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The working of sin by deceit to entangle the affections — The ways whereby it is done — Means of their prevention.
The second thing in the words of the apostle ascribed unto the deceitful working of sin is its enticing. A man is “drawn away and enticed.” And this seems particularly to respect the affections, as drawing away doth the mind. The mind is drawn away from duty, and the affections are enticed unto sin. From the prevalency hereof a man is said to be “enticed,” or entangled as with a bait: so the word imports; for there is an allusion in it unto the bait wherewith a fish is taken on the hook which holds him to his destruction. And concerning this effect of the deceit of sin, we shall briefly show two things: 1. What it is to be enticed, or to be entangled with the bait of sin, to have the affections tainted with an inclination thereunto; and when they are so. 2. What course sin takes, and what way it proceedeth in, thus to entice, ensnare, or entangle the soul:—
1. For the first, —
(1.) The affections are certainly entangled when they stir up frequent imaginations about the proposed object which this deceit of sin leadeth and enticeth towards. When sin prevails, and the affections are gone fully after it, it fills the imagination with it, possessing it with images, likenesses, appearances of it continually. Such persons “devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds;” which they also “practice” when they are able, when “it is in the power of their hand,” Micah ii. 1. As, in particular, Peter tells us that “they have eyes full of an adulteress,33 Marginal reading in the authorized version. — Ed. and they cannot cease from sin,” 2 Pet. ii. 14, — that is, their imaginations are possessed with a continual representation of the object of their lusts. And it is so in part where the 246affections are in part entangled with sin, and begin to turn aside unto it. John tells us that the things that are “in the world” are “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” 1 John ii. 16. The lust of the eyes is that which by them is conveyed unto the soul. Now, it is not the bodily sense of seeing, but the fixing of the imagination from that sense on such things, that is intended. And this is called the “eyes,” because thereby things are constantly represented unto the mind and soul, as outward objects are unto the inward sense by the eyes. And oftentimes the outward sight of the eyes is the occasion of these imaginations. So Achan declares how sin prevailed with him, Joshua vii. 21. First, he saw the wedge of gold and Babylonish garment, and then he coveted them. He rolled them, the pleasures, the profit of them, in his imagination, and then fixed his heart upon the obtaining of them. Now, the heart may have a settled, fixed detestation of sin; but yet, if a man find that the imagination of the mind is frequently solicited by it and exercised about it, such a one may know that his affections are secretly enticed and entangled.
(2.) This entanglement is heightened when the imagination can prevail with the mind to lodge vain thoughts in it, with secret delight and complacency. This is termed by casuists, “Cogitatio morosa cum delectatione,” — an abiding thought with delight; which towards forbidden objects is in all cases actually sinful. And yet this may be when the consent of the will unto sin is not obtained, — when the soul would not for the world do the thing, which yet thoughts begin to lodge in the mind about. This “lodging of vain thoughts” in the heart the prophet complains of as a thing greatly sinful, and to be abhorred, Jer. iv. 14. All these thoughts are messengers that carry sin to and fro between the imagination and the affections, and still increase it, inflaming the imagination, and more and more entangling the affections. Achan thinks upon the golden wedge, this makes him like it and love it; by loving of it his thoughts are infected, and return to the imagination of its worth and goodly show; and so by little and little the soul is inflamed unto sin. And here if the will parts with its sovereignty, sin is actually conceived.
(3.) Inclinations or readiness to attend unto extenuations of sin, or the reliefs that are tendered against sin when committed, manifest the affections to be entangled with it. We have showed, and shall yet farther evidence, that it is a great part of the deceit of sin, to tender lessening and extenuating thoughts of sin unto the mind. “Is it not a little one?” or, “There is mercy provided;” or, “It shall be in due time relinquished and given over,” is its language in a deceived heart. Now, when there is a readiness in the soul to hearken and give entertainment unto such secret insinuations, arising from this 247deceit, in reference unto any sin or unapprovable course, it is an evidence that the affections are enticed. When the soul is willing, as it were, to be tempted, to be courted by sin, to hearken to its dalliances and solicitations, it hath lost of its conjugal affections unto Christ, and is entangled. This is “looking on the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright,” Prov. xxiii. 31; — a pleasing contemplation on the invitations of sin, whose end the wise man gives us, verse 32. When the deceit of sin hath prevailed thus far on any person, then he is enticed or entangled. The will is not yet come to the actual conception of this or that sin by its consent, but the whole soul is in a near inclination thereunto. And many other instances I could give as tokens and evidences of this entanglement: these may suffice to manifest what we intend thereby.
2. Our next inquiry is, How, or by what means, the deceit of sin proceeds thus to entice and entangle the affections? And two or three of its baits are manifest herein:—
(1.) It makes use of its former prevalency upon the mind in drawing it off from its watch and circumspection. Says the wise man, Prov. i. 17, “Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird;” or “before the eyes of every thing that hath a wing,” as in the original. If it hath eyes open to discern the snare, and a wing to carry it away, it will not be caught. And in vain should the deceit of sin spread its snares and nets for the entanglement of the soul, whilst the eyes of the mind are intent upon what it doth, and so stir up the wings of its will and affections to carry it away and avoid it. But if the eyes be put out or diverted, the wings are of very little use for escape; and, therefore, thin is one of the ways which is used by them who take birds or fowls in their nets. They have false lights or shows of things, to divert the sight of their prey; and when that is done, they take the season to cast their nets upon them. So doth the deceit of sin; it first draws off and diverts the mind by false reasonings and pretences, as hath been showed, and then casts its net upon the affections for their entanglement.
(2.) Taking advantage of such seasons, it proposeth sin as desirable, as exceeding satisfactory to the corrupt part of our affections. It gilds over the object by a thousand pretences, which it presents unto corrupt lustings. This is the laying of a bait, which the apostle in this verse evidently alludes unto. A bait is somewhat desirable and suitable, that is proposed to the hungry creature for its satisfaction; and it is by all artifices rendered desirable and suitable. Thus is sin presented by the help of the imagination unto the soul; that is, sinful and inordinate objects, which the affections cleave unto, are so presented. The apostle tells us that there are “pleasures of sin,” 248Heb. xi. 25; which, unless they are despised, as they were by Moses, there is no escaping of sin itself. Hence they that live in sin are said to “live in pleasure,” James v. 5. Now, this pleasure of sin consisteth in its suitableness to give satisfaction to the flesh, to lust, to corrupt affections. Hence is that caution, Rom. xiii. 14, “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof;” that is, “Do not suffer your minds, thoughts, or affections to fix upon sinful objects, suited to give satisfaction to the lusts of the flesh, to nourish and cherish them thereby.” To which purpose he speaks again, Gal. v. 16, “Fulfil ye not the lust of the flesh;” — “Bring not in the pleasures of sin, to give them satisfaction.” When men are under the power of sin, they are said to “fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” Eph. ii. 3. Thus, therefore, the deceit of sin endeavours to entangle the affections by proposing unto them, through the assistance of the imagination, that suitableness which is in it to the satisfaction of its corrupt lusts, now set at some liberty by the inadvertency of the mind. It presents its “wine sparkling in the cup,” the beauty of the adulteress, the riches of the world, unto sensual and covetous persons; and somewhat in the like kind, in some degrees, to believers themselves. When, therefore, I say, sin would entangle the soul, it prevails with the imagination to solicit the heart, by representing this false-painted beauty or pretended satisfactoriness of sin; and then if Satan, with any peculiar temptation, fall in to its assistance, it oftentimes inflames all the affections, and puts the whole soul into disorder.
(3.) It hides the danger that attends sin; it covers it as the hook is covered with the bait, or the net spread over with meat for the fowl to be taken. It is not, indeed, possible that sin should utterly deprive the soul of the knowledge of the danger of it. It cannot dispossess it of its notion or persuasion that “the wages of sin is death,” and that it is the “judgment of God that they that commit sin are worthy of death.” But this it will do, — it will so take up and possess the mind and affections with the baits and desirableness of sin, that it shall divert them from an actual and practical contemplation of the danger of it. What Satan did in and by his first temptation, that sin doth ever since. At first Eve guards herself with calling to mind the danger of sin: “If we eat or touch it we shall die,” Gen. iii. 3. But so soon as Satan had filled her mind with the beauty and usefulness of the fruit to make one wise, how quickly did she lay aside her practical prevalent consideration of the danger of eating it, the curse due unto it; or else relieves herself with a vain hope and pretence that it should not be, because the serpent told her so! So was David beguiled in his great transgression by the deceit of sin. His lust being pleased and satisfied, the consideration of the guilt and 249danger of his transgression was taken away; and therefore he is said to have “despised the Lord,” 2 Sam. xii. 9, in that he considered not the evil that was in his heart, and the danger that attended it in the threatening or commination of the law. Now sin, when it presseth upon the soul to this purpose, will use a thousand wiles to hide from it the terror of the Lord, the end of transgressions, and especially of that peculiar folly which it solicits the mind unto. Hopes of pardon shall be used to hide it; and future repentance shall hide it; and present importunity of lust shall hide it; occasions and opportunities shall hide it; surprisals shall hide it; extenuation of sin shall hide it; balancing of duties against it shall hide it; fixing the imagination on present objects shall hide it; desperate resolutions to venture the uttermost for the enjoyment of lust in its pleasures and profits shall hide it. A thousand wiles it hath, which cannot be recounted.
(4.) Having prevailed thus far, gilding over the pleasures of sin, hiding its end and demerit, it proceeds to raise perverse reasonings in the mind, to fix it upon the sin proposed, that it may be conceived and brought forth, the affections being already prevailed upon; of which we shall speak under the next head of its progress.
Here we may stay a little, as formerly, to give some few directions for the obviating of this woeful work of the deceitfulness of sin. Would we not be enticed or entangled? would we not be disposed to the conception of sin? would we be turned out of the road and way which goes down to death? — let us take heed of our affections; which are of so great concernment in the whole course of our obedience, that they are commonly in the Scripture called by the name of the heart, as the principal thing which God requires in our walking before him. And this is not slightly to be attended unto. Prov. iv. 23, saith the wise man, “Keep thy heart with all diligence;” or, as in the original, “above” or “before all keepings;” — “Before every watch, keep thy heart. You have many keepings that you watch unto: you watch to keep your lives, to keep your estates, to keep your reputations, to keep up your families; but,” saith he, “above all these keepings, prefer that, attend to that of the heart, of your affections, that they be not entangled with sin.” There is no safety without it. Save all other things and lose the heart, and all is lost, — lost unto all eternity. You will say, then, “What shall we do, or how shall we observe this duty?”
1. Keep your affections as to their object.
(1.) In general. This advice the apostle gives in this very case, Colossians iii. His advice in the beginning of that chapter is to direct us unto the mortification of sin, which he expressly engageth in: Verse 5, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;” — “Prevent the working and deceit of sin which wars in your members.” 250To prepare us, to enable us hereunto, he gives us that great direction: Verse 2, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Fix your affections upon heavenly things; this will enable you to mortify sin; fill them with the things that are above, let them be exercised with them, and so enjoy the chiefest place in them. They are above, blessed and suitable objects, meet for and answering unto our affections; — God himself, in his beauty and glory; the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “altogether lovely, the chiefest of ten thousand;” grace and glory; the mysteries revealed in the gospel; the blessedness promised thereby. Were our affections filled, taken up, and possessed with these things, as it is our duty that they should be, — it is our happiness when they are, — what access could sin, with its painted pleasures, with its sugared poisons, with its envenomed baits, have unto our souls? how should we loathe all its proposals, and say unto them, “Get ye hence as an abominable thing!” For what are the vain, transitory pleasures of sin, in comparison of the exceeding recompense of reward which is proposed unto us? Which argument the apostle presses, 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.
(2.) As to the object of your affections, in an especial manner, let it be the cross of Christ, which hath exceeding efficacy towards the disappointment of the whole work of indwelling sin: Gal. vi. 14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” The cross of Christ he gloried and rejoiced in; this his heart was set upon; and these were the effects of it, — it crucified the world unto him, made it a dead and undesirable thing. The baits and pleasures of sin are taken all of them out of the world, and the things that axe in the world, — namely, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” These are the things that are in the world; from these doth sin take all its baits, whereby it enticeth and entangleth our souls. If the heart be filled with the cross of Christ, it casts death and undesirableness upon them all; it leaves no seeming beauty, no appearing pleasure or comeliness, in them. Again, saith he, “It crucifieth me to the world; makes my heart, my affections, my desires, dead unto any of these things.” It roots up corrupt lusts and affections, leaves no principle to go forth and make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Labour, therefore, to fill your hearts with the cross of Christ. Consider the sorrows he underwent, the curse he bore, the blood he shed, the cries he put forth, the love that was in all this to your souls, and the mystery of the grace of God therein. Meditate on the vileness, the demerit, and punishment of sin as represented in the cross, the blood, the death of Christ. Is Christ crucified for sin, and shall not our hearts be crucified with him unto sin? Shall we give entertainment unto that, or hearken unto its 251dalliances, which wounded, which pierced, which slew our dear Lord Jesus? God forbid! Fill your affections with the cross of Christ, that there may be no room for sin. The world once put him out of the house into a stable, when he came to save us; let him now turn the world out of doors, when he is come to sanctify us.
2. Look to the vigour of the affections towards heavenly things; if they are not constantly attended, excited, directed, and warned, they are apt to decay, and sin lies in wait to take every advantage against them. Many complaints we have in the Scripture of those who lost their first love, in suffering their affections to decay. And this should make us jealous over our own hearts, lest we also should be overtaken with the like backsliding frame. Wherefore be jealous over them; often strictly examine them and call them to account; supply unto them due considerations for their exciting and stirring up unto duty.
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