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Evil besides (which I must still believe to be the lethal side of man) had left on that body an imprint of deformity and decay. And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself. It seemed natural and human.

We all know the basic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: one man creating a second evil alter ego and the battle that ensues. However, this past week, I finally got around to reading the original classic written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886. This is yet another classic worth the read that is significantly deeper and more insightful than recent caricatures of the premise. Like Frankenstein, this is no fairy tale but a tragic story and there were a few things that stood out to me.

What Motivates Jekyll?

Jekyll’s motivation is to try to separate his sinful side from his upright side as he sees it. This is wild to me: he is truly making a foolish attempt to mortify his flesh.

If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil. It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together—that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then were they dissociated?

Jekyll knows the tension that Paul expresses in Romans 7 but doesn’t exactly track with Romans 8:13 and so he takes his own potion and his own “alter ego” in unveiled in Mr. Hyde. The problem is that it is only his evil side that is unveiled and hardly separated from his whole self. But Jekyll hardly groans at this result.

The Allure of Hyde

Jekyll tries to use Hyde as a way of yielding to all sin. Becoming Mr. Hyde is akin to giving himself over to complete debauchery. Of course, it is utterly intoxicating and he is eventually pressed to make a choice between the two (especially after Hyde kills a very prominent person). Easy decision, right? Stick with Dr. Jekyll! Wrong. The allure and power of Hyde is overwhelming.

To cast in my lot with Jekyll, was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged and had of late begun to pamper. To cast it in with Hyde, was to die to a thousand interests and aspirations, and to become, at a blow and forever, despised and friendless. The bargain might appear unequal; but there was still another consideration in the scales; for while Jekyll would suffer smartingly in the fires of abstinence, Hyde would be not even conscious of all that he had lost. Strange as my circumstances were, the terms of this debate are as old and commonplace as man; much the same inducements and alarms cast the die for any tempted and trembling sinner; and it fell out with me, as it falls with so vast a majority of my fellows, that I chose the better part and was found wanting in the strength to keep to it.

The Growing Slavery to Hyde

Jekyll’s nightmare very quickly becomes a reality. He thinks he can just become Hyde on his own terms and then turn it off. That’s not how it works with sin and it’s not how it works with Hyde either! Mr. Hyde becomes more and more powerful until Jekyll is hopeless.

At all hours of the day and night, I would be taken with the premonitory shudder; above all, if I slept, or even dozed for a moment in my chair, it was always as Hyde that I awakened. Under the strain of this continually impending doom and by the sleeplessness to which I now condemned myself, ay, even beyond what I had thought possible to man, I became, in my own person, a creature eaten up and emptied by fever, languidly weak both in body and mind, and solely occupied by one thought: the horror of my other self.

Jekyll does not win this battle. Only in his death is Hyde defeated. It is very tempting for us to think that yielding to sin just one time is no big deal. Just satisfy the desire today and tomorrow I’ll feel better. Or we think we can muster the will to defeat the sin in us. I will just stop being harsh with my kids. I will just stop looking at pornography. I will just stop overeating so much. That works pretty well too, doesn’t it? There is no playing games with sin – it will crush you and take miles like Mr. Hyde does when you give inches just as Jekyll tries to do.

There is no quenching the desires of sin, they will not be satisfied in feeding them! Yet we can’t simply discipline ourselves out of Mr. Hyde. However, there is a “magic potion” that gives a mortal wound to the Mr. Hyde in us. It’s slow acting (lifetime!) and painful but guaranteed…

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV)

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
(Hebrews 10:12-14 ESV)

I definitely commend this classic for you to read. The print version is only about 60 pages! I hope you will be stirred and sobered as I have been.

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