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so rank in the nostrils of men, and expose us to such disgrace and dishonour. There are open sins that are found hateful, that have a turpitude in them, and bring shame. "Epya rñs sapkos, “ The works of the flesh are manifest" (Gal. v. 19); such as murder, adultery, gross oppression: these are rank weeds of an ill savour, that stink in nature's nostrils, and are accompanied with share and disgrace. To refrain from these, is little thanks. The Pharisee wipes his hand of these, I am not an adulterer,' &c. (Luke xviii. 11.) Ay; but he was proud, censorious, and covetous. There is pride, censoriousness, covetousness, and worldliness, cloaked sins that are not of such disgrace in the world; all these should be hated by you. Many times those sins that are majoris infamie, of greater infamy, they are not always majoris reatus, they do not leave the greatest guilt upon you. Unbelief, it is not infamous in the world ; neglect of the Gospel of grace, want of love to Christ Jesus, these are great sins; and therefore you must not only abstain from notorious sins, but those which are more plausible, and are not of such ill fame in the world.
2. You must abstain from sins outward and inward. The sinner must not only forsake his “ way,” but his “ thoughts” (Isa. lv. 7): by his way, is meant his outward course and practice; but he must make conscience of his thoughts and secret workings of heart. Practices may be overruled by by-ends; but thoughts and desires, these are the genuine, immediate motions and issues of the soul, that do come immediately out of the fountain, and are restrained only by grace.
3. Sins profitable and pleasant, as well as those that have no such allurement and blandishment in them. There are many sins that have nothing of allurement in them, that are entertained only upon sin's account and evil custom, as rash swearing, blasphemy, malice, and the like; but there are other sins that allure and entice the soul by the promise of profit and pleasure, those two bastard goods, that do make us often quit the good of honesty and duty. Now, you are to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus ii. 12); worldly lusts, whatever would endanger the soul, all inordinate inclinations that carry you out to these things, of pleasing the flesh and gratifying worldly interests.
4. In refraining the feet from every evil way; that is, from sins against either table. Mark, God hath owned both tables; not only revealed his wrath against ungodliness, breaches of the first table; but against unrighteousness, breaches of the second table (Rom. i. 18). Many, they indeed will not be unjust, intemperate, unkind to their neighbours. Ay; but they express no affection to God, by worshipping him in their hearts, by faith, fear, and love ; or in their houses, by constant prayer, morning and evening, and secret and familiar in closet converses with God; they are guilty of ungodliness, though not of unrighteousness.
And there are many that would be much in worship, in praying, fasting, and hearing; but they forget their neighbours : they are unrighteous, they do not make conscience in their dealings with men, and in the duties of their relations are unfaithful, many times to the great dishonour of God; they do things Heathens would boggle at.
5. There are great sins and small sins. Many make not conscience of small offences, count these venial. Certainly, he that would have a tender regard to God's law, no sin should seem little to him that is an offence to the great God. It is Satan's custom by small sins to draw us to greater, as the little sticks do set the great ones on fire, and a wisp
of straw enkindles a block of wood; and by small sins we are enticed by Satan : the least sin allowed of, is of a deadly and dangerous consequence: “ Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men” so (Matt. v. 19). It is treason to coin a penny, as well as a pound. To break the least of God's commandments, to make no conscience of them, because it is a small thing, it argues a naughty heart. Bodkins may wound and stab, as well as swords. Look, as we read of the Prophet, he was devoured of lions ; so we read of Herod, he was eaten up by lice. Small ains may be a very great mischief to the soul. Little sins are often the mother of great sins, and the grandmother of great punishments, and of plagues from God; and therefore these lesser sins we must refrain from : “I have refrained my feet from every evil way.”
6. We must not commit anything that is evil out of a good intention, if it be an evil, but stand at a distance from it. Do not turn aside to any crooked path, upon any pretence soever. Some have a good action, but a bad aim. Now, these do, as it were, make God serve the Devil : they do the action which God hath required; but their aim is that which gratifies Satan. There are others that have a good aim, but a bad action. These make the Devil serve God, as if God could not provide for his own glory well enough without their sin ; therefore, if it be an evil way, refrain from it, though you may bring good out of it. Saul, he would be offering sacri. fice, an unwarrantable action for him to invade the priestly office. He was loth to go to battle, until he had sacrificed, and would not tarry till Samuel came; what then? See what Samuel saith, “ Thou hast done foolishly ; thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee” (1 Sam. xiii. 13, 14). Here was a good aim, but a bad action; and you see how severe judgment fell upon him. I say, he forfeited his kingdom by doing an undue action, though for a good end. Uzzah, he put forth his hand to stay the ark, which was an undue circumstance: he had a good aim in it, that the ark of God might not be shaken, that it might not fall and be shattered in pieces, and the mysteries of their religion prostituted : “ And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died" (2 Sam. vi, 7). Many think to bear out themselves by good intentions : they are drawn into an evil way, they hope to bring things to a better pass. It is dangerous to step out of God's way: God's ends can best be brought about by God's way. The judgments of the Lord upon these nations, have been mainly for unwarrantable actions upon good intentions ; and, though, usually, we have committed one sin to help another, yet there hath been a pretence of a good intention, a good aim.
7. We are not only to avoid such sins as seem to lie remote from our temper, and course of our business and interest ; but from our own special sins, those sins which suit better with our condition, constitution, calling, employment: “I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity” (Psalm xviii. 23). Every man hath his iniquity : as every man hath his particular temper, so he hath his particular sins; and, if he belong to God, he hath his particular graces. The saints have their particular graces: Timothy for abstinence and temperance, Job for patience, Abraham for faith (therefore styled the father of the faithful), Moses was eminent for meekness. So there are particular sins: men are passionate, worldly, voluptuous, ambitious; and, as the channel is cut, so corrupt nature finds a vent and passage : “ All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. liii. 6). We are all out of the way; but every man bath a particular way of sin. Look, as, in the natural body, every man hath all the faculties of a man, yet some this faculty more vigorous and lively than another; some for memory, judgment, invention, quickness of wit; so it is as to particular sins. Now, these should be most resisted and most opposed by us. The Scriptures require of us" to cut off our right hand, and pluck out our right eve" (Matt, v. 29, 30). These, if they be not watched, will run into scandal; our particular sins make us dishonour God, dishonour our profession, and become a reproach to the Gospel. It is notable, when our Saviour dissuaded from giving scandal, he revives those sentences of cutting off the right hand and plucking out the right eye (Matt. xviii. 8, 9). These sins will make you a dishonour to the Gospel, if you do not watch over them.
8. There are the sins of the times wherein we live, vitium sæculi. Indeed, it is hard to keep our ground in a great flood: when a stream is strong, it is ready to carry us away; but he that would be punctual with God, should keep from the sins of the times. Peter dissembled with the Jews, and the godly Jews fell a-dissembling of their religion, “insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation" (Gal. j. 13). When sin seems to be authorised by a general practice, it concerns you to stand at a distance, to have nothing to do there. Noah was an upright man, feared God, and served him in a corrupt age (Gen. vi. 9). They are dead fishes that are carried away with the stream. We are not to walk kard tov aiūva, “ according to the course of this world” (Eph. ii. 2), but to walk according to the rule (Gal. vi. 16). In many ages, there are certain sins, until light disprove them and the Lord clears up his will, that men run into, and are carried away by violence of the stream, while the stream runs that way in their age; but this will be no excuse, you are to be upright, and not carried away by vitium sæculi, the evil way of the times."
We are not only to refrain our feet from evil, but from all the occasions and appearances of evil, and not to stand so much as within the scent of a temptation; as crows and ravens, when they are beaten away from the carrion, will stand within the scent. We are to stand at a great distance from all that seems to tend to sin; not only from evil, but the appearance of it (1 Thes, v. 22). Sin should be so hateful to us, that the very picture of it should be abhorred. Many times some sins are the occasion of others, as covetousness is occasioned by distrust; there, certainly, we are to avoid occasions as well as sins themselves. Ay; but, if the thing be lawful, and we know our weakness, we should not easily ride into the Devil's quarters, and run into the mouth of temptation. Look, as Solomon, in that particular sin, adviseth the young man, “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house" (Prov. v. 8): he would not have the young man venture upon the occasion. And God's strictness to the Nazarite is very notable: as he was to drink no wine or strong drink, so no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, nor drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried (Num. vi. 3, 4); and, afterwards, he was not so much as to eat either the husk or kernel of the grape. Thus God would have us stand at a distance: this was a typical figure, to show at how great a distance we should stand from sin, and refrain ourselves from all evil; as the Apostle saith, “Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23), an allusion to those that touched an unclean thing. Rushing upon snares and occasions of evil, we hazard
the surprisal of our souls. As Cæsar said of his wife, Oportet Cæsaris u.rorem non solum castam esse, &c.; she should not only be chaste, but free from all suspicion; so God will have his people to be void of all suspicions, and to be clear and innocent from all kind of transgressions. Thus you see how we are to refrain from every evil way.
The reasons of this are two: 1. Because sins will weaken our graces. 2. They will weaken our comfort ; both which are necessary to the keeping of God's law. Therefore, if we would keep the law, and be punctual and close with God in a course of obedience, we must stand at a great distance in heart and practice from all sin.
1. Sins will weaken our graces. There are several graces necessary to the keeping of God's law, as faith, fear, love, hope. You know, at conversion, God puts a vital principle into us, that is diversified, and called by these several names. These graces are planted in us as principles of operation; and, as these decar, our acts of obedience will more or less. A sickly faith can produce but weak operations : as, if the root wither and decay, the branches will not long flourish; so, when our fear and reverence of God is lessened (as it is by every act of sin), the spiritual life will not be carried on with that exactness and care. So, when our love waxeth cold, we shall not be so diligent and serious; for these are the principles of operations. When they left their first love, they left their first works (Rev. ii. 5). If there be a decay and diminution of our graces, then there will be an intermission of acts and operations; these graces will suffer a shrewd loss; they are qualities, and therefore are capable of increase and remission, being more or less : as love, it may wax cold (Matt. xxiv. 12), fear may be greater or less, so faith : though there be some seed of grace remains to preserve the interest of the soul, yet things may be ready to die and faint. How do they decay by sins ? These things are contrary, flesh and spirit ; that is, always warring upon one another, and weakening one another (Gal. v. 17); and here lies the Christian's advantage, to observe which is up and which is down. By every act of deliberate sin, the flesh is strengthened and grace weakened, these are up and down in a renewed heart; therefore it is good to see which prerails, that you may not weaken your strength : if you gratify the flesh, you hearten your enemy, and strengthen your clog; and so grace languisheth.
2. It weakens our comfort. Comfort is necessary to make us lively and cheerful in God's service. The Lord knows we drive on heavily, when we have not that peace of conscience, serenity of mind, and we want the comforts of God's Spirit. The more our hearts are enlarged, the more we run the way of God's commandments (Psalm cxix. 32). What is an enlarged heart? Chiefly by joy and comfort. It is joy that enlargeth the heart. Now, sin weakens this joy, this comfort, which is our strength.When Adam sinned, his soul was filled with horror (Gen. iii. 10); and David, when he had been tampering with sin, lost his comfort : “ Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice” (Psalm li. 8); and, “ Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation" (verse 12). He that pricks himself with a necdle or sharp thing, must needs feel pain; so, whosoever gives way to sin, certainly will have trouble of soul, confusion, grief, fear, sorrow, and loseth his sense of salvation for a time, and sins away his peace. Always the more exact our walking, the more is our peace of conscience: “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience,” &c. (2 Cor. i. 12.) Well then, if we would be punctual with God, we see how much it concerns us to stand at a distance from every evil way.
USE 1.-To show how far they are from a course of obedience, that live under a full power of their sins. Never think you seek after that which is good, while your evil scent remains with you, and your former evils are in life and strength to this very day. All those that wallow in brutish sins of drunkenness and adultery; so those that are guilty of common swearing, Sabbath-breaking, and suchlike gross sins, these have good thoughts of themselves, they have sincerity towards God; but such hare a spot that is not the spot of God's people. Twice there is a caution interposed, that such should not be deceived (1 Cor. vi. 9; Eph. vi. 6). You will say, Where lies the danger of any deceit? Oh! the worst are apt to deceive their own hearts. There is a world of these deceivings in the hearts of men; the best of saints have fallen into as great sins; they think these are but petty slips and human infirmities, and God's patience will suffer all, grace will pardon all at length, and no man is perfect; therefore they have some hope, even those that are drunkards, and abusers of themselves with mankind; though their sins be as Sodom, those that fall into the grossest sins, they are apt to be deceived. Be not deceived, these things are not consistent with grace.
It shows how far they are from the temper of God's children, that are not punctual with God in a course of obedience, that hate one kind of evil, not another. Many hate prodigality, yet not covetousness; hate covetousness, and are given up to sensuality; hate an epicure, and such a one as squanders away his estate, think as evil of him as can be; but not hard hearts, such as shut up their bowels, and do no good in their places ; and some hate sensuality, but not pride, but cherish that; there is some sweet bit under his tongue, as Zophar speaks (Job xx. 12). Christians! though we can subdue no sin as we should, yet we are to resist every sin, and especially to bend all the force and strength of your souls against your sins, that sin which is most apt to prevail with you. This is a sign of uprightness (Psalı xviii. 23); and therefore, if you would know whether you have given up yourselves to walk with God, to keep his word, what labouring hath there been with your own hearts? what pains have you taken to set against your own sins? are you most jealous of it? pray most against it? often turn the edge of the word upon it are you observing the decays? or do you keep it under the tongue ? Reason with yourselves upon the world to come ; is it reserved corruption or remaining corruption ? Have you never been dealing with your hearts to suppress such a corrupt inclination, as you have been often foiled with?
USE II.-To press those that would be exact with God, to stand at a distance in heart and practice from every known sin : whatever urging and solicitations you have within yourselves, though it would break out, vet hare you refrained ? To this end let me commend two graces and two duties. The two graces are love to God and his word, and fear to God and his word.
For the graces,
A love to God: “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil" (Psalm xcvii. 10). It is as natural and as kindly to the new nature to hate the chiefest evil, as it is to love the chiefest good. Do you talk of love and communion with