A Portrait Of Sin
There are many descriptions of sin in the Bible. They are given in order to arouse the torpid mind, awaken the conscience, and save the soul from damnation.
The Bible is a mirror into which a man is urged to look and see his likeness. Or, better still, it contains a gallery of pictures showing the nature, progress and end of a life of sin. The desire of the Spirit is to lead the sinner down the line until He confronts him with an image of himself, and there cause him to be transfixed and cut to the heart with this sudden vision of his own moral likeness gazing at him from the verse or chapter.
There are many sad descriptions of sin in the Bible, with its attendant misery and resultant ruin. The words “asleep,” “lost,” “blind,” “deaf,” “dead,” are all Scriptural figures to illustrate the state of a man out of Christ. Any one of them should be sufficient to start a soul on its way to Jesus for salvation. Among these pictures the writer has found one in Isaiah which is unusually striking and solemnizing. In the verse we allude to five very fearful facts are stated about the man. One is that he has a “deceived heart.”
It does not say that he is deceiving any one, but has been deceived himself. It is a powerful and heartsickening description. The word “deceived” alone is a volume in itself. The arch-deceiver of course is the devil. That he is an adept in the work and makes a complete success of it among countless millions no spiritually illumined mind can doubt for a moment. The fact is that before a person can be brought into any kind of transgression he must first be deceived. Hell must be denied or put out of sight. The fact of sin paying wages or bearing fruit must be disputed or banished from the thoughts. Forms of pleasure must be shown trooping along every path of evil and waiting with smiles for the traveller to approach. No word is said to the dupe that when he overtakes these apparent fairies of delight they will suddenly be transformed into harpies and furies with mental whips and spirit scourges, to drive the victim frantic. All that and more is hidden from the blinded one who goes on in his stupidity to destruction and death.
We recall two instances of deception which we beheld when a youth that have often since recurred to the memory. One was the inmate of a lunatic asylum who fancied himself a great landed proprietor and railroad king. He spent most of the day in the corner of his room with a pencil and paper, drawing designs and plans of proposed valuable improvements, and the extension of his railway lines on his imaginary domains.
He is a fair picture of the sinner hoodwinked and fooled by the devil, his good sense stolen from him, dwelling on the coming pleasures and riches of a sinful life, that are as baseless and visionary as the wealth of the lunatic.
Another instance we remember was that of a young woman who was deceived by a young man. He had won her heart in sport, and was amusing himself with her, while he really loved another woman. We once saw them together when a lad at an entertainment given by a relative of the writer. She was hanging on his arm and gasping up into his face with a look of such devotion that we have never forgotten it in all these years. We recall also the smile he cast upon her, and yet he knew that in a month’s time she would be crushed at his public abandonment of her. If she could have read the heartbreaking future that night she would have fallen down senseless among the feet of the dancers among whom she was whirling with that glad uplifted face. We saw her afterwards when the blow came, and she sank under it before the eyes of the community. We do not remember ever to have seen her smile again.
So, if the beguiled soul could look up and see the awful leer of triumph that Satan is throwing upon it! If deluded men and women could only know how soon their hearts will be broken with the knowledge of a lifelong betrayal by the adversary, they might well be horrified. But as yet they fail to penetrate the deception and go on their blinded and beguiled way.
Another description of this character is found in the words “turned aside.”
This would indicate that the man had once been in the good way. He had started out all right, ran well for a season, and then, encountering the Deceiver in some form or manner, had been “turned aside.”
It is pitiable to see how many have been thus drawn away. They are to be beheld in every community and church. Their strength has been sapped in some manner, their locks shorn, and God is departed from them. Others are pressing eagerly onward and upward, while they first loitered, got to dallying with temptation, and finally stopped altogether. Like Amasa’s weltering body by the roadside, they attract a brief melancholy attention, and then the procession of life moves on and leaves them behind.
A third feature in the portrait is seen in the expression, “feedeth on ashes.”
The figure is tremendous. Think of a man actually eating ashes. Men would call to him and ask why he did such a foolish thing, and he would look up with a contemptuous smile and go on eating.
The thought contained in Isaiah’s simile is, that just as ashes is all improper diet, and utterly unable to meet and satisfy the demands of the body, so there are things in this world which a sin deluded man uses to satisfy the heart, that are as powerless to do what is desired as ashes to benefit the body.
There are many pursuits and pleasures in the world which to the spiritual life are as dry, juiceless, profitless, mocking and hurtful as ashes to the physical nature. The man with a deceived heart feeds upon them. We tell him that he is deceiving and wronging his soul, and he resents the remark or is amused at the interference, and goes on with his diet of ashes. We call attention of people to their spiritual state, to the starvation of their souls, to the utter inability of the literature they read, the social pleasures they indulge in, and pursuits they follow to satisfy and bless them. They listen curiously for a few moments and then quietly go on in the old employment of eating ashes.
The explanation of all this can be found in the “deceived heart.” The man is so deluded that he will not or cannot be convinced that what he is taking into his heart and soul is worse than profitless.
A fourth feature in the picture is contained in the words, “he cannot deliver his soul.”
The idea is that of moral paralysis. The spiritual nature has been so ignored, abused and perverted that it ceases to work or move in proper lines.
A remarkable thing said about sinners in the Bible is that they are “lost.” The man is still living, is in attendance upon the church doubtless, will live twenty years longer before he dies and falls into hell, and yet even now God says he is “lost.” He has reached a point where he will not and so cannot deliver his soul. This means he is lost.
A profound spiritual writer has observed that a man accustomed to falling into sin is already a lost man. Still clearer light can be thrown on the word “lost” by remembering what the soul is. In simple everyday language we say that the soul is that nature within us which possesses thought, feeling and will. When we observe the life of a sinner we notice that his thoughts are all of earth, God and heaven being entirely ignored or forgotten. His feelings or affections are confined to this world. Not a sensibility of his nature seems to be connected with the spiritual realms above. There seems to be nothing to lift him up or draw him heavenward. Instead, both in intellect and sensibility he is fettered to the earth. His will is completely without force or energy to do right. It has no movement in that direction. The trend and bent are toward evil. In a word, each one of the three departments or powers of his nature has learned to live without God; and in this dreadful fact we see that the man is lost. In this condition if a miracle of grace does not occur he is certain to be damned.
The final feature given in the verse is shown in the words, “nor say is there not a lie in my right hand.”
This is the crowning description of a lost man. He has a lie in his hand, and that, too, in his right hand, and yet he cannot say it is a lie.
In these words are crowded the facts of the loss of spiritual perception, departure of moral discrimination, and, worse still, speechlessness in regard to the very sins that may be ruining the soul.
We have seen people who have lapsed in the spiritual life drift into wrong habits, enter upon questionable pursuits and pleasures, and seem utterly unable to realize their sapping, deadening power. Others could see the “lie in the right hand,” but they could not, and even defended the life falsehood.
There seems to be hope for a man who admits that he is wrong, that the thing he is doing ought to be renounced; but when a man by persistence in wrongdoing loses the faculty of recognizing the moral quality of actions, and even defends that which is evil, he is unquestionably a lost man. This is beyond doubt a very sorrowful picture of a life, but it is true, for God drew it. We somehow feel that the touches of our pencil have not brought out the shadows as deep and dark as they are in the original. We can but trust that the man or woman who has drifted little or much from God will have their eyes directed by the Spirit of God to this portrait, feel that it is a likeness of the present self, or a prophecy of a coming life condition, and so be cut to the heart, and return unto the Lord, who will have mercy, and to our God, who will abundantly pardon.