The Sin of the Spirit and the Sin of the Flesh


. Sec. I.

We have already seen, in the sixth section of the previous division, what was the reason that the tempter did not appeal to the man, but to the woman. The woman was, briefly to repeat it, only mediately in the form of God; she was comparatively less spiritual than psychical; and just for that reason she was more susceptible of the influences of the natural upon her and around her. For this reason the tempter approaches her, not as a pure spiritual nature, but in the form of the crafty serpent, which speaks by the power of demoniacal delusion. By this means the woman allows herself to be enticed into a dialogue. The disguised tempter renders the divine command suspicious to her, as being unlovingly strict, and falsely tells her that want of love was its motive and origin. Thus inwardly led into error respecting God, the woman surrenders herself, with her sight and imagination, to the forbidden tree; and this appears to her so delicious to the taste, so attractive to the sight, so enticing to a closer contemplation, that she takes of the fruit of it, and eats. In thus being absorbed in the tree, her soul is already stained, and sin is received into it. The eating is only the external performance of the deed which had already been internally committed. As soon as the woman had succumbed to the serpent, she became the serpent to her husband. The tempted one became, in her turn, a tempter; and Adam abides not in himself and in God; but in sight of the enticing fruit in the hand of the beloved one, every thought of God's love, and of the death which He had threatened, vanishes from his mind; and thus he incurs an equal sin.

The essential condition of man subsisted in three concentric circles. The innermost was his spirit; the inner, his soul; and the external, his body. With his spirit, man lived and moved in the love of God. The body stood, by means of the soul, under the potential influence of this light of love, and was thence expecting its glorification. By sin all this has now become reversed. It began by the spirit becoming dislocated from the divine love, its true life-centre. For the temptation proceeded from the suspicion of God's love, and advanced to the absolute denial of that love. Let this be well considered. / Sin did not begin by the discovery of the woman, that the forbidden tree was so irresistibly enticing; but by the infused ,/suspicion of the loving reason of the prohibition, and generally Kpf God's love. The sin was not the result of the darkening of / the consciousness of God's prohibition to the wolnan, by means \ of the sensual charm of the tree; but it was the result of her / giving admission to the serpent's insinuations that envy and \ jealousy were the grounds of the prohibition. The point of \ departure of the original sin was therefore in the spirit.

Nevertheless, there is a vast difference between this and the sin by which Satan became Satan. Scripture, indeed, tells us nothing directly of what the fall of this lofty spirit consisted in; but when it speaks of him, we always see in him (although he is compelled to serve God) the enemy of God as such, and of godlyminded people as such. He behaves as if he were God (Matt. iv. 8); and in some measure, moreover, he is a god, 6 0eo? Tov ati2vo<; Tovtov (2 Cor. iv. 4). His sin was, therefore, what it still is—revolt against God: striving to surpass the glory which was conferred on him by creation, he wished to rule in divine pre-eminence. We have to conceive of his sin and his overthrow, with the ancients, according to scriptural statements, such as Isa. xiv. 12-15. Arrogantly reflecting himself in his glory, he would not continue in submission to God's light and love; but, desirous of exalting himself above measure, he incurred the divinely ordained punishment of such frantic selfishness.

The primal sin of man had this in common with the primal sin of Satan, that, like it, it was a forsaking of God's love, wherein every creature has its original position, a continual advancement in which is its true development. For God is wydirrj. He is $i3< ; (1 John i. 5); and loving God, and loving what God loves, the creature, self-conscious and free, abides and moves iv rw <fxorl (1 John i. 7), and its life is a progressive fierafiopif>ovadai Utto Sofj7? et< ; So^av (2 Cor. iii. 18). All sin is a transgression of the limits imposed by this love (jrapd^aaK), and its attendant degradation and decline from the sphere of this love (irapaTrrwfia): it is avofiia, for every law of God is an appointment of His love. Even the Thora was a gift of love to Israel (Deut. xxxiii. 3), and n?L)$ is its first and last claim. Departure from God's love is the common nature of all sin; and when the departure from this love was associated with a desire to progress in the direction of a selfishly appointed end, rather than of an end divinely appointed, this became the common nature of the primal sin, both of the spirit-world and of humanity.

But the distinction is this, that (1) Satan was the originator (iron-rjp) of sin, while men succumbed to the power of sin already intruded into the good creation of God; that (2) Satan revolted against God of himself alone, but men were withdrawn from the love of God by being ensnared from without; and (3) that, in the immediateness in which Satan, as a pure spirit, was present before God, his sin was a direct, perfectly conscious rebellion; whereas the sin of men, as spiritualembodied beings, was accomplished by means of their error in respect of God's love, without their conscious denial of it, and by thus receiving the decisive impulse of the forbidden object through the power of sensual attraction. By the first distinctive characteristic, the sin of the first-created man is distinguished from the sin of Satan, but not from that of the angels who fell with and after Satan. By the second and third, however, man's sin is also distinguished from that of these latter. For the angels that fell with Satan decided also absolutely of themselves—they fell by imitation, not by seduction; and the sons of God of which Gen. vi. speaks, did not fall as men did, in consequence of a possibility of becoming incarnate, established in the reciprocal relation of their nature to that which was natural outside them; but by an unnatural violation of the God-appointed limitations from below, as Satan and his angels fell by an unnatural violation of the God-established limitations from above.

To shorten the matter: the distinction is this, that the primal sin of Satan was a direct, purely spiritual revolt against God; the primal sin of man was a revolt indirectly brought about by the body against God—brought about by means of a masked power of deceit coming upon them from without (Gen. iii. 13, '3tOBfy comp. eipprarrjtTev, 2 Cor. xi. 3, 1 Tim. ii. 14), and by the superadded material and sensual attraction of the forbidden tree.1 Not as though there were an evil principle in matter in itself: the material world of the six days' work is good; but apart from God, it is regarded, actually by means of its goodness, as an evil enticement.

The world was good, and man was good; the world crowned by the creation of man was very good. But it was brought forth from chaos to this very good position; and even the very good position of man rested upon the chaotic foundation which was made the substratum of his life. The potentialities of this foundation, which of themselves alone were possibilities of wrath and of death, were made serviceable to life by the spirit of life; and this life was linked in the personal man, on behalf of the whole earthly world, to God the living one; and in fellowship with Him, it was to be maintained and to be established in its progress. But as man fell away from his life which had its being in God's love, the natural ground of his life became the abyss of death.

After having psychologically discussed the nature of the primal sin of man, in distinction from that of demoniacal beings, we proceed, in a similar psychological point of view, to consider its consequences.

1 Satan, says my Elberfeld critic, wished in his arrogance to surpass God; man failed in love to God by means of love to the vain world, and therefore by endeavours after that which was sordid.