This sickliness—that is to say, that disobedience of which we spoke in the fourteenth book—is the punishment of the first disobedience. It is therefore not nature, but vice; and therefore it is said to the good who are growing in grace, and living in this pilgrimage by faith, “Bear ye one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” 776 In like manner it is said elsewhere, “Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man.” 777 And in another place, “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” 778 And elsewhere, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” 779 And in the Gospel, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” 780 So too of sins which may create scandal the apostle says, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” 781 For this purpose, and that we may keep that peace without which no man can see the Lord, 782 many precepts are given which carefully inculcate mutual forgiveness; among which we may number that terrible word in which the servant is ordered to pay his formerly remitted debt of ten thousand talents, because he did not remit to his fellow-servant his debt of two hundred pence. To which parable the Lord Jesus added the words, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother.” 783 It is thus the citizens of the city of God are healed while still they sojourn in this earth and sigh for the peace of their heavenly country. The Holy Spirit, too, works within, that the medicine externally applied may have some good result. Otherwise, even though God Himself make use of the creatures that are subject to Him, and in some human form address our human senses, whether we receive those impressions in sleep or in some external appearance, still, if He does not by His own inward grace sway and act upon the mind, no preaching of the truth is of any avail. But this God does, distinguishing between the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy, by His own very secret but very just providence. When He Himself aids the soul in His own hidden and wonderful ways, and the sin which dwells in our members, and is, as the apostle teaches, rather the punishment of sin, does not reign in our mortal body to obey the lusts of it, and when we no longer yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness, 784 then the soul is converted from its own evil and selfish desires, and, God possessing it, it possesses itself in peace even in this life, and afterwards, with perfected health and endowed with im p. 288 mortality, will reign without sin in peace everlasting.
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