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for that our Saviour tells us, is a state of flavea ry and bondage ; be that committeth fin, is the fervant of fin. This use indeed some made of the Christian doctrine, to encourage themselves in sin, under the pretence of Chriiian liberty, and that in the Apostles days. So St. Peter tells us, 2 Epift. ii. 19. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption, and in bondage to their lufts. But nothing can be more directly contrary to the great design and intention of the gofpel, which indeed promises and declares liberty ; but not from the laws of God, and the obligation of their dury, but as the Apostle calls it, from the law of fin and death. Christian liberty does not consist in being free from our duty, but in doing those things which really tend to our perfection and happiness, in being, free from fin, and becoming the servants of God. This is the proper use and exercise of our liberty, to do what we ought, to live according to reason and the laws of God, which are boly, just, and good. The freedom which the Son of God designed, was our being rescued from the bondage of fin and corruption, of the Devil and our own lutts, that being delivered from the hands of these enemies, we might ferve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives.
Secondly, To persuade us to assert our liberty, and stand fast in it. The Son of God hatb done that which is sufficient on his part to vindicate mankind from the slavery of their lusts and paflions : and it we will vigorously set about the work, and put forth our endeavours, we may rescue ourselves from this bondage. And because it must be acknowledged that this is no easy work, therefore by way of die redion and encouragement, I would commend to men these following particulars :
1. To consider seriously the misery and danger of this condition, and the necessity of freeing ourselves from this slavery. I have lhewn that it is the worst kind of bondage, and it hath the saddest consequences. Some service, though it be hard and grievous, yet men are content to endure it, because it may prove beneficial to them, and is in order to a greater freedom ; but the service of fin is altogether ur profitable. What fruit had ye then, says the Apostle, in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. The wages of fin is death. All the reward that shall be given us for this service, is misery and punishment, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguishy, to every soul that doth evil. So that it is necessary that we should thake off this yoke, as we desire to escape the chains of darkness, and the unspeakable and insupportable misery of another world. He that now makes us his faves to do his work, will torment us for the doing of it to all eternity.
2. Seeing this condition is so insupportable, and the consequences of it fo dreadful, let us take up a firm and manly resolution to free ourselves from this slavery. It is no easy matter to break off a vicious habit, which we have been long accustomed to ; nay, perhaps it is one of the most difficult things that human nature can attempt; and therefore it requires great firmness of mind, and trength of resoJution. It is next to the going against nature, and the conquering of that ; for custom is a sort of nature, and every habit is a bowing of nature a certain way, and when nature hath once'long stood bent one way, it is hard to restore it to its former condition; and nothing but a great resolution, taken up upon a full conviction of the necessity of the thing, will carry us through.
3. For the encouragement of this resolution, consider what assistance God hath promised us. Indeed when we consider the difficulty of the thing, and the weakness and unstedfastness of our own minds, how apt we are to give over when we meet with great opposition and resistance, we might justly be discou. raged in our attempts, if we had nothing but our own strength to trust to. But God hath promised to stand by us, and second us in the conflict ; and if he be for us, what can stand against us ? There is nothing too hard for à fout resolution backed by the graca of God.
4. That will give
4. That we may not be discouraged by an apprehension of too much difficulty in the thing, consider that the main difficulty is at first. So soon as we have resolutely begun, the work is half done ; if we can but sustain the first brunt, the
enemy ground apace ; every day we shall get more strength, and the habits of sin will be weakened. In all cases there is difficulty in breaking off a habit, and doing contrary to what we have been used and accustomed to do : 'but after we have practised the contrary a while, it will every day grow more easy and pleafant ; for custom will make any thing fo.
5. Consider that the longer we continue in this state, the harder we shall find it to rescue ourselves from it ; for sin will every day, get more strength, and we shall have less ; for vice is so far from being mortified by age, that by every day's continuance in it we increase the power of it; and so much strength as any one adds to his disease, he takes from himself, And this is double weakening of us, when we do not only lose our strength, but the enemy gets it, and will employ it against us. Therefore let us presently set about this work, to-day, while it is called to-day, left we be hardened through the deceitfulness of fin. The longer we continue in sin, the farther God withdraws his grace from us ; and not only fo, but the Devil gets a greater dominion over us, and a firmer possession of us, till by degrees we do insensibly nide into that state, in which, without the mi, raculous grace of God, we are like for ever to continue, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. It is next to a natural impoflibility for a man to rescue himself out of this state.
6. And lastly, be not discouraged, though ye do not meet with that success at first, which ye expected and hoped for ; though after several attempts to recover your liberty, ye be foiled and cast back. It sometimes so happens that some are by a mighty resolu. tion, and very extraordinary and overpowering degree of God's grace, reclaimed from a wicked life at once : but in the ordinary methods of God's grace, evil habits are mastered and subdued by degrees; and though we be resolved upon a better course, and entered upon it, yet the inclinations to our former course will frequently return upon us, and may sometimes too prevail. And we are not to think this strange, it is nothing but what is natural, and may reasonably be expected. It is no just ground of discouragement to Jus, if after we have engaged in a good course, we be sometimes pulled back again, and the habits which we are breaking off from, gather strength, and make head again; as an enemy after he is routed, and hath begun to fly, does frequently rally, and makes as if he would renew the fight again, and may perhaps prevail in a little skirmish : but for all this, we are nevertheless in a fair way to victory, if we will pursue our firit advantage, and profecute it vigorously, Nay, this should be to far from discouraging us, that it Mould make us resume new courage, that we may not lose what we have got.
I the rather mention this, because many miscarry upon this account, and many good resolutions and attempts to vindicate our liberty from the bondage of corruption, are given over and come to nothing, because men make false accounts of things, and expect to conquer and get a complete vi&tory at first : and indeed they are taught by those who are not well skilled in this fpiritual warfare, that this work is done in an instant, and the habits of grace and virtue are, infused into men at once ; and if men give back, all they had done is lost, and that they are in a worse condition ihan if they had never begun : whereas u. sually it is quite otherwise, and the habits of goodness are acquired, as other habits are, by now degrees at first, and with a great deal of conflict ; and it is a good while before a man comes to that confirmed ftate, that he may be said to have conquered; but if he persist in his resolutions, and when he hath received some foil take heart again, he is in the way to victory, and though he be not in a perfect ftate of acceptance with God, yet his endeavours have the acceptance of good beginnings, and he hath no reason to be discouraged at what he had reason to expect when he began this work, if he calculate things aright: and they that tell men otherwise, have taken up false notions in divinity, but do not consult human nature, and the usual progress of God's grace in the conversion of a sinner, and reclaiming him from a wicked course ; and have not taken sufficient care to reconcile their notions of divinity, with the nature of things, and the certain and undoubted experience of mankind. Therefore let no man be faint and discouraged upon this account, and think the thing is not to be done, because he doth not meet with perfect success at first; for this seldom happens, and therefore ought not to be expected : but let him ftill go on and reinforce his resolutions, and the opposition and difficulty will abate, and the work continually grow easier upon his hand, and the God of peace will at last tread down Satan under his feet.
S E R M ON CCXLVIII.
The duty of improving the present oppor
tunity and advantages of the gospel.
JOHN xii. 35. Then said Jesus unto them, Tet a little while is the
light with you ; walk while ye have the light, left darkness come upon you. .
Preached Feb. 15. 1685.
(Hen Said Fesus unto them; that is, upon the
discourse he had just before had with them,
concerning his approaching death, and departure out of this world ; at the mention whereof, they were offended and troubled; but instead of that, our Saviour puts them upon that which would