« AnteriorContinuar »
unto its course in a due sense of the evil of sin, and a due and constant consideration of God and his grace.
The deceit of sin in drawing off the mind from a due attendance unto especial
duties of obedience, instanced in meditation and prayer. How sin by its deceit endeavours to draw off the mind from attending unto that holy frame in walking with God, wherein the soul ought to be preserved, hath been declared. Proceed we now to shew how it doth the same work in reference unto those especial duties, by which the designs, workings, and prevalency of it may in an especial manner be obviated and prevented. Sin indeed maintains an enmity against all duties of obedience, or rather with God in them. • When I would do good,' saith the apostle,' evil is present with me.' Whenever I would do good, or what good soever I would do, that is spiritually good, good in reference unto God, it is present with me, to hinder me from it, to oppose me in it. And on the other side, all duties of obedience do lie directly against the actings of the law of sin. For as the flesh in all its actings lusteth against the Spirit, so the Spirit in all its actings lusteth against the flesh. And therefore every duty performed in the strength and grace of the Spirit, is contrary to the law of sin. Rom. viii. 13. by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh.' Actings of the Spirit of grace in duties doth this work. These two are contrary. But yet there are some duties, which in their own nature, and by God's appointment, have a peculiar influence into the weakening and subduing the whole law of sin in its very principles and chiefest strengths. And these the mind of a believer ought principally in his whole course to attend unto. And these doth sin in its deceit endeavour principally to draw off the mind from. As in diseases of the body, some remedies, they say, have a specific quality against distempers; so, in this disease of the soul, there are some duties that have an especial virtue against this sinful distemper. I shall not insist on many of them, but instancę only in two, which seem to me to be of this nature ; namely,
that by God's designation they have a special tendency towards the ruin of the law of sin. And then we shall shew the ways, methods, and means, which the law of sin useth to divert the mind from a due attendance unto them. Now these duties are, first, prayer, especially private prayer: and, secondly, meditation. I put them together because they much agree in their general nature and end, differing only in the manner of their performance. For by meditation I intend meditating upon what respect and suitableness there is between the word and our own hearts, to this end, that they may be brought to a more exact conformity. It is our pondering on the truth as it is in Jesus, to find out the image and representation of it in our own hearts; and so it hath the same intent with prayer, which is to bring our souls into a frame in all things answering the mind and will of God. They are as the blood and spirits in the veins, that bave the same life, motion, and use. But yet because persons are generally at a great loss in this duty of meditation, having declared it to be of so great efficacy, for the controlling of the actings of the law of sin, I shall in our passage give briefly two or three rules for the directing of believers to a right performance of this great duty, and they are these :
1. Meditate of God with God; that is, when we would undertake thoughts and meditations of God, his excellencies, his properties, his glory, his majesty, his love, his goodness, let it be done in a way of speaking unto God, in a deep humiliation and abasement of our souls before him. This will fix the mind, and draw it forth from one thing to another, to give glory unto God in a due manner, and affect the soul until it be brought into that holy admiration of God and delight in him, which is acceptable unto him. · My meaning is, that it be done in a way of prayer and praise, speaking unto God.
2. Meditate on the word in the word; that is, in the reading of it, consider the sense in the particular passages we insist upon, looking to God for help, guidance, and direction, in the discovery of his mind and will therein, and then labour to have our hearts affected with it.
3. What we come short of in evenness and constancy in our thoughts in these things, let it be made up in
frequency. Some are discouraged because their minds do not regularly supply them with thoughts to carry on their meditations, through the weakness or imperfection of their inventions. Let this be supplied by frequent returns of the mind unto the subject proposed to be meditated upon, whereby new senses will still be supplied unto it. But this by the way.
These duties, I say, amongst others (for we have only chosen them for an instance, not excluding some others from the same place, office, and usefulness with them), do make an especial opposition to the very being and life of indwelling sin, or rather faith in them doth so. They are perpetually designing its utter ruin. I shall therefore upon this instance, in the pursuit of our present purpose, do these two things :
(1.) Shew the suitableness and usefulness of this duty, or these duties (as I shall handle them jointly), unto the ruining of sin.
(2.) Shew the means whereby the deceitfulness of sin endeavours to draw off the mind from a due attendance unto them.
(1.) For the first observe,
[1.] That it is the proper work of the soul in this duty, to consider all the secret workings and actings of sin, what advantages it hath got, what temptations it is in conjunction withal, what harm it hath already done, and what it is yet farther ready to do. Hence David gives that title unto one of his prayers ; Psal. cii. ' A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord. I speak of that prayer which is attended with a due consideration of all the wants, straits and emergencies of the soul. Without this, prayer is not prayer; that is, whatever shew or appearance of that duty it hath, it is no way useful, either to the glory of God, or the good of the souls of men. A.cloud it is without water, driven by the wind of the breath
Nor was there ever any more present and effectual poison for souls found out, than the binding of them unto a constant form and usage of I know not what words in their prayers and supplications, which themselves do not understand. Bind men so in their trades, or in their businesses in this world, and they will quickly find the effect of it. By this means are they disenabled from any due consideration of what at present is good for them, or evil unto them; without which, to what use can prayer serve, but to mock God, and delude men's own souls? But in this kind of prayer which we insist on, the Spirit of God falls in to give us his assistance, and that in this very matter of finding out and discovering the most secret actings and workings of the law of sin; Rom. viii. 26. “We know not what to pray for as we ought, but he helps our infirmities :' he discovers our wants unto us, and wherein chiefly we stand in need of help and relief. And we find it by daily experience, that in prayer, believers are led into such discoveries and convictions of the secret deceitful work of sin in their hearts, as no considerations could ever have led them into. So David, Psal. li. designing the confession of his actual sin, having his wound in his prayer searched by the skilful hand of the Spirit of God, he had a discovery made unto him of the root of all his miscarriages in his original corruption, ver. 5. The Spirit in this duty is as the candle of the Lord unto the soul, enabling it to search all the inward parts of the belly. It gives a holy, spiritual light into the mind, enabling it to search the deep and dark recesses of the heart, to find out the subtle and deceitful machinations, figments, and imaginations of the law of sin therein. Whatever notion there be of it, whatever power and prevalency in it, it is laid hand on, apprehended, brought into the presence of God, judged, condemned, bewailed. And what can possibly be more effectual for its ruin and destruction ? For together with its discovery, application is made unto all that relief which in Jesus Christ is provided against it, all ways and means whereby it may be ruined. Hence it is the duty of the mind, “to watch unto prayer ;' 1 Pet. iv. 7. To attend diligently unto the estate of our souls, and to deal fervently and effectually with God about it. The like also may be said of meditation, wisely managed unto its proper end.
[2.] In this duty there is wrought upon the heart a deep, full sense of the vileness of sin, with a constant renewed detestation of it, which, if any thing, undoubtedly tends to its ruin. This is one design of prayer, one end of the soul in it, namely, to draw forth sin, to set it in order, to present it unto itself in its vileness, abomination, and aggravating circumstances, that it may be loathed, abhorred, and cast away as a filthy thing; as Isa. xxx. 22. He that pleads with God for sin's remission, pleads also with his own heart for its detestation, Hos. xiv. 3. Herein also sin is judged in the name of God; for the soul in its confession subscribes unto God's detestation of it, and the sentence of his law against it. There is indeed a course of these duties, which convinced persons do give up themselves unto, as a mere covert to their lusts : they cannot sin quietly, unless they perform duty constantly. But that prayer we speak of, is a thing of another nature, a thing that will allow no composition with sin, much less will serve the ends of the deceit of it, as the other formal prayer doth. It will not be bribed into a secret compliance with any of the enemies of God, or the soul, no not for a moment. And hence it is, that oftentimes in this duty, the heart is raised to the most sincere effectual sense of sin, and detestation of it, that the soul ever obtains in its whole course of obedience. And this evidently tends also to the weakening and ruin of the law of sin.
[3.] This is the way appointed and blessed of God to obtain strength and power against sin. James i.5. Doth any man lack ? let him ask of God.' Prayer is the way of obtaining from God by Christ a supply of all our wants, assistance against all opposition, especially that which is made against us by sin. This, I suppose, need not be insisted on; it is in the notion and practice clear to every believer.
It is that wherein we call, and upon which the Lord Jesus comes in to our succour, with suitable help in a time of need, Heb. ii. 17.
[4.] Faith in prayer countermines all the workings of the deceit of sin ; and that because the soul doth therein constantly engage itself unto God to oppose all sin whatsoever. Psal. cxix. 106. I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. This is the language of every gracious soul in its addresses unto God: the inmost parts thereof engage themselves to God to cleave to him in all things, and to oppose sin in all things. He that cannot do this, cannot pray. To pray with any other frame, is to flatter God with our lips, which he abhorreth. And this exceedingly helps a believer in pursuing sin unto its ruin. For,