By Harry E. Jessop
WHAT WE BELIEVE AND TEACH ABOUT THE LOSTNESS OF A SINNING WORLD
"They are all sold under sin.... There is none righteous, no not one." Rom. 3:9, 10.
According to what is conceived to be the plain teaching of the Word of God, We, the Holiness People believe and teach that the whole world without Christ is hopelessly and irrevocably lost. When we say this we say it not with the jaunty air of theological opinion, but with an inward sob. We wish it were not true, yet we are conscious that no denials of men, however scholarly they might try to make them, can alter the Divinely declared fact:
"The whole world lieth in the wicked one." I John 5:19, R. V.
We are not unmindful of the splendid human qualities possessed and manifested by the many men and women whose characters and achievements the world has rightly come to respect. Intellectually, scientifically, and even morally, giants have trodden the earth. Every passing year new accomplishments are being added to those already recorded, and marvels of science continue to come forth. There have been those who have claimed to be on the very verge of the discovery of the origin of life itself. They have looked for that origin, however, not skyward, but in other directions, and each time their quest has failed.
There are also to be found men of optimistic mood who see amid all the recorded events of the historic past and in the painful happenings of the perplexing present, an evident token of human progress; to them it is a pledge of man's ultimate freedom from the fears, follies and fetters which through the ages have held the human mind in their tyrannical grip. The human race began, they insist, not with a regal earth-lord, divinely created, to whom dominion was given, but with the emergence of a lowly cell which, now having reached its present state of development, is a monument to its own evolutionary power, and a prophecy of the perfection to which it will ultimately come.
Needless to say, We, the Holiness People, have no such delusions. We possess a Book, believed by us to be the revealed Word of God and therefore the only authoritative source of information concerning human origin. Thus we reject the theory of theistic evolution, insisting on God's special creation of man as the basis of our faith.
We believe that man is a fallen creature.
Both the Word of God and Divinely enlightened human consciousness assign to man a past that was better than his sinful present. The idea of ancient mud puddles, fish fins, monkey shines, and tree top dwellings does not appeal to the devout mind. Deep down within the inner consciousness of man there is something which endorses the Divine announcement:
"And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them; and God blessed them, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Gen. 1:27, 28.
That, to us, is the Divine declaration of man's origin, the description of the state from which he has manifestly fallen. The fact of that fall our Divinely given Guide Book also clearly states.
We shall not attempt to compile anything in the nature of a complete list of Scripture references concerning this. It is better that every interested student should make his own. This, as the result of his personal study, will be far more valuable to him than any general list complied for him by others; although if for any reason such research should not be possible, any good Bible text cyclopedia will supply him with all the information he needs.
We, therefore, place before the reader the open Book, inviting him to read it for himself, being assured that a candid, unbiased reading can lead only to one conclusion, namely, that man as we now know him, even at his best, is in a depraved and fallen state, and is powerless to rectify his condition in the sight of a holy God.
Three leading Scripture references will suffice to state the fact for us. They are key passages, central to the entire theme, while around them cluster the numerous references in both Old and New Testaments like planets around a central sun. Beyond these is what we might state as the general drift of Scripture teaching -- trend marks, shall we call them, indicating direction.
What the key passages say and their sustaining passages indicate is confirmed by what might be called the general sentiment of the Book from beginning to end, namely, that human nature apart from Divine grace is fallen and is irrevocably lost.
The key passages are: Gen. 3, Rom. 5: 12-21, I Cor. 15:21, 22. Added to these, see also. Gen. 6:5; Job 14:4; 15:14; Psa. 51:5; Prov. 22: 15; Jer.17:9; Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:6; Rom. 5:19; 8:5-8; Gal. 5:17-21; Eph. 2:3 and many others. We believe that in this fallen condition man justly merits the displeasure of a holy God.
Again we fall back upon our twofold argument, the fact of our own consciousness and the plain teaching of the Word of God.
Three stanzas from Thomas Binney's arresting hymn will express our inner consciousness concerning this:
Any man who seriously thinks at all, giving time for any degree of careful consideration, will soon become solemnly conscious of the fact that in his present condition, fallen and contaminated by sin, he can merit only the deep displeasure of a holy God.
The Scriptures also declare with no uncertainty the Divine attitude toward man in his sin. By reason of his relationship to a fallen race and his personal endorsement of this fact by willful transgression, every man is viewed in the Divine revelation as condemned by Divine decree:
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Rom. 3:23.
"By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Rom. 5:12.
Fallen man has been driven from the Divine Presence and a flaming sword has been placed between him and his Maker to bar the way back. Unless he can find a standing ground somewhere outside of himself, there is no way back to God; he is therefore irrevocably lost.
Should the question be raised concerning the Divine attitude toward infants and other non-responsible persons tainted by hereditary evil, We, the Holiness People, answer that Divine Mercy has amply provided for them in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.