[The Third Sermon on this Text]
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Proverbs 30:2.
It is a sad sentence, when God passes it upon any, “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still; he that is unjust, let him be unjust still,” (Rev. 12:11). “Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone,” (Hosea 4:17). O how sad is it, when God says, concerning such a person, “Let him alone!” Ministers and ordinances, Let him alone: Word and Spirit, Let him alone: Let no word that is preached do him good: Let no threatening of the word awaken him: Let no promise of the word allure him: Let no precept of the word draw him: Let him continue hardened against all that can be said from the word: Let him alone; let him live and die under the power and guilt of sin, under the wrath and curse of God: he is a filthy man, and she is a filthy woman, and let them be filthy still. Oh! dreadful sentence. And yet it seems to be passed against the generality of people in our day: and yet few or none are touched with it: let us think on it in sad earnest: for, as my text saith, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”
We have finished what we designed on the doctrinal part of the second observation we deduced from the words, by inquiring into the nature, mentioning some of the qualities, evincing the necessity, and pointing out the excellency of purity. We now proceed,
V. To the Fifth thing proposed, viz. The application of the subject. This we shall essay in several uses.
1st, Let us improve this doctrine for information. Is it so, as has been said, That purity is an excellent thing and of absolute necessity to denominate a true saint? Then,
1. Hence see the difference between justification and sanctification. Sanctification, or purity, is necessary and excellent, in all the respects that I have formerly named: but yet it is not necessary for justification, so as to be the ground thereof. It is necessary to be the evidence of justification; but not the ground thereof: the ground of justification is only Christ’s righteousness. Many are utterly bemisted [To envelop in mist] in this point; they confound justification with sanctification. Though, indeed, they be as inseparable as head and body to a living man, yet there can be nothing more different. They are most distinct, (1.) Justification comes from the merit of Christ; sanctification comes from the Spirit of Christ. (2.) Justification makes a relative change, by bringing us from enemies to friends, from condemnation to absolution; sanctification makes a real change, by healing our inward maladies and plagues. (3.) Justification gives us a title to heaven; sanctification gives us a meetness for heaven. (4.) Justification takes away the guilt of sin; sanctification takes away the filth, and power, and pollution of sin. (5.) Justification is by a righteousness without us; sanctification is by a righteousness within us. (6.) In justification there is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and sanctification; but in sanctification there is the implantation of grace, and something subjectively imparted, not imputed to us, but wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. (7.) Justification is but one act and once acted; sanctification is a continual action, or a progressive work. (8.) Justification is perfect and absolute; sanctification is imperfect and but begun. And hence, (9.) Justification is equal and alike in all believers; no man is more justified than another: sanctification is unequal, in some more, and in some less, according to the measure of the gift of Christ: justification is perfect the first moment; sanctification is never perfect till a man dies. (10.) In justification we are passive, and do nothing; but in sanctification we are active; for being acted, we act; being moved, we move and do work, being set on work by the Spirit of God: Is there anything more distinct than these two? (11.) Justification answers the law as a covenant; sanctification answers it as a rule. (12.) Justification makes a man accepted: sanctification makes a man acceptable: as we formerly observed on the third general head of the doctrine.1
2. Hence see, that there is no justification by the deeds of the law. Why? because, though this purity and conformity to the law be thus necessary and excellent for denominating a saint, and evidencing of justification, yet it is imperfect in time, and so cannot be the matter and ground of justification: no righteousness, but a perfect one, can justify us before God. Do any of the saints reckon their purity and piety to be their righteousness before God? No, by no means; David trembles at the thoughts of this; and deprecates it with abhorrence: “O Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” (Ps. 143:2). Purity may justify us before men; but we cannot appear before an infinitely holy God, without a perfect holiness; nor before an infinitely just God, without a complete satisfaction; and these are only to be had in Christ. For, when our purity and righteousness is laid in the balance of God’s holy law, MENE TEKEL [God has weighed and we are found wanting] is written on it; it is found wanting; we are but unprofitable servants, and our righteousness is as filthy rags, a menstruous cloth. If any poor deluded soul be expecting that God will justify him, and accept of him, and show favor to him, because he does as well as he can, and because he performeth this and the other good duty, and hath a good heart to God, meaneth well, and the like, it is evident the man knoweth not himself, that he knoweth not the purity of God’s holy law, and the impurity of his own heart, otherwise he would fear to think of standing upon that ground before God.
3. Hence see the necessity of a law‑work, in some measure and degree. No man will run to the surety, till, by the law, he hath the knowledge of his being quite insolvent, and a bankrupt. What man will run to the fountain for cleansing, if he does not see that he is defiled and polluted. If purity be so necessary, than a law-work, discovering our impurity, is necessary also; that knowing the malady, we may apply the remedy.
4. Hence see the reason why God treats mankind as he doth, both with judgment and mercy. Why, the world is polluted; and God hath a mind to purify it. Why doth the Lord shine upon you with the sun of a kindly providence? It is even to melt you, that you may part with sin, and that his goodness may lead you to repentance. Why doth he cast you into a furnace of affliction? It is to purge away dross; and that you may come forth as gold tried in the fire. Why was the whole earth washed with a deluge? Why, it was polluted, and needed to be cleansed. And why will he again melt it with fire? Because it must be purified before it be a new earth.
5. Hence see the necessity of the open fountain for sin and uncleanness. The blood of the Lamb is a fountain: it is not a rivulet, or a stream, that quickly dries up; no, no: it is a fountain, a never‑failing fountain. It is not a fountain sealed: anciently, in these hot countries, when they got a fountain, they reckoned it a precious treasure, and sealed it: people had not promiscuous access to it. Yea, but here is a fountain open; every man, every woman is welcome to come and purify themselves at it, and bathe in it, to wash till they be whiter than the driven snow. It is not only open for the house of David, for the royal family; but to the inhabitants of
Jerusalem; it is tendered to the whole visible church. And it is open for sin and uncleanness: for all pollution whatever. O what need of this fountain among such poor polluted sinners.
6. Hence see the reason of what is a paradox to many in the world, and yet what is the experience of the saints: it lets us see, I say, why some folk long so passionately for death sometimes; yea, would choose rather to die than to live: why, the children of God know there is no perfect purification, but by death; and that death will purify them more than all the sermons ever they heard, than all the providences ever they were trusted with, than all the prayers they ever put up, and all the tears ever they shed. It is a mad fancy of the church of Rome, and it was an ignorant fancy of some mistaken divines, and Greek fathers, that there is a state of purgation between this and heaven: but we see from the Bible, that in a moment the soul, separated from the body is made pure. The thief upon the cross, the same day that he is converted, he is glorified: “This day thou shalt be with me in
Paradise.” O how will the believer, when groaning under a sense of sin, long for the day of dissolution, saying, “When shall the day break, and the shadows flee away,” when there shall be no more sin, no more pollution?
2dly, This doctrine may be applied for Lamentation, that there is such a scarcity of this necessary and excellent thing purity; and such a plentitude of the contrary evil, even of all manner of impurity. Oh! may we not lament that there is such a famine of piety and purity, and such a fulness of impiety and profanity? I might here tell you, 1. Somewhat of the evils of impurity, that we should lament over. 2. Some of the evidences of it.
(1.) We are to acquaint you of some of the evils of impurity. It is a lamentable thing, that there should be so little purity, and so much impurity. For,
1. This impurity mars all our excellency. We lose our excellency by sin and impiety. It takes away the peace of a good conscience, which should be a continual feast: There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. It takes away God from us; “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God.” Is not this one of the reasons why God is so far from this generation? It is a filthy generation. And if our pollution takes away God from us, should it not trouble us? Let a carnal man lose that which he makes his god, and see how he will be troubled for it: his heart will even die within him, as Nabal's did: and he will be much perplexed. Oh! how heavy should it be to us, that our impurity and defilement doth us such a mischief as this!
2. It clouds all our profession. Men may profess what they will but if they remain defiled and impure, and if they do not fight against, wrestle against it, profess against it, their profession is but a screen to their atheism; “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him; being abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate,” (Titus 1:16).
3. It brings on the wrath of God, if it be not removed; “God is angry with the wicked every day; if he turn not, he will whet his sword,” (Ps. 7:11,12). O sirs, if God begin to fire against a sinner, or a sinful and impure people, his wrath will be insupportable. It is true God stays long, before he come forth with all his indignation against a polluted people; but then it is the worse and there is the less hope of mercy when he begins to destroy: for then he will strike them dead with the next blow, and make a full end. Is not the Lord threatening to do so with this generation, whether we see it or not? When the cup of iniquity is full to the brim, be sure that the cup of wrath is full also; full of the vials of dreadful vengeance. But death, and hell, and wrath, are matters of jest and mockery to a filthy and impure generation, whose very mind and conscience are defiled: but though their consciences be seared, and their souls be sleeping in security, yet their damnation slumbereth not: for, the abominable shall have part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death, (Rev. 21:8). Oh! is not this matter of lamentation, that we are in such danger, by reason of the defilement and impurity of the day we live in. But, say you, how do you prove the charge? This leads to the next particular, which was,
[2.] To mention some of the evidences of impurity: they, indeed, are many. May not he that runs read innumerable grounds of lamentation? What means the abominable whoredom, adultery, uncleanness, drunkenness, and all manner of wickedness: swearing, lying, cheating, stealing, Sabbath‑breaking, contempt of the word and ordinances, that take place? Do not they all manifest, that the generation is not washed from their filthiness? Is not profanity, impiety, and immorality, become open, avowed, and professed, and shameless?—But I shall close at the time, by offering only these three general evidences of want of purity, that we may see matter of lamentation here.
1. The first evidence is in the impurity of our affections. Are they not carnal and impure? Surely where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also. What are your morning thoughts, and daily meditations? Whether are they conversant about earthly or heavenly things? It is indeed matter of exercise to a child of God, that he finds his affections carnal, and earthly, and vain; but the impure man lets the devil, and the world, and a thousand lusts, run away with his affections all the day, and all the week, and all the year: and he hath never a sore and grieved heart for it,
2. Another evidence is, the impurity of our speeches, which are the fruits of the affections: for, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh, said Christ: and, A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth evil things,” (Matt. 12:34,35). When the heart is full of anything, it will be ready to utter itself: as if you jog a full vessel it will run over; so the heart that is full of the world, will run over the lips, and be always speaking of that; or, if an impure man play the hypocrite, and vent hypocrisy in some good speech, yet he is out of his element: it is not his natural dialect, or easy for him to employ his tongue for God. It is true, the godly may sometimes have their tongue tacked, as it were, to the roof of their mouth; but it is not always so.
3. The next evidence is the impurity of our actions, How do you act towards earthly things, and heavenly things? What pains are you at about earthly things? And how much little pains are you at about heavenly and spiritual things? Is not that an evidence of carnality and impurity?—How do you act with reference to sin and duty? How little care do you take to avoid sin yourselves, or reprove it in others? And how little care do you take to perform the duties of religion, whether secret or social? How do you act with regard to God and yourselves? How much time do you take for yourselves and your own things? and how little time do you allot for God, and the things of God? Doth not this evidence your impurity?—How do you act towards the world and religion, when they come into competition? The world saith, There is a business must be done; God saith, There is a business must be done: they interfere; the one of them must be neglected: Well, the man lets God go, lets religion go, rather than his dear worldly affairs. This discovers impurity.—How do you act with reference to the word? The impure heart doth not relish the purity of the word, or the things that are of God: for, he that is of the flesh, favors the things of the flesh; but he that is of the spirit, favors the things of the spirit. Now, when you hear the word, do you favor nothing but earthly and carnal things? Why, the vain man will pick out the vanity in a sermon: if he can catch at any word that will feed his vain mind, he lays hold upon that: the curious man will notice the curiosity that is in it, and relish that; he that is learned, will observe the learning in it, and applaud that: but he that is spiritual, will find out the things that are spiritual, is well pleased with, and feeds upon them, (See 1 Cor. 2:6).—In a word, how do you act with respect to conscience and interest? When the keeping of a good conscience and worldly interest come to be in competition, by our way of acting then, we may know who is our master, God or the world: for, till then, we know not who is our master: but when conscience commands one thing, and the world another, so that now the world and religion go not hand in hand, here is the trial of a pure heart. As a dog follows two men so long as they go together, and you know not who is the dog’s master, of them two: but let them come to a parting road, and one go one way, and another go another way, then shall we know which of them owes the dog. Why, sirs, sometimes religion and the world go hand in hand: while a man may have the world, and a religious profession too; while it is so we cannot know who is the man’s master, whether God or the world: but stay till the man come to a parting road; God calls him this way, and the world calls him that way; why, if God be his master, he follows religion, and lets the world go; if the world be his master, then he follows the world, and the lusts thereof, and lets God, and conscience, and religion go.
Oh! Is it not very lamentable that there are so many evidences of want of purity, that necessary excellent thing? And even among the children of God, O how little purity! Are they not fallen from their first love? Fallen from the heaven that sometimes they have been in, to the very center of the earth? How far art thou grown earthly minded? How doth this declining come upon you by degrees, or ever you are aware? Like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, whose head was of gold, the arms and breast of silver, the thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet of clay; so it is with many declining Christians in our day; they have had a golden head, and begun with a golden age, but now they are come to the clay feet. How heavenly minded have you once been? but now, how earthly-minded art thou? How pleasant were duties and ordinances formerly, perhaps? But now, how tedious, wearisome, and irksome? How zealous have you been for God’s glory, and against all sin? But now, how cold and lukewarm?—O sinner, see the necessity of more purification, and deliverance from that consumption of grace, and decay of purity, that is taking place in you: and cry to God to send the Holy Ghost whose office and function is to sanctify, wash, and cleanse you.—Lament the impurity of the day and your own impurity; and lay your soul at the side of the purifying fountain, and in the way of purifying means, looking to the Lord to bless the means to you.
There are two things relating to this subject, that the generality of people are very great strangers to. The one is the sin of their nature; and the other is, the nature of their sin; and yet these two things should be much laid to heart by us all; namely, the sin of our nature, that we carry a dead corpse, and a body of sin and death about with us; and the nature of our sin; that it is a transgression of, and disconformity to the law of God. Though it be a misery to have a sinful heart, yet it is a mercy to see it to be so: For, conviction is the first step to conversion. And though there be many, as to their state, vile and filthy enough to be damned; yet there are few, as to their sense and conviction, vile and filthy enough to be saved: nay, they are vile in God’s eye; and yet pure in their own. “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes; and yet are not washed from their filthiness.”
3dly, The next use we shall make of the doctrine, shall be for reproof and conviction. This doctrine reproves all manner of impurity, impiety, and unholiness, that stands opposite to this purity and holiness, whereof I have showed the necessity and excellency. It reproves all that filthiness that is opposed to this cleanness. And here is a large field, a vast theme: we know not well where to begin, or where to end; there are so many pollutions, and so much filthiness of flesh to be reproved. We might here go through all the ten commands, and spew how manifold sins and impurities are reproveable, in opposition to every one of them. Oh! that God himself would fasten a reproof and conviction of sin upon our hearts and consciences, for carrying home this use the more closely, both upon the wicked, that are under the power, and upon the godly, that may be under the prevalency of sin and impurity. I shall, on this topic, 1. Produce some kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. Produce some witnesses for proving either the total or partial want of purity and holiness; that the crime being proven, we may take with its and condemn ourselves.
[l.] I would tell you some sorts and kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. There are especially these three sorts. 1. The impurity and sin of our nature. 2. The impurity and filthiness of our hearts and thoughts. 3. The impurity and filthiness of our life and practice, especially living under the gospel.
(1.) As for the pollution of our nature. This, it is evident, many never thought of, never were convinced of, never challenged themselves for; and yet it is a great predominate root‑sin; and if it be not removed we are filthy still. Now, in order to fasten a conviction of the greatness of this pollution of our nature, consider the greatness of it in these particulars.
1. That when the leprosy and contagion is universal and overspreading, then it must be great; but so it is here; the pollution, and defilement, and sin of our nature, is an universal leprosy, it overspreads all our faculties; our understanding, will, affections, reason, conscience, memory, and all are defiled; become altogether filthy: we, being conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity, are nothing by nature, but a body of sin and death.
2. When the leprosy and contagion is so great, in an house, that nothing will help against it, but the pulling down of the house; then the leprosy must be very great; but so it is here, the sin of our nature is such, that nothing will cure it, but the pulling down of the house. Some think to mend the house by education: but all the lime and mortar of acquired parts and accomplishments will not do, unless the nature be renewed by regeneration; and even after regenerated, this leprosy breaking out, nothing will wholly remove it, but death’s pulling down the house entirely.
3. Consider, that sin which is most unwearied, and which a man is most unwearied in the pursuit of, that must needs be very great: but such is the sin of our nature, it is most unwearied, as the fountain is unwearied in sending up water. A man may be wearied in drawing up water out of the fountain; but the fountain is not wearied in bullering up water; so, a man may be wearied in sinful actions; but sinful nature is never weary. A man may be wearied with looking to some particular object; but his eye is never wearied readily with seeing and looking; because it is natural for the eye to see: so, a man may be wearied with some particular sin; but the natural man is never weary with sinning, because, it is so natural for him to sin.
4. Consider, that this sin that is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, must needs be very great. Now, what is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, after all our repentance and reformation? Even our nature, or the sin of our nature. Suppose water be heated and warmed, it cools again; heat it again, and it cools again; why? because coldness is its nature: and so, why do men return again and again to sin, after all their repentance and reformation? Why? It is their nature.
5. That sin that is least lamented, and whereby our other sins are most excused, must be a great sin. Now, of all sins, the sin of our nature is least lamented; and thereby our other sins are most excused. Bear with me, for it is my nature; I am passionate, but it is my nature; I am so and so disposed, but it is my nature; men excuse themselves by it; and hence it is not lamented, it is not mourned over.
6. That pollution that is most predominant must be a great pollution; now, the sin of the nature is the pollution that is most predominant. Many marks have been assigned of the predominant sin; and some actual sin may reign above other sins. But the sin of the nature is the most predominant sin; it is the sin that reigns unto death, (
Rom. 5:21).—O then take home the conviction of this sin; and seek to have it broken in the power of it.
(2.) The impurity and pollution of our hearts and thoughts is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. Alas! how little is the impurity of the heart bewailed. Many think their thoughts are free: but before God they are not free, but bound to obedience to his law, who searches the heart and tries the reins, to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings; and even according to the doing of his heart: for the thoughts are the deeds of the heart: and it is, indeed, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, (Jer. 17:9,10). Now, the sin and pollution of the heart is great, if you consider these following particulars.
1. The sin that is most incurable is a great sin: but the sin of the heart is a most incurable sin. As a secret, hidden wound within the body, or a disease within the bowels, is most incurable. And such are the sins of our thoughts, and the plagues of our hearts. We need, therefore, to know the plague of our hearts, and to be convinced of it.
2. The sin that is a parent to other sins must needs be very great: now, sinful thoughts are the parents of sinful actions, both in the godly and ungodly. In the godly, as in the case of Abraham, “I thought the fear of God was not in this place; and therefore I said, she is my sister,” (Gen. 20:11,12). She was indeed his sister, he lied not in saying so: but he dissembled and hid the truth, using an unworthy shift for his preservation. And where began this evil, but in a sinful thought? “I thoughtthat the fear of God had not been in this place.” In the ungodly, it was so likewise; “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself,” (Ps. 1:21). The wicked steal, and lie, and drink, and commit adultery, and deceive, and slander others. And how are they led into all this, but by thoughts? “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.”
3. By sinful thoughts our formerly committed sins, that were dead, are revived again, and have a resurrection by our bosom ones; by our contemplating the same with delight. As the witch at Endor called up Samuel that was dead, so a delightful thought calls up a sinful action, that was dead before. Hereby our sins, that were in a manner dead before, are revived, and have a resurrection.
4. By sinful thoughts, a man may sin that sin in effect which he never did commit in act: and so the Lord pray punish him for it. As the Lord said to David in another case; “Because it was in thine heart to build me an house, I will build thy house.” So saith God to a man, in a way of punishment, Because it was in thine heart to do this evil, though thou didst it not, I will punish thee for it. By the sins of our hearts and thoughts, a man may sin that sin, in effect, which he never did commit in act. Christ reckons the adulterous thought, adultery; the malicious thought, murder. Alas, how will the day of judgment give other views of sin than now we have, when the whorish thoughts will be judged whoredom; and the adulterous intention, adultery; and the malicious thoughts, murder, though it was never actually committed!
5. By sinful thoughts, a man doth repent of his repentance. A man sins, and afterwards is sorrowful for, and repents thereof; and then after his repentance, he thinks on his sin with delight. What is this but to repent of his repentance? As by your repentance you are sorrowful for your sin, so by musing on your sin, with delight, you repent of your repentance: now, is it not a great evil for a man to repent that he repented?
6. That filthy mud, that cannot be searched to the bottom; that deep mystery of iniquity, that cannot be founded, it is so deep, must be very great; and so it is with the sin of the heart; “It is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). In a word, “Out of the heart proceedeth all manner of evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,” &c. (Matt. 15:18,19).
(3.) The impurity and pollution of our lives and practices, especially under the gospel, is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. And sins under the gospel are great sins. Why?
1. Sins under the gospel are sins against the remedy: and of all sins, sins against the remedy are the greatest. The great remedy against sin is the gospel of the grace of God; the good news of a crucified Christ, a Saviour, whose name is Jesus, because he saves his people from their sin. The promises are the remedy also: and therefore to sin under the gospel, is to sin against the remedy: yea, it is a sinning against the greatest obligations of mercy and grace that are offered: and so, by our sinning against these, we engage the very mercy and grace of God, our greatest friends, to become our greatest adversaries.
2. The more repugnancy there is between the sin and the sinner, the greater is the sin; even as it is worse for a judge to be unjust, than another man. Now, there is here a great repugnancy between the gospel, and the man that sinneth under the gospel; for he professes the contrary.
3. Sin under the gospel is the most hurtful and mischievous, both to ourselves and others. To ourselves: as poison that is taken in sack, or something that is warm, is the most venomous; so, sin under the gospel is the deadliest poison: Why? because it is warmed with gospel heat. And to others it is hurtful: because they are the more hardened thereby.
4. Sin under the gospel is most deceitful, having specious pretences and defenses: and so it is the worse. A man under the gospel, hath readily many shifts for his sins; many distinctions to palliate his sin; much knowledge to cover his sin. And by this knowledge, perhaps, he is able to defend his sin, by many distinctions: as, that it is the sin of infirmity; it is an occasion for grace and mercy to abound; and many such ways may grace be abused to the encouraging of sin. Now, those bred under the gospel, are able to defend themselves by knowledge fetched from the gospel; therefore they are the worst.
5. Sins under the gospel throw contempt upon the great things of God: even the glory of God, the grace of God, offered in the gospel. And how great is that sin that casts contempt upon the greatest love, the richest mercy, the sweetest offers, and upon the great salvation!
6. Sin under the gospel is the most dangerous sin; and therefore it is great. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:13). He that sinneth under the gospel, cannot sin at so cheap a rate as others, though he sins the very same sins that others commit, who are not under the gospel. My? “He that knoweth his master’s will, and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” 0 sirs, be convinced of these sins, and the evil of them: the sin of your nature, the sin of your heart, and the sin of your way under the gospel; for they are great sins and impurities.
[2.] I would produce some witnesses, for proving of the great want of purity, whether total or partial. Many witnesses may be brought in to prove the charge.
1. The first witness is the power and prevalency of sin. Where sin is up, holiness is down. Are sins and corruptions as many and as strong with you, as they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, notwithstanding of all the means you have enjoyed, and sermons you have heard, and engagements you have made? The power of sin doth witness and evidence either the want or weakness of purity.
3. The third witness is the easy and frequent falling before temptation and motions to sin. When temptation touches it takes. No sooner are you tempted than you are conquered. Does not this discover the want of purity; and that it is either wanting or at a low ebb? Those that were eminent in holiness, in Scripture, were eminent in resisting temptation; as Joseph, Daniel, and others. When a man needs little, or has no temptation to lead him to sin, it witnesseth against him, that he is impure.
4. The fourth witness is fears and faintings in a day of adversity; “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small,” (Prov. 24:16). Do not fret under affliction, or faint under adversity! That is an evidence of the want of purity, and the weakness of grace.
5. The next witness is barrenness and soul‑leanness; “I said, my leanness, my leanness: wo unto me!” (Isa. 24:16). Look to them that have my grace, and see what poor and lean graces they have: how little faith, how little love, how little zeal, how little repentance, how little knowledge; how much unbelief, how much ignorance, how much untenderness in their walk, how much neglect of duty, how much of a legal spirit in duty, &c.; how much laxness of principle, and levity of spirit; how much pride of duty, how much pride of preaching, pride of praying: how much apostasy, unstedfastness, and unconstancy; the goodness of many is like the morning cloud, and early dew, that passeth away.
6. Another witness is indifferency. The great indifferency that is among many professed Christians, shows their want of purity: they are indifferent whom, and what they hear: indifferent whether they perform duty or not; whether they attend ordinances or not: “Galio cared for none of those things.” Surely, where there is much indifferency, there is little holiness, little purity.
7. The seventh witness is gross immorality. And here, will not the gross abominations of the day and generation, and of the congregation witness against them, that they are not washed from their filthiness?—Is the drunkard washed from his drunkenness? Is the whoremonger washed from his whoredom? Is the adulterer washed from his adulteries? Is the malicious man washed from his malice? Are not many become shameless in sinning, when the Lord is calling for mourning? “And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth; and, behold! joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine; let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die,” (Isa. 22:12,13). There were a pack that made a jest of dying, and made a mock of a future state: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we must die;” if we must have a short life, let us have a merry one. Here is atheism rampant: denial of their future state lying at the root of their brutish sensuality.—Many discover their gross immorality by mock-confession: like the French king that carried a crucifix in his hat, and when he had done anything amiss he would kiss that, as a sufficient atonement. Many who call themselves Christians, when they have committed any gross sin, they confess it, with a “God forgive me;” returning with the dog to the vomit. —They evidence their immorality by their unreproveableness as is manifest from their carriage to them that admonish them do they count them their best friends? Nay, their heart rises and rages against them. How stand they affected towards the word, when it reproves them, and rubs upon their lusts, and crosses their delights? They count it enmity and folly. They evidence their gross immorality by their filthy communications, and filthy conversations, (
Col. 3:8; 2 Pet. 2:7).
8. The eighth witness is carelessness about, and contempt of the means of purity. Doth the neglect of the means of purity witness against you? For example, prayer is a mean; secret prayer, social prayer, family prayer, fellowship prayer: do you live in the neglect of these? Yea; then doth not this witness your impurity. The word is a mean; hearing the word attentively, reading the word diligently, hiding the word in your heart carefully, like David; “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Now, what diligent use do you make of the word? Are you careless in hearing, especially on week‑days, notwithstanding of convenient opportunity? Are you careless in reading the bible from Sabbath to Sabbath? Why, the very dust of your bibles will witness against you. I have read of one, that presented Antipater, the king of Macedon, with a book that treated of happiness: he refused it, saying, “I am not at leisure.” Many have the book by them; yea, presented to them by Christ, that treats of everlasting happiness, but they slight the present: “I am not at leisure,” say they. They have opportunity of hearing the word opened on week‑days, as well as Sabbath‑days; but they are not at leisure. They have means of knowledge, diets of catechizing, for clearing the same word; but they are not at leisure. They have many precious seasons of grace, seasons of prayer, seasons of duty: but they are not at leisure. They take leisure to their own work, their worldly work, yea, for idle conversation; but they have no leisure for God’s work, their soul’s work, eternal work.
What! are not these things so many witnesses against you, that you are impure? I might produce multitudes of more witnesses; but by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every truth shall be confirmed; and these witnesses that I have adduced at the time, are sufficient for proving the charge. O then, will you take with the reproof: and take home the conviction of your impurity and unholiness?
I shall close with two advices, in order to deliver you from this impurity that prevails.
Advice 1. Seek after the knowledge of Christ, and the things of Christ. Knowledge of Christ, in a saving way and manner, will strike at the root of all impurity, for, “Beholding his glory we are changed.” And particularly seek after the knowledge of this purity and sanctity, that I speak of, in its agreement with and difference from justification: for, the confounding of these two, makes many legal dreams in the world. Wherein it agrees with justification, and wherein it differs, I have had occasion formerly to enlarge upon. They agree thus: 1. In their efficient; the God that justifies is also the God that sanctifies. 2. In their end; they are both for the glory of God. 3. In their subject; the elect sinner believing: the man that is justified is also the man that is sanctified. 4. In the instrument, namely, faith. Though in divers respects we are justified by faith, and also sanctified by faith, or purified; yet, in justification faith justifies as a passive instrument, as a vessel receiving the water; in sanctification, faith sanctifies and purifies as an active instrument, as a root and a spring bullering up the water. In justification, faith is a hand receiving, a receiving hand; in sanctification, it is a working hand. Also, justification is first) in order of nature; sanctification is next: as the good tree is before the good fruit. In justification a man is reckoned righteous; in sanctification, he is made righteous: in justification, he is declared righteous, by a judicial sentence; in sanctification, he is fashioned and made righteous and holy, by a spiritual change. In justification, I have Christ for the Lord my righteousness; in sanctification, I have him for the Lord my strength. Our righteousness for justification is in him, as the author and worker of it: our strength for sanctification is in him, as the root and fountain of it, from whence it is communicated to us. In justification, he works all our works for us, and we do nothing! in sanctification, he works all our work in us, and makes us do, while he worketh in us both to will and to do.
Advice 2. Having thus been brought by the knowledge of Christ and his grace, to a renewed state, then, pursue your spiritual enemies and lusts, and be daily throwing stones at them, till they be killed. I allude to 1 Samuel 17:40, where David, in defeating Goliath, took five smooth stones out of the brook, and cast at him. In allusion to this, I will tell you of five stones that you should daily cast at your lusts. (1.) The stone of instituted means, and appointed ordinances. Is prayer a mean? is the word a mean? Use these means in the Lord’s strength. (2.) The stone of scriptural argument; such as Joseph’s argument; “Shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” David’s argument; shall I do so and so? “Then would I offend the generation of the righteous.” (3.) The stone of gospel‑promises: such as that; “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit,” &c. “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.” Plead the promises, and cry for the grace promised. (4.) The stone of Christ’s mediation and prayer; “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth. While they are in the world, keep them from the evil of it,” (John 17:15,17). Improve the intercession of Christ. (5.) The stone of Christ’s death and passion. His crucifixion is that, in the virtue whereof sin is crucified. Improve his death, and look for virtue to come from thence.—Look to the Lord for grace and skill to cast these stones into the head of Goliath.
1 The reader may see this point of doctrine, viz. the difference between Justification and Sanctification, further illustrated, and their difference still more copiously held forth, and their harmony pointed out in a great many instances, Gospel Sonnets, Part VI., Chap. iii., Sect. i. 2.