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are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Which is as much as to say, that they that do any sort of wickedness. Job xxxi. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity? Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps? Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity. If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to my hands, &c. Ezek. xxxiii. 15. If he walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live. If one member only be corrupt, and we do not cut it off, it will carry the whole body to hell, Matth. v. 29,
Saul was commanded to slay all God's enemies, the Amalekites; and he slew all but Agag, and the saving him alive proved his ruin. Caleb and Joshua entered into God's promised rest, because they wholly followed the Lord, (Numb. xiv. 24, and xxxii. 11, 12, Deut. i. 36. Josh. xiv. 6, 8, 9, 14.) Naaman's hypocrisy appeared in that-however he seemed to be greatly affected with gratitude to God for healing his leprosy, and engaged to serve him, yet-in one thing he desired to be excused. And Herod, though he feared John, observed him, heard him gladly, and did many things; yet was condemned, in that in one thing he would not hearken to him, even in parting with his beloved Herodias. So that it is necessary that men should part with their dearest iniquities, which are as their right hand and right eyes; sins that most easily beset them, and to which they are most exposed by their natural inclinations, evil customs, or particular circumstances, as well as others. As Joseph would not make known himself to his brethren who had sold him, until Benjamin the beloved child of the family was delivered up; no more will Christ reveal his love to us, until we part with our dearest lusts, and until we are brought to comply with the most difficult duties, and those to which we have the greatest aversion.
And it is of importance to observe, that in order to a man's being universally obedient, his obedience must not only consist in negatives, or in universally avoiding wicked practices; but he must also be universal in the positives of religion. Sins of omission are as much breaches of God's commands, as sins of commission. Christ, in Matth. xxv. represents those on the left hand, as being condemned and cursed to everlasting fire, for sins of omission, I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat, &c. A man therefore cannot be said to be universally obedient, and of a Christian conversation, only because he is no thief, oppressor,
fraudulent person, drunkard, tavern-haunter, whore-master, rioter, night-walker, nor unclean, profane in his language, slanderer, liar, furious, malicious, nor reviler. He is falsely said to be of a conversation becoming the gospel, who goes thus far, and no farther; but, in order to this, it is necessary that he should also be of a serious, religious, devout, humble, meek, forgiving, peaceful, respectful, condescending, benevolent, merciful, charitable and beneficent walk and conversation. Without such things as these, he does not obey the laws of Christ, laws that he and his apostles abundantly insist on, as of greatest importance and necessity.
2. In order to men's being true Christians, it is necessary that they prosecute the business of religion, and the service of God, with great carnestness and diligence, as the work to which they devote themselves, and make the main business of their lives. All Christ's peculiar people, not only do good works, but are zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14. No man can do the service of two masters at once. They who are God's true servants, give up themselves to his service, and make it as it were their whole work, therein employing their whole hearts, and the chief of their strength; Phil. iii. 13. This one thing I do. Christians in their effectual calling, are not called to idleness, but to labour in God's vineyard, and spend their day in doing a great laborious service. All true Christians comply with this call, (as is implied in its being an effectual call), and do the work of Christians; which is every where in the New Testament compared to those exercises, wherein men are wont to exert their strength with the greatest earnestness, as running, wrestling, fighting. All true Christians are good and faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, and fight the good fight of faith: for none but those who do so, ever lay hold on eternal life. Those who fight as those who beat the air, never win the crown of victory. They that run in a race, run all: but one wins the prize; and they that are slack and negligent in their course, do not so run, as that they may obtain. The kingdom of heaven is not to be taken but by violence. Without earnestness there is no getting along in that narrow way that leads to life; and so no arriving at that state of glorious life and happiness to which it leads. Without earnest labour, there is no ascending the steep and high hill of Zion; and so no arriving at the heavenly city on the top of it. Without a constant laboriousness, there is no stemming the swift stream in which we swim, so as ever to come to that fountain of water of life, that is at the head of it. There is need that we should watch and pray always, in order to our escaping those dreadful things that are coming on the ungodly, and our being counted worthy to stand before the Son of man. There is need of our puliing on the whole armour of God,
and doing all to stand, in order to our avoiding a total overthrow, and being utterly destroyed by the fiery darts of the devil. There is need that we should forget the things that are behind, and be reaching forth to the things that are before, and pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, in order to our obtaining that prize. Slothfulness in the service of God, in his professed servants, is as damning, as open rebellion for the slothful servant, is a wicked servant, and shall be cast into outer darkness, among God's open enemies, Matth. xxv. 26, 30. They that are slothful, are not followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises; Heb. vi. 11, 12. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises. And all they who follow that cloud of witnesses who are gone before to heaven, do lay aside every weight, and the sin that easily besets them, and run with patience the race that is set before them, Heb. xii. 1. That true faith by which persons rely on the righteousness of Christ and the work he hath done for them, and truly feed and live upon him, is evermore accompanied with a spirit of earnestness in the Christian work and course. Which was typified of old, by the manner of the children of Israel's feeding on the paschal lamb; Exod. xii. 12. And thus shall ye eat it, with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand: and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord's passover.
2. Every true Christian perseveres in this way of universal obedience, diligent and earnest service of God, through all the various kinds of trials that he meets with, to the end of life. That all true saints, all who obtain eternal life, do thus persevere in the practice of religion, and the service of God, is a doctrine so abundantly taught in the scripture, that particularly to rehearse all the texts which imply it would be endless. I shall content myself with referring to some in the margin*.
But that in persevering obedience, which is chiefly insisted on in the scripture, as a special note of the truth of grace, is the continuance of professors in the practice of their duty, and being stedfast in an holy walk, through the various trials that they meet with.
By trials here I mean, those things which a professor meets
*.Deut. v. 29. Deut. xxxii. 18, 19, 20. 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. Psal. lxxviii. 7, 8, 10, 11, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42, 56, &c. Psal. evi. 3, 12-15. Psal. cxxv. 4, 5. Prov. xxvi. 11. Is. !xiv. 5. Jer. xvii. 13. Ezek. iii. 20. and xviii. 24. and xxxiii. 12, 13. Matth. x. 22. and xiii. 4-8. with verses 19-23. aud xxv. 8. and xxiv. 12, 13. Luke ix. 62. and xii. 35, &c. and xxii. 28. and xvii. 32. John viii. 30, 31. and xv. 6, 7, 8, 10, 16. Rom. ii. 7. and xi. 22. Col. i. 22, 23 Heb. iii. 6, 12, 14 and vi. 11, 12. and x. 35, &c. James i. 25. Rev. ii. 13, 26. and ii. 10. 1 Tim. ii. 15. 2 Tim. iv. 4-8. 33
with in his course, that especially render his continuance in duty, and faithfulness to God, difficult to nature. These things are called in scripture by the name of trials, or temptations, which are words of the same signification. These are of various kinds; there are many things that render continuance in the way of duty difficult, by their tendency to cherish and foment, or to stir up and provoke lusts and corruptions. Many things make it hard to continue in the way of duty, by their being of an alluring nature, and having a tendency to entice persons to sin; or by their tendency to take off restraints, and embolden them in iniquity. Other things are trials of the soundness and stedfastness of professors, by their tendency to make their duty appear terrible to them, and so to drive them from it: such as the sufferings to which their duty will expose them; pain, ill-will, contempt, and reproach, or loss of outward possessions and comforts. If persons, after they have made a profession of religion, live any considerable time in this world, which is so full of changes, and so full of evil, it cannot be otherwise, than that they should meet with many trials of their sincerity and stedfastness. And besides, it is God's providential manner, to bring trials on his professing friends and servants designedly, that he may manifest them; and may exhibit sufficient matter of conviction of the state in which they are to their own consciences, and oftentimes, to the world. This appears by innumerable scriptures; some are referred to in the margin*.
True saints may be guilty of some kinds and degrees of backsliding, may be foiled by particular temptations, and fall into sin, yea, great sins, but they can never fall away so as to grow weary of religion and the service of God, and habitually to dislike and neglect it, either on its own account, or on account of the difficulties that attend it; as is evident by Gal. vi. 9. Rom. ii. 7. Heb. x. 36. Is. xliii. 22. Mal. i. 13. They can never backslide so as to continue no longer in a way of universal obedience; or so, that it shall cease to be their manner to observe all the rules of Christianity, and do all duties required, even the most difficult, and in the most difficult circumstancest. This is abundantly
Deut. viii. 2, 15, 16. and xiii. 3.
Exod. xv. 25. and xvi. 4.
*Gen. xxii. 1. Jud. ii. 22. and iii. 10. Zech. xiii. 9. 19. 2 Cor. viii. 8. iii. 10. "One way of sin is exception enough against men's salvation, though their temptations be great. Some persons delight in iniquity; they take pleasure in rudeness, and intemperate practices; but there be others, that do not delight in sin; when they can handsomely avoid it, they do not choose it; except they be under some great necessity, they will not do it. They are afraid to sin; they think it is dangerous, and have some care to avoid it: but sometimes they force themselves to sin; they are reduced to difficulties, and cannot tell how well to avoid it;
manifest by the things observed already. Nor can they ever fall away, so as habitually to be more engaged in other things, than in the business of religion: or so that it should become their way and manner to serve something else more than God; or so as statedly to cease to serve God, with such earnestness and diligence, as still to be habitually devoted and given up to the business of religion; unless those words of Christ can fall to the ground, Ye cannot serve two masters; and those of the apostle, He that will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God; and unless a saint can change his God, and yet be a true saint. Nor can a true saint ever fall away so, that ordinarily there shall be no remarkable difference in his walk and behaviour since his conversion, from what was before. They who are truly converted are new men, new creatures; new, not only within, but without; they are sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body; old things are passed away, all things are become new. They have new hearts, new eyes, new ears, new tongues, new hands, new feet; i. e. a new conversation and practice; they walk in newness of life, and continue to do so to the end of life. And they that fall away, shew visibly that they never were risen with Christ*. And especially when men's opinion of their being converted, and so in a safe estate, is the very cause of their failure, it is a most evident sign of their hypocrisyt. And this is the case, whether their
it is a dangerous thing not to do it. If Naaman do not bow himself in the house of Rimmon, the king will be in a rage with him, take away his office, it may be, take away his life, and so he complies; 2 Kings v. 18.--So Jeroboam forced himself to set up the calves at Dan and Bethel; he thought that if the people went up to Jerusalem to worship, they would return to Rehoboam, and kill him: therefore he must think of some expedient to deliver himself in this strait: 1 Kings xii. 27, 28. He was driven by appearing necessity to take this wicked course. So the stonyground hearers were willing to retain the profession of the true religion; but the case was such, that they thought they could not well do it; Matth. xiii. 21.When tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. So Achan and Gehazi had singular opportunities to get an estate; if they live twenty years they are not like to have such an advantage; and they force themselves to borrow a point, and break the law of God. They lay a necessity on estate, and liberty, and life, but not upon obedience. If a man be willing to serve God in ordinary cases, but excuse himself when there be great difficulties, he is not godly. It is a small matter to serve God when men have no temptation; but Lot was holy in Sodom, Noah was righteous in the old world. Temptations try men, but they do not force men to sin; and grace will establish the heart in a day of temptation. They are blessed that do endure temptation. James i. 12. But they are cursed that fall away in a day of temptation." (Stoddard's Way to know Sincerity and Hypocrisy.)
Hence we learn what verdict to pass and give in concerning those men that decay and fall off from the Lord. They never had oil in the vessel; never had a dram of grace in their heart. Thus 1 John ii. 19. "If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.' It seems they were such men, which were so eminent and excellent, as that there were no brands nor marks upon them, to give notice to the churches, that they were marked out for apostacy; but were only discovered to be unsound, by their apostacy; and this was argument good enough." Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 226.
"When a man's rising is the cause of his fall, or seals a man up in his fall, or