THOSE who have much to do with the difficulties and exercises of the newly-converted, are constantly hearing some such expression as this: “I thought I was saved once, but I now begin to fear that after all I’ve only been deceiving myself. Not only do I feel no better in myself, but, if anything, even worse than before I professed to be converted.”
Now, in such cases, one generally finds that it is not so much their sins that trouble them, as the heart-sickening disappointment they feel, as more and more the truth is forced upon them, that their new birth has not only effected no improvement in their evil nature, but that that nature seems much worse than before their conversion. Then comes many a fruitless effort to improve it; but, alas! only to end in deeper wretchedness than ever. In such a state of soul Satan finds but too fitting an opportunity of hurling his terrible darts. He suggests that they are only miserable hypocrites, professing to be what they know they are not; that they had far better give up the whole thing, come out in their true colours, and own that they have never been converted at all!
Oh, what intense soul-agony do such assaults cause, when, as yet, true liberty is unknown! and only those who have really passed through such exercises can have any conception of their untold bitterness. It is with a desire to encourage and help such that this little book is sent forth.
GOD’S FACTS AND OUR EXPERIENCES
Many believers pass
through the sorest distress because they are continually searching their
own hearts for evidence that they have been truly [saved]. “When I compare
my daily experience with the plain truths in. God’s word,” such a soul
will say, “I begin to fear that I am not born again at all. For example,
I see in the first Epistle of John three absolute facts stated about the
one who is ‘born of God,’ and I cannot answer to even one of them, do what
1st. He does
not… and cannot sin. (1 John 3:9).
2nd. He overcometh
the world. (1 John 5:4).
3rd. The wicked
one toucheth him not. (1 John 5:18). Now, in the face
of such a scripture, I am bound to confess —
I can, and, alas! do sin.
instead of my overcoming the world, it constantly overcomes me.
the enemy has defeated me times without number – thus he does touch me.
“Is there any wonder,
therefore, in the perplexity or even the alarm that I often feel in contemplating
such a scripture, in the face of such an experience as mine?”
Well, it must be
confessed there is not; but let us say for your comfort that those who
are “dead in their sins” never experience such conflict. It is only converted
ones who really desire to answer to the thoughts and wishes of God. The
unconverted “desire not the knowledge of His ways.” They have “no fear
of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:18).
But let us return.
We have been noticing one impossibility; viz., “Whosoever is born of God
cannot sin.” Let us also look at another (Rom. 8:7-8), “The carnal mind”
(literally ‘mind of the flesh’) “is enmity against God; for it is not subject
to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the
flesh cannot please God.” Mark well these important contrasts:
1. The one
who is “in the flesh – as “born of the flesh” – “cannot please God.”
2. The one
who is “born of God cannot sin.”
It may be well here
to state what is meant by “the flesh” in the subject before us. It is the
evil or fallen nature, in every child of Adam, poisoned by indwelling sin.
It is the real source of every sinful action performed by him.
TWO DISTINCT NATURES
IN ONE PERSON
We have seen, that
at our natural birth we get an evil nature, so evil that God says it is
impossible to make it subject to His holy law. It “cannot please Him.”
“Behold,” says the Psalmist, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did
my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
Then, at our spiritual
or second birth we receive, through the sovereign operation of the Spirit
by means of the word of God (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23), another nature
entirely, a “divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The blessed Lord puts it to
Nicodemus in a few words thus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).
So that the believer
actually possesses two natures; viz., “that which is born of the flesh,”
and which, because of its very nature, “cannot please God;” and “that which
is born of the Spirit,” which from its essential nature “cannot sin, because
it is born of God.” In the 7th chapter of Romans you will find these two
natures distinctly mentioned side by side. See, for example, the last verse.
“So then, with the
mind [i.e., the renewed mind, or, as we have been expressing it, the new
nature] I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh [i.e., the old
nature] the law of sin.” Then, again, verses 22 and 23, “I delight in the
law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring
against the law of my mind,” &c.
A simple illustration
here may be helpful.
A farmer’s wife,
having placed a hen upon a sitting of duck’s eggs, found, at the end of
a week, that the greater part of them had been destroyed by some enemy
of the hen-roost; upon which she made up the sitting with hen’s eggs. When
the hatching-day came round, the hen, of course, found herself responsible
for two distinct broods of little ones. This, however, caused her little
or no trouble, till one day she discovered, to her dismay, that the little
ducklings had taken themselves off to a pond close by, and so delighted
were they with their first excursion on the water, that her loudest clucks
and most urgent calls alike proved fruitless to bring them back to dry
land. The chickens, on the contrary, shewed not the slightest inclination
to venture into such an element, and would have been miserable enough had
they been forced into it.
Here, then, were
two distinct natures, with entirely different tastes and habits. That which
came from the duck’s egg had the nature of the duck, that from the hen’s
egg the nature of the hen; yet both were hatched in the same nest. Now,
all the farmers’ wives in the world, with all the men of science at their
back, could never change the nature of a duck into that of a chicken. The
duck would still keep the nature of a duck, and the chicken the nature
of a chicken.
A thousand times
more distinct are the two natures in a Christian, and this because of the
different sources from whence they are derived. One is from man — lost,
guilty, fallen man; the other from God, in all the holiness of His sinless
nature. One is human and polluted, the other divine, and therefore undefilable.
So that every evil thought or deed of the believer springs from the old
nature, while every good desire, or godly deed, finds its source in the
new. For example, you may remember the day when you had a desire to retire
to your quiet room alone for prayer. That desire came from the new nature.
But while upon your knees, perhaps, some wicked, wandering thought came
into your mind. That was the outcome of the old. But now comes another
important enquiry, viz.,
IS THE OLD NATURE IMPROVED
BY THE NEW?
There is but one
answer: Nothing can improve the flesh. It was tried in every possible way,
from the fall of Adam in Eden to the cross of Christ at Calvary. And what
was the result? Why, just this: God’s holy law was willfully broken, when
He came righteously demanding obedience from man. His Son was cruelly murdered,
when He visited this world in grace to man. Indeed, instead of the presence
of a divine life improving the old nature, it only manifests its utter
badness. Just as making a poor beggar the present of a new coat by no means
improves the appearance of his old, thread-bare, dirty waistcoat, but the
Then, it may be asked,
if my old nature can neither be forgiven, nor improved, two difficulties
at once present themselves.
1. “How can
I be delivered from it ?”
2. “How do
I get power over it?”
these difficulties, it will be well to notice the important difference
made in Scripture between…
“SIN” in the flesh and
the evil principle, born in us naturally, is simply called SIN, while the
evil actions, words and thoughts which are the consequence of possessing
this corrupt nature, are called SINS. You will see the distinction in 1
John 1:8-9: “If we say that we have no SIN, we deceive ourselves,” &c.
And again: “If we confess our SINS, He is faithful and just to forgive
us our SINS.” This distinction is of the greater importance when we find
in Scripture, that while, through the shedding of the blood of Christ,
God does forgive our sinful deeds, i.e. our SINS; yet He never forgives
SIN in the flesh, but “condemns” or judges it. Let me seek to explain how
Suppose you have
a child who has naturally a violent temper. In a fit of passion, one day,
he throws a book at his brother, and breaks a large pane of glass in the
window. Well, upon penitent confession of the naughty deed, you would be
free to forgive him. But what about the bad temper that made him do it?
Do you forgive that? Impossible! You detest it, and, if you could, would
get rid of it – thoroughly rid of it. You utterly condemn it.
Now, the bad temper
[though, in itself, only one feature of an evil nature] would answer more
to indwelling SIN; while its evil activities, in hurting the brother and
smashing the window, would answer more to the SINS. And so I repeat, though
God does most freely forgive the believer’s sins, He never forgives the
indwelling SIN. Condemnation is the only thing He can righteously apply
to it – death is our only way out of it (See Romans 8:3). “God, sending
His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin [i.e., a sacrifice
for sin], CONDEMNED SIN IN THE FLESH.”
In the earlier chapters
of the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle is occupied in showing our deliverance
from SINS; but in the sixth chapter he shows how we are delivered from
SIN. For example, in the last verse of the fourth chapter he speaks of
Christ as having been “delivered for our offences, and raised again for
our justification.” And the blessed consequence of His having been thus
delivered is, that those who believe on Him are righteously forgiven —
are “justified” — have “peace with God.” But, as it has just been said,
in chapter 6 he is treating of deliverance from sin, another matter entirely.
“He that IS DEAD,” he says, is freed [or justified] from SIN” (Ver. 7,
Now I think you will,
in figure, get a glimpse of the difference between these two things by
comparing the cleansing of the leper in Leviticus 14:1-7 with that of Naaman
in 2 Kings 5:10-14.
In the first Scripture
I ask you to notice that; the poor leper, totally unfit to do anything
for his own cleansing, has simply to stand by and see all done for him.
The bird “alive and clean,” is dipped into the blood of the slain bird,
and then let loose into the open field; that is, the poor leper beholds
a “living,” “clean” one going down into death for him, an “unclean” one.
The bloodstained substitute then soars on high, and the lips of the priest
pronounce the leper clean.
Thus hath “Christ
once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us
to God” (1 Peter 3:18). And, therefore, not a spot can be found upon, nor
a charge brought against, those who believe on Him. “The blood of Jesus
Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7); and “BY HIM all
that believe are justified from all things.” (Acts 13:38-39).
But, in the case
of Naaman, it is not another going down into death for him; he must himself
go there (looking at Jordan as a figure of death). The happy result need
not occupy us now. Suffice it to say that, speaking figuratively, all that
he had been as a leper was left behind in Jordan’s flood.
And thus Scripture
teaches, that not only did Christ go down into death for the believer,
but that, like Naaman, he himself has been into death. “You are dead,”
or, more correctly, “You have died.” (Col. 3:3).
There is, however,
one great difference between our deliverance and Naaman’s. He was delivered
from the presence of the plague; whereas we shall never, while here below,
be delivered from the actual presence of “indwelling sin.”
Thus all that we
are by nature, as well as all that we have done, has already been dealt
with on the cross; and He who there bore our condemnation said, “IT IS
Who then shall condemn
us? Nay, is THERE ANYTHING LEFT TO CONDEMN? Nothing. Does Satan bring our
sins before us? We have neither to deny nor excuse them; faith can simply
answer, “Christ died for them.” Is it the sinfulness of our nature that
he would harass us with? Faith can but add, “And I died too.”
But now comes a practical
difficulty with many. The writer once heard a believer pray most earnestly
that “he might feel that he was dead with Christ.” But does God ever speak
about our feeling dead? Never. He says, “Likewise reckon yourselves to
be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).
We are expected to believe that in Christ’s death we died, simply because
God says so, and not because we feel dead, or ever will. God Himself clearly
states the fact for us, and says, “You are dead” (Col. 3:3), and He expects
us as simply to believe it, as we do that Christ died for our sins. God
reckons our Substitute’s death as our death, and the reckonings of faith
will always agree with His.
Thus our old standing,
as children of fallen Adam, came to an end before God at the cross; or,
as Scripture puts it, “Our old man has been crucified with Christ” (Rom.
6:6), and we are now connected in life with the last Adam — the risen
Christ; or, as it is expressed in Romans 7:4, “Married to another, even
to Him who is raised from the dead.”>
As believers, we have been
brought into a new position altogether. He who took our condemnation,
by being made sin for us upon the cross, is now risen out of death;
and since God sees us “IN HIM,” we are necessarily beyond the reach