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tie custos, fear is the guard of innocency: if you always fear to commit it, you shall never commit the same.
In case that you do at any time fall into sin, say, Well, but through the grace of God, though I commit what is evil, I will never oppose what is good; by the grace of God I will carry this rule along with me: Though I commit what is evil, I will never oppose what is good.
In case any great work be done before you, that lies beyond your reach and beyond your fathom, say, though I do not understand this work, I will admire; and though I cannot reach it, yet I will not blaspheme and speak against it.
And if heretofore, christian, thou hast found God breathing upon thy heart in any ordinance, public or private, or in any way of God, take heed, as for thy life, that thou dost never speak evil or blaspheme that way of God wherein thou hast found the Spirit of God breathing. This sin is always accompanied with invidentia fratrum, with the envy of the saints, and therefore some have thought the sin against the Holy Ghost did consist in it, in the envying of the saints ; but though that be not it, yet that accompanies it. Canst thou not find thy own heart rise to those heights of graces that others do? take heed you never envy the saints lest you fall from envying those that are good, to oppose goodness itself, which is the proper work of the Holy Ghost.*
And if, indeed, you would be kept from this great transgression, then take heed of all declinings, and the steps thereof. There are three steps, as in our conversion to God, so in our apostacy, declining, and going out from God. Three steps in our coming in to God: first, a man's affection is taken with that which is good; then his judgment is convinced; and then his will strikes in, and he resolves with all his heart and soul to cleave to the Lord for ever. So in a man's declining and going out from God: first, a man's affection declines; then his judgment alters: I thought so and so indeed before, but now I am of another mind; and then it comes to his will, and he will go on, and let parents say, and ministers say, and friends say what they will, yet he will go on, and that because he will. Now saith the apostle, " If any
* Hinc discimus quantopere nobis ab odio fratrum, cavendum est, quandoquidem eo fit, ut quandoque odio hominis in ipsam Dei veritatem feramur precipites. Cartwrighti Harm. p. 357.
man sin wilfully, after he hath received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." Therefore as you desire to be kept from this great transgression: doth your affections decline? take heed your judgment do not alter; doth your judgment alter? take heed that your will be not perverse: oh, take heed of all declinings, and the steps thereof.
But finally, Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some have been ; but as heretofore provoke one another to love and good works; and so much the more as you see the day approaching; and what I say
to you, I say to all, and to mine own soul, Let us breathe after the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, “ for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” Oh, let us pray to God for his keeping grace, it is he alone that keeps us; and the Lord keep all our souls from this great transgression.
OF THE SIN OF INFIRMITY.
Wherein is shewed, besides other things,
1. That A MAN MAY POSSIBLY FALL INTO THE SAME SIN AGAIN AND
AGAIN, YET BE A TRUE DISCIPLE. II.-That TAIS SIN MAY BE BUT A SIN OF INFIRMITY. III,TAAT 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 Lord's grace; 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
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 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 be, 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 afliction, and to afflict the afficted. 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.