“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” Romans 7:18
The Lord will cause His people to know their total weakness and insufficiency to keep themselves, and that, too, not notionally, not theoretically, nor from what they hear, or from what they read, but from their own deep personal experience of the truth: yes, He is perpetually causing them to learn it. I do not allude merely to that blessed period when the Holy Spirit first lays His axe at the fabric of their self-righteousness- truly they first learn it then- but it is a truth they become growingly acquainted with; it is a lesson they are made daily to learn; and he becomes the most perfectly schooled in it, who watches most narrowly his own heart, is most observant of his own way, and deals most constantly and simply with the cross of Jesus.
With regard to the way which the Lord adopts to bring them into the knowledge of it, it is various. Sometimes it is by bringing them into great straits and difficulties, hedging up their path with thorns, or paving it with flints. Sometimes it is in deep adversity after great prosperity, as in the case of Job, stripped of all, and laid in dust and ashes, in order to be brought to the conviction and the confession of deep and utter vileness. Sometimes it is in circumstances of absolute prosperity, when He gives the heart its desire, but sends leanness into the soul. Oh, how does this teach a godly man his own utter nothingness! Sometimes it is by permitting the messenger of Satan to buffet- sending and perpetuating some heavy, lingering, lacerating cross. Sometimes by the removal of some beloved prop, on which we too fondly and securely leaned- putting a worm at the root of our pleasant out-spreading gourd, drying up our refreshing spring, or leading us down deep into the valley of self-abasement and humiliation.
But the great school in which we learn this painful yet needed and wholesome lesson, is in the body of sin which we daily bear about with us. It was here Paul learned his lesson, as the seventh chapter of his letter to the Church at Rome shows, and for which Epistle the saints of God will ever have reason to praise and adore the blessed and eternal Spirit. In this school and in this way did the great apostle of the Gentiles learn that the most holy, deeply taught, useful, privileged, and even inspired saint of God was in himself nothing but the most perfect weakness and sin.
Do not be cast down, dear reader, if the Lord the Spirit is teaching you the same lesson in the same way; if He is now ploughing up the hidden evil, breaking up the fallow ground, discovering to you more of the evil principle of your heart, the iniquity of your fallen nature, and that, too, it may be, at a time of deep trial, of heavy, heart-breaking affliction. Ah! you are ready to exclaim, “All these things are against me. Am I a child of God ? Can I be a subject of grace, and at the same time be the subject of so much hidden evil, and of such deep, overwhelming trial? Is this the way He deals with His people?”
Yes, dear believer, you are not solitary nor alone; for along this path all the covenant people of God are traveling to their better and brighter home. Here they become acquainted with their own weakness, their perpetual liability to fall; here they renounce their former thoughts of self-power and of self-keeping; and here, too, they learn more of Jesus as their strength, their all-sufficient keeper, more of Him as their “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” Cheer up, then, for the Lord your God is leading you on by a safe and a right way to bring you to a city of rest.