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danger, lest the sight of their guilt in its true reflection, should offend them. As love is blind to others, so especially to one's self; and mercenary wretches, by the most vile flattery, endeavour to make them believe of themselves, what is pleasing to them to believe.. Such, to ingratiate, will commend the mere shadows of virtue, as substantial virtue; and excuse real gross vices, as but the shadows of vice. By deceitful arts they colour and conceal the native ugliness of sin, under a thin appearance and name of * virtue. The arrogant and revengeful, they call generous ; the covetous, frugal; the lascivious, gentle; the prodigal, magnificent; the malicious, wary and cautious; the brie tish and secure, courageous. The conversation of such is infinitely dangerous and corrupting: for under the disguise of friendship they are the most deadly enemies. What greater danger of being poisoned can there be, than when by art the taste of poison is taken away from the poison, and there is no suspicion of the traitor that gives it ? Thus it is further evident, that prosperity is very dangerous to the souls of men.
6. The prosperity of sinners usually renders the means of grace ineffectual, that should reclaim and reform them, and consequently their destruction is remediless. The means of grace are internal or external : internal, the motions of the Holy Spirit, and the convictions and excitations of conscience: external, the ministry of the word, and the counsels of faithful friends ; all which are usually made frustrate and inefficacious by the vices and lusts of the prosperous.
(1.) Prosperity makes sinners more incapable of receiving the heavenly impressions of the Spirit, and obstinate in resisting his gracious working. “ The flesh and the Spirit are contrary :" Gal. 5. And accordingly as the carnal appetite has dominion and overrules in men, such is their opposition to his restraints from evil, or his motions to what is holy and good. sual have not the Spirit.” Jude. They wilfully refuse to give admission to him, when by inward impulses he solicits them; and have a stubborn and active contrariety to his attributes and gracious operations. He is styled “ the Spirit of power, and love, and a sound mind.” He communicates a sacred sovereign virtue to the soul, whereby the irregular passions are reduced to the obedience of the sanctified mind, and the reigning power of sin is dissolved. He is a free spirit, and restores the soul to true and perfect liberty, by enlarging the will, and making it commensurate with the divine will : and from hence it is the inseparable character of a converted person, he is willing to do what God will have him do, and to be what God will have him be. But sensual persons, by the pleasant infusions of servility from the tempter, and carnal objects, have lost their power and * desire of spiritual liberty, and resist the Holy Spirit, when he offers to break the bands of their lusts. The Spirit in converting the soul, inspires it with heavenly love to God for the ever-satisfying beauty of his perfections; and from love proceeds intellectual delight in communion with him, in affectionate ascents to him, and his gracious descents to the soul : but the sensual are fastened in the mire of their sordid pleasures, and can take no heavenly flight, and relish no divine comforts. The Spirit produces a sound mind,” to judge sincerely of things as they are. And from hence the corrupting vanities of the world lose their attractive charms, and eternal things appear in their reality and excellency, and are chosen and sought with persevering diligence. But the sensual heart is a perpetual furnace, whose smoke darkens the mind, that it cannot discover sublime and heavenly excellencies; and whose impure heat fires the will, that it is earnest in the pursuit of fleshly pleasures. Briefly, nothing does more quench the Spirit in his illuminating, quickening, and attractive operations, than sensuality: and nothing more heightens sensuality, and increases the averseness of carnal men to the holy law of God, and makes their conversion more difficult than prosperity. Indeed, the Spirit of God can by effectual grace convert the most unprepared habituate sinner, the most obstinate enemy of holiness; he can melt the most rocky stubborn heart, into a holy softness and compliance with its duty; for creating power is of infallible efficacy; and there are some objects and miracles of divine grace, that are the everlasting monuments of its glorious power in subduing the most fierce violence of rebellious sinners, But the Spirit of God does not work as natural agents, that are active to the extent of their power. The winds blow with all their force, and the sun enlightens the air with all its lustre,
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* Nullis vitiis desunt pretiosa nomina. Plin,
The holy Spirit is an intelligent and voluntary agent, whose power in working is regulated by his will, and directed by his wisdom. There are some things repugnant to the divine attributes, that it is impossible God should do them: the apostle saith, “ that God cannot lie,” for it is contrary to his truth, one of his essential perfections. And it is as impossible that he should do any thing unbecoming his wisdom. He threatened the sensual world, “my Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he is flesh;" Gen. 6. that is, corrupt and indulgent to his fleshly appetites, and always opposing and controlling the puré motions of the Spirit. We read that our Saviour “ could do no mighty works in his own country, because of their unbelief :" Mark 6. 5. not as if their infidelity abated his divine power, but they were unprepared to receive benefit by them, his miracles would have been cast away upon such inconvincible persons. Who will sow the barren sands, or water dead plants, or give a rich cordial to a furious patient that will spill it on the ground? And it is an act of justice to deprive sinners of those inspirations which they
have so long resisted. Those who are tender and tractable, and | unfeignedly resign up themselves to his conduct in the ways of
life, shall receive more powerful influences to perfect the blessed work begun in them: “he will give more grace to the humble:” but those who are so far from valuing his graces and comforts, that should be received with the highest respect, that they ungratefully despise them, and rebel against his motions and counsels, he righteously deserts. St. Stephen in his charge against the Jews, to complete the aggravation of their sins, reproaches them; “ye stiffnecked, and uncircumcised in heart, and ears, ye always resisted the Holy Ghost.” Acts 7. The obstinate sinner rebels against his authority, and contemns his mercy. The tempter with his charms is presently entertained, as the devils easily entered into the swine ; but the Holy Spirit with his gracious offers is rejected. Wretched indignity! rather to obey a slave and an enemy, than the lawful sovereign.
If the saints grieve the Spirit of God, by a wilful neglect of his assisting grace, and fall into presumptuous sins, although from the perfection of his nature he is not capable of passionate grief, yet he infinitely dislikes their sins. And as grief when it is oppressing, causes the spirits to retire to the heart, and nature is as it were shut up in its springs, and obstructed from communicating agility and vivacity in the ordinary operations of the senses : thus the Holy Spirit when grieved withdraws, and there follow a disconsolate eclipse and interruption of his reviving quickening presence. But the indulgent habituate sinners, provoke him finally to leave them to their own lusts. It is true, bis deserting them is usually gradual, as in a consumptive person the stomach, the colour, the strength, decline by degrees, till nature sinks irrecoverably under the disease ; so the motions of the Spirit in those who have often repelled them, are not so frequent and vigorous as before; his after-calls are weaker, wasting, and dying every day, till his total withdrawing from them. How fearful and hopeless is the state of such a sinner? This spiritual judgment always proceeds from inexorable severity, and ends in the eternal ruin of sinners. For without the Spirit's supernatural working, they can never be “ renewed to repentance," never reconciled to God. They may for a time live in a voluptuous course, or follow the business of the world; and a little breath may separate between them and hell, but they shall at last die in their sins, in an unpardonable state for ever. It is said of the Jews, “they rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit, therefore he turned to be their enemy, and fought against them.”
(2.) The convictions and excitations of conscience are prevented, or made ineffectual by the prosperity of sinners. - Conscience is the applicative mind that respects practice ; it directs in our duty, both by inhibitions from what is evil, and by instigations to what is good; and by comparing our actions with the rule, testifies our innocence or guilt, and approves or condemns us.
This intellectual ray was planted in us by the wise God in our creation, and extended to the divine law, the object and end of it, to keep us to our duty. And since our revolt, it is being enlightened and sanctified the vital principle of conversion to God, the powerful means of rescuing the lapsed soul from its prostitution to the flesh, and recovering it to a temper of purity becoming its original excellence, and relation to the Father of spirits. It is true, the law of God is the primary rule of our duty, and the Holy Spirit is the efficient of our renovation ; but the enlightened conscience is the immediate rule, and the immediate inover of us to return to our duty. And if conscience, which is the eye of the soul, be covered with a film of ignorance, if it be bleared with the false glitterings of the world, if it totally neglects its office, or makes but a cold application of saving terrors that may control the licentious appetites, if it be disregarded, when it suggests and excites to our duty, the sinner is hardened and settled in his lost state. Now prosperity foments the sensual affections, that obscure the light of conscience, that corrupt its judgment, that smother and suppress its dictates, or despise and slight them, that it is powerless, though constituted God's deputy to order our lives.
Affected ignorance is the usual concomitant of sensual lusts : for the enlightened conscience will convince, and condemn men for their pollutions, and force them here to feel the beginning of sorrows, and thereby make them apprehensive what the issues and consummation will be hereafter, and this will cast an aspersion of bitterness upon their sweet sins, and lessen the full pleasure of them. From hence our Saviour tells us, “Every one that loves to do evil, hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved;" John 3. 20. that is, by the instructed and awakened conscience. Men love darkness to cover their nakedness and foul deformity. They are averse from knowing their duty, and will not search, lest they should discover such terrible truths that cross their sensual humour. The apostle foretels, “ That scoffers should come in the last days, who are willingly ignorant," 2 Pet. 3. 5. of the beginning and end of the world, as if there were no divine maker of all things, who has power to destroy them, and consequently no judge to whom men must be accountable for their disobedience to his laws: they assent to the most evident absurdity, that all things were and shall continue in the same tenor: and the cause of their willing ignorance is insinuated in the character that describes them, that they "might walk after their own lusts,” more securely, freely, and joyfully.
Sensual lusts do not only hinder men's search after knowledge, but obscure the light of conscience, and corrupt its judgment. There is such an intimate communion between the soul and the body, that interchangeably they corrupt one another : the sins of the flesh sink into the spirit, and corrupt the moral principles, from whence the sensible conscience springs of good and evil. And the sins of the spirit, infidelity, incogitancy, error, security, break out in the deeds of the body, and make the flesh more out