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entangling-sins. So Peter informs us, 2 Ep. i. 3. • The divine power of God hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. We have from it an habitual furnishment and provision for obedience at all times. Also, saith he, ver. 4. 'He hath given unto us great and precious promises, that by them we might be partakers of the divine nature.' What then is in this blessed estate and condition required of us, that we may make a due improvement of the provision made for us, and enjoy the comforting influence of those promises that he prescribes unto us? ver. 5-7.
Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity;' that is, carefully and diligently attend to the exercise of all the graces of the Spirit, and unto a conversation in all things becoming the gospel. What then shall be the issue, if these things are attended unto ? ver. 8. If these things be in you, and abound, ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.' It is not enough that these things be in you ; that you have the seed and root of them from and by the Holy Ghost; but you are to take care that they flourish and abound; without which, though the root of the matter may be in you, and so you be not wholly devoid of spiritual life, yet you will be poor, barren, sapless, withering creatures, all your days. But now suppose that these things do abound, and we be made fruitful thereby, why then saith he, ver. 10. 'If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.' What, never fall into sin ? Nay, that is not in the promise; and he that says, when he hath done all, that he hath no sin, he is a liar. Or is it never fall totally from God? No, the preservation of the elect, of whom he speaks, from total apostacy, is not suspended on such conditions, especially not on any degree of them, such as their abounding imports. But it is that they shall not fall into their own sins from which they were purged;' ver. 9. Such conscience-wasting, and defiling sins, as they lived in, in the time and state of their unregeneracy. Thus, though there be in the covenant of grace through Jesus Christ, provision made of abundant supplies for the soul's preservation from entangling sins; yet their administration hath respect
unto our diligent attendance unto the means of receiving them appointed for us to walk in.
And here lies the latitude of the new covenant; here lies the exercise of renewed free-will. This is the field of free voluntary obedience under the administration of gospel grace. There are extremes which in respect of the event it is not concerned in. To be wholly perfect, to be free from every sin, all failings, all infirmities, that is not provided for, · not promised in this covenant. It is a covenant of mercy and pardon, which supposeth a continuance of sin. To fall utterly and finally from God, that is absolutely provided against. Between these two extremes of absolute perfection, and total apostacy, lies the large field of believers' obedience and walking with God. Many a sweet heavenly passage there is, and many a dangerous depth in this field. Some walk near to the one side, some to the other, yea, the same person may sometimes press hard after perfection, sometimes be cast to the very border of destruction. Now between these two, lie many a soul-plunging sin, against which no absolute provision is made, and which for want of giving all diligence to put the means of preservation in practice, believers are oftentimes overtaken withal.
4. There is not in the covenant of grace, provision made of ordinary and abiding consolation, for any under the guilt of great sins, or sins greatly aggravated, which they fall into by a neglect of using and abiding in the forementioned conditions of abounding actual grace. Sins there are, which either because in their own nature they wound and waste conscience, or in their effects break forth into scandal, causing the name of God and the gospel to be evil spoken of, or in some of their circumstances, are full of un-. kindness against God, do deprive the soul of its wonted consolation. How, by what means, on what account such sins come to terrify conscience, to break the bones, to darken the soul, and to cast it into inextricable depths, notwithstanding the relief that is provided of pardon in the blood of Christ, I shall not now declare; that they will do so, and that consolation is not of equal extent with safety, we know. Hence God assumes it to himself as an act of mere sovereign grace, to speak peace and refreshment unto the souls of his saints in their depths of sin-entanglements ; Isa. Ivii. 18, 19,
And indeed if the Lord had not thus provided, that great provocation should stand in need of special reliefs, it might justly be feared, that the negligence of believers might possibly bring much bitter fruit. Only this must be observed by the way, that what is spoken relates to the sense of sinners in their own souls, and not to the nature of the thing itself. There is in the gospel, consolation provided against the greatest, as well as the least sins. The difference ariseth from God's sovereign communication of it, according to their tenor of the covenant's administration, which we have laid down. Hence because under Moses's law there was an exception made of some sins, for which there was no sacrifice appointed, so that those who were guilty of them could no way be justified from them, that is, carnally, as to their interest in the Judaical church and polity; Paul tells the Jews, Acts xiii. 38, 39. “That through Jesus Christ was preached unto them the forgiveness of sins: and that by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.’ There is now no exception of ..any particular sins, as to pardon and peace; but what we have spoken relates unto the manner and way, wherein God is pleased to administer consolation to the souls of sinning believers. And this is the evidence which I shall offer to prove, that the souls of believers, after much gracious communion with God, may yet fall into inextricable depths on the account of sin, whence it is that actually they oftentimes do so, shall be farther declared. The principles of this assertion are known, I shall therefore only touch upon them. First, The nature of indwelling sin, as it remains in the best of the saints in this life, being a little considered, will evidence unto us, from whence it is, that they are sometimes surprised, and plunged into the depths mentioned. For, 1. Though the strength of every sin be weakened by grace, yet the root of no sin, is in this life wholly taken away. Lust is like the stubborn Canaanites, who, after the general conquest of the land, would dwell in it still; Josh. xvii. 12. Indeed, when Israel grew strong they brought
them under tribute ; but they could not utterly expel them. The kingdom and rule belongs to grace; and when it grows strong it brings sin much under; but it will not wholly be driven out. The body of death is not utterly to be done away, but in and by the death of the body. In the flesh of the best saints there dwelleth no good thing ; Rom. vii18. but the contrary is there; that is, the root of all evil. The * flesh lusteth against the Spirit, as the Spirit lusteth against the flesh; Gal. v. 17. As then there is a universality in the actings of the Spirit in its opposing all evil, so also there is a universality in the actings of the flesh for the furtherance of it.
2. Some lusts or branches of original corruption, do obtain in some persons such advantages, either from na. ture, custom, employment, society, or the like circumstances, that they become like the Canaanites that had iron chariots; it is a very difficult thing to subdue them. Well it is, if war be maintained constantly against them, for they will almost always be in actual rebellion.
3. Indwelling sin though weakened, retaineth all its properties; the properties of a thing follow its nature. Where the nature of any thing is, there are all its natural properties. What are these properties of indwelling sin, I should here declare, but that I have handled the whole power and efficacy, the nature and properties of it, in a treatise to that only purpose. In brief they are such, as it is no wonder, that some believers are by them cast into depths; but it is indeed, that any do escape them. But thereof the . reader may see at large my discourse on this particular subject.
Secondly, Add hereunto, the power and prevalency of temptation; which because also, I have already, in a special discourse to that purpose, insisted on, I shall not here farther lay open.
Thirdly, The sovereign pleasure of God in dealing with sinning saints must also be considered. Divine love and wisdom work not towards all in the same manner. God is pleased to continue peace unto some with a ‘non-abstante,' for great provocations, Love shall humble them, and rebukes of kind- . ness shall recover them from their wanderings. Others he is pleased to bring into the depths we have been speaking of.
But yet I may say generally, signal provocations meet with one of these two events from God.
First, Those in whom they are, are left into some signal barrenness and fruitlessness in their generations; they shall wither, grow barren, worldly, sapless, and be much cast out of the hearts of the people of God. Or, secondly, They shall be exercised in these depths, from whence their way of deliverance is laid down in this psalm. Thus, I say, God deals with his saints in great variety : some shall have all their bones broken, when others shall have only the gentle strokes of the rod. We are in the hand of mercy, and he may deal with us as seems good unto him; but for our parts, great sins ought to be attended with expectations of great depths and perplexities.
And this is the state of the soul proposed in this psalm, and by us, unto consideration. These are the depths wherein it is entangled ; these are the ways and means whereby it is brought into these depths. Its deportment in and under this state and condition, lies next in our way. But before I proceed thereunto, I shall annex some few things unto what hath been delivered, tending to the farther opening of the whole case before us. And they are, 1. What are, or of what sort those sins are, which usually cast the souls of believers into these depths; and then, 2. Insist on some aggravations of them.
What sins usually bring believers into great spiritual distresses.
Aggravations of these sins.
First, Sins in their own nature wasting conscience are of this sort. Sins that rise in opposition unto all of God that is in us; that is the light of grace and nature also. Such are the sins that cast David into his depths. Such are the sins enumerated 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Be not deceived,' saith the apostle, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.' Certain it