The Spirit convinceth of sin
When the Spirit is come,” saith our Saviour, “he will reprove the world of sin.” Sin is already in the world, but the world sees it not. “Every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually.” As every imagination, and every thought is only evil, there is nothing within us, by which evil can be discovered and condemned; for it will neither discover nor condemn itself. It is light only that can discover the hidden things of darkness; but within us, in our natural state, there is no light. We are “darkness,” and we “sit” in darkness, contented and satisfied with the state in which we are; we see not the evil of it, nor seek any deliverance out of it. There are indeed, as to most, some gleams of natural light remaining in the conscience, which may be strengthened and improved by education, instruction, and example; but at best they are but faint, and the knowledge they convey, is merely intellectual, floating in the head, vague, uncertain, and unaffecting; the heart continuing still as dark and unknown as ever. This light never did nor can discover sin to be sin, to be what it really is, “exceeding sinful.” Both the discovery it makes of sin, and the sentence it passes on it, are unfruitful and useless: it neither truly humbles us on its account, nor causes us to flee from it. It may make us fearful and uneasy; but it will not make us repent and turn from it to the living God. But when the Spirit enters the heart, with the glass of the law, as it were, in his hand, and shews sin in this glass, then we see it to be sin; to be “exceeding sinful; “far beyond all imagination sinful, so that the mind is overwhelmed with the vastness of its guilt.
Sin is in general within us without the law. So the apostle saith, “I was alive without the law once;” that is, he was alive in sin and self-confidence, without any spiritual knowledge of or attention to the law, which condemns it. But the law may also be with us—in our hands and in our heads; and we yet, not knowing its extent and spirituality, continue ignorant of the true nature of sin. It is holding a glass before us in the dark, which cannot discover our wrinkles and deformities. We may fancy, be cause we see none, that we have none. The truth is we have no light to see our true figure. But when we view ourselves in the glass of the law by the light of the Spirit, then we see what we are, how corrupt and deformed; we then see sin to be sin, that it is exceeding sinful. When the commandment thus comes, and sin is beheld by the light of the Spirit, then sin revives, appears in a far different light to our mind; and we feel it by its power working, and by the authority of the law condemning; for the strength of sin is the law. Not some gross outward sins only are discovered, but the Spirit enters the deepest recesses of the heart with the law, as it were, in his hand ; he goes from chamber to chamber, searches every corner, discovers, tries and condemns secret lusts and spiritual filthiness, totally unknown and unthought of before. And as these secret lusts are discovered and condemned, the curse due to each is awfully pronounced, with divine authority, in the name of the eternal God. And as our sins are thus gradually discovered, and brought to light, as to their number, nature, and guilt, the soul sees condemnation still enlarging before it, the curses of the law sound louder and more terrible, and the scene becomes exceedingly dreadful every sin appears far greater than was ever before thought of, and their number becomes infinitely in creased. The individual would willingly turn his eyes from such wretchedness, would extinguish the light which discovers it, or would by some means take a brighter view of these dreadful objects but all he can do is fruitless. He would forget his sins; but he cannot. He would excuse and palliate his offences, or seek some goodness to balance them; but this also is impossible. The law comes still more home; and light, clearer and brighter, shines upon the mind, discovering and condemning every evil thought, every sinful imagination. He may and will resist these convictions; “for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit; “but it will be “hard to kick against the pricks,” when the Spirit worketh effectually, making known the exceeding greatness of his power in enlightening the understanding to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin. When the Spirit thus worketh, what discoveries does He make! What infinite guilt does He shew to be in every spot and stain of sin! With what horror and amazement does the awakened sinner view his own pride, seeing it as comprehending all the atheism and enmity against God, which actuate the inhabitants of hell! Envy, malice, and revenge, the natural off spring of pride, he now sees to be the very tempers and dispositions of the Devil himself, lie now sees and feels the force of the command—” Thou shalt not covet;” and by it lust is made known to him in all its greatness and guilt. His careless neglect and disregard of God, in what light does he view it! To live without thoughts of God, the Spirit within us condemns as practical atheism; and to think of him at all without the profoundest reverence and the deepest humility, without supreme love and sub mission, appears not much better. When the Spirit shews sin to be sin, every frame of mind unsuitable to the divine majesty and purity is exceedingly felt and lamented: shame, sorrow, and indignation, the deepest self-abasement and abhorrence, weigh down the soul, and humble it to the dust. Yes, there is a sort of infinity in the abasement of the soul, when the Spirit shews sin to be sin; he would still be more humble, and sink, were it possible, still deeper; he grieves, because he cannot grieve more; he abhors himself, because he cannot be still more detestable in his own sight. He sees an infinity of evil in sin, which he cannot fully comprehend, any more than he can the holiness of the law, or the great-ness of God, against whom it is committed. He would therefore that his sorrow, humility, and self-abasement, should bear some proportion to it.
This is not a frame of mind which is only once known,
when the sinner is first awakened; but is in an increasing degree his
frame of mind, as he grows in holiness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost.
So far is it from being inconsistent with his comforts, it heightens his
joys, sweetens his consolations, and effectually promotes holiness.
Without this, all fancied joy and peace is a delusion; and all imagined
holiness has no existence but in the pride and darkness of our own
deceived hearts. This is the only frame of mind that can fit us to receive
blessings from Christ, and to walk humbly with him, who “filleth the
hungry with good things, but sendeth the rich empty away,” who “giveth
grace to the humble, but seeth the proud afar off.” This conviction of sin
is, whilst in this world, for ever deeper, clearer, and more abiding, as
the believer enjoys nearer communion with God, and grows in faith, love,
and peace. And without the continual communion of the Spirit, thus with
us, walking humbly with God is impossible. (Edward Morgan, “Thomas
Charles’ Spiritual Counsels”, Essay 3)
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