ROMAN5, vii, 16 17.
"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."

IT might save a world of illustration in the business of interpreting this passage, were we sure of addressing ourselves to the experience of all our hearers. But we fear of some of you, that you have no internal conflict in the work of your sanctification at all - that you are under the dominion of but one ruler, even of self, that ever lends a willing ear, and yields a ready obedience to its own humours and appetites and interests; and that, living just as you list, you feel no struggle between your principles and your propensities - even because you live without God in the world.

And furthermore we fear of others of you, that you have taken up your rest among the forms of an external religion, or among the terms of an inert orthodoxy, which play around the ear, without having reached a practical impulse to the heart; and which head you to solace yourselves with the privileges of an imaginary belief, instead of landing you in the prosecution of a real and ever-doing business - which is to cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and to perfect your holiness in the fear of God. It is only the man who has embarked upon this work in good earnest - it is only he whose conscience will thoroughly respond to the narrative which the apostle here gives, of the broils and the tumults that take place among the adverse powers which are in the bosom of every true Christian. For Christian though he be, he is not yet a just man made perfect ; but a just man fighting his way onward unto perfection. through the downward tendencies of a corruption that is present with him and cleaves to him even till death shall set him free.

And again, a fallen and depraved mortal though he be, he is not now of the wholly carnal and corrupt nature that he once was; but a spirit has been infused into him, wherewith to make head against his rebellious affections which still continue to solicit, though not permitted to seduce him, to that degrading slavery, against which he has now entered into a war of resistance. that will at length conduct him to freedom and to victory.

The passage now before us is taken up with the history of this war. It is a narrative of that battle which arises front the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh - a process of unintelligible mystery, we doubt not. to those who have not personally shared in it ; but coming intimately home to the experience of those, who have learned to strive and to run and to endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Yet, as we have said before, it were well if by any means we could give a plausible though distant conception to those who are without of a matter wherewith every established and well - exercised Christian is quite familiar. It looks, I have no doubt, an apparent puzzle to the understandings of many that a man should do what is wrong while he wills what is right ; and, more especially, that he all the while should be honestly giving pause of the one and as honestly aspiring and pressing forwards, nay making real practical advances in the direction i of the other.

And yet you can surely figurre to yourself the artist who whether in painting or in poetry or in music labours hours, yet labours in vain, yet to do fail justice to that mode of high excellence which his imagination dwells upon. he does not tine things t hat lee would and he does the things that he would not There is a lofty standard to which he is constantly aspiring and even constantly approximating - yet along thee whole of this path of genius, there is a perpetural sense of failure; and a humbling comparisen of what has been already attained with what is yet seen in the distance before it ; and an acknowledgment of the great deficiency that there is between the execution of the hand, and those un - reached creations of the fancy that are still floating in tlhe head ; And thus an agony and a disappointment anrd a self - reproval. because of indolence and carelessness and aversion to thee fatigues of watchful and intense study - all mixed up you will observe with a towering ambition nay with a rapid and succesful march along this walk of scholarship

If how often may it be said of’ him that he does the things which he would not, when on slovenly time or one careless touch of the pencil has escaped from him; and when he falls short of those pains and that sustained labour, by which he rears a work for immortality Yet he making steady and sensible advances all the while. This lofty esteem of all that is great and gigantic in art, is the very step in his mind to a lowly estimation of all that he has yet done for it; and both these together are the urgent forces, by which he is carried upwards to a station among the men of renown and admirable genius who have gone before him.
Now what is true of the scholarship of art, is just as true of the scholarship of religion. There is a model of unattained perfection in the eye of its faithful devotees, even the pure and right and absolutely beautiful and holy law of God; and this they constantly labour to realize in their lives, and so to build up, each in his own person, a befitting inhabitant for the realms of eternity. But while they love this law, tlhey are loaded with a weight of indolence and carnality and earthly affections, which cumber their ascent thitherward; and just in proportion to the delight which they take in the contemplation of its heaven-born excellence, are the despondency and the shame wherewith they regard their own mean and meagre imitations of it. Yet who does not see, that, out of the behever’s will pitching so high, and the believer’s work lagging so miserably after it, there cometh that very activity which guides and guarantees his progress towards Zion - that therefore it is, that he is led to ply with greater diligence the armour which at length wins him the victory - that the babe in Christ is cradled, as it were, in the agitation of these warring elements - that his spiritual ambition is just the more whetted and fostered into strength, by the obstacles through vvhich it has to fight its way - and rising from every fall with a fresh onset of help from the sanctuary, does he proceed from step to step, till he have finished the faith, till he have reached the prize of his high calling. Paul, ere he was a Christian, was blameless in the whole righteousness of the law - so far as he then knew or then understood of its requirements. His conduct was up to the level of his conscience; and what he did was adequate to the sense that was in him of what he ought to do. But on his becoming a Christian, he got a spiritual insight of the holy law of God, and then began the warfare of the text - for then it was that his conscience outran his conduct; and that he could not overtake by his doings, what his now enlightened morality told him were his duties.

There was nothing in this change actually to degrade the life and character of Paul; but there was much in it to degrade them in his own eyes. He formerly walked on what he felt to be an even platform of righteousness; but now the platform was as if lifted above hini, and he was left to toil his upward way on a steep ascent that had been raised for conducting him thereto. Then all he did was as he would; and the work and the will were on terms of even fellowship with each other. But what he now did was as he would not; for he was aiming and stretching toward a height that he had not gained, anrd till he arrived at which he could not be satisfied!

The view that he had now gotten of the law did not make him shorter of it than before; but it made him fee! that he was shorter. He was still the same blameless and respectable man of society that he had ever been; nor do we think that even in his days of darkness, any deed of intemperance or profligacy or fraud could at all be imputed to him. The confessions which are recorded here, are not those of a degraded criminal; but those of a struggling and heavenly- minded Christian, vvho was now forcing his way among the sanctities of the inner man, and, far above time level of our ordinary world, was soaring amid the spiritual alternations of cloud and of sunshine up to the heights of angelic sacredness. Figure then a man to be under the aspirings of such a will on the one hand, but these often deadened and brought down by the weight of a perverse constitutional bias upon the other; and there are a thousand ways in which he is exposed to the doing of that which he would not.

Should he wander in prayer - should the crosses of this world ever cast him down from the buoyancy of his confidence in God - should he, on being overtaken with a fault, detect upon his spirit a keener edge of sensibility to the disgrace that he had incurred among his fellows upon earth, than to the rebuke that he has brought upon himself from the Lawgiver in heaven - should the provocations of dishonesty, or the hostile devices of malicious and successful cunning, or the unexpected evolutions of ingratitude, or even the teasing and troublesome annoyances of interruption - should any of these temptations, wherewith society is constantly exercising its own members, ever transport him away from meekness and patience and charity and unwearied kindness - Then on that high walk of principle upon which he is labouring to uphold himself, will he have to mourn that he doeth the things vvhich he would not; and ever as he proceeds, will he still find that there are conquests and achievements of greater difficulty in reserve for him.

It argues a very exalted Christianity, when the glory of God is the habitual and paramount impulse, that gives movement to the footsteps of our history in the vvorld. But, think you, that, vvhen a man’s heart comes to be Visited by this ambition, that then it is he makes his escape from the complaint of doing what he would not? It only thickens the contest, and multiplies the chances of mortification, and furnishes new topics of humility to the disciple - and in the very proportion too that he urges and ascends and strikes loftier aims along time course of his progressive holiness. And so it follovvs, that he who is highest in acquirement is sure to be deepest in lowly and contrite tenderness - for just as the desires of his spirit mount higher, will the damp and the deadness and the obstructions of the flesh be more felt as a grief and an encumbrance to him. So that while in the body, this soliloquy of the apostle will be all his own; and so far from conceiving of it as the appropriate utterance for a natural and unconverted man - it is just as we are the more saintly, that we shall feel our readiness to coalesce with it as the fittest vehicle of hearts smitten with the love of purest excellence, yet burdened under a sense of distance and deficiency therefrom.
And thus it is, that the toil-worn veteran has been known to weep upon his death-bed; and to long for an escape from this sore conflict, between the elements of his compound nature., and to be in exceeding weariness for his emancipation from that vile body, which brings a soil and a taint and a tarnish upon all his offerings; and to feel how greatly better it were that he should be with Christ, and expatiate at large among those unclouded eminencies where the spirits of the perfect dwell, and are admitted among the glories of that unspotted holiness which now is inaccessible. For here, the accursed nature is still present, and galling with its offensive solicitations the regenerated spirit - so that when vveighed down by indolence; or frozen into apathy; or betrayed into uncharitable thoughts and uncharitable wishes; or led to seek the desires of its own selfishness more than God’s honour, to rejoice in its exemption from punishment more than to aspire after its exemption from sin, to be more vehement for the object of being safe than for the object of being sanctified - The consciousness of these, which give no disturbance either to the unchristian man or to the Christian in his infancy, is still in reserve to humble and keep down even the most accomplished believer; to assure him still of the many things that he does which he would not; to keep him at the post of dependence, where he may join with the apostle in mourning over his own wretchedness, and with the psalmist in exclaiming "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults: Search me, 0 God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in nne, and lead me in the way everlasting."

In the case of an unconverted man, the flesh is weak and the spirit is not willing; and so there is no conflict - nothing that can force those outcries of shame and remorse and bitter lamentation, that we have in the passage before us. With a Christian, the flesh is weak too but time spirit is willing; and under its influence there must, from the necessary connection that there is between the human faculties - there must, from the desires of his heart be such a plenteous efflux of doings upon his history, as shall make his life distinguishable in the world, and most distinguishable on the day of judgment, from the life of an unbehever. But still his desires will outstrip his doings, and the will that he conceives shoot greatly ahead of the work that he performs; and thus, will he not only leave undone much of what he would, but, even in the language of our present verse, do many things that he would not.

But I call you particularly to notice that the will must be there - that he is not regerated at all unless the will, honestly and genuinely and without the hypocrisy of all mental reservation, be there. If he have any interest in Christ, any part in the promises or the influences of His new economy, the inclination which prompts to a resolute and unsparing warfare with all iniquity must be there. The man who uses the degeneracy of his nature as a plea for sinful indulgence - the man who makes a cloak of his corruption wherewith to shelter its deceits and its deformities, instead of hating the spotted garment with his utmost soul and labouring to unnwind himself from all its entanglements - the man who loves the play of orthodoxy in his head, and stickles for his own depravity as the most favourite of its articles, vvhile he continues to cherish it in his heart or to roll it under his tongue as a sweet morsel - That man is going to the grave with sin in his right hand; and the piercing eye of his Judge, who now discerns his latent worthlessness, vvill at length drag it forth to open day, and expose it to shame and to everlasting contempt.

That the will be on the side of virtue is indispensable to Christian uprightness. Wanting this, you want the primary and essential element of regeneration - You are not born again - you shall not enter the kingdom of God. God knows how to distinguish the man of Christian uprightness, even amid all his imperfections, from another, who, not very visibly dissimilar in outward history, is nevertheless destitute of an honest, habitual, and heart-felt desirousness after the doing of His will.
Let me suppose two yoked and harnessed vehicles, both upon a road of ruggedness and difficulty, and where at last each vvas brought to a dead stand. They are alike in the one palpable circumstance of making no progress; and, were this the only ground upon which a judgment could be formed, it might be concluded of the drivers that they were alike remiss, or of the animals under them that they were alike spiritless and indolent. And yet on a narrower comparison of the two, it may be observed from the loose traces of the one, that all exertion had been given up - while with the other there was the full tension of a resolute and sustained energy, pressing at the instant against the obstructions of the road, and perhaps with the perseverance of a few minutes carrying it over them. Both, for time time being, are stationary; and yet the one is as distinct as possible from the other, in respect of the push and the struggle to get forward, and the forth-putting of strenuous inclination on the part of all the living agents who are concerned.

And so, my brethren, of the Christian course. It is not altogether by the sensible motion, nor yet altogether by the place of advancement at which you have arrived, that you are to estimate the genuineness of the Clhristian character. Man may not see all the springs and traces of this moral mechanism, but God sees them ; and He knows whether all is slack and careless within you, or whether there be the full stretch of a single and honest determination on the side of obedience. Think not that He is in want of materials for judging and deciding upon this question. Think not that He, of whom it is said that He weigheth the spirits of all those whose ways are clean in their own eyes, and that He pondereth the hearts as well as the goings of His creatures, and that from His throne in heaven His eyes behold and His eyelids try the children of men - think not that He will lose His discernment of the inward principle, amid all the drags and corruptions and obstacles wherewith a believer is encompassed upon his path. He knoweth how to separate the chaff from time wheat, and how to set His appropriate mark on the upright and on the hypocrite. You know in what direction you should move, even towards that vvhich is good and avvay from that which is evil.
God knows if you are intently and sincerely prosecuting this career; for under all the mistiness of the human understanding, nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, " The Lord knoweth them that are his - And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." And so, amid all the besetting infirmities of a nature tainted with evil, which Paul had as well as others, he had what unconverted sinners have not, a desire after all holy obedience. He consented unto the law that it was good, not assented but consented - did not simply approve of the things that are more excellent as the Jews with whom he reasoned, hut had a liking to the things that are more excellent. His will was on the side of the law that he loved; and not on the side of that transgression which he hated, at the very time perhaps that he had been surprised into it. He consented unto the law that it was good, and his delight was in the law after the inward man, and with his mind he served the law of God. And God has a judging and a discerning eye upon all these tendencies. He knows most clearly the difference between him who has them, and him who has them not. There is a real and substantial distinction between the two characters, which is quite palpable to our heavenly Judge, and will guide Him to an unerring decision on the day of reckoning. If not so palpable to yourselves, it should just make you the more earnest in labouring to work out your assurance; and to watch against the deceitful and unknown hypocrisy, that may be lurking under the plausibilities of an orthodox profession; and to be altogether on the alert and on the alarm against all tlrose treacherous inclinations, that, if not rooted out, must at least be most vigilantly guarded, and on every appearance vvhich they do put forth must be vigorously overborne. The adherence of the mind must be to the law of God. The affectionate consent of the heart must be towards it. All the feelings and faculties of the inward man must be on the side of obedience; and if such be indeed our spiritual mechanism, we shall be impelled forward, throughthe many impediments of a perverse and wofully deranged nature, on the path of new obedience - rising, as the upright ever do, from the falls which they experience; and urging our laborious and oft- interrupted way to that land, where the soul that has holy desires shall meet with a body that has been delivered of its moral leprosy, we shall pass from strength to strength till we appear perfect before God in Zion.

Ver. 17.
There is a peculiarity here that is worth adverting to. St. Paul, throughout the whole of this passage, utters the consciousness that is in him, of the two opposite principles which resided and which rivalled, the one with the other, for dominion over his now compound because now regenerated nature. And it is remarkable how he sometimes identifies himself with the first of these ingredients, and sonietimes with the second of them. In speaking of the movements of the flesh, he sometimes says that it is I who put forth these movements. "I am carnal and sold under sin." " I do that which I hate." " I do that which I would not." "In me - that is in my flesh," but still you will perceive so identifying for a time the flesh with himself as to say of this flesh that it is vile - "In me dwelleth no good thing." And lastly, "I do the evil that I would not" and " I find not how to perform that which is good."

Now here you will perceive, that, in all these quotations, he charges on his own proper and personal self, the corrupt feelings and instigations that the flesh gives rise to. And it is true that these all do emanate from the original part of his nature; and the other or the gracious part of it, came by a subsequent accession to him. It is a thing super-induced at conversion, and may be regarded more in the light of an element imported from abroad, which no doubt it was his part to cherish to the uttermost; but which still was a sort of foreigner in his constitution that did not primarily and essentialhy belong to it. Yet notwithstanding this, I would have you to notice, how he shifts the application of the pronoun I; and transfers it from the corrupt to the spiritual ingredient of his nature. It is I who would do that which is good. It is I who hate that which is evil. It is I who consent unto the law; and finally it is I who delight in the law of God after the inner man.

Thus it is, if I may so speak, that Paul interchanges himself between the two conflicting elements that were within him - at one time regarding the better of the tvvo elements as a visitant from without whom he longed to detain, and charging upon his own person all the baseness and misery of its antagonist - at another bitterly complaining of the worse element as a burden wherefrom he longed to be delivered, and actually vindicating himself from its corrupt movements by expressly saying that it was not I.

And, to fetch an example from another part of his writings, we hold it to be truly remarkable that, while in the passage before us he says of that which is evil in him ‘ it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me ‘ - there is a different passage where he says of that which is good in him "nevertheless not me, but the grace God that is in me." We thus bring together these affirmations of the apostle, hoping that it may have the effect of making more manifest to you - that state of composition in which every Christian is, who hath been visited vvith spiritual life from on ihigh, and yet is compassed about with the infirmities of an earthly tabernacle. In virtue of the original ingredient of this composition, he does well to be humbled under a sense of his own innate and inherent worthlessness.
And yet it is true, that in virtue of the second or posterior ingredient - his taste, and his understanding, and his deliberate choice, and the higher powers and faculties of his moral system, are now all on the side of new obedience. Nevertheless it is well for me to look often unto the rock whence he was hewn; and, thinking of the quarter whence he derives all his heaven-born virtues, to say of them that they had not their origin in me - and it is also well for him, while he regards the duties of the Christian life and the graces of the Christian character, to say that these are what I love to perfeorm, and these are what I hope to realise. And the apostle, at the end of this chapter, lays before us the distinction between the two parts of the Christian nature - when he says, that with the mind I myself serve the law of God, and with the flesh the law of sin. But ever remember, that it is the part of the former to keep the latter under the power of its presiding authority. The latter, on this side of death, is ever present with us; but for all that, it may not prevail over us. It may often be felt in its hateful instigations; but it must not on that account be followed in the waywardness of its devious and unlawful movements. Were there no counteracting force I would serve it; but, with that force in operation over me and because I am under grace, sin may have a dwelling-place but it shall not have the dominion. When the matter is taken up as a matter of humiliation, then it cannot be too strongly insisted upon, that it is I who am the sinner; that to myself, properly and primarily, belongeth all that is vile and worthless in my constitution; that, even at the very time I am brightening into the character of heaven, I am ever reminded by the conscience within me of an inherent depravity that is all my own; and, even though this corruption is fast dying towards its final and complete disappearance, yet that it is under the power of an influence that cometh all from another.

He who can say that by the grace of God I am vvhat I am, may in fact have reached a lofty eminence of that ascent which reacheth unto perfection; and yet with truth may think and feel, that, in himself, he is altogether void of godliness. The shame of his original nature still adheres to him; and, although it be fast giving way to the ascendant power of another and a nobler nature, yet, knowing whence it is that he hath derived both its being and its growth, the graces and the ornaments of the spiritual life are but to him a matter of gratitude, and not at all of glorying. On the other hand, when, instead of being taken up as a topic of humiliation it is taken up as a topic of aspiring earnestness, it cannot be too strongly urged on every Christian, that he should be able honestly and heartily to say of himself, I desire after holiness - in very sincerity and truth it is the fondest aim of my existence, to be what I ought and to do what I ought - for the furtherance of the same would I pray and watch and keep my unceasing post both of vigilance and exertion - I take the side of all that is good and gracious in my constitution; and against whatever still adheres to me of the unrenewed and the carnal, do I feel an utter and irreconcilable enmity. His mind is with the law of God; and though the tendencies of his flesh be with the law of sin, yet, sustained by aid from the sanctuary, does he both will and is enabled to strive against these tendencies and to overcome them. It is under such a feeling of what he was in himself on the one hand, and such an earnestness to be released from the miseries of this his natural condition upon the other, that Paul cries out in the agonies of his internal conflict - " 0 wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death !"

And I would have you to mark how instantaneous the transition is, from the cry of distress to the gratitude of his felt and immediate deliverance - " I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord." This we hold to be the exercise of every true Christian in the world. Evil is present with him; and he blames none but himself for its hateful and degrading instigations. But grace is in readiness, not to sweep avvay this evil as to its existence, but to subdue it as to its prevalency and power; and while he blames none but himself for all that is corrupt, he thanks none but God in Christ for all that is gracious and good in him. To use an old but expressive phrase, his soul is ever travelling betvveen his own emptiness and Christ’s fuhness; and like the apostle before him when urged with any temptation, he recurs to the expedient of beseeching the Lord earnestly that it might depart from him.

And the answer to this petition is remarkable. It does not appear that the temptation was made to depart from him; but it was deprived of its wonted force of ascendancy over him. It vyas not by the extirpation of the evil, but by the counteracting strength of an opposite good, that the apostle was kept upright as to his walk, in the midst of all the adverse and corrupt tendencies of his will. "I will make my grace sufficient for thee," was the Lord’s answer to him. It was not that he did not still feel how in himself be was weak. The weakness of nature remained; but in that weakness I will perfect m strength, says the Saviour. And so it is we believe to the end of our days. There is a felt distinction between the weakness that is in ourselves, and the strength that cometh upon us from the upper sanctuary. Even Paul was doomed to the consciousness that he had both a flesh and a mind - the one of which would have inclined him wholly to the love and to the law of sin; and with the other of which he kept the corrupt tendency that still abode with him in check, and so maintained a conduct agreeable to the law of God. Like him, my brethren, let us have no confidence in the flesh, and like him let us rejoice in the Lord Jesus; and so shall we be enabled to serve God in the Spirit - realising that comprehensive description which he gives of a Christian when he says, "We are of the circumcision, who serve God in the spirit, and rejoice in the Lord Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
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