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Chapter VI.

The work of this enmity against God by way of opposition — First, It lusteth — Wherein the lusting of sin consisteth — Its surprising of the soul — Readiness to close with temptations — Secondly, Its fighting and warring — 1. In rebellion against the law of grace — 2. In assaulting the soul.

How this enmity worketh by way of aversation hath been declared, as also the means that the soul is to use for the preventing of its 189effects and prevalency. The second way whereby it exerts itself is opposition. Enmity will oppose and contend with that wherewith it is at enmity; it is so in things natural and moral. As light and darkness, heat and cold, so virtue and vice oppose each other. So is it with sin and grace; saith the apostle, “These are contrary one to the other,” Gal. v. 17; — Ἀλλήλοις ἀντίκειται. They are placed and set in mutual opposition, and that continually and constantly, as we shall see.

Now, there are two ways whereby enemies manage an opposition, — first, by force; and, secondly, by fraud and deceit. So when the Egyptians became enemies to the children of Israel, and managed an enmity against them, Exod. i. 10, Pharaoh saith, “Let us deal wisely,” or, rather cunningly and subtilely, “with this people;” for so Stephen, with respect to this word, expresseth it, Acts vii. 19, by κατασοφισάμενος, — he used “all manner of fraudulent sophistry.” And unto this deceit they added force in their grievous oppressions. This is the way and manner of things where there is a prevailing enmity; and both these are made use of by the law of sin in its enmity against God and our souls.

I shall begin with the first, or its actings, as it were, in a way of force, in an open downright opposition to God and his law, or the good that a believing soul would do in obedience unto God and his law. And in this whole matter we must be careful to steer our course aright, taking the Scripture for our guide, with spiritual reason and experience for our companions; for there are many shelves in our course which must diligently be avoided, that none who consider these things be troubled without cause, or comforted without a just foundation.

In this first way, whereby this sin exerts its enmity in opposition, — namely, as it were by force or strength, — there are four things, expressing so many distinct degrees in its progress and procedure in the pursuit of its enmity:—

First, Its general inclination: It “lusteth,” Gal. v. 17.

Secondly, Its particular way of contending: It “fights or wars,” Rom. vii. 23; James iv. 1; 1 Pet. ii. 11.

Thirdly, Its success in this contest: It “brings the soul into captivity to the law of sin,” Rom. vii. 23.

Fourthly, Its growth and rage upon success: It comes up to “madness,” as an enraged enemy will do, Eccles. ix. 3. All which we must speak to in order.

First, In general it is said to lust: Gal. v. 17, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” This word expresseth the general nature of that opposition which the law of sin maketh against God and the rule of his Spirit or grace in them that believe; and, therefore, the 190least degree of that opposition is expressed hereby. When it doth any thing, it lusteth; as, because burning is the general acting of fire, whatever it doth else, it doth also burn. When fire doth any thing it bums; and when the law of sin doth any thing it lusts.

Hence, all the actings of this law of sin are called “The lusts of the flesh:” Gal. v. 16, “Ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh;” Rom. xiii. 14, “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Nor are these lusts of the flesh those only whereby men act their sensuality in riot, drunkenness, uncleanness, and the like; but they comprehend all the actings of the law of sin whatever, in all the faculties and affections of the soul. Thus, Eph. ii. 3, we have mention of the desires, or wills, or “lusts of the mind,” as well as of the “flesh.” The mind, the most spiritual part of the soul, hath its lusts, no less than the sensual appetite, which seems sometimes more properly to be called the “flesh.” And in the products of these lusts there are “defilements of the spirit” as well as of the “flesh,” 2 Cor. vii. 1, — that is, of the mind and understanding, as well of the appetite and affections, and the body that attends their service. And in the blamelessness of all these consists our holiness: 1 Thess. v. 23, “The God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God, your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yea, by the “flesh” in this matter the whole old man, or the law of sin, is intended: John iii. 6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” — that is, it is all so, and nothing else; and whatever remains of the old nature in the new man is flesh still. And this flesh lusteth, — this law of sin cloth so; which is the general bottom and foundation of all its opposition unto God. And this it doth two ways:—

1. In a hidden, close propensity unto all evil. This lies in it habitually. Whilst a man is in the state of nature, fully under the power and dominion of this law of sin, it is said that “every figment of his heart is evil, and that continually,” Gen. vi. 5. It can frame, fashion, produce, or act nothing but what is evil; because this habitual propensity unto evil that is in the law of sin is absolutely predominant in such a one. It is in the heart like poison that hath nothing to allay its venomous qualities, and so infects whatever it touches. And where the power and dominion of it is broken, yet in its own nature it hath still an habitual propensity unto that which is evil, wherein its lusting doth consist.

But here we must distinguish between the habitual frame of the heart and the natural propensity or habitual inclination of the law of sin in the heart. The habitual inclination of the heart is denominated from the principle that bears chief or sovereign rule in it; and therefore in believers it is unto good, unto God, unto holiness, 191unto obedience. The heart is not habitually inclined unto evil by the remainders of indwelling sin; but this sin in the heart hath a constant, habitual propensity unto evil in itself or its own nature. This the apostle intends by its being present with us: “It is present with me;” that is, always and for its own end, which is to lust unto sin.

It is with indwelling sin as with a river. Whilst the springs and fountains of it are open, and waters are continually supplied unto its streams, set a dam before it, and it causeth it to rise and swell until it bear down all or overflow the banks about it. Let these waters be abated, dried up in some good measure in the springs of them, and the remainder may be coerced and restrained. But still, as long as there is any running water, it will constantly press upon what stands before it, according to its weight and strength, because it is its nature so to do; and if by any means it make a passage, it will proceed. So is it with indwelling sin; whilst the springs and fountains of it are open, in vain is it for men to set a clam before it by their convictions, resolutions, vows, and promises. They may check it for a while, but it will increase, rise high, and rage, at one time or another, until it bears down all those convictions and resolutions, or makes itself an under-ground passage by some secret lust, that shall give a full vent unto it. But now, suppose that the springs of it are much dried up by regenerating grace, the streams or actings of it abated by holiness, yet whilst any thing remains of it, it will be pressing constantly to have vent, to press forward into actual sin; and this is its lusting.

And this habitual propensity in it is discovered two ways:—

(1.) In its unexpected surprisals of the soul into foolish, sinful figments and imaginations, which it looked not for, nor was any occasion administered unto them. It is with indwelling sin as it is with the contrary principle of sanctifying grace. This gives the soul, if I may so say, many a blessed surprisal. It oftentimes ingenerates and brings forth a holy, spiritual frame in the heart and mind, when we have had no previous rational considerations to work them thereunto. And this manifests it to be an habitual principle prevailing in the mind: so Cant. vi. 12, “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me as the chariots of Ammi-nadib; that is, free, willing, and ready for communion with Christ. לֹא יָדַעְתִּי‎; — “I knew not; it was done by the power of the Spirit of grace; so that I took no notice of it, as it were, until it was done.” The frequent actings of grace in this manner, exciting acts of faith, love, and complacency in God, are evidences of much strength and prevalency of it in the soul. And thus, also, is it with indwelling sin; ere the soul is aware, without any provocation or temptation, when it knows not, it is cast into a vain and foolish frame. Sin produceth its figments secretly in the heart, and prevents 192the mind’s consideration of what it is about. I mean hereby those “actus primo primi,” first acts of the soul; which are thus far involuntary, as that they have not the actual consent of the will unto them, but are voluntary as far as sin hath its residence in the will. And these surprisals, if the soul be not awake to take speedy care for the prevention of their tendency, do oftentimes set all as it were on fire, and engage the mind and affections into actual sin: for as by grace we are oftentimes, ere we are aware, “made as the chariots of a willing people,” and are far engaged in heavenly-mindedness and communion with Christ, making speed in it as in a chariot; so by sin are we oftentimes, ere we are aware, carried into distempered affections, foolish imaginations, and pleasing delightfulness in things that are not good nor profitable. Hence is that caution of the apostle, Gal. vi. 1, Ἐὰν προληφθῇ· — “If a man be surprised at unawares with a fault, or in a transgression.” I doubt not but the subtlety of Satan and the power of temptation are here taken into consideration by the apostle, which causeth him to express a man’s falling into sin by προληφθῇ, — “if he be surprised.” So this working of indwelling sin also hath its consideration in it, and that in the chiefest place, without which nothing else could surprise us; for without the help thereof, whatever comes from without, from Satan or the world, must admit of some parley in the mind before it be received, but it is from within, from ourselves, that we are surprised. Hereby are we disappointed and wrought over to do that which we would not, and hindered from the doing of that which we would.

Hence it is, that when the soul is oftentimes doing as it were quite another thing, engaged quite upon another design, sin starts that in the heart or imaginations of it that carries it away into that which is evil and sinful. Yea, to manifest its power, sometimes, when the soul is seriously engaged in the mortification of any sin, it will, by one means or other, lead it away into a dalliance with that very sin whose ruin it is seeking, and whose mortification it is engaged in! But as there is in this operation of the law of sin a special enticing or entangling, we shall speak unto it fully afterward. Now, these surprisals can be from nothing but an habitual propensity unto evil in the principle from whence they proceed; not an habitual inclination unto actual sin in the mind or heart, but an habitual propensity unto evil in the sin that is in the mind or heart. This prevents the soul with its figments. How much communion with God is hereby prevented, how many meditations are disturbed, how much the minds and consciences of men have been defiled by this acting of sin, some may have observed. I know no greater burden in the life of a believer than these involuntary surprisals of soul; involuntary, I say, as to the actual consent of the will, but not so in respect of that corruption 193which is in the will, and is the principle of them. And it is in respect unto these that the apostle makes his complaint, Rom. vii. 25.

(2.) This habitual inclination manifests itself in its readiness and promptness, without dispute or altercation, to join and close with every temptation whereby it may possibly be excited. As we know it is in the nature of fire to burn, because it immediately lays hold on whatever is combustible, let any temptation whatever be proposed unto a man, the suitableness of whose matter unto his corruptions, or manner of its proposal, makes it a temptation; immediately he hath not only to do with the temptation as outwardly proposed, but also with his own heart about it. Without farther consideration or debate, the temptation hath got a friend in him. Not a moment’s space is given between the proposal and the necessity there is incumbent on the soul to look to its enemy within. And this also argues a constant, habitual propensity unto evil. Our Saviour said of the assaults and temptations of Satan, “The prince of this world cometh, and he hath no part in me,” John xiv. 30. He had more temptations, intensively and extensively, in number, quality, and fierceness, from Satan and the world, than ever had any of the sons of men; but yet in all of them he had to deal only with that which came from without. His holy heart had nothing like to them, suited to them, or ready to give them entertainment: “The prince of this world had nothing in him.” So it was with Adam. When a temptation befell him, he had only the outward proposal to look unto; all was well within until the outward temptation took place and prevailed. With us it is not so. In a city that is at unity in itself, compact and entire, without divisions and parties, if an enemy approach about it, the rulers and inhabitants have no thoughts at all but only how they may oppose the enemy without, and resist him in his approaches. But if the city be divided in itself, if there be factions and traitors within, the very first thing they do is to look to the enemies at home, the traitors within, to cut off the head of Sheba, if they will be safe. All was well with Adam within doors when Satan came, so that he had nothing to do but to look to his assaults and approaches. But now, on the access of any temptation, the soul is instantly to look in, where it shall find this traitor at work, closing with the baits of Satan, and stealing away the heart; and this it doth always, which evinceth an habitual inclination. Ps. xxxviii. 17, saith David, “I am ready to halt,” or for halting: כִּי־אֲנִי לְצֶלַע נָכוֹן‎; — “I am prepared and disposed unto hallucination, to the slipping of my foot into sin,” verse 16, as he expounds the meaning of that phrase, Ps. lxxviii. 2, 3. There was from indwelling sin a continual disposition in him to be slipping, stumbling, halting, on every occasion or temptation. There is nothing so vain, 194foolish, ridiculous, fond, nothing so vile and abominable, nothing so atheistical or execrable, but, if it be proposed unto the soul in a way of temptation, there is that in this law of sin which is ready to answer it before it be decried by grace. And this is the first thing in this lusting of the law of sin, — it consists in its habitual propensity unto evil, manifesting itself by the involuntary surprisals of the soul unto sin, and its readiness, without dispute or consideration, to join in all temptations whatever.

2. Its lusting consists in its actual pressing after that which is evil, and actual opposition unto that which is good. The former instance showed its constant readiness to this work; this now treats of the work itself. It is not only ready, but for the most part always engaged. “It lusteth,” saith the Holy Ghost. It doth so continually. It stirreth in the soul by one act or other constantly, almost as the spirits in the blood, or the blood in the veins. This the apostle calls its tempting: James i. 14, “Every man is tempted of his own lust.” Now, what is it to be tempted? It is to have that proposed to a man’s consideration which, if he close withal, it is evil, it is sin unto him. This is sin’s trade: Ἐπιθυμεῖ· — “It lusteth.” It is raising up in the heart, and proposing unto the mind and affections, that which is evil; trying, as it were, whether the soul will close with its suggestions, or how far it will carry them on, though it do not wholly prevail. Now, when such a temptation comes from without, it is unto the soul an indifferent thing, neither good nor evil, unless it be consented unto; but the very proposal from within, it being the soul’s own act, is its sin. And this is the work of the law of sin, — it is restlessly and continually raising up and proposing innumerable various forms and appearances of evil, in this or that kind, indeed in every kind that the nature of man is capable to exercise corruption in. Something or other, in matter, or manner, or circumstance, inordinate, unspiritual, unanswerable unto the rule, it hatcheth and proposeth unto the soul. And this power of sin to beget figments and ideas of actual evil in the heart the apostle may have respect unto, 1 Thess. v. 22, Ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε· — “Keep yourselves from every figment or idea of sin in the heart;” for the word there used doth not anywhere signify an outward form or appearance: neither is it the appearance of evil, but an evil idea or figment that is intended. And this lusting of sin is that which the prophet expresseth in wicked men, in whom the law of it is predominant: Isa. lvii. 20, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt;” a similitude most lively, expressing the lustings of the law of sin, restlessly and continually bubbling up in the heart, with wicked, foolish, and filthy imaginations and desires. This, then, is the first thing in the opposition that 195this enmity makes to God, — namely, in its general inclination, it “lusteth.”

Secondly, There is its particular way of contending, — it fights or wars; that is, it acts with strength and violence, as men do in war. First, it lusts, stirring and moving inordinate figments in the mind, desires in the appetite and the affections, proposing them to the will. But it rests not there, it cannot rest; it urgeth, presseth, and pursueth its proposals with earnestness, strength, and vigour, fighting, and contending, and warring to obtain its end and purpose. Would it merely stir up and propose things to the soul, and immediately acquiesce in the sentence, and judgment of the mind, that the thing is evil, against God and his will, and not farther to be insisted on, much sin might be prevented that is now produced; but it rests not here, — it proceeds to carry on its design, and that with earnestness and contention. By this means wicked men “inflame themselves,” Isa. lvii. 5. They are self-inflamers, as the word signifies, unto sin; every spark of sin is cherished in them until it grows into a flame: and so it will do in others, where it is so cherished.

Now, this fighting or warring of sin consists in two things:— 1. In its rebellion against grace, or the law of the mind. 2. In its assaulting the soul, contending for rule and sovereignty over it.

1. The first is expressed by the apostle, Rom. vii. 23: “I find,” says he, “another law,” ἀντιστρατευόμενον τῷ νόμῳ τοῦ νοός μου, “rebelling against the law of my mind.” There are, it seems, two laws in us, — the “law of the flesh,” or of sin; and the “law of the mind,” or of grace. But contrary laws cannot both obtain sovereign power over the same person, at the same time. The sovereign power in believers is in the hand of the law of grace; so the apostle declares, verse 22, “I delight in the law of God in the inward man.” Obedience unto this law is performed with delight and complacency in the inward man, because its authority is lawful and good. So more expressly, chap. vi. 14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Now, to war against the law that hath a just sovereignty is to rebel; and so ἀντιστρατεύεσθαι signifies, it is to rebel, and ought to have been so translated, “Rebelling against the law of my mind.” And this rebellion consists in a stubborn, obstinate opposition unto the commands and directions of the law of grace. Doth the “law of the mind” command any thing as duty? doth it severely rise up against any thing that is evil? When the lusting of the law of sin rises up to this degree, it contends against obedience with all its might; the effect whereof, as the apostle tells us, is “the doing of that which we would not, and the not doing of that which we would,” chap. vii. 15, 16. And we may gather a notable instance of the power of sin in this its rebellion from this place. The law of grace prevails 196upon the will, so that it would do that which is good: “To will is present with me,” verse 18; “When I would do good,” verse 21; and again, verse 19, “And I would not do evil.” And it prevails upon the understanding, so that it approves or disapproves, according to the dictates of the law of grace: Verse 16, “I consent unto the law that it is good;” and verse 15. The judgment always lies on the side of grace. It prevails also on the affections: Verse 22, “I delight in the law of God in the inward man.” Now, if this be so, that grace hath the sovereign power in the understanding, will, and affections, whence is it that it doth not always prevail, that we do not always do that which we would, and abstain from that which we would not? Is it not strange that a man should not do that which he chooseth, willeth, liketh, delighteth in? Is there any thing more required to enable us unto that which is good? The law of grace doth all, as much as can be expected from it, that which in itself is abundantly sufficient for the perfecting of all holiness in the fear of the Lord. But here lies the difficulty, in the entangling opposition that is made by the rebellion of this “law of sin.” Neither is it expressible with what vigour and variety sin acts itself in this matter. Sometimes it proposeth diversions, sometimes it causeth weariness, sometimes it finds out difficulties, sometimes it stirs up contrary affections, sometimes it begets prejudices, and one way or other entangles the soul; so that it never suffers grace to have an absolute and complete success in any duty. Verse 18, Τὸ κατεργάζεσθαι τὸ καλὸν οὐχ εὑρίσκω· — “I find not the way perfectly to work out, or accomplish, that which is good,” so the word signifies; and that from this opposition and resistance that is made by the law of sin. Now, this rebellion appears in two things:— (1.) In the opposition that it makes unto the general purpose and course of the soul. (2.) In the opposition it makes unto particular duties.

(1.) In the opposition it makes to the general purpose and course of the soul. There is none in whom is the Spirit of Christ, that is his, but it is his general design and purpose to walk in a universal conformity unto him in all things. Even from the inward frame of the heart to the whole compass of his outward actions, so it is with him. This God requires in his covenant: Gen. xvii. 1, “Walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Accordingly, his design is to walk before God; and his frame is sincerity and uprightness therein. This is called, “Cleaving unto the Lord with purpose of heart,” Acts xi. 23, — that is, in all things; and that not with a slothful, dead, ineffectual purpose, but such as is operative, and sets the whole soul at work in pursuit of it. This the apostle sets forth, Phil. iii. 12–14, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am 197apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” He useth three words excellently expressing the soul’s universal pursuit of this purpose of heart in cleaving unto God: First, saith he, Διώκω, verse 12, — “I follow after,” prosecute; the word signifies properly to persecute, which with what earnestness and diligence it is usually done we know. Secondly, Ἐπεκτείνομαι, — “I reach forward,” reaching with great intension of spirit and affections. It is a great and constant endeavour that is expressed in that word. Thirdly, Κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω, — say we, “I press towards the mark;” that is, even as men that are running for a prize. All set forth the vigour, earnestness, diligence, and constancy that is used in the pursuit of this purpose. And this the nature of the principle of grace requireth in them in whom it is. But yet we see with what failings, yea failings, their pursuit of this course is attended. The frame of the heart is changed, the heart is stolen away, the affections entangled, eruptions of unbelief and distempered passions discovered, carnal wisdom, with all its attendancies, are set on work; all contrary to the general principle and purpose of the soul. And all this is from the rebellion of this law of sin, stirring up and provoking the heart unto disobedience. The prophet gives this character of hypocrites, Hos. x. 2, “Their heart is divided; therefore shall they be found faulty.” Now, though this be wholly so in respect of the mind and judgment in hypocrites only, yet it is partially so in the best, in the sense described. They have a division, not of the heart, but in the heart; and thence it is that they are so often found faulty. So saith the apostle, “So that we cannot do the things that we would,” Gal. v. 17. We cannot accomplish the design of close walking according to the law of grace, because of the contrariety and rebellion of this law of sin.

(2.) It rebels also in respect unto particular duties. It raiseth a combustion in the soul against the particular commands and designings of the law of grace. “You cannot do the things that you would;” that is, “The duties which you judge incumbent on you, which you approve and delight in in the inward man, you cannot do them as you would.” Take an instance in prayer. A man addresseth himself unto that duty; he would not only perform it, but he would perform it in that manner that the nature of the duty and his own condition do require. He would “pray in the spirit,” fervently, “with sighs and groans that cannot be uttered;” in faith, with love and delight, pouring forth his soul unto the Lord. This he aims at. Now, oftentimes he shall find a rebellion, a fighting of the 198law of sin in this matter. He shall find difficulty to get any thing done who thought to do all things. I do not say that it is thus always, but it is so when sin “wars and rebels;” which expresseth an especial acting of its power. Woful entanglements do poor creatures oftentimes meet withal upon this account. Instead of that free, enlarged communion with God that they aim at, the best that their souls arrive unto is but to go away mourning for their folly, deadness, and indisposition. In a word, there is no command of the law of grace that is known, liked of, and approved by the soul, but when it comes to be observed, this law of sin one way or other makes head and rebels against it. And this is the first way of its fighting.

2. It doth not only rebel and resist, but it assaults the soul. It sets upon the law of the mind and grace; which is the second part of its warring: 1 Pet. ii. 11, Στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς, — “They fight,” or war, “against the soul;” James iv. 1, Στρατεύονται ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν, — “They fight,” or war, “in your members.” Peter shows what they oppose and fight against, — namely, the “soul” and the law of grace therein; James, what they fight with or by, — namely, the “members,” or the corruption that is in our mortal bodies. Ἀντιστρατεύεσθαι is to rebel against a superior; στρατεύεσθαι is to assault or war for a superiority. It takes the part of an assailant as well as of a resister. It makes attempts for rule and sovereignty, as well as opposeth the rule of grace. Now, all war and fighting hath somewhat of violence in it; and there is therefore some violence in that acting of sin which the Scripture calls “fighting and warring.” And this assailing efficacy of sin, as distinguished from its rebelling, before treated of, consists in these things that ensue:—

(1.) All its positive actings in stirring up unto sin belong to this head. Oftentimes, by the vanity of the mind, or the sensuality of the affections, the folly of the imaginations, it sets upon the soul then when the law of grace is not actually putting it on duty; so that therein it doth not rebel but assault. Hence the apostle cries out, Rom. vii. 24, “Who shall deliver me from it?” “Who shall rescue me out of its hand?” as the word signifies. When we pursue an enemy, and he resists us, we do not cry out, “Who shall deliver us?” for we are the assailants; but, “Who shall rescue me?” is the cry of one who is set upon by an enemy. So it is here; a man is assaulted by his “own lust,” as James speaks. By the wayside, in his employment, under a duty, sin sets upon the soul with vain imaginations, foolish desires, and would willingly employ the soul to make provision for its satisfaction; which the apostle cautions us against, Rom. xiii. 14, Τῆς σαρκὸς πρόνοιαν μὴ ποιεῖσθε εἰς ἐπιθυμίας· — “Do not accomplish the providence or projection of the flesh for its own satisfaction.”

(2.) Its importunity and urgency seems to be noted in this expression, 199of its warring. Enemies in war are restless, pressing, and importunate; so is the law of sin. Doth it set upon the soul? — Cast off its motions; it returns again. Rebuke them by the power of grace; they withdraw for a while, and return again. Set before them the cross of Christ; they do as those that came to take him, — at sight of him they went backwards and fell unto the ground, but they arose again and laid hands on him — sin gives place for a season, but returns and presseth on the soul again. Mind it of the love of God in Christ; though it be stricken, yet it gives not over. Present hell-fire unto it; it rusheth into the midst of those flames. Reproach it with its folly and madness; it knows no shame, but presseth on still. Let the thoughts of the mind strive to fly from it; it follows as on the wings of the wind. And by this importunity it wearies and wears out the soul; and if the great remedy, Rom. viii. 3, come not timely, it prevails to a conquest. There is nothing more marvellous nor dreadful in the working of sin than this of its importunity. The soul knows not what to make of it; it dislikes, abhors, abominates the evil it tends unto; it despiseth the thoughts of it, hates them as hell; and yet is by itself imposed on with them, as if it were another person, an express enemy got within him. All this the apostle discovers, Rom. vii. 15–17: “The things that I do I hate.” It is not of outward actions, but the inward risings of the mind that he treats. “I hate them,” saith he; “I abominate them.” But why, then, will he have any thing more to do with them? If he hate them, and abhor himself for them, let them alone, have no more to do with them, and so end the matter. Alas! saith he, verse 17, “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me;” — “I have one within me that is my enemy, that with endless, restless importunity puts these things upon me, even the things that I hate and abominate. I cannot be rid of them, I am weary of myself, I cannot fly from them. ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?’ ” I do not say that this is the ordinary condition of believers, but thus it is often when this law of sin riseth up to war and fighting. It is not thus with them in respect of particular sins, — this or that sin, outward sins, sins of life and conversation, — but yet in respect of vanity of mind, inward and spiritual distempers, it is often so. Some, I know, pretend to great perfection; but I am resolved to believe the apostle before them all and every one.

(3.) It carries on its war by entangling of the affections, and drawing them into a combination against the mind. Let grace be enthroned in the mind and judgment, yet if the law of sin lays hold upon and entangles the affections, or any of them, it hath gotten a fort from whence it continually assaults the soul. Hence the great duty of mortification is chiefly directed to take place upon the affections: 200Col. iii. 5, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The “members that are upon the earth” are our affections: for in the outward part of the body sin is not seated; in particular, not “covetousness,” which is there enumerated, to be mortified amongst our members that are on the earth. Yea, after grace hath taken possession of the soul, the affections do become the principal seat of the remainders of sin; — and therefore Paul saith that this law is “in our members,” Rom. vii. 23; and James, that it “wars in our members,” James iv. 1, — that is, our affections. And there is no estimate to be taken of the work of mortification aright but by the affections. We may every day see persons of very eminent light, that yet visibly have unmortified hearts and conversations; their affections have not been crucified with Christ. Now, then, when this law of sin can possess any affection, whatever it be, love, delight, fear, it will make from it and by it fearful assaults upon the soul. For instance, hath it got the love of any one entangled with the world or the things of it, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life, — how will it take advantage on every occasion to break in upon the soul! It shall do nothing, attempt nothing, be in no place or company, perform no duty, private or public, but sin will have one blow or other at it; it will be one way or other soliciting for itself.

This is the sum of what we shall offer unto this acting of the law of sin, in a way of fighting and warring against our souls, which is so often mentioned in the Scripture; and a due consideration of it is of no small advantage unto us, especially to bring us unto self-abasement, to teach us to walk humbly and mournfully before God. There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men, and they are, first, a due consideration of God, and then of themselves; — of God, in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject, and sinful condition. Now, of all things in our condition, there is nothing so suited unto this end and purpose as that which lies before us; namely, the vile remainders of enmity against God which are yet in our hearts and natures. And it is no small evidence of a gracious soul when it is willing to search itself in this matter, and to be helped therein from a word of truth; when it is willing that the word should dive into the secret parts of the heart, and rip open whatever of evil and corruption lies therein. The prophet says of Ephraim, Hos. x. 11, “He loved to tread out the corn;” he loved to work when he might eat, to have always the corn before him: but God, says he, would “cause him to plough;” a labour no less needful, though at present not so delightful. Most men love to hear of the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of 201free love, and suppose they find food therein; however, it is evident that they grow and thrive in the life and notion of them. But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be inquiring after the weeds and briers that grow in them, they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other. This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself. It may be some, who are wise and grown in other truths, may yet be so little skilled in searching their own hearts, that they may be slow in the perception and understanding of these things. But this sloth and neglect is to be shaken off, if we have any regard unto our own souls. It is more than probable that many a false hypocrite, who have deceived themselves as well as others, because they thought the doctrine of the gospel pleased them, and therefore supposed they believed it, might be delivered from their soul-ruining deceits if they would diligently apply themselves unto this search of their own hearts. Or, would other professors walk with so much boldness and security as some do, if they considered aright what a deadly watchful enemy they continually carry about with them and in them? would they so much indulge as they do carnal joys and pleasures, or pursue their perishing affairs with so much delight and greediness as they do? It were to be wished that we would all apply our hearts more to this work, even to come to a true understanding of the nature, power, and subtlety of this our adversary, that our souls may be humbled; and that, —

1. In walking with God. His delight is with the humble and contrite ones, those that tremble at his word, the mourners in Zion; and such are we only when we have a due sense of our own vile condition. This will beget reverence of God, a sense of our distance from him, admiration of his grace and condescension, a due valuation of mercy, far above those light, verbal, airy attainments, that some have boasted of.

2. In walking with others. It lays in provision to prevent those great evils of judging, spiritual unmercifulness, harsh censuring, which I have observed to have been pretended by many, who, at the same time, as afterward hath appeared, have been guilty of greater or worse crimes than those which they have raved against in others. This, I say, will lead us to meekness, compassion, readiness to forgive, to pass by offences; even when we shall “consider” what is our state, as the apostle plainly declares, Gal. vi. 1. The man that understands the evil of his own heart, how vile it is, is the only useful, fruitful, and solid believing and obedient person. Others are fit only to delude themselves, to disquiet families, churches, and all relations whatever. Let us, then, consider our hearts wisely, and then go and see if we can be 202proud of our gifts, our graces, our valuation and esteem amongst professors, our enjoyments. Let us go then and judge, condemn, reproach others that have been tempted; we shall find a great inconsistency in these things. And many things of the like nature might be here added upon the consideration of this woful effect of indwelling sin. The way of opposing and defeating its design herein shall be afterward considered.

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