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of Christ has no value to him. The peace of use of this faculty is to supply us with facts, by faith is unnecessary. which we may ascertain our moral character and state. Conscience sits in the breast as a judge; each action, with the principle from which it springs, passes in review before it; and according to its decision, the action is approved or condemned, is a source of peace or a subject of regret. In the original state of man, there was perfect harmony among all the powers of his nature. Pure actions flowed from pure principles; conscience approved; and peace filled the heart. Then all was clear, bright, happy; there was no conflict to agitate, and no confusion to perplex; the reports of consciousness were simple and direct, and the facts reported were holy and consistent.
In such a man, there is no truth. The whole economy of grace is unintelligible to him. He can see no necessity for, and therefore, no wisdom in it. There must be the teaching of the Spirit to impart a just view of his character and state. Till he is made to know what sin really is, to feel its power in his own heart, and to apprehend the danger to which he is consequently exposed, he never can care for the truth of the gospel, or be brought to acknowledge its suitableness to his need. He must see his vileness in the glass of the law; he must be convinced of his absolute poverty in respect of pure enjoyment; and no longer crying out in the vanity of a boastful spirit, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing,' he must be made to exclaim, 'Behold I am vile, what shall I answer thee?' 'Lord, save me, I perish.' Enlightened by the teaching of the Spirit, he sees himself to be one mass of corruption; the gold is become dim; the most fine gold is changed. He wonders that he should have been so blind to his sinfulness and shame. The truth of scripture humbles him in the dust; and he cannot rest, till he finds a resting-place of safety in the knowledge and belief of the finished work of Christ. All this is the effect of divine teaching; nothing but the illumination of the Spirit can break up and for ever scatter the dream of self-deception, and cause the truth of scripture to be felt in all its abasing and alarming power.
TWENTY-SECOND DAY.-EVENING. 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,' Psal. cxxxix. 23, 24.
It is as necessary as ever that man should know himself; for though he is now fallen and corrupt, yet the constitution of his nature is the same as before, and self-knowledge is indispensa ble that he may understand his moral character and state. The highest exercise of reason is its application to moral truth, and the most interesting moral truth is that which relates to ourselves. If we are ignorant of ourselves, we frustrate the very design of our constitution, and deprive reason of its highest functions. But while the importance of self-knowledge is necessary, it is most difficult to attain it. It is not now as when man had only to look within, and the state of the heart was naked to his view. There was an absolute singleness in the constitution then, which prevented all confusion or mistake. But man is now corrupt; there is a division in the heart; sin reigns, no doubt, naturally, but it is, in some measure, opposed by conscience; and though the opposition be feeble and ineffectual, yet it still leads to confusion, deceit, and consescience condemns; the heart prevails, but conscience The heart often loves what conquently error. offers opposition; and, as opposition occasions un
easiness, it is desirable to overcome or silence
THIS prayer implies the importance of self-know-it, and for this purpose false pretexts are resorted ledge, and the difficulty of attaining it. Know to by the sinner. thyself,' is a maxim which was acknowledged to be important, even by the wise among the heathen; and indeed, we cannot reflect upon the constitution of our nature as accountable, without perceiving that this species of knowledge should take precedence of every other; since it is necessary to enable us to understand the motives by which we are influenced, our principles of action, and our relation to the infinite Creator, with whom we have to do. We are endowed with consciousness, which reports to us all the dangers that take place in the world within; and the highest
Hence the delusions which prevail in the unrenewed heart. An action is bad; conscience condemns it. The sinner tries to persuade himself that it was inadvertently done, or under the influence of sudden and powerful temptation, or from a good motive, or in circumstances which made it almost unavoidable. Conscience is soothed; its opposition ceases. A duty is neglected, and conscience condemns again. The sinner tries to persuade himself that the neglect was apparent, not wilful; that there was a variety of engagements, leading to confusion, a want of
time, or a call to do something else, or simply, a| vague resolution to be more careful in the time to come. Conscience is soothed, and silenced again. The heart thus shows itself to be deceitful; and self-knowledge becomes unattainable.
In the renewed mind, the conflict is still greater than in the carnal and corrupt. Sin is cast down from its ascendancy, and holy principles reign. But sin still retains considerable power, and hence there is often a keen struggle. As in the heat of strife, we often lose sight of many things, which, in our calmer moments, are perfectly obvious and distinct; so, in the conflicts of spiritual principle with the corrupt inclinations of the heart, our feelings, motives, and desires become confused; and when the believer proceeds to examine himself regarding them, he finds it extremely difficult, and even impossible to arrive at the truth. Conscience, no doubt, in him is more enlightened than in the sinner; but still there is a strong tendency to self-deception, conscience is misled, pronounces wrong decisions, and is found to approve, when it should condemn, as well as to convince, when it should continue to restrain. It is difficult indeed to know the heart; but it is most important; most important for the sinner, as otherwise he will not feel his need of Christ; most important for the believer, as otherwise he may be lulled into false security, betrayed into many sins, and thrown off his guard in the hour of temptation.
The prayer of the Psalmist shows his anxiety to know himself, and, at the same time, his conviction, that this knowledge was unattainable, without the help of God. He had made repeated attempts to come at the truth regarding the state of his heart; but they had all been fruitless, and now he implored the aid of him, to whom the heart is as an open book, every line and letter of which he can trace at a glance. The prayer is one which all Christians must often feel to be appropriate. After they have endeavoured to search out the state of their motives and principles, after they have weighed themselves in the balances of the sanctuary, they are still conscious that there is much only imperfectly ascertained, much of which the estimate is incorrect, much that has escaped observation, or merely been suspected to exist. They go to him, who alone can effectually assist them. '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.'
'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,' Rom. vii. 23.
THIS is, in some measure, the experience of every Christian. There is a conflict, it is true, even in the breast of the sinner; but it is far more feeble and undecided than that of which the believer is often conscious. Conscience, in the sinner, only opposes sin in its more gross and aggravated forms; and seems to take no cognizance whatever of the principle of sin, enmity against God, and consequently, the entire exclusion of him from the thoughts of the heart. It has been so injured. by sin that it is very incorrect and undecided in the judgments which it pronounces; in many instances, not condemning sin at all; even when it does condemn it, doing so feebly; while it may be so weakened and darkened by a long course of sin, as to cease to reprove actions against which it once remonstrated, and to become comparatively torpid and dead. Sinful habits have a searing effect upon it, insomuch that though at one period it occasioned conflicts in the heart by its reproaches and censures, at a subsequent period it became indifferent. Conscience, like the rest of our nature, is in ruins. Enough of it remains to show what it once was, and to form a hinderance to the absolute and undisturbed ascendancy of evil.
There is comparatively little conflict in the unrenewed mind, and that little becomes less, as the power of sin increases. The language of the apostle applies, in its full force, to believers only. Conscience in them has been enlightened by divine teaching, so that it is greatly more sensitive and acute than it is naturally; and the principle of obedience has been established in ascendancy in the heart. This ascendancy however, is not complete. Sin is unquestionably dethroned; it is no longer the supreme power. But it possesses considerable influence, watches for opportunities of resistance and strife, and occasionally breaks forth with bold and successful violence against the new kingdom which grace has set up. There are, in short, two rival principles in the heart, the principle of obedience and the principle of rebellion; the former is paramount, but the latter strives against it; and as it is the natural principle of the heart, and reigned, before grace overthrew it, over all its powers and affections, it often causes a severe conflict. It is the law in the members, warring against the law of
We have said, that sin is at times successful, There is no perfection here. Unruffled and in striving against the new principle of obedience, abiding peace belongs to a higher state, in which which the Spirit has implanted in the heart. there will be no sin. As long as we are on Hence, the believer is occasionally hurried even earth, there will be war; and, only when we into the commission of gross sin, sin thereby reach the heights of glory, will that which 'is attaining a temporary triumph, and regaining its perfect be come, and that which is in part be lost ascendancy. The conflicts, thus experienced, done away.' In the meantime, we must fight form no inconsiderable part of that discipline, the good fight of faith; we must put, and keep, through which believers are appointed to pass on, the whole armour of God; and trusting in in preparation for eternal life. By means of that grace, which, while it is all-sufficient, is them, divine principles are rooted more firmly in freely promised, we must strive for the masteries, the soul, as trees are fixed more deeply in the rejoicing that all our sufficiency is of God. 'Be not soil by passing storms; and the believer acquires weary in well-doing; for, in due season, you will a facility and vigour in the exercise of faith, and reap, if you faint not. Greater is he who is for the performance of duty, not otherwise to be you, than all they that are against you.' In all, attained. While they continue, they may have we shall at last be 'more than conquerors, through the effect of obscuring the evidence of his being him that loved us. in a state of grace, and thereby may cause much uneasiness and doubt; but, as the Spirit always, sooner or later, makes them end in the establishment of holiness and faith, they ought to be considered as symptoms of spiritual health, and not as signs of decay and death. The believer, shaken and agitated by them for a season, often comes forth out of them, strong and joyful; while the deliverance imparted to him, forms a passage of privilege in his history, on which he looks back with lively gratitude, as a pledge of safety and triumph in the time to come.
It is easy to see, that these conflicts are very useful, as reminding the believer, of what he is prone to forget, that his state on earth is one of imperfection and trial. A course of temporal prosperity has too frequently the effect of leading us to suppose ourselves independent of divine providence, and of inflaming our vanity and pride; and so a course of uniform spiritual privilege is apt to lull us into security, to relax our diligence and zeal, and to weaken the feeling of dependence on divine aid. We need trials to keep us humble, to quicken our apprehensions of danger, to stimulate to watchfulness, and to rouse to prayer. They disclose to us the weak points of our character; they remind us of the deceitfulness of sin, and the power and malignity of our enemies; and above all, they strengthen our conviction of the necessity of grace, without which we can do nothing. Grace made us free from the captivity of sin at first. Grace alone can enable us to maintain the freedom which it confers. Grace must contribute to the increase of knowledge, of spirituality, of affection, and of heavenliness of desire, otherwise its own noble work will be frustrated, the hideous dominion of evil restored, and the blessings of redemption prevented for
C O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Rom. vii. 24. THIS is a remarkable exclamation to be uttered by a Christian, and that Christian the apostle of the Gentiles. When the angels announced the introduction of the new dispensation in the birth of the Saviour, they are represented as singing this song, as they hovered above the plains of Bethlehem, Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, good will to men.' In perfect conformity with this description of the effects of the gospel was our Lord's invitation to sinners, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;' and his assurance to his disciples before his death, Peace I leave you, my peace give I unto you.' Peace was thus set forth as the peculiar blessing of his religion; as the Psalmist indeed had expressed it under the ancient dispensation, Great peace have they who love thy law; and nothing shall offend them.' It seems at variance with these views of the privileges of Christians to represent them as wretched; not only so, but wretched to such an extent, that they are ready to sink under the burden of their misery.
The difference appears still more strange and irreconcilable, when we consider who it was that uttered the exclamation, 'O wretched man that I am.' The writer of these words was not an ordinary Christian, who might be supposed to be limited in his knowledge, obscure in his views of divine truth, greatly deficient in zeal, spirituality, and courage; and who, not having been much or severely tried, held his principles
loosely, and therefore derived less comfort from and peace in believing,' and writing to the Phithem than they were fitted to impart. He was lippians, he says, 'the peace of God, which passeth the chief among the apostles. He was a chosen all understanding, shall keep your hearts and vessel to bear Christ's name before the Gentiles, minds through Christ Jesus.' Christ gives peace and kings, and the children of Israel.' Naturally to his followers, a pure and abiding peace: but distinguished by his endowments, he was most this peace is not perfect, nor is it beyond the abundantly enriched with grace, and was hon-reach of disturbance. It is peace enjoyed in ciroured to be the instrument of more spiritual cumstances of peril. It is peace, of which the good to mankind than any other, even of the course is broken by intervals of agitation and inspired servants of our Lord. His writings con- strife. The peace of the believer can never be tain the most complete and argumentative ex-perfect, till sin is finally destroyed. As long as position of the leading doctrines of the gospel; it remains, it is felt to be offensive, loathsome, and they furnish indubitable evidence, that his and degrading; and, as the believer advances in practical excellence kept pace with his specula- the divine life, this feeling becomes more painful. tive knowledge. He was a burning and shining The more spiritual he is, the more does he hate light, not only as a minister, but as a Christian. sin, shrink from its pollution, and dread its He stood forth in a singularly pure age of the power. It is a body of death. It is all corrupt, church, as not less eminent for personal worth,—all ruinous,—all destructive. than for public usefulness. No where are such lofty expressions of vigorous faith, sublime devotion, steadfast assurance, and lively hope, to be found as in his writings. His trials were most painful and varied, as well as almost incessant. If in any one we had expected to find the perfect peace of believing, most certainly it would have been in this wonderfully gifted and holy man. Yet he cries out, O wretched man that I am!' The reason of the exclamation is to be found in the existence of two opposite principles in the heart of the believer, the spiritual, and the corrupt. These at times are brought into active and keen collision; and strife necessarily follows, together with disquietude, its inseparable concomitant. The renovation, undergone by the believer, implies the overthrow, but not the entire destruction of sin. It still lurks in the heart. It is ever ready to break forth, sometimes suddenly and with remarkable effect; and when the believer, trusting to a security which has been long continued, is off his guard, it surprises him into error, or doubt, or inconsistency; his heart is turned into a scene of disorder; his peace is disturbed, and many fears start up. He had perhaps supposed, that after passing through a variety of struggles, and persevering in a course of regular duty, he had succeeded, in so effectually scotching the serpent, that it would not any more greatly trouble him. But he finds he has been mistaken; that his enemy, though silent and inert for a season, has considerable power; and that there remains a burden, which he must bear with patience,—an obstacle to progress, which he inust strive to surmount.
This exclamation does not imply that the believer has no real peace. Paul prays that God 'may fill the converts at Rome with all joy
The language of the apostle has been supposed to allude to what was sometimes inflicted as a punishment in ancient times, the chaining of a dead body to a living person. This was unspeakably offensive; death and life brought into contact, corruption and health. Sin, adhering to the believer, grieves and distresses him. He would shake it off,-he would be free from it; but it is part of his discipline that he must bear it. He is in the condition of one whose tastes and dispositions are above his circumstances; who has much in himself, as well as in his connection with others, to try his temper; and who looks forward with earnest longing to a time, when he will drop the burden which now oppresses him, enter on a state in harmony with his spiritual affections and desires, and be for ever freed from what is offensive and painful in the discipline of faith. This longing becomes more earnest, as his sanctification advances; and it is accompanied, as the context shows it was in the case of the apostle, with lively gratitude for the deliverance made sure by the Saviour's work, and with delightful hopes, which embrace the full blessedness of heaven. The imprisonment of the soul, in its present state, is degrading; the burden of indwelling sin enfeebles and hinders; but he thanks God through Jesus Christ his Lord, because the day of his redemption draweth nigh, and, that day arrived, his fetters will be struck off, and his burden left behind. He will rise to the region of spiritual freedom and eternal joy; and will enter on a career of improvement, which no strife will interrupt, and no trials embitter.
‹ If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse,' Job ix. 20.
As man was originally made under the covenant of the law, and his constitution was adapted to the obedience it required; so, though he can no longer fulfil the terms of that covenant, we still find him manifesting a strong tendency to trust in works, as the ground, of his acceptance and peace. This tendency appears in all, and is only overcome by divine grace. It is what we term the self-righteous spirit, which every man brings with him into the world, and which forms one of the most formidable hinderances to the full and cordial reception of divine truth. Everywhere, and under all the different forms of government, and modes of education, which prevail in society, this spirit shows itself. Where, we may ask, is the man, who does not seek to justify himself by the good actions which he does, and who does not suppose himself capable of doing all that is necessary to please God and to secure his own happiness? Hence, when the humbling doctrines of the gospel are preached, they are felt to be offensive; they speak of a remedy, when there is no disease; they offer salvation, when there is no bondage. The sinner has need of nothing; and yet the gospel says, that Christ became poor to make him rich. The gospel commands the sinner to go and wash in the Jordan; and the sinner turns contemptuously away, exclaiming, Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?'
The high estimate of himself, which the sinner entertains, continues, till he is humbled to the dust by the Spirit, under convictions of sin. The Spirit, as it were, takes the mirror of the law, and puts it into the sinner's hand; and when he looks into it, he is amazed and overwhelmed by the view of his own deformity and corruptions. He sees himself to be vile,-vile to an extent, which before he never dreamt of, or imagined; his character, before plausible, is now a mass of pollution; his life, before consistent and becoming, is now a tissue of acts of rebellion and ingratitude; there is not only nothing to admire in himself, but nothing to be satisfied with. What was, at one time, considered as the exaggerated language of scripture, is now felt to be appropriate and just; and he wonders at the infatuation which could ever have led him to suppose, that he was any thing but a rebel against God, and an heir of
His own mouth condemns him. If, after this
renewing and illuminating work of the Spirit, of sinful actions, or to judge of himself favourably, he were to attempt to extenuate the criminality he would be compelled to say, that he was in error. His conscience would reprove him. That conscience, at an earlier period, would probably have been silent, or careless; but it is one important effect of the Spirit's teaching and renewing power, that conscience knows better than before what the law requires, and is much more sensitive with regard to the violation of that law. It is true, the Spirit imparts no knowledge, but what is contained in the written word; but that knowledge, instead of being dead speculation, is carried home in living power. It is made vivid, definite, authoritative. The effect of this work of the Spirit on the mind, resembles the introduction of a man into a new world, where he sees new objects, new relations, new sources of pleasure. In one sense, the objects and relations were always there; but he did not see them; and now, as by the withdrawing of a curtain, they burst in freshness and glory upon his view. While conscience has thus an immense field opened up to its observation, the Spirit further renders it acute and active. It is no longer sluggish and dull, as it once was,-slow to decide, and reluctant to condemn; but it is prompt in its decision, vigilant in reproof, bold in censure, and compels the believer, when self-righteous thoughts arise, to condemn himself.
It may seem extravagant to say, that the sinner should ever suppose himself perfect. Where is the man, who says he is perfect? This, in one sense, is true; but you will find multitudes, who suppose themselves perfect in the sense, that the law has no claims against them. They are, no doubt, ignorant reasoners; but they flatter themselves into the belief, that they are well enough, need not seek to be better, and may safely continue as they are. It is only, as we have said, when the Spirit convinces of sin, when he makes the law a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that this delusive view of our spiritual state is broken up, and can no longer be entertained. Then, there is sin in all we do, and think, and say. Then, there is not only no ground of confidence in any thing we have done, or do; but matter of condemnation crowding upon us from every scene, and every occasion. When a man is brought into this state of mind, most distressing and painful, but most important, as preliminary to the future comforting operations of grace, nothing but a sufficient refuge will comfort or soothe. It is, at this stage, that Christ bursts upon us, in all his fulness and power. He is the refuge