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already gained the affections; and, could conscience be laid asleep, nothing would hinder it from breaking out into act. And, alas! when all the work of restraint lies merely upon conscience, it is a great hazard to that soul, lest the violence of temptations, and the importunity of occasions, or some other advantage that lust gains, should force its guards, and break out to the eminent provocation of God and scandal of religion. And, therefore, beware you do not license corruption to stir and act within: you cannot set it bounds, nor say to it, "Thus far thou shalt go, and no farther: thou shalt go as far as thoughts, as far as fancy; but, Conscience, look thou to it, that it proceed no farther." If you would, therefore, secure yourselves from this danger, mortify lust in the very womb: there stifle and suppress the motions and risings of it, otherwise you know not to what a prodigious height of impiety it will grow. The least and most inconsiderable sinful thought tends to an infinite guilt: an unworthy and unbecoming thought concerning God tends to horrid blasphemy; every lacivious thought, to open uncleanness; every envious thought, to bloody murder: and, unless mortification be daily exercised to suppress and beat down these motions, you know not into how many soul-destroying sins they may hurry you.
iv. One unmortified lust DOTH MIGHTILY ALIENATE THE HEART FROM ITS ACQUAINTANCE AND COMMUNION WITH GOD.
God and the soul grow estranged, as soon as any unmortified sin and the soul grow familiar. What God saith, Ezek. xiv. 5. concerning the idols of the house of Israel, the same I may say concerning men's lusts, which, while unmortified, are as so many idols set up in the heart: They are all estranged from me through their idols. And yet these very men, of whom God thus complains as being grown strangers to him, we find in the first verse crowding about the Prophet to enquire of God by him: they come to him, and yet are estranged from him. Such is the wonderful malignity of unmortified lust, that it makes men strangers to God, even when they are nearest attendants upon him.
There are but Two things, that keep up acquaintance between God and the soul.
On God's part, the gracious communications of his
supporting, and comforting influences, he conversed with that soul to whom he vouchsafes them. And, 'On our part, the spiritual frame of the Heart; whereby it doth, with a holy delight, freedom, and frequency, converse with God in the returns of sincere and cordial obedience. But an unmortified lust breaks off this acquaintance, as to both the parts of it.
1. It provokes God to suspend the influences of his Spirit, and so to cut off the intercourse on his part.
Isai. Ivii. 11. For the iniquity of his cocttousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth: so, truly, in the day of our desertion, whether it be in respect of grace or comfort, it is for the iniquity of such or such an unmortified sin, that God is wroth and hides himself. Think you that God will so debase himself, as to be in the same heart an inmate with lust; when that shall be regarded and he slighted, that attended and he neglected? will not this provoke him to call in the influences of his grace, and depart? wherefore else is it, that Christians do so often complain, that God is unto them but as a stranger, and as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry but/or a night, nay for a moment? that God is not unto them, as in the days of old? that those quickenings, revivings, supports, and comforts are now lost, which before they enjoyed? and that they become as the heath and wilderness; barren as to grace, and parched as to comfort? If they look inward in this case, will they not find some iniquity regarded, some sin allowed and indulged, to be the cause of all this? Certainly, if mortification doth neither strike at this root of bitterness, nor lop off its branches, it will spread itself over the whole soul; and intercept both the light of God's countenance, and the influences of his
2. One unmortified lust doth mightily untune the soul, and disorder the spiritualness of that frame and disposition which it should be kept in, if we would maintain communion with God.
Look how estrangement and distance grow between familiar friends, so, likewise, grows the estrangement between God and the soul. If a man be conscious of any injury that he hath done his friend, this will make him afraid and ashamed to converse with him, less free and less frequent in his society. So it is here, in this case: an unmortified lust fills the soul with a guilty shame, arising from the consciousness of an injury done to God: this guilty shame is always joined with some degrees of a slavish and base fear of God, who is thus wronged: both these take off from that holy freedom, which reverently to use towards God, is the great privilege of a gracious heart in its communion with him: and this lessens that sweet and unspeakable delight, which formerly it could enjoy from the intimacy, freedom, and spiritualness of this fellowship: and all these do finally cause a shyness, distance, and estrangement in the soul towards God. The root of all this is still in some unmortified lust, which is the occasion of the whole breach.
Now reflect upon yourselves, you, who have indulged any sin: hath it not by degrees eaten out the spiritualness of your hearts, and weakened the life and vigour of your communion ? hath it not made you dead, and cold, and indifferent unto the things and ways of God? have you not beheld God as it were at a great distance, and cared not for a nearer converse with him? Is it not high time, think you, that this lust, which hath thus divided betwixt God and your souls, should now at length be mortified; and, this make-bait being once removed, that you again should renew the nearness of your acquaintance with him? otherwise, let me tell you, it is sadly to be feared, lest this estrangement grow into a woeful apostacy, and that end in a fearful perdition.
v. One unmortified lust Gives An Additional Strength To Others Also, which of themselves were weak and impotent, and. could not otherwise have such power over the soul.
And this it doth, as it is the ringleading lust, that unites all others under a discipline and government: scattered enemies are not so powerful nor so formidable, as when they are combined together in a body: then their design is one, their enterprise one, and they all act as one enemy. Now an unmortified lust doth, as it were, rally all the rest under a discipline: this heads them: this leads them on: and they all promote the designs, and fight under the conduct of this lust; which union adds a mighty strength and power to them. It may be, a temptation, which could not prevail for itself and upon the account of its own interest that it hath in the soul, will yet certainly prevail, when it pleads its subordination and serviceableness to the unmortified sin, the master-lust. This is very remarkable: and therefore suppose, for instance, that pride be the tinmortified sin, the great ringleading lust, and a temptation to covetousness assaults the soul: possibly, this being but an underling sin, and not having made so great a party for itself as the other, might be easily rejected, did it plead only for itself; but, when it pretends the interest of the master-lust, and pleads how serviceable great and rich possessions would be to the advancement of pride and ambition, this adds a double enforcement to the temptation, and thereby bears down the soul before it, as unable to make any available resistance. And thus, proportionably, it is in all other sins whatsoever: they have a dependance one upon another: the great sin sways principally; and cannot subsist, unless provision be laid in, and a way made for it by inferior sins, which it countenances and bears out by its own authority, and derives to them the same prevalency that itself hath gained over the soul. Let not men, therefore, think that their captivity to sin is more tolerable, because they find but one the most prevailing: alas! this doth but serve to unite and drive the rest to a head, which perhaps otherwise would be vagrant, and wandering, and uncertain in their tempting; and, by this one unmortified lust, the Devil hath gotten a fit handle to the soul, whereby he may turn and wind it to whatever other sin he pleaseth. It was therefore a wise command of the King of Syria to his captain, 1 Kings xxii. 31. to fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel: he well knew, that if the chief commander were once slain, the ungoverned army might easily be routed and put to flight. We must, in the mortifying of the deeds of the body, take the same counsel, and follow the same course; fight, if not only, yet chiefly, against the commanding lust: if that be once mortified, the rest are as an army without a head, who quickly will find themselves without hands too: otherwise, while any one lust remains unmortified, the soul is almost in as dangerous a condition, as if every lust were violent and raging.
vi. An unmortified sin Will Most Certainly Bereave The Soul Of Peace And Comfort: and hinder it from ever enjoying that heaven upon earth, of assurance.
If you send to enquire of your souls, as Joram did of Jehu, "Soul, Is it peace?" Is not this sad answer returned, What hast thou to do with peace? Or, What peace, so long as thy pride, thy covetousness, thy intemperance, while such and such a lust remains unmortified?
An unmortified lust hinders peace and comfort these Two ways.
1. As it blots our evidences for heaven.
Let any man in the world tell me that his title to heaven is clear and past all uncomfortable doubtings, whose conscience doth not witness his sincerity to him, that he doth maintain an universal opposition against all sin, and exercise a constant mortification of it; and I shall presently conclude that man's assurance to be the false and glowing presumptions of a spirit of error and delusion. We know no better test of a man's condition than what my text affords: If ye mortify, ye shall live. Now when any lust is allowed and indulged, will not this blast a man's comfort, and raise in him fears and jealousies concerning his eternal welfare ?" Such a corruption I do not strive nor struggle against, I do not labour to beat down and keep under; and how then shall I assure myself that I am free from the reigning power of it, or shall be free from its condemning power?" Let me tell you, though freedom from the dominion of sin may possibly consist with a much-neglected mortification; yet a comfortable evidence of that freedom cannot: and, therefore, no wonder if, through the carelessness of Christians in this great work, so few attain solid and constant comfort; the most being sadly perplexed with doubts and jealousies of their hypocrisy and unsoundness, even all their days. This all riseth from some- unmortified lust or other, which either leaves a deep blur upon their evidences for heaven, or else raises a thick mist before their eyes that they cannot read them.
2. An unmortified lust hinders peace by fomenting a perpetual civil war in the soul.
Sometimes so it fares, where there is no higher a principle than merely natural conscience: this strives and combats, as it is able, against the sin, before it is committed: this cries out and rages against the sinner, after it is committed. But it is always so, where there is a principle of true grace implanted, to excite and assist conscience. Let corruption be never so great, its faction never so potent; yet grace, though but mean and weak, will still fight it: it will neither give nor take truce, till, at length, the great unmortified lust be subdued, and fall conquered and slain under it. What tumults, what uproars, what bandying of affections against affections, will against will, thoughts against thoughts, do woefully disquiet that soul, where corruption will not submit, and grace cannot! There is no de