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1 John iii. 3, &c. Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.-And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, neither know him. He that doth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous; he that committeth sin, is of the devil. Chap. v. 8. We know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. John xv. 14. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. James ii. 10. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 1 Cor. vi. 9. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, &c. shall inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. v. 19, 20. Now the works of the flesh sin be what it will; let it be profaneness, uncleanness, lying, or injustice. If men allow themselves in malice, envy, wanton thoughts, profane thoughts, that will condemn them; though those corruptions do not break out in any scandalous way. These thoughts are an evidence of a rotten heart, Tit. iii. 8. We ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." If a man allows himself, though he thinks he doth not, in malice and envy, he is an hypocrite; though his conscience disallows it, yet if his heart ailows it, he is no saint.-Some make pretences to godliness, whereby they do not only deceive others, but, (which is a great deal worse) deceive themselves also; but this will condemn them, that they live in a course of sin, and so must go with ungodly men: Psal. cxxv. 5. "As for such as turu aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord will lead them forth with the workers of iniquity." If there be a great change in a man's carriage, and he be reformed in several particulars, yet if there be one evil way, the man is an ungodly man; where there is piety there is universal obedience. A man may have great infirmities, yet be a godly man. So it was with Lot, David, and Peter; but if he lives in a way of sin, he does not render his godliness only suspicious, but it is full evidence against him. Men that are godly have respect to all God's commandments, Psal. cxix. 6. There be a great many commands, and if there be one of them that a man has rot respect uuto, he will be put to shame another day. If a man lives in one evil way, he is not subject to God's authority; but then he lives in rebellion; and that will take off all his pleas, and at once cut off all his pretences; and he will be condemned in the day of judgment. One way of sin is exception enough against the man's salvation. Though the sin that he lives in be but small, such persons will not be guilty of perjury, stealing, drunkenness, fornication; they look upon them to be heinous things, and they are afraid of them; but they do not much matter it, if they oppress a little in a bargain, if they commend a thing too much when they are about to sell it, if they break a promise, if they spend the Sabbath unprofitably, if they neglect secret prayer, if they talk rudely and reproach others; they think these are but small things; if they can keep clear of great transgressions, they hope that God will not insist upon small things. But indeed all the commands of God are established by divine authority; a small shot may kill a man, as well as a cannon bullet: a small leak may sink a ship. If a man lives in small sins, that shews he has no love to God, no sincere care to please and honour God. Little sins are of a damning nature, as well as great; if they do not deserve so much punishment as greater, yet they do deserve damnation. There is a contempt of God in all sins; Matth. v. 19. "He that shall break one of the least of these commands, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of God." Prov. xix. 16. "He that keepeth the commandments, keepeth his own sou!; but he that despiseth his way, shall die." If a man says, this is a great command, and so lays weight on it, and another is a little commandment, and so does not regard it, but will allow himself to break it, he is in a perishing condition."-(Stoddard's Way to know Sincerity and Hypocrisy.)
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, 30. 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 earnestness 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 putting 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 kim, 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.
and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the nightwatches. Christ calls forth his spouse away from the world into retired places, that he may give her his sweetest love; Cant. vii. 11, 12. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages ;—there will I give thee my loves. The most eminent divine favours which the saints obtained, that we read of in scripture, were in their retirement. The principal manifestations that God made of himself, and his covenant-mercy to Abraham, were when he was alone, apart from his numerous family; as any one will judge that carefully reads his history. Isaac received that special gift of God, Rebekah, who was so great a comfort to him, and by whom he obtained the promised seed, walking alone, meditating in the field. Jacob was retired for secret prayer, when Christ came to him; and he wrestled with him, and obtained the blessing. God revealed himself to Moses in the bush, when he was in a solitary place in the desert, in mount Horeb, Exod. iii. And afterwards, when God shewed him his glory, and he was admitted to the highest degree of communion with God that ever he enjoyed; he was alone, in the same mountain, and continued there forty days and forty nights, and then came down with his face shining. God came to those great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, and conversed freely with them, chiefly in their retirement. Elijah conversed alone with God at mount Sinai, as Moses did. And when Jesus Christ had his greatest prelibation of his future glory, when he was transfigured; it was not when he was with the multitude, or with the twelve disciples, but retired into a solitary place in a mountain, with only three select disciples, whom he charged that they should tell no man, until he was risen from the dead. When the angel Gabriel came to the blessed virgin, and when the Holy Ghost came upon her, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her, she seems to have been alone, in this matter hid from the world; her nearest and dearest earthly friend Joseph, who had betrothed her, knew nothing of the matter. And she that first partook of the joy of Christ's resurrection, was alone with Christ at the sepulchre, John xx. And when the beloved disciple was favoured with those wonderful visions of Christ, and his future dispensations towards the church and the world, he was alone in the isle of Patmos. Not but that we have also instances of great privileges that the saints have received when with others; there is much in Christian conversation, and social and public worship, tending greatly to refresh and rejoice the hearts of the saints. But this is all that I aim at by what has been said, to shew that it is the nature of true grace, however it loves Christian society in its place, in a peculiar manner to delight in retirement, and secret converse with God.