We are told that "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope:" (Rom. 15:4) and I find this written, among the rest, that "whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world;" (1 John 5:4) and to find we have learned this by divine teaching yields the comfort of hope. The flesh profiteth nothing; it is the Spirit that giveth life. Whilst we are dead in sin, and only born of the flesh, all we read of the Bible profits us nothing; for, notwithstanding all our reading, and all our natural knowledge, we still are the servants of sin, Satan, and the world. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, carry us on in the broad way that leads to the wide gate, and that goes down to the chambers of death. And we now know it was absolutely necessary that a new man in us should be begotten of God, before we could overcome the world; and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world. Faith is one feature of the new man, and an active one, for this is said to be "the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
But then, when may it be said to do this?--This we must learn by experience, otherwise this Scripture cannot be comfortable to us. Through faith we are said to understand; but then what we understand is applied with such power as gives life and feeling; and one of the first things that faith understands, in a convinced sinner, is God's wrath revealed against his sin; we then believe his justice is incensed at us: we would pursue our old course, but something withstands us; when this slavish fear and dread is a little worn off, we are found at our old trade of sinning against God. Conviction works sorrow of heart, because we fear we shall be damned: here is nothing but legal working, and then running away; then a few lashes, and sticking to the old yoke again; this is all that is to be found in us while unbelievers, and shut up under the ministration of death. Whilst here, so far are we from overcoming the world by believing and loving God, that we hate him in our hearts, because we think he will punish us; and if we could think he would not, we should soon sit down in carnal ease, and take as much of the pleasures of the world as we could get, and hold them as long as we were able: this, I am sure, is true, for the mind will seek happiness in something, and, till it knows God, it cannot delight in him; of course it would, if permitted, take up with the world, knowing no higher good; for none in this state love to be always in one tenor of mind. Therefore it is asked in the next verse, "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"
And wherever faith is begotten of God, in order to the salvation of the soul, by the same God that wrought it at first, is it kept in motion till Christ is revealed; it believes God will be true to his word, and that all its threatenings will have their accomplishment on ungodly sinners:--"The soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezek. 18:4,20) Eternal death the soul fears most; and this it understands and feels: it is the wages of sin. Paul found this to be true by his own experience; the commandment came home and made his sin revive, and so exceeding sinful, by the commandment, did it become, that he died under its sentence to all hope of salvation in that way; and here he learned that salvation, or eternal life, was the gift of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord; for when he prayed, Ananias was sent, who preached to him remission of sins by the mercy of God, through the death of Christ; and here he washed his sins away.
So, in our worst condition, it pleases God to reveal a crucified Christ, and give us believing views of him; and here we find a fullness of all good, which every where else we sought in vain. Life to set against death, pardon and peace proclaimed with God, to cause our souls to draw nigh, as to the fountain of all happiness, with delight and love: now our former heart-idolatry appears in its worst light; we never saw sin in so base a light under the law as is now discovered to us in the sight of a crucified Saviour; Jesus now appears the only one deserving our love and affection, and takes all our heart; we have at this time no spirit left to return to our native country, seeing we have been in a delusion all our days; and also who much good we have lost by being at such a distance from the Saviour.
We now know we have found the highest good in the Son of God; for none less than himself, who is God, could so fill our hearts; all fullness is in him; this we feel: but no creature has this; and out of his fullness we receive, and rich grace it is, and wonderful to us; his love appears then what it really is, passing the love of all. Here we overcome the world, having found the love of Christ, who is all in all. We see the delusion of this vain world in holding out its empty offers of happiness, in order to keep us from Him, in whom alone true happiness is to be found. The flesh, with its sinful appetites, brought our sufferings on us; and Christ, to redeem us from our deserts, must and did suffer; we now, having fellowship with him in his sufferings, and being planted together with him in the likeness of his death, loathe ourselves for our iniquities.
The lust of the eye is also overcome when faith lays hold of Christ; for whatsoever is desirable, whatsoever is lovely, and whatsoever is good, is to be found in Christ, who is now the altogether lovely, the chiefest of ten thousand, the one thing needful, and without whom nothing is good. The pride of life, also, here receives a deadly blow; our natural pride and self-righteous presumption is cut up; we become fools in our own eyes, that we may be made wise; we sit at Christ's feet, to receive the word of life from his mouth, and take the lowest seat, and thence are exalted into the joy of the Lord. To have self crucified, and Christ in us exalted, is our continual work; and, ever after, the pride of life appears to us but a vain thing, and although our corruption will strive against our experience and better interest, yet God has promised grace shall reign and sin shall not have the dominion: and we may truly say, none but he who believeth that Jesus is the Son of God can overcome the world. Whilst destitute of Christ and faith in him, the devil leads us captive; but when he that is stronger turns him out and takes possession, then it is said, "Greater is He that is in you [and He is said to dwell in their hearts by faith,] than he that is in the world;" and this is rendered as the true cause why we are overcomers. That you may see this in your experience, and give God the praise, is the desire and prayer of your affectionate friend,