« AnteriorContinuar »
no inquiry into this matter. It is a rare thing, especially of late, to have any brought under this conviction by the preaching of the word, though it be the case of multitudes that attend unto it.
2. To satisfy some, that sin hath not the dominion over them, notwithstanding its restless acting itself in them, and warring against their souls; yet, unless this can be done, it is impossible they should enjoy solid peace and comfort in this life. And the concernment of the best of believers, whilst they are in this world, doth lie herein ; for as they grow in light, spirituality, experience, freedom of mind and humility, the more they love to know of the deceit, activity, and power of the remainders of sin. And although it works not at all, at least not sensibly in them, towards those sins wherein it reigneth and rageth in others, yet they are able to discern its more subtle, inward, and spiritual actings in the mind and heart to the weakening of grace, the obstructing of its effectual operations in holy duties, with many indispositions unto stability in the life of God, which fills them with trouble.
The second inquiry spoken to; Whether sin hath dominion in us or not? In
answer to which it is shewed, that some wear sin's livery, and they are the professed servants thereof. There are many in which the case is dubious, where sin's service is not so discèrnable. Several exceptions are put in against its dominion, where it seems to prevail. Some certain signs of its dominioni Graces and duties to be exercised for its mortification.
These things being thus premised in general, concerning the nature of the dominion of sin, we shall now proceed unto our principal inquiry; namely, Whether sin have dominion in us or no? whereby we may know, whether we are under the law or under grace, or what is the state of our souls towards God. An inquiry this is, which is very necessary for some to make, and for all to have rightly determined in their minds, from Scripture and experience ; for on that determination depends all our solid peace. Sin will be in us; it will lust, fight, and entice us;- but the great question, as
unto our peace and comfort, is, whether it hath dominion
over us or no.
1. We do not inquire concerning them in whom the reign of sin is absolute and easily discernable, if not to themselves, yet to others. Such there are, who visibly ‘yield up their members instruments of unrighteousness to sin;' Rom. vi. 13. Sin reigns in their mortal bodies, and they openly obey it in the lusts thereof;' ver. 12. They are avowedly “servants of sin unto death;' ver. 16. and are not ashamed of it. The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not;' Isa. iii. 9. Such are those described, Ephes. iv. 18, 19. and such the world is filled withal. Such, as being under the power of darkness and enmity against God, do act them in opposition to all serious godliness, and in the service of various lusts. There is no question concerning their state ; they cannot themselves deny that it is so with them. I speak not for the liberty of censuring, but for the easiness of judging. Those who openly wear sin's livery, may well be esteemed to be sin's servants; and they shall not fail to receive sin's wages. Let them at present bear it never so high, and despise all manner of convictions, they will find it * bitterness in the latter end ;' Isa. 1. 11. Eccles. xi. 9.
2. But there are many in whom the case is dubious, and not easy to be determined; for on the one hand, they may have sundry things in them which may seem repugnant unto the reign of sin, but indeed are not inconsistent with it. All arguments and pleas from them in their vindication may fail them on a trial. And on the other hand, there may in whom the effectual working of sin may be so great and perplexing, as to argue that it hath the dominion when indeed it hath not, but is only a stubborn rebel.
The things of the first sort which seem destructive of, and inconsistent with, the dominion of sin, but indeed are not, may be referred to five heads.
1. Illumination in knowledge and spiritual gifts, with convictions of good and evil, of all known duties and sins. This is that which some men live in a perpetual rebellion against, in one instance or another.
2. A change in the affections, giving a temporary delight
in religious duties, with some constancy in their observations. This also is found in many who are yet evidently under the power of sin and spiritual darkness.
3. A performance of many duties bota moral and evangelical, for the substance of them; and an abstinence, out of conscience, from many sins. So was it with the young man in the gospel, who yet wanted what was necessary to free him from the dominion of sin, Matt. xix. 20—23.
4. Repentance for sin committed. This is that which most secure themselves by; and a blessed security it is, when it is gracious, evangelical, a fruit of faith, comprising the return of the whole soul to God. But there is that which is legal, partial, respecting particular sins only; which is not pleadable in this case. Ahab was no less under the dominion of sin when he had repented him, than he was before. And Judas repented him before he hanged himself.
5. Promises and resolutions against sin for the future. But the goodness of many in these things, is like the morning cloud, and as the early dew it passeth away;' as it is in the prophet, Hos. vi. 4.
Where there is a concurrence of these things in any, they have good hopes, at least that they are not under the dominion of sin; nor is it easy to convince them that they are; and they may so behave themselves herein, as that it is not consistent with Christian charity to pronounce them to be so. Howbeit, the fallacy that is in these things hath been detected by many; and much more is by all required to evidence the sincerity of faith and holiness. No man, therefore, can be acquitted by pleas taken from thein, as unto their subjection to the reign of sin.
The things of the second sort, whence arguments may be taken to prove the dominion of sin in any person, which yet will not certainly do it, are those which we shall now examine. And we must observe,
1. That where sin hath the dominion, it doth indeed rule in the whole soul, and all the faculties of it. It is a vicious habit in all of them, corrupting them in their several natures and power, with that corruption whereof they are capable. So in the mind, of darkness and vanity; the will, of spiritual
deceit and perverseness; the heart, of stubboroness and sensuality. Sin in its power reaches unto and affects them all. But,
2. It doth evidence its dominion, and is to be tried by its acting in the distinct faculties of the mind; in the frame of the heart, and in the course of the life.
These are those which we shall examine; first, those which render the case dubious; and then, those that clearly determine it on the part of sin. I shall not, therefore, at present, give positive evidences of men's freedom from the dominion of sin; but only consider the arguments that lie against them, and examine how far they are conclusive, or how they may be defeated. And,
1. When sin hath in any instance possessed the imagination, and thereby engaged the cogitative faculty in its service, it is a dangerous symptom of its rule or dominion. Sin may exercise its rule in the mind, fancy, and imagination, where bodily strength or opportunity give no advantage for its outward perpetration. In them the desires of sin may be enlarged as hell, and the satisfaction of lust taken in with greediness. Pride and covetousness and sensuality may reign and rage in the mind, by corrupt imaginations, when their outward exercise is shut up by circumstances of life.
The first way whereby sin acts itself, or coins its motions and inclinations into acts, is by the imagination; Gen. vi.5. The continual evil figments of the heart are as the bubbling of corrupt waters from a corrupted fountain.
The imaginations intended are the fixing of the mind on the objects of sin or sinful objects, by continual thoughts, with delight and complacency. They are the mind's purveying for the satisfaction of the flesh in the lusts thereof, Rom. xiii. 14. whereby evil thoughts come to lodge, to abide, to dwell in the heart, Jer. iv. 14.
This is the first and proper effect of that vanity of mind whereby the soul is alienated from the life of God. The mind being turned off from its proper object with a dislike of it, applies itself by its thoughts and imaginations, unto the pleasures and advantages of sin, seeking in vain to recover the rest and satisfaction which they have forsaken in God himself. “They follow after lying vanities, and forsake their own mercies;' Jonah ii. 8. And when they give them
selves up unto a constant internal converse with the desires of the flesh, the pleasures and advantages of sin, with delight and approbation, sin may reign triumphantly in them though no appearance be made of it in their outward conversation. Such are they who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof;' their hearts being filled with a litter of ungodly lusts, as the apostle declares, 2 Tim. iii. 5.
And there are three evils, with respect whereunto, sin doth exercise its reigning power in the imagination, in an especial manner.
(1.) Pride, self-elation, desire of power and greatness. It is affirmed of the prince of Tyrus, that he said, "he was a god, and sat in the seat of God; Ezek. xxviii. 2. And the like foolish thoughts are ascribed unto the king of Babylon, Isa. xiv. 13, 14. None of the children of men can attain so great glory, power, and dominion in this world, but that in their imaginations and desires they can infinitely exceed what they do enjoy; like him who wept that he had not another world to conquer. They have no bounds but to be as God, yea, to be God; which was the first design of sin in the world. And there is none so poor and low, but by his imaginations, he can lift up and exalt himself almost into the place of God. This vanity and madness God reproves in his discourse with Job, chap. xl. 9–14. And there is nothing more genuine and proper unto the original depravation and corruptions of our natures, than this self-exaltation in foolish thoughts and imaginations; because it first came upon us through a desire of being as God. Herein therefore
may sin exercise its dominion in the minds of men; yea, in the empty mind and vanity of these imaginations, with those that follow, consists the principal part of the deceitful ways of sin. The ways of men cannot satisfy themselves with what sins they can actually commit; but in these imaginations they rove endlessly, finding satisfaction in their renovation and variety, Isa. lvii. 1.
(2.) Sensuality and uncleanness of life. It is said of some, 'that they have their eyes full of adulteries, and that they cannot cease from sin;' 2 Pet. ii. 14. that is, their imaginations are continually working about the objects of their unclean lusts. These they think of night and day, immiring themselves in all filth continually. Jude calls them 'filthy