Galatians 5:17


1. A bad man has his better self. When temptation is away, in calm thoughtful moments, or when he is stricken by mortal illness or bowed with a great sorrow, or perhaps when the beauty of a sunset or the strains of sweet music call up memories of childhood, the true self will rise in the heart of a wicked man with pain and unutterable regrets.

2. A good man has his lower self. The human saint is far removed from the heavenly angel. The body and its appetites are with him; the soul has its meaner powers, its earthly passions, its self-regarding interests. There are times when the spiritual life is dull and feeble; then some sudden temptation, or even without that the depressing atmosphere of the world, will reveal to a man his worse side.

II. THE TWO SELVES ARE IN CONFLICT. They are not content to lie at peace each in its own domain. Both are ambitious to rule the whole man. While the flesh brooks any restraint, the Spirit strives to bring the body into subjection. Thus it comes to pass that life is a warfare and the Christian a soldier. The battle of life is not mainly a fighting against adverse circumstances and external concrete evils of the world. "A man's foes are they of his own household," nay, of his own heart. The great conflict is internal. It is civil war - rebellion and the effort to quell it; of all wars the most fierce.

III. THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE TWO SELVES IS SUCH THAT EACH IS HELD IN CHECK BY THE OTHER. "Ye cannot do the things that ye would." There is a dead-lock. Each army holds itself safe in its own entrenchments. Neither can turn the enemy's position. Not that there is perfect balance of power. In most of us one or other force gives a temporary advantage. In many the lower self has the upper hand; in many, let us thank God, the better self maintains the supremacy. But neither has the victory that will enable it to drive the other off the field. Bad men, now and again, see yawning before them deep, black pits of wickedness, from the brink of which they start back in horror, arrested by the invisible hand of conscience. No man is wholly bad, or he would cease to be a man - he would be a devil. On the other hand, it is clear to all of us that no good man is wholly good.

IV. IN THE STRENGTH OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST THE BETTER SELF OF THE CHRISTIAN WILL ULTIMATELY OBTAIN COMPLETE VICTORY. The stress and strain of the war is but for a time. In the end all enemies shall be subdued. Meanwhile the secret of success is with those who "walk by the Spirit." So great a hope should lighten "the burden of the mystery."

"The heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world." Now life is broken, confused, inconsistent, discordant. But this is but the time of passing conflict. With victory there will come true harmony of being and growth to the full stature of the soul. - W.F.A.

For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.
Here is a battle — a struggle — described: one in which we must all fight. Our own corrupt and wilful hearts, and the Holy Spirit of God, are ever drawing us different ways; and we have to choose between them. This is the work of the will. God leaves us free. The Spirit draws, but does not drive: invites, not compels. There are four states in which we may be.

1. Before the struggle begins. The soul living utterly regardless of any will but his own, any law but his own desires; sin slumbering within him, lying hid and unknown; at peace with himself, and having no idea of his danger. Terrible condition; yet, alas! how many baptized Christians are in it.

2. The struggle going on. The sinner sees what God commands, and tries to obey. Then comes the difficulty. The mind approves one thing, but the flesh strives after another; and alas! how often the flesh comes off victorious.

3. The spirit subduing the flesh. Still a struggle, but by God's grace the good is now conquering the evil, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart and making the will strong to persist in following the law of God. Oh, how happy, how blessed a state is this!

4. The struggle over. In the first state there was no struggle, because the evil held undisputed sway. In the second state there was a struggle, but it was the helplessness of the natural man striving in vain to fulfil the law of God. In the third state there is a struggle too, but now it is the grace and power of God striving in us against the rebellious nature which before held us captive, and that grace and power gain the victory. In the fourth state there is again no struggle. But it is because the battle has been fought, and the victory gained for ever. No more foes to oppose, no sins to do battle with. A state we may not look for in this life; but it shall be reached by all who persevere. A little while, and the last struggle will be over; and then — rest, peace, joy, glory, victory!

(Bishop Walsham How.)

The translation is wrong. The R.V. gives it correctly: "that ye may not do the things that ye would." Here you have the flesh and the spirit personified: each has given to it intelligence, aim, purpose. Here is the man, the individual, the moral and spiritual personality — man with his moral capacity and power of volition, but volition is modified by influences from without. Here are two integral powers, standing on each side of the personality, and each of them is watching the action of the other as it may be, operating upon the human volition; when the spirit with its elevating thoughts, its intense desire, its strong aspirations, is operating upon the feeling and the soul, and when a man would act under that influence, then the flesh, watching its opportunity, comes with all its force and power, and endeavours to prevent it, so that "the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, that the man may not do the things he would." What is the remedy for that? Why, you, the central personality, take sides with one, that there may be two against one. Throw your moral power and affections upon one side, walk in the spirit, yield to the spirit, hold to the spirit, and then you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. You will then do the things that you would, under the spiritual influence of this gracious Agent. Hold, pray, strive, depend, look up with religious faith, and seek to have within you, strengthened continually, an intense repugnance to everything evil — to the influences and lusts operating upon you — and you will conquer. The flesh will be defeated, you will gain victory after victory; there will be sympathy after sympathy, strength after strength; and then it will come to pass that the flesh, and the devil in the flesh, will pass by you.

(T. Binney.)

The Christian life is one of conflict between opposing forces designated respectively, the flesh and the spirit, i.e., between the old nature and the new; between Christians themselves usually so called, and that which is higher, stronger, holier, than themselves. It is a conflict, we may say, between Christ and anti-Christ: for the soul, on the battlefield of the soul. The old nature is strong and very active, and loses no opportunity of plying all the weapons of its deadly armoury against the new-born grace: the new nature, on the other hand, is ever on the watch to resist and destroy its enemy. Grace within us employs prayer and faith and hope to cast out evil All growing Christians are like men working under difficulties; like racers who must carry weights; like men .rowing against wind and tide, yet compelled for dear life to row. This is not the popular conception of a Christian's career. With some religious teachers Christianity is a mere sentiment; a given idea as to moral accountability, and as to escape through Jesus Christ, has to be fixed in the mind, and Presto! a man is "fully saved." Such teaching is void of danger only when explained to mean that he who has seen his sinfulness, and rested upon his Saviour, has passed the strait gate and entered upon the narrow way. Men need salvation from their all but infinite conceits. There can be no salvation "unto the uttermost " apart from character. Faith as a disposition must follow faith as an act.

1. A Christian's life must be a battle from the nature of the case. Flesh and spirit are contrary as water and oil, as light and darkness, as good and evil; and so, to do the things they would and ought, Christians have to fight.

2. Because we gain immensely from fighting. All valuable discipline comes of difficulties faced and overcome. Better to fight and win than to obtain moral mastery without fighting.

(J. S. Swan.)

True faith is not shown here below in peace, but rather in conflict; and it is no proof that a man is not in a state of grace that he continually sins, provided such sins do not remain on him as permanent results, but are ever passing on into something beyond and unlike themselves, into truth and righteousness, As we gain happiness through suffering, so do we arrive at holiness through infirmity, because man's very condition is a fallen one, and in passing out of the country of sin, he necessarily passes through it. This prevents holy men from regarding themselves with satisfaction, or resting in anything but Christ's death as their ground of confidence. The following are some of the infirmities which, while they certainly beset those who are outcasts from God's grace, are also possible in a state of acceptance, and do not necessarily imply absence of true faith.

1. Original sin. An evil principle within, dishonouring our best service. The old Adam, pride, profaneness, deceit, unbelief, selfishness, greediness, the inheritance of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; sin which the words of the serpent sowed in the hearts of our first parents, which sprang up and bore fruit, some thirty fold, some sixty, some an hundred, and which have been by carnal descent transmitted to us.

2. Sins arising from former evil habits, now abandoned. Sin once committed retains power over our souls; it has given a colour to our thoughts, words, works; and though, with many efforts, we would wash it out from us, yet this is not possible except gradually. Sloth, self-conceit, self-will, impurity, worldly-mindedness; sins such as these, though cast off, cling like a poisoned garment to the soul.

3. Sins arising from went of self-command; the conscience informed, but the governing principle weak. Difficult to do as one would wish — to govern the feelings, the tongue, the thoughts.

4. Sins which we fall into from being taken unawares.

5. Sins which rise from the devil's temptations, inflaming the wounds and scars of past sins healed, or nearly so; exciting the memory, and hurrying us away; and thus making use of our former selves against our present selves contrary to our will.

6. Sins which rise from a deficiency of practical experience, or from ignorance how to perform duties which we set about. Men attempt to be munificent, and their acts are prodigal; they wish to be firm and zealous, and their acts are cruel; they wish to be benevolent, and are indulgent and weak; they do harm when they mean to do good; they engage in undertakings, or promote designs, or put forth opinions, or set a pattern, of which evil comes; they mistake falsehood for truth; they are zealous for false doctrines; they oppose the cause of God.

7. Unworthy motives, low views, mistakes in principle, false maxims.

8. Negligences and ignorances. Forgetfulness, heedlessness, want of seriousness, frivolity. All these infirmities may be and are found in persons living consciously sinful lives, and in them of course they only serve to heighten transgression and hasten judgment; but they are also to be found in persons free from wilful sin, and such persons need not despond, or be miserable on account of failings which in them are not destructive of faith or incompatible with grace. Who these are is only known for certain by God. He is able, amid the maze of contending motives and principles within us, to trace out the perfect work of righteousness steadily going on there, and the rudiments of a new world rising from out the chaos. He can discriminate between what is habitual and what is accidental; what is on the growth and what is in decay; what is a result and what is indeterminate; what is of us and what is in us. He estimates the difference between a will that is honestly devoted to Him, and one that is insincere. And where there is a willing mind He accepts it, "according to that a man hath, and net according to that he hath not." In those whose wills are holy He is present for sanctification and acceptance; and, like the sun's beams in some cave of the earth, His grace sheds light on every side, and consumes all mists and vapours as they rise.

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

The soul of man is intended to be a well-ordered polity, in which there are many powers and faculties, and each has its due place; and for these to exceed their limits is sin; yet they cannot he kept within them except by being governed, and we are unequal to this task of governing ourselves except after long habit. While we are learning to govern our. selves we are constantly exposed to the risk, or rather to the occurrence of number. less failures. We have failures by the "way though we triumph in the end; and thus the process of learning to obey God is, in one sense, a process of sinning, from the nature of the case. We are feeble-minded, excitable, effeminate, wayward, irritable, changeable, miserable. We have no lord over us, because we are but partially subject to the dominion of the true King of saints. Let us try to do right as much as we will, let us pray as earnestly, yet we do not, in a time of trial, come up even to our own notions of perfection, or rather we fall quite short of them, and do, perhaps, just the reverse of what we had hoped to do. While there is no external temptation present, our passions sleep, and we think all is well. Then we think and reflect and resolve what we will do; and we anticipate no difficulty in doing it. But when the temptation is come, where are we then? We are like Daniel in the lion's den; and our passions are the lions; except that we have not Daniel's grace to prevail with God for the shutting of the lions' mouths lest they devour us. Then our reason is but like the miserable keeper of wild beasts, who in ordinary seasons is equal to them, but not when they are excited. Alas! Whatever the affection of mind may be, how miserable it is! It may be a dull, heavy sloth, or cowardice, which throws its huge limbs around us, binds us close, oppresses our breath, and makes us despise ourselves, while we are impotent to resist it; or it may be anger, or other baser passion, which, for the moment, escapes from our control after its prey, to our horror and our disgrace; but anyhow, what a miserable den of brute creatures does the soul then become, and we at the moment literally unable to help it! I am not, of course, speaking of deeds of evil, the fruits of wilfulness, malice, or revenge, or uncleanness, or intemperance, or violence, or robbery, or fraud; alas! the sinful heart often goes on to commit sins which hide from it at once the light of God's countenance; but I am sup. posing what was Eve's case, when she looked at the tree and saw that the fruit was good, but before she plucked it, when lust had conceived and was bringing forth sin, but ere sin was finished and had brought forth death. I am supposing that we do not exceed so far as to estrange God from us; that He mercifully, chains the lions at our cry, before they do more than frighten us by their moanings or their roar, before they fall on us to destroy us: yet at best, what misery, what pollution, what sacrilege, what a chaos is there then in that consecrated spot which is the temple of the Holy Ghost! How is it that the lamp of God does not go out in it at once, when the whole soul seems tending to hell, and hope is almost gone? Wonderful mercy indeed it is which bears so much! Incomprehensible patience in the Holy One, so to dwell, in such a wilderness, with the wild beasts! Exceeding and Divine virtue in the grace given us, that it is not stifled! Yet such is the promise, not to those who sin contentedly after they have received grace; there is no hope while they so sin; but where sin is not part of a course, while it is still sin, whether sin of our birth, or of habit's formed long ago, or of want of self-command, which we are trying to gain, God mercifully allows and pardons it, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from it all... To know thus much, that infirmities are no necessary mark of reprobation, that God's elect have infirmities, and that our own sins may possibly be no more than infirmities, this, surely, by itself, is a consolation. And to reflect that at least God continues us visibly in His Church; that He does not withdraw from us the ordinances of grace; that He gives us means of instruction, patterns of holiness, religious guidance, good books; that He allows us to frequent His house, and to present ourselves before Him in prayer and Holy Communion; that He gives us opportunities of private prayer; that He has given us a care for our souls; an anxiety to secure their salvation; a desire to be more strict and conscientious, more simple in faith, more full of love than we are; all this will tend to soothe and encourage, us when the sense of our infirmities makes us afraid.

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

A garrison is not free from danger while it has an enemy lodged within. You may bolt all your doors and fasten all your windows; but if the thieves have placed even a little child within doors, who can draw the bolts for them, the house is still unprotected. All the sea outside a ship cannot do it damage till the water enters within and fills the hold. Hence, it is clear, our greatest danger is from within. All the devils in hell and tempters on earth could do us no injury if there were no corruption in our nature. The sparks will fall harmlessly if there is no tinder. Alas, our heart is our greatest enemy: this is the little home-born thief. Lord, save me from that evil man, myself.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

In material fruit-trees the sour nature of the wild plants that are grafted upon still continues in the stock or root, and is not taken away by ingrafting; it is only restrained and kept under by the graft. The nature of the graft is predominant in the tree, and overrules in bringing forth fruits according to its own kind (although with some small degree of the sour nature of the stock mixed with it), and the two natures of the graft and stock continue mixed together as long as the tree lives. This is a similitude of the state of mystical fruit-trees, and shadows forth to us this proposition: That corrupt nature abides in believers as long as they live, and is but in part subdued by grace. We find by experience that after plant is ingrafted, both the graft and the stock will shoot forth, and if the graft grow vigorously and strongly, then the shoots of the stock are but weak; but if the shoots of the stock break out strongly then the graft grows but weakly; therefore the husbandman takes pains often to cut off the shoots that grow upon the stock, so that the graft may grow the better. This is another similitude of the state of mystical fruit-trees, and shadows forth to us this proposition: That while the spiritual part in us acts and grows strongly, the fleshly part acts but weakly; so also, if the flesh be strong, the spirit is weak. This should teach us often to take notice of the actings of our spirits, whether the stock or the graft bud the faster. If we were watchful daily, and took pains with our spirits to keep them up in a spiritual frame in communion with God, then (by degrees) the shoots and growths of the spiritual part would become strong, and the shoots of the flesh weak and feeble.

( Austen.)

The conflicts of the Christian, "the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh," continue to the end of life, and may be compared to a conflagration which is opposed by engines, where the supply of water is scarcely equal to the demand, and not incessantly followed up. Sometimes the fire yields to the well-directed stream, and at other times it breaks forth with renewed fury, and seems to defy the efforts of those who would arrest its progress.

(H. G. Salter.)

The spirit and the flesh, grace and nature, heavenly and earthly influences, are sometimes so fairly balanced, that, like a ship with wind and tide acting on her with equal power but in opposite directions, the believer makes no progress in the Divine life. He loses headway. He does not become worse, but he grows no better; and it is all he can do to hold his own. Sometimes, indeed, he loses ground, falling into old sins. Temptation comes like a roaring sea-squall, and, finding him asleep at his post, drives him backward on his course; and, further now from heaven than once he was, he has to pray: Heal my backsliding, renew me graciously, love me freely. For Thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

I. THE FACT STATED. "The flesh," etc. Remnants of indwelling sin remain. "Flesh" does not mean "sinews," "fibres," etc., but carnal propensities. Fact stated shared by apostles. They no exception to general rule. Not by nature more saintly than ourselves. Indwelling sin affects all. Sinners not perfected in holiness here. Why?

1. To make us watchful. Common idea, "way to heaven easy." Nature of sin misunderstood, so that men fly to it as moths to candle. But saints are taught another lesson. Sin is a deadly enemy. Truth is known, "flesh lusteth," etc. This keeps them alive, watchful, safe. Sleep is fatal. The story is told that Satan once summoned his angels to inquire what they had been doing. One said, " I saw a company of Christians crossing the desert, and I let loose the winds of heaven, and their bones are bleaching in the sun." "What of that?" said Satan; "perhaps their souls are saved." Another said, I saw a ship with missionaries on board, going to a heathen land, and I raised a storm and drowned them all." "What of that?" said Satan; "perhaps their souls are saved." And then came forward a subtle spirit, who said, "For fifteen years I have been trying to lull an old Christian to sleep, and I have just succeeded." Whereupon there arose a shout of triumph, the bells of hell rang for joy, and Satan spoke approvingly. So the old nature is never made better, but a new one added. Always an enemy within.

2. That we may never mistake the grounds of our salvation. Works have no meritorious part. All of grace. Beginning (1 Corinthians 15:8, 9), ending (Philippians 1:6). But only failures teach this. Past sins like past gales to the seaman — forgotten. Present sickness, distress, make us cling to friends. So indwelling sin and conflict bring the saint close to Christ.

II. THE ATTITUDE OF INDWELLING SIN. Not dead or restful, quiet or submissive. Romans 7:23, 24, describes a deadly feud, very unlike common idea of personal depravity. Never feud more deadly, not even the Wars of the Roses or the Indian Mutiny. Its nearness makes it so. If distant, less painful, less distressing. Near. I would press this. Saints contest every step. Bunyan's description of Apollyon's conflict with Christian graphically describes the state. Weapons vary, but enemy never. Pride, anger, lust, sloth, despair (Ephesians 6:11) "lusteth."

III. THE CONQUEST. "So that ye," etc. Not the flesh hindering grace. Vice versa. What a mercy! Shout of victory always follows cry of battle. Gospel purposes not accomplished when men, even Christians, are stationary. More glorious. Rich become liberal, godless godly, etc. (1 Corinthians 6:11). Not preach defeat. "Greater is He that is," etc. Are you ready to despair? Think of the issue. Not always slaves or prisoners. Deliverance. Wait as Wellington behind the lines of Tortes Vedras. So you behind the grace of God. Then go forth to victory.

(H. T. Cavell.)

It is on this passage we offer the following reflections: —

1. Paul regards all the events that constitute the general course of the world, whether of private history or of public affairs, as the works of the flesh. As water cannot rise beyond its spring, so neither can life rise beyond its origin and inspiration. The natural life of man is " animal." The awful catalogue which is given of the "works of the flesh" (ver. 19) is a condensed history of the weed of mankind in all latitudes and in all ages. There is a close alliance between man and the animal races. In this state the gospel finds mankind.

2. They that lead this animal life, under whatever form of civilization or barbarism, "cannot please God" (Romans 8:7, 8).

3. But God, in His mercy, has provided redemption for man from his fleshly or animal condition — from sin and its consequences — by the Incarnation of the Divine Word, by the sacrifice of the Cross, by the Resurrection of Christ, and by His new creating Spirit. Christ is the new Head of life for mankind — the second Adam. Those who are not born twice will die twice.

4. But God affords His Spirit of renovation to dwell with all believers. The Spirit originates a struggle of forces within the nature of a Christian, the issue of which, as with the unborn Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:22, 23), is that the elder serves the younger, the newer vanquishes the older man — the wild and shaggy animal Nature is subdued in the Israel of God by the civilizing power of Divine grace. We are surrounded on all sides in the creation by the struggle of rival forces; gravitation and muscular power; the vital powers and the chemical laws; the opposing forces which combine to send the earth along its nearly circular orbit. But there is no struggle in physical nature half so interesting or half so glorious as this inward contest between the flesh and the spirit. It is emphatically a war between heaven and earth in the body and soul of man. The condition of the contest is that God by His Spirit supplies a new power in supplying a new life. It is the part of man, as a living and intelligent will, to yield to the inspirations of the new power and life, and so to overcome the works of the flesh. God does not operate irresistibly, as upon dead matter, but intellectually and spiritually, as upon honest mind. He "worketh in us to will and to do," but we must "work out our own salvation."

5. How does the Holy Spirit accomplish the work of renewal in the Divine image? As it were by infusing a new blood into the system — a new life. What is this life-blood? It is the truth of Christ. "Sanctify them by Thy truth" The old corrupt humanity is cut down. The new vine now bears fruit unto God, the "fruit of the spirit" of life in Christ Jesus. There is a new motive in life. God has become real, and near, and dear in Jesus Christ. Here are revealed the secrets of power, the mystery of that supernatural "life in Christ Jesus " which begins in the gift of God, and repentance from dead works is strengthened by the assurance of salvation from sin already visible, and will be perfected in the resurrection.

(Edward White.)

The flesh represents, in St. Paul's terminology, the whole brood of lower faculties, or that part of our nature which constitutes us animals; and the spirit represents manhood, or that whole class of faculties by which we are exalted into the higher sphere, by which we become sons of God. In a figurative way, he represents these two as in conflict. It is as if there were two bands of soldiers quartered in one tenement, having an upper and a lower storey. On the ground-floor is a company of brawling, drunken, unruly, brutal, cruel men; and in the story above them is a company of soldiers that are gentlemanly, and courteous, and humane, and well disciplined. And there are three states of affairs which may exist. The brawling soldiers below may govern the house; and then they will have hard times upstairs, for their supplies will be cut off, and they will starve. Or, a part of the time the gentlemen upstairs may govern the house, and part of the time the coarse brutal fellows downstairs may govern it; and then there will be a terrible conflict. And between the attempts of those upstairs to maintain discipline, and the attempts of those below stairs to break down discipline, the place will be a perfect pandemonium. There will be no peace there. They will be quarrelling perpetually. And so the animal nature and the manhood, in man, quarrel. Sometimes it is the lower nature that is in the ascendency; and then whatever things are above it — conscience, faith, hope, all spiritual tendencies, and all supernal tendencies — are at a discount. The upper part of the mind is starved out because of the absolute ascendency of the appetites and passions — of pride and selfishness, and envy and lusts, and all manner of evil feelings. Then, by and by, there is the second state — the state of resistance and conflict. The spirit wars against the flesh, and refuses to be in subjection to it. And while this war continues, sometimes one predominates and sometimes the other. The men upstairs to-day have the best of it, and the men downstairs tomorrow have the best of it. Nothing is settled, nothing is continuous; all is subject to chance. There is many a half-formed man who has no fixed habits of life, and in whom sometimes one part of his nature gets momentum and comes into the ascendency, and sometimes the other part. Sometimes those faculties which are seeking to do good govern, and sometimes those which are seeking to do evil govern. And to a greater or less extent there is a state of conflict between the upper and the lower nature, between the manhood and the animal, in everyone of us. Then comes that state in which, by the power of God's Spirit, and by the discipline of life, complete ascendency is gained by our supersensuous nature. And all the other parts of our being "are brought into obedience," as it is said, "to the Lord Jesus Christ." Or, if you choose to follow out the psychological figure, the superior faculties in our souls assume control. And then there is peace. Then there is rest.

(H. W. Beecher.)

As a fair and gentle wife, starlike and dovelike, is given to the guardianship of some rude, coarse, uncultured nature, who treads among her sweet feelings as the hoof and the snout deal with flowers in the garden, so it is in this strange husband and wife, the body and the soul; the soul full of sweetness and gentleness, purity and delicacy, and the coarse animal body full of despotism, and swayings and conflicts of cruel passions; and they fare but ill in their wedded life on earth. The body looks down and searches the ground for its delights; the soul looks up, and, like an astronomer, culls treasures from among the stars, and beyond. The body eats and drinks; the soul thinks and feels. The body lives in the world, for the world, and with the world; the soul reaches far away to some higher life whose need it feels — but all is vague, but the wish, but the need. Strange visions rise; but neither to-day does the soul know its origin, nor to-morrow. The picture of beauty and of purity that rose bright in the morning has faded out before night. To-morrow mocks the expectation of to-day. The soul is like a bird caged from the nest, that yet remembers something of its fellows in the forest of green leaves, and in summer days hears snatches of song from far-off fields, and yearns, with all its little life, for that liberty which it has never proved, for that companionship which it so early missed, and for those songs which it never learned to utter, though it strives in broken notes for them-. Once some adventurous hunters, from a ledge of rocks, robbed an eagle's nest of an eaglet. Brought home, he was reared among fowls, that he might perform domestic duty. As he grew, he grew apart from the children of the dunghill, and sat moody in sullen dignity. As his wings secretly grew strong, they were clipped. When on a summer's day, wild in the heaven the hawk screamed, every fowl in the yard ran cowering to shelter; he, with flashing eye and discordant scream, reared himself to fly, but alas! he could not rise. He fell sick. He would have died, if he might. They let him alone. His pinions grew again. They forgot him. He forgot not. The sky was his. The great round of air, without line or bound, was his. And when, one neglectful summer day, all were dozing, from afar up in the sky — so far that none could see, or see only a floating speck — there came down a cry so faint that no ear might hear it-none but an eagle's. Then, with sudden force, all its life beating in its breast, it sprang up. Away from the yard, its fowls, its owners, over the rick and over the barn, over the trees and over the hills, round and round in growing circles, beaten with growing power of wing, the freed eagle sought its fellow, and found its liberty right under the sun! And such, of many and many a soul, sad in bondage, valiant in liberty, has been the history.

(H. W. Beecher.)

A Christian lives in two worlds at one and the same time — the world of flesh, and the world of spirit. It is possible to do both. There are certain dangerous gases, which from their weight fall to the lower part of the place where they are, making it destructive for a dog to enter, but safe for a man who holds his head erect. A Christian, as living in the world of flesh, is constantly passing through these. Let him keep his head erect in the spiritual world, and he is safe. He does this so long as the Son of God is the fountain whence he draws his inspiration, his motives, encouragement, and strength.

(George Philip.)

This is one of those many passages in the Bible which, from some causes or other, men have taken away from their first and proper and comforting sense, and invested with a dark and stern meaning. For most men, when they read these words — understand them to mean that, by reason of indwelling sin, "we cannot do the good things which we desire to do." Whereas, the real intention of it is exactly the reverse — that by reason of "the good," that is in us, "we cannot do the bad things," which, nevertheless, we wish to do. That this is the chief and true signification, the whole line of thought proves. No one who knows anything of human nature, or of his own heart, can doubt, for a moment, that the ninth article of our Church is thoroughly and literally true, and that "the infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the law of God." Nay, many could give painful testimony that the more they have striven to do what is right, the more they have been dragged back again! that the stronger the light, the deeper has been the shadow! that the presence of God in them seemed to serve only to stir up the violence of the wicked one! The fact is that the process of sanctification, in a man, is not exactly what almost all of us beforehand thought it would be. It is not in the main that evil gradually ceases, and good gradually takes its place. It is not the extirpation of sin at all — but it is the subjugation of sin. The Philistines are yet in the land, in their strongholds, though the land belong to the people of God. I am not sure that what is wrong in a man is at all diminished by his sanctification. It is rather (if I may so call it) the increase of grace than the decrease of nature. Imaginations — the wicked desires — are all there; and there they are in their strength, their tremendous strength! Do not doubt it. They are there to the very end! Witness the falls, the awful falls of Christian men — long after their conversion! Witness the fearful struggles which we all have passed through sometimes! Sin lives a subject, a slave, a rebel — but Christ reigns! Ah! brethren, what if there were not something by reason of which "we could not do the things that we would?" This, then, brings us to the immediate force of St. Paul's words. The way to subdue sin is to introduce a master-power. You will never actually destroy the wrong will; but you must neutralize it by another will. You must bring in, and cultivate, and enlarge the prohibitive and preventive forces of the heart, till at last you have come to the state that "you cannot do the things that you would." Let us look at this a little in detail. I will take one of you who is still much too fond of the world. The world exercises a particular fascination over that man. He is probably ashamed of the influence; and yet he is unable to resist it. At last, the fact is certain, that he goes more into the world than is good for his soul; and he knows that he does. Now, what shall we say to that man? No man can really and honestly live higher than his level. While the level of your heart — its tastes, and pleasures, and ideas — is the level of the world, into the world, of course, you will go. It would not do much good — it would not make you a better Christian — if you kept out of it. What you want is to raise your level. You want to taste pure pleasures — to have a higher ambition — to pursue more satisfying objects to live in a holier atmosphere — to get into an upper range. How shall you do this? You must accept the love of God — you must have more peace — you must have more real communion with God — more of the spiritual life, with all its deep, absorbing influences — more of the fellowship with God's people — more work done for usefulness, and for the Church, and for Christ. As soon as ever you reach that point, those lesser things will descend in the scale; they will not be congenial to the new life; they will become insipid; they will be actually distasteful.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)


1. The flesh has its desires, so has the spirit as acted upon by the Spirit of God; and both are strong, contradictory, and antagonistic.

2. The struggle between the two is a matter of the commonest Christian experience.(1) Of the flesh against the spirit. The sense of obligation arouses the spirit of revolt. Hence even Paul had to keep his body under.(2) The spirit against the flesh. The revolt against command is checked by the grace of submission, and the desire to be faithful awakens disgust at sin.

3. The Divine nature is imparted to us with all its love and longing that the flesh with its lusts may be overcome.

4. The nobler shall be victor over the meaner.


1. That the antagonism of righteousness and unrighteousness may work out the highest good and accomplish the destiny of the faithful.

2. To prevent the Christian life becoming one of impulse, merely the doing simply as we would because we will it.

3. To force on us the task of deliberation and wise resolve; to make us choose as well as will, and determine as well as choose, and thus —

4. To add the steadfastness of Christian purpose to the eagerness of Christian passion.

(A. Mackennal, B. A.)

I. The flesh desires EASE, and thus comes into collision with the spirit, which requires us to fight the good fight of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

II. The flesh desires EXCITEMENT, whereas the spirit requires us to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

III. The flesh desires DISTINCTION, whereas the spirit's injunction is to humility (Philippians 2:3-4; Matthew 20:26; Romans 12:10).

IV. The flesh desires to make SELF SUPREME, whereas the spirit desires to make God supreme.

(W. Landells, D. D.)There are eight main incom-modities which the soul hath cause to complain of in her conjunction with the body.

1. The defilement of original sin.

2. A proneness to actual sin.

3. The difficulty of doing well.

4. The dulness of our understanding in the things of God.

5. Perpetual self-conflict.

6. Racking solicitude of cares.

7. Multiplicity of passions.

8. Retardation of our glory.

(Bishop Hall.)

You that carry flesh and blood about with you, and sinful natures, and do perceive the conflicts of the flesh against the spirit, weigh with yourselves what it is the flesh conflicts with you for: it is no less than for the immortal soul, as the Apostle Peter tells you, "I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." The flesh aims to damn the soul. It is in this con, flict, as Caesar said in the battle he had once in Africa with the children and partakers of Pompey, that, in other battles, he was wont to fight for glory, but there and then he was obliged to fight for his life. Remember thy precious soul lies at stake in this conflict.

(Christopher Lowe.)

A gossamer thread is attached to an arrow, and shot through the air unseen, over an impassable chasm. Fixed on the other side it is sufficient to draw over a cord. The cord draws over a rope, the rope draws over a bridge, by which a highway is opened to all comers. Thus is the gulf passed that lies between the goodly character of a youth fresh from his father's family, and the daring heights of iniquity on which veteran libertines stand. "Out of the heart," said He who knows it, "proceed evil thoughts." Yes, but what come out next? "Murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." A horrible gang. How quickly they come on. Once the fountain were cleansed, the streams of life would be pure. So thought David, when, in an agony of grief, he cried, " Create in me a clean heart, O God."

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

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