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The necessity of watching and
MAT T. xxvi. 41. Watch and pray that
enter not into temptatation : The spirit indeed is willing but the
flefh is weak.
LL men have ever had a great sense of S er M.
the corruption and weakness of human XXI. nature, and it is what hath ever sufficiently been felt, and complained of, and bewailed; and the Devil hath in all ages made his advantages of it, giving men a formidable profspect of the difficulty of virtue and holiness, by subduing their lusts and vicious inclinations, and restraining all the evil tendencies of our nature: This hath never failed of its effect in those who consider this grievous infirmity without an eye to the mighty power and energy of those means by which it is to be çored,
SERM. And accordingly fome looking on the reXXI. straint of their lusts to be a strife against na
ture (as indeed it is) cease all endeavour towards a good life, they quite give out; and then the only work they have left, is to take care that the thoughts of another world give their pleasures as little intermission and disturbance as they can.
Others less hardy, but every jot as foolish, are always struggling with their lusts, though not to any substantial purpose of religion; they live in hopes this weakness is incurable; this is their great support and comfort in their fins, and they have all along in their minds a strange mixture of sensual pleasure and remorse ; of lụst and godly sorrow..
The last fort of men, on whom the fense of this infirmity hath a malignant influence, are those who have set in earnest upon the work with great sincerity and vigour, with great courage and resolution; and if the work were to be done of a sudden, nothing would be too hard for them. But after some trials, finding the work always new, they come off of this religious fury; and when these first warmths are abated they feel this weakness of the flesh as much as ever: These cannot be easy under the thoughts of damnation; and therefore though they are foiled and beaten back again, yet they are always beginning but seldom inake any considerable progress.
Nay even in those who have made considerable advances in piety and holiness, this weak
ness of the flesh often gives a check to their Serm, endeavours, it makes the work go on heavily XXI. and fills them with despondency; so that the confideration of this weakness of human nature hath unhappily every consequence but what it should have in the minds of men, and that is to awaken them with a sense of the danger they are in, and stir up their endeavours, and make them constant, and vigorous, and resolutę.
Our blessed Saviour, who had himself a feeling of our infirmities, in these words describes most exactly wherein this weakness of our nature consists, and the most effectual method of our cure. The spirit is willing, the difficulty doth not lie there, but the flesh is weak; and for that reason we must watch and pray that we enter not into temptation, (i. e.) that we are not overcome by it. He said this at a time when he himself was under the greatest temptation and trial that ever loaded any of the sons of Adam. Watching and praying were the means he used himself and found effectual; these are what he recommended to his Disciples then, when a great temptation was coming on them, and they failed for want of using them; and these are what he hath lạid down for all succeeding christians if ever they hope for success. Without the use of these means our natural infirmities are never to be overcome; and on the contrary a right use of them will never fail : So that the words are no excuse for fin, but powerful motive to subdue and overcome it.
SERM. My business at present shall be to enlarge XXI. upon
these two things contained in my text, being of the highest consequence and nearest concern to us : Namely, to consider,
1. The great frailty of our nature, wherein it consists; and the great difficulty of attaining to any good degree of virtue, even after a full purpose and resolution of the mind to endeavour it.
2. The true remedy of this weakness, and the great means by which we are to overcome and surmount this difficulty,
As to the first, in order to a more distinct knowledge of the frailty of human nature, it will be necessary to observe, that the scriptures do every where suppose two contrary principles within us interwoven in our frame, parts of our first make, and distinguished in holy writ by the names of fefh and spirit. The latter of which is that more refined and ex: alted part of us which derives its original from heaven, carries on it a stamp of the divine likeness; it is that immaterial, immortal, part of us, whose firft and innate tendencies were all to good, and all its inclinations to virtue and holiness; and when it can act of itself it cannot help owning and acknowledgeing them. This is what the Apostle St. Paul 1. Cor. ii. 11. calls the spirit of a man which is in bim, in distinction from the spirit of God in the verse immediately preceding. And in Rom. vii, he calls the law of bis mind.
Now though this be in itself purely spiritual, S E R M. ever ready to own and acknowledge the excel. XXI. lencies of virtue and goodness, and in a dispo-mu sition made for the beauty of holiness, to feel its charms, and be ever carried towards it by an incessant strong propension ; yet it is but a part of us, and, fince the fall and corruption of our nature, it is immersed and sunk in fesh; to which though it communicate life, and motion, and understanding, yet it cannot diffuse its own native inclinations and desires through the unweildy mass which sets great variety of lufts and appetites of its own in direct opposition to them ; insomuch that the pure spirit hath lost all power of direction and government; and in a state of nature its faculties are so broken and impaired, fo overpowered and obstructed, that of itself it is utterly unable to restrain any one irregular paffion or appetite of the lower man, and exert itself to any good purpose by thought, word,
This wretched feeble condition of the mind of man is that which hath made some help and affistance absolutely neceffary in order to its recovery; and that could be no other than the secret influence of the holy spirit of God upon this spirit of ours, which hath been used to be called by a particular emphasis the grace of God, because it is the greatest favour ever vouchsafed to mankind, and a purchase made for us by the blood of Christ.