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m Matth. chap. 22. ver. 37.
blessed condition under the Gospel: it requires not perfect obedience, but thankfulness for mercies received, and a willing mind. Suppose we cannot do what we would, that is no matter, God looks to our affections, and the willingness of our minds; if it be according to the strength that thou hast, it is received with acceptance. Here then arises the second point of difference, and that is,
2. The law considers not what thou now hast, but what thou once hadst. If thou sayest, I have done my best; and what, would you have a man do more than he can do? The law heeds not that: it considers not what thou doest, but what thou oughtest to do. It requires that thou shouldst perform obedience according to thy first strength, and that perfection once God gave thee, that all thou doest should have love for its ground: that thou shouldst "lovem the Lord thy God with all thine heart and strength." Here the law is very imperious, like those taskmasters in Egypt, "that laid burdens on the Israelites too heavy for them to bear." They had at first materials, and then they delivered in the full tale of bricks: but when the straw was taken from them, they complain of the heaviness of their burden. But what is the answer? "You" are idle, you are idle, you shall deliver the same tale of bricks as before." So stands the case here. It is not enough to plead, Alas! if I had strength, I would do it; but I have not strength, I cannot do it. But the law is peremptory, you must do it: you are compelled by force, you shall do it. The impossibility of our fulfilling it does not exempt us, as appears by comparing Rom. chap. VIII. ver. 3. with Rom. chap. VII. ver. 6. although it be impossible, as the case stands, for the law to be by us fulfilled, yet we are held under it, as appears plainly thus. If I deliver a man a stock of money whereby he may gain his own living, and be advantageous to me; and he spend it, and when I require mine own with increase, he tells me, True, sir, I received such a sum of money of you for this purpose, but I have spent it,
n Exod. chap. 5. ver. 17.
and am disenabled to pay. Will this serve the turn? will it satisfy the creditor, or discharge the debt? No, no, the law will have its own of him. If thou payest not thy due, thou must be shut up under it. It is otherwise under the Gospel: that accepts a man according to what he hath, not according to what he hath not. And here comes in the third point.
3. Under the Gospel, although I am fallen, yet if I repent, the greatest sin that is cannot condemn me. By repentance I am safe. Let our sins be never so great, yet if we return by repentance God accepts us. Faith and repentance remove all. The law knows no such thing. Look into the laws of the realm. If a man be indicted and convicted of treason, murder, or felony, though this man plead, True, I have committed such an offence, but I beseech you, sir, pardon it, for I am heartily sorry for it: I never did the like before, nor never will again. Though he thus repent, shall he escape? No, the rigour of the law will execute justice on him: there is no benefit had by repentance, the law will seize on him, he should have looked to it before. If thou committest murder or burglary, it is not enough to put one good deed for another; to say, I have done thus and thus for the king; I kept such a fort, or I won such a town: this will not serve thy turn, it will not save thy neck: the law takes no knowledge of any good thing done, or of any repentance. This is thy estate. Consider then what a case they are in, that are shut up under the law: until a man have faith, it admits no excuse, requires things far above thy power to perform; it will accept no repentance: and therefore we may well make this conclusion in the Galatians: "As many as are under the law, are under the curse, as it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them."
But now, where are we thus shut up?" It is under sin," as the apostle tells us. "For the law discovers sin
Gal. chap. 3. ver. 10.
P Rom. chap. 7. ver. 13.
to be sin indeed: that sin by the commandment may become exceeding sinful." The law makes us see more of it than we did, or possibly could come to have seen. "By the law cometh the knowlege of sin: I had not known sin but by the law." Yes, peradventure I might have known murder, adultery, &c. to have been sins, but to have known them to have been exceeding sinful, I could not but by the law. To know what a kind of plague sin is in itself, so as not to make a game of it, or a small matter, as many usually make it; to see the ugliness of it, I cannot without the law. But that we may know what sin is, and that we may see it to be exceeding sinful, I here bring you a few considerations, which I would have you ponder on, and enlarge them to yourselves, when you come home.
1. Consider the baseness of him that offends, and the excellency of him that is offended. You shall never know what sin is without this twofold consideration: lay them together, and it will make sin out of measure sinful. See in David: "The drunkards made songs and ballads of him." He aggravates the indignity offered him, in that he was their king, yet that those wretched and filthy beasts" the drunkards made songs of him." See it likewise in Job, chap. XXIX. when he had declared unto them in what glory he once was, that he was a king and prince in the country. Then see chap. XX. " They that are younger than me have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock." He aggravates the offence: first, from the dignity of the persons wronged, "a king, and a prince." Then from the baseness and vileness of those who derided him, "They were such as were younger than he, such as whose fathers he would have disdained to have set with
the dogs of his flocks." A great indignity, and mightily aggravated by these circumstances, that a king should be abased by such vile persons. Now some proportion there might be between David and the drunkards, Job and
4 Rom. chap. 3. ver. 20.
these men; but between thee and God what proportion can there be? Who art thou therefore that darest set thyself in opposition and rebellion against God? What a base worm that crawleth on the earth, dust and ashes, and yet darest thou thy Maker? Dost thou, saith God, lift thyself up against him, before whom all the powers of heaven do tremble? whom the angels do adore? Exaltest thou thyself against him who inhabiteth eternity? What, oppose thyself, a base creature, to Almighty God thy creator? Consider this, and let the baseness of the delinquent, and the majesty and glory of that God against whom he offends, be the first aggravation of sin, and thou shalt find sin "out of measure sinful."
2. Consider the smallness of the motives, and the littleness of the inducements that persuade thee, so vile a creature, to set thyself against so glorious a God. If it were great matters set thee a work, as the saving of thy life, it were somewhat: but see how small and little a thing does usually draw thee to sin. A little profit it may be, or pleasure: it may be neither of these, or not so much. When thou breathest out oaths, and belchest out fearful blasphemies against God; when thou rendest and tearest his dreadful and terrible name: what makes such a base and vile villain as thou thus to fly in God's face? Is there any profit or delight in breathing forth blasphemies? Profit thou canst take none, and if thou take pleasure in it, then the devil is in thee: yea, then thou art worse than the devil himself. This is the second consideration which may make us see the vileness of sin, and abhor ourselves for it: to wit, the slenderness of the temptations, and smallness of the motives to it.
3. Add what strong helps and means God hath given to keep thee from sin. As, I say, thou shouldst consider the bitterness of the delinquent, the glory of the offended, the mean motives which cause so base a creature to do so vile an act; so also consider the great means God hath given thee to keep thee from sin.
He hath given thee his word, and this will greatly ag
gravate thy sins, to sin against his word. When God convinces Adam, he proceeds thus far with him: "Hast thou," saith he, "eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?" What, hast thou done it, as if thou wouldst do it on purpose to cross God? God hath given thee an express command to the contrary, and yet hast thou done this? Hast thou so often heard the law, and prayed, "Lord have mercy on me, and incline my heart to keep this law," and yet wilt thou lie, swear, commit adultery, and deal falsely, and that contrary to the command of God, obstinately disobey him?
Now God hath not only given this great means of his word and commandment, but great grace too. Where understand that there is not only final grace, but degrees of grace: else the apostle would not have said, "receive" not the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in vain." Consider then how much grace thou hast received in vain. How many motions to good hast thou rejected? Perhaps thy heart is touched at this sermon, though it is not my tongue, nor the tongue of the most elegant in the world, that can touch the heart, but the Spirit that comes along with his word. Now when thou findest with the word a spirit to go with it, it is a grace. If thy conscience be enlightened, and thy duty revealed to thee, so that it tells thee what thou art, what thou oughtest to do, and not to do, it is a grace. Now if for all this, thou blindly runnest through, and art never the better, but obstinately settest thyself against God, and dost many things which others that have not received the same grace would not have done, know then that thou receivest this grace in vain, and thy case is lamentable.
4. Consider God's great goodness, which ought to restrain thee from sin upon a double account.
Gen. chap. 3. ver. 11.
First, his goodness in himself should keep thee from offending him. There is nothing but goodness, infinite goodness in him, and canst thou find in thy heart to sin
$ 2 Cor. chap. 6. ver. 1.