“So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”—Romans 7:25
Is this thy language, my soul? Hast thou learnt with Paul, with Job, with Isaiah, and all the faithful gone before, to loathe thyself in thine own sight? Dost thou groan, being burthened with a body of sin which drags down the soul? Pause over this view of human nature. In the first place – think, my soul, what humbling thoughts such a state of corruption ought to induce. Though the mind be regenerated, though with the mind the believer serves the law of God, delights in the law of God, loves the law, and would make it the subject of devout meditation all the day; yet such is the body of sin, the flesh with its affections, and appetites, and desires, that it draws away the attention, imperiously, puts in its claims, and rises up in rebellion continually. And are the souls of God’s children thus exercised, thus afflicted, in the struggles between the different motions of grace and corrnption from day to day? Yes, such is the state, such the uniform experience of God’s people in all ages. Paul thus complains, though he had been so highly sanctified. Perhaps there never was a child of God brought into a closer and more intimate communion with God. He had been caught up to the third heaven, and heard unspeakable words. He had laboured more than all the apostles. He had been converted by a miracle from heaven, and by the immediate call of the Lord Jesus personally to him. But yet this highly favoured servant of the Lord, this blessed apostle, who was continually flying on the wings of zeal and love in the service of his Master, even he, with his flesh, he-tells us, served the law of sin: nay, he felt and discovered “a law of sin in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members;” and under a deep distress of soul he cried out – “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” Is it so, then, my soul, with thee also! Dost thou discover the same in thy experience? Dost thou feel the rebellions of sin rising up within thee? Dost thou detect thine heart, wandering even in the moment of solemn exercises; and, in short, thine own body, the worst and greatest enemy thou hast to contend with? Oh then, learn from hence, what humbling views oughtest thou to have of thyself, and to lay low in the dust in consequence thereof before God. When thou hast duly contemplated this state of fallen nature, let thy next improvement of this subject be to endear the Lord Jesus to thee, my soul, more and more; to fly out of thyself, to fly to Jesus, to take refuge in him and his great salvation; from even thyself, with all that body of sin and death, under which thou thus continually groanest; and to derive here from a daily and hourly conviction, yet more strong and unanswerably conclusive, that nothing but the blood of Jesus can cleanse, nothing but the righteousness of Jesus can save and justify a sinner. Say as Paul did, when from the bottom of his heart that soul-piercing question arose,” Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was an Anglican (High-Calvinist) preacher who served as Vicar of Charles Church, Plymouth. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“The prominent features…in Robert Hawker's testimony…was the Person of Christ….Dr. Hawker delighted to speak of his Lord as "My most glorious Christ.” What anxious heart but finds at times in the perusal of the doctor's writings a measure of relief, a softening, and a mellowing? an almost imperceptible yet secret and constraining power in leading out of self and off from the misery and bondage of the flesh into a contemplation of the Person and preciousness of Christ as "the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely." Christ and Him crucified was emphatically the burden of his song and the keynote of his ministry. He preached his last sermon in Charles Church on March 18th, 1827, and on April 6th he died, after being six years curate and forty-three years vicar of the parish. On the last day of his life he repeated a part of Ephesians 1, from the 6th to the 12th verses, and as he proceeded he enlarged on the verses, but dwelt more fully on these words: "To the praise of His glory Who first trusted in Christ." He paused and asked, "Who first trusted in Christ?" And then made this answer: "It was God the Father Who first trusted in Christ."