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blood) makes sins to appear in their crimson guilt, their bloody aggravations. Our Saviour tells us, that “the evil doer neither loves nor comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3. 20. When a powerful preacher, as a second conscience, as if he knew the hearts and ways of men, sets their sins in order before their eyes, and closely applies the threatenings of divine vengeance to them, conscience often joins with him, and as a faithful echo repeats the terrible truths to their conviction and anxiety.
h times of affliction, “when our sins find us out, we usually find out our sins.” In full prosperity men are strangers at home, and rarely look inward : they will not endure the inquisition and judicature of conscience: wealth and wickedness harden them against the most serious counsels, the most solemn reproofs and ardent exhortations : they are blind to the sun, and deaf to thunder ; but a sharp affliction clears the eyes, unlocks the ears, opens the heart, and pricks the tender vein. The awakened penitent will make an exact search to find out the Achan, the troubler of the soul, and the special sin is so in the interpretation of the vigilant and afflicted conscience. The bitter remembrance of that sin is answerable to its guilt; the more it was indulged, the more the law of God was despised, the more it wounds the spirit: when the pleasure is passed, nothing remains but the sting and poison, Joseph's brethren, who so long had been insensible of their treacherous selling him to bondage and misery; yet in their fears conscience remembers it with aggravations of their unnatural cruelty: “And they said one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.
Lastly. Consider the several kinds of sins to find out your own: some are of omission, some of commission; some are spiritual and inward; some are carnal, and acted with noise and notice; some distinctly flow from visible causes; some spring from an unsuspected fountain. There are many of a civil composed conversation, who are careless of spiritual duties, of holy communion with God by raised solemn thoughts, and ardent desires, of watchfulness over their hearts, to regulate their aims and affections by the pure law, and are insensible of their neglect and guilt. The unrenewed nature has a strong reluctance
against spiritual duties. Many are righteous to men, and unrighteous towards God; they do not pay those duties that are indispensably from reasonable creatures to the blessed Creator : the highest love for his perfections and benefits, an obedient respect to his commands in their actions, a resigned submission to his will and wisdom, an entire trust in his fatherly providence, and zeal for his glory. Many rob him of that time that is consecrated to his service: the Lord's Day, (though it is our privilege as well as duty to keep it holy) when the public worship is at an end, as if the remainder were unsanctified, they wretchedly waste in complimental visits, in civil matters, in discourses impertinent to the solemn work of it. Many who are diligent to provide for their families, yet are as bad as infidels in neglecting to instruct their children and servants in the saving doctrine of the gospel, to command them to be circumspect in their ways, to set before them a living pattern of holiness, and carelessly suffer their precious souls to perish for ever. How many who are not guilty of open rebellious sins against the law, yet neglect the great indispensable duty of the gospel, an humble, unfeigned, entire closing with Christ as their Prince and Saviour. They presume upon their moral virtues, of the safety and goodness of their condition: they never had a feeling sense of their want of the imputed righteousness of Christ to reconcile them to God, nor of the holy spirit to make them partakers of the divine nature; as if only the profane, riotous, notorious sinners, had need of his most precious merits and mediation to abolish their guilt, and save them from hell, and of the holy spirit to sanctify them. From hence it is that many civil persons remain in an unrenewed state, and are the natural subjects of satan, and die in their sins. Some are regular in a course of religious duties, they pray, hear the word; receive the sacrament, but without those holy affections that are the life of religious duties, yet content themselves with the exter: nal bodily service, which is neither pleasing to "Göd nor profitable to their souls.' Some cherish a secret pride that they are not so bad as others; some a vain presumption of the diviné favour, because they serve God in a purer way of worship than others, when they neglect substantial religion that recommends us to his gracious eye. Some will severely reflect upon the visible sins of others, whilst there is an unperceived consumption of the spiritual life in themselves. This may seem to proceed from
the hatred of sin, when the real inward motive is to quiet conscience by an appearance of zeal against sin, and make it inobservant of their inward voluntary defects. The most excellent things may be counterfeit, satan may transform himself into an angel of light; sinful affections may be varnished and gilded, so as to be mistaken for divine graces. Briefly, the heart is an everlasting deceiver, and without a perpetual watchfulness, we are in danger of close corruptions that will blast our sincerity. To find out our sin, it is requisite to search where we may think there is little reason to expect the finding it.
2. I will now consider what the preserving himself from his peculiar sin implies.
(1.) An abstaining from the practice of that sin. When David had an opportunity to destroy Saul, his unrighteous and implacable enemy, and secure himself, when excited to it by Abishai, who would have dispatched him at a blow, yet he rejected the temptation' with abhorrence; “ The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord's Anointed;" 1 Sam. 26. 11. thus he preserved his innocence and integrity.
Our Saviour tells us, “ He that commits sin, is a servant of sin :" John 8. an indulgent course of sin denominates a person a slave of sin, and a rebel against God, and is utterly inconsistent with sincerity. It is true, an' upright man may fall by sudden surreption, by an insinuating infirmity into a foul sin, from which he has a settled aversion, and keeps himself in the general course of his life: and that single act of sin is a blemish of his integrity, but retracted by a speedy repentance, does not denominate him a hypocrite. One may be: pale from an accidental surprise by fear, or red through a sudden flush of blood from anger, yet not be so by complexión; for the complexions, pale and sanguine, are drawn by the pencil of nature, the fively characters of the predominant humours, and are usually visible in the countenance.
But although an upright person keeps himself from the gross acts of sins that are clearly against natural conscience, and supernatural grace; yet whilst we are clothed with Resh, the body of sín does not finally expire; and temptations are as importunate as flies about us, (from whom the tempter has his title) that it is morally impossible to be absolutely undefiled: therefore uprightness requires that we should carefully consider" our weak
side, what passions we are most inclinable to by our temper, and so diligently fortify ourselves against them, that they may not'have dominion over us; and though we cannot arrive, yet we may advance towards the complete conquest of sin. And in our endeavours against the sins to which we are most inclinable, and that often foil us, constancy is inseparable from sincerity. If we neglect the humbling of our souls for unavoidable infirmities, the earnest seeking for the divine mercy and grace, and a careful watching against them, we so far decline from uprightness.
(2.) It implies the mortifying the inward affection to that sin. The rule of our duty requires this : “ Cleanse your hands ye sinners, purify your hearts ye double-minded.”. Jam. 4. 8. The will is the proper principle of sin, and from the depravation of the free faculty actual sins proceed. As the love of the subject is the strength of the prince, so the love of any sin preserves its dominion. There inay be a concurrence of circumstances to hina der the actual commission of sin, of which the heart is guilty. An unclean person, when separated from the object of his impure desires, may languish in his lusts, and by contemplative commission be guilty before God. * A malicious person may keep the fire of malice in his breast, without the least discovery by a spark or smoke in his words or actions, waiting for an opportunity that he take his full revenge, and is a murderer in his wishes. The rapacious desire of another's goods without actual robbery, induces the guilt of theft. There may be an invincible bar between the sinful affection and the object.
Sickness or age may so waste the vigour of the body, that we cannot perform the gross acts of sin : but this abstinence has no moral value, for it only proceeds from the disability of the instrumental faculties. If one in a consumption leaves his revelling and licentiousness, it is no sign of divine grace, but of wasted
As in a sick person the appetite fails, “the soul abhors dainty meat;" Job. 33. but if he recovers, his appetite revives, and is more craving for his abstinence: thus many who could not enjoy their pleasant lusts in the time of diseases, being restored to strength, their vicious affections are reincited by new temptations, and with greater excess act over their old sins, as if they
* Latro est etiam antequam inquiret amous: fecit enim quisquis quantum voluit, Seneca
would pay interest for their impatient forbearance. An old sinner may retain and cherish the fire of lust in his heart, when age has snowed upon his head : as in mount Ætna the sulphureous fire and snow are near together. But as the philosopher observes, if a young eye were put into an old man's head, he would see as clearly as ever. So if natural strength were restored in an unconverted sinner, he would be as ardent and active in prosecuting his carnal desires as before.
Terrors of conscience may stop the current of men's lusts : fear has torment, and is inconsistent with the pleasures of sin : the fear of visible vengeance, that sometimes strikes the wicked, or the apprehension of judgment to come, may control the licentious appetites from breaking forth into actual commission of sins. But as when the lions spared Daniel, it was not from the change of their wild devouring nature, for they destroyed his accusers immediately, * but from the suspending their hurtful power : so when a strong fear lays ' a restraint upon the active powers, yet inward lust is the same, and would licentiously commit sin, were the restraint taken away.
The keeping ones self from sin, that is the sign of uprightness proceeds from the mortification of the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof." The apostle tells us, “ carnal circumcision, without the circumcision of the heart, was of no avail to obtain the favour of God :" so the outward forbearance of sin without inward purity, can never commend us to the divine acceptance. A rebel may be driven from the frontiers, but so long as he keeps the royal city, he is unsubdued : so if a lust keeps possession of the heart, though the executive powers may be retained or disabled from the outward acts, it still reigns.
3. I shall now prove that the keeping a man's self from his special sin, is an undeceiving evidence of sincerity. Ist. God approves it : “ I was upright before him. God has
of flesh, he doth not see as man sees.” The deepest breast is as clear as crystal in his sight. He“ weighs the spirits of men,” and exactly knows what is true gold, and what is counterfeit. He is the searcher and judge of our hearts, and his approbation is the strongest seal of our uprightness. As God said to Abraham, “ now I know thou fearest me, in that thou hast
Amari licet, potiri non licet,