« PreviousContinue »
Take an affliction, and though it be never so great, a man may be a blessed man in the worst affliction. "Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered," Ps. xxxii. 1; but he cannot be a blessed man that lies in sin. "Cursed is every man that continueth not in all things written in the law to do them," Gal. iii. 10. Thus you see the least sin is worse than the greatest affliction; therefore certainly the evil of sin is very great.
Look what that evil is that God doth punish with the greatest severity, both in his own and others, though it be but small in our eyes, that must needs be exceeding evil. Now he doth severely punish that which we look upon as a small sin, both in his own and others. In his own: you think it was no great matter for Adam to eat the forbidden fruit; you think Moses was but a little in passion with the children of Israel, for which he was kept out of Canaan; and you think it was no great matter for Uzzah to stay the ark when it was falling; yet God punished these small sins, small in our eyes, he punished them severely in his own people. And, as for others: because there is an infinite evil in sin, and God doth justly punish, he punisheth them to all eternity for the least sin; for amongst men, it is just to punish until a man repenteth, but in hell men never repent, therefore God punisheth them to all eternity. So that God doth punish sin with the greatest severity, both in his own and others; therefore surely it is very evil.
Look what that is that is a worse evil than hell or the devil, that must needs be a very great and exceeding evil. Sin is worse than the devil; for the devil is a creature that God made, but sin is none of God's creature. And it is worse than hell; for hell is of God's making too, but sin is not. It is worse to be given up to sin than to the devil; if a man be given up to the devil, it is that his soul may be saved; but if a man be given up to sin, it is that his soul may be destroyed and not saved. So that sin is worse than hell or the devil.
Look what that evil is that is a punishment in itself, that must needs be exceeding evil, Sin in itself is a punishment, though there were no other punishment to follow. "In keeping thy commandments there is great reward,” Ps. xix. 11. So in breaking God's commandments there is great
punishment. Therefore sometimes when God would punish men for their sins, he punisheth them by giving them up to great sins: "God gave them up to vile affections, to uncleanaess," &c. Rom. i. 26. Now I say, look what that is which is in itself a punishment, that must needs be exceeding evil : and thus it is with sin; this therefore must needs be a very great evil. Thus in the general, you see, there is a great deal of evil and sinfulness in sin.
But now, more particularly, I shall shew it you in the sin of our nature, the sin of our hearts and thoughts, and the sin of our lives and practices; especially living under the gospel, the evil of these sins.
As for the sin of our nature; the more universal and overspreading any leprosy or contagion is, the worse and the greater it is now the sin of our nature spreads over all our faculties; our understanding, reason, will, affections; it spreads over all our faculties.
Look what that contagion or leprosy is, that is so great that nothing will help against it, but the pulling down the house; that must needs be very great: truly the sin of our nature is such, nothing will cure it but the pulling down the house.
Look what that sin is that is most unwearied, and whereby a man is unwearied in sin, that must needs be very great. The sin of our nature is unwearied, as the fountain is unwearied in sending up water, bubbling up water. A man may be wearied in drawing up water out of the fountain, and so a man may be wearied in sinful actions: but sinful nature is never weary, and that sin that is unwearied is exceeding great.
Look what that sin is that is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin; that must needs be very great. Now what is the ground of all our returns to evil, after all our repentance and reformation, but our nature? Suppose water be heated; after it is warmed and heated, it cools again. Heat it again, and it cools again; why? Because coldness is its nature. And so what is the reason that men return again and again to their sin, after all their repentance and reformation, but the sin of their nature?
Look what that evil is which is the least lamented, and that whereby our sin is most excused; that is a great and
dreadful evil. Now of all sins the sin of our nature is least lamented, and thereby men's sins are most excused. Bear with me, it is my nature; I am passionate, but it is my nature; I am froward, but it is my nature; men excuse themselves thereby. Now, I say, look what that evil is which is least lamented, and that whereby our sin is most excused; that is a dreadful evil. Thus it is with the sin of our
Again, But as for the sin of our hearts and thoughts, the evil thereof:
Look what that sin is that is the most incurable; that is worst: a secret hidden wound within the body, or a disease within the body, is the most incurable. Such are the sins of our hearts and thoughts, secret sins, and so the most incurable.
Look what that sin is that is a friend, a parent to other sins; that must needs be very evil. Now what are the parents of all our sinful actions but sinful thoughts? What puts life into evil actions but sinful thoughts? So with the godly, and so with the ungodly: with the godly, for saith Abraham, "I thought the fear of God was not in this place," Gen. x. 11. and therefore I said she is my sister; she was indeed his sister, and he lied not in saying so; but he dissembled, and hid the truth, using an unworthy shift for his own preservation; and where began this evil but in a sinful thought? "I thought the fear of God was not in this place." So with the ungodly, Ps. 1. 21, "Thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself:" the wicked steal, and commit adultery, and deceive, and slander others, and how are they led into all this, but by thoughts? "Thou thoughtest I was such an one as thyself:" and you know what the Psalmist saith, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults, then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression," Ps. xix. 12, 13. Sins of our hearts and thoughts do principiate, and give a being unto sinful actions, and therefore are very evil.
Thereby also, by the sins of our hearts and thoughts, our former sin committed, that was dead, is revived again, and hath a resurrection by our musing on it, contemplating on it with delight. As the witch at Endor called up Samuel that was dead, so a delightful thought calls up a sinful ac
tion that was dead before. Thereby our sins that were dead before are revived, and have a resurrection.
Thereby also a man may possibly sin that sin in effect, which he never did commit in act, and so the Lord may punish him for it: as the Lord said to David, because it was in thine heart to build me an house, I will build thy house: so says God to a man in a way of punishment, because it was in thy heart to do this evil, though thou didst it not, I will punish thee for it. Possibly, I say, by the sin of our hearts and thoughts, a man may sin that sin in effect, which he never did commit in act, and that is evil.
Thereby a man may or doth repent of his very repentance: a man sins and afterwards is sorrowful, and repents thereof, and then after his repentance he thinks on his sin with delight; what is this but to repent of his very repentance? As by my repentance I am sorrowful for my sin, so by musing on my sin with delight, I repent of my repentance. Now is it not a very great evil for a man to repent of his repentance? Lo, this may a man do, and this men ordinarily do; they repent of their repentance by musing on their sin, and delighting in it in a way of sinful thoughts.
But again, As for the sin of our lives and practice, especially living under the gospel, the evil thereof, that is very great, for,
Sin under the gospel is sinning against the remedy; and of all sins, sinning against the remedy is the greatest; and therefore it is worse for a man to commit adultery that is married, than for an unmarried man to commit fornication; for he sins against the remedy. Now the great remedy against sin is the gospel; therefore for a man to sin under the gospel, he sins against the remedy.
The greater obligations a man sinneth against, the worse and the greater is his sin. By the gospel we are brought under great obligations, and by our sinning under the gospel, what do we? We engage the very mercy of God to become our adversary: by our sinning under the gospel, we sin against mercy and grace, and thereby engage the very mercy of God, our greatest friend, to become our greatest adversary.
Peccatum majus, ubi specialis repugnantia inter peccantem et peccatum; the more repugnancy there is betwixt the sin and the sinner, the greater is the sin; and therefore it is
worse for a judge to be unjust, than for another, because there is a special repugnancy betwixt the sin and the sinner. Now there is a special repugnancy betwixt the gospel, and a man that sins under the gospel; for he professes the contrary, and therefore sin there is the greater.
Peccatum majus, ubi majus nocumentum; the more hurtful or mischievous any sin is, the greater is that sin: sinning under the gospel is very hurtful, to ourselves, and to others. To ourselves; as poison taken in sack, or something that is warm, is the most venomous, so sin under the gospel is the deadliest poison. Why? Because it is warmed with gospel heat; and it is hurtful to others, because they are hardened; for when men sin under the gospel, others are hardened thereby.
The more able that any sin is to defend itself by knowledge, shifts and distinctions, the worse and greater it is. Now a man that lives under the gospel hath knowledge, and by his knowledge is able to defend his sin by many distinctions; and sins bred under the gospel are able to defend themselves by knowledge fetched from the gospel, therefore the worse.
The more deceitful that any sin is, and the better ends and pretences it hath, the worse it is, and holds the longer. Now sins bred under the gospel are most deceitful, and have the best ends and pretences, and therefore the worse.
The more that a man doth cast contempt upon the great things of God by his sin, the greater and the worse is his sin. Sins under the gospel cast contempt upon the great things of God, the glory of God, the glorious offer of the grace of God. To sin under the gospel, is to cast contempt upon the glory of God and the great things of God, and therefore sin there is the greater.
The more costly and chargeable that any sin is, the greater and the worse it is. Now a man that sins under the gospel cannot sin at so cheap a rate as another, though he sins the very same sin that another commits. Why? "He that knows his Master's will and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes," Luke xii. 47. What an evil and dreadful thing is it for men to sin under the gospel, says the apostle, "he shall come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel," 2 Thess. i. 8. Flaming fire; not painted fire, but real fire; but there