From Studies in the Scriptures Publication: May, 1939
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6); "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other" (Gal. 5:17). These and similar passages clearly connote that there are two distinct and diverse springs of action in the Christian, from which proceed evil and good works. The older expositors were accustomed to speak of these springs of action as "principles"--the principles of evil and holiness. Modern writers more frequently refer to them as "the two natures in the believer." We have no objection against this form of expression, provided it be used to represent Scriptural realities and not human fancies. But it appears to us that there are not a few today who speak of the "two natures" and yet have no clear conception of what the term signifies, often conveying a faulty idea to the minds of their hearers.
In ordinary parlance "nature" expresses, first, the result of what we have by our origin: and second, the qualities that are developed in us by growth. Thus, we talk of anything bestial or devilish as being contrary to human nature--alas that the beasts so often put us to shame. More distinctly, we speak of a lion's nature (ferocity), a vulture's nature (feeding on carrion), a lamb's nature (gentleness). A "nature," then, describes what a creature is by birth and disposition. Now the Christian has experienced two births, and is subject to two growths. Two sets of moral qualities belong to him: the one as born of Adam, the other as born of God. But much caution needs to be exercised at this point, lest on the one hand we carnalize our conception of the new birth, or, on the other hand, dwell so much on the two natures that we lose sight of the person who possesses them, and thus practically deny his responsibility.
In the interests of clarity we must contemplate these two natures separately, considering first what we are as children of men, and then what we are as children of God. In contemplating what we are as men, we must distinguish sharply between what we are by God's creation, and what we became by our fall from that uprightness in which we were originally made, for fallen human nature is radically different from our primitive condition. But here, too, great care must be taken in defining that difference. Man did not lose any component part of his being by the Fall: he still consists of "spirit and soul and body." No essential element of his constitution was forfeited, none of his faculties were destroyed. Rather was his entire being vitiated and corrupted, stricken with a loathsome disease. A potato is still a potato when frozen; an apple remains an apple when decayed within, though no longer edible. By the Fall man relinquished his honour and glory, lost his holiness, and forfeited the favour of God; but he still retained his human nature.
It cannot be insisted upon too strongly that no essential part of man's complex make-up, no faculty of his being, was destroyed at the Fall, for multitudes are seeking to shelter behind a misconception at this very point. They suppose that man lost some vital part of his nature when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, and that it is this loss which accounts for all his failures. Man imagines he is far more to be pitied than blamed. The blame, he supposes, belongs to his first parent, and he is to be pitied because deprived of his capability of working righteousness. It is in such a manner that Satan succeeds in deceiving many of his victims, and it is the bounden duty of the Christian minister to expose such a sophistry and drive the ungodly out of their refuge of lies. The truth is that man today possesses identically the same faculties as those with which Adam was originally created, and his accountability lies in the use he makes of those faculties, and his criminality consists in his abuse of the same.
On the other hand, there are not a few who believe that at the Fall man received a nature which he did not possess before, and in his efforts to evade his responsibility he throws all the blame of his lawless actions on that evil nature. Equally erroneous and equally vain is such a subterfuge. No material addition was made to man's being at the Fall, any more than that some part was taken from it. That which entered man's being at the Fall was sin, and sin has defiled every part of his person--but for that we are to be blamed and not pitied. Nor has fallen man become so helplessly the victim of sin that his accountability is cancelled: rather does God hold him responsible to resist and reject every inclination unto evil, and will justly punish him because he fails to do so. Every attempt to negate human responsibility must be steadfastly resisted by us.
The youth differs much from the infant, and the man from the immature youth; nevertheless it is the same individual, the same human person, who passes through these stages. Men we are, and shall ever remain: whatever internal change we may be subject to at regeneration, and whatever change awaits the body at resurrection, we shall never lose our essential identity as God created us at the first. Let this be clearly understood and firmly grasped. (To be completed, D.V., in the June issue).--A.W.P.