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tail by an evil thought, he will soon make a surprisal of the soul ; as you see in that great instance of Adam and Eve. The trees of the forest (saith one in a parable) held a solemn parliament, wherein they consulted of the innumerable wrongs which the axe had done them; therefore made an act, that no tree should hereafter lend the axe an helve, on pain of being cut down. The axe travels up and down the forest, begs wood of the cedar, oak, ash, elm, even of the poplar; not one would lend him a chip. At last he desired so much as would serve him to cut down the briers and bushes, alleging, that such shrubs as they did but suck away the juice of the ground, and hinder the growth, and obscure the glory of the fair and goodly trees. Hereupon they were all content to afford him so much; he pretends a thorough reformation, but behold a sad deformation; for when he had got his helve, down went both cedar, oak, ash, elm, and all that stood in his way. Such are the subtile reaches of sin, that it will promise to remove the briers and bushes of afflictions and troubles, that hinder the soul of that juice, sweetness, comfort, delight, and content that otherwise it might enjoy. Oh do but now yield a little to it, and, instead of removing your troubles, it will cut down your peace, your hopes, your comforts, yea, it will cut down your precious souls. What is the breathing of a vein, to the being let blood in the throat? or a scratch in the hand, to a stab at the heart? No more are the greatest afflictions to the least sins; and therefore, Christians, never use sinful shifts to shift yourselves out of troubles, but rather be mute and silent under them, till the Lord shall work qut your deliverance from them. But,
2. Consider, it is an impossible thing for any to sin themselves out of their troubles. Abraham, Job, and Jonah, attempted it but could not effect it. The devils have experienced this near six thousand years; they had not been now in chains, could they but have sinned themselves out of their chains; could the damned sin themselves out of everlasting burnings, Isa. xxxiii. 14. there would have been none now a-roaring in that devouring, unquenchable fire; hell would have no inhabitants, could they but sin themselves out of it. Ah Christians! devils and damned spirits shall as soon sin themselves out of hell, as you shall be able to sin yourselves out of your affictions. Christians, you shall as soon stop the sun from running her course, contract the sea in a nut-shell, compass the earth with a span, and raise the dead at your pleasure, as ever you shall be able to sin yourselves out of your sufferings, and therefore it is better to be silent and quiet under them, than to attempt that which is impossible to accomplish. This second consideration will receive further confirmation by the next particular.
(3.) As it is an impossible thing, so it is a very prejudicial, a very dangerous thing, to attempt to sin yourselves out of your troubles; for by attempting to sin yourselves out of one trouble, you will sin yourselves into many troubles, as Jonah and Jacob did; and by labouring to sin yourselves out of less troubles, you will sin yourselves into greater troubles, as Saul did; and by endeavouring to sin yourselves from under outward troubles, you will sin yourselves under inward troubles and distresses, which are the sorest and saddest of all troubles. Thus did Spira, Jerome of Prague, Bilney, and others. Some there have been, who, by labouring to sin themselves out of their present sufferings, have sinned themselves under such horrors and terrors of conscience, that they could neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, but have been ready to lay violent hands upon themselves.
And Cyprian, in his sermon de lapsis, speaks of divers, who, forsaking the faith to avcid sufferings, were given over to be possessed of evil spirits, and died fearfully. Oh man, thou dost not know what deadly sin, what deadly temptation, what deadly judgment, what deadly stroke thou mayst fall under, who attemptest to sin thyself out of troubles. What is it to take Venice, and to be hanged at the gates thereof? It is better to be silent and mute under thy afflictions, than, by using sinful shifts, to sin thyself under greater afflictions.
(4.) Consider, it is a very ignoble and unworthy thing, to go to sin yourselves out of your troubles and straits; it argues a poor, a low, a weak, a dastardly, and an effeminate spirit, to use base shifts, to shuffle yourselves
out of your troubles. Men of noble, courageous, and magnanimous spirits will disdain and scorn it; as you may see in the three children, Dan. iii. 8.-30. Daniel, and those worthies, in that 11th of the Hebrews, of whom this world was not worthy. Jerome writes of a brave woman, who, being upon the rack, bade her persecutors do their worst; for she was resolved to dis, rather than lie. And the Prince of Conde being taken prisoner by Charles IX. king of France, and put to his choice, whether he would go to mass, or be put to death, or suffer perpetual imprisonment; his noble answer was, That by God's help he would never chuse the first, and for either of the latter, he left it to the king's pleasure, and God's providence.
A soul truly noble, will sooner part with all, than the peace of a good conscience. Thus blessed Hooper desired to be rather discharged of his bishopric, than yield to certain ceremonies.
I have read of Marcus Arethusus, an eminent servant of the Lord in gospel-work, who, in the time of Constantine, had been the cause of overthrowing an idol-temple; but Julian coming to be emperor, commanded the people of that place to build it up again. All were ready so to do, only he refused it; whereupon his own people, to whom he had preached, fell upon him, stript off all his cloaths, then abused his naked body, and gave it up to children and school-boys to be lanced with their penknives; but when all this would not do, they caused him to be set in the sun, his naked body anointed all over with honey, that so he might be bitten and stung to death by flies and wasps : and all this cruelty they exercised on him, because he would not do any thing towards the rebuilding of that idoltemple; nay, they came so far, that if he would give but one halfpenny towards the charge, they would release him ; but he refused it with a noble Christian disdain, though the advancing of one halfpenny might have saved his life. And, in so doing, he did but live up to that noble principle that most commend, but few practise, viz. That Christians must chuse rather to suffer the worst of torments, than to commit the least of sins, whereby God should be dishonoured, his name blasphemed, religion reproached, profession scorned, weak saints discouraged, and mens consciences wounded, and their souls endangered. Now, tell me, Christians, is it not better to be silent and mute under your sorest trials and troubles, than to labour to sin and shift yourselves out of them, and so proclaim to all the world, that you are persons of very low, poor, and ignoble spirits? But,
(5.) Consider, sinful shifts and means God hath always cursed and blasted. Achan's golden wedge was but a wedge to cleave him, and his garment a shroud to shroud him. Ahab purchases a vineyard with the blood of the owner; but presently it was watered with his own blood, according to the word of the Lord. Gehazi must needs have a talent of