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under suffering, makes men to abhor themselves, and be ashamed of it. (2.) Afflictions take off the allurements of all created good things, by which the affections are solicited to cleave to them inordinately. God designs by affliction to wither all the flowers of this world, by discovering their insufficiency to give relief. This intercepts the disorderly intercourse which is apt to be between them and our affections, whereby our minds are polluted; for there is a pollution attending the least inordinate actings of our minds towards objects in themselves sinful, or rendered so by our excess towards them, while we are under the command of loving God with all our hearts. (3.) Afflictions take off the edge of those affections whereby the corrupt lusts of the mind and flesh operate. They curb those vigorous affections which were always ready for the service of lust, and which sometimes carry the soul into the pursuit of sin, like the horse into the battle, with madness and fury. (4.) By these, God excites 'ali the graces of the Spirit into a constant and vigorous exercise; and therein the work of cleansing the soul from the pollution of sin is carried on. A time of affliction is the special season for the peculiar exercise of all grace ; for the soul can no otherwise support or relieve itself. It is taken off from other comforts, every sweet thing being made bitter to it; it must therefore live by faith, love, and delight in God.
And thus we have taken a view of the first part of our sanctification, which I have the more largely insisted upon, because it is utterly neglected by those who would have holiness consist merely in the practice of moral virtue. What I have said may perhaps be deemed enthusiastic, though there is no reason why it should, but, only because it is taken from Scripture. But where men hate the practice of holiness, it is in vain to teach them the nature of it.
But we must not pass over these things without some reflections upon ourselves, and some consideration of our concern in them.
First, We may from hence take a view of our own condition by nature.
It is useful for us all to look back into it; and it is necessary for those who are in it, to be fully acquainted with it. There is a piritual leprosy spread over all our nature, which renders us loathsome to
God, and puts us in a state of separation from him, as those of old, who were legally unclean, were separated from the congregation, and from all the pledges of God's gracious presence. Whatever men do of themselves to be quit of this defilement, only hides, but cannot remove it: Adam cured neither his nakedness nor the shame of itby his fig-leaves. Some have no other covering of their spiritul filth, but ontward ornaments of the flesh, which increase it, and rather proclaim than hide it. The greatest filth in the world is covered with the greatest gaiety. Whatever we do of ourselves is a covering, not a cleansing; and if we die in this condition, uncleansed, it is impossible that ever we should be admitted into the bless. ed presence of the holy God. Let no man deceive you then with vain words: it is not doing a few good works, it is not an outward profession of religion, that will give you access with boldness' to God. Shame will cover you when it will be too late : unless you are washed by the Spirit of God, and in the blood of Christ, you shall not inherit the kingdom of God: you will be a horrid spectacle to saints and angels, to yourselves, and to one another, when the shame of your nakedness shall be made to appear! If therefore you would not perish as base defiled creatures, when your pride, and your wealth, and your beauty, and your ornaments, and your duties, will stand you in no stead, look out betimes for that only way of purification which God has ordained: but if you love your defilements, if you are proud of your pollutions, if you satisfy yourselves with your outward ornaments,there is no remedy, you must perish for ever!
Seeing this is the condition of all by nature, if any shall enquire what they must do to be cleansed, I shall endeavour to direct them to the Fountain set open for sin and uncleanness.'
1. Labour after an acquaintance with it in its nature and effects. Though the Scripture abounds in the declaration of it, yet men in general take little notice of it
. Perhaps they are somewhat affected with the guilt of sin, but not at all with its filth; so that they can escape the righteousness of God which they have provoked, they do not regard their unlikeness to his holiness, whereby they are polluted. Those who would be cleansed from this pollution, must first know it; and though we cannot do
this aright without the Spirit of God, yet several duties are required of us; as (i.) To search the Scriptures. This is the glass wherein every man ought to contemplate himself; and he who will not from hence learn his natural deformity, shall live polluted, and die accursed. (2.) He who has received the testimony of Scripture concerning bis corrupted state, if he will take pains to examine himself thereby, will have a further view of it. Multitudes learn from what they read and hear, that they are polluted by nature (and they cannot deny it) but yet really find no such thing in themselves. But when men will bring their souls to the glass of the perfect law, and consider how it is with themselves; how vain their imaginations, how disorderly their affections, how perverse all the actings of their minds, they will be ready to cry with the leprous man, “ Unclean! unclean !' (3.) Prayer for light and direction herein, is the duty of all ; for a man to know himself, was of old esteemed the highest attainment of human wisdom. Some men will not inquire into themselves ; some men dare not; and others neglect it, from mere sloth. But he who would ever be purged from his sins, must thus far make bold with himself, and dare to be thus far wise : and in the use of the means before prescribed, considering his own darkness and the treachery of his heart, he is to pray fervently that Gorl, by the supernatural light of his Spirit, would assist him in his search after the defilement of his nature. Without this, "he will never make any great or useful discoveries.
2. Those who would indeed be purged from the pollution of sin, must endeavour to be affected with it, suitably to the discovery which they have made of it. No man who has read the Scriptures can be ignorant how frequently God calls on men to be ashamed, on account of
3. Let such persons be fully assured, that they can never purify themselves. According to men's convictions of the defilements of sin, will be their endeavours after purification : but here many fall into great mistakes ; their own sorrow and amendment of life must do this work for them. But though these things are good in themselves, they are frequently abused, and turned into effectual means of keeping men from Christ ; for legal repentance being trusted to, will infalibly keep the souk
from that evangelical repentance which alone God accepts; and mere reformation of life. rested in, proves opposite to endeavours for the renovation of our natures. But let these duties be performed in what manner you please, they are utterly insufficient to cleanse us. Nor will any seek for that which is effectual to this purpose, till they are fully convinced hereof.
4. It is therefore their duty to acquaint themselves with that only remedy which God has appointed. One great end of divine revelation, was to direct men to the way
of cleansing : and one principal means which Satan has alwars used to keep men in their apostacy from God, was by supplying them with innumerable ways of purification, suited to the imaginations of their dark and superstitious minds; and it should excite great diligence in this inquiry, that God has laid great weight on this matter; as is evident from the institutions, promises, and precepts, both of the Law and Gospel : besides, the difficulty of attaining the knowledge of it is to be considered. It is a part of the mystery of the Gospel, which carnal reason esteemeth foolishness. It is not easily admitted that we can no otherwise be cleansed from our sins but by the sprinkling of that blood which was shed so long ago. This doctrine persons are therefore obliged to inquire after; that being satisfied with its truth, their minds may be taken off from those vain remedies which their own hearts and others blind devotions would suggest.
5. But now the great inquiry is, How a defiled soul may come to have an interest in the purifying virtue of the blood of Christ.? I answer, The purifying virtue of the blood of Christ, with the administration of the Spirit for the effectual application of it to our souls, is exhibited in the promises of the covenant ; and the only way to become a partaker of the good things presented in the promises, is by faith. So Abraham received the promises ; and so must we. Now this is not from their being proposed to us, but from our believing of that which is proposed: the whole benefit of the promises depends absolutely on our mixing them with faith,'--resting divine power and veracity--believing that the things promised to us shall be accomplished. God has given this power and efficacy to it by the covenant. In the promise of the Gospel it is proposed and tendered to us.
Faith in that promise is that which alone gives us an interest in it, makes us partakers of it, and renders it actually effectual.
6. Faith in this case will exert itself by fervent prayer. When David, by his dreadful fall, felt bis need of a new universal purification, how earnest is he in his supplica tions that God would again purge and cleanse him! And when any soul is really coming over to the way of God for his washing in the blood of Christ, he will not be more earnest in any supplication than this ; and hereby doth Christ communicate of the purging efficacy of his blood unto us.
Secondly. Hence also instruction may be taken for those who are freed from the general pollution of nature, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost ;' of whom the apostle says,
Such were some of you ; but ye are washed. Several duties are incumbent on such persons : As,
(1.) Continual self-abasement in the remembrance of that woful condition from whence they have been delivered. This consideration greatly influences the minds of believers to humility, and hides pride from them; for what should creatures of such a base and defiled extraction have to boast of ? God calls his people to self-abasement, not only from what they are, but from what they were. So he ordained that confession to be made by him who offered the first-fruits of old : «A Syrian ready to perish was my father;'or, (a Syrian, that is). Laban was ready to destroy my father, a poor helpless man, that went from one country to another for bread.' How is it of sovereign mercy that I am now in this state of plenty and peace ? and when David on his great sin and repentance took in all humbling considerations, here he fixes the head of them : - Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. So our apostle frequently calls the saints to remembrance of their former condition ; and therewith tlie minds of all true believers are greatly affected. When they consider what was their former state, universally polluted, with what remainders of It still abide, it casts them on the earth, and causes them to lay their mouths in the dust :-hence proceed their deep humiliations, confessions, and supplications.
(2.) That initial deliverance which believers have from