
imputation. The sins of the fathers implicate the children (

20:5). The curse of Canaan fell on all his posterity (

Genesis 9:25). The
Egyptians perished for Pharaoh’s obduracy. Achan’s whole family died for
his crime (

Joshua 7:24). All Israel suffered for David’s sin (

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 is one word which fitly expresses what every man is by nature, it is
“sinner.” Waiving all theological systems, if we ask the popular meaning of
that term, the answer is “One who has sinned,” one who makes a practice
of sinning. But such a definition comes far short of the scriptural import of
the word. “By the disobedience of one many were made sinners.” They are
sinners, made so legally, 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 all are sinners
antecedent to and independent of any personal transgressing of God’s law.
By the offense of Adam we were legally constituted sinners. The universal.63
reign of death is proof of the universal power of sin. Yet death must not be
represented as the consequence of individual acts of disobedience, for
death reigns over infants, who are incapable of acts of disobedience.
Human probation ended with the original sin; in consequence, not only was
human nature vitiated at its fountainhead, but all of Adam’s descendants
fell under the curse of God, the guilt of his transgression being imputed to
No finite creature—still less a fallen and depraved one—is capable of
measuring or even understanding the justice of the infinite God. Yet which
appears to be more consonant with 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 in the latter we can discover
no ground or cause that any share of the fatal effects of Adam’s sin should
be visited on us. The latter alternative means that we are depraved and
wretched without any sufficient reason, and in such an event our present
condition is simply a misfortune and in no way 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. Our salvation
depends upon the same principle and fact: If we were cursed and ruined by
the first Adam’s disobedience we are redeemed and blessed by the last
Adam’s obedience..64
The key to 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 close 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, 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 giving his Maker and
Lord that obedience which was His due and which he was fully capacitated
to perform. The divinely constituted tie (connecting principle) and oneness
of the first man with all mankind in the sight of the law explains the latter’s
participation in the penalty visited on the former.
We have dwelt at some length on the origin of human depravity and the
divine imputation of the guilt of Adam’s transgression to all his
descendants. We now consider the consequences entailed by the fall.
Abominable indeed is sin, fearful are the wages it earns, dreadful are the
effects it has produced. In sin’s consequences we are shown the holy One’s
estimate of sin, the severity of His punishment expressing His hatred of it.
Conversely the terrible doom of Adam makes evident the enormity of his
offense. That offense is not to be measured by the external act of eating the
fruit, but by the awful affront which was made 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 good heritage allotted him. There was a disbelief of the holy.65
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 defiance
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 Ussher pointed out that wrapped up in it was
“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: He broke
the first commandment by choosing 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 not believing God’s
threatening, in that way taking His name in vain. The fourth, by breaking
the sinless rest in which he had been placed. The fifth, by thus dishonoring
his Father in heaven. The sixth, by bringing death on himself and all his
posterity. The seventh, by committing spiritual adultery, and preferring the
creature above the Creator. The eighth, by laying hands upon that 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; rather we take decided exception to that theory. We
cannot find anything whatever in Holy Writ on which to base such a belief;
in fact, we find much to the contrary. First it is clear that Adam’s 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 (

Exodus 21:14;

Numbers 15:30-31;


Hebrews 10:26-29), and which was therefore an unpardonable
sin. There is not the slightest sign that he ever repented of his sin, nor any
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
Adam’s credit afterward: 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 any intimation or indication that Adam was a.66
regenerated man, then he has much better eyes than the writer—or possibly
a more lively imagination.
Nor is there a single word in Adam’s favor in later scriptures; rather is
everything to his condemnation. Job denied that he covered his
transgressions or hid his iniquity in his bosom “as Adam” did (

The psalmist declared that those who judged unjustly and accepted the
persons of the wicked should die like Adam (

32:7), for the Hebrew
word there rendered “men” is Adam. In the New Testament he is
contrasted in considerable detail with Christ (

Romans 5:12, 21;

Corinthians 15:22, 45-47); and if he were saved, then the antithesis would
fail at its principal point. Moreover, such an anomaly—that the great
majority of those whom he represented should eternally perish, while the
responsible head should be recovered—is quite out of keeping with what is
revealed of God’s justice. 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 Abel, Enoch,
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others, He says nothing about Adam’s! His
being omitted from that list is solemnly significant. After his being driven
out of Eden, Scripture makes no mention of God having any further
dealing with Adam!
Before taking up the consequences of Adam’s defection upon his
descendants, we will consider those consequences which fell immediately
upon him and his guilty partner. These are recorded in Genesis 3. No
sooner had Adam revolted from his gracious Maker and Benefactor than
the evil effects became apparent. His understanding, originally enlightened
with heavenly wisdom, became darkened and overcast with crass
ignorance. His heart, formerly 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.67
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” (

Genesis 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 our
previous statement that 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 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. 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 and glorious state they wore no
material clothing, yet we do not believe for a moment that they were
without any covering at all. Rather 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
and absolutely bare. Each bird has its plumage and each animal its
coat, and there is no beauty if the covering be removed. Strip the
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.68
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 the vice-regents of God (

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 nigh 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
“Thou art clothed with honor and majesty: who coverest thyself
with light as with a garment” (

Psalm 104:1-2);
and man was made, originally, in His image! God “crowned him with glory
and honor,” made him “to have dominion over the works of thy hands”

Psalm 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; cf. “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.” Robert Haldane explained
those words thus:
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..69
And since Christ restored that which He took not away (

Psalm 69:4),
then its resurrected state shows us its primitive glory (

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. 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 the eyes of their understanding, so we are informed of what they
now discerned, namely the loss of their innocence. There is 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” (

Revelation 3:18).
The “white raiment” is “the robe of righteousness” (

Isaiah 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 mirrored
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 honor of paradise,
but were defiled and degraded. Thus a sense of wretchedness possessed
them. They knew that they were naked of everything that is holy. They
might be rightly termed “Ichabod,” for the glory of the Lord had departed.70
from them. This is always the effect of sin; it destroys our peace, robs 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 the 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!
This is very striking and solemn. Before the Lord appeared to them, before
He said a word or came near to them, Adam and Eve knew the dreadful
state they were in, and were ashamed. Oh, the power of conscience! Our
first parents stood self-accused and self-condemned. Before the 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, that their holiness was 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 himself is ashamed.
And what did the guilty pair do upon their painful discovery? How did they
conduct themselves? Cry to God for mercy? Look to Him for a covering?
No indeed. Not even an awakened conscience moves its tormented
possessor to turn to the Lord, though it must do its work before 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 Savior, it
resulted in their leaving Him! Nothing short of the Holy Spirit’s
quickening, enmity-subduing, heart-melting, faith-bestowing, will-impelling
operations brings anyone into saving contact with the Lord Jesus. He does
indeed wound before He applies the balm of Gilead, make 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 going to God, Adam and Eve attempted by their own puny
efforts to repair the damage they had done in themselves. “They sewed fig
leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Here we see the second.71
consequence of their sin: a worthless expedient, a futile attempt to conceal
their real character and hide their shame from themselves and the other
creatures. As others have pointed out, our first parents were more anxious
to save face before each other than they were to seek the pardon of God.
They sought to arm themselves against a feeling of shame and thereby
quiet their accusing conscience. 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 fellowmen than
about obtaining the approbation of God. The chief objective of the fallen
sons of men is to quiet their guilty consciences and to stand well with their
neighbors. Hence 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”

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 their
wretchedness, but now they had to reckon with another, their Judge.
Apparently they did not see His form at this moment, but only heard His
voice. This 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
“Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith
the LORD” (

Jeremiah 23:24).
In the attempt of Adam and Eve to seclude themselves among the trees, we
see 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.
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 favor, 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 had become.72
the object of their aversion and distrust. A sense of degradation and of
God’s displeasure filled them with fright and caused them to have awful
enmity against Him. So swift and 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. 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 bear Him pronounce formal sentence of
condemnation upon them, for they knew in themselves that they deserved
Each action of our first parents after the fall was emblematic and prophetic,
for it predicted how their descendants too 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 preserve
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 just things of time, and will not endure the test
of eternity. Second, Adam and Eve tried 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 theater is preferred to the prayer meeting. This is proof that all
shared in the first sin and died in Adam, for all inherit his nature and
perpetuate his conduct.
How clearly the actions of the guilty pair made evident the serpent’s lie.
The more closely verses 4 and 5 are scrutinized in the light of the
immediate sequel, the more their falsity appears. The serpent had assured
them, “Ye shall not surely die,” yet they had done so spiritually; and now
they fled in terror lest they lose their physical lives. He had declared that
they would be advanced—for that was the evident force of his “your eyes
shall be opened”; instead, they had been abased. He had promised that they
would 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
see them as self-accused and trembling criminals. We do well to bear in
mind the Lord’s pronouncement concerning the devil: “He is a liar, and the.73
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,
always employing dissimulation and treachery, subtlety and deception, to
further his evil interests.
Consider 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; 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. All must appear before Him and render an account of their
stewardship. Unless we flee to Christ for refuge, and have our sins blotted
out by His atoning blood, we shall hear His sentence of eternal doom.
“Seek… the LORD while he may be found, call… upon him while he is
near” in His gracious overtures of the gospel (

Isaiah 55:6). For “how
shall we escape” the lake of fire “if we neglect so great salvation?” Do not
assume that you are a Christian, but examine your foundations; 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 Savior.
In the verses that follow we are given a solemn preview of the day to
“And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where
art thou?” (

Genesis 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 distance from God to
which sin and guilt had removed him. His offense had severed all
communion between them, for “what fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness?” Observe
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.” This death is not
annihilation but alienation. 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” (

Isaiah 59:2)..74
This is the terrible plight of us all by nature—“far off” (

2:13)—and unless divine grace saves us, we shall be
“punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the
Lord” (

2 Thessalonians 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” (

Genesis 3:10).
Note how utterly unable sinful man is to meet the divine inquisition. Adam
could offer no adequate defense. Hear his sorry admission: “I was afraid.”
His conscience condemned him. This will be the woeful plight of every lost
soul when, brought out from “the refuge of lies” in which he formerly
sheltered, he appears before his Maker—destitute of that righteousness and
holiness which He inexorably requires, and which we can obtain only in
and from Christ. Weigh those words: “I was afraid, because I was naked.”
Adam’s heart was filled with horror and terror. His apron of fig leaves was
of no avail! Thus it is 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 soul 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 this 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 this inquiry
Adam made no reply. Instead of humbling himself before his aggrieved
Benefactor, the culprit failed to 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 are 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 questioned him: “Hast thou eaten?”
That opened the way and made it much easier for Adam contritely to.75
acknowledge his transgression. But he failed to avail himself of the
opportunity and declined to make brokenhearted confession of his iniquity.
God did not put those questions to Adam because He wanted to be
informed, but rather to provide Adam with an occasion to own penitently
what he had done. In his refusal to do so we see 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 it.
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” (v.12). Here
was the fifth consequence of the fall: self-justification by an attempt to
excuse sin. Instead of confessing his wickedness, Adam tried to mitigate
and extenuate it by throwing the onus upon another. The entrance of evil
into man produced a dishonest and deceitful heart. Rather than take the
blame upon himself, Adam sought to place it upon his wife. And thus it is
with his descendants. They endeavor 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 discern something still more heinous,
a sixth consequence of his fall, namely, a blasphemous challenging 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 he covertly
reproached 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?”
See here the pride and stout-heartiness which characterize 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 warned,
“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).
The depraved mind of the fallen creature is so prone to think that very
thing and seek shelter in that excuse. “If God had not ordered things that
way, I never would have been so strongly tempted. If He had arranged
things differently, I would not have been enticed, still less overcome.”
Thus, in our efforts at self-vindication, we cast reflection on the ways of
Him who cannot err..76
“The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth
against the Lord” (

Proverbs 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 of
our wrongdoing. Since we are the authors of our misery, it is reasonable
that we should fret against ourselves. But such is the pride of our hearts,
and our unsubdued enmity against God, that we are foolishly 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! Do not charge
the unpleasant reaping to the severity of God, but to your own perversity.
Do not say, “God should not have endowed me with such strong passions
if I may not indulge them.” Do not ask, “Why did He not give grace so that
I could have resisted the temptation?” Do not impeach His sovereignty, do
not question His dispensations, harbor no doubts about His goodness. If
you do, you are 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.” Adam indeed recited the facts of the case,
yet in so doing he 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, far
from following her example, he should have rebuked her and refused her
offer. To plead allurement by others is no valid excuse, yet it is 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 (

Exodus 32:22-24). In like manner, disobedient King
Saul sought to transfer the onus to “the people” (

1 Samuel 15:21). So
too Pilate gave orders for the crucifixion of Christ, and then charged the
crime to the Jews (

Matthew 27:24). Here we learn yet another
consequence of the fall: It produced a breach of affection between man
and his neighbor—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?” (v. 13a). Here we see both the infinite condescension of the Most
High and His fairness as Judge. He did not act in high sovereignty,.77
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 hearing. 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 (

Psalm 51:4). “And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me,
and I did eat” (v. 13b). Eve followed the same course and manifested the
same evil spirit as her husband. She did not humble herself before the Lord,
gave no sign of repentance, made no brokenhearted confession. Instead,
she vainly attempted to vindicate herself by casting the blame on the
serpent. It was a weak excuse, for God had capacitated her with
understanding to perceive his lies, and with rectitude of nature to reject
them with horror. It is equally useless for her children to plead, “I had no
intention of sinning, but the devil tempted me”; for he can force no one,
nor prevail without one’s consent.
As Adam and Eve stood before their Judge, self-accused and self-condemned,
He proceeded to pronounce sentence upon the guilty pair. But
before doing so 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” (vv.
14-15). Observe that no question was put to the serpent. Rather the Lord
treated him as an avowed enemy. His sentence is to be taken literally in its
application to the serpent, mystically in relation to Satan. Scott said
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 endeavors 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.
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, it was “cursed above all cattle”; the curse
has extended to the whole creation, as

Romans 8:20-23 makes clear.
Second, thereafter it would crawl in the dust; this infers that originally it.78
stood erect (cf. our remarks on

Genesis 3:1). Third, God Himself now
put 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. However let it be
carefully noted that it was in the form of a sentence of doom on Satan, not
a gracious declaration made to Adam and Eve—intimating that they had no
personal interest in it!
The sentences pronounced upon our first parents need not detain us, for
the language is so plain and simple that it needs 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” (v.16). Thus she was 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; 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
falling most heavily upon the male. Here we see the eighth consequence of
the fall: physical suffering and death—“Unto dust shalt thou return.”
“And Adam called his wife’s name Eve [’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 conferred a name upon her. “Unto Adam also and to his wife
did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (v.21). We are.79
not told the design of the coats; each reader is free to form his own
opinion. Many have supposed these words to intimate that God 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, the writer sees in this the ninth consequence of
the fall: that man had thereby descended to the level of the animals.
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 God he should
“be as gods” (v.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” (v.23). God 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” (v.24), thereby effectually preventing
his return. Hence we note the tenth consequence of the fall: man as an
outcast from God, estranged from His favor and fellowship, banished from
the place of delight, sent forth a fugitive into the world. Observe how this
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 their alienation from Him.
Having considered those consequences which fell more immediately upon
our first parents for their original offense, we shall now look at the
consequences they brought upon their descendants. We do not have to go
outside of Genesis 3 to find proof that the penal consequences of their
transgression are inherited by their posterity. What God said to them was
said to all of mankind, for since the sin was common to all, so was the
penalty also. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow
and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (v.16). And
such has been the lot of all Eve’s daughters. “Cursed is the ground for thy.80
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 of evil which then descended upon the world continues
to this hour. All of Adam and Eve’s children are equally involved in the
sentence of the pain of childbirth, the curse on the ground, the obligation to
live by toil and sweat, the decay and death of the body.
But the things just mentioned above, though severe and painful, are trivial
in comparison with the divine judgment which has been visited on man’s
soul. 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 favor 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, was driven from His
presence. Since the guilt of Adam’s offense was imputed or judicially
charged to 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 offense. In consequence, every child is born into this
world in a state of antenatal disgrace and condemnation, with entire
depravity of nature and makeup which inevitably leads to and produces
actual transgression, and with complete inability of soul to change his
nature or do anything pleasing to God.
“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon
as they be born, speaking lies” (

Psalm 58:3).
First, from the moment of birth every child is morally and spiritually cut
off from the Lord—a lost sinner. Matthew Henry described it thus:
“estranged from God and all good: alienated from the Divine life, and its
principles, powers, and blessings.” Adam lost not only the image of God
but His favor 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 of this, Adam’s children are delinquents, warped
from the beginning. Their very being is polluted, for evil is bred in them..81
Their “nature” is inclined to wickedness only; and if God leaves them to
themselves they will never turn from it.
Third, they quickly supply evidence of their separation from God and of
the corruption of their hearts—as every godly parent perceives to his
sorrow. While in the cradle they evince their opposition to truth, sincerity,
integrity. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child” (

22:15), not childishness but foolishness—leaning toward evil, entering
upon an ungodly course, forming and following bad habits. It is “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 narrowing its scope, denying that it has a race-wide
application; these 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 J. 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”

Ephesians 2:3).
That statement is, if possible, even more awful and solemn than

58:3. It signifies much more than that we are born into the world with a
defiled constitution, for it speaks of not simply “children of corruption,”
but “children of wrath”—obnoxious to God, criminals in His sight.
Depravity of our natures is no mere misfortune; if it were, it would evoke
pity, not anger. The expression “children of wrath” is a Hebraism, a very
strong and emphatic one. The original rendering of

1 Samuel 20:30

2 Samuel 12:5 mentions “the son of death,” that is, one deserving.82
death. In

Matthew 23:15 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.” Thus “children of wrath” connotes
those who are deserving of wrath, heirs of wrath, fit for it. They are born
to wrath, and under it, as their heritage. They are not only defiled and
corrupt creatures, but the objects of God’s judicial indignation. Why?
Because the sin of Adam is imputed to 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,” 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 setting
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 sharing in his transgression. We are the
children of wrath because our federal head fell under the wrath of God.
Calvin stated, “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.”
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” (

Romans 9:11-13).
This goes back still further, before birth. Esau was an object of God’s
hatred before he was born. Obviously a righteous God could not abominate
one who was 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—.83
obnoxious and subject to divine punishment—not only by virtue of our
own personal transgressions, but because of our constitution. Deviation is
coexistent 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 on us. No other explanation is possible; since
our guilt and liability to punishment are not, in the first place, due to our
personal sins, they must be because of Adam’s sin being imputed to us.
For the same reason 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. 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 to the Lord. If they are
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
In the opening verses of Ephesians 2 the Holy Spirit has described our
fallen state. First, we are dead in trespasses and sins (v. 1): dead judicially,
under sentence of the law; dead experientially, without a spark of spiritual
life. Second, our outward course is depicted (vv. 2-3): as completely
dominated by “the flesh” or evil principle, inspired to an ungodly walk by
Satan, so that our every action is sinful. Third, the resultant punishment is
detailed (v.3): we are obnoxious to the divine Judge, born in such a
condition, and remaining so while in this fallen state. Until the sinner
believes, “the wrath of God abideth on him” (

John 3:36). Though the
sentence is 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.84
accounted for by our relation to the first man, our covenant head and legal
It would hardly be fair not to take 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 does not rest on his sons. But such an arbitrary
assertion is manifestly contrary to those facts which confront us on every
side. The judgment which God pronounced upon Adam and Eve is as
surely visited upon their children today as it ever was before the Son of
God died on the cross. The curse upon the ground, the ordeal of women in
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 they were in the Old.
Obviously such things could not be if the Arminian view were sound, for if
the guilt of original sin had been removed, the effects of it could no longer
continue. Such an affirmation is baseless, unconfirmed by a single clear
statement in Scripture, though some do make a farfetched 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.” We wonder how anyone can perceive anything
in those words which strikes them as relevant to the point. Our Lord’s
forerunner was there presenting the Messiah to the people in that sacrificial
character which both type and prophecy had prepared them to look for; he
was 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 would be
inaugurated by breaking down the “middle wall of partition.”
For two thousand years the grace of God had been restricted almost
entirely to a single nation; but now it was on the point of flowing out to all.
John 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” is a general expression, it is not to be.85
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” (

Isaiah 40:5)
“all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Savior”

Isaiah 49:26).
“The sin of the world” signifies all the sins of all God’s people as a
collective whole, as one great and heavy burden—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 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 stead it was made.
Not only is the theory we are here controverting without any scriptural
evidence to support it, but it is refuted by every considerable evidence to
the contrary. If attention is 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 had a particular and
restricted design. He transacted as a Shepherd on behalf of His sheep

John 10:11; cf. 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. He
served in the relation of a Husband (

Ephesians 5:25-27), showing
singleness of affection, the exclusiveness of conjugal love! He sustained the
relation of Head to His beneficiaries, there being a federal and legal unity
between them (

Hebrews 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—not merely taking 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 does not recognize the original curse. But such is far from being the.86
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 under
condemnation, “guilty before God” (vv. 10-19)—not merely as possible
condemnation, but an actual one; not one which may be incurred, but
which has been incurred already, and under which all are now lying; and
the only way of deliverance 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 described as those who are sinners,
lost, lying 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” (

Romans 1:18);
and until the terms of that gospel are met, men have no hope

Ephesians 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. To quote J.
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..87
In introducing this aspect of our subject we cannot do better than set
before the reader what A. A. Hodge pointed out in Outlines of Theology as
… 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
(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 (joint cause) 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
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
injustice, 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.88
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
The why has been discussed by us at some length: the guilt of Adam’s
offense 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” (

Hebrews 12:9), and yet not be the Author of the sin
now inhering in our natures. Rather we shall confine ourselves to an
examination of the bare facts which Scripture presents on the subject.
Nowhere in the Word of God is the pollution of fallen man ascribed to the
holy One; it is uniformly attributed to human propagation: by natural
generation a corrupt offspring is begotten and conceived by corrupt
It was a divinely instituted law of the original creation that like should
produce like, which plainly appears in that clause “whose seed is in itself”

Genesis 1:11-12), and in that oft repeated expression “after his kind”
(vv. 21, 24, 25). 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 from it 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 simply perpetuate what began
in him; from the first moment of their existence they become participants of
his impurity. Though our immediate parents are the occasion of conveying
a depraved nature to their children, that nature is derived originally from.89
the first man. In other words, the present relation of father and son is not
that of cause and effect, but that of an instrument or channel in transmitting
the sinfulness of Adam and Eve.

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 did not
communicate 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, introducing a lengthy obituary list—
showing that dying Adam could only beget mortals. The image of Cod
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 Corinthians
15:49-50; cf. v.22). The copy answered to the original. Adam 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. This is
remarkably intimated in the opening verse of Psalm 14 which has for its
theme the awful depravity of the human race. John 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 in.
Psalm 14 opens with the statement “The fool hath said in his heart, There is
no God.” The careful reader will notice that the words “there is” have been
supplied by the translators—unnecessarily, we feel. The fool does not say.90
in his head, “There is no God”; rather he says 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” (

Psalm 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 to it. 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. Who is the fool of all fools? Adam was the arch-fool. His
heart had become devoid of wisdom. Thus was the father of our race.
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” (

Psalm 51:5).
This 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 is transmitted by him to them
according to a fixed law of heredity, 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 lawful and honorable marriage, yet from his
parents he received Adam’s vitiated nature with all its evil dispositions.
Note 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 concede it. Matthew Henry states that David
said in effect, “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.” The realization that our whole 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,.91
“I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou
art my mother, and my sister” (

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 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 horn of Mary should be “that holy thing”

Luke 1:35), which would not have been the case if He had been
begotten by natural generation from a man. Though this doctrine of
original sin, of antenatal defilement, is purely a matter of divine revelation,
it explains what nothing else does, namely, that “the imagination of man’s
heart is evil from his youth” (

Genesis 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” (

Psalm 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 favor, 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. Third, that he turns to his own way, and the
very first steps he takes are in that broad road which leads to destruction.
Why? Because his very being is poisoned and poisonous, malicious; he is at
odds with God and goodness and his fellowmen—“hateful, and hating one
another” (

Titus 3:3). This 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 is hidden, it
is lurking there, ready for use as soon as it is provoked.
B.W. Newton stated:
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.92
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
sepulcher, 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.
When therefore Scripture speaks of men as sinners, it refers not only to
their practice but chiefly to their evil nature—a nature which is conveyed
by Adam and transmitted from parent to child in successive generations.
“Foolishness is hound in the heart of a child; but the rod of
correction shall drive it far from him” (

Proverbs 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.
This corruption is deep-rooted. It does not lie 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. “The little innocent”
is a misnomer of fondness and fancy. John Bunyan said:
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
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself
bringeth his mother to shame” (

Proverbs 29:15)..93
C. Bridges agreed: “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’ (

Lamentations 3:27). Let reproof be tried
first; and if it succeed, let the rod be spared (

Proverbs 17:10). If not,
let it do its work.” If parents fail to do their duty, there will be sad
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 (

Samuel 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 excused
while in the most aggravated sin (

2 Samuel 14:28-33; 15:6; 18:33),
another not corrected by even a word (

1 Kings 1:5-9). As E Hopkins
“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 is humored and no real efforts are made to counteract its evil
propensities, it will assuredly grow more self-willed and intractable. How
far the Scriptures are from flattering us! A “transgressor from the womb”

Isaiah 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. Every parent is the channel of moral contagion to his
offspring, who are by nature “children of disobedience” (

2:2). Original sin is transmitted as leprosy is conveyed to the children of
lepers. 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 [outgoings] of life,” is deceitful
above all things and desperately wicked from the very first moment of its
Some argue that if corruption is passed to all men from their first parents,
then why are not all equally corrupt? They contend that some people are
not subject to inordinate affections, but are respectable and law-abiding
citizens. There are two answers to that objection..94
First, although, everything else being equal, such a conclusion is logical, it
will not necessarily follow that all men will manifest the corruption in the
same manner, or 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 on his outward conduct. Nevertheless, though one man may
have less dissolute manners than another, still his imaginations are not
pure; and though his bodily lusts may 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 are 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 or ill health, or putting them in isolated places; 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 fellowmen, 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 trick 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 Agur
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” (

Proverbs 30:8-9)..95
In the preaching chapter we showed how Scripture casts light on 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” (

Psalm 51:5).
He described his depravity as innate and not created, as derived from his
mother and not his Maker, showing 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” (

Psalm 145:21) —that is, all men; “All flesh is grass”

Isaiah 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” (

Matthew 24:22);
“By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight”

Romans 3:20)—by his own obedience no man can merit acceptance
with God.
But since mankind is 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 it refers 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;.96

Galatians 5:17). When the apostle declared, “For I know that in me
(that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing” (

Romans 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 “hatred, emulations, wrath, and
envyings” included in that incomplete list of the horrible “works of the
flesh” supplied by Galatians 5, it is quite plain that the word takes in far
more than the corporeal parts of our persons; even more so when we find
that these works are set over against “the fruit of the spirit,” each 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 things
and desperately wicked. It is evident also from the immediate context

John 3:3-5), for what He affirmed in verse 6 was in order to
demonstrate the absolute need of regeneration. Our Lord was contrasting
the first birth with the new birth, and showing how imperative is the latter
because we are radically tainted from the outset. All by nature are
essentially evil, nothing but “flesh”; everything in us is 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 distaste for 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.
We shall now attempt to answer 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 academical interest
which concerns none but teachers of theology. It is one of deep doctrinal
and practical importance. All of us, especially preachers, should be quite
clear on this point, for a mistake here is liable to lead to erroneous
conclusions and serious consequences. This has indeed proved to be the
case, for not a few who were sound and orthodox in many other respects.97
have answered this question in a way that 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
endeavor carefully to define and describe the present condition of the
natural man, beginning with the negative side and pointing out 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 did not die, 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”

Ephesians 4:18).
When Christ represented the father as saying, “This my son was dead, and
is alive again” (

Luke 15:24), He most certainly did not mean that the
prodigal had ceased to exist, but that while he remained “in the far
country” he was cut off from his father, and that he had now returned to
him. The lake of fire into which the wicked shall be cast is designated “the
second death” (

Revelation 20:14), not signifying that they shall then
cease to be, but that they are.98
“punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the
Lord, and from the glory of his power” (

2 Thessalonians 1:9).
That fallen man is possessed of a spirit is clear:
“The LORD… formeth the spirit of man within him”

Zechariah 12:1);
“What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man
which is in him?” (

1 Corinthians 2:11);
“The spirit shall return unto God who gave it”

Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Man was created a tripartite being, consisting of spirit and soul and body

1 Thessalonians 5:23), and no part of him 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
converted 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 and 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 to be clear on 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 man of them would be to unman him. They exist
in the criminal as well as in the saint. They all have an essential unity in the
wholeness of the human person. That is to say, they are coordinate
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 makes men evil or good; the manner and motive
of their use 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 right. These faculties were all brought under the
malignant influence of sin, so that man 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.99
one department of his being—to the will as contra-distinguished from the
understanding, or to the understanding as contra-distinguished from the
will. It was not restricted to the lower appetites, as contrasted with our
higher principles of action. Nor did it affect 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, foolishness. 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 distaste for
spiritual and divine things. The entrance of sin into the human constitution
has not 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, the
image of goodness and excellence.
Third, the fall has not resulted in the loss of man’s freedom of will, his
power of volition as a moral faculty. Admittedly this is a much harder point
to cover than either of the above. Not because Scripture is ambiguous in its
teaching, nor even because it contains any seeming contradictions, but
because of the philosophical and metaphysical difficulties it raises in the
minds of those who give it careful thought. The fall certainly did not
reduce man to the condition of a stock or stone, or even to 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. It is
equally certain 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 on 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 them or shuts
doors against them.
As pointed out, though each distinct faculty of the soul has a sphere that is
peculiar to itself, yet they are coordinate; 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 the will is
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.100

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 observe, 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” (

Ephesians 4:18), and speaks of regenerated men as being
“renewed in knowledge” (

Colossians 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 is true that man is as truly free
now as Adam was before his apostasy, yet he is not as 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 to do that which is good
and holy. Great care needs to be taken lest our definition of the freedom of
fallen man clashes with such scriptures as

Psalm 110:3;

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 a manacled, fettered prisoner in a cell. His movements are hampered by
his chains, and he is hindered by the walls that confine him. He is free to
walk, but in such a constrained way and within such a limited space that his
freedom is bondage—bondage to sin.
Whether we understand “the will” to be simply the faculty of volition by
which the soul chooses or refuses, or whether we regard it as the faculty of
volition together with all else within us which affects the choice—reason,
imagination, longing—still 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.
Where the latter is absent the individual is at liberty to decide according to
his pleasure. Where the Arminian errs on this point is to confound power
with “will,” insisting that the sinner is equally able to choose good as evil.
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. Even so, he first yields voluntarily to the enticements of his own.101
lusts before he commits any act of sin, nor can Satan lead him into any
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 by
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 a 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; therefore he is 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 is carefully pondered this should
be quite evident. Human responsibility is the necessary corollary of divine
sovereignty. Since God is the Creator, since He is supreme Ruler over all,
and since man is just a creature and a subject, there is no escape from his
accountability to his Maker and rightful Lord. For what is man responsible?
Man is obligated to answer to the relationship which exists between him
and his Creator. Man occupies the place of creaturehood, subordination,
utter dependency for every breath he draws, and therefore must
acknowledge God’s dominion, submit to His authority, and love Him with
all his strength and heart. Human responsibility is discharged by
recognizing God’s rights and acting accordingly, by rendering Him 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 exercise
in His service the faculties He has given us, to use the means He has
appointed, to improve the opportunities and advantages He has granted 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 between the Creator
and the creature. God is the Owner of sinful man as truly and as fully as He.102
was of sinless man. God is still our Sovereign, and 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 baby in arms and the poor idiot are not morally accountable for their
actions. But it is reasonable that 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 is
spiritually darkened, still possesses rationality. Fallen man, though under
the dominion of sin, has his power of volition, and is under binding
obligation to make a right and good choice every time, to resist
temptations and refrain from evildoing, as any human court of justice
Whatever difficulties may be theoretically involved in the fact that man’s
nature is now totally depraved and that he is in bondage to sin, still 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 favor, 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. It was by his own madness and wickedness that he threw away his
power. As a human monarch does not forfeit his rights to allegiance from
his subjects when they become rebels, but rather maintains his prerogative
by demanding that they cease their insurrection and return to their fealty,
so the King of kings has an infinite right to demand that lawless rebels shall
become loyal subjects. If God could justly require of us no more than we
are now able to render Him, it would follow that the more we enslaved
ourselves by evil habits, the less would be our liability—a palpable
Not only is man’s responsibility insisted on throughout the Scriptures 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 impotence 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 is 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 appeals to the police and seeks
redress in the law courts. Moreover, when the sinner is quickened and.103
awakened by the Holy Spirit, far from complaining against God’s righteous
demands, he freely owns himself as deserving to be eternally damned for
his vile rebellion. He acknowledges that he was fully responsible and that
he is “without excuse.” He feels the burden of his guilt, and humbles
himself before God in sincere repentance.
Under this aspect of our subject we are endeavoring to supply an answer to
the question 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 afflicts us? We
have considered 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 a creature accountable to God.
Turning now to what has resulted from the fall, we find that there are a
negative and a positive side, that there were certain good things of which
we were deprived, and that there were some evils 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
earlier, the “image of God,” in which man was originally created, refers to
his moral nature. It was that which made him a spiritual being. As Calvin
expressed it, “It includes all the excellencies in which the nature of man
surpasses all the other species of animals.” What that “image” consisted of
is intimated in

Ephesians 4:24 and

Colossians 3:10, where a
detailed summary of that image is supplied. Our being “renewed” in the
image (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 upon each of those component
By “righteousness” we are to understand, as everywhere in Scripture,
conformity to the divine law. Before the fall there was entire harmony
between the whole moral nature of man and all the requirements of that
law which is “holy, and just, and good” (

Romans 7:12). This was much
more than a merely negative innocence or freedom from everything sinful.104
(or even bias or tendency toward it, which is all that Socinians allow),
namely, something nobler, higher and more spiritual. There was perfect
agreement 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 does not refer to the 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, when He imparts to us a
love and a taste for them, and makes us willingly subject to their authority.
By “holiness” we are to understand chastity and undefilement of being. As
righteousness was that which gave Adam rapport with the divine law, so
holiness was that which made him fit 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 a 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”

Exodus 15:11), therefore those with whom He converses must be
personally suited to Himself. None but the pure in heart shall see God

Matthew 5:8). It is inconceivable that God by an immediate act would
have created any other kind of rational and responsible being than one that
was pure and perfect, especially since he was to be the archetype of
mankind. As Thornwell so aptly expressed it, “Holiness was the inheritance
of his [man’s] 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” (

Hebrews 12:10). This principle of
holiness, communicated to them at the new birth, develops as they grow in
grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.
By “knowledge” we are to understand the cognizance of God Himself. As
Adam’s holiness or purity of heart capacitated him to “see God” in the
spiritual sense of the word, he also was enabled to know God 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.105
given to him.” It is clear that since Adam was created in maturity of body
he must have been created in maturity of mind, and that there was then 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 the 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 Corinthians 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. 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: “She that
liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (

1 Timothy 5:6). This is
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 has “life” is
eternally saved, accepted in the Beloved, admitted into the divine favor,
made partaker of the divine nature, made 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” (

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 only compare other passages of the
Scripture which make known something of their meaning. As we do so, we
learn that there is at least a threefold life which God’s people receive from
Him. First, His benign approbation: “in his favor is life” (

Psalm 30:5).

Leviticus 1:4 the word is rendered “accepted” and in.106

Deuteronomy 33:16, “good will.” But the verse which best enables us
to understand its force is
“O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the

Deuteronomy 33:23).
Those who are favorably regarded by God need nothing more, can desire
nothing better. To have the goodwill of the triune Jehovah is life indeed,
the acme of blessedness. To be out of His favor is to be dead to all that is
Second, joy and blessedness of soul.
“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee… to see thy power
and thy glory… because thy loving-kindness is better than life”

Psalm 63:1-3).
God’s life in His people capacitates them to delight themselves in Him.
Thus it was here. David was in rapt adoration of the divine attributes. His
soul longed to have further communion with God, and he resolved to seek
Him diligently, to have enlarged views of the divine perfections and
experiential discoveries of His excellence, in anticipation of the blessedness
of heaven. He prized that more than anything else. The natural man values
his life above all else. Not so the spiritual man. To him God’s loving-kindness
is better than all the comforts and luxuries of temporal life, better
than the longest and most prosperous natural life. The loving-kindness 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 his heart,
strengthens his soul and sends him on his way rejoicing.
Thousands of people are weary of life, but no Christian is ever weary of
God’s loving-kindness. 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 accompanying it. Physical death will put the final period to the earthly
existence of the most privileged, but it will not end God’s loving-kindness,
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. In God’s loving-kindness the covenant of grace originated. His
loving-kindness gave Christ to His people and them to Him. By His loving-kindness
they are drawn to Him (

Jeremiah 31:3), are given a saving
knowledge of Him, are brought to know personally the love which He has.107
for them. Without God’s loving-kindness life is but death. Well may each
believer exclaim, “Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips
shall praise thee.” In other words: “I will revel in Thy perfections and exult
in Thee. I will seek to render something of the homage which is Thy due.”
That life which God gives His children consists not only in their being the
objects of His benign approbation, in the experiential enjoyment of His
loving-kindness, 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” (

Ephesians 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 opposite appears in verse 17:
“Henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.”
The contrast is further pointed up in verse 18: “Having the understanding
darkened, being alienated from the life 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 poverty, 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 of 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 lost his love for God. There are two cardinal
emotions that influence to 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” (

Psalm 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” (

Psalm 45:7).
The Lord said,
“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (

Romans 9:13)..108
It is the great work of grace in the redeemed to direct and fasten those
affections on their proper objects. When we put right our love and hatred,
we prosper in the spiritual life. Fallen man differs from unfallen man in this:
They both have the same affections, but they are misplaced in us, so that
we now love what we should hate, and hate what we should love. Our
affections are like bodily members out of joint—as if the arms should hang
down backward. To direct our love and hatred right 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 what is good and to make it 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 as well as its Source. Love is inherent in 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 is to be
supremely valued, for every perfection centers and is found fully 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.
God freely supplied Adam with all that He required from him. Since Adam
was created with perfect moral rectitude of heart and with a holy state of
mind, he was fully competent to love God with all his being. He saw the
divine perfections shining forth. The heavens declared God’s glory, the
firmament showed His handiwork, and His excellence was mirrored in
everything around Adam. He realized what God deserved from him, and he
was impressed with His blessedness. Adam’s heart was filled with a sense
of the; Lord’s ineffable beauty, and admiring and adoring thoughts of Him
filled his mind, moving him to give Him the worship and submission to
which He is infinitely entitled.
Love for God gave unity of action to all the faculties of Adam’s soul; for
since this love was the dominant principle in him, it made all the functions
of those faculties express his devotion to God. Hence, when love for God
died within Adam, his faculties lost not only their original unity and
orderliness but the power to use them right. 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.109
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” (

Romans 8:8),
for they lack the root from which they must proceed in order for any fruit
to be desirable to 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 to
As the principle of obedience, love takes the precedence, for faith works by
love (

Galatians 5:6). Note the order in the injunction “Let us consider
one another to provoke
[1] unto love and
[2] to good works” (

Hebrews 10:24).
Stir up the affections and good works will follow, as a stirring up of the
coals causes the flames to rise. It is love which makes all the divine
commandments “not grievous” (

1 John 5:3). We heartily agree with
Charnock: “In that one word love, God hath wrapped up all the devotion
He requires of us.” 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 4:24).
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 to Him:
“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema
Maran-atha” (

1 Corinthians 16:22)..110
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 him to have holy converse with Him.
Indeed this was the paramount blessing of that covenant under which
Adam was placed, 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 deprived first them, and then 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 Corinthians 6:14).
Two cannot walk together except they be agreed (

Amos 3:3). The holy
One will not favorably manifest Himself to rebels or admit them into His
presence as friends. After their fall our first parents no longer had the
desire that He should do so. Having lost all love for God, they had no
desire for Him, but hated and dreaded Him.
Here, then, is the terrible nature of human depravity. From the negative
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. They
also lost the life of God, so that they became alienated from His favor,
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. Their love to God was lost, so that
they no longer revered and adored Him, but were repelled by His
perfections—manifested by them in fleeing from Him as soon as they were
conscious of His approach. They lost communion with God, so that they
were utterly unfit for His presence finalized by His driving them from
Eden. None but the regenerate can estimate how irreparable was man’s
forfeiture by the fall, and how dreadful is the condition of the natural man.
We have already pointed out a number of things in which the depravity of
human nature does not consist, and 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.111
those who teach that a merely negative thing—the absence of good—is
transmitted from Adam and Eve to their descendants, via the channel of
natural generation and propagation. Rather we are 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 a 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 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 all 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, in which there is failure to perform good works, and
those of commission, or contempt of the law of God. Something
answerable to both of those must exist in our sinful nature, otherwise we
declare the cause inadequate to produce the effect. While the absence of
holiness explains the former, only the presence of positive evil accounts for
the latter..112
There are many scriptural names for original sin, or the depravity of human
nature, which serve to cast light upon it. The following list probably
contains the most significant ones. Sin is called the plague of the heart

1 Kings 8:38), foolishness bound up in the heart (

Proverbs 22:15),
“the stony heart” (

Ezekiel 11:19), “the evil treasure” of the heart

Matthew 12:35). It is designated “the poison of asps” (

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 own existence, and “the body of
sin” (

Romans 6:6), for it is an assortment of evils, the “sin that
dwelleth in me” (

Romans 7:17). It is labeled “another law in my
members” (

Romans 7:23) because of its unvarying nature and power,
“the law of sin and death” (

Romans 8:2), “the carnal mind” which is
“enmity against God” (

Romans 8:7). It is frequently spoken of as “the
flesh” (

Galatians 5:17) because conveyed by natural generation, “the
old man, which is corrupt” (

Ephesians 4:22), “the sin which doth so
easily beset us” (

Hebrews 12:1), man’s “own lust” (

James 1:14),
which inclines him to evil deeds.
It should be quite plain from our definitions and descriptions of congenital
sin that the human constitution is not merely negatively defective, but
positively depraved. There are in man’s heart not only the lack of
conformity to the divine law but a deformity. Not only is the natural man
without any desire for holiness; he is born with a disposition which is now
radically opposed to it. Therefore he not only has no love for God, but is
full of enmity against Him. Sin is also likened to “leaven” (

Corinthians 5:6-7). 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.113
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. 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. Consequently man can no more fulfill the
design of his being than does a physical corpse. The analogies between the
two are dreadful and solemn. As a dead body is devoid of the principle
which formerly vitalized it, so the soul has been abandoned by the Holy
Spirit who once inhabited it. A physical corpse rapidly becomes a mass of
corruption and repulsion. Thus is the depraved soul of man to 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”

Ephesians 2:1).
As John Gill said, “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.” In

Ephesians 1:19 Paul prayed that saints might duly
apprehend and appreciate the greatness of that power which had been
exercised by God in their salvation, and that they might understand that it
was precisely the same divine might as that put forth for the resurrection
and exaltation of His Son. That same power had now worked a like change
in them; the mighty power which had quickened Christ had also quickened
them. The blessed scope and purpose of the Holy Spirit here was to bring
out the answerable parallel or show the similar change which God had so
wonderfully wrought in them. What had been effected for Christ their Head.114
had been accomplished also in them His members, the one work being a
glorious pattern of 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 honor to which He was
exalted. Third, the Author, God, whose almighty power was eminently
manifested by the vast difference between those two states. There is a vast
difference between the glorious miracles described in the closing verses of
Ephesians i and what is so graphically portrayed in the opening verses of
chapter 2. There we see the dreadful state in which God’s elect were by
nature, namely, that of death in sin. This death brought its subjects under
complete bondage to sin and Satan, so that they did not walk in conformity
to the divine law, but according to the corrupt maxims and customs of the
world. They were not guided by the Holy Spirit, but energized and directed
by the evil spirit, here named “the prince of the power of the air.” Without
any regard for God’s will or concern for His glory, they gave free reign to
the lusts of the flesh and the desires of their carnal minds. But
notwithstanding their horrible condition, God, who is rich in mercy, raised
them from the grave of sin and made them one with Christ in the
heavenlies, by a vital and indissoluble union. This marvel had been effected
solely by the invincible power and amazing grace of God, without any
cooperation 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 to God and holiness, cast out of His favor, without
any power to recover it. He is dead in opposition to justification, and also
dead in opposition to being regenerated and sanctified. 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 means 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” (

Ecclesiastes 9:4)—so spiritual death is the strongest
expression to describe our moral wretchedness. Natural death divests man
of all those characteristics which are proper to him as man; but spiritual.115
death makes him worse, without any comeliness in the sight of God, and a
stench in His nostrils.

Ephesians 2:1-3, Goodwin stated, “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.” The Holy
Spirit has placed special emphasis on the words “dead in sin,” for in
verseHe repeats them. Three things are outstanding in sin: its guilt, its
pollution and its power; and in each of those respects man is in his natural
state “dead in sin.” “Thou art but a dead man,” said God to Abimelech

Genesis 20:3); that is, “You are guilty of death by reason of this act of
yours.” It is said of Ephraim that “when he offended in Baal, he died”;
sentence of condemnation came upon him (

Hosea 13:1). So it is of
sin’s 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 sin’s power, for every sin man commits
disables him more from doing good. His very activity in sin is his death,
and the more lively he is 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 correspond to their spiritual quickening, which is
clearly threefold. There is, first, a life of justification from the guilt of sin
and from the condemnation and curse of the law—termed by Christ as
passing from death to life (

John 5:24), and by the apostle as
“justification of life” (

Romans 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
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
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean:
from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you”

Ezekiel 36:25)..116
This is something experiential, consisting of the purifying of the heart from
the love of sin. It is referred to as “the washing of regeneration” (

3:5). The first is judicial, the second spiritual, and the third moral; the three
comprise the principal parts of God’s so-great salvation, the glorification of
the saint being 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” (

Romans 6:14),
He necessarily means that all those still under the covenant of works are
beneath sin’s dominion, that it holds full sway over them. As the Lord
Jesus declared,
“Whosoever 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 servants to obey,
his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or
of obedience unto righteousness?” (

Romans 6:16).
No one coerces and compels them. The dominion of sin is not even an
indwelling force against the will of those who are under it, but it is natural
and congenial to them. Even though, occasionally, conscience feebly
protests, its voice is silenced by the clamorings 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, at all times and under all circumstances.
Sin is likened to a monarch ruling over his subjects: “as sin hath reigned
unto death” (

Romans 5:21). Its kingdom is worldwide, 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 person, which constantly acts under its direction and influence.
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.117
imperious edicts. Yet 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 help but will evil because of the reign of sin, still its
volitions are spontaneous. The dominion of sin consists in its determining
influence upon the will, and it retains this sway to the end, unless victorious
grace makes a conquest of the soul by the implantation of a contrary
principle, which opposes the influence of indwelling sin and disposes the
will to contrary acts. Though conscience may remonstrate sharply against
the fatal choice, sin still regulates the decisions and deeds of the natural
Brine stated that 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 one 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….
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 corrupt 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 also of “the spirit” (

2 Corinthians 7:1), that is, vile
imaginations, envy, hatred of others, inward rebellion, and ragings against
God when His will crosses ours. The sovereign God permits and controls
the direction and form this dominion takes in each one. Today the power
and reign of sin are more manifest in the world than they have ever been..118
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 because God is increasingly removing His restraining hand,
thereby allowing the horrid corruption of men’s hearts to become more
visible and obvious. There are indeed degrees of wickedness, but not in the
root from which it proceeds. Every man’s nature is equally depraved, and
everyone in an unregenerate state is wholly dominated by sin.
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 sin

Proverbs 5:22), and still fewer realize where its strength lies.
Carnality, stemming from sin, is a powerful thing in itself, for it has a will
of its own (

John 1:13), a mind of its own (

Romans 8:6-7), passions

Romans 1:24; 7:5).

1 Corinthians 15:56 informs us, “The sting of
death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” The first part of that
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 kill. Sin brought death into the world; had there been no sin, there
would have been no death. It is sin, unpardoned sin, which makes death so
dreadful, for not only does it put a final end to all its pleasures, but it
conducts its subjects to certain judgment. But wherein is the law of God
“the strength of sin”? The law is “holy, and just, and good” (

7:12); how then can it be the strength of that which is corrupt, evil and
Most assuredly the law does not give the slightest encouragement to sin;
rather it sternly forbids 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 steam and noxious stench rising from decaying
flesh. 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 to active opposition. Thus the
exceeding sinfulness of sin is all the more demonstrated, for its potency to
evil is drawn forth by any restraint being laid upon it. Though fire and
water are opposite elements, that fact is not so evident while there is
distance between them; but let them meet together, and there will be great
spluttering and striving between them. If the heart of man were pure, the
law would be acceptable; but since it is depraved, there is fierce resentment
against the spiritual precepts of the law..119
As the law makes no provision for pardon, the natural effect of guilt is to
widen the breach between the sinner and God. Aware (as in some measure
the most degraded are) of divine displeasure, the sinner is prone to
withdraw farther and farther from the divine presence. Every augmentation
of guilt is an augmentation of estrangement. The more the sinner sins, the
wider becomes the gulf between himself and God. This gives strength to
sin. It provokes the malignity of the heart against the law, against all holy
order, against the Judge. It incites the spirit of rebellion to unwonted
fierceness, and makes the sinner desperate in his sin. It causes its subjects
to become increasingly reckless and, as they realize the brevity of life, to
plunge more eagerly into profligacy. As frosty weather causes a fire to
burn more fiercely, so the law increases man’s enmity against God. Saul of
Tarsus found it so in his experience. The divine prohibition “Thou shalt not
covet” was applied in power to his heart, and he tells us,
“Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all
manner of concupiscence” (

Romans 7:7-8).
Third, the fall has brought man’s mind into darkness. As physical blindness
is one of the greatest natural calamities, spiritual blindness is much more
so. It consists not in universal ignorance, but in 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” (

Romans 11:25). Men may become very
learned in many things, and by focusing their minds upon the Scriptures
they may acquire considerable literal knowledge of its contents; but they
are quite unable to obtain a vital and effectual knowledge of them.
“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 Corinthians 2:14);
and he has no spiritual perception. This darkness which is upon the mind
makes the natural man incapable of perceiving the excellence of God, the
perfection of His law, the real nature of sin, or his dire need of a Savior.
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)..120
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
does the eye for the body. By means of our visual organ we observe
material objects, distinguish between them, recognize their beauty or
repulsiveness. By the mind we think, reason, understand, 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 is the most active of our inward
faculties, ever working, then what a fearful state for the soul to be blind!
John Flavel said it is “like a fiery, high-mettled horse whose eyes cannot
see, furiously carrying his rider upon rocks, pits and dangerous precipices.”
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!” (

Matthew 6:22-23).
Much is said in the Scriptures about this terrible affliction. Men are
represented as groping at noonday (

Deuteronomy 28:29). “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” (

Psalm 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” (

Proverbs 4:19).
They are insensible of the very things which are leading to everlasting woe.
Moral depravity inevitably results in moral darkness. As a physically blind
eye shuts out all natural light, so the blinded eye of the soul excludes all
spiritual light. It renders the Scriptures profitless. 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
vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament”

2 Corinthians 3:14).
Consequently the highest wisdom they call foolish, and objects which are
the most glorious and attractive are despised and rejected by them.
It is a great mistake to suppose that depravity is confined to the heart or to
any one faculty which is closely connected with the distinction between.121
right and wrong. As a grave 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; therefore
the heart has departed from its original tendencies. Its actions, however
intense, are only in the wrong direction. This explains the mental
aberrations of men and the immoral conceptions they have formed of
Deity. As we attempt to contemplate the manifold forms of ancient and
modern religious error, 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 been committed in the name of
divine worship, we ask how such delusions originated and have been
propagated. It is not sufficient to trace them to sin in general; they must 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 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—things which undertake to
carry knowledge beyond its first principles—and try to comprehend the
incomprehensible. The creature being dependent and finite can never hope
to compass an absolute knowledge of anything. J. H. Thornwell said:
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.122
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.
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 11:25:
“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.”
Man must renounce all self-acquired knowledge, forsake all his 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
deranged the mind that men love darkness rather than light (

3:19). They are so infatuated with their delusions that they prefer error to
the truth. That which may be known about God is clearly manifested on
every hand, yet men refuse to see. But the light still shines all around them,
though they are carried away with the darkness of their corruption. As
created, all men may and ought to know God; as fallen, practical atheism is
their sad heritage.
The highest 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. Yet there is a profounder ignorance which
requires notice, namely, that theoretical knowledge of God which is
common in those countries that have been favored with the gospel. By the
light of the Christian revelation many a humble, uneducated person has
been made familiar with truths of which Plato and Aristotle knew nothing.
Thousands of people are sound on 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 in spite of this knowledge they do not glorify Him 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 have a.123
spiritual, vital and transforming knowledge of God their dead hearts must
be quickened and their blind eyes opened. And in order for that there must
be an atonement, a reconciliation with God. The cross is the only place
where men can truly 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 nor allured by his bait. If man were not in total spiritual
darkness, he would never cherish the delusion that the filthy rags of his
own righteousness could make him acceptable to the holy One. If he were
not blind, he would perceive that his very prayers are an abomination to the
Lord (

Proverbs 15:8). Though this incapability of understanding
heavenly things is common to all the unregenerate, it is more heightened in
some than in others. All are equally under the dominion of sin, yet some
forge themselves additional fetters of evil habits by drinking iniquity like
water. Many of the sons of men immerse themselves in greater darkness by
the strong prejudices of their own making, through pride and self-will.
Others are still further incapacitated to take in spiritual things, even
theoretically, by God’s judicial act of 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; cf.

2 Thessalonians 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 in Holy Writ; but its teaching leaves us in
no doubt about the fact. It reveals that men are morally the devil’s children

Acts 13:10;

1 John 3:10), that they are his captives (

Timothy 2:26) and under his power (

Acts 26:18;

Colossians 1:13),
that they are determined to do what he wants (

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 (

11:21-22). It speaks of men being “oppressed of the devil” (

10:38), and declares,.124
“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 Corinthians 4:4).
The heart of fallen man is the throne on which Satan reigns, and all the
sons of Adam are naturally inclined to yield themselves slaves to him. The
awful reality of his enslaving men was authenticated beyond the possibility
of doubt by the cases of demoniacal possession in Christ’s day.
The corrupt nature of men gives Satan the greatest advantage against
them, for they are as ready to comply as he is to tempt. No age or
condition of life is exempted from his assaults. He adapts his evil
solicitations according to their varied temperaments and tempers, and they
are easily overcome. The longer he rules over men the more guilt they
contract, and the more they come under his dominion. To be his bondslave
is to be in a state of abject misery, for he purposes 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 on them as he was to tempt
and solicit their service. Yet he has no right to their subjection. Though
God permits Satan 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 a usurper, the declared enemy of God, and though sinners are allowed to
yield themselves up to the devil’s control, that is far from being by divine

Ephesians 2:2-3 contains the most clear and concise description of this
awful subject: “Wherein [a status and state of being dead in trespasses and
sins] in time 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 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, where we
are shown why they walked thus. The identifying of the world with Satan is
easily understood. Three times our Lord called him “the prince of this
world,” and

1 John 5:19 declares that “the whole world lieth in
wickedness.” The world is distinguished from the church of Christ—the
children of God. The radical difference between the two opposing.125
companies was intimated at the beginning in the word of Jehovah to 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 tares, and designated
by Him as “the children of the kingdom” and “the children of the wicked
one” (

Matthew 13:38).
Our Lord also spoke of the “kingdom” of Satan (

Matthew 12:26),
referring 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” (

Colossians 1:13). Thus “the world” signifies “the
world of the ungodly” (

2 Peter 2:5), not only the sum total of the
children of the devil in contradistinction from the children of God, but all
the unregenerate, which augments their strength and malignity. When
coals, each on fire, are placed together, the fire is increased. In like manner
there is an intensification from this union of all parts of this “world.” Its
“course” connotes, first, its “age” or time, each generation having a more
or less distinct character, but essentially the same “evil world”

Galatians 1:4). Second, the word means the mold or manner of the
world, its custom or way of life—its “spirit” (

1 Corinthians 2:12) and
“fashion” (

1 Corinthians 7:31). The unregenerate walk according to
the same maxims and morals; they do as the majority of their fellowmen
do, because each has 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 to the sea (

Isaiah 57:20); being bound by a common nature
they all move together as the waters of the sea follow the tide. Goodwin
If the wind comes and blows upon the sea, how it rageth, how
strong are the streams then’. There is 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.
The Holy Spirit has here given us a double explanation of why the
unregenerate follow the course they take. As each one enters and grows up
in the world, being a social creature, he naturally goes with the drove of his.126
fellows; and possessing 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 intimate access to our faculties. and though he
cannot, like God’s Spirit, work at the roots to change and transform their
tendencies, yet he can ply them with representations and delusions which
effectually incline them to fulfill his behests. He can cheat the
understanding with appearances of truth, fascinate the fancy with pretenses
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 serve 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 they are said to be “taken
captive… at his will” (

2 Timothy 2:26), and when converted they are
delivered from his power (

Colossians 1:13). Yet he does not work
immediately in all hearts, as the Holy Spirit does in the regenerate, for he is
not omnipresent, but employs a host of demons as his agents.
One man can influence another only 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); he works
indiscernibly as a spirit. 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. When Satan
would incite anyone to some particularly awful sin he takes possession of
him. We read that the devil, after Judas had consented to the vile
insinuation which he had put into his heart, “entered into” Judas (

22:3), in order to ensure the carrying out of his design by strengthening the
traitor to do his will. The word for “entered” is the same as in

5:13 where the unclean spirits entered into the herd of swine, which
brought about their destruction. Satan is able to “fill the heart” (

5:3), giving an additional impulse to evil, as a person filled with wine is
abnormally fired. But let it be noted that there is no record in Scripture of
either the devil or a demon ever taking possession of a regenerate person..127
Though the devil works thus in men, and works effectually, yet all their
sins are their own. The Spirit is careful to add “worketh in the children of
disobedience.” Man consents first, 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?”
Satan 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 nonetheless their work;
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 only avail himself of what is already there for him to work
on. He avails himself of the constitution of man’s nature, especially of his
depravity as a fallen being. He gives 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, and therefore none can excuse himself
with that; so no man can excuse himself with this, that Satan worketh in
Here then 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, into complete spiritual blindness. Man has become
the bondslave of Satan. In that dreadful state he does not possess a particle
of power to deliver himself or even to mitigate his wretchedness. In
addition, his heart is filled with enmity against God..128
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 one writer 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 than most theologians admit, and man has sunk much lower and
is far more depraved than they will allow. Consequently man’s conduct
toward 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 as sin to very, very
few. Sin was the original evil. Before it entered the universe there was no
“God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very
good” (

Genesis 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, forever. As soon as sin was
conceived, all other evils followed.
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 its author:
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from
the beginning” (

1 John 3:8)..129
Sin is his trade, and he practices it incessantly. 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 are its fruits. There is no distress of the
mind, no anguish of the heart, no pain of the body, but is due to sin. All the
miseries which mankind groans under are to be ascribed to sin. It is the
cause of all penalty:
“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” (

Jeremiah 4:18).
Had there been no sin, there would have 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 ‘nay 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:
1. the scum of a seething pot in which is a detestable carcass

Ezekiel 24:10-12)
2. the blood and pollution of a newborn child, before it is washed and
clothed (

Ezekiel 16:4, 6)
3. a dead and rotting body (

Romans 7:24)
4. the noisome stench and poisonous fumes which issue from the
mouth of an open sepulcher (

Romans 3:13)
5. the lusts of the devil (

John 8:44)
6. putrefying sores (

Isaiah 1:5-6)
7.a menstruous cloth (

Isaiah 3:22;

Lamentations 1:17)
8. a canker, or gangrene (

2 Timothy 2:17)
9. the dung of filthy creatures (

Philippians 3:8).130
10. 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 majority of church
members. Men regard it as an infirmity, and term it a human frailty or
hereditary weakness. But Scripture calls it “an evil thing and bitter”

Jeremiah 2:19), an abominable thing which God hates (

44:4). Few people think of it thus; rather the majority regard it as a mere
trifle, a matter of so little moment that all they have to do is 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 a
world which “lieth in wickedness” (

1 John 5:19) know about God’s
hatred of sin? It does not matter what the world thinks, but it matters a
great deal what God says about it. Others measure the guilt of sin by what
conscience tells them—or fails to! But conscience needs informing by the
Bible. Many uncivilized tribes have put their girl babies and old people to
death, and conscience did not chide them. A deadened conscience has
accompanied multitudes to hell without any voice of warning. Tens of
thousands of religionists see so little filth in sin that they imagine a few
tears will wash away its stain. They perceive so little criminality in it that
they persuade themselves that a few good works will make full reparation
for it.
All comparisons fail to set forth the horrible malignity in that abominable
thing which God hates. We can say nothing more evil of sin than to term it
what it is. “sin, that it might appear sin” (

Romans 7:13). “Who is like
unto thee, O LORD?” (

Exodus 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.
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 be said of it. When the apostle wanted a
descriptive epithet for sin, he invested it with its own name:
“that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful”

Romans 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.131
Bethel do unto you because of the evil of your evil” (10:15, literal trans.).
The prophet could not paint their wickedness any blacker 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 Paul 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. Andrew Fuller
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.”
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, and
separation from Him—entailing the presence of positive evil, guilt cannot
be measured by any human standard, the most repulsive defilement, 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 Chronicles 29:16). Sin’s
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 (the killing of
a god); 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.132
indescribable sufferings which divine vengeance will then inflict upon them
are sin’s rightful wages.
Sin is a species of atheism, for it is the virtual repudiation of God. It seeks
to discredit Him, to rebel against Him: “Who is the LORD, that I should
obey his voice?” (

Exodus 5:2). Sin is a malignant spirit of
independence. Whether imperceptibly influencing the mind or consciously
present, it lies at the root of all evil and depravity. Man desires to be lord
of himself; hence his ready reception, at the beginning, of the devil’s lie
“Ye shall be as gods.” Man’s credence of that lie was the dissolution of the
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 I have the right to live unto myself.”
Thornwell pointed this 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
be 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 to God the honor and subjection which are His due.
Thus there is a practical atheism as well as a theoretical atheism. 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 of the divine existence, yet their hearts are devoid of any affection
to Him. And that is now the natural condition of all the fallen descendants
of Adam. Since “there is none that seeketh after God”. (

Romans 3:11),
it follows that there is none with any practical sense of His excellence 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 his consideration. This appears in man’s
works, for actions speak louder than words. Our hearts are to be gauged.133
by what we do, not by what we Say. Our tongues may be great liars, but
our deeds tell the truth, showing what we really are.
How little recognized and realized is the fact that all outward impieties are
the manifestations of an inward atheism! Yet this is indeed the case. As
bodily sores evidence impurity of the blood, so actions demonstrate the
corruption of human nature. Sin is 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 1:14-15).
How vain it is to deny atheism in the heart when there is so much of it in
the 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. Stephen Charnock rightly pointed 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.”
As all virtuous actions spring from a due acknowledgment of God, so all
vicious actions rise from a lurking denial of Him. He who makes no
conscience of sin has no regard for the honor of God, and consequently
none for His being. If “by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil”

Proverbs 16:6), it clearly follows that in the absence of any awe of
Him they rush into evil. Every sin is an invading of the rights of God. When
we transgress His laws we repudiate His sovereignty. When we lean on our
own understanding and set up reason as the guide of our actions, we
despise His wisdom. When we seek happiness in gratifying our lusts, we
slight His excellence and consider 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 on the arm of flesh or put our trust in some device, we
disbelieve His power. Sin is turning the back upon God (

32:33), kicking against Him (

Deuteronomy 32:15), treating Him with
the utmost contempt.
People do not like to regard themselves as practical atheists. They entertain
a much better opinion of themselves than that. They pride themselves on.134
possessing far too much intelligence to harbor 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 divinity. It is the unquestionable prerogative of the Most High
to have dominion over His creatures, to make His will known to them, and
to demand their subjection. But their breaking of His bands and their
casting away of His cords (

Psalm 2:3) are a practical rejection of His
rule over them. Practical atheism consists of utter contempt of God,
conducting ourselves as though there were none infinitely above us who
has an absolute right to govern us, to whom we must give 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 gives himself that homage which is due God alone. When
he obtains something which makes him glitter in the eyes of the world, how
happy he is, for men
“receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh
from God only” (

John 5:44).
They dote on their own accomplishments and acquisitions, but do not
delight 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 considers himself worthy
of his own supreme affection regards himself as being entitled to the
supreme regard of his neighbors. Yet it is 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 manproneness to attribute his
achievements to his own virtue, strength and skill, instead of to Him from
whom comes every good and perfect gift. This was Nebuchadnezzar’s
“Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?” (

Daniel 4:30).
God punished Herod for not giving Him the glory when instead of
rebuking the people he accepted their impious adulation.
The same profane spirit is shown by man’s envying the talents and
prosperity of others. Cain was angry with God, and hated and killed Abel,.135
be cause his brother’s offering was received and his own refused. Since
God assigns to each his portion, to look with a grudging eye on that
enjoyed by our fellowmen has much of practical atheism in it. It is
unwillingness for God to be the Proprietor and Distributor of His favors as
He pleases. It is assuming the right to direct the Creator in what He shall
bestow on His creatures; denying His sovereignty to give more to 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 imitates that of Satan who was dissatisfied with the station which
the Most High had allotted him (

Isaiah 14:12-14). It is desiring to take
to 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 toward God’s rule. Man hates
instruction and casts God’s words behind his back (

Psalm 50:17). God
has revealed His great law to man, but it is treated as a strange thing

Hosea 8:12) – What God counts valuable man despises The very
purity of the divine rule makes it obnoxious to an impure heart. Charnock
said, “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.” Not only is man’s darkened understanding incapable
of perceiving the excellence 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 do not like to retain God in their knowledge (

1:28), therefore they resist the strivings of the Spirit for obedient
compliance (

Acts 7:51). How can a fleshly mind relish a spiritual law?
Since the palate of man is corrupted, divine things are unsavory to him, and
forever remain so until his taste is restored by divine grace.
The same atheistic spirit is seen again in mendenials of divine providence.
They will not concede that God presides over this scene, directing all its
affairs, shaping the circumstances of each of our lives. Rather they attribute
their lot to fortune or fate, to good or bad “luck.” Even when intellectually
convinced to the contrary, they continually quarrel with God’s government
of this world, and particularly with His dealings with them. Whenever His
will crosses theirs, they rebel and rave. If their plans are thwarted, how
fretful they are! Men appraise themselves highly, and are angry if God.136
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 this is. Instead of meekly submitting to God’s will and adoring His
righteousness, men declare Him an unjust Governor, demand that His
wisdom be guided by their folly, and malign Him rather than themselves!
What proof this is of the fearful enormity of human depravity.
We have shown that the heart of the natural man is filled with a secret and
unsuspected yet real spirit of atheism. 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” (

Ephesians 2:12)—without 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, man devises false gods and is devoted to
them—possessions, pleasures, prestige. Fallen man has cast off all
allegiance to God and set himself in open, undisguised opposition to Him.
Not only has he no love for God, but his very nature is wholly averse to
Him. Sin has worked in all of his being a radical antipathy to God and 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.
Sin, as an operative principle in the soul, is virtually the assertion of self-sufficiency
and self-supremacy; thus it produces opposition to God. Sin is
not only the negation but the contrary of holiness, therefore it breeds
antagonism to the holy One. He who affirms and asserts himself must deny
and resist God. The divine claims are regarded as those of a rival. God is
looked upon as an enemy-the carnal mind is enmity against Him—and
enmity is not simply the absence of love, a condition of mere indifference,
but a principle of repugnance and virulent resistance. Hence, as John Owen
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,” that sin sets
itself against. There lies the secret, the formal reason of all.137
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.
It is terrible beyond words that any creature of the great God should
harbor enmity against Him. He is the sum of all excellence, the source of all
good, the spiritual and moral sun of the universe. Yet fallen man is not only
His enemy, but his very mind is “enmity against God” (

Romans 8:7).
Enemies may be reconciled, but enmity cannot be; 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 speaks of Christ’s “having
abolished in his flesh the enmity” (

Ephesians 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 (

Matthew 6:12), and this
produces aversion of Him. As debtors hate the sight of their creditors and
are loath to meet them, so those who are unable to meet the just claims of
God fear His confrontation. This was 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, making God
obnoxious to him. As an inflamed eye cannot bear the light, the depraved
heart of man cannot endure to look upon God; he has a deep-rooted and
inveterate detestation of Him and therefore of 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. God says,
“Ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my
reproof” (

Proverbs 1:25).
Not simply a part but all of His revealed will was unacceptable to them.
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 long-suffering. It mocks His
messengers, resists His Spirit, flouts His Word, and persecutes those who.138
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.
Enmity is a principle which 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, they all conspire in a league against God Himself.
Back in 1665 an able expositor, W. Jenkyn, expressed it thus:
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.
Though in all sins there may not be 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 pleading nor the direst
threatening will abate 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
The message of men’s hearts and lives to God is “Depart from us; for we
desire not the knowledge of thy ways” (Job 21:14). 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 (

Jeremiah 2:24). That fact was
exemplified all through the long history of Israel, and the conduct of that
people was 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”

Proverbs 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 (

6:5). It does not vary at all, being consistent with itself. Sin never calls a
truce or lays down the weapons of its rebellion, but persists in its active.139
hostility to God. If divine grace does not work a miracle in subduing such
enmity and planting in the heart a contrary principle which opposes it, what
must be the doom of such creatures?
“Thinkest thou this, O man,… that thou shalt escape the judgment
of God?” (

Romans 2:3).
Vain imagination. Christ will one day say,
“Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over
them, bring hither, and slay them before me” (

Luke 19:27).
But far from owning that they hate God, the vast majority of men will not
only vehemently deny it, but affirm that they respect and love Him. Yet if
their supposed love is analyzed, it is found to cover only their own
interests. While a man concludes that God is favorable and lenient with
him, he entertains no hard thoughts against Him. So long as he considers
God to be prospering him, he carries no grudge against Him. He hates God
not 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;
therefore he dreads 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 is 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”

Matthew 15:8).
They believe in a god of their own devising and not the God of Holy Writ.
In their awful delusion they imagine 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 minded is death” the
apostle declared, “The carnal mind is enmity against God,” and then added
by way of demonstration, “It is not subject to the law of God, neither
indeed can be.” It is quite evident that the final clause was not brought in.140
by way of excuse (for that would have greatly weakened his argument), but
instead to give added force to the awful fact just affirmed. A servant who
does not perform his master’s order may or may not be guilty of revolt. He
cannot be charged with rebellion if the task assigned is altogether beyond
his physical powers because of poor eyesight, the loss of a limb or the
frailty of old age. But if moral perversity (a spirit of malice and defiance)
prevents the discharge of his duty, he is certainly guilty of revolt. We are
told that the brothers of Joseph “hated him, and could not speak peaceably
unto him” (

Genesis 37:4). Far from excusing their evil conduct, that
only intensified it. They harbored so much ill will against him that they
were 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 so
hostile to his Maker that he is thoroughly averse to His government. Our
respect for God is judged by our conformity to His law. As love for God is
to be gauged by obedience (

John 14:21), so hatred of Him is both
measured and manifested by disobedience (

Deuteronomy 5:9-10). The
natural man knows that God opposes the gratification of his corrupt
desires, and he hates God because His law prohibits the indulging of his
lusts with that freedom and security which he covets. God commands that
which he loathes, and forbids what he longs after. Consequently, man’s
war against God is a double one: defensive and offensive. Defensively, he
slights God’s Word, perverts His gifts, resists the overtures of his Spirit

Acts 7:51). Offensively, man employs all his members and faculties as
weapons of unrighteousness against God (

Romans 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.” We quote Winslow:
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—.141
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
moral 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 demurs.
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 now settled upon us. The majority of those who have
been brought up under acknowledgment of the law, far from valuing such a
privilege, despise it. The language of their hearts against God’s faithful
servants is that which Israel used of old to His prophet: “As for the word
that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not
hearken unto thee” (

Jeremiah 44:16). They “refused to walk in his law”

Psalm 78:10). They had rather be their own rulers than God’s
subjects; they guide themselves to destruction rather than be directed by
Him to blessedness. They crave 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 that part of the
law which requires inward purity. The more man,inward corruptions are
curbed and condemned, the more he is enraged. Therefore God charges
him not only with despising His judgments but with abhorring His statutes

Leviticus 26:43).
The difference there is between man and God appears in man’s
unwillingness that any should observe God’s law. Not satisfied with being
a rebel himself, man would have God left without any loyal subjects in the
world; therefore he uses both temptations and threats to induce others to
follow his evil example. He paints the pleasures of sin in glowing colors,.142
and sneers at and boycotts those who have any scruples. Ordinarily the
workers of iniquity consider those who walk with God to be freaks and
fools, and take delight in ridiculing them (

1 Peter 4:4). It is not that the
righteous have wronged the wicked in any way, but that they refuse to
have fellowship with them in defying God. This is proof of their awful
enmity. Not only are they themselves angry at God’s laws, but they cannot
bear to see anyone else respecting them. 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”

Romans 1:32).
They delight in accomplishing the downfall of their fellowmen.
Another result of man,enmity is his manufacturing of false gods. Though
this act is not so noticeably committed by some, yet no one is entirely clear
of setting up 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 uncorruptible God into an image made
like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and
creeping things” (

Romans 1:23).
Even Abraham originally, as well as his parents, was guilty of this sin

Joshua 24:2). From the making of the golden calf at Sinai until their
captivity in Babylon, the Israelites repeatedly committed this crime. Today
hideous idols are found not only in heathendom but throughout the whole
so-called civilized world. Yet the awfulness of idolatry is perceived by very
few. Satan cannot invent a more absolute degrading and vilifying of the
Most High than calling Him by the names of those senseless objects and
repulsive creatures which men erect as representations of Him. Giving 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
excellence than a block of stone or a piece of carved wood.
Man’s enmity against God is a practical repudiation of His holiness, for it
cherishes what is directly contrary to it..143
“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on
iniquity” (Hab. 1:13).
Since God is infinitely good, He has an infinite detestation of evil. But sin
is the very element in which man lives; therefore he hates everything
opposed to it. Nothing is more distasteful to him than the company of the
godly; and the stricter they are in performing the duties of piety, and the
more the image of God is seen shining in and through them, the greater is
the longing of the unregenerate to be free from their presence. Man loves
sin so much that he seeks to justify himself in the very commission of it. He
even goes further and charges it to the holy One. It was thus at the
beginning. When arraigned by his Maker, instead of confessing the
enormity of his offense, Adam tried to excuse himself by blaming it on
God: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the
tree, and I did eat.” Some expositors think that when Cain was charged
with the murder of Abel, and answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he
blatantly put the onus on the Lord. David charged the crime he had
contrived to divine providence (

2 Samuel 11:25). 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 kill Him that Joseph and
Mary had to take Him to Egypt. Though constantly 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” (

Matthew 8:20).
They called Him the vilest names they could think of: a glutton and
drunkard, a Samaritan, a devil. Again and again they took up stones to
throw at Him. His miracles of mercy did not lessen their enmity:
“This is the heir; come, let us kill him” (

Matthew 21:38);
and no ordinary death would satisfy them. After heaping the worst possible
indignities on His sacred person and inflicting the most barbarous suffering,
they nailed Him to a convict’s gibbet, then mocked and reviled Him while
He was fastened hand and foot to the cross. As the Lord Jesus declared,.144
“He that hateth me hateth my Father also” (

John 15:23).
Now such an attitude against God inevitably falls back on 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? Sin has indeed worked havoc in the human constitution.
Man’s very nature is degraded. No creature is so debased as man, for he
alone has erased the image of God from his soul. Man, once the glory of
creation, has become the vilest of all creatures. He who was given
dominion over the beasts has 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 are), nor do they 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 attacked by a loathsome disease, so that there is now
no soundness in it.
What villainy is in fallen man! No wonder the Scriptures ask, “Who can
know it?” (

Jeremiah 17:9). None but the very One against whom it lifts
its vile head. What an awful spectacle, to witness 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 fallen man, he will no more seek to glorify the Lord than will Satan
himself. The unregenerate man detests 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 does not recognize the hand that
daily ministers in mercy throughout his life. What long-suffering God
shows to those who treat Him so basely! What abundant cause the
Christian has to abhor himself and hang his head in shame as he
contemplates the awfulness of all the sin that still indwells him!.145
Neither the scientist, the philosopher, nor the psychologist can correctly
diagnose the fatal malady which has seized all mankind, and still less is any
of them able to gauge its full extent. For a right and true knowledge of this
we are dependent on what the Holy Spirit has revealed in Holy Writ. There
we are shown that man has become not only fallen and corrupt but totally
depraved; 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 effects
of sin: pollution and guilt, neither of which can be avoided. Where there is
sin there is a stain. Uncleanness, ugliness, filthiness, and similar
characteristics, indicate not only a property of sin but also the effect it
produces in its subjects. It defiles, leaving the impress of its odious
features, making the soul the reflection of its own hideousness. Wherever it
touches, it leaves its filthy slime, making 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 pictured 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 beautiful and good and the ugly
and sinful pervades the moral teaching of both Testaments. That
connection is ethical and not aesthetic. To reverse the order would be to
reduce righteousness to a matter of taste, and to regulate authority
according to its appeal to our sentiments. As someone has said, the
aesthetic sentiment is a reflection from the moral sphere, a transfer to our
senses of those perceptions found in their purity only in the realm of the
spiritual and divine. Sin is really and originally all that is ugly; nothing else
is ugly except as a result of its connection with 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..146
“We are all as an unclean thing” (

Isaiah 64:6). Thus God’s Word
describes us: foul and filthy. That pollution is deep and unmistakable,
likened to crimson dye (

Isaiah 1:18), or to the blackness of the
Ethiopian (

Jeremiah 13:23), which cannot be washed away by the niter
of positive thinking or the soap of reformation (

Jeremiah 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” (

Jeremiah 17:1).
The great deluge did not wash it from the earth, nor did the fire that came
down upon Sodom burn it out. It is ineradicable. Even the fire of hell
through eternity will not take away the stain of sin in the souls there. This
pollution spreads, like leaven and leprosy. It is universal, and has defiled all
the faculties of the inner man, so that there is “no soundness in it”

Isaiah 1:6). Soul and body alike are contaminated, for we read of the
“filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (

2 Corinthians 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” (

Ezekiel 16:6).
The doubling of that expression shows the deadly nature of the pollution.
Sin is as loathsome as it is criminal; it is like a foul stench in the nostrils of
the Lord. Thus the day man corrupted himself, his Maker could no longer
endure him, but drove him out of the garden (

Genesis 3:24). The
Scriptures liken man to foxes for their subtlety, to wild bulls for their
intractableness, to briers and thorns for their hurtfulness, to pigs 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 ministers are not at liberty to withhold. They are not free to pick and
choose their themes, still less to tone them down. Rather each one is told
by his Master,
“Speak unto them all that I commanded thee: be not dismayed at
their faces” (

Jeremiah 1:17).
Asylums, prisons and cemeteries are depressing sights, yet they are painful
facts of human history. Refusal to consider fallen man’s condition helps no.147
one. Until we are brought to 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 more wide-reaching
than are commonly supposed. Yet this would not be the case were
our thoughts formed by the teaching of Holy Writ. God’s Word is plain
“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” (

Genesis 6:5).
Those words are as impressive as they are solemn. In

Genesis 1:31 we
read, “And God saw every thing 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 of
their 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. The translators of the Authorized
Version have given a marginal note informing us that the Hebrew word for
imagination” included the purposes and desires. The very fount of man’s
being was defiled, and it was a most offensive sight to 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 formed
within such a heart are vain and sinful. The imagination or formation of
them, their very first stirrings, are evil. As we stated, the Hebrew word for
“imagination of the heart” signifies a matrix, the frame in which our
thoughts are cast. Observe that every imagination is evil. No good ideas
are intermingled; all are unrelieved badness—not simply the outward acts,
but also the first movements of the soul toward an object. There we have
the source from which all the wickedness of men proceeds. The corrupt
moods within us are in a constant fermentation. Man’s heart is such that,
left to itself, it will always be producing inordinate affections and emotions.
Men are “only evil” without exception, wholly so; there is not a single
virtuous one among them. Furthermore, they are “evil continually,”.148
without intermission all the days of their lives, therefore all their works are
evil and fruitless.
“The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”

Genesis 8:21).

Genesis 6:5 described human nature and conduct as it was prior to the
flood; this verse shows what man still was after it. The great deluge had
swept away all 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 before. Man continued to be conceived in iniquity and
born in sin, and what is bred in the bone always 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 instincts while in
embryo are essentially evil. The Hebrew word for “youth” is translated
“childhood” in

1 Samuel 12:2; both personal experience and
observation sadly verify the solemn fact that, as Charnock said, there is
“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: obnoxious to God, corrupt in itself!
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 expressed
it, “They cannot cease from sin” for it is their very nature to be sinful.
Possessing a disposition which greedily craves indulgence. seeking
satisfaction as passionately 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 of it.
“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”

Ecclesiastes 8:11)..149
Such is the perversity of corrupt human nature that it abuses the very
patience and forbearance of God. Since divine judgment is not sent at once
to evildoers, 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 of the opportunity they
regarded His threats as idle, and became increasingly corrupt and violent. It
was thus with Pharaoh, who only hardened his heart when respite was
granted him. And it is still thus. Though the marks of divine displeasure
against I our generation are multiplied, men grow more and more daring
and in defying God’s law, sinning with a high hand and presuming on their
“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”

Ecclesiastes 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 it, so divine and spiritual
things stimulate it to action. That awful enmity comprises the sum of all
evil. “Madness is in their heart”; men are so infatuated as to seek their
pleasures in the things which God hates. They cast off all the restraints of
reason and conscience (cf.

Jeremiah 1:38) as their heady and violent
passions press them forward into sin. Who but a madman would set himself
against the Almighty and rush into evil heedless of danger and disaster?
They are maddened by their lusts, mad against piety. The clause “after that
they go to the dead” signifies more than the grave; they are gathered to
their own company, the dead in sin, not to “the spirits of just men made
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
excellences. Instead He painted it in the darkest colors, announcing that He
had come to “seek and to save that which was lost” (

Luke 19:10).
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 favor with God,
all power toward God, and bas thrown off all subjection to God. The
Savior was not deceived by religious pretense or shallow profession. Even
when many believed in His name as they saw the miracles which He did,.150
“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” (

Matthew 9:13), He had not only intimated
the need for His mission-for there would have been no occasion for His
coming among men unless they were perishing-but inferred that there were
none righteous, for He called upon all to repent (

Mark 1:15;

When Christ asserted, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the
kingdom of God,” He showed how desperate is man’s plight; for the new
birth is not a mere correcting of some defect, nor the righting of a single
faculty, 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 Christ averred that “men loved darkness rather
than light” (

John 3:19), He exposed their awful depravity. They were
not only in the darkness, but delighted in it “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
man’s fearful state, for since all goodness or virtue consists in love to God
and our neighbor, then where love is wanting, goodness or virtue has no
existence. Christ’s statement
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me
draw him” (

John 6:44)
plainly showed the moral impotence of every descendant of Adam. This
impotence consists of turpitude and baseness, of inveterate opposition to
God due to bitter hatred of Him. No one seeks the company of a person he
loathes: before he does so he must be given an entirely new 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 that Christ used “heart” in the singular number, referring to the
common and uniform heart of all mankind. Here the Lord made known
what a loathsome place is the center of man’s being, and what horrible.151
crimes issue from its evil. They rise from that fountain which is poisoned
by sin.
The Son of God expressed His estimate of fallen mankind thus: “If ye then,
being evil…” (

Matthew 7:11). Men 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) – Christ spoke not to open enemies but to His own
disciples, and His language affirmed that by birth they were defiled both
root and branch. How His words abase human pride! Those who prattle
about the dignity and nobility of human nature meet with 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).
What Christ said in His day, “Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me
not” (

John 8:45), is still true. Men are so infatuated with lies, they
cannot receive the Spirit of truth. In those words the Son of God
represented the unregenerate as not having the least degree of spiritual
discernment and knowledge, as being completely destitute of holiness.
Nothing but total depravity can make man so blind to spiritual things as to
be thoroughly opposed to them.
Our English word “depraved” is taken from depravatus, which means
twisted, wrenched from the straight line. The root of this word is pravus,
“crooked,” “bad.” Total depravity connotes that this distortion has affected
all 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 race. Yet total depravity does not imply that
sin has reached its highest intensity in a person so that it is incapable of
augmentation, for men add to their sins (

1 Samuel 12:19). No, fallen
man does not enter this world as bad as he can be, but he has “no good
thing” in him (

Romans 7:18). Instead he is wholly corrupt, entirely
vitiated throughout his constitution.
The natural man has not one iota of holiness in him; rather he is horn 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 is worked in
us we must inevitably be damned for all eternity. It is not a case of man’s
having a few imperfections; he is altogether polluted. “an unclean thing”.152
with “no soundness” (

Isaiah 1:6). Not only has man no holiness, but
his heart is inveterately averse to it.
The solemn doctrine of total depravity does not mean that there are no
parents with 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 kind sympathy for 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 are to obey their parents in the Lord

Ephesians 6:1, 4). Servants are to serve their masters ‘’in singleness of
heart, as unto Christ.’’ Do the unconverted comply with those injunctions?
No, therefore their performances not only possess no spiritual value, but
are polluted. Every act of the natural man is faulty. “The plowing of the
wicked is sin” (

Proverbs 21:4) because it is for selfish ends. Then is it
better not to 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 to his Maker he is utterly unfaithful. His chief obligation is to
live for the glory of God and to love Him with all his heart; but while he
remains unrenewed he does not have the least spiritual, holy, true love for
Him. Whatever there may be in his domestic and social conduct which is
admirable in the eyes of others, it is not prompted by any respect for the
divine will. So far as man’s self-recovery and self-recuperation are
concerned, his depravity is total, in the sense of being decisive and final.
Spurgeon stated:
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 plough right over thee!
The hemlock standing in thy field must be cut up by the roots. Thy
weeds seem like fair flowers, but the ploughshare must go right
through them, till all thy beauty is shown to be a painted Jezebel,
and all human glorying a bursting bubble..153
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
could devise the worst deed committed by the vilest wretch who ever lived.
The only distinction of character among men is that which the sovereign
power and grace of God effects. “We are all as an unclean thing”

Isaiah 64:6); our original purity is 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
accedes 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 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. 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 run solely for the study of virtue, knowledge and happiness.
“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 Corinthians 1:19-21),
for it deceived and deluded them. The schools themselves were darkness,
and the minds of their authors—men like Pythagoras and Plato, Socrates.154
and Aristotle—were “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”

Psalm 14:2).
We quote Spurgeon again:
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 odours at last cease to smell them.
That terrible indictment
“The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be” (

Romans 8:7)
is not restricted to particularly reprobate persons, but is an unqualified
statement which applies to every individual. It is “the carnal mind,”
whatever mind may properly be designated “carnal,” 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.
Though the wolf may sleep, he is still a wolf. The snake which lurks among
the flowers is just as deadly as when it lies among noxious weeds.
Furthermore, that solemn declaration is true of the whole mind, of all its.155
faculties. 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),
among them 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 always 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 issue 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. 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 admirable qualities. Nevertheless, since all sin
is a coming short of the glory of God, every act of fallen man has in it the
nature of sin.
Even in 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 is
total or partial. If the latter, then of course it follows that man still has
within him something which is good, something which is consistent with
the divine law, something which enables him to at least partly discharge the
obligations on 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
do not realize 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.156
their admission by affirming that He can be successfully resisted after He
has put forth all His efforts to woo the sinner to Christ.
It is important to recognize that the principles of faith and love are not
produced by mere moral persuasion, by the external presentation of Christ
to a person. Rather they are accomplished by a miracle of divine power and
grace in the soul. Such a glorious work must be done by an efficient agent.
The natural man is blind and dead to spiritual things, and what mere
persuasion can make the blind see or the dead act? Persuasion, far from
giving a faculty, 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; He is a mighty Operator quickening men. His word is a commanding
power. 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,” not our own. It is God who makes us
new creatures, and not we ourselves. We are “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 being and to place the
crown on nature instead of grace.
The evolutionist emphatically denies 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
in some, yet capable of being fanned into a flame if the right influences are
brought to bear on it. Others term it a divine “seed” of goodness, a seed
which only needs cultivating for the ultimate development of a noble and
virtuous character. This is a point-blank repudiation of the teaching of
Christ that the human tree is essentially “corrupt.” Since the whole system
of redemption rests upon the basic fact of man’s total depravity, and since
every false system of religion originates in the repudiation of that fact, it is
incumbent on us to expose the fallacy of those objections which are
commonly made against it.
Some attempt to show that we do not enter this world in a defiled
condition. The engaging simplicity, dependence and harmlessness of infants
are stressed, and reference is even made to 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 this statement:.157
“And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their
daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan”

Psalm 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” (

Romans 9:11)
is not 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 it is clear that they partake of original sin (

51:5; 58:3;

Proverbs 22:15). Scripture never contradicts itself.
Others insist that there is some good in the very worst, that even the most
confirmed villains shudder and turn away from certain deeds of wickedness
when first tempted to do them. 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 confuse the faint stirrings of man’s
moral nature with potential spirituality. Confusion of thought leads people
to infer that because there are degrees of wickedness there must be a
modicum of good. Because one stage of depravity is lower than another,
this does not warrant the denial 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.
Many have argued that the strivings of conscience in the unregenerate
demonstrate that they are not totally depraved. They point out that every
man is possessed of the faculty which bears witness within him in countless
instances of what is right and wrong. They state that this inward monitor
exerts considerable influence even on wicked men, impelling them to
perform actions which are relatively good, and deterring them from actions
which are evil. That is freely admitted, but it does not minimize the truth
we are here contending for. While conscience is necessary to the.158
performance of both good and evil, it does not enter into either the one or
the other. It is that part of the mind which takes cognizance of the virtue or
vice of our actions but is quite distinct from both. It is that ethical instinct
which passes judgment on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our desires
and actions. 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,
according to the light it has.
The conscience is not in itself a standard of duty, for that of a heathen
speaks very differently from that of a Christian, who is taught by the Holy
Spirit. The conscience is an ear to hear, and the character of what it
hears—whether true or false—is the measure of its intelligence. In
proportion to the tutoring of this inward eye will be the truthfulness of its
perceptions. The term defines itself: con-science, “with knowledge”—to
know with oneself. Conscience informs and impresses us with the
difference between good and evil, But since all duty consists of and is
contained in love (of God and our neighbor), good and evil must consist
entirely in the disposition of the heart. Since the mere dictates of
conscience include no such dispositions, neither good nor evil can be
predicated on those dictates. Both men and demons will forever possess
consciences witnessing to them what is good and evil, even in hell itself
where, 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. We also read of “an evil eye,” yet there is neither good nor evil in
the sight of the eye, except 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 bears solemn witness to the loss of man’s purity and the
presence of depravity. But to regard the resistance of conscience to each
successive stage of sin as an evidence of innate goodness is to ignore the
very real distinction 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 the remonstrance and threatening come 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 declared by it, no regard for His
honor. 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.159
yet be reluctant to perform it is no evidence of any goodness of heart. Even
to find satisfaction in performing a duty at the dictate of conscience proves
no reverence whatever for God Himself.
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. Any remorse which
be may suffer is not sorrow for having offended his Maker, but vexation at
the sense of his degradation and the injury done to his pride. There is no
grief before God for having been a reproach to Him. Nor does the
wretchedness which dissipation produces in any way dispose its subject to
a more favorable reception of the gospel. The groaning under the chains
which sinful habits forge and the sighing for deliverance 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. Mental tranquillity
and physical health are coveted, 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; that is something the
conscience never does.
Though evolutionists and even openly avowed infidels cannot get away
from the fact that man 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 on the subject, not a few professing Christians
find it so distasteful that, if they do not repudiate it in toto, they go to great
lengths 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 this Syrian saw 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.160
deeds. Nevertheless the sad sequel fully vindicated the prophet, for
although 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. He not only murdered his royal master, usurped the throne of
Syria, burned the cities of Israel and killed their inhabitants with the sword,
but barbarously massacred the women and children. As

2 Kings 13:7
states, he went on destroying Israel till he “had made them like the dust by
Every passage in the Word of truth which declares the impossibility of the
natural man doing anything acceptable to God (e.g.,

Jeremiah 13:23;

Matthew 7:18;

Romans 8:8;

Hebrews 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 to God. Every passage in the Bible
which insists on the necessity of the new birth emphasizes the total
depravity of man, for if there were any degree of virtue in the human heart
it could be cultivated and increased, and 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
unless he were horn 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
well do not need a physician. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise
perish” (

Luke 13:5) was the decisive verdict of Christ.
This truth is repudiated in varied and numerous ways, for unbelief is very
fertile. That is another way of saying 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. Its opposition is particularly directed
to those aspects of the Word which expose and condemn mankind. When
men 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 are many actions performed
by men, such as eating and drinking in moderation, which, being merely.161
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 for a good purpose. Whatever falls in that category is not
merely a 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 Corinthians 10:31).
In an irrational being, such actions would be merely natural, but in a moral
agent they are otherwise— the manner in which he attends to them making
them good or evil. The motive largely determines the quality of the act.
Eating and drinking are virtuous when, from a gracious motive, one
thankfully acknowledges God as the Giver, prayerfully asks His blessing on
the food, and purposes to use the strength from it 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. They do so merely to satisfy their appetites
and to provide fuel for the further gratification of their lusts.
If every act of the unregenerate is sinful, how is it that God regards
favorably 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? We must distinguish between God’s governmental ways in
connection with this world, and what He requires for admittance to 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 deeds as theirs, but because those deeds tend to further His
own wise counsels. Andrew Fuller said:
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 (

Ezekiel 26:1-7; 29:17-.162
20). God rewarded Cyrus with the treasures of Babylon (Isaiah 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.
In God’s governmental dealings with men, actions which appear to have no
intrinsic goodness in them may well be rewarded without any compromise
of holiness and righteousness. God does not always deal with men
according to His omniscience. Rather He generally treats them in this life
according to what they profess and appear to be. Thus, the Lord’s design
in punishing wicked Ahab and his house was to show His displeasure of
their idolatries. If, when Ahab humbled himself and tore his garments, God
had acted toward him on the ground of His omniscience, knowing him to
be destitute of godly sorrow, and had made no difference in His treatment
of him, that purpose would not have been answered. Whatever 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 God. It therefore seemed good to Jehovah to deal with Ahab 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 appearances 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 of his reign in

1 Kings 15 (where he is.163
called Abijam), we learn that he was a wicked king, and that he walked in
all the sins of his father. Although God granted success to his army, it was
not out of regard for him, but for David’s sake, and for the establishment
of Jerusalem.
Much of what we have said about Ahab holds good of the Ninevites, and
of Pharaoh too. There might have been sincere and spiritual penitents
among the Ninevites 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. For God to respond to
their apparently sincere repentance was an exemplification of the 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 perceived
Pharaoh’s evident insincerity. Nevertheless the Most High removed His
rod when that guilty tyrant made confession, even though He knew that
Pharaoh, gaining his point, would laugh up his sleeve at Moses.
In their argument against the doctrine of man’s total depravity some have
appealed to Christ’s words in

Mark 12:28-34, where He assured the
scribe who had discreetly answered Him, “Thou are not far from the
kingdom of God.” They argue that though he was unsaved, yet our Lord
found in his character something which was praiseworthy. But if the
passage is read attentively it is found that Christ was not approving of his
spirit or his conduct, but 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 came so close to the spirit of the
gospel dispensation that Christ very properly informed him he was not far
from the kingdom of God. In other words, the principles which the scribe
had avowed, if truly embraced and duly pursued, would lead him to the
very heart of Christianity, for it is by the law that a knowledge of sin is
obtained and the need for mercy is discovered. The things to which the
scribe assented were the very ones Christ insisted on in His teaching..164
If all men alike are totally depraved, then how is it that some lead less
vicious lives than others? In examining this question it is necessary to
revert to our definition of terms, and bear in mind that total depravity does
not consist in what a man does, but what he is in himself. It also consists in
a man,relation and attitude to God. Because particular persons are not
swearers, morally unclean, drunkards or thieves, they are very apt to
imagine they are far from being wholly corrupt; in fact, they consider
themselves good and respectable people. These are 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 may 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 binding 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 one man. There are marked
differences among the unregenerate in the eruption of sin in their conduct.
Some are more honest, sober and benevolent than others, running into less
“excess of riot”; nevertheless the seeds of all evils are present in every
human breast.
“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man”

Proverbs 27:19).
It has been truly said of all men that if they were in Cain’s or Pharaoh’s or
Judas’ circumstances, and God should allow them, they would do the
same. If they were in the same circumstances as the fallen angels, they
would be as devilish as they.
True, the enmity against God and the hatred against their fellowmen

Titus 3:3) are less openly displayed by some than by others, yet that is
not because they are any better in themselves than those who are flagrantly
irreligious and cast off all pretenses of decency. Their moderation in
wickedness must be attributed to the greater restraints which the Governor
of this world places on 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.165
none is horn into this world with the smallest spark of love to God in him.
Instead, “their poison is like the poison of a serpent” (

Psalm 58:4). It
should be borne in mind—for our humbling—that there is very much evil
within each of us that God does not allow to break out into particular acts
of sin, sovereignly preventing temptations and opportunities to do them.
All men are equally depraved, but that depravity shows itself in many
different forms and ways. It is a fatal delusion to suppose that, because
divine power and mercy keep me from certain crimes, I am less corrupt
than my fellowmen, and less a criminal in His sight. God does not judge as
man does. Capernaum was more obnoxious to Him than Sodom! Many
who do not act a brutish part act a diabolical one; there is a filthiness of the
spirit as well as of the flesh (

2 Corinthians 7:1). Though some do not
give free rein to their sensual lusts, yet they are under the dominion of
mental lusts: pride, covetousness, envy, contempt of others, malice,
revenge. God restrains both the internal and external workings of sin as
best serves the outworking of His eternal purpose, permitting different
degrees of iniquity in different individuals, though all are “clay of the same
lump.” None by nature possesses the slightest degree of holiness. Different
measures of wickedness issue from the same individual at different times.
The fact that I have been kept from certain sins in the past is no guarantee
that I shall not be guilty of them in the future.
Finally, some contend that if man is so totally depraved as to be entirely
incapable of doing anything that is pleasing to God, then there can be no
ground for a challenging sermon, no motives for exhorting the
unregenerate to cease from evil and do good, and certainly no
encouragement left for them to comply. We reply that no minister of the
gospel is warranted to entertain the slightest degree of hope of success
from his endeavors merely on the ground of the pliability of the hearts of
his hearers. Their corrupt state excludes any such expectation. Unless the
preacher’s confidence is based alone on the power and promise of God, his
hopes are certain to be disappointed. But if the objector means that in view
of men’s total depravity it is unreasonable to exhort them to do good, this
can by no means be admitted, for it would follow that if total depravity
removes all ground for a rational address, then a partial one would take it
away in part; in other words, in proportion as we perceive men to be
disinclined to good, we are to cease warning and dealing with them. This is
a self-evident absurdity..166
While men are rational creatures they are justly accountable for all they do,
whatever the disposition of their hearts. And, so long as they are not yet
consigned to a hopeless perdition, their responsibility is to be enforced, and
they are to be regarded as fit subjects of a gospel address. Nor can it be
truly asserted that there are no motives by which they may properly be
exhorted to cease to do evil and learn to do good. The proper motives for
these things retain all their original force, independent of the inclination or
disinclination of men’s hearts to comply. God’s rights, His authority, His
law, are unchanged no matter what change has taken place in the creature.
The example of Christ and His apostles is too plain to be misunderstood.
Neither the one nor the other toned down their demands upon fallen
sinners. Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ
were the grand duties on which they insisted; and far from hesitating to
exhort their unregenerate hearers to do what was spiritually good, it may
be safely affirmed that they never exhorted to do anything else. God still
requires nothing less than the heart.
The violent antagonism of men against this truth is precisely what might be
expected. Instead of causing us doubt it should be a strong confirmation.
Indeed it would be surprising if a doctrine so humbling and distasteful were
not resisted. Nor need we be dismayed by its widespread repudiation by
preachers and professing Christians. When the Lord Jesus averred,
“I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and
that they which [pretend to] see might be made blind”

John 9:39),
the Pharisees haughtily asked, “Are we blind also?” (v.40). When He
declared that human nature is in love with sin and possessed of enmity
against God, and insisted,
“No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my
Father,” we are told that “from that time many of his disciples went
back, and walked no more with him” (

John 6:65-66).
The rejection which this doctrine meets with demonstrates how dense is
that darkness which is not dispelled by so clear a light, and how great is the
power of Satan when the testimony of divine revelation does not carry
conviction. Every effort to tone it down verifies the fact that “the heart is
deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”.167
While endeavoring to present a complete picture of fallen man as he is
depicted by the divine pen in the Scriptures, it is very difficult to avoid a
measure of overlapping as we turn from one aspect or feature to another,
or to prevent a certain amount of repetition. Yet, seeing that this is the
method which the Holy Spirit has largely taken, an apology is scarcely
required from those who seek to follow His plan. We have shown in a
more or less general way the terrible havoc sin has worked in the human
constitution: now we shall consider it more specifically. Having presented
the broad outline, it remains for us to fill in the details. In other words, our
immediate task is to ponder and describe the several parts of human
depravity as it has vitiated the several sections of our inner man. Though
the soul, like the body, is a unit, it also has a number of distinct members or
faculties, none of which has been exempted from the debasing effects of
man’s apostasy from his Maker.
This was strikingly exemplified in the miracles of Christ. The various bodily
disorders which the divine Physician healed during His sojourn on earth
were not only so many advance types of the marvels of grace that He
performs in the spiritual realm in connection with the redeemed; they were
also so many emblematical representations of the moral diseases which
affect and afflict the soul of fallen man. The poor leper, covered with
nauseous sores, solemnly portrayed the horrible pollutions of the human
heart. The man born blind, incapable of seeing the wonders and beauties of
God’s external works, expressed the sad state of the human mind, which,
because of the darkness that is upon it, is unable to discover or receive the
things of the Spirit, no matter how simply and plainly they are explained to
him. The paralytic’s useless limbs showed beforehand the impotence of the
will Godward, being totally devoid of any power to turn us to Christ. The
woman lying sick of the fever, experiencing unnatural craving, delirium and
restlessness, depicted the disordered state of our affections. The demon-.168
possessed man, living in the tombs, incapable of being securely bound,
crying and cutting himself, typified the various activities of the conscience
in the unregenerate.
Corruption has invaded every part of man’s nature, over spreading the
whole of his complex being. As physical disorders spare no members of the
body, so even man’s spirit has not escaped the ravages of depravity. Yet
who is capable of comprehending this in its awful breadth and depth, length
and height? It is not simply the inferior powers of the soul which the plague
of sin has seized; the contagion has ascended into the higher regions of our
persons, polluting the sublimest faculties. This is a part of God’s
punishment. It is a great mistake to suppose that the divine judgment on
man’s defection is reserved for the next life. Men are heavily penalized in
this world, both outwardly and inwardly, and subject to many adverse
providences. Outwardly, in their bodies, names, estates, relations and
employments; and finally, by physical death and dissolution. Inwardly, by
blindness of mind, hardness of heart, turbulent passions, the gnawing of
conscience. However little regarded, by reason of their stupidity and
insensibility, yet the inward visitations of God’s curse are far more dreadful
than the outward ones, and are regarded as such by those who truly fear
the Lord and see things in His light. Let us consider each in detail.
The mind is that faculty of the soul by which objects and things are first
known and apprehended. In distinguishing the understanding from the
mind, the latter is that which weighs, discriminates and determines, judging
between the concepts formed in the former, being the guide of the soul, the
selector and rejecter of those notions the mind has received. Both are
deranged by sin, for we are told that “their minds were blinded” (

Corinthians 3:14) and their “understanding darkened” (

4:18). The fall has completely shuttered the windows of man’s soul, yet he
is not aware of it; in fact, he emphatically denies it. Heathen philosophers
and medieval scholars both believed that the affections, in the lower part of
the soul, were somewhat defiled, but insisted that the intellectual faculty
was pure, saying that reason still directed and advised us to do the best
It is not strange that blind reason should think it sees, for while it judges
everything else it is least capable of estimating itself because of its very.169
nearness to itself. Though a man’s eye can see the deformity of his hands
or feet, it cannot see the bloodshot that is in itself, unless it has a mirror in
which to discern the same. In like manner, even corrupt nature, by its own
light, recognizes the disorders in the sensual part of man; yet it cannot
discern the defilement that is in the spirit itself. The mirror of God’s Word
is required to discover that, and even that mirror is not sufficient. The light
of divine grace has to shine within, in order to expose and discover the
imbecility of the reasoning faculty. Hence Holy Writ throws the main
emphasis on the depravity of this highest part of man’s being. When the
apostle wanted to show how impure unbelievers are, though they profess
to know God, he averred, “Even their mind and conscience is defiled”

Titus 1:15). They least of all suspected those parts as being tainted,
especially since they were illumined with some rays of the knowledge of
God. Thus, in opposition to their conceit, the superior faculties alone are
mentioned, and stressed with an “even.”
How weighty and full the testimony of Scripture is on this solemn feature:
“When they knew God [traditionally], they glorified him not as
God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations,
and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be
wise, they became fools” (

Romans 1:21-22).
That reference is to the Gentiles after the flood. One of the fearful curses
executed on Israel, because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord
their God and refused to do His commandments, was
“The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and
astonishment of heart: and thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind
gropeth in darkness” (

Deuteronomy 28:28-29).
Of all mankind it is said,
“There is none that understandeth. The way of peace have they not
known” (

Romans 3:11, 17).
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end
thereof are the ways of death” (

Proverbs 14:12).
“The world by wisdom knew not God” (

1 Corinthians 1:21).
Despite all their schools, they were ignorant of Him, “desiring to be
teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they.170
affirm” (

1 Timothy 1:7), “ever learning, and never able to come to the
knowledge of the truth” (

2 Timothy 3:7).
In the natural there are two factors which prevent men from seeing:
nightfall, unless there is the aid of artificial light, and loss of sight. The one
is external, the other internal. So it is in the spiritual: there are an objective
and a subjective darkness, both on men and in men. The first consists in a
lack of those means by which they may be enlightened in the knowledge of
God and heavenly things. What the sun is to natural things on the earth, the
Word is to spiritual things (

Psalm 19:1-4; cf.

Romans 10:10-11).
Spiritual darkness is on all to whom the gospel is not declared or by whom
it is rejected. It is the mission and work of the Holy Spirit to take away this
objective darkness, and until it is done no one can see or enter the kingdom
of God. This He does by sending the gospel into a country, nation or town.
It does not obtain entrance there, nor is it restrained anywhere, by accident
or by human effort. It is dispensed according to the sovereign will of the
Spirit of God. He it is who endows, calls and sends men forth to preach,
determining, either by His secret impulses or by the operations of His
providence (

Acts 16:6-10), where they shall minister.
But it is the subjective darkness on the minds of the unregenerate, with its
influences and consequences, which is here considered. It is not simply
ignorance but a foul disease.
“He is proud, knowing nothing, but… [sick] about questions and
strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil
surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and
destitute of the truth” (

1 Timothy 6:4-5).
Their minds are not only rebellious but diseased and corrupt. This
distemper of mind could be called an itch after fables (

2 Timothy 4:34).
Scripture calls that contentious wisdom of which the learned of this world
are so proud “earthly, sensual, devilish” (

James 3:15). Both the verse
before and the one following show that envy, malice, lying and deception,
though in both the affections and the will, are rooted in the understanding.
Hence God must give repentance or a change of mind before there can be
an acknowledgment of the truth and a recovery from the snare of the devil

2 Timothy 2:25-26)..171
This darkness of the understanding is the cause of the rebellion in the
affections and will. Men seek so inordinately the pleasures of sin because
their minds do not know God. They are strangers to Him and can have no
fellowship with Him, for friendship and fellowship are grounded on
knowledge. To have communion with God, knowledge of Him is
necessary. Accordingly the principal thing God does when He gives
admittance into the covenant of grace is teach men to know Him

Jeremiah 31:33-34). Otherwise men are estranged from Him through
ignorance (

Ephesians 4:17-19). The darkness of the mind is not only
the root of all sin but the cause of most of the corruptions in men’s lives.
Hence we find that Paul mentions “fleshly wisdom” as the antithesis of the
principle of grace (

2 Corinthians 1:12). For the same reason men are
said to be “sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are
wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (

4:22). That this is the cause of the greatest part of the wickedness in the
world is clear from

Isaiah 47:10: “Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it
hath perverted thee.” Corrupt reasoning and false judgment are the prime
motivations of all our sinning. Pride has its chief place in the mind, as

Colossians 2:18 shows.
This darkness is forceful and influential—yes, dynamic—according to that
expression in

Colossians 1:13: “delivered us from the power of
darkness,” the word “power” signifying that which rules. It fills the mind
with enmity against God and all His ways, and turns the will in a contrary
direction so that, instead of the affections being set on things above, they
“mind earthly things” (

Philippians 3:19). This is the habitual inclination.
The will minds the things of the flesh (

Romans 8:5), setting itself to
provide sensual objects for the gratification of the body. It fills the mind
with strong prejudices against the spiritual things proposed in the gospel.
Those prejudices are called strongholds and imaginations (reasonings), and
“every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
They are pulled down and destroyed in the day of God’s power, when
souls are brought into willing subjection to Him. The sins of the mind
continue longest, for though the body decays and its lusts wither, those of
the mind are as vigorous and active in old age as in youth. As the
understanding is the most excellent part of man, so its corruption is worse
than that of the other faculties:.172
“If.. the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that
darkness!” (

Matthew 6:23).
The effects of this darkness are fearful indeed. Its subjects are made
incapable of discerning or receiving spiritual things, so that there is a total
inability with respect to God and the ways of pleasing Him. No matter how
well endowed intellectually the unregenerate man may be, what the extent
of his education and learning, how skillful in connection with natural
things, in spiritual matters he is devoid of intelligence until he is renewed in
the spirit of his mind. As a person who has no sight is unaware of the
strongest rays of light directed at him, and cannot form any real ideas of
the appearance of things, so the natural man, because of his blindness of
mind, is unable to discern the nature of heavenly things. Said Christ to the
Jews of His day,
“If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things
which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine
eyes” (

Luke 19:42)
concealed from their perception as effectually as things which are
purposely hidden from prying eyes. Even though one had the desire to
discover them, he would search in vain for all eternity unless God was
pleased to reveal them, as He did to Peter (

Matthew 16:17).
The spiritual blindness in the mind of the natural man not only disables him
to make the first discovery of the things of God; even when they are
published and set before his eyes, as in the Word of truth, he cannot
discern them. Whatever notions he may form of them are dissonant to their
nature, and the thoughts he has of them are the very reverse of what they
actually are. They regard the highest wisdom as foolishness, and despise
and reject glorious things.
“Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work
in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a
man declare it unto you” (

Acts 13:41).
The preceding verses show that Paul clearly preached Christ and His
gospel, and then cautioned his hearers to escape the doom spoken of by the
prophet. It is not the bare presentation of the truth which will convince
men. Though clearly propounded, it may still be obscure to them:.173
“It is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath
blinded the minds of them which believe not” (

2 Corinthians
Their understandings need to be divinely opened in order to understand the
Scriptures (

Luke 24:45).
The subjects of this darkness are spiritually insensible and stupid. This
prevents them from making a true inspection of their hearts. They see only
the outward man, and do not feel the deadly wound within. There is a sea
of corruption, but it is unperceived. The holiness, beauty and rectitude of
their nature have departed, but they are quite unconcerned. They are
miserable and poor, blind and naked, yet totally unaware of it. Thus the
unregenerate go on in a course of rebellion against the Lord, and at the
same time conclude that all is well with them. As the goodness of God
does not melt them, neither do His severest judgments move them to
amend their ways. Far from it, they are like wicked King Ahaz, of whom it
is recorded,
“And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the

2 Chronicles 28:22).
The masses are defiant and unrepentant today, when the peace of the
whole world is so seriously menaced:
“LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see”

Isaiah 26:11).
Space allows us to mention only one other effect of this blindness of the
mind; it is termed “the vanity of their mind” in

Ephesians 4:17.
Scripture says useless and fruitless things are vain. In

Matthew 15:9
the word means “to no purpose.” Hence the idols of the heathen and the
rites used in their worship are called vain things (

Acts 14:15). In

Samuel 12:21 we read that vain things “cannot profit nor deliver.” Vanity
is synonymous with foolishness, for

Proverbs 12:11 states that vain
men are one with persons “void of understanding.” In

Jeremiah 4:14
vain things are linked with “wickedness,” thus they are sinful. Vain men
and sons of Belial are synonymous (

2 Chronicles 13:7). This vanity of
the mind induces the natural man to pursue shadows and miss the
substance, to be engaged with figments instead of realities, to prefer lies to
the truth. This vanity leads men to follow the fashions and revel in the.174
pleasures of a vain world. This sinful state of mind is in all sorts of persons,
old and young, showing itself in foolish imaginations by which it makes
provision for the flesh and its lusts. It appears as a reluctance to think
about holy things; when the Word is preached, the mind wanders like a
butterfly in a garden. It “feedeth on foolishness” (

Proverbs 15:14), and
has an itching curiosity about the affairs of others.
The heart is the center of our moral being, out of which flow the issues of
life (

Proverbs 4:23; cf.

Matthew 12:35). The nature of the heart is
at once indicated by its being designated a “stony heart” (

11:19). The figure is a very apt one. As a stone is a product of the earth, so
it has the property of the earth: heaviness, a tendency to fall. Thus it is with
the natural mind. Men’s affections are wholly set on the world; and though
God made man upright with his head erect, yet the soul is bowed down to
the ground. The physical curse pronounced on the serpent is also fulfilled
in his seed, for the things on which they feed turn to ashes, so that dust is
their meat (

Isaiah 65:25). Sin has so calloused man’s heart that,
Godward, it is loveless and lifeless, cold and insensible. That is one reason
why the moral law was written on tables of stone: to represent
emblematically the stupid, unyielding hearts men had, as is clearly implied
by the contrast presented in

2 Corinthians 3:3.
The heart of the regenerate is also likened to “rock” (

Jeremiah 23:29),
and to “adamant stone” (

Zechariah 7:12), which is harder than flint.
Those far from righteousness are called “stout-hearted” (

Isaiah 46:12);
and in

Isaiah 48:4 God says, “Thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an
iron sinew, and thy brow brass.” This hardness is often ascribed to the neck
(“stiffnecked”), a figure of man,obstinacy taken from refractory oxen
which will not accept the yoke. This hardness evidences itself by a
complete absence of spiritual sensibility, so that the heart is unmoved by
God’s goodness, has no awe of His authority and majesty, no fear of His
anger and vengeance; a presentation of the joys of heaven or the horrors of
hell makes no impression on it. As the prophet of old lamented, they “put
far away the evil day” (

Amos 6:3), dismissing it from their thoughts as
an unwelcome subject. They have no sense of guilt, no consciousness of
having offended their Maker, no alarming realization of His impending.175
wrath, but are at ease in their sins. Far from sin being a burden to them, it
is their element and delight.
Hardness of heart, which was referred to in the preceding chapter, is the
perverseness and obstinacy of fallen man’s nature, which makes him
resolve to continue in sin no matter what be the consequences thereof. It
renders him unwilling to be rebuked for his folly, and makes him refuse to
be reclaimed from it, whatever methods are used in order thereunto. The
Prophet Ezekiel mentioned this hardness of heart in his day, referring to
those who had been forewarned by earlier judgments, and were at that very
time under the most solemn rebuke of Providence. God had to say of them,
“They will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are
impudent and hardhearted” (

Ezekiel 3:7).
The Lord Jesus said of them,
“We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have
mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented”

Matthew 11:17).
The most touching entreaties and winsome reasoning will not move the
unregenerate to accept what is absolutely necessary for their present peace
and final joy.
“They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not
hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely”

Psalm 58:4-5; cf.

Acts 7:57).
The hearts of the regenerate are docile and pliable, easily bent to God’s
will, but the hearts of the wicked are wedded to their lusts and impervious
to all appeal. There is such unyielding disposition against heavenly things
that they do not respond to the most alarming threatenings and
thunderings. They will neither be convinced by the most cogent arguments
nor won by the most tempting inducements. They are so addicted to self-pleasing
that they cannot be persuaded to take Christ’s yoke on them.

Zechariah 7:11-12 states:
“But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and
stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their
hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the
words which the LORD of hosts hath sent.”.176
They are less susceptible to receive any impressions of holiness than granite
is to be engraved by the tool of the artificer. They scorn control and refuse
to be admonished. They are “a stubborn and rebellious generation”

Psalm 78:8), being subject to neither the law nor the gospel. The
doctrines of repentance, self-denial, walking with God, can find no
entrance into their hearts.
Writers disagree as to the scope of the affections. It is a moot point both
theologically and psychologically whether the desires are included in the
affections. In the broadest meaning, the affections may be said to be the
sensitive faculty of the soul. As the understanding discerns and judges
things, so the affections allure and dispose the soul to or against the objects
contemplated. By the affections the soul becomes pleased or displeased
with what is known by the bodily senses or contemplated by the mind, and
thus if is moved to approve or reject. As distinguished from both the
understanding and the affections, the will executes the final decision of the
mind or the strongest desire of the affections, carrying it into action. Since
the affections pertain to the sensitive side of the soul, we are more
conscious of their stirrings than we are of the actions of our minds or wills.
We shall employ the term in its widest latitude, including the desires, for
what the appetites are to the body the affections are to the soul.
Goodwin likened the desire nature to the stomach. It is an empty void,
fitted to receive from without, longing for a satisfying object. Its universal
language is “Who will shew us any good?” (

Psalm 4:6). Now God
Himself is man’s chief good, the only One who can afford him real, lasting
and full satisfaction. At the beginning He created him in His own likeness,
that as the needle touched by the lodestone ever moves northward, so the
soul touched with the divine image should turn the understanding,
affections and will to Himself. He also placed the soul in a material body,
and in this world, fitting each for the other, providing everything necessary
for and suited to each part of man’s complex being. The desire nature
carries the soul’s impressions to the creature, originally intended as a
means of enjoying God in and by them. The wonders of God’s handiwork
were meant to be admired, but chiefly as displaying His wisdom. Food was
to be eaten and enjoyed, but in order to deepen gratitude for the goodness
of the Giver and to supply strength to serve Him. But when man.177
apostatized, his understanding, affections and will were divorced from
God, and the exercise of them became directed only by self-love.
Originally the Lord sustained and directed the action of human affections
toward Himself. Then He withheld that power, and left our first parents on
their own footing; in consequence their desires wandered after forbidden
joys. They sought their happiness not in communion with their Maker, but
in fellowship with the creature. Like their children ever since, they loved
and served the creature more than the Creator. The result was disastrous:
they became separated from the holy One. That was at once evidenced by
their attempt to hide from Him. Had their delight been in God as their chief
good, the desire for concealment could not have possessed them. As it was
with Adam and Eve, so it has been with all their descendants. Many a
proverb expresses that general truth. “The stream cannot rise higher than
the fountain.” “Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles.”
“Like begets like.” The parent stock of the human family must send forth
scions of its own nature. The hearts and lives of all the unregenerate say to
the Almighty,
“Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways”

Job 21:14).
The natural center of unfallen man’s soul for both its rest and delight was
the One who gave him being. Therefore David said, “Return unto thy rest,
O my soul” (

Psalm 116:7). But sin has caused men to “draw back”
from Him, “departing from the living God” (

Hebrews 10:38; 3:12).
God was not only to be the delightful portion of the one whom He had
made in His image, but also the ultimate end of all man’s motives and
actions as he aimed to glorify and please Him in all things. But man
forsook “the fountain of living waters” (

Jeremiah 2:13), the infinite and
perpetual spring of comfort and joy. And now the inclinations and lusts of
man’s nature are wholly removed from God, anything and everything being
more agreeable to him than He who is the sum of all excellence. Man
makes the things of time and sense his chief good, and the pleasing of
himself his supreme end. That is why his affections are termed “ungodly
lusts” (

Jude 1:18)—they turn man away from God. Man has no relish
for His holiness, no desire for fellowship with Him, no wish to retain Him
in his thoughts..178
But what has just been pointed out (the aversion of our affections from
God) is only the negative phase. The positive is the conversion of the
affections to other things. Thus God charged Israel, “My people have
committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters,
and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” nor
give them any satisfaction (

Jeremiah 2:13). All the concern of the
natural man is how to live at ease, not how to honor and enjoy God He
observes “lying vanities” and forsakes his own mercy (

Jonah 2:8). All
his expectations are disappointments, empty vanities. Man is deceived by a
vain prospect, and the outcome is vexation of spirit, because of frustration.
As the love of God shed abroad in the hearts of the redeemed does not
seek its own good (

1 Corinthians 13:5), so self-love does nothing but
“They all look to their own way, every one for his gain”

Isaiah 56:11).
Not only are the desires of the unregenerate turned away from God to the
creature, but they are greedy, excessive. Thus we read of “inordinate
affections” (

Colossians 3:5), which indicate both excess and
irregularity, a spirit of gluttony and unmitigated craving for things contrary
to God, a “lust after evil things” (

1 Corinthians 10:6). We see here two
sins: intemperance and “pleasure in unrighteousness” (

2 Thessalonians
2:12). The body is esteemed above the soul, for all the efforts of the
natural man are directed to making provision to fulfill the lusts of the flesh;
his immortal spirit is little thought of and still less cared for. When things
go well for him, he says,
“Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine
ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (

Luke 12:19)
— His thoughts do not rise to a higher and future life. He is more
concerned with the clothing and adorning of the outward man than with
the cultivation of a meek and quiet spirit, which is of great value in the
sight of God (

1 Peter 3:4). Earth is preferred before heaven, things of
time before eternity. Though death and the grave may put an end to all he
has here much sooner than he imagines, yet his heart is so set on his
possessions that he will not be diverted from them.
Thus it is that the affections, which at the beginning were the servants of
reason, now occupy the throne. That which is the glory of human nature.179
elevating it above the beasts of the field—is turned here and there by the
rude rabble of our passions. God placed in man an instinct for happiness,
so that he could find it in Himself; but now that instinct gropes in the dust
and snatches at every vanity. The counsels and contrivances of the mind
are engaged in the accomplishment of man’s carnal desires. Not only have
his affections no relish for spiritual things, but they are strongly prejudiced
against them, for they run counter to the gratifying of his corrupt nature.
His desires are set on more wealth, more worldly honor and power, more
fleshly merriment; and because the gospel contains no promise of such
things it is despised. Because it inculcates holiness, mortifying of the flesh,
separation from the world, resisting the devil, the gospel is most
unwelcome to him. To turn the affections away from those material and
temporal things which they have made their chief good, and to turn them to
unseen spiritual and eternal things, alienates the carnal mind against the
gospel, for it offers nothing attractive to the natural man in place of those
idols on which his heart centers. To renounce his own righteousness and be
dependent on that of Another is equally distasteful to his pride.
The affections are alienated from and opposed to not only the holy
requirements of the gospel, but also its mystery. That mystery is what the
Scriptures term the hidden wisdom of God, which the natural man not only
fails to admire and adore, but regards with contempt. He looks on all of its
declarations as empty and unintelligible notions. This prejudice has
prevailed among the wise and learned of this world in all ages. The wisdom
of God seems foolishness to all who are puffed up by pride in their own
intelligence, and what seems foolishness to them is despised and scorned.
That which is related to faith rather than reason is unpalatable. Not to trust
in their own understanding but in the Lord is most difficult for those of
towering intellect. To set aside their own ideas, forsake their thoughts

Isaiah 55:7) and become as “little children,” and to be told they shall
never enter the kingdom of heaven unless they do all this, is most abhorrent
to them. No small part of man’s depravity consists in his readiness to
embrace and-God prejudices and to tenaciously adhere to them, with total
lack of power to extricate himself from them.
The disordered state of the affections is seen in the fact that the actions of
the natural man are regulated far more by his senses than by his reason. His
conduct consists principally in responding to the clamoring of his desires
rather than to the dictates of reason. The tendencies of children swiftly turn
to any corrupting diversion, but are slow to respond to any improving.180
exercise. They can scarcely be restrained from the one; they have to be
compelled to do the other. That the affections are turned away from God is
made clear every time His will crosses our desires. This disease appears too
in the objects on which the different affections are placed. Instead of love
being set on God, it is centered on the world, and dotes on idols. Instead of
hatred being directed against sin, it is opposed to holiness. Instead of joy
finding its delight in spiritual things, it wastes itself on things which soon
pall. Instead of fear being actuated by the displeasure of the Lord, it dreads
more the frowns of our fellowmen. If there is grief, it is for the thwarting
of our pleasures and hopes, rather than over our waywardness. If there is
pity, it is exercised on self, rather than on the sufferings of others.
The very first stirring of our lusts is itself evil. The passions or lusts are
those natural and unrestrained motives of the creature for the advancement
of its nature, inclining to those things which promote its good, and
avoiding those which are harmful. They are to the soul what wings are to
the bird and sails to the ship. Desire, always in pursuit of satisfaction, must
be regulated by right reason. But reason has been dethroned and man’s
passions and inclinations are lawless; therefore their earliest stirrings after
forbidden objects are essentially evil. This was, as Matthew shows, denied
by the rabbis, who restricted sin to open and outward transgression. But
our Lord declared that unwarrantable anger against another was incipient
murder, that to look on a woman with lust was a breach of the seventh
commandment, that impure thoughts and wanton imaginations were
nothing less than adultery. Hence Scripture speaks of “deceitful lusts”

Ephesians 4:22), “foolish and hurtful lusts” (

1 Timothy 6:9),
“worldly lusts” (

Titus 2:12), “fleshly lusts, which war against the soul”

1 Peter 2:11), “ungodly lusts” (

Jude 1:18).
The very first stirring of desire after anything evil, the slightest irregularity
in the motives of the soul, is sin. This is clear from the universal command
“Thou shalt not covet,” that is, hanker after anything which God has
prohibited. This irregular and evil longing is called “concupiscence” in

Romans 7:8, by which the apostle meant mental as well as sensual
desire. The Greek word is usually rendered “lust”; in

1 Thessalonians
4:5 it is found in an intensified form: “the lust of concupiscence.” These
lustings of the soul are its initial motions, often unsuspected by ourselves,
which precede the consent of the mind, and are designated “evil
concupiscence” (

Colossians 3:5). They are the seeds from which our
evil works spring, the original stirrings of our indwelling corruption. They.181
are condemned by the law of God, for the tenth commandment forbids the
first outgoings of the affections after what belongs to another. That
incipient longing, before the approbation of the mind is obtained, is sinful,
and needs to be confessed to God.

Genesis 6:5 declares of fallen man
that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart” is evil, for sins even in
their embryonic stage defile the soul, being contrary to that purity which
the holiness of God requires.
The Council of Trent denied that the original movement of the soul tending
to evil is in itself sinful, stating that it only becomes so when it is consented
or yielded to. Now it is freely confessed by all sound Calvinists that the
mind’s entertaining of the first evil desire is a further degree of sin, and that
the actual assent to the desire is yet more heinous; but they emphatically
contend that the original impulse is also evil in the sight of God. If the
original impulse is innocent per se, how could its gratification be sinful?
Motives and excitements do not undergo any change in their essential
nature in consequence of their being humored or encouraged. It cannot be
wrong to respond to innocent impulses. The Lord Jesus teaches us to judge
the tree by its fruit; if the fruit is corrupt, so too is the tree which bears it.

Romans 7:7 the term is actually rendered sin: “I had not known sin,
but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou
shalt not covet.” Here, then, sin and lust are used interchangeably; any
inward nonconformity to the law is sinful. Paul was made aware of that
fact when the commandment was applied to him in power—as the sun
shining on refuse draws forth its stench. Men may deny that the very desire
for forbidden objects is culpable, but Scripture affirms that even
imaginations are the evil buds of wickedness, for they are contrary to that
rectitude of heart which the law requires. Note how that terrible list of
things which Christ enumerated as issuing from the heart of fallen man is
headed with “evil thoughts” (

Matthew 15:19). We cannot conceive of
any inclination or proneness to sin in an absolutely holy being. Certainly
there was none in the Lord Jesus:
“The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”

John 14:30).
There was nothing in Christ that was capable of responding to Satan’s vile
solicitations, no movement of His appetites or affections of which he could
take advantage. Christ was inclined only to what is good..182
“For when we were in the flesh [i.e., while Christians were in their
unregenerate state], the motions of sins [literally, the affections of sin, or
the beginnings of our passions], which were [aggravated] by the law, did
work in our members [the faculties of the soul as well as of the body] to
bring forth fruit unto death” (

Romans 7:5). Those “affections of sin”
are the filthy streams which issue from the polluted fountain of our hearts.
They are the first stirrings of our fallen nature which precede the overt acts
of transgression. They are the unlawful movements of our desire prior to
the studied and deliberate thoughts of the mind after sin. “But sin
[indwelling corruption], taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in
me all manner of concupiscence” or “evil lustings” (

Romans 7:8). Note
that word “wrought in me”: there was a polluted disposition or evil
propensity at work, distinct from the deeds which it produced. Indwelling
sin is a powerful principle, constantly exercising a bad influence,
stimulating unholy affections, stirring to avarice, enmity, malice and
countless other evils.
The popular idea which now prevails is that nothing is sinful except an
open and outward transgression. Such a concept falls far short of the
searching and humbling teaching of Holy Writ. It affirms that the source of
all temptation lies within fallen man himself. The depravity of his own heart
induces him to listen to the devil or be influenced by the profligacy of
others. If this were not so, no external solicitations to wrongdoing would
have any force, for there would be nothing within man for them to excite,
nothing to which those solicitations correspond or over which they could
exert any power. An evil example would be rejected with abhorrence if we
were pure within. There must be an unsatisfied lust to which temptation
from without appeals. Where there is no desire for food, a well-spread
table does not allure. If there is no love of acquisition, gold cannot attract
the heart. In every instance the force of temptation lies in some propensity
of our fallen nature.
The uniqueness of the Bible lies in its exalted spirituality, insisting that any
inward bias, the least gravitation of the soul from God and His will, is
sinful and culpable, whether or not it is carried into action. It reveals that
the first stirring of sin itself is to draw away the soul from what it ought to
be fixed upon, by an irregular craving for some foreign object which
appears delightful. When our native corruptions are invited by something
external which promises pleasure or profit, and the passions are attracted
by it, then temptation begins, and the heart is drawn out after it. Since.183
fallen man is influenced most by his lusts, they sway both his mind and his
will. So powerful are they that they rule his whole soul: “I see another law
in my members” (

Romans 7:23). It is an imperious law, dominating the
entire man. It is because their lusts are so violent that men are so mad upon
“They…weary themselves to commit iniquity” (

Jeremiah 9:5).

James 1:14-15 traces the origin of all our sinning: “But every man is
tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when
lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished
bringeth forth death.” Those words show that sin encroaches on the spirit
by degrees; they describe the several stages before it is consummated in the
outward act. They reveal that the procreating cause of all sin lies in the
lusts of every man’s soul; he has within himself both the food and fuel for
it. Goodwin declared: “You can never come to see how deeply and how
abominably corrupt creatures you are, until God opens your eyes to see
your lusts.” The old man is “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts”

Ephesians 4:22). Lust is both the womb and the root of all wickedness
on earth. The apostle to God’s people spoke of
“having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”

2 Peter 1:4).
“The corruption”: that wasting destroying blight which is on all mankind.
“Which is in the world”: like poison in the cup, like dry rot in wood, like an
epidemic in the air—inherent, ineradicable. It taints every part of man’s
being, physical, mental and moral; it affects all his relations of life, whether
in the family, society or the State.
“Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust.” When men
are tempted they usually try to place the onus on God, the devil, or their
fellowmen; actually the blame rests entirely on themselves. First, their
affections are removed from what is good and they are incited to wrongful
conduct by their corrupt inclinations, attracted to the bait which Satan or
the world dangles before them. “Lust” here signifies a yearning for, or
longing to obtain, something. And it is so strong that it draws the soul after
a forbidden object. The Greek word for “drawn away” means forcibly
impelled. The impetuous violence of the desire which covets some sensual
or worldly thing demands gratification. This is nothing but a species of self-will,
a hankering after what God has not granted, rising from discontent.184
with our present condition or position. Even though that longing is a
fleeting and involuntary one, perhaps against our best judgment,
nevertheless it is sinful and, when allowed, produces yet deeper guilt.
“And enticed”: The drawing away is because of the irregularity and
vehemence of the craving; the enticement is from the object contemplated.
But that very allurement is something for which we are to blame. It is
because we fail to resist, hate and reject the first rising of unlawful desire,
but instead entertain and encourage it, that the bait appears so attractive.
The temptation promises pleasure or profit, which shows “the deceitfulness
of sin” (

Hebrews 3:13). All this beguiles us. Then wickedness is sweet
in our mouth, and we hide it under our tongue (

Job 20:12). “Then
when lust hath conceived”: Anticipated delight is cherished, and the mind
fully consents. The sinful deed is now present in embryo, and the thoughts
are busied in contriving ways and means of gratification. “It bringeth forth
sin” by a decree of the will: What was previously contemplated is now
actually perpetrated. Manton said: “Sin knows no mother but our own
heart.” “And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”: We pay its
wages and reap what was planted, damnation being the ultimate outcome.
This is the progress of sin within us, and these are its degrees of enormity.
If there is one faculty of man’s soul which might be thought to have
retained the original image of God on it, it is surely the conscience. Such a
view has indeed been widely held. Not a few of the most renowned
philosophers and moralists have contended that conscience is nothing less
than the divine voice itself speaking in the innermost part of our being.
Without minimizing the great importance and value of this internal
monitor, either in its office or in its operations, it must be emphatically
declared that such theorists err, that even this faculty has not escaped from
the common ruin of our entire beings. This is evident from the plain
teaching of God’s Word. Scripture speaks of a “weak conscience” (

Corinthians 8:12), of men “having their conscience seared with a hot iron”

1 Timothy 4:2)— It says that their “conscience is defiled” (

1:15), that they have “an evil conscience” (

Hebrews 10:22)— Let us
examine the point more closely.
Those who affirm that there is something essentially good in the natural
man insist that his conscience is an enemy to evil and a friend to holiness..185
They stress the fact that the conscience produces an inward conviction
against wrongdoing, a conflict in the heart over sin, a reluctance to commit
it. They call attention to Pharaoh’s acknowledgment of sin (

10:16), and to Darius’ being “sorely displeased with himself” for his unjust
act in condemning Daniel to be thrown into the lions’ den (

Some have even gone so far as to affirm that the opposition to greater and
grosser crimes—which is found at first in all men—differs little or not at all
from that conflict between the flesh and the spirit described in

7:21-23. But such a sophistry is easily refuted. In the first place, while it is
true that fallen man possesses a general notion of right and wrong, and is
able in some instances to distinguish between good and evil, yet while he
remains unregenerate that moral instinct never causes him to truly delight
in the former or to really abhor the latter. In whatever measure he may
approve of good or disapprove of evil, it is from no consideration for God.
Conscience is only able to work according to the light it has; and since the
natural man cannot discern spiritual things (

1 Corinthians 2:14), it is
useless in respect to them. How feeble is its light! It is more like the
glimmer of a candle than the rays of the sun—merely sufficient to make the
darkness visible. Owing to the darkened condition of the understanding,
the conscience is fearfully ignorant. When it does discover that which is
adverse, it indicates it feebly and ineffectually. Instead of directing the
senses, it mostly confuses. How true this is in the case of the uncivilized.
Conscience gives them a sense of guilt and then puts them to practicing the
most abominable and often inhuman rites. It has induced them to invent
and propagate the most impious misrepresentations of Deity. As a salve to
their conscience, they often make the very objects of their worship the
precedents and patrons of their favorite vices. The fact is that conscience is
so sadly defective that it is unable to perform its duty until God enlightens,
awakens and renews it.
Its operations are equally faulty. Not only is conscience defective in vision,
but its voice is very weak. How strongly it ought to upbraid us for our
shocking ingratitude to our great Benefactor! How loudly it should
remonstrate against the stupid neglect of our spiritual interests and eternal
welfare. Yet it does neither the one nor the other. Though it offers some
checks on outward and gross sins, it makes no resistance to the subtler
secret workings of indwelling corruption. If it prompts to the performance
of duty, it ignores the most important and spiritual part of that duty. It may
be uneasy if we fail to spend the usual amount of time each day in private.186
prayer, but it is little concerned about our reverence, humility, faith and
fervor in prayer. Those in Malachi’s day were guilty of offering God
defective sacrifices, yet conscience never troubled them about it (1:7-8).
Conscience may be scrupulous in carrying out the precepts of men or our
personal inclinations, yet utterly neglect those things which the Lord has
commanded; like the Pharisees who would not eat food while their hands
remained ceremonially unwashed, yet disregarded what God had
commanded (

Mark 7:6-9).
Conscience is woefully partial, disregarding favorite sins and excusing
those which most besiege us. All such attempts to excuse our faults are
founded on ignorance of God, of ourselves, of our duty. Otherwise
conscience would bring in the verdict of guilty. Conscience often joins with
our lusts to encourage a wicked deed. Saul’s conscience told him not to
offer sacrifice till Samuel came, yet to please the people and prevent them
from deserting him he did so. And when that servant of God reproved him,
the king tried to justify his offense by saying that the Philistines were
gathered together against Israel, and that he dared not attack them before
calling on God:
“I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt-offering”

1 Samuel 13:8-12).
Conscience will strain to find some consideration with which to appease
itself and approve of the evil act. Even when rebuking certain sins, it will
find motives and discover inducements to them. Thus, when Herod was
about to commit the dastardly murder of John the Baptist, which was
against his convictions, his conscience came to his aid and urged him
forward by impressing on him that he must not violate the oath which he
had taken before others (

Mark 6:26).
Conscience often ignores great sins while condoning lesser ones, as Saul
was hard upon the Israelites for a breach of the ceremonial law (

Samuel 14:33) but made no scruple of killing eighty-five of the Lord’s
priests. Conscience will even devise arguments which favor the most
outrageous acts; thus it is not only like a corrupt lawyer pleading an evil
cause, but like a corrupt judge justifying the wicked. Those who clamored
for the crucifixion of Christ did so under the pretext of its being orderly
and necessary:.187
“We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made
himself the Son of God” (

John 19:7).
Little wonder that the Lord says of men that they “call evil good, and good
evil;… put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (

Isaiah 5:20).
Conscience never moves the natural man to perform duties out of gratitude
and thankfulness to God. It never convicts him of the heavy guilt of
Adam’s offense which is lying upon his soul, nor of lack of faith in Christ.
It allows sinners to sleep in peace in their awful unbelief. But theirs is not a
sound and solid peace, for there is no ground for it; rather it is the false
security of ignorance. Says God of them,
“They consider not in their hearts that I remember all their
wickedness” (

Hosea 7:2).
The accusations of conscience are ineffectual, for they produce no good
fruit, yielding neither meekness, humility nor genuine repentance, but
rather a dread of God as a harsh Judge or hatred of Him as an inexorable
enemy. Not only are its accusations ineffectual, but often they are quite
erroneous. Because of the darkness upon the understanding, the moral
perception of the natural man greatly errs. As Thomas Boston said of the
corrupt conscience, “So it is often found like a mad and furious horse,
which violently runs down himself, his rider, and all that come in his way.”
A fearful example of that appears in our Lord’s prediction in

John 16:2
which received repeated fulfillment in the Acts: “They shall put you out of
the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think
that he doeth God service.” In like manner Saul of Tarsus after his
conversion acknowledged:
“I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things
contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (

Acts 26:9).
The unrenewed conscience is a most unreliable guide.
Even when the conscience of the unregenerate is awakened by the
immediate hand of God and is struck with deep and painful conviction of
sin, far from its moving the soul to seek the mercy of God through the
Mediator, it fills him with futility and dismay. As

Job 6:4 declares,
when the arrows of the Almighty strike a man, their poison drinks up his
spirit as the terrors of God set themselves to war against him. Formerly this
man may have gone to great pains to stifle the accusations of his inward.188
judge, but now he cannot. Instead, conscience rages and roars, putting the
whole man in dreadful consternation, as he is terrified by a sense of the
wrath of a holy God and the fiery indignation which shall devour His
adversaries. This fills him with such horror and despair that instead of
turning to the Lord he tries to flee from Him. Thus it was in the case of
Judas who, when he was made to realize the awful gravity of his vile deed,
went out and hanged himself. That the guilt of sin within the natural man
causes him to turn from rather than to Christ was demonstrated by the
Pharisees in

John 8:9. They, “being convicted by their own conscience,
went out one by one.”
The will is not the lord but the servant of the other faculties executing the
strongest conviction of the mind or the most imperious command of our
lusts, for there can be but one dominating influence in the will at one and
the same time. Originally the excellence of man’s will consisted in
following the guidance of right reason and submitting to the influence of
proper authority. But in Eden man’s will rejected the former and rebelled
against the latter, and in consequence of the fall his will has ever since been
under the control of an understanding which prefers darkness to light and
of affections which crave evil rather than good. Thus the fleeting pleasures
of sense and the puny interests of time excite our wishes, while the lasting
delights of godliness and the riches of immortality receive little or no
attention. The will of the natural man is biased by his corruption, for his
inclinations gravitate in the opposite direction from his duty; therefore he is
in complete bondage to sin, impelled by his lusts. The unregenerate are not
merely unwilling to seek after holiness; they inveterately hate it.
Since the will turned traitor to God and entered the service of Satan, it has
been completely paralyzed toward good. Said the Savior,
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me
draw him” (

John 6:44).
And why is it that man cannot come to Christ by his own natural powers?
Because not only has he no inclination to do so, but the Savior repels him;
His yoke is unwelcome, His scepter repulsive. In connection with the
spiritual things the condition of the will is like that of the woman in

Luke 13:11 who “was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up.189
herself.” If such is the case, then how can man be said to act voluntarily?
Because he freely chooses the evil, and that because “the soul of the
wicked desireth evil” (

Proverbs 21:10), always carrying out that desire
except when prevented by divine restraint. Man is the slave of his
corruption, like a wild colt; from earliest childhood he is averse to restraint.
The will of man is uniformly rebellious against God. When Providence
thwarts his desires, instead of bowing in humble resignation, he frets with
disquietude and acts like a wild bull in a net. Only the Son can make him
“free” (

John 8:36), for there is “liberty” only where His Spirit is (

Corinthians 3:17).
Here, then, are the ramifications of human depravity. The fall has blinded
manmind, hardened his heart, disordered his affections, corrupted his
conscience, disabled his will, so that there is “no soundness” in him

Isaiah 1:6), “no good thing” in him (

Romans 7:18)..190
After the ground we have already covered in the preceding chapters it
might be thought there is no need for a separate section to furnish proof
that man is a fallen and depraved creature who has departed far from his
Maker and rightful Lord. Though the Word of God needs no confirming by
anything outside itself, it is not without value or interest to find that the
teaching of Genesis 3 is substantiated by the hard facts of history and
observation. But since there is no point on which the world is so dark as
that concerning its own darkness, we feel it necessary to demonstrate the
fact. All natural men, unrenewed in their minds by the saving operation of
the Holy Spirit, are in a state of darkness with respect to any vital
knowledge of God. No matter how learned and skillful they are in other
things, in spiritual matters they are blind and stupid. But when that fact is
pressed upon them their ire is aroused. Proud intellectuals, who consider
themselves so much wiser than the humble and simple believer, regard it as
just the empty conceit of illiterates when told that “the way of peace they
have not known.” Such souls are quite ignorant of their very ignorance.
Even in Christendom the average churchgoer is fully satisfied if he learns
by rote a few of the elementary principles of religion. By so doing he
comforts himself that he is not an infidel, and since he believes there is a
God (though it may be one which his own imagination has devised) he
prides himself that he is far from being an atheist. Yet as to having any
living, spiritual, influential and practical knowledge of the Lord and His
ways he is a stranger, altogether unenlightened. Nor does he feel the least
need of divine illumination. He has no taste or desire for a closer
acquaintance with God. Never having realized himself to be a lost sinner,
he has never sought the Savior. Only those who are aware of sickness
value a physician, just as none but those who are conscious of soul
starvation yearn for the bread of life. Men may proudly boast that this
twentieth century is an age of enlightenment, but however true that may be.191
in a material and mechanical sense, it is certainly far from being the case
spiritually. It is often averred by those who ought to know better that men
today are more eager in their quest for truth than in former days, but hard
facts give the lie to such an assertion.

Job 12:24-25 we are told that “the chief people of the earth… grope
in the dark without light.” How evident that is to those whose eyes have
been anointed by the Holy Spirit. Who but those blinded by prejudice and
incapable of seeing what is right before them would still believe in “the
progress of man” and “the steady advance of the human race”? And yet
such postulates are made daily by those who are regarded as being the best
educated and the greatest thinkers. The idle dreams of idealists and
theorists should have been dispelled by the happenings of the past fifty
years, when millions of earth’s inhabitants have engaged in life-and-death
struggles in which the most barbarous inhumanities have been perpetrated,
thousands of peaceful citizens killed in their homes, thousands more
maimed for the rest of their days, and incalculable material damage done.
But so persistent is error, and so radically is it opposed to that which we
are here contending for, that no efforts should be spared in exposing the
one and establishing the other. We thus present some of the abundant
evidence which testifies clearly to the utterly ruined condition of fallen
These proofs may be drawn from the teaching of Holy Writ, the records of
historians, our own observations and personal experience. Genesis 3
describes the origin of human depravity. In the very next chapter the bitter
fruits of the fall quickly begin to be manifested. In chapter 3 we see sin in
our first parents; in chapter 4, sin in their firstborn, who very soon supplied
proof of his having received an evil nature from them. In Genesis 3 the sin
was against God; in Genesis 4 it was both against Him and against a
fellowman. That is always the order : Where there is no fear of God, there
will be no genuine respect for the rights of our neighbors. Yet even at that
early date we discern the sovereign and distinguishing grace of God at
work, for it was by God-given faith that Abel presented an acceptable
sacrifice to the Lord (

Hebrews 11:4); whereas in blatant self-will and
self-pleasing, Cain brought the fruit of the ground as an offering. Upon the
Lord’s rejection of the sacrifice, “Cain was very wroth” (

Genesis 4:5)
because he could not approach and worship God according to the dictates
of his own mind, and thereby displayed his native enmity against Him.
Jealous of God’s approval of Abel, Cain rose up and murdered his brother..192
Like leprosy, sin contaminates, spreads, and produces death. Near the
close of Genesis 4 we see sin corrupting family life, for Lamech was guilty
of polygamy, murder and a spirit of fierce revenge (v.23). In Genesis 5
“death” is written in capital letters over the inspired record, for no less than
eight times we read “and he died.” But again we are shown grace super-abounding
in the midst of abounding sin, for Enoch, the seventh from
Adam, did not die, being translated without seeing death. That much of his
time was spent in expostulating with and warning the wicked of his day is
intimated in

Jude 1:14-15 where we are told that he prophesied,
“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.”
Noah too was a “preacher of righteousness” (

2 Peter 2:5) to the
antediluvians, but seemingly with little effect, for we read, “And 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,” that “all
flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth,” and that the earth was “filled
with violence through them” (

Genesis 6:5, 12-13).
But though God sent a flood which swept away the whole of that wicked
generation, sin was not eradicated from human nature. Instead, fresh
evidence of the depravity of man was soon forthcoming. After such a
merciful deliverance from the deluge, after witnessing such a fearful
demonstration of God’s holy wrath against sin, and after the Lord’s making
a gracious covenant with Noah, which contained most blessed promises
and assurances, one would suppose that the human race would ever after
adhere to the ways of virtue. But the very next thing we read is that
“Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: and
he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered
within his tent” (

Scholars tell us that the Hebrew word for “uncovered” clearly indicates a
deliberate act, and not a mere unconscious effect of drunkenness. The sins
of intemperance and impurity are twin sisters. The sad lapse of Noah gave
occasion to his son Ham to sin; for, instead of throwing the mantle of
charity over his father’s conduct, he dishonored him, manifesting disrespect.193
for him. In consequence Ham brought on his descendants a curse, the
effects and results of which are apparent to this very day (v.25).
Genesis 9 brings the inauguration of a new beginning, causing our minds to
turn back to the very beginning of the human race. A careful comparison of
the two reveals a series of most remarkable parallels between the histories
of Adam and Noah. Adam was placed on an earth which came up out of
“the great deep” (

Genesis 1:2); Noah came forth onto an earth which
had just emerged from the waters of the great deluge. Adam was made lord
of creation (

1:28); into the hand of Noah God delivered all things

9:2). Adam was “blessed” by God and told to “be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth” (

1:28); in like manner Noah was
blessed and told to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”

9:1). Adam was placed by God in a garden to “dress and keep it”

2:15); Noah “began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard”

9:20). It was in the garden that Adam transgressed and fell ; the
product of the vineyard was the occasion of Noah’s sad fall. The sin of
Adam resulted in the exposure of his nakedness (

3:7) : likewise Noah
“was uncovered within his tent” (

9:21). Adam’s sin brought a terrible
curse on his posterity (

Romans 5:12); so did Noah’s (

Immediately after Adam’s fall a remarkable prophecy was given, containing
in outline the history of redemption (

3:15); immediately after Noah’s
fall a remarkable prophecy was uttered, containing in outline the history of
the great divisions of our race.
Genesis 10-11 takes up the history of the post-diluvian earth. These
chapters show us something of the ways of men in this new world—
revolting against God, seeking to glorify and deify themselves. They make
known the carnal principles by which the world system is now regulated.

Genesis 10:8-12 and 11:1-9 interrupt the course of the
genealogies given there, they should be regarded as an important
parenthesis, the former one explaining the latter. The first is concerned
with Nimrod :
1. He was a descendant of Ham, through Cush (

10:8), therefore of
that branch of Noah’s family on which the curse rested.
2. His name means “the rebel.”.194
3. “He began to be a mighty one in the earth,” which implies that he
struggled for preeminence and by force of will obtained it.
4. “In the earth” intimates conquest and subjugation, becoming a leader
of and ruler over men.
5. He was a mighty hunter (

10:9): three times in Genesis 10 and
again in

1 Chronicles 1:10 is the term “mighty” used of him, the
Hebrew word also being rendered “chief” and “chieftain.”
6. He was a “mighty hunter before the LORD”; comparing that with
“the earth also was corrupt before God” (

6:11) we get the
impression that this proud rebel pursued his ambitions and impious
designs in brazen defiance of the Almighty.
7. Nimrod was a king and had his headquarters in Babylon (

From the opening verses of Genesis 11 it is clear that Nimrod had an
inordinate desire for fame, that he lusted after supreme dominion or the
establishment of a world empire (cf. 10:10-11), and that he headed a great
confederacy in open rebellion against Jehovah. Babel means “the gate of
God,” but afterward, because of the divine judgment inflicted on it, it came
to mean “confusion.” By putting together the different details supplied by
the Spirit, there can be little doubt that Nimrod not only organized an
imperial government, over which he presided as king, but also instituted a
new and idolatrous worship. Though he is not mentioned by name in
Genesis 11, it is evident from the foregoing chapter that he was the leader
of the movement here described. The topographical reference in 11:2 is
just as morally significant as is “going down into Egypt” and “up to
Jerusalem.” “They journeyed from the east” connotes that they turned their
backs on the sunrise. God had commanded Noah to “multiply, and
replenish the earth.” But we read : “And they said, Go to, let us build us a
city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a
name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4).
That was directly contrary to God, and He at once intervened, brought
Nimrod’s scheme to naught, and scattered them “abroad upon the face of
all the earth” (v. 9).
At the Tower of Babel another crisis had arrived in the history of the
human race. There mankind was again guilty of apostasy and outright
defiance of the Most High. The divine confounding of man’s speech was.195
the Origin of the different nations of the earth, and after the overthrow of
Nimrod’s effort we get the formation of the “world” as it has existed ever
since. This is confirmed in Romans 1, where the apostle supplies proof of
the guilt of the Gentiles. In verse 19 we read of “that which may be known
of God”-through the display of His perfections in the works of creation.
Verses 21-23 go further and state, “When they knew God [i.e., in the days
of Nimrod], they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but
became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools [in connection with
the Tower of Babel] , and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into
an image made like to corruptible man.” It was then that idolatry
commenced. In what follows we are told three times that “God gave them
up” (vv. 24, 26, 28). It was then that He abandoned them and “suffered all
nations to walk in their own ways” (

Acts 14:16).
The next thing after the great crisis in human affairs recorded in Genesis 11
was the divine call of Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. But
before turning to that, let us consider some of the effects of the nations
going their own evil ways. The first of the Gentile nations about which
Scripture has much to say are the Egyptians, who made their depravity
clear by mistreating the Hebrews and defying the Lord. The seven nations
which inhabited Canaan when Israel entered that land in the days of Joshua
were devoted to the most horrible abominations and wickedness

Leviticus 18:6-25;

Deuteronomy 9:5). The characters of the
renowned empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome are
intimated in Daniel 7 :4-7, where they are likened to wild beasts. Outside
the narrow bounds of Judaism the whole world was heathen, completely
dominated by the devil. Having turned their backs on Him who is light,
they were in total spiritual darkness, given up to ignorance, superstition
and vice. One and all sought their happiness in the pleasures of earth,
according to their various desires and appetites. But whatever “happiness”
was enjoyed by them was sensual and fleeting, utterly unworthy of
creatures made for eternity. They were quite insensible of their real misery,
poverty and blindness.
It is true that the arts were developed to a high degree by some of the
ancients and that there were famous sages among them, but the masses of
the people were grossly materialistic, and their teachers propagated the
wildest absurdities. They all denied a divine creation of the world, holding
for the most part that matter is eternal. Some believed there was no.196
survival of the soul after death, others in the theory of transmigration—the
souls of men passing into the bodies of animals. In short, “the world by
wisdom knew not God” (

1 Corinthians 1:21). Where there is ignorance
of Him there is always ignorance of ourselves. They did not realize they
were victims of the great deceiver of souls, who blinds the minds of those
who do not believe. No ancient nation was as highly educated as the
Greeks, yet the private lives of her most eminent men were stained by the
most revolting crimes. Those who had the ear of the public and talked most
about setting men free from their passions, although held in the highest
esteem as the teachers of truth and virtue, were themselves the abject
slaves of sin and Satan. Morally speaking, society was rotten to the core.
The whole world festered in its corruption. Sensual indulgence was
everywhere carried to its highest pitch, gluttony was an art, fornication was
indulged in without restraint. The Prophet Hosea shows (chap. 4) that
where there is no knowledge of God there is no mercy or truth. Instead,
selfishness, oppression and persecution bear down on all. There is scarcely
a page in the annals of the world which does not furnish tragic illustrations
of the greed and grind, the injustice and chicanery, the avarice and
consciencelessness, the intemperance and immorality to which fallen human
nature is so horribly prone. What a sad spectacle history presents of our
race. It abundantly bears witness to the divine declaration,
“Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a
lie : to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity”

Psalm 62:9).
Modern infidels may paint a beautiful picture of the virtues of many of the
heathen, and out of their hatred of Christianity exalt them to the highest
seats of intellectual attainment and moral excellence, but the clear
testimony of history definitely refutes them.
The earth has been deluged with blood by its murders and fightings.
“The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty”

Psalm 74:20).
In ancient Greece, parents were at liberty to abandon their children to
perish from cold and hunger, or to be eaten up by wild beasts; and though
such exposures were frequently practiced they passed without punishment
or censure. Wars were prosecuted with the utmost ferocity, and if any of.197
the vanquished escaped death, lifelong slavery of the most abject kind was
the only prospect before them. At Rome, which was then the metropolis of
the world, the court of Caesar was steeped in licentiousness. To provide
amusement for his senators, six hundred gladiators fought hand-to-hand
mortal combat in the public theater. Not to be outdone, Pompey turned
five hundred lions into the arena to battle an equal number of his braves,
and “delicate ladies” sat applauding and gloating over the flow of blood.
Aged and infirm citizens were banished to an island in the Tiber. Almost
two-thirds of the “civilized” world were slaves, their masters having
absolute power over them. Human sacrifices were frequently offered on the
temple altars. Destruction and misery were commonplace, and the way of
peace was unknown (

Romans 3:16-17)
The Deists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made much of the
charming innocence of the tribes which lived in the “sylvan bowers of
primeval forests,” untainted by the vices of civilization, unpolluted by
modern commerce. But when the woods of America were entered by the
white man, he found the Indians as ferocious and cruel as wild beasts. As
someone expressed it, “The red tomahawk might have been emblazoned as
the red man’s coat of arms, and his eyes of glaring revenge regarded as the
index of his character.” When travelers penetrated into the interior of
Africa, where they hoped to find human nature in its primitive excellence,
they found instead primitive devilry. Take the milder races. To look into
the gentle face of the Hindu one would suppose him incapable of brutality
and bestiality, but let the facts of the Sepoy Rebellion of the nineteenth
century be read, and one will find the mercilessness of the tiger. Look at
the placid Chinaman. The Boxer outbreak and atrocities at the beginning of
this century produced similar inhumanities. If a new tribe were discovered,
we should know it too must be depraved and vicious. Simply to be
informed that they were men would oblige us to conclude that they were
“hateful, and hating one another.”
The depravity of the Gentiles may not excite surprise, since their religions,
instead of restraining vice, furnished a stimulus to the most horrible
practices, in the examples of their profligate gods. But were the Jews any
better? In considering their case we shall turn from the general to the
particular, examining that people designed by God to be a specimen of.198
human nature. The divine Being singled out and separated them from all
other nations. He showered His benefits upon them, strengthened them
with many encouragements, wrought miracles on their behalf, awed them
with the most fearful threatenings, chastised them severely and frequently,
and inspired His servants to give us an accurate account of their response.
And what a wretched response it was. Except for the conduct of a few
individuals among them, which, being the effect of divine grace, proves
nothing against what we are here demonstrating-in fact only serves to
intensify the sad contrast-the entire history of the Jews was nothing but a
series of rebellions and continued departures from the living God. No other
nation was so highly favored and richly blessed by heaven, and none so
wretchedly repaid the divine goodness.
Provided with a law which was drawn up and proclaimed by God Himself,
which was enforced by the most winsome and also the most awesome
sanctions, the whole nation within a few days of its reception was engaged
in obscenely worshipping a golden calf. To them were entrusted the divine
oracles and ordinances, which were neither appreciated nor heeded. In the
wilderness they greatly provoked the holy One by their murmuring, their
lusting after the plenty of Egypt when supplied with “angels’ food”

Psalm 78:25), their prolonged idolatry (

Acts 7:42-43) and their
unbelief (

Hebrews 3:18). After they received the land of Canaan for an
inheritance, they soon evinced their base ingratitude, so that the Lord had
to say to His sorrowing servant,
“They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I
should not reign over them” (

1 Samuel 8:7).
So averse were they to God and His ways that they hated, persecuted and
killed the messengers which He sent to turn them from their wickedness.
“They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his
law” (

Psalm 78:10).
They declared,
“I have loved strangers, and after them will I go”

Jeremiah 2:25).
After furnishing proof in Romans 1 of the total depravity of the Gentile
world, the apostle turned to the case of privileged Israel, and from their
own Scriptures demonstrated that they were equally polluted, equally.199
beneath the curse of God. He asked, “What then? Are we better than
they?” Then he answered,
“No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles,
that they are all under sin” (

Romans 3:9).
So too in 1 Corinthians 1, where the utmost scorn is expressed for that
which is highly esteemed among men, the Jew is placed on the same level
as the Gentile. There we are shown how God views the arrogant
pretensions of the worldly wise. When the apostle asks, “Where is the
wise?” he is referring to the Grecian philosophers, who dignified
themselves with that title. His question indicates contempt of their proud
claims. “With all your boasted knowledge, have you discovered the true
and living God?” They are challenged to come forth with their schemes of
religion. “After all you have taught others, what have you accomplished?
Have you found out the way to eternal felicity? Have you learned how
guilty sinners may have access to a holy God?” God declares that, far from
being wise men, such sages as Pythagoras and Plato were fools.
Then Paul asks, “Where is the scribe?” (

1 Corinthians 1:20). The scribe
was the wise man, the esteemed teacher, among the Jews. He was at just as
great a distance from and just as ignorant of the true God. Far from
possessing any true knowledge of Him, he was a bitter enemy of that
knowledge when it was proclaimed by His incarnate Son. Though the
scribes enjoyed the inestimable advantage of possessing the Old Testament
Scriptures, they were in general as ignorant of God’s salvation as were the
heathen philosophers. Instead of pointing to the death of the promised
Messiah as the grand sacrifice for sin, they taught their disciples to depend
on the laws and ceremonies of Moses, and on traditions of human
invention. When Christ was manifested before them, far from being the first
to receive Him, they were His most bitter persecutors. His appearing
before them in the form of a servant did not suit their proud hearts. Though
He was “full of grace and truth,” they saw no beauty in Him that they
should desire Him. Though He announced glad tidings, they refused to
listen to them. When Christ performed miracles of mercy before them, they
would not believe in Him. Though He sought only their good, they
returned Him nothing but evil. Their reaction was “We will not have this
man to reign over us” (

Luke 19:14)..200
The general neglect and contempt which the Lord Jesus experienced
among the people afford a very humbling view of what our fallen human
nature is. But the awful depths of human depravity were most plainly
evidenced by the scribes and Pharisees, the priests and elders. Though well
acquainted with the prophets, and though professing to wait for the
Messiah, with desperate and merciless malignity they sought His
destruction. The whole course of their conduct shows that they acted
against their convictions that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. Certainly they
had full knowledge of His innocence of all which they charged against Him.
This is evident from the plain intimation of the One who read their hearts,
and who knew that they were saying within themselves , “This is the heir;
come, let us kill him” (

Matthew 21:38). They were as untiring as they
were unscrupulous in their malice. They, or their agents, dogged Christ
from place to place, hoping that in His more unguarded fellowship with His
disciples they might more readily trap Him, or find something in His words
or actions which they could distort into a ground of accusation. They
seized every opportunity to poison the minds of the public against Him
and, not content with ordinary aspersions of His character, inferred that He
was ministering under the immediate inspiration of Satan. What was the
source of such wicked treatment of the Son of God? What but their
corrupt hearts? “They hated me without a cause” (

John 15:25),
declared the Lord of glory. There was nothing whatever in either His
character or conduct which merited their vile contempt and enmity. They
loved the darkness and therefore hated the light. They were infatuated by
their evil lusts and delighted to gratify them. So too their deluded followers
gave a ready ear to false prophets who said, “Peace, peace” to them,
flattered them, and encouraged them in their carnality. Consequently they
could not tolerate that which was disagreeable to their depraved tastes and
condemned their sinful ways. Therefore “the people” as well as their chief
priests and rulers cried out, “Away with this man, and release unto us
Barabbas” (

Luke 23:18). After they had hounded Him to a criminal’s
death, their ill will pursued Him to the grave, for they came to Pilate and
demanded that he seal His sepulcher. When their effort was proved to be in
vain, the high Sanhedrin of Israel bribed the soldiers who had attempted to
guard the tomb, and with premeditated deliberation put a lie in their
mouths (

Matthew 28:11-15)..201
Nor did the enmity of Christ’s enemies abate after He left this scene and
returned to heaven. When His ambassadors went forth to preach His
gospel, they were arrested and forbidden to teach in the name of Jesus, and
then released under threat of punishment (Acts 4). Upon the apostles’
refusal to comply, they were beaten (

Acts 5:40). Stephen was stoned
to death. James was beheaded, and many others were scattered abroad to
escape persecution. Except where God was pleased to lay His restraining
hand on those in whom He worked a miracle of grace, Jews and Gentiles
alike despised the gospel and willfully opposed its progress. In some cases
their hatred of the truth was less openly displayed than in others, yet it was
nonetheless real. It has been the same ever since. However earnestly and
winsomely the gospel is preached, most of those who hear it reject it. For
the most part they are like those of our Lord’s day who
“made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm , another to
his merchandise” (

Matthew 22:5).
The great majority are too unconcerned to seek after even a doctrinal
knowledge of the truth. Many regard this carelessness of the unsaved as
mere indifference, but actually it is something much worse than that,
namely, dislike for the things of God, direct antagonism to Him.
The hostility of the unsaved is made evident by the way they treat the
people of God. The closer the believer walks with his Lord, the more he
will grate on and be mistreated by those who are strangers to Him. But
“blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”

Matthew 5:10).
As one pointed out, “It is a strong proof of human depravity that man’s
curses and Christ’s blessings should meet on the same persons. Who would
have thought a man could be persecuted and reviled, and have all manner
of evil said of him for righteousness’ sake?” But do the ungodly really hate
justice and integrity, and love those who defraud and wrong them? No,
they do not dislike righteousness as it respects their own interests, only that
species of it which own the rights of God. If the saints would be content
with doing justly and loving mercy, and would give up walking humbly
with God, they might go through the world not only in peace but with the
approbation of the unregenerate; but.202
“all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”

2 Timothy 3:12)
because such a life reproves the ungodliness of the wicked. If compassion
moves the Christian to warn his sinful neighbors of their danger, he is likely
to be insulted for his pains. His best actions will be ascribed to the worst
motives. Yet, far from being cast down by such treatment, the disciple
should rejoice that he is counted worthy to suffer a little for his Master’s
The depravity of men appears in their disowning of the divine law set over
them. It is the right of God to be the acknowledged Ruler of His creatures,
yet they are never so pleased as when they invade His prerogative, break
His laws, and contradict His revealed will. How little we realize that it is
one and the same to repudiate His scepter and to repudiate His being.
When we disown His authority we disown His Godhead. There is in
natural man an averseness to having any acquaintance with the rule under
which their Maker has placed them:
“Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not
the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should
serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?”

Job 21:14-15).
That aversion is seen in their unwillingness to use the means for obtaining a
knowledge of His will. However eager they are in their quest for all other
kinds of knowledge, however diligent in studying the formation,
constitution and ways of creatures, they refuse to acquaint themselves with
their Creator. When made aware of some part of His will, they attempt to
shake it off, as they do not “like to retain God in their knowledge”

Romans 1:28). If they do not succeed, they avoid considering such
knowledge, and do their utmost to dismiss it from their minds.
A class of the unregenerate who are exceptions to the general rule are
those who attend church, make a profession of religion, and become “Bible
students.” Motivated by pride of intellect and reputation, they are ashamed
to be regarded as spiritual ignoramuses, and want to have a good standing
in religious circles. Thus they secure a cloak of respectability, and often the
esteem of God’s own people. Nevertheless, they are devoid of God’s.203
grace. They “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (

Romans 1:18); they
hold it, but it does not grip, influence and transform them. If they ponder
the truth, it is not with delight; if they take pleasure in it, it is only because
their store of information is increased and they are better equipped to hold
their own in a discussion. Their design is to inform their understanding, not
to quicken their affection for God. There is far more hypocrisy than
sincerity within the pale of the church. Judas was a follower of Christ
because he “had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (

John 12:6) ,
not out of love for the Savior. Some have the faith or truth of God “with
respect of persons” (

James 2:1); they do not receive it from the
fountain, but from the channel. Often the truth delivered by another is
rejected; but that same truth, coming from the mouth of their idol, is
regarded as an oracle. They make man and not God their rule, for though
they acknowledge the truth, they do not receive it for love of the truth, but
rather because they admire the instrument.
The depravity of human nature is seen in the sad and general reversion to
darkness of a people after being favored with the light. Even where God
has been made known and His truth proclaimed, if He leaves men to the
working of their evil hearts, they quickly fall back into a state of ignorance.
Noah and his sons lived for centuries after the flood to acquaint the world
with the perfections of God, yet all knowledge of Him soon disappeared.
Abram and his father were idolaters (

Joshua 24:2). Even after a man
has experienced the new birth and become the subject of immediate divine
influence, how much ignorance and error, imperfection and impropriety,
still remains-just because he is not completely subject to the Lord. The
backslidings and partial apostasies of genuine Christians are an awful
demonstration of the corruption of human nature. Our proneness to fall
into error after divine enlightenment is solemnly illustrated by the
Galatians. They had been instructed by Paul, and through the power of the
Spirit had believed in the Savior he proclaimed. They were so happy that
they received him “as an angel of God” (

4:14). Yet in the course of a
few years many of those converts gave such credence to false teachers, and
so far renounced biblical principles, that the apostle had to say of them, “I
stand in doubt of you” (

4:20). Look at Europe, Asia, Africa, after the
preaching of the apostles and those who immediately followed them.
Though the light of Christianity illuminated most sections of the Roman
Empire, it was speedily quenched, and gave place to the darkness. The
greater part of the world fell victim to Rome and Islam..204
Nothing more forcibly exhibits the sinfulness of man than his proneness to
idolatry. No other sin is so strongly denounced or so severely punished by
God. Idols are simply the work of men’s hands, and therefore inferior to
them. How irrational then to worship them! Can human madness go further
than for men to imagine they can manufacture gods? Those who have sunk
so low as to confide in a block of wood or stone have reached the extreme
of idiocy. As Psalm 115 points out,
“They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they
see not…. They that make them are like unto them”
—as stupid, as incapable of hearing and seeing those things which pertain
to their salvation.
The corruption of human nature discovers itself in little children. As the
adage puts it, “That which is bred in the bone comes out in the flesh.” And
at what an early date it does! If there were any innate goodness in man, it
would surely show itself during the days of his infancy, before virtuous
principles were corrupted, before evil habits were formed by his contact
with the world. But do we find infants inclined to all that is pure and
excellent, and disinclined to whatever is wrong? Are they meek, tractable,
yielding readily to authority? Are they unselfish, magnanimous when
another child seizes their toy? Far from it. The unvarying result of growth
in human beings is that as soon as they are old enough to exhibit any moral
qualities in human action they display evil ones. Long before they are old
enough to understand their own wicked tempers, they manifest self-will,
greediness, deceitfulness, anger, spite and revenge. They cry and pout for
what is not good for them, and are indignant with their elders on being
refused, often attempting to strike them. Those born and brought up in the
midst of honesty are guilty of petty pilfering before they ever witness an act
of theft. These blemishes are not to be ascribed to ignorance, but to their
variance with the divine law to which man’s nature was originally
conformed, to that horrible change which sin has made in the human
constitution. Human nature is seen to be tainted from the beginning of its
The universal prevalence of disease and death witnesses unmistakably to
the fall of man. All the pains and disorders of our bodies, by which our
health is impaired and our way through this world made difficult, are the
consequences of our apostasy from God. The Savior plainly intimated that.205
sickness is an effect of sin when He healed the man with the palsy, saying,
“Thy sins be forgiven thee” (

Matthew 9:2). The psalmist also linked
together God’s pardoning the iniquities of His people and healing their
diseases (

103:3). There is one event that happens to all. Yes, but why
should it? Why should there be wasting away and then dissolution?
Philosophy offers no explanation. Science can furnish no satisfactory
answer, for to say that disease results from the decay of nature only pushes
the inquiry farther back. Disease and death are abnormalities. Man is
created by the eternal God, endowed with a never dying soul. Why then
should he not continue to live here forever? Because of the fall; death is the
wages of sin.
Man’s ingratitude to his gracious Benefactor is still another evidence of his
sad condition. The Israelites were a woeful sample of all mankind in this
respect. Though the Lord delivered them from the house of bondage,
miraculously conducted them through the Red Sea, led them safely across
the wilderness, they did not appreciate it. Though He screened them with a
cloud from the heat of the sun, gave them light by night in a pillar of fire,
fed them with bread from heaven, caused streams to flow in the sandy
desert, and brought them into the possession of a land flowing with milk
and honey, they were continually murmuring and complaining. Men do not
acknowledge or even recognize the hand that so bountifully ministers to
their needs. No one is satisfied with the place and portion Providence has
assigned him; he is forever coveting what he does not have. He is a
creature given to changes; he is afflicted with a malady which Solomon
termed “the wandering of the desire” (

Ecclesiastes 6:9).
Someone has said that every dog that snaps at us, every horse that lifts up
its heel against us, proves that we are fallen creatures. The brute creation
had no enmity toward man before the fall. Creation gave willing respect to
Adam (

Genesis 2:19). Eve no more dreaded the serpent than we would
a fly. But when man shrugged off allegiance to God, the beasts by divine
permission shook off allegiance to man. What a proof of man’s degradation
that the sluggard is exhorted to “go to the ant” and learn from a creature
so much lower in the scale of being! Consider the necessity of human laws,
fenced with punishments and terrors to restrain men’s lusts. Yet in spite of
the vast and costly apparatus of police forces, law courts and prisons, how
little success follows their efforts to repress human wickedness! Neither
education, legislation nor religion is sufficient..206
Finally, take the unvarying experience of the saints. It is part of the Spirit’s
work to open blind eyes, to show souls their wretchedness, and to make
them aware of their dire need of Christ. And when He thus brings a sinner
to realize his ruined condition by an experiential knowledge of sin, that
sinnercomeliness is at once turned to corruption, and he cries, “Behold, I
am vile.” Though grace has entered his heart, his native depravity has not
been expelled. Though sin no longer has dominion over him, it rages and
often prevails against him. There is ceaseless warfare within between the
flesh and the spirit. There is no need for us to enlarge on this, for every
Christian, because of the plague of his heart, groans within himself, “O
wretched man that I am!” He is wretched because he does not live as he
earnestly longs to do, and because he so often does the very things he
hates, grieving daily over evil imaginations, wandering thoughts, unbelief,
pride, coldness, pretense..207
In the introductory section we intimated that we would endeavor to show
that our present subject is of immense doctrinal importance and of great
practical value. In view of all that has been advanced in our subsequent
discussion, that fact should be clear. The Scriptures supply us with a
divinely accurate diagnosis of man’s present condition. They show us, as
nothing else can or does, why the entire course of human history has been
what it is, and explain why all the remedial methods and measures of man
to effect any radical improvement in society are thorough failures. They
account for the fact that man in the twentieth century is essentially the
same as in the first, that like moral features pertain to white and black,
yellow and red faces, that no change of environment or living conditions
can transform a sinner into a saint. Removing thistles and nettles from a
stony ground and transplanting them into the most fertile soil and lovely
surroundings will not cause them to bear fragrant flowers or edible fruit.
Human nature is fundamentally the same whether people live in mansions
or hovels. Man does what he does because of what he is.
The importance of this doctrine of man’s total depravity also appears in the
close bearing it has on other aspects of the truth, and the light it tends to
cast on them. Reject what is revealed in Genesis 3 and the remainder of the
Bible becomes entirely meaningless; but accept what is recorded there and
everything else becomes intelligible and is seen in its proper perspective.
The whole scheme of redemption manifestly proceeds in view of our first
parents’ ruination of their race. Our defection in Adam and our recovery by
Christ plainly stand or fall together. Because man is a sinner he needs a
Savior; and being so great a sinner, none but a divine Savior is sufficient
for him. Since sin has corrupted the whole of man’s constitution, vitiating
and debasing all his faculties, he is utterly incapable of doing anything to
raise himself out of the horrible pit into which the fall has plunged him.
Sooner will the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots than.208
those who are at enmity with God evoke any love to Him or do that which
is pleasing in His sight. If such a creature is to be made fit to dwell forever
with the thrice holy One, obviously a miracle of grace must be worked in
Equally real and great is the practical value of this doctrine. Nothing else is
so well calculated to humble the proud heart of man and bring him into the
dust before his Maker crying, “Behold, I am vile.” Nothing else is so well
calculated to demonstrate the utter futility of the sinner’s attempting to
appease God and obtain His approbation by any efforts of his own, or to
gain acceptance with Him by his own performance. A murderer standing in
the dock might as well seek to win the judge’s favor by his smiles and
flattery. Nothing is so well calculated to convince us that, since our hearts
are rotten to the core, our very righteousnesses are as filthy rags. And
nothing else will so deeply impress on the heart of a believer his entire
dependence on the Lord as a keen sense of what he is by nature. He must
realize that God must work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure if
he is ever to perform His bidding, that nothing but daily supplies of grace
can preserve him in the narrow way. Let us particularize what has just been
Since the entire being of the natural man is under the dominion of sin, it
follows that his will is in bondage also. Anyone who denies that fact
evinces that he does not understand or believe in the total depravity of
man, for in effect he is asserting that one of the most important of his
faculties has not been debased by the fall. But as the whole of man’s body
is corrupt, so his entire soul is inclined to evil only, and so long as he
remains in the sinful state his will is in captivity to sin. The power of the
will can extend itself only to things within its own province and cannot act
above it. All actions and powers of action are limited by the nature and
capacity of their agent. As creatures below man cannot act rationally,
neither can those who lack a holy principle act spiritually. Before divine
grace works on and in the heart, man’s will is enslaved by sin. He is “in the
bond of iniquity” (

Acts 8:23), the servant of those lusts and pleasures
which he chooses and delights in. Christ must make us free (

John 8:36)
before there is or can be any deliverance from our moral captivity.
The Lord Jesus declared, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [bond-man]
of sin” (

John 8:34). Sin is his master, ordering all his actions.
Nevertheless, he voluntarily assents to it. That is why it is termed “the will.209
of the flesh” (

John 1:13), for it is defiled. It is “without strength”

Romans 5:6) to do that which is good. Since the tree itself is corrupt,
no good fruit can be borne by it. Romans 8: 7 not only declares that the
carnal mind is enmity against God and that it is not subject to the law of
God, but adds “neither indeed can be,” which would not be the case were
the will of fallen man free, or had it power to do good. Even when the
understanding is convinced and sees the truth, the will obstinately opposes
and rejects it. Rightly did G. H. Bishop of the Dutch Reformed Church say:
Man can no more turn to God than the dead can sit up in their
coffins. He can no more originate a right desire than he can create a
universe. God the Holy Spirit alone, by sovereign, special
interference, calls dead sinners to life and creates within them “the
desires of their hearts”—the first faint fluttering of a breath toward
Some may reply, “But my own experience refutes what you have said. I am
clearly conscious of the fact that my will accepted the offer of the gospel,
that I freely came to Christ as a lost sinner and accepted Him as my own
Savior.” We fully admit that. But if they go a little farther back they will
find that their experience confirms what we have said. Previous to
conversion, their will was opposed to God, and they refused to come to
Christ. Though the time arrived when that was reversed, who produced or
caused that change — they or God? In every conscious act he performs,
man necessarily wills. In repenting he wills, in believing he wills, in turning
from his evil ways to God in Christ he wills. But does the sinner make
himself willing, or does God? The question at issue is Does salvation begin
by self-movement or divine? Scripture is plain on the matter. God alters the
bent or bias of the will by communicating a principle of grace and holiness.
A supreme will overcomes man’s. He who said, “Let there be light: and
there was light” (

Genesis 1:3) says, “Let rebellion and opposition
cease,” and they do so.
“So then it is not of him that willeth [originally], nor of him that
runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (

Romans 9:16).
As He loved us before we loved Him, so His will precedes ours in
Because the natural man is dead in trespasses and sins, he is quite
insensible to his wretched plight. One of the most terrible elements in the
fatal malady which has struck him is that he is so morally paralyzed that he
is quite unaware of his desperate state. At this juncture it is necessary to
point out that there is a difference between being totally ignorant of our
condition and being insensible of it. The unregenerate may acquire a
theoretical knowledge of man’s total depravity, yet they are without any
feeling of the same in themselves. They may hold the theological belief that
sin is the transgression of the divine law, but they have no inward horror
and anguish over their vileness. That deadly insensibility is in all sinners at
all times. Their natural emotions may be stirred as they listen to a portrayal
of the sufferings of Christ on the cross—just as they shed tears over some
particularly touching incident told in the newspapers or enacted on the
stage—but they do not weep over their awful enmity against God, nor
mourn because of their contrariety to His holiness. They are quite
incapable of doing so, for they have stony hearts as far as God is concerned

Ezekiel 36:26) and do not realize that His wrath rests on them.
This explains why sinners generally seem secure and happy. It has always
appeared strange as well as distressing to the saints to see the ungodly so
unconcerned and lighthearted, though under sentence of death. Job did not
understand how the wicked could “take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at
the sound of the organ,” spending “their days in wealth, and in a moment
go down to the grave” (

21:12-13). The psalmist was perplexed when
he “saw the prosperity of the wicked” and observed that they were “not in
[soul] trouble as other men” (

73:3-5). Amos was astonished as he saw
the sinners in Zion
“put far away the evil day,” lie “upon beds of ivory,… eat the lambs
out of the flock,… invent to themselves instruments of musick,…
drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief
ointments” (

utterly unconcerned about their souls. Though natural men differ from one
another in so many respects, in this they are very much alike: they generally
live as though there is no God to whom they must render an account, and
who will pass sentence of eternal damnation upon them. Such ignorance in
rational and immortal creatures can be explained only on the ground of.211
their insensibility. They have eyes, but see not; ears, but hear not; hearts,
but perceive not. It is not at all strange that they, neither discerning nor
feeling their danger, should not fear it.
Those who deny the moral insensibility of sinners are proclaiming their
own insensibility, for they repudiate not only what Scripture maintains but
what universal observation confirms. Nothing but ignorance can account
for the conduct of the great majority of mankind, who are saying peace and
safety while exposed to instant and eternal destruction. They are
completely unconcerned that their hearts are desperately wicked, their
understandings darkened, and their wills in bondage to evil. They are
unaware of Satan’s malignant dominion over them, and do not know that
he is perpetually causing them to sin. The devil employs a multitude of
devices to ensnare them. He knows how to take full advantage of their
dullness. Yet though they are led captive by him from day to day they do
not perceive his wiles and influence. Even though they recognize the
objects which he employs to seduce them, they do not realize his seducing
power. They are ignorant that they are continually walking in the paths of
the destroyer, who is leading them blindfold to hell. They do not know—or
if they do, they do not care—that the friendship of the world is enmity with
God, and that to follow a multitude to do evil is the direct road to endless
woe. Hence they are not aware of their stumblings. They are united in their
disaffection toward God and in their love of sin. They join hand in hand; all
lead, and are led. Their very numbers inspire them with boldness and
resolution, and encourage them to walk together in the path of ruin.
In view of all that has been advanced, it is crystal clear that fallen man is in
a lost and perishing condition. He is obnoxious to God, alienated from His
life (

Ephesians 4:18), cast out of His favor (

Genesis 3:24), cut off
from communion with Him (

Ephesians 2:12). He is given up to the
devil, to be led captive by him as he pleases. He is dead in trespasses and
sins, and that means (among other things) that he is utterly powerless
where spiritual things are concerned, quite unable to do anything in regard
to them. Yet he is efficient with respect to that which is carnal and devilish.
Entirely averse to all that is good and holy, his will is desperately set
against the truth, but prone to—and in love with—whatever is sinful and
evil. He is lying in a horrible pit of corruption, unable to break the cords of
sin which hold him fast. He is so infatuated with his iniquities as to regard
them as his benefactors (see

Hosea 2:5, 12). His heart is so calloused
that the mercies of God do not melt him, nor do His threatenings and.212
judgments awe him. Instead of the divine goodness leading him to
repentance, it leads him to deeper impenitence, unbelief and presumption;
for since he sees the sun shining and the rain falling on the evil and on the
good, and God allowing all things to come alike to the one as to the other,
he concludes that He will treat them all alike in the next world.
Man’s plight is very much worse than is generally recognized, even in
those sections of Christendom which are still regarded as being orthodox.
Imagine an island affected by some calamity, say, a raging fire, the only
escape being a bridge to the mainland. The bridge offers the possibility of
escape, of salvation for the entire island population. The realization of the
possibility is dependent on the choice of each individual. The bridge does
not offer automatic salvation, but simply the opportunity to attain it. If an.
individual thinks that the fire will die down, and he remains on the island,
he forfeits the possibility of escape by the bridge. It is true that he can be
carried by force over the bridge to safety.
But, someone says, God does not accomplish the soul’s salvation by
compulsion. Unless the individual wills to accept God’s way of escape, he
perishes. He himself must decide to cross the bridge.
But can he do so? Sin has such a stupefying effect on the whole soul of the
natural man that he is oblivious to his peril and insensible of his dire need.
It loses sight of the fact that the sinner is not only in gross darkness, but
has no desire to be enlightened; he is stricken with a deadly malady, and is
unwilling to be healed. He is highly displeased if someone tells him of his
awful danger, for he resents anything which disturbs his false peace and
comfort. Sinners in Bible times could not bear to hear the plain preaching
of either God’s prophets or His incarnate Son. They stoned the former and
crucified the Latter. So it is now; they refuse to give a hearing to one who
declares them to be totally depraved. The sinner, though mentally
convinced of the urgency of his situation, has no eyes to see the “bridge.”
And if another offered to lead him it would be of no avail, for he lacks
strength. True, God does not effect the soul’s salvation by compulsion, but
He does so by a miracle of grace: making His people willing in the day of
His power (

Psalm 110:3), imparting life, light and strength to them.
Since man is totally depraved, how great is his need of salvation! The guilt
of Adam’s transgression is charged to his account, the polluted nature of
our first parents transmitted to him. He is shaped in iniquity, conceived in.213
sin, and enters this world a child of wrath, estranged from God from his
mother’s womb (

Psalm 58:3). Born with a heart that is deceitful above
all things and desperately wicked, from earliest childhood he pursues a
course of self-will and self-pleasing, treasuring up wrath against himself.
His iniquities are more in number than the hairs of his head (

40:12), and his “trespass [guiltiness] is grown up unto the heavens”

Ezra 9:6). He lies beneath the death sentence of the law. That curse
cannot be removed until full satisfaction has been rendered to it, and the
guilty culprit is utterly powerless to render such satisfaction. Nor can any
of his friends—not even his nearest and dearest relatives—discharge his
incalculable debt. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor
give to God a ransom for him: for the redemption of their soul is precious”

Psalm 49:7-8), or “costly,” as the same word is rendered in

Kings 7:9-10. The sinner is a moral bankrupt, with no good thing to his
credit, without a penny to discharge his liabilities.
Such a creature is utterly unfit for heaven; even if he were permitted to
enter it, he would at once desire to leave, for he would be entirely out of
his element, having nothing whatever in common with the ineffable holiness
of its atmosphere and society. He is already ripe for hell, fit only for the
company of the damned. Thus the natural man is in a perishing condition.
Not only does he need delivering from the curse of the law, the wrath of
God, and the captivity of the devil; he also needs saving from himself:
from the guilt, dominion and pollution of his sins. He needs to be saved
from his hard, impenitent and unbelieving heart, from his love of the world,
from his self-righteousness. Divine justice requires not only that he be clear
of any accusation the law can bring against him, but that he possess a
perfect obedience which constitutes him righteous before the law, thus
giving him title to the reward of endless joy. But his righteousnesses are as
filthy rags, and the wearer of them a moral leper. His plight is desperate
beyond the power of words to express. There is only a step between him
and death, and beyond that lies “the blackness of darkness for ever”

Jude 1:13).
It is equally evident that the lost sinner is incapable of contributing toward
his salvation. Can a foul and filthy fountain send forth clear, pure water?
Neither can a polluted creature offer anything which is acceptable to the
holy One. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”

Proverbs 15:8), as He made clear at the beginning, when He did not
accept Cain and his offering. Instead of a pleasing service to God, it is an.214
insulting provocation, for it lacks that principle without which it is
impossible to please Him. The supplications of the unregenerate are
rejected by God. “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine
eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear”

Isaiah 1:15). Why? Because such “praying” is the howling of those in
pain (

Hosea 7:14) rather than the breathings of loving devotion. It is
the wishings and cravings of those who want their lusts gratified

James 4:3) rather than their souls ministered to. It is the bold
presumptions for things unwarranted by the divine promises, for they hope
to have mercy without holiness, sins forgiven without forsaking them.
Their praying consists of the perfunctory exercises of those who have a
form of godliness but are strangers to its power. Likewise are their fastings
rejected (

Isaiah 58:3-7;

Zechariah 7:5).
Charnock said:
We can no more be voluntarily serviceable to God while our
serpentine nature and devilish habits remain in us, than we can
suppose that the Devil can be willing to glorify God while the
nature he contracted by his fall works powerfully in him. Our
nature and will must be changed, that our actions may regard God
as our end, that we may delightfully meditate on Him, and draw the
motives of our obedience from love.
The imperative necessity of that radical change in the soul—a change as
great and complete as to be like a second birth—was expressed by Christ
when He declared, “Ye must be born again,” having prefaced the same by
stating, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God….
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God” (

John 3:3, 5-7). There must be a spiritual and
supernatural principle in us before we can live a spiritual and supernatural
life. The new birth is indispensable, yet what can one who is dead in sin do
to experience it? As Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he
is old?” (v. 4). “Ye must be born again” at once reveals the utter futility of
all self-effort. Such a demand withers all fleshly pretensions and bars the
gates of heaven against all the unregenerate. It is designed to crush pride
and make man realize his helplessness.
As the sinner cannot regenerate himself, neither can he produce any sincere
repentance, for “godly sorrow worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians 7 10),.215
and he has not a spark of godliness. Until he is born again he can neither
hate sin nor abhor himself. Nor is he capable of exercising faith. How can
he confide in one to whom he is a total stranger, trust in one whom he
regards as his enemy, love one with whom he is at odds? The obstacles in
the way to salvation are absolutely insurmountable by any efforts of the
sinner. He could as easily turn the ocean tide as deliver his soul. That
solemn fact was shown by Christ when in answer to His disciples’ question
“’Who then can be saved?” He averred, “With men this is impossible”

Matthew 19:26). What a shattering word that was to all creature
sufficiency! How it should bring the sinner to despair of saving himself.
Since man is totally depraved it necessarily follows that if ever he is to be
saved it can be only by divine grace and power. Grace is a truth which is
peculiar to divine revelation. It is a concept to which the unaided powers of
the human mind can never stretch. Proof of that is found in the fact that
where the Bible has not gone it is quite unknown. But grace is not only
taught in God’s Word; it is given great prominence there. Holy Writ
declares that salvation is by grace from first to last: it issued from grace, it
is received by grace, it is maintained by grace, it is perfected by grace.
Divine grace is bestowed on those who have no merits, and from whom no
recompense is demanded. More than that, it is given to those who are full
of demerit and blame. How thoroughly grace sets aside every thought of
worthiness in its object is evident from a single quotation: “Being justified
freely by his grace” (

Romans 3:24). The Greek word is even more
impressive and emphatic, and might be rendered “gratuitously,” “for
nothing.” The same term is translated “for nought” in

2 Thessalonians
3:8, and “without a cause” in

John 15:25. There is nothing whatever in
the beneficiary to make it attractive, but rather everything to make it
repulsive. “None eye pitied thee… to have compassion upon thee…. When I
passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thy blood, I said unto thee…, Live”

Ezekiel 16:5-6).
Divine grace is the sinneronly hope, for it is not searching for good men
whom it may approve, but for the guilty and lost whom it may save. It
comes not to those who have done their best and are quite presentable, but
rather to those who have done their worst and are in rags and tatters.
Grace ever draws near to the sinner with his condition fully exposed. Grace.216
recognizes no distinctions either social or moral: the chaste virgin is on the
same level as the confirmed harlot, the religious moralist with the wildest
profligate. Grace is God’s provision for those who are so corrupt that they
cannot help their conduct, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him,
so dead that He must open their graves and bring them onto resurrection
ground. Unless men are saved by grace they cannot be saved at all. It is
equally true that the salvation of sinners must be by divine power. Their
ignorance and insensibility are irremovable by any human means. Nothing
but God’s might can dispel the darkness from their minds, take away their
hearts of stone or free their sin-enslaved wills. All the faculties of the
natural man are opposed to the offers and operations of divine grace until
divine power saves him from himself. None ever turned to God except God
turned him.
By this time it should be quite apparent that the sinner lies entirely at
God’s disposal. If He sees fit to leave him in his sins, he is undone forever;
yet God has a perfect right to do so Had He precipitated the whole race to
hell, as He did the fallen angels the day they sinned, it would have been no
excess of severity but simply an act of justice, for they deserved eternal
damnation. In its ultimate analysis salvation is a matter of God’s choice and
not ours, for we are merely clay in His hands to be molded into a vessel of
honor or dishonor entirely as He pleases (

Romans 9:21). Sinners are in
the sovereign hand of God to save or to destroy according to His own will.
That is His divine prerogative. “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will
have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (

Romans 9:18). Far from
offering any apology, He bids us observe and ponder that solemn fact: “See
now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make
alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my
hand” (

Deuteronomy 32:39). Such a One is not to be spoken lightly
about, but to be held in the utmost awe.
In the very nature of the case, mercy is not something which can be
claimed as a right—least of all from Him whom we have wronged far
above all others—but lies entirely at the discretion of the one who is
pleased to exercise it.
Robert Erskine stated: “Because He is a sovereign God, infinitely happy in
Himself without us, it is at His option to manifest mercy or not, to save or
not, as much as it was His option to make man or not.” “He doeth
according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of.217
the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, ‘What doest thou?”

Daniel 4:35). Therefore He exercises sovereignty in His reason for
showing mercy, because He “will shew mercy.” God is sovereign not only
as to the ones He saves, but as to the time, the instrument, and the means
by which He saves them. Such teaching alone accords to God His proper
place, as it likewise cuts away all ground for human merits and boasting;
and at the same time it deepens the wonderment and gratitude of the
redeemed. God can never act unjustly, but He can and does bestow His
favors on whom He pleases, and in so doing exercises His high
prerogative: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”

Matthew 20:15).
The exemption of any sinner from everlasting condemnation is an act of
sovereign mercy and free grace; therefore God consults none but exercises
His own good pleasure as to those on whom He bestows this grace.
“Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias… when great
famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was
Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that
was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus
the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the
Syrian” (

Luke 4:25-27).
If some are brought to believe in Christ, while others are left in their
unbelief, it is sovereign grace alone which makes the one differ from the
other. And if it is right for God to make such a difference in time, it could
not be wrong for Him to purpose doing so from eternity. They who balk at
sovereign and unconditional election believe in neither the total depravity
of man nor the God of the Bible. On the one hand, He hides these things
from those who are wise and prudent in their own conceit. On the other,
He reveals them to babes (

Matthew 11:25). There cannot be an
election without a rejection: “The one shall be taken, and the other left”

Matthew 24:40-41). “The election hath obtained it, and the rest were
blinded” (

Romans 11:7). “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”
Inasmuch as the sinner’s will is enslaved by sin, God must overcome his
opposition before he will submit to Him. But both Scripture and
observation make it evident that He does not bring all rebels into
subjection, but only a favored few. As

Psalm 110:3 declares, “Thy.218
people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Though “by nature the
children of wrath, even as others” (

Ephesians 2:3), equally depraved
and guilty, yet these few even in their unregenerate state are “God’s
people.” They are His by sovereign election, His by eternal decree, His by
covenant relationship. He loved them with an everlasting love

Jeremiah 31:3), chose them in Christ before the foundation of the
world (

Ephesians 1:4), predestinated them to be conformed to the
image of His Son (

Romans 8:29). Accordingly, in the day of His power
He quickens them into newness of life, and puts the soul into a condition to
receive the truth and cordially embrace it. That putting forth of divine
power upon and within the “vessels of mercy” takes place at a definite
season, for there is a set time for God to show favor to the members of
Zion (

Psalm 102:13). As the length of Israel’s captivity in Babylon was
so divinely fixed that none could any longer detain them when that time
had expired, likewise must His elect be delivered from their bondage to sin
and Satan when the appointed moment arrives. He who ordered the
moment of our birth and death (

Ecclesiastes 3:2) does not leave us to
decide the day of our conversion—still less whether we shall be converted
or not.
“Thy people shall be willing” to whom? To do what? Willing for that to
which previously they were completely averse. Willing to submit their
intellect wholly to God’s Word, so that they receive with childlike
simplicity all that is revealed there. Willing to lean no more to their own
understanding, but to accept without question the mysteries of the faith.
High imaginations and lofty reasonings against the knowledge of God are
cast down, and every thought brought into captivity to the obedience of
Christ. Miracles which infidels scoff at, aspects of truth which critics term
contradictory, precepts which run counter to the lusts of the flesh, are
meekly accepted. The elect are willing to bow to God’s way of salvation,
so that they freely abandon their idols, renounce the world, repudiate all
merits of their own, and come as empty-handed beggars, acknowledging
themselves to be deserving only of hell. Willing to receive Christ as
Prophet to instruct, as Priest to atone for their sins, as King to rule over
them. Willing to receive Him as their Lord, to take His yoke upon them, to
follow the example He has left them. Willing to bear reproach for His sake,
to be given the cold shoulder, to be hated and persecuted. Willing to be on
the side of the minority, to be cast out of the organized church if need be,
to lay down their lives rather than deny Him..219
Obviously, a miracle of grace must be effected within them before they will
choose what is so contrary to fallen human nature. That wonderful change
from unwillingness to willingness is not the result of creature effort, but of
divine operation; it is not of self-improvement, but the effect of God’s
work in the soul. Thus we read of
“the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,
according to the working of his mighty power”

Ephesians 1:19)
—That putting forth of His power does not violate man’s constitution or
responsibility. Instead of destroying the freedom of his will, it liberates it
from its native bondage. God’s people are not dragged to Christ, but
drawn (

John 6:44) by “bands of love” (

Hosea 11:4). That action of
His power has reference to that blessed time when the effectual inworking
of the Spirit delivers the soul from the dominion of sin and Satan, when the
influences of grace prevail over the corruptions of the flesh, when the Lord
opens the heart to receive His Word (

Acts 16:14), when the affections
are turned from the world to Christ, and the soul gladly gives up itself to
Him. This power is life-giving and liberating, and delivers from death in sin.
It communicates a new disposition which causes its recipient cordially to
yield himself to God. This convincing power convicts the individual of his
wickedness, wretchedness and need. God’s power works in him “both to
will and to do of his good pleasure” (

Philippians 2:13). As the
Christian reflects on all that this power has accomplished in him, he sings:
O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.
‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done;
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine;
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.
The vile condition of mankind heightens the marvel of Christ’s mediation.
It was by no means incumbent upon God to recover those who had turned
their backs on Him. As He was not obligated to prevent their defection,.220
neither was He obliged to restore any of those who had revolted. ‘When
He permitted the whole human race to offend in Adam, had He left them to
be buried in the ruins of their fall, to sink utterly beneath the weight of their
iniquities, it would have been no undue severity on His part. He might well
have reserved all men in those chains which they fully deserved, and left
them to feed on the fruits of their evil doings, without lifting a finger for
their deliverance. To go farther back, as God might forever have left men
in their nothingness without bringing them into being, so He could have left
them all in their contracted misery. There was no more reason why the
Lord should save any of Adam’s posterity than there was for Him to bring
back the fallen angels to their original obedience and bliss. The blessedness
of God Himself would have been no more infringed upon by the eternal
destruction of our entire race than it was by the everlasting ruin of devils. It
was wholly at God’s own option whether He provided a Savior or withheld
There was no reason why God should not have abandoned all mankind. He
certainly was not bound in justice to intervene on their behalf, for as the
righteous Governor of the world He might well have proceeded to uphold
the majesty of His law by executing its penalty on the disobedient, thereby
making them an example of vengeance to all other intelligences in the
universe. Nor did His goodness oblige Him to rescue His refractory
subjects from their misery, for He had previously given full proof of that
goodness in their creation, as is still made manifest in the happiness
enjoyed by all His loyal subjects. Nor did any consideration of His glory
require that He should show them mercy. God’s glory is not dependent on
the manifestation of any one attribute, but on the manifestation of each in
its proper time and place, and in full harmony with the others. God is
glorified when He sends blessings on the righteous; He is equally glorified
when He sends punishment on the wicked. ‘What would the loss of this
world be to Him in whose sight it is nothing, yes, less than nothing and
vanity? The provision of a Savior was a matter of His free grace, and grace
is something which none can claim as a right.
God was pleased to act in a manner which will cause both the holy angels
and redeemed sinners forever to marvel and adore. His way of salvation is
the wonder of all wonders, whether we consider the dignity of the
Mediator’s person, the nature of His work, the things it accomplished, or
its beneficiaries. The Savior was none other than the Lord of glory, the
Coequal and the Beloved of the Father. His work necessitated a journey.221
from heaven to earth, the assumption of human nature, being made under
the law, and enduring unspeakable humiliation. It required Him to become
the Man of sorrows, so that the whole of His life in this scene was one of
suffering and grief. It involved His becoming the Substitute of His people;
the iniquity of them all was placed upon Him, and He took the wages due
them. It entailed laying down His life to ransom them, dying a cruel,
shameful and accursed death, during which He was separated from God
Himself. So infinitely meritorious and efficacious was Christ’s death that it
appeased the wrath of God against His people, satisfied every demand of
His justice, removed the guilt of their transgressions from them as far as
the East is from the West, conquered Satan and spoiled him of his
dominion over them, procured the Spirit to quicken and indwell them,
opened heaven for them so that they might have access to and fellowship
with God, ensured their preservation in time and fullness of joy for eternity.
And on whose behalf did the Son of God suffer such awful indignities? Not
for the fallen angels, whose original habitat was heaven, but for creatures
of the earth who are but breathing dust and animated clay. These best of
men compared with Christ are less in His sight than a worm is in ours. In

Job 25:6 He actually terms them worms. It was for the unworthy, the
unholy, the unlovely, that Christ’s sacrifice was ordained. ‘What an
amazing thing that the Lord should set His heart on those who in their
fallen estate were incapable of doing anything to please or honor Him. The
objects of Christ’s mediation were despicable not only in their beings but in
their actions also. As man is nothing comparatively, so he can do nothing
to glorify Christ, though he can do much to provoke and dishonor Him.
How can one who is lame and blind walk or work, or one who is dead act?
Such were the Lord’s people when He entertained thoughts of mercy
toward them: destitute of any good qualities or fruit, and lacking any
spiritual principle or nature to yield one or the other. And after Christ has
bestowed such a principle and nature on His people, they cannot act except
as they are acted upon. They cannot stand, except as He upholds them.
They cannot move unless He draws them. Christ must work all their works
in them (

Isaiah 26:12).
Man is not only impotent but poverty-stricken. He is nothing, can do
nothing, has nothing. He not only has “no money” (

Isaiah 55:1) but is
heavily in debt. He is in a famishing condition, feeding on nothing but wind
and husks, on the vanities and pleasures of this world. He has nothing with
which to cover his shame; though he may, like the Leodiceans, imagine.222
himself to be rich and in need of nothing, yet in God’s sight he is poor and
naked. He cannot rightly say that his soul is his own, for he has given it
over to Satan, sold himself to work wickedness. ‘What a marvel that Christ
should love such a forlorn creature! But more: man is not only a bankrupt
spectacle but a hideous one. Poverty will not hinder love, especially if there
is beauty; but who can admire deformity? Yet the sinner, in the eyes of
holiness, is full of revolting loathsomeness. No human pen can depict the
obnoxiousness of defiled man. He was created fair and very good, adorned
with the beauty of God’s image; but not only is all of that erased, but the
horrible image of Satan has displaced it. Man’s light has been turned into
darkness, his comeliness into corruption; instead of a sweet savor there is a
stench and burning instead of beauty (

Isaiah 3:24).
That which makes the soul most unlovely is its being dead. ‘When life
expires all beauty expires with it. A dead soul is as repulsive to God as a
dead body is to us. But men are not only hateful to Christ but haters of
Him. They hate His person, His offices, His precepts. They hate His very
image, and the more resemblance to Him any of His followers have the
more they are detested. Yet there is not the least occasion of hatred in
Christ. He is altogether lovely—divinely glorious, humanly perfect. Nor
does He give any cause to be hated. All His administrations are righteous,
so that His justice ought to be admired as much as His mercy. But men
hate Christ with an unmixed hatred, without any degree of love, without
the slightest inclination or tendency toward Him. This hatred was so deadly
that when He was delivered into their hands they murdered Him. This
hatred remains unvarying and inveterate, firmly rooted in men’s hearts,
expressed by continual acts of rebellion against God. ‘What a truly amazing
thing it is that Christ should voluntarily lay down His life for such
creatures! Yet
“when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death
of his Son” (

Romans 5:10).
Behold such love. Behold and wonder.
The total depravity of all mankind explains the opposition which the gospel
encounters. ‘When one considers what the gospel is in itself—a message of
good news to lost sinners—one would naturally suppose that it would be.223
universally and cordially received. Will not those condemned to eternal
damnation welcome a reprieve? Will not those dying from a deadly malady
be glad to avail themselves of an effectual remedy? Will the naked scorn
the garments of salvation, the poverty-stricken refuse the unsearchable
riches of Christ, the famishing decline an invitation to a feast? One would
not think so. The evangel contains the most illustrious display of the divine
character which has ever been given to this world, and thus it is called “the
glorious gospel of the blessed God” (

1 Timothy 1:11). It makes known
to us how divine wisdom has so perfectly adjusted His attributes that God
can at the same time be both just and merciful in saving a hell-deserving
sinner, that He can lavish on him the riches of grace without in any way
compromising His holiness. Such a marvel is so far beyond human
conception that it evidences itself to be truly divine. It is indeed “worthy of
all acceptation.” It announces the inestimable blessings of pardon, holiness
and joy, and therefore should be cordially welcomed by all who hear it.
The love of God which the gospel publishes, and the sufferings of Christ
for sinners, ought to melt the hardest heart and cause every hearer
fervently to cry, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” This
message of glad tidings proclaims peace. It tells of deliverance from
condemnation, and promises eternal life to all who receive it. Yet the fact
remains that the great majority of those who hear it are scarcely affected
and obtain no lasting advantage to their souls; and that perplexes many
Christians. But the total depravity of man fully explains that lamentable
state. In a heart that is desperately wicked there is nothing whatever on
which the gospel can seize that will evoke any echo to it. Its message is
directly opposed to the opinions and inclinations of the fallen creature. If it
informed men of how great worldly honors could be secured gratis, or how
large sums of money could be obtained for nothing, it would be heartily
welcomed. If it assured men how they could indulge their lusts with
impunity and live in sin without fear of death and hell, it would indeed be
good news to them. But a holy gospel does not appeal to them, being
foreign to their tastes.
If God were to leave men entirely to themselves in their response to the
gospel, it would be universally rejected. There is a deeply rooted
contrariety to God in menvery nature which makes them turn a deaf ear to
His voice, though they are ready enough to listen to the least whisper of
Satan. As there are plants which are attractive to the eye but poisonous to
the stomach, so even though the gospel is a pleasant sound to the ear it is.224
repulsive to a corrupt heart. The gospel requires men to renounce their
own wisdom and become as little children, to repudiate their own
righteousness and accept that of Another, to turn from self-pleasing and
submit to the will of God. The gospel is designed to transform the inner
man and regulate the outer man, and that is quite unacceptable to the
unregenerate. No exhortations will reconcile a wolf and a lamb. No logical
arguments will tame a fierce lion. Though man is a rational creature, he
follows the promptings of his lusts rather than the dictates of his judgment.
One who is wholly in love with sin and Satan does not desire to enter the
service of Christ. To turn to God in Christ is altogether contrary to the
stream of corrupt nature, and therefore it needs to be overcome by a flood
of almighty grace, as the stream of the river is overcome by the tide of the
Certain writers represent the heart of fallen man as painfully conscious of
its burden and sighing for deliverance. But the statement that the natural
man is eager to escape from the ruin and degradation to which sin has
reduced him is a figment of fancy, unsupported by a single fact of
experience. The natural man does indeed encounter conflicts, yet his
struggles are not for deliverance from indwelling corruption, but to escape
the accusations of conscience. Man’s misery is that he cannot sin without
unpleasant consequences. There is nothing whatever in him that
predisposes him to welcome the gospel or to give it joyful acceptance
when it is made known to him. The heart of man is more unwilling to
embrace the evangel than it is to acknowledge the equity of the law.
Charnock stated:
The Law puts man upon his own strength, the Gospel takes him off
from his own footing. The Law acknowledges him to have a power
in himself, and to act for his own reward; the Gospel strips him of
all his proud and towering thoughts (

2 Corinthians 10:5),
brings him to his due place, the foot of God, and orders him to
deny himself as his own rule, righteousness, and end, and
henceforth not to live unto himself (

2 Corinthians 5:14). This is
the reason why men are more against the Gospel than against the
Law: because it doth more deify God and debase man.
As there needed to be a forerunner for Christ to prepare the way before
Him, so the Holy Spirit must first work upon the heart before it is ready to
receive the gospel. Not until He renews the soul is any real sense of need.225
awakened; and until its sickness is felt the great Physician is not desired.
Before the heart has been divinely prepared for its reception, the Word of
God can find no permanent place in it. That is very evident from our
Lord’s parable of the sower, wherein He likened those who heard the
Word to several kinds of ground. The seed sown was the same in each
case. it was the soils that differed. The seed which fell by the wayside, on
the stony ground and on the thorny ground was abortive. The heart has to
be made “honest and good” (

Luke 8:15) before there will be any
increase or fruit. None but the Holy Spirit can produce in the soul a hatred
of sin, and the desire to be saved from it because of its intrinsic vileness.
Only because of the distinguishing and astonishing grace of God are any
brought to repent and believe the gospel. One whose affections are chained
to the things of earth cannot seek those things which are above. Nothing
more clearly demonstrates the certainty of human depravity than the fact
that without a special and divine operation no heart ever did or ever will
savingly receive the gospel.
In view of the total depravity of man we need not be the least surprised at
what we observe in Christendom itself. A change of clothes effects no
alteration in the character of the wearer, neither does a person, taking on a
profession of religion better his heart. It may indeed foster a spirit of
hypocrisy, and cause him to take more pains to hide from the eyes of his
fellowmen what he is by nature; but it will not cleanse his soul from
indwelling sin. Thus, while there is more open wickedness in the profane
world, there is far more secret and cloaked wickedness in the professing
world. Error is bound to be much more popular than truth to the
unregenerate; therefore, to make the truth in any way acceptable to them it
has to be watered down, wrested and perverted. And there are always
those who, for the sake of filthy lucre, are ready to perjure their souls.
Hence heretical sects and systems abound on every side. ‘What delusions
are cherished about the character of God! ‘What erroneous ideas are
entertained about His way of salvation! ‘What false opinions are held of
man’s dignity, greatness, free will, even by many who call themselves
Christians! Because of the unbelief, selfishness and impiety of men’s hearts,
the false prophets, who speak smooth and flattering things, are assured of a
ready hearing.
Here, then, is the explanation of the babel of tongues which is now heard in
Christendom. ‘When the natural man takes it on him to handle the things of
God, they are sure to be corrupted. How can those who are devoid of.226
divine grace and in love with sin faithfully communicate the gospel which
unsparingly condemns sin? For the same reason, those who are without
true piety will prefer to hear and follow those whose preaching gives them
the most license to gratify their carnality. Moreover, Satan will see to it
that his emissaries cater to the worldly minded. What are Universalism and
annihilationism but opiates to remove the dread of eternal punishment?
‘What is Antinomianism, with its bald fatalism and repudiation of the moral
law as the believer’s rule of life, but an attempt to set aside the unpalatable
truth of man’s responsibility? What are the great majority of present-day
“missions” and “revivals,” with their musical attractions and sensational
methods, but a pandering to those who love emotionalism and
sensationalism? Higher criticism and modernism are simply devices to
banish the authority of Holy Writ and get rid of the supernatural. Extreme
Arminianism panders to human pride, for it is virtually the deification of
man, making him the architect of his life and the determiner of his destiny.
The depravity of mankind makes evident the infinite patience of God. “The
LORD is slow to anger, and great in power” (

Nahum 1:3). How
significant is the conjunction of those divine perfections! It is not because
God is indifferent to men’s wickedness that He does not speedily take
vengeance on them; still less because He lacks the ability to do so God is
not at the command of His passions as men are. He can restrain His anger
when under great and just provocation to exercise it. His power over
Himself is the cause of His slowness to execute wrath; nevertheless, His
might to punish is as great as His patience to spare. What fearful
provocations, insults and injuries God meets with daily from mankind.
Charnock well states:
How many millions of practical atheists breathe every day in God’s
air and live upon His bounty, who deserve to be inhabitants of hell
rather than possessors of earth! An infinite holiness is opposed, and
infinite justice provoked, yet an infinite patience forbears the
punishment, and infinite goodness relieves our wants.
What a wonder it is that God has protracted human history until now, and
that He still “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and unjust.” Patience is as truly a divine attribute as
are holiness, wisdom and faithfulness..227
What a mercy that God does not strike dead those who brazenly defy Him
and take His holy name in vain! Why does He not suddenly cut off every
blatant infidel, as He did Ananias and Sapphira? Why does He not cause
the earth to open her mouth and swallow the persecutors of His people, as
He did when Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses and Aaron? ‘Why
does He tolerate the countless abominations in Christendom which are
being perpetrated under the holy name of Christ? Only one answer is
possible: Because He endures
“with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”

Romans 9:22).
There are many ways in which the patience of God is manifested in this
First, by publishing His vengeance before He strikes.
“Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his
stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee” (

Job 36:18),
thereby affording them space to repent.
Second, by delaying the judgments which He has threatened. Recall
how long the ark was being prepared before He sent the great deluge

Genesis 6:3)!
Third, in executing His judgments by degrees, as He sent plague after
plague upon Egypt before He commissioned the angel of death to kill
all her firstborn; and as the Shekinah glory departed slowly from
apostate Israel, retiring stage by stage (

Ezekiel 9:3; 10:4, 19;
11:23), as though reluctant to leave.
Consider how great our provocations against the Most High—against His
authority and majesty. Consider how many are our transgressions against
the law. Consider how long they have been continued. Each succeeding
generation has been as bad as the former, or worse, “evil men and seducers
waxing worse and worse.” Consider how fearfully God is insulted and
offended by the world’s treatment of His gospel. He proclaims mercy to
the worst of sinners, but they scoff at it. He entreats them to turn to Him
that they may live, but they are determined to destroy themselves. ‘What an
indescribably dreadful state men must be in who prefer their idols to Christ,
and have no desire to be saved from their sins! What proof of His long-.228
suffering that God has already prolonged this day of salvation for almost
five hundred years more than the Mosaic economy lasted! Yet far from
appreciating such clemency the unregenerate misinterpret and abuse it.
How it should astonish us that God not only preserves in this life such a
multitude of monsters, but continues to spread their tables!
How clearly the depravity of mankind demonstrates the necessity for hell!
What can be the future of stout-hearted rebels who throughout life defy
their Maker and Ruler and die in impenitence? Shall such a Being be
despised with impunity? If, by the common consent of all right-minded
people, one who is guilty of treason against an earthly monarch is worthy
of death, what punishment can be too great for those who prefer
themselves to the King of kings, and daily invade His prerogatives? Sin is a
challenge to the government of God, and insurrectionists must be dealt
with. Sin has to be paid the wages which it has earned. Equity requires that
each one should reap as he has sown. The time of God’s patience has an
end. He has wrath to punish as well as patience to bear. Because God is
holy He hates all sin, and as the moral Governor it becomes Him to deal
with revolters. How could He be the sum of all excellence were He to
make no distinction between good and evil and to treat virtue and vice
alike? Christ bade His hearers,
“Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell;
yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (

Luke 12:5).
He knew as none other did that God is the Enemy of sin and the Avenger
of those who despise His counsels.
God will yet fully vindicate His throne and make evident what a fearful
thing it is to despise Him. It is right that He should display His
governmental supremacy and subdue all those who rise up against Him.
Though He “endures [not ‘loves’!] with much longsuffering the vessels of
wrath, fitted to destruction,” yet in the day to come He will show His
wrath, and make known His power; and that wrath will be no greater than
the mercy which men abused. The highest contempt merits the greatest
anger, and it is fitting that those who refuse to make God their happiness
should be made to feel everlastingly the misery of their separation from
Him. Eternal life and eternal death were plainly set before them, and since.229
they chose the latter they cannot justly blame any but themselves when they
are consigned to it. God’s veracity requires Him to fulfill His threatenings;
and His very goodness requires Him to separate eternally the wicked from
the righteous, for the latter could not enjoy perfect peace and happiness if
they lived forever with the reprobate. It is just that those who freely serve
the devil should be cast into the same prison and tormented with him. How
could those who hate God, whose very natures are averse to Him, be
admitted into heaven? ‘What must be the portion of those who would
destroy the Deity were it in their power to do so?
The total depravity of our race sheds much light on Providence. Many of
God’s dealings with men present insoluble riddles unto carnal reason.
There is a divine handwriting on the wall of human affairs which, like that
in Belshazzar’s palace, is indecipherable by human wisdom. To those who
are unacquainted with what is recorded in Genesis 3, God’s ways with our
race cannot but be most mysterious. But the whole subject is at once
illumined when the doctrine of human depravity is understood. The whole
brood of ills which now afflicts mankind has sprung from the pregnant
womb of sin. The wrecked and wretched condition in which man now finds
himself is the inevitable consequence of his fall. The frowning aspect of
Providence which so often darkens this scene and appalls us receives its
only adequate solution in the fact that Adam’s offense fearfully changed the
relation of God and the creature. Our nature being what it is, we cannot
expect history to be written in any other inks than those of tears and blood.
Hospitals and prisons, the discords and strifes among men, the warring
between nations, unprincipled politicians, conscienceless preachers—all are
the effects of the corruption of human nature.
Here is the key to the problem of suffering. All the misery in the world
proceeds from sin. But not only are the governmental ways of God with
men what they are because of what the race is, they are also designed to
make more evident the real character of fallen man. ‘While Providence sets
bounds to the exercise of human depravity, at the same time it permits
sufficient manifestations thereof to leave no candid observer in doubt. God
causes men to reveal what they are by suffering their insubjection to His
law, their rejection of His gospel, their perverting of His truth, their
persecutions of His people. How many others, who were regarded as
upright, are by some sudden temptation shown to have been all along
corrupt at heart. Many a merchant, lawyer, bank official, even minister of
the gospel, who was highly respected is permitted to fall into open sin, that.230
the long-cherished depravity of his soul might be exposed. How
remarkably does Providence often bring to light the hidden things of
darkness, as in the case of Abraham’s deception, of Joseph’s brethren’s
hatred, of Judah’s secret sin, as well as Achan’s and David’s.
Belief of this doctrine ought to have a beneficial effect on the children of
God A sense of our native depravity should engender deep humility. ‘What
a state we were in when God plucked us as brands from the burning! The
realization of that ought to make us take and maintain a very lowly place
before Him. “That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never
open thy mouth any more Fin self-praise] because of thy shame, when I am
pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD”

Ezekiel 16:63). We have no reason for being proud. That
acknowledgment of Jacob’s should be our constant confession:
“I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth,
which thou hast shewed unto thy servant” (

Genesis 32:10).
As we look back to the pit from which we were dug, what fervent praise
and thanksgiving should be awakened in our hearts! How we should adore
the One who opened our prison doors, for none but His hand could loose
the bolts and open the many locks which held us captive. Our hearts should
be melted and filled with wonderment at the amazing grace which has
saved us from the dominion of Satan and made us kings and priests to
God, which has elevated beggars to be “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with
This solemnizing doctrine ought to convince the saint that he cannot keep
himself alive. If, being a mutable creature, sinless Adam, when left to
himself, brought about his destruction, how much more would the mutable
believer, with a fallen and corrupt nature still within him, unless an
Almighty hand preserved him! So perverse are we by nature, and so weak
as Christians, that without Christ we can do no good thing (

John 15:5).
Sustaining and preserving grace must be sought by us hourly. We are
treading a slippery path and need to pray, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be
safe” (

Psalm 119:117). Finally, the knowledge of this truth ought to
produce in us a spirit of complete dependence on God. How beautifully is
that state depicted in the description given of the church:
“Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her
beloved?” (

Song of Sol. 8:5)..231
So ignorant and wayward are we that “we know not what we should pray
for as we ought” (

Romans 8:26). Only by the gracious operations of
the Spirit are our affections raised above this world, is our faith
strengthened, are we enabled to lay hold of a divine promise. So shut up
are we to God that in all things He must work in us “both to will and to do
of his good pleasure.”.232
Perhaps some readers are inclined to demur thus: “Why devote a separate
section to this? We already know all about it. The remedy for ruined man is
to be found in God’s salvation.” But that is a very superficial view, and a
wrong one too; for the greatest and grandest of all the wonderful works of
God ought never to be spoken of so lightly or dismissed so cursorily.
Moreover, the matter is far from being as simple as that; and since there is
such widespread ignorance concerning the disease itself it is necessary to
examine closely and in some detail a description of its cure. The fact needs
to be deeply realized at the outset that as far as all natural wit is concerned
the condition of fallen man is beyond repair, that as far as self-help or
human skill is concerned his case is hopeless. None other than the Son of
God Himself declared, “With men this is impossible” (

Matthew 19:26);
and it is only as we perceive, to some extent at least, the various respects in
which that impossibility lies that we can begin to appreciate the miracle of
grace which secures the recovery of lost sinners.
The deadly disease which has seized man is not a simple but a compound
one, consisting of not a single element but a combination, each of which is
fatal in itself. Look at some of them. Man’s very nature is thoroughly
corrupt, yet he is in no way horrified because of it. Not only is sin part and
parcel of his being, but he is deeply in love with it. He is filled with enmity
against God, and his heart is as hard as a stone. He is wholly paralyzed
Godward, and completely under the dominion and sway of Satan. He is
devoid of righteousness, a guilty sinner without a spark of holiness, a moral
leper. He is utterly incapable of helping himself, for he is “without
strength” (

Romans 5:6). The wrath of God abides on him, and he is
dead in trespasses and sins. Fallen man is not merely in danger of ruin and
destruction, but is already sunk in them. He is like a brand on the very edge
of a raging fire, which will swiftly be consumed unless the divine hand
plucks him out (

Zechariah 3:2). His condition is not only wretched but.233
desperate, inasmuch as he is altogether incapable of devising any expedient
for his cure.
The sinner is guilty, and no creature can make an atonement for him. He is
an outcast from God, terrified by His very perfections; therefore he does
his best to banish Him from his thoughts. No tongue can express or heart
be suitably affected with the woeful plight and abject misery of the natural
man. And such will be his condition forever unless God intervenes. Yet all
of this presents only one side of the problem—the easier one—which
stands in the way of man’s recovery. To finite intelligence it would seem
that a creature so vile and polluted, so wayward and rebellious, so
obnoxious to the righteous God, is beyond all hope; surely it would not
comport with the divine honor to save such a wretch. How a transgressor
could be pardoned consistently with the requirements of that law which he
had despised and flouted, and be delivered from the penalty which it justly
demands, and how he could be brought back into God’s favor in concord
with the maintaining of the divine government, presented a difficulty which
no angelic wisdom could solve. It was a secret hidden in God till He was
pleased to make it known.
There are those—with no regard to the Word of truth—who suppose that
God must pardon and receive into favor those who throw down the
weapons of their rebellion against Him and ask for mercy. But the solution
to the problem is far from being as simple as that. Human reason can
advance no valid and sufficient argument why God should forgive the
sinner merely because he repents, or that this could be done consistently
with His moral government. Rather the contrary is evident. The contrition
of a criminal will not exonerate him in a human court of law, for it offers
no satisfaction and reparation for his crimes. Any sinner who cherishes the
idea that his repentance gives him a claim to divine clemency and favor
demonstrates that he is a total stranger to true repentance; and he will
never repent until he abandons such presumption. Universal experience and
observation, as well as Scripture, fully attest the fact that no one ever
repents while he is left to himself. He is not made the subject of those
divine operations to which he has no claim, and which mere reason is
incapable of concluding that God will grant.
It is obvious that an adequate remedy for the complicated and fatal malady
by which man is stricken must be of God. It must be of His devising, His
providing, His applying, His making effectual. That is another way of.234
saying it must be wholly of Him from start to finish, for if any part is left to
the sinner, at any stage, it is certain to fail. Yet it must be pointed out once
more that God was under no obligation whatever to make such provision,
for when man deliberately apostatized from Him he forfeited all favorable
regard from his Maker. Not only might God righteously inflict the full
penalty of His broken law on the entire human race; consistent with His
holy nature He could have left all mankind to perish eternally in that
condemnation into which they had cast themselves. Had He utterly
forsaken the whole of Adam’s apostate posterity and left them as
remediless as the fallen angels, it would have been no reflection whatever
on His goodness, but rather a display of His inexorable justice. Therefore,
whenever redemption is mentioned, it is constantly described as proceeding
from sovereign grace and mere mercy (

Ephesians 1:3-11).
Yet something more than a gracious design was required on God’s part in
order for any sinner to be saved. Grace was indeed the source of God’s
action, yet it was not sufficient of itself. One may have the most admirable
intentions, yet be unable to carry them out. How often is the deep love of a
mother impotent in the presence of her suffering child! There has to be the
putting forth of divine power also if the purpose of grace is to be
accomplished. And it can be no ordinary power, but, as Scripture affirms,
“the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe,
according to the working of his mighty power”

Ephesians 1:19).
It calls for the exercise of far more might to recreate a fallen creature than
it did to create the universe out of nothing. Why so? Because in that there
was no opposition, nothing to resist God’s working; whereas in the case of
fallen man there is the hostility of his will, the alienation of his heart, the
inveterate enmity of his carnal mind, to be overcome. Furthermore, the
malice and opposition of Satan must be neutralized, for he endeavors with
all his might to retain his hold on his victims. The devil must be despoiled
of the advantage which he had gained, for it is not consistent with the glory
of God that he should be left to triumph.
But something more than the exercise of God’s power was still required.
Omniscience must be exercised as well as omnipotence. Strength itself will
not build a house; there must also be art to contrive and proportion the
materials. Skill is the chief requirement of an architect. Let that faintly.235
illustrate what we are here trying to express. Those who are saved are not
only the products of God’s amazing grace and almighty power but also “his
workmanship” (

Ephesians 2:10). God’s wisdom wonderfully appears in
the beautiful fabric of His grace, in the spiritual temple which He erects for
His own residence. He has “wrought for us the selfsame thing” (

Corinthians 5:5). As stones are carved and polished, so believers are made
“living stones” in that edifice in which God will dwell forever. Now that
which is exquisite in execution points to the excellent skill in its planning.
The counterpart of God’s law in the hearts of His quickened children is no
less the fruit of His wisdom than the writing of it on the tables of stone. His
wisdom was shown in the first framing of it; His wisdom is apparent also in
the imprinting of it upon the understanding and the affections.
The depths and riches of God’s wisdom are to be found neither in the
marvels of creation nor in the mysteries of providence. Rather they are
most fully and illustriously revealed in the plan and fruits of redemption.
This is clear from several scriptures. In the God-Man Mediator “are hid all
the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (

Colossians 2:3). He is
expressly designated “the wisdom of God” (

1 Corinthians 1:24). “Unto
the principalities and powers in heavenly places” is now being made known
by means of “the church the manifold wisdom of God” (

3:10). The devising of a method whereby a part of mankind should be
recovered out of their miserable state is indeed the masterpiece of divine
wisdom. Nothing but Omniscience could have found a way to effect such a
triumph in a manner suited to all the divine perfections. The wise men of
this world are termed “princes” (

1 Corinthians 2:6, 8), but angels are
designated “principalities and powers in the heavenlies” because of their
superior dignity, wisdom and strength. Yet though they are so great in
intelligence, always beholding the face of the Father, a new and grander
discovery of God’s wisdom is made to them through the church, for His
work in the redemption of it far transcends their understanding.
The celestial hierarchies had witnessed the dishonor done to the authority
of God and the discord brought into the sphere of His government by the
sin and rebellion of Adam. It was therefore necessary, morally speaking,
that the defiance of God’s rule should be dealt with, and that the affront to
His throne should be rectified. This could not be done except by the.236
infliction of that punishment which in the unalterable rule and standard of
divine justice was necessary. The dismissal of sin on any other terms would
leave the rule of God under unspeakable dishonor and confusion. As John
Owen stated:
For where is the righteousness of government if the highest sin and
provocation that our nature was capable of, and which brought
confusion on the whole creation below, should for ever go
unpunished? The first express intimation that God gave of His
righteousness in the government of mankind was His threatening
punishment equal unto the demerit of disobedience if man should
fall into it: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely
die.” If He revoke and disannul this sentence, how shall the glory of
His righteousness in the rule of all be made known? But how this
punishment should be undergone, which consisted in man’s eternal
ruin, and yet man be eternally saved, was a work for Divine wisdom
to contrive.
Not only was it necessary for the honor of God’s righteousness, as He is
the moral Governor and supreme Judge of all the earth, that sin should be
summarily punished; it was required that there should be obedience to
God, such obedience as would bring more glory to Him than the dishonor
and reproach which resulted from the disobedience of man. We again
quote Owen:
This was due unto the glory of His holiness in giving the Law. Until
this was done, the excellency of that Law as becoming the holiness
of God, and as an effect thereof, could not be made manifest. For if
it were never kept in any instance, never fulfilled by any one person
in the world how should the glory of it be declared? How should
the holiness of God be represented by it? How should it be evident
that the transgression of it was not rather from some defect in the
Law itself, than from any evil in them that should have yielded
obedience unto it? If the Law given unto man should never be
complied withal in perfect obedience by any one whatever, it might
be thought that the Law itself was unsuited unto our nature, and
impossible to be complied withal.
It did not become the Rector of the universe to give man a law whose
spirituality and equity should never be exemplified in obedience. That law.237
was not imposed, primarily, that man might suffer justly for its
transgression, but rather that God should be glorified in its performance.
But since Adam’s offense brought ruin upon all his posterity, so that they
are incapable of meeting its requirements, how could perfect obedience be
rendered to it? Omniscience alone could supply the answer.
It is truly amazing that the wisdom of God has, by our redemption, made
that which is the greatest possible dishonor to Him the occasion of His
greatest glory. Yet this is indeed the case. Nothing is so displeasing to the
Most High as sin, nothing so dishonoring to Him, for it is in its very nature
enmity against Him, contempt of Him. Sin is a reproach to His majesty, an
insult to His holiness, an insurrection against His government. And yet this
“abominable thing” which He hates (

Jeremiah 44:4), upon which He
cannot look but with infinite disfavor (Hab. 1:13), is made the occasion of
the greatest possible good. What a miracle of miracles that the Lord makes
the wrath of man to praise Him (

Psalm 76:10), that the very evil which
aims at dethroning Him is transmuted into the means of magnifying Him;
indeed, that thereby He has made the grandest manifestation of His
perfections. Sin casts contempt upon the law of God, yet through
redemption that law is made supremely honorable. Never was the King of
heaven so grievously slighted as when those made in His image and
likeness revolted against Him. Never was such honor paid Him as by the
way He chose to effect the salvation of His people. Never was the holiness
of God so slighted as when man preferred to give allegiance to that old
serpent the devil. Never did God’s holiness shine forth so illustriously as in
the victory He gained over Satan.
It is equally wonderful that God contrived a way whereby a flagrant
transgressor should become not guilty, and that he who was completely
destitute of righteousness should be justified, or pronounced righteous, by
the Judge of all the earth. Had such things as these been submitted for
solution, they had forever appeared to be irreconcilable contradictions to
all finite understandings. It seems to be utterly impossible for a condemned
culprit to be cleared of any charge against him. Sin necessarily entails
punishment; how then can any committer of it escape the “due reward” of
his deeds (

Luke 23:41) except by a manifest violation of justice? God
has declared plainly that He “will by no means clear the guilty”

Exodus 34:7). He has determined by an unalterable decree that sin
shall be paid its wages. Then how can the guilty be exempted from the
sentence of death? Nor is the problem any less formidable of how God can,.238
with perfect equity, declare righteous those who have not themselves met
the requirements of the law. To judge as entitled to the reward of
obedience those whose record is a lifelong disobedience appears to be
worse than an irregularity. Nevertheless, Omniscience contrived a solution
to both of these problems, a solution which is in every respect a perfect and
a glorious one.
Without that solution, the restoration of any of mankind to favor and
fellowship with God and to enjoyment of Him was utterly impossible. It
was so not only because of the total depravity of man himself, but because
of the concernment of the glory of the divine perfections in our sin and
apostasy. Not only was man stricken with a fatal disease, from which there
was not the slightest hope of deliverance unless a supernatural remedy be
provided, but the government of God had been so grievously outraged by
man’s revolt that full compensation must be made to His insulted scepter,
and complete satisfaction offered to His broken law, before the throne of
heaven could be satisfied. Great beyond conception to finite intelligence
was the difficulty of repairing the damage worked in the whole of our
constitution by sin, yet greater far were the obstacles which stood in the
way of the exercise of God’s grace and mercy in restoring the outcast.
That way of restoration must be one wherein God was magnified. His
justice must be vindicated, His threatenings realized, His holiness glorified.
The manner in which all of those ends were achieved and those results
secured is the adoring marvel alike of the redeemed and of the angels.
As others before us have pointed out, if the divine government was to be
vindicated the whole work of our recovery must be performed in our
nature. The very nature of those who had sinned was to be recovered from
the ruin of the fall and brought to everlasting well-being. Human nature
was not only to be freed of any pollution, but made intrinsically holy. In
order to effect the salvation of sinners, no satisfaction could be made to the
glory of God for the vitiation of apostate man’s nature with all its evil
fruits, but only in the nature of those who had sinned and were to be saved.
Since God’s giving of the law to our first parents was itself an effect of His
wisdom and holiness, wherein could the glory of them be exalted if that
rule of righteousness were complied with by a nature of a totally different
kind? Should an angel fulfill it, his obedience would be no proof that the
law was suited to man’s nature, to which it was originally prescribed;
rather would an angel’s compliance with the law have been a reflection on
the divine goodness in giving it to men. Nor could there have been the.239
necessary relation between the nature of the substitute and those on whose
behalf he acted and suffered; and therefore such an arrangement would not
have magnified the divine wisdom, but would have been at best an
unsatisfactory expedient.
The Scriptures are very explicit in their teaching about the necessity of the
same nature in the representative and in those whom he represented, as
being consistent with God’s wisdom. Speaking of the way of our relief, the
apostle declared,
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood,
he [the Deliverer] also himself likewise took part of the same”

Hebrews 2:14).
It was human nature—here expressed by “flesh and blood”—that was to be
delivered, and therefore it was human nature in which this deliverance was
to be wrought. The apostle entered into considerable detail on this point in

Romans 5:12-21, the sum of which is in verse 19: “As by one man’s
disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [’by one
man,’ v.15] shall many be made righteous.” The same nature that
transgressed must work out the remedy. This truth is reiterated in

Corinthians 15:21:
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection
of the dead.”
Our ruin could not be retrieved, nor deliverance from our guilt be effected,
except by one in our own nature.
Observe that the deliverance needed to be accomplished by one whose
substance was derived from the common stock of our first parents. It
would not have met the exigencies of the case for God to create a second
man out of the dust of the ground, or out of anything which was different
in nature from ourselves; in such a case there would have been no relation
between him and us, therefore we could have been in no way concerned in
anything he did or suffered. That alliance depended solely on the fact that
God “hath made of one blood all nations of men” (

Acts 17:26). But
another difficulty was presented, one which also would have proved
insurmountable to all created intelligences had not “the only wise God”.240
revealed His provision for resolving it. Any deliverer of sinful men must
derive his nature from their original stock, yet he must not bring along with
it the least taint of corruption or liability to guilt on his own account; for if
his nature were defiled, if it lacked the image of God, it could do nothing
that would be acceptable to Him. And were he subject to the penalty of the
law on his own account, he could make no satisfaction for the sins of
others. But since every descendant of Eve is shaped in sin and conceived in
iniquity, how could any of her seed be sinless? Only Omniscience could
bring an immaculately clean thing out of thorough uncleanness.
We must not lose sight of the grounds on which defilement and guilt
adhere to our nature, as they do in all individuals alike. First, our
participation in sin was in Adam as our covenant head and federal
representative. Therefore his offense was ours also, and justly imputed to
us. Because we sinned in him, we became “by nature the children of
wrath,” the subjects of God’s judicial displeasure. Second, we derived our
nature from Adam by way of natural generation, so that his defilement is
communicated to all his offspring. We are the degenerate plants of a
degenerate stock. Thus, still another difficulty was presented: The nature
of a deliverer for fallen man must, as to its substance, be derived from our
first parents, yet so as not to have been in Adam as a legal representative,
nor be derived from him by natural generation. But how could it be that his
nature should relate as truly to Adam as does ours, while neither partaking
of the guilt of Adam’s transgression nor participating in his pollution? Such
a one was utterly beyond the concept of every finite mind.
We have considered some of the difficulties—yes, seeming
impossibilities—which stood in the way of the recovery of any of the fallen
sons of Adam, showing that something more than a benign purpose of
grace on God’s part was required to effect that recovery-something more
than the putting forth of His mighty power. The obstacles which needed to
be removed were so many and so great that “the manifold wisdom of God”

Ephesians 3:10) also needed to be called into play. The difficulty from
the human side was the desperate state of the sinner. How could his
darkness be changed into light, his enmity into love, his unwillingness into
willingness, without any violence being done to his moral agency? The
obstacles from the divine side were how the Most High could restore such
wretches to His favor, and yet not compromise His perfections; how He
could have dealings with moral lepers without sullying His holiness, clear
the guilty without repudiating His law, exercise mercy consistently with.241
His justice. To provide a remedy for such a malady, and to do so in a way
that honored the throne of God, was far beyond the reach of created
In order to save a law-cursed and hell-deserving sinner it was necessary
that some method and means be devised whereby he could be delivered
from all the consequences of the fall, and at the same time meet all the
requirements of the divine government. Sin had to be dealt with
unsparingly, yet transgressors be exempted from their merited doom. Full
conformity to the law must be accomplished, yet by one in the same nature
as those who had violated it. That was clearly signified by the Old
Testament types: the redeemer had to be a kinsman of those he befriended

Leviticus 25:25;

Ruth 4:4-6). Moreover, the requirements of the
law could be met only by one whose nature was derived from the same
stock as those on whose behalf he transacted, yet his humanity must not be
tainted in the least degree by their common defilement. It was necessary
that he be a man of the seed of Adam (

Luke 3:31) and of Eve

Genesis 3:15), yet an absolutely pure and holy man, for none other
could personally and perpetually obey in thought, word and deed. But none
such existed:
“There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth
not” (

Ecclesiastes 7:20);
nor would there ever have been one had the human race been left to itself.
Nothing but the manifold wisdom and miracle-working power of God
could produce him.
Yet one was needed who was more than man, indeed, far superior to those
heavenly beings who veil their faces in the presence of Deity, in order to
discharge the liabilities of depraved sinners, and renew them in holiness.
This is evident from several considerations. The most exalted creature,
simply because he is a creature, is obligated to give perfect obedience to
his Maker, and therefore could merit nothing on behalf of others. If he fully
performed his duty, he would indeed work out a righteousness and be
entitled to the reward of the law; but he would need that righteousness on
his own account, and therefore it would not be available for imputation to
another—still less to many others. Also, the work he had to do—pay in full
that incalculable debt incurred by those who were to be saved, make
expiation for all their sins, reconcile them to God, restore them to His.242
favor, make them fit for the inheritance of the saints in light—was far
beyond the compass of any mere creature, no matter how high his rank in
the scale of being. Moreover, any deliverer of the apostate sons of Adam
must be essentially and infinitely holy, for none less qualified could put
away the infinite guilt of their countless iniquities.
In order for any portion of mankind to be eternally saved for the glory of
God, it was not only necessary that flawless obedience be given to God’s
law, but that such obedience bring more honor to His holiness than the
dishonor brought on it by the disobedience of all. To affirm that it matters
little what becomes of the glory of God so long as poor sinners are saved
in some way or other is nothing but a fabrication of the carnal mind. Where
God is revered and loved above all, the sentiments will be very different:
better far that the whole of Adam’s race perish than that the character of
Deity be sullied and the foundations of His throne undermined. But such
obedience could not be given by any mere creature, no matter how pure his
nature or how eminent his rank; there must be somewhat of the divine in it’
in order for his performance to have infinite value. Nor might his obedience
be constrained, but rather voluntary, for that which is forced does not
proceed from love and is valueless. Also, his conformity to the law could
not be one which he was personally responsible to render to it, for in that
case it could not be accepted as a due compensation for the disobedience
of all.
It was not a single individual who was to be recovered from the fall and be
brought to glory, but “ten thousands” (

Jude 1:14), each of them with
more sins to his account than the hairs on his head; and every sin had in it
immeasurable guilt, since it was committed against the infinite Majesty of
heaven. The woe to which all of them were consigned was also infinite, its
duration being eternal—everything unspeakably dreadful and painful which
our nature is capable of suffering. Nor could they be delivered from the
awful consequences of their sin without adequate satisfaction being made
to the offended justice of God. To assert the contrary is to say it does not
matter to God whether He is obeyed or disobeyed, whether He is honored
or dishonored in and by His creatures; and that would be to deny His very
being, seeing it is directly contrary to the glory of all His perfections. But
where was the person who was qualified and capable of making the
requisite propitiation for sin? Where was the one fitted to act as mediator
between God and men, between the holy One and the unholy? Where was.243
the one who could bestow life on the dead and merit everlasting
blessedness for them?
If a remedy were to be provided for sinners, it must be one that would
restore them to the same state and dignity in which they were placed before
the fall. To recover them to any lesser honor and blessedness than that
which was theirs originally would not consist with either the divine wisdom
or bounty. Owen stated: “Seeing it was the infinite grace, goodness and
mercy of God to restore him, it seems agreeable unto the glory of the
Divine excellencies in their operations that he should be brought into a
better and more honorable condition than that which he had lost.” In his
primitive state man was subject to none but his Maker. Though he was less
in dignity than the angels, yet he owed them no obedience; they were his
fellow servants of the Lord God. Obviously (as Owen also pointed out), if
the sinner were saved by any mere creature, he could not be restored to his
first state and dignity, for in such a case he would owe allegiance and
subservience to that creature who had redeemed him—he would become
the property of the one who bought him. That would not only introduce
the utmost confusion, but the sinner would be in a still worse case than he
was before the fall, for he would not be in the position where he owed
subjection and honor to God alone.
From the foregoing it will be seen that the only sufficient deliverer of fallen
men must be one possessed of infinite dignity and worthiness, in order that
he might be capable of meriting infinite blessings. He must be a person of
infinite power and wisdom, for the work he must perform could be
successfully accomplished by none less. But another requisite was that he
should be a person who was infinitely dear to God the Father, in order to
give his transactions an infinite value in the Father’s esteem, and that the
Father’s love to him might balance the offense and provocation of our sins.
He must also be a person who could act in this matter in his own right,
who in himself was not a servant and subject of the Most High; otherwise
he could not merit anything for those he wished to save. Moreover, he
must be a person possessed 6f infinite mercy and love, for none other
would voluntarily undertake a task so arduous, so humiliating, and
involving such unspeakable suffering, for creatures so unworthy and foul as
fallen men. But where in all the universe was such a one to be found? No
created person possessed the necessary qualifications. When the Apostle
John saw the vision of the seven-sealed book, we are told that he wept
because no man in heaven or earth was found worthy to open the book.244

Revelation 5:1-4). Had not the manifold wisdom of God found the
solution to all these problems, men and angels alike forever would have
been nonplussed by them.
The various elements in the complicated problem of salvation for any of
Adam’s children are far from being exhausted in those already pointed out.
Man was made to serve and glorify God. In spirit and soul and body, in all
his faculties and powers, in all that was given to and entrusted with him, he
was not his own, but was in the place of a servant. The same was equally
the case with the angels. But from that condition and status the human race
in Adam revolted, determining to be “as gods”-lords over themselves.
There is something of that in every sin: a preferring of self-will to the will
of the Almighty. By his insurrection, man fell into complete bondage to sin
and Satan. In order to free the sinner from his captivity, it was necessary
for any deliverer to take the position man originally occupied. He must
enter the place of absolute subjection to God, entirely subordinating his
own will to His; for in no other way could adequate compensation be made
to the outraged government of God, and the damage done by our first
parents be repaired. But how could any uncreated being occupy the
position of a creature? With what propriety could one possessed of infinite
dignity and excellence suffer such humiliation? How could one who was
above all law come under the law and give obedience to it?
In his original state man had nothing but what his Creator had given him.
Made out of the dust of the ground, he was endowed with intelligence and
moral agency—to be employed in the divine service. He was also
dependent on his Maker for every breath he drew. But he deliberately left
that state of need and dependence, determining to enrich himself and
assume absolute dominion. But his awful crime brought upon him and all
whom he represented the loss of his original endowments. He lost the
image of God, his dominion over the animals, his own soul. Consequently,
any savior for him needed to experience the degradation and poverty
which the sinner had brought on himself. But how was such an experience
possible for anyone who was infinitely rich in himself and in his own right?
Since Adam stood for and transacted on the behalf of all whom he legally
represented, it follows that any savior would need to serve not in a private
capacity but as the covenant head of those whom he was to recover.
Finally, since God made the first man lord of the earth, giving him
dominion over all creatures, which dominion he forfeited upon his fall, then.245
a deliverer must be capable of recovering that lost state. But where was
one that was able to purchase so vast an inheritance?
“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God”

Luke 18:27).
Omniscience found a solution to all those problems which baffled the minds
of men. Scripture places not a little emphasis on this. It is referred to as
“the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which
God ordained before the world unto our glory [salvation]” (

Corinthians 2:7).
“In a mystery” connotes that which is undiscoverable by human reason,
incomprehensible to the finite capacity, completely concealed until divinely
revealed, and even then beyond our powers to comprehend fully. In

Ephesians 1:8 we are told of it: “Wherein he hath abounded toward us
in all wisdom and prudence.” The word “abounded” has the force of
gushing out, overflowing. It is called “all wisdom” for its excellence. It was
not a single concept or act, but a conjunction of many excellent ends and
means to the glory of God. To wisdom is added “prudence.” The former
refers to the eternal contriving of a way, the latter to the ordering of all
things for the accomplishment of God’s counsel or purpose—wisdom in
devising, prudence in executing. In

Ephesians 3:10 it is designated “the
manifold wisdom of God” because of its complexity and variety: the
salvation of sinners, the defeat of Satan, the full discovery of the blessed
Trinity in Their different persons, separate operations, combined actions
and expressions of goodness; and because of the vastness of its extent.
That manifold wisdom of God, now exhibited before the angels in the
redemption of the church, is said to be
“according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ
Jesus our Lord” (

Ephesians 3:11).
The eternal Son of God, predestined to be the God-Man Mediator, is the
grand medium, means and manifestation of the divine omniscience, and
therefore He is called “The Word of God” (

Revelation 19:13) and “the
wisdom of God” (

1 Corinthians 1:24).
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to
his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the.246
dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one
all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on
earth; even in him” (

Ephesians 1:9-10).
We again quote Owen:
The mystery of the will of God is His counsels concerning His own
eternal glory in the sanctification and salvation of the Church here
below, to be united unto that above. The absolute original hereof
was in His own good pleasure, or the sovereign acting of His
wisdom and will. But it was all to be effected in Christ, which the
apostle twice repeats: He would gather “all things into a head in
Christ, even in Him,” that is, in Him alone.
Thus it is said of Him with respect unto His future incarnation and
work of mediation that “the Lord possessed Me in the beginning of
His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting,
from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (

Proverbs 8:22, 23).
The eternal personal existence of the Son of God is supposed in
these expressions… without it none of these things could be
affirmed of Him. But there is a regard in them both unto His future
incarnation and the accomplishment of the counsels of God thereby.
With respect thereto, God “possessed” Him in the beginning of His
way, and set Him up from everlasting. God possessed Him eternally
as His essential wisdom, as He was always and is always in the
bosom of the Father, in the mutual, ineffable love of the Father and
Son, in the eternal bond of the Spirit. But He signally possessed
Him “in the beginning of His way” as His wisdom acting in the
production of all the ways and works that are outwardly in Him.
The beginning of God’s way before His works, are His counsels
concerning them, even as our counsels are the beginning of our
ways with respect unto future works. And He “set Him up from
everlasting” as the foundation of all the counsels of His will, in and
by whom they were to be executed and accomplished.
Proverbs 8 is an exceedingly profound chapter, but a most blessed one In
it, as verse 1 shows, the voice of “wisdom” is heard. That a person is in
view is evident from verse 12: “I wisdom dwell with prudence” and verse
17: “I love them that love me.” That it is a divine person may be seen from
verse 15: “By me kings reign.” But it is equally clear from the statement “I.247
was brought forth” in verses 24 and 25, and from “I was by him [the
Father], as one brought up with him” in verse 30, that such expressions
could not be predicated of the Son of God absolutely, that is, as coeternal
and coequal with the Father. “Wisdom” is here to be understood as the Son
as God-Man Mediator in His two natures, as the One ordained to be the
incarnate “wisdom of God” (

1 Corinthians 1:24). When He declares,
“The LORD possessed me… [the Hebrew is without the ‘in’] the beginning
of his way, before his works of old” (

Proverbs 8:22) it is the Mediator
speaking in the covenant subsistence which He had with God the Father
and the Spirit before the universe was called into existence. The eternal
Son was from “the beginning” (cf.

Revelation 1:8) of the triune God’s
“way,” for in all things He must “have the preeminence” (

The first counsel of God had respect to the Man Christ Jesus, for He was
appointed to be not only the Head of His church but “the firstborn of every
creature” (

Colossians 1:15). The One whom the Lord of hosts
addresses as “the man, my fellow” (

Zechariah 13:7, literal trans.)
shared the divine union and glory. He stated, “In the volume [Greek, head]
of the book it is written of me” (

Hebrews 10:7). He was the Object
and Subject of God’s original decree. Charnock said,
Our Redeemer carne forth of the womb of a decree from eternity,
before He came out of the womb of the Virgin in time. He was hid
in the will of God before He was made manifest in the flesh of a
Redeemer. He was a Lamb slain in purpose before He was slain
upon the cross. He was possessed by God in the beginning or the
beginning of His way (the Head of His works), and set up from
everlasting to have His delights among the sons of men.
The person of the God-Man Mediator was the origin of the divine
counsels. As such, the triune Jehovah “possessed” or embraced Him, as a
treasury in which all the divine counsels were laid up, as an efficient Agent
for the execution of all His works. Christ was God’s first Elect (

42:1) and then the church was chosen in Him (

Ephesians 1:4).
“I was set up from everlasting” (

Proverbs 8:23). That declaration
concerns Him not essentially as God the Son, but economically as the
Mediator: “set up” or literally “anointed” by a covenant constitution and by
divine subsistence. Before all worlds Christ was appointed and anointed to.248
His official character. Before God planned to produce any creature, He
first “set up” Christ as the great archetype and original. “Then I was by
him, as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing
always before him” (v.30). It is not the Father’s complacence in the second
Person in the Trinity (as such) which is there in view, but His satisfaction
and joy in the Mediator, as God contemplated Him as the repository of all
His designs. The Hebrew word for “brought forth” also signifies “master-builder,”
and is so rendered in the English Revised Version. How blessedly
it describes Him who could be relied upon to carry out the Father’s
purpose. In God’s eternal thoughts the Man Christ Jesus was the object of
His love. By Him all things were to be created. By Him vessels were to be
formed for His glory. By Him the grand remedy was to be provided for
sin’s victims.
It is indeed lamentable that so few of the Lord’s people have been
instructed in these “deep things of God” (

1 Corinthians 2:10), for they
have been revealed for their edification and consolation. What we have
sought to explain in Proverbs 8 throws light on other passages. For
example, many a thoughtful person has been puzzled by

John 6:62:
“What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”
In what sense had He been in heaven as Man before He became incarnate?
Though we are ignorant of this awesome truth, the Old Testament saints
were not, as is clear from

Psalm 80:17:
“Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of
man whom thou madest strong for thyself.”
Though the Man Christ Jesus had no historical existence, He had a
covenant subsistence with the Father, as taken into union with the second
Person of the Trinity. As faith gives a present “substance” (the Greek word
means “a real subsistence”) in the believer’s heart and mind of the things
hoped for, so that he has a present enjoyment of things yet future, so in the
mind of Him before whom all things are ever present, Christ as incarnate
was ever a living reality. Thus when God said, “Let us make man in our
image” (

Genesis 1:26) the ultimate reference was to the God-Man who
is par excellence “the image of the invisible God” (

Colossians 1:15)..249
Let us pause here and admire and adore the glorious wisdom of God,
which found a way to save His people in a manner that was infinitely
becoming and honoring to Himself; and let us bow in wonder and worship
before the Lord Jesus who, notwithstanding the unspeakable shame and
suffering involved, delighted to do the Father’s will. The manifold wisdom
of God is seen in His choice of the One to be the Head and Savior of the
church, since that One was in every respect fit to perform that office and
work, possessed of all the necessary qualifications—in fact He was the
only person suited to the work. God’s great wisdom appeared in His
knowing that Christ was a fit Person. None but Omniscience could have
thought of God’s dear Son becoming the Redeemer of hell-deserving
God’s choice of the Person who was to be the Restorer of His honor, the
Vanquisher of Satan, the Victor of death, and the Deliverer of His fallen
people, was a perfect one. Who but One endowed with infinite wisdom
would have thought of selecting his only begotten Son for such a fearful
undertaking? For Christ, as God, is one of the eternal Three who were
offended by sin, and from whom men had revolted. They were His avowed
enemies, and they deserved His infinite vengeance. Who, then, could have
conceived of Him as One who would set His heart on depraved wretches,
who would exercise infinite love and pity toward them, would be willing to
provide an all-sufficient remedy for all their ills? But even if that choice
were made, seemingly insurmountable difficulties would have stood in the
way of its realization. How was it possible for a divine person to enter the
place of ruined sinners, to come under the law and give perfect obedience
to it, and so work out a perfect righteousness for those who had none?
And how could it be possible for the holy One to be made a curse, for the
Lord of glory to suffer the penalty of the broken law, for the Beloved of
the Father to experience the fires of divine wrath, for the Lord of life to
die? Such problems as those would have forever baffled all created
intelligences. But divine wisdom found a solution.
First, the manifold wisdom of God ordained that His dear Son should be
constituted the last Adam, that as He made a covenant of works with the
first man who was of the earth, so He would make a covenant of grace
with the second Man, who is the Lord from heaven. As the first Adam
stood as the covenant head and federal representative of all his posterity,.250
so the last Adam would stand as the covenant Head and Representative of
all His seed. But as the first Adam broke the covenant of works and
brought ruin upon all those for whom he acted, so the last Adam would
fulfill the terms of the covenant of grace, and thereby secure the everlasting
blessedness of all on whose behalf He transacted. Accordingly, a covenant
was entered into between the Father and the Son, the Former promising a
glorious reward upon the Latter’s meeting all the conditions. That
wonderful transaction is referred to in

Psalm 89:3-5:
“I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto [the
antitypical] David [which means ‘the beloved’] my servant, Thy
seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all
generations. Selah. And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O
LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.”
That passage, like Proverbs 8, takes us back to the eternal counsels of
God, for verse 19 declares,
“Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one and saidst, I have laid
help upon one that is mighty.”
That One was fully able to accomplish heaven’s vast and gracious designs.
That covenant of grace was a mutual compact voluntarily entered into
between the Father and the Son, the One promising a rich reward in return
for the fulfillment of the terms agreed upon; the Other solemnly pledging
Himself to carry out its stipulations. Many are the scriptures which speak
of Christ in connection with the covenant. In

Isaiah 42:6 we hear the
Father saying to the Son, “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness,
and will give thee for a covenant of the people.” In

Malachi 3:1 Christ
is designated “the messenger of the covenant” because He came here to
make known its contents and proclaim its glad tidings. In

7:22 He is designated “a surety of a better testament [covenant],” in

9:15 “the mediator of the new testament,” while in

13:20 we read
of “the blood of the everlasting covenant.” In that covenant the Son agreed
to be the Head of God’s elect, and to do all that was required for the divine
glory and the securing of the elect’s eternal blessedness. Reference is made
to that in
“his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus
before the world began” (

2 Timothy 1:9)..251
A federal relation then existed between God (Christ) and the church,
though this was not made fully manifest until He became incarnate. It was
then that the Son was appointed to the mediatorial office, when He was
“set up” or “anointed,” when He was “brought forth” from the everlasting
decree (

Proverbs 8:23-24) and given a covenant subsistence with the
triune God.
It was proposed and freely agreed upon that the Beloved of the Father
should take upon Him the form of a servant and be made in the likeness of
sin’s flesh. Accordingly, in the fullness of time He was “made of a woman,”
taking a human spirit and soul and body into perpetual union with Himself.
As the body of Adam was supernaturally made out of the virgin earth by
God’s immediate hand, so the body of Christ was supernaturally made out
of the virgin’s substance by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit. So
too the union of soul and body in Adam prefigured the hypostatic union of
our nature with the Son of God, so that He is not two persons in one, but
one Person with two natures-those natures not being confounded, but each
preserving its distinctive properties. Owen’s remark is significant:
His conception in the womb of the Virgin, as unto the integrity of
human nature, was a miraculous operation of the Divine power.
But the prevention of that nature from any subsistence of its own,
by its assumption unto personal union with the Son of God, in the
first instance of its conception, is that which is above all miracles,
nor can be designated by that name. A mystery it is, so far above
the order of all creating or providential operations, that it wholly
transcends the sphere of them that are most miraculous. Herein did
God glorify all the properties of the Divine nature, acting in a way
of infinite wisdom, grace and condescension.
He who was the Lord of all and owed no service or obedience to any,
being in the form of God and equal with Him, descended into a condition
of absolute subjection. As Adam deliberately forsook the place of complete
submission to God, which was proper to his nature and acceptable to God,
and aspired after lordship, so the Son of God left that state of absolute
dominion which was His by right, and took upon Him the yoke of
servitude. The Son’s descent involved far greater humiliation to Himself
than was the glory to which the first man aspired in his pride. As others
have shown, this self-abasement of the Lord of glory to an estate of entire
subjection is referred to by the apostle in

Hebrews 10:5, where Christ.252
is heard saying “A body hast thou prepared me.” Those words are an
explanatory paraphrase of “Mine ears hast thou opened”—margin “digged”

Psalm 40:6, which in turn looks back to

Exodus 21:6, where
a statute was appointed to the effect that one who voluntarily gave himself
up to absolute and perpetual service signified it by having his ear bored
with an awl. Thus,

Hebrews 10:5, in the light of

Psalm 40:6 and

Exodus 21:6, implies that Christ’s body was prepared for Him with the
express design of His absolute service for God.
By His assumption of human nature, not only was Christ fitted to render
subjection to God, but He became qualified to serve as Mediator between
God and men. For it is required that a mediator be related to both of the
parties he would reconcile, and that he be the equal of each of them. An
angel would not be qualified for this office, since he possesses neither the
divine nor the human nature. It was necessary for Christ to be real man as
well as God in order to perform the work of redemption: the former so that
He should be susceptible to suffering, qualified to offer Himself as a
sacrifice, capable of dying. So too the assumption of human nature fitted
Christ to be the Substitute of His people, to act not only on their behalf but
in their room and stead, actually to take their lawful place and offer full
satisfaction to the law by obeying its precepts and enduring its penalty. But
that, in turn, required that He be their Surety and Sponsor, that He be so
related to them legally and federally that He could fittingly serve as their
Substitute. As there was a federal and representative oneness between the
first Adam and those he stood for, so there must be a like oneness between
the last Adam and those for whom He transacted, that as the guilt of the
former was charged to the account of his posterity, so the righteousness of
the Latter might be imputed to all His seed.
Yet the truth concerning the position which the Son of God took is not
fully expressed by the above statements. It is not sufficient to say that He
became their Surety and Substitute. We must go farther back and ask what
it was that made it proper that He should serve as the Sponsor of His
people before their offended Lawgiver and Judge. The answer is Their
covenant union. Christ served as their Surety and Substitute because He
was one with them, and therefore He could and did assume and discharge
all their liabilities. In the covenant of grace Christ had said to the Father,.253
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the
church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in
him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given
me” (

Hebrews 2:12-13).
Most blessedly is that explained in what immediately follows: “Forasmuch
then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself
likewise took part of the same,” therefore He is not ashamed to call them
brothers. Federation is the repository of this amazing mercy, identification
the key which unlocks it. Christ came not to strangers but to His
“brethren”; He assumed human nature, not in order to procure a people for
Himself, but to secure a people already His (

Matthew 1:21;

Ephesians 1:4).
Since a union has existed between Christ and His people from all eternity,
it inevitably follows that when He came to this earth He took on Himself
their debts, and now that He has gone to heaven they must be clothed

Isaiah 61:10) with all the rewardableness of His perfect obedience.
This is very much more than a technicality of theology, being the strongest
buttress of all in the walls of truth which protect the atonement, though it
is one of the most frequently and fiercely assailed by its enemies. Men have
argued that the punishment of the innocent Christ as though He were guilty
was an outrage upon justice. In the human realm, to punish a person for
something when he is neither responsible nor guilty is, beyond question,
unjust. But that objection is invalid and entirely pointless in connection
with the Lord Jesus, for He voluntarily entered the place and lot of His
people in such an intimate way that it could be said, “For both he that
sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one” (

Hebrews 2:11).
They are not only one in nature, but are also so united in the sight of God
and before His law as to involve an identification of legal relations and
reciprocal obligations and rights. “By the obedience of one shall many be
made [legally constituted] righteous” (

Romans 5:19).
It was required of the Surety of God’s people that He should not only
render full and perfect obedience to the precepts of the law, and thereby
provide the meritorious means of their justification, but should also make
full satisfaction for their sins by having visited upon Him the curse of the
law. But before that penalty could be inflicted, the guilt of the
transgressors must be transferred to Him; that is to say, their sins must be
judicially imputed to Him. To that arrangement the holy One willingly.254
consented, so that He who “knew no sin” was legally “made sin” for them

2 Corinthians 5:21). God laid on Him the iniquities of them all, and
then the sword of divine justice struck Him (

Zechariah 13:7), exacting
full satisfaction. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
Blotting out our transgressions, procuring for us the favor of God,
purchasing the heavenly inheritance, required the death of Christ. That
which demanded the death sentence was the guilt of our sins. Let that be
removed, and condemnation for us is gone forever. But how could guilt be
“removed”? Only by its being transferred to another. The punishment due
to the church was borne by her Surety and Substitute. God charged to Him
all the sins of His elect, and moved against Him accordingly, visiting on
Him His judicial wrath.
How marvelous are the ways of God. As death was destroyed by death—
the death of God’s Son—so sin by sin—the greatest that was ever
committed, the crucifixion of Christ—putting it away as far as the East is
from the West. Because God imputed the trespasses of His people to their
Surety, He was condemned that they might be acquitted. Christ took upon
Him their accumulated and incalculable debt and, by discharging it, made
them forever free and solvent. By His precious blood all their iniquities
were expiated, so that the triumphant challenge rings out:
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?”

Romans 8:33).
Throughout His life and by His death Christ was repaying and repairing all
that injury which the sins of the church had done to the demonstrative
glory of God. God now remits the sins of all who truly believe in Christ,
because Deity has received a vicarious but full satisfaction for them in the
person of their Substitute. Through Christ they are delivered from the
wrath to come. Necessarily so, for God’s acceptance of the Lamb’s
sacrifice obtained the eternal redemption of all for whom it was offered.
Just as a storm cloud empties itself on earth and then melts away under the
rays of the sun, so when the storm of divine judgment had exhausted itself
upon the cross our sins disappeared from before God’s face, and we were
received into His everlasting favor.
Wonderful as was the work that the incarnate Son performed for His
people, something more was still needed in order to provide a complete
remedy for their complicated ruin, for the former covered only the legal.255
aspects of their plight. A miracle of grace needed to be worked in them in
order to make them experientially worthy of everlasting glory; indeed, such
a work was absolutely indispensable to fit them to commune with God in
this life. His elect needed to be quickened into newness of life, their enmity
against God destroyed, their darkness dispelled, their wills freed, their love
of sin and hatred of holiness rectified. In a word, they needed to experience
a thorough change of heart, a principle of grace had to be communicated to
them, and they needed to be made new creatures in Christ.
That miracle of grace is performed by the Holy Spirit in those who are “by
nature the children of wrath, even as others” (

Ephesians 2:3). But how
little this is realized today. Insistence on this fact has all but disappeared
from the modern pulpit, even in those who pride themselves on being
orthodox. The work of the Spirit in the saving of sinners has no place in
the creed of many a churchgoer; and where it is nominally acknowledged it
possesses no real weight and exerts no practical influence.
In the majority of places where the Lord Jesus is still formally owned as the
only Savior, the current teaching is that He has made it possible for men to
be saved, but that they themselves must decide whether or not they will be
saved; thus the greatest of all God’s works is left contingent on the fickle
will of men as to whether it is a success or a failure. Narrowing the circle
to those places where it is still held that the Spirit has a mission and
ministry in connection with the gospel, the general idea prevailing is that,
when the Word is faithfully preached, the Spirit convicts men of sin and
reveals to them their need of a Savior; but beyond that, very few are
prepared to go. The popular view is that the sinner has to cooperate with
the Spirit, that he must yield himself to His “striving,” or he will not and
cannot be saved. But such a pernicious and God-insulting concept
repudiates two cardinal facts. To affirm that the natural man is capable of
cooperating with the Spirit is to deny that he is “dead in trespasses and
sins,” for a dead man is powerless to do any good. To say that the specific
operations of the Spirit in a man’s heart and conscience are capable of
being so resisted as to thwart His endeavors is to deny His omnipotence.
The solemn and unpalatable fact is that were the Spirit of God to suspend
His operations, not a single person on earth would savingly benefit from
the redemptive work of Christ. The natural man is such an enemy to God
and so obstinate in his rebellion that he dislikes a holy Christ, and remains
opposed to His way of salvation until his heart is divinely renewed. The.256
criminal darkness and delusion which fill every soul in which sin reigns
cannot be removed by any agent but God the Spirit—by His giving a new
heart and enlightening the understanding to perceive the exceeding
sinfulness of sin. There are indeed thousands of people ready to respond to
the fatal error that sinners may be saved without throwing down the
weapons of their warfare against God. There are many who receive Christ
as their Savior, but are unwilling to surrender to Him as their Lord. They
would like His rest, but they refuse His yoke, without which His rest
cannot be had. His promises appeal to them, but they have no heart for His
precepts. They will believe in an imaginary Christ who is suited to their
corrupt nature, but they despise and reject the Christ of God. Like the
multitudes of old, they are pleased with His loaves and fishes; but for His
heart-searching, flesh-withering, sin—condemning teaching they have no
appetite. Nothing but the miracle-working power of the Spirit can change
C.H. Spurgeon stated:
Man is utterly and entirely averse to everything that is good and
right. “The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject
to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (

Romans 8, 7). Turn
you all Scripture through, and you will find continually the will of
man described as being contrary to the things of God. What said
Christ in that text so often quoted by the Arminian to disprove the
very doctrine which it clearly states? What did Christ say to those
who imagined that men would come without Divine influence? He
said, first, “No man can come unto Me, except the Father which
hath sent Me draw him”; but He said something more strong-“Ye
will not come unto Me that ye might have life.” Herein lies the
deadly mischief: not only that he is powerless to do good, but that
he is powerful enough to do that which is wrong, and that his will is
desperately set against everything that is right. Men will not come;
you cannot force them to by all your invitations. Until the Spirit
draw them, come they neither will, nor can.
The manifold wisdom of God is just as evident in the official task assigned
the Holy Spirit as in the work that the Son was commissioned to perform.
The miracles of regeneration and sanctification are as wonderful as were
the obedience and sufferings, the death and resurrection, of Christ; and the
saint is as truly and as deeply indebted to the One as he is to the Other. If it.257
was an act of amazing condescension for God the Son to leave heaven’s
glory and assume human nature, it was equally so for God the Spirit to
descend to this earth and take up His abode in fallen men and women; and
if God pointed up the marvel and importance of the one by mighty wonders
and signs, so did He in connection with the latter—the song of the angelic
choir (

Luke 2:13) having its counterpart in the “sound from heaven”

Acts 2:2), the Shekinah “glory” (

Luke 2:9) in the “tongues like as
of fire” (

Acts 2:3). If we admire the gracious and mighty works of
Christ in cleansing the leper, strengthening the palsied, giving sight to the
blind and imparting life to the dead, no less is the Spirit to be adored for
His supernatural operations in quickening lifeless souls, illuminating their
minds, delivering them from the dominion of sin, removing their enmity
against God, uniting them to Christ and creating in them a love of holiness.
How complete and perfect is the remedy which the grace and wisdom of
God have provided for His people. As they were federally in Adam, and
therefore held responsible for what he did, so they are federally in Christ,
and therefore enjoy all the benefits of His meritorious work. As they were
ruined by the breaking of one covenant, so they are restored by the keeping
of another. As they were made guilty by Adam’s disobedience being
charged to their account, so they are justified before the throne of God
because the righteousness of their Surety is imputed to them. As they fell
under the curse of the law, were alienated from God and became children
of wrath, through Christ’s redemption they are entitled to the reward of the
law, reconciled to God and restored to His favor. As they inherited a
corrupt nature from their first head, so they receive a holy nature from their
second Head. In every respect the remedy answers to the malady..258
The Entrance of evil into the domain of God is admittedly a deep mystery,
nevertheless sufficient is revealed in the Scriptures to prevent our forming
erroneous views. For instance, it is contrary to the Word of truth to
entertain the notion that either the fall of Satan and his angels or that of our
first parents took God by surprise or wrecked His plans. For all eternity
God designed that this earth should be the stage on which He would
display His perfections: in creation, in providence and in redemption (

Corinthians 4:9). Accordingly, He foreordained everything which comes to
pass in this scene (

Acts 15:18;

Romans 11:36;

1:11). God is not idly looking on from a far-distant world at the
happenings of this earth, but is Himself ordering and shaping everything to
the ultimate promotion of His glory—not only in spite of the opposition of
men and Satan, but by means of them, everything being made to serve His
purpose. Nor did the introduction of evil into the universe take place
simply by the bare permission of the Most High, for nothing can come to
pass that is contrary to His decreed will. Rather, for wise and holy reasons,
God foreordained to allow His mutable creatures to fall, thereby affording
an occasion for Him to make a further and fuller exhibition of His
From God’s standpoint the result of Adam’s probation was left in no
uncertainty. Before He formed him out of the dust of the ground and
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, He knew exactly how the
appointed testing of Him would eventuate. But more: God had decreed
that Adam should eat of the forbidden fruit. That is certain from

Peter 1:19-20, which tells us that the shedding of Christ’s blood was verily
“foreordained before the foundation of the world” (cf.

13:8). As Witsius rightly affirmed of Adam’s sin, “If foreknown it was also
predestinated: thus Peter joins together ‘the determinate counsel and
foreknowledge of God’ (

Acts 2:23).” In full harmony with that fact,.259
note that it was God Himself who placed in Eden the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil. Moreover, as Twisse, the celebrated moderator of the
Westminster Assembly, asked in 1653, “Did not the Devil provoke Eve and
Adam to sin against God in paradise? Could not God have kept the Devil
off? Why did He not? Doth it not manifestly appear that it was God’s will
to have them tempted, to have them provoked unto sin? And why not?”
God overruled it for a higher manifestation of His glory. Just as without
night we could not admire the beauty of day, so sin was necessary as a
dark background on which the divine grace and mercy should shine forth
more resplendently (

Romans 5:20).
It has been asserted dogmatically by some that God could not have
prevented the fall of our first parents without reducing them to mere
machines. It is argued that since the Creator endowed man with a free will
he must be left entirely to his own volitions, that he cannot be coerced, still
less compelled, without destroying his moral agency. That may seem to be
good reasoning, yet it is refuted by Holy Writ. God declared to Abimelech
concerning Abraham’s wife, “I also withheld thee from sinning against me:
therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” (

Genesis 20:6). It is not
impossible for God to exert His power over man without destroying his
responsibility, for there is a case in point where He restricted man’s
freedom to do evil and prevented him from committing sin. In like manner,
He prevented Balaam from carrying out the wicked desires of his heart

Numbers 22:38; 23:3, 20). Also, He prevented kingdoms from making
war on Jehoshaphat (

2 Chronicles 17:10). Why, then, did not God
exert His power and prevent Adam and Eve from sinning? Because their
fall served His own wise and blessed de signs.
But does that make God the Author of sin? The culpable Author, no; for as
Piscator long ago pointed out, “Culpability is failing to do what ought to
be done.” Clearly it was the divine will that sin should enter this world, or
it would not have done so. God had the power to prevent it. Nothing ever
comes to pass except what He has decreed. As John Gill said, “Though
God’s decree made Adam’s fall infallibly necessary as to the event, yet not
by way of efficiency, or by force and compulsion on the will.” Nor did
God’s decree in any way excuse the wickedness of our first parents or
exempt them from punishment. They were left entirely free to the exercise
of their nature, and therefore were fully accountable and blameworthy for
their actions. While the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the
solicitations of the serpent to eat its fruit were the occasion of their sinning,.260
yet they were not the cause. That lay in their voluntarily ceasing to be in
subjection to the will of their Maker and rightful Lord. God is the efficient
Author of whatever works of holiness men perform, but He is not the
Author of their sins.
God’s decree that sin should enter this world was a secret hid in Himself.
Our first parents knew nothing of it, and that made all the difference so far
as their responsibility was concerned. Had they been informed of the divine
purpose and the certainty of its fulfillment by their actions, the case would
have been radically altered. They were unacquainted with the Creator’s
secret counsels. What concerned them was God’s revealed will, and that
was quite plain. He had forbidden them to eat of a certain tree, and that
was enough. But He went further, even warning Adam of the dire
consequences which should follow his disobedience. Death would be the
penalty. Thus, transgression on his part was without excuse. God created
Adam morally “upright,” without any bias toward evil. Nor did He inject
any evil thought or desire into Eve.
“God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man”

James 1:13).
Instead, when the serpent came and tempted Eve, God caused her to
remember His prohibition. Consider the wonderful wisdom of God, for
though He had predestinated the fall of our first parents, yet in no sense
was He the Instigator or Approver of their sins, and their accountability
was left entirely unimpaired.
These two things we must believe if the truth is not to be repudiated: that
God has foreordained everything that comes to pass; that He is in no way
blamable for any of man’s wickedness, the criminality thereof being wholly
his. The decree of God in no way infringes on man’s moral agency, for it
neither forces nor hinders man’s will, though it orders and bounds its
actions. Both the existence and operations of sin are subservient to the
counsels of God’s will, yet that does not lessen the evil of its nature or the
guilt of its committers. Someone has said that though God does not esteem
evil to be good, yet He accounts it good that evil should be. Nevertheless
sin is that “abominable thing” (

Jeremiah 44:4) which the holy One
always hates. In connection with the crucifixion of Christ there was the
agency of God (

John 19:11;

Acts 4:27-28), the agency of Satan

Genesis 3:13;

Luke 22:53) and the agency of men. Yet God.261
neither concurred nor cooperated with the internal actions of men’s wills,
charging them with the wickedness of their deed (

Acts 2:23). God
overrules evil for good (

Genesis 45:8; P5. 76:10), and therefore He is
as truly sovereign over sin and hell as He is over holiness and heaven.
God cannot will or do anything that is wrong:
“The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works”

Psalm 145:17).
He therefore stands in no need whatsoever of vindication by any of His
puny creatures. Yet even the finite mind, when illumined by the Spirit of
truth, can perceive how God’s admittance of evil into this world provided
an occasion for Him to display His ineffable perfections in the fullest
manner and to the greatest degree. He thus magnified Himself by bringing
a clean thing out of an unclean, and by securing to Himself a return of
praise from redeemed sinners such as He does not receive from the unfallen
angels. Horrible and terrible beyond words was the revolt of man against
his Maker, and fearful and total the ruin which it brought upon him and all
his posterity. Nevertheless, the wisdom of God contrived a way to save a
part of the human race in a manner by which He is more glorified than by
all His works of creation and providence; also, the misery of sinners is
made the occasion of their greater happiness. This is a never ending
That way of salvation, determined and defined in the terms of the
everlasting covenant of grace, was one by which each of the divine Persons
is exceedingly honored. Jonathan Edwards long ago pointed out:
Herein the work of redemption is distinguished from all the other
works of God. The attributes of God are glorious in His other
works; but the three persons of the Trinity are distinctly glorified in
no other work as in this of redemption. In this work every distinct
person has His distinct parts and offices assigned personal
properties, relations, and economical offices. The redeemed have an
equal concern with and dependence upon each person in this affair,
and owe equal honor and praise to each of Them. The Father
appoints and provides the Redeemer, and accepts the price of
redemption. The Son is the Redeemer and the price—He redeems.262
by offering up Himself. The Holy Spirit immediately communicates
to us the thing purchased; yea, and He is the good purchased. The
sum of what Christ purchased for us is holiness and happiness.
Christ was “made a curse for us… that we might receive the
promise of the Spirit through faith” (

Galatians 3:13, 14). The
blessedness of the redeemed consists in partaking of Christ’s
fullness, which consists in partaking of that Spirit which is not
given by measure unto Him. This is the oil that was poured upon
the Head of the Church, which ran down to the members of His
body (

Psalm 133:2).
It is a serious mistake to regard the Lord Jesus as our Savior to the
exclusion of the saving operations of both the Father and the Spirit. Had
not the Father eternally purposed the salvation of His people, chosen them
in Christ and bestowed them on Him; had He not entered into an
everlasting compact with Him, commissioned Him to become incarnate,
and redeemed them, His Beloved never would have left heaven in order
that He might die, the just for the unjust. Accordingly, we find that He who
loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son has ascribed
to Him the salvation of the church:
“Who hath saved us, and called us… according to his own purpose
and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world
began” (

2 Timothy 1:9).
Equally necessary are the operations of the Holy Spirit to actually apply to
the hearts of God’s elect the good of what Christ did for them. He is the
One who convicts of sin and imparts faith to them. Therefore their
salvation is also ascribed to Him: “God hath from the beginning chosen you
to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”

2 Thessalonians 2:13). A careful reading of

Titus 3:4-6 shows the
three Persons acting together in this connection: “God our Savior” in verse
4 is plainly the Father. “He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and
renewing of the Holy Ghost” (v.5), “which he shed on us abundantly
through Jesus Christ our Savior” (v. 6). Compare the doxology of

Corinthians 13:14.
It is very profitable to ponder the many promises which the Father made to
and respecting Christ. Upon the Son’s acceptance of the exacting terms of
the covenant of grace, the Father agreed to invest Him with a threefold.263
office, thereby authenticating His mission with the broad seal of heaven:
the prophetic office (

Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; cf.

Acts 3:22), the
priestly office (

Hebrews 5:5; 6:20) and the kingly office (

23:5; P5. 89:27). Thus Christ did not run without being sent. God the
Father promised to furnish and equip the Mediator with a plentiful effusion
of the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit (

Isaiah 42:1-2; cf.

Matthew 12:27;

Acts 10:38). He promised to strengthen Christ,
supporting and protecting Him in His execution of the tremendous work of
redemption (

Isaiah 42:1, 6;

Psalm 89:21). This undertaking would
be attended with such difficulties that creature power, though unimpaired
by sin, would have been quite inadequate for it. Therefore the Father
assured Christ of all needed help and power to carry Him through the
opposition and trials He would encounter. Note how the incarnate Son
rested upon those promises (

Psalm 16:1; 22:10;

Isaiah 50:6-8;
The Father promised to raise the Messiah from the dead (

Psalm 21:8;

Isaiah 53:10), and it is blessed to observe how Christ laid
hold of the promise (

Psalm 16:8-11). Promise of His ascension was
also made to Christ (

Psalm 24:3, 7;



52:13). That promise too was appropriated by the Savior while still on
earth (

Luke 24:26). Having faithfully fulfilled the terms of the
covenant, Christ was highly exalted by God, and made to be Lord and
Christ (

Acts 2:36), God seating Him at His own right hand. That is an
economical lordship, a dispensation committed to Christ as the God-Man.
God has crowned with glory and honor the One whom men crowned with
thorns. The “government” is upon His shoulder.
Christ was assured of a “seed” (

Isaiah 53:10). His crucifixion must not
be regarded as a dishonor to Him, since it was the very means ordained of
God whereby He should propagate numerous spiritual progeny. He
referred to this in

John 12:24. The “seed” promised Christ occupies a
prominent place in Psalm 89 (see vv. 3-4, 29-36; cf. 22:30). Thus, from the
outset Christ was assured of the success of His undertaking.
As there were two parts to the covenant, so the elect were given to Christ
in a twofold manner. As He was to fulfill its terms, they were entrusted to
Him as a charge; but in fulfillment of the covenant, the Father promised to
bestow them on Him as a reward. In the former sense, they were regarded
as fallen, and Christ was held responsible for their salvation. They were.264
committed to Him as lost and straying sheep (

Isaiah 53:6) whom He
must seek out and bring into the fold (

John 10:16). In the latter sense,
they are viewed as the fruit of His travail, the trophies of His victory over
sin, Satan and death ; as His crown of rejoicing in the day to come, when
He shall be “glorified in his saints, and… admired in all them that believe”

2 Thessalonians 1:10); as the beloved wife of the Lamb.
Finally, God made promise of the Holy Spirit to Christ. The Spirit was with
Christ during the days of His flesh, anointing Him to preach the gospel

Isaiah 61:1) and work miracles (

Matthew 12:28). But He received
the Spirit in another manner (

Psalm 45:7;

Acts 2:33) and for a
different purpose after His ascension. He, as the God-Man Mediator, was
given the administration of the Spirit’s activities and operations toward the
world in providence and toward the church in grace.

John 7:39 and 16:
7 make it clear that the Spirit’s advent was dependent on Christ’s
exaltation. That assurance was also appropriated by Christ before He left
this scene. On the point of His departure, He said to His disciples, “Behold,
I send the promise of my Father upon you” (

Luke 24:49), which was
duly accomplished ten days later. In full accord with what has just been
pointed out, we hear the Savior saying from heaven, “These things saith he
that hath the seven Spirits of God” (

Revelation 3:1). He “hath,” to
communicate to His redeemed individually and to His churches
The grand design in the Spirit’s descent to this earth was to glorify Christ

John 16:14). He is here to witness to the Savior’s exaltation,
Pentecost being God’s seal upon the Messiahship of Jesus. The Spirit is
here to take Christ’s place. That is clear from Christ’s words to the
apostles: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,
that he may abide with you for ever” (

John 14:16). Until then the Lord
Jesus had been their Comforter, but He was on the eve of returning to
heaven. Nevertheless, He graciously assured them, “I will not leave you
orphans: I will come to you” (

John 14:18, margin). This promise was
fulfilled spiritually in the advent of His Deputy. The Spirit is here to further
Christ’s cause. The word Paraclete (translated “Comforter” in John’s
gospel) is rendered “advocate” at the beginning of the second chapter of
his first epistle, and an advocate is one who appears as the representative
of another. The Spirit is here to interpret and vindicate Christ, to
administer for Christ in His kingdom and church. He is here to make good
His redeeming purpose, by applying the benefits of His sacrifice to those in.265
whose behalf it was offered. He is here to endue Christ’s servants

Luke 24:49).
It is of first importance to recognize and realize that the Lord Jesus
obtained for God’s people not only redemption from the penal
consequences of sin, but also their personal sanctification. How little this is
emphasized today. In far too many instances those who think and speak of
the “salvation” which Christ has purchased attach no further idea to the
concept than that of deliverance from condemnation, omitting deliverance
from the love, dominion and power of sin. But the latter is no less essential,
and is as definite a blessing as the former. It is just as necessary for fallen
creatures to be delivered from the pollution and moral impotence which
they have contracted as it is to be exempted from the penalties which they
have incurred, so that when reinstated in the favor of God they may at the
same time be capacitated to love, serve and enjoy Him forever. And in this
respect also the divine remedy meets all the requirements of our sinful
malady (see

2 Corinthians 5:15;

Ephesians 5:25-27;

Titus 2:14;

Hebrews 9:14). This is accomplished by the gracious operations of
Christ’s Spirit, begun in regeneration, continued throughout their earthly
lives, consummated in heaven.
Not only is the triune God more honored by redemption than He was
dishonored by the defection of His creatures, but His people also are
greatly the gainers. That too magnifies the divine wisdom. It would have
been wonderful indeed had they been merely restored to their original state;
but it is far more wonderful that they should be brought to a much higher
state of blessedness—that the fall should be the occasion of their
exaltation! Their sin deserved eternal wretchedness, yet everlasting bliss is
their portion. They are now favored with a greater manifestation of the
glory of God and a fuller discovery of His love than they would have had
otherwise, and in those two things their happiness principally consists.
They are brought into a much closer and endearing relation to God. They
are now not merely holy creatures but heirs of God and joint heirs with
Christ. The Son having taken their nature upon Him, they have become His
“brethren,” members of His body, His spouse. They are thereby provided
with more powerful motives and inducements to love and serve Him than
they had in their unfallen condition. The more of God’s love we apprehend,.266
the more we love Him in return. Throughout eternity the knowledge of
God’s love in giving His dear Son to and for us, and Christ’s dying in our
stead, will fix our hearts upon Him in a manner which His favors to Adam
never could have done.
It is in the gospel that the wonderful remedy for all our ills is made known.
That glorious gospel proclaims that Christ is able to save to the uttermost
them that come to God by Him. It tells us that the Son of Man came to
seek and to save that which was lost. It announces that sinners, even the
chief of sinners, are the ones that are freely invited to come. It publishes
liberty to Satan’s captives and the opening of doors to sin’s prisoners. It
reveals that God has chosen the greatest of sinners to be the everlasting
monuments of His mercy. It declares that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s
Son, cleanses believers from all sin. It furnishes hope to the most hopeless
cases. The miracles which Christ performed in the bodies of men were
types of His miracles of grace on sinners’ souls. No case was beyond His
healing. He not only gave sight to the blind and cleansing to the leper, but
delivered the demon-possessed and bestowed life on the dead. He never
refused a single appeal made to His compassion. Whatever the sinner’s
record, if he will trust in the atoning sacrifice of Christ he will be saved,
now and forever.


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