The Disciple,—Master, it is clear to almost everyone that to disobey God and to cease to worship Him is sin, and the deadly result is seen in the present state of the world. But what sin really is is not absolutely clear. In the very presence of Almighty God, and in opposition to His will, and in His own world, how did sin come to be?
The Master,—1. Sin is to cast aside the will of God and to live according to one’s own will, deserting that which is true and lawful in order to satisfy one’s own desires, thinking thus to obtain happiness. Yet in so doing one does not obtain real happiness or enjoy true pleasure. Sin has no individuality, so that no one can say of it that someone created it. It is simply the name of a state or condition. There is only one Creator and He is good, and a good Creator could not have created a bad thing, for to do so would be against His very nature. And apart from the one Creator there is no other who could have created sin. Satan can only spoil that which has already been created, but he has not the power of creating anything. So sin is not a part of creation, nor has it independent existence such that it could be created. It is simply a delusive and destructive state of being.
For instance, light is something which has real existence, but darkness has not; it is only a state, the absence of light. Thus sin or evil is not a self-existent thing, but simply the absence or nonexistence of good. This dark state of evil is most terrible, for because of it many miss the right course, and making shipwreck on the rocks of Satan fall into the darkness of hell and are lost. For this reason I who am the Light of the world became manifest in the flesh, so that those who put their trust in Me should not perish, for I rescue them from the power of darkness and bring them safe to that desired and heavenly haven, where there is neither name nor sign of darkness (Rev. xxi.23, xxii.5).
2. You ask how this dark state of sin came to be in the very presence of the Lord of creation. It arose because Satan and men, of their own motion in an unlawful and wrong way, sought to carry out their own desires. And if you ask why God did not make man in such a way that he could not fall into such a state, the answer is that if he had been constructed like a machine he could never have attained to that state of happiness which is reached only by action in accordance with one’s own choice. Adam and Eve fell into the wiles and deceit of Satan because in their sinless state they did not know there were such things as lies and deceit. Before this, Satan himself did not know of the existence of that pride by reason of which he was cast out of heaven, for before him no such thing as pride existed. And although both in men and Satan this state of sin came to be, God by His almighty power has given that state a new aspect, so that even from it He has brought forth the noblest results.
First of all, the boundless love of God was made manifest in the incarnation and redemption, which under other circumstances would have remained hidden; and in the second place, the redeemed, after having tasted the bitterness of sin, will more richly enjoy the happiness of heaven, just as after a taste of bitterness the sweetness of honey gives greater delight. For in heaven they sin no more, but in meekness and obedient love they serve their Father God, and abide with Him in joy for evermore.
3. Men are keen on discovering faults in the sun and moon, such as spots and eclipses, but to the spots and eclipses of sin they give no heed. From this you may measure how great that darkness in men is, when the very light they have is darkness (Matt. vi.23). Just as the body of the leper by reason of his disease becomes numb and insensible, so the heart and mind of man by reason of sin become dull and insensate, and bring to him no sense of disgust or pain. But the time will come when he will awake to its terrible ravages, and then there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
4. Many who are immersed in sin are unaware of its load, just as one who dives into the water may have tons of water upon him, but is wholly unaware of its weight until he is choked in death. But he who emerges from the water and seeks to carry some away soon finds its weight, however little he takes up; and he who, finding the burden of his sin, comes to Me in penitence will freely receive true rest, for it is such I come to seek and to save (Matt. xi.28, Luke xix.10).
5. It is not necessary that every single member of the body should become useless and weak before death occurs. A weakness of, or a blow upon, the heart or the brain will suffice to bring an end to life, however strong and healthy other parts of the body may be. Thus one sin by its poisonous effect on the mind and heart is sufficient to ruin the spiritual life not of one only, but of a whole family or nation, even of the whole race. Such was the sin of Adam. But as one word from Me could bring Lazarus from the tomb, even so it is sufficient to give eternal life to all.
6. Sometimes it happens that an animal or bird after long association with man returns to its own kind, but they, instead of welcoming it, set upon it and do it to death, the reason being that by its long residence and familiarity with man, its habits and manner of life have entirely changed. In the same way as animals do not admit to their society those of their kind that have come under man’s influence, how can the saint and angels in heaven welcome those sinners who have lived in intimate relations with wicked men? This does not mean that saints and angels have no love for sinful men, but the holy atmosphere of heaven will itself be distasteful to such men. For clearly, when in this world sinners dislike the company of good men, how can they be happy in their company throughout eternity? To them a heaven of that sort would be as distasteful as hell itself.
Do not suppose that God or His people will turn sinners out of heaven and cast them into hell, for God who is Love, never cast anyone into hell, nor ever will do so. It is the foul life of the sinner that will bring him to hell. Long before the end of life brings heaven and hell near to us, there has been set up in every man’s heart, according to his good or evil nature, his own heaven or hell. Therefore whosoever longs to be saved from that eternal torment, let him truly repent of his sins and give his heart to Me, that by My presence with him and the Holy Spirit’s influence, he may become for ever a child of the kingdom of God.
7. A rebel against a king or government in this world may save himself by taking refuge in another country, but where shall a rebel against God flee for safety? Wherever he goes, even in heaven or hell, he will find God ever present. (Psa. cxxxix.7,8). He will find his safety only in repentance and submission to his Lord.
8. For Adam and Eve the fig leaves were too scanty a covering, so God gave them coats of skin. In this way, too, man’s good deeds are as useless as the fig leaves to save him from the wrath to come. Nothing will suffice save My robe of righteousness.
9. The moth thinks not of the burning and destructive power of the flame, but fascinated by its brilliancy rushes into it and perishes. So man, regardless of the destructive and poisonous power of sin, and feeling only its allurement, rushes in to his eternal destruction. But My light rescues the sinner from death, and bestows upon him life and enduring happiness. Man was so made as to be capable of appropriating the precious gift of My true light.
10. Sin is not an illusion or a thing of the imagination, but in this state of spiritual darkness, by the exercise of the evil will of man, such living seeds of evil have come into existence as will for ever infect his spirit and finally destroy it—just as smallpox in quite a short time will destroy the beauty of a man for all time, turning it to repulsive ugliness. As God did not create wickedness, so also He did not create disease and bodily pains. They are simply the natural issue of man’s disobedience. Pain and disease also are not things of the imagination, but are the outward and visible fruits of the hidden unseen disease of sin, whether it be one’s own sin or that of the family of which one is a member. When all these members repent and are united with Me, My health-giving blood circulates through all, healing all their internal and unseen diseases and giving to them health for all eternity. For such a state of health man was created, that he might for ever dwell in happiness with his Lord and Master.