Signs of and hindrances to progressive sanctification.
A reading of John Owen’s work on the Holy Spirit and Progressive Sanctification, its hindrances and evidences.
Sept 11 1836 I am sometimes almost desperate to find myself in such an awful condition, and yet, as it seems to me, so utterly without power to extricate myself from that which I hate. Oh, that the Lord Jesus would stretch out His almighty arm, and deliver me from the infidelity, unbelief, and other abominations of my evil heart, which seem to triumph over me. I often wonder what the Lord intends to do with me, and fear I am only drying, as it were, for everlasting burnings! The very vitals of my soul seem scorched up by the heat of temptation and corruption, so that I shrivel in selfish misery, and would sometimes be shut out from society, because I am unfit for it. None, or very few, drink the same bitter cup as myself, the most noxious ingredient in which is, my own sinfulness; for, as Moses burnt the calf, and ground it to powder, and then made those who had sinned by it, to drink it; so it seems with me, my sins are my daily and sorrowful portion. The Lord have mercy upon me, and pardon my ingratitude, murmuring, and unbelief, for Christ’s sake.
The efficacy of the fear of Hell, to restrain men from sin. Shewed in a sermon before the inferiour court in Northampton, Decem. 3d, 1712. : Together with the benefit of the Gospel, to those that are wounded in spirit. Shewed in several sermons, from Luke 4th. 18, 19. On the occasion of a more than ordinary pouring out of the spirit of God. / By Solomon Stoddard, Pastor of Northampton.
The efficacy of the fear of Hell, to restrain men from sin. Shewed in a sermon before the inferior court in Northampton, December 3rd, 1712. : Together with the benefit of the Gospel, to those that are wounded in spirit. Shewed in several sermons, from Luke 4th. 18, 19. On the occasion of a more than ordinary pouring out of the spirit of God. / By Solomon Stoddard, Pastor of Northampton.
From what hath been spoken it will ensue, that, if there be such a law in believers, it is doubtless their duty to find it out, to find it so to be. The more they find its power, the less they will feel its effects. It will not at all advantage a man to have an hectical distemper and not to discover it, — a fire lying secretly in his house and not to know it. So much as men find of this law in them, so much they will abhor it and themselves, and no more.
Proportionably also to their discovery of it will be their earnestness for grace, nor will it rise higher.
Gradually the glow of fervent affections subsides. Worldly pursuits, even the most lawful and necessary, steal away the heart; and various perplexing entanglements beset the inexperienced traveler. He begins to see that there were many things faulty in his early course. He blames his own weakness or enthusiasm; and in avoiding one extreme he easily falls into the opposite, to which human nature has a strong bias. He enters into more company with the world and, of course, imbibes insensibly some portion of its spirit. This has a deadening effect on his pious feelings; and his devotions become less fervent and less punctual; and far more interrupted with vain, wandering thoughts, than before. He is apt to fall into a hasty or formal attendance on the daily duties of the closet, and a little matter will sometimes lead him to neglect these precious seasons of grace. A strange forgetfulness of the presence of God, and of his accountableness for every thought, word, and action, seizes upon him. Close self-examination becomes painful and, when attempted, is unsuccessful.
Plumer’s comments on Hebrews 3:7-19
The security of all flesh is wonderous great, for there is a fearful sleep fallen both upon the good and the evil. The foolish virgins are sound asleep, and the wise are asleep also. And suppose the Lord be at the door, and the hour of judgment at hand, and the seventh angel ready to blow the last trumpet, when time shall be no more; yet it is scarcely one of a thousand, yea, one of ten thousand, is to be found that is prepared, and busying themselves to meet the Lord, who is making speed to come in the clouds: and how soon that fire shall break forth, which shall kindle the heavens above your head, and the earth under your feet, and shall set all on fire; how soon the trumpet shall blow, and the shout shall cry, “Rise, Dead, and come to judgment,” is only known to God, and to no mortal man. Will ye not then be wakened till this trumpet waken you?
THE third success of the deceit of sin in its progressive work is the
conception of actual sin. When it hath drawn the mind off from its duty, and entangled the affections, it proceeds to conceive sin in order to the bringing of it forth: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.”
Now, the conception of sin, in order unto its perpetration, can be nothing but the consent of the will; for as without the consent of the will sin cannot be committed, so where the will hath consented unto it, there is nothing in the soul to hinder its actual accomplishment.