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From all these domestic iniquities, let every one depart that religiously nameth the name of Christ. And before I leave this head, let me, to enforce my exhortation, urge upon you a few considerations to work with you, yet further to depart from these house-iniquities. First , A man’s house, and his carriage there, doth more bespeak the nature and temper of his mind, than all public profession. If I were to judge of a man for my life, I would not judge of him by his open profession, but by his domestic behaviors. Open profession is like a man’s best cloak, the which is worn by him, when he walketh abroad, and with many is made but little use of at home. But now what a man is at home, that he is indeed.
There is, abroad, my house, my closet, my heart; and my house, my closet, show most what I am: though not to the world, yet to my family, and to angels. And a good report from those most near, and most capable of advantage to judge, is like to be truer than to have it only from that which is gotten by my observers abroad. The outside of the platter and cup may look well, when within they may be full of excess. Matthew 33:25-28. The outward show and profession may be tolerable, when within doors may be bad enough. “I and my house will serve the Lord,” is the character of a godly man. Joshua 34:15.
Secondly, As the best judgment is made upon a man from his house; so that man is like to have the approbation of God for good, that is faithful in all his house. “I know Abraham (says God) that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.” Genesis 18:17-19.
To make religion, and the power of godliness the chief of my designs at home, among those whom God by a special hand has placed me, is that which is pleasing to God, and that obtaineth a good report of him. But to pass these, and to come to other things. 1. A master of a family, and mistress of the same, are those that are intrusted of God, with those under their tuition and care to be brought up for him, be they children or servants. This is plain from the text last mentioned; wherefore here is a charge committed to thee of God. Look to it, and consider with thyself whether thou hast done such duty and service for God in this matter, as, setting common frailties aside, thou canst with good conscience lift up thy face unto God; the which to be sure thou canst by no means do, if iniquity, to the utmost, be not banished out of thy house. 2. And will it not be a sad complaint thy servant shall take up against thee, before the Judge at the last day, that he learnt the way to destruction in thy house, who art a professor? Servants, though themselves be carnal, expect, when they come into the house of professors, that there they shall see religion in its spangling colors; but behold, when he enters thy door, he finds sin and wickedness there. There is pride instead of humility, and heat and raillery instead of meekness and holiness of mind. He looked for a house full of virtue, and behold nothing but spider-webs; fair and plausible abroad, but like the sow in the mire at home. ‘Bless me,’ saith such a servant, ‘are these the religious people! Are these the servants of God, where iniquity is made so much of, and is so highly entertained!’ And now is his heart filled with prejudice against all religion, or else he turns hypocrite like his master and his mistress, wearing, as they, a cloak of religion to cover all abroad, while all is naked and shameful at home. — But perhaps thy heart is so hard, and thy mind so united to the pleasing of thy vile affections, that thou wilt say, “What care I for my servant? I took him to do my work, not to train him up in religion.” Well, suppose the soul of thy servant be thus little worth in thine eyes; yet what wilt thou say for thy children, who behold all thy ways, and are as capable of drinking up the poison of thy footsteps, as the swine is of drinking up swill? I say, what wilt thou do for them? Children will learn to be naught of parents, of professing parents soonest of all: for they will be tempted to think all that they do is right. I say, what wilt thou say to this? Or art thou like the ostrich whom God hath deprived of wisdom, and has hardened her heart against her young? Job 39:13-16. Will it please thee when thou shalt see that thou hast brought forth children to the murderer? or when thou shalt hear them cry, “I learnt to go on in the paths of sin by the carriages of professing parents.’ Hosea 9:13. If it was counted of old a sad thing for a man to bring forth children to the sword as Ephraim did, what will it be for a man to bring up children for hell and damnation? But, Fifthly , Let those that name the name of Christ depart fromTHE INIQUITY OF THEIR CLOSET. This may be called part of the iniquity of the house; but because it is not public, but is a retired part, therefore I put it here by itself.
There are many closet sins that professors may be guilty of, and from which they have need to depart: As, First , There is the pride of a library, that is, the study or closet, and I doubt this sin and iniquity to this day is manifested. 1. When men secretly please themselves to think it is known what a stock of books they have, or when they take more pleasure in the number, than the matter contained in their books. 2. When they buy books rather to make up a number, than to learn to be good and godly men thereby. 3. When, though they own their books to be good and godly, yet they will not conform thereto.
It is better to have no books, and depart from iniquity, than to have a thousand, and not to be bettered in my soul thereby. Secondly , There is an iniquity of vacancy; or a closet to look upon, not to bow before God in; a closet to lay up gold in, but not to mourn in for the sins of my life; a closet, that could it speak, would say, ‘my owner is seldom here upon his knees before the God of heaven; seldom here humbling himself for the iniquity of his heart, or to thank God for the mercies of his life.’ Thirdly , Then also a man is guilty of closet iniquity, when he desireth that the sound of the devotion he doth there may be heard by them without; in the house, the street, or of those that dwell by; for a closet is only for the man and God to do things in secretly. Matthew 6:6,7.
These things let the professor beware of, lest he add to his iniquity sin, until he and it come to be loathsome. The closet is by God appointed for men to wait upon him in, and to do it without hypocrisy; to wait there for his mind and his will, and also for grace to perform it. And how can a man that went last time out of his closet to be naught, have the face to come thither again? “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer;” and if so, then he will not meet me in my closet; and if so, then I shall quickly be weary thereof, being left to myself, and the vanity of my mind.
It is a great thing to be a closet-Christian, and to hold it. He must be a close- Christian, that will be a closet-Christian. When I say a close-Christian, I mean one that is so in the hidden part, and that also walks with God. Many there be that profess Christ, who do oftener (in the city) frequent the coffee- house than their closet; and that sooner in a morning run to make bargains than to pray unto God, and begin the day with him. But for thee, who professest the name of Christ, do thou depart from all these things; do thou make conscience of reading and practicising; do thou follow after righteousness; do thou make conscience of beginning the day with God; for he that begins it not with him will hardly end it with him; he that runs from God in the morning will hardly find him at the close of the day; nor will he that begins with the world and the vanities thereof, in the first place, be very capable of walking with God all the day after. It is he that finds God in his closet that will carry the savor of him into his house, his shop, and his more open conversation. When Moses had been with God in the Mount his face shone; he brought of that glory into the camp. Exodus 24. Sixthly , I add again, let those that name the name of Christ depart from\parTHE INIQUITY THAT CLEAVETH TO OPINIONS. This is a sad after for that. Let opinions in themselves be never so good, never so necessary, never so innocent, yet there are spirits in the world that will entail iniquity to them, and will make the vanity so inseparable with the opinion, that it is almost impossible with some to take in the opinion and leave out the iniquity, that by craft and subtilty of Satan is joined thereto. Nor is this thing new, and of yesterday; it has been thus almost in all ages of the church of God, and that not only in things small and indifferent, but in things fundamental and most substantial. I need instance in none other for proof hereof, but the doctrine of faith and holiness. If faith be preached as that which is absolutely necessary to justification, then fantastical faith, and looseness and remissness in life (with some) are joined therewith. If holiness of life be preached as necessary to salvation, then faith is undervalued, and set below its place, and works as to justification with God set up and made copartners with Christ’s merits in the remission of sins. Thus iniquity joineth itself with the great and most substantial truths of the gospel, and it is hard to receive any good opinion whatever, but iniquity will join itself thereto. Ephesians 6:12,13. Wicked spirits do not only tempt men to transgress the moral law, but do present themselves in heavenly things, working there, and laboring in them, to wrest the judgment, and turn the understanding and conscience awry in those high and most important things. Wherefore, I say, we must be the more watchful and careful lest we be abused in our notions and best principles, by the iniquities that join themselves thereto.
It is strange to see at this day how, notwithstanding all the threatenings of God, men are wedded to their own opinions, beyond what the law of grace and love will admit. Here is a Presbyterian, here is an Independent, here an Anabaptist, so joined each man to his own opinion, that they cannot have that communion one with another, as by the testament of the Lord Jesus they are commanded and enjoined. What is the cause? Is the truth? No!
God is the author of no confusion in the church of God. 1 Corinthians 14:33. It is then because every man makes too much of his own opinion, abounds too much in his own sense, and takes not care to separate his opinion from the iniquity that cleaveth thereto. That this confusion is in the church of Christ, “I am of Paul, I of Apollo, I of Cephas, and I of Christ,” is too manifest. But what unbecoming language is this for the children of the same Father, members of the same body, and heirs of the same glory, to be accustomed to? whether it is pride, or hypocrisy, or ignorance, or self, or the devil, or the jesuit, or all these jointly working with the church, that makes and maintains these names of distinction. This distance, and want of love, this contempt of one another, these base and undervaluing thoughts of brethren, will be better seen, to the shame and confusion of some in the judgment.
And to help thee in this thing, keep thine eye much upon thine own base self; labor also to be sensible of the imperfections that cleave to thy best performances; be clothed with humility, and prefer thy brother before thyself; and know that Christianity lieth not in small matters, neither before God, nor understanding men. And it would be well if those that so stickle by their private and unscriptural notions (which only is iniquity cleaving to truth): I say, it would be well if such were more sound in faith and morals, and if by their lives they gave better conviction to the world, that the truth and grace of Christ is in them.
It was good that the Jews did own and allow the ceremonies of the law; but since the iniquity that joined itself thereto, did prevail with them to make those ceremonies co-partners with Christ, in those matters that pertained to Christ alone; therefore they perished in them. The Galatians also, with many of the Corinthians, had like to have been overthrown by three these things. Takes heed therefore of that iniquity that seeketh to steal with the truth into thy heart, thy judgment and understanding.
Nor doth one iniquity come without another; they are linked together, and come by companies, and therefore usually they that are superstitious in one thing, are corrupted in several others. The more a man stands upon his points to justify himself, and to condemn his holy brethren, the more danger he is in of being overcome of divers evils. And it is the wisdom of God to let it be so, that flesh might not glory in his presence. “His soul, that if lifted up,” ( Habakkuk 2:4) that is, with his good doings, with his order, and methods in religion, “his soul is not upright in him.” I have often said in my heart, what is the reason that some of the brethren should be so shy of holding communion with those every whit as good, if not better than themselves? Is it because they think themselves unworthy of their holy fellowship? No, verily: it is because they exalt themselves, they are leavened with some iniquity that hath mixed itself with some good opinions that they hold, and therefore it is that they say to others, “Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am holier than thou.” Isaiah 65:5. But what is the sentence of God concerning them? Why, “these are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.” Wherefore, as I said before, so I say now again, take heed of the iniquity that cleaveth to good opinions; the which thou wilt in no wise be able to shun, unless thou beest clothed with humility. But, Seventhly , Let them that name the name of Christ, depart fromTHE INIQUITY OF HYPOCRISIES. This exhortation is as the first, general; for hypocrisies are of that nature, that they spread themselves (as the leprosy of the body) all over; not the faculties of the soul only, but all the duties of a man. So that here is a great iniquity to be parted from, an over-spreading iniquity. This sin will get into all thy profession, into every whit of it, and will make the whole of it a loathsome stink in the nostrils of God.
Hypocrisy will be in the pulpit, in conference, in closets, in communion of saints, in faith, in love, in repentance, in zeal, in humility, in alms, in the prison, and in all duties. Matthew 23:15; Luke 20:19,20; Ezekiel 8:12; Matthew 26:20,21; 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Malachi 2:2,3; Matthew 23:15; Colossians 2:23; Matthew 6:2; 1 Corinthians 13:3; Luke 12:1,2. So that here is, for the keeping of thy soul upright and sincere, more than ordinary diligence to be used.
Hypocrisy is one of the most abominable of iniquities. It is a sin that dares it with God. It is a sin that saith God is ignorant, or that he delighteth in iniquity. It is a sin that flattereth, that dissembleth, that offereth to hold God, as it were, fair in hand, about that which is neither purposed nor intended. It is also a sin that puts a man upon studying and contriving to beguile and deceive his neighbor, as to the bent and intent of the heart, and also as to the cause and end of actions. It is a sin that persuadeth a man to make a show of civility, morality, or Christian religion, as a cloak, a pretense, a guise to deceive withal. It will make a man preach for a place, and for praise, rather than to glorify God and save souls; it will put a man upon talking that he may be commended; it will make a man, when he is at prayer in his closet, strive to be heard without door; it will make a man ask for that he desireth not, and show zeal in duties, when his heart is as cold, as senseless, and as much without savor as a clod; it will make a man pray to be seen and heard of men, rather than to be heard of God; it will make a man strive to weep when he repenteth not, and to pretend much friendship, when he doth not love; it will make a man pretend to experience, and sanctification, when he has none, and to faith and sincerity, when he knows not what they are.
There are opposed to this sin, simplicity, innocence, and godly sincerity, without which three graces, thou wilt be a hypocrite; let thy notions, thy knowledge, thy profession, and commendations from others, be what they will.
Helps against this sin there are many, some of which I shall now present thee with. Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Luke 16:15. 1. Believe that God’s eye is always upon thy heart, to observe all the ways, all the turnings and windings of it. 1 Samuel 16:7. 2. Believe that he observeth all thy ways, and marks thy actions. “The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.” Proverbs 5:21. 3. Believe that there is a day of judgment a coming, and that then, all things shall be revealed and discovered as they are. “For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nor hid that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in light, and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops.” Luke 12:2,3. 4. Believe that a hypocrite, with the cunning and shrouds for his hypocrisy, can go unseen no farther than the grave, nor can he longer flatter himself with thoughts of life. “For the triumphing of the wicked is short, the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. Though his excellency reach up to the heavens, and his head reaches unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever, like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, where is he? he shall fly away as a dream and not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.” Job 20:5-8. 5. Believe that God will not spare a hypocrite in the judgment, no nor punish him either with ordinary damnation; but as they have here sinned in a way by themselves, so there they shall receive “greater damnation.” Luke 20:47.
For aCONCLUSION upon this seven-fold answer to the question above propounded: let me advise those that are tender of the name of Christ, to have regard to these things. First , Be well acquainted with the word, and with the general rules of holiness, namely, with the moral law; the want of this is a cause of much unholiness of conversation. These licentious and evil times, wherein we live, are full of iniquity; nor can we (though we never so much love God) do our duty as we are enjoined, if we do not know it. The law is cast behind the back of many, when it should be carried in the hand and heart, that we might do it, to the end that the gospel which we profess, might be glorified in the world. Let then the law be with thee to love it, and do it in the spirit of the gospel, that thou be not unfruitful in thy life. Let the law, I say, be with thee, not as it comes from Moses, but from Christ; for though thou art set “free from the law,” as a covenant for life, yet thou still art “under the law to Christ;” and it is to be received by thee, as out of his hand, to be a rule for thy conversation in the world. 1 Corinthians 9:21. What then thou art about to do, do it or leave it undone, as thou shalt find it approved or forbidden by the law. And when aught shall come into thy mind to be done, and thou art at a stand, and at a loss about the lawfulness or unlawfulness thereof, then betake thyself to the law of thy God, which is in thy hand, and ask if this thing be good, or to be avoided.
If this were practiced by professors, there would not be so much iniquity found in their beds, their houses, their shops, and their conversations, as there is. Secondly , As thou must be careful to find out the lawfulness or unlawfulness of a thing before thou puttest forth thy hand thereto, so thou must also consider again, whether that which is lawful is expedient. A thing may be lawful in itself, and may yet be unlawful to thee; that is, if there be an inconveniency, or an inexpediency attending the doing of it. “All things are lawful for me,” says the Apostle, “but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23. This then thou must consider, and this also thou must practice.
But this is a hard lesson, and impossible to be done, except thou art addicted to self-denial. For this text, and so the practice of what is contained therein, has respect chiefly to another, that is, to thy neighbor, and his advantage and edification; and it supposeth, yea, enjoineth thee, if thou wilt depart from iniquity, to forbear also some things that are lawful, and consequently profitable to thee, for the sake of, and of love to thy neighbor.
But how little of this is found among men? Where is the man that will forbear some lawful things, for fear of hurting the weak thereby? Alas! how many are there that this day profess, that will not forbear palpable wickedness: no, though the salvation of their own souls is endangered thereby; and how then should these forbear things that are lawful, even of godly tenderness to the weakness of their neighbor?