Secondly. If this be the work of the Spirit alone, how is it that we
are exhorted to it? — seeing the Spirit of God only can do it, let the
work be left wholly to him. GOOD QUESTION!
[1.] It is no otherwise the work of the Spirit but as all graces and
good works which are in us are his. He “works in us to will and to do
of his own good pleasure,” Phil. 2:13; he works “all our works in
us,” Isa. 26:12, — “the work of faith with power,” 2 Thess. 1:11,
Col. 2:12; he causes us to pray, and is a “Spirit of supplication,”
Rom. 8:26, Zech. 12:10; and yet we are exhorted, and are to be
exhorted, to all these.
[2.] YET…He does not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it
still an act of our obedience. The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us,
as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our
own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings,
wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he
works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that his
assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and
no occasion of neglect as to the work itself. And, indeed, I might here
bewail the endless, foolish labour of poor souls, who, being convinced
of sin, and not able to stand against the power of their convictions,
do set themselves, by innumerable perplexing ways and duties, to keep
down sin, but, being strangers to the Spirit of God, all in vain. They
combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery all
their days. They spend their strength for that which is not bread, and
their labour for that which profits not.
This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A
soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight
against sin, but has no strength for the combat. They cannot but
fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the
sword of enemies on purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and
sin beats them back. Sometimes they think, indeed, that they have
foiled sin, when they have only raised a dust that they see it not;
that is, they distemper their natural affections of fear, sorrow, and
anguish, which makes them believe that sin is conquered when it is not
touched. By that time they are cold, they must to the battle again; and
the lust which they thought to be slain appears to have had no wound.
And if the case be so sad with them who do labour and strive, and yet
enter not into the kingdom, what is their condition who despise all
this; who are perpetually under the power and dominion of sin, and love
to have it so; and are troubled at nothing, but that they cannot make
sufficient provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof?
Great stuff Mr Owen!