It is God who tells us that our hearts are “desperately wicked. I’m sure that many of you hear this charge with indignation and say it cannot be true. Yet, God claims for Himself the privilege of knowing and trying the heart. God says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God”. The inclination of the unconverted mind is hatred against god. We may not be conscious of this hatred within us, but that is because we have made our true self-consciousness into a maze of self-deception. The dread and hatred of God, is an impelling force which blinds us to our true state of being. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) explains mans dilemma:
When Adam was unfallen, God was everything to his soul; and everything was good and desirable to him, only in so far as it had to do with God. Every vein of his body, so fearfully and wonderfully made, every leaf that rustled in the bowers of Paradise, every new sun that rose, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race, brought him in every day new subjects of godly thought and of admiring praise; and it was only for that reason that he could delight to look on them. The flowers that appeared on the earth, the singing of birds, and the voice of the turtle heard throughout the happy land, the fig tree putting forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes giving a good smell, all these combined to bring in to him at every pore a rich and varied tribute of pleasantness. And why? Just because they brought into the soul rich and varied communications of the manifold grace of Jehovah. For, just as you may have seen a child on earth devoted to its earthly parent, pleased with everything when he is present, and valuing every gift just as it shows more of the tenderness of that parent’s heart, so was it with that genuine child of God. In God he lived, and moved, and had his being; and not more surely would the blotting out of the sun in the heavens have taken away that light which is so pleasant to the eyes, than would the hiding of the face of God from him have taken away the light of his soul, and left nature a dark and desolate witness. But when Adam fell, the fine gold became dim; the system of his thoughts and likings was just reversed. Instead of enjoying God in everything, and everything in God, everything now seemed hateful and disagreeable to him, just in as far as it had to do with God.
When man sinned, then he feared, and hated Him whom he feared; and fled to all sin just to flee from Him whom he hated. So that, just as you may have seen a child who has grievously transgressed against a loving parent doing all it can to hide that parent from its view, hurrying from his presence and plunging into other thoughts and occupations, just to rid itself of the thought of its justly offended father; in the very same way when fallen Adam heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, that voice which before he sinned was heavenly music in his ears – then “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden”. And in the same way does every natural man run from the voice and presence of the Lord, not to hide under the thick embowering leaves of Paradise, but to bury himself in cares and business and pleasures and reveling. Any retreat is agreeable, where God is not; any occupation is tolerable, if God be not in the thoughts.
Now I am quite sure that many of you may hear this charge against the natural man with incredulous indifference, if not with indignation. You do not feel that you hate God, or dread his presence; and therefore you say it cannot be true. But when God says of your heart that it is “desperately wicked”; when god claims for Himself the privilege of knowing and trying the heart, is it not presumptuous in such ignorant beings as we are to say that that is not true with respect to our hearts, which God affirms to be true, merely because we are not conscious of it? God says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God”, that the very grain and substance of an unconverted mind is hatred against god, absolute, implacable hatred against Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. It is quite true that we do not feel this hatred within us; but that is only an aggravation of our sin and of our danger. We have so choked up the avenues of self-examination, there are so many turnings and windings before we can arrive at the true motives of our actions, that our dread and hatred of God, which first moved man to sin, and which are still the grand impelling forces whereby Satan goads on the children of disobedience; these are wholly concealed from our vies, and you cannot persuade a natural man that they are really there. But the Bible testifies that out of these two deadly roots – dread of God- – and hatred of God grows up the thick forest of sins with which the earth is blackened and overspread. And if there be one among you, who has been awakened by God to know what is in his heart, I take that men this day to witness that his bitter cry, in view of all his sins, has ever been: “Against thee, thee only have I sinned.”
If, then, dread of God, and hatred of God, be the cause of all our sins, how shall we be cured of the love of sin, but by taking away the cause? How do you most effectually kill the noxious weed? Is it not by striking at the root? In the love of Christ to man then – in that strange, unspeakable gift of God, when He laid down His life for His enemies, when He died the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God – do you not see an object which, if really believed by the sinner, takes away all his dread and all his hatred of God? The root of sin is severed from the stock. In His bearing double for all our sins, we see the curse carried away, we see God reconciled. Why should we fear any more? Not fearing, why should we hate God any more? Not hating God, what desirableness can we see in sin any more? Putting on the righteousness of Christ, we are again placed as Adam was, with God as our friend. We have no object in sinning; and, therefore, we do not care to sin.
In the sixth chapter of Romans Paul seems to speak of the believer sinning, as if the very proposition were absurd. “How shall we, that are dead to sin,” that is, who in Christ have already borne the penalty – “how shall we live any longer therein?” And again he says very boldly: “Sin shall not have dominion over you” – it is impossible in the nature of things – “for you are not under the law, but under grace”; you are no longer under the curse of a broken law, dreading and hating God; you are under grace; under a system of piece and friendship with God.
But is there anyone ready to object to me that if these things be so, if nothing more than that a man may be brought into peace with god is needful to a holy life and conversation, how comes it that believers do still sin? I answer, it is indeed too true that believers do sin; but it is just as true that unbelief is the cause of their sinning. If you and I were to live with our eye so closely on Christ bearing double for all our sins, freely offering to all a double righteousness for all our sins; and if this constant view of the love of Christ maintained within us, as assuredly it would if we looked with a straightforward eye, the peace of God which passes all understanding – the peace that rests on nothing in us, but upon the completeness that is in Christ – then I do say that, frail and helpless as we are, we should never sin; we should not have the slightest object in sinning. But this is not the way with us. How often in the day is the love of Christ quite out of view! How often is it obscured to us! Sometimes hid from us by God Himself, to teach us what we are. How often are we left without the realizing sense of the completeness of His offering, the perfectness of His righteousness, and without the will or confidence to claim an interest in Him! Who can wonder then that, where there is so much unbelief, dread and hatred of God should again creep in, and sin should often display its poisonous head.
The matter is very plain, if only we had spiritual eyes to see it. If we live a life of faith on the Son of God, then we shall assuredly live a life of holiness. I do not say we ought to do so; but I say, we shall, as a matter of necessary consequence. But in as far as we do not live a life of faith, in so far we shall live a life of unholiness. It is through faith that God purifies the heart; and there is no other way.
Is there one of you, then, desirous of being made new, of being delivered from the slavery of sinful habits and affections. We can point you to no other remedy but the love of Christ. Behold how He loves you! See what He bore for you; put your finger, as it were, into the prints of the nails, and thrust your hand into His side; and be no more faithless, but believing. Under a sense of your sin, flee to the Savior of sinners. As the timorous dove flies to hide itself in the crevices of the rock, so do you flee to hide yourself in the wounds of your Savior; and when you have found Him, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land; when you sit under His shadow, with great delight; you will find that He has slain all the enmity, that He has accomplished all your warfare. God is now for you. Planted together with Christ in the likeness of His death, you shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. Dead unto sin, you shall be alive unto God.