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or that you have been religious, and maintained a constant course of holy duties and good works.
I would not here be mistaken by any, as if I were preaching against morality, or condemning civility and common honesty. No, by no means: they are excellent things, and the practice of them very commendable; and I heartily wish there were more of them to be found in the lives of those, that call themselves Christians. But, if this be all you can say for yourselves, believe it, the guilt but of one of your least sins will outweigh all these; and you, and all this your righteousness, must sink down together into hell. If this be all men have to plead for happiness, a civil, fair, and honest conversation: this may and yet men may indulge themselves in Little Sins, which will most certainly ruin and destroy them.
iii. If there be so great evil and danger in Little Sins, hence learn WHAT ABSOLUTE NEED WE STAND IN OF CHRIST: NOT ONLY THOSE AMONG US, WHOSE LIVES ARE OPENLY GROSS AND SCANDALOUS; BUT EVEN THOSE, WHO ARE MOST CIRCUMSPECT AND MOST CAREFUL IN THEIR WALKINGS.
Though you do not wallow and roll yourselves in the common filth and pollutions of the world; yet is it not possible, but that our garments should be sometimes spotted. An absolute and perfect state is rather to be wished for, than enjoyed, in this life. The utmost, that we can attain to here, is, not to commit Great Sins, nor to allow ourselves in Little Sins when through daily infirmity we do commit them.
Now these Little Sins, that the best of God's servants daily and hourly slip into, cannot be pardoned without the blood of a great and mighty Saviour. It is the same precious blood of Jesus Christ, that satisfied divine justice, for the incest of Lot, for the drunkenness of Noah, for the adultery and murder of David, and for the perjury of Peter, that must satisfy it also for thy vain thoughts, and for thy foolish and idle words, if ever thou art saved: for without blood, there is no remission: Heb. ix. 22. and, without remission, there is no salvation: Acts xxvi. 18. The same blood, that is a propitiation and atonement for the greatest sins of the saints now in heaven, many whereof possibly have been as great as ever were committed on earth; the same blood of atonement must take from thee the guilt of thy vain thoughts and of thy idle words, or thou must for ever perish under them.
iv. If there be so great evil and danger in Little Sins, hence see, then, WHAT CAUSE WE HAVE TO BEMOAN AND HUMBLE OUR→ SELVES BEFORE GOD, WITH TEARS IN OUR EYES AND SORROW IN OUR HEARTS, EVEN FOR OUR LITTLE SINS.
We should never approach before the Throne of Grace in Prayer, but, before the close thereof, we should, in confession, mourn over and beg strength against those, that the world calls, and we account, Small Sins.
Indeed, it is impossible to confess them all, particularly. Who can reckon up the vain thoughts and idle words of one day, without a whole day's time to recount them? for, indeed, we do little else in the day. And who, then, can reckon up the vain thoughts and idle words, that he is guilty of in his whole life, without living over his whole life to recount them?
When we have, therefore, confessed the more observable failings of every day, we ought to wrap up the rest in a general, but yet in a serious and sorrowful, acknowledgment. Thus you find David did: Psalm li. where you have him confessing his two foul sins of adultery and murder. It is true, one would think he should have been so intent upon the begging of pardon for those sins, as that he could not spare a petition to ask pardon for any other sins: but, yet, though these were his Great Sins, yet he knew himself guilty of other transgressions besides, though of a less nature; and, therefore, he sums up all together, aud heartily begs pardon for them in the heap: v. 9. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. And so, truly, we ought, in our daily prayers to God, after particular confession of those sins that do more nearly touch and grate upon our consciences, to bind up the rest in one general petition; and so present them to God for pardon, in some such like manner as this: "Lord, my own conscience condemns me; and thou art greater than my conscience, and knowest all things: I have observed much sin and guilt by myself this day; and thou, who searchest the heart and triest the reins, knowest far more by me than I do by myself: but, whatever I know by myself, or what ever thou knowest by me, Lord, do thou freely pardon and forgive it all unto me."
Only, here take heed, that, when you thus make your confessions of your Small Sins in general, you do not also make them overtly, slightly, and superficially; which is the common fault of those, that confess sin by the heap. As many Little Sins of an ordinary infirmity, do equal the guilt of one great
sin: so, truly, when we thus every day confess many of them together, we ought to be deeply affected with true godly sorrow; and as earnestly pray for the pardon of them, and as importunately beg power and strength against them, with the same tears, groans, and holy shame, as if that day we had committed some more gross and heinous sin.
When, therefore, in your prayers, you come to this request, "Lord, pardon me the sins and failings of this day," think with yourself, "Now I ought to be as fervent, as affectionate and penitent, as if I were confessing drunkenness or murder; for, possibly, the Little Sins and failings that I have committed this day, if they were all of them put together, the guilt of them may amount to be as great as one of those gross sins." Now, upon such a general confession and humiliation as this is, God issues out a pardon, in course, for our common and ordinary infirmities; and, by one act of oblivion, blots out many acts of provocation.
There are Two Considerations, that may be very useful to us, in order to the humbling of ourselves before God for Little Sins.
1. Consider, These Little Sins are those sins, whereby we continually, without intermission, offend against God, and provoke him against our own souls.
Still, either the matter of our actions is contrary to the holy will and Law of God; or the manner, in which we perform them. If the substance of our actions be not evil, yet the circumstances are: there is not a word in prayer, not a thought in meditation, but hath the guilt of some sin cleaving to it. And, if it be so with us in our holy performances, how do you think then it is with us in our common and ordinary conversation? And should it not deeply humble us, to consider, that there is not one hour, no nor one moment of our lives, free from sin? that our pulses beat too slow to keep an account of our sins by? Our thoughts are continually in motion, without intermission or cessation; and yet, every one of the imaginations of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil, and that continually: Gen. vi. 5. Certainly, did we seriously consider what it is we say, when we confess to God that our whole lives are nothing but one continued course of sin, those moments, every one of which brings fresh guilt upon us, would not slide away so pleasantly with us as they do: but, because our sins seem small to us, we regard them not; and so our time wastes, and our guilt increases, till eternity
puts a period and full end to those sins, to which we could never put any stop or intermission.
2. Consider what a corrupt and depraved nature these Little Sins do flow from.
When, at any time, we are sensible of a vain and sinful thought rising up in our hearts, we should trace it along to the fountain of it; even original corruption, from whence it bubbles up. If we would but do so, we should see great cause to be deeply humbled for that fruitful seed-plot of all manner of sins, that is in our hearts. Many thousands of lusts lie crawling and knotting together there, that never yet saw the light. The damned in hell have not worse natures in them, than we have. There is no sin, how horrid so ever, that they committed on earth, or can be supposed to commit now in hell, but we also should run into it, did not God's powerful restraints withhold us. Now do Little Sins proceed from such a corrupt and cursed fountain? and have we not then great cause to be humbled before the Lord for them; and to say, "Lord, here is sin, a Little Sín it is, but yet it proceeds from a heart that hath in it the spawn of all the greatest and vilest sins that ever were or can be committed: and, that it is but a vain thought, and not blasphemy, murder, or adultery, or any of the greatest and most crying sins that ever were committed in the world, is to be acknowledged and attributed only to the powerful restraint of thy free grace; for the same corrupt fountain, that sends forth this vain thought and that idle word, would have sent forth blasphemy, adultery, atheism, or any of the vilest abominations; but it is thy free grace only, that hath restrained us?"
v. If there be so great evil and danger in Little Sins, this then should teach us, NOT TO MAKE LIGHT OF ANY SIN.
Load every sin with its due weight: give every sin its proper aggravations; and then, certainly, you will see no reason to account any of them to be small or little.
To help you in this, take briefly these directions.
1. Pray earnestly for a wise and an understanding heart, and for a soft and tender conscience.
Some sins so counterfeit a harmless appearance, and look so innocently, that a man had need of much spiritual wisdom, to know how to distinguish between good and evil; and to put a difference between those things, that differ as much as heaven and hell do. Now this ariseth from that great blindness and
ignorance, that is in men's minds: whereby they cannot discern that great evil and mischief, that lurks under Small Sins; but are apt to account every thing, that is not scandalous and grossly wicked, to be but an indifferent matter. And, as their minds are thus blinded, so their hearts are hardened; that what they see and know to be sinful, yet they will dare to venture upon. Whence is it else, that the generality of the world live in the commission of those that they call Little Sins, but because their hearts are hardened and their consciences seared; that those sins, that are great enough to damn them, yet are not great enough to trouble them? A tender conscience is like the apple of a man's eye: the least dust, that gets into it, afflicts it. There is no surer and better way to know whether our consciences begin to grow dead and stupid, than to observe what impressions Small Sins make upon them: if we are not very careful to avoid all appearance of evil, and to shun whatsoever looks like sin; if we are not as much troubled at the vanity of our thoughts and words, at the rising up of sinful motions and desires in us, as we have been formerly; we may then conclude that our hearts are hardened and our consciences are stupifying; for a tender conscience will no more allow of Small than of Great Sins.
2. Labour always to keep alive upon your hearts awful and reverent thoughts of God, his omnipresence and omniscience; that there is no sin so small, but he knows it: though but a sin in our thoughts, yet every thought of our hearts is altogether known unto him.
Call to remembrance his infinite purity and holiness, whereby he hates every Little Sin, even with an infinite hatred, as well as the greatest. Think of his power, whereby he can, and of his truth, justice, and severity, whereby he will punish every Little Sin, with no less than eternal destruction. And, whilst you thus think of God, indulge yourselves in Little Sins, if you can. The Psalmist gives this very direction: Ps. iv. 4. Stand in awe, and sin not; that is, of the infinite, glorious majesty of God. Have awful thoughts and reverential apprehensions of God abiding upon your hearts, and that will keep you from sinning stand in awe, and sin not. To look upon sin through the attributes of God, is, to look upon it through a magnifying glass; and, thus, you may best see its ugly deformed nature : this is the best way to represent the infinite guilt, that is in it;