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sible for me to repent too soon : too late, I may. To repent for my sin, when I can sin no more, what would it be other, than to be sorry that I can no more sin ? and what thank is it to me, that I would, and am disabled to offend ?
Thou tellest me, that mine age and death-bed are meet seasons for my repentance: as if time and grace were in my power to command. How know I, whether I shall live till age ? yea, till to. morrow? yea, till the next hour? Do not I see how fickle my life is ? and shall 1, with the Foolish Virgins, delay the buying of my oil, till the doors be shut? But, let me live: have I repentance in a string, that I may pull it to me when I list? is it not the great gift of that Good Spirit, which breatheth when and where it pleaseth ? it is now offered to me in this time of grace: if I now refuse it, perhaps I may seek it, with tears, in vain. I know the gates of hell stand always wide spen, to receive all comers: not so the gates of heaven : they are shut upon the impenitent; and never opened, but in the seasons of mercy. The porches of Bethesda were full of cripples, especting cure: those waters were not always sanative: if, when the Angel descends and moves the water, we take. not our first turn, we may wait too long. But, of all other, that season, whereon thou pitchest, my death-bed, is most unseasonable for this work, most serviceable for thy purpose. How many thousand souls hast thou deluded with this plausible, but deadly suggestion ! for then, alas, how is the whole man taken up, with the sense of pain; with grappling with the disease ; with answering the condoling of friends; with disposing the remainder of our estate; with repelling, then most importunate, temptations; with encountering the horrors and pangs of an imminent dissolution ! And what room is there then for a serious task of repentance ? No, Wicked One, I see thy drift : thou wouldest fain persuade me to do like some idle wanton servants, who play and talk out their candle-light, and then go darklings to bed : I hate the motion; and do gladly embrace this happy opportuvity, which God holds forth to me, of my present conversion.
Thou tellest me how hard it would be, if I should not have one mouthful of breath, at the last, to implore mercy : I tell thee of many a one, that hath not had so much; neither hath it been hard, but just, that those, who have had so many and earnest solicitations from a merciful God, and have given a deaf ear to them, should not, at the last, have a tongue to ask that mercy, which they have so often refused. But, let me have wind enough left to redouble the name of mercy, am I sure, upon so short warning, to obtain it? How many are there, that shall say, Lord, Lord ; and yet shall be answered with Depart from me, I know you not ? Do I not hear that God, whom vain men frame all of mercy, say, even of his Israel, I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy ; but destroy them? Jer. xii. 14. There is a time for judgment, as well as a time for mercy: neither of these may encroach upon other; as judgment may not be allowed to seize upon the soul, during the season of mercy; so neither may mercy put forth itself to rescue
the soul, in an execution of judgment: both must have their doe turns : let me sue, therefore, for grace, ere the time of grace be overpassed. Heaven is as a strong castle, whereto there is but one way of entrance: the drawbridge is let down all the day : all that while, the passage is open: let me stay till night, the bridge is hoisted up, the way precluded: I may now stand without; and call long enough, for a hopeless admittance. It shall be my care to get within those gates, ere my sun be set; while the willing neglecters of mercy sball find hell open, heaven inaccessible.
IIID. TEMPTATION: “ Thou art one of God's chosen. Now God secs no sin in his elect;
none, therefore, in thee : neither mayest thou then take notice of any sin in thyself, or needest any repentance for thy sin :"
Repelled. DECEITFUL Tempter! now thou wouldest fain flatter me into hell; and make God's favour a motive of my damnation. I doubt not but I am, through God's mercy, one of his chosen: his free grace in Christ, my Saviour, hath put upon me this honour; neither will I fear to challenge any of the happy privileges of my election.
But, that this should be one of the special prerogatives of grace, that God should see no sin in me, I hate to bear. That God imputes no sin to his elect, is a divine truth : but, that he sees no sin in his elect, is a conceit hatched in hell.
For, tell me, thou Antinomian Spirit, if God see no sin in his elect, is the reason on the behalf of God; or, of the sin? either for that there is no sin at all to be seen; or, for that, though there be sin in them, yet God sees it not?
If the former, it must be either in relation to the person of the sinner, or to the act and nature of the sin: either, that he cannot do that act, which is formally sin; or, that, though he do such an act, yet in him it is no sin.
If the latter, it must be either for the defect of his omniscience, or upon a willing connivance.
In each of these, there is gross error: in some of them, blas pheny
For, first, what can be more evident, than that the holiest of God's elect upon earth fall, and that not infrequently, into sin ? Who can say, I have made my heart clean : I am pure from my sin ? Prov. xx. 9. was the just challenge of wise Solomon. And his father, before him, said no less : There is none that doeth good, no no one ; Ps. xiv. 3. Rom. iji. 12: and, elsewhere, Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from my secret faults ; Ps. xix. 12. We all, saith the Prophet Isaiah, putting bimself into the number, have like sheep gone astray: we have turned every one to his own ways, Is. liii. 6. And wherefore were those legal expiations of old by the blood of their sacrifices, but for the acknowledged sins both of priests and people ? Levit. iv. 2, 13, 22. Num. xv. 24. Persuade us, if thou canst, that our election exempts us from being men : for, certainly, while we are men, we cannot but be sinners : so sure is that parenthesis of Solomon, There is no man, that sinneth not ; 1 Kings viii. 46. as that, If we say we have no sin, we both deceide ourselves, and make God a liar ; i John i. 8, 10.
What then? That, which in itself is sin, is it not sin in the elect? Doth evil turn good, as it falls from their person? Where did the Holy God infuse such virtue into any creature ? Surely, so deadly is the infection of sin, that it makes the person evil : but, that the holiness of the person should make the sin less evil, is a hellish monster of opinion. Yea, so far is it from that, as that the holiness of the person adds to the heinousness of the sin : the adultery had not been so odious, if a David had not committed it; nor the abjuration of Christ so grievous, if it had not fallen from him that said, Though all men, yet not I. Sin is sin, even in an angel; and the worse, for the eminence of the actor : for what is sin but the transgression of the law, in whomsoever! 1 John iii. 4. Wheresoever, therefore, transgression is, there is guilt. And such, the best of all God's Saints have acknowledged and lamented in themselves : Woe is me, saith the Prophet Isaiah, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips ; ch. vi. 5. The evil, that I would not do, that I do, saith the Chosen Vessel ; Rom. vii. 19. Yea, in many things, saith St. James, we offend all; James iji. 2.
It is true, that, as the Beloved Disciple hath taught us, He, that is born of God, sinneth not ; 1 John v. 18. iii. 9: not that he may not fall into the same act of sin with the most carnal man, but that he sins not in the same manner: the one sins with all his heart, with the full sway of his will; the other, not without a kind of renitency: the one makes a trade of his sin; the other steps only aside through the vehemence of a templation : the one sins with a high hand; the other, out of mere infirmity: the one walks on securely and resolutely, as obfirined in his wickedness; the other is smitten with a seasonable remorse for his offence: the one delights and prides himself in his sin; the other, as he sinned bashfully, so he hates himself for sipning: the one grows up daily to a greater height of iniquity; the other improves his sin to the bettering of his soul. But this difference of sin, as it makes sin un. measurably sinful in the worst men: so it doth not quite annul it in the holiest : it is their sin still, though it reign not in them, though it kill them not.
While, then, there cannot but be sin in the elect, is it possible, that God should vot see it there? Is there any thing in heaven, or earth, or hell, that can be hid from his all-seeing eyes? where should this sin lurk, that he should not espy it? Do not the secrets of all hearts lie open before him? Are not his eyes a flame of fire ? Rev. i. 14. Is it not expressly noted, as an aggravation of evil, Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord? 1 Kings siv. 22: and, Our transgressions, saith Isaiah, are multiplied before thee ; Isaiah
Jix. 12. It is out of his infinite holiness, that he cannot abide to behold sin : but it is out of his absolute omniscience, that there is no sin which he beholds not; and out of his infinite justice, that he beholds no sin which he hates not. Is it, then, for i hat sin hath no being; as that, which is only a failing and privation of that rectitude and integrity which should be in us and our actions, without any positive entity in itself? Upon this ground, God should see no sin at all; no, not in the wickedest man upon earth : and, whereas wicked men do nothing but sin, it should follow, that God takes no notice of most of the actions that are done in the world; whereof the very thought were blasphemy.
Since, then, it cannot be out of defect of knowledge, that God sees not the sins of his elect, is it out of a favourable connivance, that he is willing not to see what he sees? Surely, if the meaning be, that God sees not the sins of the penitent with a revengeful eye, that out of a merciful indulgence he will not prosecute the sins whereof we have repented with due vengeance, but passes them by as if they had not been ; we do so gladly yield to this truth, that we can never bless God enough for this wonderful mercy to poor sinners. It is his gracious word, which we lay ready hold upon, I, even I, am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions for my ozen sake, and will not remember thy sins; Isa. xliii. 25. But if the meaning be, that God bears with sin because theirs, that he so winks at it as that he neither sees nor detests it as it falls from so dear actors, it is no other than a blasphemous charge of injustice upon the Holy One of Israel: Your iniquities, saith Isaiah, speaking of God's chosen people, have separated between you and your God; and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear; Isa. lix. 2. Who was dearer to God, than the man after his own heart? yet, when he had given way to those foul sins of adultery and murder, Nathan tells him from God, Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thy own house, &c; 2 Sam. xii. 10, 11. How full and clear is that complaint of Moses, the man of God! We are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee; our secret sins in the light of thy countenance ; Ps. sc. 7, 8. And Jeremiah, to the same purpose, We have transgressed and have rebelled : thou hast not pardoned. Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us : thou hast slain; thou hast not pitied us. Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through; Lam. jii. 42, 43, 44.
Doubtless then, God so sees sin in his elect, that he both more notes and hates.sin more in his dearest children, than in any other.
Upon this impious supposition of God's not seeing sin in his chosen, wouldest thou raise that hellish suggestion, That a man must see no sin in himself, no repentance for sin; than which, what wider gap can be opened to a licentious stupidity ? For, that a man should commit sin, as Lot did his incest, not knowing that he doth the fact, what is it, but to bereave him of his senses ? To commit that fact which he may not know to be sin, what is it, but to bereave him of reason? Not to be sorry for the sin he hath committed, what is it, but to bereave him of grace? How contrary is this to the mind and practice of all God's Saints ! Holy Job could say, How muny are mine iniquities and sins ! make me to know my transgression and iny sin ; Job xiii. 23 : and, at last, when God had wrought accordingly upon his heart, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes; Job slii. 6. Penitent David could say, I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me ; Ps. li. 3 : and, elsewhere, I will declare mine iniquity, and be sorry for my sin; Ps. xxxviii. 18: and Solomon's suppliant, that would hope for audience in heaven, must know the plague of his own heart; 1 Kings viii. 38.
Carry on, therefore, thy deluded clients in a willing ignorance of their sins, and a secure regardlessness of their repentance: for me, I will ransack my heart for my secret sins; and find no peace in my soul, till it be truly sensible of my own repentance and God's remission.
IVTI. TEMPTATION: “ Thou mayest live as thou listest : thy destiny is irreversible. If
thou be predestined to life, thy sins cannot damn thee ; for God's election remaineth certain : if thou be ordained to damnation, all thy good endeavours cannot save thee. Please thyself on earth:
thou canst not alter what is done in heaven :" Repelled. The suggestion is pernicious; and such, as that Satan's quiver hath not many shafts more deadly : for, wherever it enters, it renders a man carelessly desperate, and utterly regardless either of good or evil; bereaving him, at once, both of grace and wit.
The story tells us of a great prince tainted with this poison, whom his wise physician happily cured: for, being called to the sick bed of him, whom he knew thus dangerously resolved, instead of medicine he administers to his patient this just conviction : “ Sir, you are conscious of your stiff opinion concerning predestination : why do you send to me for the cure of your sickness? Either you are predestinated to recover and live; or else you are, in God's decree, appointed to die : if you be ordained to live and recover, you shall live, though you take no helps of physic from me; but if to die, all my art and means cannot save you." The convinced prince saw and felt his error, and recanted it; as well perceiving, how absurd and unreasonable it is, in whatsoever decree of either temporal or spiritual good, to sever the meanis from the end; being both equally determined, and the one in way to the other.
The comparison is clear and irrefragable: God's decree is equally both certain and secret, for bodily health and life eternal. The means appointed are food and medicine, for the one; and, for the pther, repentance, faith, obedience : in the use of these, we may