"O wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?" Romans 7:24
This is the language of the apostle Paul, and conveys to
the mind some idea of the strong inward conflict he endured. He
speaks in the first person singular all through the passage, and uses
language which it is difficult to misunderstand, unless the mind is
prejudiced against the truth. Here is . . .
Paul's heart laid open,
the working of his mind set forth,
the conflict in his bosom exposed!
Here is the flesh was warring against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh — so that he could not do the things he would. He delighted in the law of God, which none but a Christian can do. He panted for holiness as with every breath — but he felt evil working in his nature, and sometimes prevailing against him, and he cries out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
He was burdened — and he groaned being burdened.
But his burden was nothing external — he could triumph over all his external trials, and say, "None of these things move me!"
Nor was his burden his natural body — which he inhabited as a poor and uncomfortable tabernacle.
But it was the corruption of his nature; the plague of the heart; the law in his members, warring against the law of his mind! And this, like a dead corpse fastened to a living body — was weighty, loathsome, deadly, and a constant hindrance to him! It was the consequence of Adam's sin! And is was the mainspring of his life! It was a corrupt flowing fountain sending out streams of corruption, which defile the thoughts, desires, motives, plans, affections, and activities.
Its parts, are the lusts of the flesh working
powerfully; its tendency, is to eternal death, or separation from
God; and while it is a part of the Christian, he renounces it, disowns it,
and says, "It is no more I — but sin which dwells in me!" Still it . . .
binds him down to earth,
hinders him in every holy exercise,
depresses him and sinks his spirit in gloom,
unfits him for the enjoyment of the high and holy privileges of the gospel,
and causes him in bitterness of soul to cry, "O wretched man that I am!"
But we are not to suppose the Apostle was positively
unhappy — for he was not. He was delivered from guilt; and though
occasionally overcome by sin, he was not a slave to sin — but a son of God,
by faith in Christ Jesus. Still he felt . . .
and pollution flowing!
These things hindered him.
They were powerful — and he hated them!
They put him to grief and pain — and
as a person grieved in spirit — he groaned;
as one opposed — he wrestled;
as one in pain, he sighed for ease;
as sorrowful, he pined for comfort;
as wearied, he longed for rest;
as unable to deliver himself, he applied to his God;
as conscious that it would last through life, he cried, "O wretched man that I am!"
"Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?" He knew who would deliver him — and he thanks God for it. This statement is not the language of ignorance — but of impassioned desire. He longs for deliverance, and that, because he knew that his God hated sin, and his one ruling desire was to please God in an things!
He found also, that his burden prevented or interrupted his fellowship with God; and being led away by its effect sometimes, his Father hid His face from him. His evident love to holiness had become natural; consequently his hatred to sin, in every shape and form, especially in himself — was strong and painful. He found also, that sin dwelling in him, unfitted him for those high and holy duties which devolved upon him; and indisposed him occasionally for attending to them. It led him into evil, and gave Satan and the world a degree of power over him. All which things raised in his soul a burning desire for entire deliverance from this life that is dominated by sin, this fountain of impurity, this law in the members; and therefore he cries out, "Who shall deliver me?"
See, my Christian reader, the nature and tendency of sin — it plagued, pained, hindered, and caused an Apostle to call himself a wretched man! See also what we are to expect below — even sorrow, grief, hindrances, and pains! The sinful body will burden us, press us down, and cause us sometimes to long to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
Believer, your case is not singular, or new; but your
experience is the experience of all the saints, even of those who were most
highly favored! Paul himself . . .
felt just as you feel,
groaned as you groan, and
longed for deliverance as you do now.
Nothing effects the true believer — so painfully as sin! And when his conduct is so correct, that those around him can see no cause for sorrow or complaint — he feels enough to mourn over, on account of the sin that dwells in him.
"Why should a soul redeemed with blood,
Called by grace and born of God,
Feel a perpetual war within,
'Twixt reigning grace — and dwelling sin?
'Tis but to make him every day
From self, to Jesus turn away;
And 'tis a sign of life within,
To groan beneath the load of sin!
Who but the soul who feels his woe,
Will to the blood of sprinkling go?
And seek salvation only there,
From all that he shall feel or fear!"