Carnal Souls

And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
~ 2 Chronicles 19:2, Ephesians 4:18-19, Romans 1:28

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
Jeremiah 13:23, Matthew 12:34, 1 Corinthians 2:14, 2 Peter 2:14

To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
~ 1 Corinthians 9:21

Romans 8:7. An Exposition, by Robert Haldane.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
~ Romans 8:7

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. — The word rendered carnal mind — or, as it may be rendered, minding of the flesh — comprehends the acts both of the understanding and of the will. Some render it the prudence, or wisdom, of the flesh — or the wise thoughts.

The carnal mind in its wisest thoughts is rooted enmity against God. This is the reason why the carnal mind is punished with death. The mind of the flesh, or of man in his unconverted state, walking according to the flesh, in its best as well as in its worst character — however moral in conduct — .whether seeking acceptance with God by its own services, or following altogether the course of this world in its sinful practices — is not merely an enemy, but enmity itself against God in the understanding, will, and affections. Every man whose heart is set on this world hates God, John 2:15. ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;’ and the heart of every one who has not been renewed in his mind by the Spirit of God is set on this world. Such men hate the holiness of God, His justice, His sovereignty, and even His mercy in the way in which it is exercised. Men of this character, however, have no notion that they hate God. Nay, many of them profess to love Him. But God’s testimony is, that they are His enemies; and His testimony is to be taken against the testimony of all men. This, however, does not suppose that men may not imagine that they love God. But is it not the true God whom they are regarding, but a God of their own imagination — a God all mercy, and therefore a God unjust; while they abhor the just God, and the Savior, who is the God of the Scriptures. ‘He that cometh to God must believe that He is,’ Hebrews 11:6. He must believe that He is what He is. For it is not subject to the law of God. — The carnal mind is not under subjection to the law of God. Whatever it may do to obtain salvation or avoid wrath, it does it not from subjection to the law. It has a rooted aversion to the spiritual law of God, and admits not its claim to perfect and unceasing obedience. All its performances in the way of religion spring from selfish motives, and a hope that, on account of these doings, it will be accepted; whereas the holy law of God utterly rejects all such service. So far from giving the law all its demands, the carnal mind gives it nothing.

Nothing which it does constitutes obedience to the law. The law does not in any degree, or in any instance, recognise the works of the carnal mind as obedience to its requirements. Neither indeed can be. — Not only is it a matter of fact that the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, but such subjection is impossible.

Sin cannot be in subjection to the law. This would be a contradiction in terms. For, so far as it would be subject to the law of God, it would be holy. If, then, sin is essentially, and in direct terms, contrary to holiness, the sinful nature can never yield subjection to the holy law. Men may speculate about metaphysical possibilities; but whatever explanation may be given of the matter, the decision of the inspired Apostle determines that the thing is impossible.

That an unconverted man cannot be subject to the law of God, appears to many a hard saying; but it is the uniform doctrine of the word of God. All men in their natural state, though they boast that they are free, are the slaves of sin. Then Jesus, addressing the Jews who professed to believe in Him, but who understood not His doctrine, said to them, ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’ they answered, ‘We were never in bondage to any man; how sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?’ In the same manner the unconverted boast of their freedom. They affirm that their will is free; and that, as they can choose the evil, so they can choose the good. If, by this freedom, they intend that they can choose without any external force constraining or preventing them, it is true that, in this sense, they are free. But a moral agent chooses according to his inclinations or dispositions. It should always be recollected that the will is the will of the mind, and the judgment the judgment of the mind. It is the mind that judges and that wills. A fool judges foolishly; a wicked man judges wickedly; a good man wills that which is good. In Scripture, it is said that God cannot deny Himself; that He cannot lie. His nature being perfectly holy, it is impossible that He can do what is wrong. On the other hand, the wicked and condemned spirits cannot choose what is holy. When the devil speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ Man, therefore, in his carnal state, chooses what is evil; but he cannot choose what is good, not indeed because of any external obstruction, for in that case he would not be criminal, but by reason of the opposition of his perverse dispositions. He is inclined to do evil, and evil he will do. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.’ His language is, ‘I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.’ ‘As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.’ ‘My people would not hearken to My voice, and Israel would have none of Me.’ They say ‘unto God, Depart from us.’ ‘Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.’ ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us.’

It is thus that ‘wickedness proceedeth from the wicked.’ ‘Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.’ ‘Wept a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ ‘Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ ‘How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?’ ‘No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me, draw him.’ ‘Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me except it were given unto him of My Father.’ ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ ‘Their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken.’ ‘How can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ ‘The Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive.’ ‘Why do ye not understand My speech? even because ye cannot hear My word.’ ‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.’

According, then, to Scripture, the natural man is entirely incapable of choosing what is good, although it is his duty, and therefore fit that it should be enjoined on him. He is ‘ungodly,’ a ‘sinner,’ an ‘enemy to God,’ and ‘without strength,’ Romans 5:6,10. Men in this state are represented as walking according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; as being under ‘the power of Satan,’ and ‘taken captive by him at his will.’ They are his lawful captives, because they are so voluntarily. From this slavery they cannot be freed but by means of the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, which the Lord employs; granting to those to whom it seemeth good to Him the blessing of regeneration; ‘distributing His gifts, and dividing to every man severally as He will.’ It is God ‘who hath delivered us,’ says the Apostle, ‘from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.’ ‘Who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’ ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’

When God purposes to do good to men, He fulfills to them this gracious promise, ‘I will give them a heart to know Me.’ It was this preparation of heart that David prayed to God to grant to his son Solomon. At the same time, he acknowledged with gratitude that his own willingness to offer to God, of which he was Conscious, and that of his people, were from Him.

After celebrating the praises of Jehovah, David says, ‘But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.

O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of Thy people, and prepare their hearts unto Thee,’ 1 Chronicles 29:10-18.

There is nothing to prevent men from obeying the will of God but their own depraved dispositions, and aversion to the things of God. The natural faculties of men would be sufficient to enable them to do what He commands, if they employ them properly. If they employ them otherwise, the fault rests exclusively with themselves. And as the corruption of our nature does not deprive a man of any of his natural faculties, or of perfect liberty to act conformably to the decision of his own mind, the obligation under which he lies to do right continues in full force. From this we see, first, how justly God punishes men for their crimes, who, unless inclined and enabled by His grace, cannot liberate themselves from the slavery of sin; and further, that the inability of men to obey God, not being natural but moral inability, cannot deprive God of the right to command obedience, under the pain of His most awful displeasure.

On this subject, the distinction between natural and moral inability should always be kept in view. Natural inability consists in a defect in the mind or body, which deprives a man of the power of knowing or doing anything, however desirous he may be of knowing or doing it. Natural inability, then, can never render a man criminal. Moral inability consists in an aversion to anything, so great that the mind, even when acting freely — that is, without any external impulse or constraint — cannot overcome it.

When this aversion exists as to what is good, it is inseparable from blame; and the greater this aversion is, the greater is the criminality. All men are daily accustomed to make these distinctions, and according to this rule they constantly form their opinion of the conduct of others.

In the nature of things, it is impossible that the justice of God can ever demand of reasonable creatures less than perfect obedience. To say that the moral inability of man to obey the law of God destroys or weakens, in the smallest degree, his obligation to obey that law, is to add insult to rebellion. For what is that moral inability? It is, as has been observed, no other than aversion to God, the depraved inclination of the carnal mind, which not only entertains and cherishes enmity against God, but is itself that enmity. And let it not be said that the view the Scriptures give of the natural depravity of men, and of the sovereign and efficacious grace of God, reduces them to the condition of machines. Between men and machines there is this essential difference, and it is enough for us to know that man is a voluntary agent both in the state of nature and of grace. He wills and acts according to his own dispositions, while machines have neither thought nor will. As long, then, as a man’s will is depraved and opposed to God, his conduct will be bad, — he will fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and, on the other hand, when God gives the sinner a new disposition, and a new spirit, his conduct will undergo a corresponding change. ‘The liberty of a moral agent consists in the power of acting conformably to his choice. Every action performed without external constraint, and in pursuance of the determination of the soul itself, is a free action. The soul is determined by motives; but we constantly see the same motives acting diversely on different minds. Many do not act conformably to the motives of which they yet acknowledge all the force.

This failure of the motive proceeds from obstacles opposed by the corruption of the heart and understanding. But God, in giving a new heart and a new spirit, takes away these obstacles; and, in removing them, far from depriving a man of liberty, He removes that which hindered him from acting freely, and from following the light of his conscience, and thus, as the Scriptures express it, makes him free. The will of man, without Divine grace, is not free but enslaved, and willing to be so.’

Is it objected, that if a man be so entirely corrupt that he cannot do what is right, he should not be blamed for doing evil? To this it is sufficient to reply, that if there be any force in the objection, the more a voluntary agent is diabolically wicked, the more innocent he should be considered. A creature is not subject to blame if he is not a voluntary agent; but if he be so, and if his dispositions and his will were absolutely wicked, he would certainly be incapable of doing good, and, according to the above argument, he could not be blamed for doing evil. On this ground the devil must be excused, nay, held perfectly innocent, in his desperate and irreconcilable enmity against God. A consequence so monstrous totally destroys the force of the objection whence it is deduced. But if the objection be still pressed — if any one shall proudly demand, who hath resisted His will?

Why hath He made me thus? — the only proper answer is that of the Apostle, ‘Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?’

Some, indeed, taking a different and the most common view of this matter, deny the innate depravity of their nature, and, in spite of all that the Scriptures declare on this subject, persist in maintaining that they have not an inclination to evil, and are under no moral incapacity to do what is right.

To such persons the same reply should be made as that of our Lord to the ignorant young man who asked Him what he should do to inherit eternal life. ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.’ You cannot refuse to admit that this is your duty. You ought to love God with all your heart, and soul, and strength, and in all things constantly to obey Him.

Have you done so? No! Then, on your own principles, you are justly condemned, for you say that you can do what is right, and yet you have not done it. If, then, you will not submit unconditionally, and without reserve, to be saved in the way which the Gospel points out, in which you learn at once your malady and the remedy of which you stand in need, your blood will be upon your own head. ‘Now, you say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.’ The whole, then, resolves itself into this, that all is according to the good pleasure of God. ‘Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit. Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Ye shall know them by their fruits.’ Every man, then, being by nature bad, must be made good before he can do good. In this and the two preceding verses we observe the strong, and expressive, and accumulated terms in which the Apostle describes the alienation of the natural man from God. 1st, He declares that they who walk after the flesh, mind the things of the flesh; 2nd, That the minding of the flesh is death; 3rd, That the carnal mind is enmity against God; 4th, That it is not subject to the law of God; 5th, That so great is the corruption of the carnal mind, that this is impossible.

From the passage before us, we learn how miserable the state of man is by nature, since even his wisdom and intelligence, in his unconverted state, is enmity against God, so that he cannot submit himself to His law. We learn, too, that the ability both to will and to do anything good must be from God. We should adore His compassion and mercy to us, if our natural enmity against Him has been subdued, and we have been reconciled to God by the death of His Son. In proportion to the greatness of this compassion, we should place our entire confidence in Him as our covenant God. For if, when we were enmity against Him, He loved us, how much more now that we are reconciled and His children? Romans 5:10. And, since there are still remains of the flesh and enmity against God and His holy law in our minds, we ought to deny ourselves daily, and flee to Him who can and will entirely deliver us from the body of this death.