It is a truth which runs through the Bible, and which is assumed where it is not actually expressed, that every man is shapen in iniquity and born in sin. The depravity is innate, and the inclination to evil is a constant result. A poisoned nature can only produce poisonous fruit. This is very humiliating to the pride of man, for which reason he refuses to believe it. But it is not beyond question.
When the Pharisees, notwithstanding their religious profession, accused Jesus of casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, He said to them, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Job said, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one!” From one seed many plants may rise, and they may vary in strength and size, but they will all partake the nature of their root. A clean action cannot be produced by a dirty heart. Paul quoted from the Psalms in his epistle to the Romans: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth; there is none that seeketh after God.” In other parts of the Old Testament we find the same truth: “All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
It is perfectly true that a man addicted to one kind of sin, may perform an action of another kind which has the appearance of goodness. But so long as the will and understanding and conscience have the pollution derived from the root, that apparently good action partakes the nature of sin. A spontaneous tendency to sin is the universal law. Position in life, health and disease, riches, poverty, education, may vary; but this one thing never varies – the utter inability of a man to turn to God without help.
Jesus said to the Jews, “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Those Jews who misunderstood the Lord’s word when He said, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him,” prove the truth of the assertion that men by nature have no life nor spiritual understanding in them. If they had, the Jews would have understood the spiritual nature of Christ’s words, especially after He explained them: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak
unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” They were so completely unable to rise to the spirituality of Christ’s words that many “went back, and walked no more with Him.” So true was the saying of Jesus: “No man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father.” There must be the nature of a Christian to constitute a Christian.
Let those who doubt the Bible truth of man’s inability to turn to God without His help, look round, and consider whether it is not a fact of life. From childhood to manhood, and on to old age, the fountain of evil is within; the natural tendency of the unconverted soul is to remain away from God. There may be morality, respectability, benevolence; and yet no turning with the whole heart to God. When men think of God it is at a distance. What man naturally loves the Lord with all the heart, with all the soul, and all he mind? Does he not love some earthly thing better? Yet God made him, and is the giver of every good thing. Why this tendency to turn to something else, or someone else, rather than to Him? It is the leprosy of sin that taints all man’s thoughts and deeds. If a man is not conscious of this, if he knows nothing of a broken and a contrite .heart for his sinfulness, his religion is not yet begun.
A preacher may take a fine text from the Bible. He may preach a fine sermon, eloquent in both form and substance, and truthful in every jot and tittle. And yet not a single soul be moved, nor brought to Christ, feeling the burden of sin. And why? Because the drawing power of God has not been present, and may not have been sought, and without it men do not come to Christ, men cannot come to Christ, men will not come to Christ. This was so in Adam’s case when his spirit died to God, from his act of disobedience. To begin with he was made capable of holding spiritual communion with God, and he did so; but after he, and Eve, under Satan’s impulse, broke God’s command, they fled from God and tried to hide themselves from His holy face. Their spirits did not turn to Him. they sought neither His pardon nor His grace in any way; not one word of sorrow for sin, nor for the sundering of communion was expressed. They could not do it, because the Divine threat had been put into effect upon them – “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou halt surely die”. Their conduct showed that their spiritual nature was in fact dead.
The day came when Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” And that son shared in the spiritual ruin of his parents, as do all Adam’s posterity. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Â•There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” The apostle Paul describes unbelievers as “having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of
their heart.” Now, how is it possible for a man with that alienation from God, to rise, and to turn to God, without help, when he is blind to his own condition?
Why should we dwell on such a subject as man’s depravity and helplessness? It is because until men are convinced of this truth, they will not come to the foot of the cross, they will not ask the way there, and they will see no reason why they should be found there. Rather, they will increase their corruption by criticizing God’s plan of salvation, as though man needed no redemption. It is a solemn truth that spiritual death is quite consistent with an active and acute mind, and with actions of morality and common goodness.
K. W. H. Howard