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confirming his fellow disciples : And so his Serm. master charges him, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

From what has been discoursed on this subject, we may make several useful practical reflections. In the first place, let us guard against abusing it to the worst of

purposes, by thinking little of sin, and of yielding to temptations wherewith we may be affaulted. Since good men, indeed the very best, while in this imperfect state, are liable, to be surprized, even into heinous transgression, that's a very good reason for our caution, lest we also be tempted and fall after the same evil example : Not at all for our thinking their offences the less criminal, and thereby being easily led into an imitation of them. On the contrary, a man's being otherwise good, and thro' the general course of his life and actions pious and virtuous, renders the single trespass, or the few he has been guilty of, the more sinful ; because his obligations to the contrary are greatly increased by his goodness, by the experience he has had of the excellence and reality of religion, the power of its motives, , the present advantages resulting from it, and by the repeated voluntary engagements he

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SERM. has brought himself under. This is a way V. of thinking and practical reasoning, which

scarcely can a sincere christian at any time be capable of; it is so wretchedly disingenuous, and, one would think, must proceed only from an habitually depraved heart, and lost to all sense of true piety.

so I have “ been thro' the general course of my con“ verfation innocent, and made it my study “ to please God, I may, therefore, for this

once, allow myself to transgress, and hope “ he will not be greatly offended.” Or, other “ good men have acted in this manner, and

may take the liberty to follow the example.” Such thoughts, we may be assured, were far from St. Peter's heart, as they are far from every religious person's, in the worst state of mind we can reasonably suppose him in. And the most wilful sins they commit at any time are to be attributed, rather to the present power of temptations, and passions stupifying their minds, and in a great degree suspending the exercise of their reasoning powers, than to such deliberation, and meditated pretences for justifying themselves. Let it be observed, that the case of the text, and others like it, recorded in scripture, were single offences, not repeated;

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and therefore nothing can be drawn from SERM. them in the least to countenance evil habits,

V. frequently producing wicked actions affording hope to such as indulge themselves in them, which by the plainest and most express declarations of the word of God, dis-, qualify men for his kingdom.

And still less is there any encouragement given by the history before us, and others parallel to it, from the divine forefight of men's offences, divine grace interposing to prevent their total apostacy, and providence over-ruling the issue for good ; encouragement, I say, to make light of their wilful sins, and go on in them with hope of impunity and acceptance. It is true, that our Saviour forewarn'd Peter of his fall, had a compassionate care of him in his weakness, took gracious methods for his recovery, and upon repentance restored him to favour, and to the privileges and exercise of his former office, perhaps with advantage both to himself and others; and it may be God deals fo by others of his servants, which wonderfully manifests his tender mercy ; but surely it is no reason, why we should repeat our transgressions, and harden ourselves in them.

This

SERM. This is the same absurdity, which St. Paul V. mentions, Rom. vi. 1. as what some men

imagin’d to be chargeable on the gospel grace, and which he rejects with the utmost abhorrence. Having said, in the close of the preceeding chapter, that where fin abounded, grace did much more abound; he adds, as a profane surmise which might arise in some impious minds, Jhall we continue in fin, that. grace may abound? and says, God forbid. Let it not be so. It's impossible such a thought should enter into a sincere heart, or that the

grace

of God should be so abused by any one who seriously considers the nature and design of it, which is, quite on the contrary, to reform men, and to deliver them from the power of sin, as all the doctrines and Institutions of christianity plainly shew.

The conclusion is, that the instance I have been explaining, and all the circumstances of it fully proving human frailty, and the power and freedom of divine grace ; that, I say, this instance is of a piece with the general intention of the grace that brings salvation, and hath appeared unto us, instructing us, that denying all ungodliness and worldly iufts, we mould live soberly, righteously and godly :

that

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that we should make it our study and prin-SerM.
cipal care to eschew evil, and cleave to that V.
which is good ; that we should be workers
together with God for our establishment in
virtue, and a resolved adherence to him
to this end improving the invaluable advan-
tages we have by the gospel.

Secondly, It becomes christians, and it is
safe for them, always to have a modest senfe
of their own infirmity, and therefore to place
their hope in the power and goodness of
God for the preservation of their integrity,
and their defence against temptations. St.
Paul having, 1 Cor. x. given an abridgment
of the history of the lsraelites in the wilder-
ness, of their fins, and their punishments,
applies it for an admonition to christians,
whose circumstances are in many respects
parallel, and says, ver. 12. Wherefore let him
that thinketb he fandeth take heed left be fall.
Nothing is more apt to betray them into a
fall, than a fond conceit of their own suffi-
ciency, and resting securely in their own
strength. Amuch better foundation of con-
fidence he mentions in the following words,

God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able.

'Tis

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ver. 13

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