Growing Worse or Seeing Clearer?
One of the last lessons we effectually learn, is that true godliness is a constant conflict in a believer’s heart–between sin and holiness. Some sincere believers mistake a clearer view, and deeper sense of their depravity, for an actual increase of sin. The Christian seems sometimes to himself, to be growing worse, when actually it is only that he sees more clearly what in fact he really is!
In the early stages of our Christian life, we have usually but a slender acquaintance with the evil of our sinfulness, and the depravity of our heart. The mind is so much taken up with pardon and eternal life, that it is but imperfectly acquainted with those depths of deceit and wickedness, which lie hidden in itself.
At first we seem to feel as if the serpent were killed. But we soon find that he was only asleep–for by the warmth of some fiery temptation, he is revived and hisses at us again! Nothing astonishes an inexperienced believer more than the discoveries he is continually making of the evils of his heart. Corruptions which he never dreamt to be in him, are brought out by some new circumstances. It is like turning up the soil, which brings out worms and insects, which did not appear upon the surface.
Or to vary the illustration, his increasing knowledge of God’s holy nature, of the perfect law, and the example of Christ–is like opening the shutters, and letting light into a dark room, the filth of which, the inhabitant did not see until the sunbeams disclosed it to him.
John Angell James, “Christian Progress” 1853