No. 1062-18:409. A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, March 14, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *10/3/2011
I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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. (Ro 7:22,23)
For other sermons on this text:
(See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Ro 7:23")
1. Last Thursday evening, as many of you will remember, I addressed you upon the final perseverance of the saints. (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1056, “Perseverance Without Presumption” 1047) I have been greatly surprised and gratified during the week to learn how many people found comfort and cheer from the simple explanation of that doctrine, which I gave you then. In fact, on the two past Thursday evenings we have been handling a precept and a promise both relating to the same matter though each putting it in a different light. (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1042, “An Inducement to Steadfastness” 1033) The one admonished us to perseverance by holding firmly; the other assured us of preservation because we are firmly held. The welcome you gave to these familiar expositions has led me to think it would be acceptable, especially, to such of you as have been recently brought into the sacred household, and may not even know the rudiments of religious experience, if I were tonight to follow up those two elementary discourses with a little account of the great inward conflict to which the believer’s life is exposed.
2. The passage before us tells a portion of the experience of the Apostle Paul. All of us concede that he was a most eminent saint. Indeed, we place him in the front rank. For this reason his experience is all the more valuable to us. If your greatest saints have their inward struggles, how much more should we expect to have them who have not attained to the same degree of grace the apostle did? If he who was not a whit behind very chief of the apostles still had to say, “When I would do good evil is present with me,” then you and I, who can only take the position of babes in grace, or of ordinary disciples of Jesus Christ, must not be surprised if we have to bear assaults that surprise us and enter into struggles that distress us, and often are forced by stress of emotion to cry out, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
3. I shall ask you, therefore, for your personal consolation to notice, first of all, that the ruling power in the Christian’s mind is a strong affection, and therefore an intense pleasure in what is pure and holy, — “I delight in the law of God after the inward man”; secondly, the conflict, there are passions and propensities within the heart of a man which come into direct conflict with this holy principle, — “I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind”; and, thirdly, the comfort that the discipline involved in this constant hostility, despite all the fretfulness and irritation it causes, is not without true and satisfactory evidence of our spiritual welfare. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
4. I. It may be said of every true Christian that THE RULING POWER in him delights in the law of God.
5. The new nature which God has created in every believer cannot sin because it is born by God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and as such without guile, unblemished, incorruptible. We are made partakers of the divine nature. The divine nature, so far as it is communicable, is given to us when we are begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are born not by the flesh, not by blood, nor by the will of man, but by God. We receive from God a new nature at the time of our regeneration. This new nature, though it is the younger, compels the older nature within us to submit to it. It has a struggle, but it gets the victory; that significant augury, “The older shall serve the younger,” is abundantly fulfilled in the little kingdom within our souls. It has a long struggling trial before the full subjugation; there are many harassing rebellions to encounter, but at length what is born by the Spirit shall overcome what is born by the flesh, and the divine nature within us shall vanquish the sensual nature. The Christian man because of this new nature implanted in him delights in the law of God. He has no desire to change that law in any way whatever. When we read the ten commandments, our conscience approves the ordinances of God while it reproves our own culpable shortcomings; yes, we feel that only God could have drawn up so complete, so perfect a code. We would not wish to have one single iota, word, or syllable of that law altered, though it condemns us. Though we know, apart from the precious blood of Christ, it would have thrown us into hell, and most justly so, yet with holy instinct, pure taste, and righteous judgment we consent to the law that it is good. It expresses God’s mind on the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood, harmony and discord, and our mind agrees with God’s mind. We do not perceive it as truth established by investigation, but as truth all radiant, shining in its own majesty. We would willingly take our place on Mount Ebal or Mount Gerizim to give our tremulous Amen for the curses pronounced on disobedience, or to hail with solemn joy the blessings confirmed for those who observe and do his commandments. Nor, beloved, would the Christian man wish to have the spirituality of the law in any degree compromised. He is not only pleased with the law as he reads it, though, as I have said, it condemns him, but he is pleased with the very spirit of the law. What if the law condemns in him an unchaste look as well as an unchaste action? He condemns that unchaste look in himself. What if the law reaches to the heart and says, “You should not even desire your neighbour’s goods, much less should you steal them?” He feels in his soul that it is sin, and that it is a bitter thing in him even to covet where he does not defraud. He never thinks that God is too exacting. He never for a moment says, “I knew that you were an austere man, gathering where you had not sown,” but he consents to the law though it is high and broad, exceedingly broad. Though the thunderings, the lightnings, and the voices which usher in that law terrify him, yet the wisdom, the equity, and the benevolence which ordained it resolves this awe into admiration. Being born from above, in fellowship with Christ, at peace with God, his very constitution is in unison with the law of the Lord. Is the law spiritual, so is he. The pact is unbroken, the concord perfect. I trust very many of you, my hearers can endorse this; for, doubtless, as many of us as have been born again can bear witness that we delight in the law of God after the inward man.
6. Again, no Christian desires to have any dispensation to exempt him from complying with any one of the Lord’s commands. His old nature may desire it but the inner man says, “No; I do not wish to get or to give any concession to the flesh, to have an allowance or make an excuse for sin in any point whatever.” The flesh craves for liberty, and asks to have provision made for it. But, does any believer want liberty to sin? My brother, if it were possible to conceive without blasphemy that the Lord should say to you, “My child, if there is one sin that you love, you may continue in it,” would you desire any sin? Would you not rather say, “Oh, that I may be purged from every sin, for sin to me is misery, it is only another term for sorrow. Moral evil is its own curse; a plague, a pest, at the thought of which I shudder.” It is thought a blessing in the Church of Rome, that a dispensation is given to men from certain religious duties. We ask no such favour; we do not value their blessing. Liberty to sin would mean putting double fetters upon us. A licence even for a moment to relax our obedience to Christ would be only a licence to leave the paths of light and the way of peace to wander for awhile in darkness and to exchange the glow of health for severe distemper and smarting pain. Brethren, I am sure you never did, and never will, if you are believers, ask the Lord for permission to transgress his statutes. You may have asked permission to do what you did not know was sinful at the time. There may have been a desire in your heart after something that was wrong. I grant you that. But the newly born nature the moment it discovers its culpability, recoils at it and turns from it; it could not do otherwise. It cannot sin, for it is born by God. The new nature that is in you shudders at sin; it is not its element; it cannot endure it, whereas before you could riot in it and take pleasure in it, and drink iniquity like water. You ask no dispensation that you may escape from the law. You delight in it after the inward man.
7. The newly born nature of the Christian also laboriously desires to keep the holy law according to the mind of God. If it were proposed to anyone of us that we should have whatever we would ask for, — if in a vision of the night the Lord should appear to us, and say to us as he did to Solomon, “Ask what I shall give you,” I do not think any of us would hesitate. I cannot imagine myself asking for riches or honour, or even for wisdom, unless it were wisdom of a far higher order than is commonly esteemed among the sons of men. But the gift which I feel I should crave beyond every other blessing is holiness, pure and immaculate holiness. Possessing now an interest in Christ, knowing that my sins are forgiven me for his name’s sake, the one thing I desire beyond everything else is to be perfectly free from sin, and to lead an unblemished life without sin of omission or sin of commission. Now, every Christian who has that desire within his soul will never be satisfied until that desire is fulfilled; and this shows that we delight in the law of God after the inward man. Nor is it long before that desire will be fulfilled. Why, we shall be like him when we shall see him as he is; and until we do see him as he is and are like him, we shall always have restlessness of spirit, and always be crying out for more grace, and labouring against the evil that is in us, if by any means we may subdue it. Oh yes, beloved, in the fact that this is what we hope for, this is what we pray for, this is what we fight for, this is what we would be willing to die for, so that we might be entirely conformed to the mind and will of God, there is evidence that we see that the law of God is good, and delight in it after the inward man.
8. This, however, is proven in a more practical way to onlookers when the Christian shows that the life of God is enabling him to overcome many of the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Oftentimes in striving to be holy he has to put himself to much stern self-denial; but he does it cheerfully. For example, should it happen in business that by using a very common trick of the trade he might gain more profit, he will not do it if he is a Christian; he feels he cannot do this evil and sin against his God. Or should the young convert find that a little divergence from the right path would please the worldly people with whom he is obliged to associate, he may, perhaps, turn aside in his weakness, but the new life within him will never rest easy if he does. The inner life, when it is in its vigour, will make him say, “Though I should lose the goodwill of these people, let me serve my Lord and Master. I must forfeit my position if it comes to that sooner than I can do wrong. I must be put even in peril of my daily bread sooner than I will be found wilfully breaking a commandment of Christ. I cannot do it.” Now, I know many of God’s children who have often suffered very severely, and have passed through a great many trials and troubles because they would not flinch from following their Lord. This is one of the proofs that they delight in the law of God after the inner man. When a man is willing to bear reproach, to be scoffed at, to be ridiculed, and taunted as mad for the sake of righteousness, when he is willing that men should sneer at him as a hypocrite and call him a Pharisee, when he braves the cold shoulder from those whose company he would otherwise have enjoyed, and all because he must and will follow the mind and direction of God’s Spirit, I say then it is that the man gives proof that he delights in the law of God. I thank God there are in this Church those who have given that proof, and I pray that you and I, all of us who have received the divine nature, may give constant evidence by using the good art at all costs, and taking up the cross at all risks, that our soul, even if it cannot be perfect in action, at any rate, would be perfect in intent, and determined by God’s help to cherish a love and desire in all things to do Jehovah’s will.
9. Is there anyone here who is obliged to say, “Well, I do not consent to the law of God: I do not delight in it. When I hear it said, ‘You shall not covet,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’; I wish it were not evil to do those things that are forbidden. It is a pity that our pleasure and our profit, our duty and our delight, should be so much at variance. I would rather there were less law and more licence. Those commandments, especially, that touch our thoughts, and limit the freedom of our will, are harsh and unpalatable. I am not content to be bound by them I would rather live as I like.” Well, my dear friend, I will say nothing more severe to you than this, you have no part or lot in this matter at all. If you had, if your heart had been renewed, you would talk in a very different way. Whenever you hear people commending a low standard of religion, a low standard of morality, whenever you find them vindicating lax views of right and wrong, you may rest assured that the spirit that is in them is not the spirit of the holy God, but it is the spirit of their sinful nature; yes, the spirit of Satan may have come in to make the human spirit even worse than it was before. But, does your heart delight in God’s law? Is there a charm in what is right to your soul? Is there a beauty in what is virtuous to your Spirit’s eye? Do you especially admire the character of Jesus because “in his life the law appears drawn out in living characters?” If so, then I trust, dear friends, you give evidence that you have been made partakers of the divine nature, that you are regenerate, and though there is still evil in you, yet there is the life of God in you which will resist the evil and subdue it, until you are brought safely to his right hand.
10. II. Now, secondly, we come to THE CONFLICT. Where there is this delight in the law of God, yet there is another law in the members. So Paul says, and he seems to me to speak of it in three different stages. He could see it first, and then he had to encounter it, and at length to some extent he was enthralled by it; for he says, “bringing me into captivity.”
There is in each one of us a law of sin. It may always be seen even
when it is not in active operation, if our eyes are enlightened.
Whenever I hear a man say he has no propensity to sin, I infer at
once that he does not live at home. I should think he must live a
long way from home, or else he has never been anywhere except in the
front parlour of his house where he keeps his profession. He cannot
have gone through all the rooms and searched them thoroughly, or he
would somewhere have discovered that there is an evil heart of
unbelief in departing from the living God. This is true of the
believer; he has to cry out against another nature, and say. “Help
my unbelief.” It is always in the man. Sometimes it is dormant. I
do not know whether the devil ever goes to sleep, but our sinful
nature seems for a time to do so: not, indeed, that it is any the
less sinful when asleep than when it is awake. It is just as bad as
it can be. Gunpowder is not always exploding, but it is always
explosive. Only bring the spark to it and immediately it bursts
out, as though it had been ready and waiting to exert its powers of
explosion. The viper may be coiled up doing no harm; but it has a
deadly poison in its fangs. It is still a viper even when it is not
using its poisonous tooth. There is within our nature what would
send the best saint to hell if sovereign grace did not prevent it.
There is a little hell within the heart of every child and only the
great God of heaven can overcome that mischievous indwelling sin.
This sin will crop up when it is least expected, generally it breaks
out suddenly, taking us by surprise. I have known it to my sorrow. I
am not going to stand here and make many confessions with regard to
myself. However I knew a man once who, in attending a prayer meeting
felt his heart much lifted up in the ways of God, drew very near to
his heavenly Father, held sweet communication with Christ, and
enjoyed much of the fellowship of the Spirit. Little did he think
that the moment the prayer meeting was over someone in the
congregation would insult and bitterly affront him. Because he was
taken unawares his anger was aroused, and he spoke unadvisedly with
his tongue. He had better have held his peace. Now, I believe, that
man if he had been met at any other time, for he was of a tolerably
quiet temper, would have taken the insult without resenting it or
making any reply whatever; but he had been taken by surprise,
therefore he was unguarded. The very love shed abroad in his heart
caused the animosity he encountered to shock his feelings all the
more. He had been so near heaven that he expected everyone present
had thoughts in harmony with his own; he had not counted on being
assailed then. When there is the most money in the house, then is
the likeliest time for thieves to break in; and when there is the
most grace in the soul the devil will try, if he can, to assault
it. Pirates were not accustomed to attack vessels when they went
out to fetch gold from the Indies: they always waylaid them when they
were coming home, with a view of getting rich spoil worth the
capture. If you have enjoyed a sermon, if you have gotten near to God
in prayer, if the Scriptures have been very precious to you, you may
expect just then that the dragon that sleeps within will wake up and
disturb the peaceful calm of your soul:
We should expect some danger nigh,
When we receive too much delight.
12. Let us be the more watchful then in seasons of tranquillity. This evil nature, you see, will sometimes be revealed, as if by jealousy, when we are being refreshed with good. It will certainly be developed when we are exposed to evil. The man who congratulates himself because he feels no sinful inclinations, no unholy thoughts, no impure imaginations, no conceited ideas, no turbulent passions had need be reminded of that saying of old Rutherford — “When the temptation sleeps the madman is wise, the prostitute is chaste; but when the vessel is pierced out comes what is within, whether it is wine or water.” Oh my soul, you have only been at rest for awhile, because there was not any exciting cause for a time. Put into the company of godly people and the mind occupied with good things continually, the bad instincts may sleep; but placed into other company, it only needs a slight provocation, and oh, how soon the evil that always was within reveals itself abundantly. There are weeds in almost every soil. If you dig up the soil from ten or twenty feet deep there will be found the seeds from which they grow. Now, those seeds cannot germinate until they are put in a convenient place; then let the sun shine and the dews fall, and the weeds begin to show themselves. There may be many weeds in our nature, deep down, out of sight, but should they be dug up by some change of circumstances, we shall find in ourselves evils we never dreamed of. Oh, let no man boast; let no man say, “I should never fall into that particular sin.” How do you know, my brother? You may never have been in that position in which such a sin would have allured you. Beware! perhaps where you think you are iron, you are clay; and when you think that the gates are closed with bars of bronze it may be only rotten wood. With respect to none of us, even the holiest, is there reason to trust his best faculties, his best desires, his best resolutions; we are utter weakness through and through, and prone to transgressions, notwithstanding all that God’s grace has done for us. The sin which is in us as a taint in our constitution, might easily break out as a loathsome distemper, spreading over the entire man from head to foot, and spoiling all the character. I pray God it never may.
13. It is remarkable how sin will show itself in the Christian, even in the holiest of his duties. Suppose it is prayer. When you feel that you ought to pray, and would draw near to God, do you not find sometimes an unwillingness as if the knees were stiff and the heart was hard? In prayer, when your soul is led away with thoughts of divine things, straight across your soul like some carrion crow flying across a landscape, there comes a bad thought and you cannot get rid of it, or perhaps you get through your devotion with much delight in God; but you have not left your little room before an alien pleasure steals over your mind, a self-satisfaction that you have prayed so well that you are growing in grace; that you are rising to the fulness of the stature of a man in Christ. Is it so, that you come from the room of reverent worship musing on your own importance; meditating on your fitness to occupy a place above the common rank and file of the soldiers of Christ — or that you might very well take a lieutenant’s rank in the church of God. Perhaps, again you did not feel any liberty in prayer, and then with a peevish fretful temper you will inwardly murmur, if you do not actually say, you might as well give up praying such prayers as those, there can be no use in them. So do what you may, or leave undone what you may, yet still the evil that is within will rise; it will intrude upon you at some time or other to let you know of its existence. You may bolt the door, and you may imagine that no thief can get in, and begin to take off your clothes and go to rest, while the thief is still under the bed. So many a man has thought “I have barred the door against those temptations,” and, lo, they have been hidden in his soul like the images which Rachel took that were concealed under the camel’s furniture. Somewhere or other they were hidden where he had not discovered them. Take it for granted, dear friends, and do not doubt it. The Apostle Paul saw it, so you may if you choose to look. He said, “I see another law in my members.”
14. And this law in his members, he goes on to tell us, was “warring against the law of his mind.” It strove to get the mastery, and the new nature, on the other hand resisted and would not let it get the mastery. The old lusts fight and then the new life fights too, for there must be two sides to a war. Such is the warfare going on within the renewed soul. We have known this warfare to take different forms. At times it has been like this. A wrong desire has come into a Christian, and he has loathed it, utterly loathed it, but that desire has followed him again and again. He has cried to God against it; he has wept over it; he has not consented to it; he fears lest he may have found it sweet or palatable to him for the moment, but when he has had time for reflection he shudders at the very thought of giving way to that temptation; and yet by the persistence of his own flesh and by the reprisals of Satan that hateful desire will come up and up and up again. He will hear it baying behind him like a bloodhound following his prey, and sometimes it will take a leap and grip him by the throat and throw him down. It will be as much as that poor man can do to keep down that ferocious temptation that has arisen in his spirit. I can bear witness that such warfare is a very terrible ordeal, for it sometimes lasts for days, and weeks, and months together. I have known thoughtful Christians who have been harassed with doubts which have been suggested about the inspiration of Scripture, about the deity of our Lord, about the sureness of the covenant of grace, or some other fundamental doctrine of our most holy faith; or even it may be the temptation has been to blasphemies, which the believer has abhorred from his very soul. Yet the more bitterly he has detested it the more relentlessly it has pursued him. If he should drive it away, it would return with redoubled force. “Is it true?” “Is it so?” Maybe, that a hideous sentiment is wrapped up in a neat epigram, and then it will haunt the memory, and he will strive in vain to dislodge it. He would gladly hurl the thought and the words that clothe the thought into the bottomless pit. Out, cursed spectre, he will cry. Back, like the ghost of one’s own crimes, it comes. What is the source of these evils? May they sometimes be traced to Satan? Indeed, but most commonly temptation derives its strength, as well as its opportunity, from the moods or habits to which our own constitution is prone. In the discharge of public duties, when straining every nerve to serve the Lord, we may meet men whose temper acts on our temper to stir up the bile and make us think evil of those to whom we are intent on doing good. In the peaceful shadows of retirement which wise men seek out as a relief from the distractions of society, what strange fancies and monstrous vagaries will often come into the heart and confuse the brain. Or, sad to tell, in the walks of study where thoughtful men set out reverently to enquire into the counsels of God, how frequently have they been lured from the open paths to trespass on dangerous ground, to lose themselves in labyrinths, to leave the footsteps of the flock; and so to become giddy and high minded. Anywhere, everywhere, we are challenged to fight, and we must give battle to the sin that besets us.
15. But, the war carried on by this evil nature is not always by the continual besieging of the soul, at times it tries to take us by assault. This is a favourite mode of warfare with our own corrupt heart. When we are off our guard up it will come and attack us, and as I have said before, we are apt to be off our guard when we have been brought up into the high mountain apart, when we have been near the Lord. In that exalted sphere of communion we have not thought of the devil, his existence has not crossed our mind; but when we go down again into the plain, we soon find that he is still living, still distressing our brethren, still lying in wait to ensnare us. For this reason, our experience should quicken our sympathy for them. Very many a Christian has been surprised into a sin for which he was to be greatly blamed, but for which he ought not to be condemned by his fellow Christians with so much severity. They ought to condemn the sin, but to remember themselves lest they also should be tempted. Many a man has been good because he did not have a chance of being bad, and, I believe, many a professing Christian has stood because the road did not happen to be very smooth, and there was not much to be gained by falling down. We do not judge each other as God does. He knows the infirmities of his dear children. While he does not make excuses for their sin — he is too pure and holy for that — yet, having blotted out their sins through the atonement of Christ Jesus, he does not cast them off and turn them out of fellowship, as sometimes his people do their poor brethren, who may, after all, be as true children as they are themselves, and have as much real love for their Father. This evil nature when it is warring, laughs at our own resolutions, and mocks our own attempts to put it down. It must be warred against by grace. No arm except the Almighty arm can overcome our natural corruption. Like the leviathan it laughs at the spear: it considers it as only rotten wood. You cannot come at a besetting sin as you wish. At times you imagine, “I will wound it to its death”; and in the very act of wounding one sin you are calling another into play. Many a man has tried to overcome his propensity to faintheartedness, and he has run into presumption. Some have tried to be less profuse in their expenditure, and they have become poverty stricken. Some have said, “I will be no more proud, and then they have become mean spirited.” I have known some who were so stern for the truth, they became bigoted, who have afterwards become latitudinarian and hold the truth with so loose a hand that their constancy could hardly be relied upon. Look straight on and “do the duty that next lies before you.” It is no easy thing, believe me, to defend yourself from the surprises of sin. It is an impossible thing, unless God who created the new nature shall come to its rescue, shall feed it with the bread of heaven, shall give it water out of the Rock of Ages, and lead it on its way to the goodly land where the Canaanite shall never be, and where our soul shall feast on milk and honey.
16. I must not linger on this point, but pass on to notice the next. It is a sadder one. The apostle said this warring brought him into captivity to the law of sin. What does he mean by this? I do not think he means he wandered into open flagrant immoralities. No observer may have noticed any fault in the apostles character. He could see it in himself, and he saw flaws in his life where we are not able to detect them, and probably that was a habit with the apostle. When I hear a good man lamenting his faults I know what the world will say: they will take him at his word and think that he is as they are, whereas with every godly man, if you knew him and observed his life and conduct you would be compelled, if you judged him candidly, to say that he was like Job, perfect and upright, one who feared God and avoided evil. Yet that very man would be the first to see blemishes in himself because he has more light than others, because he has a higher idea of what holiness is than others, and chiefly because he lives nearer to God than others, and he knows that God is so infinitely holy that the heavens were not pure in his sight, and he charged his angels with folly; therefore, everyone who sees himself in the mirror of the law sees in himself a filthiness that he never saw before. As Job said, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” But I think the apostle was not referring here to acts of gross misdemeanour having brought him into captivity so far as he himself was concerned; though many who are God’s children get into sorry captivity because the law of sin and death in their members sometimes gets the mastery over them. Oh, watch against this: weep against this: I was about to say wrestle to blood against this. Brethren, those who have committed great sins who have been God’s children, though they have been saved, have been saved so as by fire; and if they could tell you how many times they were chastened, how severe the chastening was, how their very bones were broken, how the Lord made them see that hated sin in his own family even more than anywhere else, — could you hear them confess how they lost the light of his countenance, lost enjoyments, lost the sweet savour of the promises, oh, it would make you say, “My God, be pleased not only to save me at the last but all through the journey. Hold up my footsteps in your way so that they do not slip: make me to run in the way of your commandments.” It is a captivity like that of the Israelites in Babylon itself when a child of God is permitted to fall into some great sin. But, long before it comes to that strait, and I hope in your case it may never go so far, I think this law of sin brings us into captivity in other respects. While you are fighting and contending against inbred sin doubts will invade your heart. “Am I a child of God? If it is so, why am I like this? I cannot pray as I wish. Surely if I were a child of God I would not be hampered in devotion or go out to a place of worship and feel I have no enjoyment, while others feast and sing for joy of heart.” Oh, what a captivity the soul is brought into when it allows inbred sin to cast any doubts upon its safety in Christ. We are saved because we are believers in Christ. Christ, having been all our confidence, is always in us the hope of glory. “To as many as received him to those he gave power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name.” If I have believed on his name, whatever my inward experience may be, or may not be in my own estimation, if I have believed on the name of Jesus I have the privilege to be a child of God. But sometimes doubts will come over us, and so we are brought into captivity. I have known those who were almost driven to despair. The child of God, has written bitter things against himself and signed his own death warrant. Thank God, if we sign our own death warrant it does not stand for anything. No one can sign that except the King, and he will never sign it for any soul that believes in him, however feeble his love may be. We may be brought into captivity by a sense of sin, a temptation to sin, or a yielding to sin. If we ever come to that it will make us weak in serving, cold in prayers; when alone, and joyless in the company of the saints; indeed, we shall feel almost lifeless. Oh, may God save us from it! Oh, may we wrestle hard; may we wrestle every day so that we may keep sin down; may divine grace, even that grace which is treasured up in Christ Jesus, secure the victory for us.
17. III. THE COMFORT we have when we feel a war within the soul, to remember that it is an interesting phase of Christian experience.
Those who are dead in sin have never made proof of any of these
things. There was a time when we were self-righteousness, lost, and
ruined, and without the law, and sin was dead in us, so we thought.
We were dead, in trespasses and sins, though we boasted of our own
righteousness. These inward conflicts show that we are alive. There
is some life in the soul that hates sin, even though it cannot do as
it wishes. I have known what it is to bless God for the times when my
soul has felt inward war, and I would have been glad to feel the war
renewed. Rest assured that the strong man of the soul while he keeps
the house will keep it in peace. When a stronger than he comes to
eject him, then there is a fight within your soul; therefore I would
suggest it to you as a cause for consolation and thankfulness. Do not
be depressed about it. Say — “after all, there is some life here.”
Where there is pain there is life. The best of God’s saints have
suffered in this very same way. Your way to heaven is not a bad one.
Some, I know, are not so troubled to any great extent, but the
majority of God’s saints have to endure fightings without and fears
within. You read of Martin Luther. That great bold man became a
master of theology by being taught in the school of temptation. Even
his last hours were full of stern conflict. He was a man of war from
his youth up. How constantly he had to contend against himself. We
have the same testimony from this chapter of the life of Paul.
Therefore, do not be downcast as though some strange thing had
happened to you. Look up there to those saints above in their white
robes singing their unending song! Ask them from where their victory
came? They will tell you that it did not come to them because they
were sinless or perfect in themselves, but through the blood of Jesus.
Once they were wrestling here below,
And wet their couch with tears;
They wrestled hard as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears.
The richest consolation comes from the last verse of the chapter.
Paul having asked how he should be delivered, answers the question “I
thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “They shall call his name
Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins,” not only from
the guilt of their sins, but from the power of their sins. What a
mercy it is that the Lord Jesus has struck a deadly blow at our sin.
He has broken its head. It is a monster, and has immense vitality;
but it is a broken-backed, broken-legged, broken-headed monster.
There it is; it lies hissing and spitting, and writhing, capable of
doing us much mischief, but he who has wounded it will strike it
again and again, until at last it shall utterly die. Thank God it
does not have enough vitality to get across the Jordan River. No
sinful desire shall ever swim on that stream. They are not molested
there with tendencies and propensities to sin, and when they shall be
restored to their bodies, and their bodies shall rise again, they
shall not have bodies of flesh. Bodies of flesh shall not inherit the
kingdom of heaven, neither shall their bodies see corruption, but
bodies fit for celestial minds, they shall be eternally free from
their former sin. Let us rejoice that Jesus Christ can do it all. He
can save us from all sin. He who has bought us with his blood, will
not cheaply lose what he has so dearly bought. He will deliver us
from all sin, and he will bring us into his eternal kingdom and glory
without fail. So we fall back upon this sweet consolation. Though the
fight may be long and arduous, the result is not doubtful. Remember
the text of last Thursday night. That shall settle the point. “I give
to my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall
anyone pluck them out of my hand.” “My Father who gave them to me is
greater than all, and no one shall pluck them out of my Father’s
hand.” You will have to get to heaven fighting for every inch of the
way; but you will get there. Some on boards and some on broken pieces
of the ship, they all came safely to land in Paul’s shipwreck, so it
shall be with the saints. When the sheep shall pass again under the
hand of him who counts them one by one, there shall not be one of
them missing. They were all so weak that the wolf could have torn
them in pieces; they were all so foolish that if left to themselves
they would have wandered on the mountains and in the woods, and have
been destroyed; but the Eternal Shepherd makes this a point of
honour — “Of all those whom you have given to me, I have lost none.
Here am I, and the children whom you have given to me.” It ought to
make you quite happy now to know that you are sure of victory. Oh, by
the lilies of the love of Christ, and by the strong right arm that
once struck Rahab, and cut the dragons in two, let every Christian be
of good courage. The Omnipotent is with us; the Invincible is for us.
Forward to the charge, onward to the conflict, though the fight grows
warmer and sterner still, onward ever, onward without fear or a
He who has loved us bears us through,
And makes us more than conquerors too.
“The breaker is come up before them;
they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone
out by it, and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the
head of them.” They have put their foes to the route. So it shall be
spoken of all those who follow under the leadership of Christ; this
is the inheritance of the saints and their righteousness is from me
says the Lord. May God grant us to be victors in this holy war, for
Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ro 7; 8]
Sermons In This Series
(See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1042, “An Inducement to Steadfastness” 1033)
(See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1056, “Perseverance Without Presumption” 1047)
(See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1062, “Why Am I Like This?” 1053)