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divested of his power, whereby he thought to accomplish it. Some have their bodies smitten with diseases, that they can no more serve their lusts, nor accompany them in the perpetrating of folly. Some are deprived of the instruments whereby they would work. There hath been, for many days, sin enough conceived to root out the generation of the righteous from the face of the earth, had men strength and ability to their will, did not God cut off and shorten their power, and the days of their prevalency. Psal. lxiv. 6. 'They search out iniquities, they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.' All things are in a readiness, the design is well laid, their counsels are deep and secret. What now shall hinder them from doing whatever they have imagined to do? ver. 7, 8. • But God shall shoot at them with an arrow, suddenly shall they be wounded : so they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves. God meets with them, brings them down, that they shall not be able to accomplish their design. And this way of God's preventing sin, seems to be, at least ordinarily, peculiar to the men of the world; God deals thus with them every day, and leaves them to pine away in their sins. They go all their days big with the iniquity they have conceived, and are greatly burdened that they cannot be delivered of it. The prophet tells us, that they practise iniquity that they had conceived, because it is in the power of their hand ;' Micah ii. 1. If they have power for it, they will accomplish it; Ezek. xxii. 6. “To their power they shed blood.' This is the measure of their sinning, even their power. They do, many of them, no more evil, they commit no more sin, than they can. Their whole restraint lies in being cut short in power, in one kind or another. Their bodies will not serve them for their contrived uncleannesses, nor their hands for their revenge and rapine, nor their instruments for persecution; but they go burdened with conceived sin, and are disquieted and tortured by it all their days. And hence they become in themselves, as well as unto others, 'a troubled sea that cannot rest;' Isa. lvii. 20. It
may be also in some cases, under some violent temptations, or in mistakes, God may thus obviate the accomplishment of conceived sin in his own. And there seems to be an instance of it in his dealing with Jehoshaphat, who had de
signed, against the mind of God, to join in affinity with Ahab, and to send his ships with him to Tarshish; but God breaks his ships by a wind, that he could not accomplish what he had designed. But in God's dealing with his in this way, there is a difference from the same dispensation towards others; for,
[1.] It is so only in cases of extraordinary temptation. When, through the violence of temptation and craft of Satan, they are hurried from under the conduct of the law of grace, God one way or other takes away their power, or may do so, that they shall not be able to execute what they had designed. But this is an ordinary way of dealing with wicked men. This hook of God is upon them in the whole course of their lives; and they struggle with it, being as a wild bull in a net; Isa. li. 20. God's net is upon them, and they are filled with fury that they cannot do all the wickedness that they would.
[2.] God doth it not to leave them to wrestle with sin, and to attempt other ways of its accomplishment, upon the failure of that which they were engaged in; but by their disappointment awakens them to think of their condition, and what they are doing, and so consumes sin in the womb by the ways that shall afterward be insisted on. Some men’s deprivation of power for the committing of conceived contrived sin, hath been sanctified to the changing of their hearts from all dalliances with that or other sins.
(3.) God providentially hinders the bringing forth of conceived sin, by' opposing an external hindering power unto sinners. He leaves them their lives, and leaves them power to do what they intend, only he raiseth up an opposite power to coerce, forbid, and restrain them. An instance hereof we have, 1 Sam. xiv. 45. Saul had sworn that Jonathan should be put to death, and, as far as appears, went on resolutely to have slain him; God stirs up the spirit of the people, they oppose themselves to the wrath and fury of Saul, and Jonathan is delivered. So also, 2 Chron. xxvi. 17-19. when king Uzziah would have in his own person offered incense contrary to the law, eighty men of the priests resisted him, and drove him out of the temple. And to this head are to be referred all the assistances which God stirreth up for deliverance of his people against the fury of persecutors. He raiseth up saviours or deliverers on Mount Sion,' to judge the mount of Edom.' So Rev. xii. 16. the dragon, and those acting under him, spirited by him, were in a furious endeavour for the destruction of the church; God stirs up the earth to her assistance, even men of the world, not engaged with others in the design of Satan, and, by their opposition, hinders them from the execution of their designed rage. Of this nature seems to be that dealing of God with his own people, Hos. ii., 6, 7. they were in the pursuit of their iniquities, following after their lovers ; God leaves them for awhile to act in the folly of their spirits, but he sets a hedge and a wall before them, that they shall not be able to fulfil their designs and lusts.
(4.) God obviates the accomplishment of conceived sin, by removing or taking away the objects on whom, or about whom, the sin conceived was to be committed. Acts xii. 11. yields us a signal instance of this issue of providence. When the day was coming wherein Herod thought to have slain Peter who was shut up in prison, God sends and takes him away from their rage and lying in wait. So also was our Saviour himself taken away from the murderous rage of the Jews before his hour was come, John viii. 59. X. 39. Both primitive and latter times are full of stories to this purpose. Prison doors have been opened, and poor creatures appointed to die have been frequently rescued from the jaws of death. In the world itself, amongst the men thereof, adulterers and adulteresses, the sin of the one is often hindered and stifled by the taking away of the other. So wings were given to the woman to carry her into the wilderness, and to disappoint the world in the execution of their rage, Rev. xii. 14.
(5.) God doth this by some eminent diversions of the thoughts of men who had conceived sin, Gen. xxxvii. 24. The brethren of Joseph cast him into a pit, with an intent to famish him there : whilst they were, as it seems, pleasing themselves with what they had done, God orders a company of merchants to come by, and diverts their thoughts with that new object from the killing to the selling of their brother, ver. 26, 27. And how far therein they were subservient to the infinitely wise counsel of God, we know. Thus also, when Saul was in the pursuit of David, and was even ready to prevail against him to his destruction, God stirs up the Philistines to invade the land, which both di
verted his thoughts, and drew the course of his actings another way, 1 Sam. xxvii. 27.
And these are some of the ways whereby God is pleased to hinder the bringing forth of conceived sin, by opposing himself and his providence to the power of the sinning creature. And we may a little in our passage
take a brief view of the great advantages to faith and the church of God, which
be found in this matter. As, [1.] This may give us a little insight into the ever-tobe-adored providence of God, by these and the like ways in great variety obstructing the breaking forth of sin in the world. It is he who makes those dams, and shuts up those floodgates of corrupted nature, that it shall not break forth in a deluge of filthy abominations to overwhelm the creation with confusion and disorder. As it was of old, so it is at this day; ' Every thought and imagination of the heart of man is evil, and that continually.' That all the earth is not in all places filled with violence, as it was of old, is merely from the mighty hand of God working effectually for the obstructing of sin. From hence alone it is, that the highways, streets, and fields, are not all filled with violence, blood, rapine, uncleanness, and every villany that the heart of man can conceive. O the infinite beauty of divine wisdom and providence in the government of the world ! For the conservation of it asks daily no less power and wisdom than the first making of it did require,
[2.] If we will look to our own concernments, they will in a special manner enforce us to adore the wisdom and efficacy of the providence of God, in stopping the progress of conceived sin. That we are at peace in our houses, at rest in our beds, that we have any quiet in our enjoyments, is from hence alone. Whose person would not be defiled or destroyed ? whose habitation would not be ruined ? whose blood almost would not be shed, if wicked men had power to perpetrate all their conceived sin ? It may be the ruin of some of us hath been conceived a thousand times. We are beholding to this providence of obstructing sin, for our lives, our families, our estates, our liberties, for whatsoever is, or may be, dear unto us. For may we not say sometimes with the psalmist, Psal. lvii. 4. My soul is among lions, and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword ?' And how is the deliverance of men contrived from such persons? Psal. lviii. 6. God breaks their teeth in their mouths, even the great teeth of the young lions.' He keeps this fire from burning, or quencheth it when it is ready to break out into a flame. He breaks their spears and arrows, so that sometimes we are not so much as wounded by them. Some he cuts off and destroys, some he cuts short in their power, some he deprives of the instruments whereby alone they can work, some he prevents of their desired opportunities, or diverts by other objects for their lusts, and oftentimes causeth them to spend them among themselves one upon another. We may say therefore with the psalmist, Psal. civ. 24. · O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches :' and with the prophet, Hos. xiv. 9. • Who is wise, and he shall understand these things ? prudent and he shall know them ? all the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them : but the trangressors shall fall therein.'
\[3.] If these and the like are the ways whereby God obviates the bringing forth of conceived sin in wicked men, we may learn hence how miserable their condition is, and in what perpetual torment for the most part they spend their days. They are like a troubled sea,' saith the Lord, 'that cannot rest.' As they endeavour that others may have no peace, so it is certain that themselves have not any : the principle of sin is not impaired nor weakened in them, the will of sinning is not taken away. They have a womb of sin that is able to conceive monsters every moment. Yea, for the most part, they are forging and framing folly all the day long. One lust or other they are contriving how to satisfy; they are either devouring by malice and revenge, or vitiating by uncleanness, or trampling on by ambition, or swallowing down by covetousness, all that stand before them. Many of their follies and mischiefs they bring to the very birth, and are in pain to be delivered; but God every day fills them with disappointment, and shuts up the womb of sin. Some are filled with batred of God's people all their days, and never once have an opportunity to exercise it. So David describes them, Psal. lix. 6. • They re