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TO MORTIFY SIN.
· 147 out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery, if it could ; every covetous deșire would be oppression ; every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head."*
The sacred Scriptures represent those sins, which lie hidden in the heart, as incurring guilt and condemnation of the same description as the crimes to which they would lead. Thus the Judge of all declares, that a lustful thought cherished in the mind, incurs the guilt of adultery. “I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” The indulgence of a resentful disposition, incurs the guilt of murder. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer ; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.'i
On the same principle, he who meditates a dishonest action, is, in God's esteem, a thief; he who lets his vain mind dwell with pleasure on scenes of revelry, debauchery, and intoxication, stands chargeable in his Maker's sight with all those crimes. And they whose thoughts are occupied with vanity, excess, and pleasure, are, in the sight of God, guilty of the crimes and follies they would commit, if their situation placed these things within their power. Would you therefore mortify sin, view it as exceeding sinful; and remember that a sinful disposition indulged, as to guilt, is equivalent to the guilt of committing the sin, to which that disposition would lead. O, what myriads of millions of crimes are thus committed in the chambers of the mind and heart, those scenes of iniquity! crimes, hidden from every human eye, beneath impenetrable shades, yet all of them glaring, with hideous horror, before the face of eternal Majesty, as clearly as in the blaze of day.
$ 3. In mortifying sin, it is of unspeakable importance to observe, that sin be really mortified; not merely diverted to some other object, or permitted to flow in some new channel. It is to be apprehended, that the supposition that sin is mortified, when only diverted to a new object, is a frequent cause of ruinous deception. Thus, perhaps, the reigning sin of a man has been prodigality; he lays this sin aside, and ceases to be a spendthrift; but he takes up covetousness, and becomes * Owen. (h) Matt. v. 28.
(i) 1 John iii. 5.
148 SIN MUST NOT BE DIVERTED TO NEW OBJECTS.
a miser. Perhaps he has been covetous, he forsakes his avaricious ways, he is no longer the slave of avarice; he becomes liberal, but he becomes the slave of ostentation. Another has been a profligate, proud of his drunken feats; he forsakes profligacy, frequents the house of prayer, and leads a life of regularity; but he is now as proud of his fancied virtues. Another has been a leader in a tavern club; he forsakes his former haunts and associates, and professes religion; but knows no ease, and allows no quiet, unless he can be a leader in the Christian church. Who does not see, that in all these, and ten thousand such cases, sin is not mortified ! Ruling iniquity still rules. The man is still its slave. The stream of iniquity is not lessened, but flows in another channel.
Another fatal mistake on this subject, is that of supposing sin mortified, when it is merely forsaken through a change in our circumstances and situations. The flight of time produces many such changes. The faults and mischievous tricks of childhood give place to youthful lusts. These, in more advanced life, are in a degree forsaken for the sins of the age. Yet sin is not mortified; it is merely adapting itself to the situations of its servants. The system of delusion goes on even to the day of death, and many die beneath its dreadful influence. How often, when visiting persons on the confines of the grave, of whose conversion I had not the slightest hope, have I heard them profess, that they gave up the world; when the fact was, that they felt they could keep it no longer, and the world gave up them. Time changes man; but unless he be changed by a mightier than time, sin rules from the days of sprightly childhood to the last moments of feeble age.
As you value your eternal welfare, guard against delusions, by which myriads are undone. If there be one bosom lust, that you would suffer to live, that one will kill your soul. If you have a true hatred for any sin, you will indulge hatred against every sin ; and if you would willingly spare one, it shows you not sincere in the destruction of any. Should you aim at the destruction of every sin but one, in cherishing that one you would as truly trample under foot the authority of God, as if you cherished all; as truly defeat the end, as to yourself, of the Redeemer's death. “ For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty
WATCHFULNESS AGAINST BESETTING SINS. 149 of all.”k Remember the blood of Christ was shed as much to atone for the secret sins of your heart, as for the more open transgressions of your life. Only the blood of the Son of God can wash away the stain of your least offence against the Majesty on high; and shall any sin be small in your esteem, when for the least that precious blood was shed ! If you are indeed his follower, you will spare no sin.
$ 4. To mortify sin, watch more especially against those sins to which your circumstances or age may peculiarly expose you. As the constitutions and situations of mankind vary, so do their sinful propensities. Hence the admonition, to lay aside the sin which doth so EASILY BESET US. Consider what, in your unconverted state, were the sins to which your disposition most prompted you; and watch peculiarly against those sins. Some are peculiarly prone to pride, others to passion; some to sullenness and obstinacy, others to fiery resentment; some to envy, others to ambition and the love of glory, in other words, of worldly applause; others to love of worldly pleasure; some to strife, others to scandal and backbiting ; some to heresies, others to drunkenness and lewdness; some to covetousness, others to prodigality; some to sloth, others, that are free from grosser crimes, to mere levity and folly. A cheerful disposition will be more liable to such sins as excessive levity, love of pleasure, and passion ; a melancholy one to sullenness, to revenge, when brooding over imagined wrongs; to discontent, when destitute of desired advantages. Are you rich ? you will be tempted to extra. „vagance, and under the delusive idea of living conformably to your rank, will be tempted to squander in self-gratification or idle show, what would feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bring the blessing of multitudes ready to perish upon you, and if employed in diffusing divine knowledge, would spread it far and wide. Are you rich ? you will, if professedly liberal, be tempted to confine your liberality within such narrow bounds, that your donations to relieve the miseries of man, or assist the cause of God, will be really pitiful, paltry things, compared with the widow's mite, or the poor man's penny. Are you rich? you will, if you have a family, be tempted to hoard so liberally for them, that you will probably, in the end, curse them with love to the world, with
6) James ii. 10, 11.
150 SIN DECEITFUL AND CLOAKED BY FAIR NAMES.
alienation from God, with a disposition to be the slaves of fashion, and the associates of the gay, however wicked or worldly; and thus in the end will undo them for eternity. Probably not one rich man in ten thousand improves that important talent, wealth, as at the judgment bar he will wish to have employed it. Few indeed are our Reynoldses and our Thorntons. Are you poor ? your situation will tempt you to discontent, to repinings and murmurings at your own humble lot, to envy and reproach those in more favoured circumstances. Are you young ? you will be tempted to selfconceit; to slight the counsels of age and experience, of valuable friends or tender relatives, through the pride of your own foolish and wicked heart. You will be tempted to indulge in youthful lusts; to form friendships, or a more lasting union, with such as charm your ungoverned fancy, though they may be strangers to the grace of God, and the children of the wicked one. Are you in the last stage of life? you will be tempted to indulge unreasonable prejudices; to censure, without reason, the wisest and most benevolent plans, because they differ from what you saw in youth; to murmur beneath the infirmities of advancing age, and to grasp, with a tighter embrace, the world that is departing from you for ever. As in a journey through a wilderness, if you expected the assaults of tigers, you would particularly observe every bush, where they could lie prepared for their fatal spring; if you feared the bite of serpents, you would observe the herbage, in which the enemy might lie across your way; if you dreaded a fall from some hidden precipice, you would watch every step you made: so in the journey of life, guard peculiarly in its different stages against the dangers incident to that stage; and mortify the sin which may most easily beset you.
§ 5. If you would mortify sin, consider its deceitfulness, and guard against deception. We read of those who are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin ;' and God himself represents the sinful heart as not only desperately wicked, but 6 deceitful above all things.”mı Sin deceives millions of the victims which it ruins. Many are the modes in which this system of deception is conducted. Virtue is stigmatized as vice, and vice is extolled as virtue. A formal nominal Christian, with a heart as cold as Nova Zembla's eternal ice, is (1) Heb. iii. 13.
(m) Jer. xvii. 10.
THE SPIRIT'S HELP TO BE SOUGHT. 151 deemed a rational Christian; and a zealous, warm-hearted disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, is pronounced an enthusiast or a fanatic. Soft names are affixed to odious crimes. An abandoned whoremonger, or a profligate seducer, with the falsehood of Satan on his lips, is called a man of pleasure. A man, so full of infernal pride that he would risk his own life, or take his fellow-man's, for an offensive word, is deemed a man of honour. Revenge assumes the name of justice. Flattery is termed courtesy. Covetousness cloaks itself under the name of frugality; and while adopting for its golden maxim the hackneyed remark, That charity begins at home, takes care that it shall end there too. Atheism and infidelity are free thinking or free inquiry. Thus the darkest crimes which men commit, are softened down, and represented as pleasing or honourable, by some specious and delusive name.
$ 6. While thus called to duties so eternally important, and yet so difficult, lean not upon a human arm. Trust not in your own ability or might. No inherent power of yours will ever accomplish the momentous work of mortifying sin. The Scriptures direct your view to a mightier agent; to the Spirit of God. “If ye, THROUGH THE SPIRIT, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”'n As the Holy Spirit is the source of peace, and hope, and joy, and love, so by his influence and aid sin must be subdued and destroyed.
Look therefore to him, who sanctifies, renews, gives the disposition, and carries on till death the work of grace. 0, look to him for heavenly influence, to strike at the very root of sin ! Let inortification of this evil engage your labour; yet still depend upon the Holy Spirit's aid, and go forward trusting in his might.
7. To impress your mind most deeply with a hatred of sin, and with the necessity of mortifying this horrid evil, indulge such views as these of its unspeakable malignity.*
It is infinitely hateful. Sin is “the only object of God's infinite hatred.” God is love. He loves his Son, his angels, his children. His love, like the sun shining in its strength, diffuses good through his immense dominions; but sin is the object of his infinite abhorrence. A sinful word, or a sinful
(n) Rom, viii. 13. ve the inalignity of sin, several thoughts are borrowed from Robert Bolton.