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to as their best, to impart it to them; and acting in their behalf to the utmost of their power.
Now such is the efficacy, power, and force of indwelling sin in man, an infection that the nature of other creatures knows nothing of, that in many it prevails to stop this fountain, to beat back the stream of natural affections, to root up the principles of the law of nature, and to drive them unto a neglect, a destruction, of the fruit of their own loins. Paul tells us of the old Gentiles, that they were aotopyou, Rom. i. 31. without natural affection ;' that which he aims at is that barbarous custom among the Romans, who ofttimes to spare the trouble in the education of their children, and to be at liberty to satisfy their lụsts, destroyed their own children from the womb. So far did the strength of sin prevail to obliterate the law of nature, and to repel the force and power of it.
Examples of this nature are common in all nations ; amongst ourselves, of women murdering their own children, through the deceitful reasoning of sin. And herein sin turns the strong current of nature, darkens all the light of God in the soul, controls all natural principles influenced with the power of the command and will of God. But yet this evil hath, through the efficacy of sin, received a fearful aggravation. Men have not only slain, but cruelly sacrificed, their children to satisfy their lusts. The apostle reckons idolatry, and so consequently all superstition, among the works of the flesh, Gal. v. 20. that is, the fruit and product of indwelling sin. Now from hence it is that men have offered that horrid and unspeakable violence to the law of nature mentioned. So the psalmist tells us, Psal, cvi. 37,38. The same is again mentioned, Ezek. xvi. 20, 21. and in sundry other places. The whole manner of that abomination I have elsewhere declared. For the present it may suffice to intimate, that they took their children and burnt them to ashes in a soft fire; the wicked priests that assisted in the sacrifice affording them this relief, that they made a noise and clamour, that the vile wretches might not hear the woful moans and cries of the poor dying tormented infants. - I suppose in this case we need no farther evidence. Naturalists can give no rational account, they can only admire the secret force of that little
fish, which, they say, will stop a ship in full sail in the midst of the sea. And we must acknowledge that it is beyond our power to give an account of that secret force and unsearchable deceit that is in that inbred traitor, sin, that cannot only stop the course of nature, when all the sails of it that carry it forward are so filled as they are in that of affections to children, but also drive it backward with such a violence and force, as to cause men so to deal with their own children, as a good man would not be hired with any reward to deal with his dog. And it may not be to the disadvantage of the best, to know and consider, that they carry that about them, and in them, which in others hath produced these effects.
The like may be spoken of all other sins against the prime dictates of the law of nature, that mankind is or hath been stained and defamed withal. Murder of parents and children, of wives and husbands, sodomy, incest, and the like enormities; in all which sin prevails in men against the whole law of their being and dependance upon God.
What should I reckon up the murders of Cain and Abel, the treason of Judas, with their aggravations; or remind the filth and villany of Nero, in whom sin seemed to design an instance of what it could debase the nature of man únto; in a word, all the studied, premeditated perjuries; all the designed, bloody revenges; all the filth and uncleanness; all the enmity to God and his ways that is in the world, is fruit growing from this root alone.
2. It evidences its efficacy in keeping men off from believing under the dispensation of the gospel. This evidence must be a little farther cleared.
(1.) Under the dispensation of the gospel, there are but few that do believe. So the preachers of it complain, Isa. liii. 1. “Who hath believed our report:??: which the apostle interprets of the paucity of believers. John xii. 38. our Saviour Christ himself tells us that many are called ;', the word is preached unto many, 'but few are chosen.' And so the church complains of its number, Micah vi. 1. Few there be who enter the narrow gate; daily experience confirms this woful observation. How many villages, parishes, yea, towns, may we go unto, where the gospel, it may be, hath been preached many years, and perhaps scarce meet a true believer in them, and one who shews forth the death of Christ in his conversation. In the best places, and most eminent for profession, are not such persons like the berries after the shaking of an olive-tree, two or three in the top of the upmost boughs, and four or five in the highest branches ?
(2.) There is proposed to men in the preaching of the gospel, as motives unto believing, every thing in conjunction that severally prevail with men to do whatever else they do in their lives. Whatever any one doth with consideration, he doth it either because it is reasonable and good for him so to do, or profitable and advantageous, or pleasant, or lastly, necessary for the avoidance of evil; whatever, I say, men do with consideration, whether it be good or evil, whether it be in the works of this life or in things that lead to another, they do it from one or other of the reasons or motives mentioned. And, God knows, ofttimes they are very poor and mean in their kind, that men are prevailed upon by. How often will men for a very little pleasure, a very little profit, be induced to do that which shall imbitter their lives, and damn their souls. And what industry will they use to avoid that which they apprehend evil or grievous to them. And any one of these is enough to oil the wheels of men's utmost endeavours, and set men at work to the purpose.
But now all these things centre in the proposal of the gospel, and the command of believing; and every one of them in a kind, that the whole world can propose nothing like unto it.
[1.] It is the most reasonable thing that can be proposed to the understanding of a man, that he who through his own default hath lost that way of bringing glory to God and saving his own soul (for which ends he was made), that he was first placed in, should accept of and embrace that other blessed, easy, safe, excellent way for the attaining of the ends mentioned, which God in infinite grace, love, mercy, wisdom, and righteousness, hath found out, and doth propose unto him. And,
[2.] It is the profitablest thing that a man can possibly be invited unto ; if there be any profit or benefit, any advantage in the forgiveness of sins, in the love and favour of God, in a blessed immortality, in eternal glory. And,
[3.] It is most pleasant also. Surely it is a pleasant
thing to be brought out of darkness into light, out of a dungeon unto a throne, from captivity and slavery to Satan and cursed lusts, to the glorious liberty of the children of God, with a thousand heavenly sweetnesses not now to be mentioned. And,
[4.] It is surely necessary, and that not only from the command of God, who hath the supreme authority over us, but also indispensably so for the avoidance of eternal ruin of body and soul, Matt. xvi. 16. It is constantly proposed under these terms, believe, or you perish under the weight of the wrath of the great God, and that for ever
But now, notwithstanding that all these considerations are preached unto men, and pressed upon them in the name of the great God, from day to day, from one year to another, yet, as was before observed, very few there are who set their hearts unto them, so as to embrace that which they lead unto. Tell men ten thousand times that this is wisdom, yea, riches; that all their profit lies in it, that they will assuredly and eternally perish, and that it may be within a few hours, if they receive not the gospel, assure them that it is their only interest and concernment, let them know that God himself speaks all this unto them; yet all is one, they regard it not, set not their hearts unto it, but, as it were, plainly say, We will have nothing to do with these things; they will rather perish in their lusts than accept of mercy.
(3.) It is indwelling sin that both disenableth men unto, and hinders them from, believing, and that alone. Blindness of mind, stubbornness of the will, sensuality of the affections, all concur to keep poor perishing souls at a distance from Christ. Men are made blind by sin, and cannot see his excellencies ; obstinate, and will not lay hold of his righteousness; senseless, and take no notice of their own eternal concernments.
Now certainly that which can prevail with men wise and sober, and prudent in other things, to neglect and despise the love of God, the blood of Christ, the eternal welfare of their own souls, upon weak and worthless pretences, must be acknowledged to have an astonishable force and efficacy accompanying it.
Whose heart, who hath once heard of the ways of God, can but bleed to see poor souls eternally perishing under a thousand gracious invitations to accept of mercy and pardon in the blood of Christ? And can we but be astonished at the power of that principle from whence it is that they run headlong to their own destruction ? And yet all this befalls them from the power and deceit of sin that dwelleth in them.
3. It is evident in their total apostacies. Many men not really converted, are much wrought upon by the word. The apostle tells us, that they do clean escape them that live in error;' 2 Pet. ii. 18. They separate themselves from idolatry and false worship, owning and professing the truth; and they also escape the pollutions of the world, ver. 20. that is, the corruption that is in the world through lust,' as he expresseth it, chap. i. 4. those filthy, corrupt, and unclean ways, which the men of the world, in the pursuit of their lusts, do walk and live in; these they escape from in the amendment of their lives, and ordering of their conversation, according to the convictions which they have from the word. For so he tells us, that all this is brought about through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;" that is, by the preaching of the gospel : they are so far wrought upon as to forsake all ways of false worship, to profess the truth, to reform their lives, and to walk answerable to the convictions that are upon them.
By this means do they gain the reputation of professors; • They have a name to live;' Rev. iii. 1. and are made partakers of some or all of those privileges of the gospel, that are numbered by the apostle, Heb. vi. 4, 5.
It is not my present business to show how far, or wherein, a man may be effectually wrought upon by the word, and yet not be really wrought over to close with Christ; or what may be the utmost bounds and limits of a common work of grace upon unregenerate men. It is on all hands confessed that it may be carried on so far, that it is very difficult to discern between its effects and productions, and those of that grace which is special and saving.
But now, notwithstanding all this, we see many of these daily fall off from God, utterly and wickedly; some into debauchery and uncleanness, some to worldliness and covetousness, some to be persecutors of the saints, all to the