Imágenes de páginas

sing and temptations : for in spiritual, they will never have an entire rest till they come into their country. It is angelical perfection to have no flesh at all, but it is the perfection of a Christian to have the flesh obedient to the Spirit always, and in all things. But if this contention be not a sign of regeneration, but is common to good and bad, that which can only distinguish them, is victory, and perseverance ; and those sins which are committed at the end of such contentions, are not sins of a pitiable and excusable infirmity; but the issues of death, and direct emanations from an unregenerate estate. Therefore,

44. VII. Lastly; the regenerate not only hath received the Spirit of God, but is wholly led by him, he attends his motions, he obeys his counsels, he delights in his commandments, and accepts his testimony, and consents to his truth, and rejoices in his comforts, and is nourished by his hopes up to a perfect man in Christ Jesus. This is the only condition of being the sons of God, and being saved. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of Godi: none else. And therefore, 'if ye live after the flesh ye shall die, but, if through the Spirit, ye do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live k? This is your characteristic note : Our obedience to the Spirit, our walking by his light, and by his conduct. This is the Spirit that witnesseth to our spirit, that we are the sons of God!' That is, if the Spirit be obeyed, if it reigns in us, if we live in it, if we walk after it, if it dwells in us, then we are sure that we are the sons of God. There is no other testimony to be expected, but the doing of our duty. All things else (unless an extra-regular light spring from heaven and tell us of it) are but fancies and deceptions, or uncertainties at the best.

SECTION VII. What are properly and truly Sins of Infirmity, and how far they

can consist with the Regenerate Estate. 45. We usually reckon ourselves too soon to be in God's favour. While the war lasts, it is hard telling who shall be the

k Ver. 13.

i Rom. viii. 14.

I Ver. 16.


prince. When one part hath fought prosperously, there are hopes of his side: and yet if the adversary hath reserves of a vigorous force, or can raise new, and not only pretends his title, but makes great inroads into the country, and forages, and does mischief, and fights often, and prevails sometimes, the inheritance is still doubtful as the success. But if the usurper be beaten, and driven out, and his forces quite broken, and the lawful prince is proclaimed, and rules, and gives laws, though the other rails in prison, or should by a sudden fury kill a single person, or plot an ineffective treason, no man then doubts concerning the present possession.

46. But men usually think their case is good, so long as they are fighting, so long as they are not quite conquered, and every step towards grace, they call it,' pardon’and' salvation' presently. As soon as ever a man begins heartily to mortify his sin, his hopes begin, and if he proceeds they are certain. But if in this fight he be overcome, he is not to ask, whether that ill day, and that deadly blow, can consist with the state of life? He that fights, and conquers not, but sins frequently, and to yield or be killed is the end of the long contentions, this man is not yet alive. But when he prevails regularly and daily over his sin, then he is in a state of regeneration ; but let him take heed, for every voluntary or chosen sin is a mortal wound.

47. But because no man in this world hath so conquered but he may be smitten, and is sometimes struck at ; and most good men have cause to complain of their calamity, that in their understandings there are doubtings, and strange mistakes, which because after a great confidence they are sometimes discovered, there is cause to suspect there are some there still which are not discovered ; that there are in the will evil inclinations to forbidden instances; that in the appetite there are carnal desires; that in their natural actions there are sometimes too sensual applications ; that in their good actions there are mighty imperfections ;-it will be of use that we separate the certain from the uncertain, security from danger, the apology from the accusation, and the excuse from the crime, by describing what are, and what are not, sins of infirmity.

48. For most men are pleased to call their debaucheries sins of infirmity, if they be done against their reason, and the

actual murmur of their consciences, and against their trifling resolutions, and ineffective purposes to the contrary. Now although all sins are the effects of infirmity natural or moral, yet because I am to cure a popular mistake, I am also to understand the word as men do commonly, and by sins of infirmity to mean,

49. Such sins which, in the whole, and upon the matter, are unavoidable, and therefore excusable : such which can consist with the state of grace, that is, such which have so much irregularity in them as to be sins, and yet so much excuse and pity, as that by the covenant and mercies of the Gospel, they shall not be exacted in the worst of punishments, or punished with eternal pains, because they cannot, with the greatest moral diligence, wholly be avoided. Concerning these so described, we are to take accounts by the following measures.

50. I. Natural imperfections, and evil inclinations, when they are not consented to or delighted in, either are no sins at all, or if they be, they are but sins of infirmity. That in some things our nature is cross to the divine commandment, is not always imputable to us, because our natures were before the commandment; and God hath therefore commanded us to do violence to our nature, that by such preternatural contentions we should offer to God. a service that costs us something. But that in some things we are inclined otherwise than we are suffered to act, is so far from offending God, that it is that opportunity of serving him, by which we can most endear him. To be inclined to that whither natute bends, is of itself indifferent; but to love, to entertain, to act our inclinations, when the commandment is put between, that is the sin;, and therefore if we resist them, and master them, that is our obedience. For it is equally certain; no man can be esteemed spiritual for his good wishes and desires of holiness, but for his actual and habitual obedience: soʻno man is to be esteemed carnal or criminal for his natural inclinations to what is forbidden. But that good men complain of their strange propensities to sin, it is a declaration of their fears, of their natural weakness, of the needs of grace, and the aids of God's Spirit. But because these desires, even when they are much restrained, do yet sometimes insensibly go too far; therefore it is, that such are

sins of infirmity, because they are almost unavoidable. This remain is like the image of the ape which Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, left after the breaking of the other idols; a testimony of their folly; but as that was left for no other purpose but to reprove them, so is this to humble us, that we may not rely upon flesh and blood, but make God to be our confidence.

51. II. Sins of infirmity are rather observed in the imperfection of our duty, than in the commission of any criminal action. For in this it was that our blessed Saviour instanced these words; “ The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak ";" the body is weary, the eyes heavy, the fancy rest less, diversions many, business perpetually intervenes, and all the powers of discourse and observation cannot hinder our mind from wandering in our prayers,

Odi artas, fragilemque hunc corporis usum

Desertorem animi. But this being, in the whole, unavoidable, is therefore, in many of its parts and instances, very excusable, if we do not indulge to it; if we pray and strive against it: that is, so long as it is a natural infirmity. For although we cannot avoid wandering thoughts, yet we can avoid delighting in them, or a careless and negligent increasing them. For if they once seize upon the will, they are sins of choice and malice, and pot of infirmity. So that the great sense of sins of infirmity, is in omission of degrees and portions of that excellency of duty which is required of us. We are imperfect, and we do imperfectly, and if we strive towards perfection, God will pity our imperfection. There is no other help for us; but blessed be God, that is sufficient for our need, and proportionable to our present state.

52. III. But in actions and matters of commission, the case is different. For though a man may forget himself against his will, or sleep, or fall, yet without his will he cannot throw himself down, or rise again. Every action is more or less voluntary ; but every omission is not. A thing may be let alone upon a dead stock, or a negative principle, or an unavoidable defect; but an action cannot be done without some command or action of the will; therefore, although sins

[blocks in formation]

of defect are, in many cases, pitied and not exacted, yet sinful actions have not so easy a sentence: but they also have some abatements. Therefore,

53. IV. Imperfect actions, such which are incomplete in their whole capacity, are sins of infirmity, and ready and prepared for pity: of this sort are rash or ignorant actions, done by surprise ; by inconsideration and inadvertency, by a sudden and great fear, in which the reason is in very many degrees made useless, and the action cannot be considered daly. In these there is some little mixture of choice, so much as to make the action imputable, if God should deal severely with us; but yet so little that it shall not be imputed under the mercies of the Gospel; although the man that does them, cannot pretend he is innocent, yet he can pretend that he does stand fair in the eye of mercy. A good man may sometimes be unwary; or he may speak, or be put to it to resolve or do, before he can well consider. If he does a thing rasbly when he can consider and deliberate, he is not excused: but if he does it indiscreetly, when he must do it suddenly, it is his infirmity, and he shall be relieved at the chancery of the throne of grace. For it is remarkable that God's justice is in some cases åkpißrs, “exact,' full and severe : in other cases it is ĚTLELKNS, ‘full of equity,' gentleness, and wisdom, making abatement for infirmities, performing promises, interpreting things to the most equal and favourable purposes. So justice is taken in St. John'; “ If we confess our sins, he is righteous or just to forgive our sins;" that is, God's justice is such as to be content with what we can do, and not to exact all that is possible to be imposed. He is as just in forgiving the penitent, as in punishing the refractory; as just in abating reasonably, as in weighing scrupulously : such a justice it is, which in the same case David calls


- For thou, Lord, art merciful: for thou rewardest every man according to his works." And if this were not so, no man could be saved. “Mortalis enim conditio non patitur esse hominem ab omni macula purum," said Lactantius ". things we offend all ;' and our present state of imperfection will not suffer it to be otherwise : Χαλεπόν γαρ, ώσπερ τους δρομείς αρξαμένους οδού, προς ευσέβειαν απταίστως και από νευστι διευθύνει τον δρόμον, έπει μύρια εμποδών παντί τω γινο

For 'in many

n Lib. 6. 13.

« AnteriorContinuar »