Does anyone read these words who is trying to struggle from the natural life into the spiritual, by "some other way" than this way of the Cross? It is as impossible as it would be to pass from to-day into to-morrow except through the night. Your battling is a battling against God. Yield and come to His terms. Yield now.
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But blessed as it is, this passage into a life of peace with Him, woe to the soul that stops there, thinking that the goal is reached, and dwindles, so to speak, into a stunted bud. Holiness, not safety, is the end of our calling.
And so it comes to pass that a fresh need for deliverance is soon pressed upon him who is true to God's voice in his heart. The two lives are there together, one new-born and feeble, the other strong with an earlier growth. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh," and the will power is distracted between the two, like the sap that flows partly into the old condemned leaves, partly into the fresh buds. Consequently there is the strife of a kingdom divided against itself: sometimes the one life grows and flourishes, sometimes the other; sometimes they struggle on side by side, till the cry is forced out -- "Oh, wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me?"
And here again, when the point of self-despair is reached, and we come to see that our efforts after holiness are as vain as our efforts after acceptance with God, the door of escape opens afresh.
For there is glory be to God, a definite way out from the prison life of sruggling and failure, sinning and repenting, wherein many a soul beats its wings for years after the question of pardon has been settled. And that way is again the way of death.
A stage of dying must come over the plant before the new leaves can grow and thrive. There must be a deliberate choice between the former growth and the new; one must give way to the other; the acorn has to come to the point where it ceases to keep its rag of former existence, and lets everything go to the fresh shoot: the twig must withdraw its sap from last year's leaf, and let it flow into this year's bud.
And before the soul can really enter upon a life of holiness, with all its blessed endless possibilities, a like choice must be made: all known sin must be deliberately given up, that the rising current may have its full play.
"But," you say, "I have tried again and again to give up sin: I have prayed, and I have resolved, but the will finds its way back into the old channels, and is keeping alive the past before I know it."
Look at our parable. If you picked off one of the dead leaves and examined the leaf-stalk through a microscope, you would find that the old channel is silted up by a barrier invisible to the naked eye. The plant has shut the door on the last year's leaf, condemning it to decay, and soon without further effort the stalk loosens, the winds of God play around it, and it falls away.
But where is the barrier that we can place between ourselves and the old nature? Where is the sentence of death that we can pass upon it?
Back to the Cross again! It is there, within our reach. "Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin; for he that is dead is freed from sin."