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and your danger of it, you would be the more unwilling of the sin; for God hath affixed punishment to sin for this end, that they that else would love the serpent, may hate it for the sting. Will you not say, he is a beast and not a man, that will avoid no danger but what he seeth? Foreseeing is to a man, what seeing is to a beast: if he see it before his eyes, a beast will not easily be driven into a coalpit or a gulf; he will draw back and strive, if you go about to kill him. And is he a man, or some monster that wants a name, that will go on to hell, when he seeth it as it were before him? and that will continue in a state of sin, when he knows he must be damned in hell for ever, if he so continue to the end? Indeed sin is the deformity and monstrosity of the soul. He is a monster of blindness that seeth not the folly and peril of such a state, and that a state of holiness is better. He is a monster of stupidity that finds himself in such a state, and doth not feel it, but maketh light of it. And he is a monster of slothfulness, that will not stir when he finds himself in such a case, and seek for mercy, and value the remedy, and use the means, and forsake his sinful course and company, till further mercy take him up and bring him home, and make him welcome, as "one that was lost but now is found, was dead but is alive."
I do not doubt, for all these expostulations, but some men may be such monsters, as thus to see that they are in a state of wrath and misery, and yet continue in it.
As, 1. Such as have but a glimmering, insufficient sight of it, and a half belief, while a greater belief and hope of the contrary (that is, presumption) is predominant at the heart: But these are rather to be called men ignorant of their misery, than men that know it; and men that believe it not, than men that do believe it, as long as the ignorance and presumption is the prevailing part.
2. Such as by the rage of appetite and passion are hurried into deadly sin, and so continue, whenever the tempter offereth them the bait against their conscience, and some apprehension of their misery. But these have commonly a prevalent self-flattery secretly within, encouraging and upholding them in their sin, and telling them, that the reluctancies of their consciences are the Spirits' strivings against the flesh, and their fits of remorse are true repen
tance and though they are sinners, they hope they are pardoned, and shall be saved, so that these do not know themselves indeed.
3. Such as by their deep engagements to the world, and love of its prosperity, and a custom in sinning, are so hardened, and cast into a slumber, that though they have a secret knowledge or suspicion that their case is miserable, yet they are not awakened to the due consideration and feeling of it; and therefore they go on as if they knew it not: but these have not their knowledge in exercise. It is but a candle in a dark lantern, that now and then gives them a convincing flash, when the right side happens to be towards them; or like lightning, that rather frightens and amazeth them, than directeth them. And (as I said of the former) as to the act, their self-ignorance is the predominant part, and therefore they cannot be said indeed to know themselves. Now and then a convinced apprehension, or a fear, is not the tenor of their minds.
4. Such as being in youth or health, do promise themselves long life, or any others that foolishly put away the day of death, and think they have yet time enough before them; and therefore though they are convinced of their misery, and know they must be converted or condemned, do yet delay, and quiet themselves with purposes to repent hereafter, when death draws near, and there is no other remedy but they must leave their sins, or give up all their hopes of heaven. Though these know somewhat of their present misery, it is but by such a flashy, ineffectual knowledge as is afore described; and they know little of the wickedness of their hearts, while they confess them wicked. Otherwise they could not imagine that repentance is so easy a work to such as they, as that they can perform it when their hearts are further hardened, and that so easily and certainly, as that their salvation may be ventured on it by delays. Did they know themselves, they would know the backwardness of their hearts; and manifold difficulties should make them see the madness of delays, and of longer resisting and abusing the grace of the Spirit that must convert them, if ever they be saved.
5. Such as have light to show them their misery, but live where they hear not the discovery of the remedy, and
are left without any knowledge of a Saviour: I deny not but such may go on in a state of misery, though they know it, when they know no way out of it.
6. Such as believe not the remedy, though they hear of it, but think that Christ is not to be believed in, as the Saviour of the world.
7. Such as believe that Christ is the Redeemer, but believe not that he will have mercy upon them, as supposing their hearts are not qualified for his salvation, nor ever will be, because the day of grace is past, and he hath concluded them under a sentence of reprobation; and therefore thinking that there is no hope, and that their endeavours would be all in vain, they cast off all endeavours, and give up themselves to the pleasures of the flesh, and say, 'It is as good to be damned for something, or for a greater matter, as for a less.'
So that there are three sorts of despair that are not equally dangerous. 1. A despair of pardon and salvation, arising from infidelity, as if the Gospel were not true, nor Christ a Saviour to be trusted with our souls, if predominant, is damnable. 2. A despair of pardon and salvation, arising from a misunderstanding of the promise, as if it pardoned not such sins as ours, and denied mercy to those that have sinned so long as we; this is not damnable necessarily of itself, because it implieth faith in Christ; and not infidelity, but misunderstanding hindereth the applying, comforting act: and therefore this actual personal despair, is accompanied with a general actual hope, and with a particular personal, virtual hope. 3. A despair of pardon and salvation, upon the misunderstanding of ourselves, as thinking both that we are graceless, and always shall be so, because of the blindness and hardness of our hearts. Of this despair, I say as of the former, it is joined with faith, and with general and virtual hope; and therefore is not the despair that of itself condemneth. Many may be saved that are too much guilty of it.
But if either of these two latter sorts shall so far prevail, as to turn men off from a holy, to a fleshly, worldly interest and life, and make them say, We will take our pleasure while we may, and will have something for our souls-before we lose them,' and do accordingly; this kind of despera
tion is damnable by the effects, because it takes men off the means of life, and giveth them up to damning sins.
Thus I have showed you of seven sorts of persons that may know themselves, their sin and danger, with such an ineffectual, partial knowledge as I have described, and yet continue in that sin and misery.
And in two cases, even sound believers may possibly go on to sin, when they see the sin and not only see the danger of it, but despairingly think it greater than it is. As, 1. In case of common, unavoidable failings, infirmities, and low degrees of grace: We are all imperfect, and yet we all know that it is our duty to be perfect (as perfection is opposed to sinful, and not to innocent imperfection), and yet this knowledge maketh us not perfect. We know we should be more humbled, and more believing, and more watchful, and love God more, and fear and trust him more, and be more fruitful and diligent, and obedient and zealous; and yet we are not what we know we should be in any of these. In these we all live in sin against knowledge; else we should be all as good as we know we ought to be, which no man is. And if through temptation any of us should be ready to despair, because of any of these infirmities, because we cannot repent, or love God, watch, or pray, or obey more perfectly, or as we should, yet grace ceaseth not to be grace, though in the least degree, because we are ready to despair for want of more. Nor will the sincerity of this spark, or grain of mustard seed, be unsuccessful, as to our salvation, because we think so, and take ourselves to be insincere, and our sanctification to be none: Nor yet because we cannot be as obedient and good as we know we should be. For the Gospel saith not, 'He that knoweth he hath faith or sincerity shall be saved; and he that knoweth it not, shall be damned: or, he that is less holy or obedient than his conscience tells him he should be, shall be damned.' But "He that believeth and repenteth, shall be saved,” whether he know it to be done in sincerity or no: and "he that doth not, shall be damned," though he never so confidently think he doth. So that in the degrees of holiness and obedience, all Christians ordinarily sin against knowledge.
2. And besides what is ordinary, some extraordinarily in the time of a powerful temptation go further than ordinarily
they do. And some under dull, phlegmatic melancholy, or choleric diseases or distempers of body, or under a diseased, violent appetite, may transgress more against their knowledge, than otherwise they would do: When the spirits are flatted, the thoughts confused, the reason weakened, the passion strengthened, and the executive faculties undisposed, so that their actions are but imperfectly human or moral; (imperfectly capable of virtue or vice, good or evil) it is no wonder here, if poor souls not only perceive their sin, but think it and the danger to be tenfold greater than they are, and yet go on against their knowledge, and yet have true grace.
This much I have said, both to stay you from misunderstanding what I said before, concerning the power of conviction to conversion (for few auditories want hearers that will be still excepting, if cantion stop not every hole), and also to help you to the fuller understanding of the matter itself, of which I treat. But exceptio firmat regulam in non exceptis,' exceptions strengthen and not weaken any rule or proposition in the points not excepted. Still I say, that out of these cases, the true knowledge of a sinful, miserable state, is so great a help to bring us out of it, that it is hardly imaginable, how rational men can wilfully continue in a state of such exceeding danger, if they be but well acquainted that they are in it. I know a hardened heart hath an unreasonable, obstinate opposition against the means of its own recovery: hut yet men have some use of reason and self-preserving love and care, or they are not men (and if they be not men, they cannot be sinful men). And though little transient lightnings often come to nothing, but leave some men in greater darkness; yet could we but set up a standing light in all your consciences, could we fully convince and resolve the unregenerate, that they cannot be saved in the carnal state and way that they are in, but must be sanctified or never saved; what hopes should we have, that all the subtleties and snares of Satan, and all the pleasures and gain of sin, and all the allurements of ungodly company, could no longer hinder you from falling down at the feet of mercy, and begging forgiveness, through the blood of Christ, and giving up yourselves in covenant to the Lord, and speedily and resolutely betaking yourselves to an holy life! Could I but make you thoroughly known un