The Inward Experience of Believers

Taken and adapted from, “Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne”
Written by, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Sermon XV
Put together and published by Andrew Bonar, 1894.

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“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”   —Romans. 7:22–25.

A BELIEVER is to be known not only by his peace and joy, but by his warfare and distress…

His peace is peculiar: it flows from Christ; it is heavenly, it is holy peace. His warfare is as peculiar: it is deep-seated, agonizing, and ceases not till death. If the Lord will, many of us have the prospect of sitting down next Sabbath at the Lord’s Table. The great question to be answered before sitting down there is, “Have I fled to Christ or no?”

’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,

Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?

To help you to settle this question, I have chosen the subject of the Christian’s warfare that you may know thereby whether you are a soldier of Christ— whether you are really fighting the good fight of faith.

I.   A believer delights in the law of God.—“I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” ver. 22.

(1.) Before a man comes to Christ, he hates the law of God—his whole soul rises up against it. “The carnal mind is enmity,” etc., 8:7.

First, Unconverted men hate the law of God on account of its purity. “Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.” For the same reason worldly men hate it. The law is the breathing of God’s pure and holy mind. It is infinitely opposed to all impurity and sin. Every line of the law is against sin. But natural men love sin, and therefore they hate the law, because it opposes them in all they love. As bats hate the light, and fly against it, so unconverted men hate the pure light of God’s law, and fly against it.

Second, They hate it for its breadth. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” It extends to all their outward actions, seen and unseen; it extends to every idle word that men shall speak; it extends to the looks of their eye; it dives into the deepest caves of their heart; it condemns the most secret springs of sin and lust that nestle there. Unconverted men quarrel with the law of God because of its strictness. If it extended only to my outward actions, then I could bear with it; but it condemns my most secret thoughts and desires, which I cannot prevent. Therefore ungodly men rise against the law.

Third, They hate it for its unchangeableness. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle of the law shall in no wise pass away. If the law would change, or let down its requirements, or die, then ungodly men would be well pleased. But it is unchangeable as God: it is written on the heart of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. It cannot change unless God change; it cannot die unless God die. Even in an eternal hell its demands and its curses will be the same. It is an unchangeable law, for He is an unchangeable God. Therefore ungodly men have an unchangeable hatred to that holy law.

(2.) When a man comes to Christ, this is all changed. He can say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” He can say with David, “Oh how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” He can say with Jesus, in the 40th Psalm, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.”

There are two reasons for this:—

First, The law is no longer an enemy.—If any of you who are trembling under a sense of your infinite sins, and the curses of the law which you have broken, flee to Christ, you will find rest. You will find that He has fully answered the demands of the law as a surety for sinners; that He has fully borne all its curses. You will be able to say, “Christ hath redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me, as it is written, Cursed,” etc. You have no more to fear, then, from that awfully holy law: you are not under the law, but under grace. You have no more to fear from the law than you will have after the judgment-day. Imagine a saved soul after the judgment-day. When that awful scene is past; when the dead, small and great, have stood before that great white throne; when the sentence of eternal woe has fallen upon all the unconverted, and they have sunk into the lake whose fires can never be quenched; would not that redeemed soul say, I have nothing to fear from that holy law; I have seen its vials poured out, but not a drop has fallen on me? So may you say now, O believer in Jesus! When you look upon the soul of Christ, scarred with God’s thunderbolts; when you look upon his body, pierced for sin, you can say, He was made a curse for me; why should I fear that holy law?

Second, The Spirit of God writes the law on the heart.—This is the promise: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jer. 31:33. Coming to Christ takes away your fear of the law; but it is the Holy Spirit coming into your heart that makes you love the law. The Holy Spirit is no more frightened away from that heart; He comes and softens it; He takes out the stony heart and puts in a heart of flesh; and there He writes the holy, holy, holy law of God. Then the law of God is sweet to that soul; he has an inward delight in it. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Now he unfeignedly desires every thought, word, and action to be according to that law. “Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes: great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” The 119th Psalm becomes the breathing of that new heart. Now also he would fain see all the world submitting to that pure and holy law. “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law.” Oh that all the world but knew that holiness and happiness are one! Oh that all the world were one holy family, joyfully coming under the pure rules of the gospel! Try yourselves by this. Can you say, “I delight,” etc.? Do you remember when you hated the law of God? Do you love it now? Do you long for the time when you shall live fully under it—holy as God is holy, pure as Christ is pure?

Oh come, sinners, and give up your hearts to Christ, that He may write on it his holy law! You have long enough had the devil’s law graven on your hearts: come you to Jesus, and He will both shelter you from the curses of the law, and He will give you the Spirit to write all that law in your heart; He will make you love it with your inmost soul. Plead the promise with Him. Surely you have tried the pleasures of sin long enough. Come, now, and try the pleasures of holiness out of a new heart.

If you die with your heart as it is, it will be stamped a wicked heart to all eternity. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Rev. 22:11. Oh come and get the new heart before you die; for except you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God!

II.    A true believer feels an opposing law in his members.

“I see another law,” etc., ver. 23. When a sinner comes first to Christ, he often thinks he will now bid an eternal farewell to sin: now I shall never sin any more. He feels already at the gate of heaven. A little breath of temptation soon discovers his heart, and he cries out, “I see another law.”

(1.) Observe what he calls it—“another law;” quite a different law from the law of God; a law clean contrary to it. He calls it a “law of sin,” ver. 25; a law that commands him to commit sin, that urges him on by rewards and threatenings—“a law of sin and death,” 8:2; a law which not only leads to sin, but leads to death, eternal death: “the wages of sin is death.” It is the same law which, in Galatians, is called “the flesh:” “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” etc., Gal. 5:17. It is the same which, in Eph. 4:22, is called “the old man,” which is wrought according to the deceitful lusts; the same law which in Col. 3 is called “your members”—“Mortify, therefore, your members, which are,” etc.; the same which is called “a body of death,” Rom. 7:24. The truth then is, that in the heart of the believer there remains the whole members and body of an old man, or old nature: there remains the fountain of every sin that has ever polluted the world.

(2.)  Observe again what this law is doing—“warring.” This law in the members is not resting quiet, but warring—always fighting. There never can be peace in the bosom of a believer. There is peace with God, but constant war with sin. This law in the members has got an army of lusts under him, and he wages constant war against the law of God. Sometimes, indeed, an army are lying in ambush, and they lie quiet till a favourable moment comes. So in the heart the lusts often lie quiet till the hour of temptation, and then they war against the soul. The heart is like a volcano: sometimes it slumbers and sends up nothing but a little smoke; but the fire is slumbering all the while below, and will soon break out again. There are two great combatants in the believer’s soul. There is Satan on the one side, with the flesh and all its lusts at his command; then on the other side there is the Holy Spirit, with the new creature all at his command. And so “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these two are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Is Satan ever successful? In the deep wisdom of God the law in the members does sometimes bring the soul into captivity. Noah was a perfect man, and Noah walked with God, and yet he was led captive. “Noah drank of the wine, and was drunken.” Abraham was the “friend of God,” and yet he told a lie, saying of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” Job was a perfect man, one that feared God and hated evil, and yet he was provoked to curse the day wherein he was born. And so with Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Hezekiah, and Peter, and the apostles.

First. Have you experienced this warfare? It is a clear mark of God’s children. Most of you, I fear, have never felt it. Do not mistake me. All of you have felt a warfare at times between your natural conscience and the law of God. But that is not the contest in the believer’s bosom. It is a warfare between the Spirit of God in the heart, and the old man with his deeds.

Second, If any of you are groaning under this warfare, learn to be humbled by it, but not discouraged.

1st, Be humbled under it.—It is intended to make you lie in the dust, and feel that you are but a worm. Oh! what a vile wretch you must be, that even after you are forgiven, and have received the Holy Spirit, your heart should still be a fountain of every wickedness! How vile, that in your most solemn approaches to God, in the house of God, in awfully affecting situations, such as kneeling beside the death-bed, you should still have in your bosom all the members of your old nature! Let this make you lie low.

2d, Let this teach you your need of Jesus.—You need the blood of Jesus as much as at the first. You never can stand before God in yourself. You must go again and again to be washed; even on your dying bed you must hide under Jehovah our Righteousness. You must also lean upon Jesus. He alone can overcome in you. Keep nearer and nearer every day.

3d, Be not discouraged.—Jesus is willing to be a Saviour to such as you. He is able to save you to the uttermost. Do you think your case is too bad for Christ to save? Every one whom Christ saves had just such a heart as you. Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life. Take up the resolution of Edwards: “Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” “Him that over-cometh will I make a pillar,” etc.

III.   The feelings of a believer during this warfare

(1.) He feels wretched.—“O wretched man that I am!” ver. 24. There is nobody in this world so happy as a believer. He has come to Jesus, and found rest. He has the pardon of all his sins in Christ. He has near approach to God as a child. He has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. He has the hope of glory. In the most awful times he can be calm, for he feels that God is with him. Still there are times when he cries, O wretched man! When he feels the plague of his own heart; when he feels the thorn in the flesh; when his wicked heart is discovered in all its fearful malignity; ah, then he lies down, crying, O wretched man that I am! One reason of this wretchedness is, that sin, discovered in the heart, takes away the sense of forgiveness. Guilt comes upon the conscience, and a dark cloud covers the soul. How can I ever go back to Christ? he cries. Alas! I have sinned away my Saviour. Another reason is, the loathsomeness of sin. It is felt like a viper in the heart. A natural man is often miserable from his sin, but he never feels its loathsomeness; but to the new creature it is vile indeed. Ah! brethren, do you know anything of a believer’s wretchedness? If you do not, you will never know his joy. If you know not a believer’s tears and groans, you will never know his song of victory.

(2.) He seeks deliverance.—“Who shall deliver me?” In ancient times, some of the tyrants used to chain their prisoners to a dead body; so that, wherever the prisoner wandered, he had to drag a putrid carcase after him. It is believed that Paul here alludes to this inhuman practice. His old man he felt a noisome putrid carcase, which he was continually dragging about with him. His piercing desire is to be freed from it. Who shall deliver us? You remember once, when God allowed a thorn in the flesh to torment his servant,—a messenger of Satan to buffet him,—Paul was driven to his knees. “I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” Oh, this is the true mark of God’s children! The world has an old nature; they are all old men together. But it does not drive them to their knees. How is it with you, dear souls? Does corruption felt within drive you to the throne of grace? Does it make you call on the name of the Lord? Does it make you like the importunate widow: “Avenge me of mine adversary?” Does it make you like the man coming at midnight for three loaves? Does it make you like the Canaanitish woman, crying after Jesus? Ah, remember, if lust can work in your heart, and you lie down contented with it, you are none of Christ’s!

(3.) He gives thanks for victory.—Truly we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us; for we can give thanks before the fight is done. Yes, even in the thickest of the battle we can look up to Jesus, and cry, Thanks to God. The moment a soul groaning under corruption rests the eye on Jesus, that moment his groans are changed into songs of praise. In Jesus you discover a fountain to wash away the guilt of all your sin. In Jesus you discover grace sufficient for you,—grace to hold you up to the end,—and a sure promise that sin shall soon be rooted out altogether. “Fear not, I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by my name; thou art mine.” Ah, this turns our groans into songs of praise! How often a psalm begins with groans and ends with praises! This is the daily experience of all the Lord’s people. Is it yours? Try yourselves by this. Oh, if you know not the believer’s song of praise, you will never cast your crowns with them at the feet of Jesus!

Dear believers, be content to glory in your infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon you. Glory, glory, glory to the Lamb!

Why Regeneration is Necessary Before Repentance

Taken and adapted from, “THE OFFICE AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”
Written by Dr. James Buchanan, Professor, and Minister of High Church, in Edinburgh.
Printed 1842.

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[Whenever you publish the works or writings of a very erudite and conservative minister or professor of theology, especially one who can see and articulate the great depths of the riches and richness of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is easy to become lost in the thought of the writer.  Often this happens when we are looking for what a person is saying through words that we know through a different context, and perhaps even meaning. One such thought that the author employs and which may cause the unwary to stumble, is concept of “the sanctified character.”  This is not the perfectionistic pietism, held to by some who are captured in the Arminian theological framework, but rather, this is talking about the spiritually “set apart” and regenerate heart, –who God has opened up to the Gospel.

While Buchanan’s writings are generally much more “dense” than what I like to post, this remarkable work I feel, deserve our attention today. And I would encourage each who has the ability to understand, to pick up his book, “THE OFFICE AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”  off the web, and read it. It is free.  –MWP]

There is a very remarkable difference between the statement of our Lord to Nicodemus, and the deliverance which he pronounced on another case of great difficulty…

In reference to rich men, and the difficulty of their entrance into the kingdom, he had said, when the young man mentioned in the Gospel “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions,” “I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven: and again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” But when the disciples said, “Who then can be saved!” he answered, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,”—thereby intimating, that although naturally impossible, by reason of the manifold obstructions with which a rich man has to contend, it was not impossible for him to remove these obstructions, nor any wise inconsistent with his character, to put forth his power for that end; and accordingly, although “not many rich and not many noble are called,” yet some in every age have been converted, and made signal monuments of the efficacy of his grace. But mark the difference when he speaks of an unregenerate man: he does not say that his entrance into the kingdom, although impossible with men, is possible with God; but he pronounces absolutely, that, remaining in that condition, he cannot see the kingdom of God, —thereby representing it as one of those things which are impossible with God himself, and which would be alike inconsistent with his declared will, opposed to the essential perfections of his nature, and subversive of the unchangeable principles of his government.

It is possible, indeed, –oh! it is very possible, that an unconverted man may be converted, that an unregenerate man may be renewed,—for this, so far from being opposed to God’s will, or character, or government, is in unison with them all, and a fit object for the interposition of his grace and power; but that a sinner remaining unconverted should be saved—that a man “born of the flesh” should enter the kingdom without being “born again” of the Spirit—this is an impossibility, and must be so, so long as God is God.

Why that it is so will appear from the following considerations.

1    No unregenerate man can see the kingdom of God, because it is impossible for God himself to do what implies a manifest contradiction; and there is a manifest contradiction in the idea that a fleshly mind can, without any change of character, become a subject of God’s spiritual kingdom. The expression here used to denote the state of safety and happiness into which God brings his people, is deeply significant and instructive. It is not spoken of, you will observe, as a state of mere safety—mere exemption from punishment, or immunity from wrath—but as a kingdom, —a kingdom in which they are safe, because they are protected by his almighty power, and happy, because they are cherished by his infinite love, —but still a kingdom, in which, besides being safe and happy, they are placed under rule and government, and expected to yield submission and service, as his obedient subjects. And so is it with, everyone who really enters that kingdom, whether on earth or in heaven; he cannot so much as enter into the outer sanctuary here, and far less obtain admission into the holy place there, without laying down at its threshold the weapons of rebellion, and returning to his allegiance and duty. There is, indeed, an external kingdom of grace in which many an unregenerate man may be placed; but the true spiritual kingdom is “not in word but in power.” “The kingdom of God,” says Christ himself, “is within you;” and, says the apostle, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” It mainly consists in the setting up of God’s throne in the sinner’s heart, subduing his will to God’s authority, and winning over his affections to God’s service; and to say that any man remaining in an unregenerate state can be a member of that kingdom, were to affirm that he might be at one and the same time both an alien and a citizen, —a friend and an enemy, —alive and dead. Everyone must see, that if, when God saves men, he brings them into his kingdom, and places them under his own holy government, it is impossible, in the very nature of things, that they can enter it without undergoing a great change; and in this light, there is a self-evident truth and certainty in the words of our Lord, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

2    No unregenerate man can see the kingdom of God, because it is impossible for God to lie; and he has expressly said, nay he has sworn, that we must be converted or condemned. “The word of the Lord endureth forever.” “Heaven and earth may pass away, but one jot or tittle of that word shall not fail.” “God is not a man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it; hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good.”

It is very true that we read in Scripture of many occasions on which his “repentings were kindled together,” and he refrained from the execution of his threatened judgments; but if we consider these cases we shall find that they are perfectly consistent with the general doctrine, that he can neither change, nor lie, nor repent, so as to leave his word unfulfilled, or to depart from the principles of his righteous government; and that they afford no ground of hope to an unconverted sinner, that he may enter into the kingdom without being born again. God is said to Repent when, in consequence of the repentance of his people, his dispensations towards them are changed; but this change in his dealings with them is only a consistent and suitable manifestation of the unchangeable and eternal principles on which he conducts his holy administration. Thus, when Rehoboam “forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him,” the king of Egypt was sent up to Jerusalem with his army to chasten them; and “the Lord said, Ye have forsaken me, therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak. Whereupon the princes of Israel, and the king bumbled themselves, and they said, The Lord is righteous: and when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, ‘They have humbled themselves, therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance.” Again, when wicked Ahab, of whom it is said, “There was none like unto Ahab—which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, rent his clothes, and put sackcloth on his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly; the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, See thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me; because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days.” And when the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and proclaimed a fast, saying, ” Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not;” “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not.”

These, and many other instances which might be mentioned, are so many proofs of the precious doctrine, that, under the scheme of grace and redemption, it is perfectly consistent with the truth and faithfulness of God, and the unchangeable principles of his government, to refrain from the infliction of threatened judgments, when ” the sinner forsakes his way, and returns unto the Lord;” but they afford no evidence that a man may be saved without being changed, or that God’s threatenings against the impenitent will not be carried into effect, lie will repent of the evil only when we repent of the sin; for otherwise, he must falsify his word, and act in direct violation of those eternal principles which make it “impossible for God to lie.”

3    No unregenerate man can see the kingdom of God, because it is impossible for God to ” deny himself,” or to act in manifest opposition to the infinite perfections of his own nature, in order to save them from suffering, who obstinately remain in a state of sin. “If ye believe not,” says the apostle, “God abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself” Even were God’s determination in this matter purely arbitrary, yet being formed by his supreme authority, and backed by his almighty power, and declared by his unchangeable truth, it should command our reverential attention; but it is not arbitrary, it flows, like every other part of his counsel or procedure, from the essential and immutable attributes of his divine nature. There are some things that cannot be otherwise while God is God, —and this is one of them: he cannot admit an unregenerate man into his kingdom, for this were to “deny himself,” and to act in direct opposition to every principle which regulates his procedure as the Governor of the world. The supposition, that a sinful man may enter into his kingdom without being born again, implies that God must deny himself in three respects; —that he must rescind the law of his moral government, —that he must depart from his declared design in the scheme of redemption itself; and—that he must reverse the moral constitution of man,—or in other words alter the whole character of his kingdom.

That a spiritual character is indispensably necessary, in order to our being admitted into the kingdom of God, may be inferred from the general laws of his moral government. In one sense, all men, however rebellious, and even devils themselves, are subjects of God’s kingdom—that is, they are under his government, and bound to obey his authority, and responsible to him as their Judge. That we are under a system of government, is the intuitive conviction of every thinking mind. We feel that we are subject to checks and restraints which are imposed upon us by some external authority, and which are altogether independent of our own will, —insomuch, that although free to act according to our own choice, we cannot alter the constitution under which we live, nor emancipate ourselves from the control of law, nor escape or avert the consequences of our own conduct. That the system of government under which we are placed is essentially a moral one, appears alike from the evidence of our own consciousness, and from our experience and observation of the world at large. There is a mysterious law written on the tablets of our own hearts which reveals God as a Lawgiver and a Judge; and our whole experience bears witness to the inseparable connection which he has established betwixt sin and misery on the one hand, and holiness and happiness on the other. This is the general constitution of God’s government; and from that government the wicked are not exempted; on the contrary, its reality is evinced by the very experience of those who do most resolutely resist it, —just as rebels, when they are punished for their crimes, are still treated as subjects, and become the most signal monuments of public justice.

When our Lord speaks of the “kingdom of God,” he does not refer to the moral government which is common to all men; but to that kingdom of grace and glory, into which it is his will to gather into one all his redeemed people, —a kingdom in which every subject should be alike safe and happy, being delivered from all evil, and defended by his almighty power. He speaks of the state into which the Savior brings his people—a state of perfect safety and peace; but still, you will observe, he speaks of it as “a kingdom” nay, as “the kingdom of God,” and this implies, that while in other respects it differs from the universal kingdom, which comprehends under it the righteous and the wicked, the fallen and the unfallen, and extends alike to heaven, earth, and hell, it agrees with it in this—that it implies a system of discipline and government, administered by God himself, according to such rules and principles as are consistent with the perfections of his nature, and sanctioned by his unchangeable will. He is represented as the head of this new kingdom, and his people as his subjects there; and although our Lord does not refer to God’s general government, but to this new kingdom of grace and glory, we may infer from his language that this kingdom will bear some resemblance to the former, in so far, at least, as to have a moral constitution, such as will make a holy character essential to the enjoyment of its privileges. It must be so, indeed, unless that kingdom be designed to supersede, or rather to reverse the whole moral constitution of the world, and to introduce another and an opposite system, which should make no account of character in the distribution of happiness, and secure exemption from suffering without effecting any deliverance from sin. How far this corresponds with God’s actual design as it is revealed in the Gospel, will fall to be considered in the sequel; but meanwhile there are two considerations that I would merely suggest as affording a strong presumption that Christ’s kingdom cannot materially differ in this respect from the general government of God: The first is, that this government is not an arbitrary constitution, arising, like the Jewish ritual, from his mere will, and capable, like that and every other positive ordinance, of being abrogated; but a constitution which, as it derives its authority from his supreme will, is itself derived from the essential and unchangeable perfections of his nature; so that, unless God himself were to change, or the relation betwixt God and his creatures to cease, the leading principles of that government must remain the same under every successive dispensation;—and the second is, that it is a government not confined to men, but comprehensive of all orders of his intelligent creatures,—applicable to all who are capable of knowing God and serving him, and extending to angels and seraphim, to whose society his people are to be united in the kingdom of glory; so that, unless the redeemed are to be governed by a different law, it is absolutely necessary that they should be spiritual and holy as the angels are in heaven. From these two considerations, it is manifest, that in setting up a new kingdom, God will adhere to those great principles which are involved in his universal moral government; and from its fundamental laws we may infer with certainty, that as they who are saved are said to be brought into a kingdom, nay, into the very kingdom of God, they must be endued with a holy character.

That a spiritual character is indispensably necessary in order to our being admitted into the kingdom of God, appears from his declared design in the scheme of redemption itself. So far from being intended to reverse or supersede the moral government of God, or to release us from the operation of those laws which connect sin with suffering, the scheme of redemption was designed to secure our happiness by restoring us to a state of holy conformity to God’s will. Its design in relation to the law is declared, when our Lord himself said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil;” and the apostle, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law.” And its design in relation to ourselves is intimated, when we read that it was alike the purpose of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to deliver us from sin as well as from suffering, and to restore us to the image as well as the favor of God. I solicit your attention to the declared purpose of each of the Three Persons in the Godhead, in that scheme of grace and redemption which is the only provision that has been made, or that ever will be made, for your salvation.

The design of God the Father is thus expressed: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And the design of Christ the Savior is thus declared: “Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish;”—” He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And the design of the Holy Spirit is not only implied in his very office, as the renewer and sanctifier of God’s people, and evinced by the whole scope and tendency of the Word, which is the Spirit’s message, and a declaration of his will; but it is expressly declared, when it is said, “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment;” and that he will “guide his people into all truth,” so as to fulfil the Lord’s prayer on their behalf, “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy Word is truth.”

From these passages it is manifest, that in the scheme of redemption itself, God proceeds on the principle that a spiritual character is indispensably necessary in order to our admission into his kingdom. The very salvation which he has provided is spiritual; it includes various blessings of unspeakable value, such as the pardon of sin, peace of conscience, assurance of God’s love, exemption from hell and admission into heaven; but these blessings, so necessary to our safety, and so conducive to our happiness, are inseparably connected, by God’s appointment, as well as in their own nature, with a new spiritual character, and cannot be enjoyed without it,—for the promise runs in these terms: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

If such be God’s design in the scheme of redemption—the declared design of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit—how can you expect to be saved without undergoing a great spiritual change? If you hope to be saved without being born again, your hope must rest, either on the supposition that you are not naturally fallen and depraved, or on the idea, that a holy and spiritual character is not indispensably necessary in order to your admission into the kingdom. On one or other of these two suppositions your hope must be built, if you expect salvation without a change of heart; for, if the fact be certain, that you are naturally fallen and depraved, and if the principle be correct, that “without holiness no man can see the Lord,” the absolute necessity of regeneration is at once established. Now, on whichever of these two suppositions you may take your stand, there is enough in God’s declared design in the work of redemption to convince you that they are both alike false and dangerous; for if, on the one hand, you flatter yourselves that you are not so utterly fallen as to require to be renewed, or as to be unable to effect your own restoration, should not your fond confidence in this opinion be shaken, when you find that in the scheme which God himself has revealed for the recovery of men, he proceeds uniformly on the contrary supposition, and makes provision for their regeneration by his own Spirit, and speaks to all in the same language, as sinners that have fallen, and that need to be restored ?— and if, on the other hand, you flatter yourselves that, although you may be partially sinful, you may yet enter into the kingdom without undergoing any great spiritual change, oh! should not this presumptuous expectation be utterly extirpated and destroyed, when you find that it is in direct opposition to God’s whole design, and cannot be fulfilled without subverting the scheme of grace? For what does your expectation imply? Does it not imply that God will depart from his purpose of saving sinners “through sanctification of the Spirit,” and save them without being sanctified —thereby reversing the constitution of the scheme of grace, and violating the principle on which it is based? In other words, does it not imply that God must set aside the great scheme of redemption—a scheme on which he has already exercised all the riches of his omniscient wisdom, and expended the blood of his Son with that immutable wisdom, and inflexible justice, and unfailing truth, must all bend and bow down before the sinner, and suffer him to enter into the kingdom unrenewed? and do you not see, that the whole design of God in the redemption of the world must be abandoned, before your hope can be fulfilled? Does it not imply that the Savior himself must relinquish the object which he had in view, when “he came to save his people from their sins;” that he must adopt a new design, and throw open the door of his kingdom to the unholy and the unclean—not to the unholy that they may be renewed, or the unclean that they may be washed—for in that sense the door is always open, and open for all —but to such as seek to remain in their natural state “dead in trespasses and in sins;” and that he must assume a new character, as the Savior of those who refuse the only salvation he has yet procured, and who are “neither washed, nor sanctified, nor justified by the Spirit of God?” And does it not imply that the Holy Spirit must relinquish his offices as the Sanctifier and Comforter of his people, —or that his functions and operations are unnecessary and superfluous? for why is he revealed as the “Spirit that quickeneth,” if there be no need of a new birth? —why, as the Spirit of sanctification, if without sanctification you can enter into the kingdom? —and why as the Comforter of the Church? Can it be, that he is to comfort men while they continue in their natural state, and to pour his blessed consolations into unsanctified hearts, and to make them happy while they remain unholy? All this, and much more, is implied in the presumptuous expectation that any of us can enter into the kingdom without undergoing a great spiritual change: it implies that the scheme of redemption itself must be changed, and that, too, after it has been accomplished by the incarnation, and sufferings, and death of God’s own Son; for that scheme proceeds from first to last on the supposition that we are fallen, and that we must be renewed, if we would enter into the kingdom. That a spiritual character is indispensably necessary in order to our being admitted into the kingdom of God, appears from the actual constitution of our own nature, which is essentially a moral one, and renders it impossible for us to enjoy heaven, even were we admitted into it, unless our character be brought into conformity with the will of God. We have already seen that the general government of God is a moral government, and that a holy character must be necessary in his kingdom, so long as God is God. We now add, for the purpose of evincing the certainty of this great truth, that the constitution of our own nature is essentially a moral constitution, and that a holy character must be essential to our happiness, so long as man is man. The principles of our own nature, the very constitution of our being must be reversed, before we could be happy in God’s kingdom without a holy and spiritual character. Let me advert to some of these principles; and, viewing them in connection with the character of God’s kingdom, you will at once perceive that we must be holy if we would be happy there.

PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES: Part Two. Satan’s Devices to Draw the Soul to Sin

Taken, condensed and adapted from, “PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES”
Written by, Thomas Brooks

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DEVICE 1: TO PRESENT THE BAIT AND HIDE THE HOOK

Satan’s first device to draw the soul into sin is, to present the bait—and hide the hook; to present the golden cup—and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin—and to hide from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin. By this device he deceived our first parents, “And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die—for God does know, that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). Your eyes shall he opened, and you shall be as gods! Here is the bait, the sweet, the pleasure, the profit. Oh—but he hides the hook—the shame, the wrath, and the loss that would certainly follow!

There is an opening of the eyes of the mind to contemplation and joy—and there is an opening of the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. He promises them the former—but intends the latter, and so Satan cheats them—giving them an apple in exchange for a paradise, as he deals by thousands now-a-days.

Satan with ease pawns falsehoods upon us, by his golden baits, and then he leads us and leaves us in a fool’s paradise. He promises the soul honor, pleasure, profit—but pays the soul with the greatest contempt, shame, and loss that can be. By a golden bait he labored to catch Christ (Matt. 4:8, 9). He shows him the beauty and the finery of a bewitching world, which doubtless would have taken many a carnal heart; but here the devil’s fire fell upon wet tinder, and therefore did not ignite. These tempting objects did not at all win upon his affections, nor dazzle his eyes, though many have eternally died of the ‘wound of the eye’, and fallen forever by this vile strumpet the world, who, by laying forth her two fair breasts of PROFIT and PLEASURE, has wounded their souls, and cast them down into utter perdition. She has, by the glistening of her pomp and preferment, slain millions; as the serpent Scytale, which, when she cannot overtake the fleeing passengers, does, with her beautiful colors, dazzle and amaze them, so that they have no power to pass away until she has stung them to death! Adversity has slain her thousand—but prosperity her ten thousand.

Remedy (1). First, Keep at the greatest distance from sin, and from playing with the golden bait which Satan holds forth to catch you; for this you have (Romans 12:9), “Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good.” When we meet with anything extremely evil and contrary to us, nature abhors it, and retires as far as it can from it. The Greek word that is there rendered “abhor,” is very significant; it signifies to hate it as hell itself, to hate it with horror.

Anselm used to say, “That if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand, and the pains of hell on the other, and must of necessity choose one; he would rather be thrust into hell without sin; than to go into heaven with sin,” so great was his hatred and detestation of sin. It is our wisest and our safest course to stand at the farthest distance from sin; not to go near the house of the harlot—but to fly from all appearance of evil(Proverbs 5:8, 1 Thess. 5:22). The best course to prevent falling into the pit is to keep at the greatest distance from it; he who will be so bold as to attempt to dance upon the brink of the pit, may find by woeful experience that it is a righteous thing with God that he should fall into the pit. Joseph keeps at a distance from sin, and from playing with Satan’s golden baits, and stands. David draws near, and plays with the bait, and falls, and swallows bait and hook! David comes near the snare, and is taken in it, to the breaking of his bones, the wounding of his conscience, and the loss of fellowship with his God.

Sin is a plague, yes, the worst and most infectious plague in the world; and yet, ah! how few are there who tremble at it–who keep at a distance from it! (1 Cor. 5:6)—”Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” As soon as one sin had seized upon Adam’s heart, all sin entered into his soul and infested it. How has Adam’s one sin spread over all mankind! (Romans 5:12)—”Therefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Ah, how does the father’s sin infect the child, the husband’s infect the wife, the master’s the servant! The sin that is in one man’s heart is able to infect a whole world, it is of such a spreading and infectious nature.

The story of the Italian, who first made his enemy deny God, and then stabbed him, and so at once murdered both body and soul, declares the unmixed malignity of sin; and oh! that what has been spoken upon this head may prevail with you, to stand at a distance from sin!

Remedy (2). Consider that sin is but a bitter sweet. That seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish; and lasting shame, sorrow, horror, and terror will come in the room thereof—”He enjoyed the taste of his wickedness, letting it melt under his tongue. He savored it, holding it long in his mouth. But suddenly, the food he has eaten turns sour within him, a poisonous venom in his stomach.” (Job 20:12-14). Forbidden profits and pleasures are most pleasing to vain men, who count madness mirth. Many long to be meddling with the murdering morsels of sin, which nourish not—but rend and consume the belly—and the soul that receives them. Many eat that on earth what they digest in hell. Sin’s murdering morsels will deceive those who devour them. Adam’s apple was a bitter sweet; Esau’s bowl of stew was a bitter sweet; the Israelites’ quails a bitter sweet; Jonathan’s honey a bitter sweet; and Adonijah’s dainties a bitter sweet. After the meal is ended, then comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; to feed upon the poison of asps, and yet that the viper’s tongue should not slay them.

When the asp stings a man, it does first tickle him so as it makes him laugh, until the poison, little by little, gets to the heart, and then it pains him more than ever it delighted him. So does sin; it may please a little at first—but it will pain the soul at last; yes, if there were the least real delight in sin, there could be no consummate hell, where men shall most completely be tormented with their sin.

Remedy (3). Solemnly to consider that sin will usher in the greatest and the saddest losses that can be upon our souls. It will usher in the loss of that divine favor which is better than life, and the loss of that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, and the loss of that peace which passes understanding, and the loss of those divine influences by which the soul has been refreshed, quickened, raised, strengthened, and gladdened and the loss of many outward desirable mercies, which otherwise the soul might have enjoyed.

Remedy (4). Seriously to consider that sin is of a very deceitful and bewitching nature. Sin is from the greatest deceiver, it is a child of his own begetting, it is the ground of all the deceit in the world, and it is in its own nature exceeding deceitful. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Heb. 3:13. It will kiss the soul, and look enticing to the soul, and yet betray the soul forever. It will with Delilah smile upon us, that it may betray us into the hands of the devil, as she did Samson into the hands of the Philistines. Sin gives Satan a power over us, and an advantage to accuse us and to lay claim to us, as those who wear his badge; it is of a very bewitching nature; it bewitches the soul, where it is upon the throne, that the soul cannot leave it, though it perish eternally by it.

Sin so bewitches the soul, that it makes the soul call evil good, and good evil; bitter sweet and sweet bitter, light darkness and darkness light; and a soul thus bewitched with sin will stand it out to the death, at the sword’s point with God; let God strike and wound, and cut to the very bone, yet the bewitched soul cares not, fears not—but will still hold on in a course of wickedness, as you may see in Pharaoh, Balaam, and Judas. Tell the bewitched soul that sin is a viper that will certainly kill when it is not killed, that sin often kills secretly, insensibly, eternally, yet the bewitched soul cannot, and will not, cease from sin.

When the physicians told Theotimus that except he did abstain from drunkenness and uncleanness he would lose his eyes; his heart was so bewitched to his sins, that he answered, “Then farewell, sweet light”; he had rather lose his eyes than leave his sin.

So a man bewitched with sin had rather lose God, Christ, heaven, and his own soul—than part with his sin. Oh, therefore, forever take heed of playing with or nibbling at Satan’s golden baits!

PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES: Part One. Satan’s Devices and the Armor of God

Taken, condensed and adapted from, “PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES”
Written by, Thomas Brooks

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Take these few Scriptures…

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” –Ephesians 6:11

The Greek word that is here rendered “wiles,” that is a notable emphatic word.

(1) It signifies such snares as are laid behind one, such treacheries as come upon one’s back by surprise, it notes the methods or waylayings of that old subtle serpent, who, like Dan’s adder “in the path,” bites the heels of passengers, and thereby transfuses his venom to the head and heart (Gen. 49:17). The word signifies an ambush or stratagem of war, whereby the enemy sets upon a man at unawares.

(2) It signifies such snares as are set to catch one in one’s road. A man walks in his road, and thinks not of it; but suddenly he is caught by thieves, or falls into a pit, etc.

(3) It signifies such as are purposely, artificially, and craftily set for the taking the prey at the greatest advantage that can be. The Greek signifies properly a waylaying, circumvention, or going about, as they do, who seek after their prey. Julian, by his craft, drew more away from the faith than all his persecuting predecessors could do by their cruelty. So does Satan more hurt in his sheep’s skin than by roaring like a lion.

Take one scripture more for the proof of the point…

…and that is in 2 Timothy 2:26, “And that they might recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” The Greek word that is here rendered as “recover themselves,” signifies to awaken themselves. The apostle alludes to one who is asleep or drunk, who is to be awakened and restored to his senses; and the Greek word that is here rendered “taken captive,” signifies to be taken alive. The word is properly a military word, and signifies to be taken alive, as soldiers are taken alive in the wars, or as birds are taken alive and ensnared in the fowler’s net.

Satan has snares for the wise and snares for the simple; snares for hypocrites, and snares for the upright; snares for generous souls, and snares for timorous souls; snares for the rich, and snares for the poor; snares for the aged, and snares for youth. Happy are those souls that are not taken and held in the snares that he has laid!

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) was an English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author. Much of what is known about Thomas Brooks has been ascertained from his writings. Born, likely to well-to-do parents, in 1608, Brooks entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1625, where he was preceded by such men as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Thomas Shepard. He was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by 1640. Before that date, he appears to have spent a number of years at sea, probably as a chaplain with the fleet.

After the conclusion of the First English Civil War, Thomas Brooks became minister at Thomas Apostle’s, London, and was sufficiently renowned to be chosen as preacher before the House of Commons on December 26, 1648. His sermon was afterwards published under the title, ‘God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright’, the text being Psalm 44:18: ‘Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from Thy way’. Three or four years afterwards, he transferred to St. Margaret’s, Fish-street Hill, London.

As a writer C. H. Spurgeon said of him, ‘Brooks scatters stars with both hands, with an eagle eye of faith as well as the eagle eye of imagination’. In 1662, he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity, but he appears to have remained in his parish and to have preached as opportunity arose. Treatises continued to flow from his pen.

Duties of Husband and Wife

Taken and slightly modernized and adapted from,A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements”  A standard English Puritan treatment of the Ten Commandments. First published in 1603 and not reprinted since 1635.
Written by,  John Dod and Robert Cleaver, Puritans.
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Now those duties in a family that are more equal are husband and wife, whose duties are either common to both, or more particular to either of them.

The common duties.

First, they must love one another with a pure heart, fervently. This duty both husband and wife must perform mutually one to another, which that they may the better strive for, let us consider of some excellent commodities that will proceed from this love. First, this benefit will certainly ensue: if there be fervent, and dear, and matrimonial love betwixt themselves, it will preserve and guard them from all unchaste actions and strange lusts, as appeareth, Prov. 5:19-20. Rejoice with the wife of thy youth, delight in her love continually. For why shouldest thou delight in a strange woman, or embrace the bosom of a stranger? As if he had said: if thou do not love thy wife, thou wilt look after harlots, or at least art in danger so to do, but if thou love thy wife truly, thou art strengthened against lusts and temptations to adultery.

And so it may be said of the wife concerning her husband. For it is not the having of a husband that makes a wife chaste, and keepeth her from filthiness, but the loving of her husband is it that will keep her. And likewise it is not the having of a wife that maketh a man honest and preserveth him from adultery, but it is the loving of his wife that will do it. For many married men and women live filthily and impurely; but if they did love one another, they were safe from this fault. This then is one benefit; it is a most sure defence of one’s chastity, to love each other.

Another benefit that constant love will bring is that they shall be very patient. Abundance of love brings abundance of patience, for love hopes all things, and suffers all things, and love is not provoked. But where there is little love, there is little bearing, and little hoping, and there they be quickly provoked. Upon every light and small defect or fault, they grow to brawls and chasing. And then, whoever was troubled with such a husband, or such a wife? Nay, they might rather say, who ever had such an unloving and unkind heart as I? For if there were that love that should be, and in that measure that it ought, they would bear with patience, and with meekness such infirmities, and would not be so quickly provoked to bitterness. As the mother that dearly loves her little child, though it cry all night, and break her sleep, and disquiet her very much; yet she will not throw it out of doors, nor lay it at the further end of the house, but she useth it kindly, and will do what she can to still it when it cries. And in the morning they will be as good friends as ever before, and she feedeth it and tendeth it never a whit the less for all the night’s trouble. One that were not acquainted with the love of a mother would wonder at it. Did it not disquiet her all night, and can she be so merry with it now? Yea, she can, for she loveth it, and hath forgotten all the night’s griefs in the morning. And so indeed, could the husband and wife love one another with a pure and Christian love, they would bear much, and endure much, and not suffer their affections to be diminished. For love is alway a breastplate against distemper, discord and bitterness.

A third profit that springs from love is that it edifies, and seeks not his own things: therefore if they love one another, they will in all things seek the good of one another. And then, if the husband see a fault in his wife, he will admonish her of it meekly and gently, and labor to bring her to amendment. And if she see any fault on his part, she will with all reverence and humility tell him of it. But on the contrary, where there is not love, they will regard their own ease more than the salvation of another. Then if the husband see his wife in any fault, he thinketh, Indeed it is a sin, but if I should tell her of it, she will be in a passion and chafe. And so the wife: I confess this sin is dangerous to my husband’s soul, but if I should speak of it, he is so froward, that he would be bitter and furious against me presently. But now here is a great want of love in either party. For, what though your wife will be in a passion? He that loveth his wife had rather she should be in a passion against him for a little time, than God be angry with her forever. And the wife that loveth her husband would more willingly suffer her husband’s displeasure for a while, for well doing, than that he should suffer God’s wrath, for ill doing. But for want of this Christian and sincere love, they suffer grievous sins to grow and break out one in another, which by wise and godly admonition might have been stayed and cured.

A fourth fruit of love is that it armeth us against jealousy and unjust suspicions. For all ill jealousy and causeless suspicion ariseth of one of these two grounds: either that one is or hath been wicked himself, and having been faulty and naught, he is ready to judge others by himself, and to measure all with his own measure, or else from a doting affection, that he maketh his wife a god, and would have her to do the like to him, and this is not true love. So when the wife doteth foolishly upon her husband, and maketh an idol of him, then is she quickly ready to be jealous, whereas true and sound love would work the contrary effect in her. So for matters of goods, he that trusteth in them will trust nobody with them, neither wife, neither servants, neither children, nor any, but is always suspicious, not because they would not deal faithfully, but because he maketh that his god, and therefore is immoderately afraid to lose it. But where there is a pure and a fervent love, that will cut off all needless misdeemings, and cause us to believe and hope all good of others. This is the first duty that is common to husband and wife.

The second followeth, and that is faithfulness, that both bend their wits and all their endeavors to the help each of other, and to the common good of the family. The husband must not follow his private pleasure and delight, nor the wife her own ease and pride. But though by nature they could be content to seek themselves, yet they must strive both to build up the house by diligence in their calling, and wise and frugal disposing of the blessings of God bestowed upon them, and also to be helpful to the whole family, because they stand in the place of Christ to those that are committed unto them, both for their souls and bodies. First then, the husband and wife must be faithful in their bodies one to another, else they break the covenant of God. For marriage is not a covenant of man, but a covenant of God, wherein the parties bind themselves to him, and they be in recognizance in heaven, to keep themselves pure and chaste one to another. Then for other matters there must be one purse, and one heart and hand, for the good of the family, and each of other. But now, if the wife be wasteful and idle, then she (like a foolish woman) pulleth down her house. And if the husband be an unthrift, and consume and spend that idly and vainly (to serve his lusts, or pride, or any other sin) that might help his wife and family to live plentifully and cheerfully, this lavishing is a great unfaithfulness, and hereby he bringeth many inconveniences upon himself and upon all that depend upon him. So much for general duties belonging both to husband and wife. The particular follow.

And first, the wife must fear her husband, as is commanded in Eph. 5:33. Let the wife see that she fear her husband. And I Pet. 3:2, the apostle requires a conversation with fear. So, if ever the wife will be comfortable, and profitable to her husband, and do any good in the family, she must have a care of her heart, and look that she carry an inward fear to her husband. For the husband is the wife’s head, even as Christ is the head of the church. And even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. As in the place above named out of Peter, he saith they must be attired with a meek and quiet spirit. She must not be passionate and froward to him or any of the family, specially in his sight, but she should have such a regard of his presence, as that she should govern her tongue and countenance so, that it may not be offensive or troublesome unto him. And for her speech, neither when they be kind and loving together, must she grow into such gross terms, nor if any jar or offence come, rush into tart and sour words, to ease herself upon her husband, whom she should fear. Thus must she imitate Sarah and good women, as Peter saith, and in so doing she shall prove herself to be a daughter of Sarah, a true Christian. But contrarily, if she behave herself rudely and unmannerly in her husband’s sight, to grieve him and offend him, she faileth in the first and main duty of a good wife, and so far shall surely come short of all the rest of the duties that God requireth of her. For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior.

The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection. Now in what things and after what manner this obedience is to be performed, the Holy Ghost doth declare. For in general, there is no woman almost so rude, but she will yield that she must obey her husband. But in the particular, and in the manner of it, there is the failing. Therefore the apostle (to put all out of doubt) hath set down both the matter and the manner, in Eph. 5:24. As the church is in subjection to Christ, so let the wife be to her husband in all things. For the things wherein she must obey, he saith in all things, meaning in all lawful things. For the commandment of the husband is as it were the stamp of God set upon the things commanded, and if she rebel against his commandment, she rebels against God. The wife then must persuade herself that her husband’s charge is God’s charge, and when he speaks, God speaks by him, and that which was a thing indifferent before the husband required it, is now become a bounden duty unto her, after the husband hath once enjoined it. And therefore she must resolve to obey him in all things.

Then for the manner, he saith, As the church obeyeth Christ. Now we know that the church obeyeth Christ willingly and cheerfully, with a free heart. And though the things that Christ commandeth be oftentimes contrary to our nature, and no whit at all delightful to the flesh, yet the true church will more set by his Word than by her own pleasure, and have a greater regard to please him than to serve the desires of the flesh.

Therefore the wife must obey her husband in all things cheerfully and willingly, without gainsaying. These be the duties of a worthy woman, of a daughter of Abraham, and a Christian wife, which so far as she is careful to perform, so far she may look that her husband should do the duty of a good husband unto her, and if he do not, yet God will reward her liberally. For such a woman is much set by of God, and that not with an inward love that nobody can see, but with such a working love as shall show itself by good effect in plentiful blessings on her soul and body, if she can frame (for conscience sake to God) to yield a willing and free obedience to her husband in lawful things, and that with a meek and lowly carriage of herself, proceeding from an holy fear and reverence of him, being to her in God’s stead.

Now follow the special duties of an husband, for he hath not all these privileges for nothing, and those consist in two major points, in governing her wisely (by cohabitation and edification) and in performing all due benevolence.

First, for cohabitation. The first duty of the husband is to dwell with his wife, that sith there is a near and dear society between them, and of all other the nearest (for she is to him as the church is to Christ, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone), therefore he must be willing constantly and kindly to converse with her, to walk with her, to talk with her, and let her have a comfortable familiarity with him, that she may see he delights in her company, and may well know that of all others she is his most loved and welcome companion. And so in the Law it was commanded that the first year wherein anyone is married, he must dwell at home, and rejoice with his wife for that whole year. Whatever affairs of the commonwealth, or wars were abroad, yet he was by God’s Law freed, so that none might command his service from home, but he must dwell with his wife, that she might have experience of his love, and have comfort by him, that by long continuance and society their hearts might be so nearly joined, as nothing might rend them asunder afterwards.

This reproveth those foolish men (indeed not worthy to carry the name of husbands) that can take more delight in any vain, riotous and unthrifty company, and take more pleasure in any lewd exercises, than in the society of the loving and kind wife, that are never so merry as when the wife is absent, and never dumpish and churlish but with her. Such also as dwell with hawks and hounds and drunkards and gamesters, not with their wives: these shall carry the brand and name of fools, so long as they have no more care to prevent so much ill, and to do so much good as (if they had any godly wisdom, or love to their wives) they might. For what do they but throw themselves into danger, and lay their wives open to Satan’s temptations? Yea, and give just occasion to them to think that they love them not. But they will say, We must have our delights and follow our sports. And why you more than the wife? Might not the wife say, I must have my delight also, and part of the recreation as well as part of the trouble is mine? Yet this would not be counted a good excuse for a woman to be ranging abroad all day long, and part of the night, upon no just occasion. But they look that she should accept their company, and be willing to be with them. And why should not they then be as willing to dwell with their wives according to God’s commandment? So that the husband must dwell with his wife, and never depart from her but upon a lawful and good calling and cause, and then also, so as that she may perceive that his heart is still with her, and that he carrieth but a part of himself when he goeth abroad, for still he leaveth his affection at home with his wife.

Secondly, he must dwell with her as a man of knowledge, and edify her, both by his good example, and also by good instructions. For his example: first, he must carry himself so wisely, and so holily, as that she may see in him a pattern and image of grace and wisdom. He must be a glass unto her, by looking into which she may learn to attire herself in all holy discretion and conversation.

Therefore he must neither be froward, testy, nor lumpish, for then he shall be hated; nor light, vain, and foolish, for then he shall be despised. He must not be base and stingy, for then his base heart will breed a base estimation of him. Neither must he be prodigal and unthrifty. For then he shall so pinch himself with want and necessity, as that he shall not be able to relieve and refresh his family, and so he much depriveth himself of his reverence. For want of this wise and holy carriage, it cometh to pass that many can speak much of the weakness of women, and make large discourses of the impotence of that sex, when indeed it is long of themselves. As if the head should lead the body among briars and thorns, and dash it against every wall, and then complain of the hurt and frailty of it. So many foolish men, when they should frame themselves in such sort as they might draw their wives to godliness and reverence by their example, they (by rude and absurd behavior) draw themselves into contempt, and put undutifulness upon their wives, as it were perforce, and then are ready to complain and exclaim of them, when they should rather cry out of their own folly and sin.

Next, the husband must edify his wife by instruction: for so, I Cor. 14:25, the apostle saith, If women will learn, they must ask their husbands at home. The husband then must be so well furnished with sound knowledge, as that he must be able to teach his wife, and sow the seed of godliness in her conscience. And one special and chief part of wisdom in the husband, by which he must learn to frame his instruction, is to observe those good things which he seeth in his wife, and to cherish them. For nothing is more forcible to encourage a woman in any good thing, than that she perceiveth that her husband doth mark and approve those good things which are in her, as well as the faults, to reprove them. And for want of this encouragement, that men are continually chiding, and never go about to nourish any good thing, it falls out that many women, which by good usage might be brought to godliness, grow to great distemper and passion. And as he must labor to increase the good things that are in her, so also he must seek to amend and cure those things that are faulty, wherein she doth amiss. And for ordinary infirmities, he must pass by them, only praying to God for her. But if her soul be sick of a disease that needeth physic, and must have medicine, a wise governor will choose his fittest time, and consider the nature and disposition of his wife: that if she be of a gentle spirit, he may use gentle means, which will then do most good, but if she be of a more hard nature, stronger means must be used, and she must be dealt withal after a more round manner. But always provided, that it never be done in passion, and before others, but with a quiet and merciful heart, that she may see that he seeketh her salvation, and not disgrace, nor to ease himself upon her, but to convert her soul unto God. But if the husband be violent in company to reprove, of bad he will make her worse, and more alienate her from him, because she seeth that she hath a foolish head, that is not a saviour, but a destroyer.

And for want of this diligent care in choosing time and place, and observing the nature of the party, it cometh to pass that rebukes, which in themselves are good and ought to be performed, do more hurt than good, because he observeth not where he doth it, but reproves her before company, to which he should not disclose his own and her shame, and them also most unseasonably and untimely. For when she is out of temper, and passion hath already overcome her, then he falleth to administer his physic, as it were upon a full stomach, whereas he should patiently have waited for a fit time, and not be so foolish, as when she is gone, and anger hath overcome her, then to look that she should upon a word’s warning, return and come again into her right mind, and upon the sudden reform all that is amiss. But what? Shall one let his wife go away so, and take her course? No, he must at that instant speak to God for her, when she is not fit to be spoken to. And after, when she is come again to herself, and all is quiet, then with a loving heart and good countenance (and yet with plain and evident proofs and reproofs out of God’s Word), he must show her fault, that godly sorrow may bring her to repentance and amendment. And by these measures he may govern well.

Another duty of the husband consists in giving her all honor and due benevolence, which stands in two things. First, in giving and allowing her all maintenance and meet helps, both for necessity, and also for honest and Christian recreation and delight, so far as his estate and hers require, and their abilities do afford. And he must do this willingly, liberally and freely, not tarrying till it be begged or gotten from him by importunate entreaty, as if one should wring it out of Nabal’s hand, like as if it were water out of a flint stone. For this giveth cause of great suspicion of want of love, for love is alway bountiful. And besides, it lesseneth the benefit by the one half, when it must be wrested (as it were by main strength) from him. Therefore he must consider, and before he be asked, provide what he seeth necessary for her, and what may be (after a Christian sort) delightful unto her, and prevent her with the gift. Even as a father that loves his child will not tarry till the child come and beg apparel, or meat, but he doth cast beforehand how to help him, and unrequested gives him things that be needful, much more then must he do thus to his wife, which is the one part of himself, and nearer, and should be also dearer unto him than any other.

A second work wherein this due benevolence must show itself is in giving her due employment; he must mark and observe the gifts of wisdom and government, or whatever else God hath graced her with, that he may set them on work and employ them. And hereby he shall show his love unto her, and the confidence he puts in her. For it is said of a good wife in the Proverbs, chap. 32, that the heart of her husband trusts in her. And this is a means also to keep her from discouragement and idleness: and besides, it will turn to the great good and profit of the family.

Which reproves the practice of many foolish husbands, that be busy-bodies, and will have all come through their own hands, and then indeed nothing goeth well through any hand, because of this disordered confusion. As if the pilot would both hold the stern, and hoist up the sail, and be upon the hatches, and labor at the pump, and do all himself, it must needs go ill with the ship. Even so in the family, when the husband taketh all upon himself, it is the next way to overthrow all. Therefore those gifts that God hath given the wife, the husband must see them put to the best use, and then she shall be a fellow helper to him, and bring a blessing upon the family by her labor.

And so much for the duties of the husband and wife, which I do not so speak of as though it were in the power or nature of any man or woman to perform them; nay, by nature we be all inclined to the contrary. The wife is naturally disobedient and stubborn, prone to condemn and despise her husband; and he is ready either to be out of her company without cause, or, being with her, to be light and foolish, or else sour and churlish, and to do her hurt by his example, and make her worse rather than better. And both of them naturally are destitute of all true and spiritual love one to another. But God showeth these duties in his Word, to the end that we, seeing our sins and our weakness, might bewail our wants before God, and beseech him that requires these things at our hands to work these graces in our hearts, and as he hath given us these good commandments, so to give us good hearts to keep the commandments. But if any be so blind and so unacquainted with the wickedness of his own heart, as that he dreams of some strength in himself to do these duties, it is certain he never performed any of them in truth, nor shall ever, till he do lament his wants with unfeigned grief before God, and desire him to make him obedient, as well as to give him a charge of obedience.

The Strange Case of Julian “The Apostate”

Taken and adapted from, ChristianCourier.com”
Written by, Wayne Jackson

Edward_Armitage_-_Julian_the_Apostate_presiding_at_a_conference_of_sectarian_-_1875

According to some historians…

the influence of that Roman ruler, known as Julian “the Apostate” (A.D. 361-363), was a critical point in the history of the Christian movement. Let us pick up some background on this matter.

The new religion of Jesus Christ was scarcely out of its swaddling clothes when persecution hit it hard. First, as the book of Acts indicates, the Jews targeted the Christian movement as an object of determined persecution. Then, in the latter days of Nero’s administration (A.D. 54-68), the Lord’s disciples fell victim to the forces of the Roman Empire.

For the next two and one-half centuries, the church of Christ was bathed in its own blood. Vicious and repeated waves of severe persecution came upon the saints. But the church grew all the more. Tertullian, a second-century writer, would say that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the kingdom.”

Finally, however, some respite came. When Constantine assumed the imperial throne, he issued his famous Edict of Toleration (A.D. 313), which officially put an end to Christian persecution. It would be well to remember, though, that the “Christianity” of this period was already deep into a state of spiritual degeneration. Many corruptions of the primitive pattern were in full bloom.

In A.D. 337, Constantine died, and his kingdom fell to his three foolish and ambitious sons, who were twenty-one, twenty, and seventeen years old respectively. Each was over a portion of the empire. Immediately they set about eliminating possible rivals to the throne—and kinship mattered not at all. Uncles and cousins alike were murdered. In the process of this family purging, two young boys were spared because they were not considered potential threats. One of them, Gallus, was sickly; the other, Julian, was but five or six years old.

Both lads were dispatched to a remote region of Cappadocia where they were under house imprisonment, being subject to austere discipline and some education in the languages and sciences of the day.

As the years sped by, Gallus eventually became a ruler in the eastern portion of the empire, at which point he freed Julian from his confinement.

From this point it is necessary that we focus only upon Julian. He went to Constantinople where he studied under those who were addicted to heathen philosophy. Having been so abused by men who professed Christianity, he became a willing student of those who were antagonistic to the teaching of Jesus. This is a crucial point to remember: ungodly treatment at the hands of hypocritical religionists, combined with humanistic dogma, is a deadly mixture!

Fairly early in his life, therefore, Julian evolved an intense hatred for Christianity, though, for political reasons, he concealed his feelings for a decade, dutifully performing the functions of a “church” person.

Finally, however, through a series of military and political maneuvers, in A.D. 361 Julian himself was elevated to the Roman throne, barely over thirty at the time. That very year he declared himself the public enemy of Christianity. As an interesting sidelight, Julian was so intense about his devotion to paganism that he adopted a radical sort of “pietism.” He wanted to prove that heathenism could inspire a dedication as acute as the teaching of Christ had done among Christians. He abandoned luxury, slept on the ground, allowed himself to go unclean and disheveled, and permitted his body to become host to a variety of vermin. In one of his letters he boasted of his long nails, shaggy head, and dirty hands! He became a bizarre spectacle.

The Nefarious Plan

As imperial ruler, Julian had two primary goals: the complete abolition of the Christian religion, and the restoration of paganism (which had fallen on hard times in recent decades).

Unlike the persecutors of earlier times, Julian would not initiate a bloodbath. That procedure had not worked in checking the spread of Christianity. Rather, the ruler would feign a benevolent demeanor. He would claim that his philosophy mandated tolerance for all faiths. At the same time, in covert fashion he would attempt to demolish the system he hated so passionately.

It makes a fascinating study to consider the techniques employed by this shrewd and vicious monarch. He would, in subtle ways, attempt to undermine “the faith.”

Let us consider some of the methods Julian employed, and see what we might learn from this historical record, for, as has been often said, those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them.

Julian, as a military man, likely was familiar with the maxim, “divide and conquer.” Accordingly, he encouraged strife among those who professed allegiance to Christ. Certain antagonistic bishops, who had been in exile, he restored to their offices, and said “sic ’em,” in the hope they would devour one another. Oh, he was devious.

The Lord himself had prayed for the unity of believers on the ground that such harmony could be a tool for evangelism (cf. John 17:20-21). It does not take considerable acumen to conclude that division will produce the opposite result. Just think of the evil that has resulted from the advocacy of false doctrines that necessitated division (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:19). Reflect upon the ugly, self-centered attitudes that have afflicted the church. The Roman ruler knew of a point of vulnerability in the church of his day. And what of our own time?

The emperor issued a prohibition against Christian schools. One historian notes: “The Christian schools were broken up, and the children of Christians denied all education save in the school of the idolaters” (Abbott n.d., 335). Julian knew that the church’s future is with its youth. He thought, therefore, if he could deprive Christian families of educating their children, he could check the spread of this loathsome system among the more educated. Christianity thus would be relegated to the ignorant masses. Moreover, in a controlled environment, he could corrupt tender faith. His effort in this regard revealed that he was aware that the cultured mind, and the religion of Jesus, are not mutually exclusive. One can be a devotee of Christ and still be an intellectually respectable person.

There are powers today who view with alarm the fact that there is an increasing number of parents (who identify themselves as “Christians”—at least nominally) who are choosing to educate their own children, rather than surrender that responsibility to secular forces. Some politicians fear this trend, and do all within their power to ridicule it, or subdue it in other subtle ways. Too, one hardly needs to demonstrate how many of our Christian youth have had their faith destroyed by the educational system of this nation.

Julian knew that the Christian religion is propagated by teaching and example. Followers of the Lord are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13ff). Accordingly, he attempted to haveChristians removed from places of public position and influence. He wanted their voice muted. If the shedding of the saints’ blood would not halt the growth of this malignancy at least he could stifle their influence.

It is all too apparent that in today’s culture there are numerous voices and political forces who do not wish to see the influence of Christianity shaping laws or influencing the enforcement of high moral standards. They are oblivious to the fact that the very foundation of law is grounded in an ultimate moral standard—which only God himself has the authority to define.

Julian sought to silence preachers by withdrawing from them certain immunities that previously had been granted as a result of Constantine’s influence. He was astute enough to know that finances are a powerful factor in muffling some pulpits.

Certain governmental agencies, even today, are not without similar persuasive powers. As an example, many moral issues (e.g., abortion rights, homosexuality, etc.) have become so politicized, that preachers who boldly address such matters are accused of bringing the church into the political arena. Tactical pressures, such as veiled threats of the loss of tax-exempt status, etc., become increasingly commonplace. History seems to repeat itself.

While Julian was pragmatic enough not to launch a personal bloodbath against those who professed Christianity, he, by the subversion of law, encouraged violence against devotees of the faith. John Hurst noted that Julian did not “punish his heathen subjects for acts of violence committed against the Christians,” and yet he took great pains “to punish a Christian for the slightest offense” (1897, 421). And so, by manipulating the law and practicing injustice, his evil designs were implemented.

This method—in principle—has been employed across the centuries. Evil rulers maneuver the legal system for their own godless purposes. Justice is flung into the wind.

As the Jews plotted their heinous course that would end at Calvary, a coming judgment from God for this evil was inevitable. In several instructive formats—both literally and in parabolic symbolism—Christ foretold the impending destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 22:7ff; 24:1ff). In one of his exhortations, the Lord warned: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38; cf. 24:15). While the term “house” may have had a broader application than just the temple, it surely included that structure. Moreover, there is a note of finality in the Savior’s prediction.

Julian felt if he could encourage the Jews to rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, such would be a monument to the falsity of Christ as a prophet, and therefore contribute to the downfall of the Christian system. He thus issued an official document praising the Jews; he eased their tax burdens, and provided funds from the public treasury for the rebuilding of the temple. The young heathen even promised that, upon completion, he would officiate in the consecration of the sacred building.

The Jews seized the moment with unbounded zest. They engaged the work of rebuilding with fervor, under the conviction that this project would usher in the reign of the “true Messiah” (rather than that of this “Jesus” imposter).

But the project was a resounding failure, as is admitted uniformly by historians, both ancient and modern. Strange fires kept breaking out, and ferocious storms hindered the enterprise. Workers became discouraged and eventually abandoned the effort, without having completed even the foundation. Some, like the infidel historian Gibbon, regarded these destructive events as purely natural disasters. Others saw them as supernatural judgments (even though the age of miracles was past). Many, however, with a more reasonable approach, viewed the events as providentially orchestrated impediments (Schaff 1981, 56-57).

Finally, since Julian fancied himself an intellectual, having steeped himself in the philosophy of the pagans, shortly before his final military engagements, he launched a literary attack against the doctrine of Christ. He produced a work (of three volumes) titled Adversus Christianos, which was an assault upon Christianity. This composition was but a rehash of the earlier skeptical polemics (e.g., those of Porphyry, Celsus, and Lucius), infused with Julian’s better knowledge of the Scriptures, and his more fanatical disposition. But there are several factors about this production that are of interest to the student of Christian history.

First, no copies of Julian’s anti-Christian tirade survive. It is known only through the writings of those Christian apologists who responded to his arguments, notably Cyril of Alexandria’s Contra Julianum, written some sixty years following Julian’s death. Is it not remarkable that whereas more than five thousand copies (in part or whole) of the ancient New Testament Scriptures have survived, almost nothing of the antique skeptical works is extant?

Second, Julian’s attack, in an undesigned manner, has provided valuable early evidence for the authenticity of the Christian system. In the mid-eighteenth century A.D., a brilliant English scholar named Nathaniel Lardner produced a remarkable set of volumes titled The Credibility of the Gospel History. Lardner demonstrated that Julian, while attempting to oppose Christianity, had, in reality, provided supporting evidence for the system. For example, the ruler concedes the historicity of Christ, though he said Jesus did nothing remarkable—unless you count the fact that he “heal[ed] the cripples and blind” and “exorcis[ed] those possessed of demons.” He mentions that Jesus calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee and walked upon its waters, though he attempts to explain these extraordinary events naturally. He alludes to the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and to the book of Acts, as well as some of Paul’s writings, conceding their early dates. Lardner thus concluded:

He aimed to overthrow the Christian religion, but has confirmed it: his arguments against it are perfectly harmless, and insufficient to unsettle the weakest Christian (McClintock 1969, 1090).

In A.D. 363, Julian finally died in a battle against the Persians. He was but thirty-two years of age, having reigned only twenty months. He represents but another “glitch” on the panoramic screen of history in the futile efforts to discredit Christianity.

  • Abbott, John S.C. n.d. The History of Christianity. Cleveland, OH: American Publishing Co.
  • Hurst, John F. 1897. History of the Christian Church. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Eaton & Mains.
  • McClintock, John and Strong, James. 1969. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Schaff, Philip. 1981. History of the Christian Church. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

 

THE LAW OF INDWELLING SIN. Part 3; Its Pleasantness and Madness to the Heart

Taken and adapted from, “REMAINDERS OF INDWELLING SIN”
Written by John Owen, 1616 – 1683

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“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies,” etc. –Matthew 15:19

This is the madness, or the root of all that madness which appears in their lives…

There are many outward temptations and provocations that befall men, which excite and stir them up unto these evils; but they do but as it were open the vessel, and let out what is laid up and stored in it. The root, rise, and stirring of all these things is in the heart. Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before. Hence is that summary description to the whole work and effect of this law of sin, Genesis 6:5, “Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually;” so also chap. 8:21. The whole work of the law of sin, from its first rise, its first coining of actual sin, is here described. And its seat, its work-house, is said to be the heart; and so it is called by our Savior “The evil treasure of the heart:” Luke 6:45, “An evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings forth evil things.” This treasure is the prevailing principle of moral actions that is in men. So, in the beginning of the verse, our Savior calls grace “The good treasure of the heart” of a good man, whence that which is good doth proceed. It is a principle constantly and abundantly inciting and stirring up unto, and consequently bringing forth, actions conformable and like unto it, of the same kind and nature with itself. And it is also called a treasure for its abundance. It will never be exhausted; it is not wasted by men’s spending on it; yea, the more lavish men are of this stock, the more they draw out of this treasure, the more it grows and abounds!

As men do not spend their grace, but increase it, by its exercise, so do they their indwelling sin. The more men exercise their grace in duties of obedience, the more it is strengthened and increased; and the more men exert and put forth the fruits of their lust, the more is that enraged and increased in them; — it feeds upon itself, swallows up its own poison, and grows thereby.

The more men sin, the more are they inclined unto sin. It is from the deceitfulness of this law of sin, whereof we shall speak afterward at large, that men persuade themselves that by this or that particular sin they shall so satisfy their lusts as that they shall need to sin no more. Every sin increases the principle, and fortifies the habit of sinning. It is an evil treasure, that increases by doing evil. And where doth this treasure lie? It is in the heart; there it is laid up, there it is kept in safety. All the men in the world, all the angels in heaven, cannot dispossess a man of this treasure, it is so safely stored in the heart.

The heart in the Scripture is variously used; sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing good or evil. The mind, as it inquires, discerns, and judges what is to be done, what refused; the will, as it chooses or refuses and avoids; the affections, as they like or dislike, cleave to or have an aversion from, that which is proposed to them; the conscience, as it warns and determines, — are all together called the heart. And in this sense it is that we say the seat and subject of this law of sin is the heart of man. Only, we may add that the Scripture, speaking of the heart as the principle of men’s good or evil actions, doth usually insinuate together with it two things belonging unto the manner of their performance: —

1   A suitableness and pleasantness unto the soul in the things that are done. When men take delight and are pleased in and with what they do, they are said to do it heartily, with their whole hearts. Thus, when God himself blesses his people in love and delight, he says the doth it “with his whole heart, and with his whole soul,” Jeremiah 32:41.

2   Resolution and constancy in such actions. And this also is denoted in the metaphorical expression before used of a treasure, from whence men do constantly take out the things which either they stand in need of or do intend to use.

This is the subject, the seat, the dwelling-place of this law of sin, — the heart; as it is the entire principle of moral operations, of doing good or evil, as out of it proceed good or evil. Here dwells our enemy; this is the fort, the citadel of this tyrant, where it maintains a rebellion against God all our days. Sometimes it hath more strength, and consequently more success; sometimes less of the one and of the other; but it is always in rebellion whilst we live. That we may in our passage take a little view of the strength and power of sin from this seat and subject of it, we may consider one or two properties of the heart that exceedingly contribute thereunto. It is like an enemy in war, whose strength and power lie not only in his numbers and force of men or arms, but also in the unconquerable forts that he possesses. And such is the heart to this enemy of God and our souls; as will appear from the properties of it, whereof one or two shall be mentioned.

1   It is unsearchable: Jeremiah 17:9, 10, “Who can know the heart? I the LORD search it.” The heart of man is pervious to God only; hence he takes the honor of searching the heart to be as peculiar to himself, and as fully declaring him to be God, as any other glorious attribute of his nature. We know not the hearts of one another; we know not our own hearts as we ought. Many there are that know not their hearts as to their general bent and disposition, whether it be good or bad, sincere and sound, or corrupt and nothing; but no one knows all the secret intrigues, the windings and turnings, the acting and aversions of his own heart. Hath any one the perfect measure of his own light and darkness? Can any one know what acting of choosing or aversion his will bring forth, upon the proposal of that endless variety of objects that it is to be exercised with? Can any one traverse the various mutability of his afflictions? Do the secret springs of acting and refusing in the soul lie before the eyes of any man? Doth any one know what will be the motions of the mind or will in such and such conjunctions of things, such a suiting of objects, such a pretension of reasonings, such an appearance of things desirable? All in heaven and earth, but the infinite, all-seeing God, are utterly ignorant of these things. In this unsearchable heart dwells the law of sin; and much of its security, and consequently of its strength, lies in this, that it is past our finding out. We fight with an enemy whose secret strength we cannot discover, whom we cannot follow into its retirements. Hence, oftentimes, when we are ready to think sin quite ruined, after a while we find it was but out of sight. It hath coverts and retreats in an unsearchable heart, whither we cannot pursue it. The soul may persuade itself all is well, when sin may be safe in the hidden darkness of the mind, which it is impossible that he should look into; for whatever makes manifest is light. It may suppose the will of sinning is utterly taken away, when yet there is an unsearchable reserve for a more suitable object, a more vigorous temptation, than at present it is tried withal. Hath a man had a contest with any lust, and a blessed victory over it by the Holy Ghost as to that present trial? — when he thinks it is utterly expelled, he ere long finds that it was but retired out of sight. It can lie so close in the mind’s darkness, in the will’s indisposition, in the disorder and carnality of the affections, that no eye can discover it. The best of our wisdom is but to watch its first appearances, to catch its first under-earth heavings and workings, and to set ourselves in opposition to them; for to follow it into the secret corners of the heart, that we cannot do. It is true, there is yet a relief in this case, — namely, that he to whom the work of destroying the law of sin and body of death in us is principally committed, namely, the Holy Ghost, comes with his axe to the very root; neither is there any thing in an unsearchable heart that is not “naked and open unto him,” Hebrews 4:13; but we in a way of duty may hence see what an enemy we have to deal withal.

2   As it is unsearchable, so it is deceitful, as in the place above mentioned: “It is deceitful above all things,” — incomparably so. There is great deceit in the dealings of men in the world; great deceit in their counsels and contrivances in reference to their affairs, private and public; great deceit in their words and acting: the world is full of deceit and fraud. But all this is nothing to the deceit that is in man’s heart towards himself; for that is the meaning of the expression in this place, and not towards others. Now, incomparable deceitfulness, added to unsearchableness, gives a great addition and increase of strength to the law of sin, upon the account of its seat and subject. I speak not yet of the deceitfulness of sin itself, but the deceitfulness of the heart where it is seated. Proverbs 26:25, “There are seven abominations in the heart;” that is, not only many, but an absolute complete number, as seven denotes. And they are such abominations as consist in deceitfulness; so the caution foregoing insinuates, “Trust him not:” for it is only deceit that should make us not to trust in that degree and measure which the object is capable of.

Now, this deceitfulness of the heart, whereby it is exceedingly advantaged in its harboring of sin, lies chiefly in these two things: —

(1.) That it abounds in contradictions, so that it is not to be found and dealt withal according to any constant rule and way of procedure. There are some men that have much of this, from their natural constitution, or from other causes, in their conversation. They seem to be made up of contradictions; sometimes to be very wise in their affairs, sometimes very foolish; very open, and very reserved; very facile, and very obstinate; very easy to be entreated, and very revengeful, — all in a remarkable height. This is generally accounted a bad character, and is seldom found but when it proceeds from some notable predominant lust. But, in general, in respect of moral good or evil, duty or sin, it is so with the heart of every man, — flaming hot, and key cold; weak, and yet stubborn; obstinate, and facile. The frame of the heart is ready to contradict itself every moment. Now you would think you had it all for such a frame, such a way; anon it is quite otherwise: so that none know what to expect from it. The rise of this is the disorder that is brought upon all its faculties by sin. God created them all in a perfect harmony and union. The mind and reason were in perfect subjection and subordination to God and his will; the will answered, in its choice of good, the discovery made of it by the mind; the affections constantly and evenly followed the understanding and will. The mind’s subjection to God was the spring of the orderly and harmonious motion of the soul and all the wheels in it. That being disturbed by sin, the rest of the faculties move cross and contrary one to another. The will chooses not the good which the mind discovers; the affections delight not in that which the will chooses; but all jar and interfere, cross and rebel against each other. This we have got by our falling from God. Hence sometimes the will leads, the judgment follows. Yea, commonly the affections, that should attend upon all, get the sovereignty, and draw the whole soul captive after them. And hence it is, as I said, that the heart is made up of so many contradictions in its acting. Sometimes the mind retains its sovereignty, and the affections are in subjection, and the will ready for its duty. This puts a good face upon things. Immediately the rebellion of the affections or the obstinacy of the will takes place and prevails, and the whole scene is changed. This, I say, makes the heart deceitful above all things: it agrees not at all in itself, is not constant to itself, hath no order that it is constant unto, is under no certain conduct that is stable; but, if I may so say, hath a rotation in itself, where often the feet lead and guide the whole.

(2.) Its deceit lies in full promise upon the first appearance of things; and this also proceeds from the same principle with the former. Sometimes the affections are touched and wrought upon; the whole heart appears in a fair frame; all promises to be well. Within a while the whole frame is changed; the mind was not at all affected or turned; the affections a little acted their parts and are gone off, and all the fair promises of the heart are departed with them. Now, add this deceitfulness to the unsearchableness before mentioned, and we shall find that at least the difficulty of dealing effectually with sin in its seat and throne will be exceedingly increased. A deceiving and a deceived heart, who can deal with it? — especially considering that the heart employs all its deceits unto the service of sin, contributes them all to its furtherance. All the disorder that is in the heart, all its false promises and fair appearances, promote the interest and advantages of sin. Hence God cautions the people to look to it, lest their own hearts should entice and deceive them.

Who can mention the treacheries and deceits that lie in the heart of man? It is not for nothing that the Holy Ghost so expresses it, “It is deceitful above all things,” — uncertain in what it doth, and false in what it promises. And hence moreover it is, amongst other causes, that, in the pursuit of our war against sin, we have not only the old work to go over and over, but new work still while we live in this world, still new stratagems and wiles to deal withal; as the manner will be where unsearchableness and deceitfulness are to be contended with.

First, Never let us reckon that our work in contending against sin, in crucifying, mortifying, and subduing of it, is at an end. The place of its habitation is unsearchable; and when we may think that we have thoroughly won the field, there is still some reserve remaining that we saw not, that we knew not of. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory, and many have been spiritually wounded after great successes against this enemy. David was so; his great giving into sin was after a long profession, manifold experiences of God, and watchful keeping himself from his iniquity. And hence, it comes to pass that the profession of many hath decline in their old age or riper time; which must more distinctly be spoken to afterward. They have given over the work of mortifying of sin before their work was at an end. There is no way for us to pursue sin in its unsearchable habitation but by being endless in our pursuit. And that command of the apostle which we have, Colossians 3:5, on this account is as necessary for them to observe who are towards the end of their race, as those that are but at the beginning of it: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;” be always doing it whilst you live in this world. It is true, great ground is obtained when the work is vigorously and constantly carried on; sin is much weakened, so that the soul presses forwards towards perfection: but yet the work must be endless; I mean, whilst we are in this world. If we give over, we shall quickly see this enemy exerting itself with new strength and vigor. It may be under some great affliction, it may be in some eminent enjoyment of God, in the sense of the sweetness of blessed communion with Christ, we have been ready to say that there was an end of sin, that it was dead and gone forever; but have we not found the contrary by experience? hath it not manifested that it was only retired into some unsearchable recesses of the heart, as to its in-being and nature, though, it may be, greatly weakened in its power? Let us, then, reckon on it, that there is no way to have our work done but by always doing of it; and he who dies fighting in this warfare dies assuredly a conqueror.

Second, Does not the heart have its residence in that which is diverse, inconstant, deceitful above all things? This calls for perpetual watchfulness against it. An open enemy, that deals by violence only, always gives some respite. You know where to have him and what he is doing, so as that sometimes you may sleep quietly without fear. But against adversaries that deal by deceit and treachery (which are long swords, and reach at the greatest distance) nothing will give security but perpetual watchfulness. It is impossible we should in this case be too jealous, doubtful, suspicious, or watchful. The heart hath a thousand wiles and deceits; and if we are in the least off from our watch, we may, be sure to be surprised. Hence are those reiterated commands and cautions given for watching, for being circumspect, diligent, careful, and the like. There is no living for them who have to deal with an enemy deceitful above all things, unless they persist in such a frame. All cautions that are given in this case are necessary, especially that, “Remember not to believe.” Doth the heart promise fair? — rest not on it, but say to the Lord Christ, “Lord, do thou undertake for me.” Doth the sun shine fair in the morning? — reckon not therefore on a fair day; the clouds may arise and fall. Though the morning give a fair appearance of serenity and peace, turbulent affections may arise, and cloud the soul with sin and darkness.

Third, Commit the whole matter with all care and diligence unto Him who can search the heart to the uttermost, and knows how to prevent all its treacheries and deceits. In the thoughts before mentioned lies our duty, but here lies our safety.

There is no treacherous corner in our hearts but he can search it to the uttermost; there is no deceit in them but he can disappoint it. This course David takes, Psalm 139. After he had set forth the omnipresence of God and his omniscience, verses 1-10, he makes improvement of it: verse 23, “Search me, O God, and try me.” As if he had said, “It is but a little that I know of my deceitful heart, only I would be sincere; I would not have reserves for sin retained therein. Wherefore, do thou, who art present with my heart, who knowest my thoughts long before, undertake this work, perform it thoroughly, for thou alone art able so to do.”

THE LAW OF INDWELLING SIN. Part Two; Dominance and Capacity

Taken and adapted from, “REMAINDERS OF INDWELLING SIN”
Written by John Owen, 1616 – 1683

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There are in general two things attending every law, as such…

First, Dominion. Romans 7:1, “The law has dominion over a man whilst he lives:” κυριεύει τοῦ ἀνθρώπου — “It lords it over a man.” Where any law takes place, κυριεύει, it has dominion. It is properly the act of a superior, and it belongs to its nature to exact obedience by way of dominion. Now, there is a twofold dominion, as there is a twofold law. There is a moral authoritative dominion over a man, and there is a real effective dominion in a man. The first is an affection of the law of God, the latter of the law of sin. The law of sin has not in itself a moral dominion, — it has not a rightful dominion or authority over any man; but it has that which is equivalent unto it; whence it is said Μὴ οὖν βασιλευέτω ἁμαρτία ἐν, “to reign as a king,” is brought out –Romans 6:12, and  ἁμαρτία γὰρ ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσε “to lord it,” or have dominion, is seen verse 14, as a law in general is said to have, chapter 7:1. But because it has lost its complete dominion in reference unto believers, of whom alone we speak, I shall not insist upon it in this utmost extent of its power. But even in them it is a law still; though not a law unto them, yet, as was said, it is a law in them. And though it has not a complete, and, as it were, a rightful dominion over them, yet it will have a domination as to some things in them. It is still a law, and that in them; so that all its actings are the actings of a law, — that is, it acts with power, though it has lost its complete power of ruling in them. Though it be weakened, yet its nature is not thawed. It is a law still, and therefore powerful. And as its particular workings, which we shall afterward consider, are the ground of this appellation, so the term itself teaches us in general what we are to expect from it, and what endeavors it will use for dominion, to which it has been accustomed.

Secondly, A law, as a law, has the capacity to provoke those that are adamantly against it into the things that it requires. A law has rewards and punishments accompanying of it. These secretly prevail on them to whom they are proposed, though the things commanded be not much desirable. And generally all laws have their efficacy on the minds of men, from the rewards and punishments that are annexed unto them. Nor is this law without this spring of power: it has its rewards and punishments. The pleasures of sin are the rewards of sin; a reward that most men lose their souls to obtain. By this the law of sin contended in Moses against the law of grace. Hebrews 11:25, 26, “He chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; for he looked unto the recompense of reward.” The contest was in his mind between the law of sin and the law of grace. The motive on the part of the law of sin, wherewith it sought to draw him over, and wherewith it prevails on the most, was the reward that it proposed unto him, — namely, that he should have the present enjoyment of the pleasures of sin. By this it contended against the reward annexed unto the law of grace, called “the recompense of reward.”

By this sorry reward does this law keep the world in obedience to its commands; and experience shows us of what power it is to influence the minds of men. It has also punishments that it threatens men with who labor to cast off its yoke. Whatever evil, trouble, or danger in the world, attends gospel obedience, — whatever hardship or violence is to be offered to the sensual part of our natures in a strict course of mortification, — sin makes use of, as if they were punishments attending the neglect of its commands. By these it prevails on the “fearful,” who shall have no share in life eternal, Revelation 21:8. And it is hard to say by whether of these, its pretended rewards or pretended punishments, it does most prevail, in whether of them its greatest strength does lie. By its rewards it entices men to sins of commission, as they are called, in ways and actions tending to the satisfaction of its lusts. By its punishments it induces men to the omitting of duties; a course tending to no less a pernicious event than the former. By which of these the law of sin has its greatest success in and upon the souls of men is not evident; and that because they are seldom or never separated, but equally take place on the same persons. But this is certain, that by tenders and promises of the pleasures of sin on the one hand, by threats of the deprivation of all sensual contentments and the infliction of temporal evils on the other, it has an exceeding efficacy on the minds of men, oftentimes on believers themselves. Unless a man be prepared to reject the reasonings that will offer themselves from the one and the other of these, there is no standing before the power of the law. The world falls before them every day. With what deceit and violence, they are urged and imposed on the minds of men we shall afterward declare; as also what advantages they have to prevail upon them. Look on the generality of men, and you shall find them wholly by these means at sin’s disposal. Do the profits and pleasures of sin lie before them? — nothing can withhold them from reaching after them. Do difficulties and inconveniences attend the duties of the gospel? — they will have nothing to do with them; and so are wholly given up to the rule and dominion of this law. And this light in general we have into the power and efficacy of indwelling sin from the general nature of a law, whereof it is partaker.

We may consider, next, what kind of law in particular it is; which will extend our evidence regarding the capacity of its power and how it works, for it is not an outward, written, commanding, directing law, but an inbred, working, impelling, urging law. A law proposed unto us is not to be compared, for efficacy, to a law inbred in us. Adam had a law of sin proposed to him in his temptation; but because he had no law of sin inbred and working in him, he might have withstood it. An inbred law must needs be effectual. Let us take an example from that law which is contrary to this law of sin. The law of God was at first inbred and natural unto man; it was consecrated with his faculties, and was their rectitude, both in being and operation, in reference to his end of living unto God and glorifying of him. Hence it had an especial power in the whole soul to enable it unto all obedience, yea, and to make all obedience easy and pleasant. Such is the power of an inbred law. And though this law, as to the rule and dominion of it, be now by nature cast out of the soul, yet the remaining sparks of it, because they are inbred, are very powerful and effectual; as the apostle declares, Romans 2:14, 15. Afterward God renews this law, and writes it in tables of stone. But what is the efficacy of this law? Will it now, as it is external and proposed unto men, enable them to perform the things that it exacts and requires? Not at all. God knew it would not, unless it were turned to an internal law again; that is, until, of a moral outward rule, it be turned into an inward real principle. Wherefore God makes his law internal again, and implants it on the heart as it was at first, when he intends to give it power to produce obedience in his people: Jeremiah 31:31-33, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” This is that which God fixes on, as it were, upon a discovery of the insufficiency of an outward law leading men unto obedience. “The written law,” saith he, “will not do it; mercies and deliverances from distress will not affect it; trials and afflictions will not accomplish it.” “Then,” saith the Lord, “will I take another course: I will turn the written law into an internal living principle in their hearts; and that will have such an efficacy as shall assuredly make them my people, and keep them so.” Now, such is this law of sin. It is an indwelling law: Romans 7:17, “It is sin that dwells in me;” verse 20, “Sin that dwells in me;” verse 21, “It is present with me;” verse 23, “It is in my members;” — yea, it is so far in a man, as in some sense it is said to be the man himself; verse 18, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” The flesh, which is the seat and throne of this law, yea, which indeed is this law, is in some sense the man himself, as grace also is the new man. Now, from this consideration of it, that it is an indwelling law inclining and moving to sin, as an inward habit or principle, it has sundry advantages increasing its strength and furthering its power; as,

  1. The indwelling law of sin always abides in the soul; –it is never absent. The apostle twice uses that expression, “It dwells in me.” There is its constant residence and habitation. If it came upon the soul only at certain seasons, much obedience might be perfectly accomplished in its absence; yea, and as they deal with usurping tyrants, whom they intend to thrust out of a city, the gates might be sometimes shut against it, that it might not return, — the soul might fortify itself against it. But the soul is its home; there it dwells, and is no wanderer. Wherever you are, whatever you are about, this law of sin is always in you; in the best that You do, and in the worst. Men little consider what a dangerous companion is always at home with them. When they are in company, when alone, by night or by day, all is one, sin is with them. There is a living coal continually in their houses; which, if it be not looked unto, will fire them, and it may be consume them. Oh, the woeful security of poor souls! How little do the most of men think of this inbred enemy that is never from home! How little, for the most part, does the watchfulness of any professors answer the danger of their state and condition!
  2. It is always ready to apply itself to every end and purpose that will serve it. “It does not only dwell in me,” saith the apostle, “but when I would do good, it is present with me.” There is somewhat more in that expression than mere indwelling. An inmate may dwell in a house, and yet not be always meddling with what the good-man of the house has to do (that so we may keep to the allusion of indwelling, used by the apostle): but it is so with this law, it does so dwell in us, as that it will be present with us in everything we do; yea, oftentimes when with most earnestness we desire to be quit of it, with most violence it will put itself upon us: “When I would do good, it is present with me.” Would you pray, would you hear, would you give alms, would you meditate, would you be in any duty acting faith on God and love towards him, would you work righteousness, would you resist temptations, — this troublesome, perplexing indweller will still more or less put itself upon you and be present with you; so that you cannot perfectly and completely accomplish the thing that is good, as our apostle speaks, verse 18. Sometimes men, by hearkening to their temptations, do stir up, excite, and provoke their lusts; and no wonder if then they find them present and active. But it will be so when with all our endeavors we labor to be free from them. This law of sin “dwells” in us; — that is, it adheres as a depraved principle, unto our minds in darkness and vanity, unto our affections in sensuality, unto our wills in a loathing of and aversion from that which is good; and by some, more, or all of these, is continually putting itself upon us, in inclinations, motions, or suggestions to evil, when we would be most gladly quit of it.
  3. It being an indwelling law, applies itself to its work with great ability and easiness, like “the sin that does so easily beset us,” Hebrews 12:1. It has a great facility and easiness in the application of itself unto its work; it needs no doors to be opened unto it; it needs no engines to work by. The soul cannot apply itself to any duty of a man but it must be by the exercise of those faculties wherein this law has its residence. Is the understanding or the mind to be applied unto anything? — there it is, in ignorance, darkness, vanity, folly, madness. Is the will to be engaged? — there it is also, in spiritual deadness, stubbornness, and the roots of obstinacy. Is the heart and affections to be set on work? — there it is, in inclinations to the world and present things, and sensuality, with proneness to all manner of defilements. Hence it is easy for it to insinuate itself into all that we do, and to hinder all that is good, and to further all sin and wickedness. It has an intimacy, an inwardness with the soul; and therefore, in all that we do, does easily beset us. It possesses those very faculties of the soul whereby we must do what we do, whatever it be, good or evil. Now, all these advantages it has as it is a law, as an indwelling law, which manifests its power and efficacy. It is always resident in the soul, it puts itself upon all its actings, and that with easiness and facility.

This is that law which the apostle affirms that he found in himself; this is the title that he gives unto the powerful and effectual remainder of indwelling sin even in believers; and these general evidences of its power, from that appellation, have we. Many there are in the world who find not this law in them, — who, whatever they have been taught in the word, have not a spiritual sense and experience of the power of indwelling sin; and that because they are wholly under the dominion of it. They find not that there is darkness and folly in their minds; because they are darkness itself, and darkness will discover nothing. They find not deadness and an indisposition in their hearts and wills to God; because they are dead wholly in trespasses and sins. They are at peace with their lusts, by being in bondage unto them. And this is the state of most men in the world; which makes them woefully despise all their eternal concernments. Whence is it that men follow and pursue the world with so much greediness, that they neglect heaven, and life, and immortality for it, every day? Whence is it that some pursue their sensuality with delight? — they will drink and revel, and have their sports, let others say what they please. Whence is it that so many live so unprofitably under the word, that they understand so little of what is spoken unto them, that they practice less of what they understand, and will by no means be stirred up to answer the mind of God in his calls unto them? It is all from this law of sin and the power of it, that rules and bears sway in men, that all these things do proceed; but it is not such persons of whom at present we particularly treat.

From what has been spoken it will ensure, that, if there be such a law in believers, it is doubtless their duty to find it out, and to find if it is true. The more they find its power, the less they will feel its effects. It will not at all advantage a man to have a heretical distemper and not to discover it, — a fire lying secretly in his house and not to know it. So much as men find of this law in them, so much they will abhor it and themselves, and no more. Proportionally also to their discovery of it will be their earnestness for grace, nor will it rise higher. All watchfulness and diligence in obedience will be answerable also thereunto. Upon this one hinge, or finding out and experiencing the power and the efficacy of this law of sin, turns the whole course of our lives. Ignorance of it breeds senselessness, carelessness, sloth, security, and pride; all which the Lord’s soul abhors. Eruptions into great, open, conscience-wasting, scandalous sins, are from want of a due spiritual consideration of this law.

Inquire, then, how it is with your souls. What do you find of this law? what experience have you of its power and efficacy? Do you find it dwelling in you, always present with you, exciting itself, or putting forth its poison with facility and easiness at all times, in all your duties, “when you would do good?” What humiliation, what self-abasement, what intenseness in prayer, what diligence, what watchfulness, does this call for at your hands! What spiritual wisdom do you stand in need of! What supplies of grace, what assistance of the Holy Ghost, will be hence also discovered! I fear we have few of us a diligence proportional to our danger.