Tuesday, March 01, 2011
M'Cheyne's "The Christian's Warfare" (Romans 7:22-25)
I recently ran across Robert Murray M'Cheyne's very edifying sermon "The Christian's Warfare" (Romans 7:22-25). Note: We have printed tracts of this sermon from Chapel Library on our info table at CRBC. M'Cheyne (1813-1843) takes the "Augustinian" vew of Romans 7. He closes the message by stressing that the struggle with sin is acutally "a clear mark of God's children":
Have you experienced this warfare? It is a clear mark of God's children. Most of you, I fear, have never felt it. Do not mistake me. All of you have felt a warfare at times between your natural conscience and the law of God. But that is not the contest in the believer's bosom. It is a warfare between the Spirit of God in the heart, and the old man with his deeds.
If any of you are groaning under this warfare, learn to be humbled by it, but not discouraged. First, be humbled under it. It is intended to make you lie in the dust, and feel that you are but a worm. Oh! what a vile wretch you must be, that even after you are forgiven, and have received the Holy Spirit, your heart should still be a fountain of every wickedness! How vile, that in your most solemn approaches to God, in awfully affecting situations, you should still have in your bosom all the members of your old nature. Let this make you lie low. Second, let this teach you your need of Christ. You need His precious blood as much now as you did at the first. You can never stand before God in yourself. You must go again and again to Him to be washed. Even on your dying bed you must hide under Jehovah, our righteousness. You must also lean upon Christ. He alone can overcome in you. Cleave closer and closer to Him every day.
The feelings of a believer during this warfare:
1. He feels wretched. "O wretched man that I am." (v. 24) There is nobody in this world so happy as a believer. He has come to Christ, and found rest. He has the pardon of all his sins in Christ. He has as near approach to God as a child. He has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. He has the hope of glory. In the most awful times he can be calm, for he feels that God is with him. Still there are times when he cries, O wretched man! When he feels the plague of his own heart—when he feels the thorn in the flesh—when his wicked heart is discovered in all its fearful malignity—ah, then he lies down, crying, "O wretched man that I am!" One reason of this wretchedness is that sin discovered in the heart takes away the sense of forgiveness. Guilt comes upon the conscience, and a dark cloud covers the soul. How can I ever go back to Christ? he cries. Alas! I have sinned away my Savior. Another reason is, the loathsomeness of sin. It is felt like a viper in the heart. A natural man is often miserable from his sin, but he never feels its loathsomeness; but to the new creature it is vile indeed. Ah! brethren, do you know anything of a believer's wretchedness? If you do not, you will never know his joy. If you know not a believer's tears and groans, you will never know his song of victory.
2. He seeks deliverance. "Who shall deliver me?" In ancient times, some of the tyrants used to chain their prisoners to a dead body; so that, wherever the prisoner wandered, he had to drag a putrid carcass after him. It is believed that Paul here alludes to this inhuman practice. His old man he felt to be a noisome putrid carcass, which he was continually dragging about with him. His piercing desire is to be freed from it. Who shall deliver us? You remember once, when God allowed a thorn in the flesh to torment His servant, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, Paul was driven to his knees. "I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." Oh this is the true mark of God's children! They of the world have an old nature; they are all old men together. But it does not drive them to their knees. How is it with you, dear souls? Does corruption felt within drive you to the throne of grace? Does it make you call on the name of the Lord? Does it make you say, like the importunate widow, "Avenge me of mine adversary"? Does it make you, like the Canaanitish woman, cry after the Lord Jesus? Ah, remember, if lust can work in your heart, and you lie down contented with it, you are none of Christ's!
3. He gives thanks for victory. Truly, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us; for we can give thanks before the fight is done. Yes, even in the thickest of the battle we can look up to Christ, and cry—Thanks to God! The moment a soul groaning under corruption rests the eye on the Lord Jesus, that moment his groans are changed into songs of praise. In Christ you discover a fountain to wash away the guilt of all your sins. In Christ you discover grace sufficient for you—grace to hold you up to the end—and a sure promise that sin shall soon be rooted out altogether. "Fear not, I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by My name; thou are Mine." Ah, this turns our groans into songs of praise. How often a Psalm begins with groans, and ends with praises! This is the daily experience of all the Lord's people. Is it yours? Try yourselves by this. If you know not the believer's song of praise, you will never cast your crowns with them at the feet of the Lamb. Dear believers, be content to glory in your infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon you.