« AnteriorContinuar »
neither vice nor virtue, righteousness nor wickedness: for these are nothing else but the violation or observation or the law of God ; or habits and states resulting from the one or the other. But this is not all: two things more must be remarked, .to render this definition, which the apostle gives us of sin, clear and full. First, The law must be sufficiently revealed. Secondly, The transgression of it must be truly voluntary.
i. By sufficient revelation of a divine law, every one understands, that the law must be so published to the man who is to be governed by it, that the authority and sense of it may be, if it be not his own fault, rendered evident to him. If the divine authority of any rule or pre• cept be doubtful and uncertain, the obligation of it will be so too: and it is as necessary that the sense of the law should be evident, as its authority. The law, that is penned in dark and ambiguous terms, is, properly speaking, no law at all; since the mind of the Lawgiver is not sufficiently made known By it. Whatever is necessarily to be forborn or done by us, must be fully and clearly prescribed in the law of God ; and if it be not, it can never be necessary. Men through weakness or design may enact laws that are but a heap of letters, a croud of dubious Desphiek
senten-* sentences: but God can never do so, because this is repugnant both to his wisdom and goodness, and to the very end of a law too, which is to be a rule, not a snare j 'tis to give understanding to the fimple; to be a light to our feet, and a lamp to mir paths; not like an Ignis fatuus, to betray us into brakes and precipices, and ruin, and death.
2. The transgression must be a voluntary one. And this imports two things: i.A knowledge of the law- 2. Consent to the breach of it. First, As to the knowledge of the law. All that I have to fay here in a few words, is, that ignorance of the law excuses a transgression, when it is it self excusable; but if' the ignorance it self be criminal, the effect of it must be so too. We must never think of excusing our sins, by alledging an ignorance into which, not our own incapacity, or any other reasonable cause, but neglect or contempt of the truth, or some other vicious lust or passion, has betrayed us. Secondly, As to the consent of the will; this is necessary to demonstrate any action sinful or virtutuous; without this the mind will be no partner in the sin, and by consequence cannot be involved in the guilt of it. Whatever we cannot help, is our misfortune, not our fault; actions merely natural, or merely forced, can neither be good
nor nor evil. The concurrence of reason and choice is indispensably necessary to the morality of an action- AU this is plainly taught us by ^t. J ames I u, Ij, £«* every man is temptedt when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when hist bath conceived, it bringetb forthfin\ Undfin when it isjinijhed, bringe4h. forth death. Which words do certainly imply, that the spring and principle of fin is within our selves; that 'tis our natural corruption that; entices and allures us; and 'tis our consent to its enticements that gives being to sip, and defiles us with guilt.
From all this now put together 'tis easy to conclude what sort of a description we are to form of mortal fin: 'pis such a transgression of the Jaw of Qodi as is vicious in its original, deliberate in its cow* mi/pan, and mischievous in its ttndwws or tnmt: the heart is corrupted and misled by some lust or other, and so consents to the breach of the moral law of God, a law of eternal and immutable goodness : or if the sin consists in the breach of any positive law, it mult yet imply in k some moral obliquity in the will, or k the tendency of the action, or both. So that presumptuous, or mortal sip, call in by what name we will, is a deliberate transgression of * known law of God, tending to the dishonour of Godt the injury ry ,of our neighbour, or the dtfravatim of our nature. Such are those fins which the prophet Isaiah exhorts those who will repent, to cea.se from. And such are those we have a catalogue of, Eph. v. Gal. y. and elsewhere: Now the works of the Jiejb are manifest, which are thefi, adultery., for* nication, uncleannefs, lascivioufnefi, idolatry^ witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulationsy wrath, strife, seditions, herefies, envytngs., mwrders, drunkenness, retellings, and fitch Uke. These are the sins, of which, as of lomany members, the body of sin consists; these constitute the old man i these arc sometimes called, the filthinefs of the stesh and spirit, ungodliness, wickedness, iniquity, the lusts of the stesh , worldly lusts, and such like. These and the like sins have, as I said, in them very apparent symptoms of malignity and mortality: they are always the effect of some carnal and worldly lusts, prevailing over the law of the mind ; and they imply 4a contempt of God, injustice to our neighbour, and seme Jrind of defilement and pollution of our nature. And that these are the plain indications of such a guilt as excludes a man from heaven and the fevour of God, is very plain from the account which the scripture gjves us both of the origin and influence of sin; from the care it takes to $rtify the heart against all infection;
from from the constant representations it makes us of the shamefulness and the mischief of fin, even in reference to this world as well as the other. I cannot fee any thing further necessary to the explication of deliberate or presumptuous fin, unless it be here fit to add, that it is mortal, though it proceed no further than the heart: there is no need at all that it should be brought forth into action, to render it fatal and damnable. This is evident, not only from the nature of divine worship, which must be entire, sincere, and spiritual; and therefore can no more be reconciled to the wickedness of our hearts, than of our actions; but also from the express words of our Saviour, Out of the heart proceed fornication, adultery, theft, &c. And elsewhere he pronounces the adultery of the heart damnable, as well as that of the body, Mat. v. 28. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh upon a woman to lufi after her, hath committed adultery already with her in his heart.