Page images

which God prescribed the Jews for their civil government. For, whereas, in other commonwealths, the chief magistrates give laws unto the people; in this the laws for their religion and for their civil government were both divine, and both immediately from God. So that the judicial law was given them to be the standing law of their nation, according to which all actions and suits between party and party were to be tried and determined ; as in all other nations there are particular laws and statutes for the decision of controversies that may arise among men.

3. There is the moral law which is a system or body of those precepts which carry an universal and natural equity in them, being so conformable to the light of reason, and the dictates of every man's conscience, that as soon as ever they are declared and understood, we must needs subscribe to the justice and righteousness of thein. We have'the sum of this law in the ten commandments. This law continues in its full force and power, obliging the conscience as a standing rule for our obedience. Our Lord tells us, Matt. v. 17. that he came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them. The ceremonial law was abolished by the death of Christ, and the judicial law, so far as it concerned the nation of the Jews as a commonwealth and body politic, particularly touching their not marrying out of their own tribes, their not alienating the inheritance of their fathers, the raising up of seed to their deceased brother, &c. but such of these political laws as are common to men in general, and founded upon the law of nature, are still binding and in force, such as the laws for punishing criminals and other offenders, the laws against oppressing of widows, orphans, strangers, the fatherless, &c. These are a standing rule of equity and justice ; they are of a moral nature, and therefore of perpetual obligation. So that the law of which şin is the transgression, is to us the law of nature in our hearts, and the moral law contained in the scriptures, and summed up in the decalogue, as well as the positive laws of the gospel of Christ,

II. I proceed to shew wherein the nature of sin consists. It consists in a want of conformity to the law of God, or a disconformity thereto. The law of God is the rule; whatsoever is in or over this rule, is sin. The law of God is set as a mark to us; and so the word sin in the first language

properly signifies a not hitting the mark; and transgression is a swerving from the right line, or a going off the way. So it is called ' a going aside,' Psal. xiv. 3. Now, nothing is conformable to the law which is not perfectly so; for if it be in the least disagreeable thereto, it is not conformable to it, more than that which wants half an inch of an ell is truly an ell of measure ; and therefore any want of that conformity is sin. The law of God requires universal conformity to it. Now the law or command of God requires a twofold conformity.

1. A conformity of the heart to it. It reaches the inward man, seeing God is a spirit, and that omniscient One who knows the heart; and the whole heart must be subject to him. Therefore our Saviour says, Mark xii. 30. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.'

2 A conformity of the life both in words and deeds. Hence says David, Psal. xxiv. 3, 4. “Who shall ascend into. the hill of the Lord ? and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lift up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.' And forasmuch as the law requires some things, and forbids other things both in heart and life, the want of conformity to it in these respects, either in heart or life, is sin. Hence we may infer,

1. Sin is no positive being, but a want of due perfection, a defect, an imperfection in the creature; and therefore it is, (1.) Not from God, but from the creature itself. (2.) It is not a thing to glory in, more than the want of all things. (3.) It is a thing we have reason to be humbled for, and had great need to have removed. (4.) It is not a thing to be desired, but fled from and abhorred, as the abominable thing which God hateth.

2. Original sin is truly and properly sin. Look to yourselves as you came into the world, and ye must smite on your breast, before ye have sucked the breasts, and say,

God be merciful to me a sinner.' For we come into it with Adam's sin imputed, Rom. v. 12. stript of original righteousness, and the whole nature corrupted. This is the sin of our nature, being a want of conformity in our souls to the law of God, which requires all moral perfection of us, Matth. v. ult. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.' Instead of which we have a bent of soul quite contrary to the law, Rom. viii. 7. • The carnal mind is enmity against God : for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.'

8. The first motions of sin, and the risings of that natural corruption in us, before it be completed with the consent of the will to the evil motion, are truly and properly sin. The apostle calls this lust, and distinguishes it from

. sin, i. e. the sin of our nature, and from the consent to it and execution of it, which he calls obeying these lusts, Rom. vi. 12. and tells us that it is condemned by the law, Rom. vii. 7. Therefore a thing may be our sin, though we know it not to be so, 1 Tim. i. 13. and though it be not our will, yea though against our will, Rom. vii. 16. For it is neither our knowledge, or opinion, nor our will, but the law of God, that is our rule.

4. All consent of the heart to and delight in motions towards things forbidden by the law of God are sins, though these never break forth into action, but die where they were born in the inmost corners of our hearts, Matth. v. 28. • Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.' Speculative filthiness is a disconformity to the law. There is heart murder as well as actual murder, ver. 22.

5. All omissions of the internal duties we owe to God and our neighbours are sins, as want of love to God or our neighbours. Want of due fear of God, trust and hope in him, &c. are internal sins of omission.

6. Hence a man sins both by undue silence and undue speaking, when the cause of God and truth requires it; seeing the law bids us 'speak in some cases, but never speak what is not good.

7. Hence also a man's sins, when he omits outward duties that are incumbent on himn to perform, as well as when he commits sin of whatever kind in his life.

8. Lastly, The least failure in any duty is sin; and whatever conies not up in perfection io the law is sinful. And therefore we sin in every thing we do, and our best duties deserve damnation, and cannot be accepted according to the law. Wherefore the duties of wicked men are absolutely rejected, seeing they are under the law; and the duties of the godly are no otherwise accepted, but as washed in the blood of Christ, which takes away the sin cleaving to them.

Further, nothing can be a sin but what is a transgressing of the law of God, who only is Lord over the conscience. Therefore, if there be no law of God in the case, there is no transgression affecting the conscience. But it must be considered, that the law of God commands some things expressly, and other things by good consequence. No law of God commands a servant expressly to do such and such a particular piece of work that is lawful, which he is bidden do by his master ; but the law of God says, “Servants, obey your masters;' and therefore it is sin if he do not that work. The case is the same as to men's laws. Therefore the

apostle says, Rom. xii. 5. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience saks.' Now, men's laws are either contrary to God's laws, or agreeable and subservient thereto, as being for the glory of God, or the good of the nation in general. As to the first of these, ye cannot obey without sin, as if the Queen and Parliament should command you to receive human ceremonies in the worship of God. As to other things which are good and just, we are obliged to obey, as is clear from Rom. xiii.; and therefore the conscience is not altogether unconcerned in the laws of men.

And therefore, if ye would be tender Christians, before ye go against the laws of the land, consider well whether their commands be unlawful, or whether they be such as are good and just ; for doubtless magistrates have a power to make laws for the good of the land in general; and what they so make we are obliged to respect, otherwise we contemn the ordinance of God, and regard not the good of our neighbour, and thereby sin against God; as is acknowledged in the case of those that now export grain, to the gene ral distress of the country. And I apprehend, that if we would lay the case home to ourselves, we would have less liberty than we have in some things that are not scrupled at.

III, I come now to shew wherein the evil of sin lies. It lies,

1. And principally, in the wrong done to God, and its contrariety, (1.) To his nature, wliich is altogether holy. Hence the Psalmist says, Psal. li. 4. “ Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, David had exceedingly wronged Uriah in deliling his wife, and procuVol. I.


ring the death of himself; yet he considers his great sin in that matter as chiefly against God, and contrary to his holy nature. (2.) In its contrariety to God's will and law, which is a sort of a copy of his nature. And God being all good, and the chief good, sin must needs be a sort of infinite evil.

2. In the wrong it doth to ourselves : “ He that sinneth against me,' says the personal Wisdom of God, 'wrongeth his own soul, Prov. viii. 36. For, (1.) It leaves a stain and

a spiritual pollution on the soul, whereby it becomes filthy and vile ; and therefore sin is called filthiness, and is said to defile the soul, whereupon follows God's loathing the sinner, Isa. i. 15. and shame and confusion on the sinner himself, Gen. iii. 7. (2.) It brings on guilt, whereby the sinner is bound over to punishment, according to the state in which he is, until his sin be pardoned. This ariseth from the justice of God and the threatening of his law; which brings on all miseries whatsover.

But more particularly upon this head, when men pass the bounds and limits which God hath set them in his law, then they transgress it. All the violations of negative precepts are transgressions of God's law. The design of the moral law is to keep men within the bounds of their duty; and when they sin they go beyond them. Sin is indeed the greatést of evils; it is directly opposite to God the supreme good. The definition that is given of sin expresses its essential evil. It is the transgression of the divine law, and consequently it

opposes the rights of God's throne, and obscures the glory of his attributes, which are exercised in the moral government of the world. God is our King, our Lawgiver, and our Judge. From his right and propriety in us as his creatures, his title to and sovereign power and dominion over us doth arise and flow. Man is endued with the powers of understanding and election, to conceive and choose what is good, and to reject what is evil; is governed by a law, even the declared will of his Maker. Now, sin, being a transgression of this law, contains many evils in it. As,

1. It is high rebellion against the sovereign Majesty of God, that gives the life of authority to the law. Therefore divine precepts are enforced with the most proper and binding motive to obedience, I am the Lord. He that commits sin, especially with pleasure and design, implicitly denies his dependence upon God as his Maker and Governor, and ar

« PreviousContinue »