The Growth of Grace Part 5: Experiential Heart Knowledge

Romans 7:21-23; 2 Chronicles 32:30, 31

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Hezekiah prospered in all his works. Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Since the Lord hates and abhors sin, and teaches His people whom He loves to hate it likewise, it might seem desirable that at the same time they are delivered from the guilt and reigning power of sin, they should likewise be perfectly freed from the defilement of indwelling sin, and be made fully conformable to Him at once. His wisdom has, however, appointed otherwise.

EDWARD PAYSON (1783-1827): He could, if He pleased, render them perfectly holy at once; and they are often ready to imagine, that this would be much the better way, both for His glory and their own good. But instead of adopting this method, He grants them, at first, but small degrees of grace, and increases it in a very slow and gradual manner. He leads them round for many years, through a wilderness beset with temptations, trials and sufferings, with a view to humble them, prove them, and show them all that is in their hearts.

JOHN NEWTON: The Lord would not allow sin to remain in them, if He did not purpose to over-rule it, for the fuller manifestation of the glory of His grace and wisdom, and for the making His salvation more precious to their souls. It is, however, His command, and therefore their duty—yes, further, from the new nature He has given them, it is their desire to watch and strive against sin; and to propose the mortification of the whole body of sin, and the advancement of sanctification in their hearts, as their great and constant aim, to which they are to have a habitual persevering regard. Upon this plan the young believer sets out…

But a depraved nature still cleaves to him; and he has the seeds of every natural corruption yet remaining in his heart. He lives likewise in a world that is full of snares, and occasions, suited to draw forth those corruptions; and he is surrounded by invisible spiritual enemies, the extent of whose power and subtlety he is yet to learn by painful experience…He knows that his heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9, but he does not—he cannot know at first—the full meaning of that expression. Yet it is for the Lord’s glory, and will in the end make His grace and love still more precious, that he should find new and mortifying proofs of all his evil nature as he goes on, such as he could not once have believed had they been foretold to him, as in the case of Peter, (Mark 14:29,30).

WILLIAM TIPTAFT (1803-1864): We need restraining grace as well as saving grace.

ATHANASIUS (276-373): We need grace alike to keep us from breaking the weightiest commandment of the law, and from falling into the most trifling vanity of the age.

JOHN NEWTON: The exceeding sinfulness of sin is manifested, not so much by its breaking through the restraints of threatening and commands, as by its being capable of acting against light and against love. Thus it was with Hezekiah. He had been a faithful and zealous servant of the Lord for many years; but I suppose he knew more of God, and of himself, in the time of his sickness, than he had ever done before. The Lord, who had signally defended him from Sennacherib, was pleased likewise to raise him from the borders of the grave by a miracle, and prolonged the time of his life in answer to prayer. It is plain, from the song which he penned upon his recovery, that he was greatly affected with the mercies he had received; yet still there was something in his heart which he knew not, and which it was for the Lord’s glory he should be made sensible of, and therefore He was pleased to leave him to himself. It is the only instance in which he is said to have been left to himself, and the only instance in which his conduct is condemned.

JOHN BERRIDGE (1716-1793): Oh! what is man! But how easily we spy the vanity and inconsistency of the creature in another, and how hardly we discern it in ourselves.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Oh, the aboundings of sin there which no eye discerneth but God’s, until He, by increasing light, declares it to us little by little!  How have I to mourn and weep before Him, while He shows me to myself—poor wretched, sinful, and yet washed and justified from all things! What can I say to these things?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Experience teaches us all—everything is of grace in the Christian life from the very beginning to the very end.

JOHN NEWTON: For a season after we have known the Lord, we have usually the most sensible and distressing experience of our evil natures. I do not say that it is necessary that we should be left to fall into gross outward sin, in order to know what is in our hearts; though I believe many have thus fallen, whose hearts, under a former sense of redeeming love, have been as truly set against sin, as the hearts of others who have been preserved from such outward falls. The Lord makes some of His children examples and warnings to others as He pleases. Those who are spared, and whose worst deviations are only known to the Lord and themselves, have great reason to be thankful.

MARY WINSLOW: To be well acquainted with our own hearts is to bring us nearer to Jesus, and to make us more firmly cling to the cross. Your poor heart is the same as it was years ago, but there was no light to show its evil. But as you grow in grace you will see more and more the goodness of God in the gift of His dear Son, to make an all-sufficient atonement for sinners so vile and utterly helpless as we are. It is a great mercy that, while the Holy Ghost opens up the deep fountain of iniquity within to our view, He also, at the same time, shows us the Fountain open, always open, in which we may wash and be clean.  This makes Jesus so precious to the deeply-taught Christian.  To be well acquainted with your own heart is worth all the pain you may be called to suffer.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Let us not be discouraged by any humiliating discoveries we may make of the evils of our hearts. God knows them all, and has provided the blood of Jesus Christ His Son to cleanse us from all sin.


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