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tions of habits of sin upon sin: so that as St. Basil said, he needed no other book, for all spiritual uses, but the Psalms, so we need no other example to discover to us the slippery ways into sin, or the penitential ways out of sin, than the author of that book, David. From his example then, we first deduce this, that in the warfare of this life, there are no emeriti milites; none of that discipline, that after certain years spent in the wars, a man should return to ease, and honour, and security, at home. A man is not delivered from the temptation of ambition, by having overcome the heats and concupiscencies of his youth; nor from the temptation of covetousness in his age, by having escaped ambition, and contented himself with a mean station in his middle years. David, whom neither a sudden growth into such degrees of greatness, as could not have fallen into his thought, or wish before, nor the persecution of Saul, which might have enraged him to a personal revenge, considering how many advantages, and occasions he might have made shift to think that God had put into his hands, to execute that revenge; David, whom neither the concourse and application of the people, who took knowledge of him, as of a rising sun, nor the interest and nearness in the love and heart of Jonathan the king's son, which falls seldom upon a new, and a popular man; David, whom not that highest place, to which God had brought him, in making him king, nor that addition even to that highest place, that he made him successor to a king of whom the state was weary; (for, as the panegyric says, Onerosum est succedere bono principi, It is a heavy thing, and binds a prince to a great diligence, to come immediately after one, whom his subjects loved, so had David an ease, in coming after one, with whom the kingdom was discontented) David, whom this sudden preferment, and persecutions, and popularity, did not so shake, but that we may say of him, it is said of Job, That in all this height, David did not sin, nor in all these afflictions, He did not charge God foolishly; though he had many victories, he came not to a triumph; but him, whom an army, and an armed giant, Goliah, near hand, could not hurt, a weaker person, and naked, and far off, overthrows and ruins.
It is therefore but an imperfect comfort for any man to say,
have overcome temptations to great sins, and my sins have been but of infirmity, not of malice. For herein, more than in any other contemplation appears the greatness, both of thy danger, and of thy transgression. For, consider what a dangerous, and slippery station thou art in, if after a victory over giants, thou mayest be overcome by pigmies; if after thy soul hath been cannon-proof against strong temptations, she be slain at last by a pistol; and after she hath swam over a tempestuous sea, she drown at last, in a shallow and standing ditch. And as it shows the greatness of thy danger, so it aggravates the greatness of thy fault; that after thou hast had the experience, that by a good husbanding of those degrees of grace, which God hath afforded thee, thou hast been able to stand out the great batteries of strong temptations, and seest by that, that thou art much more able to withstand temptations to lesser sins, if thou wilt, yet by disarming thyself, by divesting thy garrisons, by discontinuing thy watches, merely by inconsideration, thou sellest thy soul for nothing, for little pleasure, little profit, thou frustratest thy Saviour of that purchase, which he bought with his precious blood, and thou enrichest the devil's treasure as much, with thy single money, thy frequent small sins, as another hath done with his talent; for, as God was well pleased with the widow's two farthings, so is the devil well pleased, with the negligent man's lesser sins. O who can be confident in his footing, or in his hold, when David, that held out so long, fell, and if we consider but himself, irrecoverably, where the tempter was weak, and afar off.
De longe vidit illam in qua captus est'. Bathsheba was far off. Mulier longe, libido prope, but David's disposition was in his own
osom. Yet David came not up into the terrace, with any pur.pose or inclination to that sin. Here was no such plotting as in his son Hamon's case, to get his sister Tamar, by dissembling himself to be sick, to his lodging. That man postdates his sin, and begins his reckoning too late, that dates his sin at that hour, when he commits that sin. You must not reckon in sin, from the nativity, but the conception ; when you conceived that sin in your purpose, then you sinned that sin, and in every letter, in every discourse, in every present, in every wish, in every dream,
that conduces to that sin, or rises from that sin, you sin it over, and over again, before you come to the committing of it, and so your sin is an old, an inveterate sin, before it be born, and that which you call the first, is not the hundredth time, that you have sinned that sin.
It is not much that David contributed to this sin on his part: he is only noted in the text, to have been negligent in the public business, and to have given himself too much ease in this particular, that he lay in bed all day; When it was evening, David arose out of his bed, and walked upon the terrace. And it is true, that the justice of God is subtile, as searching, as unsearchable; and oftentimes punishes sins of omission, with other sins, actual sins, and makes their laziness, who are slack in doing that they should, an occasion of doing that they should not.
It was not much that Bathsheba contributed to this temptation, on her part. The Vulgate edition of the Roman church, hath made her case somewhat the worse, by a mistranslation, Ex adderso super solarium suum, as though she had been washing herself, upon her own terrace, and in the eye of the court ; whereas indeed, it is no more, but that David saw her, he upon his terrace, not her upon hers. For her washing, it may well be collected out of the fourth verse, that it was a legal washing, to which she was bound by the Levitical law, being a purification after her natural infirmity, and which it had been a sin in her, to have omitted. But had it been a washing of refreshing, or of delicacy, even that was never imputed to Susanna for a fault, that she washed in a garden, and in the day, and employed not only soap, but other ingredients and materials, of more delicacy, in that washing.
Certainly the limits of adorning and beautifying the body are not so narrow, so strict, as by some sour men they are sometimes conceived to be. Differences of ranks, of ages, of nations, of customs, make great differences in the enlarging, or contracting of these limits, in adorning the body; and that may come near sin at some time, and in some places, which is not so always, nor everywhere. Amongst the women there, the Jewish women, it was so general a thing to help themselves with aromatical oils, and liniments, as that that which is said by the prophet's poor widow, to the prophet Elisha, That she had nothing in the house but a pot of oil', is very properly by some collected from the original word, that it was not oil for meat, but oil for unction, aromatical oil, oil to make her look better; she was but poor, but a widow, but a prophet's widow, (and likely to be the poorer for that) yet she left not that. We see that even those women, whom the kings were to take for their wives, and not for mistresses, (which is but a later name for concubines) had a certain, and a long time assigned to be prepared by these aromatical unctions, and liniments for beauty. Neither do those that consider, that when Abraham was afraid to lose his wife Sarah in Egypt, and that every man that saw her, would fall in love with her, Sarah was then above threescore; and when the king Abimelech did fall in love with her, and take her from Abraham, she was fourscore and ten, they do not assign this preservation of her complexion, and habitude to any other thing, than the use of those unctions, and liniments, which were ordinary to that nation. But yet though the extent and limit of this adorning the body, may be larger than some austere persons will allow, yet it is not so large, as that it should be limited only, by the intention and purpose of them that do it; so that if they that beautify themselves, mean no harm in it, therefore there should be no harm in it; for, except they could as well provide, that others should take no harm, as that they should mean no harm, they may participate of the fault. And since we find such an impossibility in rectifying and governing our own senses, (we cannot take our own eye, nor stop our own ear, when we would) it is an unnecessary, and insupportable burden, to put upon our score, all the lascivious glances, and the licentious wishes of other persons, occasioned by us, in over-adorning ourselves.
* 2 Sam. xi. 2.
And this may well have been Bathsheba's fault, that though she did not bathe with a purpose to be seen, yet she did not enough to provide against the infirmity of others. It had therefore been well if David had risen earlier, to attend the affairs of the state; and it had been well, if Bathsheba had bathed within doors, and with more caution; but yet these errors alone, we
2 Kings iv. 2.
should not be apt to condemn in such persons, except by God's permitting greater sins to follow upon these, we were taught, that even such things, as seem to us in their nature to be indifferent, have degrees of natural and essential ill in them, which must be avoided, even in the probability, nay even in the possibility that they may produce sin.
And as from this example, we draw that conclusion, that sins, which are but the children of indifferent actions, become the parents of great sins; which is the industry of sin, to exalt itself, and (as it were) ennoble itself, above the stock, from which it was derived. The next sin will needs be a better sin than the last : so have we also from David this conclusion, that this generation of sin is infinite; infinite in number, infinite in duration ; so infinite both ways, as that Luther (who seldom checks himself in any vehement expression) could not forbear to say, Si Nathan non cenisset, If Nathan had not come to David, David had proceeded to the sin against the Holy Ghost. O how impossible a thing is it then, for us to condition and capitulate with God, or with our own nature, and say to him, or to ourselves, We will sin thus long and no longer, thus far, and no farther, this sin, and no more ; when not only the frailty of man, but even the justice of God provokes us (though not as author, or cause of sin) to commit more and more sins, after we have entangled and enwrapped ourselves in former! Who can doubt, but that in this year's space, in which David continued in his sin, but that he did ordinarily all the external acts of the religious worship of God? Who can doubt but that he performed all the legal sacrifices, and all the ceremonial rites? Yea, we see, that when Nathan put David's case in another name, of a rich man that had taken away a poor man's only sheep, David was not only just, but he was vehement in the execution of justice; He was, says the text, exceeding wroth, and said, As the Lord liveth, that man shall die; but yet, for all this external religion, for all this civil justice in matter of government, no mention of any repentance in all this time. How little a thing then is it, nay how great a thing, that is, how great an aggravating of thy sin, if thou think to bribe God with a Sabbath, or with an alms; and, as a criminal person would fain come to sanctuary, not because it is a consecrated