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The Source of Sin

February 13, 2013

This past Sunday, as part of the February series on “Idols of the Heart” that I am currently preaching, I dealt with the source of idols and how to identify an idol in our life. I shared with the congregation a quote from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon Hideous Discovery. Time did not allow me to quote all I wanted from that sermon, but the content was so excellent I could not leave it completely unsaid. Below is Spurgeon’s second point on Mark 7:20-23.

“Now, secondly, I want to indicate THE NEST FROM WHICH THEY COME. Now that we have seen these evil beasts, we will go and look at their den. Let us make a journey there. No, you need not feel for your money to pay your fare—I am not going to take you very far. I do not ask you to quit your homes, or even your pews. There is not even need for you to stretch out your hand to feel for this foul nest of unclean birds—you can keep your hand upon your bosom and it will not be far off from the lair wherein these evil things are lurking, ready to leap forth whenever occasion offers.

Our Lord Jesus Christ says, “All these evil things come from within.” “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts.” The source from which these rivers of pollution proceed is the natural heart of man! Sin is not a splash of mud upon man’s exterior, it is a filth generated within himself!

Now this is a very different story from that which we sometimes hear from thoughtless people. “Oh, yes, he used to swear. He was unkind to his wife and family—no doubt he took too much drink—but he was a good-hearted fellow!” What an awful lie! His heart could have been no better than that which came out of it. Yet how common it is to say, when a man dies, “Well, poor man, he is gone! There was no fear of God or man about him. He was a passionate, drunken man and so full of vice that no one was safe near him, but he was good at bottom.” A likely story, is it not? The water which came up in the bucket was black and putrid, but, no doubt, at the bottom of the well it is clear as crystal! Do you believe it? If men bring to market baskets of fruit which upon the top are rotten, they will not be believed if they say that they are, “good at bottom.” If the goods in the window are worthless, the stock in the warehouse is not much better. You can only judge of a tree by its fruits—and if I gather sour crabapples from a tree, I shall not believe that it is a golden pippin! If grapes, when fully ripe, are sour, we cannot believe that the vine which bears them is a sweet one! Our Savior makes short work of the lie that the life may be impure and yet the heart is good!

Regeneration is much more than reformation, or the development of natural goodness. It is described in Scripture as a new creation and as a resurrection from the dead. It is not the cleansing of the carnal mind, but the implantation of a spiritual nature. It is not a shaping, feeding, washing and purging of what is already in fallen man—it is a putting into us a life which was never there before. It is a supernatural work of God, the Holy Spirit—it is a miracle of Grace, a work of God! Out of the heart, if the volcano is permitted to pour forth its lava, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, and such like. The Savior compels us to see how bad the natural heart must be in itself, since that which comes out of it is so vile. Who could bring such unclean things out of a clean heart? The source must be foul if the streams are so filthy. These evils must be within, or else they could not come from within.

Our Savior is not speaking of a single man, or a certain set of men, but of man, generally, of man as a race! We are all very much alike by nature. “As in water, face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.” Friend, you are of the same race as those whose sins you censure. Though out of your heart there may never proceed actual fornications and adulteries—God grant they may not!—yet the seeds of such evils are there and you will be foolish if you think that they can never grow into acts. If any man says that no such evil lurks in his heart, I lay to his charge the two last sins in the list, namely, pride and foolishness! No man should dare to think that he is incapable of a sin into which another man has fallen! We may never have suffered from fever, or cholera, or diphtheria—but we may not, therefore, conclude that we are not liable to such diseases. Nor may an unregenerate man, however excellent or moral he may be, conclude that he is invulnerable to the arrows of moral disease. Put the man in certain circumstances, tempt him in certain ways and there is a terrible possibility that he will fall into those very actions which he now so righteously denounces in others! I am a man and, therefore, liable to all the faults of human nature. Self-righteousness may induce us to say with Hazael, “Is your servant
a dog, that he should do this thing?” But we shall be wise to forego so proud a question, for we may rest assured that we are dog enough for anything if the Grace of God is withdrawn from us! It is certainly true that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders” and so forth.

But what is meant here, do you think, by, “the heart?” Is it not intended to indicate the man himself—the man’s most real self? Sin is sin, for the most part, because it is of the heart and the will. If the man’s heart had nothing to do with it, I do not see how it would be sin. If a man had no will in the matter, where would his responsibility be? It is because we willingly do evil that we sin. The essence of the sin lies in the will to do it and the full consent of the heart in it. The heart is the center of life, the core of being, the place where manhood maintains its throne and what a terrible statement this is, that out of the very center of life there proceed from man “evil thoughts, wickedness, blasphemy” and the like! The heart is the spring of action—the heart suggests, resolves, designs and sets the whole train of life in motion. The heart gives the impulse and the force and yet, out of the heart, thus initiating and working, proceeds all this mischief of sin. By the heart is meant mainly the affections, but it often includes the understanding and the will. It is, in fact, the man’s vital self. Sin is not a thing extra that comes to us and afflicts us like robbers breaking into our house at night, but it is a tenant of the soul, dwelling within us as in its own house. This evil worm has penetrated into the kernel of our being and there it abides. Sin has intertwisted itself with the warp and woof of our nature and none can remove it but the Lord God Himself! As long as the heart remains unchanged, out of it will proceed that which is sinful. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually.”

If it is so, that the nest in which sin is born and nurtured is the heart, itself, we always carry about with us, by nature, that which will surely be the cause of sin unless we look well to it and cry daily for Grace to conquer it. This evil nature of ours is an always present  danger—it is a powder magazine which at any moment may explode. Oh for Grace to keep our hearts with all diligence!

How clearly sin comes from within and not from outside! How truly it is born in the heart! Oftentimes we see men commit sins against conscience—they know they are doing wrong, for they will lie and even swear hard in order to conceal their folly. A man must know that he does wrong, for he labors to deny it when it is charged against him. Now, if a man sins against light and conscience, it shows that his heart must be radically bad. Sin must be within us naturally since the best training does not prevent it. Children secluded from the sight or hearing of evil—kept, as it were, within a glass case—yet run to it when the restraint is removed! As the young duck which has been reared in a dry place yet takes to the water as soon as it sees a pond, so do many hasten to evil at the first opportunity.

How often it happens that those young persons who have been most shut out from the world have become the readiest victims of temptation when the time has come for them to quit the parental roof! It must be in them, or it could not thus come out of them. In many cases, evil cannot be the result of mistaken education nor of ill example—and yet there it is—the seed is in the soil and needs no sowing. Again, we frequently find men falling into sins towards which they would seem to have had no temptation. A man is rich and yet covetous. He has enough to content him if his heart were not evil. Men who have the enjoyment of almost every desirable pleasure too often crave after indulgences altogether unnatural. Does not this show how evil the heart is? Is not this specially striking when you see how men invent new sins, of which ordinary people would never have dreamed? Moreover, put a man where you may and seclude him as you please, sin will still break out from him and, therefore, the sin must be somewhere within, hidden away. Do we not know this? When we are in associations of the best kind we find evil thoughts and imaginations springing up within our minds. Shut yourself up in a narrow cell, but there will be room in it for troops of sins! Hasten away and dwell alone as a hermit where rumor of pollution and iniquity can never reach you from abroad and still you will find the cauldron within boiling and bubbling up with evil! A door must be well sealed if it is to shut out temptation. No, shut the door and hermetically seal it and sin has already entered with yourself, for it is within you! Until you are delivered from that evil man, yourself, you are not delivered from tendencies to wickedness.

The heart of man is the seed plot of iniquity and the nursery of transgression. As the multitudes streamed forth from the hundred gates of Thebes, so do sins proceed from the heart! O Lord, have mercy upon us and give us new hearts and right spirits!”

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