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Objection Fourth. The powerful tumultuating of indwelling sin or corruption is another cause of the same kind of trouble and despondency.” ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the lusts thereof.’ But we find,” say some, “several corruptions working 604effectually in our hearts, carrying us captive to the law of sin. They disquiet with their power as well as with their guilt. Had we been made partakers of the law of the Spirit of life, we had, ere this, been more set free from the law of sin and death. Had sin been pardoned fully, it would have been subdued more effectually.”

There are three considerations which make the actings of indwelling sin to be so perplexing to the soul —

1. Because they are unexpected. The soul looks not for them upon the first great conquest made of sin, and universal engagement of the heart unto God. When it first says, “I have sworn, and am steadfastly purposed to keep thy righteous judgments,” commonly there is peace, at least for a season, from the disturbing vigorous actings of sin. There are many reasons why so it should be. “Old things are then passed away, all things are become new;” and the soul, under the power of that universal change, is utterly turned away from those things that should foment, stir up, provoke, or cherish, any lust or temptation. Now, when some of these advantages are past, and sin begins to stir and act again, the soul is surprised, and thinks the work that he hath passed through was not true and effectual, but temporary only; yea, he thinks, perhaps, that sin hath more strength than it had before, because he is more sensible than he was before. As one that hath a dead arm or limb, whilst it is mortified, endures deep cuts and lancings, and feels them not; so when spirits and sense are brought into the place again, he feels the least cut, and may think the instruments sharper than they were before, when all the difference is, that he hath got a quickness of sense, which before he had not. It may be so with a person in this case: he may think lust more powerful than it was before, because he is more sensible than he was before. Yea, sin in the heart is like a snake or serpent: you may pull out the sting of it, and cut it into many pieces; though it can sting mortally no more, nor move its whole body at once, yet it will move in all its parts, and make an appearance of a greater motion than formerly. So it is with lust: when it hath received its death’s wound, and is cut to pieces, yet it moves in so many parts as it were in the soul, that it amazes him that hath to do with it; and thus coming unexpectedly, fills the spirit oftentimes with disconsolation.

2 It hath also in its actings a universality. This also surpriseth. There is a universality in the actings of sin, even in believers. There is no evil that it will not move to; there is no good that it will not attempt to hinder; no duty that it will not defile. And the reason of this is, because we are sanctified but in part; not in any part wholly, though savingly and truly in every part. There is sin remaining in every faculty, in all the affections, and so may be acting 605in and towards any sin that the nature of man is liable unto. Degrees of sin there are that all regenerate persons are exempted from; but unto solicitations to all kinds of sin they are exposed: and this helps on the temptation.

3. It is endless and restless, never quiet, conquering nor conquered; it gives not over, but rebels being overcome, or assaults afresh having prevailed. Ofttimes after a victory obtained and an opposition subdued, the soul is in expectation of rest and peace from its enemies: but this holds not; it works and rebels again and again, and will do so whilst we live in this world, so that no issue will be put to our conflict but by death. This is at large handled elsewhere, in a treatise lately published on this peculiar subject.55    The author refers to his treatise on “Indwelling Sin,” p. 158 of this volume.

These and the like considerations attending the actings of indwelling sin, do oftentimes entangle the soul in making a judgment of itself, and leave it in the dark as to its state and condition.

A few things shall be offered unto this objection also:—

1. The sensible powerful actings of indwelling sin are not inconsistent with a state of grace, Gal. v. 17. There are in the same person contrary principles, — “the flesh and the Spirit;” these are contrary. And there are contrary actings from these principles, — “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;” and these actings are described to be greatly vigorous in other places. Lust wars against our souls, James iv. 1; 1 Pet. ii. 11. Now, to war is not to make faint or gentle opposition, to be slighted and contemned; but it is to go out with great strength, to use craft, subtlety, and force, so as to put the whole issue to a hazard. So these lusts war; such are their actings in and against the soul. And therefore, saith the apostle, “Ye cannot do the things that ye would.” See Rom. vii. 14–17. In this conflict, indeed, the understanding is left unconquered, — it condemns and disapproves of the evil led auto; and the will is not subdued, — it would not do the evil that is pressed upon it; and there is a hatred or aversion remaining in the affections unto sin: but yet, notwithstanding, sin rebels, fights, tumultuates, and leads captive. This objection, then, may receive this speedy answer — Powerful actings and workings, universal, endless strugglings of indwelling sin, seducing to all that is evil, putting itself forth to the disturbance and dissettlement of all that is good, are not sufficient ground to conclude a state of alienation from God. See for this the other treatise before mentioned at large.

2. Your state is not at all to be measured by the opposition that sin makes to you, but by the opposition you make to it. Be that never so great, if this be good, — be that never so restless and powerful, if this be sincere, — you may be disquieted, you can have no reason to despond.

606I have mentioned these things only to give a specimen of the objections which men usually raise up against an actual closing with the truth insisted on to their consolation. And we have also given in upon them some rules of truth for their relief; not intending in them absolute satisfaction as to the whole of the cases mentioned, but only to remove the darkness raised by them so out of the way, as that it might not hinder any from mixing the word with faith that hath been dispensed from this blessed testimony, that “there is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared.”


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