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bauchery, after they have had a pious education, and led their first years well, or as the apostle expresses it, having begun in the spirit, end in the fleshs, this is a moral practical apostasy; they deny God and their Saviour by their works, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobatet; and the consequence here is usually as fatal as in the other instances. In each of which the unhappy creatures have exposed themselves to the Devil's utmost malice, and at the same time thrown themselves out of God's protection, and forfeited his grace and assistance; and with strange folly join with their worst enemy in their own destruction. How then can it be otherwise, but that the last state of such men must be worse than the first, more profligately wicked and incurable! And if any one wants further assurance of it, let him seriously weigh and consider the two following places of scripture; 2 Pet. ii. 20, &c. and Heb. vi. 4, &c. In the former of which St. Peter, speaking of those that had forsaken the right way, and
gone astray in vicious practices, ver.15, &c. after they had made profession of Christianity, tells us, that if, after men have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. And St. Paul in the other place, speaking of apostasy from the faith, hath these terrible words; It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance ; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. To which we may add what is said to the same purpose, ch. X. 26; For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?
t Titus i. 16.
s Gal. iii. 3.
By all which it appears to be a great and awakening truth, that as much happiness as Christianity is designed to bring to mankind, and will certainly bring, unless men are their own hinderance, yet they may hinder it if they will, and make it turn to their infinitely greater misery: and that the condition of a Jew or infidel will be better at present, and more tolerable at the day of judgment, than that of an irreclaimably wicked or apostatizing Christian; one that falls from the faith or practice of the religion of the holy Jesus.
Let him, therefore, that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he thus fall; and work out his salvation with fear and trembling, with great caution and watchful circumspection, lest he be hardened through the deceitfulness of sinų, and made an irrecoverable prey to the great destroyer.
Our blessed Lord hath already triumphed over him, and so perfectly freed us from his tyranny, that he cannot do us the least injury, unless we expose ourselves to him, and as it were invite him to come again and take possession of us. And then we do so, when we are careless and indifferent to religion, neglect the duties of it, and live a vain, idle, trifling life, and seldom think a serious, good thought. When he finds our souls thus empty, and even clean swept of any substantial piety and goodness, and without any other furniture than wanton or worldly fancies and imaginations, and nothing like to oppose his entrance, but all in a profound security, and in this manner ready trimmed and garnished for him, how can we think he will lose so fair an opportunity, and how can we expect God should preserve us from him, when we take so little, or no care, to preserve ourselves ?
But let us consider how dreadful our condition will be, even much worse than ever, should he get us into his power again ; and how extremely difficult, and next door to impossible, our escape.
Can we be so unnaturally cruel as to be accessary to our own eternal ruin? and will not we do that to secure our souls which we constantly do to secure our bodies and our goods ?
When we are continually in so much danger, but yet may be safe if we please, (for though our enemies are mighty, and rage horribly, yet God who dwelleth on high is mightier, and more are for us than against us) shall we be false and treacherous to ourselves ? Shall we set open the gates to give the infernal powers a free entrance? or, at least, when we know what close siege they lay, shall we keep no guard, make no provision for defence ? It is true, God is our defence and our shield, and under the protection of the Most High we shall not miscarry; but it is as true, that he expects the concurrence of our own best endeavours, and then he will be our refuge and our fortress, and no secret attempts by night, no open assaults by day shall hurt us; he will give his angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways, and enable us to tread upon the lion and the adder ;-and to trample the young lion and the dragon under our feet *. But to expect his protection when we are not only negligent and thoughtless of our own safety, but of a party with the enemy, and do what in us lies by our irreligion and impiety to bring him in; this is strange presumption, with which God must needs be highly displeased. And as good and gracious as he is, as desirous of our happiness, and as ready to assist and deliver us in the time of need; yet if we are resolved to throw ourselves away, we may: no irresistible force or miraculous defence will be used to preserve us from it, but we shall be left to the sad consequences of our most wretched and unaccountable choice.
11 Heb. iii. 13
And this we may be assured of, (and it was our Lord's design in this parable to make us sensible of it,) that the more entire conquest our great champion hath made over the spirits of darkness, the more perfect deliverance he hath given us from them, and the more ready he is to protect us from their insults, and detect the traps and snares that they lay for us; the more inexcusable, and the more miserable shall we be, if by our own default, our own supine carelessness and neglect, or incurable wickedness, we betray ourselves to him again.
So that this is the conclusion of the whole matter: God having done so much for us, thrown out the unclean spirit by baptism and by the grace of his holy Spirit, since rescued us from his cruel slavery, and restored us to the liberty of the sons of God; and given us sufficient aid to preserve our freedom inviolate, if we will make good use of it, and cooperate with it; nay, and taken possession for himself too, by the indwellings of that his divine representative, whose merciful design is to change our souls from dens of thieves, cages of unclean birds, a harbour for devils, and vile affections and lusts, into temples for the blessed God, and make them houses of prayer, full of devout and holy thoughts, and a resemblance of heaven upon earth ; so that now we must resist and drive out even the Holy Ghost himself, to make room for Satan and his legions : God having done all this for us, expects on our part that we should vigorously defend ourselves against all attempts that he shall make upon us, be watchful and circumspect, and fortify with more than ordinary care, on that side where we are weakest, and most likely to yield to his assaults. And then, if, instead of this, we are idle and careless, and do nothing but drowse away our time, and encourage the