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Thus much have I though good to speak, in answer to this question, what iniquity should we depart from, that religiously name the name of Christ; and now we will make some use of what has been spoken.
And theFIRST shall be a use ofEXAMINATION. Art thou a professor? Dost thou religiously name the name of Christ? if so, I ask, dost thou according to the exhortation here, “Depart from iniquity?” I say, examine thyself about this matter, and be thou faithful in this work: for the deceit in this will fall upon thine own pate. Deceive thyself thou mayest, but beguile God thou shalt not. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7. Wherefore let no man deceive himself, either in professing, while he lives viciously; or in examining whether his profession of this name, and his life and conversation do answer one another. What departing from iniquity is, I have already shown, in the former part of this boo: wherefore I shall not here handle that point farther, only press upon thee, the necessity of this exhortation, and the danger of not doing it faithfully.
TheNECESSITY of it is urged, 1. From the deceitfulness of man’s heart; which will flatter him with promises of peace and life, both now and hereafter, though he life in iniquity, while he professeth the name of Christ. For there are that say in their hearts, or that have their hearts say unto them, “I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of my heart, to add drunkenness to thirst.” Deuteronomy 29:19.
And what will become of them that so do, you may see by that which followeth in the text. The heart therefore is not to be trusted; for it will promise a man peace in the way of death and damnation. I doubt not that many are under this fearful judgment to this day. What means else their quietness of mind, their peace, and boast of heaven and glory, though every step they take, as to life and conversation, is an apparent step to hell and damnation. These sayings, ( Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 28:26), “The heart is deceitful above all things;” and, “he that trusteth his own heart is a fool;” were not written without a cause. Let as many therefore as would examine themselves about this matter, have a jealous eye over their own heart, and take heed of being beguiled thereby: let them mix hearty prayer with this matter, unto God, that he will help them to be faithful to themselves, in this so great a matter; yea, let them compare their lives with the holy commandment, and judge by that, rather than by the fleshly fondness, that men naturally are apt to have for, and of their own actions.
For by the verdict of the word, thou must stand and fall, both now, at death, and in the day of judgment. Take heed therefore of thy heart, thy carnal heart, when thou goest into thy life, to make a search for iniquity. Take the word with thee, and by the word do thou examine thyself. John 12:48. 2. It is urged from the cunning of Satan. Wouldst thou examine thyself faithfully as to this thing, then take heed of the flatteries of the devil: can he help it, thou shalt never find out the iniquity of thy heels. He will labor to blind thy mind, to harden thy heart, to put such virtuous names upon thy foulest vices, that thou shalt never, unless thou stoppest thine ear to him, after a godly sort, truly examine and try thy ways, according as thou art commanded. Lamentations 3:40; 2 Corinthians 13:5. Wherefore take heed of him, for he will be ready at thy side when thou goest about this work. Now for thy help in this matter, set God, the holy God, the all-seeing God, the sin-revenging God, before thine eyes; “for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29. And believe that he hath pitched his eyes upon thy heart, also that he pondereth all thy goons, and that thy judgment, as to thy faithfulness, or unfaithfulness, in this work, must proceed out of the mouth of God. Proverbs 5:21; Proverbs 21:2. This will be thy help in this thing, that is, if thou usest it faithfully; also this will be thy hindrance if thou shalt neglect it and suffer thyself to be abused by the devil. 3. It is urged from the dangerousness of the latter days. Wouldst thou examine thyself, then make not the lives of others any rule to thee in this matter. It is prophesied long ago, by Christ and by Paul, concerning the latter times, “that iniquity shall abound,” and be very high among professors.” Matthew 24:12; 2 Timothy 2:1-8. Therefore it will be a rare thing to find an exemplary life among professors. Wherefore cease from man, and learn of the word; try thyself by the word, receive conviction from the word; and to take off thyself from taking encouragement from others, set the judgment before thine eyes, and that account that God will demand of thee then; and know that it will be but a poor excuse of thee to say, ‘Lord such a one doth so, did so, would do so: and they professed,’ etc. Whether thou wilt hear me, or not, I know not; yet this I know, “if thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest thou alone shalt bear it.” Proverbs 9:12.
First, the iniquity that cleaveth to men that profess, if they cast it not away, but countenance it, will all prove nettles and briars to them: and I will assure thee, yea, thou knowest, that nettles and thorns will sting, and scratch but ill-favoredly. “I went,” saith Solomon, “by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.” Proverbs 24:30,31.
Suppose a man were, after work all day, to be turned into a bed of nettles at night: or after a man had been about such a business, should be rewarded with chastisements of briars and thorns: this would for work be but little help, relief, or comfort to him. Why this is the reward of a wicked man, of a wicked professor, from God; nettles and thorns are to cover over the face of his vineyard, his field, his profession, and that at the last of all; for this covering over the face of his vineyard with nettles and thorns, is to show what fruit the slovenly, slothful, careless professor will reap out of his profession, when reaping time shall come.
Nor can he whose vineyard, whose profession is covered over with these nettles and thorns of iniquity, escape being afflicted with them in his conscience. For look, as they cover the face of his vineyard through his sloth now, so will they cover the face of his conscience, in the day of judgment. For profession and conscience cannot be separated long; if a man then shall make profession without conscience of God’s honor in his conversation, his profession and conscience will meet in the day of his visitation. Nor will he, whose condition this shall be, be able to ward off the guilt and string of a slothful and bad conversation, from covering the face of his conscience, by retaining in his profession the name of Jesus Christ; for naming, and professing the name of Christ, will, instead of salving such a conscience, put venom, sting, and keenness into those nettles and thorns, that then shall be spread over the face of such consciences. This will be worse, than was that cold wet cloth that Hazael took and spread over the face of Benhadad, that he died. 2 Kings 8:15. This will sting worse, tear worse, torment worse, kill worse. Therefore look to it. 2. Nor may men shift this danger by their own neglect of inquiring into the truth of their separation from iniquity, for God himself will search them. “I search the reins and the heart,” saith he, “to give unto every one of you according to his ways,” Revelation 2:23.
There are many that wear the name of Christ for a cloak, and so make their advantages by their iniquity; but Christ, at death and judgment, will read this cloak from off such shoulders; then shall they walk naked, yea, the shame of their nakedness shall then appear. Now since no man can escape the search of God, and so, not his judgment, it will be thy wisdom to search thine own ways and to prevent judgment by judging thyself. Corinthians 11:31. 3. Christ will deny those to be his that do not depart from iniquity, though they shall name his name among the rest of his people. “Depart from me,” saith he, all you that departed not from iniquity.” Luke 13:25,26,27.
Yes, they that shall name his name religiously, and not depart from iniquity, are denied by him all along. For observe, (1.) He alloweth them not now to call him Lord. “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, (saith he), and do not the things which I say?” Luke 6:46.
He cannot abide to be reputed the Lord of those that presume to profess his name, and do not depart from iniquity. Ezekiel 20:39. The reason is, that such do but profane his name, and stave others off from falling in love with him and his ways. Hence he says again, “Behold I have sworn by my great name, saith the Lord, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah.” Romans 2:24; Jeremiah 44:26. (2.) He regardeth not their prayers. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer.” Psalm 66:18. And if so, then whatever thou hast at the hand of God, thou hast it, not in mercy, but in judgment, and to work out father thine everlasting misery. (3) He will not regard their soul, but at the last day will cast it from him, as a thing abhorred by him. As is evidently seen by that thirteenth of Luke, but now noted above.
Wherefore from these few hints, thou, whoever thou art, mayst well perceive what a horrible thing it is to make a profession of the name of Christ, and not to depart from iniquity. Therefore let me exhort thee again to examine thyself, if thou hast, and dost, (since thou professest that name), depart from iniquity.
And here I would distinguish, for there are two parts in iniquity, namely the guilt, and filth. As for the guilt that is contracted by iniquity, I persuade myself no man, who knows it, needs to be bid to desire to depart from that; nay, I do believe that the worst devil in hell would depart from his guilt, if he could, and might: but this is it, namely to depart from the sweet, the pleasure, and profit of iniquity. There are that call evil good, iniquity good, and that of professors to: this is that to be departed from, and these are they that are exhorted to forsake it upon the pains and penalties before threatened. Therefore, as I said, let such look to it, that they examine themselves if they depart from iniquity.
And come, now thou art going about this work, let me help thee in this matter. (1.) Ask thy heart, what evil dost thou see in sin? (2.) How sick art thou of sin? (3.) What means dost thou use to mortify thy sins? (4.) How much hast thou been grieved to see others break God’s law, and to find temptations in thyself to do it?
For the first, (1.) There is a soul-polluting evil in iniquity. (2.) There is a God-provoking evil in iniquity. (3.) There is a soul-damning evil in iniquity. And until thou comest experimentally to know these things, thou wilt have neither list, nor will, to depart from iniquity. For the second . I mean not sick with guilt, for, so the damned in hell are sick; but I mean sick of the filth, and polluting nature of it. Thus was Moses sick of sin, thus Jabez was sick of sin; and thus was Paul sick of sin. Numbers 11:14,15; 1 Chronicles 4:9,10; Romans 7:14; <470501> Corinthians 5:1, 2, 3; Philippians 3:10-14. For the third . You know that those that are sensible of a sickness, will look out after the means to be recovered. There is a means also for this disease; and dost thou know what that means is, and hast thou indeed a desire to it? Yea, couldst thou be willing even now to partake of the means that would help thee to that means, that can cure thee of this disease? There are no means can cure a man that is sick of sin, but glory; and the means to come by that is Christ, and to go out of this world by the faith of him.
There is no grace can cure this disease; yea, grace doth rather increase it: for the more grace any man has, the more is he sick of sin; the greater an offense is iniquity to him. So then, there is nothing can cure this disease, but glory: but immortal glory. And dost thou desire this medicine? and doth God testify that thy desire is true, not feigned? 2 Corinthians 5:4. I know that there are many things do make some even wish to die: but the question is not whether thou dost wish to die: for death can cure many diseases: but is this that that moveth thee to desire to depart, namely, that thou mightest be rid, quite rid, and stripped of a body of death, because nothing on this side the grave can rid thee and strip thee of it? And is hope, that this day is approaching, a reviving cordial to thee? And doth the hope of this strike arrows into the heart of thy lusts, and draw off thy mind and affections yet farther from iniquity? To the fourth . How much hast thou been grieved to see others break God’s law, and to find temptations in thyself to do it? “I beheld the transgressors,” said David, “and was grieved, because men kept not thy word.” <19B9158> Psalm 119:158. The same grief, also had Paul, because of that holy of sin and death which was in him. Professor, I beseech thee, be thou serious about this thing, because it will be found, when God comes to judge, that those that profess Christ, and yet abide with their iniquity, are but wooden, earthly professors, and none of the silver or golden ones: and so consequently such as shall be vessels, not to honor, but to dishonor; not to glory, but to shame. Secondly . My next shall be a use ofTERROR. Has God commanded by the mouth of his holy Apostles and Prophets, that those that name the name of Christ, should depart from iniquity: then what will become of those that rebel against his word? Where the word of a king is, there is power; and if the wrath of a king be as the roaring of a lion, what is, and what will be the wrath of God, when with violence it falls upon the head of the wicked?
Sirs, I beseech you consider this, namely, that the man that professeth the name of Christ, and yet liveth a wicked life, is the greatest enemy that God has in the world, and consequently, one that God, in a way most eminent, will set his face against. Hence he threateneth such so hotly, saying, “And the destruction of the transgressors, and of the sinners shall be together; and that they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed.” Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 33:14.
But what sinners are these? why, the sinners in Zion, the hypocrites in the church. So again, “The Lord shall purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against him. All the sinners of my people shall die with the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.” Ezekiel 20:38; Amos 9:10.
For though such do think that by professing the name of Christ, they shall prevent their going down to hell, yet they shall go down thither, with those that have lived openly wicked and profane — Egypt, and Judah, the circumcised with them that are not — for it is not a profession of faith that can save them. Jeremiah 9:26. Whom dost thou pass in beauty, saith God? wherein art thou bettered by the profession, than the wicked? Go down, and be thou “laid with the uncircumcised” Ezekiel 32:19.
This is general: but more particularly, the wrath of God manifesteth itself against such kind of professors in that the gospel, and means of salvation shall not be effectual for their salvation, but that it shall work rather quite contrary effects. It shall bring forth, as I said, quite contrary effects. As, 1. The preaching of the word shall be to such, the savor of death unto death, and that’s a fearful thing. 2 Corinthians 2:15,16. 2. Yea Christ Jesus himself shall be so far off from being a savor unto them, that he shall be a snare, a trap and a gin to catch them by the heel withal: that they may go and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. Isaiah 8:13,14,15. Isaiah 28:13. 3. The Lord also will choose out such delusions (such as will best suit with the workings of their flesh) as will effectually bring them down, with the bullocks and with the bulls to the slaughter: yes, he will lead such forth with the workers of iniquity. Isaiah 66:3,4; <19C505> Psalm 125:5. 4. Such, above all, lie open to the sin against the Holy Ghost, that unpardonable sin, that must never be for given.
For alas, it is not the poor ignorant world, but the enlightened professor that committeth the sin that shall never be forgiven. It is one enlightened, one that has tasted the good word of God, and something of the powers of the world to come. Hebrews 6:4; 1 John 5:16. It is one that was counted a brother, that was with us in our profession: it is such a one that is in danger of committing that most black and bloody sin. But yet all and every one of those that are such, are not in danger of this; but those among these that take pleasure in unrighteousness, and that rather than they will lose that pleasure, will commit it presumptuously. Presumptuously, that is, against light, against convictions, against warnings, against mercies. Or thus, a presumptuous sin is such a one as is committed in the face of the command, in a desperate venturing to run the hazard, or in a presuming upon the mercy of God, through Christ to be saved notwithstanding: that is a leading sin to that which is unpardonable, and will be found with such professors as do hanker after iniquity. I say it is designed by the devil, and suffered by the just judgment of God, to catch and overthrow the loose and carnal gospellers. And hence it is that David cries unto God, that he would hold him back from this sort of sins. “Cleanse thou me from my secret faults,” says he. And then adds, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” Psalm 19:12,13.
If there were any dread of God, or of his word, in the hearts of the men of this generation, the consideration of this one text is enough to shake them in pieces. I speak those that name the name of Christ, but do not depart from iniquity. But the word of God must be fulfilled; in the last days, “iniquity shall abound;” Matthew 24:12; wherefore these days will be perilous and dangerous to professors. “In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” 2 Timothy 3:1,2. I do the oftener harp upon this text at this time, because it is a prediction of what shall be in the latter days, namely, what a sea and deluge of iniquity, shall in the latter days overspread and drown those that then shall have a form of godliness, and of religion. So that this day is more dangerous than were the days that have been before us. Now, iniquity, even immorality, shall with professors be in fashion, be pleaded for, be loved, and more esteemed than holiness itself. Now godliness, and self-denial shall be little set by; even those very men that have a form of godliness, hate the life, and power thereof; yea, they shall despise them that are good.
Now, therefore, ministers must not think that what they say of the doctrine of self-denial among professors, will be much, if at all regarded. I say, regarded, so as to be loved and put in practice by them that name the name of Christ. For the strong hold that iniquity shall have of their affections, will cause that but little effectualness to this end will be found to attend the preaching of the word unto them.
Now some may say, ‘But what shall we do to depart from iniquity?’
I answer, 1. Labor to see the odiousness and unprofitableness thereof: which thou mayest do by the true knowledge of the excellent nature of the holiness of God. For until thou seest a beauty in holiness, thou canst not see odiousness in sin and iniquity. Danger thou mayst see in sin before, but odiousness thou canst not. 2. Be much in the consideration of the power, justice, and faithfulness of God, to revenge himself on the workers of iniquity. 3. Be much in the consideration of the greatness and worth of thy soul. 4. Be often asking thyself, what true profit did I ever get by the commission of any sin. 5. Bring thy last day often to thy bedside. 6. Be often thinking of the cries and roaring of the damned in hell. 7. Be often considering the lastingness of the torments of hell. 8. Be often thinking what would those that are now in hell give, that they might live their lives over again. 9. Consider often the frailty of thy life, and that there is no repentance to be found in the grave, whither thou goest. 10. Consider that hell is a doleful place, and that the devils are but uncomfortable companions. 11. Again, consider together with these how the patience of God has been abused by thee; yea, how all his attributes have been despised by thee, who art a professor that does not depart from iniquity. 12. Moreover I would ask with what face thou canst look the Lord Jesus in the face, whose name thou hast profaned by thine iniquity? 13. Also, how thou wilt look on those that are truly godly, whose hearts thou hast grieved, while they have beheld the dirt and dung that have cloven to thee and to thy professions. 14. But especially consider with thyself how thou wilt bear, together with thine own, the guilt of the damnation of others. For as I have often said, a professor, if he perishes, seldom perishes alone, but casteth others down to hell with himself. The reason is, because others, both weak professors and carnal men, are spectators and observers of his ways; yea, and will presume also to follow him, especially in evil courses, concluding that he is right.
We read that the tail of the dragon, or that the dragon by his tail, did draw and cast down abundance of the stars of heaven to the earth. Revelation 12:4; Isaiah 9:14,15. The tail. “The prophet that speaketh lies, he is the tail.” The prophet that speaketh lies, either by opinion or practice, he is the tail, the dragon’s tail, the serpentine tail of the devil. Isaiah 9:14,15. And so in his order, every professor that by his iniquity draweth both himself and others to hell, he is the tail. The tail, says the Holy Ghost, draws them down; draw down even the stars of heaven. But whither does he draw them? The answer is, from heaven, the throne of God, to earth, the seat of the dragon; for he is the god of this world. The professor then that is dishonorable in his profession, he is the tail. “The ancient and honorable, he is the head; and the prophet that speaketh lies, he is the tail.” Nor can Satan work such exploits by any, as he can by unrighteous professors. These he useth in his hand, as the giant uses his club; he, as it were, drives all before him with it. It is said of Behemoth, that “he moveth his tail like a cedar.” Job 40:17. Behemoth is a type of the devil; but behold how he handleth his tail, even as if a man should swing about a cedar. This is spoken to show the hurtfulness of the tail, as it is also said in another place. Revelation 9:19. Better no professor than a wicked a professor. Better open profane, than a hypocritical names of the name of Christ; and less hurt shall such a one do to his own soul, to the poor ignorant world, to the name of Christ, and to the church of God.
Let professors, therefore take heed to themselves, that they join to their naming of the name of Christ, a holy and godly conversation; for away they must go else with the workers of iniquity to the pit, with more guilt, and bigger load, and more torment by far than others. But, Thirdly , My next word shall be a word ofCOUNSEL, to those that desire to be true, sincere professors of the name of Christ. First , Do you bless God, that he has put not only his name into your lips, but grace into your hearts, that thereby that profession which thou makest of him, may be seasoned with salt. Mark 9:49. “Every sacrifice shall be seasoned with salt.” Now naming the name of Christ is a sacrifice, and a sacrifice acceptable, when the salt of the covenant of thy God is not lacking, but mixed therewith. Hebrews 12:15; Leviticus 2:13. Therefore I say, since God has put his name into thy mouth to profess the same, and grace into thy heart to season that profession with such carriage, such behavior, such life, and such conversation as doth become the same, thou hast great cause to thank God. A man into whose mouth God has put the name of Christ to profess it, is as a man that is to act his part upon a stage in the market-place; if he doth it well, he brings both to his master and himself; but if he doth it ill, both are brought into contempt. No greater praise can by man be brought to God, than by joining to the profession of the name of Christ a fruitful life and conversation. “Herein (saith Christ) is my Father, glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” John 15:8.
Fruitful lives God expecteth of all that profess the name of Christ. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. Bless God, therefore, if he hath kept thee from blotting and blemishing thy profession; if they conversation has not been stained with the blots and evils of the times. What thou feelest, fightest with, and groanest under, by reason of the working of thine inward corruptions, with that I meddle not; nor is thy conversation the worse for that, if thou keepest them from breaking out.
As God’s grace is the salt of saints, so saints are the salt of God. Matthew 5:13. The one is the salt of God in the heart, and the other is the salt of God in the world. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” That is, the salt of God in the earth. For the earth would be wholly corrupt, and would altogether stink, if professors were not in it. But now if the professor, which is the salt, shall indeed lose his savor, and hath nothing in his conversation to season that part of the earth in which God has placed him, wherewith shall it be seasoned? The place where he dwells, as well as his profession, will both stink odiously in the nostrils of the Lord, and so both come to ruin and desolation.
Wherewith shall the salt be salted? With nothing. Therefore it is henceforth good for nothing, no, not for the dunghill, but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
How much, therefore, is the tender-hearted, and he that laboreth to beautify his profession with a gospel conversation, bound to bless God for the salt of his grace, by the which his heart is seasoned, and from his heart his conversation. Secondly , As such Christians should bless God, so let them watch; let them still watch, let them still watch and pray; watch against Satan, and pray yet for more grace, that they may yet more and more beautify their profession of the worthy name of Christ with a suitable conversation. “Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garment,” that is, his conversation, clean; nor is there any thing, save the overthrowing of our faith, that Satan seeketh more than to destroy. He knows holiness in them that rightly, as to doctrine, name the name of Christ, is a maul and destruction to his kingdom, an allurement to the ignorant, and a cutting off those occasions to stumble, that by the dirty life of a professor are laid in the way of the blind. Leviticus 19:14. He knows that holiness of living, when it shines in those that profess the name of Christ, doth cut off his lies that seeketh to make the world believe, and slanders that he seeketh to fasten upon the professors of the gospel. Wherefore, as you have begun to glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s; so I beseech you, do it more and more. Thirdly , To this end, shun those professors that are loose of life and conversation. “From such withdraw thyself (saith Paul); and follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:22.
If a man, if a good man takes not good heed to himself, he shall soon bring his soul into a snare. Loose professors are defilers and corrupters; a man shall get nothing but a blot by having company with them. Isaiah 1:4.
Besides, as a man shall get a blot by having much to do with such; so, let him beware that his heart learn none of their ways. Let thy company be the excellent in the earth; even those that are excellent for knowledge and conversation. “He that walketh with wise men, shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
Be content to be counted singular; for so thou shalt be, if thou shalt follow after righteousness, in good earnest; for holiness is a rare thing now in the world. I told thee before that it is foretold by the word, that in the last days perilous times shall come, and that men shall walk after their own lusts, yea, professors, to their destruction. Nor will it be easy to keep thyself therefrom. For even as when the pestilence is come into a place, it infecteth, and casteth down the healthful, so the iniquity of the last times will infect and pollute the godly. I mean the generality of them. Were but our times duly compared with those that went before, we should see that which now we are ignorant of. Did we but look back to the Puritans, but especially to those that but a little before them, suffered for the word of God, in the Marian days, we should see another life than is now among men, another manner of conversation, than now is among professors. But I say, predictions and prophecies must be fulfilled, and since the word says plainly, that “in the last days there shall come scoffers, walking after their own lusts,” and since Christians shall be endangered thereby, let us look to it, that we acquit ourselves like men, seeing we know these things before; lest we being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from our own steadfastness. 2 Peter 3:3,17.
Singularity in godliness, if it be in godliness, no man should be ashamed of. For that is no more than to be more godly, to walk more humbly with God than others. And for my part, I had rather be a pattern and example of piety, I had rather that my life should be instructing to the saints, and condemning to the world, with Noah and Lot, than to hazard myself among the multitude of the drossy.
I know that many professors will fall short of eternal life, and my judgment tells me, that they will be of the slovenly sort of professors, that so do. And for my part, I had rather run with the foremost and win the prize, than come behind, and lose that and my labor and all. “If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” And when men have said all they can, they are the truly redeemed, that are “zealous of good works.” 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 2:4,5; Titus 2:14. Not that works do save us; but faith, which layeth hold on Christ’s righteousness for justification, sanctifies the heart, and makes men desirous to live in this world to the glory of that Christ, who died in this world to save us from death.
For my part, I doubt of the faith of many, and fear that it will prove no better at the day of God, than will the faith of devils. For often it standeth in bare speculation, and is without life and soul to that which is good. Where is the man that walketh with his cross upon his shoulder? Where is the man that is zealous of moral holiness? Indeed for those things that have nothing of the cross of the purse, or of the cross of the belly, or of the cross of the back, or of the cross of the vanity of household affairs; for those things, I find we have many, and those, very busy sticklers: but otherwise, the cross, self-denial, charity, purity in life and conversation, are almost quite out of doors among professors. But, man of God! do thou be singular as to these, and as to their conversation. “Be not therefore partaker with them” in any of their ways, but keep thy soul diligently, for if damage happeneth to thee, thou alone must bear it. Ephesians 5:7.
But he that will depart from iniquity, must be well fortified with faith, and patience, and the love of God; for iniquity has its beauty-spots, and its advantages attending on it: hence it is compared to a woman, ( Zechariah 5:7), for it allureth greatly. Wherefore, I say, he that will depart therefrom had need have faith; that being it which will help him to see beyond it, and that will show him more in things that are invisible, than can be found in sin, were it ten thousand times more entangling than it is. 2 Corinthians 4:18.
He has need of patience also, to hold out in this work of departing from iniquity. For indeed to depart from that, is to draw my mind off from that which will follow me with continual solicitations. Samson withstood his Delilah for a while, but she got the mastery of him at the last. Why so?
Because he wanted patience, he grew angry and was vexed, and could withstand her solicitation no longer. Judges 16:15,16,17. Many there be also, that can well enough be contented to shut sin out of doors for a while; but because sin has much fair speech, therefore it overcomes at last. Proverbs 7:21. For iniquity will not be easily said nay: it is like her of whom you read, she has a whore’s forehead, and refuses to be ashamed. Jeremiah 3. Wherefore departing from iniquity is a work for length, as long as life shall last. A work did I say? it is a war; a continual combat.
Wherefore he that will adventure to set upon this work, must needs be armed with faith and patience. A daily exercise he will find himself put upon, by the continual attempts of iniquity to be putting forth itself. This is called an enduring to the end, a continuing in the word of Christ, and also a keeping of the word of his patience. Matthew 24:13; Revelation 3:10.
But what man in the world can do this, whose heart is not seasoned with the love of God, and the love of Christ? Therefore he that will exercise himself in this work, must be often considering the love of God to him in Christ: for the more sense, or apprehension, a man shall have of that, the more easy and pleasant will this work be to him; yea, though the doing thereof should cost him his heart’s blood. “Thy loving kindness is before mine eyes (says David), and I have walked in thy truth.” Psalm 26:1-3.
Nothing like the sense, sight, or belief of that, to the man of God, to make him depart from iniquity. Question: ‘But what shall I do? I cannot depart therefrom as I should.’ Answer: Keep thine eye upon all thy shortnesses, or upon all they failures; for that is profitable for thee. 1. The sight of this will make thee base in thine own eyes. 2. It will give thee occasion to see the need and excellency of repentance. 3. It will put thee upon prayer to God for help and pardon. 4. It will make thee weary of this world. 5. It will make grace to persevere, the more desirable in thine eyes.
Also, it will help thee in the things which follow: 1. It will make thee see the need of Christ’s righteousness. 2. It will make thee see the need of Christ’s intercession. 3. It will make thee see thy need of Christ’s advocateship. 4. It will make thee see the riches of God’s patience. 5. And it will make heaven and eternal life the sweeter to thee when thou comest there.
But to the question. Get more grace; for the more grace thou hast, the further is thine heart set off of iniquity, the more also set against it, and the better able to depart from it, when it cometh to thee, tempteth thee, and entreats thee for entertainment. Now the way to have more grace, is to have more knowledge of Christ, and to pray more fervently in his name; also to subject thy soul and thy lusts with all thy power to the authority of that grace thou hast; and to judge and condemn thyself most heartily before God, for every secret inclination that thou findest in thy flesh to sin-ward.
The improvement of what thou hast, is that, (as I may say), by which God judges how thou wouldst use, if thou hadst it, more; and according to that, so shalt thou have, or not have, a farther measure. He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful (and will be so) also in much; and he that is unjust in the least, is (and will be) unjust also in much. I know Christ speaks here about the unrighteous mammon, but the same may be applied also unto the thing in hand. Luke 16:10-12.
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who will commit unto you that which is your own? That is a remarkable place to this purpose in the Revelation, “Behold,” saith he, “I have set before thee an open door, (that thou mayest have what thou wilt, as was also said to the improving woman of Canaan, Matthew 15:28), and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast held fast my word, and hast not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8.
A good improvement of what we have of the grace of God at present, pleases God, and engages him to give us more: but an ill improvement of what we at present have, will not do so. “To him that hath, (that hath an heart to improve what he hath) to him shall be given; but to him that hath not, from him shall be taken, even that which he hath.” Matthew 25:24-30.
Well, weigh the place, and you shall find it so.
I know that to depart from iniquity so as is required, that is, to the utmost degree of the requirement, no man can; for it is a copy too fair for mortal flesh exactly to imitate, while we are in this world. But with good paper, good ink, and a good pen, a skillful and willing man may go far. And it is well for thee if thy compliance be sincere; that is, that thou art troubled that thou canst not forsake iniquity, as thou shouldst: for God accepteth of thy design and desire, and it is counted by him as thy kindness. Proverbs 30:22. But if thy complaint in this matter be true, thou wilt not rest, nor content thyself in thy complaints; but wilt, (as he that is truly hungry, or greatly burdened, useth all lawful means to satisfy his hunger, and to ease himself of his burden) use all thy skill and power to mortify and keep them under by the word of God. Nor can it otherwise be, but that such a man must be a growing man. “Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2.
Such a man shall not be stumbling in religion, nor a scandal to it in his calling, but shall (according to God’s ordinary way with his people) be a fruitful and flourishing bough. And I would to God this were the sickness of all them that profess in this nation. For then should we soon have a new leaf turned over in most corners of this nation: then would graciousness of heart, and life, and conversation be more prized, more sought after, and better improved, and practiced, than it is. Yes, then would the throats of ungodly men be better stopt, and their mouths faster shut up, as to their reproaching of religion, than they are. A Christian man must be the object of the envy of the world; but it is better, if the will of God be so, that we be reproached for well doing, than for evil. 1 Peter 2:3. If we be reproached for evil doing, it is our shame; but if for well doing, it is our glory. If we be reproached for our sins, God cannot vindicate us; but if we be reproached for a virtuous life, God himself is concerned, will espouse our quarrel, and in his good time will show our foes our righteousness, and put them to shame and silence. Briefly, A godly life annexed to faith in Christ, is so necessary, that a man that professes the name of Christ, is worse than a beast without it. Question : But thou wilt say unto me, “Why do men profess the name of Christ, that love not to depart from iniquity?’ Answer: I answer, There are many reasons for it. 1. The preaching of the gospel, and so, the publication of the name of Christ, is musical and very taking to the children of men. A Savior! a Redeemer! a loving, sin-pardoning Jesus! what better words can come from man? what better melody can be heard? “Son of man,” said God to the prophet, “Lo thou art to them as a very lovely son, (or as a song of loves), of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.” Ezekiel 33:32.
Now its melodious notes being so sweet, nor marvel, if it entangle some, even of them that yet will not depart from iniquity to take up and profess so lovely a profession. But, 2. There is a generation of men that are and have been frightened with the law, and terrified with fears of perishing for their sins, but yet have not grace to leave them. Now when the sound of the gospel shall reach such men’s ears, because there is by that made public the willingness of Christ to die for sin, and of God to forgive them for his sake; therefore they presently receive and profess those notions, as the only ones that can rid them from their frights and terrors; falsely resting themselves content with that faith thereof, which standeth in naked knowledge; yea, liking that faith best, that will stand with their pride, covetousness, and letchery, never desiring to hear of practical holiness, because it will disturb them: wherefore they usually cast dirt at such, calling them legal preachers. 3. Here also is a design of Satan set on foot. For these carnal gospelers, are his tares, the children of the wicked one. Those that he hath sowed among the wheat, of purpose, if possible, that that might be rooted up, or at least that the sinners might be corrupted by beholding and learning to be vile and filthy of them. Matthew 13:36-42. 4. Another cause hereof is this, the hypocrites that begin to profess, find as bad as themselves already in profession of this worthy name: and, think they, ‘these do so and so, and therefore so will I.’ 5. This comes to pass also through the righteous judgment of God, who, through the anger that he has conceived against some men for their sins, will lift them up to heaven, before he casts them down to hell, that their fall may be the greater, and their punishment more intolerable. Matthew 11:20-24.