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and negligence, and taken off from its care, as to particular duties and avoidance of particular sins. It works the soul insensibly off from the mystery of the law of grace, to look for salvation as if we had never performed any duty, being after we have done all unprofitable servants, with a resting on sovereign mercy through the blood of Christ, and to attend unto duties with all diligence as if we looked for no mercy; that is, with no less care, though with more liberty and freedom. This the deceitfulness of sin endeavoureth by all means to work the soul from, and thereby debaucheth the will when its consent is required unto particular sins.
2dly. The deceived mind imposeth on the will to obtain its consent unto sin, by proposing unto it the advantages that may accrue and arise thereby, which is one medium whereby itself also is drawn away. It renders that which is absolutely evil, a present appearing good. So was it with Eve, Gen. iii. laying aside all considerations of the law, covenant, and threats of God, she all at once reflects upon the advantages, pleasures, and benefits, which she should obtain by her sin, and reckons them up to solicit the consent of her will. It is,' saith she, ‘good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise.' What should she do then but eat it? her will consented and she did so accordingly. Pleas for obedience are laid out of the way, and only the pleasures of sin are taken under consideration. So saith Ahab, 1 Kings xxi. • Naboth’s vineyard is near my house, and I may make it a garden of herbs, ' therefore I must have it. These considerations a deceived mind imposed on his will; until it made him obstinate in the pursuit of his covetousness through perjury and murder, to the utter ruin of himself and his family. Thus is the guilt and tendency of sin hid under the covert of advantages and pleasures, and so is conceived or resolved on in the soul.
As the mind being withdrawn, so the affections being enticed and entangled, do greatly further the conception of sin in the soul by the consent of the will; and they do it
(1st.) By some hasty impulse and surprisal being themselves stirred up, incited, and drawn forth by some violent provocation, or suitable temptation, they put the whole soul as it were into a combustion, and draw the will into a con
sent unto what they are provoked unto and entangled withal. So was the case of David in the matter of Nabal. A violent provocation from the extreme unworthy carriage of that foolish churl, stirs him up to wrath and revenge, 1 Sam. xxv. 13. He resolves upon it to destroy a whole family, the innocent with the guilty, ver. 33, 34. Self-revenge and murder were for the season conceived, resolved, consented unto, until God graciously took him off. His entangled, provoked affections, surprised his will to consent unto the conception of many bloody sins. The case was the same with Asa in his anger when he smote the prophet, and with Peter in his fear when he denied his Master. Let that soul which would take heed of conceiving sin, take heed of entangled affections. For sin may be suddenly conceived, the prevalent consent of the will may be suddenly obtained, which gives the soul a fixed guilt, though the sin itself be never actually brought forth.
(2dly.) Enticed affections procure the consent of the will by frequent solicitations, whereby they get ground insensibly upon it, and enthrone themselves. Take an instance in the sons of Jacob, Gen. xxxvii. 4. They hate their brother, because their father loved him. Their affections being enticed many new occasions fall out to entangle them farther, as his dreams and the like. This lay rankling in their hearts, and never ceased soliciting their wills, until they resolved upon his death. The unlawfulness, the unnaturalness of the action, the grief of their aged father, the guilt of their own souls, are all laid aside ; that hatred and envy that they had conceived against him ceased not until they had got the consent of their wills to his ruin. This gradual progress of the prevalency of corrupt affections to solicit the soul unto sin, the wise man excellently describes, Prov. xxiii. 31–35. And this is the common way of sin’s procedure in the destruction of souls which seem to have made some good engagements in the ways of God. When it hath entangled them with one temptation, and brought the will to some liking of it, that presently becomes another temptation, either to the neglect of some duty, or to the refusal of more light; and commonly that whereby men fall off utterly from God, is not that wherewith they are first entangled. And this may briefly suffice for the third progressive act of the
deceit of sin. It obtains the will's consent unto its conception, and by this means are multitudes of sins conceived in the heart which very little less defile the soul, or cause it to contract very little less guilt than if they were actually committed.
Unto what hath been spoken concerning the deceitfulness of indwelling sin in general, which greatly evidenceth its power and efficacy, I shall add as a close of this discourse, one or two particular ways of its deceitful actings, consisting in advantages that it maketh use of, and means of relieving itself against that disquisition which is made after it by the word and Spirit for its ruin. One head only of each sort we shall here name.
[1.] It makes great advantage of the darkness of the mind, to work out its design and intendments. The shades of a mind totally dark, that is, devoid utterly of saving grace, are the proper working-place of sin. Hence the effects of it are called, the works of darkness, Ephes. v. 11. Rom. xiii. 12. as springing from thence. Sin works and brings forth by the help of it. The working of lust under the covert of a dark mind, is as it were the upper region of hell; for it lies at the next door to it for filth, horror, and confusion. Now there is a partial darkness abiding still in believers; they know but in part,' 1 Cor. xiii. 12. Though there be in them all a principle of saving light, the day-star is risen in their hearts; yet all the shades of darkness are not utterly expelled out of them in this life. And there are two parts, as it were, or principal effects of the remaining darkness that is in believers.
1st. Ignorance, or a nescience of the will of God, either ‘juris' or 'facti,' of the rule and law in general, or of the reference of the particular fact that lies before the mind unto the law.
2dly. Error and mistakes, positively taking that for truth which is falsehood, and that for light which is darkness. Now, of both of these doth the law of sin make great advantage for the exerting of its power in the soul.
1st. Is there a remaining ignorance of any thing of the will of God, sin will be sure to make use of it, and improve it to the uttermost. Though Abimelech were not a believer, yet he was a person that had a moral integrity with him in his ways and actions; he declares himself to have had so, in a solemn appeal to God the searcher of all hearts, even in that wherein he miscarried, Gen. xx. 5. But being ignorant that fornication was a sin, or so great a sin, as that it became not a morally honest man to defile himself with it, lust hurries him into that intention of evil in reference unto Sarah, as we have it there related. God complains that his people perished' for lack of knowledge,' Hos. iv. 6. Being ignorant of the mind and will of God, they rushed into evil at every command of the law of sin. Be it as to any duty to be performed, or as to any sin to be committed, if there be in it darkness or ignorance of the mind about them, sin will not lose its advantage. Many a man being ignorant of the duty incumbent on him for the instruction of his family, casting the whole weight of it upon the public teaching, is by the deceitfulness of sin brought into an habitual sloth and negligence of duty. So much ignorance of the will of God and duty, so much advantage is given to the law of sin. And hence we may see what is that true knowledge which with God is acceptable ; how exactly doth many a poor soul, who is low as to notional knowledge, yet walk with God. It seems they know so much, as sin hath not on that account much advantage against them; when others, high in their notions, give advantage to their lusts, even by their ignorance, though they know it not.
2dly. Error is a worse part or effect of the mind's darkness, and gives great advantage to the law of sin. There is indeed ignorance in every error, but there is not error in all ignorance, and so they may be distinguished. I shall need to exemplify this but with one consideration, and that is, of men, who being zealous for some error, do seek to suppress and persecute the truth. Indwelling sin desires no greater advantage. How will it every day, every hour, pour forth wrath, revilings, hard speeches ; breathe revenge, murder, desolation, under the name perhaps of zeal. On this account we may see poor creatures pleasing themselves every day, as if they vaunted in their excellency, when they are foaming out their own shame. Under their real darkness and pretended zeal, sin sits securely, and fills pulpits, houses, prayers, streets, with as bitter fruits of envy, malice, wrath, hatred, evil surmises, false speakings, as full as they
can hold. The common issue with such poor creatures is, the holy, blessed, meek Spirit of God withdraws from them, and leaves them visibly and openly to that evil, froward, wrathful, worldly spirit, which the law of sin hath cherished and heightened in them. Sin dwells not any where more secure, than in such a frame. Thus, I say, it lays hold in particular of advantages to practise upon, with its deceitfulness, and therein also to exert its power in the soul, whereof this single instance of its improving the darkness of the mind unto its own ends, is a sufficient evidence.
[2.] It useth means of relieving itself against the pursuit that is made after it in the heart by the word and Spirit of grace. One also of its wiles, in the way of instance, I shall name in this kind, and that is the alleviation of its own guilt. It pleads for itself, that it is not so bad, so filthy, so fatal as is pretended; and this course of extenuation it proceeds in two ways.
1st. Absolutely; many secret pleas it will have that the evil which it tends unto is not so pernicious as conscience is persuaded that it is; it may be ventured on without ruin. These considerations it will strongly urge, when it is at work in a way of surprisal, when the soul hath no leisure or liberty to weigh its suggestions in the balance of the sanctuary, and not seldom is the will imposed on hereby, and advantages gotten to shift itself from under the sword of the Spirit. It is not such but that it may be let alone, or suffered to die of itself, which probably within awhile it will do ; no need of that violence which in mortification is to be offered ; it is time enough to deal with a matter of no greater importance hereafter; with other pleas like those before-mentioned.
2dly. Comparatively; and this is a large field for its deceit and subtlety to lurk in. Though it is an evil indeed to be relinquished, and the soul is to be made watchful against it, yet it is not of that magnitude and degree, as we may see in the lives of others, even saints of God, much less such as some saints of old have fallen into. By these and the like pretences, I say, it seeks to evade and keep its abode in the soul when pursued to destruction. And how little a portion of its deceitfulness is it that we have declared.