Far Better to Cross the Will, Than to Wound the Conscience
There are many times when I read my daily Bible chapters and later find other authors referring to something I read the same day. It seems to happen so frequently that I started to keep track of the occurrences. Here is one example.
Charles Bridges connected Proverbs 3:17 with Acts 5:41, 42.
Daily Bible reading chapter: Acts 5
Other reading: Charles Bridges’ commentary on Proverbs 3:17
Prov. 3:17 – “Her [wisdom’s] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”
Acts 5:41, 42 – “And they [the Apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
Bridges – “It is saying far too little, that the trials of these ways are not inconsistent with their pleasantness. They are the very principles of the most elevated pleasure. ‘The verdict of Christ,’ says Dr. South, ‘makes the discipline of self-denial and the cross – those terrible blows to flesh and blood – the indispensable requisite to the being His disciples.’ And yet, paradoxical as it may appear, in this deep gloom is the sunshine of joy. For if our natural will be ‘enmity to God’ (Rom. 8:7), it must be the enemy of our own happiness. Our pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites, that only ‘bring forth fruit unto death.’ (Rom. 7:5) Even what may be called the austerities of godliness are more joyous than ‘the pleasures of sin.’ Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience. The very chains of Christ are glorious. (Acts 5:41, 42; 16:24, 25) Moses endured not ‘his reproach’ as a trial. He ‘esteemed it as a treasure – greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ (Heb. 11:26) Our principles are never more consoling that when we are making a sacrifice for them. Hannah yielded up her dearest earthly joy. But did she sink under the trial? Did she grudge the sacrifice? ‘Hannah prayed and say, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord’ (1 Sam. 1:26; 2:1); while to show that none serve Him for naught – for one child that was resigned, five were added. (1 Sam. 2:20, 21)’
This morning I am truly struggling with “Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience,” finding it hard to go against my “natural will,” even though it is “enmity to God.” I know that my “pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites.” My sinful will has been winning for the past 24 hours. I am forcing myself to read the Word, to pray, to read theology. But mixed in is the desire to indulge sinful thoughts. It’s at these time that I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me in spite of my own will – praying against myself.
Romans 8:12 – 14 – “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
It seems to me that the act of mortifying my flesh, going against my own natural will, can only be done through the Spirit of God. And the only way I can see for that to happen is for me to pray for it. Luke 11:13 – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”
Even as I write this I feel the strong pull of my flesh. “Oh wretched man that I am.” Better would it be for me to be beaten for speaking for Christ as the Apostles in Acts 5; or to be in chains for Christ and singing at midnight in a prison like Paul and Silas in Acts 16, as referred to by Bridges. How thankful I am that the same apostle wrote Romans 7 to show us all how he also struggled against the flesh, praising Jesus Christ for the ultimate victory and trusting the Spirit of God for strength through the battle.