Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History
If there was one thing that Patrick feared in this life more than anything else it was his own sinful flesh when faced with temptation. He says, “I do not trust myself for as long as I am in this mortal body” (Confession, sec. 44). This fear of sin was not weakness of character; it was strength. It was no lack of faith, but a strong faith. Patrick had a healthy respect for sin in his own flesh. He knew that even as a child of God there was the presence of remaining corruption. He had felt the pain of sin and experienced the lingering consequences of sin from his youth, and he “dread[ed] with great fear and trembling” its judgments (Confession, sec. 8).
Patrick’s doctrine of total depravity was not just part of his creed but a felt reality. To him depravity was a fearful thing. He knew that “the hostile flesh is always dragging me down to death” (Confession, sec. 44), and he said with regard to avoiding bribery and flattery, “I did so for the hope of eternity, to safeguard myself carefully in everything so that they would not catch me out or the ministry of my service under some pretext of my dishonesty and so that I would not give unbelievers the slightest opportunity for denigration or disparagement” (Confession, sec. 49).
Lord, give me a healthy fear of sin and distrust in self. Help me to “safeguard myself carefully in everything,” so that sin will not catch me out or overtake me. Help me to fear sin and not flirt with it so that I can say with the ancient saint, “I give untiring thanks to my God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation” (Confession, sec. 34).
“Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: ‘God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.’ When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage.”—John Owen