“Sin is lawlessness.” – I John 3: 4.
“All unrighteousness is sin.” – I John 5:17.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” – Rom. 6: 12.
“I will heal their backsliding.” – Hos. 14:4.
It has often been shown that sin is to the soul what disease is to the body. The effect of disease on our physical organism is just a picture of what sin produces on our spiritual nature. Sin as a moral defilement [is symbolized in Leviticus] with leprosy. What we have now more especially to consider is the paralyzing or disabling effect of sin.
It will help us to understand what sin is in this special aspect, and what it is to be freed from its disorganizing effects, if we look at our Lord’s miracles as symbols of spiritual healing, illustrations of what He is now doing upon the souls of men. These miracles were not merely manifestations of Divine power. They were “signs” of spiritual truth. They were significant of something far higher than mere physical cures…
In the eighth chapter of St. Matthew, we have an account of a series of miracles which our Lord wrought immediately after He had preached His sermon on the mount. Having unfolded the principles of His kingdom by teaching, He then shows His power by His actions, and communicates His liberating and energizing virtue by healing all their diseases. We have here in this chapter leprosy, paralysis, fever, and other forms of evil; but Christ was able to cure them all.
What did those physical ailments set forth but different aspects of sin as a disease.
In the disease of paralysis we see the loss of the power of voluntary muscular motion. It may be a loss of the power of emotion without a loss of sensation, or a loss of sensation without loss of motion, or a loss of both. It appears under different forms. Sometimes it attacks the whole system; at others it affects one side of the body; and at other times a single member only is affected.
Sin has precisely the same effect on our souls. Though there is spiritual life, there may be lack of spiritual vigour. The effects of sin may be traced in the impairment of voluntary power, and in the enfeebling of all moral energy, as well as in the hardening and deadening of the spiritual sense. And the result is the whole tone of the spiritual life is lowered. Sin thus robs us of the power by which alone we are able to perform the functions that belong to our renewed being. And it not only undermines our strength, it hinders our growth… It not only robs us of all spiritual energy, it retards our progress, it hinders our growth.
But disease not only enfeebles and deadens the vital powers, it may bring about positive defects in the bodily organism. Take, for instance, the case of the man born blind, or of the one who was deaf and dumb. Here we see something further than the mere weakening or paralyzing consequences of disease. So with sin. We may look at it from this point of view – as a privation. This we see in the unregenerate and also in the regenerate. It may so affect the spiritual organs of our moral being that in course of time these organs cease to act. The words, “having eyes they see not,” become actually fulfilled.
In the case of the deaf mute, what a picture we have of spiritual things! “They bring unto Jesus one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech” [Mark 7:32]. He was incapable of hearing or of speaking. He was destitute of two of our noblest faculties. The organs were there, but practically the man was as if they were not. Two channels of communication with the outer world were thus closed to him.
How did Jesus effect the cure? What was the order of the deliverance? With which organ did He begin? He first opened the ear. Now the ear we know is an organ of reception. This is its design. It is made for the purpose of receiving, not of giving. It is the channel by which impressions pass into the mind from without.
The man was destitute of the power of receiving sounds. The organ was not wanting, but it was disorganized. The doors were closed – the avenue was blocked up. He was insensible to all such impressions. It is so spiritually. Sin has robbed man of his power of hearing God’s voice. And sin will rob the believer, if he yields to it, of the same faculty – hearkening to the voice of the Lord.
To hear is the first act of faith. “Hear, and your soul shall live”[Isaiah 55:3]. “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life”[John 5:24]. And hearkening must go on throughout the whole life.
Then the Lord Jesus loosed his tongue. The tongue is the instrument of speech. The man was destitute of the power of communicating his thoughts. It is the faculty by which we tell out what we have realized by taking in. It is the instrument we use when we sing to God’s praise, when we give utterance to our gratitude, and when we bear witness before men. It is of all others the organ which the messenger requires who goes forth to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation.
Now all this finds its parallel in the spiritual life.
Sin had robbed man of the power of giving praise to God, or of calling upon Him in prayer. It has deprived him of the ability of testifying to men. It has closed his mouth, it has made him dumb as well as deaf.
Now these two faculties – hearing and speaking – are mutually dependent. When people are born deaf, they usually remain dumb. an inborn faculty, but speaking – that is, articulate speech – is an acquired art. Man learns to speak by hearing. But how can he learn without hearing, and how can he hear if he is born deaf? So there is an intimate connection in the spiritual life between the similar faculties of the soul.
Part 1 of 2 Excerpt from chapter 1, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life by Evan Hopkins (1837-1918).