The prior post may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/counseling-the-discouraged-saint/
Fifth, God helps.
The Pelagian controversy began when a British monk named Pelagius heard of a prayer of Augustine recorded in chapter 39 of the tenth book of the Confessions:
My whole hope is in thy exceeding great mercy and that alone. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt. [(Domine), da quod iubes et iube quod vis]. Thou commandest continence from us, and when I knew, as it is said, that no one could be continent unless God gave it to him, even this was a point of wisdom to know whose gift it was. For by continence we are bound up and brought back together in the One, whereas before we were scattered abroad among the many. For he loves thee too little who loves along with thee anything else that he does not love for thy sake, O Love, who dost burn forever and art never quenched. O Love, O my God, enkindle me! Thou commandest continence; give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.
Our Father knows that he has laid upon us burdens which we cannot bear. First, God commands us to believe, but we are by fallen nature rebellious and will not believe. Therefore, he must supply us with the faith to believe. Augustine notes the same in De Nono Perservantiae, XX:
Now what, indeed, does God command, first and foremost, except that we believe in him? This faith, therefore, he himself gives; so that it is well said to him, “Give what thou commandest.”
Here is a great comfort. A Christian who lacks a high view of God’s sovereignty in the work of the Gospel is left without a secure hope in the mortification of sin. A high view of God’s sovereignty is a grace and peace to the Christian suffering under sin.
If all the power resides solely in my will, unaided by grace, then I am alone to battle the sin. I cannot turn to God for help: God commands, but God does not help. God may command. God may promise reward or threaten punishment. But unless God can and does push from within, unless God can command my desire and will from the inside of my soul, I am doomed.
Yet, Augustine saw into the comfort of grace in the land of sin. God commands. God commands far above our ability. Yet, when God commands, God also wills. God does not leave us alone with sin and the command – that is the terror of the law without the great rain of Christ’s blood to drown the flames of sin and hell. John Owen writes of such people in the third chapter of The Mortification of Sin:
This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.
That is the believer who seeks to mortify sin and still has not read Romans 8:13, If by the Spirit you …. The Spirit is the great engine of mortification. When we seek to “have victory over sin” we forget that Christ has already won that victory! God has sent his Spirit to convey the Cross of Christ to our hearts that we might become crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14).
Our enemy will seek to delude us to think that we are to fight sin alone. That way only leads to despair. The church is littered with the wrecks of such believers.
Such believers do not know the great truth of mortification: God helps. Christopher Love puts it as follows:
You have God’s promise and Christ’s power to help you in managing this great work of mortification….As God commands His children to obey Him, so He convey power and ability to enable them to do so.
Consider carefully this joyful observation made by William Gurnall, in The Christian in Complete Armor:
Doctrine. That the Christian’s strength lies in the Lord, not in himself. The strength of the general in other hosts lies in his troops. He flies, as a great commander once said to his soldiers, upon their wings; if their feathers be clipped, their power broken, he is lost; but in the army of saints, the strength of every saint, yea, of the whole host of saints, lies in the Lord of hosts. God can overcome his enemies without their hands, but they cannot so much as defend themselves without his arm. It is one of God’s names, ‘the Strength of Israel,’ I Sam. 15:29. He was the strength of David’s heart; without him this valiant worthy (that could, when held up in his arms, defy him that defied a whole army) behaves himself strangely for fear, at a word or two that dropped from the Philistine’s mouth. He was the strength of his hands, ‘He taught his fingers to fight,’ and so is the strength of all his saints in their war against sin and Satan. Some propound a question, whether there be a sin committed in the world in which Satan hath not a part? But if the question were, whether there be any holy action performed without the special assistance of God concurring, that is resolved, ‘Without me ye can do nothing,’ John 15:5. Thinking strength of God, ‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,’ II Cor. 3:5. We apostles, we saints that have habitual grace, yet this lies like water at the bottom of a well, which will not ascend with all our pumping till God pour in his exciting grace, and then it comes. To will is more than to think, to exert our will into action more than both. These are of God: ‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,’ Php. 2:13. He makes the heart new, and having made it fit for heavenly motion, setting every wheel, as it were, in its right place, then he winds it up by his actuating grace, and sets it on going, the thoughts to stir, the will to move and make towards the holy object presented; yet here the chariot is set, and cannot ascend the hill of action till God puts his shoulder to the wheel: ‘to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not,’ Rom. 7:18. God is at the bottom of the ladder, and at the top also, the Author and Finisher, yea, helping and lifting the soul at every round, in his ascent to any holy action. Well, now the Christian is set on work, how long will he keep close to it? Alas, poor soul, no longer than he is held up by the same hand that empowered him at first. He hath soon wrought out the strength received, and therefore to maintain the tenure of a holy course, there must be renewing strength from heaven every moment, which David knew, and therefore when his heart was in as holy a frame as ever he felt it, and his people by their free-will offering declared the same, yet even then he prays, that God would ‘keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of his people, and prepare their heart unto him,’ I Chron. 29:18. He adored the mercy that made them willing, and then he implores his further grace to strengthen them, and tie a knot, that these precious pearls newly strung on hearts might not slip off. The Christian, when fullest of divine communications, is but a glass without a foot [a glass on a stem without a base], he cannot stand, or hold what he hath received, any longer than God holds him in his strong hand. Therefore, Christ, when bound for heaven, and ready to take his leave of his children, bespeaks his Father’s care of them in his absence. ‘Father, keep them,’ John 17:11; as if he had said, they must not be left alone, they are poor shiftless children, that can neither stand nor go without help; they will lose the grace I have given them, and fall into those temptations which I kept them from while I was with them, if they be out of thy eye or arms but one moment; and therefore, ‘Father, keep them.’ (Part First, Branch the Third).