I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.…
I. IN EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN THE RULING POWER IN HIM DELIGHTS IN THE LAW OF GOD.
1. The new nature cannot sin because it is born of God. We are made partakers of the Divine nature, and therefore delight in the law of God.
(1) We would not wish to have one syllable of that law altered, though it condemns us. We perceive it not as truth established by investigation, but as truth all radiant, shining in its own majesty.
(2) Nor would we have the spirituality of the law in any degree compromised. We are not only pleased with the law as we read it, but with the very spirit of the law. He never thinks that God is too exacting.
(3) We desire to have no dispensation from the law. In the Church of Rome indulgences are regarded as a blessing. We ask no such favour. A license even for a moment would be but a liberty to leave the paths of light and peace to wander in darkness and danger.
(4) We desire to keep the law according to the mind of God. If it were proposed to us that we should have whatever we should ask for, the gift we should crave beyond every other is holiness.
2. Now, every Christian that has that desire within his soul will never be satisfied until that desire is fulfilled, and —
(1) This shows that we delight in the law of God after the inward man.
(2) This, however, is proved in a more practical way when the Christian overcomes many of the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Often in striving to be holy he has to put himself to much stern self-denial; but he does it cheerfully. When a man is willing to bear reproach for righteousness sake, then it is that the man gives proof that he delights in the law of God.
II. WHERE THERE IS THIS DELIGHT IN THE LAW OF GOD, YET THERE IS ANOTHER LAW IN THE MEMBERS CONFLICTING WITH IT. Paul could see it first, and then he had to encounter it, and at length to some extent he was enthralled by it.
1. There is in each one of us a law of sin.
(1) It may be seen even when it is not in operation, if our eyes are lightened. Whenever I hear a man say he has no propensity to sin, I infer at once that he does not live at home. Sometimes it is dormant. Gunpowder is not always exploding, but it is always explosive. The viper may be coiled up doing no damage; but it hath a deadly virus beneath its fangs.
(2) Sin generally breaks forth suddenly, taking us by surprise.
(3) But note when there is most money in the house, then is the likeliest time for thieves to break in; and when there is most grace in the soul the devil will try to assault it. Pirates were not accustomed to attack vessels when they went out to fetch gold from the Indies: they always waylaid them when they were coming home. Let us be more watchful than in seasons of tranquility.
(4) It is remarkable how sin will show itself in the holiest of duties. When you feel that you ought to pray, do you not find sometimes an unwillingness? When your soul is led away with thoughts of things Divine, straight across your soul there comes a bad thought. Or perhaps you get through your devotion with much delight in God; but presently there steals over your mind a self-satisfaction that you have prayed so well that you must be growing in grace. Perhaps, again, you did not feel any liberty in prayer, and then you will murmur you might as well give up praying.
2. And this law in his members "wars against the law of the mind." There must be two sides to a war.
(1) We have known this warfare on this wise. A wrong desire has come and we have utterly loathed it, but it has followed us again and again. We have been harassed with doubts, yet the more bitterly we, have detested them the more relentlessly they have pursued us. Mayhap, a hideous sentiment is wrapped up in a neat epigram, and then it will haunt the memory, and we shall strive to dislodge it in vain.
(2) Whence these evils? Sometimes from Satan; but most commonly temptation derives strength as well as opportunity from the moods or habits to which our own constitution is prone.
(3) But the war carried on by this evil nature is not always by the continual besieging of the soul, at times it tries to take us by assault. When we are off our guard up it will come and attack us.
3. This warring brought Paul into captivity to the law of sin. Not that he means he wandered into immoralities. No observer may have noticed any fault in the apostle's character, but he could see it in himself. It is a captivity like that of the Israelites in Babylon itself when a child of God is suffered to fall into some great sin. But, long before it comes to that pass, this law of sin brings us unto captivity in other respects. While you are contending against inbred sin doubts will invade your heart. Surely if I were a child of God I should not be hampered in devotion or go to a place of worship and feel no enjoyment. Oh, what a captivity the soul is brought into when it allows inbred sin to cast any doubts upon its safety in Christ.
III. IT IS SOME COMFORT THAT THIS WAR IS AN INTERESTING PHASE OF CHRISTIAN EVIDENCE. Such as are dead in sin have never made proof of any of these things. These inward conflicts show that we are alive. The strong man while he keeps the house will keep it in peace. It is when a stronger than he comes to eject him that there is a fight. Do not be depressed about it. The best of God's saints have suffered in this very same manner. Look up yonder to those saints in their white robes! Ask them whence their victory came. The richest consolation comes from the last verse. Though the fight may be long and arduous, the result is not doubtful. You will have to get to heaven fighting for every inch of the way; but you will get there.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.