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Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is a transgression of the law.—1 John iii. 4.
IN the words we have a new argument to persuade to holiness. He had reasoned before from the dignity of our adoption; now from the indignity or base nature of sin, which is an act of rebellion and disloyalty against the sovereignty of God; it is in effect to proclaim war, or to break out into open rebellion against his laws: for ‘whosoever committeth sin,’ &c.
In which words observe—
1. A proposition concerning the danger of committing sin, ‘Whosoever committeth sin.’
2. The proof of it from the proper definition of sin, it ‘is a transgression of the law.’
The proposition respects the state of the sinner, the proof is taken from the nature of sin; the proposition showeth who is in the state of sin, the proof what is sin.
1. Who is in the state of sin; and so every transgressor of the law, even according to the new-covenant interpretation of it.
[1.] The subject, ‘He that committeth sin.’ To commit sin differeth from sinning simply taken; we all have sin in the habit: 1 John i. 8, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;’ and ‘If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us,’ ver. 10. We have sin in us, and we have sinned; but committing sin implieth something more than bare sinning: John viii. 34, ‘Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin;’ 1 John iii. 8, ‘He that committeth sin is of the devil;’ they that give up themselves to a trade of sin. It is not meant of those who have sin in them, or are conscious to daily infirmities and failings, and lament and strive against them, and labour to purify themselves yet more and more: quisquis dat operam peccato; so Beza rendereth it, one that is addicted to sin, and liveth in sin, against the checks of his own conscience, and doth not purify himself, and apply himself to a course of godliness.
[2.] The predicate, ‘He transgresseth the law.’ I would render it committeth a transgression of the law, or studiously breaketh it, and so forfeiteth the blessing of the gospel; for wittingly and willingly to break the law of God showeth we are under the curse of it. All are under the rule of the law, but the impenitent are under the curse of the law. It is not meant of those who sin out of infirmity, either through ignorance or incogitancy or general frailty; but of those who delight in sin, of those in whom sin reigneth; of those who deliberately, voluntarily, easily, freely, frequently break God’s laws. It is opposed to him that purifieth himself; as sin and purity are contrary, so to purify ourselves and encourage sin, are exactly contrary.
(1.) Their designs are contrary; the one is fitting himself for his everlasting estate, the other satisfieth his present lusts, and liveth according to the inclination of the flesh.
(2.) They are different in their course; the one bendeth all his endeavours to be holy and pure, as Christ is pure, the other giveth up himself to a sinful life; either maketh it his design to sin, or he giveth the boat to the stream, and does not heartily check and resist sin. Some wicked men’s hearts are set in them to do evil; but if they go not so far to make it their design and work to sin, yet they are grossly negligent; they do not make it their work not to sin, but let it reign in them. Of one sort of unregenerate men it may be said, non proponunt peccare; but of all unregenerate1313 Qu. ‘regenerate’?—ED. men, proponunt non peccare. Some are sons of Belial, who have no regard to the law of God, but live in an utter contempt and defiance thereof; but others do not frame their doings to observe it, nor improve the aids of grace to keep themselves from it, but customarily break it, live under a continual tenor and course of sin. Now if sin reign in them, they are not under grace, but under the law, transgressors in the new covenant sense.
2. The reason, ‘For sin is a transgression of the law;’ and wilful sin is a contempt of the law in general. It doth not become christians to do anything which doth disagree with the law of their Father; but though God dispenses with infirmities, he will not bear with iniquities; therefore if we remain in a sinful state, or live a sinful life, what manner of persons soever we are by profession, or how little soever 490those sins which we live in be esteemed in the world, they will prove baneful to our souls. Many carnal men, under colour of being freed from the curse of the law by Christ, indulge themselves in their sins, and either think they shall not be called to an account for these things, or, if they cry to God for mercy, think all is well, though they frequently, constantly, easily relapse into those sins again and again, and so turn the grace of God into wantonness, Jude 4; christian liberty into licentiousness, 2 Peter ii. 19. Now these are transgressors of the law, and must appear as such, and answer as such before the bar of God. And it is also a caution to good men; they must not flatter themselves in their sins, nor give way even to their infirmities, as if they were no sins. No; they are breaches of the law, and if we give way to them, we are pronounced as transgressors of it: Num. xiv. 41, ‘Wherefore should ye transgress the commandment of the Lord your God?’ Dan. ix. 11, ‘All Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us.’
Doct. He that liveth in a course of sin forfeits the privileges of adoption offered to him, and maketh himself guilty before God as a breaker of the law:
In pursuing this point, I shall do three things—
1. Show that all mankind is under the law of God, which still remaineth in force as an inviolable rule of righteousness.
2. That the nature and heinousness of sin is to be determined by a contrariety or want of conformity to this law.
3. That those that live in sin, or the allowed breach of the law, can not look upon themselves as God’s adopted children, but are still under the curse of it.
I. For the first, that all mankind are under the law of God, it will be evidenced by these considerations—
1. That man is God’s creature, and therefore his subject. The subjection of man to God is built upon this ground, his total and absolute dependence upon God, both as to creation and preservation. We have life and breath, and all things from him, from whence there resulteth an obligation to obey him; for dependence inferreth inferiority, obedience, and subjection, such as children owe to their parents, from whom, under God, they had their being. He that made us and kept us may dispose of us at his own pleasure; for God being a creator, he is an owner; and being an owner, he is a ruler. The dominion of jurisdiction is founded in the dominion of propriety: Mat. xx. 15, ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?’
2. Man being God’s subject, hath a certain law given to him, which doth require obedience from him, and doth determine his duty, particularly wherein it shall consist: Micah vi. 8, ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to love mercy, and do justice, and to walk humbly with thy God?’ This law is partly made known to us by the light of natural conscience: Rom. ii. 14, ‘The gentiles do by nature the things contained in the law;’ partly by scripture; so more clearly in Ps. cxlvii. 19, ‘He hath showed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments to Israel; he hath not dealt so with every nation.’ Now nothing is sin but what is against this law, and all that is a breach of it is a sin.491
3. Man being under a law, should be very tender of breaking or disobeying it, for God never dispenseth with it, as it is purely moral, and standeth much upon keeping up his legislative authority; which may appear by these considerations—
[1.] If man could have kept it, he would have gotten life by it; that was God’s first intention; and the reason why it succeeded not was through our sin. The law could not make us happy, because it became weak through our flesh, Rom. viii. 3, and Gal. iii. 21, ‘If there had been a law which could have given life, verily righteousness had been by the law;’ but a righteousness fully satisfying the demands of the law now in the fallen estate is impossible; the gospel therefore offereth another righteousness, to which the law is not contrary, but subservient.
[2.] In that God would not release the penalty of the law, nor pardon any sin against it, without satisfaction first made by the blood of Christ; the law is both the rule of our duty and God’s judgment; it showeth what is due from us to God, and also what is due from God to us in case of disobedience. Now before God would save man, Jesus Christ must be subject to the law, to suffer what is imposed as a punishment, before God would save us from it: Gal. iv. 4, 5, ‘But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.’
[3.] Before man can have actual benefit by this satisfaction, he must consent to return to the duty of the law, and live in obedience to God; for God never pardoneth any while they are in their rebellion, and live under the full dominion of sin, but when by covenant they return to their allegiance to their rightful Lord: Acts xxvi. 18, ‘To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God;’ Isa. lv. 7, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon;’ Isa. i. 16, 17, ‘Wash you, make you clean, and then your sins, though they were as scarlet, shall be as white as snow.’ Till a resolution of new obedience, we have no interest in the grace of the new covenant, for the way of entrance into the new covenant is by faith and repentance. Now repentance is nothing else but a sincere purpose of new obedience, or living according to the will or law of God.
[4.] Christ merited regeneration, or the spirit of holiness, that all new creatures might voluntarily keep this law, though not in absolute perfection, yet in new sincere obedience: Titus iii. 5, 6, ‘He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he hath shed on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.’ Christ came to bring us into the favour of God by pardon and adoption; so into a capacity of loving, pleasing, and obeying God by regeneration. Now the new creature is fitted to obey the law: Eph. iv. 24, ‘And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;’ Heb. viii. 10, ‘I will put my laws into their mind, and write them upon their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.’ The great blessing of the gospel is grace to keep the law.492
[5.] The more we keep this law, the more pleasing we are to God, and the more communion we have with Christ. As renewing grace fits us to enter into the evangelical state, so the more entirely and readily we give up ourselves to do the will of God, our interest is more clear, and our participation of the blessings of the gospel more full, and our comfort more strong: Ps. cxix. 165, ‘Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them;’ Rom. viii. 1, ‘There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ, which walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit;’ Ps. i. 1, 2, ‘Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of God, and in his law doth he meditate day and night;’ Titus ii. 11-13, ‘The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ;’ and 1 John i. 7, ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, then have we fellowship one with another.’ And it is said of our Lord Jesus, Luke ii. 52, that ‘he increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.’ If it be said of Christ, whose increase was only in the exercise, for at his first coming he had the Spirit without measure, much more of us, that, as we increase in holiness, we increase in the favour of God. Surely the more God loveth us, the more we obey his law; for all religion is to love God, which is our work, and to be beloved of him, which is our reward and happiness.
[6.] That we cannot have full communion with God till we are perfectly conformed to his law; for we are not introduced into the heavenly glory till we are perfect and complete in holiness: Eph. v. 27, ‘That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish;’ Col. i. 22, ‘To present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight;’ Jude 24, ‘To present you faultless before the presence of his glory.’ During life our obedience is but imperfectly begun, but when it is completed and finished, we do not stay out of heaven one jot or moment. In heaven and the state of perfect glory, the law as purely moral is always in force; we are bound to love God and one another.
[7.] That the law is the rule of all God’s judgments in the world, and his righteous process, whether against nations or persons: Rom. i. 18, ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;’ Heb. ii. 2, ‘For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,’ &c.
[8.] That he will not spare his own children when they transgress it by heinous and scandalous sins; though they be the dearly beloved of his soul, and fall out but in rare instances and cases, yet they do not go away without remarks of God’s displeasure: Prov. xi. 31, ‘The righteous shall be recompensed on earth, much more the wicked and the sinner.’ To instance in Eli, his sons are slain in battle, the ark 493taken, his daughter-in-law dieth, and at length the old man dieth. Witness David, after he had fallen foully; Tamar is defiled, Amnon slain, Absalom, in rebellion against him, rifleth his palace royal, defileth his concubines; he himself driven from his palace, fleeth for his life, and hath much ado to escape. All this is spoken to show that the law is still in force, that Christ came not to dissolve but to fulfil it.
[9.] That Christ came not to dissolve our obligation to God, or ever intended it, but to promote it rather. Not to dissolve it: if he came de jure to free us from obedience to the law, it is to make us gods; for no creature is sui juris, his own to dispose of; it is impossible any created thing can be without a law, for that were to make it God, to make the creature supreme and independent, that his own will should be his rule, without liableness to another. Nor de facto, to set us free while we are creatures; for that were to make us devils, to live in a direct opposition to God. But rather to promote holiness; partly as his design was to restore us to obedience: Luke i. 74, 75, ‘That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him with out fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.’ And partly as Christ was a pattern, and came to do what he hath commanded: Mat. iii. 15, ‘For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness;’ Mat v. 17, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil;’ Heb. v. 8, 9, ‘Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him.’
II. The nature and heinousness of sin is to be determined by a contrariety or want of conformity to this law; for sin presupposeth a law and lawgiver, and a debt of subjection lying upon us. We are subject to God by virtue of our dependence, but the course of this subjection and dependence is determined by the law of God, or the act of his legislative will, in what way we shall express our obedience to him; so that all sin presupposeth a law, and the power of the lawgiver. The apostle telleth us, Rom. iv. 15, ‘Where there is no law, there is no transgression;’ and Rom. v. 13, ‘Sin is not imputed where there is no law.’ Well, then, by the law we know what is sin, the nature of it, and how great an evil it is, and the heinousness of it.
But if we would know what sin is, or what is sin, let us see how many ways this law may be transgressed: two ways especially; either by omitting what is commanded as a duty to God, or by committing what is forbidden.
1. By omitting what is commanded as a duty to God or man; as suppose invocation of God: Jer. x. 25, ‘Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name;’ Ps. xiv. 3, ‘There is none that doeth good, no not one;’ Mat. xxv. 42, ‘I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink;’ non qui rapit aliena, sed qui non dat sua; Mat. xxv. 30, ‘And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Unprofitableness, if there be no more, is a damning sin. When we directly transgress an affirmative precept, that is a sin of omission; or when we do anything 494against a negative precept, that is a sin of commission. There is in these sins the general nature of all sin, a transgression of the law, or a disobedience and breach of a precept, and so by consequence a contempt of God’s authority. When Saul had not done what God bid him to do, he telleth him, 1 Sam. xv. 23, ‘That rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as iniquity and idolatry;’ implying that sins of omission are rebellion and stubbornness, for which God threateneth to rend the kingdom from him. So for a sin of omission he puts by Eli’s family from the priesthood: 1 Sam. iii. 13, ‘I will judge his house for ever, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.’ Now the more necessary the duties omitted are, the greater the sin is: Heb. ii. 3, ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?’ 1 Cor. xvi. 22, ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.’ Especially if the omission be total: Ps. xiv. 2, ‘There is none seeketh after God;’ Jer. ii. 32, ‘My people have forgotten me days without number.’ When duties are seasonable: Prov. xvii. 16, ‘Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, and he hath no heart to it?’ When the performance of a duty is easy, to stand with God for a trifle: Luke xvi. 24, he that would not give a crumb shall not have a drop. So when fully convinced of our duty: James iv. 17, ‘To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.’ These sins are the ruin of most people in the world. They forget God; they do not seek after him. Yea, the children of God oftener offend in these kind of sins than the other kind; not so much in foul excesses, as in the omission of good duties.
2. By committing what God hath forbidden, or breaking through the restraints God hath laid upon us, in worshipping idols, or satisfying our revenge, or fulfilling our lusts. The first sin was eating the for bidden fruit; and the decalogue consists rather of prohibitions than precepts, to meet with the corrupt nature of man. God doth as it were in his law cry to us, ‘Oh, do not this abominable thing which I hate!’ Jer. xliv. 4. He hath hedged up our way, and yet we break through. If you ask which is the worst of these two, sins of omission against the affirmative, or commission against the negative commandments? I answer—In some cases the one, in some the other. Sins of commission are usually more foul and scandalous, but sins of omission, especially total neglects of necessary duties, are more dangerous. Sins of commission, when they break out into shameful acts, scourge the conscience with remorse and horror; but sins of omission bring an insensible slightness, carelessness, and hardness of heart. Our mischief cometh by neglecting what should keep religion alive in our souls. But now sins of commission may be acted in thought, word, and deed; for the whole man falleth under the law of God. These three ways of sinning are implied in Prov. viii. 13, ‘Pride and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth.’
[1.] Thoughts are not free; the workings of the heart fall under a law: ‘The thought of foolishness is sin;’ Ps. cxix. 113, ‘I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love.’ Mark, he inferreth his hatred of vain thoughts out of his love to the law. Thoughts and desires are condemned by the law of God, as well as more perfect operations.495
[2.] Words also fall under the law, and we are to give an account thereof in the judgment: Mat. xii. 36, ‘Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment;’ James ii. 12, ‘So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.’ Then the judgment is carried on according to law.
[3.] Evil actions, that break out into the conversation, are consummate sins: James i. 15, ‘Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin.’ These being more deliberate, argue greater boldness and contempt of God, bring scandal and dishonour to his name, and convey the taint and contagion of an evil example to others. It is ill to have a fire kindled in our bosoms, but it is worse when the sparks of sin fly abroad. These acts of sin are either secret, done between God and us, without the privity of any others than the sinning parties; these are an affront to God’s omnipotency, because they put more respect upon men than God, which is palliated atheism: Jer. ii. 26, ‘A thief is ashamed when he is found;’ Job xxiv. 15, ‘The adulterer waiteth for the twilight; no eye shall see me; and disguiseth his face.’ To be unjust in secret, unclean in secret, malicious, sensual, voluptuous; art thou afraid men should know it, and not afraid God should know it? Open sin, when in defiance of all that is good and holy, men will commit, and are net ashamed of it; as Absalom lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel: Isa. iii. 9, ‘They declare their sin as Sodom, and hide it not.’ This is to enter into an open war and defiance against God.
III. That those that live in sin, or any allowed breach of this law, are still under the curse of it, and cannot look upon themselves as God’s adopted children; for he that breaketh the law is opposed to those whom the Father hath loved with so great love, as to take them into his family, and to acknowledge them for his children.
To clear this to you—
1. It is certain that when we come to take the law out of the hand of a redeemer, we are all sinners and transgressors before God. When we first received the law out of the hand of a creator, we were pure and upright, had no former faults to be pardoned, but were as the creation had left us; but now we have a mountain of guilt upon our backs when we are called upon to submit to the kingdom of the Mediator; therefore we come to him as one that will pay our debts, and discharge us of this heavy load, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear: Ps. cxxx. 4, ‘There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared;’ Mat. xi. 28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ Pardon, rest, and ease for your burdened souls, is our first invitation; for alas! we are all sinners and transgressors.
2. Though God findeth us sinners, and we apprehend ourselves to be so, yet when he taketh us into his family, he doth not leave us so; but on God’s part regeneration maketh way for adoption: John i. 12, 13, ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ And regeneration doth fit us for obedience to the law, as was said before; for it is a writing his law on our minds, and a putting 496it into our hearts. And on our part there is repentance, or a bitter dislike of sin, with which is a purpose of new obedience, or of forbearing the evil which the law forbiddeth, and doing the good which the law requireth; a returning to the allegiance we owe our sovereign Lord: Acts xvii. 30, 31, ‘He hath commanded all men to repent, because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.’ Surely they that enter into the Mediator’s kingdom, and do seriously and solemnly engage to be faithful to him, are strongly bound to be exceeding tender of doing anything against the law and will of God; partly because they now owe obedience not only to God as creator, but Christ as redeemer, who is their new lord by a beneficial right and title: Rom. xiv. 9, ‘To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord of dead and living.’ And their disobedience is a double transgression, and so a double displeasing of God; for bonds are multiplied by benefits. Partly because in their repentance, if it were serious, sin was complained of as the greatest burden that lay upon their consciences, the grievance from whence they sought ease, the wound which pained them at the heart, the disease their souls were sick of; and their purpose seemed firmly set to please God in all things. Now, if men cast off all care of righteousness and holiness, and take occasion from the grace of Christ to live in sin, and to build again what they have destroyed, they cast off their claim, and so make themselves transgressors of the law before God: Gal. ii. 17, ‘If I build again the things which I have destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.’ It is a kind of outlawing ourselves from the law of grace.
3. None are so exact with God in the obedience of his law, but that still they need the same grace that brought them into the family to keep them in the family, and to pardon their daily failings. Not to sin is the fixed purpose of christians; but who can watch so severely, and keep such a strict guard over his own heart, but that he doth often sin and fall? But God will not deal in anger with us, and cast us out of his favour and family for every sin, through the weakness and frailty of our natures; but though we often forget the duty of children, he doth not forget the mercy of a father: Ps. ciii. 13, ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him;’ Mal. iii. 17, ‘I will spare them as a father spareth his only son that serveth him.’ He hath mercy in Christ for all such as do sincerely endeavour to please God, and serve him, and do not indulge themselves in deliberate sin.
4. Though God’s adopted children may through infirmity break his law, yet there is a manifest difference between them and others that live in a state of sin, either in enmity to godliness, or in a course of vanity, sensuality, or any kind of rebellion against God, rejecting his counsels, calls, and mercies, which should reclaim them. There are some who sin with fulness of deliberation: Micah ii. 1, ‘Woe to them that devise iniquity, that work evil upon their beds: when the morning is light they practise it, because it is in the power of their hands.’ With freeness of consent: Prov. vii. 22, ‘He goeth after her straightway.’ With strength of resolution: Eccles. viii. 11, ‘Their heart is fully set in them to do evil;’ Jer. xliv. 17, ‘But we will certainly do whatsoever 497goeth out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the city of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.’ Frequency of action: 2 Peter iii. 3, ‘Walking after then own lusts.’ Accustomed to do evil: Jer. xiii. 23. Skill and dexterity in sinning: Jer. iv. 22, ‘They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.’ Now these are not as God’s children, who have a few failings.
Use 1. To show the dangerous condition of those who live in a course of sin; the Holy Ghost pronounceth them breakers of the law. But now the children of God, those that are taken into God’s family, have sin dwelling in them, but not reigning; remaining, but not reserved; they are often foiled, out it is besides their purpose, which is the difference between them and others, the habitual bent of their hearts being against sin. The prevailing and overpoising heart is for God; their wills are fixed, and set to please him: Heb. xiii. 18, ‘We trust we have a good conscience.’ But with the carnal it is not so; sin is more loved than hated. A man is not determined good from his conscience, but from the prevalent bent of his will. It is not enough to have a conscience rightly informed from the word of God concerning any duty, but there must be a bent, a fixed purpose to obey God in all things; which doth still put us on to do good and to avoid evil. The will is the imperial power in the soul, and the first mover and principle of all moral actions; and as it standeth disposed and constantly bent, so is the life good or evil; and where the heart is predominantly bent on righteousness, we may take comfort in our condition, though forced to grapple with remaining weaknesses. But if bare conscience calleth for that we have no mind to, though some dislikes, some feeble resistance be made, and soon suppressed, it will not excuse us from being transgressors of the law. The conscience of a convinced man is for God, but the heart and will of a renewed man is for God. A convinced man may have an imperfect will to be better, a velleity, but not a perfect volition; but in a converted man there is a will and a delight in God: ‘To will is present with me, and I delight in the law of God in the inner man,’ Rom. vii. 22.
2. The tenor of his life is for God; his course is a course of godliness; but in a natural man, his course is a course of sin, and he doth not avoid those failings which he might avoid if he were sincerely willing. Men are determined by their walk, whether it be after the flesh or after the Spirit, Rom. viii. 1. Their sins are not of settled interest and choice, but sudden passion.
3. To the godly sin is a great burden: Rom. vii. 24, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ They are unwearied and instant in the use of means whereby they may get rid of it; they do not only dislike sin, but overcome it in some measure; they are always cleansing their minds from vanity and sin, and ‘perfecting holiness in the fear of God,’ 2 Cor. vii. 1; ’As ye have received of us how ye ought to walk, and to please God, so you would abound therein yet more and more,’ 1 Thes. iv. 1.
4. By their falls they are much better strengthened, and cautioned 498against sin for time to come: Ps. li. 6, ‘In the hidden parts thou hast made me to know wisdom.’ The others, if sin be complained of, it is not reformed nor mortified: they are sorry for their sins for a fit, but it is not a sorrow that wounds sin to the heart, that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation ‘not to be repented of;’ but the others do recover themselves in such a kindly manner that their health is bettered by their disease.
Use 2. Since it is hard to state how far a child of God may go in sinning, or what are mere infirmities consistent with grace, the best way will be to stand at a distance universally from all sin, hating all sin, and keeping a constant care and solicitude to please God in all things, and to pray with David, Ps. cxix. 133, ‘Order my steps in thy word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.’ It is enough to breed caution in us that a sin of infirmity in its own nature is a transgression of the law, whether it be imputed to us, yea or no; and a man that doth not make conscience of infirmities will in time not make conscience of iniquities; but that man that persists in a sinful course, certainly doth not, cannot walk uprightly with God: 1 John v. 18, ‘We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is be gotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not.’ When the rest of the world lieth in wickedness, the grace of God in his heart ordinarily is prevailing in him.
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