Growing worse?

(John Angell James, "Christian Progress" 1853)

One of the last lessons we effectually learn, is
that true godliness is a constant conflict in a
believer's heart--between sin and holiness.

Some sincere believers mistake a clearer view, and
deeper sense of their depravity, for an actual increase
of sin. The Christian seems sometimes to himself, to
be growing worse, when actually it is only that he
sees more clearly what in fact he really is!

In the early stages of our Christian life, we have
usually but a slender acquaintance with the evil
of our sinfulness, and the depravity of our heart.
The mind is so much taken up with pardon and
eternal life, that it is but imperfectly acquainted
with those depths of deceit and wickedness,
which lie hidden in itself.

At first we seem to feel as if the serpent were killed.
But we soon find that he was only asleep--for by the
warmth of some fiery temptation, he is revived and
hisses at us again!


Nothing astonishes an inexperienced believer more
than the discoveries he is continually making of the
evils of his heart. Corruptions which he never dreamt to
be in him, are brought out by some new circumstances.

It is like turning up the soil, which brings out worms
and insects, which did not appear upon the surface.

Or to vary the illustration, his increasing knowledge
of God's holy nature, of the perfect law, and the
example of Christ--is like opening the shutters, and
letting light into a dark room, the filth of which,
the inhabitant did not see until the sunbeams
disclosed it to him.