As the twig is bent the tree will grow; and as the child is trained the man will walk.
Therefore the twig must be securely tied in the position in which you would have it grow; and by the Word and by a rod the child must be kept in the way that the man should walk.
Does it not follow then that the grotesque stance of so much of society today reveals the type of training that the world has been practicing? One would say so, except for the fact that we have that other basic truth to remember and on which to base all of our observations of man’s behavior. As we pointed out before, man comes into this world bent from the position in which God created us and in which we should go. The worldly teacher, social worker, and often the preacher on the pulpit want to ignore this fact and philosophize as though it is not true; but it is an undeniable fact that causes all their efforts to reform man, and to solve the problems of the age to fail miserably. The tree became bent in Adam, and we may say hell-bent with all that which it implies. The way in which man began to walk after the fall was not an indefinite course that could turn somewhere along the way to heaven or to hell. It was directly towards hell, because it was directly away from God. It was the way of death, as God had stated, and then, not mere physical death but the everlasting death of hell.
Only in a relative sense can we speak of bending the unregenerated. We cannot bend them upright to face God again. We cannot point them once again to Him. They are doubled over in rigor mortis, the stiffness of death, and that of course means spiritual death. But that dead body can be swung around from one side to the other, from one evil to another. And you can train the spiritually dead into ways of darkness and wickedness in which they and the former generations had not gone, or to a degree further in that evil. And so you get a world of hell-bent branches, each helping to fill up the measure of iniquity.
We have come a long way from the days of Cain, of Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain, of Sodom and Gomorrah and of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Jude speaks of the ungodly walking in the way of Cain, of running greedily after the error of Balaam and of perishing in the gainsaying of Korah. The twig is bent, the whole tree is bent from the trunk in Adam to the last branch that appeared but yesterday. But those bent twigs can produce a variety of evil fruits and year by year bring forth bigger fruits as well. All are hell-bent; but there is a variety of fruits that they bring forth.
Take a look at the posture of today’s society!
All the twigs and branches are bent downward and away from the glory of God; but look at the hippies and yippies, the rioters in the field of labor and in the fields even of education! The older generation looks on with amazement, and some of the membership of this generation have said, “We did not know that we could do these things.” Well, in a way they could not, and yet in another they certainly could, and their very remark indicates that. They could not in the sense that the sin had not developed that far. Men did not have the courage to do the evil, to flaunt all authority and rule as they do today. The sinner has found that what he cannot do with impunity individually, he can pull off as a mob and that by sheer numbers he can put rule and authority to flight. The devil has taught long and well and produced some very clever graduates. More and more of these hell-bent branches are not stopping at the high school level of education in sin but going on to college and university, and then taking a few postgraduate courses as well. And they in turn are bending their children in the way that they ought not go. On the other hand they could have done these evils of riots and violent demonstrations years ago in the sense that they had the potential and the desire but not the proper circumstances and courage.
Let us not be so naive and silly as to speak of mere man overcoming sin. Sin has been steadily developing; and of late it has been developing with tremendously rapid strides. The most ungodly will see that and acknowledge that. The unbelievers are becoming mighty fearful. Areas of safety for them as well as for the Christian are becoming smaller and smaller. Perils from their fellowmen are increasing with every year. City curfews have to be blown at earlier hours of the night. Assassinations of men, whose names become known a little better than others, increase. The curse and fear of having a little extra money is the kidnapping and possible death of your children. Moral filth has permeated every stratum of society and its suggestive pictures and language are hard to avoid no matter where you go or what piece of printed matter you may pick up, or is sent to your home. And we need not say anything about the first table of the law. Unprintable words of cursing and swearing become the spice of today’s writing and speaking. Luxury and wealth, pleasure and the flesh are gods the world has placed before Jehovah and besides Him. The Sabbath is a holiday instead of a holy day. Men and lustful, seductive women are the idols of today’s teenagers and children not only but of men and women who worship at their altar, the TV set, every night with fervent devotion!
And by all means, then, let us not be so naive and foolish as to speak of a restraint of sin in the heart of the unregenerated by the Spirit. If that is the work of any kind of God’s grace, that grace is certainly losing its power, and man is going to overpower God in the end, at least for a time, until that grace of God wears so thin that it disappears, and then is replaced by so terrible a wrath that it banishes into hell these hell-bent branches! What? An unchangeable God’s grace of some sort turns, because of something the creature does, into wrath? The Unchangeable One is changed by a changeable creature? Certainly the truth of Scripture presents God as the absolutely Unchangeable One and confesses Him to be far beyond the reach of a mere creature to change or to move unto change.
Mere man will never bend the human race back to where it was when it came forth from the hands of God. All the universities of the world, all the rules and regulations of governments, all the culture and social revolutions among men are not going to change it at all. The whole human race is hell-bent and enjoys the position, even though some fear may be expressed about the end of the ride. Only God can reverse the order and bend us back to the upright position by His regenerating grace and the Spirit of His Upright Son. And then He takes us off that wild olive tree and engrafts us into Christ. The Good Olive Tree. Branches of the human tree whose root is Adam are hell-bent. Engrafted into Christ, the Second Adam, we are lifted upward both inwardly as far as our soul is concerned and presently with body and soul in the glory of heaven, when we walk the street of gold in the new Jerusalem.
We are reminded of that delightful passage in Canons, Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine, articles 11 and 12, which we underscore,” But when God accomplishes His good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, He not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them but powerfullyilluminates their minds by His Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit pervades the inmost recesses of man; He opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infusesnew qualities into the will which though heretoforedead, He quickens; from being evil, disobedient and refractory, He renders it good, obedient and pliable, actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruit of good actions. And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation: a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely. by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral suasion, or such mode of operation that after God has performed His part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the Author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly infallibly and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe.—Whereupon the will thus renewed is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence becomes itself active. Wherefore, also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received.”
Here is the hope of being delivered out of the hell-bent position. And did you note in that quotation above that the Spirit of God “softens the hardened heart”? That He infuses “new qualities into the, will, which though heretofore dead, He quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, He renders good, obedient and pliable”? There, is the word which we want! The hell-bent branch must indeed be made pliable before it can be bent into the upright position which expresses the way the child “should” go. It must be made soft and pliable, and God must do that. No spirit of man is going to do anything but swing that stiff branch around into another position of sin. Education apart from that “powerful and at the same time delightful” work of the Spirit in the heart is only going to produce more clever and skillful sinners. Look about you today and do not say that the church has become irrelevant. That is the same as saying that Christ has become irrelevant and has failed! Consider what the schools and universities teach, yea and even seminaries. You will find that they have no intention of bending the mind back to an upright position that glorifies God, but instead always advocate progress in that hell-bent position. And what else can you expect? Men hell-bent themselves, standing in the grotesque position of being bent over double to seek this world and their own glory cannot do anything else but bend the generation they teach in their own grotesque fashion. Pity the hippies and yippies? Maybe. But by all means pity the society that has produced them. The Dutch has an expression that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Well, look at that tree out of which these hippies and yippies, these revolutionists and rioters fell. Look at all its bent branches and understand. See that trunk and those roots and be wise as to what is the cause of all the corruption in the world.
And then do not become so foolishly squeamish that you dare not speak of hell-bent branches. But appreciate that regenerating grace of God that lifts you up out of this mire and makes you upright and heaven-bound and uniquely different. Rejoice that you may walk in His fear and need not fear that hell towards which the natural branches of the human race are bent. And show thankfulness by an upright walk.