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merly, or new manifestations of truth which they knew not before, and please themselves in so doing, without diligent endeavours to have the power of those truths and notions upon their hearts, and their souls made conformable unto them, they generally learn so to dispose of all truths formerly known, which were sometimes inlaid in their hearts with more efficacy and power. This hath proved, if not the ruin, yet the great impairing of many in these days of light wherein we live. By this means, from humble close walking, many have withered into an empty, barren, talking profession.
All things almost have in a short season become alike unto them: have they been true or false, so they might be debating of them, and disputing about them, all is well. This is food for sin; it hatcheth, increaseth it, and is increased by it. A notable way it is for the vanity that is in the mind, to exert itself without a rebuke from conscience. Whilst men are talking, and writing, and studying about religion, and hearing preaching, it may be, with great delight, as those in Ezekiel, chap. xxxiii. 32. conscience, unless thoroughly awake and circumspect, and furnished with spiritual wisdom and care, will be very well pacified, and enter no rebukes or pleas against the way that the soul is in. But yet all this may be nothing but the acting of that natural vanity which lies in the mind, and is a principal part of the sin we treat of. And generally this is só, when men content themselves, as was said, with the notions of truth, without labouring after an experience of the of them in their hearts, and the bringing forth the fruit of them in their lives, on which a decay must needs ensue.
(7.) Growth in carnal wisdom is another help to sin in producing this sad effect. “Thy wisdom and thy knowledge,' saith the prophet,' hath perverted thee ;' Isa. xlvii. 10. So much as carnal wisdom increaseth, so much faith decays. The proper work of it is to teach a man to trust to and in himself, of faith to trust wholly in another. So it labours to destroy the whole work of faith, by causing the soul to return into a deceiving fulness of his own. We have woful examples of the prevalency of this principle of declension in the days wherein we live. How many a poor, humble, broken-hearted creature, who followed after God in simplicity and integrity of spirit, have we seen, through the observation of the ways and walkings of others, and closing
power with the temptations to craft and subtlety, which opportunities in the world have administered unto them, come to be dipped in a worldly carnal frame, and utterly to wither in their possession. Many are so sullied hereby, that they are not known to be the men they were.
(8.) Some great sin lying long in the heart and conscience unrepented of, or not repented of as it ought, and as the matter requires, furthers indwelling sin in this work. The great turn of the life of David, whence his first ways carried the reputation, was in the harbouring his great sin in his conscience without suitable repentance. It was otherwise we know with Peter, and he had another issue. A great sin will certainly give a great turn to the life of a professor. If it be well cured in the blood of Christ, with that humiliation which the gospel requires, it often proves a means of more watchfulness, fruitfulness, humility, and contentation, than ever before the soul obtained. If it be neglected, it certainly hardens the heart, weakens spiritual strength, enfeebles the soul, discouraging it unto all communion with God, and is a notable principle of a general decay. So David complains, Psal. xxxiii. 5. “My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.' His present distemper was not so much from his sin, as his folly, not so much from the wounds he had received, as from his neglect to make a timely application for their cure. It is like a broken bone, which, being well set, leaves the place stronger than before; if otherwise, makes the man a cripple all his days. These things we do but briefly name, and sundry other advantages of the like nature that sin makes use of to produce this effect, might also be instanced in; but these may suffice unto our present purpose. Whatever it useth, itself is still the principle; and this is no small demonstration of its efficacy and power.
The strength of indwelling sin, manifested from its power and effects in
It is of the power and efficacy of indwelling sin, as it remains in several degrees in believers, that we are treating.
Now I have elsewhere shewed, that the nature and all the natural properties of it do still remain in them: though therefore we cannot prove directly what is the strength of sin in them, from what its power is in those in whom it is only checked and not at all weakened; yet may we, from an observation thereof, caution believers of the real power of that mortal enemy with whom they have to do.
If the plague do violently rage in one city, destroying multitudes, and there be in another an infection of the same kind, which yet arises not unto that height and fury there, by reason of the correction that it meets withal from a better air, and remedies used ; yet a man may demonstrate unto the inhabitants the force and danger of that infection got in among them, by the effects that it hath and doth produce among others, who have not the benefit of the preventives and preservatives which they enjoy; which will both teach them to value the means of their preservation, and be the more watchful against the power of the infection that is among them. It is so in this case. Believers may be taught what is the power and efficacy of that plague of sin, which is in and among them, by the effects the same plague produceth in and among others, who have not those corrections of its poison, and those preservatives from death which the Lord Jesus Christ hath furnished them withal.
Having then fixed on the demonstration of the power of sin, from the effects it doth produce, and having given a double instance hereof in believers themselves, I shall now farther evidence the same truth, or pursue the same evidence of it, by shewing somewhat of the power that it acteth in them who are unregenerate, and so have not the remedies against it which believers are furnished withal.
I shall not handle the whole power of sin in unregenerate persons, which is a very large field, and not the business I have in hand; but only by some few instances of its effects in them, intimate, as I said, unto believers, what they have to deal withal.
1. It appears in the violence it offers to the nature of man, compelling them unto sins, fully contrary to all the principles of the reasonable nature wherewith they are endued from God. Every creature of God hath in its
creation, a law of operation implanted in it, which is the rule of all that proceedeth from it, of all that it doth of its own accord. So the fire ascends upwards, bodies that are weighty and heavy descend; the water flows, each according to the principles of their nature, which give them the law of their operation. That which hinders them in their operation is force and violence, as that which hinders a stone from descending, or the fire from going upwards. That which forceth them to move contrary to the law of their nature, as a stone to go upwards, or the fire to descend, is in its kind the greatest violence, of which the degrees are endless. Now that which should take a great millstone, and Aling it upwards into the air, all would acknowledge to be a matter of wonderful force, power, and efficacy.
Man also hath his law of operation and working concreated with him. And this may be considered two ways; either, first, as it is common to him with other creatures; or as peculiar, with reference unto that special end for which he was made. Some things are, I say, in this law of nature common to man with other creatures ; as to nourish their young, to live quietly with them of the same kind and race with them; to seek and follow after that which is good for them in that state and condition wherein they are created. These are things which all brute living creatures have in the law of their nature, as man also hath.
But now besides these things, man being created in an especial manner to give glory to God by rational and moral obedience, and so to obtain a reward in the enjoyment of him; there are many things in the law of his creation, that are peculiar to him; as to love God above all, to seek the enjoyment of him as his chiefest good and last end, to inquire after his mind and will, and to yield obedience, and the like. All which are part of the law of his nature.
Now these things are not distinguished so, as though a man might perform the actions of the law of his nature which are common to him with other creatures, merely from the principles of his nature, as they do; but the law of his dependance upon God, and doing all things in obedience unto him, passeth on them all also. He can never be considered as a mere creature, but as a creature made for the glory of God by rational moral obedience; rational, because by him chosen, and performed with reason; and moral, because regulated by a law whereunto reason doth attend.
For instance; it is common to man with other creatures, to take care for the nourishing of his children, of the young helpless ones that receive their being by him. There is implanted in him, in the principles of his nature, concreated with them, a love and care for them; so is it with other living creatures. Now let other creatures answer this instinct and inclination, and be not hardened against them like the foolish ostrich, unto whom God hath not implanted this natural wisdom, Job xxxix. 16, 17. they fully answer the law of their creation. With man it is not so; it is not enough for him to answer the instinct and secret impulse and inclination of his nature and kind, as in the nourishing of his children; but he must do it also in subjection to God, and obey him therein, and doing it unto his glory; the law of moral obedience passing over all his whole being, and all his operations; but in these things lie, as it were, the whole of a man, namely, in the things which are implanted in his nature as a creature, common to him with all other living creatures, seconded by the command or will of God, as he is a creature capable of yielding moral obedience, and doing all things for his glory.
That then which shall drive and compel a man to transgress this law of his nature, which is not only as to throw millstones upward, to drive beasts from taking care of their young, to take from cattle of the same kind the herding of themselves in quietness, but, moreover, to cast off what lies in him, his fundamental dependance on God, as a creature made to yield him obedience, must needs be esteemed of great force and efficacy.
Now this is frequently done by indwelling sin in persons unregenerate. Let us take some few instances.
(1.) There is nothing that is more deeply inlaid in the principles of the natures of all living creatures, and so of man himself, than a love unto, and a care for, the preservation and nourishing of their young; many brute creatures will die for them; some feed them with their own flesh and blood; all deprive themselves of that food which nature directs them