Man's Fall from Love into Selfishness
Lamentations 5:12-18
Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honored.…

The secret of man's perfection may be summed up in these short words, Love to God. The secret of man's sin may be stated as shortly, Defect of love to God. As the former implied truth and holiness, and purity of motive, and unity of wilt with His will, so this latter implies the departure of all these graces. But not only this. The heart allows no vacuum: sin is not a negative only, but a positive condition; where love has departed, there the opposite of love enters, namely, selfishness, with all its baneful consequences. And the essence of selfishness is, that a man lives not for and in another, be that other his neighbour, or his God, hut for and in himself. Now notice, that this selfishness, arising out of defect of love to God, and in God to others, is not an act, or a series of acts in man, but a state, out of which spring, as the symptoms out of a disease, those sinful acts of selfishness, which we call sins. Selfishness has turned love into lust, dignity into pride, humility into meanness, zeal into ambition, charity into ostentation; has made the strong man into a tyrant, the womanly into the womanish character, the childlike into the childish; has turned family and friendly love into partisanship, patriotism into faction, religion itself into bigotry. It penetrates into, and infiltrates every thought, every desire, every word, every act; so that whatsoever is of it, and not of faith, is sin. And its seat is in the noblest, the godlike, the immortal and responsible spirit of man. So that it is no longer worthy of that noble title of the Spirit, reminding us of God; but they who are thus, are named in Scripture unspiritual, and their whole state is called "the flesh"; not that it springs from the flesh, but because it sinks them into the flesh. Another degrading consequence results from this usurpation by self of the place of God within us. Man placed under love, though in bond and covenant to God and his neighbour, was really and essentially free; a child of God's family; his will and God's will being one, law became to him liberty. But under selfishness, though he has broken loose from covenant with God and his neighbour, he is to all intents and purposes, a slave; in bondage to his own desires and passions, which he ought to be, and wishes to be, ruling. "The truth," declares our Lord, "shall make you free"; but all sin is a lie, It practically denies God, — whose being, and whose power, and whose love constitute the great truth of this universe: this is the negative side of its falsehood; and it sets up self and other creatures in God's place as lord and guide of man's being: this is its positive side. It apes the perfections and attributes of God, and makes man into a miserable counterfeit, betraying, by that which he wishes to appear, that which he really ought to be. Well then, it now comes before us as a solemn question, seeing that our whole nature, the nature of each man, is thus gone astray, and that every one of us has an abiding tendency to selfishness and to evil — Whence came this tendency? How had it its beginning? This tendency is a departure from God who made us; and cannot therefore have been God's work. And this departure can only have begun by an act of the will of man. God created us free, gave our first parents a command to keep, which very fact implied that they had power to break it. Now there was no reasonable ground for breaking it, but every imaginable reason against such conduct; the departure was not an act of the convinced reason, but an act of that which we know as self-will — a leaning to self in spite of reason and conscience. So that sin had its practical beginning in the will of man. And this beginning we read of in Scripture in the history of the Fall. At once man's personality, the inner soul of his nature, passes into a different relation to God: it is torn out of the covenant of His love; stands over against Him as His enemy; trembles at His approach. All peace, all innocence, is gone. The body, God's beautiful and wonderful work, becomes the seat of shame. Man, knowing that he is naked, flies from God and hides himself. And as the spirit of man has renounced its allegiance to God, so have now the animal soul and the body thrown off their allegiance to the spirit. Anarchy enters into his being, and holds wild misrule. The gravitation of the spiritual world is overthrown, its laws of attraction are suspended; the lower revolts against the higher, the lowest against the lower. And as in man, so in man's world. In a moment the poison spreads, electric, over the kingdom which he should have ruled; the elements disown him, the beasts of the forest glare upon him, the ground is cursed for his sake. The king of nature is self-deposed, — his palace is broken up, his delights are scattered, his sweet fellowship with his helpmate is marred, — and he is driven out a wanderer. Then first sprung forth the bitter fountains of tears, destined to furrow the cheeks of untold generations; then first the hands were clenched, and the brow grasped, and the breast beaten, — and the vastness of inward woe sought relief in outward gesture. Verily, the crown had fallen from his head; woe unto him, that he had sinned.

(Dean Alford.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.

WEB: Princes were hanged up by their hand: The faces of elders were not honored.

God's People May Apprehend Themselves Stripped of All Cause of Joy
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