And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the even-tide.
Secondly, I AM now to propose to you another Object of Meditation, which is the sinfulness of Sin, an Argument very necessary and practical. It is necessary in several respects. Partly to humble us; we have low thoughts of Sin, and therefore we are but slight in the Matter of Humiliation. Until we understand the Evil of Sin sufficiently, we do not think it worthy of Tear a or one hearty sigh; but when the Understanding is once ope∣ned, the Heart is deeply affected, Psalm 6.6. I am weary with my groaning, all the night make I my bed to swim, I water my couch with my tears. VVe see such filthi∣ness in Sin, as cannot be washed away without a Deluge of Sorrow. And it is necessary partly to awaken us to a greater Care and Conscience, who would ad∣venture upon a Sin, that doth but know, and seriously consider what it is? Gen. 39.9. How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? That will be the Issue of such a Consideration. The Child will thrust his Fingers into the Fire, that doth not know the pain of being scalded; or play with a snappish Cur, that hath not been bitten. Men are the more bold in adventuring upon Sin, because they do not know the danger. And it is necessary partly to urge us to come to Christ; none look to the Brazen Serpent but those that are stung; so none regard Salvation, but those that have been stung with some re∣morse in their Consciences for the great Evil of Sin; when the poor Soul feels the weight and burden of Sin, then it will come to Christ. And it is necessary partly that we may more loath our selves, when we come into the presence of God. Gracious Men are most self-abhorring; Elijah covered himself with a Man∣tle, Isaiah said, Isa. 6.5. Wo is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips. Peter had such a Sense of his Sins, that he saies▪ •uke 5.8. Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! Though there was something of Excess and Sin in these Dispositions, that is, so far as they do exclude the Encouragements of the Gospel, but yet there is somewhat worthy of Imitation, so far as they had a deep sense of their own unworthyness.
It is a necessary Argument you see, and of much Practical use, but very large, and will yield great plenty of Thoughts, it will be harder to know what we should omit in the Consideration of it, than what we should pitch upon. I shall pursue it in this Method.
- 1. I shall give you some general Rules and Observations concerning Medi∣tating on the sinfulness of Sin.
- 2. VVhat Arguments you should propound to your Souls to work your Hearts to a sense of it.
1. For the general Observations and Rules concerning the sinfulness of Sin.
1. None can know the utmost Evil of Sin perfectly but God. There is a kind of Infiniteness in Sin, because it is committed against an Infinite Object, and there∣fore a finite and limited Understanding cannot conceive of the Evil of it. The greatness of Sin is known by the Party offended, and the Party satisfying, both are Infinite, 1 Iohn 3.20. If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, Page 644 and knoweth ull things. As if he had said, your Heart doth not suggest half the Evil that there is in Sin, for the Infinite God knows there is a great deal more Evil in it than you can conceive. VVhat is our Light to the Eye of God? VVe are the guilty Parties, and so are apt to be partial in our own cause, but God is the Party offended, and therefore he can best judge of the measure of the Offence. Again, Gods whole Nature setteth him against it, we have but a drop of Indignation against Sin, God hath an Ocean; he is most good, and therefore most hateth what is Evil. The truth is, there is nothing properly an Object of Divine Hatred but Sin, it is wholly and only carryed out against it, and therefore he seeth more Evil in it than any Creature possibly can.
2. Mans Knowledge of Sin is more clear at sometimes than at others. VVhen Conscience is opened there is not a greater Load and Burden. David could say, Psalm 40.12. Innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine Iniquities have ta∣ken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up, they are more than the hairs of my head, therefore my heart faileth me. It is a Rule in Philosophy, Elementa non gra∣vitant in suis locis. Elements are not heavy in their proper place; a Fish in the VVater feeleth no weight, though it would break the back of a Man, if that weight of VVater lay upon him: So VVicked Men are in their Element, when they are in the heat of their sinful pursuit, here they sport and play, and feel not the burden of Sin. Sometimes when Men come to dye, Conscience is touched, and then they cry out of the burden of Sin, 1 Cor. 15.56. The sting of death is sin, then their Hearts are filled with a sad despair, this makes Death to be dreadful and terrible to the Soul, and keeps the Soul in Bondage, Heb. 2.15. Through fear of death they were all their life-time subject to bondage. But certainly it shall be at the day of Judgment, then we shall see the folly of it; Conscience shall then be extended and enlarged, and the Sinner shall remember the wickedness of his past life. You will then find the Devil that is now a Tempter, will prove an Accuser: Oh what kind of Apprehensions will you have, when the Devil shall come forth and plead, Lord! Adjudge this Person to me, I never dyed for him, I never shed my Blood for him, I could promise him no Heaven and Glory, yet he easily hearkened to my Temptations; Tuus esse noluit per gratiam, sit meus per culpam; ostende tales tuos munerarios, O Christe! He would not be thine for all the Grace and Kindness thou didst show him, and all the Rewards thou didst propound and pro∣mise to him. Then all disguises will be laid aside. A little consideration and search, and Prayer for Conviction for the present would help us to the same apprehensions. If Conscience should be now extended as it will be then, we should soon be weary of our Lives. At least do not rest in your own Valuation and Account, for then the Secrets of all Hearts shall be opened.
3. The less Sin appeareth, many times it is the greater Sins are not to be mea∣sured by the smalness of the matter of them, but by the offence done to God. The first Sin to a vulgar and common apprehension was but the eating of an Apple, it seemed a small matter if we did not consider the offence against God. It is an aggravation mentioned by the Prophet, Amos 2.6. They sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; that is, upon so small an occasion, or for such a contemptible matter they would oppress the poor. The lesser the oc∣casion and temptation is, the greater the Impudence, the Imprudence and the Unkindness, the greater the Impudence that they will dare God to his face for a trifle; the greater is the Imprudence, that we will hazard our Souls for a mean thing; the greater is the unkindness that we will stand with God for a little. Sins that are accounted small in the matter of them, have been overtaken with the sad Revenges of God; he that denyed a crum could not re∣ceive a drop of Water to cool his Tongue. The contempt of God is the greater, when we break with God for a small matter, and transgress his Commandments upon every light occasion. In short, sin is in no case small, but only in regard of Gods Mercy and Christs Merits.
4. None are exempted from bewailing the evil of Sin. Though the Children of God shall never feel it, nor have the dregs of God's displeasure wrung out to them for it, yet they must bewail the evil that there is in Sin. The Death and Merit of Christ doth not change the Nature of Sin, nor put less evil into it, why should we look upon it with a different eye after Conversion than we did before? Page 645 Sin is still damning in its own Merit and Nature, and it is still the violation of an Holy Righteous Law, and an affront to the Holy God, and an inconvenience to the precious Soul. Sin is the same as it was before, though the Person be not the same. Nay the Children of God are not altogether exempted from the effects of Sin neither, it is a Disease, though not a Death, and who would not groan under the heat of a burning feavour, though he be assured of Life? God hath still a bridle upon you to keep the Soul in awe. And though the godly can never loose their right in the Covenant, that doth remain, yet they may loose the fruition of it, and this is enough to make a Child of God mourn: Notwithstanding all the Priviledges of Grace, you may be branded, though not executed; and though the Lord hath made them Vessels of Mercy, yet he doth not use and employ them as Vessels of Honour, but they are set aside as useless Vessels. Sin will still be in∣convenient, it will bring disgrace to Religion, and discomfort to your Souls, and furnish the Triumphs of Hell, and make Satan rejoyce, and Eclipse the Light of Gods Countenance; and who can brook the loss of Gods Favour, and of intimate Communion with him without sadness, and bemoaning his case? I may ask you that question, Iob 15.11. Are the consolations of God small with thee? Do you make so little reckoning of those rich Comforts of the Holy Ghost? Though you cannot be damned, for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ, Rom. 8.1. yet your Pilgrimage may be made very uncomfortable; and he that prizeth Communion with God, would not loose the Comfort of it for the least moment. Besides, if there were no inconvenience, yet Love is motive enough to a gracious Person? Where is your Love? Christians! You sin against Mercy, the warm beams of Mercy should melt the heart, Ezek. 36.31. Then shall ye remember your own evil wayes, and your doings that were not good, and shall loath your selves in your own sight for your iniquities, and for all your abominations. As long as there is Love in the Heart, you can never want an Argument to represent the odiousness of Sin. Put the matter in a Temporal Case; it would be ill reasoning for an Heir to say, I know my Father will not disinherit me, therefore I do not care how I offend him. Where is your Love to God, if you do not hate Sin? Psam. 97.10. Ye that love the Lord, hate evil. Though your Right in the Covenant be safe, yet you should still have the evil of your own doings in remembrance.
5. Many speak much of the Evil of Sin in Prayers and Confessions, yet loath it never the more, yea the less. What should be the Reason of it? All their thoughts are spent in empty Declamations, and forms of Satyr or Anger, and these do not subdue Affections. Or else it may be we only paint Sin in our Fancies, and that worketh no more than a Picture or Image, which doth not allure and draw Love so much as a Living Beauty; it only pleases and tickles a little. Things foul in their Nature are pleasant in their Picture and Description; What more dreadful than War? And yet what more pleasant than in a strain of Poetry or Rhetorick, or in a lively Picture to describe the fury and heat of Battle? What more ugl• than a Toad? And yet a Toad painted to the life pleaseth: So when we meerly paint Sin by the help of the Imagination or Fancy, it moves only the lighter part of the Soul. It is good to be rational in our Considerations, and where there is the less Art, it leaveth the deeper stroak upon the Heart. Imagination and Fan∣cy is a great Instrument in the work of Mediation, but still it must be wisely or∣dered and guided by Reason. Sound Conviction by Gods Blessing doth the work, or else they rest in generals, they are not serious particular practical Discourses, brought home to their own case against the Sin they are strugling with. Lusts take the Throne by turns, and that our thoughts may fall with the greatest sense and feeling upon our Souls; it is good to bend the strength of our Thoughts against our Iniquity. It is good to be particular, to fetch the aggravations of Sin out of thine own Heart, or else Men soar high, and in affected Strains. To draw an Arrow alwaies to the head, breaketh the Bow. Sin, Christ, Heaven and Hell admit of an Hyperbole, but yet a Man may strain too much, that a Soul may be discouraged by it, and much hurt may be done Men look upon Matters of Re∣ligion as abstracted Ideas, and high strains, and matters of Fancy; certainly the more Simple and Natural your Thoughts are, the more working. Forced high flown Arguments, if they raise the Affections, it is but like fire in stubble, that Page 646 flashes for the present, not like a Fire furnished with fit Materials, that yields a constant heat. Modest Arguments fitted to our present State do better. I will bring it to the matter in hand; Men usually overlash, while they should set out Sin as exceeding heinous, and forget those Material and Natural Arguments that should work the Soul into an hatred of it. That saying of Anselm is justly censured by Mr. Fox, Si hic peccati pudorem, & illic inferni horrorem, &c. If here were the filthyness of Sin, and there were the horrors of Hell, I had rather be in Hell without Sin, than in Heaven with it. These Expressions do not come from a Modest Vertue, but the over-daring of Fancy, and besides they leave a Snare and Temptation upon weak Christians. God doth not put us to that Tryal, to choose Hell or Sin, and as Mr. Fox urgeth, God in the Gospel will bring Sinners though sanctified to Glory. Or else if they use solid Reasons and Arguments, they rest in their own Discourse and Reason, and then it is said, Iob 6.25. What doth your arguing reprove?
II. Having promised these Observations. I will give you a few Arguments, whereby you may come to understand a little of that evil that there is in sin. And they shall be drawn,
- 1. From the Nature of Sin.
- 2. From the Effects of Sin.
- 3. From the Circumstances and Aggravations, wherewith Sin may be cloathed.
1. From the Nature of Sin, and so it may be considered as to God, and as to our selves.
1. Consider the Nature of Sin as to God.
1. It is an aversion from God, a turning from the chiefest good to the chiefest evil, The very Nature of Sin is Punishment enough to it self, it is Misery enough to depart from God, the Center of Rest, and the Fountain of Life and Blessing. It is a dishonour to God, and a disadvantage to our selves. A dishonour to God, to prefer carnal sweets and the satisfaction of Sin before the comforts of his Pre∣sence, and yet this is the root of every Sin, 2 Tim. 3.4. Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Every Natural Man loves the pleasure of Sin more than Com∣munion with God. You are angry at Iudas for betraying Christ, and at the Iews for preferring Barabbas before Christ, a Murderer before a Saviour, and yet you do the same almost every day, Iob 15.11. What doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thine eyes wink at? You forfeit the best things for the basest, as Children part with a Pearl for an Apple or a Nut. Nay I may go higher, it is a preferring the Devil before God. Sins are called his Lusts, Iohn 8.44. Ye are of your Father the Devil, and the lusts of your Father you will do; and Duty is enforced by Gods Law, and will you gratifie the Devil and displease God; you will find him to be an ill Master at length. He that now tempts will hereafter accuse, and that for this very thing, that you were so easie to be intreated to leave God and follow him; as Austin brings him in pleading against us to God, Though thou didst try him by thy Grace, and divert him by thy Law, though thy Son did dye for him, yet he would not be thine, and therefore let him be mine; I never dyed, and shed my Blood for him, I could not promise him Heaven and Glory, I only brought him the bait and temptation, and he easily hearkned unto me; when the Tempter shall thus become an Accuser, you will know what it is to turn from God, and to prefer the Devil before a Saviour. Then it is a great disadvantage to your selves, you turn your back upon your own happyness; Sin will make you shy of Gods Presence, and it will make you hated of God, that he will not endure your Pre∣sence; he will have no Communion with you, nor you with him. It is the Com∣fort of Gods Children, whatever befals them in the World, that they can go in secret, and their Eyes can pour out Tears to God; but now God will turn away from you, God who is the Center of your Rest, the God of your Mercies; and then to whom will you unbosome your selves? Isa. 59.2. Your iniquities have se∣parated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he Page 647 will not hear. They set you at a distance from God, and God at a distance from you. Oh reason thus with your selves, shall I commit that, which will cause me not to endure God, nor God to endure me? That I shall not care to have to do with him, nor he with me. Sin has alwaies been attended with a casting out from God, it cast the Angels out of Heaven, where God is present in a glorious manner; it cast Adam out of Paradise, where God was present by his owe Image, and it cast Cain out of the Church, where God was present in his Ordinances and Worship, and it will make God cast you out as an abominable branch. If you are not sensible of this at present, yet you will be sensible hereafter, when God shall say, Depart ye cursed!
2. It is enmity against God. It is not only a turning from God, but an opposi∣tion to, and turning against God, Rom. 8.7. The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The more the Heart is set upon Sin, the more it hateth God formally or virtually. The Soul hates God as a Lawgiver, though not as a Creator, because he comes in with a restraint between us and our Carnal Desires, Col 1.21. You were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works. In the Original it is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by your mind in wicked works, because your minds were set up∣on wicked works, you were vexed God should restrain your desires; for we can∣not endure one should restrain the Exercise of our Carnal Affections. Now this Emnity is mutual, God hates us, and we hate God; on Mans part it is driven on with fury, he doth so hate God, that he seeks the destruction of his Being; as he that hates another seeketh the destruction of his Goods, Life, and Honour, so he that hates God, seeks to un-God him, the Sinner wishes there were no such Be∣ing as a God in the World, Psal. 14.1. The fool hath said in his heart there is no God: The Heart is the Seat of desires, these are the Fools wishes, it is a sweet pleasing thought to him, though he cannot get rid of these Impressions of a Godhead, yet he wishes he could, a Man that would live at liberty could wish there was no Judge to call him to an account, he could let loose the Reins of vile Affections, if there were no God, were it not for this restraint, he could live as he list. Nay, they deny God in their lives, Tit. 1.16. They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him. Sin in effect doth lay God aside, and to put the greater affront up∣on him, it sets up something base in his stead, it sets up the Belly for God, Phil. 3.19. Whose God is their belly; the choicest respects of the Soul run out upon the sensual part. Or it sets up a little Wealth for God. Or if Sin cannot take away the Being of God, yet it strikes at his Honour, and would make him to be an un∣just, or an evil God. Sin deprives God of the Honour of all his Attributes; of his Omnisciency, for though we are ashamed to sin before a Man, yet though God seeth all things, we do not blush; if we can carry on a wicked design under the vail of Darkness, and dig deep to hide our Counsels from the Lord, doth such a Sinner think God is all-seeing, and all-knowing? Ier. 2.26. A Thief is ashamed, when he is found, when the Eye of Man hath surprized him, but alass! we are alwaies found of God. It robs him of his Omnipotency and Power, as if he were Impotent and Weak, as if we could make our Party good with him. The Apostle useth a smart Question, 1 Cor. 10.22. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousie? are we stronger than he? As if he had said, Man! Consider what thou dost, by sinning thou dost enter into the lists with God, and art thou able to deal with him? It is a contest with God, as if we could arm our Lusts against his Mighty Angels; will you contend Gith him that can command Legions of Angels? When you go about to sin, you do as it were wage War with Heaven, and enter into Combate with God: That is the Reason the Lord by the Prophet asketh Sinners, What do you think? Is there such a thought in thee, as if thou wast able to deal with me? Ezek. 22.14. Can thy heart endure, or can thine hands be strong in the day that I shall deal with thee? Are you able to grapple with my Omnipotent Arm, and snatch Judgment out of my Hands, and oppose my Mighty Angels? Can thy Heart endure when my Almighty Hand shall seize upon thee, and Divine Displea∣sure shall break out against thy Soul? The angel when contending with the devil durst not bring a railing accusation, Iude 9. He knew the Mighty God would avenge him, therefore he durst not be malitious; yet we dare enter the Lists with Hea∣ven. Page 648 Thus is Sin an enmity against God, it would either have no God, or an Impotent, Unjust, Unwise God. Nay there is an enmity in Sin against every Person in the Holy Trinity. Against God the Son, when Christ came into the World, his great work was to dissolve the Works of Satan, 1 Iohn 3.8. For this purpose the son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil; that he might unravel all those Webs which Satan had been weaving, and you strive, as much as in you lyes, to set it up, and make his Death of none effect, Heb. 10.29. Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trod∣den underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing. You make a low thing of it, tread it under foot, it is an allusion to the sprinkling of the Lintels of the Door, but they sprink∣led it on the Threshold. And it puts an affront upon the Holy Ghost, it grieveth and vexeth the Spirit of God, it is a setting up lust against lust, and a direct thwartting of his motions and impulses, Gal. 5.17. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. You do as it were reproach him, and say, He shall do no good upon your Hearts, this shall not gain upon you. Moses when he speaks of a presumptuous Sinner, saith, Numb. 15.30. The soul that doth ought presumptuously, the same reproacheth the Lord, when you do thus deliberately sin, you do as it were reproach the Spirit of God. Likewise on Gods part, he hateth us too, and though he be full of kindness, yet he cannot give Sin a good look. Hab. 1.13. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity. God loveth all his Creatures, and loveth to look upon them, but he hateth that which is properly Mans Creature, and that is Sin; there is no Antipathy greater than between two Natures. You may sooner reconcile Fire and Water, Light and Darkness, Cold, and Heat, then God and Sin. The Enmity of all Creatures is as their Beings are finite and limited; but Gods Being is infinite, his whole Nature sets him against sin, therefore there is no comparison which serves to set out the Indignation the Lord hath against Sin, there is no Antipathy like it.
3. Sin is a Transgression of the Law. Do but consider what a disgrace Sin puts upon the Law that forbiddeth it, it doth in effect condemn the Law, as if it were not good and useful, and righteous, as if it were an idle restraint. There is a notable Expression, Iames 4.11. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; that is, he puts this affront upon the law, as if it were injurious, as if God were not righteous in making such a Law against Passion, and evil speaking. Therefore Nathan comes to rowse up Davids Conscience, and tells him his Sin, 2 Sam. 12.9. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? In every Sin there are some implicit thoughts by which the Law is disvalued and disapproved, we secretly tax it of Envy, Folly and Rigour, as if God had dealt harshly with his Creature, they look upon it as a weak and simple Law, Ezek. 18.26. Yet ye say, the way of the Lord is not equal. The Devil when he inspired the first Sin, would suggest to our first Parents, as if God had envied the perfection of Man by pre∣scribing a Law to him, Gen. 3.5. God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods knowing good and evil.
2. Consider the Nature of Sin with respect to your selves, and so the evil of it appears in these respects.
1. It is a degradation of your Natures, and sets you beneath the rank of Men, and equals you with Beasts, Psal. 49.12. Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish. In the Original it is, he abideth not for a Night, Adam sinned the very same day that he was created. So Psalm 32.9. Be ye not as the horse or as the mule, that have no understanding; implying that inconsiderate and rash Men that never consider their wayes, are like the Horse and Mule, which are void of Understanding, and are guided only by their own Instinct; to what use do Men put their Reason, that do not reflect up∣on their Consciences? It would be an odd sight to see a Man with the head of a Mule, or the feet of a Horse, yet there is a greater affinity between the Body Page 649 of a Beast and the Body of a Man, than between a Beast and a Mans Soul, the former are in the same degree of Being, as Material substances.
2. It is the defilement of your Natures. The Scripture when it speaks of Sin, sets it out by filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness, Iames 1.21. An allusion to the Brook Hedron, where the Garbages of the Sacrifices were wont to be cast. So it is called a blot, these Notions are to heighten our Souls into a detestation of it. Omne malum naturam, aut timore, aut pudore perfudit. There is such a filthiness in Sin, that it is ashamed out of it self, and therefore it alwaies seeketh for a disguise, there needeth no Argument against it, but to be seen in its proper colours, it either seeketh a shew of Vertue, or a vail of Darkness. Pray why doth the Adul∣terer seek for the twi-light, (Prov. 7.9. In the twi-light, in the evening, in the black and dark night,) but that he is ashamed of Sin? Sin is so Monstrous and De∣formed, that it seeks to hide it self from those that love it most, from the Con∣science of the Party that committeth it, or from the sight of others. Nay there is such a Turpitude in it, that some Sins beget shame in their very name and men∣tion. The Apostle speaks of a Sin, that is not so much as named among the Gen∣tiles, 1 Cor. 5.1. and Eph. 5.3. But fornication, and all uncleanness, and cove∣tousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh Saints. Socrates hid his face whenever he spake against wantonness.
3. It is the Bondage of your Natures. Oh what worser Captivity can there be than this, for Reason to be put out of its Empire, and that you should be un∣der the command of vile Affections, a Slave to Pride, and a Drudge to your Lusts, and Carnal Pleasures. Sin is a Bondage here and hereafter; here it binds you with the Cords of Vanity, and hereafter with the Chains of Darkness. This is the preposterous Judgment of Men, that they look upon the Service of God as their greatest Bondage, Psalm 2.3. Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us; but it is otherwise, there is no greater freedom, than to be employed in the Service of God, and to be free for the Actions of a Holy Life, Psalm 119.45. I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy precepts; The Bonds of Duty are not Gives but Ornaments. And there is no greater Bondage than to be a Slave to Sin, 2 Pet. 2.19. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage. What a Bondage is this to be a Vassal of Hell, to be at the command of our Lusts, a Slave to Pride and Uncleanness, and we know not how to help it.