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cuse the Sins which they commit upon the Account
Sins of Infirmity are of another Kind; they are weak and imperfect Sins, when we are either furprized into the Commiffion of them, or otherwise hurried on by fome fudden Fear, or other the like Powerful Paffion, or overbearing Temptation, before we have Time to confider what we do, or to arm our felves with Firmness and Refolution against it. But otherwife, where the Sin is known, and the Will free, and there was Time for Deliberation, and yet we agreed to it, this can by no Means be called a Sin of Infirmity: And here the Frequency of the Commiffion, or the Eafinefs of falling, may ferve to aggravate indeed, but fure will by no Means extenuate, and much lefs excufe the Guilt of it.
I might to these add, 3dly, Thofe Principles of the Church of Rome, which I am perfuaded, have not a little contributed to Mens Neglect of true Piety, viz. of being faved by others Performances; of Purgatory and Indulgences, Maffes and Prayers for the Dead; of the Power of the Priest to abfolve Sins; and of an imperfect, ineffectual Sorrow for Sin, fufficient to difpofe a Man to receive the Grace of Abfolution; of the Efficacy of the Sacraments to obtain their Ends, tho' the Perfon be not otherwise in a Condition to obtain the Grace of Gol without them; and in which fome of them have gone fo far, as to declare Contrition to be rather a Hindrance than a Benefit to the Sacrament of Penance; and one adds plainly, That the Excellence of the Sacraments of the Gofpel in general, above thofe of the Law, confifts in this, That they have freed us from the intolerable Yoke
Poenit. 1. 8. c. 4. n. 26.
of loving God, and being truly forry for our Šins.
I need not after this, fay any Thing of the Extravagance of their late private Cafuifts, Remark'd and Cenfured by many of their own Communion, and not long fince by the Pope himself, yet ftill continuing, notwithstanding both, to be but too much applauded by very great Numbers amongst them. But these being Principles against which I hope I need not prepare any one of our Communion; I will inftead of all these, mention only one Principle more, 4thly, By which Men often hinder their Progress in Piety, and that is a Principle of Compliment and Good Breeding. When they neglect their Duty, it may be do that which they know to be contrary to it, but yet, rather than be thought Rude and Precife, rather than they will disturb Company, or be mark'd out as Singular, they will do as others do, and fo difobey God, for fear of dif obliging Men.
That this is a Cafe which very often occurs in the Method of our prefent Conversation in the World, is not to be denied. Now then confider, I befeech you, what the Contest here is, and what the Iffue most certainly will be. God and Man are the Parties concerned; and the Question is, Whether your Duty towards him, or your Civility towards the other, ought to preponderate? Whether you fhould go to Heaven with a few, fingular, Outof-fashion Chriftians, or for Company Sake take the broad Road, though you know that it leads to Eternal Damnation? And now when the Choice is fo plain, methinks it fhould be no hard Matter to perfuade Men to defpife fuch a Principle as this. To convince them that their Salvation is a Concern
of too great Importance to be fubmitted to these Formalities, and that 'tis to push the Compliment a great deal too far, to be Damned, rather than be thought Ill-bred. But,
3dly, A Third Device, whereby the Devil oftentimes endeavours to hinder Men's Progrefs in Religion, is, by filling their Minds with groundlefs Fears and Scruples, as to their Eternal Salvation.
It is a Matter of fad Confideration, to think what Difcouragements many Chriftians labour under, in the Discharge of their Duty; who either wanting a Capacity to receive a Satisfaction, or indulging a clofe and Melancholy Difpofition fo long, till they are at last incapable of any, live in Doubts and Fears, and Perplexities of Mind, and it may be by Degrees, wholly caft off all Thoughts of Religion, fince they cannot find any Peace or Satisfaction in it.
Now though fuch Troubles as these may much more eafily be prevented before they arrive, than removed after; yet there are ways to Encounter even this Device too of our Enemy, and to render it of no Force to hinder our Piety. To which End,
ift, If any Fears or Scruples of this Kind arife in your Minds, examine your felves, and fee whether there be any real Grounds or Foundation for them. Whether your Lives have been fuch as may give you just Caufe to apprehend your felves in Danger of lofing your Souls? If there be nothing of this Kind, which you can difcover, to fupport fuch Fears, then confider with your felves, that the
1 John iii. 21.
Tenor of God's Threats and Promifes is very plain, and easy to be understood. That he will never condemn any Man in another World, but for living in a Difobedience to his Commands in this. That our Duty is clear and exprefs; and that Conscience, when fincerely examined, will not fail to tell us, whether we do truly fulfil it or no. And therefore that, as St. John fays, Beloved, if our Heart condemn us not, then have we Confidence towards God. But fhould the Cafe be otherwise; fhould you find your felves in never fo dangerous a Course of Sin, yet ftill 'tis in your Power, by God's Affiftance, to deliver your felves out of it. And then, There is Mercy with God, that he may be feared. So that be your State at the prefent never fo dangerous, will even now lay hold upon his Mercy, if ye will yet repent, and return unto the Lord your God, and confefs your Sins, he is faithful and juft to forgive you your Sins, and the Blood of Chrift Shall cleanfe you from all Unrighteousness.
Pfal. 130. 4.
yet if you
1 John 19.
But now 2dly, If your Cafe be dubious, and neither thefe, nor any other Reflections are able to give you that Satisfaction you defire, yet should not this move you to give way to the Tempter; but rather fhould engage you to let your felves the more diligently to this Work; to call in fome Spiritual Guide to your Affiftance; and if upon a finceré opening of your State to him, neither can he find out any Grounds for your Fears and Scruples, your Doubts and your Apprchenfions; you ought then to labour by all Means to poffef's your Souls in Peace; and to conclude, That thefe Terrors are only the Devices
Devices of the Devil, to difcourage you in your Duty, not any real Caufes for Doubt or DeSpair.
And yet 3dly, Though neither by thefe, nor any other Means you fhould ever be able totally to overcome these Difficulties; yet ought not this to make you ever the lefs careful of going on still in a ferious Discharge of your Duty. Nay, on the contrary, it ought to make you the more zealous and diligent in the Performance of it. A Man that lives here all his Life in fuch Perplexities, if yet he fulfils that Obedience, and practifes that Repentance which God requires, may nevertheless be faved at the laft. But he that upon any of these Grounds neglects this, though he goes on never fo fecurely and comfortably in his Evil Way, fhall certainly fall into Ruin and Destruction in the End. And fince fuch Fears as thefe, arife from an Apprehenfion that we do not live fo well, nor ferve God fo fincerely as we ought to do; the best Means, when all is done, to remove them is, if it be poffible, to outlive even our own Apprehenfions, and to Serve God fo truly and heartily, as not to be able to doubt, but that we fhall find a Reward for it at his Hands.
I fhall add but one Thing more in this Cafe, (4thly,) and it is this. Be not difcouraged, nor think your Faith imperfect, or your Religion vain, because you find your felves ftill attended with fome Fears and Anxieties about your future State, St. Paul not only allows this, but ex
horts us, with his Philippians, To Phil. ii. 12. work out our own Salvation with Fear
and Trembling, To be without all Concern in a F 4