What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:
~ 1 Kings 8:38
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
~ Ezekiel 9:4
I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.
~ Psalm 119:131
Saying, God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him; for there is none to deliver him.
~ Psalm 71:11
He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
~ Micah 7:19
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
~ Romans 6:6
Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.
~ Psalm 88:5
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
~ Romans 6:14
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:57
The Work of This Enmity Against God, By Opposition, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from Chapter Six of his work, “Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers”. 1667.
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord
—Rom 7:24, 25
The work of this enmity against God, by opposition — First, It lusts — What the lusting of sin consists of — It surprises the soul — Our readiness to close with temptations — Secondly, Its fighting and warring — 1. In rebellion against the law of grace — 2. In assaulting the soul.
It has been declared how this enmity works by aversion; and also the means that the soul is to use to prevent its effects and prevalence. The second way by which it exerts itself is opposition. Enmity will oppose and contend with whatever it is at enmity with. This is so in things that are natural, and things that are moral: just as light opposes darkness, and heat opposes cold, so virtue and vice oppose each other. So is it with sin and grace. The apostle says, “These are contrary to one another,” Gal 5:17;1 — They are placed and set in mutual opposition, and that opposition is continual and constant,2 as we will see.
Now, there are two ways by which enemies manage their opposition — first by force; and secondly, by fraud and deceit. So when the Egyptians became enemies to the children of Israel, and managed their enmity against them, Exo 1:10, Pharaoh says, “Let us deal wisely with this people,” or rather, “let us deal cunningly and subtly;” for this is how Stephen describes the event with respect to this word “wisely,” Acts 7:19;3 he uses katasophizomai 4 — i.e., Pharaoh used “all manner of fraudulent sophistry.” And to this deceit, the Egyptians added force in their grievous oppressions. This is the way and manner of things where there is a prevailing enmity; and both these are made use of by the law of sin in its enmity against God and our souls.
I will begin with the first, by force, or enmity’s acting, as it were, in downright open opposition to God and his law, or to the good that a believing soul would do in obedience to God and his law. And in this whole matter we must be careful to steer our course rightly, taking the Scripture as our guide, with spiritual reason and experience as our companions. For there are many shelves 5 in our course which must diligently be avoided, so that none who consider these things be troubled without cause, or comforted without a just foundation.
In this first way by which this sin exerts its enmity in opposition — namely, by force or strength — there are four things, expressing so many distinct degrees in its progress and procedure in pursuit of its enmity: —
First, Its general inclination: It “lusts,” Gal 5:17.6
Secondly, Its particular way of contending: It “fights or wars,” Rom 7:23; Jas 4:1; 1Pet 2:11.7
Thirdly, Its success in this contest: It “brings the soul into captivity to the law of sin,” Rom 7:23.
1 Allh,loij avnti,keitai. allelois antikeitai (NT:240,480)
2 That is, ongoing and fixed.
3 Act 7:19 This man dealt treacherously (katasophizomai) with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live.
4 katasofisa,menoj, katasophizamenos (NT:2686)
5 A projecting ridge on a mountain or submerged under water.
6 Gal 5:17 For the flesh LUSTS against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
7 Rom 7:23 But I see another law in my members, WARRING against the law of my mind, and bringing me into CAPTIVITY to the law of sin which is in my members. Jas 4:1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that WAR in your members? 1Pet 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which WAR against the soul,
Fourthly, Its growth and rage upon success: It comes to “madness,” as an enraged enemy will do, Ecc 9:3.1
All of which we must address in order.
FIRST, In general sin is said to lust: Gal 5:17, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit.” This word expresses the general nature of that opposition which the law of sin makes against God and the rule of his Spirit, or against grace in those who believe; and therefore, the least degree of that opposition is expressed by this. When sin does anything, it lusts — burning is the general acting of fire: whatever else it does, fire also burns. When fire does anything, it burns; and when the law of sin does anything, it lusts.
Hence, all the actings of this law of sin are called “The lusts of the flesh:” Gal 5:16, “You shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh;” Rom 13:14, “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Nor are these lusts of the flesh only those by which men act out their sensuality in riot, drunkenness, uncleanness, and the like; but they comprehend all the actings of the law of sin whatsoever, in all the faculties and affections of the soul. Thus, in Eph 2:3 are mentioned the desires, or wills, or “lusts of the mind,” as well as of the “flesh.” The mind, the most spiritual part of the soul, has its lusts, no less than the sensual appetite has them, which is sometimes more properly called the “flesh.” And in the products of these lusts, there are “defilements of the spirit” as well as of the “flesh,”2 — that is, defilements of the mind and understanding, as well of the appetite and affections, and of the body that attends to their service.
And our holiness consists in the blamelessness of all these:
1Thes 5:23, “The God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God, your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Indeed, the “flesh” in this matter means the whole old man, or the law of sin: John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” — that is, it is all flesh, and nothing else; and whatever remains of the old nature in the new man, is flesh still. And this flesh lusts — this law of sin does so. This is the general basis and foundation of all its opposition to God. And it does this in two ways: —
1. In a hidden, close propensity to all evil. This lies in it habitually. While a man is in the state of nature, fully under the power and dominion of this law of sin, it is said that “every figment of his heart is evil, and that is continually,” Gen 6:5. It can frame, fashion, produce, or act out nothing except what is evil; because this habitual propensity to evil that is in the law of sin, is absolutely predominant in such a person. It is in the heart like poison that has nothing to allay its venomous qualities; and so it infects whatever it touches. And where the power and dominion of sin is broken, yet in its own nature it still has a habitual propensity to what is evil, and this is what its lusting consists of.
But here we must distinguish between the habitual FRAME of the heart, and the natural propensity or the habitual inclination of the LAW OF SIN in the heart. The habitual inclination of the heart is designated by the principle that bears chief or sovereign rule in it; and therefore in believers, it is an inclination to good, to God, to holiness, and to obedience. The heart is not habitually inclined to evil by the remainders of indwelling sin; but this sin in the heart has a constant, habitual propensity to evil in itself, or in its own nature.3 This is what the apostle
1 Ecc 9:3 Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; MADNESS is in their hearts while they live;
2 2Cor 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and
spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
3 Rom 7:17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
intends by evil being present with us: “It is present with me;” Rom 7.21 that is, always present, and for its own end, which is to lust after sin.
Indwelling sin is like a river. While its springs and fountains are open, and waters are continually supplied to its streams, set a dam before it, and it causes the river to rise and swell until it crushes all before it, or it overflows its banks. Let these waters be abated, dried up in some good measure in their springs, and the remainder may be coerced and restrained. But still, as long as there is any running water, it will constantly press upon whatever stands before it, according to its weight and strength, because it is its nature to do so. And if by any means, it makes a passage through, so it will proceed.
So is it with indwelling sin: while its springs and fountains are open, it is in vain for men to set a dam before it by their convictions, resolutions, vows, and promises. They may check it for a while; but it will increase, rise high, and rage at one time or another, until it crushes all those convictions and resolutions, or makes itself an underground passage by some secret lust, that will give full vent to it. But now, suppose that its springs are greatly dried up by regenerating grace, that its streams or actings are abated by holiness — yet, while anything still remains of it, it will constantly press to vent itself, to press forward into actual sin; and this is its lusting.
And this habitual propensity in it is revealed in two ways: —
(1.) In its unexpected surprisals 1 of the soul into foolish, sinful figments and imaginations which it did not look for, nor was any occasion given for them. It is with indwelling sin as it is with the contrary principle of sanctifying grace. Grace gives the soul, if I may say so, many a blessed surprisal. It oftentimes ingenerates and produces a holy, spiritual frame in the heart and mind, when we had no previous rational considerations to work them into it. And this manifests itself as a habitual principle prevailing in the mind: so we read, Song 6:12, “Before I was ever aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib;” that is, free, willing, and ready for communion with Christ.2 “I did not know;” it was done by the power of the Spirit of grace; so that I took no notice of it, as it were, until it was done. The frequent actings of grace in this manner, exciting acts of faith, love, and satisfaction in God, are evidences that it has great strength and prevalence in the soul.
And thus it is with indwelling sin also; before the soul is aware, without any provocation or temptation, when it does not know, it is thrown into a vain and foolish frame. Sin produces its figments secretly in the heart, and prevents the mind’s consideration of what it is about. I mean by this, those actus primo primi, those first acts of the soul which are thus far involuntary, such that they do not have the actual consent of the will to them, but are voluntary as far as sin has its residence in the will. And these surprisals, if the soul is not awake to take speedy care to prevent their tendency, oftentimes set everything on fire, as it were, and engage the mind and affections into actual sin. For just as by grace we are oftentimes, before we are aware, “made like the chariots of a willing people,” and are far engaged in heavenly-mindedness and communion with Christ, making speed in it as in a chariot; so by sin we are oftentimes, before we are aware, carried into distempered affections, foolish imaginations, and pleasing delightfulness in things that are not good or profitable. From this comes that caution of the apostle,
Gal 6:1 — “If a man is surprised unawares 3 with a fault, or in a transgression.”
1 In a military sense: a surprise attack or ambush that shocks and stuns the victim.
2 yTi(.d;y” aOl — Lo’ yada’ti (OT:03045,08804)
3 Ea.n prolhfqh/| ean prolephthe (NT:1437,4301)
I have no doubt that the subtlety of Satan and the power of temptation are taken into consideration here by the apostle, which causes him to express a man’s falling into sin by prolephthe 1 — by surprise — “if he is surprised.” So this working of indwelling sin is to be considered in this surprise also; and that is in the inmost place, without which nothing else could surprise us. For without its help, whatever comes from without — from Satan or the world — must allow for some parley in the mind before it is received; but it is from within, from ourselves, that we are surprised. Hereby are we disappointed and worked over into doing what we would not do, and hindered from doing what we would do.
This is why, when the soul is oftentimes doing quite another thing, as it were, and engaged in quite another design, sin starts what, in its heart or imagination, carries it away into what is evil and sinful. Indeed, to display its power, when the soul is seriously engaged in the mortification of any sin, it will sometimes, by one means or other, lead it away into a dalliance with the very sin whose ruin the soul is seeking, and whose mortification it is engaged in! But because there is a special enticing or entangling in this operation of the law of sin, we will speak to that fully afterward.
Now, these surprisals can be from nothing else than a habitual propensity to evil in the principle from which they proceed — not a habitual inclination to actual sin in the mind or heart, but a habitual propensity to evil in the sin that is (acting) in the mind or heart. This precedes the soul with its intents.2 Some may have observed how much our communion with God is prevented, how many meditations are disturbed, and how much the minds and consciences of men have been defiled, by this acting of sin. I know of no greater burden in the life of a believer than these involuntary surprisals of soul; involuntary, I say, as to the actual consent of the will; but not involuntary in respect to that corruption which is in the will, and which is the principle preceding them. It is in respect to these surprisals that the apostle makes his complaint in Rom 7:24.3
(2.) This habitual inclination manifests itself in its readiness and promptness, without dispute or altercation, to join and close with every temptation by which it may possibly be excited. As we know, it is in the nature of fire to burn, because it immediately lays hold on whatever is combustible. Let any temptation whatsoever be proposed to a man — if it is suitable to what makes it a temptation to his corruptions, in its matter, or in the manner of its proposal — immediately he not only has to deal with the temptation as outwardly proposed, but also with his own heart about it. Without further consideration or debate, the temptation already has a friend within him. Not a moment’s space is given between the proposal, and the necessity that is incumbent on the soul, to look for its enemy within. And this also argues for a constant, habitual propensity to evil.
Our Saviour said of the assaults and temptations of Satan, “The prince of this world comes, but he has no part in me,” John 14:30. He had more temptations, intensively and extensively, in number, quality, and fierceness — from Satan and the world — than any of the sons of men ever had. Yet in all of them, he only had to deal with that which came from without. His holy heart had nothing like them, suited to them, or ready to entertain them: “The prince of this world had nothing in him.” So it was with Adam. When a temptation befell him, he had only the outward proposal to look at — all was well within, until the outward temptation took place and prevailed.
1 prolhfqh/| prolephthe (NT:4301)
2 Originally, “This prevents the soul with its figments.” – prevent in Middle English can mean precede. Figments are thoughts; but in this context, what the soul thinks to do, what it would do, is thwarted by indwelling sin.
3 Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
With us it is not so. In a city that is united in itself, compact and entire, without divisions and parties, if an enemy approaches around it, the rulers and inhabitants have no other thoughts than how they may oppose the enemy without, and resist him in his approaches. But if the city is divided in itself, if there are factions and traitors within, the very first thing they do if they would be safe, is to look for the enemies at home, the traitors within — to cut off the head of Sheba.2Sam 20.22 All was well with Adam within doors when Satan came; so that he had nothing to do but to look for his assaults and approaches. But now, upon the access of any temptation, the soul is instantly to look inside where it will find this traitor at work, coming with the baits of Satan, and stealing away the heart. This it always does, which evinces a habitual inclination.
In Psa 38:17,1 David says, “I am ready to halt,” or ready for halting:2 “I am prepared and disposed to hallucination, to my foot slipping into sin,” verse 16, as he expounds the meaning of that phrase,
Psa 73.2, 3, “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well near slipped. For I was envious of the foolish (the boastful), When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” 3
From indwelling sin there was a continual disposition in him to be slipping, stumbling, or halting, on every occasion or temptation. There is nothing so vain, foolish, ridiculous, absurd, nothing so vile and abominable, nothing so atheistic or execrable, that if proposed to the soul by temptation, this law of sin is not ready to respond to it before it is decried by grace. And this is the first thing in this lusting of the law of sin: — it consists in its habitual propensity to evil, manifesting itself by the involuntary surprisals of the soul to sin, and its readiness, without dispute or consideration, to join in all temptations whatsoever.
2. Its lusting consists in its actual pressing after that which is evil, and actual opposition to that which is good. The former instance showed its constant readiness to this work; this addresses the work itself. It is not only ready, but for the most part it is always engaged. “It lusts,” says the Holy Ghost. It does so continually. It stirs in the soul by one act or another constantly, almost like the spirits in the blood, or the blood in the veins. The apostle calls this, lust’s tempting:
Jas 1:14, “Every man is tempted by his own lust.”
Now, what does it mean to be tempted? It is to have something proposed to a man’s consideration which, if he embraces it, it is evil; it is sin to him. This is sin’s trade: “It lusts.” 4 It is raising up in the heart, and proposing to the mind and affections, that which is evil; it is testing, as it were, whether the soul will accept its suggestions, or how far it will carry them on, even if it does not wholly prevail. Now, when such a temptation comes from without, it is an indifferent thing to the soul — it is neither good nor evil — unless it is consented to; but the very proposal from within, being the soul’s own act, is its sin. And this is the work of the law of sin — to restlessly and continually raise up and propose countless and varying forms and appearances of evil, of this or that kind, indeed of every kind that the nature of man is capable of exercising corruption in. It hatches and proposes to the soul something or other, in matter, or manner, or circumstance, that is inordinate, unspiritual, and unresponsive to the rule. And the apostle may be speaking to this power of sin to produce figments and ideas of actual evil in the heart here:
1 Psa 38:17-18 “For I am ready to halt (or fall), and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin.”
2 !wOkn” (lic,l. ynia)-yKi — ki-’ani letsela’ nakon (OT:03559,08737,06761)
3 In Psalm 38.17-18, we may fall into snares set for us by others; and in this Psalm, we may fall into snares set for us
in our own hearts by indwelling sin.
4 Epiqumei/ epithumei (NT:1937)
1Thes 5:22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1
Keep yourselves from every figment or idea of sin in the heart; For the word used there, eidous, nowhere signifies an outward form or appearance: nor is it the appearance of evil; but it is an evil idea or figment that is intended. And this lusting of sin is that which the prophet expresses in wicked men, in whom the law of sin is predominant:
Isa 57:20, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt;”
This is a most lively similitude; it expresses the lustings of the law of sin, which restlessly and continually bubble up in the heart with wicked, foolish, and filthy imaginations and desires. This, then, is the first thing in the opposition that this enmity makes to God — namely, in its general inclination: it “lusts.”