What Faithful Met With in the Way
“Chr. And how then?
“Faith. Then it came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave. So I bid him forbear to talk, for I would not come near the door of his house. Then he reviled me, and told me, that he would send such a one after me, that should make my way bitter to my soul. So I turned to go away from him; but just as I turned myself to go thence, I felt him take hold of my flesh, and give me such a deadly twitch back, that I thought he had pulled part of me after himself. This made me cry, ‘O wretched man!’ (Rom. 7:24.) So I went on my way up the hill. Now when I had got about half-way up, I looked behind, and saw one coming after me, swift as the wind; so he overtook me just about the place where the settle stands. So soon as the man overtook me, he was but a word and a blow, for down he knocked me, and laid me for dead. But when I was a little come to myself again, I asked him wherefore he served me so. He said, because of my secret inclining to Adam the First: and with that he struck me another deadly blow on the breast, and beat me down backward; so I lay at his foot as dead as before. So, when I camp to myself again, I cried him mercy; but he said, ‘I know not how to show mercy;’ and with that knocked me down again. He had doubtless made an end of me, but that One came by, and bid him forbear.
“Chr. Who was that that bid him forbear?
“Faith. I did not know Him at first, but as He went by, I perceived the holes in His hands, and in His side; then I concluded that He was our Lord. So I went up the hill.
“Chr. That man that overtook you was Moses. He spareth none, neither knoweth he how to show mercy to those that transgress his law.
“Faith. I know it very well; it was not the first time that he has met with me. It was he that came to me when I dwelt securely at home, and that told me he would burn my house over my head if I stayed there.”
FAITHFUL said, “Then it came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave.” Ah! it is even so. If we give way to any of the lusts of the flesh, we become slaves to them, and there is no slavery at all equal to that of the man who has given himself up to his own corrupt nature. He will go from bad to worse, and from worst to the very worst of all. What slavery drink involves! “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.” As for our lusts, there are yet more glaring penalties which follow them. Every man knows that he cannot yield to them a little but the tendency is to yield to them more.
Thereupon, Old Adam began to revile Faithful. As surely as you resist the enticements of the flesh, it will turn and rend you. The devil has two ways of dealing with us. First he speaks us fair, and bids us do as he would; but if we say him “nay,” he declares we are not children of God, and begins to rail at us as if he were himself a saint, and had a right to find fault with us. He will be our enemy in one direction or another. So did this old man to Faithful.
He did also another thing, which some of us understand very well. He gave Faithful a deadly twitch. Ah! it should bring tears into our eyes to recollect what twitches sin has sometimes given us, as though it would drag us into its thrall again. We knew the evil, and, by God’s grace, resolved against it; nor did we fall into it, yet our feet were almost gone, our steps had well-nigh slipped. The flesh of the best of men is but the flesh of a depraved nature, and the old nature of the most holy man is thoroughly carnal, and cannot be otherwise. It is so bad and detestable that it must be buried, for even God Himself will never attempt to improve it. The new nature must come, and first subdue it, and ultimately mortify it, till it dies outright; but while it is there, it “is enmity against God,” and “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” What twitches it can give, as though it would pull a man in two!
Many believers are greatly cast down because of this conflict within them. As soon as there are wars and fightings between the two men,—the old man and the new man,—they conclude at once that it is all over with them. Foolish conclusion, indeed! since, if there were no wars, it would be a proof that there was no life. If there were no conflicts, it would be an evidence that there was but one power within, and that power the evil one. Draw not from your internal commotions, from the temptation which assails you, and the force with which it acts against your inward principles,—draw not the inference that, therefore, you are a cast-away of God. This is rather a reason why you should cry, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” and by faith should shout, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I have often been astounded at some Christians, who cannot understand anything about these inward conflicts resulting from this double nature. Real disciples though they doubtless are, they seem quite amazed that we should think it possible that the Christian should have in him his old corruptions. I may be worse than other people, but I am obliged to confess to you that never a day passes in which I am not painfully conscious of the sin that dwelleth in me; and though I know that I am saved by grace, and have a new nature wrought in me by God the Holy Spirit, yet I often have to call out, with the Apostle, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” I thought that this was the experience of all God’s people. I can only say that, if it could be dispensed with, I should be glad to be rid of it; but I believe that, up to the very gates of Heaven, there will be this daily conflict, this hourly struggle between the house of David and the house of Saul, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, between the Old Adam and the New Adam, between the natural and the spiritual.
However, our Pilgrim escaped; yet he escaped only with a threatening, for the old man told him that he would send one after him that should make his way bitter to his soul. You know who this was. It was Moses; for, when the law comes home to a Christian’s conscience, it says to him, “You profess to have clean escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust, but look at you! You know that, if you had been left to yourself, you would have done as others did; and though you have been kept from the actual sin, yet how you rolled the thought of it under your tongue, and how sweet it was! How can there be a change in your nature when such a thing can be said of you?” Down comes the great bludgeon again and again, till you lie all bleeding and ready to perish. When the law begins to deal even with a Christian, if One does not come by to aid him, it will soon slay the best among us. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” When the Christian comes to be judged by the law of God, it makes him say, “The law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” It makes a man lie as though he were dead. “For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” I felt the power of sin working in me, and I seemed to lie, at the feet of the accuser, like one utterly devoid of life. Now, the law cannot really kill the Christian. If Christians know how to stand their ground, it will not harm them. We are not under the law, but under grace. We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Moses is a good friend of ours, after all. He beats us very furiously; but, when he drives us to Christ, it is a blessed experience for us. If he threatens to burn down our house over our heads, if he drives us out of our refuges of lies, it is indeed a mercy for us. Nevertheless, for the conscience to be beaten by Moses, is a very painful process.
How joyful is the moment when He comes by who has “holes in His hands, and in His side”! Now, Christian, you understand that. When you get a sight of Christ crucified, Sinai’s thunders cease to frighten. When you can feel that He loved you, and gave Himself for you, and bore the transgression of your Old Adam nature in His own body on the tree, you can rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. You know what it is to be knocked about by Moses. I trust you also know what it is to be healed by the loving Lord, and to be sent on your way rejoicing.
Some persons will not understand all this. I can only pray that they may yet do so; for, recollect that, if there be in you no strivings after that which is good, then you are altogether corrupt. If you are never disturbed, and never troubled, you have good cause to be distressed. If you never fight the battle, you will never win the victory. If you never suffer, you will never reign. If you have not learned to deny yourselves, you shall not be partakers with God’s people. You can easily tell which of the fish in a river are dead, and which are alive. There is one floating down the stream on the top of the water. We may be certain that it is dead. But see you that other fish coming swiftly against the strong current? That is not a dead fish, but a living one. And when you find a man carried along by the customs of his neighbors, doing just as others are doing, you may conclude that is a dead soul. But when a man is fighting against himself, against custom, against everything that is of this world, then you may know that he is a living man, and the God who has given him life will sustain that life, and reward it at the last. The evidence of life is simple confidence in the bleeding Saviour. Beloved, keep your eyes on Him. He alone can guard you from Moses and from Adam the First. And, O poor sinner! if thou wouldst get perfect rest, turn thy tearful eyes to Him who says, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”