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8. They are not condemned, fifthly, for sins of infirmity, as they are usually called. Perhaps it were advisable rather to call them infirmities, that we may not seem to give any countenance to sin, or to extenuate it in any degree, by thus coupling it with infirmity. But (if we must retain 80 ambiguous and dangerous an expression,) by sins of infirmity I would mean, such involuntary failings, as the saying a thing we believe true, though, in fact, it prove to be false; or the hurting our neighbour without knowing or designing it, perhaps when we designed to do him good. Though these are deviations from the holy, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, yet they are not properly sins, nor do they bring any guilt on the conscience of " them which are in Christ Jesus." They separate not between God and them, neither intercept the light of his countenance; as being no ways inconsistent with their general character of “ walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
9. Lastly, “ There is no condemnation” to them for any thing whatever, which it is not in their power to help ; whether it be of an inward or outward nature, and whether it be doing something, or leaving something undone. For instance, the Lord's supper is to be administered; but you do not partake thereof. Why do you not ? You are confined by sickness; therefore, you cannot help omitting it; and for the same reason you are not condemned. There is no guilt, because there is no choice. As there" is a willing mind, it is accepted, according to that a man hath, not according to that he hath not."
10. A believer indeed may sometimes be grieved, because he cannot do what his soul longs for. He may cry out, when he is detained from worshipping God in the great congregation, “ Like as the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, oh God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: when shall I come to appear in the presence of God ?" He may earnestly desire (only still saying in his heart, “ Not as I will, but as thou wilt”) to“ go again with the multitude, and bring them forth into the house of God." But still if he cannot go, he feels no condemnation, no guilt, no sense of God's displeasure ; but can cheerfully yield up those desires with, “Oh, my soul ! put thy trust in God. For I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance and my God.”
il. It is more difficult to determine concerning those which are usually styled, sins of surprise : as when one who commonly in patience possesses his soul, on a sudden and violent temptation, speaks or acts in a manner not consistent with the royal law, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Perhaps it is not easy to fix a general rule, concerning transgressions of this nature. We cannot say, either that men are, or that they are not condemned, for sins of surprise in general. But it seems, whenever a believer is by surprise overtaken in a fault, there is more or less condemnation, as there is more or less concurrence of his will. In proportion as a sinful desire, or word or action, is more or less voluntary, so we may conceive God is more or less displeased; and there is more or less guilt upon the soul.
12. But if so, then there may be some sins of surprise, which bring much guilt and condemnation. For, in some instances, our being sur prised is owing to some wilful and culpable neglect; or, to a sleepiness o soul which might have been prevenied, or shaken off before the tempta tion came. A man may be previously warned either of God or man, that trials and dangers are at hand; and yet may say in his heart, “A little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to rest." Now, if such a one afterwards fall, though unawares, into the snare which he might have avoided, that he fell unawares is no excuse; he might have foreseen and have shunned the danger. The falling, even by surprise, in such an instance as this, is, in effect, a wilful sin; and, as such, must expose the sinner to condemnation, both from God and his own conscience.
13. On the other hand, there may be sudden assaults, either from the world, or the god of this world, and frequently from our own evil hearts, which we did not, and hardly could, foresee. And by these even a believer, while weak in faith, may possibly be borne down, suppose into a degree of anger, or thinking evil of another, with scarce any concurrence of his will. Now, in such a case, the jealous God would undoubtedly show him that he had done foolishly. He would be convinced of having swerved from the perfect law, from the mind which was in Christ, and consequently, grieved with a godly sorrow, and lovingly ashamed before God. Yet need he not come into condemnation. God layeth not folly to his charge, but hath compassion upon him, “ even as a father pitieth his own children." And his heart condemneth him not; in the midst of that sorrow and shame, he can still say, “I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song ; he also is become my salvation."
III. 1. It remains only to draw some practical inferences from the preceding considerations.
And, first, if there be “ no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, and walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," on account of their past sin; then, why art thou fearful, oh thou of little faith ? Though thy sins were once more in number than the sand, what is that to thee, now thou art in Christ Jesus ? “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth ; who is he that condemneth ?" All the sins thou hast committed from thy youth up, until the hour when thou wast" accepted in the Beloved," are driven away as chaff, are gone, are lost, swallowed up, remembered no more Thou art now" born of the Spirit :" wilt thou be troubled or afraid of what is done before thou wert born ? Away with thy fears! Thou art not called to fear, but to the “ spirit of love and of a sound mind." Know thy calling! Rejoice in God thy Saviour, and give thanks to God thy Father through him!
2. Wilt thou say, “But I have again committed sin, since I had redemption through his blood ? And therefore it is, that I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'” It is meet thou shouldest abhor thyself; and it is God who hath wrought thee to this self-same thing. But, dost thou now believe? Hath he again enabled thee to say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth ;' " and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God ?” Then that faith again cancels all that is past, and there is no condemnation to thee. At whatsoever time thou truly believest in the name of the Son of God, all thy sins, antecedent to that hour, vanish away as the morning dew. Now then, “ Stand thou fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made thee free." He hath once more made thee free from the power of sin, as well as from the guilt and punishment of it. Oh," be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage !"-neither the vile, devilish bondage of sin, of evil desires, evil tempers, or words, or works, the most grievous yoke on this side hell ; nor the bondage of slavish, tormenting fear, of guilt and self condemnation.
3. But, secondly: Do all they which abide “ in Christ Jesus, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit ?" Then we cannot but infer, that whosoever now committeth sin, hath no part or lot in this matter. He is even now condemned by his own heart. But, “ if our heart condemn us,” if our own conscience beareth witness that we are guilty, undoubtedly God doth; for “he is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things;" so that we cannot deceive him, if we can ourselves. And think not to say, “ I was justified once; my sins were once forgiven me:" I know not that; neither will I dispute whether they were or no. Perhaps, at this distance of time, it is next to impossible to know with any tolerable degree of certainty whether that was a true, genuine work of God, or whether thou didst only deceive thy own soul. But this I know, with the utmost degree of certainty,“ He that committeth sin is of the devil.” Therefore, thou art of thy father the devil. It cannot be denied : for the works of thy father thou doest. Oh flatter not thyself with vain hopes. Say not to thy soul, Peace, peace! For there is no peace. Cry aloud ! Cry unto God out of the deep; if haply he may hear thy voice. Come unto him, as at first, as wretched and poor, as sinful, miserable, blind, and naked! And beware thou suffer thy soul to take no rest, till his pardoning love be again revealed; till he“ healthy backslidings,” and fill thee again with the “ faith that worketh by love."
4. Thirdly, Is there no condemnation to them which " walk after the Spirit,” by reason of inward sin still remaining, so long as they do not give way thereto; nor by reason of sin cleaving to all they do. Then fret not thyself because of ungodliness, though it still remain in thy heart. Repine not, because thou still comest short of the glorious image of God; nor yet because pride, self will, or unbelief, cleave to all thy words and works. And be not afraid to know all this evil of thy heart, to know thyself as also thou art known. Yea, desire of God, that thou mayest not think of thyself more highly than thou oughtest to think. Let thy continual prayer be,
“ Show me, as my soul can bear,
The depth of inbred sin:
The pride that lorks within.” But when he heareth thy prayer, and unveils thy heart; when he shows thee thoroughly what spirit thou art of; then beware that thy faith fail thee not, that thou suffer not thy shield to be torn from thee. Be abased. Be humbled in the dust. See thyself nothing, less than nothing and vanity. But still “ let not thy heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Still hold fast, “ I, even I, have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” “ And as the heavens are higher than the earth, so is his love higher than even my sins.” Therefore, God is merciful to thee a sinner! Such a sinner as thou art! God is love ;' and Christ hath died! Therefore, the Father himself loveth thee! Thou art his child! Therefore he will withhold from thee no manner of thing that is good. Is it good, that the whole body of sin, which is now crucified in thee, should be destroyed ? It shall be done! Thou shalt be
cleansed from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit.” Is it good, that nothing should remain in thy heart, but the pure love of God alone? Be of good cheer! “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.” “ Faithful is he that hath promised, who also will do it.” It is thy part, patiently to continue in the work of faith, and in the labour of love ; and in cheerful peace, in humble confidence, with calm and resigned, and yet earnest expectation, to wait till the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
5. Fourthly, If they that “are in Christ, and walk after the Spirit," are not condemned for sins of infirmity, as neither for involuntary failings, nor for any thing whatever which they are not able to help; then beware, oh thou that hast faith in his blood, that Satan herein “ gain no advantage over thee.” Thou art still foolish and weak, blind and ignorant; more weak than any words can express ; more foolish than it can yet enter into thy heart to conceive; knowing nothing yet as thou oughtest to know. Yet let not all thy weakness and folly, or any fruit thereof, which thou art not yet able to avoid, shake thy faith, thy filial trust in God, or disturb thy peace or joy in the Lord. The rule which some give, as to wilful sins, and which, in that case, may perhaps be dangerous, is undoubtedly wise and safe, if it be applied only to the case of weakness and infirmities. Art thou fallen, oh man of God? Yet, do not lie there, fretting thyself and bemoaning thy weakness ; but meekly say, Lord, I shall fall thus every moment, unless thou uphold me with thy hand. And then arise! Leap and walk! Go on thy way! “ Run with patience the race set before thee." ;
6. Lastly. Since a believer need not come into condemnation, even though he be surprised into what his soul abhors; (suppose his being surprised is not owing to any carelessness or wilful neglect of his own ;) if thou who believest, art thus overtaken in a fault, then grieve unto the Lord; it shall be a precious balm : pour out thy heart before him, and show him of thy trouble. And pray with all thy might to him who is “ touched with the feeling of thy infirmities," that he would establish, and strengthen, and settle thy soul, and suffer thee to fall no more But still he condemneth thee not. Wherefore shouldest thou fear! Thou hast no need of any “ fear that hath torment.” Thou shalt love him that loveth thee, and it sufficeth: more love will bring more strength. And, as soon as thou lovest him with all thy hcart, thou shalt be “perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” Wait in peace for that hour, when “the God of peace shall sanctify thee wholly, so that thy whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ i"
SERMON IX.--The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption. “ Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father,” Rom. viii, 15.
1. St. Paul here speaks to those who are the children of God by faith. “Ye,” saith he, who are indeed his children, have drank into his Spirit; " ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear;" “but, because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son
into your hearts.” “ Ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
2. The spirit of bondage and fear is widely distant from this loving spirit of adoption : those who are influenced only by slavish fear, cannot be termed "the sons of God;" yet some of them may be styled his servants, and are “ not far from the kingdom of heaven.”
3. But it is to be feared, the bulk of mankind, yea, of what is called the Christian world, have not attained even this ; but are still afar off, “ neither is God in all their thoughts.” A few names may be found of chose who love God; a few more there are that fear him; but the greater part have neither the fear of God before their eyes, nor the love of God in their hearts.
4. Perhaps most of you, who, by the mercy of God now partake of a better spirit, may remember the time when ye were as they, when ye were under the same condemnation. But at first ye knew it not, though ye were wallowing daily in your sins and in your blood ; till, in due time, ye “received the spirit of fear;” (ye received, for this also is the gift of God ;) and afterwards fear vanished away, and the spirit of love filled your hearts..
5. One who is in the first state of mind, without fear or love, is in Scripture termed a natural man. One who is under the spirit of bondage and fear, is sometimes said to be under the law : (although that expression more frequently signifies one who is under the Jewish dispensation, or who thinks himself obliged to observe all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law :) but cne who has exchanged the spirit of fear for the spirit of love, is properly said to be under grace.
Now, because it highly imports us to know what spirit we are of, I shall endeavour to point out distinctly, First, The state of a natural man: Secondly, That of one who is under the law : and, Thirdly, of one who is under grace.
I. 1. And, first, the state of a natural man. This the Scripture represents as a state of sleep: the voice of God to him is, “Awake, thou that sleepest.” For his soul is in a deep sleep: his spiritual senses are not awake: they discern neither spiritual good nor evil. The eyes of his understanding are closed; they are sealed together, and see not. Clouds and darkness continually rest upon them; for he lies in the valley of the shadow of death. Hence, having no inlets for the knowledge of spiritual things, all the avenues of his soul being shut up, he is in gross, stupid ignorance of whatever he is most concerned to know. He is utterly ignorant of God, knowing nothing concerning him as he ought to know. He is totally a stranger to the law of God, as to its true, inward, spiritual meaning. He has no conception of that evangelical holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord ; nor of the happiness, which they only find, whose “ life is bid with Christ in God.”
2. And, for this very reason, because he is fast asleep, he is, in some sense, at rest. Because he is blind he is also secure : he saith “Tush, there shall no harm happen unto me.” The darkness which covers him on every side, keeps him in a kind of peace; so far as peace can .consist with the works of the devil, and with an earthly, devilish mind. He sees not that he stands on the edge of the pit, therefore he fears it not. He cannot tremble at the danger he does not know. He has not understanding enough to fear. Why is it that lie is in no dread of God ?