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stones, and are still dying ordinary deaths. What is the true cause of this ? On what ground doth a holy God thus pursue them? Is it the sin of their parents? That may be the occasion of the Lord's raising the process against them; but it must be their own sin, that is the ground of the sentence passing on them ; for, “ the soul that sinneth it shall die,” saith God, Ezek. xviii. 4. Is it their own actual sin? They have none. But as men do with toads and serpents, which they kill at first sight, before they have done any hurt, because of their venemous nature; so it is in this case.
(2.) In the birth of the elect children of God. When the Lord is about to change their nature, he makes the sin of their nature lie heavy on their spirits. When he minds to let out the corruption, the lance gets full depth in their souls, reaching to the root of sin, Rom. vii. 7, 8, 9. The flesh or corruption of nature is pierced, being crucified, as well as the affections and lusts, Gal. v. 24. USE. Let us then a special eye upon
corruption and sin of our nature. God sees it: that we saw it too, and that sin were ever before us! What avails it to notice other sins, while this mother-sin is not noticed ? Turn your eyes inward to the sin of your nature. It is to be feared, many have this work to begin yet; that they have shut the door, while the grand thief is yet in the house undiscovered. This is a weighty point; and in the handling of it,
I. I shall, for conviction, point at some evidences of mens overlooking the sin of their nature, which yet the Lord takes particular notice of. (1.) Mens looking on themselves with such confidence, as if they were in no hazard
gross sins. Many would take it very heinously, to get such a caution, as Christ gave his Apostles, Luke xxi. 34. “Take heed of surfeiting and drunkenness." If any should suppose them to break out in gross abominations, they would be ready to say, Am I a dog? It would raise the pride of their hearts, but not their fear and trembling; because they know not the corruption of their nature. (2.) Untenderness towards those that fall. Many in that case cast off all bowels of Christian compassion; for they do not “ consider themselves, lest they also be tempted,” Gal. vi. 1. Mens passions are often highest against the faults of others,
when sin sleeps soundly in their own breasts. Even good David, when he was at his worst, was most violent against the faults of others. While his conscience was asleep under his guilt, in the matter of Uriah ; the Spirit of the Lord takes notice, that his anger was greatly kindled against the man, in the parable, 2 Sam. xii. 5. And on good grounds it is thought, it was at the same time that he treated the Ammonites so cruelly, as is related, ver. 31. “ Putting them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and making them pass through the brickkiln.” Grace makes men zealous against sin in others, as well as in themselves ; but eyes turned inward to the cor. ruption of nature, clothe them with pity and compassion ; and fill them with thankfulness to the Lord, that they themselves were not the persons left to be such spectacles of human frailty. (3.) There are not a few, who, if they be kept from affliction in worldly things, and from gross outbreakings in their conversation, know not what it is to have a sad heart. If they meet with a cross, which their proud hearts cannot stoop to bear, they will be ready to say, 0 to be gone; but the corruption of their nature never makes them long for heaven. Lusts scandalously breaking out at a time will mar their peace; but the sin of their nature never makes them a heavy heart. (4.) Delaying of repentance, in hopes to set about it afterwards. Many have their own appointed time for repentance and reformation; as if they were such complete masters over theirlusts, that they can allow them to gather more strength, and yet overcome them. They take up resolutions to amend, without an eye to Jesus Christ, union with him, and strength from him ; a plain evidence that they are strangers to themselves; and so they are left to themselves, and their flourishing resolutions wither; for as they see not the necessity, so they get not the benefit of the dew from heaven to water them. (5.) Mens venturing frankly on temptations, and promising liberally on their own heads. They cast themselves fearlessly into temptation, in confidence of coming off fairly; but were they sensible of the corruption of their nature, they would beware of entering on the devil's ground : As one girt about with bags of gun-powder, would be loth to walk where sparks of fire are flying, lest he should be blown up. Self-jealousing well becomes Christians : Lord, is it I? They that know the deceit of their bow, will not be very confident that they shall hit the mark. (6.) Unacquaintedness with heart-plagues. The knowledge of the plagues of the heart is a rare qualification. There are indeed some of them written in such great characters, that he who runs may read them ; but there are others more subtile, which few do discern. How few are there, to whom the bias of the heart to unbelief is a burthen ? Nay they perceive it not. Many have had sharp convictions of other sins, that were never to this day convinced of their unbelief; though that is the sin specially aimed at in a thorough conviction, John xvi. 8, 9. “ He will reprove the world of sing because they believe not on me.” A disposition to establish our own righteousness is a weed that naturally grows in every man's heart; but few sweat at the plucking of it up; it lurks undiscovered. The bias of the heart, to the way of the covenant of works, is a hidden plague of the heart to many.
All the difficulty they find is, in getting up their hearts to duties; they find no difficulty in getting their hearts off them, and over them to Jesus Christ. How hard is it to stave men off from their own righteousñess ? Yet it is very hard to convince them of their leaning to it at all. Lastly, Pride and self-conceit. A view of the corruption of nature would be very humbling, and oblige him that has it to reckon himself the chief of sinners. Under greatest attainments and enlargements, it would be ballast to his heart, and hide pride from his eyes. The want of thorough humiliation, piercing to the sin of one's nature, is the ruin of many professors; fordigging deep makes great difference betwixt wise and foolish builders, Luke vi. 48,49. II. I will lay before you a few things, in which ye
should have a special eye to the sin of your nature. (1.) Have a special eye to it in your application to Jesus Christ. Do you find
any need of Christ, which sends you to him as the Physician of souls? O forget not your disease when you are with the Physician. They never yet knew well their errand to Christ, that went not to him for the sin of their nature ; for his blood to take away the guilt of it, and his Spirit to break the power of it. Though in the bitterness of your souls, you should lay before him a catalogue of your sins of omission and commission, which might reach from earth to heaven ; yet, if the sin of your nature were want. ing in it, assure yourselves you have forgot the best part of the errand a poor sinner has to the Physician of souls. What would it have availed the people of Jericho, to have set before Elisha all the vessels in their city full of the water that was naught, if they had not led him forth to the spring, to cast in the salt there? 2 Kings ii. 19, 20, 21. The application is easy. (2.) Have a special eye towards it in your repentance, whether initial or progressive, in
your first repentance, and in the renewing of your repentance, afterwards. Though a man be sick, there is no fear of death, if the sickness strike not his heart; and there is as little fear of the death of sin, as long as the sin of our nature is not touched. But if ye would repent indeed, let the streams lead you up to the fountain ; and mourn over your corrupt nature, as the cause of all sin, in heart, lip, and life, Psalm li. 4, 5. “ Against thee, thee only have I sinncd, and done this evil in thy sight.----_Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (3.) Have a special eye upon it in your mortification, Gal. v. 24. " And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh." It is the root of bitterness that must be struck at, which the axe of mortification must be laid to; else we labour in vain. In vain do men go about to purge the streams, while they are at no pains about the muddy fountain : It is vain religion to attempt to make the life truly good, while the corruption of nature retains its ancient vigour, and the power of it is not broken. Lastly, Ye are to eye it in your daily walk. He that would walk aright, must have one eye upwards to Jesus Christ, and another inward to the corruption of his own nature. It is not enough that we look about us, we must also look with
Tliere the wall is weakest; there our greatest enemy lies; and there are grounds for daily watching and mourning
III. I shall offer some reasons, why we should especially notice the sin of our nature.
1. Because of all sins it is the most extensive and diffusive. It goes through the whole man, and spoils all. Other sins mar particular parts of the image of God; but this doth at once deface the whole. A disease affecting any particular member of the body is ill; but that which
cts the whole is worse. The corruption of nature is
the poison of the old serpent, cast into the fountain of action; and so infects every action, every breathing of the soul.
2. It is the cause of all particular lusts, and actual sins, in our hearts and lives. It is the spawn which the great Leviathan has left in the souls of men; from whence comes all the fry of actual sins and abominations. Mark vii. 21. « Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries,” &c. It is the bitter fountain ; particular lusts are but rivulets running from it, which bring forth into the life, a part only, and not the whole of what is within. Now the fountain is still above the streams; so where the water is good, it is best in the fountain; where it is ill, it is worst there. The corruption of nature being that which defiles all, itself must needs be the abominable thing.
3. It is virtually all sin ; for it is the seed of all sins, which want but the occasion to set up their heads ; being in the corruption of nature, as the effect in the virtue of its
Hence it is called a body of death, Rom. vii. 24. as consisting of the several members, belonging to such a body of sins, Col. ii. 11. whose life lies in spiritual death. It is the cursed ground, fit to bring forth all manner of noxious weeds. As the whole nest of venemous creatures must needs be more dreadful than any few of them that come creeping forth ; so the sin of thy nature, that mother of abominations, must be worse than any particular lusts, that appear stirring in thy heart and life. Never did every sin appear in the conversation of the vilest wretch that ever lived; but look thou into thy corrupt nature, and there thou mayest see all, and every sin in the seed and root thereof. There is a fulness of all unrighteousness there, Rom. i. 29. There is atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, and whatsoever is vile. Possibly none of these appear to thee in thy heart; but there is more in that unfathomable depth of wickedness than thou knowest. Thy corrupt heart is like an ant's nest, on which, while the stone lieth, none of them appear; buttake off the stone, stir them
up but with the point of a straw, you will see what a swarm is there, and how lively they be.
Just such a sight would thy heart afford thee, did the Lord but withdraw the restraint he has upon it, and suffer Satan to stir it up by temptation.