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that have not quite fallen away, have yet fallen into such grievous sins, as make them a terrible warning to us all, tó take heed of presumption and carnal security.
4. Grace is not in the nature of it, a thing that cannot perish or be lost. For, 1. It is a separable quality. 2. Adam did lose it. 3. We lose a great degree of it too oft; and the remaining degrees are of the same nature. It is not only possible in itself to lose it, but too easy; and not possible without co-operating grace to keep it.
5. Grace is not natural to us; to love our ease, and honour, and friends, is natural; but to love Christ, and his holy ways and servants, is not natural to us : indeed when we do it, it is our natural powers that do it; but not as naturally disposed to it, but as inclined by the cure of supernatural grace. Eating, and drinking, and sleeping we forget not, because nature itself remembereth us of them ; but learning and acquired habits may be lost, if not very deeply radicated; and it is commonly concluded as to the nature of them, that Habitus infusi habent se ad modum acquisitorum :' Infused habits are like to acquired ones.
6. Grace is, as it were, a stranger, or new comer in us. It hath been there but a little while ; and therefore we are but raw, and too unacquainted with the right usage and improvement of it; and are the apter to forget our duty, or to neglect it, or ignorantly to do that which tendeth to its destruction.
7. Grace dwelleth in a heart, which is not wholly dispossessed of those objects which are against its work, nor delivered from those principles which have an enmity against it. The love of the world and flesh was in the heart, before the love of God and holiness : and ignorance was before knowledge, and pride before humility, and selfishness before self-denial. And these are not wholly rooted out; we have dealt so gently with them, (as the Israelites with the Canaanites, Jebusites and other inhabitants of the land) that they are left to try us, and to be thorns in our sides. And the garrison is not free from danger, that hath an enemy always lodged within: our enemies are in the house with us; they lie down and rise up with us, and are as near as our flesh and bones : we can never be where they are not, nor leave them behind us, whithersoever we go, or whatever we do. No marvel, if brother be against brother, and the father against the son; when we are so much against ourselves b. And are we yet secure ?
8. And the number of snares that are still before us, and, of the subtle, malicious enemies of our souls may easily convince us that we are not wholly free from danger. How subtle and diligent is the devil ? How much do his servants imitate him ? Every creature or person that we have to do with, and every common mercy which we receive, hath matter of danger in it, which calleth us to fear and watch.
9. Perseverance is nothing else but our continuance in the grace which we received: and this grace consisteth in act as well as in habit: and the habit is for action; and the act is it that increaseth and continueth the habit. And the fear of God, and the belief of his threatenings, and repenttance, and watchfulness, and diligent obedience, are a great part of this grace. And the acts are ours, performed by ourselves, by the helps of God: God doth not believe, and repent, and obey in us, but causeth us ourselves to do it. Therefore to grow cold, and secure, and sinful, upon pretence that we are sure to persevere, this is to cease persevering, and to fall away, because we are sure to persevere, and not to fall away: which is a mere contradiction.
10. Lastly, Bethink you well what is the meaning of all these texts of Scripture, and the reason that the Holy Ghost doth speak to us in this manner. “ And you—-hath he reconciled,--to present you holy :
--if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.” Abide in me, and I in you. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withered. If yė abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will d.” “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” “ Keep yourselves in the love of Godf.” “ They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ; but with many of them God was not well pleased : wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall 8.” not highminded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural
b Matt. xiii. 12.
c Col. i. 21-23.
d John xv. 4–7.
branches, take heed lest he spare not theeh." “ Ye are fallen from grace." "He that endureth to the end shall be saved k.” Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. For we are partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end." “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbeliefm.” “ Hold fast till I come." And he that overcometh and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations." Take heed therefore of that doctrine which telleth
you, that sins to come are all pardoned to you before they are committed, and that you are justified from them, and that it is unlawful to be afraid of falling away, because it is impossible, &c. For no sin is pardoned before it is committed, (though the remedy be provided :) for it is then no sin: and you are justified from no sin, any further than it is pardoned. Suppose God either to decree, or but to foreknow the freest, most contingent act, and there will be a logical impossibility in order of consequence, that it should be otherwise than he so decreeth or foreseeth. But that inferreth no natural impossibility in the thing itself: for God doth not decree or foresee that such a man's fall shall be impossible, but only' non futurum.'
Direct. iv. 'In a special manner take heed of the company and doctrine of deceivers; yea, though they seem most religious men, and are themselves first deceived, and think they are in the right. And take heed of falling into a dividing party, which separateth from the generality of the truly wise and godly people p.' For this hath been an ordinary introduction to backsliding; false doctrine hath a mighty power on the heart. And he that can separate one of the sheep from the rest of the flock, hath a fair advantage to carry him away".
Direct. v. 'Be very watchful against the sin of pride, especially pride of gifts, or knowledge, or holiness, which some call spiritual pride;' for God is engaged to cast down the proud.
h Rom. xi. 20, 21.
i Gal. v. 4.
k Matt. x, 22.
n Rev. ii. 25, 26. 1 Thes. v. 12, 13.
“ Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall".” Satan assaulted our first parents by that
that he fell himself; and his success encourageth him to try the same way with their posterity. And, alas, how greatly hath he succeeded through all ages of the world till now!
Direct. vi. * Take heed of a divided, hypocritical heart, which never was firmly resolved for God, upon expectation of the worst, and upon terms of self-denial, nor was ever well loosed from the love of this present world, nor firmly believed the life to come.' For it is no wonder that he falleth from grace, who never had any grace but common, which never renewed his soul. It is no wonder that falsehearted friends forsake us, when their interest requireth it; nor that the seed which never had depth of earth, doth bring forth no fruit, but what will wither when persecution shall arise, or that which is sown among thorns be choked. Sit down and count what it will cost you to be Christians, and receive not Christ
mistakes, or with reserves. Direct. vii. • Take heed lest the world, or any thing in it, steal again into your hearts, and seem too sweet to you.' If
your friends, or dwellings, or lands and wealth, or ho-nours, begin to grow too pleasant, and be overloved, your thoughts will presently be carried after them, and turned away from God, and all holy affection will be damped and decay, and grace will fall into a consumption. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil; and the love of this world which is the mortal enemy of the love of God. Keep the world from your hearts, if you would keep your graces.
Direct. viii. 'Keep a strict government and watch over your fleshly appetite and sense' For the loosing of the reins to carnal lusts, and yielding to the importunity of sensual desires, is the most ordinary way of wasting grace, and falling off from God.
Direct. IX. 'Keep as far as you can from temptations, and all occasions and opportunities of sinning. Trust not to your own strength; and be not so foolhardy as to thrust yourselves into needless danger. No man is long safe that standeth at the brink of ruin; if the fire and straw be long near together, some spark is like to catch at last.
· Matt. xii. Luke xiv. 26. 29. 33.
r Prov. xvi. 18.
Direct. x. . Incorporate yourselves into the communion of saints, and go along with them that go towards heaven, and engage yourselves in the constant use of all those means which God hath appointed you to use for your perseverance; especially take heed of an idle, slothful, unprofitable life: and keep your graces in the most lively exercise; for the slothful is brother to the waster;' and idleness consumeth or corrupteth our spiritual health and strength, as well as our bodily. Set yourselves diligently to work while it is day, and do all the good in your places, that you are able : for it is acts that preserve and increase the habits; and a religion which consisteth only in doing no hurt, is so lifeless and corrupt, that it will quickly perish.
Direct. xi. 'Keep always in thine eye the doleful case of a backslider' (which I opened before). O what horror is waiting to seize on their consciences! How many of them have we known, that on their deathbeds have lain roaring in the anguish of their souls, crying out, “ I am utterly forsaken of God, because I have forsaken him! There is no mercy for such an apostate wretch: O that I had never been born, or had been any thing rather than a man! Cursed be the day that ever I hearkened to the counsel of the wicked, and that ever I pleased this corruptible flesh, to the utter undoing of my soul! O that it were all to do again! Take warning by a mad, besotted sinner, that have lost my soul for that which I knew would never make me satisfaction, and have turned from God when I had found him to be good and gracious.” O prepare not for such pangs as these, or worse than these in endless desperation.
Direct. xii. 'Make not a small matter of the beginnings of your backsliding. There are very few that fall quite away at once, the misery creepeth on by insensible degrees. You think it a small matter to cut short one duty, and omit another, and be negligent at another; and to entertain some pleasing thoughts of the world; or first to look on the forbidden fruit, and then to touch it, and then to taste it; but this is the way to that which is not small. A thought, or a look, or a taste, or a delight hath begun that with
many, which never stopt, till it had shamed them here, and damned them for ever.