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then to be able to keep the heart always in a deep humbling sense of sin, abhorrency of it, and self-abasement for it, is a great effect of gospel wisdom and grace. This is the trial and touchstone of gospel light. If it keep the heart sensible of sin, humble, lowly, and broken on that account; if it teach us to water a free pardon with tears, to detest forgiven sin, to watch diligently for the ruin of that, which we are yet assured shall never ruin us, it is divine, from above, of the Spirit of grace. If it secretly and insensibly make men loose and slight in their thoughts about sin, it is adulterate, selfish, false. If it will be all, answer all ends, it is nothing.
Hence it comes to pass, that sometimes we see men walking in a bondage-frame of spirit all their days, low. in their light, mean in their apprehensions of grace, so that it is hard to discern whether covenant in their principles they belong unto; whether they are under the law, or under grace, yet walk with a more conscientious tenderness of sinning, than many who are advanced into higher degrees of light and knowledge than they. Not that the saving light of the gospel is not the only principle of saving holiness and obedience; but that through the deceitfulness of sin, it is variously abused to countenance the soul in manifold neglect of duties, and to draw off the mind from a due consideration of the nature, desert, and danger of sin. And this is done several ways.
(1st.) The soul having frequent need of relief by gospel grace against a sense of the guilt of sin and accusation of the law, comes at length to make it a common and ordinary thing, and such as may be slightly performed. Having found a good medicine for its wounds, and such as it hath had experience of its efficacy, it comes to apply it slightly, and rather skinneth over than cureth its sores. A little less earnestness, a little less diligence serves every time, until the soul, it may be, begins to secure itself of pardon in course. And this tends directly to draw off the mind from its constant and universal watchfulness against sin. He whose light hath made his way of access plain for the obtaining of pardon, if he be not very watchful, he is far more apt to become overly, formal, and careless in his work, than he who by reason of mists and darkness, beats about to find his way aright to the throne of grace. As a man that hath often travelled a road
passeth on without regard or inquiry; but he who is a stranger unto it, observing all turnings, and inquiring of all passengers, secures his journey beyond the other.
(2dly.) The deceitfulness of sin takes advantage from the doctrine of
ce, by many ways and means to extend the bounds of the soul's liberty beyond what God hath assigned unto it. Some have never thought themselves free from a legal bondage frame, until they have been brought into the confines of sensuality, and some into the depths of it. How often will sin plead, this strictness, this exactness, this solicitude is no ways needful; relief is provided in the gospel against such things. Would you live as though there were no need of the gospel ? as though pardon of sin were to no purpose? But concerning these pleas of sin from gospel grace, we shall have occasion to speak more hereafter in particular.
(3dly.) In times of temptation, this deceitfulness of sin will argue expressly for sin from gospel grace; at least it will plead for these two things :
[lst.] That there is not need of such a tenacious severe contending against it, as the principle of the new creature is
If it cannot divert the soul or mind wholly from attending unto temptations to oppose them, yet it will endeavour to draw them off as to the manner of their attendance. They need not use that diligence which at first the soul apprehends to be necessary.
[2dly.] It will be tendering relief as to the event of sin, that it shall not turn to the ruin or destruction of the soul, because it is, it will, or may be, pardoned by the grace of the gospel. And this is true, this is the great and only relief of the soul against sin, the guilt whereof it hath contracted already; the blessed and only remedy for a guilty soul. But when it is pleaded and remembered by the deceitfulness of sin in compliance with temptation unto sin, then it is poison; poison is mixed in every drop of this balsam, to the danger if not death of the soul. And this is the first way whereby the deceitfulness of sin draws off the mind from a due attendance unto that sense of its vileness, which alone is able to keep it in that humble, self-abased frame, that is acceptable with God. It makes the mind careless, as though its work were needless, because of the abounding
of grace; which is a soldier's neglect of his station trusting to a reserve, provided indeed only in case of keeping his own proper place.
[2.] Sin takes advantage to 'work by its deceit in this matter of drawing off the mind from a due sense of it, from the state and condition of men in the world. I shall give only one instance of its procedure in this kind. Men in their younger days have naturally their affections more quick, vigorous, and active, more sensibly working in them than afterward. They do as to their sensible working and operation naturally decay, and many things befall men in their lives, that take off the edge and keenness of them. But as men lose in their affections, if they are not besotted in sensuality, or by the corruptions that are in the world through lust, they grow and improve in their understandings, resolutions, and judgments. Hence it is, that if what had place formerly in their affections do not take place in their minds and judgments, they utterly lose them, they have no more place in their souls. Thus men have no regard for, yea, they utterly despise, those things which their affections were set upon with delight and greediness in their childhood. But if they are things that by any means come to be fixed in their minds and judgments, ihey continue a high esteem for them, and do cleave as close unto them, as they did when their affections were more vigorous; only, as it were, they have changed their seat in the soul. It is thus in things spiritual; the first and chiefest seat of the sensibleness of sin, is in the affections; as these in natural youth, are great and large, so are they spiritually in spiritual youth; Jer. ii.2. * I remember the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals. Besides, such persons are newly come off from their convictions, wherein they have been cut to the heart, and so made tender. Whatever touches upon a wound is throughly felt. So doth the guilt of sin before the wound given by conviction be throughly cured. But now, when affections begin to decay naturally, they begin to decay alsó as to their sensible actings and motions in things spiritual, Although they improve in grace, yet they may decay in
At least spiritual sense is not radically in them, but only by way of communication. Now in these decays, if the soul take not care to fix a deep sense of sin on the mind and judgment, thereby perpetually to affect the heart and affections, it will decay. And here the deceit of the law of sin interposeth itself. It suffers a sense of sin to decay in the affections, and diverts the mind from entertaining a due, constant, fixed consideration of it. We may consider this a little in persons that never make a progress in the ways of God beyond conviction. How sensible of sin will they be for a season? How will they then mourn and weep
under a sense of the guilt of it? How will they cordially and heartily resolve against it? Affections are vigorous, and, as it were, bear rule in their souls. But they are like an herb that will flourish for a day or two with watering, although it have no root. For, awhile after, we see that these men the more experience they have had of sin, the less they are afraid of it, as the wise man intimates, Eccles. viii. 11. and at length they come to be the greatest contemners of sin in the world. No sinner like him that hath sinned away his convictions of sin. What is the reason of this? Sense of sin was in their convictions fixed on their affections; as it decayed in them, they took no care to have it deeply and graciously fixed on their minds. This the deceitfulness of sin deprived them of, and so ruined their souls. In some measure it is so with believers. If, as the sensibleness of the affections decay, if, as they grow heavy and obtuse, great wisdom and grace be not used to fix a due sense of sin upon the mind and judgment, which may provoke, excite, enliven, and stir up the affections every day, great decays will ensue.
At first sorrow, trouble, grief, fear, affected the mind, and would give it no rest. If afterward the mind do not affect the heart with sorrow and grief, the whole will be cast out, and the soul be in danger of being hardened. And these are some of the ways whereby the deceit of sin diverts the mind from the first part of its safe preserving frame, or draws it off from its constant watchfulness against sin and all the effects of it.
The second part of this general duty of the mind, is to keep the soul unto a constant, holy consideration of God and his grace. This evidently lies at the spring head of gospel obedience. The way whereby sin draws off the mind from this part of its duty is open and known sufficiently, though not sufficiently watched against. Now this the Scripture every where declares to be the filling of the minds of men with earthly things. This it placeth in direct opposition unto that heavenly frame of the mind, which is the spring of gospel obedience, Col. iii. 2. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth ;' or set your minds. As if he had said, on both together you cannot be set or fixed, so as principally and chiefly to mind them both And the affections to the one and the other, proceeding from these different principles of minding the one and the other, are opposed as directly inconsistent, 1 John ii. 15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world ; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.' And actings in a course suitable unto these affections are proposed also as contrary ; · You cannot serve God and mammon. These are two masters whom no man can serve at the same time to the satisfaction of both. Every inordinate minding, then, of earthly things, is opposed unto that frame wherein our minds ought to be fixed on God and his grace in a course of gospel obedience.
Several ways there are whereby the deceitfulness of sin draws off the mind in this particular, but the chief of them is by pressing these things on the mind under the notion of things lawful, and it may be necessary. So all those who excuse themselves in the parable from coming in to the marriage-feast of the gospel, did it on account of their being engaged in their lawful callings. One about his farm, another his oxen, the means whereby he ploughed in this world. By this plea were the minds of men drawn off from that frame of heavenliness which is required to our walking with God; and the rules of not loving the world, or using it as if we used it not, are hereby neglected. What wisdom, what watchfulness, what serious frequent trial and examination of ourselves is required, to keep our hearts and minds in a heavenly frame, in the use and pursuit of earthly things, is not my present business to declare. This is evi. dent, that the engine whereby the deceit of sin draws off and turns aside the mind in this matter, is the pretence of the lawfulness of things about which it would have it exercise itself, against which very few are armed with sufficient diligence, wisdom, and skill. And this is the first and most general attempt that indwelling sin makes upon the soul by deceit : it draws away the mind from a diligent attention