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DI S COURS E XXIV.
The EPISTLE for the Seventh Sunday after
Rom. vi. 19, to the end. 1 speak after the manner of Men, because of the Infirmity of your Flesh; for as ye have yielded your Members Servants to Uncleanness, and to Iniquity unto Iniquity, even so now yield your Members Servants to Righteousness unto Holiness, &c.
HE Service for this Day befeeches the Lord of all
Power and Might, who is the Author and Giver of
all good things, to graft in our Hearts the Love of his Name, to increase in us true Religion, to nourish us with all Goodness, and of his great mercy to keep us in the same.
The Epistle for the Day is the latter part of the fame Chapter, from whence that for the last Sunday was taken ; where. the Apostle having shew'd his new-converted Romans the Efficacy of Christ's Death for the killing of Sin, and the Virtue of his Resurrection for the quickning them to a Life of Righteoumess, he exhorts them to conform to both, by dying to the one, and living to the other. To which end, he here in the close of the Chapter accommodates himself to their Weakness, and labours to convince them of the great danger of their former sinful Courses, and likewise of the Safety and Happiness that is to be found in the ways of Righteousness.
1 speak after the manner of Men (faith he) because of the Hinfirmity of your Flesh , meaning, that he condescended to express these weighty Matters to them, in Terms and Similitudes fuited to the Weakness of their Capacity and Un. deritanding ; setting forth their Duty to Christ by the known Refemblance and Relation of Master and Servant, d by the vulgar Terms of Liberty and Bondage, to
which they were much inur’d. Or elfe his complying with the Infirmities of their Fleih, may be meant of his laying on them the most easy and moderate Burdens, requiring the least that in any reason could be requir'd of them; and so it signifies his dealing with them in the mildeft and most equitable manner, by reason of the Weakness of their Flesh, which could not yet well bear any greater Rigour or higher Expressions. That this is the most probable Sense of those words, appears by what follows; where the Apostle seems to tell them, that all he would at present require of them is, that as ye have yielded your Members Servants to Uncleanness, and to Iniquity unto Iniquity, that is, have gone on from one degree of Sin unto another ; even so nom yield your Members Servants to Righteousnefs unto Holiness, or go on from one degree of Vertue unto another. The Sense whereof is, that they should be as diligent now in the Service of Christ, as they had been formerly in the Service of Sin, and as careful to use their Members to the purposes of Holiness and Vertue, as they had formerly been to yield them up to vile and brutish Affections. This in all reason (he tells them) he must require of them, and would as yet ask no more, tho in strictness of Justice he might require them to be far more exercis'd and delighted in the Service of God, than ever they were in the Service of Sin; forasmuch as the Service of the one is highly honourable and advantageous, and the Service of the other base and destructive; and he might with all reason exact more Care and Sollicitude to secure to them Heaven and Happiness, than ther used before to run headlong to Hell and Damnation. But the Apostle here would have the Diligence of his new Converts in the ways of God to equal only their former Industry in the ways of Sin, till they were farther advanc'd, and then they would see reason enough that it should fár exceed it.
And this he would have them the rather do, because (faith he) when ye were the Servants of Sin, ye were free from Righteousness. When you yielded up your felves to the Service of your Lusts, Righteousness or true Religion had nothing of your Service ; what reason then is there, that Sin should have any of your Service now, when you have wholly devoted your selyes to the Service of God? If Sin and Satan had all then, having chang'd your Master, why should not God and Christ have all now? Sure the Rules of Justice will oblige you to abstain as strictly now
from all Evil, as ye did then from all Good : considering farther, that there is no dividing your Service between two Masters the Master you have taken to, must have all. If then when ye were the Servants of Sin, Righteousness had no power at all over you, now that you have put your felves under the Kingdoni of Righteousness, you must no longer serve Sin, but utterly renounce all the Power and Tyranny of it: which, if you do but consider your own Eafe and Interest, you will fee infinite reason to do. For what Fruit bad ye then in those things, whereof ye are now alhamed? for the end of those things is Death. What profit did you ever receive from your former sinful Courses, which yielded you no better fruits than those of Shame and Death? Where the Apostle - urges a threefold Argument, to deter Men from the Love and Practice of all Sin.
The First is taken from the Unprofitableness of it; What Fruit had ye in those things?
The Second, from the Shamefulness of it, Whereof ye are nom afhamed.
The Third, from the Destructiveness, or the fatal End and Iflue of it; For the End of those things is Death. Of which fomething particularly. And,
First, Of the Unprofitableness of all sinful Courses; What Fruit had ye in those things? The Question fuppofes none at all, or else very bad fruit, which is worse than nothing.
'Tis natural for Men to desire fome Fruit of their Labours; and ’tis an uncomfortable Reflection, to find at any time that we have labour'd in vain. The Voice of Nature is, Who will few us any good ? and all Men are acted by the Hopes of Gain. Now the Apostle here plainly intimates, that Sinners reap no fruit from all the Pains and Labour they take in a wicked Course, that their Expectation is frustrated, and they toil day and night and catch nothing: for which reason Sin is elsewhere ftild the unfruitful Works of Darkness, because they turn to no account, but deceive the Hopes of all that follow them; Eph. 5. 11. So that Sinners may be truly said to serve the Devi! for nought, and to weary themselves for very Vanity.
But there is a worse thing in this matter than this for Sin not only yields no good Fruit, but brings forth a great deal of bad and bitter Fruit. There is a Meiosis in the words, and more is intended by it, than seems to be ex
pressd : for when the Apostle asks, What Fruit had ye then in those things ? 'tis as if he had said, What unspeakable Mischief, what vaft Damage, what insufferable Evils have you found in these things ? So that he hereby gives us to understand, that Sin is not only an unprofitable, but a very mischievous thing; and instead of yielding any sweet or good Fruit, brings forth nothing but wild Grapes, such as set the teeth on edge at present, and end at last in weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. To clear this, con sider,
ift, What bad Fruit these things bring to the Body, of which we are all so fond and tender. Does Sin conduce to the Ease, Health, or Comfort of this beloved Part? No. quite otherwise : 'tis fo far from the Benefit, that 'tis the very Bane of the Body; for it impairs the Health, decays the Strength, and destroys all the Comfort of it. What a numerous Train of Evils and Diseases is a vicious Life attended withal ? And what apparent Mischief does it bring upon all that follow it? How does Excess and Intemperance drown the Spirits? And tho it seems to raise them for the present, yet finks them after into the deeper Sadness, . Does not Envy pine and macerate the Body? Do not Malice and Revenge often shorten Mens Lives, and make the bloody and deceitful Man not to live out half his days? How do worldly Cares and Carking eat out the Heart, and bring on one Consumption to avoid another? Leudness and Debauchery antedate the Miseries of the Grave, and make Men rotten before they are dead. So destructive is Vice to human Nature, that they who commit it, fin (as the Apostle tells us against their own Body.
Neither doth the Soul, that divine and nobler Part of us, reap any better, but rather much worse Fruit, from a linful Course of Life; for it robs it of its Peace, fills it with Trouble and Disquiet at present, and deprives it at last of all future Happiness : There is no peace, saith my God, unta the Wicked, but they are like the troubled Sea, that cannot reft, whose Waters caft up Mire and Dirt ; Ifa. 57.20. Solomon tells us, that he that finneth againt God wrongeth his own Soul, Prov. 8. 36. And St. Peter, that fleshly Lufts war ac gainst the Soul, 1 Pet. 2. 11. They deface the Beauty, and sink the Glory of the Soul beneath the Beast that perisheth; they take away its Freedom, and make it a Drudg and a Vassal to the vileft Lufts. In a word, they bereave our
immortal Souls of the Vision and Enjoyment of God, wherein con Gists their truest Glory and Felicity.
But because some Men are more fond of their Substance, than of their Souls ; let us see what Fruit a wicked Life brings to their Goods or Estate : And here 'tis evident, what havock Sin makes of Mens Estates, how it fhipwrecks the Fortunes, and scatters the Substance of the wealthiest Persons. A loose and profligate Life brings on Poverty as one that travelleth, and Want as an armed Man, and entails Misery and Distress upon Pofterity; Fraud and Deceit bring a Moth and a Canker into ill-gotten Goods, which eats out all the Comfort of them, and leaves only the Rust to testify against them; Oppression and Injustice intitle to a Curse instead of a Blessing, and the Wrath of God enters the House of the Thief and the Robber : In a word, a wicked Life instead of mending, mars Mens Fortunes here, and at last deprives them of an everlasting Inheritance,
But what Fruit do Men reap in their Name and Reputation by a finful Life? Why, that the
Next Argument in the Text will inform us, viz, the Shamefulnels of Sin, in these words, Whereof ye are not amam'd. Which give is to understand, that Sin is attended with Shame, and leads only to Confusion of Face, This not only Sacred Writ, but daily Experience doth confirm to us. Holy Job tells us, that they who hate the Lord fhall be clothed with Shame ; Job 8. 22. And the Pfalmist, that they fall be cover'd with their own Confufion, as with a Cloak; Pfal. 109. 29. And the Wise Man, that Shame is the Portion and Promotion of Fools ; Prov. 3. 35. Who is there that doth not see the Truth hereof verify'd by daily Experience? Doth not Sin sink the Character, and blast the Reputation even of the greatest Persons ? Yea, doth not the bare Suspicion of Vice reflect and stain the Glory of the best Abilities? Where was it ever known that Men were commended for their Wickedness? Who ever reckon’d his Vices among the Titles of his Honour, or fought to perpetuate his Memory by the Glory of his Crimes? Do not these things clothe Men with Shame, and load them with Dishonour ? and that not only with a few knowing and judicious Perforis, but with all Mankind, who mark Sin with Disgrace, and brand such as practise it with Reproach and Infamy. This is evident,