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Present hell-fire unto it, it rusheth into the midst of those flames: reproach it with its folly and madness, it knows no shame, but presseth on still. Let the thoughts of the mind strive to fly from it, it follows as on the wings of the wind. And by this importunity it wearies and wears out the soul; and if the great remedy, Rom. viii. 13. come not timely, it prevails to a conquest. There is nothing more marvellous nor dreadful in the working of sin, than this of its importunity. The soul knows not what to make of it; it dislikes, abhors, abominates the evil it tends unto, it despiseth the thoughts of it, hates them as hell, and yet is by itself imposed on with them, as if it were another person, an express enemy got within him.
All this the apostle discovers, Rom. vii. 15–17. The things that I do, I hate;' it is not of outward actions, but the inward risings of the mind that he treats. I hate them,' saith he, 'I abominate them :' but why then will he have any thing more to do with them? If he hate them, and abhor himself for them, let them alone, have no more to do with them, and so end the matter. Alas! saith he, ver. 17. • It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I have one within me that is my enemy, that with endless restless importunity puts these things upon me, even the things that I hate and abominate; I cannot be rid of them, I am weary of myself, I cannot fly from them; • O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?' I do not say that this is the ordinary condition of believers, but thus it is often, when this law of sin riseth up to war and fighting. It is not thus with them in respect of particular sins, this or that sin, outward sins, sins of life and conversation; but yet in respect of vanity of mind, inward and spiritual distempers, it is often so. Some, I know, pretend to great perfection, but I am resolved to believe the apostle before them all and every one.
(3.) It carries on its war by entangling of the affections, and drawing them into a combination against the mind. Let grace be enthroned in the mind and judgment, yet if the law of sin lays hold upon, and entangles the affections, or any of them, it hath gotten a fort, from whence it continually assaults the soul. Hence the great duty of mortification is chiefly directed to take place upon the affections, Col. iii. 5. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon
the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.' The members that are upon the earth are our affections : for in the outward part of the body sin is not seated; in particular, not covetousness, which is there enumerated to be mortified amongst our members that are on the earth. Yea, after grace hath taken possession of the soul, the affections do become the principal seat of the remainders of sin ; and therefore Paul saith, that this law is in our members, Rom. vii. 23. and James, that it wars in our members, chap. iv. 1. that is, our affections. And there is no estimate to be taken of the work of mortification aright, but by the affections. We may every day see persons of very eminent light, that yet visibly have unmortified hearts and conversations; their affections have not been crucified with Christ. Now then when this law of sin can possess any affection, whatever it be, love, delight, fear, it will make from it, and by it, fearful assaults upon the soul. For instance; hath it got the love of any one entangled with the world, or the things of it, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life; how will it take advantage on every occasion to break in upon the soul : it shall do nothing, attempt nothing, be in no place or company, perform no duty, private or. public, but sin will have one blow or other at it; it will be one way or other soliciting for itself.
This is the sum of what we shall offer unto this acting of the law of sin, in a way of fighting and warring against our souls, which is so often mentioned in the Scripture; and a due consideration of it is of no small advantage unto us, especially to bring us unto self-abasement, to teach us to walk humbly and mournfully before God. There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men ; and they are, first, a due consideration of God, and then of themselves. Of God, in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject, and sinful condition. Now, of all things in our condition, there is nothing so suited unto this end and purpose, as that which lies before us; namely, the vile remainders of enmity against God, which are yet in our hearts and natures. And it is no small evidence of a gracious soul, when it is willing to search itself in this matter, and to be helped therein from a word of truth. When it is willing that the word should dive into the secret parts of the heart, and rip open whatever of evil and corruption lies therein. The prophet says of Ephraim, Hos. x. 11. He loved to tread out the corn;' he loved to work when he might eat, to have always the corn before him; but God, says he, 'would cause him to plough;' a labour no less needful, though at present not so delightful. Most men love to hear of the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of free love, and suppose they find food therein; however, it is evident that they grow and thrive in the life and notion of them. But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be inquiring after the weeds and briers that grow in them, they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other. This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself. It
may be some who are wise and grown in other truths, may yet be so little skilled in searching their own hearts, that they may be slow in the perception and understanding of these things : but this sloth and neglect is to be shaken off, if we have any regard unto our own souls. It is more than probable, that many a false hypocrite, who have deceived themselves as well as others, because they thought the doctrine of the gospel pleased them, and therefore supposed they believed it, might be delivered from their soulruining deceits, if they would diligently apply themselves unto this search of their own hearts. Or would other professors walk with so much boldness and security as some do, if they considered aright what a deadly watchful enemy they continually carry about with them, and in them ? would they so much indulge as they do carnal joys and pleasures, or pursue their perishing affairs with so much delight and greediness as they do? it were to be wished, that we would all apply our hearts more to this work, even to come to a true understanding of the nature, power, and subtlety of this our adversary, that our souls may be humbled. And that,
1. In walking with God. His delight is with the humble and contrite ones, those that tremble at his word, the mourners in Sion; and such are we only, when we have a due sense of our own vile condition. This will beget reverence of God, sense of our distance from him, admiration
of his grace and condescension, a due valuation of mercy, far above those light, verbal, airy attainments, that some have boasted of.
2. In walking with others, it lays in provision to prevent those great evils of judging, spiritual unmercifulness, harsh censuring, which I have observed to have been pretended by many, who at the same time, as afterward hath appeared, have been guilty of greater or worse crimes than those which they have raved against in others. This, I say, will lead us to meekness, compassion, readiness to forgive, to pass by offences, even when we shall consider what is our state, as the apostle plainly declares, Gal. vi. 1. The man that understands the evil of his own heart, how vile it is, is the only useful, fruitful, and solidly believing and obedient person. Others are fit only to delude themselves, to disquiet families, churches, and all relations whatever. Let us then consider our hearts wisely, and then go and see if we can be proud of our gifts, our graces, our valuation and esteem amongst professors, our enjoyments. Let us go then and judge, condemn, reproach others that have been tempted; we shall find a great inconsistency in these things. And many things of the like nature might be here added upon the consideration of this woful effect of indwelling sin. The way of opposing and defeating its design herein shall be afterward considered.
The captivating power of indwelling sin, wherein it consisteth. The preva
lency of sin, when from itself, when from temptation. The rage and madness that is in sin.
The third thing assigned unto this law of sin in its opposition unto God, and the law of his grace, is, that it leads the soul captive, Rom. vii. 23. 'I find a law leading me captive' (captivating me) unto the law of sin. And this is the utmost height which the apostle in that place carries the opposition and warring of the remainders of indwelling sin unto; closing the consideration of it with a complaint of the state and condition of believers thereby; and an earnest prayer for deliverance from it, ver. 24. • wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death.' What is contained in this expression, and intended by it, shall be declared in the ensuing observations.
1. It is not directly the power and actings of the law of sin that are here expressed, but its success in and upon its actings. But success is the greatest evidence of power, and leading captive in war is the height of success. None can aim at greater success, than to lead their enemies captive. And it is a peculiar expression in the Scripture of great success. So the Lord Christ, on his victory over Satan, is said to lead captivity captive ;' Ephes. iv. 8. That is, to conquer him who had conquered and prevailed upon others. And this he did when by death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;' Heb. ii. 14. Here then a great prevalency and power of sin, in its warring against the soul, is discovered. It so wars as to lead captive; which, had it not great power, it could not do; especially against that resistance of the soul which is included in this expression.
2. It is said, that it leads the soul captive unto the law of sin.' Not to this or that sin, particular sin, actual sin, but to the law of sin.' God, for the most part, ordereth things so, and gives out such supplies of grace unto believers, as that they shall not be made a prey unto this or that particular sin, that it should prevail in them, and compel them to serve it in the lusts thereof, that it should have dominion over them, that they should be captives and slaves unto it. This is that which David prays so earnestly against, Psalm xix. 12, 13. Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright.' He supposeth the continuance of the law of sin in him, ver. 12. which will bring forth errors of life, and secret sins, against which he findeth relief in pardoning and cleansing mercy which he prays for. This, saith he, will be my condition. But for sins of pride and boldness, such as all sins are that get dominion in a man, that make a captive of a man, the Lord restrain thy servant from them. For what sin soever gets such power in a man, be it in its own nature small or great, it becomes in him in whom it is a sin of boldness,