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unrighteous is as hateful to him as colocynths to the taste, or the sharpest punctures to the pupil of the eye.
We something of this in common experiences. What man of ordinary prudence and reputation can be tempted to steal ? or, for what price would he be tempted to murder his friend? If we did hate all sins as we hate these, would it not be as easy to be as innocent in other instances, as most men are in these ? and we should have as few drunkards as we have thieves. In such as these, we do not complain in the words of my text, “What I would not, that I do; and what I would, I do not." Does not every good man overcome all the of great sins ? and can he, by the Spirit of God and right reason, by fear and hope, conquer Goliath, and beat the sons of the giant; and can he not overcome the little children of Gath? or is it harder to overcome a little sin than a great one? Are not the temptations to little sins very little ? and yet are they greater and stronger than a mighty grace ? Could the poor demoniac, that lived in the graves, by the power of the devil break his iron chains in pieces ? and cannot he, who hath the Spirit of God, dissolve the chains of sin? “Through Christ that strengthens me, I can do all things," saith St. Paul; “Satis sibi copiarum cum Publio Decio, et nunquam nimium hostium fore,” said one in Livy; which is best rendered by St. Paul _“If God be with us, who can be against us?" Nay, there is an integvinõuev in St. Paul, “ We are more than conquerors.” For even amongst an army of conquerors there are degrees of exaltation; some serve God like the centurion, and some like St. Peter; some like Martha, and some like Mary και μετ' ευκολίας απάσης, άνευ πόνων και ιδρώτων, all good men conquer their temptation, but some with more ease, and some with a clearer victory, and more than this,-“Non solùm viperam terimus, sed ex ea antidotum conficimus,” “We kill the viper, and make treacle of him;" that is, not only escape from, but get advantages by, temptations. But we, commonly, are more afraid than hurt: “Let us, therefore, lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset usp:” so we read the words of the apostle; but St. Chrysostom’s rendition of them is better; for the word etmepiotatos is a perfect passive, and cannot signify the strength and irresistibility of sin upon
p Heb. xii. 1.
us, but quite the contrary, cumepotatos dragtia signifies the sin that is so easily avoided,' as they that understand that language know very well. And if we were so wise and valiant as not to affright ourselves with our own terrors, we should quickly find, that by the help of the Spirit of God, we can do more than we thought we could. It was said of Alexander, “ Benè ausus est vana contemnere ?,” he did no great matter in conquering the Persians, because they were a pitiful and a soft people; only he understood them to be so, and was wise and bold enough not to fear such images and men of clouts. But men, in the matter of great sins and little, do as the magicians of Egypt: when Moses turned his rod into a serpent, it moved them not; but when they saw the lice and the flies, then they were afraid. We see, that, by the grace of God, we can escape great sins; but we start at flies, and a bird out of a bush disorders us; the lion in the way troubles us not, but a frog and a worm affrights us. Remember the saying of St. Paul, “Christ came to redeem to himself a church, and to present it, pure and spotless, before the throne of grace;” and, if you mean to be of this number, you must endeavour to be under this qualification, that is, as Paul laboured to be,“ void of offence, both towards God and towards man.” And so I have done with the second proposition. It is necessary that all sin, great and little, should be mortified and dead in us, and that we no longer abide in that state of slavery, as to say, “ The good that I would, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do.”
3. In the next place, we are to inquire in what degree this is to be effected; for though in negatives, properly, there are no degrees, yet, unless there be some allays in this doctrine, it will not be so well, and it may be, your experiences will for ever confute my arguments; for, 'Who can say that he is clean from his sin ? said the wise man. And, as our blessed Saviour said, “He that is innocent among you all, let him throw the first stone at the sinner,” and spare not.
To this I answer, in the words of St. Gregory, All man's righteousness will be found to be unrighteous, if God should severely enter into judgment; but, therefore, even after our innocence we must pray for pardon, “ ut quæ succumbere discussa poterat, ex judicis pietate convalescat," that our
9 Liv. ix. 17.
innocence, which, in strictness of Divine judgment, would be found spotted and stained, by the mercy of our Saviour may be accepted.' St. Bernard expresses this well : “Nostra siqua est humilis justitia, recta forsitan, sed non pura ;” “Our humble righteousness is, perhaps, right in the eyes of God, but not pure ;” that is, accepted by his mercy, but it is such as dares not contend in judgment. For as no man is so much a sinner, but he sometimes speaks a good word, or does some things not ill, and yet that little good interrupts not that state of evil; so it is amongst very good men, from whom, sometimes, may pass something that is not commendable; and yet their heart is so habitually right towards God, that they will do nothing, I do not say which God, in justice, cannot, but which, in mercy, he will not, impute to eternal condemnation. It was the case of David; "he was a man after God's own heart;" nay, it is said, “ he was blameless, save in the matter of Uriah;” and yet we know he numbered the people, and God was angry with him, and punished him for it; but, because he was a good man, and served God heartily, that other fault of his was imputed to him no further. God set a fine upon his head for it; but it was 'salvo contenemento,' the main stake was safe.'
For concerning good men, the question is not, whether or no God could not, in the rigour of justice, blame their indiscretion, or impute a foolish word, or chide them for a hasty answer, or a careless action, for a less devout prayer, or weak hands, for a fearful heart, or a trembling faith. These are not the measures by which God judges his children ; “ for he knoweth whereof we are made, and he remembers that we are but dust."-But the question is, whether any man that is covetous or proud, false to his trust, or a drunkard, can, at the same time, be a child of God? No, certainly he cannot. But then we know that God judges us by Jesus Christ, that is, with the allays of mercy, with an eye of pardon, with the sentences of a father, by the measures of a man, and by analogy, to all our unavoidable abatements. God could enter with us into a more severe judgment, but he would not; and no justice tied him from exercising that mercy. But, according to the measures of the Gospel, “ he will judge every man according to his works.”—Now what these measures are, is now the question. To which I answer, first, in general, and then more particularly.
1. In general, thus :- A Christian's innocence is always to be measured by the plain lines and measures of the commandments; but is not to be taken into account by uncertain and fond opinions, and the scruples of zealous and timorous persons. My meaning is this : Some men tell us that every natural inclination to a forbidden object is a sin; which they that believe, finding them to be natural, do also confess that such sins are unavoidable. But if these natural and first motions be sins, then a man sins whether he resists them, or resists them not, whether he prevails, or prevails not; and there is no other difference but this,- he that fights not against, but always yields to his desires, sins greatest; and he that never yields, but fights always, sins oftenest. But then, by this reckoning, it will indeed be impossible to avoid millions of sins ; because the very doing of our duty does suppose a sin. If God should impute such first desires to us as sins, we were all very miserable ; but if he does not impute them, let us trouble ourselves no further about them, but to take care that they never prevail upon us.
Thus men are taught, that they never say their prayers but they commit a sin. Indeed that is true but too often ; but yet it is possible for us, by the grace of God, to please him in saying our prayers, and to be accepted of him. But, indeed, if God did proceed against us as we do against one another, no man could abide innocent for so much as one hour. But God's judgment is otherwise; he inquires if the heart be right, if our labour be true, if we love no sin, if we use prudent and efficacious instruments to mortify our sin, if we go about our religion as we go about the biggest concerns of our life, if we be sincere and real in our actions and intentions. For this is the avopaptncia that God requires of us all; this is that
sinless state,' in which if God does not find us, we shall never see his glorious face; and if he does find us, we shall certainly be saved by the blood of Jesus. For, in the style of Scripture, to be ειλικρινείς και απρόσκοποι is the same thing; « to be sincere, and to be without offence,” is all one. Thus David spake heartily, “ I am utterly purposed, that my mouth shall not offend ; and thou shalt find no wickedness in me.”
.." He that endeavours this, and hopes this, and does actions and uses means accordingly, not being deceived by his own false heart, nor abused by evil propositions,—this man will stand
upright in the .congregations of the just; and, though he cannot challenge heaven by merit, yet he shall receive it as a gift, by promise and by grace. “Lex nos innocentes esse jubet, non curiosos,” said Seneca. For God takes no judgment of us by any measures, but of the commandment without, and the heart and the conscience within; but he never intended his laws to be a snare to us, or to entrap us with consequences and dark interpretations, by large deductions and witty similitudes of faults; but he requires of us a sincere heart, and a hearty labour in the work of his commandments; he calls upon us to avoid all that which his law plainly forbids, and which our consciences do condemn. This is the general measure. The particulars are briefly these :
1. Every Christian is bound to arrive at that state, that he have remaining in him no habit of any sin whatsoever. “Our old man must be crucified,'—the body of sin must be destroyed,'--' he must no longer serve sin,'—sin shall not have the dominion over you.'- All these are the apostle's words; that is plainly, as I have already declared, you must not be at that pass, that though ye would avoid sin, ye cannot. For he that is so, is a most perfect slave, and Christ's freedman cannot be so. Nay, be that loves sin, and delights in it, hath no liberty indeed, but he hath more show of it, than he that obeys it against his will.
Libertatis servaveris unbram,
He that loves to be in the place, is a less prisoner than he that is confined against his will.
2. He that commits any one sin by choice and deliberation, is an enemy to God, and is under the dominion of the flesh. In the case of deliberate sins, one act does give the denomination; he is an adulterer, that so much as once foully breaks the holy laws of marriage. "He that offends in one, is guilty of all,” saith St. James. St. Peter's denial, and David's adultery, had passed on to a fatal issue, if the mercy of God, and a great repentance, had not interceded. But they did so no more, and so God restored them to grace and pardon. And in this sense are the words of St. John, 'O TOWY Thy a papriav, " He that does a sin, is of the devil,” and “he that is born