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transgressions of which we have been previously guilty. Now as the former of these was in no degree supplied, and the latter in a very imperfect manner supplied, by the moral and ceremonial law of Moses; it followed that the law of Moses by itself fell short of our necessities, and that neither the Gentile nor the Jew could stand upright in the sight of God, without the preventing grace and atoning sacrifice which our Lord brought to light in His Gospel.
It is thus that St. Paul, with admirable precision of dexterity, avoids the necessity of ascribing to the law an efficacy which it did not possess, while he admits, in the fullest terms, that praise and excellence of the law for which the Jew was chiefly anxious; its Divine original, its inherent purity, its adaptation to the happiness and virtue of mankind.
Every commandment of God, he allows, was just and holy. But those commandments (which were, in truth, only declarations of God's displeasure against particular sins) gave their hearers, indeed, a sufficient warning as to the danger of indulging in those sins, but conferred no power to overcome the force of passion, no opening of escape from the temptations by which they were surrounded. "We know," observes St. Paul," that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal. I am a mere fleshly being, weak and easily tempted, sold unto sin, the bondslave of my evil passions and my evil habits." "For," he adds, shortly afterwards, "I delight in the law of God after my inward man. My reason, my soul, the spiritual part of me acknowledges the excellence of the commandments of God; and, as a rational being, I sincerely desire to conform to them. "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law that is in my mind." I perceive my mere animal propensities contending against, and overpowering that line of conduct which reason acknowledges to be the best, and "bringing me into captivity to that law which is in my members, those sinful habits which are inherent in my body, and in the indulgence of which alone my animal nature finds delight. "Oh, wretched," therefore, "wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from the body of
this death," this mortal and deadly nature which thus presses down my soul to sin and to the grave, and clogs her flight to that Heaven which is her proper habitation?
This, doubtless, is a state of exceeding terror and misery, and one which fully justifies the passionate exclamation of St. Paul, inasmuch as no danger is so dreadful as that which we incur with our eyes open; no sufferings so keen as those which we bring on ourselves, no state so degrading as subjection to the blind caprice of a madman, or an irrational animal.
It is related of a bloody tyrant in ancient times, or it was the fiction of the poets to describe the excess of tyranny, that it was his frequent and horrible pleasure to bind the living to the dead, to condemn his lingering victims to endure for days and nights the cold embrace and loathsome touch of some swollen and rotting carcase, which they themselves were ere long to resemble, and with whose wretched dust their own was to moulder away. Such may be thought the bitterest dregs of human misery; yet hardly inferior, perhaps, to the reasonable soul of man, is the bondage and burthen of that mass of fleshly appetites, whose earthly bands restrain its very nobler aspiration; whose increasing corruptions pollute while they destroy; whose propensities tend downwards to their native clay, and whose heritage are the grave and hell!
Nor must this hideous picture be regarded as the creature of imagination; nor is it of his own case only that St. Paul is speaking; though he, like other men, had felt the bondage which he mourns, and, happier than many men, had been greatly and gloriously rescued. It is a complaint in which every man must sympathize, who has examined seriously his own heart and conscience, who has ever sought to forsake a single sinful practice, or attempted to cleanse his soul from the stain of a single unholy desire. Wickedness is often called blindness, and, as it should seem at first, with sufficient reason; since a course of wickedness is so utterly contrary to the visible interest of man, that none but the blind, it might be thought, would court their ruin. But if wickedness proceeded from blindness only, should we so often find, as we are unhappily
doomed to do, that they who have eaten most largely of the tree of knowledge, are often the furthest removed from the tree of life? And that they who, of all men, best know their duty and interest, are often of all others the most backward to follow either? The profligate, whose vices are dragging him to an early grave, will tell you, perhaps with tears, that he knows but cannot escape his danger; and many a man of lofty spirit and lofty understanding has mourned in secret over those pursuits by which his outward attention was engrossed, and exclaimed with one of our poets,
Why was I born with such a sense of virtue,
The complaint, I repeat, is as old as the world itself, and as familiar as our daily rest and nourishment; nor is it a misfortune of which the Jew or the Christian have alone been rendered sensible. "It may seem," said Araspes to Cyrus king of Persia, "that there are at once two souls, an evil and a good, within me, between whose opposite counsels my will hangs wavering and irresolute, and which, as either gets the better, determine me to vice or to goodness ;"* but of these alas! how greatly is the evil spirit superior in natural strength to that which is wise and holy!
The inquiry would be too long and too metaphysical; it is, perhaps, too hopeless to attempt, with our imperfect knowledge of the ways of God, to give a reason why things are suffered thus to be, or to trace to its source that mighty strife between good and evil which is coeval with all created things, in which the angels first, and afterwards our parents fell; and which crushed as the serpent's head has been by Christ, continues still, and, till the triumph of our Redeemer, must continue to shake with its convulsive struggles the pillars of the universe. It is enough for us to know that we are by nature sick unto death, but that we have a great Physician at hand to heal us. It is sufficient
Xenophon Cyrop. vi. l. 41,
for us to recollect that we must not complain of evils for which a remedy is provided; and that the apostle himself, who would seem to plunge us in despair by the picture which he draws of our natural condition, bursts forth, immediately after, into a noble exclamation of thankfulness to that God who hath delivered us through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Of the means whereby this great deliverance was effected; of the dreadful ransom which the Son of God has paid for our souls; and how, by His own dying agonies, He stopped the jaws of that death which else had gaped insatiably for all, I need not, as I am addressing Christians I surely need not, proceed to treat more largely. I shall, therefore, only observe, that the two points in which that deliverance consisted were, precisely, those which, according to St. Paul's argument, could not be supplied by any human code of morality, nor even by the Jewish law itself and the commandments given from Mount Sinai. These points are pardon and grace; pardon for past offences, grace to enable us to lead new lives, and to make us less unworthy inhabitants of that Heaven whither Christ is gone before. The one restores us to the same degree of favour with God which our nature. possessed before its fall; the other supports us against those temptations under which we must else, of necessity, again have fallen; and thus, by the Christian covenant, are boasting and despair alike excluded; boasting by the sense of our natural inability to please the Most High, and despair by the knowledge that the Most High Himself is on our side, and that if we fall not away from Him, we may in security look on the assaults of our spiritual and fleshly enemies.
From all which I have said, the following practical conclusions may be drawn. First, since our condition is by nature so perilous; since our passions are so strong, and our flesh so frail and prone to evil, what constant vigilance do those passions and propensities require, of which St. Paul complains so heavily! If we were shut up in the same den with a wild beast; if we were opposed to an armed enemy; if we were steering a vessel through an unknown sea, amid the dash of waves and the glimmering
of breakers, we should need, I apprehend, no admonition to be watchful and diligent. Alas! my friends, our own hearts are wilder than the savage of the woods; our own hearts, uncontrolled, are more formidable than the deadliest ad. versary; our own hearts are more changeable and deceitful than the winds, the waves, the depths, and shallows of the ocean. Watch, then, and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. Watch and pray! Without prayer to God "the watchman waketh but in vain ;"* and without an answerable watchfulness and care for our souls, displayed in the usual tenor of our lives and actions, our idle prayers will be only an offence to God.
Nor should the difficulty of the task hold us excused from attempting it; seeing that what is necessary to be done, it becomes us, at least, to try to do; and what God commands, we may be sure that He will also give us strength to accomplish. Of ourselves we can do nothing, but we can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth us; and the same glorious Being who commanded the lame to walk, gave his limbs, at the same time, ability to perform His bidding! So far indeed from the weakness of the flesh being able to destroy the hope of the sincere and industrious Christian, "My grace," saith Christ, "is sufficient for thee:" and the triumph of that grace is shown, not only in enabling the reasonable soul to subdue the body wherein it dwells, but in sanctifying that body into a temple of the Holy Ghost, and raising it hereafter from the grave to be a palace of unspeakable glory, wherein the pure and spotless soul shall, through all eternity, reside, to the praise of Him "who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."
But in the promise thus held out of this gracious gift to men (the gift, as the beloved disciple has stated it, "of power to become the sons of God;"§) in that promise itself is implied a due recurrence to the external means of
• Psalm cxxvii. 1.
†2 Cor. xii. 19.