What Is Inbred Sin?
The term “Inbred Sin” is not Scriptural, yet it contains a concise explanation, or comment, on the Scriptural terms, “carnal nature,” “our old man,” “the flesh,” “fleshly lusts,” etc. The term “Inbred Sin” expresses the same thing as the theological terms, “total depravity,” and “original sin.” We believe inbred sin to be the chief cause of backsliding in our Churches, and the great cause of the tardy growth of so many, who have been long enough in the way to have become giants in Israel, who yet remain, year after year, in spiritual swaddling clothes. Hence it seems to us proper to present, in concise form, a treatise on this disease of soul, and its cure; especially as we find a widespread ignorance in the matter in the Church of God, among otherwise intelligent Christians.Inbred sin may be defined, negatively, thus:
1) It is not sin as an act. Sin is committed as an act in three ways. We speak, or do, or think. Or, in other words, sin as an act is in the word, the deed, or the thought. A person cannot commit actual sin, except in one of these three directions. The same may be said of sins of omission. Hence all sin, as an act, is either of omission or commission, in thought, word, or deed. But sin in thought, word, and deed, is not inbred sin. Actual sin is the result of inbred sin. Actual sin bears the same relation to inbred sin that the plant bears to its root; the same relation that the eruptions of leprosy (a Scriptural type of sin), bear to the inward disease, – the relation of effect and cause. Inbred sin is a state of heart causing outward manifestations of sin. St. James (chapter i. 15), says: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.” And our Saviour still more forcibly tells us the source of actual sin in Mark vii. 21-23: “For from within, out of the heart of man 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.” Outward sin is well catalogued. It is a howling wilderness that produces wild beasts; it is a corrupt heart that produces such sin. The state of heart that makes these manifestations is inbred sin.
2) The appetites of the body are not inbred sin. Our physical appetites are hunger, thirst, and the sexual. Some have fallen into error here, maintaining that Adam was not created pure and holy, because he possessed physical appetites. Hence, they have considered the body sinful, and have striven to eradicate the appetites, by the punishment of the body, by self-denial, fastings, flagellations, self-tortures, forbidding to marry, seclusion in the cloister and monastery. But sin is in the soul, not in the body. The appetites are an original part of our nature. It is not their use, but their abuse, that constitutes sin. God created man in His own image, of “righteousness and true holiness.” He gave him a body, with appetites to be regulated and kept only for lawful use. It is for the glory of God to take food sufficient for the wants of the physical man, but excess becomes the sin of gluttony, and so with excess in the other appetites. For “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do,” we are commanded to “do all to the glory of God.” Enoch and Abel and others pleased God while in the body. But Scripture says: “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Hence, “flesh” does not mean the body. Inbred sin, or “flesh,” then, does not mean the physical man.
3) Nor does inbred sin consist in thinking of evil. A great many good people are much perplexed and hindered at this point. They desire to be right in the sight of God, but thoughts of evil are suggested to their minds, and they think it sin, and are harassed. These thoughts of evil come from two sources: either from the laws of mental association, or by the suggestion of the devil. For instance: A devout soul kneels before God in the spirit of earnest desire. After a few moments of prayer, he finds his mind wandering off onto other subjects, purely by the law of association; a train of thought has been started, and he reproaches himself for wandering thoughts, when his purpose has been pure. His mind has acted naturally, in a manner wholly beyond his control — not sinful at all. Or the subtle enemy of all good injects into the mind suggestions to doubt, or pictures crime or wickedness, so that we cannot help thinking of such things. Herein is the difference between a purified soul and one in whom is inbred sin: A pure heart will spontaneously and instantly feel an abhorrence. Such suggestions will be as repugnant as the touch of a viper. A man who is an unprincipled and dangerous villain comes to your house and rings the bell. You come to the door, recognize him, and hear what he has to say. But if you welcome him, invite him in, and are pleased to have such a man in your house, then you become a partner, in a sense, with him in wickedness. It did not compromise your character when he knocked at your door, but it did when you took him in so willingly. So when a thought of evil comes to your heart, it does not compromise your character; but if you are glad it came, and welcome it, you were like it in character all the time. The old adage is so true that we quote it: “We cannot help the unclean birds flying over our heads, but we need not let them build their nests in our hair.” thoughts of evil are not evil thoughts. Thoughts of evil become evil thoughts only when they are pleasing to us. Joseph had thoughts of evil suggested to him by the temptress. He could not help thinking about the crime; but he had no desire — it was abhorrent to him. Hence, they were not evil thoughts. A greater than Joseph, when tempted of the devil to make stones into bread in the wilderness, to cast Himself down from a pinnacle of the temple, and to worship the devil, could not refrain from the mental act of thinking of these sins; but He did not dally a moment with the thought; but said: “Get thee behind me, Satan.” There was no inbred sin to welcome the suggestion. If we find anything in us that causes sin to appear attractive, we may well cry in fear and trembling: “Create in me a clean heart, O God!”
Inbred sin is that depraved state of the heart which resulted from the loss of original righteousness.
Some in perplexity have asked, “Did God infuse evil properties into the soul?” Certainly not. The “carnal mind” is the result of man’s following his own will, having lost the image of God. On the day that Adam sinned he lost the original “righteousness and true holiness” in which he was created. His heart was left to its own devices, and unrestrained by the Divine will (as a voluntary agent), it naturally developed a positive hostility to the will of God. As when life departs from the body, positive corruption begins, so did the soul of Adam on the withdrawal of God manifest that corruption which is called “inbred sin,” because it is innate or natural. This is inbred sin: a corrupt state of heart which opposes God and holiness. In the unregenerate this state of heart is not only contrary to the will of God, but must always continue thus, unless God move upon it by His gracious Spirit.
“How helpless Nature lies,
Unconscious of her load!
The heart unchanged can never rise
To happiness and God.”
This evil nature was transmitted by Adam to his children. It is said (Genesis v. 3): “He begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” This is the statement of the great law of hereditary depravity. His firstborn illustrates this sad truth of original sin, by murdering his brother. This is the state in which we all find ourselves – a tendency of heart away from the Divine will: original sin, which breaks forth into actual transgressions.
To make our subject more practical; How may we detect inbred sin in our selves?
1) It is that state of heart that makes us loath to do God’s will.
2) It is that state of heart that makes us unwilling to do the will of God.
3) It is that state of heart that makes it appear easy to do what we know to be wrong, and hard to do what we know to be duty.
It was a surprise and a wonderment to the little girl as she felt its risings in her soul, that led her to say: “Mother, why is it that naughty things are always so nice?” It manifests itself in the babe when it has lived but a few weeks, before it has had time to learn evil by example of others. People often speak of “the innocence of the babe,” and the expression may well apply as far as actual transgression is concerned. But before the babe knows good from evil, wicked tempers and passions exhibit themselves, which are manifestations of inbred sin. Cases are on record of small children, of a few months in age, becoming so angry as to die in a fit of passion. One of the missionaries states that the Hindoos and Mohammedans almost universally concede the depravity of the race. Among illustrative examples he gives this one from one of the chief men of Lucknow: “The sinfulness of man,” said he, “is easy enough understood when we remember that in disposing of a good thing — for instance, milk — we have to carry it to men’s doors; and when we wish to furnish that which is evil — that is, sell rum — we have but to open a shop, and they come to us. That is, we will make sacrifices to destroy ourselves, but none to help ourselves.” We find ourselves prejudiced against our own convictions of duty and right. Most people find it in what they term their natural disposition. Here is one man, he has a violent temper which he in vain attempts to control. He is off like a flash of powder. Another is naturally sullen and revengeful. Another is inflated with pride, a portion of which he controls, for appearance sake. It is natural for another to be covetous. From his earliest moments he is grasping and seeking his own interests only. Inbred sin is usually what the Apostle speaks of in Hebrews, 12th chapter: “The sin that doth so easily beset you.” It fits us as easily as a well-fitted garment. Dr. Watts and Charles Wesley call inbred sin “the seeds of sin,” because all outward or actual transgressions spring from it. Charles Wesley calls it “inbred leprosy,” likening it to a disease deep-seated in the soul.
“Jesus, a word, a look from Thee
Can turn my heart and make it clean;
Purge out the inbred leprosy,
And save me from my bosom sin.”
The apostle Paul states it as a law of our being. Now a law is simply a power or method of working. He says in Rom. vii. 21: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” And this is the universal consciousness and testimony of the race, — an original disposition, deep-seated in the soul, that contends against our moral sense. It is that in the soul that echoes the voice of Satan, that is so in harmony with him that he asserts a claim to it, and uses it as a vantage ground to capture the man. Jesus said: “Satan cometh, and hath nothing in me.” Inbred sin had no place in Him. This is what makes most men an easy prey to temptation. It is this that is the source of all the sorrows and sins of the world. It is this that is the source of all the opposition of this world to godliness. It led men to crucify the Son of God. The Apostle truly says of it: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” It will be the chief element of hell, and is hell already begun in the soul: while in this life, restrained many times only by surroundings, or Providential interference.