The Mystery Of Sin
The existence of sin has always been regarded as a mystery, and generally supposed to be a mystery without a solution. That it is a mystery which cannot be solved I am inclined to doubt. That sin and consequent suffering exist in beings created by a holy God, is not easy of explanation, but it is easier to conceive of than it is to conceive of the opposite, that is, intelligent beingsstarting their career in ignorance and living without sin. The mystery of sin is like some other mysteries; for example, illimitable space is almost unthinkable, but the opposite thought or limited space, is quite unthinkable.
Sin is one of the sad, but natural results of freedom and ignorance. If sin is the transgression of law, and if the subjects of the law are ignorant of its benefits and have to learn by experience its penalties, and if sin appears to the senses as desirable, it seems almost, if not quite, necessary that all must be law-breakers in order to learn how to be law-keepers. Whatever may be its full meaning, it is said of Jesus in Holy Writ, that “Though He were a Son yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered, and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.”
Concerning the mystery of sin, I must believe that the sin of mankind did not surprise God, nor was it other than He could naturally expect, and I had almost said that, it was none other than the natural outcome of His own holy plans and purposes. It seems to me to be indescribably foolish, not to say dishonoring to God, to suppose as some seem to do, that the Devil in the garden of Eden, outwitted God, and upset His plans. I would much rather believe that the Devil was but an instrument in the hands of God in carrying out the Divine plans, notwithstanding that this theory is also open to objections.
Whether the story of the fall, as told in Genesis, is historical or simply a parable illustrating the origin of sin, it can only be logically explained on the supposition that God knew what was going to happen, and that He planned for what did happen, and took the wisest way to establish a righteousness which should be worked out by experience, and finally develop a race which would learn evil from good, and by deliberate choice cleave to the good and refuse the evil.
Not only does this seem to be reasonable when we think of the nature of God, the nature of man, and the results aimed at, but it appears to me not to be out of harmony with the Scriptures. It is apparent to all readers of the Bible, that it speaks of two laws, the one making for evil and the other making for good, and we all know as a matter of fact that, we are, from the dawn of consciousness, environed by these two laws; that life is a constant battle or struggle with them. It seems that if God planned for the temptation and knew in advance of the fall in Eden, that He also planned for the wisdom which comes through the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, supplemented by experience and suffering to incline the heart of man to finally resist and hate evil and to learn and love to do well. It is more than hinted at in the Scriptures that God foresaw, at least in outline, the history of the race, that He looked down the ages, at the war between sin and holiness, between right and wrong, between law and lawlessness, between wisdom and folly, which would inevitably result from His creation of man, and that He made provision in advance for the great moral conflict and for the final overthrow of sin and the establishment of righteousness. What else does the prophetic statement in Genesis mean, that “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head” or the historic statement in Revelations, concerning the “Lamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world.”
Whether we can explain it or not, it must be that the world has been, is, and will be, the legitimate and logical working out of God’s purposes. It must be folly to suppose, that Satan overthrew God’s plans, or that chance or circumstances or man’s choice, or any other power misdirected the stream of humanity, whose source is the very heart of the Eternal.
When God made man with moral, animal and spiritual nature, He knew that it meant conflict which would result in what we call sin, but He made provision in Jesus Christ by which man may learn to take into his nature the power of God, if not God Himself, and thus be more than a match for the subtle temptations of that trinity of evil forces, known as “sin, the flesh and the Devil.” And it can therefore be said, of all who take God’s provision for the cure of sin, “that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
Nor is there anything in the views now expressed which makes God responsible for sin in the sense of approving sin or condoning it, “For sin is that thing which God doth hate.” “Man-like it is to fall into sin, Fiend-like it is to dwell therein, Christ-like it is, for sin to grieve, God-like it is all sin to leave.”