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by night; and, "à ruina et dæmonio meridiano,' from the devil at noon thou shalt be free.”* It were happy if we were so: but besides the solemn followers of the works of darkness, in the times and proper seasons of darkness, there are very many who act their scenes of darkness in the face of the sun, in open defiance of God, and all laws, and all modesty. There is in such men the spirit of impudence, as well as of impiety. And yet I might have expressed it higher ; for every habitual sin doth not only put us into the power of the devil, but turns us into his very nature ; just as the Holy Ghost transforms us into the image of God.
Here, therefore, I have a greater argument to persuade you to holy living than Moses had to the sons of Israel. “ Behold, I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing;" so said Moses : but I add, that I have, upon the stock of this scripture, set before you the good Spirit and the bad, God and the devil : choose unto whose nature you will be likened, and into whose inheritance you will be adopted, and into whose possession you will enter.
If sin, you are of your father the devil,' ye are begot of his principles, and follow his pattern, and shall pass into his portion, when ye are led captive by him at his will; and remember what a sad thing it is to go into the portion of evil and accursed spirits, the sad and eternal portion of devils. But he that hath the Spirit of God, doth acknowledge God for his Father and his Lord, he despises the world, and hath no violent appetites for secular pleasures, and is dead to the desires of this life, and his hopes are spiritual, and God is his joy, and Christ is his pattern and support, and religion is his employment, and 'godliness is his gain:' and this man understands the things of God, and is ready to die for Christ, and fears nothing but to sin against God; and his will is filled with love, and it springs out in obedience to God, and in charity to his 'brother. And of such a man we cannot make judgment by his fortune, or by his acquaintance ; by his circumstances, or by his adherences ; for they are the appendages of a natural man : but the spiritual is judged of no man;' that is, the rare excellences, that make him happy, do not yet make him illustrious, unless he will reckon virtue to be a great fortune, and holiness to be great wisdom, and
Psal. xci. 5.
God to be the best friend, and Christ the best relative, and the Spirit the hugest advantage, and heaven the greatest reward. He that knows how to value these things, may sit down and reckon the felicities of him, that hath the Spirit of God.
The purpose of this discourse is this : that since the Spirit of God is a new nature, and a new life put into us, we are thereby taught and enabled to serve God by a constant course of holy living, without the frequent returns and intervening of such actions, which men are pleased to call "sins of infirmity.' Whosoever hath the Spirit of God, lives the life of grace. The Spirit of God rules in him, and is strong according to its age and abode, and allows not of those often sins, which we think unavoidable, because we call them 'natural infirmities.'
“ But if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin ; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” The state of sin is a state of death. The state of a man under the law was a state of bondage and infirmity, as St. Paul largely describes him in the seventh chapter to the Romans : but he that hath the Spirit, is made alive, and free and strong, and a conqueror over all the powers and violences of sin. Such a man resists temptations, falls not under the assault of sin, returns not to the sin which he last repented of, acts no more that error which brought him to shame and sorrow : but he that falls under a crime, to which he still hath a strong and vigorous inclination, he that acts his sin, and then curses it, and then is tempted, and then sins again, and then weeps again, and calls himself miserable, but still the enchantment hath confined him to that circle; this man hath not the Spirit: “ for where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty;" there is no such bondage, and a returning folly to the commands of sin. But, because men deceive themselves with calling this bondage a pitiable and excusable infirmity, it will not be useless to consider the state of this question more particularly, lest men, from the state of a pretended' infirmity, fall into a real death.
1. No great sin is a sin of infirmity, or excusable upon that stock. But that I may be understood, we must know that every sin is, in some sense or other, a sin of infirmity. When a man is in the state of spiritual sickness or death, he is in a state of
infirmity; for he is a wounded man, a prisoner, a slave, a sick man, weak in his judgment, and weak in his reasonings, impotent in his passions, of childish resolutions, great inconstancy, and his purposes untwist as easily as the rude conjecture of uncombining cables in the violence of a northern tempest : and he that is thus in infirmity cannot be excused; for it is the
aggravation of the state of his sin; he is so infirm that he is in a state unable to do his duty. Such a man is a servant of sin,' a slave of the devil, an heir of corruption, absolutely under command : and every man is so, who resolves for ever to avoid such a sin, and yet for ever falls under it. For what can he be but a servant of sin, who fain would avoid it, but cannot ? that is, he hath not the Spirit of God within him; Christ dwells not in his soul; for where the Son is, there is liberty :' and all that are in the Spirit, are the sons of God, and servants of righteousness, and therefore freed from sin. But there are also sins of infirmity which are single actions, intervening seldom, in little instances unavoidable, or through a faultless ignorance : such as these are always the allays of the life of the best men; and for these Christ hath paid, and they are never to be accounted to good men, save only to make them more wary
and more humble.
Now concerning these it is that I say, No great sin is a sin of excusable or unavoidable infirmity: because, whosoever hath received the Spirit of God, hath sufficient knowledge of his duty, and sufficient strengths of grace, and sufficient advertency of mind, to avoid such things as do great and apparent violence to piety and religion. No man can justly say, that it is a sin of infirmity that he was drunk : for there are but three causes of every sin ; a fourth is not imaginable. 1. If ignorance cause it, the sin is as full of excuse as the ignorance was innocent. But no Christian can pretend this to drunkenness, to murder, to rebellion, to uncleanness : for what Christian is so uninstructed but that he knows adultery is a sin ? 2. Want of observation is the cause of many indiscreet and foolish actions. Now at this gap many irregularities do enter and escape; because in the whole it is impossible for a man to be of so present a spirit, as to consider and reflect upon every word and every thought. But it is, in this case, in God's laws otherwise than in man's: the great flies cannot pass through without observation, little ones do; and a man
cannot be drunk, and never take notice of it ; or tempt his neighbour's wife before he be aware: therefore, the less the instance is, the more likely is it to be a sin of infirmity : and yet, if it be never so little, if it be observed, then it ceases to be a sin of infirmity. 3. But, because great crimes cannot pretend to pass undiscernibly, it follows that they must come in at the door of malice, that is, of want of grace, in the absence of the Spirit; they destroy wherever they come, and the man dies if they pass upon him.
It is true, there is flesh and blood in every regenerate man, but they do not both rule: the flesh is left to tempt, but not to prevail. And it were a strange condition, if both the godly and the ungodly were captives to sin, and infallibly should fall into temptation and death, without all difference, save only that the godly sins unwillingly, and the ungodly sins willingly. But if the same things be done by both, and God in both be dishonoured, and their duty prevaricated, the pretended unwillingness is the sign of a greater and a baser slavery, and of a condition less to be endured: for the servitude which is against me, is intolerable: but if I choose the state of a servant, I am free in
Degenerisque metûs, nil jam potuisse negari. Certain it is, that such a person who fain would, but cannot, choose but commit adultery or drunkenness, is the veriest slave to sin that can be imagined, and not at all freed by the Spirit, and by the liberty of the sons of God; and there is no other difference, but that the mistaken good man feels his slavery, and sees his chains and his fetters; but therefore, it is certain that he is, because he sees himself to be, a slave. No man can be a servant of sin and a servant of righteousness, at the same time; but every man that hath the Spirit of God, is a servant of righteousness: and therefore, whosoever find great sins to be unavoidable, are in a state of death and reprobation, as to the present, because they willingly or unwillingly (it matters not much whether of the two) are servants of sin.
2. Sins of infirmity, as they are small in their instance,
* Lucan ii. 146.
so they put on their degree of excusableness only according to the weakness or infirmity of a man's understanding. So far as men (without their own fault) understand not their duty, or are possessed with weakness of principles, or are destitute and void of discourse, or discerning powers and acts,--so far, if a sin creeps upon them, it is as natural, and as free from a law, as is the action of a child ; but if any thing else be mingled with it, if it proceed from any other principle, it is criminal, and not excused by our infirmity, because it is chosen ; and a man's will hath no infirmity, but when it wants the grace of God, or is mastered with passions and sinful appetites : and that infirmity is the state of unregeneration.
3. The violence or strength of a temptation is not sufficient to excuse an action, or to make it accountable upon the stock of a pitiable and innocent infirmity, if it leaves the understanding still able to judge ; because a temptation cannot have any proper strengths but from ourselves ; and because we have in us a principle of baseness, which this temptation meets, and only persuades me to act, because I love it. Joseph met with a temptation as violent and as strong as any man; and it is certain there are not many Christians but would fall under it, and call it a sin of infirmity, since they have been taught so to abuse themselves, by sewing fig-leaves before their nakedness : but because Joseph had a strength of God within him, the strength of chastity, therefore it could not at all prevail upon him. Some men cannot by any art of hell be tempted to be drunk; others can no more resist an invitation to such a meeting, than they can refuse to die if a dagger were drunk with their heart-blood, because their evil habits made them weak on that part. And some man, that is fortified against revenge, it may be, will certainly fall under a temptation to uncleanness : for every temptation is great or small according as the man is; and a good word will certainly lead some men to an action of folly, while another will not think ten thousand pounds a considerable argument to make him tell one single lie against his duty or his conscience.
4. No habitual sin, that is, no sin that returns constantly or frequently; that is repented of and committed again, and still repented of, and then again committed; no such sin is