"So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." - Rom. vii. 25.
If Paul had in him these two opposite principles, and both so identified with his person that with the one he himself served the law of God, and with the other at the same time he himself served the law of sin, was he like all other christians in these respects? Have all christians in them a mind with which they themselves serve the law of God, or can any man be a christian who has nut such a mind? And have all christians, like Paul, a principle or law in their members which is at war with this law of sin? Or is the flesh of some christians so purified by regeneration that they are unlike Paul, and have no wicked propensities in their flesh whereby they serve the law of sin?
If all christians are like Paul in these particulars, and like serve the law of their God with the mind, and with the flesh serve the law of sin, are both of these opposites born of God; Or is that flesh in them which wars against the Spirit, only born of the flesh: or has it been born over again and made holy by a spiritual birth? And if it has, why does the apostle admonish christians to crucify it with its affections and lusts, and how can the christian with it himself still serve the law of sin? If in our flesh there dwells no good thing, and in that which is born of the Spirit there dwells no evil thing, if that which is born of God cannot commit sin, because his seed abideth in him, and he or it cannot sin because he is born of God, is it heretical or wicked for a christian to believe that all the corruptions within him are born of the flesh, and none of them are born of God, and that all that is pure and holy within him, is born of God, and no part of it is born of the flesh?
Of this mind with which the christian himself serves the law of God, the apostle says, "We have the mind of Christ," and another mind, or law, which he saw in his flesh he calls a carnal mind, which signifies a fleshly mind. With the mind of Christ he serves the law of God; but the carnal (or fleshly) mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, and with the other we serve the law of God. Are both of these minds born of God, or is that mind which cannot be subject to the law of God, born of the flesh? The carnal mind is enmity against God, while the law requires love to God, and love to our neighbor, and on these hang all the law and the prophets. Is that fleshly mind which cannot obey the law of love, born of God? Or is that mind which can and does love God, with all the heart, might and strength, born of that flesh in which there is no good thing?
We think all christians will unite in the conclusion that all within them that is carnal, earthly, depraved and vile, is born of the flesh, and will continue to annoy them until they shall be by death delivered from these bonds of corruption, until this earthly house or mortal tabernacle shall be taken down, dissolved and fall, and that our mortal bodies will not be animated with immortal life until God shall change them and fashion them like the glorious body of their risen Redeemer, and that change will not come until the resurrection, when if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in us, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken their mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in them. Then, and not until then, shall they be satisfied: when they awake in his likeness.
Strip the subject of all vain speculations, and all futile attempts to analyze the natural soul, body, or spirit of man, in trying to make out what we possess that is born of earth, or born from above, and it will be easy for every heaven-born child to perceive that all that we possess as identified with our persons in our present state that is born of God, bears the image of the heavenly, and all within us that does not bear the heavenly image is born of the flesh, and not of the Spirit.
With a clear understanding of their complex character, as now in an earthly body which clings to the earth, and lusts after the things of the earth, and wars against the spirit of their mind, and makes them groan, being burdened, and also clearly understanding that they also are the happy recipients through grace, of eternal, or immortal life, that Christ is formed in them the hope of glory, that God has revealed his Son in them, that God has shined in their hearts to give them the light of the glory of God, shining in the face of Jesus Christ, they will be prepared to appreciate what the inspired apostles have said of the old man, and the new man, the outer man, and the inner man, together with the admonition to put off the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.
A clear scriptural understanding of this subject will serve also to obviate the difficulties which may harass their minds in regard to the nature of the christian warfare. The saints are often tempted to doubt the reality of their own experience because they find in them so much of what is earthly, sensual and devilish, so much unreconciliation to God, so much murmuring, such vile affection, and strong propensities to depart from the living God, and to run into forbidden paths. If, say they, we were born of God, would it be thus with us? Can a nature which is born of God, grovel in the dust, and be so opposite to the spirit and purity of God? Certainly that which is born of God cannot commit sin, cannot disbelieve or doubt what God has said, etc. But when they hear an inspired apostle declare that it is no more I that doeth it, but sin that dwelleth in me, that the new man in them only, is born of God, loves God, loves holiness, loves the brethren, and serves the law of God, and that with his flesh, or earthly nature, he serves the law of sin, and does the things which he would not, and leaves undone the things which he would do, it gives them sweet relief. "From whence come wars and fightings among you?" Thus the apostle James interrogates the saints. Do they arise from that new man which is after God created in righteousness and true holiness? Certainly not. They cannot proceed from that in us which is born of God, for that cannot commit sin, for the seed abideth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. Whence are they then? "Come they not of your own lusts?" Our flesh lusts against the Spirit, and that which is born of the flesh. Here is the source of wars among christians. But as that which is assailed by the flesh is Spirit, and is born of the Spirit, it wars against the corruptions of the flesh. The life, or animation in the christian which is of the flesh, as the body is death, and it is dead because of sin, ye shall die. There is nothing else in the flesh; but if ye through the Spirit (which is born of God) do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live; for the Spirit is life, because of righteousness. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." Let us remember that if we walk after the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the desires or lusts of the flesh. If the saints could at all times walk after the Spirit, there would be no wars and fighting among them; that is, no biting and devouring of one another; they would lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, and as new-born, heaven-born, spirit-born babes, we would desire the sincere milk of the word that we may grow thereby. This spiritual food is adapted to the child of the new birth; it will not nourish the child of the flesh. Our fleshly natures are of the earth, all their sustenance must come from the earth, and be obtained from thence by the sweat of the face. But that birth which is of an incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever, must be sustained by the milk of that living and abiding word.