« AnteriorContinuar »
not only illustrates the general truth, but states his own experimental finding of the matter. regard certain of the terms which he employs in his exposition as big with significancy. “ Let not sin," says the Apostle, “reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." Now we cannot fail to perceive how widely diverse the injunction of the Apostle would have been, if instead of saying, "Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies,” he had said, Let sin be rooted out of your mortal bodies; or if, instead of saying, Obey not its lusts, he had bid us eradicate them. It were surely a far more enviable state to have no inclination to evil at all, than to be oppressed with the constant forthputting of such an inclination, and barely to keep it in check, under the power of some opposing principle. Could we attain the higher state, on this side of time, we would become on earth, what angels are in heaven, whose every desire runs in the pure current of love and loyalty to a God of holiness. But if doomed to the lower state, during all the days of our abode in the world, then are we given to understand, that the life of a Christian is a life of vigilant and unremitting warfare—that it consists in the struggle of two adverse elements, and the habitual prevalence of one of them—that in us, and closely around us, there is a besetting enemy who will not quit his hold of us, till death paralyze his grasp, and so let us go—and that, from this sore conflict of the Spirit lusting against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit, we shall not be conclusively delivered, till our present tainted materialism shall be utterly taken down; and that the emancipated soul shall
Let us try
not have free and unconfined scope for its heavenly affections, until it has burst its way from the prisonhold of its earthly tabernacle.
Now, this view of the matter gives us a different conception of our appointed task from what may often be imagined. Sin, it would appear, is not to be exterminated from our mortal bodies; it is only to be kept at bay. It is not to be destroyed, in respect of its presence, but it is to be repressed in its prevalency and in its power. It will ever dwell, it would appear, in our present frame-work; but though it dwell, it may not have the dominion. then to banish it; and defeated in this effort, we may give up, in heartless despair, the cause of our sanctification, thus throwing away at once both our peace and our holiness. But let us try to dethrone it, though we cannot cast it out; and succeeding in this effort, while we mourn its hateful company, we may both keep it under the control of strictest guardianship, and calmly look onward to the hour of death, as the hour of release from a burden that will at least adhere to us all our days, though it may not overwhelm us.
We see then the difference between a saint in heaven, and a saint upon earth. The former may abandon himself to such feelings and such movements as come at pleasure, for he has no other pleasure than to do the will of God, and to rejoice in the contemplation of his unspotted glory. The latter cannot with safety so abandon himself. It is true, that there is an ingredient of his nature, now under an advancing process of regeneration, which is altogether on the side of godliness; and were this left unresisted by any opposing influence, he might be spared all the agonies of dissolution, and set him down at once among the choirs and the companies of paradise. But there is another ingredient of his nature, still under an unfinished process of regeneration, and which is altogether on the side of ungodliness; and were this left without the control of his new and better principle, sin would catch the defenceless moment, and regain the ascendency from which she had been disposted. Now it is Death which comes in as the deliverer. It is death which frees away the incumbrance.
It is death which overthrows and grinds to powder that corrupt fabric on the walls of which were inscribed the foul marks of leprosy, and the inmost materials of which were pervaded with an infection, that nothing, it seems, but the sepulchral process of a resolution into dust, and a resurrection into another and glorified body, can clear completely and conclusively away. It is death that conducts us from the state of a saint on earth, to the state of a saint in heaven: but not till we are so conducted, are we safe to abandon ourselves for a single instant to the spontaneity of our own inclinations; and we utterly mistake our real circumstances in the world—we judge not aright of what we have to do, and of the attitude in which we ought to stand—we lay ourselves open to the assaults of a near and lurking enemy, and are exposed to most humiliating overthrows, and most oppressive visitations of remorse and wretchedness, if, such being our actual condition upon earth, we go to sleep, or to play among its besetting dangers; if we ever think of the post that we occupy being any other than the
post of armour and of watchfulness; or falsely imagining, that there is but one spiritual ingredient in our nature, altogether on the side of holiness, instead of two, whereof the other is still alive, and on the side of sin, we ever let down the guardianship, and the jealousy, and the lowliness of mind, and the prayers for succour from on high, which such a state of things so urgently and so imperiously demands.
We think it of very capital importance for us to know that the body wherewith we are burdened, and must carry about with us, is a vile body; that the nature which we received at the first, and from which we shall not be delivered on this side of the grave, is a corrupt nature; that all which is in us, and about us, and that is apart from the new spirit infused through the belief of the Gospel, is in a state of aversion to the will of God; that what may be denoted by the single word carnality, is of perpetual residence with us while upon earth; and that our distinct concern is, while it resides with us, that it shall not reign over us. It is ever present with its suggestions; and this we cannot help: but it should not prevail with its suggestions; and this, by the aids and expedients provided for the regeneration of a polluted world, we may help. We shall feel with our latest breath, the motions of the flesh; and these motions, if not sins, are at least sinful tendencies, which, if yielded to, would terminate in sins. Now our business is not to extirpate the tendencies, but to make our stand against them—not to root out those elements of moral evil which the body of a good man before death has, and after its resurrection has not—but to stifle, and to keep them down by that force wherewith the new creature in Jesus Christ is armed for the great battle, on the issue of which hangs his eternity. We cannot obtain such a victory as that we shall never feel the motions of the flesh, but we may obtain such a victory, as that we shall not walk after the flesh. The enemy
is not so killed as that we are delivered from his presence; but by an unremitting strenuousness on our part, we may keep him so chained as that we shall be delivered from his power.
Such is the contest, and such is the result of the contest, if it be a successful one. But we ought to be told, that it is a vain hope, while we live in the world, to look for the extermination of the sinful principle. It ever stirs and actuates within us; and there is not one hour of the day, in which it does not give token that it is still alive, and though cast down from its ascendency, not destroyed in its existence. Forewarned, forearmed, and it is right to be informed, that near us, and within us, there is at all times an insidious foe, against whom we cannot guard too vigilantly, and against whom we cannot pray too fervently and too unremittingly
The time is coming, when, without the felt counteraction of any adverse and opposing tendency, we shall expatiate in freedom over the realms of ethereal purity and love, just as the time is coming, when the chrysalis shall burst with unfettered wing from the prison in which it is now held, and where, we doubt not, that it is aspiring and growing into a meetness for traversing at large the field of light and air that is above it. The Christian on earth so as