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him more abundantly watch unto prayer. 4, He gives way, in some degree, to the temptation, which now begins to grow pleasing to him. 5, The Holy Spirit is grieved : his faith is weakened, and his love of God grows cold. 6, The Spirit reproves him more sharply, and saith, “ This is the way ; walk thou in it.” 7. He turns away from the painful voice of God, and listens to the pleasing voice of the tempter. 8, Evil desire begins and spreads in his soul, till faith and love vanish away. He is then capable of committing outward sin, the power of the Lord being departed from him.
10. To explain this by another instance: The Apostle Peter was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost; and hereby keeping himself, he had a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.
Walking thus in simplicity and godly sincerity, “before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles," knowing that what God had cleansed, was not common or unclean.
But " when they were come," a temptation arose in his heart, “ to fear those of the circumcision,” (the Jewish converts, who were zealous for circumcision and the other rites of the Mosaic law) and regard the favour and praise of these men, more than the praise of God.
He was warned by the Spirit when sin was near. Nevertheless, he yielded to it in some degree, even to sinful fear of man, and his faith and love were proportionably weakened.
God reproved bim again for giving place to the devil. Yet he would not hearken to the voice of his Shepherd; but gave himself up to that slavish fear, and thereby quenched the Spirit.
Then God disappeared, and faith and love being extinct, he committed the outward sin; Walking not uprightly : not “ according to the truth of the gospel,” he “ separated himself” from his Christian brethren, and by his evil example, if not advice also, “compelled even the Gentiles to live after the manner of the Jews;" to entangle themselves
again with that " yoke of bondage,” from which “ Christ had set them free."
Thus it is unquestionably true, that he who is born of God, keeping himself, doth not, cannot commit sin; and yet, if he keep not himself, he may commit all manner of sin with greediness.
III. 1. From the preceding Considerations we may learn, first, To give a clear and incontestable answer to a question which has frequently perplexed many, who were sincere of heart. Does sin precede or follow the loss of faith? Does a child of God first commit sin, and thereby lose his faith? Or does he lose his faith first, before he can commit sin?
I answer, some sin of omission at least, must necessarily precede the loss of faith : some inward sin. But tbe loss of faith must precede the committing outward sin.
The more any believer examines his own heart, the more will he be convinced of this: that faith working by love, excludes both inward and outward sin from a soul watching unto prayer : that nevertheless we are even then liable to temptation, particularly to the sin that did easily beset us : that if the loving eye of the soul be steadily fixed on God, the temptation soon vanishes away; but if not, if we are EĞEN XOLLEVO (as the Apostle James speaks, chap. i. 14) drawn out of God by our own desire, and dezealousyou caught by the bait of present or promised pleasures : and that desire · conceived in us, brings forth sin; and having by that inward sin destroyed our faith, it casts us headlong into the snare of the devil, so that we may commit any outward sin whatever.
2. From what has been said, we may learn, secondly, What the life of God in the soul of a believer is, wherein it properly consists; and what is immediately and necessarily implied therein. It immediately and necessarily implies, the continual inspiration of God's Holy Spirit: God's breathing into the soul, and the soul's breathing back what it first receives from God : a continual action of God upon the soul, and a re-action of the soul upon God: an unceasing presence of God, the loving, pardoning God, manifested to the heart,
and perceived by faith: an unceasing return of love, praise, and prayer, offering up all the thoughts of our hearts, all the words of our tongues, all the works of our hands, all our body, soul, and spirit, to be an holy sacrifice, acceptable. unto God in Christ Jesus.
3. And hence we may, thirdly, infer, the absolute necessity of this re-action of the soul, (whatsoever it be called) in order to the continuance of the divine life therein. For it plainly appears, God does not continue to act upon the soul, unless the soul re-acts upon God. He prevents us indeed with the blessings of his goodness. He first loves us, and manifests himself unto us. While we are yet afar off, he call us to himself, and shines upon our hearts. But if we do not then love him who first loved us, if we will not hearken to his voice; if we turn our eye away from him, and will not attend to the light which he pours in upon us; his Spirit will not always strive ; he will gradually with: draw, and leave us to the darkness of our own hearts. He will not continue to breathe into our soul, unless our soul breathes towards him again ; unless our love, and prayer, and thanksgiying return to him, a sacrifice wherewith he is well-pleased.
4. Let us learn, lastly, to follow that direction of the great Apostle, “Be not high-minded, but fear,” Let us fear sin, more than death or hell. Let us have a jealous (though not painful) fear, lest we should lean to our own deceitful hearts, “Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.” Even he who now standeth fast in the grace of God, in the faith that overcometh the world, may nevertheless fall into inward sin, and thereby “ make shipwreck of his faith.” And how easily then will outward sin regain its dominion oyer him! Thou therefore, O man of God! watch always; that thou mayest always hear the Voice of God. Watch, that thou mayest pray without ceasing, at all times, and in all places, pouring out thy heart before him. So shalt thou always believe, and always love, and never commit sin.
ON ORIGINAL SIN.
GENESIS vi. 5.
56 And God saw that the Wickedness of Man was great in
the Earth, and that every Imagination of the Thoughts of his Heart was only evil continually.'
1. HOW widely different is this from the fair pictures of human nature, which men have drawn in all ages! The writings of many of the ancients abound with gay descriptions of the dignity of man: whom some of them paint as having all virtue and happiness in his composition, or at least, entirely in his power, without being beholden to any other being, yea, as self-sufficient, able to live on his own stock, and little inferior to God himself.
2. Nor have heathens alone, men who were guided in their researches by little more than the dim light of reason, but many likewise of them that bear the name of Christ, and to whom are entrusted the Oracles of God, spoke as magnificently concerning the nature of man, as if it were all innocence and perfection. Accounts of this kind have particularly abounded in the present century: and perhaps in no part of the world more, than in our own country. Here not a few persons of strong understanding, as well as extensive learning, have employed their utmost abilities to shew, what they termed, The fair side of human nature.” And it must be acknowledged, that if their accounts of him
be just, man is still but “ a little lower than the angels,” or, as the words may be more literally rendered, “ a little less than God.”
3. Is it any wonder, that these accounts are very readily received by the generality of men ? For who is not easily persuaded to think, favourably of himself? Accordingly, writers of this kind are most universally read, admired, applauded. And innumerable are the converts they have made, not only in the gay, but the learned world. So that it is now quite unfashionable to talk otherwise, to say any thing to the disparagement of human nature : which is generally allowed, notwithstanding a few infirmities, to be very innocent, and wise, and virtuous !
4. But, in the mean time, what must we do with our Bibles; for they will never agree with this. These accounts, however pleasing to flesh and blood, are utterly irreconcilable with the scriptural. The Scripture avers, That, “ by one man's disobedience, all men were constituted sinners :" that, “ in Adam all died,” spiritually died, lost the life and the image of God; that fallen, sinful Adam then “ begat a son in his own likeness :" nor was it possible he should beget him in any other : for “ who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ?" Tbat consequently we, as well as other men, “ were, by nature, dead in trespasses and sins, without hope, without God in the world," and therefore “ children of wrath :" that every man may say, “ I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me:" that " there is no difference, in that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God:” of that glorious image of God, wherein man was originally created. And hence, when the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, he saw they were all gone out of the way, they were altogether become abominable, there was none righteous, no, not one;" rone that truly sought after God: just agreeable this, to what is declared by the Holy Ghost in the words above recited, “ God saw," when he looked down from heaven before, “that the wickedness of man was great in