Inbred Sin Is Not Removed At Conversion
The conversion of the soul is the most important event in its history. It is the grandest experience in the believer’s spiritual life. We do not affirm that it is the greatest experience, in degree, but in the sense that the laying of the foundation is of the utmost importance, for it prepares the way for the final laying of the cap-stone. So is conversion the grandest step, because it prepares the way for all others. You cannot take the second step until you take the first. The bridegroom counts it the most fortunate day of his life when he formed acquaintance with his bride, for it made marriage a possibility. Conversion is the great event of experience, for by it the higher degrees of grace are made possible; and by it we become candidates for the second degree, and are put in more favorable conditions for growth in grace. Our relations to God and sin are changed in several particulars. These relations are expressed by the terms “justification,” “regeneration,” “adoption,” etc., denoting changes of relation, which, while not the same in meaning, yet take place at the same time.Now we find much ignorance as to how much God does at conversion in the Church today. We wish, therefore, to show what is accomplished, and what is not accomplished at conversion.
I. What Does God Do For The Soul In Conversion?
1) Man, in conversion, became a new creature. A great many fall into the error in the use of figures of speech, in making them apply in all directions, even to the least details, to particulars that were never intended. We must use an illustration or figure only as far as its author intended. How much did the Holy Spirit intend by the figure of the new birth? We believe the figure was intended to convey the idea that the soul at the new birth became so changed as to have new faculties given it that did not before exist. Before, it had no spiritual perception nor feeling; it was dead to the things of God. Now it, perceives, feels, and wills, in the direction of God’s requirements. This is so different from its former condition as to be equal to a new creation, and hence is called “the new birth.” Now it sees beauty in God’s truth. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” Like a man in a clear night, who sees what seems like a large star. A telescope is handed him, and through it he sees that there are two. So the soul now sees old things changed; sees old truths as they are. Once he saw the Gospel truths intellectually, now he sees them spiritually. He also has new affections, so that he loves the things he once hated, and vice versa. He has new ambitions. Once he loved to shine for self, and now he loves to shine for God. Now he has longings to see Christ, such as he never had before. Now there is a love to God where there was none before His new faculties prove that a change has taken place in him.
2) He is acquitted, or pardoned, for all past transgressions. All sin that he has committed is forgiven. In the language of the courts of justice, he is justified. Sin, as an act — actual transgression — is forgiven, because he accepts Christ by faith for pardon, having confessed his sins. In the language of Scripture, his sins are “blotted out,” “remembered no more against him.” He is as free from the claims of the law as if he had never sinned.
3) He is adopted into the family of God. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” He is an heir of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ. He receives the witness of the Spirit to his adoption. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” As an heir of God, he has a title to heaven, if he continue faithful to God.
4) This change also gives him power to keep from committing wilful sin. So low has the standard fallen, that it is currently understood today in the Church that a Christian can commit sin, and it will be considered all right if he only asks forgiveness. God is so ready to forgive that we can obey or not, if we only have stated times of asking forgiveness. The Apostle Paul says to those who talked the same way in his day — who seem to think that evening prayer would settle all wilful sin of the day, whether there is an intention to forsake it the next day or not —
“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” St. John declares that, “He that is born of God doth not commit sin.” He will not intentionally violate one of his Father’s commands. For the term sin, in the New Testament, as an act, always signifies voluntary transgression. Says Dr. Lyman Abbott, of the Greek verb hamatano: “It signifies, in the New Testament, moral wrong; never a mere error in judgment.” God does not hold us responsible or guilty for sins of ignorance. Paul says: “Where there is no law, there is no transgression”; and again, “Sin is not imputed where there is no law.” So that a Christian is one who does not knowingly transgress the commandments of God. So that, by the Divine life in him, he is kept from all those guilty thoughts, words, and acts, of which inbred sin is the root. This is thought by many to be an impossible experience, and absurd doctrine, partaking of the nature of enthusiasm. But it is the enthusiasm of the Bible, nevertheless. It is Scriptural. Said Jesus to the impotent man: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee.” And the Apostle John, writing to the church, says: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” “Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not.” Says Mr. Wesley, in his sermon on “The First Fruits of the Spirit”: “They are not condemned for any present sins, for now transgressing the commandments of God. For they do not transgress them; they do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This is the continued proof of their ‘ love of God, that they keep His commandments.’ ” When a Christian feels within him time stirring of anger, or pride, or envy, or malice, his faith in God is such as to enable him to repress the word, the thought, or the act of sin. If his faith fail not, he may have constant victory, and keep these from outward expression. While some one may say this is not common, average experience, we say it ought to be; it is within the possibilities of grace, and is actual, as proved in the experience of some justified Christians. It would be a more general experience, if people had right instructions, as we will attempt to show farther on. The large part of the Church (according to their own testimony, of “heart wanderings,” “crooked paths,” and the like), are in the alternate experiences of backsliding and repentance, which, to say the least, is not favorable to growth. It need not be so, for our God does not wish it to be so, and has made ample provision in the atonement to cover all our need.
5) Conversion creates abhorrence of inbred sin, and a desire for a pure heart. It could not be otherwise. Every dutiful child of God loves what his Father in Heaven loves, and hates what his Father in Heaven hates; God loves purity, and hates impurity; and when a Christian sees sin in himself, he abhors it, for it is contrary to the nature of God whom he loves. For it is impossible to love God and love that which is hostile to God. And sin is contrary to the Divine nature.
Conversion is like refreshment to a starving man; it excites all his nature after a fulness of that which he has tasted. It is a spurious conversion that does not beget a thirst after purity of heart and freedom from all inward tendencies to sin. We may well doubt our conversion if we do not desire all the mind of Christ to dwell in us. One writer declares, with a good deal of truth, that “we are guilty of all sin which we do not hate.” Every Christian has a hope of seeing Jesus, and of being made like Him. And the Apostle plainly declares: “Every man that hath this hope in him (Jesus) purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” One of the strongest evidences that we are converted and not in any degree backslidden, is an intense desire for a pure heart. That is what the true Church of God has been praying all along the ages, in such hymns as:
“Oh, for a heart to praise my God!
A heart from SIN set free
A heart that ALWAYS feels
Thy blood so freely spilt for me.”
We do not mean to say that this longing is always so clearly defined, that they know just exactly what they desire. But there is a soul-cry for it that many times has been unable to voice itself. Oh, what responsibility, on the part of preachers and teachers, in leading the flock! We have dwelt on what conversion opens up of experience and privilege because, in these days, if we speak of another degree of grace beyond, a cry is raised that conversion is depreciated. And also for another reason: to help us more clearly to understand what conversion does not do for the soul.
At conversion, all the carnal mind, or inbred sin, is not destroyed. A very troublesome residuum still remains, which is the chief cause of backsliding, intensifies the power of the temptations of the devil, is the root of the strife we often see among Christians, and is that which demands satisfaction from the world, leading so many followers of God to go to the world for gratification. It is this “inbred corruption” that makes a Christian life so hard to so many; that calls simple duties, that reason would say ought to be considered privileges, heavy crosses. There is but one class of people who have ever denied that the remnants of depravity still remain in the believer. And they cannot be consistent in so doing, as we shall attempt to show in this chapter. They deny it, for what would seem to one not conversant with the matter, to be a singular reason. They only deny it when a cure is recommended for it. Like a sick man, to whom a remedy is proposed that he does not wish to take, he will sometimes deny that he is sick in order to escape the remedy. Some people try to make out that they are not sick when they are, hoping thereby to avoid the expense of a physician. They feel as if it were too expensive to have a doctor. But it costs a great deal to be sick, when we might be well. And so they deny that they have any inbred sin – a proposition that is contrary to Scripture, to reason, and to experience, as we shall endeavor to show.
1) The Scriptures teach that remnants of carnality, or inbred sin, are in the justified believer. We might cite many instances in the Old Testament. We will, however, mention but one, concerning which, it seems to us, no candid person will entertain any doubt. Inbred sin, in the heart of Jacob, took the form of covetousness. Jacob would have made a good Wall-street broker. But Jacob became a follower of God. At Bethel, he made a covenant to be faithful to God, and God promised that Jacob should be under His especial care and protection. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will indeed be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then the Lord shall be my God” (Gen. xxviii. 20, 21), — a decision and purpose as determined as ever a seeking sinner made to God. And as God had promised to be his God if he made this covenant, we must conclude that he, then and there, became a child of God. And yet w e find, again and again, after that, in his dealings with his uncle Laban, that covetousness still lingered in his heart, — his besetting sin.
Let us turn to the New Testament. Paul says to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. iii.): “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” Here he acknowledges that they were “in Christ,” and “brethren,” but that they were “carnal,” “babes in Christ”; that is, the carnal mind still existed in these brethren. And no one could say to the Apostle, we are pure in heart; we became so when we became brethren; for he tells them in the next verse in what form inbred sin exhibited itself. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” This Scripture clearly teaches, then, by the recognition of the Apostle, that we may be “brethren,” and yet be “carnal,” as evinced in unholy temples. These had not backslidden, for they were “babes in Christ.” Neither had inbred sin been destroyed in these “babes in Christ.” The Apostle describes, in the seventh chapter of Romans, the struggle of a man with inbred sin. Some have understood in this chapter that a Christian is referred to; others, that it refers only to the unconverted. While it illustrates, in some degree, the case of every one, both saint and sinner, in whom dwells the carnal mind, it seems to us more especially to illustrate the experience of the Christian who has perceived the exceeding spirituality of God’s law. It is only a Christian with an abhorrence for sin divinely implanted, who could utter such a heart-rending cry as: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But the confession of the man is the Scriptural confession of a man in favor with God. Hear him in the twenty-second verse: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” Now the man who “delights in the law of God, after the inward” man, is a Christian, – a servant of God. So David says. We take David as authority on this point in the first Psalm. “His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Of such a man the inspired penman says, “Blessed”; and a little farther on he says: “The ungodly are not so.” And yet he may delight in the law of the Lord in the inner man, and yet have the same experience that the Apostle speaks of in the next verse (Rom. vii. 23): “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.” In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul tells us of this same law of inbred sin in the Galatian Christians, who had “begun in the Spirit,” and expected to be “made perfect by the flesh.” He says: “This, I say then, walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary, the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Here we have a contest in the hear ts of these Galatians between the Spirit and the flesh. Mr. Wesley says on the passage: “But the Holy Spirit, on his part, opposes your evil nature”; and again, in his sermon on ” Sin in Believers,” he says of the passage: “Nothing can be more express. The Apostle here directly affirms that the flesh, evil nature, opposes the Spirit, even in believers; that even in the regenerate, there are two principles, contrary the one to the other.” Inbred sin had come into this church in the same form as at Corinth. The Bible abounds with the teaching that inbred sin exists, in a degree, in the justified. We find, too, that the Thessalonian Church were “in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. i. 1); and yet some things were lacking in their faith (1 Thess. iii. 10). Inbred sin lurked in a state of imperfect faith in the heart that failed to save them from a certain sin that they were as yet ignorant of as displeasing to God.