THE FOLLY OF RELAPSING after Peace spoken.
Psal. 85. ver. 8.
[Obser. 6] THE sixth Obser∣vation is, That Peace being spoken to their hearts by GOD, they should returne no more to folly. See this Ezra 9. 13, 14. Thou having punisht us lesse then wee deserve, Page 290 and given us such a delive∣rance as this, should wee againe breake thy Comman∣dements, wouldst thou not be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us?
[Reas. 1] 1 Reason: Because it will be a greater aggrava∣tion in sinning; It is made the aggravation of Solo∣mons sinne, 1 Kings 11. 9. That God had appeared to him twice: they were e∣speciall appearances and manifestations of mercy; and though such doe now cease, yet wee reade of such as are analogicall to them, as Iohn 14. 21. Christ promiseth to ma∣nifest himselfe, which is by shedding abroad his love, and his Fathers love Page 291 into the heart, which is e∣vident by the former words, he shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and after he saith, wee will come to him, and make our abode with him, ver. 23. and 27. My peace I will give unto you. Now such appea∣rances will be set upon the score of every sin, many yeares after, as they were upon Solomons. And the reason is, because nothing wounds an ingenuous lo∣ving Nature more, then matter of unkindnesse: if it had beene my enemy sayes David, I could have borne it, Psal. 55. 12, 14. but it was thou ôh man, mine acquaintance, we tooke sweet counsell together, a bosome Page 292 friend to whom I had committed my secrets, o∣pened my heart: Thus when God hath unbo∣somed himselfe as it were to a man, and told him what was in his heart to∣wards him, this goes nigh him, if hee lifts up the heele against him. And the reason of that further also is, 1 because of all things else, a man cannot endure to have his love abused, you come nigh him when you doe so, for his love is himselfe, and commands all in him, so that abuse his love, and you strike at his heart; it is lesse to abuse any excel∣lency in a man, to re∣proach and extenuate his Page 293 parts, learning, &c. though these are deare to him, but his love is his bowels. And therefore, when God hath opened his heart to a man, and set his love up∣on him, and revealed it to him, and hee carries him∣selfe unworthily, it paines him at the heart. Besides, 2. it is against the law of Nature and of Nations, to seeke out for a peace, and get it concluded, and then secretly to prepare for, and enter into a war; nothing more hatefull, or can exasperate two Nati∣ons one against another more then this. It was the aggravation of Absa∣loms sin, that being newly reconciled with his father, Page 294 and taken into favour a∣gaine, after two yeeres discountenance, hee then began to rebell more closely.
[Reas. 2] 2 Reason is intimated in the word folly, as if the Lord should have said, Set aside the unkindnesse and wrong you doe to me, yet therein you befoole your selves; you will have the worst of it. And indeed, when God doth after∣wards draw nigh to a man againe, upon that his re∣covery of his peace, it ap∣peares to be folly, even in that mans owne appre∣hension; when hee hath tasted how sweet God is, then come and aske him, What, will ye returne to Page 295 sin againe? hee will then say, Aske mee if I will wound or cut my flesh: It is impossible, thinkes he, I should any more be so besotted; if there were no other motives, hee thinkes it the greatest fol∣ly in the world. And there∣fore GOD on purpose chooseth out that ex∣pression, and placeth it here in this case, because it is indeed the greatest folly in Gods sight; and is so apprehended by our selves, looking upon sinne after peace is spoken to us. It is folly to sin against GOD at any time, but especially then, and that will appeare by these par∣ticulars.
Page 296 1. Because, before a man had that peace, hee felt the bitternesse of sin, for GOD never speakes peace, till that bee felt: now that is an argument even to sense, never to re∣turne to it againe; which a foole will be warned by; A burnt Child dreads the fire; even as a Child will take heed being taught by sense. When a man shall be in great distresse, and his Conscience shall sug∣gest to him, as Ier. 4. 18. Thy wayes and thy doings have procured these things to thee, this is thy wickednes: a speech like that when you say to your Children, when they have gotten a∣ny harme or cold, or sick∣nesse, Page 297 this is your playing and gadding and going in the Snow, and your eat∣ing of fruit, &c. so doth GOD speake there, to them when they were in distresse, this is your wic∣kednesse, for it is bitter, it reacheth to the heart, it woundeth the Consci∣ence, the wounding of which, of all else is the greatest misery. When once a man after this hath peace restored to him, and hee comes newly out of such a distresse, aske him then how he likes turning to such a sin againe, and he will tell you, it is the grea∣test folly in the world: aske David if hee will murther any more after Page 298 his bones have been bro∣ken, and set againe.
2 Thou wilt easily ac∣knowledge, it is folly to return to sin again, if thou considerest the terms, up∣on which thou didst ob∣taine thy peace. Reckon what paines it cost thee, to wash out the guilt and staine, which sinne had made, what vows and re∣solutions thou madest, what bonds thou didst seale unto, what promises never to returne, what prayers and teares, what rappes and knocks at Hea∣ven Gates, ere thou coul∣dest get an answer, or God to speake one word, he making as if hee had not beene within: why is Page 299 it not folly now to lose that in an instant, thou hast beene a getting so long, haply many yeares, and with so much paines and cost? You use it as an excuse to prodigalls to say, things lightly come by, are lightly gone; and yet you count them, and call them fooles for it, as not knowing what it is to earne a penny: how much more folly is it, when a man having afore morga∣ged his peace, and God re∣stored it again after much suite, and waiting many a term, then to come home, and venture to cast all a∣way at one throw at dice? such a fool art thou, when thou returnest to sinne; to Page 300 drink that at one draught, which thou hast been get∣ting many a yeare, what madnesse is it? when thou hast taken much paines, to wash thy selfe, then to wallow in the mire again, and make thy selfe new worke, what folly is it? who but Children and fooles will doe thus? That which the Church said in another case, may well be alluded to in this, Cant. 5. 31. I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?
3 Consider, what it is thou dost hazard, to lose by returning to folly: thy peace. David lost it, as ap∣peares, Psal. 51. 12. there∣fore sayes he, restore to me Page 301 the joy of thy salvation; In losing of which, thou wilt be so much a loser, that if the sinne thou choosest▪ were able to give thee all the world, it could not re∣compence thee; no not the losse of one houres communion with God, which in a moment will bring thee in more sweet∣nesse, than all thy sins can doe, to eternity. If all the pleasures of sin were con∣tracted, and the quintes∣sence of them strained in∣to one cup, they would not afford so much, as one drop of true peace with God doth, being let fall into the heart. It is peace which passeth understand∣ing. Few pleasures here do Page 302 exceed the senses, nay, the senses are capable of more than the things can give; but this passeth under∣standing. Gods loving kind∣nesse is better than life. If it were propounded to thee, thou must lose thy life next moment, if thou shouldst commit such a sinne, wouldest thou ven∣ture, if thou didst beleeve it? Now The loving kind∣nesse of God is better than life, and wilt thou lose the enjoying of it, though but for a moment?
4. It is folly to returne againe, because the plea∣sures of sin will be much lesse to thee after thou hast had peace spoken. Take them at the best, Page 303 when they are freshest, and when thy palate was most in relish, and taste with them, when thou wert carnall, and ere thou knewest what sweetnesse was in God, and they then were but poor sorry plea∣sures: but now, they will prove farre more empty than before; they are empty vaine pleasures e∣ven to him that hath thē in their flower, and in his season of sinning; and therefore all wicked men are weary, and do inward∣ly complain of their con∣dition, onely they cannot finde sweetnesse in God, and so are faine to keepe themselves to their husks; but alas, to thee they are Page 304 farre lesse worth than to another man, who knows not God, and therefore thou art like to have a worse bargaine of it; ano∣ther man can make more money of a sinne, and get more pleasure out of it, than thou art able to doe.
For first, thy conscience having beene scorched with sinne, as scalt flesh deares more, and is more sensible in comming to the fire, than other parts of the body, is become of a quicker sense; whereas wicked mens is seared, and so they commit all uncleannesse with greedi∣nesse: but thine is tender & galled in the act, which Page 305 allayes much of the plea∣sure of thy sinne, and min∣gleth the more bitternesse with it.
And 2. besides this gal∣ling of conscience, which is common to thee with many an unregenerate man, thou hast a principle of grace, an inner man, which is dead to such, pleasures, that tasts them not, that is like Barzillai, who through age 2 Sam. 19. 35. could not taste ei∣ther what he ate or drank, as young men doe; no more can that New man in thee, and therefore it can be but halfe as pleasant to thee as to another man. If one side of a man be taken all with a numbe palsey, Page 306 what pleasure is it to that man, to exercise his limbs in the actions of life? He is but halfe a man, and lives but halfe a life; so it is with thee, when thou hast grace in thy heart, but halfe thy heart can take pleasure in sinning, that new man the other halfe, reluctates, grieves for it, hates what thou do∣est; and all this must needs strike off much of the pleasure.
But 3. If wee adde to this, that this new man in him having once tasted what sweetnes is in God, and How good the Lord is, is then like a man that hath eaten sweet-meats, other things are out of Page 307 taste with him, and there∣fore also it is folly to re∣turne. No man (sayes Christ, Luke 5 ult.) having dranke old wine desireth new, for hee saith the old is better; a manused to high fare cannot agree so well with thinne dyet: so the soule having beene used to taste of great pleasures in God, the impression & remembrance of them leaves his soule lesse satis∣fied than another mans; a stomack that hath beene enlarged to full diet, looks for it, and riseth more hungry from a slender meale: now communion with God inlarges the fa∣culties, and widens them and makes them more ca∣pable Page 308 of greater joyes, than other men have, and therefore the creature is lesse able to fill them; still he remembers with much griefe, whilest he is eating his huskes, what fare hee had in his fathers house: and oh, Then it was better with me, than now. Call me not Naomi, but call mee Marah, as she said, For I went out full, and am come home empty; so doth hee say, when he comes from the act of sinning, he went with his heart full of peace, and meeting with a bargaine of sinning, thought to eke out his joy, and make it fuller, but hee comes home empty.
Page 309 [Vse 1] 1 Use, is to those who have had peace spoken to them, let them at such times feare themselves and God most, for then comes in this, as you see here, as the most seasona∣ble admonition that can be given, to returne no more to folly. 1. Feare God then most: for of all times else, then sins pro∣voke him most; to come and call him Father, and the guide of your mouth, and yet to fall to sinne, this is to doe as evill as you can, you cannot doe worse. Ier. 3 4, 5. So Ezra 9. After such an escaping, should we againe breake thy Comman∣dements, wouldest thou not be angry till thou hadst con∣sumed Page 310 us? In times of af∣fliction it is the property of a good childe to love GOD most: in times of speaking peace, to feare God most and his goodnesse, and to fear to offend him for his goodnesse sake. Did I onely say, that God is provoked most then, if you return to folly? Nay, I adde further, he is grie∣ved, which is more then to be provoked; and ther∣fore you shall marke that expression and admoniti∣on not to grive Gods Spi∣rit, then comes in, when the Spirit hath sealed us up to the day of redemption, Ephes. 4. 30. Then by sin∣ning wee are said more properly to grieve him Page 311 then before, when hee hath so far ingaged him∣selfe to love a man, and expressed himself to him, and set his seale upon him for his. God is angry with wicked mens sins, but hee is grieved for yours. To grieve him is more then to anger him. Meere an∣ger is an affection can ease it selfe by revenge, and by comming even againe with the party, and when wee can or intend to doe so, our mindes are not so much aggrieved, but please themselves rather to thinke of the revenge which wee meane to ex∣ecute: so when wicked men sinne whom GOD meanes to meet with, hee Page 312 is said to be angry rather then grieved; and sayes, I will ease my selfe of mine adversaries: Isay 1. 24. and avenge my selfe of mine enemies. But here, as when a mans wife that lies in his bosome, or his child shall wrong him: so is it when one sins, whom God hath set himselfe to love, and done much for, and made knowne his everlasting kindnesse unto, and sea∣led to the day of redemp∣tion: this goes to his heart, grieves him rather then angers him, and such are the truest and deepest griefes. What should hee doe with you in this case? if afflict you, and by that meanes goe about to Page 313 turne you from your ini∣quity, therein he shall but afflict himselfe as it were; for Though they rebelled, yet when they were afflicted hee was afflicted, Esay 63. 9, 10. As when a Father that is a Magistrate, or as one that maintaines a Student in a Colledge, if either punisheth a childe, or pu∣pill in his purse, he puni∣sheth himselfe, so must God afflict himselfe to af∣flict you. Put not the Lord into these straits if you have any love in you. And 2. as thou art there∣fore to feare God most then, so thy selfe most, and to be more watchfull over thy own heart; thou art then apt to returne to Page 314 folly, if thou takest not heed; as when a man hath beene very hot, or sweat much, hee is apt to take the greatest cold. Heze∣kiah, after GOD sealed peace to him and answer∣ed his prayers, and renew∣ed the lease of his life, his heart got cold, he did re∣turne to folly. The reason is, because then the heart is apt to grow lesse watch∣full, and to thinke it selfe fortified enough against any tentation. As S. Peter having seene Christ trans∣figured in the Mount, grew confident in his own strength. And know that the Devill watcheth such an opportunity most, for hee gets a great victory if Page 315 he can foile thee then, af∣ter hee hath beene foiled himselfe, and when thou art most triumphing over him; how many battels have beene lost through security of victory and recoyling of the enemy? and besides our corrupt nature so farre as unre∣newed, is apt to gather heart to it selfe, to slight sinne, as thinking its par∣don easily gotten.
Therefore when thou art tempted, labour often to renew those thoughts, which thou hadst of thy sinne at that time, when thou wert suing for peace, before thy peace was got∣ten; when thou wouldest have given a world for Page 316 Gods favour; & also what thoughts thou hadst of it, when God spake peace, how thou didst abhorr it, yea, thy self, & look what sin was most bitter to thee & an enemy to thy peace; as if uncleannesse, Idlenes, neglect of prayer, ill com∣pany, &c. and preserve in thy heart those bitter ap∣prehensions of it, & say of it, thou hast bin a bloody sin to me, as Moses wife said of her husband: and though I have got peace, & my life saved, yet it was a bloody sin to Christ, his blood was shed to purchase this my peace, & shal I return to it?
And when tempted to it again, have recourse to the kindnes God shewed thee Page 317 in pardoning, and say, how shall I do this, and sinne a∣gainst God? say as he said, Is this thy kindnesse to thy friend? 2. Sam. 16. 16. and what, shall I Absalom-like, now I am new reconciled to my Father, fall a plot∣ting treason again? what, shall I make more worke for prayer, more worke for God, breake my bones a∣gain, & lie roaring again? Think thus, I was burnt in the hād afore, I shal be rac∣ked surely now. Sin no more lest a worse thing befall thee.
Vse 3. The doctrine of assurance (if not abused) and of Gods speaking peace to men is no dange∣rous doctrin to make men secure and presumptuous Page 318 in sinning: when peace is preached in any mans heart, this use naturally flowes from that Doctrin, returne no more to folly. The very scope of the whole Epistle of S Iohn is to help all beleevers to assurance, as appeares by the 1. Iohn 1. 4, 5. and the 5. Chap. 13. These things I write to you, that yee might have com∣munion with God, and that your joy might be full. But this will open a way to all licentiousnesse. No sayes S. Iohn, Chap. 2. 1. These things I write unto you that ye sin not; nothing guards the heart more against tentations, then the peace of God: it is said to guard the heart, Phil. 4. 2. Yea Page 319 and if you doe sin, the as∣surance of Gods love is the speediest way to re∣cover you; so it followes: If any one doth sinne, wee have an Advocate with the Father, &c. And hee that hath this hope in him, that is, to live with Christ, and knowes what manner of love the Father beares us, puri∣fies himselfe as hee is pure, 1. Iohn 3. 1, 2, 3. If there were no more but selfe-love in a man, it were then no wonder if he doth abuse it. For selfe-love, where the love of God is wanting, is unthankfull and ungratefull, willing to take all the love and kindnesse which is afford∣ed, and abuse it, and work Page 320 upon it for its owne ad∣vantage; and it is true al∣so that because wee have too much of this principle unmortified in us, there∣fore God trusteth so few with much assurance, be∣cause they would abuse it. But where true love to God is seated, and much of it implanted, there the love of God & the peace of God doth as kindly and naturally enkindle and enflame and set it awork, even as arguments suta∣ble to self-love doe work upon, and stirre that prin∣ciple. For grace is more for GOD then for our selves, it being the image of Gods holinesse, whose holinesse consists in this, Page 321 to aime at himselfe in all: and therefore when Gods free grace towards a man is revealed, it raiseth him up to higher straines of love to God, and hatred of sin. And therefore it is observable, Psa. 51. 12. that David when he prayes for the restoring of the joy of his salvation, hee prayes not simply for it, or alone, but withall prayes for a free spirit, Establish me with thy free spirit: that is a spirit of ingenuity, which is kindly, sweetly and free∣ly wrought upon: there∣fore when we have a free spirit wrought in us, then that free love that is in God towards us will worke most kindly upon Page 322 it, and constraines us to love him that loved us first. The love of Christ constrains us, 2. Cor. 5. 14. Because we thus judge, that if Christ died for all, then they which live should not live unto thē∣selves but unto him that di∣ed for them: S. Paul gives the reason, why this love of Christ did thus con∣straine him, because hee did thus judge, that is, this consideration of Christs love, hee having a princi∣ple of love in his heart to Christ, hee found to be a powerfull prevailing rea∣son to perswade him to live to Christ. Having a new judgement hee saw force and strength in the argument. And so shall Page 323 we if we thus judge, and it will have this naturall consequence as naturally to follow upon it in our hearts, as any reason in any other kinde hath, that is brought to enforce any other conclusion. And therefore as the minde is constrained (as it were) to assent to a truth proved by force of reason, that if you grant this, then this or that will follow: so because we judge this rea∣sonable by an argument drawne out of loves To∣picks, that if Christ died for all, who otherwise must themselues have died, that then they should live to him, this will constraine us to love him, and live to him. Page 324Amor Dei est extaticus, nec se sinit esse sui luris.
THis Text and admo∣nition here gives a ust occasion to consider a little of that so often questioned case of Con∣science concerning relap∣ses of Gods Children into the same sinnes and folly againe,* and whether after peace spoken, Gods peo∣ple may returne againe to folly. Some have held, that a man after a second repentance could not fall into the same sinne again: others if he did, it exclu∣ded him from mercy for time to come. For the Page 325 comfort of some poore soules whose case and ten∣tation this may be, I will speake somewhat though sparingly and with cau∣tion.
1. The Scripture no where excludeth those from the state of grace, or barrs mercy from those, that have relapsed into the same sinne, especially so long as in regard of the manner of their sinning it be but folly, not wicked∣nesse or wilfull sinning, that is, rather proceeding out of errour of under∣standing, and heat, and impetuousnesse of foolish affections, then obstina∣cie and malice in the will, and with despite of the Spi∣rit Page 326 of grace, Heb. 10. 27.
Yea: 2. In Scripture wee meet with such pas∣sages and promises, as may undoubtedly uphold any soule, that hath so fallen after peace recei∣ved, into the same sinne, and preserve him from ap∣prehending himselfe ex∣cluded therefore from mercy and the state of grace: As Hosea 14. 4. I will heale their backslidings, I will love them freely; un∣lesse they had fallen after repenting & former hea∣ling, it could not have been called backsliding, and yet this hee promises to heale, & withall shewes the ground that mooved him to it, his loving them Page 327 freely: for if in any thing his free love is shewne to any of his children and drawne out, it is in hea∣ling againe such a back∣sliding soule after recove∣ry and peace given. For the falling into the same sinne, which hath been re∣pented of and healed, pro∣vokes God more then a thousand other acts of sinnes formerly commit∣ted though of the same kind. And therein also to shew his free love, that he can pardon even the abuse of love it selfe, he leaves some thus to sinne after his love shed abroad in their hearts. Some hee shewes his free love unto, in keeping them from Page 328sinning, others in pardon∣ing them, and giving them repentance: they are but severall wayes of drawing it forth; so that if in any thing, herein his free-love is shewne, for if it were not free, it would never endure it selfe to bee abu∣sed. And likewise the sure mercies of David are then showne, when God multi∣plies to pardon: so Esay 55. 3. having mentioned the promise of the sure mer∣cies of David, He promi∣ses to multiply to pardon, as it is in the Originall verse 7: which are thus joined, both because the surenesse of his Covenant, is there∣in shewne, and because wee might haply multi∣ply Page 329 to sinne; and at least it supposeth the possibility of it againe. God likewise runs upon such a supposi∣tion in that expression of his, to his owne people, Iere. 3. 1, 2. They say if a man put away his wife, and shee becomes another mans, shall not the Land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lo∣vers, yet returne againe to me, saith the Lord. Hee speakes to her as to one, had been his Wife, who though shee had not been put away by him, but had put away her selfe and run away, not once but often, and that with ma∣ny lovers, and sometimes in the midst of her whore∣domes, Page 330 had come in and made challenge of his former love and pleaded his former mercy to her, and yet fallen back againe verse 4. 5. (where he adds, Wilt thou not from this time cry, My Father, and thou art the guide of my youth, that is, I know sayes God, you will come now and cry as heretofore you have done and say, Oh thou art my Father and my Husband, and confidently still claim an interest in me upon my former kindnesse, and yet doe as evill as you can, for you cannot doe worse then thus to abuse my love) yet for all this at the 12. verse, Returne thou back∣sliding Israel, saith the Page 331 Lord, for I am married to you, verse 14. That which hee doth thus to a nati∣on, hee may doe to a par∣ticular man who is his child.
Againe, 3. There are not altogether examples wanting for this.
[Examp. 1] 1. Wee finde Sampson a godly man (whom yet wee would scarce have thought such but that we find his name in the list of those Worthies, Heb. 11.) ensnared with a Philistine woman against the coun∣sel of his parents, Iudg. 14. 3. who clearely laid open his sinne to him, and hee was in the event reproo∣ved for his folly, for his wife deceived him, told Page 332 his riddle to his enemies which hee in the end per∣ceived, and further to re∣proove him, in the issue shee was given away to another, verse 16, 17, 20 from all which passages of reproofe, an holy man that had his eyes in his head, could not but see his errour; and yet againe a long while after this, (twenty yeres after, Iudg. 15. 20. (when certainely ere that hee had repented of this his sinne, for which his parents before, and af∣ter, God so clearely did rebuke him,) hee went to Gaza, Iudg. 16. verse 1. and saw a harlot and went into her, and there scaped nar∣rowly with his life at mid∣night, Page 333 And verse 4. After that also it came to passe hee fell in love with ano∣ther, as bad as any of the former, Dalilah, who was his ruine. But his retur∣ning thus to folly cost him deare, for in the end he was taken as a Captive to the Philistims his ene∣mies, & that through her false-hood, deprived of his strength he had spent upon these women, had his eyes those betraying lights put out, that had ensnared him, and him∣selfe made a foole of, to make his enemies sport. So as no child of God can take any great encourage∣ment thus to returne to folly, for the future, by Page 334 his example, though com∣fort they may have there∣from in case they have returned for the time past.
2. Another example may be that of Ieboshaphat who commited a great sinne in joyning with Ahab that wicked King that sold himselfe to worke wickednesse, 2. Chron. 18. 1, 2, 3. and hee was foretold what would bee the suc∣cesse of that confederacy and journey by Michaiah before he went with him to battell, and after in the battell it selfe, where hee hardly escaped with his life, and by an extraordi∣nary providence at his prayer was delivered, verse Page 335 31, 32. and as if that were not sufficient, God sends another Prophet to him, Chap. 19. 2. who with open mouth reproves him and discovers to him his sinne, Shouldest thou helpe the un∣godlie, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord: which message to so good a man doubt∣lesse was not in vaine, but humbled him for that his sin, and wrought repen∣tance in him to avert that wrath. And yet after that great and miraculous deli∣verance of him and his people, Chap. 20. we finde him relapsing into the same sin ver. 35. After this did Iehoshaphat joyne him∣selfe Page 336 with Ahaziah King of Israel who did very wic∣kedly, and he joyned himselfe with him to make ships to goe to Tarshish: which ano∣ther Prophet in like man∣ner reprooveth, and like∣wise God himselfe rebu∣ked by the like ill successe of that league to the for∣mer, the ships were broken, verse 37.
3 Saint Peter a man, who seemed by other of his cariages, bold enough, was yet three severall times surprized with base feare: once when hee tempted Christ, not to ha∣zard himselfe at Ierusalem, where Christ had told him, that he was to suffer: Matth. 16. 21, 22, 23. Ma∣sterPage 337 (sayes hee) spare thy selfe: upon which speach Christ calls him, Satan, re∣buketh him more sharp∣ly, then at any other time, for which surely there was a more then ordinary cause. Saint Peter thought that if his Master should suffer at Jerusalem, that himselfe, and the rest should not be safe: That speech therefore procee∣ded from feare, and there∣fore Christ doth imme∣diately thereupon call for selfe deniall, and taking up the Crosse, verse 24. And this was immedi∣ately after peace spoken, verse 16, 17, 18. CHRIST had never more comfor∣tably given testimony to Page 338 Saint Peter, and his faith, then there. Yet againe, af∣ter this Christ had him up into the Mount and trans∣figured himselfe, to hear∣ten him against that try∣all to come, which made him so confident; yet then hee denied him, at his arraignment: when a∣gaine Christ immediatly upon that lookt back up∣on him with so sweet a looke as broke his heart for this his folly; and so he returned againe, and it cost him many a tear; and Christ after the Resurre∣ction, owned him againe, more then any of the rest, bad them that first met him, Goe tell Peter, Hee mentions him by name, Page 339 and in especiall, goe tell him the first newes of it: and then also hee asked him, Peter, lovest thou me? and hee said, Lord, thou knowest I love thee: as if he had said, Though I have played the wretch, yet I love thee: upō this, though hee grew more bold, Acts 4. 13. yet Gal. 2. 11, 12. we finde him falling into the grudgings of the same di∣sease, which cast him in∣to another fitt, hee dissem∣bled, fearing them of the Circumcision: this was a spice of the former sinne, though not so grosse; and though the outward acts in these sinnes were di∣vers in their occasions, yet they were all acts and Page 340 buds of the same root of bitternesse; and may as well bee called sins of the same kind, as the commit∣ting differing acts of un∣cleannesse, are recko∣ned falling into the same sinne.
In the fourth place, if the Scriptures had beene utterly silent in examples, yet reason consonant to other principles, and grounds of Divinity, and of the Scriptures might perswade the same.
[Reas. 1] 1. If hee may after the most serious, and through repentance fall againe, in∣to as grievous a sinne of a∣nother kind, and returne: why not into the same againe? I confesse there Page 341 is some disparity, which might make him more a∣verse, and set him in some more remotenesse, from the same sinne he hath par∣ticularly repented of, then another; which shall bee considered in its place. Yet, the difference, can∣not bee supposed such, as should make the one pos∣sible, and not the other: all true repentance work∣ing the heart, to an abo∣minating every sinne, as well as any; and therefore if it were true, it was for that particular sinne, as sin; and then it would worke the like against all, and every sinne, according to the measure of the sinful∣nesse; and though it may, Page 342 and doth worke a more keen, and speciall hatred against that particular sin, a man hath beene most stung with, yet still, this is but so farre, as this ag∣gravation, (to fall into the same sinne againe,) may cause such a relapse, to bee more sinfull then another sinne: and so farre, and up∣on that ground he is, and may bee more set and strengthened against it, then against another sinne. But then, if the supposi∣tion fall upon another grosse sinne, never before committed, the sole and single act of which, other circumstances make as heynous, even as this rei∣terated act of a sinne for∣merly Page 343 committed, can be; then the one is equally as possible as the other. But however yet still the dif∣ference, is but in degrees; namely in that the heart is elongated a degree, or so, further from that sinne formerly committed, then any other: which will not therefore so vary the case, (as magis & minus doe not) that it should bee made impossible to fall in∣to the one, and not into the other.
[Reas. 2] 2. Reason: If he may fall into some grosse sin, which at first conversion, hee did above all other humble himselfe for; and yet, that same initiall re∣pentance, did not put him Page 344 into such an impossibility of falling into that sinne againe: Why then should a renewed act of repen∣tance for the same, or for some other reiterated sin, be supposed to have such vertue in it, as to make him shot-free for ever, from the same fiery dart againe?
[Reas. 3] Againe thirdly: Let it be considered, frō whence it should be, that a renew∣ed, or indeed any act of true repentance, though never so great, and in∣tense, should have such a transcendent, eternall, and invincible vertue in it, and priviledge annexed to it; for how is it, that repentance doth streng∣then Page 345 us against sinne, but by restoring the decayed frame of Grace, to a bet∣ter constitution and grea∣ter degree of strength then before; and by rai∣sing it, above a mans lusts, and above that lust, more then all other? as in Da∣vid, when hee prayed, Create in me a cleane heart, which, through his sinne of uncleannesse, was in an especiall manner, defiled with a pronenesse to that sin: But yet withall re∣member, that, that new frame of heart, & strength gotten by that renew∣ed repentance, and that augmentation, and in∣crease of hatred against, and abominating that Page 346 sinne wrought by it, is all but a creature; as grace, and every new degree of Grace is: and therefore for preserving us, hath in it selfe but the power, and force of a created habit, which may bee prevailed against, by the sin that is in us; and can no more, nay much lesse put us into a state of confirmation a∣gainst any particular sin, then the grace of the An∣gels could of it selfe con∣firme them in a state a∣gainst all sinne. And as for the impression of that bit∣ternesse, which in our re∣pentance for that sin fal∣len into, was made upon our hearts: that also can bee supposed to have but Page 347 the like force upon our spirits, that the impressi∣on of joy unspeakable and glorious, hath upon the heart in those heavenly raptures, which beleevers sometimes enjoy; yea and the latter of these will easily be supposed to be of the greater efficacie of the two; and both but creatures: Now those ra∣vishing joyes, are not yet such immortall and ever∣lastingly quickning cor∣dialls, that put such spirits into a man, as to preserve him from swounds, and faintings of spirit for e∣ver: and though, whilst they abide and are pre∣sent to the heart, they do then raise it above all Page 348 thing here below: yet when a man hath beene a while off from that Mount, and hath conver∣sed a while with things here againe below; then that lustre weares away, as the glory that shined in Moses face did: and af∣ter a while, the sense and present tast of those joyes weares out; and when that is gone, the bare re∣membrance of thē which is left, hath not in their absence, such an infalli∣ble, though a great effica∣cy to preserve his minde in an everlasting disrelish∣ing former delights; but that hee may, and often doth fall in love againe too too much with them: Page 349 although indeed whilst the present sense of them did abide upon the heart, it abstracted the minde from all things here be∣low. And hence a man is apt to fall from his first love, Rev. 2. and from that high esteeme of spirituall things; as the Galathians, Gal. 4. 15. Where is the blessednesse you spake of, sayes Saint Paul to them? therefore answerably the remembrance of the bit∣ternesse of any sin felt in our deepest humiliations, is much lesse able to pre∣serve a man, nor is the im∣pression and dint made so lasting, nor the scarres and wounds of consci∣ence continuing for ever Page 350 so fresh, as everlastingly to preserve and deterre us from falling into the same sinne againe. For both are but creatures, and at best but arguments drawne from sense, and expe∣rience within our selves, and have but an humane created power which is not alwayes efficacious; especially seeing GOD hath ordained us to live by saith, more then by sense, for faith is appointed by God to be our more con∣stant keeper, 1. Pet. 1. 5. We are kept through faith unto salvation, and by it more surely and more constant∣ly then by impressions of joy, or sorow which are made to sense: and yet Page 351 wee are not kept by it of it selfe, but by the power of God: so then, wee are kept by the power of God as the principall supporter, and guardian, through faith as the instrumentall, and by it rather then by sense or any other grace of sor∣row or repentance; be∣cause faith caries the heart out of it selfe, and com∣mits it selfe wholly into the hands of God as a faithfull Creator (who is the strength of Israel, to keepe a man from everie evill worke,) as not being able to secure it selfe a∣gainst any sin through the power of any fortificati∣on, or strength that any other grace or degree of Page 352 grace hath built, no not for one moment; and therefore is as dependant upon God after a fall, and a renewed repentance out of it, yea and more then before hee fell, and his owne wofull experience hath reason to make him so. The like instance to illustrate the truth of this wee may draw from the assurance of faith it selfe. For even the assurance of faith it selfe, (which is an act properly belonging to that grace, called there∣fore the assurance of faith, Heb. 10. 22.) which doth strengthen us as much a∣gainst doubting when it is joyned with joy un∣speakable and glorious, as Page 353 repentance can do against any other sinne: and whilest it is upon us, in the strength of it a belee∣ver is apt to thinke him∣selfe armed and strengthe∣ned, and so establisht, as that hee shall never que∣stion Gods love any more, or the pardon of his sinnes: and yet, expe∣rience shewes it, that the guilt of sinne prevailes sometimes againe, after this, and the same doubts arise, and prevaile as much as ever; neither will the remembrance of the for∣mer assurance be alwayes of force enough to resist them; for hee may come to question that assurance it selfe also; and so for∣get Page 354 that hee was purged from his old sinnes. And if the guilt of sin prevaile in the Conscience againe, a∣gainst such a renewed and setled act of faith, why may not the power of a lust prevaile in the mem∣bers, after a renewed act of repentance?
[Reas. 4] 4. If it be said, that a renewed act of thorow repentance doth keepe a man, not by any peculiar vertue in it selfe alone, but by the power of God concurrent with it: Then I demand to see the pro∣mise wherin God hath in∣fallibly obliged and inga∣ged his power, upon such a renewed act of repen∣tance, to preserve from Page 355 falling into that sinne of all other for ever; with∣out which no man in faith can affirme it; and with∣out which there is an it may bee, and a supposition of such a possibility, as sometime falleth out, and is reduced to existence. GOD indeed hath said, that if we fall, hee will put, under his hand, to breake that fall that it shall not ruine us; but not so to keep us in his hands, as we shall bee out of danger of falling againe. A renewed act of repentance is in∣deed an ordinance sancti∣fied to preserve a man; yet, but in the same maner that other ordinances are, as Prayer, and the word Page 356 preacht, and admonition, &c. with which GOD doth not alwayes so in∣fallibly cooperate, as effi∣caciously to worke al∣wayes that which they serve to.
5. If there were not such a possibility, as might and doth sometimes fall out; then every regene∣rate man, after such a re∣newed act of repentance, might secure himselfe against the committing that grosse act againe for ever; but so he can never doe against any particular act of sinne, but that sinne against the Holy Ghost. Saint Paul there∣fore exhorts, when a brother is fallen into a Page 357 sinne, to restore such an one with the spirit of meeke∣nesse; upon this consi∣deration, considering thy selfe, lest thou also bee temp∣ted; and hee layes the exhortation upon those who are most spirituall; Yee that are spirituall, re∣fore such an one, conside∣ring thy selfe lest thou also be tempted, Gal. 6. 1. so as hee speakes of such, as have their hearts raised up to the best frame, through the most deepe, and seri∣ous repentance: and now wee will suppose one, that hath formerly fallen him∣selfe into the same sinne, which another is fallen in∣to, but not yet restored, but himselfe is returned Page 358 by repentance out of it: (for indeed, such a spiritu∣all man, is of all other like to bee the meekest bone∣setter of a man fallen,) & even such doth Saint Paul exhort to consider, that themselves may for the time to come, be also or in like manner tempted, that is, fall as this man fell; and therefore so bee tempted as to fall into the same sinne againe, that he was fallen into. And if any man could bee secure from the like fall againe, hee had beene out of the reach of this exhortation to this duty upon that ground mentioned, as not capable of it. But the Holy Ghost hath else where, 1. Cor. 10. 13. Page 359 told us, that there is no tentation which is com∣mon to man, but is incident to befall any man, at any time; and therefore verse 12, exhorts him that stand∣eth, to take heed lest be fall: indeed, that temptation which is common to Devils with men, the sinne of fi∣nall despaire, and against the holy Ghost, &c. a rege∣nerate man may through the grace of Christ, secure himselfe against: but, all such sinnes as are common to man, from these or any of them, no man in any state, can without an ex∣traordinary revelation, se∣cure himselfe from the commission of.
Onely I adde these Page 360 Cautions concerning this case.
[Cautiō 1] 1. There are two sorts of corruptions. First, more grosse corruptions, which Saint Peter calls, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the de∣filements of the world, 2. Pet. 2. 20. they being the com∣mon mire, or kennell, wherein the uncleane swine of this world wal∣low, and which the Apo∣stle calls such workes of the flesh as are manifest, Gal. 5. 19. even to the light of Nature; such as are adul∣tery, fornication, drunken∣nesse, &c. and by those two expressions doe they di∣stinguish them from a sort of more spirituall and refined lusts. For second∣ly, Page 361 there are corruptions more spirituall, as pride, secret love of the world. Now, for those grosse corruptions, which are contrary, even to com∣mon honesty, and (to use Iobs phrase) are punisht by the Iudges, 31. Iob 11. which profane men wallow in, a godly man hath more strength against them, so as it is not so ordinary for him to bee entangled a∣gaine and againe with these; for where but mo∣rall principles are, these are abstained from, as we see in the Pharisee, I am no adulterer, &c. therefore, where grace is, much more. And some sinnes are more opposite to the spi∣rit Page 362 of holinesse, and lesse compatible with grace, as uncleanesse, of which Saint Paul sayes, God hath not called us to uncleanesse, but to holinesse, 1 Thes. 4. 7. it is in an especiall man∣ner, there opposed to holinesse: and such as these are works of the flesh which are manifest, even to Na∣ture, to civill men: and therefore when they are often fallen into, they doe manifest, that the heart is but flesh. And although the limits, how seldome or how often, cannot bee set concerning relapses into these, or any sinnes; yet, in an ordinary course it may be said, that few godly men fall into such Page 363 sinnes againe and againe: God keepes them from such in an ordinary pro∣vidence, that scandalls should not arise: they be∣ing sinnes which all the world takes notice of. But those other sinnes of rash anger, and love of the world, and spirituall pride, &c. these being lesse manifest, and sitting more close to our spirits, god∣ly men are more subject unto.
Yet secondly: we must againe distinguish.
1. There are the in∣ward lustings to those outward acts: now, though grace weakeneth the very lustings within, yet, takes them not wholly away: Page 364The spirit that is in us, (that is,) in us Saints, sayes S. Iames, lusteth to envy: and as to envy, so to all other sinnes.
And secondly, there are the outward grosse acts of such sins; and there in the weaknesse of sin in a rege∣nerate man, and strength of grace shewes it selfe most in preferving from them: for, as to will is present with me saies S. Paul to will what is good, yet how to performe it I am not able, Rom. 7. 18. So on the con∣trary, to lust the heart may bee ready, and lust may soone rise up in rebellion, but when it should come to the act, there is a weaknesse dis∣covered; Page 365 they come to the birth, and want strength often to bring forth; the contrary lusting and pre∣vailing of grace being then seene and discover∣ing it selfe: that it fareth with a regenerate man in this case often as with a man that is deadly woun∣ded, who riseth up to strike his enemy, and thinkes to runne him thorow, but sinks downe againe, medio conatu, when his sword is at his enemies breast, through a deficien∣cy of spirits; or as a man in a Palsie, or the Gout, who thinks hee is able to walke, til he comes to try, and then he finds a weak∣nesse which makes him Page 366 fall backe againe: Thus, even when the whole forces of lusts are mustred up, yet the weapons fall out of their hands. Hu∣mours in a healthfull con∣stitution, may stirre, and boake in the stomacke, when yet they come not up, nor prevaile unto vo∣miting. In that place a∣fore named, Gal. 5. the A∣postle seemes not to de∣ny but that in the most regenerate, lustings may arise, for the flesh (sayes he) lusteth against the spirit, ver. 17. but yet, as for outward acts, he tels them, verse 16. That if they walke in the spirit, that is, in the preva∣lency of the spirit, keep∣ing up a holy frame of Page 367 heart above the flesh, that then yee shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh: for that frame of heart so kept up, will hinder the outward fulfilling of the lust; which is never done till flesh and corruption is actually raised above the spirit, & gets more voyces to car∣ry it; till the spirit be un∣der hatches, and the flesh above, and so steeres the helme:otherwise the lust∣ing of the spirit against the flesh, will hinder the outward doing, and fulfil∣ling of a lust. For the rea∣son hee gives, verse 17. so as you cannot doe what you would, implyes, that not onely lustings, which arise without consent, may be Page 368 in such a man but further, much of the will may bee wonne to consent to them, to like them; when yet there is not strength enough to carry it on to the outward act; you cannot doe what you would. And what those works of the flesh are, which are mani∣fest workes of the flesh, and which Christians whilst they walke in the Spirit fulfill not, hee men∣tions and reckons up in the following words. And this is the more ordinary frame of a Christians heart; for verse 24. (sayes hee) they that are Christs have crucified the affections and lusts, that is, so farre, as not to fulfill them.
Page 369 3. He may more easily fall into a grosse sinne of another kinde, then into the same after speciall re∣pentance for it, and peace spoken in the pardon of it. Because true repen∣tance especially fortifies the heart against that sin which a man hath most repented him of; and sin∣cerity lies more in watch∣ing over that sinne then a∣ny other: so sayes David, Psal. 18. I was upright, and kept my selfe from mine ini∣quity, that especiall sinne which was eminently his sinne. A mans arme that hath beene broke, will, if well set, rather breake in some other place then where it was broke at the Page 370 first. Hence sometimes it falls out, that that which was a godly mans bosome sinne before conversion, continues not to be so af∣ter: but, another steps up in the roome of it, by rea∣son that hee then endea∣voureth to wash out that great staine, most; and spendeth the most of the Fullers sope, to purge himselfe from it; and so becomes, ever after, most watchfull over it; and sets in this his weakest place, the strongest garison, and a watch, to prevent the enemy. And, as an act of some presumptuous sinne, though it inclines the heart more to all sinne, then before, yet, especial∣ly, Page 371 to commit that kinde of sinne againe, rather then any other: so on the con∣trary, is it in a sound and solemne repentance, for some especiall sinne; and in the endeavouring, to mortifie some especiall member of the body of sinne: (to mortifie which, not only in the bulke and generall, but also particu∣larly and apart in the seve∣rall members of it, the Holy Ghost exhorts, Colos. 3. 5.) though thereby, the whole habit of the body of sinne is purged and weakned, yet that parti∣cular sinne which we aime especially to have morti∣fied, is through Gods bles∣sing more subdued then Page 372 any other. We see Idola∣try, was the sinne which the people of Israel relap∣sed into, againe and a∣gaine; yet when they were once throughly humbled by the Captivi∣ty for it, they never re∣turned to it, of all sinnes else, not to this day: so as it may bee said, as was foretold, haply in an o∣ther case, Ezek. 16. 43. Thou shalt not commit this lewdnesse of all thy abomi∣nations: Ionah, though he would haply never runne away from God againe, after his Gaole delivery out of the Whales belly; yet, immediately, after peace spoken to his heart hee falls into a sin of ano∣ther Page 373 kinde; into a passion of extreme anger and pee∣vishnesse, and quarrelling against God. And the rea∣son of this especiall ten∣dernesse to fall into the same sinne, is, because the Conscience lookes upon a relapse into that sinne, to bee more hainous, then into any other sinne of a∣nother kind; because of that aggravation of it, which thereby would staine and die it: and al∣though a sinne of another kind shewes the variety of corruption more; yet, this is more against the power and worke of re∣pentance it selfe, which was particularly exerci∣sed about that sinne: and Page 374 also breaks, and dissolveth all bands of a mans vows, covenants, prayers, &c. made against it in parti∣cular, and so is made more grievous. And this wee may see in Ezraes hum∣bling himselfe for that great sinne of the people, in joyning themselves in marriage with the people of the land, when hee did set himselfe to humble himselfe for them, toge∣ther with those that fea∣red God, Chap. 9. 4. What an hideous apprehension of the hainousnesse of that sinne, if they should again fall into it, did that dayes repentance raise his heart up unto? as appears v. 14. Should we againe breake thy Page 375 commandements, and joyn in affinity with them, wouldst thou not destroy us, till thou hadst consumed us, and till there was no escaping? Into which sinne, yet, the peo∣ple did againe fall, after they had repented of it, with a solemne confession and promise of amend∣ment, which is recorded, Chap. 10. v. 11, 12. &c. yet they returned to it againe the second time, as wee finde in Malachie, who li∣ved the last of the Pro∣phets, and after this pray∣er of Ezra. For Chap. 2. 12. the Prophet sayes, An abo∣mination is committed in Ie∣rusalem, for Iuda hath mar∣ryed the daughter of a strange god: and then fol∣lowes Page 376 the aggravation, v. 13. This ye have done again, that is, the second time, and in that respect are challenged to deale trea∣cherously; and that also in respect they had repented of it the first time, cove∣ring the Altar with teares, with weeping, and crying out, as Malachie there speakes: so as God regar∣deth not your offerings any more. And therefore also Psal. 78. 40. How oft did they (saith hee, as aggravating their sins) by murmuring provoke the Lord? and Numb. 14. 22. God reckons up, and mentions the times of their sinning, how often they had thus sinned, as an aggravation Page 377 of them, They have tempted me these ten times.
[Cautiō 4] 4. He may fall into the same sinne againe and a∣gaine, untill hee hath re∣covered himselfe, and his peace fully by a tho∣rough repentance, but yet seldome after. Lot committed incest two nights together; but the orifice of his lust, was not yet stopped by repen∣tance; the wound was not closed, and so bled againe afresh; but when it is hea∣led once, and the heart made perfect with God, and divorced from that sinne, and entred into Communion with God a∣gaine; then though it may fall out, yet a man more Page 378 hardly returnes. A wo∣man that is gone from her husband may play the whore a long while with him she ran away withall, till her husband fetches her again: but to run often away, after receiving a∣gain, is intolerable. That is not so ordinary in Gods childe.
[Cautiō 5] 5. Though wee can hardly set limits to say when, or when not, this shall fall out from the de∣grees of mens repentings: as that if they have such or such a degree of repen∣tance, then they fall no more: yet we may further consider a difference of their returnings to God, & repentings; and of Gods Page 379 speaking peace.
1. Of their Repentings: some are more imperfect, and but as it were thaw∣ings of the minde a little, by meanes of a little Sun∣shine of Gods love: some, are more thorow and deep; that recover a man, and put him into a sound and healthfull estate. As for example, a man in an ague hath well dayes, yet his fits returne, and it may be they leave him for a month or so; and yet they take him againe, as at Spring and Autumne; which is because all this while his body is not tho∣rowly recovered to a state of health: so is it with a mans heart in respect of Page 380 his lusts; though he may have many well dayes, wherein hee may eate his meate, and receive sweet∣nesse in the word, and or∣dinances: yet at times his distempers and aguish fits returne, he being aguish still; but in the end, after the peace of God hath more thoroughly establi∣shed his heart, he attaines to some setled constant victory over it; and when it doth not prevaile to victory, such aguish fits end usually in consump∣tions, in which long agues often end: as in Tem∣poraries, in whom, sinne overcomming GODS striving with them, it eates all good beginnings Page 381 out; but if they belong to GOD, then usually that aguish distemper, is in the end by a more tho∣rough repentance, so hea∣led, as that they attaine to more victory, and se∣curity against it then any other sinne; that as in those other kind of ten∣tations, it often falls out, that, that which a man doubted of most, hee comes in the end to bee most assured of, and to doubt no more; so also here, a man becomes most freed from that sinne, hee was long exercised with of all other. So also
2. For Gods dealings with his, there is much difference therein to bee Page 382 found: there are some kinds of speaking peace by God, and meltings of the heart of his people, which, yet are not of that force as to overcome, but wherein God doth but (as it were) strive with them; which strivings doe ever and anon worke their hearts to a repentance, and that true, and serious: which yet is not so deepe, and thorough, nor so healing the heart at the bottome, as it should. For GOD sometimes useth more imperfect kinde of stri∣vings, even with his own children, about some par∣ticular sinne they are to leave, which doe not so fully, at first prevaile, and Page 383 overcome in them; which God doth, to let them see the running issue of their natures, how grace would runne out at it,* (as the A∣postle speakes) and over∣come grace in them, if hee should let it alone: and so, lets out upon his child after many yeeres some lust, which had been long downe, which puts him to it exceedingly, so that he is in hazzard to bee un∣done, and is put into feares of it; and yet God visiteth his spirit by fits, and per intervalla at times strives with him; and though hee falls, yet hee puts under his hand, and gives him well dayes, and some comfortable visita∣tions; Page 384 yet such as are not deep enough to worke him fully off from it. For, as God strives with wic∣ked men, so he sometimes strives with his own also; which may seeme to bee the true meaning of that speech, Gen. 6. where, ha∣ving mentioned the sinne of his owne children, ver. 2. That the Sonnes of God tooke to them wives of that wicked seed of Cain, hee sayes, My Spi∣rit shall not alwayes strive with man, for that [he also] is but flesh: Hee meanes not this, of all mankinde, for he sayes, [hee also] is but flesh: now, with what other creatures, doth hee joyne them in this com∣parison, Page 385 but with others of the sonnes of men? so as the meaning is, I see my Children, that they also are corrupt, and degene∣rate as well as the rest of mankinde, and my Spirit hath striven with them. In which striving, GOD lets them see, how if hee did not in the end, shew foorth his free love to the full, in the rescuing of them, and healing their backsliding, they would bee undone: so as, in the end, through his grace which is sufficient, they obtaine the greatest con∣quest, over that lust of any other; when the heart is once thoroughly awake∣ned, and setled in a tho∣row Page 386 peace. And as, those doubts they were most troubled with once, (which though they had at times some light a∣gainst, yet by fits did still arise) are yet in the end, so overcome, as they a∣rise no more, but they en¦joy the greatest freedome from them: So is it often herein. And these strivings to not overcomming, I re∣semble to the thawings of the Ice, in a great frost, as when in the day time, the Sunne shines, and in the Sunshine it thaweth a lit∣tle: but yet, so as at night, or in the shade it freezeth; when sometimes, the wea∣ther also begins to change for a night, and yet falls a Page 387 freeing againe: so here, there is not such a tho∣row shedding abroad the love of God in the heart, as should make a thorow generall thaw, to the pur∣pose as wee say; and so, when the heat of that is withdrawen, it freezeth againe: but in the end there comes a more tho∣row and generall thaw, and change that carries all away, melts the heart, and so alters the temper and constitution of the wea∣ther, (as I may so speake) as it freezeth no more. And such a thawing of his heart had David, when Nathan came to him, and not afore; though it may bee hee had those lesser Page 388 relentings often before.
But let those that are in such a case, take heed they bee not hardened thorow the deceitfulnesse of sinne and of all the times, that passe over you, in your lives, these are the most clima∣ctiericall, and criticall, and most dangerous. For God will not alwayes strive, but if thou beest his childe, if such thawings will not do it, hee will use some great afflictions, in the end to divorce the heart, and thy sin; his love will one way or other, overcome thee, and in the end prevaile. As when Israel went on stubbornely in the way of his heart, (sayes God) I have seene his wayes and will heale Page 389 him and guide him, Esay 57. & the Lord may so heale thee, as those lusts of all other shall not in that grosse maner, breake forth any more. And in those times, when God dealeth thus with him, a man will after say, that in such pas∣sages of his life, hee had more free love spent on him, then in all his life time, before or after: and when he is freed and hea∣led, he will be more thank∣full, and fearefull then e∣ver before, or then other∣wise he would have been; and so get ground by his stumblings. If any of you, being now in such a con∣flict as this, in such a vicis∣situde and chance of war: Page 390 If yet thou findest a con∣stant fight against thy sin; and that those breakings, and meltings of thy heart by God, do winne ground of it; and that the com∣forts, and hope, which at times are vouchsafed, doe strengthen, & stablish thy heart in well doing: as 2. Thess. 2. ult; and makes thee more fearefull, every time thou risest, then e∣ver; so as to looke upon another fit if it should come, (which knowing the deceitfulnesse of the heart, thou fearest,) as the fit of some great sick∣nesse, lest it should returne againe: esteeming it as the greatest crosse that can befall thee; which Page 391 thou wouldest buy off with thy blood; and blee∣dest most of all to thinke, that thou hast so uncon∣stant a heart, which as it hath abused Gods love formerly, so thou fearest, will doe so againe; if thus thou go on to fight it out, the love of God will in the end overcome in thee; but if thou findest that those encouragements frō God, do through thy cor∣ruption, (which turnes Gods grace into wanton∣nesse) nourish thy lusts, and make thee lesse feare∣full against the next time; and thy heart harder, and secure, and to slight sinne more, because thou hast beene so oft visited from Page 392 on high, and pardoned: thy case is dangerous, and may prove desperate.
6. Though he may re∣turne, yet not presently: Luke 5. last. Hee that hath tasted old wine, doth not straightway drinke, and de∣sire new: not whilest the love of God, and the tast, and relish of it is fresh in his mouth: when the im∣pression is worne out in∣deed, and begins to bee forgotten, then haply he may returne.
[Vse.] To conclude with the use of this point; If it be folly to runne into the same sinne, though we re∣pent of it afterwards: then, what folly is it in them that utterly fall a∣way? Page 393 and after they have beene enlightned, and tasted of the good word of God, then fall againe to the pleasures of sinne and never repent of them? as many doe; that come, and try a little, what is in religion, and the wayes of God, and then returne a∣gaine to their vomits, and never returne to piety a∣gaine. Foolish soules, who hath bewitched you? are yee so foolish, that having begun in the spirit, yee end in the flesh? as Gal. 3. 3. Folly indeed: to spend the harvest of your time, in seeking God, and then to leave him, when you are about to take leave of the pleasures of sinne. Alas Page 394 poore soules, whither will yee goe? doe you ever thinke to have such a God againe? Thou hast the words of eternall life, said the Disciples to Christ: and as Saul said to his servants, to keep them from falling away unto David; Can the sonne of Iesse give you vineyards, and make you Captaines of thousands? 1. Sam. 22. 7: So, can the world give you that peace, that I can give you, may Christ say to you; yea and heaven be∣sides hereafter? Is the de∣vil, with all the wages of sinne, you post after, a∣ble to make you amends? you thereby dishonour God in returning to sinne,Page 395 and bring an evill report upon the good land; and discredit your Master, in changing your service; but withall you befoole your selves most: you returne to folly. For even that, which you thinke to gaine, the worlds good word and opinion by, even that you lose: for, though they make aspoile of you, and triumph in such, and glory in their flesh a while: yet they never in∣wardly think well of such a one; nor truely love him. A back-slider, is like luke-warme water, having been once heated, which good men spue out, and evill men regard not; for what use, can indeed bee Page 396 made of it? Like salt that hath lost its savour it is good for nothing, but the dunghill. Like one that hath beene maried, but lives divorced; she is un∣done for her mariage e∣ver after. Such is the con∣dition of those that fall a∣way and repent not: You who have but turned unto folly and are not grown to a despising and despiting Gods wayes, Returne, Oh Shulamite, returne. And you that have peace and commu∣nion with God, take heed you do not lose him, you will never have such a God againe.