« Prev Chapter IV. Indwelling sin enmity against God —… Next »

Chapter IV.

Indwelling sin enmity against God — Thence its power — Admits of no peace nor rest — Is against God himself — Acts itself in aversation from God, and propensity to evil — Is universal — To all of God — In all of the soul — Constant.

Secondly. We have seen the seat and subject of this law of sin. In the next place we might take a view of its nature in general, which also will manifest its power and efficacy; but this I shall not enlarge upon, it being not my business to declare the nature of indwelling sin: it hath also been done by others. I shall therefore only, in reference unto our special design in hand, consider one property of it that belongs unto its nature, and this always, wherever it is. And this is that which is expressed by the apostle, Rom. viii. 7, “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” That which is here called φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός, “the wisdom of the flesh,” is the same with “the law of sin” which we insist on. And what says he hereof? Why, it is ἔχθρα εἰς Θεόν, — “enmity against God.” It is not only an enemy, — for so possibly some reconciliation of it unto God might be made, — but it is enmity itself, and so not capable of accepting any terms of peace. Enemies may be reconciled, but enmity cannot; yea, the only way to reconcile enemies is to destroy the enmity. So the apostle in another case tells us, Rom. v. 10, “We, who were enemies, are reconciled to God;” that is, a work compassed and brought about by the blood of Christ, — the reconciling of the greatest enemies. But when he comes to speak of enmity, there is no way for it, but 177it must be abolished and destroyed: Eph. ii. 15, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity.” There is no way to deal with any enmity whatever but by its abolition or destruction.

And this also lies in it as it is enmity, that every part and parcel of it, if we may so speak, the least degree of it that can possibly remain in any one, whilst and where there is any thing of its nature, is enmity still. It may not be so effectual and powerful in operation as where it hath more life and vigour, but it is enmity still As every drop of poison is poison, and will infect, and every spark of fire is fire, and will burn; so is every thing of the law of sin, the last, the least of it, — it is enmity, it will poison, it will burn. That which is any thing in the abstract is still so whilst it hath any being at all. Our apostle, who may well be supposed to have made as great a progress in the subduing of it as any one on the earth, yet after all cries out for deliverance, as from an irreconcilable enemy, Rom. vii. 24. The meanest acting, the meanest and most imperceptible working of it, is the acting and working of enmity. Mortification abates of its force, but doth not change its nature. Grace changeth the nature of man, but nothing can change the nature of sin. Whatever effect be wrought upon it, there is no effect wrought in it, but that it is enmity still, sin still. This then, by it, is our state and condition:— “God is love,” 1 John iv. 8. He is so in himself, eternally excellent, and desirable above all. He is so to us, he is so in the blood of his Son and in all the inexpressible fruits of it, by which we are what we are, and wherein all our future hopes and expectations are wrapped up. Against this God we carry about us an enmity all our days; an enmity that hath this from its nature, that it is incapable of cure or reconciliation. Destroyed it may be, it shall be, but cured it cannot be. If a man hath an enemy to deal withal that is too mighty for him, as David had with Saul, he may take the course that he did, — consider what it is that provoked his enemy against him, and so address himself to remove the cause and make up his peace: 1 Sam. xxvi. 19, “If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering: but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord.” Come it from God or man, there is yet hope of peace. But when a man hath enmity itself to deal withal, nothing is to be expected but continual fighting, to the destruction of the one party. If it be not overcome and destroyed, it will overcome and destroy the soul.

And herein lies no small part of its power, which we are inquiring after, — it can admit of no terms of peace, of no composition. There may be a composition where there is no reconciliation, — there may be a truce where there is no peace; but with this enemy we can obtain neither the one nor the other. It is never quiet, conquering nor 178conquered; which was the only kind of enemy that the famous warrior complained of old. It is in vain for a man to have any expectation of rest from his lust but by its death; of absolute freedom but by his own. Some, in the tumultuating of their corruptions, seek for quietness by labouring to satisfy them, “making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof,” as the apostle speaks, Rom. xiii. 14. This is to aslake fire by wood and oil. As all the fuel in the world, all the fabric of the creation that is combustible, being cast into the fire, will not at all satisfy it, but increase it; so is it with satisfaction given to sin by sinning, — it doth but inflame and increase. If a man will part with some of his goods unto an enemy, it may satisfy him; but enmity will have all, and is not one whit the more satisfied than if he had received nothing at all, — like the lean cattle that were never the less hungry for having devoured the fat. You cannot bargain with the fire to take but so much of your houses; ye have no way but to quench it. It is in this case as it is in the contest between a wise man and a fool: Prov. xxix. 9, “Whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.” Whatever frame or temper he be in, his importunate folly makes him troublesome. It is so with this indwelling sin: whether it violently tumultuate, as it will do on provocations and temptations, it will be outrageous in the soul; or whether it seem to be pleased and contented, to be satisfied, all is one, there is no peace, no rest to be had with it or by it. Had it, then, been of any other nature, some other way might have been fixed on; but seeing it consists in enmity, all the relief the soul hath must lie in its ruin.

Secondly, It is not only said to be “enmity,” but it is said to be “enmity against God.” It hath chosen a great enemy indeed. It is in sundry places proposed as our enemy: 1 Pet. ii. 11, “Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” they are enemies to the soul, that is, to ourselves. Sometimes as an enemy to the Spirit that is in us: “The flesh lusteth” or fighteth “against the Spirit,” Gal. v. 17. It fights against the Spirit, or the spiritual principle that is in us, to conquer it; it fights against our souls, to destroy them. It hath special ends and designs against our souls, and against the principle of grace that is in us; but its proper formal object is God: it is “enmity against God.” It is its work to oppose grace; it is a consequent of its work to oppose our souls, which follows upon what it doth more than what it intends; but its nature and formal design is to oppose God, — God as the lawgiver, God as holy, God as the author of the gospel, a way of salvation by grace, and not by works, — this is the direct object of the law of sin. Why doth it oppose duty, so that the good we would do we do not, either as to matter or manner? Why doth it render the soul carnal, indisposed, unbelieving, unspiritual, weary, wandering? It is because of its enmity to God, whom 179the soul aims to have communion withal in duty. It hath, as it were, that command from Satan which the Assyrians had from their king: “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel,” 1 Kings xxii. 31. It is neither great nor small, but God himself, the King of Israel, that sin sets itself against. There lies the secret formal reason of all its opposition to good, — even because it relates unto God. May a road, a trade, a way of duties be set up, where communion with God is not aimed at, but only the duty itself, as is the manner of men in most of their superstitious worship, the opposition that will lie against it from the law of sin will be very weak, easy, and gentle. Or, as the Assyrians, because of his show of a king, assaulted Jehoshaphat, but when they found that it was not Ahab, they turned back from pursuing of him; so because there is a show and appearance of the worship of God, sin may make head against it at first, but when the duty cries out in the heart that indeed God is not there, sin turns away to seek out its proper enemy, even God himself, elsewhere. And hence do many poor creatures spend their days in dismal, tiring superstitions, without any great reluctancy from within, when others cannot be suffered freely to watch with Christ in a spiritual manner one hour. And it is no wonder that men fight with carnal weapons for their superstitious worship without, when they have no fighting against it within; for God is not in it, and the law of sin makes not opposition to any duty, but to God in every duty. This is our state and condition:— All the opposition that ariseth in us unto any thing that is spiritually good, whether it be from darkness in the mind, or aversation in the will, or sloth in the affections, all the secret arguings and reasonings that are in the soul in pursuit of them, the direct object of them is God himself. The enmity lies against him; which consideration surely should influence us to a perpetual, constant watchfulness over ourselves.

It is thus also in respect of all propensity unto sin, as well as aversation from God. It is God himself that is aimed at. It is true, the pleasures, the wages of sin, do greatly influence the sensual, carnal affections of men: but it is the holiness and authority of God that sin itself rises up against; it hates the yoke of the Lord. “Thou hast been weary of me,” saith God to sinners; and that during their performance of abundance of duties. Every act of sin is a fruit of being weary of God. Thus Job tells us what lies at the bottom in the heart of sinners: “They say to God, Depart from us;” — it is enmity against him and aversation from him. Here lies the formal nature of every sin:— it is an opposition to God, a casting off his yoke, a breaking off the dependence which the creature ought to have on the Creator. And the apostle, Rom. viii. 7, gives the reason why 180he affirms “the carnal mind to be enmity against God,” — namely, “because it is not subject to the will of God, nor indeed can be.” It never is, nor will, nor can be subject to God, its whole nature consisting in an opposition to him. The soul wherein it is may be subject to the law of God; but this law of sin sets up in contrariety unto it, and will not be in subjection.

To manifest a little farther the power of this law of sin from this property of its nature, that it is enmity against God, one or two inseparable adjuncts of it may be considered, which will farther evince it:—

1. It is universal. Some contentions are bounded unto some particular concernments; this is about one thing, that about another. It is not so here; the enmity is absolute and universal, as are all enmities that are grounded in the nature of the things themselves. Such enmity is against the whole kind of that which is its object. Such is this enmity: for, (1.) It is universal to all of God; and, (2.) It is universal in all of the soul.

(1.) It is universal to all of God. If there were any thing of God, his nature, properties, his mind or will, his law or gospel, any duty of obedience to him, of communion with him, that sin had not an enmity against, the soul might have a constant shelter and retreat within itself, by applying itself to that of God, to that of duty towards him, to that of communion with him, that sin would make no opposition against. But the enmity lies against God, and all of God, and every thing wherein or whereby we have to do with him. It is not subject to the law, nor any part or parcel, word or tittle of the law. Whatever is opposite to any thing as such, is opposite unto all of it. Sin is enmity to God as God, and therefore to all of God. Not his goodness, not his holiness, not his mercy, not his grace, not his promises: there is not any thing of him which it doth not make head against; nor any duty, private, public, in the heart, in external works, which it opposeth not. And the nearer (if I may so say) any thing is to God, the greater is its enmity unto it. The more of spirituality and holiness is in any thing, the greater is its enmity. That which hath most of God hath most of its opposition. Concerning them in whom this law is most predominant, God says, “Ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof,” Prov. i. 25. Not this or that part of God’s counsel, his mind, or will is opposed, but all his counsel; whatever he calleth for or guideth unto, in every particular of it, all is set at nought, and nothing of his reproof attended unto. A man would think it not very strange that sin should maintain an enmity against God in his law, which comes to judge it, to condemn it; but it raiseth a greater enmity against him in his gospel, wherein he tenders mercy and 181pardon as a deliverance from it; and that merely because more of the glorious properties of God’s nature, more of his excellencies and condescension, is manifested therein than in the other.

(2.) It is universal in all of the soul. Would this law of sin have contented itself to have subdued any one faculty of the soul, — would it have left any one at liberty, any one affection free from its yoke and bondage, — it might possibly have been with more ease opposed or subdued. But when Christ comes with his spiritual power upon the soul, to conquer it to himself, he hath no quiet landing-place. He can set foot on no ground but what he must fight for and conquer. Not the mind, not an affection, not the will, but all is secured against him. And when grace hath made its entrance, yet sin will dwell in all its coasts. Were any thing in the soul at perfect freedom and liberty, there a stand might be made to drive it from all the rest of its holds; but it is universal, and wars in the whole soul. The mind hath its own darkness and vanity to wrestle with, — the will its own stubbornness, obstinacy, and perverseness; every affection its own frowardness and aversation from God, and its sensuality, to deal withal: so that one cannot yield relief unto another as they ought; they have, as it were, their hands full at home. Hence it is that our knowledge is imperfect, our obedience weak, love not unmixed, fear not pure, delight not free and noble. But I must not insist on these particulars, or I could abundantly show how diffused this principle of enmity against God is through the whole soul.

2. Hereunto might be added its constancy. It is constant unto itself, it wavers not, it hath no thoughts of yielding or giving over, notwithstanding the powerful opposition that is made unto it both by the law and gospel; as afterward shall be showed.

This, then, is a third evidence of the power of sin, taken from its nature and properties, wherein I have fixed but On one instance for its illustration, — namely, that it is “enmity against God,” and that universal and constant. Should we eater upon a full description of it, it would require more space and time than we have allotted to this whole subject. What hath been delivered might give us a little sense of it, if it be the will of God, and stir us up unto watchfulness. What can be of a more sad consideration than that we should carry about us constantly that which is enmity against God, and that not in this or that particular, but in all that he is and in all wherein he hath revealed himself? I cannot say it is well with them who find it not. It is well with them, indeed, in whom it is weakened, and the power of it abated; but yet, for them who say it is not in them, they do but deceive themselves, and there is no truth in them.

« Prev Chapter IV. Indwelling sin enmity against God —… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection