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But in the parallel Places which I quoted, the xviiith of this Gospel, and the ixth of St Mark, he mentions the Foot too. And as I take it, these are mentioned rather as Principal Examples, than as a full Enumeration; for there are other Members which lead to Sin as well as these; particularly the Ears, by listening to wicked Discourse, and the Tongue by venting enticing and tempting Words introductory to this Sin. The thing which I believe our Saviour aims at, is the Bridling, Restraining, or Mortifying the Members of the Body, that they may not prove Occasions of Sin. For it is by them, as Doors, that Temptations enter, and by them, as Tools, they are put in Execution. But in his way of Describing this Mortification, he alludes to the Practice of those, who when the Eye, or Hand, or Foot, or Leg or Arm is gangrened, pluck out the Eye, and cut off the Hand or Foot, or Leg, or Arm ; in which
of Expression there is a tacit Reason included for this Practice. q. d. If Men for preserving this short Life, will deny themselves so far, as to endure the pulling out of an Eye, or the cutting off of a Leg or Arm, to save the rest of the Body, endangered by a gangrened Member, how much more Thould ye deny your felves the Use of a Member, which is in danger of ruining you both Body and Soul to all Eternity!
In handling this Subject, there are these three Heads of Discourse, which seem to be pointed at in the Words.
1. We have a Supposition here put, That the best Members of the Body, particularly the right Eye and right Hand, may
that is, lead us into very Dangerous Sins.
2. We have the Duty of Mortification of these Members enjoined, called here the pulling out of the right Eye, and cutting off the right Hand, and casting them from us.
3. We have the Danger of suffering our Members to go on in being Instruments of Sin, pointed at in these Words ; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy Members should perish, and not that thy wbole Body should be cast into Hell.
1. First, We have a Supposition put here, That the most useful and neceffary Members of the Body may offend us; that is, may be apt to lead us into Dangerous and Damning Sins. If thy right Eye offend thee, and if thy right Hand offend thee: By offending is meant the leading into the Snare of Sin, and such Sin as may bring us to Hell; as appears by the last Words of the Text. Now this Suppofition of our Saviour's is not a Suppofition of a Thing that rarely happens ; but it is the constant Fate of all Men, till they have learned to mortify their Members. To say nothing of the rest, What is more common than for the Eye and Hand here mentioned to be abused to sinful Purposes? The Eye by wandring from it's Bufiness, and gadding abroad after unlawful Objects, lets in Luft to the Heart, which being harboured and entertained there, withdraws the Heart from God, and drowns the Man in sensual Pleasures. The first Entrance of these is by the Eye, which is first led aside after an unlawful Object; then fixes so long upon it, till Luft is conceived in the Heart. This was the Case with David ; that which led him first into those horrid Sins of Adultery with Bathsheba, and Murder of her Husband Uriah, was a wrong Glance of his Eye from the
Roof of his House, and the letting his Eyes fix on that unlawful Object. And it is not only in the Sins of Uncleanness, but in many other Sins that the Temptation enters by the Eye. The Sins of Covetousness commonly enter that way, by beholding and fixing our Eye upon our Neighbour's House or Land, or Goods; and then admitting inordinate covetous Desires, which often upon finister Ways of acquiring and purchasing what they have a mind to. The Sins of Ambition too often enter by the Eye, which being dazled with Grandeur, fets the Man’s Invention and Industry to work to climb to what he aims at, and to throw down every Thing that stands in the way
of his Pretensions and Designs. The Sins of Vanity, Luxury, and Prodigality too, commonly enter by the Eye; when we fee others, how neatly and great they live, or how fine they are in their Drefs, Furniture, Buildings, or Equipages; and from thence become unsatisfied, till we equal, or exceed them : Nay, Solomon speaks of the Sin of Drunkenness as entring by the Eye; (a) Look not thou on the Wine when it is red, when it giveth his Colour in the Cup, when it moveth itself aright. How many other Sinsa re taken in, in the Execution of all these Designs, it is impossible to reckon up ; the Lies, Frauds, Thefts, Perjuries, Supplanting, Bribing, and all the long Train of Iniquities, that Lustful, Covetous, Ambitious, Vain, Prodigal, and Luxurious Men have invented and practised, for carrying on and compafling their feveral Projects and Designs. And as the Eye is a
(a) Pjov. xxiii. 31.
great Instrument in letting in bad Thoughts and Purposes, so the Hand is in the Execution of them, as well as the Foot, and Tongue, and Ears; for they all have their several Parts to act in this Scene of Wickedness. It would be infinite to enumerate the Particulars, how the Feet carry us into ill Company, how the Tongue is subservient to our wicked Designs, in corrupting the good Principles or Morals of others; how bad Impressions enter by the Ear, and are executed by the Hand. But I proceed to
2. The Second Thing I proposed to consider in the Words, namely, the Duty of Bridling, Governing, or, Mortifying these Members, called here the pulling out of the right Eye, and the cutting off of the right Hand, and casting them from us. These Expressions do plainly allude to the Method People take with a gangren’d Member, which is to part with it for saving the Body. But now the Design being upon the Mind, to cure the Diseases of it, this pulling out, and cutting off, cannot be understood literally, but figuratively; that is,
in such a way as these Vices are to be pulled out, and cut off, namely, by the Mortification of them. This Duty of Mortification implies these Three Things:
(1.) A serious and firm Resolution of restraining the Members and Imagination from unlawful Objects.
(2.) An Avoiding all the Occasions of Sin.
(3.) The continual. Use of all those Means whereby Sin may be entirely subdued in us.
(1.) I say a serious and firm Resolution of restraining the Imagination and Members from unlawful Objects, fuch as Job gives us an account
of in himself, yob xxxi, 1. I made a Covenant with mine Eyes; why then should I think upon a Maid? and David, Psal. xxxix. 1. I said I will ·take heed to my Ways, that I offend not with my Tongue : I will keep my Mouth with a Bridle, while the Wicked is before me. And Psal. xvii
. 3. I am purposed that my Mouth shall not transgress. Concerning the Works of Men, by the Word of thy Lips I have hept me from the Paths of the DeAroyer. And though our good Resolutions are often found to lose of their Strength and Vigour, they must be so much the oftner renewed.
(2.) This Duty of pulling out the Eye, and cutting off the Hand, implies the careful declining and avoiding all the Occasions of Sin; the not walking in the Council of the Ungodly, the not standing in the way of Sinners; the not sitting in the Seat of the Scornful; the removing far from the tempting Woman; the not coming near the Door of her House; and the destroying the Instruments of Sin, as far as lawfully we may: As we find in the Nineteenth of the Aěts, ver. 19. several Sorcerers converted to Christianity, that they might not lie under the Temptation of following any more those wicked Arts, nor others be tempted by their Skill, produced all their Books relating to those Diabolical Sciences, and burnt them, though they were estimated at a great Value, fifty Thousand Pieces of Silver.
(3.) It implies the continual Use of those Means whereby Sin may be intirely subdued in us. Those Means are of two Sorts; general, which serve for the Extirpation of all Sin, such as Prayer, Meditation, Self-Examination, the Study of the Holy Scriptures, Fasting, Temperance, Good Books,