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PRESERVATION AND RECOVERY FROM SIN.
Titus, ii. 11, 12.
For the grace of God, that bringeth salva
tion, hath appeared unto all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously,
and godly, in this present world. THERE are certain particular texts of
Scripture which are of inestimable use; for that in a few, short, clear words, they show us the sum of our duty. Such texts ought to be deeply infixed and imprinted upon our memories ; to be written indeed, upon our hearts. The text, which I have read you,
is entitled to this distinction. No single sentence that ever was written down for the direction of mankind, comprises
more important truth in less room. The text gives us a rule of life and conduct; and tells us, that to lay down for mankind this rule, and enforce it by the promise of salvation, was a great object of the Gospel being published in the world. The Gospel might include other objects, and answer other purposes ;
but as far as related to the regulation of life and conduct, this was its object and its purpose. The rule, you hear, is, that, “ denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." We must begin “ by denying ungodliness and worldly lusts : which means, that we must resist or break off all sins of licentiousness, debauchery, and intemperance; for these are what are specifically meant by worldly lusts.
And these must be denied; that is, they must either be withstood in the first instance, or the evil courses into which they have drawn us must be broken off.
When a rule of morals is plain and positive, it is seldom that there is any advantage in enlarging upon the rule itself. We only weaken it by dilating it. I shall employ, therefore, my present discourse in offering such heads of advice as may be likely, by God's blessing, to assist us in rendering obedience to the rule laid down for us; an obedience upon which salvation depends.
First, then, I observe concerning licentious practices, that it is most practicable to be entirely innocent; that it is a more easy thing to withstand them altogether, than it is to set bounds to their indulgence. This is a point not sufficiently understood ; though true, it is not believed. Men know not what they are doing when they enter upon vicious courses ; what a struggle, what a contest, what misery, what torment they are preparing for themselves. I trust that there is hardly a man or woman living who enters into a course of sin with the design of remaining in it to the end : who can brave the punishment of hell; who intends to die in that state of sure perdition, to which a course of unrepented sin must bring him or her. No, that is not the plan even of the worst, much less of the generality of mankind. Their plan is to allow themselves to a certain length, and there stop ; for a certain time, and then reform ; in such and such opportunities and temptations, but in no more. Now to such persons and to such plans, I say this, that it would not have cost them one-tenth of the mortification, pain, and self-denial, to have kept themselves at a distance from sin, that it must and will cost them to break it off: adding the further consideration, that, so long as men preserve their innocence, the consciousness of doing what is right, is both the strongest possible support of their resolution, and the most constant source of satisfaction to their thoughts : but that when men once begin to give way to vicious indulgences, another state of things takes place in their breasts. Disturbance at the heart, struggles and defeats, resolutions and relapses, self-reproach and self-condemnation, drive out all quietness and tranquillity of conscience. Peace within is at an end. All is unsettled. Did the young and unexperienced know the truth of this matter ; how much easier it is to keep innocency than to return to it; how great and terrible is the danger that they do not return to it at all: surely they would see, and see in a light strong enough to influence their determination, that to adhere inviolably to the rules of temperance, soberness and chastity, was their safety, their wisdom, their happiness. How many bitter thoughts does the innocent man avoid ? Serenity and cheerfulness are his portion. Hope is continually pouring its balm into his soul. His heart is at rest, whilst others are goaded and tortured by the stings of a wounded conscience, the remonstrances and risings up of principles which they cannot forget ; perpetually teased by returning temptations, perpetually lamenting defeated resolutions. “ There is no peace unto the wicked, saith
God.” There is no comfort in such a life as this, let a man's outward circumstances be what they will. Genuine satisfaction of mind is not attainable under the recurring consciousness of being immersed in a course of sin, and the still remaining prevalence of religious principles. Yet either this must be the state of a sinner till he recover again his virtuous