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you are poor, guilty unworthy creatures, deserving his wrath by the sins of which you have been guilty ? and when you pretend, that you earnestly desire he would keep you from the like for time to come? Are you not guilty of horrid mockery of God in it, when at the same time you design no such thing, but the contrary?
Do you not even the same day that you come into God's house, and to his ordinances, allow yourselves in known sins ? Do you not with consent and approbation think of the sinful practices, in which you allow yourselves, and in which you have been exercising yourselves in the week past? Do you not the very day in which you attend ordinances, allowedly please and gratify a wicked imagination? And are you not then perpetrating wickedness in your thoughts, and contriving the further fulfilment of your wickedness? Yea, are you not guilty of these things sometimes even in the very time of your attendance on ordinances, when you are in the immediate presence of God! And while others have immediate intercourse with God, and you likewise pretend to the same? Do you not even in these circumstances, allow yourselves in wicked thoughts and imaginations, voluntarily wallowing in known wickedness?
Are not some of you guilty of allowedly breaking God's Holy Sabbath, in maintaining no government of your thoughts, thinking indifferently about any thing that comes next to mind; and not only thinking, but talking too about common, worldly affairs? And sometimes talking in such a manner, as is not suitable even on other days; talking prof.nely, or in an unclean manner, sporting and diverting yourselves in such conversation on God's holy day? Yea, it is well if some have not been thus guilty in the very time of attendance on the ordinances of worship.
Examine yourselves, how it hath been with you. You all attend many of the ordinances of divine worship. You come to the house of God, attend public prayers, singing, and preaching of the word ; and many of you come to the Lord's supper, that holy ordinance, instituted for the special commemoration of the greatest and most wonderful of all divine acts towards mankind; for the special and visible representation of the most glorious and wonderful things of our religion ; for the most solemn profession and renewal of our engagement to God; and for special communion with Jesus Christ. Let such examine themselves whether they do not allow themselves in known sin, to the horrid profanation and pollution of this most sacred ordinance.
Examnine and see whether you do rot allow yourselves in some way of dealing with your fellow-men, which you have sufficient light to know to be evil; or whether you do not allow yourselves in a known evil behaviour towards some person or persons of the families to which you respectively belong, as to
wards your husbands, your wives, your children or servants; or your neighbours, in your spirit and beliaviour towards them, or in your talk of them.
Examine whether you do not some way willingly indulge an unclean appetite, in less or grosser acts of uncleanness, or in your discourse, or in your imagination. Or do you not give way to a lust after strong drink, or indulge yourselves in some vicious excess in gratifying some sensual appetite in meat or drink or otherwise? Are you not willingly guilty of vanity, and extravagance in your conversation.
Do you not, for all your attendance on ordinances, continue in the allowed neglect of your precious souls, neglecting secret prayer or some known duty of private religion? Or do you not allow yourselves in sabbath-breaking ?—In all these ways are the ordinances of God's sacred worship polluted and profaned.
Men are apt to act very treacherously and perversely in the matter of self-examination. When they are put upon examining themselves, they very often decline it, and will not enter into any
serious examination of themselves at all. They hear uses of examination insisted on, but put them off to others, and never seriously apply them to themselves.-And if they do examine themselves, when they are put upon it, they are exceedingly partial to themselves; they spare ihemselves; they do not search, and look, and pass a judgment according to truth: but so as unreasonably to favour and justify themselves.-If they can be brought to examine themselves at all, whether they do not allow themselves in known wickedness, although they attend on divine ordinances, they will not do it impartially. Their endeavour will not be indeed to know the truth of their case, and to give a true answer to their consciences ; but to blind themselves, to persuade and flatter themselves that they do not allow themselves in known sin, whether it be true or not. There are two things especially wherein persons often act very perversely and falsely in this matter.
1. Persons very often deal very perversely in pretending, that the sins in which they live are not known sins. Nothing is more common surely, than for persons to flatter themselves with this concerning the wickedness in which they live. Let that wickedness be almost what it may, they will plead to their consciences and endeavour to still them, that there is no evil in it, or that they do not know that there is any evil in it. Men's own consciences can best tell how they are wont to do in this matter. -There is hardly any kind of wickedness that men commit, but they will plead thus in excuse for it. They will plead thus about their cheating and injustice, about their hatred of their neighbours, about their evil speaking, about their revengeful spirit, about their excessive drinking, about their lying, their ne. glect of secret prayer, their lasciviousness, their unclean dalliances; yea, they will plead excuses for very gross acts of uncleanness, as fornication, adultery and what not. They have their vam excuses and carnal reasonings in favour of all their evil actions. They will say, What harm. what evil is there in such and sich an action ? And if there be a plain rule against it, yet they will plead that their circumstances are peculiar, and that they are excepted from the general rule; that their temptation is so great, ihat they are excusable; or some thing will they find to plead.
If it be some thing upon which their lusts are much set, and about which they feel reinorse of conscience, they will never leave studying and contriving with all the art and subtilty of which they are masters, till they shall have found out some reason, some excuse, with which they shall be able in some measure to quiet their consciences. ) And whether after all they shall have made it out to blind conscience or not, yet they will plead that their argument is good, and it is no sin ; or if it be a sin it is only a sin of ignorance.-So men will plead for the wickedness which they do in the dark. So without doubt some very gross sinners plead to their consciences; as would appear, if we could but look into their hearts; when indeed the strongest argument they have, that in such a thing there is no evil, is the strongest lust they have to it, the inordinate desire they have to commit it.
It was the saying of one, Licitis perimus omnes ; that is, we all perish by lawful things ; which is as much as to say, men commonly live wickedly and go to hell, in those ways which they flatter themselves to be lawful. Or at least they flatter themselves, that they are sins of ignorance; they do not know them to be unlawful. Thus, I make no doubt, some will be apt to do, in applying to themselves this use of examination, if they can be persuaded to apply it to themselves at all. Whether these things be true of you, let your own consciences speak, you that neglect secret p ayer ; you that live in secret, unclean, lasciviois actions ; you that indulge an inordinate appetite for strong drink; you that defraud or oppress others; you that indulge a spirit of revenge and hatred towards your neighbour.Here I desire you to consider two or three things.
(1.) Not all sins, which one knows not with a certain knowlege to be sinful, are justly called sins of ignorance. Men often will excuse themselves for venturing upon a sinful action or practice, with this, that they know not that it is sinful; which is at most true no otherwise, than as they do not know it to be sinful with a certain knowledge, or with the evidence of absolute demonstration ; although at the same time it is a sin against
; their light, and against great light. They have been so taught, that they have had light enough to make them sensible that it
is displeasing to God, and not warranted or allowed by him. And they do in their consciences think it to be sinful; they are secretly convinced of it, however they may pretend the contrary, and labour to deceive themselves and to persuade themselves that they do not think there is any evil in it.
Those sins which are contrary to sufficient information and instruction, and contrary to the real dictates of their own consciences, or to the judgment of their own minds; whether there be certain or demonstrative knowledge or no; these are what I would be understood to mean, when I speak of known sins. Such light as this, whether there be absolutely certain knowledge or no, is sufficient to render the action utterly inexcusable, and to render it, when allowed, a horrible profanation and pollution of the holy ordinances of God.
(2.) It is in vain for persons to pretend that those are sins of ignorance, which they have often and clearly heard testified against from the word of God. It will be found to be so at last; it will be found to be a vain thing for persons who have lived under the light of the gospel, and where all manner of iniquity is testified against, if they live in immoral and vicious practices, to pretend that they are sins of ignorance ; unless the case be very peculiar and extraordinary.
(3.) It is in vain for you to pretend that those are sins of ig. norance, of which you would not dare to proceed in the practice, if you knew that your soul was to be required of you this night. Persons do many things, for which they plead, and pretend they think there is no evil in them, who yet would as soon eat fire, as do the same, if they knew that they were to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ within four and twenty hours. This shows that persons do but prevaricate, when they pretend that their sins are sins of ignorance.
2. Another way wherein men deal falsely and perversely in this matter, is, in pretending that they do not allow themselves in those sins which they practise. They either pretend that they know them not to be sins, or if they cannot but own that, then they will say, they do not allow themselves in them; and
n so they hope God is not very much provoked by them. They pretend this, though they make a trade of them. They go on repeating one act aster another, without ever seriously repenting of the past, or resolving against future acts. But take heed that you do not deceive yourselves in this matter; for such pretences, however they do something towards stilling your consciences now, will do nothing when you come to stand before your righteous and holy Judge.
Address to such us attend ordinances, and yet allow themselves
in known sin.
Consider how holy and sacred the ordinances of God are: what mockery you are guilty of in making such a show, and such pretences in attending ordinances, and yet voluntarily act. ing the reverse of what you pretend. Consider that there is no sort of sinners with whom God is so provoked, and who stand so guilty before him, as the profaners of his ordinances. The fire of God's wrath is kindled by none so much as by the polluters of holy things. They are represented as those who are especially guilty before God, in the third commandment: The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Why is this annexed to this command, rather than to any other of the ten, but because the breach of it especially renders a man guilty in the sight of God?
The taking of God's name in vain includes the profanation and pollution of ordinances and holy things. They do in a very dreadful manner take God's name in vain, who attend on his ordinances, and yet live in known sin; for, as we have shown, they manifest the greatest irreverence for him, and contempt of divine things. They manisest a contempt of his authority, a contempt of the business and design of his ordinances, and a most careless and irreverent spirit in things wherein they have immediate converse with God. Ordinances, as we have shown, are attended in the name of God; and therefore, by such an attendance on them, the name of God is greatly profaned. You that attend ordinances in such a manner, take the name of God so much in vain, that you use it only in mockery, and so as to expose it to contempt. Such a way of attending ordinances is a trampling of all that is sacred under foot.
We have in scripture scarce any such awful instances of the immediate and miraculous vengeance of God, as on the profaners of holy things. How did God consume Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire before him! How did he break forth upon Uzza, for handling the ark with too much irreverence! 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7. And how did he break forth on the children of Israel at Bethshemesh, for profaning the ark! He smote of the people fifty thousand three score and ten men, as in 1 Sam. vi. 19.
And God hath threatened in the New Testament, that if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, i Cor. iii. 17. There is an emphasis in the expression. God will destroy all sinners, let it be what sin it will, which they commit, and in which they continue ; and yet it is said, If any man defile the temple of God, him