Copyright (c)1999, 2000. Gospel Truth Ministries




Chapter 2

The Story of Sin

 Consciousness, observation, and Scripture unite in the recognition of the awful actual sinfulness of man. The picture which Scripture gives of man's moral character, aside from the influence of grace, is truly frightful. The moral depravity ascribed to him is total, "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually." He is free from righteousness, and no good thing dwells in him. A large part of the Bible is occupied with the history of the wickedness of mankind, very different from the history of the prevalence of small-pox or cholera. We have the wickedness of the antediluvians set forth in terms of awful significance.

Then comes the wickedness of the Canaanites of Abraham's time, culminating in that of the inhabitants of the cities associated with Sodom, horribly infecting even the family Lot. Then follows the wickedness of the later Canaanites, heaping up its measure till it was full. The wickedness the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites, and, indeed, of all the nations and races with which the family of Abraham had to do, moves before us. Neither Abraham nor Isaac thought that their children could safely intermarry, with them. The Abrahamic race itself presents a mournful spectacle of depravity, deceit, violence, murder, even fratricide, breaking out among them. And what a melancholy picture does the history of Israel exhibit in the different eras of their existence--in Egypt, in the wilderness, under the judges, under the kings, in their own land, and in the land of captivity! Finally, when the return from Babylon promised better things, how soon and how long did odious exhibitions of sin show themselves--a formalism and hypocrisy more odious than the old idolatry! The culmination of sin was reached in the rejection, persecution, and murder of the Son of God, and in the persistent resistance to his claims to the present day. All this was perpetrated under a supernatural system of appliances which ought to have made Israel a nation of exemplary saints--a glorious, transforming spectacle to all the other nations.

When we turn to the great Gentile nations and empires, we find them of such a character that they are fitly symbolized to the student of history under the figures of the most ferocious wild beasts, which succeed each other with no moral improvement; the last being the most ferocious and destructive, stamping with his feet what he cannot destroy. The apostle Paul photographs the characters both of the Gentiles and of the Jews in lines, and colors which all history attests. The testimony of intelligent travellers and missionaries assures us that the heathen of the present generation are in moral character as hideous as the heathen of past ages.

This wickedness, thus darkening the historic page, is not to be excused on the plea of ignorance. God has never left himself without witness. "The invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." They have known that "God gave them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts, with food and gladness." His law has stood written on their hearts; and the story of his supernatural interpositions has gone to all the world. Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon, Greece, Rome, have had the story told them, and might have known its full purport if they had desired the knowledge of God's ways. And what a wonderful comment upon the poisonous influence of a perverse heart that has given itself to sin, that the revelation of God to Israel had so little power over the souls of the chosen race! Even Josephus represents that the Jews of his time were the most wicked people on the face of the earth.

No doubt, in important respects civilization had a favorable influence; but civilization itself became the occasion of corruption. The Greek and Roman writers abound in testimonies to the great corruption that reigned in the most civilized and refined nations of the earth, and in the character of persons of the highest rank and influence. The Greek and Roman military power was used for the enslavement and robbery of the ruder nations. And the same wild scene of slaughter and pillage continues to the present day--the game of war still played by the nations on various pretenses. The support of armies has been the greatest burden of mankind, exhausting the productions of the field and factory, and even the wide ocean. The villanies of trade are count. less. The adulteration of all articles of food, of wear, and of medicines, and often of the most dangerous character, abound on every side. Many live on the vices and miseries of their fellow-men, reducing innumerable women and children to starvation, selling to those who ought to feed them maddening and murderous poisons. Large and often triumphant politied parties sustain these wretches in their villanous trade, and share with them the spoils, buying their nefarious votes with nefarious laws. In Great Britain and the United States probably more capital is engaged in this atrocious business than in any other. And these intelligent nations suffer this ruin to rage from generation to generation. And slavery and the slave-trade forced on us unspeakable horrors for hundreds of years. The unclean spirit, though cast out, still manifests his foul temper, not only where he reigned, but in vast numbers and regions long called free.

The treatment the gospel as received presents another aspect of human wickedness. The persecution and murder of the Son of God has been already spoken of. "He was in the world," writes the apostle John, "and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." "This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men have loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil." As the apostles traversed the earth on their mission of mercy they were everywhere persecuted with murderous malice; and it is remarkable that the great Apostle to the Gentiles himself was, before his conversion, a great persecutor, and made havoc of the church.

After Christianity spread its conquests till the Roman empire became nominally Christian, Christianity became dreadfully corrupted, and the whole Orient where it prevailed so extensively is now overspread with a miserable formalism and a dead faith, where Mohammedism or some other alien religion has not utterly displaced it. To a vast extent the same corruption pervades Europe; and one America is almost wholly occupied by debasing superstition, and the other America, partly occupied by it, is seriously threatened with the same general spiritual bondage. A grievous unbelief, worse than these corruptions of Christianity, extensively prevails throughout the so-called Christian world. Romanism in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain is often a mere cover, and scarcely a cover, for some form of infidelity. And the same is the case with much of the Protestantism of Continental Europe, and even of Great Britain and of the United States.

Infidels often make their proud boast that Christianity, through their great discoveries, is well-nigh obsolete. The history of the world proves abundantly that mankind, left to themselves, or supplied with all the reformatory means in operation before Christ, are likely to be forever the slaves of Satan, and need the mightiest divine interposition for their salvation from delusion and sin.