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I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.—Ver. 101.
THE great work of a fast-day is to put away the evil of our doings; as when a fire is kindled in a house, and begins to rage and burn fiercer, it concerns those that would stop the fury of it to remove the combustible matter. The fire of God’s wrath hath been kindled amongst us, and is not yet quenched. I suppose none of you doubt your business is to remove the combustible matter, to put away your sins; this scripture will be of some use to you to that purpose.
David had spoken of that wisdom which he had got by the word of God above enemies, teachers, ancients. It was not such a wisdom as consisted in speculation, but practice; not only such as did enable him to talk high, and set his tongue awork. No; it was such as did enable him to do things worthy of God, as did set his feet awork. Our feet are slow and heavy in God’s ways, but very swift to that which is evil; and therefore herein did David’s wisdom consist, to bridle himself, to refrain his feet, that he might not run headlong into all manner of evil; and not only so, but that he might be also more ready to that which is good: ‘I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.’ Where—
1. We have David’s practice, I have refrained my feet from every evil way.
2. His end or motive, that I might keep thy word; that he might be exact and punctual with God in a course of obedience.
1. In his practice. You may note the seriousness of it, ‘I refrained my feet.’ By the feet are meant the affections: Eccles. v. 1, ‘Keep thy foot when thou goest into the house of God.’ Our affections, which are the vigorous bent of the soul, do engage us to practise, therefore fitly resembled by the feet, by which we walk to any place that we do desire, so that ‘I refrained my feet;’ the meaning is, I keep a close and strict hand over my affections, that they might not lead me to sin. Then you may note the extent of it. He doth not only say, ‘I refrained from evil,’ but universally, ‘from every evil way.’ But how could David say this in truth of heart, because of his offence in the matter of Uriah? Ans. This was the usual frame and temper of his soul, and the course of his life; and such kind of assertions concerning the saints are to be interpreted voce33Qu. ‘voto’?—ED. et conatu, licet non semper eventu. This was his errand and drift, his purpose and endeavour, his usual course, though he had his failings.
2. What was his motive and end in this? ‘That I might keep thy word;’ that I might be exact and punctual with God in a course of obedience, and adhere to his word uniformly, universally, impartially.
Doct. He that would keep the word must refrain his feet; that is, stand at a great distance in heart and practice from all sin.
For the illustration of the point observe—
1. A Christian must do both; he must stand at a distance from sin, and he must keep the word. There is a negative and an affirmative part in every commandment, precepts and prohibitions; we need both the bridle and the spur; the bridle, to refrain the feet from sin; and the spur, to quicken us to walk closely with God, according to the direction of his holy word. A simple abstinence from sin, without exercising ourselves unto godliness, will not serve the turn: Ps. xxxiv. 15, ‘Depart from evil, and do good.’ So Ps. xxxvii. 27. There is a double principle in every renewed man, flesh and spirit, Gal. v. 17; and his work is to restrain the one, to keep in the flesh that would fain break out, and range abroad in unseemly actions; and to encourage and put forth the other, the spirit in its necessary operation, with vigour and life. There is a double estate laid before us, heaven and hell; therefore we are not only to forbear sin, which is walking to hell, but we must walk worthy of God in all well-pleasing, and be fruitful in good works, which is our way to heaven, Eph. ii. 10, ‘Forbearing evil, and doing good.’ The Pharisee’s religion ran upon negatives: ‘I am not an adulterer, an extortioner,’ &c., Luke xviii. 11. Many are not vicious rather than godly, they keep themselves in a middle lukewarm estate; and though they be not defiled with foul sins, yet do not set themselves seriously to serve the Lord.
2. Both must be done with the whole man, or regarded both in heart and practice. It is not enough to leave off evil, but to hate it, nor to do good, but we must do it with a love and an affection. Com pare three places: Isa. i. 16, ‘Cease to do evil, learn to do well;’ Amos v. 15, ‘Hate the evil, love the good.’ And it is expressed with a further emphasis, Rom. xii. 9, ‘Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good.’ These places compared together will show that the outward act is not only to be regarded, but the frame of the heart. There should not only be an abstinence from the act of sin, but mortifying of the love of it; for there are many that outwardly forbear sin, but yet do not inwardly hate it. On the other side, we are not only to do good, but there must be a love to good; for many may externally do good when the heart abhors it. And on. the other side, if there be a love to good, God passeth by many failings; it should not be a bare hatred, or a cold love, but such as hath life and vehemency in it, abhorring that which is evil, and cleaving to that which is good—the soul of Jonathan cleaved to David—it must be a knitting love. There is Haman’s refraining, Esther v. 10, and David’s refraining. It is said Haman refrained himself, when his heart boiled with rancour and malice against Mordecai; and there is David’s refraining in the text, ‘I refrained my heart from every evil way.’ His heart is engaged, when the heart cleaves to him, not easily to separate.
3. Both are regarded, and both with the whole man. Now the one is required in order to the other; we must refrain from evil that we may do good, and do good that we may refrain from evil; mortification and vivification do mutually help each other. The more lively grace is the more sin droopeth, the more lively sin is the more is the new nature oppressed. Without refraining our feet from evil there is no doing of good, for vivification is increased according to the degree of mortification: 1 Peter ii. 24, ‘That we, being dead to sin, might be alive to righteousness.’ As long as we are alive to sin, active and delighting in the commission thereof, we are dead to righteousness. But now, as the love and life of sin is weakened in our hearts, so is grace introduced, and we are quickened and carried on with more strength in holy duties; the strength and fervour of the soul is diverted, and runs in another channel; the same affections that are carried out to sin, the same current and stream of soul that ran out towards our selves, then is carried in a way of grace, the same affections, but carried out to other objects. And so on the other side, wherever there is an affection to good, there will be a cordial detestation to evil; the affection to the one will awaken and increase the hatred of the other; for still the soul draws that way which our affections carry them.
4. As the one must be done in order to the other, so our care in the first place must be to avoid evil, or to stand at a distance from every known sin. He begins with that as necessary to the other; first, ‘I refrained my feet,’ and then, ‘that I might keep thy law;’ he was to be more exact in a course of obedience. In planting of grace God keeps this method, he roots up the weeds, and then plants us wholly with a right seed, and so far as we are active under God in the work, we first ‘put off the old man with his deceitful lusts,’ and then, ‘put on the new man,’ Eph. iv. 22. We put off the rags of sin before we put on the garments of salvation. The plants of righteousness will not thrive in an unhumbled, proud, impenitent heart; therefore God’s first work is the destruction of sin, and then the introduction of grace. The heart is purified for faith, as well as purified by faith. First, It must be purified for faith, that being the work of the Spirit of God; for John v. 44, ‘How can ye believe that seek honour one of another?’ As long as any fleshly lust remains unmortified, be it ambition, vain glory, affecting honour, reputation, esteem in the world, the heart is not purified. Secondly, The heart is purified by faith, Acts xv. 9; more and more this corruption is wrought out. And then the heart is purified for fear: ‘I will give a new heart,’ Jer. xxxii. 40. And then purified by fear, as Job feared God, Job i. 1. So the heart is purified for love and by love; for love: Deut. xxx. 6, ‘And the Lord will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul.’ A believer is to be considered in the act of conversion and in the state of conversion; in the act of conversion, so first we turn from evil by a sound remorse: true grace is first planted, first purified for grace, then purified by grace: Job feared God, then eschewed evil. Preparing grace is implanted in us, then it hath an exercise upon us for the weakening of sin more and more.
5. Keeping at a distance from evil; it must be as it is evil and contrary to the holy nature and will of God. I observe this, because David did not refrain his feet from evil upon any foreign and accidental reasons, for fear of men, or any sinister and by respect, but merely out of tender love and respect to the law of God, to testify his obedience to him: ‘I refrained my feet from every evil way.’ And what was his motive? ‘That I might keep thy word.’ A child of God hates sin, as it is contrary to his drift and purpose. If we do not love good for good’s sake, it is not good we love, but some other thing that cleaves to it, the temporal benefit that we think will come thereby. So if we do not hate evil as evil, but because of the loss and detriment that attends the practice of it, it is not sin that we hate, but inconveniences. As Austin saith of the eternal reward, There are many non peccare metuunt, sed ardere—they are not afraid to sin, but are afraid to be damned. So a natural conscience may upon foreign and accidental reasons stand aloof from sin, as a dog may forbear a morsel for fear of the cudgel; convinced men may forbear sin out of horror of conscience, and not out of any serious dislike of heart against it. Briefly, there is custom, education, penalty of law, infamy, shame of the world, difficulty of compassing sin, shame in practising. These are but accidental reasons, these may make us refrain, they may breed a casual dislike, but not a natural hatred; for a gracious refraining must be upon a religious reason. David gives an account, not only of his practice, but his motive: ‘I refrained my feet from every evil way.’ And why? ‘That I might keep thy word.’
6. This refraining must be from every sinful course. The grace of justification will teach this, and the grace of sanctification; the grace of justification, that pardoneth all sin, will teach us to deny all, Titus ii. 12; and the grace of sanctification will teach us to deny not one, but all, for that introduceth a settled hatred against sin in the soul. Now hatred is πρὸς τὰ γένη, to the whole kind; he that hates one sin as sin, hates all sin, as Haman thought scorn to lay his hands upon Mordecai alone, but sought to destroy all the seed of the Jews, Esther iii. 6. So this hatred is universally carried out against all sin. Indeed they do not mortify any sin that do not mortify every sin; one lust remaining unmortified keeps the devil’s interest afoot in the soul. Pharaoh, when the Israelites would have gone, would fain have a pawn of their return, their flocks, their herds, or their children, that they might be sure to come back again. So Satan, if a man be touched in conscience, and will bethink himself, and look after religion, if he can get but a pawn, a corner of the heart, one sin, he knows his interest is still kept. Herod did many things, but he had his Herodias, and that held him fast and sure to Satan. The young man had a sense of eternal life upon him, Mat. xix. 22, and he did many things, ‘All these have I kept from my youth,’ but he was worldly. There are certain tender parts in the soul that are loath to be touched; but now if we would be sincere with God, we must refrain from every evil way. Any one man entertained besides the husband, it breaks the marriage covenant; any one sin allowed in the soul, be it never so small, it. forfeits our privileges by grace.
But now, because particulars are more effective, and do strike upon the soul with the more smart blow than generals, briefly consider:—
1. We must refrain from every evil way; not only notorious sins, but those that are plausible and of more reputation in the world, that are not so rank in the nostrils of men, and expose us to such disgrace and dishonour. There are open sins that are found hateful, that have a turpitude in them, and bring shame: Gal. v. 19, ἔργα τῆς σαρκὸς, ‘the works of the flesh are manifest;’ such as murder, adultery, gross oppression, these are rank weeds of an ill savour, that stink in nature’s nostrils, and are accompanied with shame and disgrace. To refrain from these is little thanks, Luke xviii. 11. The Pharisee wipes his hand of these, ‘I am not an adulterer,’ &c. Ay! but he was proud, censorious, and covetous. There are pride, censoriousness, covetousness, and worldliness, cloaked sins that are not of such disgrace in the world, all these should be hated by you. Many times those sins that are majoris infamiae, of greater infamy, are not always majoris reatus, they do not leave the greatest guilt upon you. Un belief is not infamous in the world, neglect of the gospel of grace, want of love to Christ Jesus, these are great sins: and therefore you must not only abstain from notorious sins, but those which are more plausible, and are not of such ill fame in the world.
2. You must abstain from sins outward and inward, Isa. lv. 7. The sinner must not only forsake his way, but his thought; by his way is meant his outward course and practice, but he must make conscience of his thoughts, and secret workings of heart. Practices may be over ruled by by-ends, but thoughts and desires, these are the genuine immediate motions and issues of the soul, that do come immediately out of the fountain, and are restrained only by grace.
3. Sins profitable and pleasant, as well as those that have no such allurement and blandishment in them. There are many sins that have nothing of allurement in them, that are entertained only upon sin’s account and evil custom, as rash swearing, blasphemy, malice and the like; but there other sins that allure and entice the soul by the promise of profit and pleasure, those two bastard goods that do make us often quit the good of honesty and duty. Now, you are to ‘deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts,’ Titus ii. 12; worldly lusts, whatever would endanger the soul, all inordinate inclinations that carry you out to these things of pleasing the flesh and gratifying worldly interests.
4. In refraining the feet from every evil way, that is, from sins against either table, Rom. i. 18. Mark, God hath owned both tables, not only revealed his wrath against ungodliness, breaches of the first table; but against unrighteousness, breaches of the second table. Many indeed will not be unjust, intemperate, unkind to their neighbours; ay! but they express no affection to God by worshipping him in their hearts, by faith, fear, and love, or in their houses by constant prayer morning and evening, and secret and familiar in closet converses with God; they are guilty of ungodliness though not of unrighteousness. And there are many that would be much in worship, in praying, fasting, and hearing, but they forget their neighbours; they are unrighteous, they do not make conscience in their dealings with men, and in the duties of their relations are unfaithful, many times to the great dishonour of God; they do things heathens would boggle at.
5. There are great sins and small sins. Many make not conscience of small offences, count these venial. Certainly he that would have a tender regard to God’s law, no sin should seem little to him that is an offence to the great God. It is Satan’s custom by small sins to draw us to greater, as the little sticks do set the great ones on fire, and a wisp of straw enkindles a block of wood; and by small sins we are enticed by Satan. The least sin allowed of is of a deadly and dangerous consequence: Mat. v. 19, ‘Whosoever shall break the least of these commandments, and teach men so.’ It is treason to coin a penny as well as a pound. To break the least of God’s commandments, to make no conscience of them, because it is a small thing, argues a naughty heart. Bodkins may wound and stab as well as swords. Look, as we read of the prophet, he was devoured of lions, so we read of Herod, he was eaten up by lice. Small sins may be a very great mischief to the soul. Little sins are often the mother of great sins, and the grandmother of great punishments and of plagues from God; and therefore these lesser sins we must refrain from: ‘I kept myself from every evil way.’
6. We must not commit anything that is evil out of a good intention, if it be an evil, but stand at a distance from it. Do not turn aside to any crooked path upon any pretence soever. Some have a good action but a bad aim. Now these do, as it were, make God serve the devil; they do the action which God hath required, but their aim is that which gratifies Satan. There are others that have a good aim but a bad action. These make the devil serve God, as if God could not provide for his own glory well enough without their sin. Therefore, if it be an evil way, refrain it, though you think you may bring good out of it. Saul would be offering sacrifice, an unwarrantable action for him to invade the priestly office, 1 Sam. xiii. 13, 14, He was loath to go to battle until he had sacrificed, and would not tarry till Samuel came. What then? See what Samuel saith, ‘Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God which he commanded thee.’ Here was a good aim, but a bad action, and you see how severe judgment fell upon him. I say, he forfeited his kingdom by doing an undue action, though for a good end. Uzzah he put forth his hand to stay the ark, which was an undue circumstance; he had a good aim in it, that the ark of God might not be shaken, that it might not fall and be shattered in pieces, and the mysteries of their religion prostituted: 2 Sam. vi. 7, ‘And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him there for his error, and he died.’ Many think to bear out themselves by good intentions that are drawn into an evil way; they hope to bring things to a better pass. It is dangerous to step out of God’s way; God’s ends can best be brought about by God’s way. The judgments of the Lord upon these nations have been mainly for unwarrantable actions upon good intentions; and though usually we have committed one sin to help another, yet there hath been a pretence of a good intention, a good aim.
7. We are not only to avoid such sins as seem to lie remote from our temper and course of our business and interest, but our own special sins; those sins which suit better with our condition, constitution, calling, employment: Ps. xviii. 23, ‘I was upright before thee, and kept myself from mine iniquity.’ Every man hath his iniquity; as every man hath his particular temper, so he hath his particular sins, and if he belong to God he hath his particular graces. The saints have their particular graces; Timothy for abstinence and temperance, Job for patience, Abraham for faith, therefore styled the father of the faithful; Moses was eminent for meekness. So there are particular sins; men are passionate, worldly, voluptuous, ambitious, and as the channel is cut, so corrupt nature finds a vent and passage: Isa. liii. 6, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.’ We are all out of the way, but every man hath a particular way of sin. Look, as in the natural body, every man hath all the faculties of a man, yet some this faculty more vigorous and lively than other, some for memory, judgment, invention, quickness of wit, so it is as to particular sins. Now these should be most resisted and most opposed by us. The scripture requires of us, Mat. v. 19, ‘To cut off our right hand, and pluck out our right eye;’ these, if they be not watched, will run into scandal; our particular sins make us dishonour God, dishonour our profession, and become a reproach to the gospel. It is notable, when our Saviour dissuaded from giving scandal, Mat. xviii. 8, 9, he revives those sentences of cutting off the right hand and plucking out the right eye. These sins will make you a dishonour to the gospel if you do not watch over them.
8. There are the sins of the times wherein we live, vitium seculi. Indeed it is hard to keep our ground in a great flood; when a stream is strong it is ready to carry us away; but he that would be punctual with God should keep from the sins of the times. Peter dissembled with the Jews, and the godly Jews fell a-dissembling of their religion, insomuch that Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation, Gal. ii. 13. When sin seems to be authorised by a general practice, it concerns you to stand at a distance, to have nothing to do there. Noah was an upright man, feared God, and served him in a corrupt age, Gen. vi. 9. They are dead fishes that are carried away with the stream. We are not to walk κατὰ τὴν αἰῶνα, ‘according to the course of this world,’ Eph. ii. 2, but ‘to walk according to the rule,’ Gal. vi. 16. In many ages there are certain sins, until light disprove them, and the Lord clears up his will, that men run into, and are carried away by violence of the stream, while the stream runs that way in their age. But this will be no excuse, you are to be upright, and not carried away by vitium seculi, the evil way of the times.
9. We are not only to refrain our feet from evil, but from all the occasions and appearances of evil; and not to stand so much as within the scent of a temptation; as crows and ravens, when they are beaten away from the carrion, will stand within the scent. We are to stand at a great distance from all that seems to tend to sin, not only from evil, but the appearance of it, 1 Thes. v. 22. Sin should be so hateful to us, that the very picture of it should be abhorred. Many times some sins are the occasion of others, as covetousness is occasioned by distrust there certainly we are to avoid occasions as well as sins themselves. Ay! but if the thing be lawful, and we know our weakness, we should not easily ride into the devil’s quarters, and run into the mouth of temptation. Look, as Solomon in that particular sin adviseth the young man, Prov. v. 8, ‘Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house.’ He would not have the young man venture upon the occasion. And God’s strictness to the Nazarite is very notable, Num. vi. 3, 4, as he was to drink no wine or strong drink, so no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, nor drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried; and afterwards he was not so much as to eat either the husk or kernel of the grape. Thus God would have us stand at a distance. This was a typical figure, to show at how great a distance we should stand from sin, and refrain ourselves from all evil; as the apostle saith, ‘Hate the garments spotted with the flesh,’ Jude 23, an allusion to those that touched an unclean thing. Bushing upon snares and occasions of evil, we hazard the surprisal of our souls. As Caesar said of his wife, Oportet Caesaris uxorem non solum castam esse, &c.—she should not only be chaste, but free from all suspicion; so God will have his people to be void of suspicion, and to be clear and innocent from all kind of transgressions. Thus you see how we are to refrain from every evil way.
The reasons of this are two—(1.) Because sins will weaken our graces; (2.) They will weaken our comfort; both which are necessary to the keeping of God’s law. Therefore, if we would keep the law, and be punctual and close with God in a course of obedience, we must stand at a great distance in heart and practice from all sin.
1. Sins will weaken our graces. There are several graces necessary to the keeping of God’s law, as faith, fear, love, hope. You know, at conversion God puts a vital principle into us, that is diversified and called by these several names. These graces are planted in us as principles of operation, and as these decay, our acts of obedience will be more or less; a sickly faith can produce but weak operations; as if the root wither and decay, the branches will not long flourish. So when our fear and reverence of God is lessened, as it is by every act of sin, the spiritual life will not be carried on with that exactness and care. So when our love waxeth cold, we will not be so diligent and serious, for these are the principles of operations, Rev. iii. 3. When they left their first love, they left their first works. If there be a decay and diminution of our graces, then there will be an intercession of acts and operations; these graces will suffer a shrewd loss; they are qualities, and therefore capable of increase and remission, being more or less. As love may wax cold, Mat. xxiv. 26; fear may be greater or less; so faith; though there be some seed of grace, remains to preserve the interest of the soul, yet things may be ready to die and faint. How do they decay? By sins. Gal. v. 17. These things are contrary—flesh and spirit; that is, always warring upon one another and weakening one another; and here lies the Christian’s advantage, to observe which is up and which is down. By every act of deliberate sin the flesh is strengthened and grace weakened; these are up and down in a renewed heart; therefore it is good to see which prevails, that you may not weaken your strength. If you gratify the flesh, you hearten your enemy, and strengthen your clog, and so grace languisheth.
2. It weakens our comfort. Comfort is necessary to make us lively and cheerful in God’s service. The Lord knows we drive on heavily when we have not that peace of conscience, serenity of mind, and want the comforts of God’s Spirit. The more our hearts are enlarged the more we run the way of God’s commandments, Ps. cxix. 32. What is an enlarged heart? Chiefly by joy and comfort; it is joy that enlargeth the heart. Now sin weakens this joy, this comfort which is our strength. When Adam sinned, his soul was filled with horror, Gen. iii. 10; and David, when he had been tampering with sin, lost his comfort: Ps. li. 8, ‘Make me to hear of joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice;’ and ver. 12, ‘Restore to me the joy of thy salvation.’ He that pricks himself with a needle or sharp thing must needs feel pain; so whosoever gives way to sin. certainly will have trouble of soul, confusion, grief, fear, sorrow, and loseth his sense of salvation for a time, and sins away his peace. Always the more exact our walking, the more is our peace of conscience: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience,’ &c. Well, then, if we would be punctual with God, we see how much it concerns us to stand at a distance from every evil way.
Use 1. To show how far they are from a course of obedience that live under a full power of their sins. Never think you seek after that which is good while your evil scent remains with you, and your former evils are in life and strength to this very day. All those that wallow in brutish sins of drunkenness and adultery, so those that are guilty of common swearing, Sabbath-breaking, and such like gross sins, these have good thoughts of themselves, they have sincerity towards God; but such have a spot that is not the spot of God’s people. Twice there is a caution interposed that such should not be deceived, 1 Cor. vi. 9; Eph. vi. 6. You will say, Where lies the danger of any deceit? The worst are apt to deceive their own hearts. There is a world of these deceivings in the hearts of men; the best of saints have fallen into as great sins. They think these are but petty slips and human infirmities, and God’s patience will suffer all; grace will pardon all at length, and no man is perfect; therefore they have some hopes to even those that are drunkards, adulterers, and abusers of themselves with man kind; though their sins be as Sodom, those that fall into the grossest sins; they are apt to be deceived. Be not deceived; these things are not consistent with grace.
2. It shows how far they are from the temper of God’s children that are not punctual with God in a course of obedience, that hate one kind of evil, not another. Many hate prodigality, yet not covetousness; hate covetousness, and are given up to sensuality; hate an epicure, and such a one as squanders away his estate, think as evil of him as can be, but not hard hearts, such as shut up their bowels, and do no good in their places j and some hate sensuality, but not pride, but cherish that; there is some sweet bit under his tongue, as Zophar speaks, Job xx. 12. Christians! though we can subdue no sin as we should, yet we are to resist every sin, and especially to bend all the force and strength of your souls against your sins, that sin which is most apt to prevail with you: this is a sign of uprightness, Ps. xviii. 23. And therefore, if you would know whether you have given up yourselves to walk with God, to keep his word, what labouring hath there been with your own hearts? what pains have you taken to set against your own sins? are you most jealous of it, pray most against it, often turn the edge of the word upon it? are you observing the decays, or do you keep it under the tongue? Reason with yourselves upon the world to come; is it reserved corruption or remaining corruption? Have you never been dealing with your hearts to suppress such a corrupt inclination as you have been often foiled with?
Use 2. To press those that would be exact with God, to stand at a distance in heart and practice from every known sin; whatever urging and solicitations you have within yourselves, though it would break out, yet have you refrained. To this end let me commend two graces and two duties. The two graces are love to God and his word, and fear to God and his word.
For the graces:—
1. A love to God, a love to the word of God. A love to God: Ps. xcvii. 10, ‘Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.’ It is as natural and as kindly to the new nature to hate the chiefest evil, as it is to love the chiefest good. Do you talk of love and communion with God, and never exercise yourselves in refraining your feet from every evil way? Certainly if you have any love to God, you will hate that which God hates; for idem velle et nolle, to will and nill the same things, that is true friendship; therefore if God be your friend, you will hate as he hates, that which makes a breach between you and God, and makes you grow shy of God, and lose your familiarity with him. As love to God, so love to his word: Ps. cxix. 113, ‘I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love.’ Certainly if a man hath a love to the law, he will not only hate sin in practice, but vain thoughts, what tends to breaking the law in his thoughts, any lesser contrariety, contradiction, or defiance of God’s law; for our hatred is engaged by love. Well, get this love, set it a-work, improve it by reason (for every affection is fed by discourses of the mind). All sins are set a-work by some discourse, so graces are set a-work by discoursings of our minds. Now set this love a-work. Oh! shall I, that have tasted so much of the love of God, or that do pretend to love God and Christ, and enjoy communion with him, yield to follow sin? Ezra ix. 13, ‘What I after such a deliverance as this, should we again break thy commandment?’ When God hath delivered us, not only out of Babylon, but, you may say, out of hell, how should we set love a-work? The great instance of God’s love was the giving his Son: 1 John iv. 9, 10, ‘Herein is love,’ &c. Now, then, if God hate and resist sin, reason and argue from this love: What! shall God give his Son for me, and I not spare a lust for God? When God did not stand upon his Son, that was so dear and precious to him, shall I stand upon my sin? What! shall Christ die for me, to ransom me from hell? is this my kindness to my friend? Cyprian brings in Satan pleading thus, as vaunting against Christ: I never spilt one drop of blood, my back was never mangled with whips and scourges, I never had a heaven to bestow upon them; yet among all thy beneficiaries, show me any so busy, painful, diligent, exact in thy service, as these are in mine. Thou hast shed thy blood, and endured a painful and an accursed death for them; yet they are not so dutiful to thee as to me. You see whereto this tends; and shall Christ do so much for us, and we not deny our lusts for him? Surely if we have any sense of the love of Christ Jesus, it will work this hatred, this abhorrency and refraining ourselves from every evil way. Thus set love a-work.
2. Another grace is a fear of God and his word. A fear of God: Prov. viii. 13, ‘The fear of the Lord is to depart from evil;’ Job i. 1, ‘Job feared God, and eschewed evil.’ Surely a fear of God will make you refrain yourselves from every evil way. And not only so, but a fear of his word, that is useful: Prov. xiii. 12, ‘He that feareth a commandment shall be rewarded.’ It is not said he that fears a judgment, but he that fears a commandment. If the word stands in his way, it is more than if all the inconveniences in the world stand in his way. This also should be improved by holy reasoning and discourse. You may reason as Joseph: The Lord seeth me, and ‘how can I do this wickedness and sin against God?’ Gen. xxxix. 9. Shall I break the Lord’s laws before his face? What! when my heavenly father hath forbidden me? The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab, Jer. xxxiv. 5, 6, they were afraid to drink wine when the prophet brought pots before them. No, we dare not; our father hath commanded us the contrary. Their father was dead, and could not take cognisance of their actions, to call them to account for breaking the rule of the institution; but there was an awe upon them. But our Father’s eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth. Therefore when you are tempted to sin and folly, say, I dare not; God hath commanded me in his word to the contrary. Set fear a-work; here is a commandment stands in my way; the great God he sees all things, and will one day call us to an account.
The two duties into which these graces do run and issue themselves are watchfulness and resistance. Watchfulness; we are poor creatures, in the midst of snares, very easily may miscarry, partly through our constitution; there is flesh as well as spirit, and the flesh doth always stir, and not lie idle. Old sins, that seemed to be laid asleep, may easily waken again. The devil suits the bait to the season and affections we are under, as angels furnish their hook with a proper bait. Oh! saith Bernard, here are fears, there snares; that which pleases is apt to tempt me, that which frightens is apt to terrify me. What should a poor creature do? Be watchful, stand upon your guard, that you be not surprised by the craft of Satan, that you may not swallow the hook when he sets the bait to your appetite. And then powerful resistance of evil, that sin may not prevail, and we more and more drawn off from God. Do not yield a little; smaller sins make way for greater; when the gap is once open, it is wider and wider; if sin be not stifled at first, it will increase.
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