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Spirit: "Ye have an unction from the Holy One," 1 John ii. 20. They are made kings and priests unto God and his Father, Rev. i. 6. Now, how does a sinful life agree with the holy name, example and doctrine of Christ? Consider,
3. The faith and religion you profess. Surely the principles of our religion are holy, and teach us to depart from iniquity, and give no allowance to live in sin. Even reason says, men ought not to give, nor can they rationally live, in contradiction to their profession and its principles. Other religions allow something sinful, but the Christian religion, proceeding from him who is holiness and truth itself, condemns every even the least evil; and therefore Christians by their profession are obliged to depart from iniquity. Consider,
Lastly, The end of your faith and profession, the way to which it directs, namely, heaven, which is a holy place. The gospel has discovered life and immortality, 2 Tim. i. 10. A happy state after this life, where holiness is perfected, Heb. xii. 23. And meanwhile it directs to a life agreeable to this holy and happy state; for it "teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world," Tit. ii. 12. Have you no hopes, no expectations of heaven? If you have, surely you ought to depart from iniquity; for it cannot be expected that that holy place is for dogs and swine, for such as are strangers to holiness here.
2dly, I would consider the obligations to depart from iniquity which lie on communicants in a special manner. You have in a very solemn manner named the holy name of Jesus, by partaking of the sacrament of our Lord's body and blood. Let this then engage you to depart from iniquity. Consider,
1. That these additional vows of God are upon you to depart from iniquity. You have lifted up your hand to God, and you cannot go back. The terms of the Christian life were told you, and you have, after deliberation, engaged yourselves to the Lord. Beware that after vows you begin to make inquiry, Luke ix. 62. Consider,
2. That religion will be wounded by you if you do not depart from iniquity; Rom. ii. 24, " For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you." You will be accounted betrayers of Christ, for you will give false testimony against his way in favour of sin, as if you had tried the way of religion, and after trial found cause to cast it off. And therefore, as you would not more than ever dishonour the Lord and his way, depart from iniquity. Consider,
3. That you will be great losers if you do not depart from iniquity. You will lose all the pains which you have been at in religion: 2
John 8, "Look to yourselves that we lose not those things which we have wrought." It may be, you have been at some pains to get something, and have done much in the way of God, but one thing lacking will mar all. You will lose your souls, for it is only they who depart from iniquity, so as never to return to it, that are saved: "He that endureth to the end shall be saved." Backsliding is most dangerous: Heb. x. 48, “If any man draw back, my soul," says God, "shall have no pleasure in him." The very setting off once in the Lord's way obliges to hold forward. They can never sin at such a cheap rate as before; heavier vengeance abides backsliders, and a fall from heaven's threshold is worst of all.
Now, the Lord is saying to the sinners in Zion, as Jerem. vi. 8, "Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem! lest my sonl depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited." He is threatening to depart from the generation, since they will not depart from iniquity; and sad will the departure be: Hosea ix. 12, "Woe also be to them when I depart from them." There are three sad consequences of God's departure when provoked to it, with which we are threatened this day. There is,
(1.) Confusion in the church, the breaking of the staves of beauty and bands. There is a melancholy account of this consequence of the Lord's departure, Rev. viii. 7, 8. We have already felt the former, and were threatened with the Lord's making, in his wrath, the whole mountain of his house, a burning mountain with the fire of division. A sad sight it will be, come when it will, however fond of it many have appeared. Zion's work will be heavy work, when Zion's builders are, by the Lord's anger, made like Babel builders. —There is,
(2.) Calamity in the state. Many perhaps would little value what should become of the church, if they might otherwise live at ease. But God's departure from a generation often brings nations into the deepest perplexity and distress, 2 Chron. xv. 3-6. When God departs from a generation to see what their end will be, it will be a sad end, Deut. xxii. 19, 20. There is,
(3.) The ruin of many souls and bodies also. When God so leaves a generation, there are many snares for the soul. Confusion in the church brings deadness and darkness on, and makes havoc of the case of many souls. Calamity in the state, which removes peace far away, tends always to the ruining of temporal concerns, and often of men's souls concerns also.
O then depart from iniquity, as ever you would that God should not depart from you, nor from the generation! Our iniquities are the Achans in the camp which trouble us; the Jonah in our ship
which threatens to raise the storm. God has been long calling by his word and providence to us to depart from iniquity, and reform. But, instead of this, the generation has been filling up the cup of their iniquity, and want by some one thing or other to make it run over. But whatever befal us, departing from sin will be your security; Isaiah iii. 10, "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings." God's way is the only way of safety; Prov. x. 9, "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely, but he that perverteth his ways shall be known." And a good conscience will be a feast in midst of trouble, 2 Cor. i. 12. Whereas an evil conscience, made such by continuing in sin, will be a bad companion at any time, more especially in the evil day. If any should propose this
Question, What shall we do that we may depart from iniquity? I answer, Impress your spirits with your own sinfulness. Consider your sinful nature, Psalm li. 5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Observe how it spreads itself through the whole of your hearts and lives; Isaiah lxiv. 6, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we do all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities as the whirlwind have taken us away." How contrary is it to God's nature and law, how inconsistent with your interests for time and eternity! Make application to Christ by faith for its removal. To his blood to remove the guilt of sin, 1 John i. 7. To his Spirit to break the power of it, and to sanctify you. Faith is the great mean of sanctification; "Purifying their hearts by faith," Acts xv. 9. We exhort you,
Lastly, To watch. Be ever on your watch-tower. Your spiritual enemies are still about your hands. Watch, therefore, against all occasions, temptations, and appearances of evil. Improve the season of duties. Study to be always doing good, and so your hand will be filled with other work. When departing from evil you will do good, you will seek peace, and pursue it earnestly. Amen.
THE INWARD FRAME SHOULD CORRESPOND WITH THE OUTWARD
DEUT. V. 29,
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever.
THAT dreadful appearance which God made on mount Sinai, in the giving of the law, and that effect it had upon the Israelites, Moses here puts them in mind of. When the Lord spoke with a great and terrible voice out of the darkness and fire, the people were affrighted, and they see their absolute need of a mediator, and therefore desire Moses would mediate betwixt God and them; and in this event they promise all obedience. The Lord gives his verdict concerning this, which consists of two parts.
1. That the words were very good. If words could have proved them saints, they would have been among the foremost. If promises could have passed for performances, they had wanted neither faith nor good works; ver. 28, "They have well said all that they have spoken." They have said two things;
(1.) They had desired a mediator, ver. 27, "Go thou near," said they to Moses, "and hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee, and we will hear it and do it." They saw so much of the majesty of God, and of their own sinfulness, that they beg of God he would not deal with them immediately, but by a mediator; and this was the great end in giving the law on mount Sinai, and that with so much terror, Deut. xviii. 15.-18.
(2.) They promised obedience, that they would take the law out of Moses' mouth, and perform it; that they would no less highly esteem it as coming by his hand, than if God should thunder it with the greatest terror into their ears. What could look liker faith and obedience, according to the Old Testament dispensation? What could look liker accepting of the great Mediator in all his offices, according to that dispensation of the covenant, wherein types and figures of him who was to come did so much abound? How ready seem they to sit down at the feet of a prophet and learn?
This and the following discourses were delivered in 1709.
So that upon this the Lord promised Christ under that very notion, Deut. xviii. 18. How plainly do they take with guilt, and stand as criminals who have nothing to say on their own defence, acknowledge their need, and profess their desire of an intercessor, being unable to stand before the Lord without a shelter, or on their own legs. How readily do they subject themselves to the laws of their King, and stoop to take on his yoke without any exception whatsoever? But all is not gold that glitters, the heart of man seldom holds foot with the tongue.
2. The other part of the verdict follows in the text; "O that there were such an heart in them!" By which he discovers their hypocrisy, and precipitancy, their tongues running before their hearts in their engaging themselves to the Lord. The Lord speaks thus after the manner of men, so that they who would hence conclude, that man's will by nature is such, as that it is of himself flexible, either to spiritual good or evil, while the Lord stands by as an idle spectator, and puts to no hand of power, may as well conclude, that God hath eyes and hands of flesh, and that he who is not the son of Man that he should repent, and with whom there is no variableness, may even with propriety repent as to what he has done. Inefficacious wishing, properly understood, argues imperfection. (Hebrew, who will give their heart to be such in them?) Now, it is certain, God can give such a heart; Ezek. xxxvi. 26, "A new heart also will I give you." And if he will do it, who can hinder him? Job xi. 10. -This declaration therefore imports,
(1.) That such an heart was not in them, for all their fair words and high pretences; that though they looked well outwardly, yet within they were naught. They had learned to speak better than they were wont; but though they had got the new tongue, they had but the old heart still; Deut. xxix. 4, "Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." When they were in Egypt, they were sunk into stupidity, the instructions of the patriarchs had worn out of their minds, they had almost forgotten their fall in Adam, and what sin was; and though God had made the promise to Abraham, yet they were now grown proud and secure. And though sin, and also death, were reigning over them, yet being without the law, to evidence sin and death to their consciences, they would not charge themselves with it, and so found no need of a Mediator, Rom. v. 13-20. But now the law being proclaimed with so great terror, laid their peacock-feathers a little; but though they had more knowledge of their sin and misery than before, yet they had still the old heart. This declaration imports,