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I tell whether I have any right to apply God's promises to myself? The charter of salvation is sufficiently clear and explicit; but that will afford ME little comfort, unless I have good reason for thinking that I am included.
Let us see, whether we cannot find an answer to these queries in the page of Scrip
1. St. Paul informs us, that the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other1.
Are we sensible then of any internal contest of this description in our hearts? Do we perceive a new principle, to which we were formerly strangers, strongly drawing us to the practice of holiness and all good works; while another principle damps our ardour, discourages our exertions, and too frequently frustrates our best resolutions?
He, that has never felt such a struggle, must either be sinless or dead in sins. It is
1 Gal. v. 17.
needless to say, that the former supposition cannot but be erroneous.
2. We further learn from the Apostle, that we cannot do the things that we would.
Are we deeply conscious then, that this is our case? Do we daily more and more discover our own insufficiency? Do we lament, that we cannot perform our duty better, labouring however at the same time incessantly after spiritual improvement? Many persons will readily enough acknowledge their imperfections; but the question is, in what manner do they make the acknowledgment? Do they really feel the burden of their sins to be intolerable? Do they indeed, and from the very bottom of their souls, experience the pain and grief of falling so far short of their wishes? Or do they confess their failings with as much phlegmatic indifference, as if it were a matter which concerned any body in the whole world rather than themselves?
The disorders of the soul are constantly represented in Scripture by corresponding disorders of the body: hence it is reasonable
to suppose, that, as corporeal pain is the result of the latter, so mental pain or grief will be the natural consequence of the former. In what manner, then, is a person affected, who has long laboured under the pressure of a severe disease? Will he speak of his pains with insensibility? Will he sit down perfectly contented with his malady, totally forget its inconvenience, and take no steps to procure its removal or at least its alleviation? Where did we ever meet with a sick man, who answered to this description? Can we then easily believe, that he is very sensible of his spiritual disorder, who speaks of it with carelessness, finds it no obstacle to his enjoyments, and feels scarcely any desire for its expulsion? If a man really perceives, that he cannot do the things which he would, in the same manner that St, Paul did, he would experience the same restless sorrow, which constrained the Apostle to cry out: O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Let us, then, seriously ask ourselves: Do
we clearly discern our inefficiency; do we lament our numerous failings; and do we labour earnestly after amendment? The answer to these questions is almost alone sufficient to decide, whether we have any right to consider ourselves heirs of the promise.
III. The Apostle, however, is not content to let the matter rest here. He gives us a black catalogue of those deeds of darkness, which are the works of the flesh; and then forcibly contrasts them with the fruits of the Holy Spirit: thus paraphrasing, as it were, our Saviour's brief declaration, By their fruits shall ye know them.
1. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, neresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God1.
1 Galat. v. 19.
(1.) If, then, we be anxious to know whether we are led by the Spirit of God; let us examine ourselves, and learn whether we work the deeds of the flesh.
Do we live in habits of fornication and uncleanness? Are we addicted to the foul sin of drunkenness? Or, supposing that we are free from these external abominations, are we equally guiltless of internal wickedness? Do we set up the world as an idol in opposition to the living God? Do we indulge in sentiments of uncharitableness toward our neighbours? Do we entertain a proud, self-sufficient, opinion of ourselves; and contend, upon all occasions, with the bitterest animosity, for what we call our rights? Are we uneasy and restless beneath the lawful authority of our superiors, perpetually striving to foment discord and sedition, despising dominion, and speaking evil of dignities1? Do we delight in promoting schism and heresy in the Church; and, under the cloak of Christian zeal, in act
1 Jude 8.