March 8, 2019 by directorfsm
by John Owen – March 8th, 2019
Dangerous Symptoms (Continued)
e. Sense of punishment
Another dangerous symptom is when it is probable that there is, or may be, some judiciary hardness,(75) or at least chastening punishment, in the lust that is distressing you. That God sometimes leaves even those of His own under the perplexing power at least of some lust or sin to correct them for former sins, negligence, and folly, I no way doubt. Hence was that complaint of the church: “Why hast thou…hardened our heart from thy fear?” (Isa 63:17). That this is His way of dealing with unregenerate men no man questions.
But how shall a man know whether there be anything of God’s chastening hand in his being left to the evil effects of his condition? Answer: Examine your heart and ways. What was the state and condition of your soul before you fell into the entanglements of that sin which now you so complain about? Have you been negligent in duties? Have you lived inordinately to yourself? Is there the guilt of any great sin lying upon you unrepented of? A new sin may be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance.
Have you received any eminent mercy, protection, or deliverance that you did not make good use of in a right manner, nor were thankful for? Or have you been exercised with any affliction without laboring to apply what God intended for it? Or have you been negligent of the opportunities for glorifying God in your generation that, in His good providence, He had graciously afforded to you? Or have you conformed yourself to the world and the men of it, through the abounding of temptations in the days wherein you live? If you find this to have been your state, awake, call upon God. You are fast asleep in a storm of God’s anger round about you!
f. Resisting chastening
A final dangerous symptom of lust or sin is when it has already withstood particular dealings from God against it. This condition is described: “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on forwardly(76) in the way of his heart” (Isa 57:17). God had dealt with them about their prevailing lust, and that in several ways by affliction and desertion; but they held out against all. This is a sad condition, which nothing but mere sovereign grace(77) (as God expresses it in the next verse) can relieve a man in, and which no man ought to promise himself or bear himself upon.
In His providential actions, God oftentimes meets with a man and speaks particularly to the evil of his heart, as He did to Joseph’s brethren in their selling of him into Egypt. This makes the man reflect on his sin and judge himself in particular for it. God makes it to be the voice of the danger, affliction, trouble, or sickness that he is in or under. Sometimes in reading of the Word God makes a man stay on something that cuts him to the heart and shakes him as to his present condition. More frequently He meets with men in the hearing of the Word preached, His great ordinance for conviction, conversion, and edification. God often hews men by the sword of His Word in that ordinance, strikes directly on their bosom-beloved lust, startles the sinner, and makes him engage unto the mortification and relinquishment of the evil of his heart. Now, if his lust has taken such hold on him as to force him to break these bands of the Lord, and to cast these cords from him; if it overcomes these convictions and gets again into its old posture; if it can cure the wounds it so receives—that soul is in a sad condition.
Unspeakable are the evils that attend such a frame of heart. Every particular warning to a man in such a state is an inestimable mercy. How then does he despise God when he holds out against them! And what infinite patience is this in God, that He does not cast off such a one, and swear in His wrath that he shall never enter into His rest (Heb 3:11)!