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hand of one you loved better than you did your own soul, and your God! And memory, busy memory, acknowledges, and conscience lectures, and frowns the sky of the soul, lurid as the judgment heavens; with a pale face, and trembling lip, and sorrowful soul, you acknowledge to it all. O, how heavily does affliction lie upon soul and body at such a time! How did it double that sore trial of Joseph's brethren, when they said one to another, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. "" Gen. 42: 21.
Had not their besetting sin, envy, and its doings, stared them in the face, they could have borne their trial with manly courage, trusting in God; even with starvation at home, and imprisonment abroad, staring them in the face.
6. It is that sin which, above all, you are most unwilling to let go of.
That is the endeared sin. You can part with all other sins easier than that. Jacob could risk all his sons into Egypt, Benjamin excepted. You can risk all sins else under the word, but your Benjamin-sin. When Benjamin was demanded, or the family must starve, Jacob cried out, "Me have ye bereaved of my children; Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take BENJAMIN away. All these things are against me." He had ten sons beside him; but they were as nothing in his eyes compared with Benjamin. It is thus you may know your besetting sin; all may go but that. What is life without that?
A CASTLE may have several forts round about it. The first and second are taken, perhaps the third; but, when it comes to the castle itself, the governor will fight for that, and die, rather than surrender.
It is thus you may detect your besetting sin. It is the last you will deliver up to the sword of truth, clinging to it for dear life.
Are you ready for the text? Hearken: "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
"And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
"And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out ; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."Mark 9: 43, 48.
The allusion is medical or surgical. Men do not refuse to part with a hand, a foot or an eye, to save the body from death. Christ would have us part with a SIN, dear and pleasing as a hand, or foot, or eye, to save the soul from eternal death. Such a motive is necessary for him who sets out to cope with the besetting sin. It is by losing sight of the consequence that some fall such an easy prey to the secret vice. Jesus Christ would have us throw "hell-fire" between us and it, as the retreating general did against the pursuing enemy; he entered a narrow pass, filled it with wood and brush, and set fire to it; and, while the enemy was fighting fire, he made good his retreat and escaped. May the living God help every one of us to do the same towards our besetting sin,- yes, every sin,- till we finally escape to the land of the blest!
THE subject of the last chapter is continued in this, in the same quaint, pungent and heart-searching style of address.
And so you have detected your "Besetting Sin"? You and it have been like some married couples, who know little of each other's real feelings, though they have lived together for years. You say, "When this sin was preached about, it was in my sight as a lion painted upon a wall; now, it is like a living lion meeting me, and roaring in the way, with all his whelps after him." Just so; what a change! It is like its father the Devil, who is said to have great wrath, because he knoweth he hath but a short time,- Rev. 12: 12, and so he and all his fiends are in motion. Your bosom and all its brood are in motion. "When the commandment came, SIN revived, and I died," says the apostle.
The Lord has been showing you not only the particular sin of your heart, but the entire sinfulness of your nature, as well as your practice; "the body of sin," as St. Paul terms it; the original fountain, which has been the evil spring of all the streams which have defiled you.
So your defences are gone, your excuses ended, your plea is annulled, and sin is nonsuited. It is well for thee.
The loss be Satan's; thine be the eternal gain. You see now, what you perceived not before, that this sin, this leading sin in our soul, is to your nature what the devil is to earth and hell,- the rallying-point and support of all sin; the great centre to which all the evil of your carnal nature has been tending; where it has been recruited, and from which it has been impelled throughout spirit, soul and body. The strength of sin has been thereabouts, as the strength of Samson in his hair. I have no particular theory on the subject; no hobby-idea to prove or support. Your experience is suggestive, merely. Why did you not detect it before? The name of sin is legion. The commander-in-chief was lost in the crowd. You did not study yourself. You were a creature of circumstances, borne along on the current of events, without soundings, careless whether the water was salt or fresh, or what hand was at the helm. It is a miracle you are not in hell. Perhaps, chameleon-like, it has deluded you by its changes of color, aspects and positions. I knew a deeply pious man who was puzzled for years to know which of three leading tendencies of his nature was the king-sin. Sometimes he suspected the changes arose from different sorts of devils tempting him at different times. He could always tell, as he expressed it, when there was going to be "a change of wind," as he termed it,-- the annoying influence about to blow from another point of his spiritual compass.
It is well you now understand. Providence has been warring against you on the account of this ring-leading sin. So has the Spirit of God; so has conscience; so have your reason and understanding; so have faith, law and Gospel, and the ministers of the sanctuary; - for the preached word has been against you,—always like Micaiah the prophet to Ahab, never prophesying good concerning
thee, but evil!-therefore you have hated it. - 1 Kings 22: 8.
If you yield to it any more, you will have trouble. The wise men of Troy, you remember, advised Priam to send back Helen to the Grecians, and not to allow himself to be captivated by her fascinations, as it was likely she would be the cause of a fatal war. Hear me, then, O thou "Inquirer," dismiss from thy soul this bosom sin; away with it to the devil, to whom it belongs! I urge no divorce. The union between thy soul and it was never lawful. God never joined thee and that sin together. "Away with it! away with it! Crucify it! crucify it!" Words like these were once unrighteously flung against thy innocent Saviour; fling them righteously against this bosom-sin. Anything to get rid of it. It will bring on against thy soul and body a more terribly fatal war than ever Helen brought upon ancient Troy. The King of Syria commanded his army not to fight with small nor great, but against the King of Israel only. A strange and unheard-of order; but it was obeyed. There was wisdom and foresight in the Syrian king. When the King of Israel fell, fatally wounded, the battle was ended; victory was achieved.
Direct all your force against this king-sin. "What thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter," saith thy Lord. Win the victory in its death, and all its troops and allies will soon be overcome.
How great will be the peace and joy of thy soul, then! How great the satisfaction of heaven! There will be joy in heaven.
Have you not read of Mithridates, the implacable enemy of the Romans? What joy in the Roman capital when news arrived that he was slain! What feasts were made! what sacrifices to the gods! Why all this stir for the death