Sermon 593. Inward Conflicts
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 9, 1864,
BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon you. What will you see in the Shulamite? As it were thecompany of two armies. Song of Solomon 6:13.
THIS verse is not addressed to the Church in her doubting state, nor while seeking her absent Lord, but it refers to her inher very best condition-when she has lately come from the enjoyment of fellowship with her Divine spouse and when her soul,in consequence is like the chariots ofAmminadib. Read the context and you will perceive that Believers who are rejoicing in the Lord may look upon this text astheir own. Observe the title of the person addressed-it is a marriage name. She has been espoused to Solomon and she has takenhis name and become Solyma,for such is the best rendering of the word rendered Shulamite. This name is appropriate to souls who are united to Christ,to those whom Christ has betrothed unto Himself in righteousness, who live in union with their Lord.
You who abide in the Lord Jesus are, by a mysterious bond, made one with Christ. And He has conferred upon you His own name-Heis Solomon and you are Solyma. That is a remarkable expression in the book of Jeremiah-"This is her name whereby she shallbe called, the Lord ourRighteousness." One would have thought that such a title was incommunicable. But yet so close is the union between Christand His people that the Holy Spirit actually transfers that dignified expression, "Lord our Righteousness," to His Israel-HisBeloved.
The title Solyma also signifies both perfection and peace. There is perfection in every child of God, but not a perfectionin the flesh. We are perfect in Christ Jesus! We are complete in Him-spotless, by being washed in His blood- glorious, bybeing robed in His righteousness. Everychild of God is right sumptuously arrayed in the wedding dress of the Savior's righteousness. We may truly say that, "Solomonin all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Every Believer stands in Christ perfectly accepted!
The sweet name, Solyma, also signifies peace-"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christour Lord." The true heir of Heaven is not at enmity with God, nor at war with his own conscience. The silver trumpet has proclaimedan everlasting peace. God's swordhas been sheathed in the Savior's heart and Divine Justice is on the side of the chosen people. The request of the textnext demands a moment's consideration. It is repeated four times. "Return, return, O Solyma. Return, return, that we may lookupon you." Does not this requestproceed from the daughters of Jerusalem who desire to behold her beauty?
Souls that are anxious about their own state may well desire to understand the experience of the true child of God. You wantto know whether you, also, are a Christian, therefore you want to know how Christians feel, how they think of Christ, howthey are moved by His Spirit-what is theirappearance when His love is shed abroad in their hearts. You anxiously desire to see the true Christian that you may measureyourselves and see whether there is the life of God in you. These daughters of Jerusalem also desire to look upon her fortheir own delight. For as to gazeupon beauty is exceedingly pleasant-so is it specially delightful to the pure in heart to have fellowship with the purein heart-to see the fruits which the Spirit has brought forth. To behold the cleanness of the Believer's walk and to knowthe savor of the Believer'sconversation.
No beauty equals the beauty of holiness! Nothing is so lovely as uprightness. And therefore we wonder not that four timesthe request is made. Perhaps, too, these daughters wanted to look at her as an example to themselves. Saints look upon thebeauty of others that they may be enabled to emulatetheir excellencies. Let us read with affectionate attention the biographies of holy men that they may be a stimulus to ourselves,exciting us to exert ourselves in the Redeemer's cause and may afford us some hope that the highest Christian attainmentsare not altogether beyond ourreach. I think this is the reason why the daughters of Jerusalem said, "Return, return, O Solyma"-they would comfort themselvesby seeing whether they are like she is.
They would delight themselves by beholding her perfections. They would also stir up their own souls by seeing her example.The rest of the text, you will observe, may be considered two ways-either the spouse asks the question, which is the mostprobable. She says, "What shall you see inSolyma?" She thinks that there is no beauty in her, nothing in her that anyone should delight, or fix his eyes upon her,or derive any profit from regarding her. "Why," she says, "all that You will see in me is a company of two armies-a conflictbetween good and evil. If Youlook upon me You see nothing but good and evil fighting together, darkness and light contending. I am not worth Your lookingat."
And so she would gladly veil her face and go away if it were not for the earnest request which seems to hold her fast-or assome think, this question is asked by bystanders and is answered by the daughters of Jerusalem-"What shall you see in theShulamite?" the giddy crowd enquires. Andinstructed Believers cry, "We shall see in her the concurrence of two triumphant armies returning as choristers with musicand with dancing, from the field of battle! We shall see in her the King immortal, invisible, with all His hosts of Grace!We shall see in her the purified soulco-working with the glorious Savior! We shall see in the Christian Church the activity of sanctified manhood, combined withthe majestic power of Deity residing within."
This is what she might not say of herself. But what they would see in her. Observe, then, the two meanings and let us dismissthe second until another occasion. There is in every Christian a sweet composition of Christ's power and of the activity ofhis own soul. There is the power of God and thereis the creature himself made willing in the day of God's power. There is in the Christian, God working in him to will andto do of His own good pleasure and the man himself working out his own salvation with fear and trembling. In the ChristianChurch there is man working for Godand God working in man-and all this in such a joyful manner as to be rather resembling the triumph of returning conquerorsthan the going forth to fight of those who make war. What shall we see in Solyma? We shall see the blessed confluence of thetwo great armies ofsanctified humanity and of God made flesh!
But we are now coming to take the text in the first sense-the Church blushingly declares that there is nothing to be seenin her except conflict, turmoil, the wrestling of two great powers-two mighty armies contending for the mastery. Upon thispoint may God give us light for thecomfort of many who are passing through this stage of Christian experience.
I. We shall, at the outset, this morning, first call upon you who know the Lord to OBSERVE THE FACT OF THE TWO ARMIES IN EVERYCHRISTIAN. This is very evident, but to aid your reflections let me remind you throughout this very book you see traces ofit. This Canticle is a marriage song-ittherefore speaks less of the battlefield than some other portions of Scripture, for at the marriage feast allusions to trialand to warfare ought to be few.
Yet, that the Church is not altogether sanctified is clear if you note such passages as the fifth verse of the first chapter."I am black," she says, "but lovely, O you daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon." Sheis black-here is her naturalstate-here we have the manifestation of her continued depravity of heart. "I am black, but lovely"-here is her spiritualcondition-the Spirit of God has clothed her with beauteous graces-Christ has washed her and made her fair in His sight. "Iam like thetents of Kedar," she says, "the smoke-dried curtains of those Arab wanderers who dwelt in this country set forth my sinfulness."
And yet in Christ she compares herself to those embroidered curtains, heavy with gold and silver threads which hang aboutthe throne of Solomon. In the third chapter she plainly proves that she is not always enjoying fellowship, but is in a mixedcondition. "By night on my bed"-here is herslothfulness-"I sought Him whom my soul loves"-here is her activity. "I sought Him"-here is her desire-"but I found Himnot"-here is her sad experience of His absence. Then in the fifth chapter, the second verse, there is a singular commixture."Isleep"-I am sluggish, cold, dead, lethargic- "but my heart wakes"-the inward principle is still vital, still panting aftersomething better.
We find her in the third verse making vain excuses for not opening to her Lord. But before long you come to the fifth verseand you find her opening to her Beloved, though her Beloved has withdrawn-refusing but soon complying. The two natures battling.The one fast closing the door and theother opening it and seeking the Beloved with tearful complaint. Throughout the Song there is always this mixture. But,as I have said, we cannot expect to find much of this in a nuptial ode.
Turn, therefore, to the great Book of battle songs, the book of Psalms, and here you have in almost every Psalm indicationsof the complexity of the Christian character. So strange are some of the Psalms that it has been well said they might havebeen written rather by two persons than by one.David will begin out of the very depths calling unto God and then he will end with all the jubilant notes of a conquerorleading captivity captive. I shall not have time to refer to many passages, but the forty-second Psalm will strike you wherethe one David seems to be reasoningwith another David.
"Why are you cast down, O my Soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope you in God: for I shall yet praise Him." Andthe next Psalm is much to the same effect. Perhaps, however, the most eminent and striking paradox of the whole is the seventy-thirdPsalm, the twenty-second verse, There hesays of himself, "So foolish was I and ignorant: I was as a beast before You." He could not go further than that, surely,in a description of himself. "Nevertheless, I am continually with You: You have held me by my right hand. You shall guideme with Your counsel and afterwardreceive me to Glory. Whom have I in Heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside You."
Heavy as a stone he lies embedded in the mire and yet all of a sudden he takes wings to himself and outstrips the eagle'sflight as he loses himself in the splendor of the Sun of Righteousness, mounting so high as to be entirely lost to all butGod! David's experience, as we find it pictured to usin the Psalms, is but our own, written out in large capital letters! And here we see what strange incongruities, what marvelousparadoxes are found in men. If we need still further instruction upon this matter, let me refer you to the Epistles of ourApostle Paul.
I read in your hearing just now that extraordinary passage in the seventh of Romans. How could there have been more graphicallydescribed than we have there, the war and the contention which is always going on between the old nature and the Divine lifewhich God has implanted within us? To the likeeffect is the seventeenth verse of the fifth chapter of the Galatians, where he says, "For the flesh lusts against the Spiritand the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would."
We are carnal and yet spiritual-lost in self yet saved in Christ. We are all imperfections and yet perfect- incomplete inall things and yet complete in everything! Strange contradictions, but yet most strangely true! Another evidence of this matteris the concurrent experience of savedsouls. I thought of just taking down at random biographies from my library shelves and writing out passages, but I had scarcelytime for that. In truth you have but to read the truthful life of any Christian man and you soon find that he is not all Spiritbut also flesh-notall renewed nature but still compassed with infirmity.
We have whole volumes upon this subject. There is "Bunyan's Holy War," describing God's conquest of the town of Mansoul andits subsequent attacks by sins lurking within and foes storming without. Sable's book, "The Soul's Conflict," contains a massof experimental knowledge. But you will perhapsfeel more pleased if I give you, instead of word prose, one or two expressions in the form of rhyme which will show youthat our hymn-writers-they that should be among the more joyous of the Christian Church-have been compelled, sometimes, tosing paradoxes concerningthemselves.
Ralph Erskine has left us that strange work, "The Believer's Riddle," the greatest riddle that was ever written, a perfectmaze to all but those who have the clue within. He says-
"My heart's a mirror, dim and bright, A compound strange of day and night, Of dung and diamonds, dross and gold, Of summer'sheat and winter's cold." Hart, whose hymns come, indeed, from the heart-rightly named was he-in his hymn called "The Paradox,"says-
"How strange is the course that a Christian must steer, How perplexed is the path he must tread. The hope of his happiness rises from fear, And his life he receives from the dead. His fairest pretensions must wholly be waved, And his best resolutions be crossed. Nor can he expect to be perfectly sa ved Till he finds himself utterly lost. When all this is done and his heart is assured, Of the total remission of sins When his pardon is signed and his peace is procured, From that moment his conflict begins."
We have that hymn of Newton's, which you will find in your Rippon's Selection-
"I would, but cannot sing, I would, but cannot pray," and so on. Still more remarkable is that hymn- "I asked the Lord that I might grow In faith and love and every Grace. Might more of His salvation know, And seek more earnestly His face."
But I need not repeat it, because you have it in your books.
You will there find that instead of God's working in the way in which he expected, the singer was made to feel the hiddenevils of his heart and so he was humbled and brought in true penitence nearer to God. Cowper thus sings of himself in a hymnwhich is also in your book-
"The Lord will happiness Divine On contrite hearts bestow. Then tell me, gracious God, is mine A contrite heart or no? I sometimes think myself inclined To love You, if I could. But often feel another mind, Averse to all that's good. My best desires are faint and few, I gladly would strive for more! But, when I cry, 'My strength renew,'
Seem weaker than before.
O make this heart rejoice or ache!
Decide this doubt for me;
And, if it is not broken, break,
And heal it, if it be."
Thus, if time did not fail us, we might go through all those men who have at any time served the Church of God and say ofthem all that they have experienced, felt and confessed a struggle and a conflict between what God has implanted and whatnature has left in them. Nor do I think, dear Friends,that we ought at all to wonder at this. It sounds strange in the carnal ear, but we ought not to marvel, for this is onlyaccording to the analogy of nature. If you look abroad, you will discern everywhere contending forces-and out of these contendingforces the rule of naturecomes.
See yonder orbs-moved by a mysterious impulse they seek to fly off into space-but the sun holds them by invisible bands. Thebands of the sun's attraction would draw them at once into his heat, but on the other hand the centrifugal force would drivethem far away into distant space!Between these two they keep the circular orbit which God has at present appointed. So we have a corrupt nature within uswhich would drive us to sin and on the other hand the Divine power within would draw us into perfect conformity and unionwith Christ! Between those two forcesthe Christian life becomes much what it is.
Observe how in this word death and life are contending together. Death crowds his graves, but Life wins the victory. Deathmay toll the knell and this is his note of triumph. But every cry of every new-born infant is another shout of the battleof life in which Life still claims to be victorious!Look at your own persons and in your own bodies you see this duplex action. You breathe, but the same lungs which receivethe fresh, pure air, give forth the noxious vapor. There is scarcely an organ of the body which is without an apparatus forthe secretion of an injurioussubstance and its expulsion.
The brightest eye that ever swam in light casts forth some defilement. The skin, if it is healthful, has a part of its functionsto throw off from us that which would certainly breed disease. There is going on in every human body a strange conflict betweenlife and death. And every moment our lifestands, as it were, in the center of two great armies who are contending whether we should be the prey of the worm, or shouldstill continue to breathe!
Do you wonder, therefore, if the whole world of nature is, or has fallen into this state that man, the little world, shouldbe the same? Wonder or not, certain it is that it is so. And let those who have been staggered because they have felt a battlewithin, from this time forth rather rejoicebecause this is the path which all the people of God have trod before!
II. Now concerning THE ORIGIN OF THIS CONFLICT. There is but a slight battle in an unrenewed man. There is a sort of conflictof a minor kind between conscience and his grosser passions. Even Ovid could speak of this and several heathen writers confessa war within. But there is no conflict to anyhigh degree in the ungodly man because, while the armed strong man keeps his house, his goods are at peace.
While there is one master, a man may cheerfully serve him. But in the moment of regeneration, a new master comes into thehouse-a stronger than he has come and He will bind the strong man! And after many conflicts, He will cast him out foreverand get that house to be in his own possession.The new nature which God implants in His people is directly the opposite of the old one. As the old nature comes of Satan,being defiled and depraved by the Fall, so the new nature comes direct from Heaven, pure and without spot.
As the old nature is sin, is essentially sin, so the new nature is essentially Divine Grace-it is a living and incorruptibleseed which lives and abides forever-a seed which cannot sin because it is born of God. When these two, therefore, come intoconflict, it is as when fire and watermeet-either the one or the other must die. There can be no truce, no parley. The two are deadly foes. The life of the oneis the death of the other. The strength of the one the weakness of the other.
Now the old nature has been there beforehand. It is like a tree well rooted-it has been there twenty, thirty, forty, fifty,or sixty years according to the date of conversion-and it is not easily torn up by its roots. Even when Grace comes into theheart and makes sin fall, as Dagon didbefore the ark of God, yet is it true of sin as it was of Dagon-the stump is left and there is still enough vitality inthat old stump to breed pain and confusion without limit. The reigning power of sin falls dead the moment a man is converted,but the struggling power of sindoes not die until the man dies.
Bunyan said that unbelief had as many lives as a cat and sin has the same vitality. Until we are wrapped in our winding-sheets,we shall never have that black thread of depravity drawn out from us. It will, it must continue to be there till God shallsanctify us-spirit, soul andbody-and take us Home. Remember how pure the new life is which God has given you! It is from God Himself-an emanation fromHis Spirit as pure as Deity! And think how sinful, on the other hand, is your corrupt nature! Can it be possible that thesetwo should be at peace?Can two walk together except they are agreed?
Can these two principles, which are entirely opposed to one another, by any chance live at peace? It cannot be! And even ifit could be, there are allies without who will never be quiet! There is Satan, who will never rest from stirring up our corruptions.And on the other hand there is the HolySpirit, who will never pause in the putting forth of His Divine power till all evil is cast out, root and branch. Sincethese two must fight-the Spirit of God and the spirit of evil-so the two principles within which are their children must continuein conflict till ourdying day.
Here, then, is the source of this conflict. O my dear Hearers, some of you do not know anything about this! Remember, youare in the gall of bitterness if you do not. If you are all one way, then you are all the wrong way. If there is in you noconflict, it is because there is no Divine power thereto drive the Evil One out. The more of these wars and fights you feel, the more have you cause to thank God and take courage!The battle is not yours, but God's. You are not alone in this warfare-you shall overcome, as thousands have done before you-throughthe blood ofthe Lamb!
III. This brings us to a third reflection. Let us for a moment consider THE REALITY OF THIS CONFLICT. The warfare in the Christianmind is not a thing of imagination, it is most true and real. If you want proof of it you must pass through it. Did you everkneel down in an agony of spirit, resistingsome furious temptation from within? Some of us know what it is to feel the cold sweat running down our brows when we haveto fight against ourselves in fearful struggles against black thoughts of unbelief.
Perhaps it may be that the base heart within has even doubted the existence of God and dared to prompt us to defy the Deity.And we have loathed that thought and hated it so much that our whole spirit was put to the utmost stretch of tension in orderto win a victory over ourselves. You must, ifyou are at all subject to strong emotions, have felt that this struggle was a terrible fact. To you there could be no doubtabout it, for your whole soul felt it-your heart was like a field which is torn up and soaked with blood by the fury of battle.There is a frightfulreality in this conflict when we remember how some Christians fall during it and sin gets the mastery.
Remember, sin may win a battle, but it cannot win the campaign. What? Were there no corruptions in David? What do you thinkmade him sin with Bathsheba? Was there no corrupt heart left in Noah when he was naked to his shame? Was there no corruptionin Lot when he sinned in the cave? Why, thoseblack things which have stained the character of these holy men throughout all time prove to us how dreadful must be thepower of sin and how mighty must be the power which keeps sin down!
Remember what the joy of a Christian is when he feels that he has triumphed over sin. Ah, there is something real here! Ifthe daughters of Jerusalem praised David when he came back with Goliath's head, so do all our powers bless and praise Godwhen he gives us the neck of our spiritual enemies.Like the songsters of old, we sing, "O my Soul, you have trod down strength." These are no fictions or imaginations of apoetic and fevered brain-he that has once been along the road to Heaven knows that above all things the traveler has needto be on the watch againsthimself.
IV. In the fourth place, let us notice THE CHANGES WHICH TAKE PLACE IN THIS WARFARE. The conflict in a Christian is not alwayscarried on with the same fury. There is always war, but there is not always battle. The flesh always hates the Spirit andthe Spirit is always the opponent of the flesh.But they are not always fighting, and when they fight it is not always with the same fury. You ask why? Well, sometimesthe flesh is not so powerful as at other times. There are moments when, if sin were in the Christian's way, the flesh wouldnot choose it.
I may not be able to tell you exactly why, but certain it is that partly from changes of body and also from certain phenomenaof mind, there are seasons when the propensities to evil, though still as evil, are not so vigorous as they were-their strengthis awful, but it sleeps. The young lionis ever a lion. But its claws are concealed and it plays like a lamb. The raging sea is not always in tempest, yet tempestssleep in its waves. Perhaps there is more to be dreaded in the quietness of our depravity than in the raging of it-for sometimesit is the treacherouscalm which the Christian ought to fear more than the storm.
Again, it is quite certain that the Spirit's work within us is not always equally active. The Spirit of God is always in aChristian-He dwells in the Believer as in a temple. "My Spirit will I not utterly take from him," is true of every saint.But yet you must know that your faith is oftenweak-that your love is not always like a flame of fire. You cannot pray at all times as you wished, Ah, Brethren, we cansometimes dash along in service like the chariots of Amminadib, but at other times the wheels are taken off and we drag thechariots heavily like Pharaoh inthe midst of the Red Sea! A change, then, in the flesh, or a change in the spirit, may produce a diversity in the presentform of the conflict.
It is always there, but not always the same. I suppose that when it is most furious the reason of its fury may be sought forin the strength of both sides. I do not think that when the flesh is strong and the spirit is weak that there is much conflict-then,there is rather a speedy defeat.But when the Spirit of God is gloriously at work in our souls-when faith is vigorous, when hope is bright, when love isflaming, and when, at the same time the corrupt powers put forth all their might-then it is that the conflict is stern.
Some Christians do not enter into this state of strong conflict for two reasons-they are men of weak passions and Divine Gracein them is at a low ebb. But when a man is endowed with a strong mental nature and the Spirit is also vigorous within him,then there will be a contest something likethe combat of two Samsons fighting and struggling together as to who shall get the victory. Ah, Brethren, these things maychange, as I have said, but the war is never over! Do not any of you say, "I shall never be tempted again."
Gray-headed Brethren, do not think that the old man in you is dead! If professors fall into grave sin and dishonor the Church,they are as often old men as young men. No, I think I may say that they are more often elder men than younger ones. It issad it should be so, but it is so. And there ismany a professor who has stood well for forty years, but makes a fool of himself at the last. And though he has been honoredin God's Church, yet he leaves a blot upon his name and the godly say in a whisper, "No doubt he was a child of God, but itis best that he should be dead,for in his old age he fell into sin."
No, we shall never be out of gunshot of the devil till we have crossed the river of death. Our carnal minds are like a powdermagazine-there only needs the spark. And ah, what an explosion there would be with any of us! May the Lord keep the sparksaway. Let us be very vigilant and verycareful. There is an enemy behind every hedge. There is a foe waiting for us at every step. And before this Sunday's hallowedhours may be over, you and I may have slipped and have fallen into sin to our own perpetual hurt and hindrance, unless almightyGrace shall intervene.
V. A few words now upon THE EFFECTS OF THIS CONFLICT. Some will say, "But why does not God remove out of the Christian theold nature?" Some uninstructed Christians even think that in conversion the Lord turns the old nature into a new one, whichis very far from the fact. The old nature remains inthe Christian. It has received a blow which will ultimately be its death, but it still lives and the new nature in the Christiancomes to struggle with it for the mastery.
But why is this? Well, we cannot tell you. Such a question reminds us of the Negro's enquiry to the minister-"You say thatGod is Omnipotent and therefore He is greater than Satan?" "Yes." Then why does not God kill the devil and have done withhim?" We believe God to be as morally Omnipotentas He is physically Omnipotent. And if He willed it, we do not doubt but that evil of every form and shape might disappearout of the universe. Why, then, does He permit it? Ah, why? But there we leave it. Be amazed at the mystery if you will, butdo not question God nor cast theblame of sin upon His holy Character.
There it is, He suffers sin to remain in the universe and after all we can say, we observe the fact-but the reason we cannottell. Still I think we may in some respects see how sin is overruled in the Christian. Sin remaining in the Believer driveshim humbly to confess his own nothingness,excludes all boasting from his tongue, compels him to trust in his God, takes away from him his propensity to trust in himself,leads him to value the precious blood which cleanses him, to prize the Holy Spirit who sanctifies him, to rejoice in the faithfulnessand patience andlong-suffering of God who still continues to be gracious to him! And oh, what songs will the man of God sing when he getsto Heaven!
How much sweeter will be the music because of the conflict! How much more glorious the victory because of the warfare! IfI could be totally delivered from sin, root and branch, I certainly would. But yet am I conscious that no Christian wouldglorify God so much in Heaven as he now does if therewere not sin to be contended with. A creature that could not sin could scarcely show forth much of the praise of God byits holiness. But that the creature can sin, no, that there is a strong drawing towards sin and yet the Divine Grace keepsa man from it and sanctifies him even toperfection-why this will make the song come swelling up of, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"
If no adversaries had been tolerated, then no victories could have been won. If there were no temptations for us to strugglewith, then there would have been no elbow room for our faith, no power for the display of the bare arm of God. Doubtless itis best as it is and when the winding up of thechapter comes, perhaps we shall see that our committed sins have been made the means of saving us from other sins whichwould have been our ruin. Many Believers would have grown too proud to be borne with if some infirmity had not plucked theplume from their helmets and made themmourn with brokenness of heart before God.
God can bring good out of evil by His overruling Grace, while on the other hand our good works have often been the greatestcurse we have ever had. Good works have puffed us up and so have led us into pride-while our sins, though pulling us down,have, through almighty Grace, led us to makemen work for eternity.
VI. I want your attention to the last point, which is, THE CONCLUSION OF IT ALL. This contest-is it forever to continue? Shallwe forever tremble in the balances? Will there be no valley of decision where our souls may take their rest? Yes, Brethren,the fight will soon be over and thevictory is guaranteed and glorious! Yes, even at the present day, the Christian is making progress.
I do not admire the term "progressive sanctification," for it is unwarranted by Scripture. But it is certain that the Christiandoes grow in Grace. And though his conflict may be as severe on the last day of his life as in the first moment of conversion,yet he does advance in Grace and all hisimperfections and his conflicts within cannot prove that he has not made progress. Let me show you this. You know that atcertain periods in your children's history they pass through diseases incidental to childhood. Here is your babe of a monthold and there is your child of threeor four years.
This child of three or four years of age is suffering from some of those complaints incidental to infancy. It is not in suchgood health as your child of a month old. It is far weaker and its life seems far more in danger. Yet you will not say thatthere is no progress, for this child of threeyears old has passed through three years of its difficulties and hazards, which this little one, newly-born, has yet toencounter. We all know that there are certain growing pains which the lad feels when he is verging out into his manhood, butthese pains do not prove a want ofstrength, but the very reverse-the muscles are being braced and the sinews are being strengthened.
Stand by the seashore when the tide is coming up. There rolled up a big wave. Just mark the place in the sand. For the nextfew minutes there is no wave that comes up so high as that-no, some waves that suck back the rest and you might even thinkthe sea was retiring! Is there, therefore, noprogress made? Why, Friend, you will see in a moment, if you will but wait! Another great wave will come sweeping up, faroutstripping the one that we marked just now. And when you shall come back in an hour's time and the sea has come to the fullnessof its strength, you will seethat the receding of any one individual wave is no mark of its retrogression. You have but to mark the whole sea and taketime in which to examine it and then you discover there has been progress and that progress has been effected by alternateadvance and retreat.
Along the coast of Essex the sea is greatly encroaching upon the land and every time we go to some of the watering places,we perceive that the cliff has fallen, hundreds or thousands of tons have been carried away. And yet if you are there at atide which has gone far out, you will often think,"Why, surely the land is gaining on the sea! I never walked out so far as this before. I never saw these rocks exposed anddry before." Well, it is a strangely low tide. But at the same time ask the old fisherman who has lived there all his daysand he will tell you that his motherwas married out in a Church which stood where that ship is floating, far out to sea and that all the intervening soil hasbeen washed away!
He recollects when this place, which is now a footpath on the cliffs brink, was a quarter of a mile inland-and then you understandthat though on any one occasion the land may apparently have gained, yet, on the whole, there has been a progress in the sea.And so it is with spiritual life.There are times when it seems as if sin had gained upon you and you were going back in spiritual things. There is causefor alarm, but not despair! There is a cause for watchfulness, but not for terror-go to the Lord and pray to Him to send amightier wave of His IrresistibleGrace-that your soul may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The day is often gloomy at eleven o'clock, but that is no proof that you are not getting towards noon. Many a cold wind howlsover the days of March and April, colder than there might have been at Christmas-but that is no proof that you are not gettingon to summer. There may come a frostynight in May, nipping the flowers, but that is no proof that the frost is all coming back again. So you may feel withinyourself such things as cause you to bow your head in sorrow and to cry out to God in grief! But even these things shall butspeed you on your way towards yourdesired haven. The battle will certainly end right.
Just anticipate for a moment the glory of the victory! You shall be free from sin one day! You shall be perfect, even as yourFather who is in Heaven is perfect! You shall wave the palm branch, and wave it the more joyously because you had to contendwith flesh and blood and with spiritualwickedness! You shall join the eternal song and it shall roll up to the Throne of God all the more gloriously because youhave-
"To wrestle hard as we do now, With sins and doubts and fears." Come, anticipate that triumph and pluck up courage! Go forth,all you servants of God, as Barak went against Sisera, and the day shall come when your foes shall be swept away! That riverof death shall do for your enemies what theKishon did for Jabin-it shall sweep them away forever! Standing by the Red Sea of the atoning sacrifice, you shall singunto the Lord who has triumphed gloriously and cast the horse and the rider into the depths of the sea.
I have preached, this morning, especially for the comfort of those who are thus exercised and who are saying, "If it is so,why am I thus?" You will now see that instead of having cause for distress in all these conflicts, you have only a reasonto come to Christ again. Come to Jesus again! Look upto Him once more and take Him today to be your Savior and your All. Put your case into His hands! Trust Him and you shallbe more than conquerors through Him who loved you. Trust Him! Trust Him now and we will meet in Heaven at last to sing Hispraises forever! Amen.