ROMANS, vii, 14 - 25.
"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not : for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for 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. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that,when I would do good, evil is present with me. For 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. 0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”

ERE I enter into detail upon these verses, let me come forth with a preliminary argument upon that which appears to be the subject of them. There is one thing which the common experience of all, whether they be in the faith of the gospel or not, must have made perfectly familiar to them and that is the exceeding difference which they have often felt, between the whole tone and temper of their mind at one time from what it is at another time. There are many of you who can recollect, that in church, and when under the influence of a powerful demonstration from the pulpit - you caught something like the elevation and purity of heaven upon your souls; and that then when you passed into another atmosphere, whether at home in the midst of your family. or abroad among the collisions of society and business, the whole of this ethereal temperament went into utter dissipation; and you became a peevish and sensual and earthly creature.

Some of you may have marked it well how differently it fares with you in the hour of your devotional retirement, and in the season of your exposure to the manifold urgencies of the world - how the heart seems to have passed as entirely into another mood by the transition, as if it had been transformed into another heart altogether - that in the one state you can rise on the wings of divine contemplation, and breathe of the air of the upper sanctuary; and in the other you sink down to the common-place of tame and ordinary life, and become as other men.

We think that this may have been the finding of many who are not, in the spiritual and substantial sense of the term, Christians at all; but who, in the mere fervency of natural emotion, can be put into something like a glow of sacredness, whether by a certain power of sympathy with the preacher, or in the musings and meditative exercises of their own solitude. It will not surprise them when they are told of two principles in our moral constitution - which, by the ascendancy of the one or the other of them for the time being, may cause the same man to appear in two characters that are not only different, but are in total and diametric opposition. Of this their own piety, meagre and capricious andmerely sentimental though it be, may have given them a very strong experimental illustration: And so have convinced them how possible it is, that, in one and the same individual of our species, there may be one set of tendencies, which if followed out, would liken him to the seraph who revels among the choirs and extacies of Paradise; and also another set of tendencies, which, if also followed out, would liken him to the veriest grub-worm that moils for lucre upon earth, or finds all his satisfaction in the basest and most sordid gratifications.

But we further conceive that the same thing may be rendered palpable to those, who are so far alienated in woridiness, as to be totally unobservant of piety - whether in its private or in its public observations; and who, apart from every experience of their own frame either at church or in the closet, may still have been sensible to other exhibitions of themselves, which might reconcile them to the doctrine which we shall forthwith labour to establish. Even they have often been admitted to such a view of human nature upon their own personal character and history, as might prove how strangely compoumied it is of diverse and opposite inclinations. So extensive in our day is the class of novel-readers, - that we may have the chance of bearing home upon not a few who are here present, when we appeal to a very common experience among those who are most enamoured of this species of literature - how readily their hearts have conformed, to all that was bright or beautiful in the moral scenery of fiction - how they could kindle into its heroism; and melt into its tenderness; and weep with very delight over its representations of worth, or generosity, or devoted attachment; and appear for a season, and while under the power of that master-hand which pictures out virtue with such force and exquisiteness, to be assimilated themselves to that which they so vehemently admire.

And yet all goeth to flight, when again ushered as before into the scenes of familiar existence; and the mind of the reader is speedily vulgarized again, to the level of all that is tame and ordinary around it - Insomuch, that he, who, from one part of his nature, could rise to lofty enthusiasm while engaged in the contemplation of rare and romantic excellence - could, from another part of his nature, pass in less than half an hour to the very plainest characteristic of plain and every-day humanity; and either fret, or scold, or laugh, or give full indulgence to every one of those very ordinary passions, which come out of the feelings and the fellowship of very ordinary men. There is one principle of our constitution, that tends as it were to sublime the heart up to the poetry of human life; and there is another principle, that, operating as a drag, weighs the heart as if helplessly down to the prose of it. There is not a man who mixes literature with business, as many do who are now before me, that might not be conscious in themselves of two warring elements, which, if they were to change places, so that the one which wont to be the superior shall become the subject - it would make a new creature of him.

There arc two rival appetites, in being at least, though only one may so domineer as to have all the power and practical ascendancy over the character. But in point of fact, were the other to rebel and to rise into a gathering strength, that should dethrone the old tyrant and establish its own supremacy - then would the spirit of the mind undergo an entire renovation; and the phrase of his ‘being born again’ were not too strong a one, to express the transition of heart and of habit that should take effect upon him. But meanwhile it will suffice that you be aware of certain moving forces, that do exist at the same time in your moral economy; and which act in directions that are contradictory the one to the other - and according to the prevalence of which it is, that you may appear either in one light to the eye of an observer, or in another that is altogether opposite.

We have heard of a great lady proprietor in one of our slave plantations, who never could read a fictitious tale of suffering but with tenderness and tears - yet could enforce the severest punishments on her wretched and overdriven negroes; and could look unrelentingly on, while she beheld the rigid execution of them. This may be an extreme case; but it is no anomaly in the character of our species. it is but one of a kindred and very extensive class of phenomena; and which all go to prove such to be the nature of man, that while under one sort of influence he may be so operated upon as to cxhibit all that is graceful in sensibility, he, under another sort of influence, may be so operated upon as to act the monster of savage cruelty among the ill-fated victims who are under him. The individual of whom we have now reported to you, might, of all others, have been well prepared to admit the truth of that doctrine, by which it is affirmed, that, under a certain influence, the current of right feeling may flow smoothly and spontaneously through the heart; while, if that influence be withdrawn and the heart be abandoned in consequence to itself, it may evince, by the abundant product of its own natural atrocities, how deceitful it is above all things and how desperately wicked. A very conspicuous instance of the same thing is the susceptibility of the heart to the power of music. You have seen how the song that breathed through every line of it the ardour of disinterested friendship, and a generous contempt for all selfishness - you have seen how it blended into one tide of emotion, the approving sympathies of a whole circle of companionship. One would think, on looking along this festive board, that, with the harmony of sounds, there was a harmony of kindness and confidence and mutual goodwill in every bosom; and that each, awakened as it were to a fresh moral existence, had been suddenly formed as by enchantment, into one devoted phalanx of sworn and trusty brotherhood.

It is hard to imagine that on the morrow, the competitions and the concealments and the jealousies of rival interest will be as busily active as before; and will obliterate every trace of the present enthusiasm. And yet there is in it no hypocrisy whatever. it is not a thing put on of artifice; but a thing that genuinely and honestly hath come, out of the living excitement that is now in operation. The heart is actually attuned to the very cordiality which the music has inspired; and while the notes still vibrate on the ear, the play of high and honourable feelings is upheld in the bosom - till the last echoes have died away from the remembrance, and the man again lapses into the same cold and creeping and selfish creature that he ever was. But the finest recorded example of this fascination, is that of the harp of David on the dark and turbulent spirit of Saul - nor was there ever a more striking exhibition of the power of melody, than when the native outrageousness of this monarch’s temper was thereby overborne. During the performance of the son of Jesse, all the internal fires and furies by which his bosom was agitated, seem to have been lulled into peacefulness. The tyrant was disarmed; and, as if the cunningly played instrument had conveyed of its own sweetness into his heart, he became meek and manageable as a child.

We are glad that out of Scripture history, we can draw such a case of illustration; and we now proceed to unfold the uses of it, in the argument that lies before us. First then, it is said of Saul that he was refreshed and became well, under the operation of this music. In which case, it was his duty to recur to it in every hour of necessity - to call in the harp, on the very first approaches of the threatening visitation upon his spirit; and if he could not, in the native gentleness of his own heart, maintain a serenity of feeling and conduct to all around him, it was his business ever and anon to ply that artificial expedient, by which alone it seems that the perennial kindness and tranquillity of his feelings could at all be upholden.

And secondly, you may further conceive of Saul that he succeeded in this great moral achievement upon his own spirit - that, on the strength of the foreign application ever at hand and never neglected by him, he actually won the conquest over the rebellious tendencies of his inner man, and steadily maintained it; and, as the effect of this habitual recurrence to the soothing air by which all, the tumults of his soul were pacified, that there was benevolence in every look, and such a placid softening of tone and manner, as made all his domestics happy and him beloved by them all.

Now, thirdly, I would have you all to consider how Saul should have felt as well as acted, under the consciousness of what he natively and originally was. He in very deed, and because of the power that lay in the musical instrument, may have both imported into his own heart all the feelings, and diffused among those around him all the fruits of that benignity which had thus been awakened. But although he should in this way perpetuate the mastery of a good and gracious principle in his soul - should he not still have been base in his own eyes, when he bethought him of the quarter from which it behoved to come! - that, to sustain his moral being, he had to live on supplies from abroad, because in himself there was the foul spirit of a maniac and a murderer; and it would thave become this very monarch, even at the time when he most felt the play of kindness in his own heart, and when he most brightened the hearts of others by the courtesy and the condescension that he shed over them - even then, was it most his part, to mourn the delinquencies of his inner man; and to loathe the savage propensities which fain would tumultuate there, in dust and in ashes.

But lastly, do you not perceive, that, in this state of matters, there were really no mystery at all, though the actual serenity of Saul’s temper and his own self-abhorrence because of its native fierceness and asperity had kept pace the one with the other; and that in the very proportion of that fearfulness and aversion wherewith he looked to himself, because of his inherent vices, would he become fruitful in all the virtues that were opposed to them? It were just the humility of his downward regards upon his own soul, that could be the instrument of raising it to the highest perfection of which it was capable; and because he had no trust in the unborrowed energies within, that he would fetch aliment from without, for the preservation and the growth of all those moralities whereof he was most destitute. The harp would be his perpetual companion, or never beyond the reach of his calling for it. That sense of depravity, which prompted the self-abasement of his spirit, would prompt an unceasing recurrence to that by which its outbreakings were repressed; and so the more intense his detestation of his own character, would be the vigour and efficacy of that alone practical expedite, by which his character was converted and transformed.

And thus, in all its parts, does it hold of a Christian. He knows that in his own proper nature dwelleth no good thing. He is aware of his native ungodliness; and the experience of every day brings fresh and more humiliating discoveries of it to his conscience. He feels that in himself he is like Saul without the harp - not perhaps so violent and vindictive as he was among his fellows; but sharing with the whole human race in the virulence of their antipathies against a God of holiness. The streams of his disobedience may not be of the same tinge and impregnation as that of the Hebrew king; but they emanate like his from a temple of idolatry in the heart, that would constantly issue forth of its own produce on the outward history. The Christian feels that in that part of his constitution which is properly and inherently his own, there is a deeply-seated corruption, the sense of which never fails to abash and to humble him; and thus, Christian though he be, he never ceases to exclaim - ’Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this law of sin, from this abiding and impetuous tendency to evil?’
What then, it may be asked, is it, which serves to mark him as a Christian? Not most assuredly that he is free of a carnal nature, tainted all over with foullest leprosy - but that he has access to an influence without, by which a healing virtue is mingled with it, and all its rebellious tendencies are thereby overborne. The only distinction .betwecn the disciple and the unbeliever is, that the one uses the harp, and the other has neither faith in its efficacy nor desire for the effect of its operation. The Christian hath learned whither to flee in every hour of temptation ; and thus it is that a purifying influence descends upon his soul. It cometh not through the medium of the ear, and upon the vehicle of sounds; but it cometh through the medium of the understanding, and upon the vehicle of thoughts. It is not by calling the music that he loves into his presence; but by calling the truth that he believes into his memory - it is thus that he harmonises the else disorderly affections of his heart; and while he feels that all within is corruption, he at the same time knows of an agency without by which the mutiny of its sinful appetites is staid.

There was a personal agent called in by Saul, when he had to be calmed out of his wild perturbations - even the son of Jesse; and this he did by evolving a certain harmony of sounds on the ear of the Jewish monarch. And so He is a living and a personal agent, who overrules the sinful and the wayward propensities of a believer’s heart; but this He does by evolving certain truths on the believer’s understanding. In the former case, the power to soothe lay materially and direetly in the music - though, to bring it into contact with the organ of hearing, there needed one to perform it. In the latter case, the power to sanctify lies materially and directly in the doctrine - though, to bring it into contact with the organ of mental perception, there needeth one to present it - even the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to bring all things to our remembrance.

And so, my brethren, when assailed by temptation from without, or like to be overborne by the tyranny of your own evil inclinations, is it your part to summon gospel truth into the presence of your mind; and, depending on the Holy Ghost, to go forth and meet His manifestations, as He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto your soul; and, precious fruit of your believing meditation on the realities of our most holy faith, will you be sure to find, as you look forward with hope to that mercy which is unto eternal life, that the heart will be purified thereby. It will be kept in the love of God; and this will attune it out of all discord and disorder. But never, throughout the whole of this process, will it be led to count on the worth or the power of its own internal energies. The sense of its depravity will ever be present to the conscience; and hanging on an influence that is foreign to itself, will it feel as helplessly dependent on a medicine from without, as did Saul when he summoned to his apartment that melody which charmed all the heat and vindictiveness of his.spirit away from him.

It is thus that the believer while he looks upon himself as nothing, or rather loathes himself as a diseased sinner, is ever labouring to medicate his soul from those springs of moral and spiritual health which are without him and above him - looking to that outward mercy which has been provided for his worthlessness, and praying for that refreshment and revelation by the Holy Ghost which arc so richly provided for all who ask in faith. We think that there must be many here present, who might be made to recognise, and we trust some who have actually proved in their own persons, the efficacy of this expedient - how the truths of the gospel can attemper the soul into a unison with its spirit - And more especially in that one truth which is the first that the apostle bids us keep at all times in our memory, even that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures - how in this precious saying, when reckoned upon as faithful and regarded as worthy of all acceptation, there is a power to still and overawe the heart out of its rebellious tendencies - So that when a trusted Saviour is present to the thoughts, the sin of our nature is by a moral necessity disarmed of its practical ascendancy over us.

We trust that with some who hear us, it has been found to hold experimentally - how a sense of the mercy of God in Christ annihilates the whole space of separation that there was between God and the soul, and so dissipates all its ungodliness - how walking before Him in the light and peace of conscious forgiveness, the spirit of bondage has fled away, and there have come in its place the love and the trust and the joy of reconciled children - how whenever he bethinks him of God haring passed over the magnitude of his own provocations, he finds that achievement easy, which to nature is difficult, of maintaining the gentleness of his spirit under the sorest provocations of his fellow-men - how in dwelling on the agony of that endurance that was laid upon Christ for sinners, he too can learn to suffer and to grow in all those graces which are best taught in the school of tribulation - how it is when beholding the cross of our atonement, that he is most solemnized into a reverence for the sacredness of the Godhead, and is most awed into a fearfulness of the sin that was expiated there - Above all, when he looks onward to the glories of that inheritance which Christ hath purchased by His blood, and the gates of which He has unbarred for the welcome access of the guiltiest of us all - how it is that the powers of the coming world win the mastery in his spirit, over the powers of the present one; that he sits loose to the vanities and the interests of a scene which passeth speedily away; and, now feeling eternity to be his destined home and the virtues of eternity to be his incumbent preparation, he holds a perpetual warfare with those passions that war against the soul, and bears on every footstep of his pilgrimage on earth the impress of that heaven for which he hopes and of that holiness to which he is aspiring.

We would conclude these preliminary remarks with three distinct observations. And first, it is hoped that some of you may be led to perceive from them - how it is, that, by means of a power external to the mind of man yet brought from without to bear upon it, he may be so transformed as to become a new creature. If the eloquence of a Christian minister can for a time lift the soul, as it were, above itself - or if a pleasing and pathetic novelist can transport the imagination of his reader, and so assort his feelings to them as that, while the illusion. lasts, he shall be refined and removed above the level of our ordinary world - or if poetry can bear him upward to a purer moral element, than he can breathe among his fellow-mortals-or, lastly, if music, that so charmed the spirit of the Hebrew king out of all its ferocity, is still found, so long as it plays upon the ear, to attune the heart to nobler and better feelings than those by which it is habitually occupied - Shall we wonder, that, upon faith realizing the promises and the prospects of the gospel, the heart shall be translated into a new state, when thus visited as it were by the sense and the impression of its new circumstances? What music can be sweeter to the soul, than when peace is whispered to it from on high; or what lovelier vision can be offered to its contemplation, than that of heaven’s Lord and of heaven’s family; or what more fitted to lay the coarse and boisterous agitations of a present world, than the light which has pierced across the grave and revealed the peaceful world that is beyond it? Simply grant that the veil has been lifted from the eyes of guilty man and that he now sees what he never wont to see the love of God in Christ Jesus, and the remission of sins, and an open path to the bliss of eternity, and the glories of a purchased inheritance there, and here all the graces of our required preparation - let him see that these, which before stood at an impracticable distance, are now brought nigh unto him and have become all his own - Is it at all to be marvelled at - when the romance of music and eloquence and imagination and poetry, addrest to the heart of man, can so sublimate its affections for a period above all the passions and vulgarities of familiar life - with this fact of the human constitution so plainly before our eyes - are we to listen with incredulity, if told, that when the truths of Christianity burst forth upon the believer in all the magnificence of their lofty bearing and in all the might of their now apprehended reality, they so refine his every affection and so elevate the whole tone of his character, that all old thingsare henceforth done away and all things become new?

Now, secondly, it is the office of God’s Spirit thus to picture forth to the eye of the believer these truths of the gospel, in all the reality and power of application which belong to them. It is He who takes of the things of Christ; and, showing them unto the soul, causes the imagery of faith to overbear the impressions of sight. And the man who is thus acted upon, looketh beyond what is seen and temporal to what is unseen and eternal. It is from a source which is out of himself, that he fetches an influence which never fails to soothe and to sanctify the corrupt and distempered spirit; and, as it was the duty of Saul on the threatening of every dark visitation to require the music of that harp which he could at all times summon by the word of command into his presence, so it is the duty of every sinner in every time of need or of temptation, to invoke that Spirit, who never is withheld from the prayers of those who sincerely ask Him.
When like to be assailed by the power of sin to an overthrow, this is the instrument of aid and of defence that will never fail you; and let the storms whether of the furious or of the wayward passions of our nature be what they may, this is the agent, at the bidding of whose still but omnipotent voice, an influence of peace and purity descendeth upon the heart, and it becometh a great calm.

But lastly, the way in which all this bears upon the passage before us, is by helping us to the de termination of a controversy - whether the soliloquy whereof it consists, be that of Paul in his own proper person, or of Paul in the person of an unconverted man? How, it may he thought, could this holy apostle take to himself, the blame of so much vileness and exceeding turpitude, as are made to characterise him who is supposed to utter this effusion? How could it be said of him who fought the good fight, that he was sold under sin; and that there dwelt no good thing in his flesh; and that there was a law in him, which would have led him in captivity to the law of sin and of death; and that, wretched under a mass of corruption from which he could not deliver himself, he had to cry out, under the extremity of anxious helplessness, lest it should have wholly overwhelmed him? Cami all this be true of the man, in whom Christianity beheld the very noblest of her specimens; who ere he died could claim the victory as his own; and who, to obtain it, was throughout the whole of his discipleship the most unwearied in vigilance and the most strenuous in warfare?

Yes, there was a fight, and it turned out to be ultimately a successful one. But who were the parties in it? They were the grace of God on the one hand, and on the other the inherent corruption of man; and the very reason why Paul plied so laboriously and at length prevailed with the former, was because he felt such loathing and such self-abomination for the latter. This is a mystery of the Christian life which the world apprehendeth not; nor are they able to discern why the same individual should become every day more profound in humility, and yet more graceful in positive holiness - why he should be ever mourning more heavily than before under a sense of his worthless-ness, and that at the very time when the real worth of his character is maturing and building up unto eternity. It is not understood, how the strugglings of the inner man bring every Christian who feels them into a more familiar acquaintance than before with the adverse elements in the conflict; and that as the spirit lusteth against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit, just in proportion to the felt preciousness of the one, is the felt burden and odiousness of the other. It is because he loathes so much the earthliness of what is naturally ond originally his own, that he longs so much for the visitation of a heavenly influence from above. The sense of poverty is the very impulse that sends him to the fountain of abundance; and the detestation he feels of the sin that dwells in him, is the best guarantee that this sin shall not have tile dominion over him.

With these principles do we feel ourselves prepared for entering into more full elucidation of the passage before us; nor will you, I trust, be any more perplexed when you read of him who delighted in the law of God after the inward man, and who disallowed all that was evil, amid who had time Spirit of Christ dwelling in him - how at the same time he mourned his vile body, and groaned being burdened under a sense of that sore moral leprosy by which it was pervaded. He had no confidence in himself; but he rejoiced in the Lord Jesus. He was in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling; but when he was weak then was he strong - for when he spake of his infirmities, the power of Christ was made to rest upon him. "I will make my grace sufficient for thee. I will perfect my strength in thy weakness."
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