CHAPTER 4-THE UNPARDONABLE SIN
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (#Mt 12:31,32).
“Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit” (#Mr 3:28-30).
“And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blashphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven” (#Lu 12:10).
The writer believes that the above Scriptures are all that can certainly be applied to the question of the unpardonable sin. He does not believe that #Heb 6:4-8 10:26-31 have anything to say on the subject. They do indeed sound a solemn warning against apostasy, but they give no help in defining the unpardonable sin. As to #1Jo 5:16, we are not so sure. Dr. Broadus thought it alludes to the unpardonable sin. Be that as it may, it throws no light on what the unpardonable sin is.
The unpardonable sin is a much abused and sadly misunderstood subject. It has, we fear, been used to frighten the unregenerate into the church, thereby making them twofold more the children of wrath. Wrong views of the matter have driven men to despair and, in some instances, into insanity.
A NECESSARY DISTINCTION
We must distinguish between an unpardoned sin and the unpardonable sin. There are many unpardoned sins, but only one unpardonable sin. All the sins of the finally impenitent and unbelieving will be unpardoned, but there is one sin for which there is no pardon. Murder may be an unpardoned sin, but it is not unpardonable. Any and every sin is a damning sin if not repented of. Our Lord clearly distinguished between the one sin that “hath never forgiveness,” and all other sins that shall be forgiven on the terms of repentance and faith.
1. -WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS NOT
1a) It is not any sin against men. Many are the sins men commit against one another, such as murder, theft, false witness, malice and envy. But none of these is the sin that will not be forgiven. Many have been guilty of these sins and through repentance and faith have been forgiven.
1b) It is not any sin against Jesus Christ. Many are the sins against the Son of Man, such as denial of His deity and virgin birth, denial of His blood atonement, ignoring His claims of Lordship; in short, rejecting Him as the Lord Jesus Christ. These are sins of the deepest dye, but many who have been guilty of them have repented and found forgiveness. If rejecting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord is the unpardonable sin, then well nigh everybody would have committed it. To be sure the man who rejects Christ until his time runs out will be unforgiven—all sins are unpardoned—but this does not mean that he committed the unpardonable sin. Our Saviour made it clear that it is not any sin against Himself, but a particular sin against the Holy Spirit.
1c) It is not any sin against the decalogue or ten commandments. There is no sin covered by the ten commandments for which there is no provision of pardon. Christ died to redeem sinners from the curse of the law, therefore, there must be forgiveness from every part of the curse.
1d) It is not any sin against God the Father. “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”
1e) It is not every sin against the Holy Spirit. There are sins committed directly and specifically against the Holy Spirit. He is grieved, resisted, quenched, and ignored. Believers may and do grieve, quench and ignore the Spirit. Unbelievers resist the Spirit in the objective ministry of His word. They resist Him by rejecting the call of the gospel and by opposing and persecuting the preachers of His word. The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Bible. “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:” (#Ac 7:51,52), the only passage in the New Testament where there is any mention of resisting the Spirit. To the Jews who stoned him to death, Stephen said, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” In rejecting the preaching of Stephen, the Jews were behaving as their fathers had towards the prophets, and Stephen called this resisting the Holy Spirit. Unbelievers resist the outward ministry of the Spirit in the preaching of the word until their resistance is overcome by the subjective work of the Spirit in the effectual call. Dr. Broadus says that resisting the Spirit and blasphemy against the Spirit “are quite different things.”
2. -WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS
2a) It is expressly said to be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. To blaspheme is to speak injuriously against somebody. Blasphemy is an insulting or slanderous remark about some one. Every blasphemy is not unpardonable; it is only the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Jews at Antioch spake against Paul and his doctrine, “contradicting and blaspheming” (#Ac 13:45). Paul, before his conversion, compelled the saints to blaspheme: “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (#Ac 26:11). Paul tells the Jews that they caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (#Ro 2:24). And Paul himself was formerly a blasphemer: “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (#1Ti 1:13). But none of these cases was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
2b) The Scriptures with which we began this article give us a clear and unmistakable instance of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and therefore, an example of the unpardonable sin. The Pharisees blasphemed against the Spirit when they said, “He hath an unclean spirit.” (#Mr 3:30). Matthew tells us that they attributed the miraculous work of the Spirit in Christ to Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Of course, they blasphemed our Lord too, in saying that He had an unclean spirit, but that was not what made their sin unpardonable. They recognized the Holy Spirit in the miracle, and slandered Him by calling Him an unclean spirit. And in doing this, they were guilty of an eternal sin.
CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE SPIRIT IS BLASPHEMED
1. There must be an unmistakable work of the Spirit. Dr. Broadus thought the sin was committed in connection with public miracles, and therefore, not committed in our day. He says, in commenting on #Mt 12:31,32: “There is here no allusion to the peculiar gracious office and work of the Spirit in calling, renewing, and sanctifying the soul; it is the Spirit of God as giving power to work miracles.”
2. There must be knowledge that it is the work of the Spirit. Paul had blasphemed Jesus of Nazareth, and yet obtained forgiveness, “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (#1Ti 1:13). Paul did not believe that Jesus spoke and wrought miracles by the Spirit of God. He was ignorant of the Spirit working in Jesus, sincerely believeing Jesus to be an impostor and possessed of an evil spirit. But the Pharisees knew better; they knew the miracles had been performed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and blasphemed against Him by calling Him Beelzebub, an unclean spirit. It was not a case of mistaken identity with them as it was with Saul of Tarsus. Thomas Goodwyn, one of the Puritans, says that two things are necessary in committing the unpardonable sin: “Light in the mind and malice in the heart.” Anxiety or fear of having been guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is in itself evidence that one is not guilty of it. Those who are afraid they have committed the sin may be assured they have not.
3. -WHY BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT IS UNPARDONABLE?
3a) It is not because the sin is too great for the blood of Christ to atone for. This would limit the intrinsic value of His blood. We believe the death of Christ is sufficient for the salvation of every accountable being, including the devil and his angels, had it been designed for them.
3b) It is not because the sin is too great for the grace of God to cope with. Where sin abounds grace much more abounds. This is obvious when we consider some of the cases God has pardoned. Take, for example, the case of Manasseh, the wicked son of the godly Hezekiah, whose wicked career is recorded in #2Ch 33:2-10: “But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses. So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.” Surely, if any man could sin away the day of grace, Manasseh had done so. Surely, if the enormity of offenses makes them unpardonable, those committed by this man must have been such. Surely, if there are crimes too much for the mercy of God to save from, it must have been those of which this Satan-controlled King was guilty. Surely, if there is a sinner too much for the Holy Spirit to cope with, it was this wretch who provoked God so grievously. And yet the happy sequel is the story of his conversion. Consider also the case of Saul of Tarsus, denominated the chief of sinners, who, by the grace of God, became the greatest exponent of the faith he once opposed. Truly, “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.”
3c) The unpardonableness of sin must be attributed to the sovereign will of God. And He has sovereignly (I do not say arbitrarily) determined that there is one sin He will not forgive. He could if it pleased Him to do so. We believe with Job that “What His soul desireth, even that He doeth.” There is one kind of sin for which there is no provision of pardon. Therefore, there is one kind of sin for which Christ made no atonement. There is one sin of which the Holy Spirit will not convict, and from which He will not convert. There is one sin God will not pardon. The Bible calls it blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and we dare not call it by any other name.
The Holy Spirit is thus highly honored in the divine economy. His personality and deity may be denied by men and He may be contemptuously referred to in the neuter gender as “it,” but He is in truth a person of high esteem in the Godhead.
“To God the Spirit’s Name
Immortal worship give,
Whose new-creating power
Makes the dead sinner live:
His work completes the great design,
And fills the soul with joy divine.”
C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 1
Extract from letter from C. H. Spurgeon to his mother, November, 1852:—
I am more and more glad that I never went to College. God sends such sunshine on my path, such smiles of grace, that I cannot regret if I have forfeited all my prospects for it. I am conscious that I held back from love to God and His cause, and I had rather be poor in His service than rich in my own. I have all that heart can wish for; yea, God giveth more than my desire. My congregation is as great and loving as ever. During all the time that I have been at Waterbeach, I have had a different house for my home every Sabbath day. Fifty-two families have thus taken me in; and I have still six other invitations not yet accepted. Talk about the people not caring for me, because they give me so little! I dare tell anybody under heaven ‘tis false! They do all they can. Our anniversary passed off grandly; six were baptized; crowds on crowds stood by the river; the chapel was afterwards crammed, both to the tea and the sermon.
16. But as the devil was created by God, we must remember that this malice which we attribute to his nature is not from creation, but from depravation. Every thing damnable in him he brought upon himself, by his revolt and fall. Of this Scripture reminds us, lest, by believing that he was so created at first, we should ascribe to God what is most foreign to his nature. For this reason, Christ declares, (John 8:44,) that Satan, when he lies, “speaketh of his own,” and states the reason, “because he abode not in the truth.” By saying that he abode not in the truth, he certainly intimates that he once was in the truth, and by calling him the father of lies, he puts it out of his power to charge God with the depravity of which he was himself the cause. But although the expressions are brief and not very explicit, they are amply sufficient to vindicate the majesty of God from every calumny. And what more does it concern us to know of devils? Some murmur because the Scripture does not in various passages give a distinct and regular exposition of Satan’s fall, its cause, mode, date, and nature. But as these things are of no consequence to us, it was better, if not entirely to pass them in silence, at least only to touch lightly upon them. The Holy Spirit could not deign to feed curiosity with idle, unprofitable histories. We see it was the Lord’s purpose to deliver nothing in his sacred oracles which we might not learn for edification. Therefore, instead of dwelling on superfluous matters, let it be sufficient for us briefly to hold, with regard to the nature of devils, that at their first creation they were the angels of God, but by revolting they both ruined themselves, and became the instruments of perdition to others. As it was useful to know this much, it is clearly taught by Peter and Jude; “God,” they say, “spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment,” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude ver. 6.) And Paul, by speaking of the elect angels, obviously draws a tacit contrast between them and reprobate angels.
John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 14-Henry Beveridge Translation
Every verse beginning with the word “For” requires us to trace the connection: usually it has the force of “because,” supplying proof of a preceding statement. Likewise the expression “For this cause” and words like “wherefore and therefore” call for close attention, so that we may have before us the promise from which the conclusion is drawn. The widespread misunderstanding of 2 Corinthians 5:17, supplies an example of what happens when there is carelessness at this point. Nine times out of ten its opening “Therefore” is not quoted, and through failure to understand its meaning an entirely wrong sense is given to “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” That prefatory “therefore” indicates that this verse is not to he considered as a thing apart, complete in itself, but rather as closely connected with something foregoing. On turning back to the previous verse we find it too begins with the word “wherefore,” which at once shows that this passage is a didactic or doctrinal one, and neither a biographical one which delineates the experience of the soul nor a hortatory one calling unto the performance of some duty.
Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures
This week no special articles will come off my blog. Only the regular everyday quotes will post. I am taking a vacation week to do some remodeling around the house.
Therefore, Reformedontheweb wishes everyone a blessed and happy 4th of July.
Again: the most likely way for you ever to receive God’s grace is to believe God’s truths. Never kick against God’s doctrines, but receive them. And I have one thing to say to thee this morning, if in thy heart, poor sinner, thou canst say, “I believe God’s gospel to be a glorious gospel,” thou art not far from something else. If thou canst say. “I submit to all its demands, I believe God just if he destroys me, and if he saves me, it will be of his sovereign mercy only,” then, sinner, there are good hopes of thee, thou hast proceeded some way on the road to heaven. If thou canst but do one thing more, and say, “Though he slay me yet will I trust in him,” and if thou canst come to the cross of Christ, and say, “Jesus, I love thy gospel and I love thy truth; if I perish, I will perish believing all thy truth, I will perish clasping thy cross, if I die, I will die owning that thou art a just and gracious God, and still in my poor way, holding fast the form of sound words,” I tell thee, poor soul, God will never damn thee. If thou dost believe in Jesus Christ, and holdest fast his words, he will look upon thee in love, he will say, “Poor soul! though he does not know that these truths are his, yet he thinks them precious; though he dares not hope that they belong to him, yet he will fight for them; though he does not know that he is really a soldier of the cross, chosen of me ere time began, yet see how valiantly he strives for me,” and the Lord will say, “Poor soul, thou lovest the things that thou thinkest are not thine own—-I will make thee rejoice in them as thine own, by my grace; thou lovest election, though thou thinkest thou art not elect—-that is an evidence that thou art mine.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved.”
Charles H. Spurgeon-The Form of Sound Words-Delivered on Sabbath, May 11, 1856
CHAPTER 3-DEPRAVITY—TOTAL, UNIVERSAL, INHERENT
Depravity is a word that describes the state or disposition of man considered as a moral being. A moral being is one who is accountable to God for his thoughts, speech, and conduct. Depravity means the moral corruption of human nature; it refers to the state of sinfulness natural to the unregenerate.
Depravity is the opposite to what is required by the law of God. The sum of the divine law is love to God and our neighbor. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (#Mt 22:37-39). Paul says that love is the fulfilling of the law. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (#Ro 13:8-10). Depravity must consist then of the lack of love required by God, and the setting up of some other object or objects in the human affections. And all the objects set up in competition with God may be reduced to one, and that is self. Private self-love, to the exclusion of supreme love to God and equal love to men, is the very root of depravity. Self-will, self-admiration and self-righteousness are but different manifestations of depravity.
Depravity is that state of nature that causes man to put self in the place of God, and to seek his own gratification, honor, and interest as the ultimate end of all his actions. Every moral being ought to live and act for the highest good, and the highest good is the glory of God. Depravity is the corruption of nature that leads men to act for self glory. The very essence of sin is selfishness. Take the first and last letters off the word SIN and you have the letter “I”. Take the word self and spell it backwards, adding the letter “H” and you have the word “flesh”. And the Bible often employs the word flesh to denote the corrupt nature of man. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (#Ro 7:18); There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (#Ro 8:1-13); “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (#Php 3:3); “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (#Joh 1:13); “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (#Joh 6:63).
When Paul describes men under a variety of wicked characters, the first link in the chain is: “lovers of their own selves” (#2Ti 3:2). This exclusive love of self is the fountain of depravity from which all- evil thoughts and actions flow; it is the womb from which all sinful expedients are born; it is the incubator in which all evil inventions are hatched.
Depravity is total, reaching to all the facilities of the soul; it is universal; taking in all men by nature; and it is inherent, by which we mean that it is the result of original sin, transmitted by natural generation or physical birth.
Total depravity means that man is depraved or corrupted in all the faculties of his being. It is not a question of degree but of extent. It does not mean that any man is as bad as he may become, or that he is as wicked as the devil. However, the potential evil is about the same in every man. The Bible says “there is no difference for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” If we have not sinned as much as others, it is due to restraining grace and not to anything good in our nature. When Jesus Christ said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. He was not describing any particular heart but the heart of every man. John Bradford, a martyr, once watched the officers leading a criminal to the place of execution, and remarked, “there goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.” The act of transgression is only a small part of sin. Eight ninths of an iceberg is below the surface of the sea. And potentially there is far more sin in everyone of us than every appears on the surface in actual transgression.
There are degrees in depravity. All men are not the same in the degree or amount of sin. Drop a grain of arsenic into a glass of water, and the water is totally affected. Every drop of the water is poisoned. Put in another grain of arsenic and the poison is not extended, but it is intensified. It is not poisoned in more of its parts, but each part to a greater degree. So man, a child of wrath by nature “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (#Eph 2:3), may become more depraved.
The natural man is not depraved in spots, but the whole of his being is depraved. The “carnal mind is enmity against God” (#Ro 8:7); “and the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (#Jer 17:9); “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (#Mt 15:19); the will is in bondage to sin “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (#Joh 6:44), “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (#Joh 5:40); “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (#Php 2:13). The human will is no better than the mind and the heart that controls it. Men choose what they do because of the state of their minds and hearts.
Total depravity means that man, as the result of original sin, is morally or spiritually dead. And dead as an adjective does not admit of comparison. There are no degrees of death, but there are degrees in death. Here is a physical corpse. The man has been dead one day. He is totally dead—dead in all the physical parts. Here is another corpse. The man has been dead one week. He is no more dead than the other man, but the corpse is in worse condition. Now the Bible presents the natural man under the figure of a moral or spiritual corpse. Here is a young girl of sixteen summers, beautiful, vivacious, and outwardly charming. She knows nothing of the life of the brothel. But that girl, if an unbeliever in Christ, is morally or spiritually dead. She is lacking in love to God and to her neighbor. Her depraved nature is manifested in pride of apparel, pride of beauty, disobedient to parents, lack of interest in the word of God, and rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is another moral corpse. She is a woman of the brothel; her virtue is gone, and she is abandoned to a life of sin and shame. She drinks, and swears, and smokes, and lies, and steals, and breaks up homes. She is no more dead than the girl of sweet sixteen, but she is in a worse condition in moral death.
Moral death does not mean that man does not exist as a moral being. Death never means extinction of being, but a state or condition of being. The unregenerate man performs actions, but they are wicked. Theft, and murder, and lying are all acts of moral being, but they are wicked acts.
Universal depravity means that all men are depraved. Every man, apart from inwrought grace, is lacking in that which the law of God requires. He does not love God, neither does he love his neighbor as he loves himself. It is only the born again ones who love God: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (#1Jo 4:7); who understand the things of God “But 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” (#1Co 2:14); “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (#Joh 3:3); “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” (#2Co 4:4); who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (#1Jo 5:1); or who practice righteousness “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (#1Jo 2:29).
In Noah’s day it is said that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (#Ge 6:5). Of David’s day it was written: “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (#Ps 14:3). And Paul quotes this verse from David and applies it to the people of his day “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (#Ro 3:10). The only men free from corruption of nature since the first Adam sinned and fell was the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and his birth was not according to the law of natural generation. To deny the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth is to make him a sinner. And who wants to trust a sinner as Saviour?
Depravity of nature is transmitted to all men by natural generation. Like begets like; that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and the carnal or fleshly mind hates God.
The early appearance of sin in the child is proof that depravity of nature is inherited. The very first act that discovers reason in the child has sin in it. Watch the child when reason begins to dawn, and it will express itself by doing harm to others, or by lying, or by pride of apparel, or by natural inclination to revenge. Have not all parents quieted the baby by beating that which had hurt or offended it? The small child at the very dawn of reason manifests a spirit of revenge towards others and a dislike for God.
In Andrew Fuller’s diary, under date of January 8, 1785, are these lines: “Much affected today in hearing my little girl say, ‘How soon sabbath day comes again!’ Felt grieved to see the native aversion of the carnal heart to God so early discovering itself.”
Inherent depravity is seen in the fact that the child will sin without being taught to sin. “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (#Pr 29:15). Only leave the child to act naturally and freely, and it will shame its mother. But we must be taught to do the things that are not natural. Take a person who has never been taught to swim and throw him into deep water he will drown. But take a horse or some other beast and plunge it into the stream and it will swim because nature hath taught him. Man sins naturally, but he has to be taught to do good.
Inherent depravity is directly taught in many Scriptures. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (#Ps 51:5). David is not casting reflection upon his mother’s virtue; he is confessing to a sinful nature received in birth. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (#Ps 58:3). In #Eph 2:3, we read that we “were by nature the children of wrath.” In “That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (#Ro 9:8), we are told that the children of the flesh are not the children of God-and if not the children of God, they are the children of wrath, children of disobedience; yea, children of the devil.
The Scriptures which teach the necessity of the new birth prove that depravity is total, universal, and inherent. Regeneration is not of parts but of Persons, the whole psychic being is born again. And every man needs the new birth, for except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. If depravity were not hereditary, the new birth would not be necessary; training and education would bring one into the kingdom of God. If there were a spark of goodness it could be fanned into a flame, and a birth from above would not be essential to salvation.
The following supposed incident will illustrate the truth of depravity. A ship’s crew mutiny put their officers in chains, and take command of the ship. They sail to a distant port, dispose of the cargo, and divide the money. But while they are on the voyage, they find it necessary, for self-preservation, to establish some kind of laws to govern them in their relation to one another. To these laws they adhere punctually, act with a degree of fairness with one another, and agree to an impartial distribution of their plunder. But before they reach port, one of the crew relents and becomes very unhappy. He insists that they are engaged in a wicked scheme. He urges that they release their officers, implore their forgiveness, and resume their duties under their command. But they plead their justice, honor, and respect for one another. They remind him that they are keeping the laws they had agreed upon, and that there is peace and harmony among them. But he tells them there is no virtue in it; that all their equity while exercised in pursuit of a scheme which violates the great law of justice, is itself, a species of iniquity. He shows them that they are running the ship for their own selfish interests and glory, and not in the interest of the owner. He urges them to repent of their wicked design. He pleads with them to release their officers, and plead for mercy.
The application of this parable is easy. As sailors on the ship of life the human race mutinied in the very beginning, and every one born upon the ship has joined in the rebellion. While there has been a semblance of law and order, and some respect for one another, every man, apart from the grace of God working in him, has lived for self rather than for God, the Creator and Owner of all. The need of every one is to repent of his sin towards God, surrendering to Him and hoping for mercy through the blood of His Son. May both writer and reader abhor themselves for what they were by nature and rejoice in what they are by God’s amazing grace.
C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 1