The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.—Psalm 36:1.
How striking is this scripture, and how true! Yes, my soul; thou needest not to look abroad into another’s heart to see iniquity, for at home, in thine own, a voice may be heard continually proclaiming it. Renewed as thou art by grace, still thou feelest the workings of corrupt nature; and “though,” as the apostle said, “with thy mind thou thyself servest the law of God, yet with thy flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25.) Pause over the solemn subject, and observe the workings of a body of sin and death, which is virtually all sin: “The carnal mind,” the apostle saith, “is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7); not only an enemy, but in enmity, so that the very nature is so; it is averse, naturally averse to God, and is everlastingly rising in opposition to his holy law. And this not only (as some have supposed; but all men, if they would confess the truth, find to the contrary) before a work of grace hath passed upon the soul, but after. Else wherefore doth the apostle say, “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would?” (Gal. 5:17.) He saith this to the regenerate, to the Church at large. And consequently this conflict is after grace hath been manifested to the soul, and not before. A sinner unawakened may indeed feel at times compunction of conscience, and be alarmed at what will be the consequence of his sins; but these are only the alarms of conscience, not the workings of grace: and for the most part these alarms are but momentary. His affections are all on the side of sin. His soul still remains “dead in trespasses and sins;” and he himself, like a dead fish, swims down the stream of sin uninterrupted, without resistance, and without concern. But when a child of God is renewed, and the soul that was before dead in trespasses and sins, becomes quickened and regenerated, then it is that the conflict between the renewed part in grace, and the unrenewed part in nature, begins, and never ends but with life. My soul! hath the Lord taught thee this, made thee sensible of it, and caused thee to groan under it? Dost thou find this heart of thine rebelling against God; cold to divine things, but warm to natural enjoyments; framing excuses to keep thee from sweet communion with the Lord; and even in the moment of communion, running off with a swarm of vain thoughts, that “like the flies in the ointment of the apothecary causeth it to send forth an ill savour?” Are these in thy daily, hourly experience? Why then the transgression of the wicked saith within thine heart, and not another’s for thee, this solemn truth, there is no fear of God at such seasons before the eyes of thy sinful body; for “by the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil.” (Prov. 16:6.) Oh! precious, precious Jesus! how increasingly dear, under this view of a nature so totally corrupt, art thou to my poor soul! What but the eternal and unceasing efficacy of thy blood and righteousness could give my soul the smallest confidence, when I find that I still carry about with me such a body of sin and death? Let those who know not the plague of their own heart, talk of natural goodness; sure I am, there is nothing of the kind in me. “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” And were it not, dearest Lord, for the holiness of thy person, blood, and righteousness, the very sins which mingle up with all I say or do, yea, even in prayer, would seal my condemnation. Lamb of God! it is the everlasting merit of thy atonement and intercession, thy blood sprinkled upon my person and offering, by which alone the justice of God is restrained and satisfied, and that it breaks not forth in devouring fire, as upon the sacrifice of old, to consume me upon my very knees! Blessed, blessed for ever be God for Jesus Christ!