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the great Sovereign and Judge of the world? not only to break his laws, but to trample upon them and despise them, when we know whofe laws they are ? Will we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we ftronger than he? We believe that it is God who faid, Thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not fleal; thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour; thou shalt not hate, or opprefs, or defraud thy brother in any thing; but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; and will we notwithstanding venture to break thefe laws, knowing whofe authority they are stampt withal? After this contempt of him, what favour can we hope for from him? What can we fay for ourselves, why any one of thofe many ftripes which are threatened fhould be abated to us? Ignofci aliquatenus ignorantia poteft; contemptus veniam non habet; "Something may be pardoned "to ignorance; but contempt can expect no forgiveness." He that strikes his Prince, not knowing him to be fo, hath fomething to fay for himfelf, that though he did a difloyal act, yet it did not proceed from a difloyal mind: but he that first ac knowledgeth him for his Prince, and then affronts him, deferves to be profecuted with, the utmost severity, because he did it wilfully, and in mere contempt. The knowledge of our duty, and that it is the will of God which we go againft, takes away all poffible excufe from us; for nothing can be faid, why we fhould offend him who hath both authority to command us, and power to deftroy
And thus I have as briefly as I could, reprefented to you the true ground and reafon of the aggravation of thofe fins, which are committed against the clear knowledge of God's will, and our duty; because this knowledge is fo great an advantage to the doing of our duty; fo great an obligation upon us to it; and because the neglect of our Lord's will in this cafe, cannot be without great wilfulness, and a downright contempt of his authority.
And fhall I now need to tell you how much it concerns every one of us, to live up to that knowledge which we have of our Lord's will, and to prepare ourselves to do according to it to be always in a readiness and difpofition to do what we know to be his will, and actually to do it, when there is occafion and opportunity? And it concerns. us the more, because we, in this age and nation, have fo many advantages above a great part of the world, of coming to the knowledge of our duty. We enjoy the clearest and most perfect revelation which God ever made of his will to mankind, and have the light of divine truth plentifully fhed amongst us, by the free ufe of the holy fcriptures, which is not a fealed book to us, but lies open to be read, and ftudied by us. This fpiritual food is rained down like manna round about our tents; and every one may gather fo much as is fufficient ; we are not ftinted, nor have the word of God given out to us in broken pieces, or mixt and adulterated, here a leffon of fcripture, and there a legend; but whole and entire, fincere and incorrupt.
God hath not left us, as he did the Heathen for many ages, to the imperfect and uncertain direction of natural light; nor hath he revealed his will to us, as he did to the Jews, in dark types and fhadows: But hath made a clear difcovery of his mind and will to us. The difpenfation which we are under, hath no veil upon it, the darkness is past, and the true light now fhineth; we are of the day, and of the light, and therefore it may juftly be expected that we fhould put off the works of darkness, and walk as children of the light. Every degree of knowledge which we have, is an aggravation of the fins committed against it, and, when our Lord comes to pafs fentence upon us, will add to the number of our ftripes. Nay, if God fhould inflict no pofitive torment upon finners; yet their own minds would deal moft feverely with them upon this account: and nothing will gall their confciences more, than to remember against what light they did offend. For herein lies the very nature and fting of all guilt, to be consci
ous to ourselves, that we knew what we ought to have done, and did it not. The vices and corruptions which reigned in the world before, will be pardonable, in comparison of ours. The times of that ignorance God winked at; but now he commands all men every where to repent. Mankind had fome excufe for their errors before, and God was pleafed in a great measure to overlook them; but if we continue ftill in our fins, we have no cloak for them. All the degrees of light which we enjoy, are fo many talents committed to us by our Lord, for the improving whereof, he will call us to a strict account; for unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required; and to whom he hath committed much, of him he will ask the more. And nothing is more reasonable, than that men fhould account for all the advantages and opportunities they have had of knowing the will of God; and that as their knowledge was increased, fo their forrow and punifhment fhould proportionably rife, if they fin against it. The ignorance of a great part of the world is defervedly pitied and lamented by us; but the condemnation of none is fo fad, as of thofe who having the knowledge of God's will, neglected to do it. How much better had it been for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them! If we had been born, and brought up in ignorance of the true God and his will, we had had no fin, in comparison of what now we have: But now that we fee, our fin remains. This will aggravate our condemnation beyond measure, that we had the knowledge of falvation fo clearly revealed to us. Our duty lies plainly before us: we know what we ought to do, and what manner of perfons we ought to be, in all holy converfation and godliness. We believe the coming of our Lord to judgment, and we know not how foon he may be revealed from heaven with his mighty Angels, not only to take vengeance on them that know not God, but on them that have known him, and yet obey not the gospel of his Son. And if all this will not move
us to prepare ourselves to do our Lord's will, we deferve to have our ftripes multiplied. No condemnation can be too heavy for those who offend against the clear knowledge of God's will, and their duty.
Let us then be perfuaded to fet upon the practice of what we know; let the light which is in our understandings, defcend upon our hearts and lives; let us not dare to continue any longer in the practice of any known fin, nor in the neglect of any thing which we are convinced is our duty and if our hearts condemn us not, neither for the neglect of the means of knowledge, nor for rebelling against the light of God's truth fhining in our minds, and glaring upon our confciences, then have we confidence towards God: but if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things.
SERM ON CXV.
The fins of men not chargeable upon God; but upon themselves.
JAMES i. 13, 14.
Let no man fay, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when is he drawn away of his own luft, and enticed.
The first fermon on this text.
EXT to the belief of a God, and his provi dence, there is nothing more fundamentally neceffary than the belief of these two principles, That God is not the author of fin; and that
every man's fin lies at his own door, and he hath reason to blame himself for all the evil that he does.
Firft, That God is not the author of fin, that he is no way acceffary to our faults, either by tempting or forcing us to the commiffion of them. For if he were, they would neither properly be fins, nor could they be justly punished. They would not properly be fins, for fin is a contradiction to the will of God; but fuppofing men to be either tempted, or neceffitated thereto, that which we call fin would either be a mere paffive obedience to the will of God, or an active compliance with it, but neither way a contradiction to it. Nor could these actions be juftly punifhed; for all punishment fuppofeth a fault, and a fault fuppofeth liberty and freedom' from force and neceffity; fo that no man can be justly punished for that which he cannot help, and no man can help that which he is neceffitated and compelled to. And though there were no force in the cafe, but only temptation, yet it would be unreasonable for the fame perfon to tempt and punish. For as nothing is more contrary to the holiness of God, than to tempt men to fin; fo nothing can be more against juftice and goodness, than firft to draw men into a fault, and then to chaftife them for it. So that this is a principle which lies at the bottom of all religion, That God is not the author of the fins of men. And then,
Secondly, That every man's fault lies at his own door, and he has reafon enough to blame himself for all the evil that he does. And this is that which makes men properly guilty, that when they have done amifs, they are confcious to themselves it was their own act, and they might have done otherwife; and guilt is that which makes men liable to punishment; and fear of punishment is the great restraint from fin, and one of the principal arguments for virtue and obedience.
And both thefe principles our Apoftle St. James does here fully affert in the words which I have read unto you: Let no man fay, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with