The apostle was one having been brought under the quickening influence of the Spirit of God. The new principle of life presents itself to his consciousness as a law of the mind, that is, as a hallowed intelligent urge or compulsion, capable of delighting in and craving the law of God. However, the unhallowed urge of his being, he discovers, is still very much alive. It successfully launches an attack upon the sanctified law of his mind, and brings him into captivity of the law of sin. This is his great grief: “O wretched man that I am,” says he, “who will deliver me from the body of this death?” It must not be supposed that the above-cited scripture can be quoted in support of the view that the regenerated and sanctified one is not responsible for the sins of his carnal self. He is that indeed. For that which the apostle allows not, he nevertheless does. Of the thing not allowed, then, he is the thinking and willing subject. True, he does say, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” What is meant, however, is that he is being prevented from acting upon the holy impulses of the new man by the unhallowed urge of his being. It is plain that the apostle is one whose eyes were opened to the true character of man’s spiritual serfdom, and therefore was ready to admit that man by nature cannot will to do the right, he being carnal sold under sin; that, as to his carnal self, he is in full agreement with the master that set up his kingdom in his members. “For that which I do, I allow not.” Blessed is he who begins to show signs of being at odds with the sinful urge of his carnal self. Such a one is already essentially made free. For to be in the power of a master working the destruction of his victims is one thing. But to love this master, to go along with him arm in arm, to will that he sets the pace, to delight in the fact that the reins of government are in his hands, to not will to be delivered, is quite another thing. Such nevertheless is the state and disposition of the natural man.
It must not be supposed that the path of sin along which man is being driven on by the unclean urge of his soul, is invariably a path of the grossest kind of vice and intemperance. To the contrary, it may be and often is, as in the case of Paul before his conversion, a path of strict respectability and Pharisaic righteousness. In this case, the crave for vice may be dormant or if alive, denied. The predominant crave of such a one is a crave for a kind of righteousness such as man in his foolishness attempts to establish, a righteousness, which when analyzed, turns out to be stinking pride. But whether the path be one of respectability or vice, both paths lead to hell, and the one urge is as sinful, yea perhaps more so, than the other.
Man, then, in the sense just explained, is a servant of sin in contrast to the believer who is a servant of righteousness.
Enough has not been said, however. To be held captive by the corrupt impulses of nature or the law of sin implies the transgression, which should be defined as the lie, loved, absorbed and lived. The lived lie being at once the reverse of the truth, constitutes a violation of the Divine precept. How are the lie, the transgression and the foul heart of man related? And the answer is ready: The heart is the soil, the lie the seed and the transgression the plant or fruit. This imagery is sanctioned by Scripture. In the parable of the sower the sown seed is an emblem of the truth preached. The stony ground, the beaten path, the field of thorns and the good earth are so many descriptions of corresponding states or conditions of the human heart. The seed falling in good earth bears fruit, which in turn presupposes the plant. Attending to the interpretation of the parable, we discover that in the mind of Christ the earth images the heart, the seed the truth and the fruit together with the plant the deed which is the man. Let it be observed that seed not sown yields no fruit, nor earth devoid of seed. Fruit, then, is the outgrowth of soil and seed. So, too, do the good works of the saint constitute a mixture so to say of the truth and the man. Truth, therefore, is indispensable to the very appearance of the believer. So, too, the depraved sinner. His transgressions constitute a mixture of the lie and the man. The lie is as indispensable to his appearance and to his fruit bearing as the truth is to the appearance of the saint. As the seed feeds upon the soil, so the lie feeds upon the depraved man. And as the soil is absorbed by the seed, so the natural man is absorbed by the lie and converted into a tree bearing evil fruit—the transgression. The point is that sin as transgression can never be accounted for by a mere appeal to corrupt nature.
Scripture also links up the transgression with the law. Necessarily so, for the lie lived is transgression of law. Scripture even goes a step further and insists that the law occasions in man’s bosom all manner of fierce opposition to law. Says the apostle, “Nay I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet, but sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. But when the commandment came sin revived and I died. And the commandment which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. For sin taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me and by it slew me” (Rom. 7:7-12).
Paul, unaware of inert sin, reposing in his bosom, thought himself alive and, according to his own testimony, was wont to glory much in his self-established righteousness. The law came and the slumbering monster, awakened by its thunderings, bestirred itself. Paul, aware now of its presence, pronounces himself one dead and his self-established righteousness refuse. Should an infallible testimony of this kind not prove sufficient to silence those philosophers in our midst who insist that the keeping of the law by the carnal man constitutes a morality deserving to be called good? Though he may be living in some respects in outward agreement with the law, the depraved sinner as to the inward man is aflame with carnal indignation because of his being told by his Maker what shall be done.
By the law, then, is the knowledge of sin, and the transgression is the lie which, having taken root in man’s foul heart, is loved and lived. Man is enticed by his own lusts in conjunction with the lie. The lie, however, is not only the seed that draws into itself, so to speak, the entire man and converts him into a tree bearing evil fruit, but the lie, according to Scripture is in addition the very element in which this tree lives and thrives. The term lie we now use as the signification of that false thought-structure the nucleus of which was hatched out by the devil and whispered by him in man’s ear. Eat and be as God, said he. Man has been doing this very thing from the day of his fall. Setting aside the wisdom of God, man sets up his own standards of conduct, hatches out a world and life view according to his own liking and in conflict with the reality depicted in Holy Writ and therefore a lie—the darkness in which man walks and thrives in his capacity of sinner. Paul, so we wrote in a former article, in depicting the plight of the carnal man, compares him to one asleep, drunken with wine. “Therefore, let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night, and they that be drunken are drunken in the night” (I Thess. 5:1-7). The term sobriety of this passage signifies the spiritual alertness of the child of the light, respecting the things of the Spirit. He is one keenly aware of the approach of the day of the Lord. For such a one this day does not come as a thief in the night in that it is expected. The term drunkenness, on the other hand, is the signification of a carnal state of mind, characterized by an indifference to things that shall come to pass. Strong drink, if taken in sufficient quantities, stupefies man’s sensibilities. While in this state he is dull of mind so that the most startling discourses fail to impress him. He hears and sees yet fails to understand. So, too, does either the message of bliss or doom fail to arouse the spiritually diseased soul. The carnal man is dead to the things of the Spirit, and incapable of sensing and appreciating their value. To what may his lethargy be due? To a deep-seated hatred for all things holy. Hence, he stands with his back turned toward heaven, which as far as he is concerned does not exist.
Further, carnal man, having lost all contact with reality, is to be asleep and to be walking in darkness, that is, the lie. The pure light from heaven is an eye-sore to him. Shutting God out of the world and himself in it, he kindles a fire, compasses himself about with sparks, and walks in the light of his own fire and in the sparks he kindled, Isa. 50:11. The wicked one’s light is the truth of God changed into a lie, Rom. 1:25. The emanation of his own diseased heart and mind, it is the vehicle of a false, grotesque, distorted and incongruous image of actual existence, fact, truth, reality; a misrepresentation of God, of heaven and hell, of things earthy, of Christ and the cross, of man and his nature, origin, purpose and destiny, in short of all things. Yet the wicked one loves these fantastic images. Their sum total constitute the lie in which he revels, in which he lives and moves, which he clasps to his bosom and loves, and lives and in and by which he is made ripe for the day of judgment.
The term sin, then, is the expression servant of sin is an abstract designation of the appeasing of the carnal impulses, of the loving and living of the lie, and of the transgression of Divine law and truth so that to serve sin is to satisfy the cravings of debased self, to embrace and do the lie and to militate against law, truth and God. He doing so is a servant of sin and unrighteousness. As was already pointed out, carnal man cannot will to do anything else than to engage in this service.
If true freedom consists in abiding in one’s element—law, truth and God—the sinner is not free. For the element in which he moves and abides is not light but darkness, not God and law and truth, but the lie. Now man cannot abide in the lie and prosper or be truly free. For it (the lie) defileth the whole body, it kills, it setteth on fire the whole course of nature and is set on fire by hell. Loved and lived, it pitches one headlong against law, truth, fact, reality, God, so that he living the lie is closed in on, completely shut in, yea permeated by an angry God and His curse; hedged in on every side by law and divine wrath encountered at every juncture of the way, at every turn of the road. To live at enmity with the law is to be smitten by law. Not to have the law written on the tables of our heart is to experience its curse operative in our members. Man must serve truth or be persecuted, smitten and cast into hell by truth. The unhallowed lust clasping to its bosom the lie, bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death. Now to die is not to be separated from God, but from the God of love and mercy, to be brought in closest proximity with the God of wrath, the operations of which are described in Scripture as a constant and perpetual giving up to greater uncleanness and vile affections through the lusts of the wicked one’s own heart, so that God is seen to punish sin by sin. Divine wrath, then, necessitates more sin and sin, being transgression of the law, necessitates more wrath and death so that wrath and sin constitute the whirlpool by which man is drawn down ever deeper into the endless abyss of eternal death, into that region of eternal night where men weep and wail only. Further, the henchmen of sin are fear for God, and a great dissatisfaction. For the appeasing of the carnal lusts of nature leave an ever greater void in the soul of man, so that the sinner, serving the flesh, becomes, finally, the very personification of emptiness, incapable of being filled. As chaff caught up by the wind, he cannot come to rest for he refuses to rest in God. With lusts craving satisfaction, with his whole nature aflame, he disappears into hell where he will be begging forever, but in vain, for a drop of water to cool his parched tongue. These dark regions he will forever roam, with the terror of God in his heart, condemned by the voice of conscience, and, as a companion of Satan, cursing the Almighty for the woe which is his just portion, and forevermore receiving in an ever greater degree the recompense of his sins in his being. Such is the terrible state opposed to that blessed reality known in Scripture as eternal life and called the glorious liberty of the children of God.
What then is it to be made free? To be made free is to be delivered from sin, curse, wrath, Satan, the world, death, grave and hell; and to be brought in closest contact with divine love and mercy. It is to be drawn by grace from darkness to light; to be transported from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. To be made free is to be taken from under the yoke of the devil and to be harnessed with the soft life-giving and life-preserving yoke of Christ. To be free, finally, is to have done with sin, and to serve the cause of truth, and righteousness and God. What then is true liberty? True liberty is to abide in the light, to dwell in God’s temple and behold, with purged and glorified sense organs God’s blessed face; to have Him as a friend, and the great void of one’s being filled by the streams of grace flowing from His throne. The liberation of the sinner is Christ’s work. He only can save us from all our sins; deliver us from the forces of iniquity and place in our possession that pearl of priceless value, that undefiled inheritance preserved for us in heaven. If the Son hath made us free, we are truly free.
The secret of true liberty is not known by the carnal man. To him freedom spells lawlessness, independency, or he associates it with a certain form of government—such as democracy and imagines that all is well when the earthly tyrant has been made to abdicate. He forgets, however, that the same leaven responsible for the appearance of this tyrant is lurking in his own bosom and in the bosom of that majority to whom he must submit. The secret, then, of all true liberty—individual, social, religious, political, and ecclesiastical—is godliness, purity of heart, so that that great family born of God will be free in every conceivable respect. There is no tyrant in heaven bent on enslaving his victims. Christ, who loved unto death those given Him by the Father, will lead his sheep forever. There will be social liberty in heaven in that heaven’s doors remain closed forever to him bent on the destruction of his neighbor. There will be religious liberty in heaven, for there the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the bottom of the sea. In a word, the Father’s house is a home of true liberty.