THE DOCTRINE OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY
by A.W. Pink
The theology of the last century has failed lamentably at two essential points, namely its teaching concerning God and its teaching concerning fallen man. As an Australian writer recently expressed it, "On the one hand, they have not ascended high enough . . . on the other hand, they do not descend low enough." God is infinitely greater and His dominion far more absolute and extensive, and man has sunk much lower and is far more depraved than they will allow. Consequently a man's conduct unto his Maker is vastly more evil than is commonly supposed. Its horrible hideousness cannot really be seen except in the light supplied by Holy Writ. Sin is infinitely more vile in its nature than any of us realize. Men may acknowledge that they sin, but it appears sin to very, very few. Sin was the original evil. Before it entered the universe there was no evil: "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Sin is the greatest of all evils. There is nothing in it but evil, nor can it produce anything but evil now, in the future, or forever. As soon as sin was conceived, all other evils followed in its train.
We may take a survey of everything in and on the earth, and we cannot find anything so vile as sin. The basest and most contemptible thing in this world has some degree of worth in it, as being the workmanship of God. But sin and its foul streams have not the least part of worth in them. Sin is wholly evil, without the least mixture of good - vileness in the abstract. Its heinousness appears in the author of it: "He that committeth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning" (I John 3:8) sin is his trade, and he is the incessant practitioner of it. Sin's enormity is seen in what it has done to man: it has completely ruined his nature and brought him under the curse of God. Sin is the source of all our miseries: all unrighteousness and wretchedness being its fruits. There is no distress of the mind, no anguish of the heart, no pain of the body, but it is due to sin. All the miseries which mankind groan under today are to be ascribed to sin. It is the cause of all penal evils: "Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee: this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart" (Jer. 4:18). Had there been no sin, there had been no wars, no national calamities, no prisons, no hospitals, no insane asylums, no cemeteries! Yet who lays these things to heart?
Sin assumes many garbs, but when it appears in its nakedness it is seen as a black and misshapen monster. How God Himself views it may be learned from the various similitudes used by the Holy Spirit to set forth its ugliness and loathsomeness. He has compared it with the greatest deformities and the most filthy and repulsive objects to be met with in this world. Sin is likened to the scum of a seething pot, wherein a detestable carcass is being destroyed (Ezek. 24:11, 12); to the blood and pollution of a newly born child, before it is washed, salted and swaddled (Ezek. 16:4, 6); to a dead and rotting body (Rom. 7:24); to the noisome stench and poisonous exhalations which issue from the mouth of an open sepulchre (Rom. 3:13); to the image of the Devil (John 8:44); to putrefying sores (Isa. 1:5, 6). To a menstruous cloth (Isa. 30:22), (Lam. 1:17); to a canker or gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17); to the dung of filthy creatures (Phil. 3:8); to the vomit of a dog and the wallowing of a sow in the stinking mire (2 Peter 2:22). Such comparisons show us something of the vileness and horribleness of sin, yet in reality it is beyond all comparison.
There is a far greater malignity in sin than is commonly supposed, even by the great majority of church members. Men regard it as an infirmity, and term it a "human frailty" or "hereditary weakness." But Scripture calls it "an evil thing and bitter" (Jer. 2:19), an abominable thing which God hates (Jer. 44:4). Few people think it to be so: rather do the great majority regard it as a mere trifle, as a matter of so little moment that they have but to cry in the hour of death, "Lord, pardon me; Lord, bless me," and all will be eternally well with them. They judge sin by the opinion of the world. But what can the world which "lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19) know about God's hatred of sin! It matters nothing what the world thinks, but it matters everything what God says thereon. Others measure the guilt of sin by what conscience tells them or fails to! But conscience needs informing by the Bible. Many of the heathen put their female children and old folk to death, and conscience chided them not. A deadened conscience has accompanied multitudes to Hell without any voice of warning. So little filth do they see in sin that tens of thousands of religionists imagine that a few tears will wash away its stain. So little criminality do they perceive in it that they persuade themselves that a few good works will make full reparation for it.
That all comparisons fail to set forth the horrible malignity which there is in that abominable thing which God hates appears in the fact that we can say nothing more evil of sin than to term it what it is: "but sin, that it might appear sin" (Rom. 7:13). "Who is like unto Thee, O LORD?" (Exo. 15:11). When we say of God that He is God we say all that can be said of Him. "Who is a God like unto Thee" (Micah 7:18). We cannot say more good of Him than to call Him God. So we cannot say more evil of sin than to say it is sin. When we have called it that, we have said all that can he said of it. When the Apostle would put a descriptive epithet to sin, he invested it with its own name: "that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful' (Rom. 7:13). That was the worst he could say of it, the ugliest name he could give it - just as when Hosea denounced the Ephraimites for their idolatry: "so shall Bethel do unto you because of the evil of your evil" (10:15 margin). The Prophet could not paint their wickedness in any blacker colour than to double the expression.
The hideousness of sin can be set forth no more impressively than in the terms used by the Apostle in Romans 7:13. "That sin . . . might become exceeding sinful" is a very forcible expression. It reminds us of similar words used by him when magnifying that glory which is yet to be revealed in the saints, and with which the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared, namely "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." No viler name can be found for sin than its own. "If we speak of a treacherous person, we call him a Judas: if of Judas, we call him a devil; but if of Satan, we want a comparison, because we can find none that is worse than himself: we must therefore say, as Christ did, 'when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.' It was thus with the Apostle when speaking of the evil of his own heart: 'that sin by the commandment might become" - what? He wanted a name worse than its own: he could find none: he therefore unites a strong epithet to the thing itself, calling it 'exceeding sinful' "(Andrew Fuller).
There are four great evils in sin: the total absence of the moral image of God, the transgression of His just Law, obnoxiousness to His holiness, separation from Him entailing the presence of positive evil, guilt which cannot be measured by any human standard, defilement the most repulsive, and misery inexpressible. Sin contains within it an infinite evil, for it is committed against a Being of infinite glory, unto whom we are under infinite obligations. Its odiousness appears in that fearful description, "filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness" (James 1:21), which is an allusion to the brook Kidron, into which the garbage of the temple sacrifices and other vile things were cast (2 Chron. 29:16). Its hatefulness to God is seen in His awful curse upon the workmanship of His own hands, for He would not anathematize man for a trifle. If He does not afflict willingly, then most certainly He would not curse without great provocation. The virulence and vileness of sin can only be gauged at Calvary, where it rose to the terrible commission of Deicide: at the Cross it "abounded" to the greatest possible degree. The demerits of sin are seen in the eternal damnation of sinners in Hell, for the indescribable sufferings which Divine vengeance will then inflict upon them are its righteous wages.
Sin is a species of atheism, for it is the virtual repudiation of God; to make of God no God, to set up our wills against His: "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?" (Exo. 5:2). It is a malignant spirit of independence: whether imperceptibly influencing the mind or consciously present, it lies at the root of all evil and human depravity. Man would be lord of himself, hence his ready reception, at the beginning, of the Devil's lie, "Ye shall be as gods," and his credence thereof was the dissolution of that tie which bound the creature in willing subjection to the Author of his being. Thus sin is really the denial of our creaturehood, and in consequence, a rejection of the rights of the Creator. Its language is, "I am: I am my own, and therefore have I the right to live unto myself." As Thornwell pointed out, "Considered as the renunciation of dependence upon God, it may be called unbelief; as the exaltation of itself to the place of God, it may he called pride: as the transferring to another object the homage due to the Supreme, it may be called idolatry; but in all these aspects the central principle is one and the same.
An atheist is not only one who denies the existence of God, but also one who fails to render unto God that honour and subjection which are His due. Thus there is a practical atheism as well as a theoretical one. The former obtains wherever there is no genuine respect for God's authority and no concern for His glory. There are many who entertain theoretical notions in their heads of the Divine existence, yet whose hearts are devoid of any affection to Him. And that is now the natural condition of all the fallen descendants of Adam. Since there be "none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11), it follows that there are none with any practical sense of His excellency or His claims. The natural man has no desire for communion with God, for he places his happiness in the creature. He prefers everything before Him and glorifies everything above Him. He loves his own pleasures more than God. His wisdom being "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15), the celestial and Divine are outside of his consideration. This appears in man's works, for actions speak louder than words. Our hearts are to be gauged by what we do, and not by what we say. Our tongues may be great liars, but our deeds tell the truth, showing what we really are.
How little is it recognized and realized that all outward impieties are the manifestations of an inward atheism! Yet such is indeed the case. As all bodily sores are evidences of the impurity of our blood, so our actions demonstrate the corruption of our natures. Therefore is sin so often termed ungodliness: "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 14, 15). How vain it is, then, to deny atheism in the heart when there is so much of it in this life! Here too the tree is known by its fruits. As an active and operative principle in the soul, sin is the virtual assertion not only of self-sufficiency, but also of self-supremacy. Rightly did Stephen Charnock point out, "Those therefore, are more deserving of being termed atheists who acknowledge a God and walk as if there were none, than those (if there can be any such) that deny God, and walk as if there were one." To the writings of that eminent Puritan we are also indebted for part of what precedes and part of what follows.
As all virtuous actions spring from a due acknowledgment of God, so all vicious actions take their rise from a lurking denial of Him. He who makes no conscience of sin has no regard to the honour of God: and consequently none to His being. This is clear from that declaration, "By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil" (Prov. 16:6), for it clearly follows that it is in the absence of any awe of Him that they rush into evil. Every sin is all invading of the rights of God. When we transgress His laws we repudiate His sovereignty. When we lean unto our own understanding and set up reason as the guide of our actions, we despise His wisdom. When we think to find happiness in gratifying our lusts, we slight His excellence and deem His goodness insufficient to satisfy our hearts. When we commit those sins in secret which we would be ashamed to do in public, we virtually deny both His omniscience and omnipresence. When we lean upon the arm of flesh or put our trust in the means, we disbelieve His power. Sin is called a turning the back upon God (Jer. 32:33), a kicking against Him (Deut. 32:15), i.e., a treating of Him with the utmost contempt.
People do not like to regard themselves as practical atheists. No, they entertain a much better opinion of themselves than that. They pride themselves on possessing far too much intelligence to harbour so degrading an idea that there is no God. Instead they are persuaded that creation clearly evidences a Creator. But no matter what their intellectual beliefs may be, the fact remains that they are secret atheists. He who disowns the authority of God disowns His Godhead. It is the unquestionable prerogative of the Most High to have dominion over His creatures, to make known His will unto them, and to demand their subjection thereto. But their breaking of His bands and their casting away of His cords from them (Psa. 2:3) are a practical rejection of His rule over them. Practical atheism, my reader, consists of an utter contempt of God, a conducting of ourselves as though there were none infinitely above us, who has an absolute right to govern us - to whom we must yet render a full account of all that we have done and left undone, and who will then pronounce sentence of eternal judgment upon us.
The natural man renders that homage to himself which is due alone unto God. When he obtains something which makes him glitter in the eyes of the world, how happy is he, for they "receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only" (John 5:44). They dote upon their own accomplishments and acquisitions, but delight not in the Divine perfections. They think highly of themselves, but contemptuously of others. They compare themselves with those lower than themselves, instead of with those above. He who deems himself worthy of his own supreme affection regards himself as being entitled to the supreme regard of his neighbours. Yet it is nothing but self-idolatry to magnify ourselves to the virtual forgetfulness of the Creator. When self-love wholly possesses us, we usurp God's prerogative by making self our chief end. This consuming egotism appears again in man's proneness to ascribe his achievements unto his own virtue, strength and skill, instead of unto Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" (Dan. 4:30). God smote Herod for not giving Him the glory when instead of rebuking the people he accepted their impious adulations.
The same profane spirit is evidenced by man's envying the endowments and prosperity of others. Cain was angry with God, and hated and slew Abel, because his brother's offering was received and his own refused. Since it be God who assigns unto each his portion, to look with such a grudging eye upon that enjoyed by our fellows has much of practical atheism in it. It is an unwillingness for God to be the proprietor and distributor of His favours as He pleases. It is assuming the right to direct the Creator what He shall bestow upon His creatures, and a denial of His sovereignty to give more unto one than to another. God disposes of His benefits according to the counsel of His own will, but vain man thinks he could make a better distribution of them. This sin is to imitate that of Satan's, who was dissatisfied with the station which the Most High had allotted him (Isa. 14:12-14). It is a desiring to assume unto ourselves that right which the Devil lyingly asserted was his - to give the kingdoms of this world to whom he would. Thus would man have the Almighty degrade Himself to the satisfying of his whims, rather than His own mind.
There is in fallen man a disinclination unto any acquaintance with God's rule. He hates instruction and casts His words behind his back (Psa. 50:17). God has revealed unto man the great things of His Law, but they are counted as a strange thing (Hosea 3:12). What He accounts valuable they despise. The very purity of the Divine Rule renders it obnoxious to an impure heart. "Water and fire may as well kiss each other, and live together without quarreling and hissing, as the holy will of God and the unregenerate heart of a fallen creature" (Charnock). Not only is man's darkened understanding incapable of perceiving the excellency of God's commandments, but there is a disposition in his will which rises up against it. When any part of God's revealed will is made known to men, they endeavour to banish it from their thoughts: they like not to retain God in their knowledge (Rom. 1:28), and therefore do they resist the strivings of the Spirit unto an obedient compliance (Acts 7:51). How can a fleshly mind relish a spiritual Law? Since the palate of man be corrupted, Divine things are unsavoury to him, and forever remain so until his taste be restored by Divine grace.
The same atheistic spirit is seen again in man's denials of Divine providence. They will not allow that God presides over this scene, directing all its affairs, shaping the circumstances of each of our lives. Rather do they ascribe their lot to fortune or fate, to good or ill "luck." Even where intellectually convinced to the contrary, they continually quarrel with God's governing of this world, and particularly with His dealings with them. Whenever His will crosses theirs, they rebel and rave. Yes, if our plans be thwarted, how fretful are we! Men appraise themselves highly, and are angry if God appears not to value them at the same rate - as if their estimation of themselves were more accurate than His. What an evidence of practical atheism is this, that, instead of meekly submitting to God's will and adoring His righteousness, we proclaim Him as an unjust Governor, and demand that His wisdom be guided by our folly, and asperse Him rather than ourselves!
What proof is the whole of the foregoing of the fearful enormity of human depravity!
We have shown that the heart of the natural man is filled with a secret and unsuspected, yet a real and practical, spirit of atheism: that whatever theological notions he may hold, by his attitude and conduct he repudiates the very being of God. Even that fearful aspect of man's state does not fully express the desperate and deplorable condition to which the Fall has reduced him. Not only is he living in this world "without God" (Eph. 2:l2) without any due acknowledgment of or practical subjection to Him -but he has a disposition which is directly contrary to Him. With no desire for communion with the true God, he devises false gods and is devoted to them - mammon, pleasures, his belly. Fallen man has cast off all allegiance to God and set up himself in open and undisguised opposition to Him. Not only has he no love for God, but his very nature is wholly averse to Him. Sin has wrought in the whole of his being a radical antipathy to God: to His will and ways, for Divine things are holy and heavenly, and therefore bitter to his corrupt taste. He is alienated from God - inveterately opposed to Him. As an operative principle in the soul, sin is virtually the assertion of self-sufficiency and self-supremacy, and thus it cannot but produce opposition to God. Sin is not only the negation but the positive contrary of holiness, and therefore it can bear naught but antagonism to the Holy One. He who affirms and asserts himself must deny and resist God. The Divine claims are regarded as those of its rival: God is looked upon as an enemy, and the carnal mind is enmity against Him; and enmity is not simply the absence of love - a condition of mere indifference - but is a principle of repugnance and virulent resistance. Hence as Owen said (Indwelling Sin, chapter 4): "Sin's proper formal object is God. It hath, as it were, that command from Satan which the Assyrians had from their king: 'fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.' It is neither great nor small, but God Himself the King of Israel, that sin sets itself against. There lies the secret, the formal reason of all opposition to good, even because it relates unto God . . . The law of sin makes not opposition to any duty, but to God in every duty." Thus sin is nothing less than high treason against the absolute sovereignty of God.
Terrible beyond words is it that any creature of His hands should harbour enmity against such a glorious being as the great God. He is the sum of all excellency, the source of all good, the spiritual and moral Sun of the universe. And yet fallen man is not only His enemy, but his very mind is "enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). Enemies may be reconciled, but enmity cannot be; yea, the only way to reconcile enemies is to destroy their enmity. In Romans 5:10, the Apostle spoke of enemies being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, but when he makes reference to enmity he says, "having abolished in His flesh the enmity" (Eph. 2:15): there is no other way of getting rid of enmity except by its abolition or destruction. Now enmity operates along two lines: aversion and opposition - God is detested and resisted. Sin brings us into God's debt (Matt. 6:12) and this produces aversion of Him. As debtors hate the sight of their creditors and are loath to meet them, so do they who are unable to meet the just claims of God - exemplified at the beginning, when fallen Adam fled as soon as he heard the voice of his Maker.
Sin is a disease which has ravaged the whole of man's being, rendering God obnoxious to him. As an inflamed eye cannot endure the light, the depraved heart of man cannot endure to look upon God. He has a deeply rooted and inveterate detestation for Him, and therefore against everything that is of Him. The more spirituality there is in anything, the more it is disliked by the natural man. That which has most of God in it is the most unpalatable to him. Concerning those in whom enmity is most dominant, God says, "Ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof" (Prov. 1 :25) not simply this or that part of His revealed will was unacceptable to them, but the whole thereof. This enmity is universal in its manifestations. Not only is the unregenerate heart indisposed to all holy duties, finding them irksome and burdensome, but it hates God's Law and rejects His Christ. It abuses His mercies, despises the riches of His goodness and longsuffering. It mocks His messengers, resists His Spirit, flouts His Word, and persecutes those who bear His image. Those at enmity with God serve His adversary the Devil, and are heartily in love with that world of which he is prince.
Enmity is a principle which ever expresses itself by opposition against its object. It contends with what it loathes: as in the regenerate the flesh lusts against the spirit, so in the unregenerate it fights against God. Enmity is the energy behind every sinful act. Though the interests of particular sins may be contrary to one another, yet they all conspire in a joint league against God Himself. As an able expositor expressed it, "Sins are in conflict with one another: covetousness and profligacy, covetousness and intemperance agree not. But they are one in combining against the interest of God. In betraying Christ, Judas was actuated by covetousness; the high priest by envy, Pilate by popularity: but all shook hands together in the murdering of Christ. And those varied iniquities were blended together to make up one lump of enmity" (Part 2, p.522, by W. Jenkyn on Jude, 1665). Though there be not in all sins an express hatred of God, nevertheless, in every sin there is an implicit and virtual hatred against Him. So deeply rooted is man's enmity that neither the most tender expostulations nor the direst threats will allay it. God may entreat, but men will not heed: He may chastise, but as soon as He lifts His rod they, like Pharaoh, are as defiant as ever.
The language of men's hearts and lives unto God is, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways" (Job 21:14). Hence man is compared to a wild ass in the wilderness, that "snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure," rather than come under the yoke of God (Jer. 2:24). Fearfully was that fact exemplified all through the long history of Israel, and the carriage of that people was but a reflection and manifestation of the nature of all mankind, for "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man" (Prov. 27:19). The exercise of this enmity is continued without interruption from the very beginning of man's days to the end of his unregenerate life (Gen.125 6:5). It varies not at all, ever being consistent with itself. Never does sin call a truce or lay down the weapons of its rebellion, but persists in its active hostility to God. Then if Divine grace works not a miracle in subduing such enmity and planting in the heart a contrary principle which opposes the same, what must be the doom of such creatures? "Thinkest thou this, O man . . that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" (Rom. 2:3). Vain imagination. Christ will yet say, "Those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before Me" (Luke 19:27).
But so far from owning that they hate God, the vast majority will not only vehemently deny it, but affirm that they respect and love Him. Yet if their fancied love be analyzed, it will be found to have respect only to their own interests. While one concludes that God is favourable and lenient with him, he entertains no hard thoughts against Him. So long as he deems God to be prospering him, he bears Him no ill will. He hates not God as One who confers benefits, but as a Sovereign, Lawgiver, Judge. He will not yield to His government or take His Law as the rule of his life, and therefore does he dread His tribunal. The only God against whom the natural man is not at enmity is one of his own imagination. The deity whom he professes to worship is not the living God, for He is truth and faithfulness, holiness and justice, as well as being gracious and merciful. The soul of man is a complete stranger to holiness, even when his head be bowed in the house of prayer. But God is not deceived by any verbal acknowledgments or external homage: "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me" (Matt. 15:8). It is a god of their own devising and not the God of Holy Writ they believe in. It is an awful delusion to fancy they admire God's character while refusing His Son to reign over them.
This enmity against God is seen in man's insubordination to the Divine Law. That is the particular indictment which is made against him in Romans 8, for in proof of the statement that "to be carnally inclined is death," the Apostle declared, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God," and then added by way of demonstration, "for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." It should be quite evident that that final clause was not brought in by way of extenuation (for that had greatly weakened his argument), but instead to give added force unto the awful fact just affirmed. A servant who performs not his master's bidding may or may not be guilty of revolt. He cannot be so charged if the task assigned be altogether beyond his physical powers (the absence of eyesight, or the loss of a limb, or the infirmities of old age); but if nothing but moral perversity (a spirit of malice and defiance) prevents the discharge of his duty, then he is most certainly guilty of open revolt. When we are told that the brethren of Joseph "hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him" (Gen. 37:4, 5), so far from excusing their evil conduct, that only intensified it - they bore him so much ill will as to be morally incapable of treating him amicably.
Such is the inability of fallen man to be in subjection to God's Law. Originally made upright, created in the Divine image, given a nature in perfect harmony with God's statutes, endowed with faculties both mental and moral which fully capacitated him to meet their requirements, he is now so hostile to his Maker as to be thoroughly averse to His government, so that he cannot but cherish what He abominates. Our respect for God is judged by our conformity to His Law. As love unto God is to be gauged by obedience (John 14:21), so is hatred of Him both measured and manifested by disobedience (Deut. 5:9, 10). The natural man knows that God opposes the gratification of his corrupt desires, and because His Law prohibits the indulging of his lusts with that freedom and security which he covets, he hates Him. God commands that which he loathes, and forbids what he longs after. Consequently, man's warfare against God is a double one: defensive and offensive. Defensively, he slights His Word, perverts His gifts, resists the motions of His Spirit (Acts 7:51). Offensively, he employs all his members and faculties as weapons of unrighteousness against God (Rom. 6:13). To slight and resist the Divine Law is to hold God Himself in contempt, for the Law is an expression of His goodness, the transcript of His righteousness, the image of His holiness.
Here, then, is the ground of the enmity of the carnal mind: it is not subject to the Law of God. "The secret is now revealed. God is the moral Governor of the universe. Oh, this is the casus belli between Him and the sinner! This constitutes the real secret of his fall, inveterate hostility to the Divine being. The question at issue is: who shall govern - God or the sinner? The non-subjection of the carnal heart to God's Law - its rebellion against the Divine government - clearly indicates the side of this question which the carnal mind takes. You may, my reader, succeed in reasoning yourself into the belief that you admire, adore, and love God as your Creator and Benefactor, and only feel a repugnance, and manifest an opposition to Him as a Lawgiver. But this is impossible in fact, however specious it may be in theory.. . God's nature and His office, His person and His throne, are one and inseparable. No individual can possibly be a friend to the being of God, who is not equally friendly to His government. Why is the moral Law offensive to the carnal mind? Because of the holiness of its nature and the strictness of its requirements. It not only takes cognizance of external actions, but it touches the very springs of action, the motives that lie concealed in the human heart and regulate the life. It demands supreme affection and universal obedience. To this the carnal mind demures" (O. Winslow).
Alas, there are multitudes today, even in so-called Christian countries, who are almost totally ignorant of even the terms of God's Law - so intense is the darkness that has settled upon us. The majority of those who have been brought up under a knowledge of the Law, so far from valuing such a privilege, despise the same. The language of their hearts against God's faithful servants is that which Israel used of old unto His Prophet: "As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee" (Jer. 44:16). They "refused to walk in His law" (Psa. 78:10). They had rather be their own rulers than God's subjects, and thereby guide themselves to destruction, than be directed by Him to blessedness. They desire unbridled liberty and will not tolerate the restraints of a command which checks them. Whatever compliance there may be - for the sake of respectability - to any Divine precept which forbids a gross outward sin, the heart still rises up against the more spiritual part of the law which requires inward purity. The more man's inward corruptions be curbed and condemned, the more is he enraged. Therefore not only does God charge him with despising His judgments (precepts), but says that his soul abhors His statutes (Lev. 26:43).
The contrariety there is between man and God appears in an unwillingness that His Law should be observed by any. Not satisfied with being a rebel himself, he would have God left without any loyal subjects in the world, and therefore does he employ both temptations and threats to induce his fellows to follow his evil example: now painting the pleasures of sin in glowing colours, then sneering at and boycotting those who have any scruples. Ordinarily the workers of iniquity consider such as walk with God to be freaks and fools, and take delight in railing at them (1 Peter 4:4). Yet it is not because the righteous have wronged them in any way, but that the wicked hate them because they refuse to have fellowship with them in defying God. What proof is this of their awful enmity: not only are they themselves angry at God's laws, but they cannot bear to see anyone else respecting them. Thus the Apostle, after enumerating some of the vilest abominations, brought this indictment against the Gentiles, that they "not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom. 1 :32) delighting in accomplishing the downfall of their fellows.
Another form taken by man's enmity is his manufacturing of false gods. Though this act be not so palpably committed by some, yet none is entirely clear of the setting up of something in the place of God, for this sin is common to all mankind, as history clearly shows. From the days of Nimrod until the appearing of Christ, the whole Gentile world was abandoned to this impiety: having "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. 1:23). Even Abraham originally, as well as his parents, were guilty of the same (Josh. 24:2). From the making of the golden calf at Sinai until they were carried captives into Babylon, the Israelites repeatedly committed this crime. Even today the whole of heathendom abounds with hideous idols, and those parts of Christendom now under the accursed dominion of the Papacy are given up to the worship of idols and the adoration of a woman who acknowledged her own need of a Saviour (Luke 1:47). Yet the awfulness of idolatry is perceived by but a few. Satan himself cannot invent a more absolutely degrading and vilifying of the Most High, for it is a calling Him by the names of those senseless objects and repulsive creatures which men erect as representations of Him. The giving to an image that homage which belongs to God is making it equal to Him, if not above Him. It portrays the Glorious One as though He had no more excellency than a block of stone or piece of carved wood.
Man's enmity against God is a practical repudiation of His holiness, for it cherishes what is directly contrary thereto: "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Hab. 1:3). Since God be infinitely good, He has an infinite detestation of evil. But sin is the very element in which man lives, and therefore does he hate everything opposed thereto. Nothing is more distasteful to him than the company of the godly, and the stricter they be in performing the duties of piety, and the more the image of God is seen shining in and through them, the greater the longing of the unregenerate to be free from their presence. So much is man in love with sin that he seeks to justify himself in the very commission of it; yea, he goes farther and charges it upon the Holy One. Thus it was at the beginning. When arraigned by his Maker, instead of confessing the enormity of his offence, Adam sought to excuse himself by blaming it upon God: "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." John Gill and others thought (and probably rightly so) that when Cain was charged with the murder of Abel, and answered, "Am I my brother's keeper?" he blatantly threw the onus on the Lord - Thou art the One who should have preserved him from harm. Holy David unholy charged the crime he had contrived upon Divine providence (2 Sam. 11:25). And man still blames God by attributing his sins to his constitution or his circumstances.
This fearful hostility is exercised against the very being of God. That was clearly demonstrated when He became incarnate. The Son of God was not wanted here, but was despised and rejected of men. They provided no better accommodation than a manger for His cradle. Before He reached the age of two such a determined effort was made to slay Him that Joseph and Mary had to flee with Him into Egypt. Though constantly engaged in going about doing good, both to the souls and bodies of men, He had to declare, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head" (Matt. 8:20). They called Him the vilest names they could think of: a glutton and winebibber, a Samaritan, a devil. Again and again they took up stones to cast at Him. His miracles of mercy allayed not their enmity: "This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him," and no ordinary death would satisfy them. After heaping the worst possible indignities upon His sacred Person and inflicting most barbarous suffering, they nailed Him to a convict's gibbet, and then mocked and reviled Him while He was fastened hand and foot to the Cross. And as the Lord Jesus declared, "He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also" (John 15:23).
Now such an attitude against God inevitably recoils upon ourselves. Alienated from the Source of all real good and purity, what can the consequence be but to be polluted in every part of our beings - a mass of putrefaction? Fearful indeed is the havoc that sin has wrought in the human constitution. Man's very nature is abased. No creature is so degraded as man, for he alone has erased the image of God from his soul. Man that was once the glory of creation has become the vilest of all creatures. He who was given dominion over the beasts is now sunk lower, for they are not guilty of mad and wicked intemperance, they are not without natural affection toward their offspring (as so many of the human species now are), nor do any of them commit suicide. Man's apostasy from His Maker could not result in anything less than the complete mutilation of his soul, depriving it of that perfect harmony and balance of its faculties (with which it was originally endowed), robbing them of their primitive excellence and beauty. The whole of our inner man has been seized by a loathsome disease, so that there is now no soundness in it.
Oh, what a mass of villainy is there in fallen man's heart! No wonder that the Scriptures ask, "Who can know it?" (Jer. 27:9). None but the very One against whom it lifts its vile head. What an awful spectacle is this: to behold the finite in deadly opposition to the Infinite! The creature and the Creator are at direct odds, for while a serpentine nature and a devilish disposition remain unsubdued within him, fallen man will no more seek to glorify the Lord than will Satan himself. The unregenerate detest Him who is light and love. The ox knows its owner, and the ass his master's crib, but the one who has been endowed with rationality and immortality deigns not to "consider" the hand that daily ministers in mercy throughout his life. With what longsuffering does He bear with those who treat Him so basely! What abundant cause has the Christian to abhor himself and hang his head in shame as he contemplates the sinfulness of all the sin that still indwells him!