"I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become
desolate and the wild beasts too numerous for you. Little by little I
will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take
possession of the land." (Exo. 23:29, 30). Thus it is with the children of
God. If they had not enemies without and within, and oppositions in their
way, there are some dangerous "beasts" that would be ready to "increase"
For instance, there is a beast which is called pride,
which might grow upon you if you had no enemies to fight with. Hence, a
thorn in the flesh was given to Paul that he might not be exalted above
measure. Is not the thorn in the flesh well ordered, which prevents
confidence in the flesh?
There is a beast called carnal security, which
might grow upon you. But now there are enemies on all hands of you, to
prevent your falling asleep, to keep you watching and waking, and constantly
on your guard.
There is a beast called presumption, which might
grow upon you, and make you think you were able to go forward to Heaven upon
your own legs and in your own strength, if you found no such enemies in the
There is another beast called worldly-mindedness,
which might grow upon you, if you had no adversaries and adversities to vex
you, and wean you from the world. You would be in danger of saying, "It is
good to be here." But now the wars and battles in your way to Heaven make
you say with your heart, O! it is better to be there.
There is a beast, a filthy brute beast, called
sensuality, which might grow upon you, believer, that might make you
lukewarm and formal in all your duties, as well as carnal and light in the
intervals of duties. But the sight of your spiritual enemies on the field
will make you see a need to be spiritual, zealous, earnest, and fervent in
spirit, serving the Lord.
There is also a filthy dumb beast which is called
forgetfulness, which would certainly grow upon you, and be very
dangerous to your soul and spiritual welfare, if your enemies were all
destroyed. Therefore God says, "Slay them not, lest My people forget" (Psalm
59:11). If the execution were quick and hasty, the impressions of it would
not be deep and durable. Swift destructions startle men for the present—but
they are soon forgotten; therefore, when we think that God's judgments upon
the nations of our spiritual enemies come on but very slowly, we must
conclude that God has wise and holy ends in that gradual procedure. "Slay
them not, lest My people forget."
—extract from a sermon by Ralph Erskine, 1760.
Yes, Christian reader, God has a good reason for
permitting the lusts of the flesh to rage, at times, within you. All His
ways are marked by infinite wisdom, even though very often we are unable to
discern it. So it is here. How often has a saint bewildered why God has
withheld that victory over indwelling sin, for which he has prayed so long
and so earnestly.
There is a needs-be for failure—as well as
victory; for sorrow—as well as joy. In the dust before Him
is our proper place, and if we leave it, He allows us to be tripped up
by Satan, to fling us back there! Moreover, as Mr. Erskine points out,
our graces must be exercised if our "enemies" are to be prevented
from having dominion over us. One day we shall perceive more clearly why God
permitted us to experience so many falls, and to "go halting" all our days;
and why it was that "little by little" He vanquished our spiritual
Arthur Pink, 1936