Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

Indwelling sin

There is a mysterious wisdom in the way of God with his people—to whom he grants to know but in part, and to be renewed but in part. Were they, while here, wholly delivered from sin, and had the unclouded vision of his glorious face, and full communion with God—there would be nothing reserved for the day of glory. It is with them, therefore, as with ancient Israel, among whom God wisely left some of the heathen nations undestroyed—to excite their faith, and stir up their endeavors to extirpate them, and to be a means of preserving them from sinning with security and impunity.

Now, God has promised to subdue all our sins, and so he does—that they shall never condemn us. But such is the corruption of nature, which is sanctified but in part, and of creatures who know but in part, that it is rare to be holy and humble, to be full of God, and empty of ourselves. Even the great apostle Paul, after he had been with God, in a special manner, and seen unutterable glories in the highest heavens—had a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure with the divine vision. A humbling change this! to come from heaven—to combat with hell!

Our very critical situation in this world should keep us humble. Corrupt nature, like weeds among flowers, is ready to spring up with every refreshing shower of grace—if not into acts of sin, yet into pride, self-conceit, and security. When we see things above us, we are ready, through the mists of remaining corruption, to forget ourselves—and provoke God to show ourselves unto ourselves, that we may not be puffed up with ourselves. For to the high and lofty One, who delights to dwell with the humble, nothing is more abominable than pride, and no pride more odious to him than spiritual pride. The soldier that is no match for his enemies will always keep in the camp, and under protection of his general; so the believer must dwell by faith, if he would be secure, under the shadow of the Almighty.

But it is impossible for us to be delivered wholly from indwelling sin in this world. For,

1. This would be turning earth into heaven, grace into glory, and time into eternity—before the great day of judgment. We must not be crowned with victory until we come off the field of battle; and this we cannot leave until our enemies are subdued before us, or we taken hence in triumph from them. We are still in the dominions of him who is the god of this world, in the territories of the prince of the power of the air; and he will always be seeking whom he may devour—until the God of peace bruises Satan under our feet—until the old serpent is eternally bound, and cast into the burning lake.

2. Were there no indwelling sin, no remains of corruption in the justified, sanctification could not be progressive. But here "the path of the just is like the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day."

3. Were saints from the first moment of their conversion set free from all sin, where would the divine victories of all-triumphant grace be—by which God is glorified, and the saints prepared for the better inheritance? Had not an enemy, and a giant too, defiled the armies of Israel, the power and goodness of God could not have been displayed in killing him. So the divinity of grace, in babes of the heavenly family, shines in this—that they are enabled to resist temptations from the same deceiving serpent who beguiled our first parents in the state of innocence; that they are enabled to wrestle, not against flesh and blood—but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places.

4. Were the case so with the saints, the book of life would in effect, be laid open to the eyes of men, who would foresee the judgment which belongs to God alone. But indwelling sin, though subdued, is not slain, and therefore breaks out in such a manner, even sometimes in eminent saints, as gives the enemy occasion to reproach; and also makes them doubt of their own state themselves—until God deals again with them after his loving-kindness and tender mercies. Now, in the eyes of the poor penitent—a compassionate, returning, and forgiving God—is dear, beloved, and amiable beyond expression, and divine things shine with an additional luster. Thus, even indwelling sin, contrary to its own nature, advances the glory of God, and the good of the soul.

5. Indwelling sin, or the remains of corruption in the greatest saints, makes them sympathize with others. They are men, and not angels; so that they are to remember, not only those who suffer affliction—but those who are overtaken with a fault, as being yet in the body. Yes what comfort would it be to poor sinners, if salvation were preached to them by any other than men of like natures, like infirmities, and like passions with themselves? How is our consolation heightened to hear them speak from experience, as Paul: "I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate"—in comparison of angelic harangues on the beauty and excellency of perfection and innocence!

6. Indwelling sin keeps us humble and watchful; makes us cleave more closely to Christ; makes us endeavor to make our calling and election sure; excites us to work while the day lasts, before the night shall come, wherein no man can work.

7. Indwelling sin makes us go entirely out of ourselves into Christ, and ascribe the whole of our salvation to free grace.

8. Thereby we learn the goodness of God in making his grace sufficient for us, and his strength perfect in weakness. Also, we are filled with wonder at the riches of his grace—who is glorified to the highest in his patience towards offending sons, and his repeated pardons of their daily sins.

Lastly, It makes, at least should make, us long much for that day when sin shall cease, and imperfection be swallowed up of permanent likeness to the divine image—when all our failings shall pass away, while we are lost in the overflowings of divine glory, and replenished with all in the fullness of God, fixed n a state from which we cannot fall—and satiated with eternal pleasures!