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CHAP. VIII. Indwelling sin proved powerful from its deceit. Proved to be deceitful. The general nature of deceit. James i, 14. opened. How the mind is drawn off from its duty by the deceitfulness of sin. The principal duties of the
mind in our obedience. The ways and means whereby it is turned from it. The second part of the evidence of the power of sin from its manner of operation, is taken from its deceitfulness. It adds in its working, deceit unto power. The efficacy of that must needs be great, and is carefully to be watched against, by all such as value their souls, where power and deceit are combined, especially advantaged and assisted by all the ways and means before insisted on.
Before we come to shew wherein the nature of this deceitfulness of sin doth consist, and how it prevaileth thereby, some testimonies shall be briefly given in unto the thing itself, and some light into the general nature of it.
That sin, indwelling sin, is deceitful, we have the express testimony of the Holy Ghost, as Heb. ii. 13. •Take heed that ye be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.' Deceitful it is, take heed of it, watch against it, or it will produce its utmost effect in hardening of the heart against God. It is on the account of sin, that the heart is said to be deceitful above all things ;' Jer. xvii. 9. Take a man in other things, and as Job speaks, though he would be wise and crafty, he is like the wild ass's colt,' Job xi. 12. a poor, vain, empty nothing. But consider his heart on the account of this law of sin, it is crafty and deceitful above all things; 'They are wise to do evil,' saith the prophet, “but to do good they know not;' Jer. iv. 22. To the same purpose speaks the apostle, Ephes. iv. 2. The old man is corrupt according to deceitful lusts. Every lust, which is a branch of this law of sin, is deceitful; and where there is poison in every stream, the fountain must needs be corrupt. No particular lust hath any deceit in it, but what is communicated unto it from this fountain of all actual lust, this law of sin. And, 2 Thess. ii. 10. the coming of the man of sin, is said to be in and with the deceivableness of unrighteousness. Unrighteousness is a thing generally decried and evil spoken of amongst men, so that it is not easy to conceive how any man should prevail himself of a reputation thereby. But there is a deceivableness in it, whereby the minds of men are turned aside from a due consideration of it; as we shall manifest afterward. And thus the account which the apostle gives concerning those who are under the power of sin is, that they are deceived,' Titus iii. 3. And the life of evil men, is nothing but deceiving and being deceived;' 2 Tim. iii. 13. So that we have sufficient testimony given unto this qualification of the enemy with whom we have to deal; he is deceitful, which consideration of all things puts the mind of man to a loss in dealing with an adversary. He knows he can have no security against one that is deceitful, but in standing upon his own guard and defence all his days.
Farther to manifest the strength and advantage that sin hath by its deceit, we may observe that the Scripture places it for the most part as the head and spring of every sin, even as though there were no sin followed after, but where deceit went before. So 1 Tim. ii. 13, 14. The reason the apostle gives by Adam, though he was first formed, was not for the the transgression, is because he was not first dea).
The woman though made last, yet being first de1, was first in the sin. Even that first sin began in deceit, and until the mind was deceived, the soul was safe. Eve therefore did truly express the matter, Gen. iii. 13. though she did it not to a good end, 'the serpent beguiled me,' saith she, and I did eat.' She thought to extenuate her own crime, by charging the serpent. And this was a new fruit of the sin she had cast herself into. But the matter of fact was true, she was beguiled before she ate; deceit went before the transgression. And the apostle shews that sin and Satan still take the same course, 2 Cor. xi. 3. There is, saith he, the same way of working towards actual sin, as was of old; beguiling, deceiving goes before; and sin, that is, the actual accomplishment of it, followeth after. Hence all the great works that the devil doth in the world, to stir men up to an opposition unto the Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom, he doth them by deceit; Rev. xii. 9. 'The devil, who deceiveth the whole world. It were utterly impossible men should be prevailed on to abide in his service, acting his designs to their eternal, and sometimes their temporal ruin, were they not exceedingly deceived. See also chap. xx. 10.
Hence are those manifold cautions that are given us to
take heed, that we be not deceived, if we would take heed that we do not sin. See Ephes. v. 6. I Cor. vi. 9. xv. 33. Gal. vi. 7. Luke xxi. 8. From all which testimonies we may learn the influence that deceit hath into sin, and consequently the advantage that the law of sin hath to put forth its power by its deceitfulness. Where it prevails to deceive, it fails not to bring forth its fruit.
The ground of this efficacy of sin by deceit, is taken from the faculty of the soul affected with it. Deceit properly affects the mind; it is the mind that is deceived. When sin attempts any other way of entrance into the soul, as by the affections, the mind retaining its right and sovereignty, is able to give check and control unto it. But where the mind is tainted, the prevalency must be great. For the mind or understanding is the leading faculty of the soul, and what that fixes on, the will and affections rush after, being capable of no consideration but what that presents unto them. Hence it is, that though the contanglement of the affections unto sin be ofttimes most some, yet the deceit of the mind is always most dangf; and that because of the place that it possesseth in the oul, ase unto all its operations. Its office is to guide, direct, choose, and lead; and if the light that be in us be darkness, how great is that darkness !
And this will farther appear, if we consider the nature of deceit in general. It consists in presenting unto the soul, or mind, things otherwise than they are, either in their nature, causes, effects, or present respect unto the soul. This is the general nature of deceit, and it prevails many ways. It hides what ought to be seen and considered, conceals circumstances and consequences, presents what is not, or things as they are not, as we shall afterward manifest in particular. It was shewed before, that Satan beguiled and deceived our first parents ; that term the Holy Ghost gives unto his temptation and seduction. And how he did deceive them the Scripture relates, Gen. ii. 4, 5. He did it by representing things otherwise than they were. The fruit was desirable, that was apparent unto the eye. Hence Satan takes advantage secretly to insinuate, that it was merely an abridgment of their happiness, that God aimed at in forbidding them to eat of it. That it was for the trial of their obedience, that certain, though not immediate ruin, would ensue upon the eating of it, he hides from them; only he proposeth the present advantage of knowledge, and so presents the whole case quite otherwise unto them, than indeed it was. This is the nature of deceit; it is a representation of a matter under disguise, hiding that which is undesirable, proposing that which indeed is not in it, that the mind may make a false judgment of it. So Jacob deceived Isaac by his brother's raiment, and the skins on his hands and neck.
Again, deceit hath advantage by that way of management which is inseparable from it. It is always carried on by degrees, by little and little, that the whole of the design and aim in hand be not at once discovered. So dealt Satan in that great deceit before-mentioned; he proceeds in it by steps and degrees. First, he takes off an objection, and tells them they shall not die; then proposeth the good of knowledge to them, and their being like to God thereby. To hide and conceal ends, to proceed by steps and degrees, to make use of what is obtained, and thence to press on to farther effects, is the true nature of deceit. Stephen tells us, that the king of Egypt dealt subtilly’or deceitfully with their kindred ;' Acts vii. 19. How he did it we may see, Exod. i. he did not at first fall to killing and slaying of them, but says, ver. 10. Come let us deal wisely ;' beginning to oppress them. This brings forth their bondage, ver. 11. Having got this ground to make them slaves, he proceeds to destroy their children, ver. 16. He fell not on them all at once, but by degrees. And this may suffice to shew in general, that sin is deceitful and the advantages that it hath thereby.
For the way, and manner, and progress of sin in working by deceit, we have it fully expressed, James i. 14, 15. • Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.' This place declaring the whole of what we aim at in this matter, must be particularly insisted on.
In the foregoing verse, the apostle manifests that men are willing to drive the old trade, which our first parents at the entrance of sin set up withal, namely, of excusing themselves in their sins, and casting the occasion and blame of them on others. It is not, say they, from themselves, their own nature and inclinations, their own designings, that they have committed such and such evils, but merely from their temptations; and if they know not where to fix the evil of those temptations, they will lay them on God himself, rather than go without an excuse or extenuation of their guilt. This evil in the hearts of men the apostle rebuketh, ver. 13. “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man.' And to shew the justness of this reproof in the words mentioned, he discovers the true causes of the rise and whole progress of sin, manifesting that the whole guilt of it lies upon the sinner, and that the whole punishment of it, if not graciously prevented, will be his lot also.
We have therefore, as was said, in these words the whole progress of lust or indwelling sin, by the way of subtlety, fraud, and deceit, expressed and limited by the Holy Ghost. And from hence we shall manifest the particular ways and means whereby it puts forth its power and efficacy in the hearts of men by deceitfulness and subtlety; and we may observe in the words,
First, The utmost end aimed at in all the actings of sin, or the tendency of it in its own nature, and that is death;
sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death;' the everlasting death of the sinner : pretend what it will, this is the end it aims at, and tends unto. Hiding of ends and designs is the principal property of deceit. This sin doth to the utmost; other things innumerable it pleads, but not once declares that it aims at the death, the everlasting death of the soul. And a fixed apprehension of this end of every sin, is a blessed means to prevent its prevalency in its way of deceit or beguiling.
Secondly, The general way of its acting towards that end is by temptation ; • Every man is tempted of his own lust.' I purpose not to speak in general of the nature of temptations, it belongs not unto our present purpose, and besides I have done it elsewhere. It may suffice' at present to observe, that the life of temptation lies in deceit; so that in the business of sin, to be effectually tempted, and to be beguiled or deceived are the same. Thus it was in the first temptation ; it is every where called the serpent's beguiling