The above words have laid on my mind the last days, as the only Scripture which at present seems to apply to my personal condition. One may ask to whom these words refer. Do they speak about every man without distinction? Or do they speak about some particular kinds of men alone? I believe the latter is true. The unregenerate may have a head knowledge about the doctrine of man's absolute and total hereditary sin-depravity, and it may even go a bit further than that. But he does not know the very plague of his own heart, for he does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, and He alone is able to make man truly know the plague of his own heart. The text does not say "may know", but it speaks with certainty, "SHALL know". And the knowledge is a feeling and experimental familiarity with the plague of the own heart. It is a heart-troubling and almost heart-rending plague, one which would cause the child of grace to weap tears of penitence were it not for the felt hardness of the own heart. How I have wished to weap when the Spirit in some way lets me know my own plague of heart, but mine own hardness of heart prevents the tears and the tender affections from springing forth. Yet when the Lord in His goodness and tender mercies manifests His own grace and mercy, then there is a sweet relief momentarily and the heart is moved so as to express its mournfulness on account the own plague of heart.
I believe this felt knowledge of the own plague of heart commences at regeneration, and from then on it continues so that a child of God is one who increasingly knows his own sinfulness and deadness and impotency etc. So that it is all vanity and futility to talk about "progressive sanctification" to such an one, for he does not get better while here below in this vale of tears. He does not feel himself to be holier day by day, but he will more and more learn the plague of his own pathetically sinful heart. And grace sees to it that he more and more also learns his deep need of grace and mercy and peace and every blessing God bestows upon His own in God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do not know the plague of your own heart on account of sin and death within then what worth is it to talk about knowing the Saviour. Many professors view sin merely as something polluting the person. This is of course not untrue in and of itself. But sin is much more than that. The person is not only being polluted, but he is polluted from conception, yea, he is uncleanness itself walking and talking etc.
Man is sinful, and therefore he sins and exhibits pollution. Sin is first and foremost a shortcoming, a missing of the mark. This may seem to some like downplaying the word "sin". But the word sin does not mean anything if it is not defined. Most all the world, especially the professing world, uses the word sin. But taken as such it does not mean anything. It must be defined scripturally or it is futile to take the word in our mouths. Sin is a shortcoming, a missing of the mark. It is a debt, each individual act of sin is a debt to God's holy and just law, therefore some use the descriptive word sin-debt. If you are a sinner, then you are one who in and of yourself have a sin-debt. And this sin-debt is to God and to His holy and perfect law. And the wages of sin and its debt is death, a threefold death; spiritual, physical, and eternal death in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. And unless this debt of yours is fully paid you have nothing in God, such is the severity of sin and its debt. And with respect to God's beloved covenant people this sin-debt was paid to the full at Calvary, by the One who was able and sufficient to render payment and satisfaction to God and His law because of His being the Divinely appointed Surety of His particular people, even the God-Man Mediator, Christ Jesus the Lord.
Sin is also transgression of the law. A sinner is a transgressor of God's law, and against God Himself, and unless a sinner is viewed as perfectly righteous in the sight of this infinitely holy God he is nothing but a transgressor of the law, and under just condemnation on account of Adam's sin.
I believe that when the Spirit of God sanctifies the elect of God in regeneration He begins to show the sanctified one the nature of sin in its manifold dimensions. He will learn of sin as pollution, as transgression of the law, as debt to God and His law, as missing the mark of perfect righteousness, as coming short of the glory of God, as impotency with respect to spiritual things, so as to learn the futility of such catch phrases as " exercise faith". The saint just won't "exercise faith" at will, the Scripture does not teach such nonsense, and every living saint knows it is so. It is faith that exercises the person of the saint as it pleases God. But also an important thing with respect to sin is that it is offence against a holy and just God, against the benevolent Creator and Sustainer of life. And if not mistaken altogether I would say it is this aspect of sin which is most humbling and heart-rending and sorrow-causing to the child of God. If this aspect of sin is absent in religious treatises then the whole doctrine of sin is collapsed. And this is that aspect of sin which religionists and dead professors neglect or downplay, for they know nothing of it in the true and felt experience thereof. Mark my words, dear reader. Just take time to read the accounts of professed conversions of evident and manifest wolves such as Martin Luther, Andrew Fuller and Charles H Spurgeon, and you will find this aspect of sin altogether absent and lacking.
When the Spirit of regeneration brings a saint to Gospel conversion He will not only show sin as an indwelling fountain of uncleanness, but He will also by the law show the poor wretched sinner that "You have offended your Creator and your God by your sins and transgressions". He makes sin personal, as something perpetrated against the glorious Person of the thrice holy LORD God, cp. Isa. 6:5. This is a most crucial aspect of Holy Spirit conviction, and one which is constantly downplayed or absent in modern popular religious writings and proclamations. This conviction is intrinsically connected to godly sorrow which needeth not to be repented of. If this aspect is wanting from a professed conversion then one has good reason to be alarmed. Let professors and religionists come and boast of their thus and so long being convicted of their sinfulness, but if this vital aspect of conviction of the Spirit by the law is missing in their testimony I will not give much ear to it. And when one emphasizes this dogmatically one will get much opposition from most brands of religionists, and they begin to come with their pathetic humanistic arguments such as "God converts people differently because we are all individuals, you know" etc. That is nothing but dung, and pathetic clichés. God has always converted sinners the same way. By His and His Son's Spirit, through the law, but most importantly by the Gospel of the Messias, even the Lord Jesus Christ (1Thess. 1:4-6, 9). By the law He shows sin in its proper light and only then is the Glad Tidings of peace effectual in the Spirit's hand to effect blessed deliverance of the undone sinner. Amen.