« AnteriorContinuar »
neither vice nor virtue, righteousness nor wickedness : for these are nothing else but the violation or observation of 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.
1. 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 fo too: and it is as necellary 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 neceffarily 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 nę. celfary. Men through weakness or design may enact laws that are but a heap of letters, a croud of dubious Delphick
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 fnare; 'tis to give understanding to the fimple ; to be a light to our feet, and a lamp to our paths; not like an Ignis fatuus, to betray us into brakes and precipices, and ruin, and death.
2. The transgreffion must be a voluntary one. And this imports two things: 1. 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 say 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 ourown 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 misfor· tune, not our fault ; actions merely natufal, or merely forced, can neither be good
gor evil. The concurrence of reason and choice is indispensably necessary to the morality of an action. All this is plainly taught us by St. James i 14, 15. But every man is tempted, zber ke is drawn away of his own luft, and enticed. Then when his bath conceived, it bringeth fortb fin; and fin when it is finished, bringet ha förth death. Which words do certainly imply, that the spring and principle of sin 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 fin, 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 law of God, as is vicious in its original, deliberate in its commiffan, and mischievous in its tendencies or effects'; the heart is corrupted and mifled by fome luft or other, and so confents to the breach of the moral law of God, a law of eternal and immutable goodnefs ; or if the sin consists in the breach of any positive law, it must yet imply in it fome moral obliquity in the will, or it the tendency of the action, or both. So that presumptuous, or mortal (in, call in by what name we will, is a deliberate transgression of a known law of God, tending to the dishonour of God, the inju
many of our neighbour, or the depravation of our nature. Such are thofe sins which the prophet Isaiab exhorts those who will repent, to cease from. And such are those we have a catalogue of, Eph, v. Gal. v. and elsewhere : Now the works of the flejb are manifeft, which are these, adultery, fóre nication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulatiori, wrath, Arife, feditions, kerekes, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and fuck like. These are the fins, of which, as of ko many members, the body of fin consists; these conftitute the old man: these are sometimes called, the filthiness of the Aesha and spirit, ungedliness, wickednejš, iniquity, the trifts of the flesh, worldly lufts, and such like. These and the like fins have, as I faid, in them very apparent fymptoms of malignity and mortality : they are always the effect of some carnal and worldly lufts, prevailing over the law of the mind; and they imply a contempt of God, injustice to our neighbour, and fome kind 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 favour of God, is very plain from the account which the fcripture gives us both of the origin and influence of fin; from the care it takes to fortify the heart against all infe&tion ;
from the constant representations it makes us of the shamefulness and the mischief of sin, even in reference to this world as well as the other. I cannot see 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'luft after her, bath committed adultery already with her in his heart.
redness of omore be reconitual; and
§. 2. I ám-next to give some account of the liberty of the perfect man, in reference to the fin I have been discoursing of. I shall not need to stop at any general or preliminary observations; as, that abItinence from sin regards all the commandments of God alike ; and to do other