The Remainder Of Iniquity
There is a universal consciousness of something of a troublesome and afflicting nature left in a regenerated heart. This something many have agreed to call inbred or inbeing sin. Others call it the “remains of sin.” This last expression, if not explained, is apt to be misleading. The idea naturally conveyed by such a term is that regeneration destroyed the greater part of the sinful nature of the individual, but left various scraps, tendencies, and things of that kind. It sounds as if an animal had been killed and taken away, with the exception of his horns, hoofs, and some pieces of skin and hair. The expression “remains of sin,” unless explained, is apt to convey the idea of a partial regeneration, when Scripture and experience both agree as to a complete regeneration.
The query arises in the mind: Why should there be “remains” left in this work? If some engine or agent of power can destroy the bones, muscles, and viscera of an ox, why not the horns, hoofs, and hair? If regeneration changes me, why should a sinful nature which is called remains of sin be left in us? If we are careful to teach two kinds of Sin, the one personal and the other inherited, a wickedness acquired and a depravity received at birth, light will begin to dawn upon the mind. Justification and regeneration deal with personal sin and guilt, and sanctification with inherited depravity.
Of course the objection will be raised as to what regeneration does, if the carnal mind is left. The answer is that regeneration, according to the meaning of the word, is life implanted in a dead soul; and this life may be planted in the face of something else, as a rose can grow in the same clod with a weed. The blunder made by the objector is in making regeneration mean purity, when it really means life.
Another objection urged is that if we are born of the Spirit then we are spiritual, and how can we be carnal? But the Scripture answers this by plainly teaching that in the regenerated life we are both carnal and spiritual. This was said of the Galatian church which had the “flesh” (carnal mind ) and the “Spirit” lusting against each other in their hearts. The same thing is stated in regard to the Corinthians whom Paul designates as “babes in Christ,” hence born of God, but adds, “ye are carnal.”
This dark, troubling something within us is not the remains of our actual sins and personal guilt, but the inherited bias to sin or evil nature with which we began life. It is something that cannot be pardoned, hence is not susceptible of regeneration. It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, and so awaits not an impartation of life, but a movement of destruction and death. For lack of a better name the Church calls it inbred sin. In the caption of this chapter we call it the “Remainder of Iniquity,” which is the true translation of James i. 21, rendered by King James translation “superfluity of naughtiness.”
Inbred sin is in us all at birth. We are not to be condemned for this, and are not. It is not our fault, but our misfortune, that we enter life with original sin or a bent to evil in us.
According to Paul, in Romans, justification unto life is brought to the race through Christ. If we coming from childhood into years of accountability realize condemnation, it is not for inbred sin, but for our actual transgressions. Every child, then, is born in a justified relation to God, but enters the world with inbred sin. If the child dies in early life. the one work of the Spirit is to sanctify it, or destroy inbred sin, as the child has done nothing to need pardon.
If the child lives to years of accountability, according to all human observation and experience, two things happen: one is that actual or personal sin is committed, and the other that an acquired wickedness is added to the inherited depravity. No one who observes and thinks a moment will deny this. We by our sinful courses deepen the malady within, give additional twists to the crooked nature, and by a series of misdoings add to the dark stock of trade in the soul. This last is an acquired wickedness or evil bent. For this last we are alone accountable.
With this burden of actual transgressions and acquired evil we come to God with repentance and faith in Christ, asking for pardon and salvation. In the work of justification and regeneration we obtain the remission of these personal sins, and the washing away of personal guilt, the rectifying of the moral wrong we have done to ourselves and the implanting of the divine life in the soul.
Something is left. That something, according to Paul, is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” He calls it the carnal mind. If this is so, then regeneration did not change it. It is overshadowed, overpowered by a mightier life, but is itself not susceptible of the regenerating grace of God. It awaits another divine work, not of regeneration or life, but of sanctification or death. It is a nature that cannot be pardoned, cannot be justified, and hence cannot be regenerated; for justification must precede regeneration in the kingdom of grace. It is not subject to the law of God–” neither, indeed can be.” It is hopelessly condemned. It is to die, to be crucified, burned out with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and destroyed. But regeneration is neither crucifixion, the baptism of fire, nor destruction; it is a birth and life.
To make the matter plainer, we use a simple illustration. A boy starts to roll up a big ball of snow, by taking a large rock or chunk of wood to begin with. In a little while it becomes huge with its additions and accumulations. Now put this ball under the sudden dash of a waterfall, and the snow all at once disappears, but the original rock or chunk is left. So we start out with inbred sin at birth. In a few years we add to it by our own misdeeds. What a dark life we soon roll up! Under the “washing of regeneration” all these personal sins and acquired evil are swept away; but inbred sin, the original rock or chunk is left; and let men say what they will, they all feel that it is there.
Now, as we said a few paragraphs back, we are not condemned for inbred sin at our birth. No man is sent to hell because of what Adam did to him and in him, but for what he did himself. But while this is so, yet when God reveals to us this inbred or original sin remaining in us, and shows the way of deliverance, then from that moment we become responsible for its existence in our souls. In a sense our sheltering it in our hearts becomes a personal sin, and we are in danger of going into shadow and condemnation.
To illustrate this responsibility we bring forward a case. Suppose a keg of powder has been placed under a man’s house and right beneath the hearth where a fire is burning, but he is ignorant of its presence there. After awhile a coal drops upon the keg, burns its way through the top, and there is a terrible explosion, in which the man’s family is destroyed. Fearful as is the occurrence, no one condemns the man. But suppose he had been told that the keg of powder was there, and he saw it for himself in its proximity to the fire, and went away without removing it. Then, when the explosion took place and his family were killed, everybody would condemn him and say that he was a guilty man.
He who is born with inbred sin is not regarded as being guilty for that, because another hand, so to speak, placed it there. But when God, by his Spirit, reveals the evil nature, its danger and the way of deliverance, and the man fails to seek and secure the deliverance provided for and offered him, then does he become a guilty man and is to be condemned both by men and God.
Here, then, is the “remains of sin.” Not the remains of personal transgressions, for they are all pardoned. Not the remains of personal guilt, for that is all washed away in regeneration. Not fragments of tempers, thoughts, and desires that the grace and power of God could not altogether manage or dispose of–that would teach a partial regeneration. Not the remains of sin at all in these senses, but the “remainder of iniquity” that carnal mind, with which we entered the world, which is unsusceptible of regeneration, and which, therefore, is left in the regenerated heart, overshadowed, overpowered indeed, by the grace of God, but still there, and awaiting that death and destruction which comes in sanctification.