The practical teaching below will help you understand your spiritual
condition and the wonderful priviledge of having God's Spirit
The Natural State of man.
2) The Man awakened to God's Law but unable to keep it.
3) The Man Adopted by God and delivered from Sin's Bondage.]
He is the Servant of Sin but is not Troubled
1. St. Paul here
speaks to those who are the children of God by faith. "Ye," saith
he, who are indeed his children, have drank into his Spirit; "ye have
not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear;" "but, because
ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts."
"Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
2. The spirit of bondage and fear is widely distant from this
loving Spirit of adoption: Those who are influenced only by slavish
fear, cannot be termed "the sons of God;" yet some of them may
he styled his servants, and are "not far from the kingdom of heaven."
3. But it is to be feared, the bulk of mankind, yea, of what is called
the Christian world, have not attained even this; but are still far
off; "neither is God in all their thoughts." A few names may be found
of those who love God; a few more there are that fear him; but the
greater part have neither the fear of God before their eyes, nor the
love of God in their hearts.
4. Perhaps most of you, who, by the mercy of God, now partake of
a better spirit, may remember the time when ye were as they, when
ye were under the same condemnation. But at first ye knew it not,
though ye were wallowing daily in your sins and in your blood; till,
in due time, ye "received the spirit of fear;" (ye received, for this
also is the gift of God;) and afterwards, fear vanished away, and
the Spirit of love filled your hearts.
5. One who is in the first state of mind, without fear or love,
is in Scripture termed a "natural man:" One who is under the
spirit of bondage and fear, is sometimes said to be "under the law:"
(Although that expression more frequently signifies one who is under
the Jewish dispensation, or who thinks himself obliged to observe
all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law:) But one who has
exchanged the spirit of fear for the Spirit of love, is properly said
to be "under grace." Now, because it highly imports us to know
what spirit we are of, I shall endeavor to point out distinctly, First,
the state of a "natural man:" Secondly, that of one who is; "under
the law:" And, Thirdly, of one who is "under grace."
I. The State of A Natural Man: No Fear or Love of
1. And, First, the state of a natural man. This the Scripture represents
as a state of sleep: The voice of God to him is, "Awake thou that
sleepest." For his soul is in a deep sleep: His spiritual senses
are not awake: They discern neither spiritual good nor evil. The
eyes of his understanding are closed; they are sealed together, and
see not. Clouds and darkness continually rest upon them; for he lies
in the valley of the shadow of death. Hence having no inlets for the
knowledge of spiritual things, all the avenues of his soul being shut
up, he is in gross, stupid ignorance of whatever he is most concerned
to know. He is utterly ignorant of God, knowing nothing concerning
him as he ought to know. He is totally a stranger to the law of
God, as to its true, inward, spiritual meaning. He has no conception
of that evangelical holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord;
nor of the happiness which they only find whose "life is hid with
Christ in God."
2. And, for this very reason, because he is fast asleep, he is,
in some sense, at rest. Because he is blind, he is also secure:
He saith, "Tush, there shall no harm happen unto me." The darkness
which covers him on every side, keeps him in a kind of peace; so far
as peace can consist with the works of the devil, and with an earthly,
devilish mind. He sees not that he stands on the edge of the pit,
therefore he fears it not. He cannot tremble at the danger he does
not know. He has not understanding enough to fear. Why is it that
he is in no dread of God? Because he is totally ignorant of him: If
not saying in his heart, "There is no God;" or, that "he sitteth on
the circle of the heavens, and humbleth" not "himself to behold the
things which are done on earth;" yet satisfying himself as well to
all Epicurean intents and purposes, by saying, "God is merciful;"
confounding and swallowing up all at once in that unwieldy idea of
mercy, all his holiness and essential hatred of sin; all his justice,
wisdom, and truth. He is in no dread of the vengeance denounced
against those who obey not the blessed law of God, because he understands
it not. He imagines the main point is to do thus, to be outwardly
blameless; and sees not that it extends to every temper, desire, thought,
motion of the heart. Or he fancies that the obligation hereto is ceased;
that Christ came to "destroy the Law and the Prophets;" to save
his people in, not from their sins; to bring them to
heaven without holiness: Notwithstanding his own words,
"Not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away, till all things
are fulfilled;" and, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord!
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will
of my Father which is in heaven."
3. He is secure, because he is utterly ignorant of himself.
Hence he talks of "repenting by and by;" he does not indeed exactly
know when, but some time or other before he dies; taking it for granted,
that this is quite in his own power. For what should hinder his doing
it, if he will? If he does but once set a resolution, no fear but
he will make it good!
4. But this ignorance never so strongly glares, as in those who are
termed, men of learning. If a natural man be one of these, he can
talk at large of his rational faculties, of the freedom of his will,
and the absolute necessity of such freedom, in order to constitute
man a moral agent. He reads, and argues, and proves to a demonstration,
that every man may do as he will; may dispose his own heart to evil
or good, as it seems best in his own eyes. Thus the God of this world
spreads a double veil of blindness over his heart, lest, by any means,
"the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine" upon it.
5. From the same ignorance of himself and God, there may sometimes
arise, in the natural man, a kind of joy, in congratulating himself
upon his own wisdom and goodness: And what the world calls joy,
he may often possess. He may have pleasure in various kinds; either
in gratifying the desires of the flesh, or the desire of the eye,
or the pride of life; particularly if he has large possessions; if
he enjoy an affluent fortune; then he may "clothe" himself "in purple
and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day." And so long as
he thus doeth well unto himself, men will doubtless speak good of
him. They will say, "He is a happy man." For, indeed, this
is the sum of worldly happiness; to dress, and visit, and talk, and
eat, and drink, and rise up to play.
6. It is not surprising, if one in such circumstances as these, dosed
with the opiates of flattery and sin, should imagine, among his other
waking dreams, that he walks in great liberty. How easily may he persuade
himself, that he is at liberty from all vulgar errors, and from the
prejudice of education; judging exactly right, and keeping clear of
all extremes. "I am free," may he say, "from all the enthusiasm of
weak and narrow souls; from superstition, the disease of fools and
cowards, always righteous over much; and from bigotry, continually
incident to those who have not a free and generous way of thinking."
And too sure it is, that he is altogether free from the "wisdom which
cometh from above," from holiness, from the religion of the heart,
from the whole mind which was in Christ.
7. For all this time he is the servant of sin. He commits sin,
more or less, day by day. Yet he is not troubled: He "is in no
bondage," as some speak; he feels no condemnation. He contents himself
(even though he should profess to believe that the Christian relevation
is of God) with, "Man is frail. We are all weak. Every man has his
infirmity." Perhaps he quotes Scripture: "Why, does not Solomon say,
The righteous man falls into sin seven times a day!
And, doubtless, they are all hypocrites or enthusiasts who pretend
to be better than their neighbors." If, at any time, a serious
thought fix upon him, he stifles it as soon as possible, with, "Why
should I fear, since God is merciful, and Christ died for sinners?"
Thus, he remains a willing servant of sin, content with the bondage
of corruption; inwardly and outwardly unholy, and satisfied therewith;
not only not conquering sin, but not striving to conquer, particularly
that sin which doth so easily beset him.
8. Such is the state of every natural man; whether he be a gross,
scandalous transgressor, or a more reputable and decent sinner, having
the form, though not the power of godliness. But how can such an
one be convinced of sin? How is he brought to repent? To be under
the law? To receive the spirit of bondage unto fear? This is the point
which is next to be considered.
II. The State of Man Awakened to The Law of God
1. By some awful providence, or by his word applied with the demonstration
of his Spirit, God touches the heart of him that lay asleep in darkness
and in the shadow of death. He is terribly shaken out of his sleep,
and wakes into a consciousness of his danger. Perhaps in a moment,
perhaps by degrees, the eyes of his understanding are opened, and
now first (the veil being in part removed) discern the real state
he is in. Horrid light breaks in upon his soul; such light, as may
be conceived to gleam from the bottomless pit, from the lowest deep,
from a lake of fire burning with brimstone. He at last sees the
loving, the merciful God is also "a consuming fire;" that he is a
just God and a terrible, rendering to every man recording to his works,
entering into judgment with the ungodly for every idle word, yea,
and for the imaginations of the heart. He now clearly perceives, that
the great and holy God is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;"
that he is an avenger of every one who rebelleth against him,
and repayeth the wicked to his face; and that "it is a fearful thing
to fall into the hands of the living God."
The Inward, Spiritual Meaning of the Law of God now Begins to
Glare upon Him
2. He perceives "the commandment is exceeding broad," and there
is "nothing hid from the light thereof." He is convinced, that every
part of it relates, not barely to outward sin or obedience, but to
what passes in the secret recesses of the soul, which no eye but Gods
can penetrate. If he now hears, "Thou shalt not kill," God speaks
in thunder, "He that hateth his brother is a murderer;" "he that saith
unto his brother, Thou fool, is obnoxious to hell-fire." If the law
say, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," the voice of the Lord sounds
in his ears, "He that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed
adultery with her already in his heart." And thus, in every point,
he feels the word of God "quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged
sword." It "pierces even to the dividing asunder of his soul and spirit,
his joints and marrow." And so much the more, because he is conscious
to himself of having neglected so great salvation; of having "trodden
under foot the Son of God," who would have saved him from his sins,
and "counted the blood of the covenant an unholy," a common, unsanctifying
3. And as he knows, "all things are naked and open unto the eyes
of him with whom we have to do," so he sees himself naked, stripped
of all the fig-leaves which he had sewed together, of all his poor
pretenses to religion or virtue, and his wretched excuses for sinning
against God. He now sees himself like, the ancient sacrifices,
tetrachlismenon, cleft in sunder, as it were, from the neck downward,
so that all within him stands confessed. His heart is bare, and he
sees it is all sin, "deceitful above all things, desperately wicked;"
that it is altogether corrupt and abominable, more than it is possible
for tongue to express; that there dwelleth therein no good thing,
but unrighteousness and ungodliness only; every motion thereof, every
temper and thought, being only evil continually.
4. And he not only sees, but feels in himself, by an emotion
of soul which he cannot describe, that for the sins of his heart
were his life without blame, (which yet it is not, and cannot be;
seeing "an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit,") he deserves
to be cast into the fire that never shall be quenched. He feels
that "the wages," the just reward "of sin," of his sin above all,
"is death;" even the second death; the death which dieth not; the
destruction of body and soul in hell.
5. Here ends his pleasing dream, his delusive rest, his false
peace, his vain security. His joy now vanishes as a cloud; pleasures,
once loved, delight no more. They pall upon the taste: He loathes
the nauseous sweet; he is weary to bear them. The shadows of happiness
flee away, and sink into oblivion: So that he is stripped of all,
and wanders to and fro, seeking rest, but finding none.
6. The fumes of those opiates being now dispelled, he feels the anguish
of a wounded spirit. He finds that sin let loose upon the soul
(whether it be pride, anger, or evil desire, whether self-will, malice,
envy, revenge, or any other) is perfect misery. He feels sorrow
of heart for the blessings he has lost, and the curse which is
come upon him; remorse for having thus destroyed himself, and
despised his own mercies; fear, from a lively sense of the
wrath of God, and of the consequences of his wrath, of the punishment
which he has justly deserved, and which he sees hanging over his head;
fear of death, as being to him the gate of hell, the
entrance of death eternal; fear of the devil, the executioner
of the wrath and righteous vengeance of God; fear of men,
who, if they were able to kill his body, would thereby plague both
body and soul into hell; fear, sometimes arising to such a height,
that the poor, sinful, guilty soul, is terrified with everything,
with nothing, with shades, with a leaf shaken of the wind. Yea, sometimes
it may even border upon distraction, making a man "drunken
though not with wine," suspending the exercise of the memory, of the
understanding, of all the natural faculties. Sometimes it may approach
to the very brink of despair; so that he who trembles at the name
of death, may yet be ready to plunge into it every moment, to "choose
strangling rather than life." Well may such a man roar, like him of
old, for the very disquietness of his heart. Well may he cry out,
"The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmities; but a wounded spirit
who can bear?"
He Struggles to Break Loose from Sin
7. Now he truly desires to break loose from sin, and begins to
struggle with it. But though he strive with all his might, he
cannot conquer: Sin is mightier than he. He would fain escape; but
he is so fast in prison that he cannot get forth. He resolves against
sin, but yet sins on: He sees the snare, and abhors, and runs
into it. So much does his boasted reason avail, only
to enhance his guilt, and increase his misery! Such is the
freedom of his will; free only to evil; free to "drink in iniquity
like water;" to wander farther and farther from the living God, and
do more "despite to the Spirit of grace!"
8. The more he strives, wishes, labors to be free, the more does
he feel his chains, the grievous chains of sin, wherewith Satan
binds and "leads him captive at his will;" his servant he is, though
he repine ever so much; though he rebel, he cannot prevail. He
is still in bondage and fear, by reason of sin: Generally, of
some outward sin, to which he is peculiarly disposed, either by nature,
custom, or outward circumstances; but always, of some inward sin,
some evil temper or unholy affection. And the more he frets against
it, the more it prevails; he may bite, but cannot break his chain.
Thus he toils without end, repenting and sinning, and repenting
and sinning again, till at length the poor, sinful, helpless wretch
is even at his wits end, and can barely groan, "O wretched man
that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
9. This whole struggle of one who is "under the law," under the
"spirit of fear and bondage," is beautifully described by the Apostle
in the foregoing chapter [Romans 7], speaking in the person of
an awakened man. "I," saith he, "was alive without the law once:"
(Verse 9:) I had much life, wisdom, strength, and virtue; so I thought:
"But, when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died:" When the
commandment, in its spiritual meaning, came to my heart, with the
power of God, my inbred sin was stirred up, fretted, inflamed, and
all my virtue died away. "And the commandment, which was ordained
to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the
commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me:" (Verses 10, 11:) It
came upon me unawares; slew all my hopes; and plainly showed, in the
midst of life I was in death. "Wherefore the law is holy, and the
commandment holy, and just, and good:" (Verse 12:) I no longer lay
the blame on this, but on the corruption of my own heart. I acknowledge
that "the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin:" (Verse
14:) I now see both the spiritual nature of the law and my own
carnal, devilish heart "sold under sin," totally enslaved: (Like
slaves bought with money, who were absolutely at their masters
disposal:) "For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would,
I do not; but what I hate, that I do:" (Verse 15:) Such is the
bondage under which I groan; such the tyranny of my hard master. "To
will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find
not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would
not, that I do:" (Verses 18, 19:) "I find a law," an inward constraining
power, "that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I
delight in" or consent to "the law of God, after the inward man:"
(Verses 21, 22:) In my "mind:" (So the Apostle explains himself in
the words that immediately follow; and so o esw anqrwpov, the inward
man, is understood in all other Greek writers:) "But I see another
law in my members," another constraining power, "warring against the
law of my mind," or inward man, "and bringing me into captivity to
the law" or power "of sin:" (Verse 23:) Dragging me, as it were, at
my conquerors chariot-wheels, into the very thing which my soul
abhors. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body
of this death?" (Verse 24.) Who shall deliver me from this helpless,
dying life, from this bondage of sin and misery? Till this is done,
"I myself" (or rather, that I, autov egw, that man I am now personating)
"with the mind" or inward man, "serve the law of God;" my mind,
my conscience is on Gods side "but with my flesh," with my body,
"the law of sin," (verse 25,) being hurried away by a force I cannot
10. How lively a portraiture is this of one "under the law!" one
who feels the burden he cannot shake off; who pants after liberty,
power, and love, but is in fear and bondage still! until the time
that God answers the wretched man, crying out, "Who shall deliver
me" from this bondage of sin, from this body of death? "The
grace of God, through Jesus Christ thy Lord."
III. The State of the Man who is Born Again
1. Then it is that this miserable bondage ends, and he is no more
"under the law, but under grace." This state we are, Thirdly,
to consider; the state of one who has found grace or favor in the
sight of God, even the Father, and who has the grace or power of the
Holy Ghost, reigning in his heart; who has received, in the language
of the Apostle, the "Spirit of adoption, whereby" he now cries, "Abba,
2. "He cried unto the Lord in his trouble, and God delivers him out
of his distress." His eyes are opened in quite another manner than
before, even to see a loving, gracious God. While he is calling,
"I beseech thee, show me thy glory!" he hears a voice in his
inmost soul, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I
will proclaim the name of the Lord: I will be gracious to whom I will
be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy." And,
it is not long before "the Lord descends in the cloud, and proclaims
the name of the Lord." Then he sees, but not with eyes of flesh and
blood, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering,
and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thou sands,
and forgiving iniquities, and transgressions and sin."
3. Heavenly, healing light how breaks in upon his soul. He "looks
on him whom he had pierced;" and "God, who out of darkness commanded
light to shine, shineth in his heart." He sees the light of the glorious
love of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. He hath a divine "evidence
of things not seen" by sense, even of the "deep things of God;"
more particularly of the love of God, of his pardoning love to
him that believes in Jesus. Overpowered with the sight, his whole
soul cries out, "My Lord and my God;" For he sees all his iniquities
laid on Him, who "bare them in his own body on the tree;" he beholds
the Lamb of God taking away his sins. How clearly now does he
discern, that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;
making him sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the
righteousness of God through him;" and that he himself is reconciled
to God, by that blood of the covenant!
Here End both the Guilt and Power of Sin
4. He can now say, "I am crucified with Christ: Nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: And the life which I now live
in the flesh," (even in this mortal body,) "I live by faith in the
Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Here end remorse,
and sorrow of heart, and the anguish of a wounded spirit. "God
turneth his heaviness into joy." He made sore, and now his hands bind
up. Here ends also that bondage unto fear for "his heart standeth
fast, believing in the Lord." He cannot fear any longer the wrath
of God; for he knows it is now turned away from him, and looks
upon Him no more as an angry Judge, but as a loving Father. He
cannot fear the devil, knowing he has "no power, except it be
given him from above." He fears not hell; being an heir of
the kingdom of heaven: Consequently, he has no fear of death;
by reason whereof he was in time past, for so many years, "subject
to bondage." Rather, knowing that "if the earthly house of this tabernacle
be dissolved, he hath a building of God, a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens; he groaneth earnestly, desiring to be clothed
upon with that house which is from heaven." He groans to shake off
this house of earth, that "mortality" may be "swallowed up of life;"
knowing that God "hath wrought him for the self-same thing; who hath
also given him the earnest of his Spirit."
He has Liberty from the Power of Sin
5. And "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty:" liberty,
not only from guilt and fear, but from sin, from that heaviest of
all yokes, that basest of all bondage. His labor is not now in vain.
The snare is broken, and he is delivered. He not only strives,
but likewise prevails; he not only fights, but conquers also. "Henceforth
he does not serve sin." (Chap. 6:6, etc.) He is "dead unto sin,
and alive unto God;" "sin doth not now reign," even "in his mortal
body," nor doth he "obey it in the desires thereof." He does not "yield
his members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but as instruments
of righteousness unto God." For "being now made free from sin,
he is become the servant of righteousness."
6. Thus, "having peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
"rejoicing in hope of the glory of God," and having power over all
sin, over every evil desire, and temper, and word, and work, he is
a living witness of the "glorious liberty of the sons of God;" all
of whom, being partakers of like precious faith, bear record with
one voice, "We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we
cry, Abba, Father!"
7. It is this spirit which continually "worketh in them, both to
will and to do of his good pleasure." It is he that sheds the love
of God abroad in their hearts, and the love of all mankind; thereby
purifying their hearts from the love of the worlds from the lust
of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. It is
by him they are delivered from anger and pride, from all vile and
inordinate affections. In consequence, they are delivered from evil
words and works, from all unholiness of conversation; doing no evil
to any child of man, and being zealous of all good works.
8. To sum up all:
The natural man neither fears nor loves God.
One under the law, fears God.
One under grace, loves God..
The first has no light in the things of God, but walks in utter
The second sees the painful light of hell.
The third, the joyous light of heaven.
He that sleeps in death, has a false peace.
He that is awakened, has no peace at all.
He that believes, has true peace, the peace of God
filling and ruling his heart.
The Heathen, baptized or unbaptized, hath a fancied liberty,
which is indeed licentiousness.
The Jew, or one under the Jewish dispensation, is in heavy, grievous
The Christian enjoys the true glorious liberty of the sons
An unawakened child of the devil sins willingly.
One that is awakened sins unwillingly.
A child of God "sinneth not," but; "keepeth himself, and
the wicked one toucheth him not."
To conclude: The natural man neither conquers nor fights.
The man under the law fights with sin, but cannot conquer.
The man under grace fights and conquers, yea, is "more than conqueror,
through him that loveth him."
1. From this plain account of the three-fold state of man, the natural,
the legal, and the evangelical, it appears that it is not sufficient
to divide mankind into sincere and insincere. A man may be
sincere in any of these states; not only when he has the "Spirit
of adoption," but while he has the "spirit of bondage unto fear;"
yea, while he has neither this fear, nor love. For undoubtedly there
may be sincere Heathens, as well as sincere Jews, or Christians. This
circumstance, then, does by no means prove, that a man is in a state
of acceptance with God. "Examine yourselves, therefore," not only
whether ye are sincere, but "whether ye be in the faith ."
Examine narrowly, (for it imports you much,)
What is the Ruling Principle in your Soul?
Is it the love of God?
Is it the fear of God?
Or is it neither one nor the other? Is it not rather the love of
the world? the love of pleasure, or gain? of ease, or reputation?
If so, you are not come so far as a Jew. You are but a Heathen still.
Have you heaven in your heart?
Have you the Spirit of adoption, ever crying, Abba, Father?
Or do you cry unto God, as "out of the belly of hell," overwhelmed
with sorrow and fear?
Or are you a stranger to this whole affair, and cannot imagine
what I mean? Heathen, pull off the mask! Thou hast never put on
Christ! Stand barefaced! Look up to heaven; and own before Him that
liveth for ever and ever, thou hast no part, either among the sons
or servants of God!
Whosoever thou art: Dost thou Commit Sin, or Dost thou Not?
If thou dost, is it willingly, or unwillingly? In either
case, God hath told thee whose thou art: "He that committeth sin
is of the devil." If thou committest it willingly, thou art his
faithful servant: He will not fail to reward thy labor. If unwillingly,
still thou art his servant. God deliver thee out of his hands!
Art thou daily fighting against all sin? and daily more than
conqueror? I acknowledge thee for a child of God. O stand fast
in thy glorious liberty!
Art thou fighting, but not conquering? striving for the
mastery, but not able to attain? Then thou art not yet a believer
in Christ; but follow on, and thou shalt know the Lord.
Art thou not fighting at all, but leading an easy, indolent,
fashionable life! O how hast thou dared to name the name of
Christ, only to make it a reproach among the Heathen? Awake, thou
sleeper! Call upon thy God before the deep swallow thee up!
Reasons People often Misunderstand their Spiritual Condition
2. Perhaps one reason why so many think of themselves more highly
than they ought to think, why they do not discern what state they
are in, is, because these several states of soul are often mingled
together, and in some measure meet in one and the same person.
Thus experience shows, that the legal state, or state of fear,
is frequently mixed with the natural; for few men are so fast
asleep in sin, but they are sometimes more or less awakened. As the
Spirit of God does not "wait for the call of man," so at some times
he will be heard. He puts them in fear, so that, for a season at least,
the Heathen "know themselves to be but men." They feel the burden
of sin, and earnestly desire to flee from the wrath to come. But not
long: They seldom suffer the arrows of conviction to go deep into
their souls; but quickly stifle the grace of God, and return to their
wallowing in the mire.
In like manner, the evangelical state, or state of love, is frequently
mixed with the legal. For few of those who have the spirit of
bondage and fear, remain always without hope. The wise and gracious
God rarely suffers this; "for he remembereth that we are but dust;"
and he willeth not that "the flesh should fail before him, or the
spirit which he hath made." Therefore, at such times as be seeth good,
he gives a dawning of light unto them that sit in darkness. He causes
a part of his goodness to pass before them, and shows he is a "God
that heareth the prayer." They see the promise, which is by faith
in Christ Jesus, though it be yet afar off; and hereby they are encouraged
to "run with patience the race which is set before them."
3. Another reason why many deceive themselves, is because they
do not consider how far a man may go, and yet be in a natural, or,
at best, a legal state. A man may be of a compassionate and
a benevolent temper; he may be affable, courteous, generous, friendly;
he may have some degree of meekness, patience, temperance, and of
many other moral virtues. He may feel many desires of shaking off
all vice, and of attaining higher degrees of virtue. He may abstain
from much evil; perhaps from all that is grossly contrary to justice,
mercy, or truth. He may do much good, may feed the hungry, clothe
the naked, relieve the widow and fatherless. He may attend public
worship, use prayer in private, read many books of devotion; and yet,
for all this, he may be a mere natural man, knowing neither himself
nor God; equally a stranger to the spirit of fear and to that of love;
having neither repented, nor believed the gospel.
But suppose there were added to all this a deep conviction of sin,
with much fear of the wrath of God; vehement desires to cast off every
sin, and to fulfill all righteousness; frequent rejoicing in hope,
and touches of love often glancing upon the soul; yet neither do these
prove a man to be under grace; to have true, living, Christian faith,
unless the Spirit of adoption abide in his heart, unless he can continually
cry, "Abba, Father!"
4. Beware, then, thou who art called by the name of Christ, that
thou come not short of the mark of thy high calling. Beware thou
rest not, either in a natural state with too many that are accounted
good Christians; or in a legal state, wherein those who are
highly esteemed of men are generally content to live and die.
Nay, but God hath prepared better things for thee, if thou follow
on till thou attain.
Thou art not called to Fear and Tremble like Devils; but
To Rejoice and Love, Like the Angels of God
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength."
Thou shalt "rejoice evermore;" thou shalt "pray without
ceasing;" thou shalt "in everything give thanks." Thou
shalt do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven.
O prove thou "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will
of God!" Now present thyself "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable
to God." "Whereunto thou hast already attained, hold fast," by
"reaching forth unto those things which are before" until "the God
of peace make thee perfect in every good work, working in thee
that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ: To
whom be glory for ever and ever! Amen!"
Works of John Wesley, Sermon 9, "The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption"