To undeceive Men that think, Though they live Wickedly, yet they shall dye Happily. And how it comes to pass that men are so prone to Deceive themselves.
1 COR. 6. 11.
THE first words of the Text cause us to look back to the Verses before it. The Apostle in the beginning of the Chap∣ter, reproveth a sinfull and unwarrantable practice a∣mong the Corinthians of going to Law one with another. Not that it is absolutely a sinne to demand our right before a Magistrate; as the Anabaptists would inset from hence; for then the Apostle would not have permitted them to use such judicial decisions among themselvs, to which he directs them; but the grounds of this prohibition are, partly because they impleaded one another before Heathen Magistrates; and so Christianity was made a reproach; partly they wanted a preparation of mind to suffer wrong, rather than sinfully con∣test in inferior matters; partly because they did wrong, and were full of injurious carriages, and that to their brethren: from which wickednesse he deterreth them by that thireatning; Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdome of heaven? and to confirm this the more, he layeth down a more generall propo∣sition, enumerating severall kinds of sinnes; and least they should think their Chri∣stian Page 364 faith would save them, though they had wicked lives, he adviseth them, not to erre, or, be not deceived, either by false Teachers, broaching such Doctrines, or by their own corrupt hearts, suggesting such false delusions: He doth also dehort them from such wickednesse, because that was their course of life formerly, while uncon∣verted, but now they are washed and sanctified. Before I come to the main scope I intend out of these words, (which is to explain the nature of converting grace, under the notion of Washing and Sanctifying,) let me consider that Phrase, verse 9. Be not deceived, and the beginning of this verse 11. And such were some of you. For the former, although it was as plain as the Sun-shine at Noon-day, that all who live in grosse sins should be damned, yet there were Corinthians who deceived their own souls, thinking they might be saved, although they lived in all prophane∣nesse. Therefore to prevent this the Apostle saith, Be not deceived. C〈…〉 useth such a Preface, Luke 21. 8. and Paul, Gal. 6. 7. James also 1. 16. when they are to speak that thing, which unknown, or unobserved, would bring a man much evill; and truely there cannot be a greater cause to prefix such an Antidote than in this matter of the Text: For how notoriously universall is this contagious and infecti∣ous Principle, that the profession of the truth of Christ, and a generall formall in∣vocation upon his Name will bring a man to heaven, though his life be nothing but a preparation for hell. Learned men say, that Simon Magus taught this Doctrine, That a bare profession of faith, without a reformation of mens lives, is enough to salvation: whether this be mens Doctrine, or opinion, I know not; to be sure, its too much their practice; and it may justly be thought, as Austin did, that one main reason, why James doth so much prefer good works, and a godly life, informing that faith alone without these did not justifie was, because some corrupted and perverted these places in Pauls Epistles, where he sets up faith as the onely instru∣ment of justification.
Obs. That men are very prone generally to deceive themselves in this, that though*they live wickedly, yet they shall dye happily, and be saved gloriously. Though they have lived enemies and adversaries to God, yet they think to have the Kingdome of glory, as children and heirs of God. O monstrous folly and madnesse to ima∣gine such things! But what is more frequently acted in the whole world than this? Is not prophanenesse and impiety as common among us as dirt in the high-way, or weeds in Summer; yet which one of these men, that live in such wayes, doth not promise himself heaven? So that if we could remove this pillar, that so many lean upon, I see no obstruction, or impediment in their way to salvation. If our hearers were driven out of this refuge, and were convinced; this is but a delusi∣on, and it will doe them no good, how many would come to us as they did to John Baptist, What shall we doe to be saved?
For the further pressing of this point, it is worth the consideration What are those causes that make men of great impieties thus foolishly perswaded; and first, Non-attendance to the Scripture; not observing the threatnings and curses so peremptorily delivered there against all ungodliness. Men judge of their salvation, * and have hopes according to the principles of the world, and humane perswasi∣ons: They think God like themselves, as the Psalmist saith, Psal. 50. They do not go to be informed out of the Word, how it will be with them at the latter end. Oh know then, though thy own heart, and though all the men in the world should ac∣quit thee, yet that is nothing, as long as the Word bindeth thee fast in those chains of condemnation. Thou therefore that livest in all grosse prophanenesse, promi∣sing thy self heaven and happinesse, look into the Scripture and tremble, take the Bible and read, see if that doe not make it as impossible for thee a prophane man, abiding so without Repentance and Reformation, to be saved, as it is for fire to be without heat, or the Sun without light: Who would think, that thou who rea∣dest and hearest so much every day, should be thus deceived? Know ye not, saith the Apostle, that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdome of heaven? Know ye not! Is there any such a Babe, or an Infant in Christianity that is not acquainted Page 365 with this? Come then and hear the Conclusion of all, let the Scripture at last put the period to thy vain hopes: unlesse thou hast a new Bible, or new Scriptures, there can be no incouragement; for this which we read to you, & out of which we preach to you every day, makes it one main busines thereof to perswade the wicked it shall goe ill with him. Oh then say, Here is no hope for me such a sinner, here is no incouragement till I become another man. They are the bewitchings, and deceitfulnesse of my own ignorant corrupt heart, that telleth me of other things.
Secondly, Therefore are many deceived in this plain point; because though they*acknowledge damnation in the general to sinners, yet they never make particular appli∣cation to themselves; they doe not say, This threatning, this curse belongs to me. God gave the Commandements in the singular number, Thou shalt do no Murther, Thou shalt not commit Adultery; to teach every man to reflect upon himself, and say, Thou dost thus; and thou dost thus. The Prophet complaineth, No wicked*man said, What have I done? Jer. 8. 6. Hence are those commands, To com∣mune with our own hearts, and be still, To search and try our wayes. It would make a man wonder, and say, How can this be? A man will acknowledge a Drunkard cannot inherit the Kingdome of heaven, and yet that man will be drunk; and so of all other sins. Now how came the general and the particular to be thus oppo∣sites? meerly because men came not to particular conviction; they doe not make home-application; they say not, Is not this I Lord? Even godly men have been senselesse of grievous sinnes, as David of Murder and Adultery, till Nathan saith, Thou art the man. Oh let thy Conscience take Nathans language, and say, Thou art the man. The Scripture speaks to me, the Minister preacheth to me, as if there were no other sinne in the world: But this undoeth you, you goe on in foul and ungodly ways, not so much as thinking what you are, not minding you are such and such a sinner. To reflect upon your own selvs is a peculiar effect of reason, beasts can∣not do it; and the more thou art sensible this way, the more reason thou hast in thee. Be not then as the Swine that never reflects upon her self; thinking I am a Swine, I love to wallow in the Mire, I am no Sheep. As that Beast can never have such thoughts, so be not thou as brutish, never to consider, How plain is my wickednesse? it cannot be hid from my eyes, I love not, or delight not in that which is good.
Thirdly, Therefore are men deceived, because they represent Gods mercy and grace in such an universal and unlimited way, that they bound it not to faith and repentance,*and a godly life. God indeed is an Ocean of mercy, an inexhausted Fountain of all grace and goodnesse. When we have thought the highest we can, yet stil there is more mercy in him than we can comprehend: but to whom is all this? who may plead this, and claim this in prayer? Even the humble, the broken and con∣trite heart. David may well cry out, Have mercy according to the multitude of mer∣cies, Psal. 51. 1. because his heart is wounded, and bones are broken through Gods displeasure at sinne. If therefore thou wilt comfort thy self with Gods mercy, and with his grace, be such a qualified Subject as that requireth, lye like that man of Jericho, not onely half dead, but half damned in thy own sense, and then the good Samaritane will poure Oyl into thy wounds. Doth God any where proclaim pardon and forgiveness to the unhumbled sinner? Doth Christ say, Come to me ye jolly and merry sinners, who never felt sinne a burden. No, but all the mercy he speaks, it is to those, who being burdened with sinne, desire nothing more than to throw away that load. Do not then as the Bee is sometimes drowned in Honey, so thou drown thy self in the sweet apprehensions of Gods mercies, with∣out Gods wayes. As a Beast might not touch the Mountain, so neither may a foul wretched sinner come near the promise to lay hold on it. Why might not the Divels and damned in hell comfort themselves with this, That God is merciful, he is full of pity, and therefore will not let us lye alwayes roaring in these eternall flames? Oh you would say, this would be a vain mad thing, because God hath de∣creed Page 366 otherwise, And is it not thus also in our case? God is mercifull, but he hath decreed otherwise, then that thou who lovest and livest in sinnes, shouldst ever be refreshed with this mercy. The damned in hell may have it as soon as thou wilfully abiding in thy wickednesse; onely God may give thee Repentance, and so fit thee for mercy, which he will not doe for Divels.
Fourthly, That wherein they wilfully deceive themselves, is also about Christ, the Mediator and Saviour. This they build upon; Christ came to save sinners, he is a * Mediator to make up our peace. Now they make no question, but this being true, they are sure to be saved: Thus they build upon a good foundation, hay and stub∣ble; for Christ is not a Saviour to any, but those who receive him also as a Lord and a King, and so proffer subjection to all his lawes: He is not onely a Jesus, a Saviour, but he is also a Lord and a King, and he never communicates his benefits, where he doth not bestow his graces. It's true he came to save sinners, he dyed for this end, but he also dyed to ransome us from our lusts, and to make us a peo∣ple zealous of good works, Tit. 2. 14. The grace of God (which is that of the Go∣spel in Christ) hath appeared, teaching us to deny all ungodlinesse: So then as Christs body was not laid any where but in a new Sepulcher, whereno man else lay; so Christ the Mediator is not received into every mans heart, but where no lust, or other grosse sinne is suffered to abide: If Christ be a Saviour to thee from hell hereafter, he is also a Saviour from present lusts and transgressions; and indeed this is the greatest salvation of all, by how much the evill of sinne is above the e∣vill of the greatest punishment. Therefore the truly godly, and such as indeed have propriety in Christ, they look upon this as the principall and chief end of our redemption by Christ, to have our active evils subdued, rather than our passive. They thank God for sending Christ into the world, to take away proud hearts, earthly hearts, disobedient lives. In this they rejoyce, that there is vertue and effi∣cacy in Christs death, to kill those burdensome lusts and sinnes which they lye un∣der. Know therefore, that if Christ purpose to doe you any good hereafter, he will do some to thee in this life. It's as great a mercy, and thou needest it as much, that he should deliver thee from those present evill wayes thou walkest in, as if thou wert in hell flames to be saved from them: And never did Dives more impor∣tunately desire a drop of Water in Hell to cool his scorched Tongue, than thou oughtest for the present to desire the bloud of Christ, and the Spirit of God, which is like Water, to extinguish that immoderate thirst and desire after sinne.
Fifthly, Men doe so easily deceive themselves, because they put too much worth and efficacy in the Sacraments, and externall profession of the true Religion. In being a * Protestant, in participation of the Sacraments, they think there is so much piety and Religion, that though their lives be foul and noysome, yet they hope for sal∣vation. This was a great delusion of old in the Jewes; what controversies had the Prophets, and expostulations with them in this matter! The Jewes they pretended their new Moons, their Sabbaths, their Sacrifices, and would not be driven from this refuge: But say the Prophets, W•sh ye, make ye clean, Isaiah 1. execute judge∣ment and justice, let every wicked man forsake his evill way. Otherwise the Prophet declareth, that God hatteh their solemn Assemblies. The Apostle James would not have used so many Arguments to prove that faith without the godly effects of it could not justifie, if so be men had not been too prone to suck in this Principle; and as I told you not long since, This Opinion was so generally and universally re∣ceived (viz. That if a man did believe Orthodoxly, though he lived wickedly) in Austins time, That he did with fear and modesty oppose it. But observe our Sa∣viours ground of his refusall of all those who enjoy many priviledges, yet live ungodly; Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, Mat. 7. Because they were wor∣kers of iniquity, therefore God rejects them. Hence the Scripture complains of those, who have the form and professions of the faith of Christ, but in works they deny him, Tit. 1. 16. Thou abhorrest the Socinian and other Hereticks, because by Page 367 their opinions they deny Christ to be God; but thou by thy ungodly actions dost also deny his God-head. Thou abhorrest the Atheist, who saith, There is no God: yet all the wickednesse thou committest doth really say, There is no God: Therefore what doe we regard thy words, and thy Sacraments, or thy profession, when we see thy deeds? Make thy life clean, wash thy foul conversation, and then make thy re∣ligious approaches to God. If I regard iniquity in my heart (saith David) the Lord will not hear my prayer. The cry of thy sinnes will be above the cry of thy prayers; know then, as every tree is tryed by its fruit, so thy actions discern what thou art. Make never so many zealous prayers, come never so frequently to Church, yet if in the week day God findes Oathes, Drunkennesse, Prophanenesse in thy life; this is a reall denying of him.
Sixtly, Therefore they delude themselves in this weighty businesse, because they under∣stand*not the nature of faith and trusting in God. Come unto the vilest of men, when deaths stroak is upon them, when the fear of that surrounds them, even then though full of their sinnes, yet will say, They trust in Christ Jesus, they believe in him. But oh thou ignorant man; what is it to believe, and to trust in him? Is it not out of the sense of the bitterness of sin, and a deliberate forsaking of it, obedientially re∣signing up our selves to Christs commands, and therewith relying on Christ the Me∣diator, is not this to believe? Doth not the same faith, which with one hand recei∣veth Christ, with another purifie the soul, and carry it out to all the fruits of righ∣teousness: presumption indeed that is easie; to lay hold upon Christ for pardon, with an hand ful of wickedness this is ordinary: but to trust in him according to Scripture direction, and that order which God hath inviolably prescribed men, that is rare. Faith therefore is the gift of God, and it is wrought by his Spirit in us; we can no more close with Christ, in a true Scripture-manner, as a Saviour, or the Promises revealed by God, than we can joyn with him as a Law-giver, or obey his Precepts. If therefore thou understoodst the Nature of trusting in God, and what it is to believe, thou wouldst not so easily perswade thy self thou dost trust in him, when thy Conscience tells thee of thy manifold sinnes. Hence the godly have found it so difficult to believe: they have been almost over-whelmed with doubts and fears; though Christ hath held out the Scepter of grace to them, yet they have even fain∣ted through fear and shame, when they came into his presence. How frequently doth David call upon his soul, to trust in God, and w•it on him? Psal. 42. 5. Where∣as this carnal presumption findes no opposition at all. Consider of all these grounds which doe so often delude thee, and they may doe thee infinite good.
Use of Admonition, To call your selves to a strict account; consider how your*Christian faith and unchristian practises can stand together, how your Religion and your conversation can accord: The one is Honey, the other is Gall, the one is Light, the other is Darknesse. How is it possible you should fall into such palpable and ab∣surd contradictions. O deceive not your selves any longer, think not it will be well as long as those sins are unrepented, and unreformed. Be not deceived, saith the A∣postle to all such, when you have to doe with men; if they professe much kindnesse and observance of you, yet in all their actions they work you all the despight and mischief they can. Doe ye not call them Hypocrites, and say, Quid verba? What are words; when I see your deeds to the contrary? Doth not God from heaven say the same things to you; To what purpose is your hearing, and praying, your pro∣fession of love to me, when all your deeds savor of hatred and rebellion against me? Now to quicken thee against this self delusion and self destruction, con∣sider;
First, That God will not be mocked; for so saith the Apostle, Be not deceived, God will not be mocked, Gal. 6. 7. All thy Religion, all thy holy duties, without a sancti∣fication of thy life, is but a meer mockery of God; for what can be a greater mockery than this, to cry out of thy sinnes here, and to commit them when thou comest home? To say here, Lord set thy will be done, even as Angels in heaven do it, and then at home to obey it no more than Devils in Hell, Oh consider, this is Page 368 mocking of God, and of this sinne thou hast been guilty many years. Was not that plain mockery of Christ, when they called him King in scorn, and yet at the same time crucified him. No lesse is it here, when thou drawest nigh to God, as if thou worshippedst him, as if thou wouldst love and obey him, and afterwards live to his great dishonour.
Secondly, Consider, that what a man doth in his actions, is in some sense a more re∣all demonstration of a man then any words or professions. He is the greatest and most reall enemy to God, whose life is so, let his outward profession be what it can be. Therefore God at the great day of judgement will proceed according to the works of men. The Lord heretofore complained of those that drawed nigh to him with their lips, Isa. 29. 13. but their hearts were far from him; and that did appear by their lives. Dost thou think the words of prayer will help thee, when the acti∣ons of sinne are ready to damn thee? Wherein can you more really shew what you are, than by your constant life and conversation? O more blind than Moles or Bats, that see not themselves for the present the fire-brands of Hell. What can hide this from thy Conscience? Is it not too plain, that thy life is the fruit, thy duties are but leaves and blossoms. Doth not the Husbandman cut down that tree for burning which beareth not fruit, though many leaves.
Thirdly, As it is mockery of God, so its plain, grosse, and palpable hypocrisie. Pro∣phane men are apt to censure those who live more strictly, and accurately than themselves as Hypocrites, not considering in the mean while, that heaven and earth cannot but take notice of their Hypocrisie: for what is more palpable than this, in thy words and Christian Religion to acknowledge Christ a Lord and King, but in all thy actions to rebell against him: On the Sabbath day to come and outward∣ly to be wail thy sins; and the very next day, or hour, to commit those very sinnes again. How can you so soon forget what you were about? How is it that you so quickly crosse your prayers and holy duties? May not Heathens and Pagans deride you, when they see your ungodly lives? May not they say, Loe, there is a Christian who worshippeth Christ, that commands him not to swear, but he will doe it all the day long? loe, there is a Christian, whom Christ commands, that their hearts should not be over-charged with Drunkennesse and the cares of this world, but they will do the clean contrary: What do you think God hath forgot∣ten your Religious approaches and ingagements, because you have forgotten them?
Fourthly, Remember thou canst not alwayes live in this fools paradise. Thou canst not alwayes be in this fond dream of happinesse and felicity; but God at last will bring thee to the touch-stone, and thy reward shall be according as thou art. Thus he that doth wickedly may for a while account himself happy; yet this will quickly melt, when death comes, when the day of judgement comes, then it will be fully discovered, that those sinnes and heaven can no more stand together, than light and darknesse. Then God will tell you, Depart you workers of iniquity; there is a great gulf between mercy and you. Oh then reflect upon thy self and say, Why doe I all this? I live thus against Gods Law, and yet please my self with thoughts of peace and happinesse, how can it be? you must have another way to heaven, then ever the Bible hath yet discovered.
Use a.d of Instruction, That nothing in all the Christian Religion, if duely considered, doth at all incourage to any sinne. If any thing might imbolden a man, it might be thought the mercy and goodnesse of God, the freenesse and fulnesse of Grace: but as for the former, There is forgivenesse with thee, that thou maist be feared, saith the Psalmist, Psal. 130. 4. and as for the latter, with what holy indig∣nation doth the Apostle argue against those that from the freenesse of grace, would argue a liberty to sinne, as if the plenty of the one would incourage to multiply the other, Rom. 6. 1. If then every thing in the Bible, if every thing in the true Christian Religion, be thus an antidote against sinne, a preservative from it, How incurably wicked must they needs be, that by those holy motives are yet not made Page 369 holy: From which principle in Religion, art thou emboldened to thy lusts and sins? from what duty or Ordinance doest thou gather comfort in thy wicked∣ness? If all these things are hand-writings against thy sins, why doest thou not tremble to commit them?