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DOMINION OF SIN AND GRACE.
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but
under grace.-Rom. vi. 14.
What sin is consistent with the state of grace, and what not. Sin's great
design in all, to obtain dominion: it hath it in unbelievers, and contends for it in believers. The ways by which it acts.
The psalmist treating with God in prayer about sin, acknowledgeth, that there are in all men unsearchable errors of life, beyond all human understanding or comprehension; with such daily sins of infirmity, as stand in need of continual cleansing and pardon, Psal. xix. 12. Who can understand his errors ? cleanse thou me from secret faults. But yet he supposeth that these things are consistent with a state of grace, and acceptation with God. He had no thought of any absolute perfection in this life; of any such condition as should not stand in need of continual cleansing and pardon. Wherefore there are or may be such sins in believers, yea, many of them, which yet under a due application unto God, for purifying and pardoning grace, shall neither deprive us of peace here, nor endanger our salvation hereafter.
But he speaks immediately of another sort of sins, which partly from their nature, or what they are in themselves, and partly from their operation and power, will certainly prove destructive unto the souls of men wherever they are. 13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins ; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.'
This is the hinge whereon the whole cause and state of my soul doth turn. Although I am subject to many sins of various sorts, yet under them all I can and do maintain my integrity, and covenant uprightness in walking with God; and where I fail, am kept within the reach of cleansing and pardoning mercy, continually administered unto my soul by Jesus Christ. But there is a state of life in this world, wherein sin hath dominion over the soul; acting itself presumptuously, wherewith integrity and freedom from condemning guilt are inconsistent.
This state, therefore, which is eternally ruinous unto the souls of men, he deprecates with all earnestness, praying to be kept and preserved from it.
What he there so earnestly prays for, the apostle in the words of the text promiseth unto all believers, by virtue of the grace of Christ Jesus, administered in the gospel. Both the prayer of the prophet for himself, and the promise of the apostle in the name of God unto us, do manifest of how great importance this matter is, as we shall declare it to be immediately.
There are some things supposed or included in these words of the apostle. These we must first a little inquire into, without which we cannot well understand the truth itself proposed in them. As,
1. It is supposed, that sin doth still abide in, and dwell with, believers. For so is the meaning of the words. That sin which is in you shall not have dominion over you; that is, none of them who are not sensible of it, who
not to be delivered from it, as the apostle doth, Rom. vii. 24. Those who are otherwise minded, know neither themselves, nor what is sin, nor wherein the grace of the gospel doth consist. There is the flesh remaining in every one which 'lusteth against the Spirit;' Gal. v. 17. And it adheres unto all the faculties of our souls; whence it is called the old man;' Rom. vi. 6. Ephes. iv. 22. in opposition unto the renovation of our minds and all the faculties of them called the 'new man,' or 'new creature' in us. And there is apóvola rñs oapkòs eis žmlOvulas,' Rom xiii. 14. a continual working and provision to fulfil its own lusts : so thatit abides in us in the way of a dying, decaying habit, weakened and impaired; but acting itself in inclinations, motions, and desires, suitable unto its nature.
As Scripture and experience concur herein, so a supposition of it is the only ground of the whole doctrine of evangelical mortification. That this is a duty, a duty incumbent on believers all the days of their lives, such a duty as without which they can never perform any other in a due man. ner, will not be denied by any, but either such as are wholly under the power of atheistical blindness, or such as by the fever of spiritual pride, have lost the understanding of their own miserable condition, and so lie dreaming about absolute perfection. With neither sort are we at present concerned. Now the first proper object of this mortification is this sin that dwells in us. It is the flesh' which is to be mortified, the old man'which is to be crucified, the lusts of the flesh,' with all their corrupt inclinations, actings, and motions, that are to be destroyed ; Rom. vi. 6. Gal. v. 24. Col. jii. 1. Unless this be well fixed in the mind, we cannot understand the greatness of the grace and privilege here expressed.
2. It is supposed that this sin, which, in the remainders of it, so abides in believers, in various degrees, may put forth its power in them, to obtain victory and dominion over them. It is first supposed, that it hath this dominion in some, that it doth bear rule over all unbelievers, all that are under the law; and then, that it will strive to do the same in them that, believe, and are under grace. For affirming that it shall not have dominion over us, he grants that it may or doth contend for it, only it shall not have success, it shall not prevail. Hence it is said to fight and war in us;' Rom. vii. 23. and to fight against our souls ;' 1 Pet. ii. 12. Now it thus fights and wars, and contends in us for dominion; for that is the end of all war; whatever fights, it doth it for power and rule. 1
This therefore is the general design of sin in all its actings. These actings are various, according to the variety of lusts in the minds of men; but its general design in them all is dominion. Where any one is tempted and seduced of his own lusts, as the apostle James speaks, be it in a matter never so small orso unusual, or the temptations thereunto may never occur again; the design of sin lies not in the particular temptation, but to make it a means to obtain dominion over the soul. And the consideration hereof should keep believers always on their guard against all the motions of sin; though the matter of them seem but small, and the occasions of them such as are not like to return. For the aim and tendency of every one of them is dominion and death, which they will compass, if not stopped in their progress, as the apostle there declares, James i. 14, 15. Believe not its flatteries; Is it not a little one? this is the first or shall be the last time: it requires only a little place in the mind and affections, it shall go no farther : give not place to its urgency and solicitations; admit of none of its excuses or promises; it is power over your souls unto their ruin that it aims at
3. There are two ways in general whereby sin acts its power, and aims at the obtaining this dominion, and they are the two only ways whereby any may design or attain an unjust dominion, and they are deceit and force; both of which I have fully described in another discourse. With respect whereunto it is promised, that the Lord Christ shall deliver the souls of the poor that cry unto him from deceit and violence ;' Psal. lxxii. 14.
These are the two only ways of obtaining an unjust dominion; and where they are in conjunction, they must have a mighty prevalency, and such as will render the contest hazardous. There are few believers but have found it so, at least in their own apprehensions; they have been ready to say at one time or another, We shall one day fall by the hand of this enemy; and have been forced to cry out unto Jesus Christ for help and succour, with no less vehemency than the disclples did at sea, when the ship was covered with waves, 'Lord, save us, we perish;' Matt. viii. 24, 25. And so they would do, did he not come in seasonably to their succour; Heb. ii. 18. And herein the soul hath frequently no less experience of the power of Christ in his grace, than the disciples on their outcry had of his sovereign authority, when he rebuked the winds and the seas, and there was a
This dominion of sin is that which we have here security given us against : though it will abide in us, though it will contend for rule by deceit and force, yet it shall not prevail, it shall not have the dominion.
And this is a case of the highest importance unto us. Our souls are and must be under the rule of some principle
or law. And from this rule, our state is determined and denominated. We are either servants of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness;' Rom. vi. 16. This is the substance of the discourse of the apostle in that whole chapter; namely, that the state of the soul, as unto life and death eternal, follows the conduct and rule that we are under. If sin have the dominion, we are lost for ever. If it be dethroned, we are safe. It may tempt, seduce, and entice; it may fight, war, perplex, and disquiet; it may surprise into actual sin; yet if it have not the dominion in us, we are in a state of grace and acceptation with God.
The inquiries for understanding the text proposed; the first spoken to: viz.
What is the dominion of sin, which we are freed from, and discharged of,
We shall inquire into three things from the words of this text.
I. What is that dominion of sin, which we are freed from, and discharged of, by grace?
II. How we may know whether sin hath the dominion in us or not?
III. What is the reason and evidence of the assurance here given us, that sin shall not have dominion over us? namely, because we are not under the law, but under grace.
I. As unto the first of these, I shall only recount some such properties of it, as will discover its nature in general ; the particulars wherein it doth consist, will be considered afterward.
First, The dominion of sin is perverse and evil, and that on both the accounts which render any rule or dominion so to be. For,
1. It is usurped. Sin hath no right to rule in the souls of men.
Men have no power to give sin a right to rule over them. They may voluntarily enslave themselves unto it; but this gives sin no right or title. All men have originally another Lord, unto whom they owe all obedience; nor càn any thing discharge them from their allegiance thereunto: