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themselves unto the service of sin, but they are overcome by it, which manifests that they do in some measure strive against it. And on the other hand they go beyond them who complain they are led captives to the law of sin; for they are said to become servants to corruption,' which the others are not in any sense. These therefore seem to be such, and such I do intend, who notwithstanding all their light and convictions, with all the endeavours that they use, are so far under the power of some prevalent habitual lust, as to serve it in a frequent reiteration of actual sins.
2. If this be the case complained of, it is acknowledged to be a condition of no small hazard and danger. And he who is not deeply sensible hereof, is 'like him that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth on the top of a mast;' as this state is at large described with respect unto them who are given to wine, Prov. xxiii. 29–35. Wherefore, unless some remedy be found out in this case, it must be acknowledged that it will deprive men of, or keep them from, any assured interest in gospel holiness.
I must not here divert to consider in general the nature and means of the mortification of sin; I have done it already in other discourses, with the best directions for that end which I am able to propose. Unto them I do refer the persons concerned for guidance and counsel where better is not at hand. Unto what hath heen so treated already I shall only add, that those who would secure an interest in gospel holiness, by a deliverance from the power of inveterate habitual corruptions, may take the ensuing directions.
First, If they have in vain attempted their own deliverance, let them not delay to acquaint some able spiritual guide with their state and condition. This sometimes hatb broken, defeated, and scattered at once the forces of sin in the soul, where in its own wisdom and strength it was no way able to conflict with it. And it is the ordinance of God to this purpose; James v. 16. Confess your faults one to another,' &c. It was no small effect of the craft of Satan, so to abuse this ordinance of God by turning it into a necessary confession of all sin unto a priest, invested with power of absolution, which was attended with innumerable evils, and proved an effectual engine for the ruin of the souls of men, to keep them off from that benefit which the due use
of it was designed to administer unto sinners. If therefore any have found that sin hath been, and yet is too strong for them, and that that is come upon them which the wise man mentions, Wo unto him that is alone;' let them address themselves for advice unto such as have the tongue of the learned,' to speak a word in season unto them that are weary and ready to faint, and they will find relief. God will discover that evil of this kind, which men will hide to their own disadvantage. He will lay-open those festered wounds which men would cover until rottenness enter into their bones.
Secondly, The effect aimed at will never be accomplished without violence offered unto ourselves as unto all occasions of sin, namely, as to the particular corruption supposed prevalent. In this case, when known occasions of the excitation or actings of the evil complained of do occur, no deliberations or inclinations, or civil compliances, are once to be admitted. Violence and sudden executions of foretaken resolves, without any parley or debate, are to be pursued. This is the condition wherein our Saviour's advice must take place, if we intend to escape; namely, of 'pulling out a right eye, and cutting off a right hand,' Matt. v. 29, 30. which cannot be done without offering violence unto our affections and inclinations. This is the meaning of the counsel given, Prov. iv. 14, 15. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men ; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away.' The multiplication of the expressions wherein the duty charged doth consist, do intimate that in the obedience required in this particular, a resolution acted with a holy violence is required. And there are three things in this holy violence with respect unto the occasions of a prevalent corruption.
1. The mind's rejection of their first solicitations. When such seasons do befall, or are befalling any man, wherein his lust or sin hath wonted to act itself, they smile on one another, and are ready to shake hands in folly. Psal. 1. 18. Prov. xxiii. 31. And sundry things will present themselves unto the mind to render the occasion necessary, or at least not dangerous. But if all insinuation of that kind be not immediately rejected, without parley or delay, the soul probably will be again entangled and overcome.
2. A stated satisfaction concerning the folly of reserves,
although the occasion should be complied withal or embraced, so as that the mind will hear no more of them under any pretence whatever. Such reserves will offer themselves, that although a man proceed so far, or so far in the gratification of his present inclinations, yet he will put a stop unto, or avoid what they may lead unto. When the mind is fully possessed of the deceitfulness of the heart in this matter, it will see its own folly in listening after such false promises or reserves, and reject the first thoughts of them with indignation.
3. Local mutation, or avoiding the place itself, or society and company, with a holy force put upon the affections, where such occasions are offered. This is that which is so expressed and pressed on us in the place before mentioned, Prov. iv. 14, 15.
These things belong unto that holy violence which men are to use unto themselves, and must use if ever they intend to be freed from the power of an habitually prevalent corruption. And those who judge their deliverance not to be worth this watchfulness and care, will live and die under the power of sin.
Thirdly, Constancy in private prayer against the power of such a corruption. This is all the way a man hath to deal with God about such an evil. For such things are to be thought and spoken, such circumstances to be insisted on, and such pleas to be used, as are not meet to be communicated to or with others. And for the most part it will be found, that constant, earnest, faithful private prayer, and any strong corruption, will be like Moses and Amalek. When Moses's hands were down, Amalek prevailed; but when they were lifted up, Israel had the upper hand. And if a man engages into especial prayer, in opposition unto any sin or corruption, whatever he thinks of his own resolutions, whatever confidence he hath in his purposes, as he begins to fail or faint in the constancy or fervency of that duty, so his sin gets strength in him, and will not fail to attempt him successfully on the next occasion. Nor will the utmost effect of any man's wisdom, or care, or ability, work out his deliverance in this case, without a conscientious attendance unto, and discharge of their duty.
Sundry other things of an alike nature unto these might
be insisted on, but that I must not too far digress from my principal design. This I thought meet to interpose for the direction of such as may be kept off from a successful endeavour to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.'
Directions to avoid the power of a prevailing apostacy.
UNTO the warnings given in the precedent chapter some directions may be added, perhaps not unuseful unto them who would be preserved from the occasions, causes, and danger of the apostacy thus far inquired into. For although, as hath been declared, a watchful attendance unto all gospel duties, and a vigorous exercise of all gospel graces in general are required unto our preservation, yet there are some things which have an especial respect unto the present state of the causes and circumstances of the evil insisted on, which ought in an especial manner to be remembered. And that things of this nature are by many despised, is no argument why we should not be diligent in our attendance unto them. For if they are such things as the Scripture prescribeth in the like cases, the contempt of them proceeds only from that pride and security which are no small part of the apostacy complained of.
Our first direction of this kind is, that we should all labour for a true real sense of the concernment of the glory of God in this matter, and what is our duty with respect thereunto. Where this is not, men are under the power of that security which is the broad way and wide gate leading into apostacy. Yea, where this is not the first and principal thing wherewith we are affected in any evil that falls out in the world, our hearts are not upright in what we profess.
When God threatened to disinherit the Israelites, and destroy the whole congregation as one man in the wilderness, because of their provoking rebellion; that wherewith Moses, in all the circumstances of his relation unto them and interest in them was affected withal, was, the concernment of the glory and name of God therein; Numb. xiv. 13-18. And it was so with Joshua in the sin and punishment of the same
people. What wilt thou do,' saith he, unto thy great name?' Josh, vii. 9. words which have been made a public derision in the days wherein we live.
We cannot but have thoughts about these things, for they are the common subject of many men's discourse. But if our thoughts about them are confined unto a narrow compass, and so that it be well with us and some few others in whom we are peculiarly concerned, the evil that is come on the world in other places, is lightly set by; if we are sensible of no interest of the glory of God, of the honour of Christ, and the gospel therein, or are regardless of them, we are scarce likely to be delivered from that fatal issue whereunto all these things are in an open tendency.
Is it nothing unto us, that so many nations in the world where the profession of the gospel, and an avowed subjection of soul and conscience unto Jesus Christ, did flourish for some ages, are now utterly overrun with Mahometanism, paganism, and atheism? Do we suppose these things are fallen out by chance, or come to pass by a fatal revolution of affairs, such as all things in this world are obnoxious unto? Did ever any nation or people under heaven lose the gospel as unto its profession, who did not first reject it as unto its power, purity, and obedience? And is not the glory of God, is not the honour of Christ, peculiarly concerned herein?
Is it nothing unto us, that innumerable souls who yet continue to make an outward profession of the name of Christ, have so degenerated from the mystery, holiness, and worship of the gospel, as to provoke the holy God to give them up for so many generations, unto the most woful bondage and slavery, that ever any of the children of men were cast under from the foundation of the world, without the least hopes or appearance of relief? And is it not to be bewailed, that such is the power of that apostacy which brought all this evil upon them, as that they have not to this day accepted of the punishment of their sins, nor been bettered by all that they have undergone? And doth not that holy name whereby we are called suffer in these things? Is it not on their account evil spoken of? For do not the miseries, the long-continued woful calamities, and oppressions of innumerable mul titudes of great nations, outwardly professing the Christian religion, become a snare to the world, and a