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TIEBREWS xii. part of the 1st Verse.
And the Sin which doth so easily beset us.
In order to give you a clear light into the meaning of my text, I think it necessary to observe to you, that in the foregoing chapter, St. Paul having recited a number of examples eminent for fortitude and constancy, who (as he tells ust by their faith subdued kingdoms, turned armies to fight ; stopped the mouths of lions ; endured cruet mockings and scourgings; and wandered about in deserts and mountains, clad in the skins of sheep and goats ; of whom the voorld was not worthy; and for whom God had prepared a city. Let us, says the Apostle, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses ; let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doih so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. A scheme of speech that plainly alludes to the exercises of the ancients, wherein wrestling and other feats of manhood were performed. The metaphor is obvious upon the slightest inspection, Let us lay aside not only every weight that sits heavy upon and oppresses us, but also the sin which, like a long garment, hangs about the affections, and entangles our feet in running the race that is set before us.
Those sins which promise us profit or pleasure are, of all others, the most likely to prove the greatest impediment in our Christian race; those, of all others, hang about us with the most cleaving fondness; those, of all others, are put off with the sorest reluctance.
The Apostle therefore does, in a particular manner, alarm our caution against these. He would have us beware, more especially, of that sin which brings the strongest temptation with it; which, perhaps, by long acquaintance and familiarity, has got the ascendant over us; and is the sin which does so casily beset us. From which words, I shall make the following observations.
First, I shall observe, that every man is addicted to some peculiar lust; has his beloved sin zohich doth so easily beset him.
Secondly, I shall shew the danger of indulging this lust. . And, after making such useful reflections as the discourse shall naturally lead me to, shall close all, by enforcing the Apostle's exhortation ; that so we may be persuaded to lay aside the sin relich doth so easily beset us.
First, then, I am to observe that every man is addicted to some peculiar lust; has his beloved sin which doth so easily beset him.
The great end designed by religion, and that which has long been aimed at by the philoso
phers, is to frame and fashion us into rational creatures; to make us men, and to teach us to act and live agreeable to our natures, by exalting reason into the throne, and rescuing the mind (that noble governing part of us) from the base and slavish tyranny of the flesh.
But when may we hope to see this excellent design in any tolerable degree accomplished ? Is there room to compliment human nature upon any improvement, or advance towards perfection? Is it not sunk deeper into that degeneracy and corruption, which of old was so passionately complained' of and lamented ?
Wickedness and folly are of our constitution. Could we discover any one without this alloy, free from all impurity, with the image of God fresh and entire upon his soul; we must conclude him to be some other creature, not man. For who can say, I have made my heart clean? I am pure from my sin ? In many things we offend all. There is none tliat doth good and sinneth not. This is a melancholy truth indeed ; a truth of which every one carries a testimony in his own breast.
So it is; the very best of men are compassed about with infirmities; Paul and Barnabas declare themselves to be men of like passions with those at Lystra. And to convince u's that they were indeed men of like passions, in the very next chapter we read with what violence they broke out against one another, the contention (says the text) was so 'sharp between them, that they departed asider the one from the other. - ?
St. Peter's denial of Christ is also an instance of our infirmity, and is therefore interwoven with the thread of our Saviour's sufferings, as a caution to us to beware of too much confidence in our own goodness.
Good use is to be made of the bad examples upon record in the holy scriptures; these things also are written for our admonition. There we read of the accomplished king of Israel, the man after God's own heart, whose character is made up of meekness and courage, wisdom and piety; and yet he buried all those glories in his neighbour's bed, and fixed a deep and indelible stain upon his honour with the blood of the innocent Uriah. So impotent, so frail a thing is man. One fleshly lust prevailing, throws down the tottering fabric of all his virtues. And what sliall we do if such great men as these fall? If the cedars be shaken, how shall the reeds and builrushes of religion stand ? "Thus you see, that there is no mortal without sin, and in different men, different sins prevail. For instance, we find Cain stigmatized in scripture for murder : Simeon and Levi for treachery : Corah and his associates for profaneness and rebellion ; Nebuchadnezzar's pride: the cruelty of Manasah ; the covetousness of Balaam : the perfidy of Judas, are set forth for examples. And whoscever shall diligently observe to what point his desires lean ; what his affections are most warmly provoked by; what thoughts spring up of themselves in his mind; what imaginations find the most
welcome entertainment in his breast; wliat objects affect him with delight, and immediately inflame his passions; I say, whosoever shall thus inspect into himself, will easily discover his darling lust; or, in the words of my text, the sin which doth so easily beset him.
I presume there is not one but carries about him plentiful matter of these temptations, which he must not expect to be free from 'till this corruptible shall have put on incorruption. But then, wicked thoughts (though continually obtruding themselves, if not consented to) are so far, I believe and hope, from being evil, that they are the exercise of our virtue, whose business is to check and repel them. Utterly to exclude and bar the door of our hearts against them is beyond the measure of flesh and blood, consequently not required of us. So that the difference between one man and another, in this respect, lies not herein, that the bad are subject to these lustings and the good exempted from them. Both are strongly plied with temptations adapted to their respectively prevailing lusts; but whilst the bad man is gently carried down the stream of his vicious inclinations, the good man tugs and rows with all his might against it,
'Tis matter of common observation, that the devil is daily watching to take advantage of us; suiting his temptations to the different tempers and circumstances of men; applying himself to the governing passions by the grateful objects of them. These are the feeble parts of our nature, and therefore the most advantageous