And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.—Romans 8:23.
It is blessed to receive from the Holy Ghost such gracious interpretations of his own most holy word as bear a correspondence with what we feel in a life of grace. We know that our adorable Jesus is the Saviour of the body as well as the soul; but we know also that these vile bodies of ours are not regenerated, as the souls of his redeemed are. In this tabernacle, therefore, we groan, being burdened. I know, saith Paul, that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. And I too often know, to my sorrow, the same. Pause, my soul, this evening, over this solemn scripture, and look up to the great Author of it, to unfold its sacred truth to thy comfort. I hope I can humbly adopt the language, and say, that I have “the first fruits of the Spirit.” I know what it is to enjoy the first dawnings and leadings of grace. I know what it is to have been once afar off, living without God and without Christ in the world, an enemy to God by wicked works. And I know what it is to have been brought nigh by the blood of Christ: Jesus, by his Holy Spirit, hath come nigh to me, and brought my soul nigh to God. I know also what it is at times to have sweet seasons of communion. I am as sensible of the reviving, comforting, strengthening, refreshing graces of the Spirit, as the earth is of the falling showers, or the sweet return of light. I know no less what it is to have an enlargement of soul, in the going forth of the exercises of faith and grace upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus. When the Redeemer is pleased to call forth into lively actings upon himself the graces he hath planted, I can then find a blessed season in contemplating his glories, his beauties, his fulness, suitableness, and all-sufficiency. I then sit down as the Church of old did, under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. The Lord hath then brought me into his banqueting house, and my whole soul, under the banner of love, is delighted with fatness. But amidst these first fruits of the Spirit, these blessed earnests and pledges of the glory that shall be revealed, I know no less also what it is to groan within myself, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of my poor, polluted, sinful body. I find the partner of my heart, this earthly half of myself, at times the greatest opposer of my better dispositions. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit; the soul is straitened, shut up, so as to say nothing, and do nothing, when appearing before the Lord. I dare not neglect prayer; I dare not absent myself from going to court. The King will know and mark my neglect. But if I go I am cold, dead and lifeless; I hear as though I heard not; I pray as though I prayed not. Can I do otherwise than groan? Can I help at times being deeply affected, although I have the first fruits of the Spirit? Lord Jesus, undertake for me, and let all the sanctified blessings, intended by thy love and wisdom from these painful exercises of the soul, be accomplished. Let this thorn in the flesh make me humble; root out the very existence of spiritual pride; reconcile my whole heart to the humiliation of the grave; and above all, endear thee, thou precious Emmanuel, the Lord our righteousness, more and more to my affections, since it is thou, and thou alone, that canst be our peace here, and our salvation for ever.