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your whole life be a pilgrimage. Manifest that you seek a better country. Lay aside every weight, and easy-besetting sin. So run, as that you may obtain. Walk circumspectly; not as uncertainly, but a prescribed course.
Beware of selfconfidence. Beware of backsliding. Treat your evil tempers as you would your distempers; guard most against those to which you are most liable. If ye live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit. Through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body. Grieve not the Holy Spirit. Beware of defects, mixtures, and degeneracy. Be concerned to grow in grace. Nothing will so well put the reality of grace out of doubt as this. Tell what God has done for you. Hide not his mercies. Be not ashamed of Jesus. But if examination gives, ground to suspect the past, come now as a great sinner, to a great and glorious Saviour. Now accept Christ in all his offices; now yield up your hearts to him without reserve. Now try the truth of his declaration, “I will in nowise cast out."
If I had time to write this Lecture again, I would make considerable use of what Edwards says, concerning the defects, the corrupt mixtures, and degenerating of experiences, in his excellent little book, Thoughts on the Revival of Religion. pp. 158–168.
First : Many ill effects follow, even in true Christians, from the defects which attend their spiritual exercises, even when they are not absolutely such as to render them worthless, and tokens of hypocrisy. And when these are very great, they may give us too much room to suspect their sincerity. If, for instance, the attention is engrossed by one part of divine truth, and almost wholly turned off from another.
Secondly: So the corrupt mixtures, which in this state of imperfection, in part attend the experience of true Christians, may in some professors be so great as to make us stand in doubt of them. Not that we would at once decide against a person on account of some mixture of human passions, impressions on the imagination, or even of self-righteousness, and spiritual pride ; but these evils may so prevail as to render the character doubtful, and therefore we would warn against them. Especially as these things, if not duly heeded, are likely to issue in that which is still worse,
Thirdly : The degeneracy of experiences, or their becoming more and more defective, partial and corrupt, till those who seemed to have begun in the Spirit, end in the flesh. Gal. iii. 3. They are carried away by wild imaginations, spiritual pride, censoriousness, and bitter zeal.
THE BELIEVER'S CONFLICT DISTINGUISHED FROM
THE STRUGGLE OF NATURAL CONSCIENCE.
GAL. v. 17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh : and these are contrary the one to the other : so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Whatever disputes have been raised, respecting the intention of the Apostle in the 7th of Romans, to describe his own case, or to personate another ; or to what period of his own experience he there refers; it cannot be denied that in this passage he describes true Christians in general, as engaged in a severe internal conflict; or, as being the subjects of strong and vehement desires, opposite to each other, arising from two contrary principles of action, here denominated flesh and spirit: which are often opposed to each other, in the 8th of Romans, and elsewhere; and in the close of this chapter, the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit are contrasted with each other. The principal reason for the use of these terms, seems to me, to be given by our Lord, in John iii. 6; and the term flesh appears to denote the native disposition of man as fallen ; while the term spirit denotes the disposition of mind produced by renewing grace. Though that renewal affects the whole man, extending to every faculty, so that all things become new, yet it is not at present so complete, as to expel every opposite propensity ; but occasions the continual prosecution of this holy war, or
od fight of faith, in which every believer is engaged, and by which he is distinguished from other men. Yet unrenewed men, at times, may feel such an opposition in their own bosoms to evil propensities, as bears a considerable resem
blance to this Christian conflict, which they may be in danger of taking for it, and so may unwarrantably catch at those comforts and encouragements which God has provided for them that are truly good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
An old heathen poet, represented a person, of fabulous character indeed, as saying, Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor. And Xenophon represents Araspes, a Persian nobleman, as complaining to Cyrus, that he had two souls, one of which prompted him to honor, fidelity, and continence, while the other impelled him to treachery, seduction, and the gratification of impure desires. By many similar instances, in modern times, it appears that there may be a struggle between conscience and vicious inclinations, where there has been no renovation of the heart by any supernatural influence, and no participation of true holiness. This it is supposed to be of importance to distinguish from the conflict described in the text ; not for the purpose of lessening the believer's fear, at those times when the flesh threatens most to prevail ; but to prevent others from deceiving themselves with a groundless persuasion, that their case is no more dangerous than his : and also to direct him by what means he may best ascertain that his case is more hopeful than theirs.
Some principal differences are the following :
First, The opposition to sin, made by one who is born of the Spirit, is habitual ; whereas the struggle between conscience and vice in an unrenewed soul is only occasional. The former is not always equal, not always successful, not always discernible, except to the all-seeing God; but it is real ạnd permanent: never can the soul that is born of God be reconciled to sin, or become a willing slave to lust. The unrenewed man may make acknowledgments and promises; like Pharoah ; (Exod. ix. 27.) or King Saul; (1 Sam. xxvi. 21.) but will soon return to his former propensities.
Secondly : The opposition of the spirit to the flesh is universal: that struggle which conscience excites in the unconverted is partial. A good man accounts, all God's commandments, concerning all things, to be right, and hates every false way. “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all thy commandments. I delight in the law of
God, after the inner man." He would fain be holy in all manner of conversation and godliness. The unregenerate may, like Herod, do "many things ;” but as he could not give up Herodias, so there is some sin that the unrenewed man would fain spare, as King Saul spared Agag, and the best of the cattle, when he had been ordered utterly to destroy them all. They would often compound with God, give up the lusts of the flesh, and indulge those of the mind, or vice versa. They would give up self-indulgence to gratify pride and self-righteousness, or give up self-righteeusness to gratify self-indulgence.
THIRDLY: The opposition of the spirit is much deeper, and carried to a far greater length : it extends to the most secret evils of the heart, and cannot be satisfied, but with the extirpation of sin. The believer longs to be cleansed from his secret faults; from every thing that would interrupt his enjoyment of God, and prevent his glorifying him to the utmost of his capacity. Nor can he be satisfied with any thing short of the death of sin, and attainment of perfect holiness. The opposition of conscience in the unregenerate, is chiefly to gross and scandalous vices; while he makes light of heart sins, and rather wishes to know how little selfdenial will do, than how far God would have him to go. He could be satisfied with much less than the Christian ; with the preservation of his credit, the applause of men, ease of conscience, &c. and would be glad to indulge sin to a certain degree, if it could be done with secresy or impunity. So Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, was glad to catch at any thing like a consent to his journey, and to stretch it as far as he could. Numb. xxii. 20, 21.
Fourthly: The one is the effect of godly sorrow for sin, working repentance not to be repented of: the other, if it refer to God at all, is yet merely under the influence of a slavish dread of punishment. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, said David. His chief view of the evil of sin consisted in a sense of its contrariety to God; his nature, will, and glory. And he ever considered Nathan as his friend, and probably called his son by his name from respect. Ahab put on sackcloth, and walked softly; but considered Elijah
as his enemy, and never sought farther counsel or direction from him ; nor learned to entertain a kind regard for the prophets of Jehovah. 1 Kings xxi. 20. xxii. 8.
Fifthly: The opposition of the spirit to the flesh originates from higher principles than those which are felt by the unregenerate : but the struggle between conscience and vice is influenced by inferior motives. A sense of the primary beauty of holiness, a regard to divine authority, a concern for the divine glory, a sense of obligation to redeeming love, influences the true believer. He feels he is not his own, and he would be the Lord's. The other ordinarily leaves God out of sight, cares chiefly for the injury that may accrue to himself, or has some sense of the inconsistency of his conduct with what he should wish to receive from another.
Sixthly : The one fights the good fight of faith ; he goes forth in dependance on Christ Jesus; he is led by the Holy Spirit, and through the Spirit mortifies the deeds of the body. Continued experience increases his humility and godly jealousy. The other engages in his own strength; is elated with an idea of his own self-sufficiency. As the Persian nobleman said to Cyrus, “ Fear nothing, I am sure of myself; and I will answer with my life, I shall do nothing contrary to my duty. An heathen said, “ Why do you ask the gods for virtue ? make yourself virtuous.” once told me, “ My opinion is, that God gives us our faculties, and we are to make ourselves virtuous.”
SeventhlY: If the true believer should be foiled by temptation, the only object from whence he can obtain ease for his conscience, will make it more tender and faithful in future. So Jesus looked on Peter, and Peter thought on the words of Jesus, and wept bitterly; and the gentlest reproof renewed his grief. A burnt child dreads fire. Whereas when a false professor falls by temptation, conscience gets callous and seared. Every step he takes he is more entangled, and more careless. As Balaam first went with the messengers of Balak, and after repeated attempts to gratify the king, gave him at last the diabolical advice to tempt Israel to sin, that God might be displeased, and withdraw his protection.