« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” Gen. 22. 12. So if we sacrifice at his command, the sin that is as dear to us as Isaac was to his father, the sin of our love and delight, the sin that is ours by choice and custom, then we shall hear the blessed testimony from heaven, that we love God in sincerity; he will own us as his friends. Sincere christians can appeal to God in the psalmist's language, and with his affections ; “ Lord, search me, and try me, and see whether there be any way of wickedness in me :” they are not conscious of any indulged course of sin, which would make them fearful of his pure and piercing eye.
2dly. It will appear that the keeping ourselves from our peculiar sins, is an infallible proof of uprightness, by considering in what it consists. In scripture uprightness is equivalent to perfection and integrity, and opposite to guilt.
(1.) It is equivalent to perfection; “ mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” Psal. 37. 37. The absolute perfection of holiness is not attainable upon earth, none are refined to a height of purity without mixtures and allays : but according to the mitigation of the gospel, the saints, whose aims, desires, and endeavours are to obtain perfection, are accepted in the blessed Mediator as perfect. Now the indulgence of any darling sin, is utterly inconsistent with perfection in the mild sense of the gospel, and consequently with uprightness. This will be more evident, by considering, that uprightness is equivalent with integrity. The psalmist prays, “ let integrity and uprightness preserve me.” Integrity implies an uniform equal respect to all the divine commands. When conscience of our duty.to God, and the reverence of his authority shining in his law, inclines us to obey all his will, we are upright. Partial obedience that divides the precepts, and complies with those that are agreeing with our carnal affections and interest, and neglects the rest, is as inconsistent with sincerity as death and life. As the soul in the natural man is a vital principle from whence all the actions of life and sense proceed ; so renewing grace is a principle of universal obedience. Herod “ did many things gladly, upon the preaching of John the Baptist:" but he would not part with Herodias, his charming lust still had dominion in his heart. The young man observed other commands of the law, but when our Saviour tried his integrity, by command- ing him to sell all, and to give it to the poor, and he should have treasure in heaven;" it is said, “ he went away sorrowful:" covetousness was his bosom sin, and blasted the sincerity of his obedience. - (2.) Uprightness is opposite to guile. Our Saviour gives this testimony of Nathaniel, “ behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile;” a genuine son of Israel, whose character was sincerity. Guile implies a reserved affection for a particular sin, under a pretence of religious observing the divine law. The scripture sets forth by conjugal love, the dearest resemblance of the mutual love between Christ and his church. If a wife should take another besides her husband into her embraces, she is an adulteress, false to her husband ; and all her amiable attractive society with him, is but the fine hypocrisy and pretence of love. Thus when one bosom sin is retained, the heart is false to God, notwithstanding the most specious devotion : the indulgent practice of one sin impeaches our integrity.
(3.) To this I shall add select examples of uprightness recorded in scripture. It is said of Noah, “ he was a just man, and perfect in his generations : for when the whole world lay in wickedness, he preserved himself unspotted from their pollutions:” this was a noble testimony of his uprightness in the esteem of God. Joseph repelled the impure solicitations of his mistress with indignation : “ how shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” David when old, and his blood and spirits so frozen, that no clothes could warm him, that a fair young virgin lying in his bosom was not blemished by him, was not from divine grace, but wasted nature: but that Joseph in the vigour of his age, the sinning season, kept himself undefiled, was the sure symptom of sincerity. Job has this testimony from God, that “ he was a perfect upright man:" and in the depth of his affliction, he tells his suspicious friends, “till I die, I will not remove my integrity from me: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live;" Job 31. 4, 5, 6, 7. that is, of reigning hypocrisy of which they had accused him. His uprightness he proves by an induction : he preserved himself from the sin of his age: in his youth, when sensual lusts are impetuops, he “ made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon a maid :” and for this reason, because he was under “ the inspection and observance of God.” He kept himself from the sins of his calling : he was a
magistrate, and in the exercise of his office, “ his foot never hasted to deceit, and no blot cleaved to his hand :" upon this he appeals to the enlightened tribunal above, “ let me be weighed in the balance, that God may know my integrity.” He kept himself from the sins of his condition ; for though high in dignity, yet so humble, “ that he despised not the cause of his manservant or maid-servant that contended with him:” though in full prosperity, yet so compassionate, that as a “father he fed the poor, and clothed the naked.” He was so sensible of his dependant mutable state here, “ that gold was not his hope, nor the fine gold his confidence:” and' so heavenly and spiritual in his mind and affections, “ that he did not rejoice because his wealth was great, and because his hand had gotten much.” This reflection upon the temper of his heart, and his deportment in his prosperous state, was the main assurance of his integrity.
- uccision of our spiritual stats
- I. Let us be excited to make a judgment of ourselves by this rule. The true decision of our spiritual state, results from the testimony of conscience concerning our uprightness or insincerity. “ If our hearts condemn us not” of predominant hypocrisy, some indulged habitual sin, “then have we confidence towards God," that we are accepted of him. If conscience be enlightened and faithful in the trial, a man cannot deliberately deceive himself: he must know whether his resolutions and endeavours be to obey “ all the will of God;" or, whether, like an intermitting pulse, that sometimes beats regularly, and then faulters, he is zealous in some duties, and cold or careless in others ? Saul would offer sacrifice, but not obey the divine command to destroy all the Amalekites : for his partiality and hypocrisy he was rejected of God. But it is the character of David, he was a “ man after God's own heart, in that he did all his will.” It is not the authority of the lawgiver, but other motives that sway those who observe some commands, and are respectless of others. A servant that readily goes to a fair or a feast when sent by his master, and neglects other duties, does not his master's command from obedience, but his own choice. Sincere obedience is to the roy
alty of the divine law, and is commensurate to its purity and extent. • There are two requisites to make a certain sign of a thing: 1. If the sign be never without the thing signified. 2. If the thing be never without the sign. The redness of the sky is but a contingent sign of fair weather, because the appearance of it in the morning is often followed with storms and rain; and sometimes a fair day is without that visible sign. But daylight is an infallible sign of the sun's being risen : for its ascending in the horizon always causes day, and without the presence of the sun, all inferior lights can never cause day. Thus the abstaining from the beloved lust is a sure sign of uprightness : for it is inconsistent with hypocrisy, and the inseparable effect of sincerity. It is inconsistent with hypocrisy: till the divine grace cleanses the heart, alters the taste of our appetites, and purifies our affections, we shall never detest and forsake our own sins that are feshed in our natures.
It is true, there may be an abstaining from some sins, when the heart is not sincere towards God: for some particular sins are opposite to the respective tempers of men, and the averseness from them is not the effect of supernatural grace, but of natural constitution. As that meat that is delicious to one palate, to another is distasteful; so the sins that have a temperamental relish to some, are disagreeing to others.
It is observed of those who are stung with a tarantula, the sweetest music does not move them till those notes are struck that are harmonious with their distemper, and then delightfully transported, they fall a dancing till their strength is spent. Thus temptations are prevalent according to the complexional lusts of human nature. But when there is no harmony and agreement between the objects without, and the affections within, the tempter loses his design. A voluptuous brute, whose heart is always smothering or flaming with impure desires, may have no inclination to covetousness : a covetous wretch, whose soul cleaves to the earth, may feel no temptation at the sight of an exquisite beauty. Some are made captives by one passion, and some by another. In the mysterious fable, Perseus, who encountered the terrors of Medusa, was easily overcome by the
beauty of Andromeda. * Virtue victorious over fear is often corrupted by pleasure.
Besides, some lusts are of a repugnant nature. This difference is observable between errors and truth, vices and virtues. Errors are inconsistent and irreconcileable, and at war among themselves : but truth has an universal consent and mutual dependance in all its parts: there is no contrariety between natural and supernatural verities. Vices are sometimes so contrary in their ends and exercise, that they fall foul upon one another, that none can be so universally wicked, as to commit all sins, but if he be addicted to one must forsake the other. But there is a connexion between the graces of the Holy Spirit; though different in their objects and natures, yet they have the same tendency, the glory of God and our own salvation, and are united in the subject. There is but one way to heaven, as there can be but one straight way to a place: but there are innumerable deviations from it, as many “ crooked ways” to hell as there are sinful lusts that bring men thither. The prophet tells us, “ all we like sheep have gone astray, every one in his own way.” There are many by-paths that lead to destruction.
We must also observe to prevent mistakes, there may be a forsaking of a particular sin that has been delightful and predominant, without sincerity towards God : for another lust may have got possession of the heart, and take the throne. There is an alternate succession of appetites in the corrupt nature, according to the change of men's tempers or interests in the world. As seeds sown in that order in a garden, that it is always full of the fruits in season: so original sin that is sown in our nature, is productive of divers lusts, some in the spring, others in the summer of our age, some in the autumn, others in the winter. Sensual lusts flourish in youth, but when mature age has cooled these desires, worldly lusts succeed; in old age there is no relish of sensuality, but covetousness reigns imperiously. And as the conditions and interests of men alter, so their affections change; they are not constant to their bosom-sins. Now he that expels one sin, and entertains another, continues in a state of sin ; it is but exchanging one familiar for another ; or to borrow the pro
* Victorg; Medusæ victus in Andromeda, Manila