Based upon those observations, Sibbes then turns to the application of that idea: If it true that Christians will live with two contrary principles, with desires in conflict; and yet Christians will not ultimately be overcome and lose that gracious principle which flows from the work of the Spirit of God in our lives; how then should we live? Sibbes counsels (1) thankfulness, that God will continually show mercy to us; and (2) let us use the knowledge of our frailty and persistence of temptation, to keep a close eye upon our lives.
Whence, for use, let us magnify the goodness of God, that will remain by his Spirit, and let it stay to preserve life in such hearts as ours are, so prone to security and sleepiness.
That is an interesting observation about human psychology: use our thankfulness, extoling the goodness of God, because that will cause us to persevere. The knowledge that God will continue to show goodness to us, will cause us to continue to persevere in the goodness of God. It is an interesting that our worship of God will cause us to continue in the experience of the goodness of God.
He then comes to specific instances of God’s goodness. First, to think of how God was willing to do us good when there was no gracious principle in us, at the time of our salvation:
Let it put us in mind of other like merciful and gracious doings of our God for us, that he gave his Spirit to us when we had nothing good in us, when it met with nothing but enmity, rebellion, and indisposedness.
And also to consider the goodness of God in the Incarnation:
Nay, consider how he debased himself and became man, in being united to our frail flesh, after an admirablenearness, and all out of mercy to save us.
Second, when we look to ourselves, let us take care and look to the Devil’s persistence in seeking to exploit our fraility:
Use. 2. If so be that Satan shall tempt us in such occasions, let us enter into our own souls, and search the truth of grace, our judgment, our wills, our constant course of obedience, and the inward principle whence it comes, that we may be able to stand in the time of temptation.
Sibbes then gives examples of this self-servicing (he calls it a “reflect act”):
What upheld the church but this reflect act, by the help of the Spirit, that she was able to judge of the good as well as of the ill? Thus David, ‘The desires of our souls are towards thee,’Ps. 38:9; and though all this have befallen us, yet have we not forgotten thy name, Ps. 44:20. This will enable us to appeal to God, as Peter, ‘Lord, thou knowest I love thee,’ John 21:15. It is an evidence of a good estate.