By little and little I will drive them out from before you, until you be increased, and inherit the land.
Those persons must have a very inadequate knowledge of the scheme of salvation, who suppose that the work of sanctification is sudden and rapid in its effects. And why? Because we find a consistency maintained between God's natural government of the world, and the plan of salvation as displayed in the gospel. And hence we are led to argue, that both must proceed from the same Divine hand. Now, when persons first resign this world as their portion, and give themselves up to the service of God, they frequently set out with highly raised expectations and, not fully conscious of the difficulties which lie in their path, suppose that the victory over sin will be easily accomplished, and a rapid progress made in the ways of godliness. It is with the inexperienced Christian, as it is with the young in the spring-tide of their existence. Then all is bright and glittering; and, exulting in the present, and buoyed up with joyous hopes for the future, they know not of the cloud gathering in the horizon. And this expectation is, in a measure, aided by the fact, that in the earlier stages of a Christian course, a much more rapid advance is frequently made than is found to be the case in after years. Moreover, the Christian, in the earlier stages of his course, is not fully aware of the extent of obedience which the law of God demands, and is not sufficiently conscious of the deep depravity of his own heart. Hence the terms of the gospel, which demand an irreconcileable war with every lust and passion, and call for a continued and persevering struggle with every known sin, cannot be fully appreciated, because these are not discovered. But it is the office of the Holy Spirit, gradually to make this discovery to the mind of the Christian. But has God ever undertaken that Satan and the world and the flesh shall at once be beaten down beneath your feet? No! What says my text? "By little and little." But, whilst it is only right, Christians, that I should thus set before you the difficulties which beset your path, at the same time that you take warning from the text not to expect a more rapid victory over sin than God has prescribed, take also to yourselves the encouragement which it affords. Here is the promise of Him who cannot lie, that He will eventually make us more than conquerers, though it will be by little and little, and not so rapidly as we could desire. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ." It will be gradual, but effectual — it will be progressive, but abiding; if left to yourselves, indeed, your strength must fail; and vain would be the attempt to contend successfully with your sins and infirmities. "The Lord is my strength and my song, and is become my salvation," says the Psalmist; and what he here speaks of — God's loving-kindness — is only that which is the portion of every true believer. "He giveth power to the faint," says the prophet, "and to them that have no might He increaseth strength." How cheering are such assurances to those who feel the burden of their sin, and how calculated to set at rest all doubts and misgivings with respect to our future perseverance! But, for this, let it ever be remembered that continued and fervent supplication must be made. "For all these things" are the words of God, "will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." And never let us complain that our enemies are mighty, and that we make so slow a progress against them, whilst we neglect to plead in prayer with the Almighty for the fulfilment of His own promises. And here let me turn to the well-tried Christian — to such as are firmly established and grounded in the faith; and I would ask, whether you cannot bear testimony to the faithfulness with which the promise of the text is verified? You, as well as others, need the encouragement which it affords, because, the more you grow in holiness, the more you will perceive how infinitely short you come of the standard at which you aim. But have you not reason from the past, to trust God for the future? With St. Paul, thank God, and take courage; and, whenever it shall happen (as it sometimes will with the holiest and best of men) that you entertain doubts and misgivings with respect to your ultimate safety, owing to your unworthiness, recall to your minds the promise of my text, and others of a similar character. Let these reassure and animate you: God is still the same unfailing Protector of those who trust in Him as He ever was, and will never forsake the true sheep of His pasture, but gradually drive out their enemies from before them, until they are established in their promised possession.
(P. Maitland, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.