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case of the ignorant sinner : it is not the case of an erring, mistaken conscience: it is not the case of a seared and hardened conscience. None of these could make the reflection or the complaint which is here described. “ The commandment, which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. I am carnal, sold under sin. In me dwelleth no good thing. The law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good; but sin, that it might appear sin (that it might be more conspicuous, aggravated, and inexcusable,) works death in me by that which is good.” This language by no means belongs to the stupified, insensible sinner.
Nor, fifthly, as it cannot belong to an original insensibility of conscience, that is, an insensibility of which the person himself does not remember the beginning, so neither can it belong to the sinner who has got over the rebukes, distrusts, and uneasiness which sin once occasioned. True it is, that this uneasiness may be got over almost entirely; so that whilst the danger remains the same, whilst the final event will be the same, whilst the coming destruction is not less sure or dreadful, the uneasiness and theapprehension are gone. This is a case, too common, too deplorable, too desperate; but it is not the case of which we are now treating, or of which Saint Paul treated. Here we are presented throughout with complaint and uneasiness ; with a soul exceedingly dissatisfied, exceedingly indeed disquieted, and disturbed, and alarmed, with the view of its condition.
Upon the whole, Saint Paul's account is the account of a man in some sort struggling with his vices; at least, deeply conscious of what they are, whither they are leading him, where they will end; acknowledging the law of God, not only in words and speeches, but in his mind; acknowledging its excellency, its authority ; wishing, also, and willing, to act up to it, but, in fact, doing no such thing; feeling, in practice, a lamentable inability of doing his duty, yet perceiving that it must be done. All he has hitherto attained is a state of successive resolutions and relapses. Much is willed, nothing is effected. No furtherance, no advance, no progress is made in the way of salvation. He feels, indeed, his double nature; but he finds, that the law in his members, the law of the flesh, brings the whole man into captivity. He may have some better strivings, but they are unsuccessful. The result is that he obeys the law of sin.
This is the picture which our apostle contemplated, and he saw in it nothing but misery: “ O wretched man that I am !” Another might have seen itina more comfortable light. He might have hoped that the will would be taken for the deed; that, since he felt in his mind a strong approbation of the law of God, nay, since he felt a delight in contemplating it, and openly professed to do so, since he was neither ignorant of it, nor forgetful of it, nor insensible of its obligation, nor ever set himself to dispute its authority, nay, since he had occasionally likewise endeavoured to bring himself to an obedience to this law, however unsuccessful his endeavours had been; above all, since he has sincerely deplored and bewailed his fallings off from it, he might hope, I his was a case for favourable acceptance.
Saint Paul saw it not in this light. He saw in it no ground of confidence or satisfaction. It was a state, to which he gives no better name than “ the body of death. It was a state, not in which he hoped to be saved, but from which he sought to be delivered. It was a state, in a word, of bitterness and terror, drawing from him
expressions of the deepest anguish and distress: “O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?”.
EVIL PROPENSITIES ENCOUNTERED BY THE
AID OF THE SPIRIT.
ROMANS, vii. 24.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver
me from the body of this death ?
who has not felt the weakness of his
nature, it is probable has reflected little upon the subject of religion. I should conjecture this to be the case.
But then, when men do feel the weakness of their nature, it is not always that this consciousness carries them into a right course; but sometimes into a course the very contrary of what is right. They may see in it, as hath been observed, and many