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so with us also ? Such is the inward thought of many, that works effectually in them. And so, through the craft of sin, the generation of professors corrupt one another. stream arising from a clear spring or a fountain, whilst it runs in its own peculiar channel, and keeps its water unmixed, preserves its purity and cleanness, but when it falls in its course with other streams that are turbid and foul, though running the same way with it, it becomes muddy and discoloured also. So is it in this case. Believers come forth from the spring of the new birth with some purity and cleanness, this for awhile they keep in the course of their private walking with God; but now when they come sometimes to fall into society with others, whose profession flows and runs the same way with theirs, even towards heaven, but yet are muddied and sullied with sin and the world, they are often corrupted with them, and by them, and so decline from their first purity, faith, and holiness. Now lest this may have been the case of any who shall read this discourse, I shall add some few cautions that are necessary to preserve men from this infection.

[1.] In the body of professors there is a great number of hypocrites. Though we cannot say of this or that man that he is so, yet that some there are is most certain. Our Saviour hath told us that it will be so to the end of the world. All that have oil in their lamps, have it not in their vessels. Let men take heed how they give themselves up unto a conformity to the professors they meet withal, lest instead of saints and tiie best of men, they sometimes propose for their example hypocrites, which are the worst; and when they think they are like unto them who bear the image of God, they conform themselves unto those who bear the image of Satan.

[2.] You know not what may be the present temptation of those whose ways you observe. It may be they are under some peculiar desertion from God, and so are withering for a season, until he send them some refreshing showers from above. It may be they are entangled with some special corruptions, which is their burden, that you know not of; and for any voluntarily to fall into such a frame, as others are cast into by the power of their temptations, or to think that will suffice in them, which they see to suffice in


others whose distempers they know not, is folly and presumption. He that knows such or such a person to be a living man, and of a healthy constitution, if he see him go crawling up and down about his affairs, feeble and weak, sometimes falling, sometimes standing, and making small progress in any thing, will he think it sufficient for himself to do so also ? will he not inquire whether the person he sees, have not lately fallen into some distemper or sickness, that hath weakened him, and brought him into that condition? Assuredly he will so do. Take heed, Christians, many of the professors with whom ye do converse are sick, and wounded; the wounds of some of them do stink, and are corrupt because of their folly. If you have any spiritual health, do not think their weak and uneven walking will be accepted at your hands ; much less think it will be well for

you become sick and to be wounded also.

[3.] Remember that of many of the best Christians, the worst only is known and seen. Many who keep up precious communion with God, do yet oftentimes, by their natural tempers of freedom or passion, not carry so glorious appearances as others, who perhaps come short of them in grace and the power of godliness. In respect of their outward conversation it may seem they are scarcely saved, when in respect of their faith and love they may be eminent. They may, as the king's daughter, be all glorious within, though their clothes be not always of wrought gold. Take heed then that you be not infected with their worst, when ye are not able it may be to imitate them in their best; but to return.

(4.) Sin doth this work by cherishing some secret particular lust in the heart. This the soul contends against faintly. It contends against it upon the account of sincerity, it cannot but do so; but it doth not make thorough work, vigorously to mortify it by the strength and power of grace. Now where it is thus with a soul, an habitual declension as to holiness will assuredly ensue. David shews us how in his first days he kept his heart close unto God; Psal. xviii. 23. • I was upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.' His great care was lest any one lust should prevail in him, or upon him, that might be called his iniquity in a peculiar manner. The same course steered Paul also;

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1 Cor. ix. 27. he was in danger to be lifted up by his spiritual revelations and enjoyments. This makes him keep his body in subjection, that no carnal reasonings or vain imagination might take place in him. But where indwelling sin hath provoked, irritated, and given strength unto a special lust, it proves assuredly a principal means of a general declension. For as an infirmity and weakness in any one vital part will make the whole body consumptive, so will the weakness in any one grace, which a perplexing lust brings with it, make the soul. It every way weakens spiritual strength. It weakens confidence in God in faith and prayer. The knees will be feeble, and the hands will hang down in dealing with God, where a galling and unmortified lust lies in the heart. it will take such hold upon the soul, that it shall not be able to look up ;'Psal. xl. 12. It darkens the mind by innumerable foolish imaginations, which it stirs up to make provision for itself. It galls the conscience with those spots and stains, which in and by its actings it brings upon the soul. It contends in the will for rule and dominion. An active stirring corruption would have the commanding power in the soul, and it is ever and anon ready to take the throne.

It disturbs the thoughts, and sometimes will even frighten the soul from dealing with it by meditation, lest corrupt affections being entangled by it, grace loses ground instead of prevailing. It breaks out oftentimes into scandalous sins, as it did in David and Hezekiah, and loads the sinner with sorrow and discouragement. By these and the like means, it becomes to the soul like a moth in a garment, to eat up and devour the strongest threads of it, so that though the whole hang loose together, it is easily torn to pieces. Though the soul with whom it is thus do for a season keep up a fair profession, yet his strength is secretly devoured ; and every temptation tears and rents his conscience at pleasure. It becomes with such men as it is with some who have for a many years been of a sound, strong, athletic constitution. Some secret, hectical distemper seizeth on them: for a season they take no notice of it; or if they do, they think they shall do well enough with it, and easily shake it off when they have a little leisure to attend unto it; but for the present they think as Samson with his locks cut, they will do as at other times. Sometimes it may be they complain that they

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are not well, they know not what aileth them, and it may be rise violently in an opposition to their distemper; but after a while struggling in vain, the vigour of their spirits and strength failing them, they are forced to yield to the power of a consumption. And now all they can do is little enough to keep them alive. It is so with men brought into spiritual decay by any secret perplexing corruption. It may be they have had a vigorous principle of obedience and holiness. Indwelling sin watching its opportunities, by some temptation or other, hath kindled and inflamed some particular lust in them. For awhile it may be they take little notice of it. Sometimes they complain, but think they will do as in former times, until being insensibly weakened in their spiritual strength, they have work enough to do in keeping alive what remains and is ready to die; Hos. v. 13. I shall not add any thing here as to the prevention and obviating this advantage of indwelling sin, having elsewhere treated of it peculiarly and apart.

(5.) It works by negligence of private communion with God in prayer and meditation. I have shewed before how indwelling sin puts forth its deceitfulness in diverting the soul from watchfulness in and unto these duties. Here if it prevails, it will not fail to produce an habitual declension in the whole course of obedience. All neglect of private duties is principled by a weariness of God as he complaineth, Isa. xliii. 22. Thou hast not called upon me, thou hast been weary of me.' Neglect of invocation proceeds from weariness, and where there is weariness, there will be withdrawing from that whereof we are weary. Now God alone being the fountain and spring of spiritual life, if there be a weariness of him, and withdrawing from him, it is impossible but that there will a decay in the life ensue.

Indeed what men are in these duties, I mean as to faith and love in them, that they are and no more. Here lies the root of their obedience, and if this fail, all fruit will quickly fail. You may sometimes see a tree flourishing with leaves and fruit goodly and pleasant. After awhile the leaves begin to decay, the fruit to wither, the whole to droop. Search, and you shall find the root, whereby it should draw in moisture and fatness from the earth to supply the body and branches with sap and juice for growth and fruit, hath 'received a wound, is some


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way perished, and doth not perform its duty, so that though the branches are flourishing awhile with what they had received, their sustenance being intercepted they must decay. So it is here. These duties of private communion with God, are the means of receiving supplies of spiritual strength from him; of sap and fatness from Christ the vine and olive. Whilst they do so, the conversation and course of obedience flourisheth and is fruitful, all outward duties are cheerfully and regularly performed. But if there be a wound, a defect, a failing, in that which should first take in the spiritual radical moisture, that should be communicated unto the whole, the rest may

for a season maintain their station and appearance, but after awhile profession will wither, fruits will decay, and the whole be ready to die. Hence our Saviour lets us know, Matt. vi. 6. what a man is in secret, in these private duties, that he is in the eyes of God, and no

And one reason amongst others is, because they have a more vigorous acting of unmixed grace than any other duties whatever. In all or most particular duties, besides the influence that they may have from carnal respects, which are many, and the ways of their insinuation subtle and imperceptible, there is an alloy of gifts, which sometimes even devours the pure gold of grace, which should be the chief and principal in them. In these, there is immediate intercourse between God and that which is of himself in the soul. If once sin, by its deceits and treacheries, prevail to take off the soul from diligent attendance unto communion with God, and constancy in these duties, it will not fail to effect a declining in the whole of a man's obedience. It hath made its entrance, and will assuredly make good its progress.

(6.) Growing in notions of truth without answerable practice, is another thing that indwelling sin makes use of to bring the souls of believers unto a decay. The apostle tell us, that ‘knowledge puffeth up;' 1 Cor. viii. 1. If it be alone, not improved in practice, it swells men beyond a due proportion. Like a man that hath a dropsy, we are not to expect that he hath strength to his bigness. Like trees that are continually running up a head, which keeps them from bearing fruit. When once men have attained to this, that they can entertain and receive evangelical truths in a new and more glorious light, or more clear discovery than for

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