For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other…
The soul of man is intended to be a well-ordered polity, in which there are many powers and faculties, and each has its due place; and for these to exceed their limits is sin; yet they cannot he kept within them except by being governed, and we are unequal to this task of governing ourselves except after long habit. While we are learning to govern our. selves we are constantly exposed to the risk, or rather to the occurrence of number. less failures. We have failures by the "way though we triumph in the end; and thus the process of learning to obey God is, in one sense, a process of sinning, from the nature of the case. We are feeble-minded, excitable, effeminate, wayward, irritable, changeable, miserable. We have no lord over us, because we are but partially subject to the dominion of the true King of saints. Let us try to do right as much as we will, let us pray as earnestly, yet we do not, in a time of trial, come up even to our own notions of perfection, or rather we fall quite short of them, and do, perhaps, just the reverse of what we had hoped to do. While there is no external temptation present, our passions sleep, and we think all is well. Then we think and reflect and resolve what we will do; and we anticipate no difficulty in doing it. But when the temptation is come, where are we then? We are like Daniel in the lion's den; and our passions are the lions; except that we have not Daniel's grace to prevail with God for the shutting of the lions' mouths lest they devour us. Then our reason is but like the miserable keeper of wild beasts, who in ordinary seasons is equal to them, but not when they are excited. Alas! Whatever the affection of mind may be, how miserable it is! It may be a dull, heavy sloth, or cowardice, which throws its huge limbs around us, binds us close, oppresses our breath, and makes us despise ourselves, while we are impotent to resist it; or it may be anger, or other baser passion, which, for the moment, escapes from our control after its prey, to our horror and our disgrace; but anyhow, what a miserable den of brute creatures does the soul then become, and we at the moment literally unable to help it! I am not, of course, speaking of deeds of evil, the fruits of wilfulness, malice, or revenge, or uncleanness, or intemperance, or violence, or robbery, or fraud; alas! the sinful heart often goes on to commit sins which hide from it at once the light of God's countenance; but I am sup. posing what was Eve's case, when she looked at the tree and saw that the fruit was good, but before she plucked it, when lust had conceived and was bringing forth sin, but ere sin was finished and had brought forth death. I am supposing that we do not exceed so far as to estrange God from us; that He mercifully, chains the lions at our cry, before they do more than frighten us by their moanings or their roar, before they fall on us to destroy us: yet at best, what misery, what pollution, what sacrilege, what a chaos is there then in that consecrated spot which is the temple of the Holy Ghost! How is it that the lamp of God does not go out in it at once, when the whole soul seems tending to hell, and hope is almost gone? Wonderful mercy indeed it is which bears so much! Incomprehensible patience in the Holy One, so to dwell, in such a wilderness, with the wild beasts! Exceeding and Divine virtue in the grace given us, that it is not stifled! Yet such is the promise, not to those who sin contentedly after they have received grace; there is no hope while they so sin; but where sin is not part of a course, while it is still sin, whether sin of our birth, or of habit's formed long ago, or of want of self-command, which we are trying to gain, God mercifully allows and pardons it, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from it all... To know thus much, that infirmities are no necessary mark of reprobation, that God's elect have infirmities, and that our own sins may possibly be no more than infirmities, this, surely, by itself, is a consolation. And to reflect that at least God continues us visibly in His Church; that He does not withdraw from us the ordinances of grace; that He gives us means of instruction, patterns of holiness, religious guidance, good books; that He allows us to frequent His house, and to present ourselves before Him in prayer and Holy Communion; that He gives us opportunities of private prayer; that He has given us a care for our souls; an anxiety to secure their salvation; a desire to be more strict and conscientious, more simple in faith, more full of love than we are; all this will tend to soothe and encourage, us when the sense of our infirmities makes us afraid.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.