Written by, William G. T. Shedd.
Taken from, “Sermons to the Spiritual Man.”
Edited for thought and space.
…and then to “work out his salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God that worketh in him to will and to do.” The fact that he is a new creature, if established, is a proof that God is helping him in the struggle with indwelling sin; and when God helps, victory is sure in the end. Believers are commanded to “examine themselves,” not for the purpose of seeing whether they are perfectly sanctified, but “whether they be in the faith.” We may make our self-examination minister to our discouragement, and hindrance in the Christian race, if, instead of instituting it for the purpose of discovering whether we have a penitent spirit, and do cordially accept Christ as our righteousness, we enter upon it for the purpose of discovering if we are entirely free from corruption.
Remainders of the old fallen nature may exist in connection with true faith in Christ, and a new heart.
Paul bemoans himself, saying: “The good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not that I do.” But Paul was certain that he trusted in the blood of Christ for the remission of sin; that he was a new man in Christ Jesus, and influenced by totally different motives from those that actuated him when he persecuted the Church of Christ; that he loved Christ more than the whole universe, and “counted all things but dung that he might win Christ,” and become a perfect creature in him.
The first and chief thing, therefore, which the Christian should have in his eye, in all his self-examination, is, to determine upon scriptural grounds whether he is a renewed man. The evidences of regeneration are plain, and plainly stated. We have already hinted at them. A sense of guilt and cordial acceptance of Christ’s atonement, a desire to be justified by his precious blood, a peaceful confidence in God’s righteousness and method of justifying a sinner –this is the first and infallible token of a new heart, and a right spirit. Then, secondly, a weariness of sin, “a groaning, being burdened” under its lingering presence and remaining power, a growing desire to be entirely delivered from it, and a purer simpler hungering after holiness –these are the other evidences of regeneration.
Search yourselves to see whether these things be in you,
…and if you find them really, though it may be faintly and feebly, in your experience, do not be discouraged because along with them you discover remaining corruption. Remember that as a man struck with death is a dead man, so a soul that has been quickened into life is a living soul, even though the remnants of disease still hang about it and upon it. The “new man” in Christ Jesus will eventually slay stone-dead the “old man” of sin. The “strong man” has entered into the house, and bound the occupant hand and foot, and he will in time “spoil his house.”
The truth that God will carry forward his work in the renewed soul, and that the principle of piety implanted by Divine grace will develop to perfection, may indeed be abused by the false Christian; but this is no reason why the genuine child of God should not use it for his encouragement, and progress in this divine life.
One of the evidences of regeneration, however, if considered, will prevent all misuse of the doctrine of the saint’s perseverance.
A “groaning, being burdened” by the remaining presence of sin, is a sign of being a new creature. How can a man have this grief and sadness of heart at the sight of his indwelling corruption, and at the same time roll sin as a sweet morsel under the tongue? How shall one, whose great burden it is, that he is tied to the body of sin and death, proceed to make that burden heavier and heavier, by a life of ease, indifference and worldliness? “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?”
No, my brother, if you really groan, being burdened because you are still so worldly, so proud, so selfish, so sinful, you are a new creature.
You never did this in the days of your impenitency. You were “alive without the law,” then. You did not feel the heavy, weary, weight pressing down upon you. You did not say with the Psalmist, as you now do: “My sin is ever before me.” This very imperfection which you now painfully feel, is the very evidence that you are on the way to perfection; it is the sign that there is a new principle of holiness implanted in your soul, one of whose effects is this very consciousness of remaining corruption, and one of whose glorious results will be the final and eternal eradication of it, when the soul leaves the body and enters paradise.
The child of God therefore, should not be discouraged because he discovers indwelling sin, and imperfection, within himself.
A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ ought never to be discouraged. He ought to be humble, watchful, nay, sometimes fearful, but never despondent, or despairing. David, Paul, and the Colossian church were imperfect. But they were new men in Christ Jesus, and they are now perfectly holy and happy in heaven.
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: William Greenough Thayer Shedd (1820 –1894), was an American Presbyterian Theologian born in Acton, Massachusetts.
In 1835, Shedd enrolled at the University of Vermont, He graduated from University of Vermont in 1839 and taught school for one year, during which time he began to attend the Presbyterian Church. Being called to the ministry, Shedd entered Andover Theological Seminary in 1840 and studied under theologian Leonard Woods. He graduated in 1843.
After a short pastorate at Brandon, Vermont, he was successively professor of English literature at the University of Vermont (1845–1852), professor of sacred rhetoric in Auburn Theological Seminary (1852–1854), professor of church history in Andover Theological Seminary (1854–1862), and, after one year (1862–1863) as associate pastor of the Brick Church of New York City, of sacred literature (1863–1874) and of systematic theology (1874–1890) in Union Theological Seminary. He died in New York City on November 17, 1894.
Dr. Shedd was a high Calvinist and was one of the greatest systematic theologians of the American Presbyterian church. His great work was Dogmatic Theology (3 vols, 1888–1894). He served as editor of Coleridge’s Complete Works (7 vols, New York, 1894), and he also wrote: Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1856), in which he applied to history the doctrine of organic evolution. Discourses and Essays (1856) A Manual of Church History (2 vols, 1857), a translation of Guericke A History of Christian Doctrine (2 vols, 1863) Homiletics and Pastoral Theology (1867) Sermons to the Natural Man (1871) Theological Essays (1877) Literary Essays (1878) Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1879) Sermons to the Spiritual Man (1884) The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (1885)