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will readily confess, that though even in nature there may be many good inclinations to many instances of the Divine commandments; yet it can go no further than this' velleity,' this desiring to do good, but is not able. And it is upon this account that Lactantius brings in the Pagan or natural man complaining, “ Volo equidem non peccare, sed vincor, indutus enim sum carne fragili et imbecillâ.” This is very true; and I add only this caution: there is not in the corruption of our nature so much as will save us harmless, or make us excusable, if we sin against God. Natural corruption can make us criminal, but not innocent; for though by him that willingly abides in the state of mere nature, sin cannot be avoided, yet no man is in that state longer than he loves to be so; for the grace of God came to rescue us from this evil portion, and is always present, to give us a new nature, and create us over again : and, therefore, though sin is made necessary to the natural man by his impotency and fond loves, that is by his unregenerate nature; yet, in the whole constitution of affairs, God hath more than made it up by his grace, if we will make use of it.
“ In pueris elucet spes plurimorum, quæ dum emoritur ætate, manifestum est, non naturam defecisse, sed curam," said Quintilian'. We cannot tell what we are, or what we think, in our infancy; and, when we can know our thoughts, we can easily observe that we have learned evil things by evil examples, and the corrupt manners of an evil conversation : “ Et ubi per socordiam vires, tempus, ingenium defluxêre, naturæ infirmitas accusaturk;" that, indeed, is too true: 'We grow lazy, and wanton, and we lose our time, and abuse our parts, and do ugly things, and lay the fault wholly upon our natural infirmities :' but we must remember, that, by this time, it is a state of nature, a state of flesh and blood, which cannot enter into heaven. The natural man and the natural child are not the same thing in true divinity. The natural child indeed can do no good; but the natural man cannot choose but do evil; but it is because he will do so; he is not born in the second birth, and renewed in the baptism of the Spirit.
2. We have brought ourselves into an accidental necessity of sinning by the evil principles, which are sucke din by great
Gesner, i. 1, 2.
* Sall, J. c. i.
parts of mankind. We are taught ways of going to heaven without forsaking our sins; of repentance without restitution; of being in charity without hearty forgiveness, and without love; of believing our sins to be pardoned before they are mortified; of trusting in Christ's death without conformity to his life; of being in God's favour upon the only account of being of such an opinion; and that when we are once in, we can never be out. We are taught to believe that the events of things do not depend upon our crucifying our evil and corrupt affections, but upon eternal and unalterable counsels ; that the promises are not the rewards of obedience, but graces pertaining only to a few predestinates, and yet men are saints for all that; and that the laws of God are of the race of the giants, not to be observed by any grace or by any industry: this is the catechism of the ignorant and the profane: but, without all peradventure, the contrary propositions are the way to make the world better: but certainly they that believe these things, do not believe it necessary that we should eschew all evil: and no wonder then, if when men upon these accounts slacken their industry and their care, they find sin still prevailing, still dwelling within them, and still unconquerable by so slight and disheartened labours. For Ιδιώτης πάς και απαίδευτος τρόπον τινα παίς έστι: “ Every fool and every ignorant person is a child still:” and it is no wonder that he who talks foolishly, should do childishly and weakly.
3. To our weak and corrupted nature, and our foolish discourses, men do daily superinduce evil habits and customs of sinning. “Consuetudo mala tanquam hamus infixus animæ,” said the father; “ An evil custom is a hook in the soul,” and draws it whither the devil pleases. When it comes to the napdía yeyuuvao névn Treovežiais, as St. Peter's word is, “ a heart exercised with covetous practices,” then it is also sodevns, it is * weak ’and unable to do the good it fain would, or to avoid the evil, which, in a good fit, it pretends to hate. This is so known, I shall not insist upon it; but add this only, that wherever a habit is contracted, it is all one what the instance be; it is as easy as delicious, as unalterable in virtue as in vice; for what helps nature brings to a vicious habit, the same and much more the Spirit of God, by his power and by his comforts, can do in a virtuous; and then we are well again. You see by this who are, and why they are, in this evil con
dition. The evil natures, and the evil principles, and the evil manners of the world, these are the causes of our imperfect willings and weaker actings in the things of God; long as men stay here, sin will be unavoidable. For even meat itself is loathsome to a sick stomach, and it is impossible for him that is heart-sick, to eat the most wholesome diet; and yet he that shall say eating is impossible, will be best confuted by seeing all the healthful men in the world eat heartily every day.
2. But what then? Cannot sin be avoided? Cannot a Christian mortify the deeds of the body? Cannot Christ redeem us, and cleanse us from all our sins? Cannot the works of the devil be destroyed? That is the next particular to be inquired of: Whether or no it be not necessary, and, therefore, very possible, for a servant of God to pass from this evil state of things, and not only hate evil, but avoid it also ?
“ He that saith he hath not sinned, is a liar;" but what then? Because a man hath sinned, it does not follow he must do so always. “Hast thou sinned? do so no more," said the wise Bensirach; and so said Christ to the poor paralytic, Go, and sin no more.”—They were excellent words spoken by a holy prophet: “ Let not the sinner say he hath not sinned; for God shall burn coals of fire upon his head, that saith before the Lord God and his glory, I have not sinned.” Well! that case is confessed; “ All men have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” But is there no remedy for this? Must it always be so ? and must sin for ever have the upper hand, and for ever baffle our resolutions, and all our fierce and earnest promises of amendment? God forbid. There was a time then to come, and, blessed be God, it hath been long come;" Yet a little while,” saith that prophet, " and iniquity shall be taken out of the earth, and righteousness . shall reign among you.” For that is in the day of Christ's kingdom, the manifestation of the Gospel. When Christ reigns in our hearts by his Spirit, Dagon and the ark cannot stand together; we cannot serve Christ and Belial. And as in the state of nature no good thing dwells within us; so when Christ rules in us, no evil thing can abide; “For every plant that my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up,” and cast away into the fires of consumption or purification. But how shall this come to pass, since we all find ourselves so
infinitely weak and foolish? I shall tell you. “ It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,” saith Christ. It is impossible to nature; it is impossible to them that are given to vanity; it is impossible for them that delight in the evil snare: but Christ adds, “ With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” What we cannot do for ourselves, God can do for us, and with us. What nature cannot do, the grace of God can. So that the thing may be done; not indeed by ourselves, but gratia Dei mecum,' saith St. Paul; God and man together can do it. But if it can be done any way that God has put into our powers, the consequent is this; no man's good will shall be taken in exchange for the real and actual mortification of his sins. He that sins, and would fain not sin, but sin is present with him whether he will or no, let him take heed; for the same is the law of sin,' and · the law of death,' saith the apostle; and that man's heart is not right with God. For it is impossible men should pray for deliverance, and not be heard ; that they should labour, and not be prosperous; unless they pray amiss, and labour falsely. Let no man, therefore, please himself with talking of great things, with perpetual conversation in pious discourses, or with ineffective desires of serving God: he that does not practise as well as he talks, and do what he desires, and what he ought to do, confesses himself to sin greatly against his conscience; and it is a prodigious folly to think that he is a good man, because though he does sin, yet it was against his mind to do so. A man's conscience can never condemn him, if that be his excuse, to say that his conscience checked him: and that will be but a sad apology at the day of judgment. Some men talk like angels, and pray with great fervour, and meditáte with deep recesses, and speak to God with loving affections, and words of union, and adhere to him in silent devotion, and when they go abroad are as passionate as ever, peevish as a frighted fly, vexing themselves with their own reflections: they are cruel in their bargains, unmerciful to their tenants, and proud as a barbarian prince: they are, for all their fire words, impatient of reproof, scornful to their neighbours, lovers of money, supreme in their own thoughts, and submit to none; all their spiritual life they talk of, is nothing but spiritual fancy and illusion; they are still
under the power of their passions, and their sin rules them imperiously, and carries them away infallibly. Let these men consider, there are some men think it impossible to do as much as they do: the common swearer cannot leave that vice, and talk well; and these men that talk thus well, think they cannot do as well as they talk; but both of them are equally under the power of their respective sins, and are equally deceived, and equally not the servants of God. This is true; but it is equally as true, that there is no necessity for all this; for it ought, and it may be otherwise if we please : for, I pray, be pleased to hear St. Paul; “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh;" there is your remedy :“ For the Spirit lusteth against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit;" there is the cause of it; iva in monte, “so that ye may not, or cannot, do the things ye would ?;" that is the blessed consequent and product of that cause. That is plainly,—As there is a state of carnality, of which St. Paul speaks in my text, so that in that state a man cannot but obey the flesh,--so there is also a state of spirituality, when sin is dead, and righteousness is alive; and, in this state, the flesh can no more prevail, than the Spirit could do in the other. Some men cannot choose but sin; “ for the carnal mind is not subject to God, neither, indeed, can be m," saith St. Paul ; but there are, also, some men that cannot endure any thing that is not good. It is a great pain for a temperate man to suffer the disorders of drunkenness, and the shames of lust are intolerable to a chaste and modest person. This also is affirmed by St. John: “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him".” So that, you see, it is possible for a good man not to commit the sin to which he is tempted. But the apostle says more: “He doth not commit sin, neither indeed can he, because he is born of God.”
And this is agreeable to the words of our blessed Saviour: “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, and a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit”;” that is, as the child of hell is carried to sin, pleno impetu,' he does not check at it, he does it, and is not troubled; so, on the other side, a child of God is as fully convinced of righteousness, and that which is
i Gal. v. 16.
m Rom. viii. 7.
ni Jolin, iii. 9.
• Matt. vii. 18.