« PreviousContinue »
preaching, the effect of baptism, purging, washing, sanctifying; the work of the sacrament of the Lord's supper; and the same body that was broken, and the same blood that was shed for our redemption, is to conform us into his image and likeness of living and dying, of doing and suffering. The case is plain : just as we leave our sins, so God's wrath shall be taken from us; as we get the graces contrary to our former vices; so infallibly we are consigned to pardon. If therefore you are in contestation against sin, while you dwell in difficulty, and sometimes yield to sin, and sometimes overcome it, your pardon is uncertain, and is not discernible in its progress; but when siu is mortified, and your lusts are dead, and under the power of grace, and you are “led by the Spirit,” all your fears concerning your state of pardon are causeless, and afflictive without reason ; but so long as you live at the old rate of lust or intemperance, of covetousness or vanity, of tyranny or oppression, of carelessness or irreligion, flatter not yourselves; you have no more reason to hope for pardon than a beggar for a crown, or a condemned criminal to be made heir-apparent to that prince, whom he would traitorously have slain.
4. They have great reason to fear concerning their condition, who having been in the state of grace, who having begun to lead a good life, and given their names to God by solemn deliberate acts of will and understanding, and made some progress in the way of godliness, if they shall retire to folly, and unravel all their holy vows, and commit those evils, from which they formerly ran as from a fire or inundation ; their case hath in it so many evils, that they have great reason to fear the anger of God, and concerning the final issue of their souls. For, return to folly hath in it many evils beyond the common state of sin and death ; and such evils, which are most contrary to the hopes of pardon. 1. He that falls back into those sins he hath repented of, does "grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by which he was sealed to the day of redemption.” For so the antithesis is plain and obvious : if “ at the conversion of a sinner there is joy before the beatified spirits, the angels of God," and that is the consummation of our pardon and our consignation to felicity, then we may imagine how great an evil it is to “ grieve the Spirit of God,” who is greater than the angels. The children of
Israel were carefully warned, that they should not offend the angel : “ Behold, I send an angel before thee, beware of him, and obey his voice; provoke hiin not, for he will not pardon your transgressions,”* that is, he will not spare to punish you if you grieve him: much greater is the evil, if we grieve him, who sits upon the throne of God, who is the Prince of all the spirits: and besides, grieving the Spirit of God is an affection, that is as contrary to his felicity, as lust is to his holiness; both which are essential to him. " Tristitia enim omnium spirituum nequissima est, et pessima servis Dei, et omnium spiritus exterminat, et cruciat Spiritum Sanctum, said Hennas : “ Sadness is the greatest enemy to God's servants ; if you grieve God's Spirit, you cast him out;" for he cannot dwell with sorrow and grieving; unless it be such a sorrow, which by the way of virtue passes on to joy and never-ceasing felicity. Now by grieving the Holy Spirit, is meant those things which displease him, doing unkindness to him ; and then the grief, which cannot in proper sense seize upon him, will in certain effects return upon us : “ Ita enim dico (said Seneca ;) sacer intra nos Spiritus sedet, bonorum malorumque nostrorum observator et custos; hic prout à nobis tractatus est, ita nos ipse tractat :” “ There is a Holy Spirit dwells in every good man, who is the observer and guardian of all our actions; and as we treat him, so will he treat us.” “ Now we ought to treat him sweetly and tenderly, thankfully, and with observation :" “ Deus præcepit, Spiritum Sanctum, utpote pro naturæ suæ bono tenerum et delicatum, tranquillitate, et lenitate, et quiete, et pace tractare,” said Tertulliande Spectaculis.' The Spirit of God is a loving and kind Spirit, gentle and easy, chaste and pure, righteous and peaceable: and when he hath done so much for us as to wash us from our impurities, and to cleanse us from our stains, and straighten our obliquities, and to instruct our ignorances, and to snatch us from an intolerable death, and to consign us to the day of redemption, that is, to the resurrection of our bodies from death, corruption, and the dishonours of the grave, and to appease all the storms and uneasiness, and to make us free as the sons of God," and furnished with the riches of the kingdom ; and all this with
Exod xxii. 20, 21.
innumerable arts, with difficulty, and in despite of our lusts and reluctances, with parts and interrupted steps, with waitings and expectations, with watchfulness and stratagems, with inspirations and collateral assistances; after all this grace, and bounty, and diligence, that we should despite this grace, and trample upon the blessings, and scorn to receive life at so great an expense, and love of God; this is so great a baseness and unworthiness, that by troubling the tenderest passions, it turns into the most bitter hostilities; by abusing God's love it turns into jealousy, and rage, and indignation.
Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing happen to thee,”
2. Falling away after we have begun to live well, is a great cause of fear; because there is added to it the circumstance of inexcusableness. The man hath been taught the secrets of the kingdom, and therefore his understanding hath been instructed; he hath tasted the pleasures of the kingdom, and therefore his will hath been sufficiently entertained. He was entered into the state of life, and renounced the ways of death ; his sin began to be pardoned, and his lusts to be crucified; he felt the pleasures of victory, and the blessings of peace, and therefore fell away, not only against his reason, but also against his interest; and to such a person the questions of his soul have been so perfectly stated, and his prejudices and inevitable abuses so clearly taken off, and he was so made to view the paths of life and death, that if he chooses the way of sin again, it must be, not by weakness, or the infelicity of his breeding, or the weakness of his understanding, but a direct preference or prelation, a preferring sin before grace, the spirit of lust before the purities of the soul, . the madness of drunkenness before the fulness of the Spirit, money before our friend, and above our religion, and heaven, and God himself. This man is not to be pitied upon pretence that he is betrayed; or to be relieved, because he is oppressed with potent enemies ; or to be pardoned, because he could not help it : for he once did help it, he did overcome his temptation, and choose God, and delight in virtue, and was an heir of heaven, and was a conqueror over sin, and delivered from death ; and he may do so still, and God's grace is upon him more plentifully, and the lust does not tempt so strongly; and, if it did, he hath more power to resist it; and therefore, if this man falls, it is because he wil.
fully chooses death, it is the portion that he loves and descends into with willing and unpitied steps. " Quam vilis facta es, nimis iterans vias tuas !” said God to Judah.*
3. He that returns from virtue to his old vices, is forced to do violence to his own reason, to make his conscience quiet: he does it so unreasonably, so against all his fair inducements, so against his reputation, and the principles of his society, so against his honour, and his promises, and his former discourses and his doctrines, his censuring of men for the same crimes, and the bitter invectives and reproofs which in the days of his health and reason he used against his erring brethren, that he is now constrained to answer his own arguments, he is entangled in his own discourses, he is ashamed with his former conversation; and it will be remembered against him, how severely he reproved, and how reasonably he chastised the lust, which now he runs to in despite of himself and all his friends. And because this is his condition, he hath no way left him, but either to be impudent, which is hard for him at first; it being too big a natural change to pass suddenly from grace to immodest circumstances and hardnesses of face and heart: or else, therefore, he must entertain new principles, and apply his mind to believe a lie; and then begins to argue, . There is no necessity of being so severe in my life; greater sinners than I have been saved; God's mercies are greater than all the sins of man; Christ died for us, and if I may not be allowed to sin this sin, what ease have I by his death ? or, This sin is necessary, and I cannot avoid it; or, It is questionable, whether this sin be of so deep a die as is pretended; or, flesh and blood is always with me, and I cannot shake it off; or, there are some sects of Christians that do allow it, or, if they do not, yet they declare it easily pardonable, upon no hard terms, and very reconcilable with the hopes of heaven; or, the Scriptures are not rightly understood in their pretended condemnations; or else, other men do as bad as this, and there is not one in ten thousand but hath his private retirements from virtue; or else, when I am old, this sin will leave me, and God is very pitiful to mankind.'— But while the man, like an entangled bird, flatters in the net, and wildly discomposes
Jer. ii, 36.
that which should support him, and that which holds him, the net and his own wings, that is, the laws of God and his own conscience, and persuasion, he is resolved to do the thing, and seeks excuses afterward; and when he hath found out a fig-leaved apron that he could put on, or a cover for his eyes, that he may not see his own deformity, then he fortifies his error with irresolution and inconsideration; and he believes it, because he will; and he will, because it serves his turn : then he is entered upon his state of fear; and if he does not fear concerning himself, yet his condition is fearful, and the man hath voūv åóóriuos, “ a reprobate mind,” that is, a judgment corrupted by lust : vice hath abused his reasoning, and if God proceeds in the man's method, and lets him alone in his course, and gives him over to believe a lie, so that he shall call good evil, and evil good, and come to be heartily persuaded that his excuses are reasonable, and his pretences fair—then the man is desperately undone “through the ignorance that is in him,” as St. Paul describes his condition ; “ his heart is blind, he is past feeling, his understanding is darkened,” then he may “ walk in the vanity of his mind,” and “ give himself over to lasciviousness," and shall “ work all uncleanness with greediness ;"* then he needs no greater misery: this is the state of evil, which his fear ought to have prevented, but now it is past fear, and is to be recovered with sorrow, or else to be run through, till death and hell are become bis portion : "fiunt novissima illius pejora prioribus ;" “ His latter end is worse than his beginning.”+
4. Besides all this, it might easily be added, that he that falls from virtue to vice again, adds the circumstance of ingratitude to his load of sins; he sins against God's mercy, and puts out his own eyes, he strives to unlearn what with labour he hath purchased, and despises the trouble of his holy days, and throws away the reward of virtue for an interest, which himself despised the first day in which he began to take sober counsels; he throws himself back in the accounts of eternity, and slides to the bottom of the hill, from whence with sweat and labour of his hands and knees he had long been creeping; he descends from the spirit to the flesh, from