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phet's expression, “ it is as if one should fly from a lion, and meet with a bear, that will as certainly devour him.”
The forsaking our respective sin is the inseparable effect of uprightness. It has been proved before, that if the heart be divided between obedience to the divine law, and inclination to any sin, it is false to God. Repenting Ephraim said, “ what have I to do any more with idols ?" Hosea 14. An expresssion of vehement detestation : idolatry had been the reigning sin of that tribe, and therefore the renouncing of idols was a clear convincing sign of their sound conversion. It is impossible that sincere love to God, and the habitual allowance of a known sin should be in the same heart, as for the ark of God and the idol of the Philistines to be placed on the same altar : uprightness is consistent with frailties, but not with chosen lusts. As loyalty to the prince is consistent with some actions contravening his laws, that proceed from ignorance or surprise : but loyalty is inconsistent with rebellion, that is open treason, or with treasonable designs that are secret rebellion. So any sin that men presumptuously live in, or consent to in their hearts, is absolutely inconsistent with uprightness.
2. Let us be excited to keep ourselves with all diligence from our iniquity. This is the master-piece of mortification, the noble effect of renewing grace, and very difficult to the corrupt nature. To enforce this duty, I will propound those motives and means as are very conducing for our performance of it.
The motives are,
(1.) Habitual indulged lusts are irreconcileable with the state of grace; they render the sinner, till forsaken, incapable of God's pardoning mercy here, and the heavenly glory hereafter. The gospel is a gracious act of oblivion for the restoring of rebellious sinners to the favour of God: but the pardon is obtained upon conditions that are indispensable. Mercy is assured to penitent believers for all their sins of ignorance, and those frailties that are the causes of their daily sorrow and watchfulness, and for all presumptuous sins retracted by repentance: but the Saviour of the world excludes the impenitent and unreformed from mercy; 6 unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Now when repentance is sound and solemn, the spirit is deeply wounded for that sin whereby God has been most dishonoured, and his law violated: the remembrance of it opens a full stream of tears, and excites a holy hatred : and according to the degrees of sørrow and revenge, there will be care to preserve ourselves from that sin. The psalmist saith, “ blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, in whose spirit there is no guile;” implying, that one reserved lust which is a certain argument of deceit in the fairest professors of religion, is a bar against the pardon of our sins. The tenor of the unchangeable covenant of grace is, “ I will write my laws in their hearts; and I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities I will remember no more:” God promises to reconcile their affections to his commands. The law may be written in the mind and memory of an unsanctified person, for the ideas of the most repugnant things are consistent in those faculties; but the heart is not capable of contrary objects: the love of God's law expels the predominant love of sin. Now since the promise of pardon is in conjunction with inward sanctification, which implies an universal aversion from sin, it is evident that indulged habitual lusts are not capable of pardon : whatever quality the sin be of, whether of omission or commission, the allowance makes it destructive to sinners. As from what corner soever a blasting wind comes, whether from the east or the north, it destroys the fruits. If but one selected sin remains in the affections and practice, it contracts the malignity of all the rest, and will prove deadly to the soul,
It is not a presumptuous reliance on the merits of Christ will “ save men with their sins.”
The atonement made to divine justice by the precious sacrifice of the Lamb of God, was never designed for the reconciling God to those who with depraved obstinacy continue in their sins : it is utterly inconsistent with the divine wisdom, holiness, justice, and truth, to appoint a sacrifice for the expiation of final impenitency: such out-sin the death of Christ, I will not say as to its infinite merit, but as to the application and intended benefit of it. The value of his death to abolish the guilt, and the virtue of it to mortify the power of sin are inseparable. The precious balm has a fragrant smell that revives the spirits, but without applying its substance to the wound the scent will not heal it. The soul must feel the power of Christ's sufferings to kill our sins, otherwise the pleasing belief of his righteousness will not justify us before God. The mercy-seat sprinkled with his blood affords protection from the avenger to all relenting, returning sinners; but justice will tear the presumptuous sinner from the horns of the altar,
The most rigorous penance will not avail without mortifying the affection to sin: the most severe discipline to the body, is but like a mountebank's applying the salve to the weapon without dressing the wound, that cannot work a sound cure.
T'he dispensing of the treasure of merits to penitent paymasters, and giving mercenary bills of exchange to receive righteousness from others, is so wretched and transparent a fallacy, that were not the minds of men prodigiously stupified, it is impossible they should believe it will avail them before the judgment-seat of God.
Let our prayers be never so frequent and earnest, they are of no prevalency with God whilst the beloved sin is retained. The condition of our favourable audience is set down by Solomon in his divine prayer at the dedication of the temple ; " what prayer or supplication soever be made by any man, or by all the people of Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hand to heaven; then hear thou in heaven, and hearing forgive.” 1 Kings 8. 38. If they shall be sensible of the bosom sin, of its pestilential malignity, and with repenting sorrow acknowledge and forsake it, they are prepared objects of mercy. David saith, “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer.” God sees through all the disguises of hypocrites, and has a bright prospect into the heart, if any insinuating infirmity be cherished there, it will make him averse from our persons and requests.
It is not the perforinance of religious and charitable duties, that will purchase indulgence for a beloved sin. The most costly sacrifices, the most liberal charities, are neither pleasing to God, nor profitable to us, without an unfeigned renouncing of our sins. It is a carnal shift that many use to excuse the practice of a chosen sin, by the doing some good things : many strict observers of the rituals of religion, are dissolute epicures: as if they might compensate for their voluntary defects in one duty by their care in another. But if conscience be not so far stupified that it can neither hear, nor see, nor speak, it is impossible but the guilty deceiver must be terrified with the words of St. James, " that whosoever shall keep the whole law, yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all :” the most strict observance of one precept will not excuse disobedience to another : the voluntary con-. tinued transgression of any command involves a man under the guilt of breaking the entire law, the divine authority being despised that makes it binding. I will instance in one kind of sins. * Many that have increased their estates by craft and circumvention, or by violence and rapine, will bequeath part to pious uses, presuming by a kind of composition with God to be discharged of their guilty gains. St. Austin observes that some in his time thought it to be obedience to the command of our Saviour, “ make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations." This is to defile and debase the name of the righteous and Holy God, it is to make him altogether like to corrupt men, as if he would be bribed to patronize their wickedness. And in other cases, thus monstrously carnal men bend the rule of rectitude to the obliquity of their desires. They are willing to deceive themselves, and imagine that only ministers of a preciser strain will terrify them with eternal judgment for one retained sin; they desire and are apt to believe such a mercy, as will bring them to heaven with their sins in their bosoms. But the apostle warns us, “ be not deceived, God is not mocked ; as a man sows, so shall he reap.”
There are sure and tender mercies for the upright; but strict and certain justice for the wicked. Sincerity is so amiable and pleasing in God's eyes, that he graciously passes by many infirmities upon that account. It is said of Asa, “ that his heart was perfect all his days," 2 Chron. 15. 17, and notwithstanding some gross faults, God accepted him. But when the heart is corrupted by the love of some pleasant or profitable sin, it renders a person with the most specious services odious in God's sight. In short, indulged known sins that men habitually commit in hopes of an easy absolution, are not the spots of God's children. It is so directly contrary to the divine nature, to that holy ingenuous fear of offending our heavenly Father resulting
* Putant se facere quod præceptum est, dicunt enim rapereres alienas Mammona est iniquitatis: erogare inde aliquid maxime egentibus sanctis hoc est, facere amicos de Mammona Iniquitatis. Intellectus iste corrigendus est, imo de tabulis cordis delendus est, Noli talem pingere Deum, Aug. Ser, 25. de Verb. Dom.
from it, that only the wicked are capable of such 'a disposition. Presumptuous sins are a contumelious abuse of divine mercy, and exasperate that high and tender attribute to the confusion of sinners at the last. “ Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in heart. As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity.” Psal. 125. 4.
(2.) We may, by divine grace, subdue the strongest lusts, that from our nature and temper, or from custom, and the interests of the carnal state have rule over us. The new covenant assures believers, that “ sin shall not have dominion over them, because they are not under the law but under grace.” The law strictly forbids sin, but the gospel furnishes with strength to subdue it. It is true, inherent corruption has so divested men of spiritual strength, that they cannot free themselves from the power and infection of sin: and when any lust is fomented by temptations, and has been frequently gratified, it is more hard to be subdued. · The apostle speaks of some, “ whose eyes were full of adultery, that could not cease from sin :" they were in a state of carnality, and loved to be so. When lust is imperious, and the will servile, men cannot wean themselves from the poisoned breasts. This disability consists in the depraved obstinacy of the will, that aggravates their sin and judgment. Yet so foolish are sinners, as to use this plea to make them excusable for their habitual lusts : conscience checks them, and some faint desires they have to avoid their sins, but they cannot change their natures. They colour licentiousness with the pretence of necessity: they complain of their chains, to let loose the reins of their exorbitant desires in a course of sin. But natural corruption that involves us under guilt, cannot make us innocent. It is true, if in our original condition, the human will had been stamped by fate with an unalterable inclination to sin, we could not have been guilty: * for if there be no principles of liberty, all the names of good and evil are cancelled, and all moral means, instructions, persuasions, threatenings, are but lost labour. In brutes there are some natural resemblances of virtue and vice, yet not worthy of reward or punishment ; only so far as by imagination they are
* Nec bonus quisq; nec malus dici debeat, nec esse valeat, nisi volens.