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good men mix their errors in reproof and reprehension, and in one and the other, they discern it not?
2. Surprise and inadvertency is another thing that renders sin venial. The multitude of affairs and temptations, the suddenness and unexpectedness of some unusual temptation, or something of this kind, may betray a good man into fome. slips or errors, in word or deed. This I take to be the case of Sarah, when she said, I laughed not : of Yonah, when he replied upon God, I do well to be angry,
Yon. iii. Of David, when he pronounced 'rashly, do thou and Zibah divide the land, 2 Sam. xvi. 4. Of Saul and Barnabas, when they broke out into heat and anger. But that which was a sin of infirmity in the beginning, became, I doubt, a deliberate one in the end, when they parted from one another. Some extend this circumstance of surprize to excuse fins, which imply notorious wickedness, and are of very ill confequence; but, I think, very erroneoufly. 'Tis true, these sins of furprize, whatever the matter of them be, are generally conceived to be much extenuated through want of opportunity to summon our strength, and to niake use of mature and sober deliberation ; especially where the temptation is not only sudden but violent too. For in this case, the fol
dier of Christ, taken, as it were, in an ambush, or blown up with a mine, seems to be lost and defeated before he discerns his danger : I do not doubt then, but this suddenness of a temptation does very much diminish the guilt of a sin. But we ought to remember too, that there are many things that do abate and take off from this excuse : as first, it is not easy to conceive how any thing, that is a direct wickedness, that is a sin of a deeper dye than ordinary, on the account of its mifchievous consequences, should make its approach so silently, and so suddenly, that we should fall into it indiscernibly. Secondly, The Christian is bound to shun not only every evil, but every appearance of it; and 'tis hard to imagine, that a sincere man, who does indeed strain at a gnat, Ihould swallow a camel. He that preserves the tenderness of conscience, as he will havə an averhon for small fins ; so will he have an horror for great ones. Thirdly, The mind of a Christian ought to be pof- . fessed and awed by the fear of God; and that not a slight and transient, but a deep and lasting one. The Pfalmift was not content to say, I am afraid of thy judgments; but, to express how thoroughly this fear had féized him, he adds, my flesh trembleth for fear of thee, Ffal. cxix. And certainly, this fear is a sort of impenetra
ble armour, which extinguishes all the fiery darts of the devil. În vain is the suddenness, or the briskness of a temptation, unless we first lay aside this field. Fourthly, We are bound to be always on our watch and guard; and therefore, if we relax our discipline, if we live secure and careless, if we rashly cast our selves upon dangers, our fin then will be but the consequence of our folly; and therefore one error cannot be an excuse, or an apology, for another. I think therefore, the apology of surprize should be confined and limited to Night offences; it cannot properly have room in great ones, or if it have, it may be urged in mitigation of our punishment; but never, I doubt, for total impunity.
3. Lastly, Venial sin has its rise from the defects and imperfections of our nature, and the disadvantagious circumstances of our state. Here come in the failures and defects in the measures and degrees of duty ; if these can be properly reckoned for sins: I say, if they can; for I do not see that this is a good argument : we are bound to the highest degree of love by that law. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; therefore whatsoever falls short of the highest and most absolute degree of love, is a fin : for at this rate, whatever were short of
Perfection, would be sin. We must love, nothing better than God, nothing equal to him : this will constitute us in a state of sincerity. What is farther required is, that we are bound to aim at, and pursue after the highest and most perfect degrees of love; but we are not bound under pain of damnation to attain them. But on the other hand, I readily grant, that our falling short in the degrees of faith, love, hope, and the like, may be properly reckoned amongst sins, when they spring from the defects of vigilance and industry: and if these defects be such as can consist with sincerity, then are the imperfections or the abatements of our virtues, pardonable; and then only. Here again fall in omisións, wandring thoughts, dulness and heaviness in duty, the short titil lations of some irregular fancies, forgetfulness, flight and short fits of envy, discontent, anger, ambition, gaiety of mind. Thus we find the disciples falling asleep when they should have prayed, Mat. xxvi. and David praying quicken thou me, Psal. cxix. Thus his soul too was often cast down, and difquieted within him, Psal. xlii. 2 Chron. XXX. 18, 19. 7ob cursed the day of his birth. In short, our natures are human, not angelıcal; and our state is so full of variety of accidents, that they are too apt to discompose the mind, and divert it from its greaç end. The ebbs and flows of blood and
spirits, and an unlucky conftitution, or a điftemper ; the multitude or confusion of affairs; the violence or the length of trials; the ease and flattery of prosperity; the weariness of the body, or of the mind; the incommodiousness of fortune, roughöness of conversation, these, and a thousand other things, are apt to produce defects, and failures in our obedience, short disorders in our affections; and such emotions. and éruptions as abundantly prove the best to be but men, and the highest Perfection, if it be but human, to be wanting and defećtive. I think I have now omitted nos thing necessary to formñ a true notion of the fin of infirmity. My next business thierė. fore is, to consider,
$. 3. How far the liberty of the perfect man, in respect of venial fin, ought to be extended. There is great affinity between venial and original fin; and therefore the perfect man's liberty, as it relates to the one and the other; consists in much the Tamē degrees, and is to be attained by the fame method; so that I might well enough difmiss this subject, and pass on to mortal fin. But reflecting on the nature of man, how prone we are to sin, and yet how ápt we are to think well of our félves, I judge it necessary to guard the doctrine of veniał Lin by some few rules, which may at once