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present there, warring against the sugges- | progressive disciple of the Lord Jesus, tions of a better principle; and bent on urged on by a sense of his distance from taking captive the whole man to the law the perfection that lay before him, and of that sin which was in his members-So | charging his own heart with a wide and as that the flesh was wholly enlisted on woful defect from the sanctities that i the side of this hateful service; and such felt to be due to his God. a conflict upheld among the belligerent powers and principles that were in a believer's frame, as burdened him with a sense of wretchedness, and made him cry out for deliverance therefrom.
And the same holds true in regard to his confessions of positive sinfulness. "What I hate that I do." "I do that which I would not." "The evil which I would not that I do"-Not that any doings of his were such as would be hateful to him of an ordinary conscience, not that the world could detect in them a flaw of odiousness. It was at the tribunal of his own conscience, that they were deemed to be reprehensible. It was in the eye of one now enlightened in the law of Gor and made alive to it, that the sins of his own heart bore upon them an aspect of such exceeding sinfulness. It was because of that quicker sensibility that he now had, as he moved forward in his spiritual education, that he now felt more of tenderness and alarm, about the secret workings of pride and selfishness and anger and carnality in his inner man; and such an effusion as that before us, which has been so strangely ascribed to a personified outcast from all grace and from all godliness, is one that only could have proceeded from the mouth of an experienced Christian, and is the best evidence of his pro
Take this along with you, and you will be able to appreciate what the confessions are that Paul makes of his own sinfulness. He first mourns over the guilt of his omissions, "what I would that I do not"-"how to perform that which is good I find not" "the good that I would I do not." Ere you estimate the flagrancy of his omissions, think of this, that they consist in having fallen short of his desires-not that his work fell short of that of other men, but that it fell greatly short of his own willingness-not that he neglected any one duty which could obtain for him credit in society, but that he failed in bringing his graces and his exercises up to the balance of the sanctuary. That he should in any one instance through the day, have lost the frame of his affectionate dependence towards God, or have let a sense of his obligations to Christ depart from his mind, or have slackened his diligence in the way of labouring for the souls of his fellow-gress. creatures, or have cooled in his charity towards those who were around him, or have failed in any acts and expressions of courteousness-these were enough most tenderly to affect such a heart of moral tenderness as he had, and to prompt every confession and every utterance of shame or humiliation or remorse that is here recorded. What some might mistake as the evidence of a spiritual decline on the part of the apostle, was in fact the evidence of his growth. It is the effusion of a more quick and cultured sensibility than fell to the lot of ordinary men; and like the mortification of him, who, because the most consummate of all artists, is therefore the most feelingly alive to every deformity and every deviation. The inference were altogether erroneous, that because Paul went beyond other men in his confessions, he therefore went beyond them in his crimes. The point in which he went beyond them was, not in crime, but in conscience; and the conclusion is -not that he who uttered these things was a reprobate, against whom the world could allege some monstrous or unnatural defect from any of the social or relative proprieties of life-but that, on the other hand, he was a busy and earnest and
No unchristianised man could have felt that delight in God's law, and that love for its precepts, and that active zeal on the side of obedience, which are all profest in the soliloquy that is now under consideration; and they would insure, as they do with every Christian, a real and habitual progress in the virtues and accomplishments of the new creature. But just in proportion as the desire after spiritual excellence is nourished into greater force and intensity in the one department of his now complex nature-so must be the detestation that is felt for every degree or remainder of evil, that exists in the other department of it. And not till the union of the two is terminated by death-not till that tabernacle is broken up, which festers throughout with the moral virus, that entered at the sin of our first parent, and was transmitted to all his posterity-not till these bodies have mouldered in the grave, and are raised anew in incorruption and in honour-not till then shall the desire and the doing, the principle and the performance be fully adequate the one unto the other; and then, emancipated from the drag and the oppression that here encumber us, we shall be translated into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
ROMANS Vii, 16, 17.
'Ifhen I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then, it is no more I that do it. but sin that dwelleth in me.
It might save a world of illustration in | of unintelligible mystery, we doubt not, the business of interpreting this passage, to those who have not personally shared were we sure of addressing ourselves to in it; but coming intimately home to the the experience of all cur hearers. But we experience of those, who have learned to fear of some of you, that you have no in- strive and to run and to endure hardship ternal conflict in the work of your sanc- as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. tification at all-that you are under the dominion of but one ruler, even of self, that ever lends a willing ear, and yields a ready obedience to its own humours and appetites and interests; and that, living just as you list, you feel no struggle between your principles and your propensities even because you live without God in the world. And furthermore we fear of others of you, that you have taken up your rest among the forms of an external religion, or among the terms of an inert orthodoxy, which play around the ear, without having reached a practical impulse to the heart; and which lead you to solace yourselves with the privileges of an imaginary belief, instead of landing you in the prosecution of a real and everdoing business-which is to cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and to perfect your holiness in the fear of God. It is only the man who has embarked upon this work in good earnest-it is only he whose conscience will thoroughly respond to the narrative which the apostle here gives, of the broils and the tumults that take place among the adverse powers which are in the bosom of every true Christian. For Christian though he be, he is not yet a just man made perfect; but a just man fighting his way onward unto perfection, through the downward tendencies of a corruption that is present with him, and cleaves to him even till death shall set him free. And again, a fallen and depraved mortal though he be, he is not now of the wholly carnal and corrupt nature that he once was; but a spirit has been infused into him, wherewith to make head against his rebellious affections which still continue to solicit, though not permitted to seduce him, to that degrading slavery, against which he has now entered into a war of resistance, that will at length conduct him to freedom and to victory. The passage now before us is taken up with the history of this war. It is a narrative of that battle which arises from the flesh lusting against the spirit, And the spirit against the flesh-a process
Yet, as we have said before, it were well if by any means we could give a plausible though distant conception to those who are without, of a matter wherewith every established and well-exercised Christian is quite familiar. It looks, I have no doubt, an apparent puzzle to the understandings of many, that a should do what is wrong while he wills what is right; and, more especially, that he all the while should be honestly griev ing because of the one, and as honestly aspiring and pressing forwards, nay mak. ing real practical advances, in the direc tion of the other. And yet you can surely figure to yourself the artist, who, whether in painting or in poetry or in music, labours, yet labours in vain, to do full justice to that model of high excellence which his imagination dwells upon. He does not the things that he would, and he does the things that he would not. There is a lofty standard to which he is constantly aspiring and even constantly approximating-yet along the whole of this path of genius, there is a perpetual sense of failure; and a humbling comparison of what has been already attained with what is yet seen in the distance before it ; and a vivid acknowledgment of the great deficiency that there is between the execution of the hand, and those unreached creations of the fancy that are still floating in the head: And thus an agony and a disappointment and a self-reproval, because of indolence and carelessness and aversion to the fatigues of watchful and intense study-all mixed up you will observe with a towering ambition, nay with a rapid and successful march along this walk of scholarship. How often may it be said of him that he does the things which he would not, when one slovenly line or one careless touch of the pencil has escaped from him; and when he falls short of those pains and that sustained labour, by which he hopes to rear a work for immortality. Yet is he making steady and sensible advances all the while. This lofty esteem of all that is great and gigantic in art, is the very step in his
mind to a lowly estimation of all that he has yet done for it; and both these together are the urgent forces, by which he is carried upwards to a station among the men of renown and admirable genius who have gone before him. Now what is true of the scholarship of art, is just as true of the scholarship of religion. There is a model of unattained perfection in the eye o. its faithful devotees, even the pure and right and absolutely beautiful and holy law of God; and this they constantly labour to realize in their lives, and so to build up, each in his own person, a befitting inhabitant for the realms of eternity. But while they love this law, they are loaded with a weight of indolence and carnality and earthly affections, which cumber their ascent thitherward; and just in proportion to the delight which they take in the contemplation of its heaven-born excellence, are the despondency and the shame wherewith they regard their own mean and meagre imitations of it. Yet who does not see, that, out of the believer's will pitching so high, and the believer's work lagging so miserably after it, there cometh that very ac. tivity which guides and guarantees his progress towards Zion-that therefore it is, that he is led to ply with greater diligence the armour which at length wins him the victory-that the babe in Christ is cradled, as it were, in the agitation of these warring elements-that his spiritual ambition is just the more whetted and fostered into strength, by the obstacles through which it has to fight its way-and rising from every fall with a fresh onset of help from the sanctuary, does he proceed from step to step, till he have finished the faith, till he have reached the prize of his high calling.
Paul, ere he was a Christian, was blameless in the whole righteousness of the law-so far as he then knew or then understood of its requirements. His conduct was up to the level of his conscience; and what he did was adequate to the sense that was in him of what he ought to do. But on his becoming a Christian, he got a spiritual insight of the holy law of God, and then began the warfare of the textfor then it was that his conscience outran his con luct; and that he could not overtake by is doings, what his now enlightened morty told him were his duties. There was ning in this change actually to degrade thefe and character of Paul; but there was much in it to degrade them in his own eyes. He formerly walked on what he felt to be an even platform of righteousness; but now the platform was as lifted above him, and he was left to toil his upward way on a steep ascent that had been raised for conducting him there
to. Then all he did was as he would; and the work and the will were on terms of even fellowship with each other. Bu what he now did was as he would not; for he was aiming and stretching toward a height that he had not gained, and till he arrived at which he could not be satisfied. The view that he had now gotten of the law did not make him shorter of it than before; but it made him feel that he was shorter. He was still the same blameless and respectable man of society that he had ever been; nor do we think that even in his days of darkness, any deed of intemperance or profligacy or fraud could at all be imputed to him. The confessions which are recorded here, are not those of a degraded criminal; but those of a struggling and heavenly-minded Christian, who was now forcing his way among the sins and the sanctities of the inner man, and, far above the level of our ordinary world, was soaring amid the spiritual alternations of cloud and of sunshine up to the heights of angelic sacredness.
Figure then a man to be under the aspirings of such a will on the one hand, but these often deadened and brought down by the weight of a perverse constitutional bias upon the other; and there are a thousand ways in which he is exposed to the doing of that which he would not. Should he wander in prayer-should the crosses of this world ever cast him down from the buoyancy of his confidence in God-should he, on being overtaken with a fault, detect upon his spirit a keener edge of sensibility to the disgrace that he had incurred among his fellows upon earth, than to the rebuke that he has brought upon himself from the Law-giver in heaven-should the provocations of dishonesty, or the hostile devices of malicious and successful cunning, or the unexpected evolutions of ingratitude, or even the teazing and troublesome annoyances of interruption-should any of these temptations, wherewith society is constantly excrcising its own members, ever transport him away from meekness and patience and charity and unwearied kindnessThen on that high walk of principle upon which he is labouring to uphold himself, will he have to mourn that he doeth the things which he would not; and ever as he proceeds, will he still find that there are conquests and achievements of greater difficulty in reserve for him. It argues a very exalted Christianity, when the glory of God is the habitual and paramount impulse, that gives movement to the footsteps. of our history in the world. But, think you, that, when a man's heart comes to be visited by this ambition, that then it is he makes his escape from the complaint of doing what he would not? It only thick
ens the contest, and multiplies the chances | In the case of an unconverted man, the of mortification, and furnishes new topics flesh is weak and the spirit is not willing; of humility to the disciple-and in the and so there is no conflict-nothing that very proportion too that he urges and as- can force those outcries of shame and recends and strikes loftier aims along the morse and bitter lamentation, that we course of his progressive holiness. And have in the passage before us. With a so it follows, that he who is highest in ac- Christian, the flesh is weak too but the quirement is sure to be deepest in lowly spirit is willing; and under its influence and contrite tenderness-for just as the there must from the necessary connection desires of his spirit mount higher, will the that there is between the human faculties, damp and the deadness and the obstruc- there must from the desires of his heart tions of the flesh be more felt as a grief be such a plenteous efflux of doings upon and an encumbrance to him. So that his history, as shall make his life distinwhile in the body, this soliloquy of the guishable in the world, and most distinapostle will be all his own; and so far guishable on the day of judgment, from from conceiving of it as the appropriate the life of an unbeliever. But still his utterance for a natural and unconverted desires will outstrip his doings, and the man-it is just as we are the more saintly, will that he conceives shoot greatly ahead that we shall feel our readiness to coalesce of the work that he performs-and thus, with it as the fittest vehicle of hearts will he not only leave undone much of smitten with the love of purest excellence, what he would, but, even in the language yet burdened under a sense of distance of our present verse, do many things that and deficiency therefrom. And thus it is, he would not. But I call you particularly that the toil-worn veteran has been known to notice that the will must be there-that to weep upon his death-bed; and to long he is not regenerated at all unless the for an escape from this sore conflict, be- will, honestly and genuinely and without tween the elements of his compound na- the hypocrisy of all mental reservation, ture; and to be in exceeding weariness for be there. If he have any interest in his emancipation from that vile body, Christ, any part in the promises or the which brings a soil and a taint and a tar- influences of His new economy, the inclinish upon all his offerings; and to feel nation which prompts to a resolute and how greatly better it were that he should unsparing warfare with all iniquity must be with Christ, and expatiate at large be there. The man who uses the degenamong those unclouded eminences where eracy of his nature as a plea for sinful the spirits of the perfect dwell, and are indulgence-the man who makes a cloak admitted among the glories of that un- of his corruption wherewith to shelter its spotted holiness which now is inaccessible. deceits and deformities, instead of hating For here, the accursed nature is still pre- the spotted garment with his utmost soul sent, and galling with its offensive solicita- and labouring to unwind himself from all tions the regenerated spirit-so that its entanglements-the man who loves the when weighed down by indolence; or play of orthodoxy in his head, and stickles frozen into apathy; or betrayed into un- for his own depravity as the most favourcharitable thoughts and uncharitable ite of its articles, while he continues to wishes; or led to seek the desires of its cherish it in his heart or to roll it under own selfishness more than God's honour, his tongue as a sweet morsel-That man to rejoice in its exemption from punish- is going to the grave with a lie in his ment more than to aspire after its exemp-right hand; and the piercing eye of his tion from sin, to be more vehement for the object of being safe than for the object of being sanctified-The consciousness of these, which give no disturbance either to the unchristian man or to the Christian in his infancy, is still in reserve to humble 1 and keep down even the most accomplished believer; to assure him still of the many things that he does which he would not; to keep him at the post of dependence, where he may join with the apostle in mourning over his own wretchedness, and with the psalmist in exclaiming "Who can understand his errors, cleanse thou me from secret faults: Search me O God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Judge, who now discerns his latent worthlessness, will at length drag it forth to open day, and expose it to shame and to everlasting contempt. That the will be on the side of virtue is indispensable to Christian uprightness. Wanting this, you want the primary and essential element of regeneration-You are not born againyou shall not enter the kingdom of God
God knows how to distinguish the man of Christian uprightness, even amid all his imperfections, from another who, not very visibly dissimilar in outward history, is nevertheless destitute of an honest, habitual, and heart-felt desirousness after the doing of His will. Let me suppose two yoked and harnessed vehicles, both upon a road of ruggedness and difficulty, and where at last each was brought to a dead
stand. They are alike in the one palpable and a conatus afte. ali Lol obedience. circumstance of making no progress; and, He consented unto the law that it was were this the only ground upon which a good, not assented but consented-did not judgment could be formed, it might be simply approve of the things that are concluded of the drivers that they were more excellent as the Jews with whom he ulike remiss, or of the animals under them reasoned, but had a liking to the things that they were alike spiritless and indo- that are more excellent. His will was on lent. And yet on a narrower comparison the side of the law that he loved; and not of the two, it may be observed from the on the side of that transgression which he loose traces of the one, that all exertion hated, at the very time perhaps that he had been given up-while with the other had been surprised into it. He consented there was the full tension of a resolute unto the law that it was good, and his and sustained energy, pressing at the delight was in the law after the inward instant against the obstructions of the man, and with his mind he served the law road, and perhaps with the perseverance of God. And God has a judging and a of a few minutes carrying it over them. discerning eye upon all these tendencies. Both, for the time being, are stationary; He knows most clearly the difference and yet the one is as distinct as possible between him who has them, and him who from the other, in respect of the push and has them not. There is a real and subthe struggle to get forward, and the forth-stantial distinction between the two charputting of strenuous inclination on the part of all the living agents who are concerned. And so, my brethren, of the Christian course. It is not altogether by the sensible motion, nor yet altogether by the place of advancement at which you have arrived, that you are to estimate the genuineness of the Christian character. Man may not see all the springs and traces of this moral mechanism, but God sees them; and he knows whether all is slack and careless within you, or whether there be the full stretch of a single and honest determination on the side of obedience. Think not that He is in want of materials for judging and deciding upon this question. Think not that He, of whom it is said that He weigheth the spirits of all those whose ways are clean in their own eyes, and that He pondereth the hearts as well as the goings of His creatures, and that from His throne in heaven His eyes behold and His eye-lids try the children of men-think not that He will lose His discernment of the inward principle, amid all the drags and corruptions and obstacles wherewith a believer is encompassed upon his path. He knoweth how to separate the chaff from the wheat, and how to set His appropriate mark on the upright and on the hypocrite. You know in what direction you should move, even towards that which is good and away from that which is evil. V. 17. There is a peculiarity here that God knows if you are intently and sin- is worth adverting to. St. Paul, throughout cerely prosecuting this career; for under the whole of this passage, utters the conall the mistiness of the human understand-sciousness that is in him, of the two oppoing, nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, "the Lord knoweth them that are His-And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
And so, amid all the besetting infirmities of a nature tainted with evil, which Paul had as well as others, he had what unconverted sinners have not, a desire
acters, which is quite palpable to our heavenly Judge, and will guide Him to an unerring decision on the day of reckoning. If not so palpable to yourselves, it should just make you the more earnest in labouring to work out your assurance; and to watch against the deceitful and unknown hypocrisy, that may be lurking under the plausibilities of an orthodox profession; and to be altogether on the alert and on the alarm against all those treacherous inclinations, that, if not rooted out, must at least be most vigilantly guarded, and on every appearance which they do put forth must be vigorously overborne. The adherence of the mind must be to the law of God. The affectionate consent of the heart must be towards it. All the feelings and faculties of the inward man must be on the side of obedience; and if such be indeed our spiritual mechanism, we shall be impelled forward through the many impediments of a per. verse and wofully deranged nature, on the path of new obedience-rising, as the upright ever do, from the falls which they experience; and urging our laborious and oft-interrupted way to that land, where the soul that has holy desires shall meet with a body that has been delivered of its moral leprosy, we shall pass from strength to strength till we appear perfect before God in Zion.
site principles which resided and which rivalled, the one with the other, for dominion over his now compound because now regenerated nature. And it is remarkable how he sometimes identifies himself with the first of these ingredients, and sometimes with the second of them. In speaking of the movements of the flesh, he sometimes says that it is I who put