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1st. If there be any secret lust that lies lurking in the heart, he will find it either rising up against this engagement, or using its artifices to secure itself from it. And hereby it is discovered; and the conviction of the heart concerning its evil furthered and strengthened. Sin makes the most certain discovery of itself, and never more evidently than when it is most severely pursued. Lusts in men are compared to hurtful and noisome beasts, or men themselves are so because of their lusts, Isa. xi. 4, 5. Now such beasts use themselves to their dens and coverts, and never discover themselves, at least so much in their proper nature and rage, as when they are most earnestly pursued. And so it is with sin and corruption in the heart.
2ndly. If any sin be prevalent in the soul, it will weaken it; and take it off from the universality of this engagement unto God, it will breed a tergiversation unto it, a slightness in it. Now when this is observed, it will exceedingly awaken a gracious soul, and stir it up to look about it. As spontaneous lassitude, or a causeless weariness and indisposition of the body, is looked on as the sign of an approaching fever, or some dangerous distemper, which stirs up men to use a timely and vigorous prevention, that they be not seized upon by it; so is it in this case. When the soul of a believer finds in itself an indisposition to make fervent, sincere engagements of universal holiness unto God, it knows that there is some prevalent distemper in it, finds the place of it, and sets itself against it.
3dly. Whilst the soul can thus constantly engage itself unto God, it is certain that sin can rise unto no ruinous prevalency. Yea, it is a conquest over sin, a most considerable conquest, when the soul doth fully and clearly, without any secret reserve, come off with alacrity and resolution in such an engagement; as Psal. xviii. 23. And it may upon such a success triumph in the grace of God, and have good hope through faith, that it shall have a final conquest, and what it so resolves, shall be done ; that it hath decreed a thing, and it shall be established. And this tends to the disappointment, yea, to the ruin of the law of sin.
4thly. If the heart be not deceived by cursed hypocrisy, this engagement unto God will greatly influence it unto a peculiar diligence and watchfulness against all sin. There is no greater evidence of hypocrisy, than to have the heart like the whorish woman, Prov. vii. 14. to say, 'I have paid my vows, now I may take myself unto my sin;' or to be negligent about sin, as being satisfied that it hath prayed against it. It is otherwise in a gracious soul. Sense and conscience of engagements against sin made to God, do make it universally watchful against all its motions and operations. On these and sundry other accounts, doth faith in this duty exert itself peculiarly, to the weakening of the power, and stopping of the progress, of the law of sin.
If then the mind be diligent in its watch and charge, to preserve the soul from the efficacy of sin, it will carefully attend unto this duty, and the due performance of it, which is of such singular advantage unto its end and purpose. Here therefore,
(2.) Sin puts forth its deceit in its own defence; it labours to divert and draw off the mind from attending unto this and the like duties. And there are, among others, three engines, three ways and means, whereby it attempts the accomplishment of its design.
[1.] It makes advantage of its weariness unto the flesh, There is an aversation, as hath been declared, in the law of sin, unto all immediate communion with God. Now this duty is such. There is nothing accompanieth it whereby the carnal part of the soul may be gratified, or satisfied, as there may be somewhat of that nature in most public duties, in most that a man can do, beyond pure acts of faith and love. No relief or advantage then coming in by it, but what is purely spiritual, it becomes wearisome, burdensome to flesh and blood. It is like travelling alone without companion or diversion, which makes the way seem long, but brings
with most speed to his journey's end. So our Saviour declares, when expecting his disciples according to their duty and present distress should have been engaged in this work, he found them fast asleep ; » Matt. xxvi. 41. : The spirit,' saith he, ‘indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak ;' and out of that weakness grew their indisposition unto, and weariness of, their duty. So God complains of his people, Isa. xliii. 22. Thou hast been weary of me.' And it may come at length unto that height which is mentioned, Mal. i. 13. Ye have said, Behold, what a weariness
is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts.' The Jews suppose that it was the language of men when they brought their offerings or sacrifices on their shoulders, which they pretended wearied them, and they panted and blowed as men ready to faint under them, when they brought only the torn, and the lame, and the sick. But so is this duty oftentimes to the flesh. And this the deceitfulness of sin makes use of, to draw the heart by insensible degrees from a constant attendance unto it. It puts in for the relief of the weak and weary flesh. There is a compliance between spiritual flesh, and natural flesh in this matter; they help one another, and an aversation unto this duty is the effect of their compliance. So it was in the spouse, Cant. v. 2, 3. She was asleep drowsing in her spiritual condition, and pleads her natural unfitness to rouse herself from that state. If the mind be not diligently watchful to prevent insinuations from hence, if it dwell not constantly on those considerations which evidence an attendance unto this duty to be indispensable, if it stir not up the principle of grace in the heart to retain its rule and sovereignty, and not to be dallied withal by foolish pretences, it will be drawn off, which is the effect aimed at.
[2.] The deceitfulness of sin makes use of corrupt reasonings taken from the pressing and urging occasions of life. Should we, says it in the heart, attend strictly unto all duties in this kind, we should neglect our principal occasions, and be useless unto ourselves and others in the world. And on this general account, particular businesses dispossess particular duties from their due place and time. Men have not leisure to glorify God and save their own souls. It is certain, that God gives us time enough for all that he requires of us in any kind in this world. No duties need to jostle one another, I mean constantly. Especial occasions must be determined according unto especial circumstances. But if in any thing we take more upon us than we have time well to perform it in without robbing God of that which is due to him, and our own souls, this God calls not unto, this he blesseth us not in. tolerable that our duties of holiness and regard to God, should intrench upon the duties of our callings and employments in this world, than on the contrary; and yet neither
It is more
doth God require this at our hands in an ordinary manner
How little, then, will he bear with that which evidently is so much worse upon all accounts whatever. But yet, through the deceitfulness of sin, thus are the souls of men beguiled. By several degrees they are at length driven from their duty.
[3.] It deals with the mind to draw it off from its attendance unto this duty by a tender of a compensation to be made in and by other duties. As Saul thought to compensate his disobedience by sacrifice. May not the same duty performed in public, or in the family, suffice? And if the soul be so foolish as not to answer, those things ought to be done, and this not to be left undone, it may be ensnared and deceived. For, besides a command unto it, namely, that we should personally watch unto prayer, there is, as hath been declared, sundry advantages in this duty so performed against the deceit and efficacy of sin, which in the more public attendance unto it, it hath not. These sin strives to deprive the soul of by this commutation, which by its corrupt reasonings it tenders unto it.
[4.] I may add here that which hath place in all the workings of sin by deceit, namely, its feeding the soul with promises and purposes of a more diligent attendance unto this duty when occasions will permit. By this means it brings the soul to say unto its convictions of duty, as Felix did to Paul, 'Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.' And by this means oftentimes the present season and time, which alone is ours, is lost irrecoverably.
These are some of the ways and means whereby the deceit of sin endeavours to draw off the mind from its due attendance unto this duty, which is so peculiarly suited to prevent its progress and prevalency, and which aims so directly and immediately at its ruin. I might instance also in other duties of the like tendency. But this may suffice to discover the nature of this part of the deceit of sin. And this is the first way whereby it makes way for the farther entangling of the affections and the conception of sin. When sin hath wrought this effect on any one, he is said to be drawn away, to be diverted from what in his mind he ought constantly to attend unto, in his walking before the Lord.
And this will instruct us to see and discern where lies the beginning of our declensions and failings in the ways of God, and that either as to our general course, or as to our attendance unto especial duties. And this is of great importance and concernment unto us. When the beginnings and occasions of a sickness or distemper of body are known, it is a great advantage to direct in and unto the core of it. God, to recall Sion to himself, shews her where was the beginning of her sin, Micah i. 13. Now this is that which for the most part is the beginning of sin unto us, even the drawing off the mind from a due attendance in all things unto the discharge of its duty. The principal care and charge of the soul lies on the mind; and if that fail of its duty, the whole is betrayed, either as unto its general frame, or as unto particular miscarriages. The failing of the mind is like the failing of the watchman in Ezekiel, the whole is lost by his neglect. This, therefore, in that self-scrutiny and search which we are called unto, we are most diligently to inquire after. God doth not look at what duties we perform, as to their number and tale, or as to their nature merely, but whether we do them with that intention of mind and spirit which he requireth. Many men perform duties in a road or course, and do not, as it were, so much as think of them. Their minds are filled with other things, only duty takes up so much of their time. This is but an endeavour to mock God, and deceive their own souls. Would you, therefore, take the true measure of yourselves, consider how it is with you as to the duty of your minds which we have inquired after. Consider whether, by any of the deceits mentioned, you have not been diverted and drawn away; and if there be any decays upon you in any kind, you will find that there hath been the beginning of them. By one way or other your minds have been made heedless, regardless, slothful, uncertain, being beguiled and drawn off from their duty. Consider the charge, Prov. iv. 23. 2527. May not such a soul say, If I had attended more diligently, if I had considered more wisely, the vile nature of sin; if I had not suffered my mind to be possessed with vain hopes and foolish imaginations, by a cursed abuse of gospel grace; if I had not permitted it to be filled with the things of the world, and to become negligent in attending unto