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OF THE SIN OF INFIRMITY.
Wherein is shewed, besides other things,
1.-TAAT A MAN MAY POSSIBLY FALL INTO THE SAME SIN AGAIN AND
AGAIN, YET BE A TRUE DISCIPLE. II.-That This SIN MAY BE BUT A SIN OF JNFIRMITY. III,—THAT BEING so, Christ WILL NOT LEAVE HIM IN IT, BUT WILL
COME AGAIN, AND NOT CAST HIM OFF.
PREACHED AT STEPNEY, A. D. 1656.
“ And he came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy."-Matt. xxvi. 43.
In the verses next precedent and consequent, you may see the difference between the true and the false disciple; both sinned, but they differ in their sin, and in the issue of it. The true disciple sleeps, when he should have prayed; and he slept again and again, that was his sin, for our Saviour commanded them to watch and pray. But Christ wakened them, and would not leave them sleeping; he came to them with his wakening mercy, and they were awakened ; that was the issue of their sin. But the false disciple Judas was awake, and he watched unto what is evil. The good disciple slept unto what was good, and the false disciple watched unto what was evil; that was his sin. - For while Christ yet spake (ver. 17), lo Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude, with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him, gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he, hold him fast: and forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master, and kissed him.” This was his sin, wherein our Saviour leaves him, and doth not awaken him, but suffered him to go on, leading him forth with the workers of iniquity. That was the issue of his sin. In this verse 43, you have the true disciple's sin, and the
his dealing by Christ, and Christ's dealing by him.
He slept when he should have been at prayer; which sin is described by the cause thereof, and by the repetition of it.
The cause of it in these words : “ For their eyes were heavy." This sin, therefore, was a sin of infirmity, a sin of weakness, and so our Saviour calls it, ver. 41, for saith he, “ The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The repetition of this sin you have in these words: “ He found them asleep again.” Christ had wakened them before, and commanded them to pray; but they slept again and again. Thus did they deal by Christ.
But how did Christ deal by them? He did not leave them in their sin, nor cast them off, as he did deal by Judas; but he came to them again, and as they slept again, so Christ came again : his waking grace and mercy was as high as their slumbering sin; they sin again, and he comes again. So that the doctrine from the whole verse is this:
Though a man do sin again and again, yet if his sin be a sin of infirmity, Christ will not leave him in it, but will come again, and not cast him off.
For the opening and clearing whereof, three things will fall under our consideration.
First, That a man may possibly fall into the same sin again and again, yet be a true disciple.
Secondly, That this sin may be but a sin of infirmity.
Thirdly, That being so, Christ will not leave him in it, but will come again, and not cast him off.
First, It is possible that a good man may fall into the same sin again and again.
I confess it is an evil thing so to do, and a great evil. In some respects it may be worse to fall into the same sin, than to fall into others; for this may more waste one's peace,
and destroy the assurance of God's love. Sins against light do the most darken. Now when we have repented, and then fall into that very sin which they repented of, they do sin against light; yea, it is a kind of repenting of one's repentance : for as when a man hath
gone on in a sinful
and doth return unto God, he doth then repent of his sin ; so when a man hath gone on in a good way, and doth return to his sin, then he doth as it were repent of his repentance.* When God pardoneth a man, he saith, Go and sin no more :
* Lavamini mundi estote, Esa. i. Lavatur et mundus est, qui et preterrita
do I therefore return unto the same sin ? then am I most unthankful, disingenuous, and disobedient; yea, it is exceedingly displeasing unto the Lord, for a man to fall into the same sin again and again. Ye shall observe, therefore, that although the Lord pardoned the children of Israel that great sin of idolatry in the matter of the golden calf, yet in reference to the land of promise, he did not pardon their unbelief and murmuring, for they entered not into Canaan ; why? because of their unbelief, saith the apostle. Now if you look into Numb. xiv. 19, you shall find that Moses prayed, “ Pardon I beseech thee, O Lord, the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt, even until now. And the Lord said, I have pardoned, according to thy word; but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” At ver. 22, “ Because all these men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice, surely they shall not see the land, which I sware to give unto their fathers.” Though I pardon them, saith God, they shall never come into Canaan, the land of rest that I have promised : why? because they have sinned these ten times, murmuring again, and again, and again. So that it is exceedingly displeasing unto the Lord, for a man to fall into the same sin again and again. But yet, I say, it is possible that a good man, and true disciple of Christ, may fall into the same sin again and again. It was a sin for them thus to sleep, when our Saviour had commanded them to watch and pray; but they slept again and again. Look I pray you into Job xix., and see what Job saith concerning his friends : “ These ten times (saith he, at verse 3) have ye reproached me, yet are ye not ashamed.” It is an evil thing to reproach a man, it is worse to reproach a godly man, as it is yet worse to reproach a godly man under affliction, and to afflict the afflicted. But to reproach a man ten times, this is evil indeed; yet saith Job, “ These ten times have ye reproached me:” and yet Job's friends were godly. Possibly then, a good man may fall into
plangit, et iterum non admittit; lavatur et non est mundus, qui plangit quod gessit, nec deserit, sed post lachrimas flenda, hæc quæ fleverat, repetit. — Augustini Ser. 66, de tempore.
Yet if you
the same sin again, and again, ten times : that is very often. And you know how it was with Abraham, the father of the faithful. You read in Gen. xii., that when he was driven by reason of famine into Egypt, he desired his wife, Sarah, to say that she was his sister; which indeed was no lie, but his sin of unbelief, and very evil, for thereby he put his wife upon a great temptation. He was reproved for it, as you read in the chapter; yet if you look into chap. xx., you shall find that he was at the same work again. “And Abraham journied towards the south country; and Abraham said (ver. 2) of Sarah his wife, She is my sister.” And so also if you look into 2 Chron. xix., you shall find it was thus with that good king Jehoshaphat, complying too much with the king of Israel, for which he is reproved, at ver. 2 : “ And Jehu went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord ? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord." look into chap. xx. you shall find that he falls into the same sin again : “And Eliezer prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, (at the last verse) Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works : and the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish." Jehoshaphat a good man, yet he falls into the same sin again. So that I shall not need to spend longer time in this, it is too apparent: possibly a good man, a true disciple of Christ, may fall into the same sin again and again. That is the first.
Secondly. Though a man do fall into the same sin again and again, yet it may be but an infirmity.
For the opening and clearing of this, we must consider what a sin of infirmity is, and what is the true notion of it: which being cleared, the truth proposed will naturally fall into your bosom. Properly, therefore, a sin of infirmity is that sin which doth rather arise from want of strength to resist, than from will to commit, else it should be wickedness and not weakness.
But, in Scripture phrase, it is called a weakness, as here in this chapter, “ The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak;" and Rom. vi. 19, “ I speak after the manner of men, of the infirmity (or weakness) of your flesh.” And, therefore, it must be in one that hath spiritual life.
You do not say
that a stone is infirm or weak; why? because a stone hath no life in it: infirmity is a defect in one that hath life.
And, I say, it doth arise, not from wilfulness, but want of strength to resist. Now this want of strength to resist, doth either arise from some natural cause, which one cannot avoid, of which Paul speaks in Rom. vii. 19, “ The good that I would, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do :" and why so ? he gives the reason at verse 21, “ I find, then, a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me;" and verse 23, “ I find a law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and leading me captive," &c.: or else it doth arise from some present distemper, and that either in the mind and judgment, and then it is called an error, “Who knoweth the errors of his life?” Psalm xix., Heb. iii. 2: or else this distemper doth arise from some present passion, fear or the like, whereby a man is hurried into evil, and then he is said to be overtaken, Gal. vi. 1. So that when a man is alive unto God, and doth commit a sin for want of strength to resist, then he is said to sin out of infirmity.
Therefore if you ask whether every sin that a godly man duth commit be a sin of infirmity? I answer, No; because there are some sins that a godly man doth commit which he hath strength to avoid. Sometimes the word infirmity is taken largely, for all sin, which Jesus Christ our High Priest doth sympathize with us in. So Heb. iv.: “ We have not such an high priest who cannot be touched with our infirmities.” And thus all the sins of the godly may be and are sins of infirmity. But, properly and strictly, an infirmity is that sin which a man is taken captive by against his will, Rom. vii., that is, against the general bent and frame of his heart which he hath not present strength to resist. So Rom. xv. 1, “ Ye which are strong ought to bear the infirmities of those that are weak.” And thus every sin that a godly man commits is not a sin of infirmity.* If you ask whether
sin that a wicked man doth com* The sins whereinto the godly falleth, are not presumptuous, but are ordinarily of weakness and infirmity.--Perkins' Cases, book i. chap. 2.
Peccatum ex infirmitate est, cujas est determinatur causa instigans, ita ut sine tali causa non fieret.--Corduba, lib. ii. quest. 8.
Ut peccatum sit ex infirmitate, ita debere fiere ex passione ut ipsa sit sufficiens causa qua ablata, tale peccatum non sequeretur.- Vasquez in 12. Co. 1, q. 77,