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born of God, and saw God by faith. He loved God in sincerity. He could truly say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is pove upon carth” [neither person nor thing] “that I desire in comparison of thee?” But still there remained in his heart that corruption of nature, which is the seed of all evil.
“He was walking upon the roof of his house,” (2 Sam. xi. 2,) probably praising the God whom his soul loved, when he looked down, and saw Bathsheba. He felt a temptation ; a thought which tended to evil. The Spirit of God did not fail to convince him of this. He doubtless heard and knew the warning voice; but he yielded in some measure to the thought, and the temptation began to prerail over him. Hereby his spirit was sullied; he saw God still; but it was more dimly than before. He loved God still; but not in the same degree; not with the same strength and ardor of affection. Yet God checked him again, though his Spirit was grieved ; and his voice, though fainter and fainter, still whispered, “Sin lieth at the door; look unto me, and be thou saved.” But he would not hear: he looked again, not unto God, but unto the forbidden object, till nature was superior to grace, and kindled lust iu his soul
The eye of his mind was now closed again, and God vanished out of his sight. Faitlı, the divine, supernatural intercourse with God, and the love of God, ceased together: he then rushed on as a horse into the battle, and knowingly committed the outward sin,
9. You see the unquestionable progress from grace to sin : thus it goes on, from step to step. l, The divine sced of loving, conquering faith, remains in him that is born of God. “He kcepeth bimself,” by the grace of God, and “cannot comwit sin : ” ?, A temptation arises; whether from the world, the flesh, or the Devil, it matters not: 3, The Spirit of God gives him warning that sin is near, and bids him more abundantly watch unto prayer: 4, He gives way, in some degree, to the temptation, which now begins to grow pleasing to him: 5, The Holy Spirit is grieved ; his faith is weakened ; and his love of God grows cold: 6, The Spirit reproves him more sharply, and saith, “This is the way; walk thou in it:” 7, He turns away from the painful voice of God, and listens to the pleasing voice of the Tempter : 8, Evil desire begins
and spreads in his soul, till faith and love vanish away: He is then capable of committing outward sin, the power of the Lord being departed from him.
10. To explain this by another instance: The Apostle Peter was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost; and hereby keeping himself, he had a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.
Walking thus in simplicity and godly sincerity, “before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles," knowing that what God had cleansed, was not common or unclean.
But “when they were come," a temptation arose in his heart, “ to fear those of the circumcision,” (the Jewish converts, who were zealous for circumcision and the other rites of the Mosaic law,) and regard the favour and praise of these men, more than the praise of God.
He was warned by the Spirit when sin was near: nevertheless, he yielded to it in some degree, even to sinful fear of man, and his faith and love were proportionably weakened.
God reproved him again for giving place to the Devil. Yet he would not hearken to the voice of his Shepherd; but gave himself up to that slavish fear, and thereby quenched the Spirit.
Then God disappeared, and faith and love being extinct, he committed the outward sin: Walking not uprightly, not “ according to the truth of the Gospel,” he “separated bimself” from his Christian brethren, and by his evil example, if not advice also, “compelled even the Geritiles to live after the manner of the Jews; ” to entangle themselves again with that “yoke of bondage,” from which “Christ had set them free.”
Thus it is unquestionably true, that he who is born of God, keeping himself, doth not, cannot commit sin; and yet, if he keepeth not himself, he may commit all manner of sin with greediness.
III. 1. From the preceding Considerations we may learn, first, To give a clear and incontestable answer to a question which has frequently perplexed many who were sincere of heart: 'Does sin precede or follow the loss of faith ? Does a child of God first commit sin, and thereby lose his faith? Or. does he lose bis faith first, before he can commit sin?'
I answer, some sin of omission, at least, must necessarily
precede the loss of faith; some inward sin : but the loss of faith must precede the committing outward sin.
The more any believer examines his own heart, the more will he be convinced of this: That faith, working by love, excludes both inward and outward sin from a soul watching unto prayer; that nevertheless we are even then liable to temptation, particularly to the sin that did easily besct us ; that if the loring eye of the soul be steadily fixed on God, the temptation soon vanishes away: but is not, if we are szenzoustou, as the Apostle James speaks, chap. i. 14,) drawn out of God by our own desire, and otheaçouevos, caught by the buit of present or promised pleasures ; then that desire conceived in us, brings forth sin; and, having by that invid sin destroyed our faith, it casts us headlong into the share of the Devil, so that we may commit any outward sin whatever.
2. From what has been said, we may learn, secondly, What the life of God in the soul of a helicrer is ; wherein it properly consists; and what is immediately and necessarily implied therein. It immediately and necessarily implies, the continual inspiration of God's Holy Spirit; God's breathing isto the soul, and the soul's breathing back what it first receives from God; a continual action of God upon the soul, and a re-action of the soul opon God; an unceasing presence of God, the loving, pardoning Gord, manifested to the heart, and perceired by faith; and an m easing return of love, praise, and prayer, offering up all the thoughts of our hearts, all the words of our tongues, all the works of our hands, all our body, soul, and spirit, to be an holy sacrifice, acceptable unto God in Christ Jesus.
3. And hence we may, thirdly, infor, the absolute necessity of this re-action of the soul, (whatsoever it be called,) in order to the continuance of the divine life therein. For it plainly appears, God does not continue to act upon the soul, unless the soul re-acts upon God. He prevents is indeed with the blessings of his gooduess. He first loves us, and manifests himself unto lls. While we are yet afar off, he calls us to binisels, and shines upon our hearts. But if we do not then lore him who first loved us ; if we will not hearken io his voice : if we turn our eveawar from him, and will not attend to the light which he pours in upon us; his Spirit will not alırays strive : lie will gradually withdraw, and leave us to thic darkness of our own hearts. Ile will not continue to breathe into our soul, unless our soul broathes toward him again; unless our love, and prayer,
and thanksgiving, return to him, a sacrifice wherewith he is well pleased.
4. Let us learn, lastly, to follow that direction of the great Apostle, “ Be not high-minded, but fear." Let us fear sin, more than death or hell. Let us have a jealous (though not painful) fear, lest we should lean to our own deceitful hearts. “Let bim tbat standeth take heed lest he fall.” Even he who now standeth fast in the grace of God, in the faith that overcometh the world, may nevertheless fall into inward sin, and thereby “make shipwreck of his faith.” And how easily then will outward sin regain its dominion over him! Thou, therefore, O man of God! watch always ; that thou mayest always hear the voice of God! Watch, that thou mayest pray without ceasing, at all times, and in all places, pouring out thy heart before him! So shalt thou always believe, and always love, and never commit sin.
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS:
THE CHAPEL IN WEST-STREET, SEVEN DIALS,
ON SUNDAY, Nov. 21, 1765.
“ This is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD
OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jer. xxiii. 6. J. How dreadful, and how innumerable are the contests which have arisen about religion! And not only among the children of this world, among those who knew not what true religion was, but even among the children of God; those who had experienced “the kingdom of God within them;" who had tasted of “ rightcousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” How many of these, in all ages, instead of joi!ing together against the common enemy, have turned their weapons against each other, and so not only wasted their precious time, but burt one another's spirits, weakened each other's hands, and so hindered the great work of their common Master! How many of the weak have hereby beco offended!
-how many of the lame turned out of the way!-how many sinners confirmed in their disregard of all religion, and their contempt of those that profess it !--and how many of "the excellent ones upon earth” have been constrained to “weep in secret places !”
2. What would not every lover of God and his neighbour do, what would he not suffer, to remedy this sore evil ; to remove contention from the children of God; to restore or preserve peace among them? What but a good conscience would he think too dear to part with, in order to promote this valuablc end ? And suppose we cannot “male (thesc] wars to cease in all the world,” suppose we cannot reconcile all the children of God to each other, however let cach do what he can, let him contribute, if it be but two mites, toward it. Happy are they who are able, in any degree, to promote “peace and good will among men;" especially among good men; among those