Page images

but their beft, and moft perfect one, is a truth which cannot, one would think, be controverted: for what understanding is there, which is not liable to error? What will, that does not feel fomething of impotence, fomething of irregularity? What affections, that are merely human, are ever conftant, ever raifed? Where is the faith, that has no fcruple, no diffidence; the love, that has no defect, no remiffion; the hope, that has no fear in it? What is the state, which is not liable to ignorance, inadvertency, furprife, infirmity? Where is the obedience, that has no reluctancy, no remifness, no deviation? This is a truth, which, whether men will or no, they cannot chufe but feel; the confeffions of the holiest of men bear witnefs to it. And the pretenfion of the Quakers, to a finless and perfect ftate, is abundantly confuted by that answer one of the moft eminent of them makes to an objection, which charges them with arrogating and affuming to themselves infallibility and pertion, viz. That they were fo far infallible and perfect, as they were led by the Spirit of God. For what is this, but to defert and betray, not defend their caufe? 'Tis plain then, as to matter of fact, that the most perfect upon earth are not without frailties and infirmities; and fuch infirmities, as difcover themselves in actual flips and


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

errors. But the queftion is, whether these are to be accounted fins? I must confefs, if we strictly follow the language of the fcripture, we fhould rather call them by fome other name; for this does fo generally understand by fin, a deliberate tranfgreffion of the law of God, that it will be very difficult to produce many texts wherein the word fin is used in any other fenfe. As to legal pollutions, I have not much confidered the matter.

But as

to moral ones, I am in fome degree confident, that the word fin does generally fignify fuch a tranfgreffion as by the gofple covenant is punifhable with death and rarely does it occur in any other fense; I fay rarely; for, if I be not much mistaken, the fcripture does fometimes call thofe infirmities, I am now talking of, fins. But what if it did not? 'Tis plain, that every deviation from the law of God, if it has any concurrence of the will in it, is in ftrict fpeaking fin: and 'tis as plain that the fcripture does frequently give us fuch defcriptions and characters, and fuch names of these fins of infirmity, as do oblige us both to ftrive and watch against them, and repent of them. For it calls them fpots, errors, defects, flips, and the like. But, what is, laftly, moft to my purpofe, it is plain, that this diftintion of fins, into mortal and venial, or

fins of infirmity, has its foundation in exprefs texts of fcrupture. Numerous are the texts cited to this purpose: but he that will deal fairly muft confefs, that they are most of them improperly and impertinently urged, as relating either to falls into temporal calamity; or to mortal, not venial fins; or to the fins of an unregenerate state; or to a comparative impurity, I mean the impurity of man with refpect to God; a form of expreffion frequent in Job. I will therefore content myself to cite three or four, which feem not liable to these exceptions, Deut. xxxii. 4They have corrupted themselves; their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverfe and crooked generation. Here two things feem to be pointed out to us plainly: First, that the children of God are not without their spots. Secondly, That these are not of the fame nature with thofe of the wicked, in comparison with those wilful and perverfe tranfgreffions, the children of God are, elsewhere, pronounced blameless, without offence, without spot, Pfalm xix. 12, 13. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from fecret faults: keep back alfo thy fervant from prefumptuous" fins, let them not have dominion over me; then fhall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great tranfgreffion. Here again the Pfalmift feems to me to place




uprightness in freedom from deliberate or mortal fin, and to admit of another fort of tranfgreffions, in which upright men flip fometimes. Nor does erti the Pfalmift here only affert venial fins but he seems to me to fuggeft the fprings and fources of them, namely, fome fecret difpofitions in our nature to folly and error, which he prays God to cleanse and free him from more and more; Cleanfe thou me from fecret faults. The word fault is not in the original; but fomething of that kind must be fupplied to render the fense intire in our language. The words of Solomon, Prov. xx. 9. feem to relate to this corruption lurking in us, and never utterly to be extirpated; Who can fay I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my fin? For if this fhould be applied to mortal fin, every one fees, that it will contradict a hundred places in fcripture, which attribute to righteous men, purity of heart, and deliverance from fin. Laftly, James iii. 2. we are told plainly, that in many things we offend all, laioμer aans, not finners only, but righteous and upright men, have their defects and flips. And accordingly there is not any life which we have the hiftory of in fcripture, how excellent foever the perfon be, but we meet with fome of these recorded; as will appear from thofe feveral inftan


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


ces I fhall produce, when I come to defcribe the nature of thefe fins. And certainly, when David fays of himself, My fins are more in number than the hairs of my head: he that fhall interpret this place of mortal or prefumptuous fins, will both contradict the fcriptures, which acquit him, except in the matter of Uriah, and highly wrong the memory of David, making him a prodigy of wickednefs, inftead of a faint. Nor does that make any thing against me, which he adds in the next words, My heart fails me; or that in the foregoing verfe, Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, fo that I am not able to look up. For I do not affirm that the Pfalmift here has regard only to fins of infirmity exclufively of others: no; he reckons all together, and fo discerns the one aggravated by the other; and the guilt of all together very far enhanced. Nor do I, fecondly, intereft myself here in that difpute between proteftants and papifts, whether fins of Infirmity are not damnable in their own nature, though not imputed under the covenant of grace? Nor do I, laftly, examine what a vast heap of fins of Infirmity may amount to, though the guilt of this or that alone were not fo fatal. I have then, I think, proved the matter in question; having fhewed, both from the experience of mankind and the

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »