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petite, and representeth some worldly, fleshly thing, as very pleasant and desirable. 2. Next that, he causeth this complacency to entice the thoughts; so that they are much and oft in thinking on this pleasure. 3. Next that, the will is drawn into a liking of it, and he wisheth he might enjoy it (whether it be riches, or pleasant dwellings, or pleasant company, or pleasant meats or drinks, or fleshly accommodations, or apparel, or honour, or command, or ease, or lust, or sports and recreations, or whatever else). 4. Next that, the understanding is drawn into the design, and is casting and contriving how it may be obtained, and all lawful means are first considered of, that if possible, the business might be accomplished without the hazard of the soul. 5. Next to that, endeavours are used to that end, by such means as are supposed lawful, and the conscience quieted with the conceit of the harmlessness and security. 6. By this time the man is engaged in his carnal cause and course, and so the difficulty of returning is increased: and the inclination of the heart groweth stronger to the sensual pleasure than before. 7. And then he is drawn to prosecute his design by any means how sinful soever; if it be possible, making himself believe by some reasonings or other, that all is lawful still, or if the case be too palpable to be so cloaked, conscience, at last, is cast asleep, and seared, and stupified, that it may be silent under all; till either grace or vengeance awake the sinner, and make him amazed at his madness and stupidity. This is the most usual method of the heart's relapse to positive evil.
2. And by such degrees doth the heart decline from the love of God and goodness: as 1. The thoughts are diverted to some carnal vanity that is over-loved and the thoughts of God are seldomer and shorter, than they were wont to be. 2. And at the same time, the thoughts of God do grow less serious and pleasing, and more dead and lifeless. 3. And then the means which should kindle love, are used with more dulness, and remissness, and indifferency. 4. And then conscience being galled with the guilt of wilful omissions and commissions (being acquainted with the fleshly designs of the heart), doth raise a secret fear of God's displeasure. And this being not strong enough to restrain the man from sin, doth make his sin greater, and maketh him very back
ward to draw near to God, or seriously to think of him, or call upon him; and turneth love into terror and aversion. 5. And if God do not stop and recover the sinner, he will next grow quite weary of God, and out of love with a holy life, and change him for his worldly, fleshly pleasures. 6. And next that, he will entertain some infidel, or atheistical, or libertine doctrine, which may quiet him in his course of sin, by justifying it, and will conform his judgment to his heart. 7. And next that, he will hate God, and his ways, and servants, and turn a persecutor of them; till vengeance lay him in hell, where pain and desperation will increase his hatred; but his fleshly pleasure, and malicious persecution shall be for ever at an end.
III. Backsliders in life and practice, do receive the first infection at the heart; and the life declineth no further than the heart declineth: but yet I distinguish this sort from the other, as the effect from the cause; and the rather, because some few do much decline in heart, that yet seem to keep much blamelessness of life in the eye of men: and it is usually done by these degrees.
1. In the man's backsliding into positive sin (as sensuality or worldliness) the heart being prepared as before. 1. The judgment doth reason more remissly against sin, than it did before; and the will doth oppose it with less resolution, and with greater faintness and indifferency. 2. Then the sinner tasteth of the bait, and first draweth as near to sin as he dare, and embraceth the occasions and opportunities of sinning, while yet he thinketh to yield no further. And in this case, he is so long disputing with the tempter, and hearkening to him, and gazing on the bait, till at last he yieldeth; and having long been playing at the pit's brink, his violent lust or appetite doth thrust him in. 3. When he hath once sinned (against knowledge) he is troubled awhile, and this he taketh for true repentance: and when he is grown into some hope, that the first sin is forgiven him, he is the bolder to venture on the like again; and thinketh, that the second may be as well forgiven as the first. 4. In the same order he falleth into it again and again, till it come to a custom. 5. And by this time he loveth it more, and wisheth it were lawful, and there were no danger by it. 6. And then he thinketh himself concerned to prove
it lawful to quiet conscience, that it may not torment him; and therefore he gladly heareth what the justifiers of his sin can say for it, and he maketh himself believe that the reasons are of weight. 7. And then he sinneth without re
2. So in men's backsliding from the practice of religion. 1. The heart is alienated and undisposed as aforesaid. 2. And then the life of the duty doth decay, and it dwindleth towards a dead formality; like a body in a consumption, the vivid complexion, and strength, and activity decay. 3. Next this, he can frequently omit a duty, especially in secret where no man knoweth it; till by degrees he grow more seldom in it. 4. All this he taketh for a pardoned infirmity, which consisteth with a state of grace; and therefore he is little troubled about it. 5. Next this, he loseth all the life and comfort of religion, and misseth not any duty when he hath omitted it, but is glad that he escapeth it, and when it is at an end, as an ox is when he is out of the yoke. 6. Next, he beginneth to hearken to them that speak against so much ado in religion, as if it were a needless, unprofitable thing. 7. And if God forsake him, he next repenteth of his former diligence, and settleth himself, either in a dead course of such customary lip-service as doth cost him nothing, or else in utter worldliness and ungodliness, and perhaps at last in malignity and persecution.
III. Though the signs or symptoms of declining may be gathered from what is said already, I shall add some more. 1. You are declining when you grow bolder with sin, or with the occasions of it, and temptations to it, than you were in your more watchful state. 2. When you make a small matter of those inward corruptions and infirmities, which once seemed grievous to you, and almost intolerable. 3. When you settle in a course of profession or religiousness, that putteth your flesh to little cost, in labour, reproach, or suffering from the ungodly, but leave out the hard and costly part, and seem to be very religious in the rest. 4. When you are quiet and contented in the daily, customary use of ordinances, though you find no profit or increase in grace by it or communion with God. 5. When you grow strange to God and Jesus Christ, and have little
converse with him in the Spirit; and your thoughts of him are few, and cold, and lifeless; and your religion lieth all in conversing with good men, and good books, and outward duties. 6. When you grow neglecters of your hearts, and strangers to them, and find little work about them from day to day, either in trying them, or watching them, or stirring them up, or mortifying their corruptions; but your business in religion is most abroad, and in outward exercises. 7. Yea, though your own hearts and duties be much of your care and thoughts, you are on the losing hand, if the wonders of love and grace in Christ have not more of your thoughts, or, if you set not yourselves more to the study of a crucified and glorified Christ, than of your own distempered hearts. 8. All is not well with you, when spiritual helps and advantages are less relished and valued, and you grow more indifferent to the sermons, and prayers, and sacraments, which once you could not live without; and use them but as bare duties for necessity, and not as means, with any great hope of benefit and success. 9. When you grow too regardful of the eye of man, and too regardless of the eye of God; and are much more careful about the words, and outside of your prayers and discourses, than the spirit and inward part and manner of them; and dress yourselves accurately when you appear abroad, as those that would seem very good to men, but go at home in the most sordid garb of a cold and careless heart and life. 10. When you grow hottest about some controverted, smaller matters in religion, or studious of the interest of some private opinion and party which you have chosen, more than of the interest of the common truths and cause of Christ. 11. When in joining with others, you relish more the fineness of the speech, than the spirit, and weight, and excellency of the matter; and are impatient of hearing of the most wholesome truths, if the speaker manifest any personal infirmity in the delivery of them; and are weary and tired, if you be not drawn on with novelty, variety, or elegancy of speech. 12. When you grow more indifferent for your company, and set less by the company of serious, godly Christians than you did, and are almost as well pleased with common company and discourse. 13. When you grow more impatient of reproof for sin, and love not to be told of any thing in you
that is amiss; but love those best that most highly applaud you. 14. When the renewing of your repentance is grown a lifeless, cursory work; when in preparation for the Lord's day, or Sacrament, or other occasions, you call yourselves to no considerable account, or make no greater a matter of the sins which you find on your account, than if you were almost reconciled to them. 15. When you grow more uncharitable and censorious to brethren that differ from you in tolerable points; and less tender of the names or welfare of others, and love not your neighbours as yourselves, and do not as you would be done by. 16. When you grow less compassionate to the ungodly world, and less regardful of the common interest of the universal church, and of Jesus Christ throughout the earth, and grow more narrow, private spirited, and confine your care to yourselves, or to your party. 17. When the hopes of heaven, and the love of God, cannot content you, but you are thirsty after some worldly contentment, and grow eager in your desires, and the world groweth more sweet to you, and more amiable in your eyes. 18. When sense, and appetite, and fleshly pleasure are grown more powerful with you, and you make a great matter of them, and cannot deny them, without a great deal of striving and regret, as if you had done some great exploit, if you live not like a beast. 19. When you are more proud and impatient, and are less able to bear disesteem, and slighting, and injuries from men, or poverty, or sufferings for Christ; and make a greater matter of your losses, and crosses, or wrongs, than beseemeth one that is dead to the flesh, and to the world. 20. Lastly, when you had rather dwell on earth than be in heaven; and are more unwilling to think of death, or to prepare for it, end expect it, and are less in love with the coming of Christ, and are ready to say of this sinful life in flesh, it is good to be here. All these are signs of a declining state, though yet you are not come to apostacy.
But the signs of a mortal, damnable state indeed, are found in these following degrees: 1. When a man had rather have worldly prosperity, than the favour and fruition of God in heaven. 2. When the interest of the flesh can do more with him, than the interest of God and his soul, and doth more rule and dispose of his heart and life. 3.