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and for the increase of faithful ministers, in reliance on thy grace, and in dependence on thy power. Oh! hasten thy kingdom, accomplish the number of thine elect, and fill the earth with thy glory.
Those who believe the Gospel, who receive Christ into their hearts by faith, ascribe all their salvation to sovereign grace. They are made the temples of the Holy Ghost, and serve God with delight in the Gospel of his Son. But whilst they remain in the body, they must struggle against the remainders of sin.
Sickness, adversity, unkind treatment, persecution, with various other ills of life, are not joyous, but grievous; yet, God, is often pleased to bring his children into these furnaces, to purify them from the dross of sin, and to make them instrumental in producing the peaceable fruits of righteousness to the glory of his grace.* But sin is ever abhorrent to a holy God, and distressing to a renewed mind. Can the believer, then, derive any benefit from the sin which he hates, and against which he hourly combats? These Canaanites in the land, though grievous to the spirit of a true Israelite, as thorns are to his flesh, may be overruled by Infinite Love to teach him many lessons.
First, They remind him of his former condition, of the rock from whence he was hewn, and of the hole of the pit from whence he was digged; of his natural depravity, wretchedness, and misery, that so, he may loathe himself in his own sight.
Second, They constrain him to acknowledge the grace of God in saving him, when he had nothing to expect but fiery indignation and judgment without
Third,―They make him distrust himself, through the constant experience of his own weakness in resisting the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Fourth, They cause him to trust altogether in the divine power of his Saviour, from the repeated
*Heb. xii. 11.
victories which he obtains over indwelling sin, by looking with a single eye to Jesus, the Captain of his salvation.
Fifth, They bring into exercise the graces of faith and patience, courage and self-denial, watchfulness and prayer. The weapons of his warfare are not suffered to rust, having daily to fight the good fight of faith.
Sixth, They make him value the blood and righteousness of Christ, which rise in value, in proportion to the true and saving knowledge which he acquires of himself. Thus, the more he is convinced of his sins and imperfections, the more earnestly does he seek after a better righteousness to justify him in the sight of God, even the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Seventh, They make him long more ardently for the rest which remaineth for the people of God; for that pure world, where sorrow cannot enter, where indwelling sin will never harass the soul, but where he will for ever behold his adorable Redeemer, and be made like him, when he shall see him as he is. Indwelling sin, thus uniformly opposed, hated, and watched against, and more and more overcome and rooted out of the soul, shall not be suffered to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The promise is most precious to every true believer: "Sin shall not have dominion over you.
Blessed Jesus! grant that sin may be increasingly hateful to my soul, as it is hurtful to my peace. Enable me to grow in all the graces of the Spirit, resisting the motions of sin in my flesh, and crucifying every evil affection and lust, till I lay my body in the grave, and ascend to Thee, my life and my all, my treasure, and my eternal home.
Rom. vi. 14.
XXIX. THE INWARD CONFLICT.
"To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not."-Rom. vii. 18.
How varied is the life of the true believer. time on the mount, at another time in the valley. Sometimes he can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, at other times, he groans being burdened, and is almost tempted to say with David -"I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul."*
There are seasons of peculiar mental distress with which the tried believer is alone acquainted. At such a season, it seems as if Satan were let loose upon his soul to agonise it with his fiery darts; as if the foul sediment of inbred corruption were stirred from the very bottom of his heart.
When the Christian would fondly enjoy the tranquil delights of peace and spiritual consolation, how often is he constrained to say
"Instead of this, he made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Can he be easy under such distressing experience?
"Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm till death?”
Hear, O my soul, the gracious answer, so accordant with the revealed word :
""T is in this way,' the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith.'"
If thou shouldest ask: Why in this way so painful to endure?—
"These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free,
* 1 Sam. xxvii. 1.
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me."
This is indeed a trying dispensation; but even this inward conflict, painful as it is, is often sanctified to us by that divine Spirit, who can turn our darkness into light, and make crooked things straight. What Satan intends for evil, the God of love and power can overrule for good.
When the believer, through neglect of watchfulness and prayer, has fallen into a state of spiritual apathy; when the cursed leaven of self-love and self-righteousness have secretly been working their way into his duties; when the world has, by insensible degrees, got a hold upon his heart: then some sudden assault of the Devil sets his soul in alarm. Awakened by his fears, he is driven to earnest prayer. His rebel lusts, now in arms, and led on by Satan, threaten to overcome him. Terrified, and overwhelmed at the sight of his sins, and at his utter inability to help himself, he cries out in the agony of his soul: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?"* He loathes and abhors himself. He seeks for pardoning mercy at the cross of Christ. And there he obtains forgiveness, and comes off more than conqueror, through him who loved him and gave himself for him. "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," is his song of triumph.
The believer, by these repeated struggles, is convinced of his constant liability to Satan's temptations; of the proneness of his heart to depart from God; and of his daily need of sanctifying, sustaining His language now is :—
"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it from thy courts above."
Rom. vii. 24.
+1 Cor. xv. 57.
By trials inward and outward, the children of God are taught, that this is not their rest, because it is polluted; that they are travelling through an enemy's country; that they must fight their way to glory, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, remembering that he, and he only who overcometh, shall obtain the
"Not folded hands nor slackness of the mind,
His joys are joys of conquest, not of rest.”
Happy is he who learns wisdom from his own trials, and those of others. O! that my spiritual armour may be always bright. Indolence and supineness is the rust which blunts the edge of the sword, and gives the enemy an advantage over us. I know that my foes are mighty, but my Redeemer is almighty. I know that I am weak, but my Saviour's grace is all-sufficient. O! that I had faith, strong faith, to
lay hold upon his promised aid. Then should I put my enemies to flight; for the encouragement to the fighting Christian is, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." 99* Let me never forget, that if I yield to a small temptation, the enemy will present one more powerful, as my spiritual strength will be weakened to resist it. Thus, by degrees, and often rapidly, the unwatchful Christian is hurried into frightful sins.
God willeth not the death of a sinner.
willeth not that any should perish. His pathetic exclamation by the Prophet is "Why will ye die?"+ How strange, that any creature should be so infatuated, as to reject the gracious offers of pardon and peace, when God incarnate, crucified and slain, and now risen and glorified, stands with stretched-out arms, with arms of love and pity, to receive and bless us for ever! Yet such a creature am I. O my soul, Ezek. xviii. 31; xxxiii. 11.
James iv. 7.