The just vindication of the Law of God, and no less just accusation and condemnation of the sin of man.

Ralph Venning


Section Three




Nothing is so evil as sin; nothing is evil but sin. As the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us, so neither the sufferings of this life nor of that to come are worthy to be compared as evil with the evil of sin. No evil is displeasing to God or destructive to man but the evil of sin. Sin is worse than affliction, than death, than Devil, than Hell. Affliction is not so afflictive, death is not so deadly, the Devil not so devilish, Hell not so hellish as sin is. This will help to fill up the charge against its sinfulness, especially as it is contrary to and against the good of man.

The four evils I have just named are truly terrible, and from all of them everyone is ready to say, Good Lord, deliver us! Yet none of these, nor all of them together, are as bad as sin. Therefore our prayers should be more to be delivered from sin, and if God hear no prayer else, yet as to this we should say, We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!

(1) It is worse than any evil affliction

There are afflictions of several kinds, and they are all called evils. 'Is there any evil (of any kind whatever) in the city and I have not done it?' (Amos 3.6), says the Lord. You see that God will own himself the author of that evil, but not of sin, for that is a bastard begotten and bred by another. The evils of plagues and afflictions are brought by God, though deserved by sin. And now indeed no affliction seems to be joyous for the present (Hebrews 12.1); although they are not to be desired yet they may be endured. Sin on the contrary is neither to be desired nor endured. Any sin is worse than any suffering, one sin than all suffering, and the least sin than the greatest suffering.

What then? Is sin worse than to be whipped, to be burnt or to be sawn asunder? Yes, by a great deal! It is clear from what our Saviour says: 'Fear not them that can kill but fear him that can damn' (Matthew 10.28). That is, it is better to be killed than to be damned. You may more easily suffer from man than sin against God. One may suffer and not sin, but it is impossible to sin and not to suffer. They who avoid suffering by sinning, sin themselves into worse suffering.

This seems to be clear enough. Yet the truth is so seldom properly applied until it is believed, and seldom believed until it is fully proved. I shall therefore demonstrate more fully that sin is worse than suffering. In general, this is so because sin is all evil, only evil, and always evil, which no affliction is or can be. In my flesh, says the Apostle, no good dwells, not even the least, and this is ever present with me. Now it cannot be said of afflictions that there is no good in them, or that they are always present with us. There are some lucida intervalla (bright intervals), some spells of sunshine in winter. We may say, 'It was good that I was afflicted' (Psalm 119. 71), 'It is good to bear the yoke in one's youth' (Lamentations 3.27). But one can never say, 'It was good that I sinned, no, though it were but in my youth' (Ecclesiastes 11.9; 12.1). All things may be corrected and made to work for our good, so that we can say not only that God who afflicted me was good, but that the affliction worked for good (2 Corinthians 4.17); but we can never justly say that sin did us good. Many can say, 'Perissem nisi perissem' (I would have perished had I not suffered); but no-one can say, 'Periissem nisi peccassem' (I would have perished had I not sinned). No! It is by sin that we perish and are undone. Many people have thanked God for affliction, but no-one ever thanked him for sin. Some indeed misunderstand the meaning of Romans 6.17, as if the Apostle were thanking God that men were sinners. But this is not the case by any means! He thanks God that they who once were sinners had become obedient to the Gospel; the proper sense and reading of this text is, 'Thanks be to God, though ye were the servants of sin (in time past), yet (now) ye have obeyed the form of doctrine which was delivered to you', or as it is in the margin and the Greek, 'whereunto ye were delivered'. Sin, in itself, is good neither before nor after its commission; it is not good to be committed, nor good after it is committed. It does us no good, but hurt, all our days. Other evils, however, though we cannot call them good before, so that we might desire them, yet afterwards we can call them good and so we can thank God for them. I will illustrate this in detail.

1. Suffering may be the object of our choice, which sin cannot be.

That which is evil and only evil cannot be the object of our volition and choice; it is against nature. If men did not call evil good and good evil, they could never love the evil nor hate the good. Nor may sin be chosen as a means to a good end; for as well as being evil and nothing else, it does evil and nothing else. Affliction on the contrary, though not chosen for itself, may yet be chosen for a good end, and chosen rather than sin. It may be chosen although the only good result were the avoidance of evil. We have examples of this, such as the three young men whose gallantry of spirit was such that though they should not be delivered by their God, yet they would not sin against their God (they were holily wilful), nor even as much as demur, deliberate or take time to consider whether they should suffer or sin; it was past dispute with them, brave and noble souls that they were (Daniel 3.17). We find the same of Daniel himself (Daniel 6) and of St. Paul (Acts 20.24). Notice that when the Apostle speaks of his afflictions, he calls them light (2 Corinthians 4.17), but when he speaks of sin, he speaks of it as a burden that pressed him down and made him cry out, 'Wretch that I am!'; it made him groan, being burdened (2 Corinthians 5.4). Moses' choice is famous the world over, for it was not made when he was a child but when he came to forty years of age; he preferred suffering, not only before sinning but before honours, riches, and pleasures. He accounted the worst of Christ--namely, reproaches--better than the best the world could give.

There is a further example which is more than all the rest, and it is that of our blessed Saviour. To him was the greatest offer made that ever was made, but though he was tempted, and suffered by being tempted, he scorned and abhorred to sin (Matthew 4). He endured the cross and despised the shame (Hebrews 12.1-4); he met the cross, shame and pain, and in addition the contradiction of sinners. Yes, all this he endured rather than sin. It is described as a striving against sin (Hebrews 12.4). And when St. Peter wished him to decline suffering, he called him Satan and said to him, 'Get behind me, Satan'. Thus he teaches us that it is better to suffer than to sin.

2. We ought to rejoice in suffering. Not only should we choose suffering rather than sin, but we must do it with all joy, we must, in the highest degree, glory in tribulation. Sin on the contrary is the cause of shame and grief, not of joy. 'Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations' (James 1.2); not simply joy, or a little joy, but all joy; it is a reason for glorying. By temptations we are here to understand tribulations, for St. Paul says that temptations were for the trial of faith (Romans 5.3). The trial of faith is the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48.10 with 1 Peter 1.6,7). Now if any were to glory in their sin, and pride themselves on that, they glory in their shame (Philippians 3.I9). Indeed if we fall into sin it is a matter for grief and shame. Suffering is as far to be preferred before sin, as joy is before grief, and glory before shame.

We may add that God himself takes pleasure, joy and delight in the trials of good men. Though he does not delight to grieve the children of men, yet he laughs at the trial of the innocent (Job 9.23); for in this sense this text is understood by many. God does not laugh at them as at the wicked, by way of derision and scorn, but by way of pleasure. It is as when a general in a war sends on a dangerous mission a company of men of whose courage and skill he is confident. Though he knows that some of them must bleed and perhaps die for it, yet it pleases him to see them engaged in it. Thus God laughs at the trial of the innocent, for he sees that they are men who can abide a trial, as the excellent expositor on the Book of Job puts it, with much more to this effect.

God takes pleasure in the sufferings of his people just as he did in the sufferings of Christ and as Christ himself did. He boasted to the Devil's face that Job still held fast his integrity even though he were afflicted by the Devil who had moved God against him, to destroy him without a cause (Job 2.3). One ingenious and eloquent commentator says on this text: 'Surely one may call Job more than happy since if, as David tells us, the man whose sins God is pleased to cover is happy, what may that man be accounted whose graces God vouchsafes to proclaim?'

We see then that God takes pleasure in and laughs at the trial of these his champions and heroes. The heathen moralist, Seneca, ventured to say that if there were any spectacle here below noble enough and worthy to entertain the eyes of God, it was that of a good man generously contending with illfortune (as they call it), afflictions and sufferings. But when men sin God laughs them to scorn. If his sons and daughters sin it provokes him to grief and anger; but the sins of others provoke him to laugh at and to hate them (Psalm 2.4,5; Psalm 37.13). Which is better? To suffer and please God or to sin and grieve him? To undergo that which by patient suffering of it will rejoice God and give him occasion to magnify us, or to do that which will provoke him to be angry with us, until we are consumed, and then to laugh at our calamity? (Proverbs 1.26,27).

3. Many encouragements are given us to suffer but none to sin.

On the contrary there are all kinds of discouragements against sinning. It is all encouragement and no discouragement to suffering, but all discouragement and no encouragement to sin. For example, when we suffer for God, God suffers with us; but when we sin, God suffers by us. We read that in all their (his people's) affliction he was afflicted, he sympathised with them (Isaiah 63.9; Hebrews 4.15). But when he speaks of sin, it is, 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' (Acts 9.4); Saul's sin persecuted Christ Jesus. God complains of his people's iniquity as of a burden, as if they made a cart of God and loaded him with sins as with sheaves (Amos 2.

When we suffer for God he has promised to help and assist us with counsel and comfort, with succour and support; but when we sin, God leaves us and withdraws his presence and consolations. If Jacob is in the fire or the water, God will be with him (Isaiah 43.I,2). On the other hand God says, 'If ye do forsake me I will forsake you' (2 Chronicles 15.2). Sin is a forsaking of God and it makes God forsake us. Now which is best, to have God with us or against us? If God is for us it does not matter who is against us (Romans 8. 3I); but if God is against us and departs from us, then all is Ichabod (1 Samuel 4.21,22; Job 34.29). Furthermore, sufferings for God are evidences and tokens of his love, that we are his children and darlings (Hebrews 12.64); but sin is a proof that we are not born of God (1 John 5.18,19), but are children of wrath and heirs of the Devil and Hell. Thus the encouragements to suffering, and discouragements to sinning, pronounce sin to be the worst of all evils.

4. Suffering, even for sin, is designed to cure us and kill sin. Surely the remedy is better than the disease. But sin kills us and strengthens sin. They who add sin to sin feed it, give it nourishment and new life and strength. They add fuel to the fire which sufferings are to quench and put out.

Affliction is better than going astray: 'It is good for me that I was afflicted because before I was afflicted I went astray' (Psalm 119.67,71). The fruit of affliction is the taking away of sin (Isaiah 27.9); it is to make us partakers of his holiness (Hebrews 12.10), which is the end of the greatest promises (2 Peter I.4; 2 Corinthians 7.1). We see then that God has the same aim in bringing threatened evils on us as in making good promises and fulfilling them to us. Is this not better than sin? For did sin ever do such kindnesses for us? Alas, its mercies are cruelties, its courtesies are injuries and its kindnesses are killing. It never did nor meant us any good, unless men are so mad as to think that it is good to be defiled, dishonoured, and damned!

5. Sufferings tend to make us perfect, but sin makes us more and more imperfect. The second Adam was perfected by suffering (Hebrews 2.10), but the first Adam was made imperfect by sinning. And thus it fares with both their seeds and children as it did with them. A sinner is without strength (Romans 5.6), without God, without Christ, without hope (Ephesians 2.12). But a sufferer, after a while, shall be perfected by the same God of all grace as has called him unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus (1 Peter 5.10). But the more a sinner, the more imperfect and the fitter for hell

6. Suffering for God glorifies God, but sin dishonours God. Suffering calls on us to thank and glorify God for it (1 Peter 4.14,16). By it the saints are happy as God's martyrs (1 Peter 4.I4); but by sinning, sinners are made miserable as the Devil's martyrs (1 Peter 4.I5). Which, I pray you, is better? to suffer for God or for the Devil? To be suffering saints, or sinners?

7. Sufferings for God, Christ and righteousness add to our glory, but sinning only adds to our torment (Matthew 5.10,11,12, and 2 Corinthians 4.17). Light afflictions work an exceeding weight of glory; but sin works an exceeding weight of wrath and torment (Romans 2.5). It accumulates heap upon heap, load upon load, to make up a treasury of wrath.

Which then is the greater evil--I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say--light affliction or heavy sin? Which is better, treasures of glory or treasures of wrath? Or, which is all the same, to suffer or to sin?

Hitherto I have proved that sin is worse than affliction. It may be said, however, that if we do not suffer unto death, it is no great suffering; skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But if to die is dreadful, it is worse to sin, as I shall now prove.

(2) Sin is worse than death

We have a saying, Choose the lesser of two evils. Now to die is cheaper and more easy than to sin. God's loving kindness is better than life, that is, we would do better to part with the latter than the former. In the same way sin is worse than death: it would be better for us to undergo the latter than to commit the former; better submit to death than commit a sin, as I hinted before from Matthew 10.28.

Let us compare them. Sin is more deadly than death. Now the separation of soul and body, that dissolution of the frame of nature and of the union between soul and body is regarded as a great evil, as is apparent from man's unwillingness to die. Man would rather live in sickness and pain, and would be in deaths often, rather than die once. And it is not only an evil in man's apprehension, but it is really so to human nature, for it is called an enemy (1 Corinthians 15.26). It is true that death is a friend to grace, but it is equally true that death is an enemy to nature. There are four ways in which death is evil, and an enemy to man, and in all of them sin is more an enemy to man than is death.

1. Death is separating. It separates the nearest and dearest relations, even that which God has joined together, man and wife, soul and body. It separates us from possessions and ordinances, as I showed before. Thus death is a great evil and enemy. True! But sin is worse, for it brought death and all the evils that come by death. Sin separates man, while alive, from God, who is the light and life of our lives. Death does not separate from the love of God, which sin does (Romans 8.38,39; Isaiah 59.2).

2. Death is terrifying. It is the king of terrors (Job 18.14). It is very grim, a very sour and harsh thing. It is ghastly and frightful, for men are not only unwilling, but afraid to die. Yet all the terror that is in death is put there by sin. Sin is the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15.56), without which, though it kills, it cannot curse or hurt any man. Thus sin is more terrible than death, for without sin either there would have been no death, or for certain no terror in death. When the sting is taken away by the death of Christ, there is no danger or cause of fear (Hebrews 2.14,15). When the Apostle Paul looked at the Prince of Peace, he was not afraid of the King of Terrors, but to challenge and upbraid it (1 Corinthians 15.55).

3. Death is killing, but sin much more so. Death deprives of natural and temporal life, but sin deprives us of spiritual and eternal life. Death kills only the body, but sin kills the soul and brings upon it a worse death than the first death, that is, the second death. Men may kill us but only God can destroy us, that is damn us, and he never does that except for sin. Thus sin is more killing than death is killing.

4. Death is corrupting. It brings the body to corruption, and makes it so loathsome that we say of our dearest relations, as Abraham did of Sarah when she was dead, 'Bury her out of my sight'. Death makes every man say to the worm, 'Thou art my mother', and to corruption and putrefaction, 'Thou art my father' (Job 17.14). But sin corrupts us more than death, for he who died without sin saw no corruption. It defiles us and makes us stink in the nostrils of God and man (Genesis 34.30). The old man and his lusts are corrupt and do corrupt us (Ephesians 4.22). They corrupt our souls, and that which corrupts the soul, the principal man of the man, is much worse than that which corrupts the body only. Sin, however, corrupts the body too, while it is alive; intemperance and uncleanness corrupt soul and body. So sin is even in this worse than death.

Our Saviour tells the Jews that their great misery was not that they should die, but that they should die in their sins (John 8.21). By this he intimated that sin was worse than death, and was that which made death a misery. Better die in a hospital or a ditch than in sin. It is better to die anyhow than to sin and die in sin. Therefore the Church Father told Eudodia the Empress, when she threatened him, nil nisi peccatum timeo (I fear nothing but sinning). And that Queen spoke royally who said that she would rather hear of her children's death than that they had sinned. They of whom the world was not worthy, being too good to live long, chose rather to die than sin (Hebrews 11).

(3) Sin is worse than the Devil

The Devil is indeed a terrible enemy, the evil and envious one, the hater of mankind. Yet he knows that he can neither damn nor hurt men without sin. Sin can do, without the Devil, that which the Devil cannot do without sin, and that is, undo men. God and the Devil are not so contrary as God and sin; for the Devil has something left which was of God, that is, his being. Sin, however, never was nor can be of God; he is neither the author of it nor the tempter to it (James 1.13). Sin made the Devil what he is. For the Devil was not made as a devil by God. It is true that the Devil now seeks to devour man, that he cannot do it apart from sin, and that he cannot compel any man to sin.

1. Though the Devil tempts, it is man who sins. Satan's temptations to sin are not sins, nor are they the way to hell; but the very temptations of sin are sins, and the way to more sins and so to hell. A man's own lusts are more and worse tempters than the Devil. The Scripture speaks as if a man were not tempted, nor indeed is he effectually, until his lusts do it (James 1.14). If a man were tempted by the Devil forty days and yet remained without sin as did Christ, if he were tempted all his days and yielded not because the grace of God was sufficient for him, he might, as St. Paul did, glory in his infirmities and triumph over the messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12). The Devil gives up for a season; but sinful lusts scarcely ever do so, for they haunt men more than the Devil does. The serpent beguiled me and I did eat, was no excuse. The Devil had a spite against me and paid it, will not do for an apology. It is man who sins, and sin that damns, neither of which can the Devil force upon man.

2. Sin is worse than the devil as a tempter and it is a worse tormentor. The Devil is cruel enough, a roaring lion. Many times he takes possession of men and handles them most unmercifully. And he will torment them much more in Hell. But during all this the Devil is outside a man's spirit; but sin is there, taking possession of and tormenting that. It is a sorrowful thing to be tempted to sin, but it is a torment to be a sinner. God does more for us, for our ease and refreshment, when he pardons us than if he cast out of us as many devils as he cast out of Mary Magdalene or out of the man called Legion (Mark 5.9). Yea, in Hell the gnawing worm of a guilty and upbraiding conscience torments man more than devils do. It would be a relief to a man in Hell if he could only have peace in his conscience, or if he could say that he was there without his fault, and that his perdition were not of himself.

(4) Sin is worse than Hell.

Hell is only a punishment, but sin is a crime. It is more evil than the punishment, and it is that of which Hell is the punishment. The very greatness of this punishment argues the greatness of the crime and the sinfulness of sin. That God is glorified on men in such a way is a clear and full proof what an evil thing it is to sin against and dishonour God. Consequently Hell itself does not inflict so much hurt as sin does. Hell, indeed, is a dismal place of horror and torment, the extremity of suffering, but it never had any existence till sin had. Nor could Hell have such names and such torments as it does now if sin were not there. It is reported as a saying of Anselm that if sin and Hell were set before him and he must go through one of them, he would choose to go through Hell rather than sin. Sin is the worst of Hell and worse than Hell. It is what makes sinners cry out for the uninhabitableness of devouring fire and everlasting burnings, which are no terror to righteous and upright souls (Isaiah 33.14,15). It is sin that makes Hell to be Hell. God was never angry until sin made him so; his wrath was never kindled except by sin. Now just as sin made Hell, so the more sin the more Hell, as Tyre and Sidon suffer more than Sodom and Gomorrah. Even if there were no Hell but such as Cain and Judas felt within them, it would still be a great one. They would tell you that it is damnation enough to be a sinner and to feel the horrors of a guilty and accusing conscience.

(5) In every way sin is the worst of evils. I will show this yet a little more:

1. There is more evil in it than there is good in the whole creation. That is, it does us more hurt than all the creation can do us good. When we are sick or wounded, many of God's creatures of a medicinal nature can help to recover and cure us. There is no cure, however, for this evil of sin by any or all of the creatures. Sin was too much for that good in which we were created, and all created good ever since has not been able to recover us from it. No! It is only by God that we can be either pardoned or purged of it. All the angels in Heaven could neither pay our debt for us nor cleanse our hearts for us. God himself new-makes us, for mere mending would not serve our turn. Therefore man's recovery is called a new creation and the new man is said to be created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4.24. It was David's prayer, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God' (Psalm 51). Sin is an evil beyond the skill and power of all the creation to cure and cleanse.

2. There is no evil but sin to be repented of. God allows us to sigh and groan, to mourn and lament for other evils; but for this he calls for and requires repentance. This is a severe thing, full of rebuke and disgrace to man, although it is a grace. How great is that evil for which a man must cry, I have sinned, and to bring him to the confession of which and to repentance for and from it, other evils are inflicted!

3. The greatest punishments are those which are made up of sins. It is worse to be let alone and given up, than if man were sent immediately to Hell. As it is, they live only as reserved to fill up their measure to the brim, and to undergo the more of Hell, to grow rich in wrath having treasured it up against that day. As the best of comforts is to have assurance of the love of God, and to be sealed to the day of redemption, so the saddest of judgments is to be given up (as is said three times in Romans 1) to one's lusts, to a hardened heart, a seared conscience, a reprobate mind. Then God will say, 'Let him that is filthy be filthy still' (Revelation 22.11); and 'They shall not see nor understand, lest they be converted' (Isaiah 6.9,10). This last is a fearful Scripture, for it is six times quoted in the New Testament, as you may see in the margin.

4. God hates man for sin. It is not only sin (Proverbs 6.19) but sinners that God hates, and that for sin. It is said of God that he hates the workers of iniquity (Psalm 5.5); not only the works of iniquity, but the workers of it.

Hatred is known not by judgments, nor by the evil of suffering, but by the evil of sin which is before us (Ecclesiastes 9.1,2). It is because of sin that the merciful God says, 'He that made them will not have mercy on them, nor shew them any favour' (Isaiah 27.11). As a certain scholar expresses it, This is the highest that can be spoken of the venom of sin, that in a sense, and to speak after the manner of men, it has put hatred into God himself; it has made the Lord hate and destroy his own workmanship. God is love, and judgment is his strange work; yet sin makes him out of love with men and in love with their destruction at last. Though he does not delight in the death of a sinner who repents, yet he does in the death of one who is impenitent.

5. Christ is the best and the greatest of Saviours, and his salvation the best and greatest salvation. This proves sin to be the worst and greatest of evils. He came to save sinners not from the petty evils of sickness, affliction and persecution, but from sin, the greatest of all evils (Matthew 1.21; 1 Timothy 1.15). To be saved from Egypt was of old reckoned great; but being delivered out of the North was a greater salvation (Jeremiah 23.8). Salvation from sin, however, is the greatest salvation of all, and therefore sin is the worst and greatest of evils.

Thus we have proved sin to be the worst of evils, the evil of evil, with which nothing is to be compared for evil. I will now apply this in detail, and show what we should infer from the sinfulness of sin as against God and as against man.


(1) The patience and long-suffering of God with sinners is wonderful

If sin is so exceedingly sinful, that is, contrary to and displeasing to God, then surely his patience is exceedingly great, his goodness exceedingly rich, and his long-suffering exceedingly marvelous, even such as to cause wonder! That God should entreat sinners, his enemies, to be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5.20), that God should stand at a sinner's door and knock (Revelation 3.20), that God should wait on sinners to be gracious to them (Isaiah 30.18) is not after the manner of man, but of God. Truly, it is a characteristic of the God of grace and patience, and to be admired for ever! It was a wonder that in the beginning God should think thoughts of good and not of evil, of peace and not of wrath, but visit man in the cool of the day. Yet when he had imparted and commended his heart's love to us through his Son (Romans 5.8) and both were rejected, that he should still continue to offer and call and wait is a miracle of miracles. What shall we say? It is God who is the God of grace and patience (Romans 15.5) and rich in both (Romans 2.4 :2 Peter 3-.9; 1 Timothy 1.13-16). He is as his Name is (Exodus 34.16; Numbers 14.18; Psalm 86.15), and as he was yesterday so he is today. We are all living monuments and examples of his goodness and patience. It is of the Lord's mercies that all of us are not altogether and utterly consumed, and that in Hell (lamentations 3.22).

Sin is so sinful, contrary and displeasing to God, and has made man so much God's enemy, that it is a miracle that he should find his enemies and let them go away safely. God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity looks on the sin of men. His eyes so affect his heart as to grieve him. It tempts and provokes him to anger, wrath and hatred. And yet God keeps his anger, which is like burning coals in the bosom; he does not let out all his wrath and ease himself of his burden by avenging himself on his adversaries, but he woos and waits on sinners. Such is the power of his patience, the infiniteness of his mercy and compassion, and the riches of his unsearchable grace! God sees sin. He is not ignorant. God is sensible of it and concerned; for it grieves and vexes him. God is able to avenge himself when he pleases; yet he forbears and is patient. Wonder at it! And consider further:

1. The multitude of sinners in the world. If it were only one or two, they might be winked at and passed by. But all the world lies in wickedness (1 John 5.19). There is none righteous, no, not one--if there had been only ten, God would have spared Sodom although ten thousand sinners might be there. Yet there is not a man to be found who does not sin. All have sinned, Jew and Gentile, high and low. What grace, then, what patience is this!

2. The multitude of sins committed by every sinner. The sins are more numerous than the sinners. If all men had sinned only once it would have mitigated the matter. Sin, however, has grown up with men. Not a good thought is to be found in their hearts (Genesis 6.5). Sin grows up faster than men do; they are old in sin when still young in years. They are adding iniquity to iniquity and drawing it on with cords and ropes, committing it with both hands greedily, as if they could not sin enough. They dare God himself to judge them. They drink down iniquity like water, as if it was their element and nourishment and pleasure also. Yet, behold, how miraculously patient and long-suffering is God!

3. The length of time. This multitude of sinners has committed these multitudes of sins from the beginning even until now, generation after generation. If all the world had sinned, and committed all kinds of sins, yet only for an hour or a day, it would not have been so provoking. But as length of times aggravates misery, so it does sin. God reckons up 120 years of patience--and there were many before that--as to the old world (Genesis 6.3); and to Israel, forty years (Hebrews 3.17). He came to the fig tree of the Jewish nation three years in person, seeking fruit before he cut it down, or so much as gave the order for it (Luke 13.6,7). He had waited much longer with all of these, but these years were, as it were, borrowed time, such as landlords allow their tenants after Quarter Day, space given before sending in the bailiffs. We were quite old enough to be damned when we were young; but God has given us an over-plus of time, space for repentance, and has not yet cut us down as those who cumber the ground. Such is his patience!

4. Sins cry to God against us. Moreover, the Devil for sure is constantly pleading against us. The cry of Cain's sin went up (Genesis 4.10). The cry of Sodom's sin was great (Genesis 18.20,21;19.13). The keeping back of labourers' wages cries (James 5.4); indeed, all oppression cries (Habakkuk 1.2,12-17). Yet God, as if he were loath to judge us or to believe reports against us, comes down to see if these things are so and, as it were, sets Abraham and his friends interceding, by telling them what he is about to do (Amos 3.7). Such is the goodness of God l

5. Many aggravating circumstances attend the sins of men. In addition to the greatness of sin's own nature, these greatly provoke God. Men's sins are not only many and great; they are both multiplied and magnified, aggravated by many circumstances. Men increase and heighten their sin by not repenting of it, and aggravate their impenitence by despising the goodness of God which should lead them to repentance (Romans 2.4). This makes them inexcusable, and incapable of escaping the judgment of God. Men sin against deliverances, as if they were delivered to do all manner of abominations, and to sin more than before (Jeremiah 7.8-10). Men sin against their resolutions and promises, vows and protestations, made on sea or land, on sickbeds or at any times of danger, and return like dogs to their vomit. They bargain with God in time of fear and danger, but put him off with nothing when the danger is, as they think, over. Men sin against means, and the means of grace. They have precept on precept, line on line, and yet sin still and more. Whatever way God takes with them, nothing will suit them. God says, This and this have I done, yet you have not returned (Amos 4.6-11). Mourn or pipe to them, it is all the same, they will not hearken. And, what is more, men sin against knowledge and conscience. Though they know God, they glorify him not as God (Romans 1. 21). They know their Master's will, but fail to do it (Luke 12.47; James 4.17). It would be useless, because impossible, to count all the aggravating circumstances of men's sins, which make them more sins, the degree, multitude, and magnitude. Yet notwithstanding all this, God waits to be gracious! Oh, grace, grace unto it! Is it not a wonder that men are spared, especially if we consider how quickly God cast away the angels that sinned! Wonder of grace!

(2) The judgments of God are just

Though God is so patient, beyond what we could ask or think, yet sometimes he does, and will for ever, punish sinners who do not repent. Thus this is a second inference from the sinfulness of sin. God often punishes less than iniquity deserves, but never more. The greatest sufferings are neither more nor less than sin deserves. The worst on this side of Hell is mercy, and the worst of and in Hell is but justice.

1. Consider the nature of God. He is and cannot but be just. Shall not the God and Judge of all the earth do right? Can he or will he do wrong? No! 'For he will not lay upon man more than right; that he should enter into judgment with God' (Job 34.23). Cain could say that his punishment was intolerable, but he could not say that it was unjust; though greater than he could bear, yet it was not greater than he deserved. God will not argue the case with men merely as a Sovereign, but as a Judge, who proceeds not by will only, but by rule. Repeatedly, when the judgments of God are spoken of in Revelation, they are said always to be just and true and righteous (Rev. 15.3; 16.7). Though his ways are unsearchable, yet they are true and just and righteous. He makes war in righteousness. Death is only the due wages of sin (Romans 6.23). Therefore it is said, Their damnation is just (Romans 3.8); and every sin has a just recompense of reward (Hebrews 2.2). Guilt stops men's mouths when they suffer the judgment of God (Lamentations 3.39; Romans 3.19; Psalm 51.4; Romans 3.4). If God judges man, God is found true; but if man judges God, man is found a liar.

Would we complain of the Devil, as Eve did? It is true that he is to blame, but he is not so much the cause of man's sin as man himself is. The Devil, certainly, could tempt, but he could not compel. So it is man who sins although he is tempted to sin; though man could not prevent himself being tempted, he could have refrained from sinning.

Would we complain of God? What would we charge him with? Did not God make man in the best state in which a creature could be? Did not God tell him what was evil and the danger of sinning? God might say as he did of Israel, What could I have done more that I have not done? So man must say that he has rewarded evil to himself by doing evil and that his perdition is of himself (Hosea 13.9). Sinners have their option and choice; why then do they complain?

2. Consider the nature of sin. It is Deicide, God-murder. Thus it is just for God to do with sinners what they would unjustly do with him, that is, take away from them all good and glory, displease and destroy them, because they would do so to him. If we consider the person who is sinned against, and that the aim of sin is to ungod God, what punishment can be thought bad enough? The Schools rightly tell us that objectively sin is infinite. What punishment then can be too great for so great an evil? If its deed had answered its intention and will--horror of horrors!--God would have been no more. As none but infinite power can pardon it, so none but infinite power can punish it sufficiently. Just as its aim is infinite, so is its desert. Therefore, though its punishment is also infinite, it is but just. Seeing sin contains all evil, it is not strange that its punishment should be answerable and proportionate. That all sin should undergo all misery is not unjust; God renders sufferings to man only according to his doings (Jeremiah 17.10).

3. Consider the impenitent state in which sinners die. Thereby they treasure up this wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2.5). They who die impenitent continue as they die; consequently they sin and are impenitent for ever. Is it unreasonable that everlasting sinning should be everlastingly punished? It is no severity in God to damn such men for ever. Let man repair the injury he has done and pay the debt he owes God to the utmost farthing and he shall go free. If he says he cannot, that is his crime as well as his misery, for he chose whether or not to do the injury and to run into this debt. Besides, he cannot plead the satisfaction made by Christ, for he made no satisfaction for final unbelief and impenitence; a man who never accepts Christ on the terms of the Gospel cannot plead Christ's name or righteousness before God, and there is no salvation in any other. Thus on all accounts sin's sinfulness vindicates the justice and judgments of God. But though God's judgment is just, yet he is pleased to pardon and forgive some sinners, which brings me to my third inference.

(3) How precious a mercy is the forgiveness of sin!

It is a wonder that anyone is pardoned. The preciousness of this mercy, in the forgiveness of sins, may be seen in various ways:

1. It is a New Covenant mercy. The New Covenant is called a better covenant, and its promises better promises (Hebrews 8.6). The old Covenant, that of works, granted no pardon; but this is the mercy of the new Covenant, that it is a Covenant of grace (Hebrews 8.12).

2. Forgiveness of sins is the fruit of the precious blood of Christ. His blood was shed for this end. Now that which costs so great a price must needs be precious. We were redeemed with no less than blood, and no worse blood than that of the Lamb and Son of God (1 Peter 1.18). This redemption is called forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1.7; Colossians 1.14).

3. By forgiveness of sins we have the knowledge of salvation (Luke 1.77). They who have their sins remitted are blest, and they shall be blest (Romans 4.8).

4. By the forgiveness of sins we have ease and rest for our souls, and cause to be of good cheer. The sense of pardon will take away the sense of pain. What! are you sick when pardoned? No! I am no more sick (Isaiah 33.24). When sin is taken away, the sickness which remains is as nothing. The sense of sin makes us sick, but the sense of pardon makes us well. We can say, like the psalmist, 'Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee' (Psalm 116.7). A man who is sensible of sin and not of pardon can hardly sleep or take any rest; but when the joyful sound of a pardon is proclaimed and received, the soul which is justified by faith has peace with God and within itself and is at rest. Though the man sick of the palsy was not cured, he had good cause to be of good cheer, because his sins were forgiven him (Matthew 9.2). This is called speaking comfortably, or to the heart: 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished.' Is that all? No! But, which is more, tell her that her iniquity is pardoned' (Isaiah 40.1,2). It is a greater comfort to hear that our sins are pardoned than that our afflictions are at an end. It makes us able as well as willing to undergo afflictions, sufferings and persecutions.

Now if we consider what a sinful thing sin is against God, how displeasing to him, it is a wonderful thing that God should pardon any man's sin. God does more than man can do for himself or expect that God should do for him. Indeed, it costs God more--witness the blood of Christ--and requires more of his power than to heal all our diseases and bestow all the good of this world upon us. Our Saviour tells us that it is easier to say to an impotent man, Arise, take up thy bed and walk, than to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee. The latter is a declaration of his power (Matthew 9.5). When Moses prays that Israel might be pardoned their sin, he says, Let the power of the Lord be great (Numbers 14.17-I9). It is called riches of mercy and great love (Ephesians 2.4). It is such power as that by which Christ was and we are raised from the dead (Colossians 2.13; Ephesians 1.19-20). 'Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?' (Micah 7.18). This is the mystery into which angels pry and at which they wonder (1 Peter 1.12).

God, as it were, acts against His own word (Genesis 2.17); he revokes his threatening. It is more than we could ask or think; it is beyond our reach, as it is expressed in Scripture (Isaiah 55.7,8,9). When men are sensible of sin they can hardly believe that God will or can forgive it; they are apt to say as Cain did, Our iniquity is greater than can be forgiven. Man's mercy is large when it reaches to seven times; what is God's then that reaches to more than seventy times seven in a day! (Matthew 18.21). When good men have prayed concerning the ungodly, Lord, forgive them not (Isaiah 2.9: Jeremiah 18.23), yet God has pardoned: even when he himself was so put to it as to say, 'How shall I pardon thee for this?' (Jeremiah 5.7). Yet God offers pardon and teaches men what to say to him in such cases that they may be forgiven (Hosea 14.1-4).

(4) Sin is not to be committed on any account whatsoever

It is not to be committed for any reason because it is contrary to God, against his will and glory. This reason overbalances and outweighs any reason that can be given for sinning. It was once said of a Roman ambassador, 'Romanus tamen' (he is a Roman nonetheless). Similarly, no matter how plausibly sin and sinners plead, no matter how gainful or pleasurable sin is, yet still it is a sin, that is, it is against God, which is a greater reason why it should not be committed than any that can be adduced why it should. It should not be so much as debated, whether a sin should or should not be committed, for no reason can equal this that it is against God. There is a common saying by which people excuse their own and other men's sins, namely, that they are no man's enemies but their own, and that they wrong no-one but themselves. Now even if that were as true as it is in fact false, yet still sin should not be committed. But sinners are God's foes and they are injurious to God, which is more than being so to anyone else or to themselves. We should do good not only because it is good for us, but because it will glorify God, which is a higher end, and so much higher as God is above us. In the same way we should forbear to do evil not only because it is against us, but because it is against God, who should be more beloved by us than ourselves.

There are many aggravations of sinning against God. It is against God who made us, indeed, fighting against God who made us. We are all the offspring of God, the children of God by the first nature, though children of wrath by corrupt nature. It is noticeable how the genealogy runs: '... which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God' (Luke 3.38). Adam was, and so were we, the children of God by creation. God was our Father who made us, and woe to him that striveth with his Maker (Isaiah 45.9). It is a calamitous thing to sin against God as a Maker. How unnatural it is to sin against our parents! So heinous was it, that 'he that smiteth his father or mother shall die' (Exodus 21.15). What is it then to smite the Father of our spirits, the Father of our father and mother! If the ravens of the valley shall pick out the eyes of them that curse father and mother (Proverbs 30.17), what is likely to happen to them that make nothing of cursing God himself!

Sin is against God in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways (Daniel 5.23), which is a reason we should glorify him. He has our being and well-being at his disposal; he can crush us as the moth and turn us not only to the dust but to the Hell of death. What he does for us and what he can do against us put us under an immense and powerful obligation not to sin against him. We are beholden to him for all the good we have. That nakedness to which the creatures once paid reverence would now cause them to scorn us if God did not clothe it. The creatures would not serve us nor be serviceable to us if God did not command and bless them. We should have no bread nor any good by it if he did not provide and bless it. What could weak things do to strengthen or dead things to keep us alive, did not his Word do more than they? We live not by bread but by his Word. If God should deny us bread by day or sleep by night, what would become of us? How then can we find it in our hearts to sin against God? There are two great wonders: the one, that God should be so good to man, who is and does evil against him; the other, that man should do evil against so good a God. O foolish people and unwise, thus to requite the Lord!

It is God who preserves our going out and coming in. He keeps us from an infinite number of invisible, as well as many visible dangers abroad and at home. If we only knew our dangers we should go in fear of our lives every moment. The earth would swallow us up, the fire would burn us, the water would drown us, if God were not with us to preserve us. He could have sent us down to Hell long ago, and yet he gives space for repentance and waits to be gracious. It is true, he will at last judge us, and what shall we do then? How shall we stand if found to be sinners, when he rises up to judge terribly the earth? What sanctuary or city of refuge shall we fly to that we may be secure? Alas! there will be no escaping; his vengeance in that day will overtake and ruin us.

Think of this, and think whether you can find it in your heart to sin, or to think it a little or light thing to sin against God, and such a God, whatever may be the pretext for it. Let me say this further, that even if God had not laid so many obligations upon us, yet we were bound not to sin against his sovereignty and the authority he has over us. But when he humbles himself and grants so many kindnesses to us, it would be monstrous ingratitude and rebellion to sin against him, no matter what profitable pleasure might come to us thereby, and no matter what reason may be alleged or pretended for doing so.

(5) How transcendently and incomparably beautiful a thing is holiness!

How lovely a thing it is in the eyes of God and ought to be in the eyes of men! This is the thing that is so agreeable and pleasing to God, so adorning and beneficial to man. The black spot of sin sets off the beauty of holiness. But I have already spoken of this in a separate discourse which is being published. I will therefore, refer you to that and shall say no more on this subject here.


(1) That they who seek for any good in sin are miserably mistaken.

As sin is, so are its effects, wholly evil to man. There are some who call evil good (Isaiah 5.20), or as it is in the margin, who say concerning evil, IT 1S GOOD. They think, and do not hesitate to say as they think, that evil is good. They place their chief happiness in the chiefest evil, that is, in sin, and they love evil more than good, as is said of Doeg and such as he (Psalm 52.3). How many there are who not only undo themselves but take pains and pleasure to do so! They think it strange indeed, that others are not so mad as they, and run not with them to the same excess of riot (1 Peter 4.4). All this proceeds from the same mistake, that evil is good, that is, good to them, bringing profit, honour or pleasure to them. This is called the lust of the eye, flesh and pride of life (1 John 2.16); from it came the first sin (Genesis 3.6). But the event proved then, as it will always do, that they gather no grapes from thorns nor figs from thistles. They seek the living among the dead, and may as well find ease in and from Hell as good in and from sin.

The morsels of sin are deceitful, though called dainties. Sin is a mere cheat; with false shows it deceives the heart of the simple. However sweet the stolen waters of sin seem to be in the mouth and to the taste, they will be gall and wormwood in the belly, bitterness in the latter end. All the corruption that is in the world came in by lust (2 Peter 1.4), and all lust is deceitful (Ephesians 4.22). Thus the woman was first deceived and by her the man (1 Timothy 2.14). Instead of being as God which they thought was promised, they became as the Devil, which was the thing intended and designed by him. Sin first deceived and then slew St. Paul, as he says (Romans 7.11). It pretends to bring milk and butter in a lordly dish, as Jael did to Sisera, but the hammer and nail is in its heart and hand. They who serve diverse lusts are deceived, as the Apostle says (Titus 3.3). All the servants of sin are deceived, not of sin's wages, but by sin's promises. Though they sport themselves, while they play and nibble at the bait like silly fishes, it is only to their own deceiving, for an evil heart has deceived them (2 Peter 2.13). Therefore the Apostle exhorts us to take heed lest we be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3.13). Sin's first work is to deceive us, and when it has thereby drawn us in, it hardens and so destroys us. I shall seek to prove in various ways the deceitfulness of sin.

1. There is not, nor can there be any profit to man by sin. Can that which wrongs his soul be profitable? What doth it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? Sin costs dear, but profits nothing; they make a bad purchase who buy their damnation. What did Cain get by killing Christ in Abel, his type, or Judas by selling Christ? Surely he bought damnation dearly though he sold his Saviour cheaply. Take your money, he said, I have sinned. The knowledge that he had committed that sin made him weary of his gain and of his life. He got Hell, or, as it is said, Devil and All. What profit does anyone have by that of which they are ashamed (Romans 6.21). All the works of darkness are unfruitful as to any good (Ephesians 5.11), but good works are profitable (Titus :1.8). Sin is a very expensive thing; it cannot be maintained without great cost. Men might build hospitals at a cheaper rate than they can maintain their lusts. Some men's sins cost them more in a day than their families do in a week, perhaps in a year. Some starve their families to feed their lusts, which have turned many out of house and home, and reduced great estates to a crust of bread, quite apart from what will happen hereafter. Lusts consume health and wealth (Proverbs 5). Gluttony, drunkenness and uncleanness are costly and expensive sins.

Objection. It may be said, It is true that these are costly sins indeed, but what have you to say about covetousness, that frugal and thrifty, saving and getting sin?

Answer. Covetousness and all it gets or saves is unprofitable. For consider:

(i) All that is gotten is not gain. I will tell you what a wise man saw and said: 'There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt' (Ecclesiastes 5.I3). Here are riches, and riches kept, but it is to the hurt and detriment of the owner. Better for him not to have had them or not to have kept them. Did they profit him? Yes! if hurt can be profit! but not otherwise. 'Those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand' (verse 14). He can leave his son nothing, for it is not in his hand. While he had his riches, he could not sleep for them (verse 12), and his abundance made him poor. Perhaps it was his crime that he was rich, and someone more powerful than he, like Vespasian, finding him like a sponge swollen and full, must needs squeeze him and leave him hollow and empty. The histories tell us of times when the acquiring of estates has been the greatest crime people have been guilty of, even though they have been charged with sedition or treason.

(ii) Covetousness itself may be a thief, and rob men of the use and comfort of their own possessions. The covetous man always needs more and is in truth the poorest man in the world; 'There is one alone, and there is not a second; (he is a single man, unmarried, without a second-self) yet is there no end of all his labour . . . neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good?' (Ecclesiastes 4.8). Is this profitable? No! It is a sore travail, for he has not the power to eat thereof (Ecclesiastes 6.2). To fill his purse he starves his belly and begrudges himself food.

(iii) No matter how much you have, and how much you use it, it will never satisfy, and therefore must vex you. No satisfaction, no profit! A man's aim is satisfaction (Luke 12.19), but the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1.8). Now if these things cannot satisfy the senses (Ecclesiastes 6.7), much less can they satisfy the souls of men. What adds to the vexation is that the love of money increases faster than the money, so that 'he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase' (Ecclesiastes 5.10,11).

(iv) You will not carry away with you one penny, and where then is the profit? It may be that you will say that none of the above arguments fit your case. But this must be your case. What you leave behind you is none of yours, but you die the poorer for leaving your riches behind you and not having laid up your treasures in heaven (1 Timothy 6.7,19). The rich man said to his soul, Thou hast goods; but our Saviour said to him, Thou fool, thou must die tonight, and whose shall these things be? Not thine! What do you get by all your getting, to leave everything behind you? Indeed, perhaps you will leave everything to the very persons whom you would least wish to enjoy it (Psalm 39.6; Ecclesiastes 2.18-21). To go naked out of the world is a sore evil and of no profit (Ecclesiastes 5.15,I6). If you enjoy everything to your dying day yet then you lose all; and perhaps you not only lose it, but lose by it. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, and surely that cannot be worth much while we live that will be worth nothing when we die.

Besides, there is no man in more danger to lose by getting than the covetous man, who is in the ready way to lose his soul; for the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some have coveted after, they have got nothing by it but the loss of their souls, being drowned in perdition (1 Timothy 6.9,10). Moreover, take riches here for the present, while they are at their best; the pains of getting, the cares of keeping, and the fear of losing, eat out the comfort of having. So all must subscribe to what our Savior said, that a man's life--neither the length, health or comfort, much less the happiness of a man's life--does not consist in the things he enjoys in this world; life needs more and better things. What silly foolish things are sinners! To place the good of profit in that which is not only unprofitable, but expensive! To pay so dear a price for so vile a commodity! To pay according to the rate of Heaven and to be put off with Hell! We laugh at the simplicity and childishness of little ones who will part with gold for a toy or a novelty; but how much more ridiculous and worse than childish are they who risk their precious souls for that which does not profit! They are like the king who is said to have sold his kingdom for a draught of water; or like Israel whom God upbraided that they changed their glory for that which did not profit, and left and parted with a fountain of living waters for an empty cistern that had none, indeed, for a broken cistern that could hold no water, not even a drop (Jeremiah 2.13).

Sinners often ask this question, What profit is there if we serve God? (Job 21.15). In answer I say that godliness is profitable at all times, for here and hereafter; it has the promise of both lives, this and that to come (1 Timothy 4.8). But let me ask them what I wish they would often ask themselves, What profit is there if we sin? as Judah asked his brothers, What profit is there if we slay our brother? (Genesis 37.26). Surely there is none but shame and sorrow. You may put your gains in your eyes and weep it out; if not, a greater loss will come to you.

Thus we have seen that no good by way of profit comes by sin, no, even by that which is called the most profitable sin, covetousness. So our inference holds good, that though you seek good in evil, you are mistaken.

2. There is no honour to be gained by sin. Sin is not a creditable thing. Granted, there are some who glory in and boast of their sin, but they glory in their shame (Philippians 3.19), and surely sooner or later they will be ashamed of their glory! Sin is not a thing of good report; it hears badly of itself and has a bad name throughout the whole world. Can that be honourable which is unreasonable? Can that be an honour to man which debases and degrades him? The unreasonableness of sin is apparent from the reasonableness of the law; sin has no reason for it, for the law is against it. That sin degrades men I have showed already. Take the finest things of this world, in which men pride themselves; they cannot cover the nakedness of sinners, much less be an ornament or honour to them; for that which is a disgrace to the soul can never be an honour or grace to the body. That which men, generally, are ashamed to own, at least under its own name, cannot be an honour to them. Yet even if all the world were to admire and celebrate the grandeur of sinners, God counts them vile, though they are exalted in the world, and God is doubtless the best judge of honour. That which is abominable to God cannot be honourable to man. Even an appearance of righteousness, which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God, much more then is sin itself (Luke 16.15).

3. There is no pleasure to be had from sin. It is true, indeed, that the pleasures of sin are much talked about. We read of some who take pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2.12) and of some so impudent and brazen-faced that, though they knew the judgment of God, yet they took pleasure in doing, and in them that did, such things as were worthy of death (Romans 1.32). There have been those, too, who have lived in pleasure on the earth, and seemed to grow fat by it, nourishing themselves, but it was only for the day of slaughter (James 5.5). Notwithstanding all this, we do not doubt that we shall make it evident that there is no such thing as men talk and dream of, that is, pleasure in, from or by sin. Pleasure is the contentment and satisfaction of a man's mind in what he does or has; but sinners have none of this from sin.

a. There is no peace to the wicked. This is told us by the God who searches their hearts and knows what is there (Isaiah 57.21). The Septuagint reads this verse: There is no joy, no peace, nor pleasure, no serenity, nor one halcyon-day, for they are like the raging sea, casting up mire and dirt by reason of its rolling and disquiet. To appearance, men seem to laugh and be merry, but God sees that they have no peace within. And I would rather believe the God of truth than lying men, for lie they do when they say that they have peace or pleasure in sin. Solomon 'said of laughter, It is mad, and of mirth, What doeth it?' And in the midst or heart of laughter, the heart is sad.

b. Sin in its very nature cannot afford pleasure, since it is contra-natural to Man. Therefore the heathen philosophers could say that punishment follows on the heels of guilt, as the Scripture says, If thou doest not well, sin lieth (like a dog) at the door (Genesis 4.7). Another writer says more expressly that punishment not only succeeds sin but that they are born together and are twins. For they who deserve punishment expect it, and whoever expects punishment suffers it in a degree. Thus the sinner is his own tormentor and sin his torment. Our knowledge of having erred keeps returning and complaining of the faults, and the impression of the fault will bring fear, which fear has torment, even if there were no more torment to come. The upbraidings of conscience mar mirth and make pleasure very displeasing. What pleasure can it be to feel the reproaches of meat even though it tastes pleasant? Poison itself may be sweet to the taste but not therefore pleasant; for regrets and ominous belchings do not speak of pleasure. Whatever crosses and thwarts nature is a punishment, not a pleasure, and such is sin to primitive and created nature. And if habit and a seared conscience seem to deny the sense of such regrets, yet that only argues the case the worse. For what pleasure can that be which benumbs a man and makes him not only stupid but dead? They who live in such pleasures are by the infallible truth declared to be dead while they live (1 Timothy 5.6). When stupidity may pass for pleasure, and death for life, or dreams for enjoyments, sin may then be pleasant.

c. Sin cannot fill up the boundless and infinite desire which is in the heart of man, but disappoints it. There can therefore be no satisfaction by it, but of necessity, much vexation. Lusts are like the horse-leech and the grave which never have enough, but cry, Give, Give. To desire shows that something is lacking, and again to desire shows the continuance of this lack. Hence, sin has changed so often, or, as the Apostle says, serves diverse lusts. These changes and varieties clearly show the poverty of their entertainments and the emptiness of their pleasure. While men seek to quench the thirst of sin by giving it salt water to drink they only increase it. Indeed, every man may find it much more easy, pleasant and satisfactory to mortify than to gratify sin, to deny rather than fulfil the desires of the flesh. For men to be constantly contradicting and swimming against the stream of their conscience, which tells them they ought not to sin, and if they do, chides them for it, must needs be uneasy and unpleasant. Men's sins make them sick, as Amnon's did; so far are they from being pleasures. To desire the presence of what is absent, or the absence of what is present; or the continuance of what cannot be kept or would, if kept, surfeit a person, as constant drunkenness and intemperance does, must inevitably be very tedious. Such men, even in the fulness of their sufficiency (Job 20.22), cannot help but be in straits. If they gratify one of their lusts, they displease another: if they gratify pride and prodigality, they displease covetousness and so are still far from pleasure. They are distracted and slain by one or other of their lusts all the day long. They have fightings without and within; indeed, good men are not persecuted more by the Devil and the wicked world than these men are tormented by their irregular and inordinate fleshly appetites and carnal inclinations.

Yet for all this men are loath to believe that there is no pleasure from sin. They say that this is contrary to the expressions of Scripture and to their experience. The Scripture mentions the pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11.25), and we find pleasure in it. Thus men are apt to plead for sin and to be its advocate. They will cling to any scripture that only speaks of such a thing as sinful pleasures, even though it disowns and disallows them. As for that misunderstood text in Hebrews, let me say that Moses cannot be charged with any sin from which he drew pleasure; and therefore by the pleasures of sin are not meant such pleasures as flow from, but such as lead to sin. That is, he declined the pleasures which would have inclined him to sin. Pleasures are allurements and baits to draw men to sin, as in the case of Eve; the tree was pleasant to the eyes and inviting, but her taste and digestion found no pleasure but bitterness from the fruit. Thus Moses lived where there were pleasures which tended to or were abused to sin. Indeed, there were such pleasures as he could not have enjoyed without committing the great sin of afflicting the people of God, which the Egyptians did, and of being cruel to them, instead of delivering them. So this scripture says nothing in favour of sin, or that there are any pleasures to be had by or from it.

Yet even if we were to take this text as they interpret it, all that can be said of it is this, that it speaks as they think; not that there are, but that there are thought to be, pleasures of sin. It is a common thing for a scripture to speak of a certain thing as if it were, and to say that it is, when it is only supposed to be so by others. For example, 'There be gods many, and lords many' (1 Corinthians 8.5); not that there really were any such gods, but that by others they were reckoned so to be. Similarly in this text, he speaks according to the manner of men concerning the pleasures of sin, as they are reputed. This is confirmed by a passage of the Apostle Peter, 'They count it pleasure to riot in the daytime' (2 Peter 2.13). It is no pleasure, but they accounted it a pleasure. Certainly, it was no pleasure, for they only enjoyed a mock-sport or pleasure, while they sported themselves in their own deceivings. So in counting it pleasure to riot, they deceived themselves; they supposed it sport and pleasure, but it is not so.

Yet again, if there is any pleasure, it can only be to the physical and sensual part of the man, which is a pleasure to the beast, not to the man. The body is only the case of man, a mud-walled cottage thatched over with hair. It is the soul that is the excellency and glory of the man, the man of the man. Whoever, then, would take a right measure of what is good or evil to man must take it especially with respect and relation to the soul. That man who bade his soul take its ease in eating and drinking greatly mistook its nature. Alas! The soul cannot feed on flesh, for it is a spirit and must have a diet peculiar and proper to a spirit, that is spiritual. Quite often the pleasure of the body proves to be the soul's pain. To eat and drink is the body's pleasure, but gluttony and drunkenness, which are the sins of eating and drinking, are the soul's pain, and many times the body's too. To rest when one is weary is the body's pleasure, but to be idle, which is the sin of rest and ease, is an affliction and trouble to the soul.

Furthermore, that which men call the pleasure of sin is both their dying and punishment. Many laugh and are merry because of the sickness and disorder from which they are suffering they say of those who are bitten by the tarantula that they will laugh themselves to death. Some people are so ticklish that they will laugh at the waving of a feather, but this is a proof of their weakness and folly, two ill diseases. Many people take pleasure in eating lime, mortar, coals and such-like trash, but it is from a sickness which vitiates and corrupts their palate. Would they otherwise feed on ashes if they did not suffer from the disease of green sickness? So whoever pretends to find pleasure in sin proves himself to be distempered and diseased, and suffering from the old and deeply-rooted disease of being in sin, indeed dead in sin.

Sin is a punishment as well as a disease. It is false pleasure, and what truer misery is there than false joy? It is like the pleasure of the man who receives much money, but it is all counterfeit, or the pleasure of the man who dreams of a feast and awakes so hungry and vexed that he could eat his dream. For this reason sin should be doubly hated, because it is ugly and false, because it defiles and mocks us.

Yet even if there is any pleasure, it is only for a season, a very little while. It is soon over and gone, like the crackling of thorns under a pot; 'The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment' (Job 20.5). The miseries of sin, on the contrary, may be and indeed, without repentance, will be eternal. Just as the sufferings of this present life are to the godly not worthy to be compared with the future glory, so the pleasures of the wicked are, even the best of them, as nothing, compared with the future misery which awaits them. Certainly, then, those pleasures which men must repent of, or be damned for to all eternity, are woeful and rueful pleasures.

All in all, then, the inference is undeniable that there is no profit, honour, or pleasure to be had by sin, and that they who seek for all or any of these things in sin act as those who would seek ease in Hell, the very place and element of torment. If good is not good when better is expected, how miserably vexatious must their disappointment be? When men look for good and peace, but evil and trouble, and nothing else, comes upon them; when they bless themselves and say, We shall have peace though we walk in the imaginations of our heart, to add drunkenness to thirst, the Lord will not spare them, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against them (Deuteronomy 29.I9). When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and there will be no escaping (1 Thessalonians 5.3).

There are still other inferences to be drawn from the sinfulness of sin. I shall make only a few brief comments upon them.

(2) Time spent in sin is worse than lost

Most of the pastime in the world is lost time, but sinning time or time spent in sin is worse than lost, for it must be accounted for, and who can give a good account of evil doing? While men live in sin, they do nothing but undo themselves. Man was not sent into this world only to eat, drink, sleep and play, much less to sin, but as into a great workhouse, to work for the glory of God (John 17.4), and so to work out his own salvation, and that with fear and trembling (Philippians 2.12). They who live in sin, however, work out their damnation, and that many times without fear or trembling; but they will have a great store of these when they come to receive their just doom and damnation.

Time is a most precious commodity, for eternity depends upon this moment. As men sow in this seed-time, they will reap in that harvest. Time is a prophet for eternity: as men live here so must they live for ever. They who sow sin must reap death (Galatians 6.8). Time is to be redeemed (Ephesians 5.16), and every day is to be numbered, greatly valued and improved, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom (Psalm 90.12). And this is wisdom, the fear of the Lord; and this is understanding, to depart from evil (Job 28.28). This is wisdom, to know and do what is the acceptable will of God (Matthew 7.24; Ephesians 5.15-17). We may be said to be, but not to live, if we do not live to God, and all time that is not so spent is but mis-spent and worse than lost. Poor people who are demented and have lost their understanding wear out their days to less loss and disadvantage than do sinners.

(3) They who mock at sin are worse than fools and madmen

'Fools make a mock at sin' (Proverbs 14 9). Tell them, as Lot did his sons-in-law, the danger therein, the judgments that hang over their head and, as with Lot, ye seem to them as one that mocketh (Genesis 19.14). They laugh at it, as if God were not in earnest when he threatens sinners, and as if they who preach against sin were only ridiculous persons. 'It is as sport to a fool to do mischief (Proverbs 10.23), and there are some who sport themselves on their way to Hell, as if it were but a recreation! What fools they are who laugh at their own folly and destruction! It is a devilish nature in us to mock at the calamity of others, but to laugh at our own calamity seems to be worse than devilish. There are many, too many, who mourn under affliction, yet laugh over their sins; they sigh and weep when they feel any burden on their body but make merry at that which destroys their soul! Can anything be more mad than this, to laugh, mock and make sport at that which is a burden and weariness to God (Isaiah 1.14; Amos 2.13); which is the wounding, piercing and crucifying of Christ Jesus (Zechariah 12.10; Hebrews 6. 6); which is a grief to the Spirit of consolation (Ephesians 4.30); which is a trouble to the holy angels (Luke 15.7,10); which wrongs and undoes their own souls (Proverbs 8.36) 1 Such is sin.

(4) Sin being so sinful, infectious, and pernicious, it can never be well with a man while he is in his sins

Was it well with Dives, though he fared deliciously every day? No, it was better with Lazarus who lay at his gate full of sores. For that is well which ends well, which is never the case with sinners. Even if judgment is not executed speedily, it will surely come, for they are condemned already, being sons of death and perdition. No man, then, has any cause to envy the prosperity of sinners; it is not good enough to be envied, but it is bad enough to be pitied. They are only fattened for, and thereby fitted to destruction. 'The prosperity of fools shall destroy them' (Proverbs 1.32). It is their folly alone which actually destroys them, but their prosperity doubles it, and does it with a vengeance. The prosperous sinner is in the worst plight of all sinners; they are set in slippery places and shall be cast down from their height to the depths of destruction (Psalm 73.18).

(5) Sin's utter sinfulness argues that men should become religious without delay

This may prevent a great deal of sin which, unless a man is religious, and strictly so, early in life, is certain to come about. How precious and dear should that thing be to us which prevents so pernicious and destructive a thing as sin! How industriously careful we should be to keep ourselves from that which will keep us from happiness! How ambitious we should be to enjoy that which capacitates us for enjoying God for ever and which gives us the first-fruits of it here! Indeed, we cannot be too soon nor too much religious, but the sooner and more the better. If ever you mean to be religious, there is no time like the present, no day better than today. 'Remember now thy Creator' (Ecclesiastes 12.1), for so the word runs, that is, God in Christ, for he created all things by Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3.9; Colossians 1.16). Remember now, in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come, when thou shall say, I have no pleasure in them (Ecclesiastes 12.1); not only will you have no pleasure in the evil days of sickness, death and judgment, that evil day which you put far from you, but none in the remembrance of your youthful days. Youth is the most proper season of all our days, and now is the most proper season of all our youth to remember God in. If you say, we will do that when we are old, for it is now springtime with us (our May-time), and we will think of religion in a winter's night; do not boast of tomorrow, young as you are, for you are old enough to die. This night your soul may be taken from you, and you may be in Hell tomorrow!

Therefore take the wise man's advice, 'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes' (Ecclesiastes 11.9). Yes. you say, with all our hearts we will take this advice; we like it well, for it is pleasing doctrine. We would rather mind this than to be holy; we will be debonair and jovial, for we do not care for severe preachers of strictness and devotion. We will laugh and sing, drink and dance away our time while we have it. But do not mistake, Solomon speaks ironically and has something else to say; take all, and then, if you rejoice, it will be with trembling; rejoice, but; let your heart cheer you, but; walk in the ways of thine heart and eyes, but; but what? 'But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment' (Ecclesiastes 11.9). How will you answer for your vanity and follies, your pride and wantonness, your drunkenness and debauchery then? Oh, remember your Creator before that evil day comes, and prevent a life of sin which is the most miserable life in the world! For God has promised that if you seek him early you will find him, and in finding him you find everything (Proverbs 8.17-21).

Remember him in your youth, for memory is then in its prime and most flourishing. Shall he, who gave you your being and memory, be forgotten by you? If God did not remember you, what would become of you? See what is likely to become of you if you forget God (Psalm 50.22). However good and however excellent your memory is, I am sure that you have a very bad one if you forget and do not remember your Creator in the days of your youth. A young man's glory is his strength, and will you give your strength to sin, which is due to God (Mark 12.30)? God's sacrifices were to be young; the first-ripe fruits and the first-born (which is the strength, Genesis 49.3) were to be dedicated to God; he will not be put off with less now. God's chiefest worthies have been and are his young men (I John 2.13,14); God's men of valour are young men. The princes of this world, like the Romans of old, make up their armies of young men, the flower of their army is of young and strong men; and shall the King of kings be put off with what is decrepit and worn out? No, he will not! Go, offer it to your governor, will he be pleased with or accept such persons (Malachi 1.8,13,14)? He will not, neither will God, who is a great King, the Lord of Hosts, whose Name is dreadful.

They who have been religious early are greatly famed and honoured in the Scripture records. God is taken with and remembers the kindness of their youth (Jeremiah 2.2). Abel, though dead, is spoken of with an honourable testimony, even that of God himself, for serving God so young and so well (Hebrews 11.4). Joseph was very early religious; so was Samuel. Jeroboam's little son is not to be forgotten, for God has honoured him. King Josiah, Daniel, and the three children or young man of Israel are all enrolled in the court of honour and heaven. In the New Testament, St. John is called the disciple whom Jesus loved, his bosom-favourite and darling, and the reason usually given is because he came to Christ and became his disciple while still very young. It is said in commendation of Timothy that he knew the Scriptures from a child (2 Timothy 3.15).

Many parents are afraid to have serious and divine things taught their children lest it make them melancholy and depress them. But is anything better able to fit them for service to God or man than religion? Or is any spirit comparable to that true greatness and gallantry of spirit which consists in being afraid to sin? We should teach children moral and religious courage and bravery, which fears to sin more than to die, and to make the choice of Moses, preferring the reproaches of Christ before the treasures and pleasures of this world. In this way they are likely to attain better names and greater wealth, to enjoy more pleasure and preferment than any that this world can confer upon them. They who are taught to love and serve God best are best bred; and they attain most honour who honour God, for them will God himself honour.

I do not speak in derogation of anything that passes for virtue among men, and that is attractive and genteel. I would, however, press you to more, to what is commendable to God and in his sight of great price, that is, to remember him in the days of your youth. For evil days are coming; sickness, old age, death is approaching: the Judge is at the door. Certainly that is best while we are young that will be best when we are old and die; and that can be worth very little at the beginning which will be worth nothing at the end of our days. The sins of youth will lie heavy upon old age. Even if God give repentance to you when you are old, it will cost you the more because you did not repent sooner, and you will regret that you have been so long in sin and that you have only a little while to live in which to testify your conversion. Job thought it sad to possess the sins of his youth (Job 13.23,26). Things that are sweet in youth often prove the bitterness of old age, and what are pleasures while young bring pains when old. This made King David pray to God that he would not remember against him the sins of his youth (Psalm 25.7). Though I might add much more, I suppose this will suffice to show how important it is for us to be religious early, since sin is so dangerous and destructive a thing.

(6) Sin being so pernicious, how welcome should the Gospel be

It brings the good and joyful news of the Saviour, telling us how to be saved from sin, the cause of wrath, and from wrath as the effect of sin. How beautiful, then, should be the feet of those who bring this blessed remedy to us (Romans 10.15)! If we had gout or a gallstone what would we not give for a remedy, an infallible medicine to cure us? We always welcome surgeons though they cause us pain, and apothecaries though they bring us loathsome drugs; indeed, so dear is health to us, that we not only thank but reward them too. What a welcome, then, should Christ and his gospel have! They come with saving health to cure us of the worst of diseases and plagues, that of sin. Surely we should press with violence, and be so violent as to besiege heaven and take it by force; and we should no less hasten to receive the gospel, and take into us the wine and milk thereof and the waters of life, seeing that we may have them so freely for the asking! It is true that our salvation cost Christ Jesus dearly, but he offers it to us at a cheap rate and we should not let Heaven be so thinly, and Hell so populously inhabited, when salvation may be had at an easier rate than going beyond the sea for it (Romans 10.6-10 with Deuteronomy 30.12-14). Since it is so faithful a saying and worthy to be received, do not be so unworthy as to refuse it, and with that to refuse your own salvation!


It may be that some poor soul or other may be pricked in heart and cry out like the Jews, What shall we do? (Acts 2.37), or as the jailor, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16.30). Is there any hope for poor sinners? Is there any balm in Gilead, or any physician there (Jeremiah 8.22)? Yes, surely there is! As one scholar puts it, God would never have suffered so potent and malicious an enemy to have set foot in his dominions unless he had known how to conquer it, and that not only by punishing it in Hell but by destroying it. He will not only pardon, but subdue your sins. If you will hear him, hear then, that your soul may live. Hear the call of Christ Jesus, behold he calleth thee, Come to me, ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11.28). All who were in debt and distress came to David; you are such an one, come to this David, for so Christ is called, take his counsel and you will do well. You shall live, and sin shall die. What is this counsel of his?

Answer: Repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1.15).

(1) Repent. Jesus Christ came to call sinners to repentance (Matthew 9.12,13). This was one of the errands upon which he came into the world. Repent then not only for, but from dead works (Hebrews 6.1). Abhor both your sin and yourself, repenting as in dust and ashes (Job 42.6). Be full of indignation against, and take a full revenge upon your sin and yourself, as true repentance does (2 Corinthians 7.11). To be merciful to sin is to be cruel to yourself; to save the one alive is to put the other to death. Therefore do not spare it, but repent unfeignedly from the bottom of your heart. Let it grieve you that God is displeased with you for your sin, but much more that he has been displeased by you and by your sin. Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, amendment of life, that your repentance may appear to be a change of heart and life, of your mind and manners, not only a reformation but a renovation, showing that you are a new man.

The goodness of God leads you to repentance; he might have driven you into it by terrors, but he gently leads you. It is indeed an evidence of his goodness that he will admit us to repent, but that he will call and lead to repentance is goodness much more. And what goodness is it that he puts us to no greater penance than repentance (Jeremiah 3.13)! God might have said, You must lie in hell so many thousand years to feel the smart of your sin. If he had bid you do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more when he says, Wash and be clean--to allude to the words of Naaman's servants to him (2 Kings 5.13). Indeed, what is even more, God waits to be gracious, and is patient even to long-suffering. He might have called and knocked at your door once and then no more, but he has stood and knocked and begged, and given you space and means (Revelation 2.21; Luke 16.31). And why has he done all this, but that you might come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9)? If, then, you do not repent, it is a greater affront to God than was your former sin. Humanurn est errare, it is human frailty to sin, but to continue in it without repentance is devilish. It is to despise God's goodness (Romans 2.4); it is to justify your sin and to upbraid God with a scoff as did those who said, 'Where is the promise of his coming? (2 Peter 3.4). In order that God's goodness may still prevail, I beseech you to consider further:

1. If you repent you will be forgiven.

'Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out' (Acts 3.19); they shall be as if they had not been. Where God gives repentance for sin, he also gives remission of it (Acts 5.3I). He who hardens his heart in inpenitence shall not prosper; but he who confesses and forsakes his sins shall have mercy (Proverbs 28.13,14). God looks upon men, and if anyone says, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, that is, if anyone repents, he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light (Job 33.27,28). Indeed, God is not only merciful, but if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9). How this obliges us to repent!

2. Repentance is, according to God's interpretation, the undoing of all the evil you have committed and the doing of the good you have omitted.

Indeed, he who repents of his sin tells all the world that if it could be done again he would not do it. And he who repents for not having done the will of God, does it in repenting (Matthew 21.29). What goodness is this, to put such a construction on repentance! Shall we not, then, repent?

3. By repenting, you cause rejoicing to all whom you have grieved by your sin.

You have grieved your own soul; repentance will cheer it For though repentance springs from sorrow, it ends in joy and will never be repented of (2 Corinthians 7.10). You will rejoice the generation of the righteous. Yea, there will be joy in heaven; God and angels will be glad and rejoice at your return (Luke 15). It is the sin of men, and greatly aggravated, that they repented not to give him glory (Revelation 16.9); sin dishonours but repentance gives glory to God. Therefore Joshua said to Achan, confess thy sin and give glory to God (Joshua 7.19). At the same time we rejoice the heart, and glorify the name of God by repentance! Shall we not repent? O repent! repent! But if there is no repentance.

4. Know that God has appointed a day in which he will judge you.

This truth calls upon you, at your peril, to repent (Acts 17.30,31). If you do not do so, you only enrich yourself for hell, and by your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2.5). But God who is longsuffering will not be all-suffering: he who is the God of patience now, will, if that patience is abused, be a God of vengeance hereafter to the abusers of his patience. God's patience will be at an end one day; he will wait for you no more, no longer. He waited forty years but then swore in his wrath (Hebrews 3.11). He waited on the Jewish fig tree three years, but at last cut it down.

God has set you a day and that is today. While it is called today, hear his voice, and harden not your hearts. When this day of patience is over, if you are still found unprovided, woe to you, for you are undone for ever! I pray you, think of it, have you not grieved God enough yet? Nor wronged your own soul enough yet? Are you afraid of being happy too soon? Or of going to Hell too easily and cheaply, that you will not repent or that you delay it? If in this your day you do not consider the things of your peace, you may have them hidden from your eyes, and go blindfold to Hell and be damned for ever; and then God will require payment to the utmost farthing (Matthew 18.23-34). He will be paid all that is due; for time, for talents, for means, for mercies, for patience and forbearance, he will be paid for all. If he is not glorified by you now, he will be glorified upon you then. I hope, however, that you realise this, and that I shall not need to urge or press this any further upon you. Therefore I shall pass to the second counsel:

(2). Believe the Gospel

It is not only repentance toward God but faith in our Lord Jesus Christ that is required for the pardoning and purging of sin, for destroying sin and saving you. Repentance is not enough, for righteousness is not by repentance but by faith (Philippians 3.9). Prayers and tears, sighs and sorrows are not our saviour; it is Jesus only who saves from sin (Matthew 1.21). None can put our sins to death but he who died for our sins. Do not think you can strike a bargain with God; if all the riches of the world were yours to give, and if you were to give them all, it must cost more than that to have your soul justified and saved (Psalm 49.6-9). If all the men in the world were to lend you their blood, and you were to offer it up, and with that, your own and that of your firstborn too, it would all be too little (Micah 6.7). Bring all your repentance and righteousness, and it cannot compensate or make amends for one sin. If all the angels in heaven lent you their whole stock of righteousness--and it is a great one--yet it would not do.

No satisfaction could be made nor anything merited for you but by the Son of God; he and he alone is the Saviour from sin, neither is there any name given under haven except his whereby we must be saved, nor is there salvation in any other (Acts 4.12). Look to him, then, and be saved, for whatever your sins are he can save to the very utmost all who come to God by him, for he ever lives to make intercession for them Hebrews 7.25).

But if you do not believe in Christ Jesus, though you repent of sin and live, as touching the law, a blameless life, as Saul of Tarsus did (Philippians 3), though you enjoy the reputation of a saint and may seem too good to go to Hell, yet without Christ and faith in him you will not be good enough to go to Haven. Though there is a Christ to be believed in who has died for sinners, yet if you do not believe in him you may die and be damned notwithstanding that. Come then, come to and close with Christ, not with an idle and dead, but with an effectual and lively faith. Receive a whole Christ; not only Jesus, but Lord; not only Saviour but Prince (Colossians 2.6). Be as willing to die to sin as he was to die for sin, and as willing to live to him as he was to die for you. Be as willing to be his, to serve him, as that he should be yours to save you. Take him on his own terms, give up yourself wholly to him. Forget your father's house, depart from all iniquity, and become wholly and entirely his. Let your works declare and justify your faith, by purifying your heart (Acts 15.9), by sanctifying you (Acts 26.I8), by overcoming the world, both the good and evil, the best and worst, the frowns and flatteries of it (1 John 1.4,1). This Moses and the rest did by faith (Hebrews 11). Thus come, and thus make good your coming to and believing in Christ.

Then you shall be saved; as the apostle told the jailor, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16.30,31). They who unfeignedly and with their heart believe in Jesus shall not be destroyed by this destructive thing, sin, nor shall they be damned by this damning thing, sin. Just as there was need of a Jesus Christ, and as faith in Jesus Christ is required, so salvation is made certain and assured to them who believe in Jesus Christ. He who perseveres to the end shall find the end of his faith, the saving of his soul. Hasten, then, to take hold of him, close with him and cleave to him, if ever you would be saved from your sin and God's wrath. Do you like the end, and not the way? Is salvation desirable and is not faith? Without faith it is impossible to please God here, or to be saved hereafter. Have you not souls as well as bodies? Would you not be saved from sin as well as from sickness? Hasten to Jesus Christ, then, the physician, the Saviour of souls. Is there any other Christ? Is there salvation in any other? Has God any more Sons to send? Is there any other way to Heaven? Have we not been in peril long enough? Come now to Christ; if ever there were reason for it, there is now. Will you need him? You do now. Will he be lovely hereafter? He is now. These things being so, we should fly like doves to the windows and not stand a moment longer lest we die, and die in our sins, and then farewell to happiness and hope for ever. But I trust that this is not in vain. I am willing to hope that I have not preached from nor prayed to God in vain, that I have not expostulated with and besought you in vain, but that you will yet repent and believe the Gospel.

There is still another thing to which I would exhort you on this occasion:

(3) Sin no more, nor return again to folly

Hear and fear, and do no more wickedly. It is sad to lick up vomit, and after being washed to wallow in the mire; the latter end of such is worse than their beginning and it had been better for them that they had not known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to apostatize and depart from the holy commandment (2 Peter 2.21-22). It will be difficult--next to impossible--to renew such again unto repentance (Hebrews 6.6). What can they expect but judgment, fiery indignation and vengeance (Hebrews 10.26-30). 0 how the sin and condemnation of apostates is and will be aggravated What! after all his kindness will you kick with the heel against him! After sin has cost you so many sighs and tears and aching hurts, will you make work for more? You will have your belly-full, for the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways (Proverbs 14.14); he will have enough of it one day, and will then cry out, O what an evil and bitter thing is apostasy! O this evil heart of unbelief that made me again depart from the living God, after returning to serve him!

(4) Take heed of living in any one (and especially any known) sin

Let us lay aside all the remains of haughtiness, and the sin that doth most easily beset us. Let us not have any favourite sin, but out with our right eyes and off with our right hands, rather than offend. Yea, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, without and within, that we may perfect holiness and grow up to a perfect man, the measure of the stature of Christ Jesus. Shall we continue in sin? No! Not in one, God forbid! The Apostle speaks (Romans 6) as if it were not only inconsistent but impossible for those to do so who have seen and tasted that the Lord is gracious. For now they see the sinfulness of sin much more than they did before, as being that which attempted to murder God, and did indeed put the Son of God to death. And they say, Shall we crucify him again? King David would not drink the water that hazarded man's blood; how then, they say, can we do any wickedness and sin against the blood of God, which was shed to cleanse us from our sin? Shall we take pleasure in that which put Christ to pain, and live in that which put Christ to death? No! By no means! Shall his love and power have no better influence and effect than that? Have we put off the old man, and shall we put it on again? Are we dead, and shall we not cease from sin? Can we say we believe in him, and not obey him? No! No! Get you hence, all idols! In this way gracious souls and new creatures both reason and resolve this case.

I caution and beseech you then to take heed of living in any sin, whether in thought, word or deed:

1. Take heed of sinning in thought.

Seeing that sin is so sinful, it is evil even to be a thinking sinner, or a sinner though only in thought. It is too commonly said that thoughts are free. They are indeed free in respect of men, who cannot judge us for them, but God can and will. Many people who seem to be modest and sparing as to evil words and deeds will still make bold with thoughts and, as the saying is, pay it with thinking. Such are speculative, contemplative sinners.

There are some who are so wise as not to say with their tongues, yet such fools as to say in their hearts, that there is no God (Psalm 14.1). There are some who do not actually murder, yet by anger and envy are murderers in heart or thought, as Joseph accused his brethren in saying, You thought evil against me (Genesis 50.20). There are thought-adulterers, who perhaps never were or durst be adulterers in actual deed (Matthew 5.28). There are blasphemers in heart, who do not speak it with their mouths but are like those who heard Christ forgiving sin and thought in their hearts that he blasphemed, and so they themselves blasphemed him (Matthew 9.3-5). Some talk of the world and declaim against it as a vanity, but they think vainly in their heart that their houses shall endure for ever (Psalm 49.11); like the rich man who said within himself, Thou hast much goods laid up for many years, as if he thought these things his happiness. But it is said of the former that this their way is their folly (Psalm 49.13), and of the latter, Thou fool (Luke 12.20). For the thought of foolishness, or the foolish thought, is sin (Proverbs 24.9). Therefore it is said, Take heed that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart (Deuteronomy 15.9), that is, that there be not a wicked thought in thy heart.

It is true, that all thoughts of evil are not evil thoughts, just as all thoughts of good are not good thoughts. A man may think of evil and yet his thoughts may be good; and a man may think of good and yet his thoughts be evil. A man thinks of evil with good thoughts when he thinks of evil to grieve and repent for it, to abhor and forsake it. And a man thinks of good with evil thoughts when he thinks of good to neglect and scorn it, to call it evil and so to persecute it. But thoughts of sin may be sinful thoughts, with respect to sin past or sin to come.

When men please themselves in the thoughts of their past sins, when they chew the cud and lick their lips after it, or as is said in Job 20.12,13, they hide it under their tongue, as if it were a sugar-plum, then they do the sin over and over again by thinking of it, although they do not act it. In this sense, some interpreters understand the scripture, 'She multiplied her whoredores in calling to remembrance the sins of her youth' (Ezekiel 23.19). She acted it over again in her memory, in new speculations of her old sins. On the other hand, some men, perhaps the same persons, think sinfully of the sins they have not done, grieving at and regretting they had not taken such and such opportunities, and embraced such and such temptations as they had to sin.

Also, with respect to sins to come, men think sinfully in plotting, contriving and anticipating what sins they will do, although they do not do them. Against this we are charged to make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13.14); the word is, do not plan and cater for the flesh. Do not lay in fuel for such fire; do not lie in bed and plan to fulfil the lusts hereafter which you cannot practise at present. I would make mention of certain considerations that you may see the sinfulness of evil thoughts:

(i) Sinful thoughts defile a man.

This they do although they never come to words or deeds, and are never uttered or practised. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, etc., and these defile the man (Matthew 15.19,20). Not only murder and adultery, but the thought of murdering and committing adultery defiles the man, as this text says; and our Saviour says the same in another text (Matthew 5.22,28). Thus Job made a covenant with his eyes that he might not think (lustfully) of a maid (Job 31.1). So should we take heed to our ways, that we may not offend, not only with our tongues, but in our thoughts. For thoughts are the words of our hearts and their deeds; and all the words of our mouths and the acts of our lives come from our hearts. Therefore, above all keepings, keep thine heart (Proverbs 4.23).

(ii) Sinful thoughts are an abomination in the sight of God.

God has a special eye to the thoughts of men's hearts, to those of good men (Malachi 3.16), and to those of bad men (Genesis 6.5). In good men God very often accepts the will for the deed. If the will is present with them, though to do they have not the power; if they are as willing to do as to will the deed, God accepts the will for the deed although they cannot do it (2 Corinthians 8.12; Matthew 26.41). Similarly when men will and think wickedly, God takes their will for their deed. Just as he takes the good man's will for the deed with acceptation, so he takes the wicked man's will for the deed with abomination; for the thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 15.26). Their wicked thoughts are like filthy vapours and smells in the nostrils of God. Sin is a filthiness, and sinful thoughts have their filthiness as well as sinful actions. Therefore it is said, 'O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?' (Jeremiah 4.14). The very remedy tells of the disease; if they must be washed then surely they were filthy, for sweeping will not serve the turn. And what was the wickedness of their heart? It follows in the text, the vain thoughts which were there, and these must be washed or they could not be saved. So abominable in the sight of God is the villainy and vanity of thoughts.

(iii) Thought-sins are root-sins and the roots of all other sins.

They are the mother-sins, actions being their issue (Proverbs 4.23). Evil deeds are the offspring and children of evil thoughts, the branches and fruit which grow out of this root. Thoughts are the first-born of the soul; words and actions are only younger brothers. They are the oil that feeds and maintains the wick, which would otherwise go out; life-sins receive their juice and nourishment from thought-sins. St. James speaks as if our thoughts were the belly and womb where sin is conceived (James 1.15). Now when men would curse grievously, as Job did, they curse the day and place of their birth, the womb that bore them; so should you curse sin even in the very womb that bore it, laying the axe to the root of the tree.

The wickedness of men's lives is charged upon their thoughts, that it has its root and rise there: murders, adulteries, etc., all come out of the heart, as out of the belly of a Trojan horse (Genesis 6.5; Matthew 12.35; 15.19). One would wonder (as we do at some birds, where they nest all winter) to see so many flocks and herds of wickedness. One would wonder from what corner of the world they come. Why, they all come out of the heart, the rendezvous of wickedness, the inn where lodge all the thieves and travelling lusts that are in the world and that do so much mischief in it. All the unclean streams flow from this unclean fountain, this ocean and sea of sin. Holy David says, I hate vain thoughts (Psalm 119.113); that is, any thoughts that are against thy law which I love. We all hate that which is against what we love. But why does David hate the thought of sin? Because evil thoughts beget evil words, and evil words corrupt good, and beget bad behaviour. Vain imaginations beget vain conversations. It is hard for those who think well to do ill, and harder still for those who think ill to do well, for as the root is, so is the fruit, and by that the tree is known (Matthew 7.17).

(iv) If we had no other sins to be pardoned, yet we must beg pardon for sinful thoughts.

A man may think himself to Hell, if the sinfulness of his thoughts is not forgiven him. St. Peter said to Simon Magus, Repent of thy thought-wickedness, and pray if perhaps the thoughts of thine heart may be forgiven thee (Acts 8.22). If God were to pardon all our word-sins and evil deeds, and leave only our thought-sins unpardoned, we would be undone for ever. Indeed, blessed David was so afraid of sin that he begs God to cleanse him from his secret sins which lay lurking in his heart and were undiscernible there (Psalm 19.12). Even if such thoughts do not increase to more ungodliness, which they will attempt and too easily effect, yet there is impiety and ungodliness enough in them to ruin us everlastingly! I wish that those who make light of vain thoughts, and even of evil thoughts, as if they had no evil in them, would think of this.

(v) It is the great design of the Gospel to bring thoughts to the obedience of Christ Jesus.

It is far easier to reform men's manners than to renew their minds; the laws of men may do the former but it is the law of God which does the latter. Many men, even though they had no other company, could live along with the sins of their hearts and thoughts, pleasing themselves and blessing themselves, too, in their own vain imaginations, and acting sins in their fancy. Indeed, they will more easily surrender the sins of their tongues and hands than their heart-sins. Now the Gospel comes to throw down these strong towers, to cast down imaginations, to conquer whole armies of thoughts, to reduce these straggling and thievish highwaymen into good order and obedience. This is the glory of the Gospel, beyond all the philosophy in the world, that it has such a great influence on the hearts and thoughts of men (2 Corinthians 10.4,5).

(vi) Conversion begins, is carried on and is completed in the hearts and thoughts of men.

It begins there, for while men are dead in sins they do not consider or regard what is in their heart and thoughts. But when the grace of God comes in power, and they receive it in truth, they begin to think and consider, What shall we do to be saved? Men are in a great quandary in their thoughts, they begin to be disturbed, and their bowels are turned within them. For this reason, regeneration is called the renewing of the mind, and repentance is a change of mind; the heart becomes a new heart, and when the heart is gained, all the rest follows. If the wicked forsake his thoughts, he will quickly forsake his ways (Isaiah 55.7). The first turn is in the thoughts. 'I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies' (Psalm 119. 59); the thoughts go before and the feet follow after. The first movements of the Prodigal were in his thoughts; when he came to himself he said within himself, I will arise and go to my father. While he was thus thinking--it is said, while he was afar off, just taking the first step--his father saw him and had compassion on him.

Not only is conversion begun in, but it is carried on in the heart and thoughts especially, though not exclusively. When others, like the Pharisees, study only to make the outside look fair and beautiful, the godly man is employed about his inside, to keep his heart clean. The prayers of godly men are chiefly taken up about their hearts: 'Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me' (Psalm 51.10). And as one excellent writer puts it, In what lies the difference between sincere-hearted Christians and others, but in the keeping of the thoughts, without which all religion is but bodily exercise? Papists may mumble over their prayers, hypocrites may talk, but this is godliness. As conversion begins and is carried on in the thoughts, so it is completed, finished and perfected in them; it ends there. For when a godly man comes to die, his chief and last employment is about his thoughts, He is done with works, he has made his will and concluded all outside him; perhaps his speech fails him, and then his main work and the conclusion, the shutting up of the whole matter is in his thoughts. So that when he comes into the new world of the regenerate, while he continues there, and when he is going into the world to come, his main employment is about and in his thoughts: there he began and here he ends.

(vii) God keeps an account of, and will call us to account for thoughts as well as for words and actions.

He has a book of remembrance written for them that think on his name; yes, and for them who think on their sins too with sinful thoughts! There is no thought hid from him; all things are naked and opened before him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4.I3), or as the words may be read, before him to whom we are to give account. God knows our thoughts afar off (Psalm 139.2), long before they come out into words or actions (Deuteronomy 31.21). So the father saw the prodigal, while he was still afar off and only thinking to return. Indeed, he searches and tries the heart to this very end, that he may give to every man according to his ways (Jeremiah 17.9,10). God will judge righteous judgment, not according to appearance, as men do; as the man thinketh, so is he, and so shall he be judged. Men judge our inside by our outside; our heart by our work; but God judges our outside by our inside, our works by our heart. It is for this reason that we should fear God and keep his Commandments, because God will bring not only every work, but every secret thing to judgment, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12.13,14). When the Lord comes, he will bring to light the hidden thing of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart, that is, all the secret designs and projects of it He will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, as our Gospel teaches (Romans 2.16). Think, then, that for thoughts you must be judged, and therefore make conscience of them, for not only God's knowledge (Scientia divina) but man's conscience (Conscientia humana) will be one of the books opened as witness in that day, according to which men shall be judged.

Well then, what do you say, or what shall I say to you? Have you thought evil? Lay your hand upon your mouth (Proverbs 30.32), not only if you have done foolishly but if you have only thought evil; lay your hand on your mouth that is, be humble and abased. The vanity and vileness, the folly and filthiness of our thoughts should make us ashamed. And lay your hand on your mouth for prevention also. As people lay their hand on their mouth when they cough, lest any unsavoury or unseemly thing should come from them, so do you. For what we say in our hearts we shall soon say with our lips, if we do not lay a hand on our mouth to stop the issue of vain thoughts from flowing out into and infecting our lips and lives, our words and actions. This hive of drones will swarm if you do not lay your hand on your mouth. This cage of unclean birds will be opened and they will take their flight. Your thoughts will run waste like water beside the mill if you do not keep a strong hand over them.

In relation to this, take the following directions for your help and assistance;

(i) Humbly make your address and supplication to God.

Your heart is in his hands, and to him alone heart-work belongs. He only can search, cleanse, new-make and keep the heart. Pray to God, not only that past sins may be forgiven but that there may not be future ones needing forgiveness. Beg him to new-make your heart and to create a clean one in you. Would you be rid of sinful thoughts? Pray against them, lift up a prayer, and cry out as St. Paul did against the messenger of Satan. Pray without fainting, that even if they are not removed, his grace may be sufficient for you. Cry out as a virgin would do in a case of rape, and God will hear the cry of the oppressed and of them who groan. Call God to your relief; tell him you cannot stand before these troops and armies that defy Israel and Israel's God, and beg him to vindicate his own Name by his own power, as he can easily do.

(ii) Hide the Word of God in your heart that you may not sin against him.

Do as holy David did, that you might be more holy (Psalm 119.11). Apply the plaster to the sore place; the heart is the seat and centre of sin; apply the Word there, lay it up, and it will rout and root out these Canaanites and daughters of the land who are a grief of heart to you. Sin is in the heart: hide the Word there, as if it were in ambush to cut off sin upon its first appearance. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and there is nothing like it to wound and kill sin with. It is one of the weapons of our warfare, which is mighty through God to cast down and cast out wicked imaginations (2 Corinthians 10.4,5). Put on therefore this and the whole armour of God, that you may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might (Ephesians 6.10-17). He is a God who works wonders, even in this matter and of this kind, by his Word and Spirit. Hide this Word, then, which is the sword of the Spirit, and that by which he achieves such glorious conquests over hearts and thoughts.

(iii) Begin the day with thoughts of God and good things.

Do not let fancies and vain imaginations get the start of you in the morning. Fancy was our playfellow for many a year before we knew what reason and understanding was; our childhood and youth was vanity. You know that many times schoolfellows and playfellows get such an intimate acquaintance and familiarity with us that it is hard to break it off. But fancy and imagination, these childish things which still have a strong hold of and strong holds in us, must be cast off before our thoughts can become obedient to Christ, as the Apostle tells us (2 Corinthians 10.5). Therefore mount up with the lark, begin with God, think much and often that he sees and observes you. It was said by the Romans, Watch yourself, for Cato sees you. God's watching should awe you as Cato's did them (Psalm 44.20,21), and so it did David (Psalm 139.17,18). If vanity gets possession in the morning it will strive to keep it all the day. What a dish is first seasoned with, it keeps the flavour of for long after. Take, as it were, a good draught of the Word in the morning to prevent the windy vapours of vain thoughts. As soon as you wake there are many fiddlers at your bedroom door to sing you wanton songs; but do not listen to them; tell them and all the suitors and clients who solicit you, that you are otherwise engaged and have business of consequence to mind. Do not listen to any sirens. Stop your ear against all such charmers, no matter how pleasingly they sing and charm, for it can never be wisely nor to advantage. Thus, if when you awake, you are with God in meditation, you are likely to walk with God in your whole behaviour, and to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.

(iv) If this will not suffice, chide and check vain thoughts.

If they still haunt you and, like flies that are beaten off, return again, use severity and sharpness. Alas! we are all too indulgent, courteous and gentle to these bold, intruding travellers, for so they are called (2 Samuel I2.4). There came a traveller to the rich man--a lust to David in the case of Bathsheba, for it refers to that--and he killed another man's lamb for this traveller, this lust. If he had only examined it, he would have found it to be a spy or a vagabond, which should not have been feasted but sent to the whipping-post. The reason why we have so many pedlars coming to our doors is because we buy and take their trifles, and the reason why so many of these beggars and wandering gipsies knock at our doors is because we give them alms and lodging. If we only frowned on them and executed the law upon them, we should probably have none or less of their company.

(v) Turn away your eyes from beholding vanity.

Avoid occasions and appearances of evil; for the world is cheated by appearances and shows. Men become thieves when opportunity is offered them, who without it perhaps would not have thought of being so. Just as the heart inflames the eye, so the eye affects and inflames the heart. Curiosity to see and hear the silliest pictures and wanton songs has often induced persons to think such thoughts and to do such things as otherwise they would scarcely have dreamed of. Vain objects and vain speeches engender vain fancies and imaginations, and so proceed and increase to more ungodliness (2 Timothy 2.16). Therefore the apostle warned Christians not to tell stories of fornication, uncleanness or covetousness; they should not be so much as named or mentioned (Ephesians 5.3). Such stories, even though only romances, leave bad impressions on men's fancies. We need to keep a strict watch over eyes and ears if ever we would preserve our hearts and thoughts pure and chaste, lest we tempt the tempter to tempt us and to make our hearts worse by opportunity and custom than they are by nature. This made King David beg of God to turn away his eyes from beholding vanity (Psalm 119.37), and good Job was so much afraid of himself that he made a covenant with his eyes, lest he should think (unbecomingly) of a maid. Looking produces lusting as lusting puts on looking (Matthew 1.28).

(vi) Beware of idleness.

Every man should have a calling to follow, and follow his calling, which is an excellent preservative from evil thoughts. Idle people have no business but to sin, and they who follow their calling have no leisure to sin; their thoughts are too intent to be diverted. Time lies heavy on some men's hands for want of employment, and therefore they become busybodies, gadding and wandering about as their fancy or the Devil, like the wind, drives them, or like a decoy draws and allures them (1 Timothy 5.13-15). Indeed, these idlers or busybodies are joined with evildoers, thieves and murderers (1 Peter 4.15). They know that their time is passing away and will pass away, but they do not know how to pass it away, so that whatever temptation comes, they seem to be ready. The wink of an eye or the holding up of a finger prevails with them. They follow the Devil's whistle, and dance to his tune. They spend their days like vagrants, and their life is a mere diversion from that which is the business of it. They cannot endure to be with themselves, and therefore trifle away their precious time, and adventure the loss of their precious souls, by becoming sinners for company.

Our thoughts are so active and restless that they will be doing something or other, and like unruly soldiers, if others do not employ them well, they will employ themselves ill. God has therefore in mercy appointed us callings to take up our thoughts, that they may be not only innocent but profitable to ourselves and others. Paradise had employment, and Heaven also will not be without it. Idleness is an hour of temptation; and we can have no excuse to stand idle in the market place when God himself offers to employ us. The best way to rid our ground of weeds is to till it, and the best way to free our hearts from evil thoughts is by good employment. Only remember this, that your particular calling must not jostle out nor infringe upon your heavenly calling, nor should your being a tradesman make you forget that your conversation, your trading, must be for Heaven. It would be bad for you to mind what is convenient and forget what is necessary. Let Mary's one thing be preferred before Martha's many.

(vii) Love God and his Law much

In so doing your thoughts will be much upon him and it. The love of God will find your heart work enough to do. He who delights in God and his Law will find opportunity enough to meditate therein, and pleasure enough in meditating therein day and night (Psalm 1.2; Psalm 119.97). Your soul will be where it loves, and where your treasure is there your heart and thoughts will be (Matthew 6.21). Set your affections on things above and when once your love is settled, your thoughts will centre and dwell there. Love will make you watchful and fearful, lest you should offend the Beloved of your soul. It will make you angry with, and cause you to hate all the sinful thoughts that would attempt to withdraw you or to divert you. It will make you like a tree planted by the riverside, exceedingly and beautifully fruitful, for so will you be in your season. It is meditation that is there likened to the watering of the river, and that meditation flows from delight, and that from love, as you may see (Psalm 1.2,3). Thus you will grow up and prosper, so much so that your leaf shall neither fade nor wither (verse 3). Thus I have endeavoured to show the sinfulness of sinful thoughts, and endeavoured to prevent them.

2. A warning against sinful words.

As I have endeavoured before to clear the heart, so that there might not be an evil thought in it; so now my aim is to clear and cleanse the mouth, so that not so much as an evil word might be in it. Too many people are apt to think that words are only wind, things that they shall not be called to account for, and therefore they are so bold and daring as to say, with our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own; who is Lord over us? (Psalm 12.4). We may speak what we will, they say, and we will speak what we may. What an unruly tongue has that man who can say that his tongue is his own! Patient Job in a fit of passion said, 'Let me alone that I may speak, and come of me what will' (Job 13.13). Alasl Is it not thus with many? When you tell them of the sinfulness of sin and of the sins of the tongue, they fly in our faces and say, Hold your peace, we will speak, let there come on us what will. How desperate they are!

But if you will be a little serious I would ask you, when you are cool and calm, this question, Would you not live and see good days? Yes! we would. Who is there that does not desire life, and to see good days while he lives? Many say, who will show us any good? And everyone says, Life, Life, Skin for skin, and all for life. 'Come, ye children, hearken unto me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord; what man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile' (Psalm 34.11-13). O that all the parents in the world would call their children together to give them such lectures as this! Many say, Come my children, I will teach you the way to grow rich and great, how to be fine and in fashion. But few call them and say, Come my children, I will teach you the fear of the Lord, the best wisdom and godliness, the best and most enriching trade, which is good for this life and that to come. 0 that they would ask them, Would you see life? Yes, you say, but how? Why, if you seek for life and good days, keep your tongue from evil and guile. This is confirmed in the New Testament (1 Peter 3.10). The best way to live and live well is to keep a good tongue in our heads, as our proverb says, and to have no evil words in our mouths. For, as the wise man assures us, 'whoso keepeth his mouth and tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles' (Proverbs 21.23). This is not only a political but a divine assertion, and is true between God and man, as it is between man and man.

Holy David was so afraid of his tongue, lest he should offend with it, that he put a bridle into his mouth (Psalm 39.1). Surely the tongue is an unruly thing that it must be bridled like a horse or an ass! Indeed it is so unruly that one may better rule horses and manage them, and more easily turn such unwieldy things as great ships are than keep the tongue in order; therefore St. James pronounces him a perfect man who offends not in word, and one that is able with ease to bridle the whole body, when he has the mastery of his tongue (James 3.2-4). It is a rare thing to use the tongue well!

Now to help you against this evil, that you may not sin with your mouths, tongues or lips (which are all one in signification), let me beg you to consider that,

(i) Sinful words are wholly forbidden us and their opposites are enjoined upon us. God has told us what we shall not, and what we shall say, what words we ought not, and what we ought to use. As to the negative, 'let no corrupt (filthy, rotten, unsavoury) communication proceed out of your mouth; but (affirmatively) that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers' (Ephesians 4.29). Again, in the same epistle, 'But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks' (Ephesians 5.3-4). These things should not be the subject and matter of your conversation and talk, but rather the giving of thanks, that is, that which is graceful and thankworthy, fit to season and edify others by ministering grace to them, as was said before. 'Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4.6). It should be such as becomes saints, graceful and comely, seasoned and savoury, that which may not defile any but edify all. Though a Christian is not always to talk of grace, yet he is always to talk so as to show himself a gracious person. Our very table talk, as well as our meat, should be seasoned with salt; it should be with the first and second course. For salt is the first to be put on, and the last taken off, that all may be seasoned and savoury. And so should all our speech be, not like salt that has lost its savour, which has no value even for the dunghill (Luke 14.35).

(ii) Unless a man take heed to his words and bridle his tongue his religion is vain, and consequently in vain. It is profitable, idle and impertinent (James 1.26). He only seems to be religious, and thereby both flatters and deceives himself. It is too much to seem to be evil, and too little only to seem to be good. Appearance in evil is too much, but appearance in good is not enough. If a man seems to be religious, and does not bridle his tongue, notwithstanding his seeming to be, he is not religious. A seeming religion is worse than none, as vanity is less than nothing (Isaiah 40.17). He who has a form and only a form of godliness, denying the power thereof, is worse than the man who has not so much as a form, or makes no profession of godliness. How this should oblige us to take heed of tongue-sins!

(iii) Sinful words are evidences of sinful hearts. Words are the image of the mind and the declaration of it; as a man is known by his picture, so is a heart by its words. 'Thou art a Galilean, thy speech betrays or discovers thee.' We may know of what nationality men are by their language, whether French or Dutch, etc., and likewise whether they are of the heavenly or the hellish world. It is out of the abundance, that is, the fulness and overflowing, of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12.34). Broach a full cask, and what is in will come out; words are like a broaching of the heart and giving it vent, and then out comes that which was within. It is indeed both possible and common for people to speak well when they mean ill; peace is in their mouth when war is in their heart. But that heart is hypocritical, and out of such a double heart which is full of hypocrisy, they speak with their tongues (Psalm 12. 2; Jeremiah 42.20). If wicked men speak well, yet it is still from an evil heart of hypocrisy, and out of that abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

(iv) Evil words corrupt men and their manners. Our great care should be not to be corrupt, and next to that, not to corrupt others; but evil words corrupt both. They corrupt and defile ourselves: what goes into the mouth, that is, meat, does not defile the man, but what comes out of the mouth, that is, evil words, proceeds from the heart, and they defile the man. The tongue is but a little member, yet it boasts great matters; it is only as a spark of fire, but it kindles a great deal of wood, a world of iniquity, the whole course of nature, and defiles the whole body (James 3.5,6). Not only does it defile a man's own body and course of life, but the body and the community of them with whom we have to do; a little leaven leavens the whole lump. 'Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners' (1 Corinthians 15.33). What kind of bad language or evil communication does the Apostle mean here? It is that which he had mentioned in verse 32: 'Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.' Such statements as this, of a loose, Epicurean and atheistic kind, debauch men and their manners. Many an innocent and promising person has been corrupted by such bad statements. They who use evil communication show no good conduct; people of evil words are seldom people of good manners. If they are so for a while, for no one is suddenly wicked or as bad as possible at first, yet they degenerate and grow more immoral and increasingly guilty of bad behaviour. Frequent lying eventually makes men so unfamiliar with truth that they scarcely think that there is any difference between them. They jest for so long that they forget what it is to be in earnest, until awakened by the quarrels that these things beget in and among themselves.

(v) The tongue is either man's glory or his shame. It is either worth much or nothing, according to whether it is good or evil. God made man's tongue his glory but sin makes it his shame. Holy David says to his tongue, 'Awake up, my glory' (Psalm 57.8), and 'My glory rejoiceth' (Psalm 16.9); the Apostle, following the Septuagint, renders this, 'My tongue was glad' (Acts 2.26). And when is our tongue our glory but when it speaks to the glory of God? Then, its words are savoury and gracious. If, on the other hand, our tongue is a lying tongue, a slandering tongue, or in any other way evil, then it is our shame. What a vast difference there is between a good and a bad tongue the tongue of the just is as choice silver (a precious commodity): the heart of the wicked (and therefore his tongue) is little worth' (Proverbs 10.20). He who pays even a farthing for that which is worth nothing pays a farthing too much. A bad tongue is worth so little that he cannot tell how little; it is worth nothing, or if you will, it is worse than nothing in being nothing. Again, 'There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health' (Proverbs 12.18). We talk of speaking daggers, or dangerous and killing words; the tongue of the wise, on the contrary, is not only a medicine and wholesome, but, in the abstract, health. There is as much difference between a good and bad tongue as between soundness and wounds, health and sickness. Yet again, 'A wholesome tongue is a tree of life (which is for healing): but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit' {Proverbs 15.4). A wounded spirit who can bear? Who can bear up under a broken spirit?

(vi) God will judge us for and by our words, as well as by our works and actions. There is a place in Scripture which should make us tremble and engage us to take heed to our words so long as we have even a day to live:--'But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned' (Matthew 12.36,37). If we must give an account of idle words, what account shall we give of filthy and harmful words! Of words that are corrupt and corrupt others! For this reason Solomon tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue {Proverbs 18.21); a man shall be judged and sentenced according to it. There is such a connection between heart, tongue and deed that he who is judged by one is judged by all of them, for they agree in one. It is noticeable in Psalm 50 that all or most of the charge against men is for words, the sin of the tongue. They have abused God's good word, used their own bad words, giving their mouth to evil. Yet though this is so, the heart was consenting and the hand executing, and therefore there was a concurrence and coworking of all three. Thus, after speaking of their words, God says, 'These things hast thou done' and then 'thou thoughtest' (Psalm 50.21). 'But I will reprove thee', he goes on, that is, for all this, and especially for your words. This is according to what is said elsewhere, 'Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their (note this!) hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him' (Jude 14,15); that is, they have spoken against him in his members. It is also said that their mouths speak great swelling words, as murmurers and complainers do (verse 16). They will jeer at the people of God and taunt them with the name of holy and spiritual, and utter hard speeches against them. But when Christ comes to judgment, he will call them to account for all the hard speeches and all the great swelling words which by way of complaint they have spoken against his members; or by way of flattery and admiration for lucre's sake, they have spoken in commendation and praise of wicked and cruel men. Take heed, therefore, of the sins of the tongue!

When Dives was in Hell, it seems that the part that was most tormented was his tongue; for he begs water to cool his tongue. This gives us some reason to think that, even in relation to Lazarus, he had sinned much with his tongue, and used hard speeches against poor Lazarus; for it was by him that he would have had the water brought. In what we sin we smart and are pained and plagued, as Dives was with and in his tongue. If the tongue is set on fire of Hell while on earth, how will it be set on fire when it is in Hell! The sins of the mouth cry for vengeance with an open mouth, and make others cry for it too. In Psalm 59, the holy writer--not yet a king but still a prophet--prays, 'Scatter them, bring them down, O Lord!' (verses 11-13). Why, David? Why are you so severe? What have they done? O, it is 'for the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips', for their cursing and lying. Then he is at it again, 'Consume them in wrath, consume them'. The sin of their mouth drew forth against them this dreadful imprecation from this merciful and good person, and made him beg God to execute it upon them. Men will have a sad account to give for speaking iniquity, as well as for working it.

Let me therefore entreat you to take heed to your words:

(i) Let your words be few. This should be so, not only in your dealings and conversation with men, but in your addresses to God: 'God is in heaven, and thou upon earth, therefore let thy words be few' (Ecclesiastes 1.2). This is largely the force of the prayer which our Saviour taught his disciples (Matthew 6.6-9). There is a vanity which attends men in religion; they think they will be heard for their loud and much speaking; silence would be better than speaking amiss, indeed, many times better than much-speaking. It is true, there is a time to speak, as there is to be silent, and happy are they who improve it well; yet it is seldom that a multitude of words are without sin, and therefore he that refrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10.19).

Silence reveals wisdom, and conceals ignorance, and it is so much a characteristic of wise men that the oracle tells us that a fool, when he holds his peace, is accounted wise, and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding (Proverbs 17.28). As a very worthy and noble author expresses it, 'If silence were as much in fashion as it is charitable to mankind to wish it, the regions of Hell would be far more thinly populated than now they are likely to be.' Many have repented for using their tongues too much. Now it is true, a man who holds his peace may offend with his tongue, but it is a more scarce and rare crime than that of much, which is usually too much, speaking. It is Gospel-doctrine which teaches us to be swift to hear and slow to speak (James 1.19). Moses' imperfection or defect would be an excellence in some people, that is, to be slow of speech. And it would be well with some if they had got such a cold as would keep them from speaking! O, the prittle-prattle that abounds among the busybodies of this world! There are many who are not only vain but unruly talkers, so that a man has more patience to hear them than to hear the beating of a rattling drum (Titus 1.10).

Alas, it is not only the chatter and tittle-tattle of idle gossips (as in 1 Timothy 5.13) who speak unbecomingly and of things which they ought not. But much of the talk that wastes the time of men, who would be loth to drink and swear it away, consists of talk that flatters the present or detracts from the absent, censuring superiors or despising inferiors. What empty, ridiculous and frothy conversations (that excite to carnality) are the common pastime, even among those who pretend to better things! And what is such company and conversation good for, except to quench zeal and fervour! Indeed it is the easy way to lose credit and good name, and if not innocence, yet always time, which is too precious to be squandered away and lost, much more to be sinned away! 'Should a man full of talk be justified?' (Job 11.2). Nol Much talk is full of folly; 'for a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and the fool's voice is known by multitude of words' (Ecclesiastes 5.3). 'In the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God' (Ecclesiastes 5.7); it is as if the multitude of words were inconsistent with the fear of God. We cannot very well speak too little, unless we speak by command from God, and in obedience to him.

(ii) If we must speak, let us speak as we ought. Let our words be wholesome words, such as carry medicine and health in them. Let them be safe and sound speech that may neither be gainsaid nor reproved, that may do no hurt but may do good. We should speak that which is good to edify men, that which is good for ourselves and others, either naturally, civilly, morally or spiritually good, as opportunity offers and requires. I do not intend any particular enumeration of the sins of the tongue which are to be avoided, nor a detailed discourse about speaking and ordering our tongues; but only to hint at these things in general, leaving the particular application and improvement to be made by every man, as his own case calls for. Therefore to conclude this, I shall commend but two things in relation to this:

(a) Look well to your hearts. If they are not well kept, your tongues will be badly kept. Therefore it is said, 'Keep thy heart with all diligence' (Proverbs 4.23); or, as it is in the Hebrew, 'above all keeping'. It needs more keeping than anything else, for all the rest of the faculties and members are at the heart's disposal. Therefore keep a strict watch and strong guard over your heart. The speaking of the tongue is from the musing of the heart, which is as fire in the bosom that cannot be hid, but will break out into a flame of words (see Psalm 39.3). When you are heart-full, your mouth will run over; and if the fountain of your heart is bitter, the streams of your words cannot be sweet. When David prays that the words of his mouth might be acceptable, he prays for this in relation to it, Let the meditations of my heart be acceptable (Psalm 19.14). If the latter, that is, our meditations, are not acceptable, then the former, that is, our words, are not likely to be acceptable. When our heart speaks our words, our words speak our heart, and it is only one thing. No sooner does our heart indite a good matter, but our tongue will be as the pen of a ready writer (Psalm 45.1). The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth' (Proverbs 16.23); the Hebrew is, 'maketh his mouth wise'. The fool speaks with an open mouth anything that comes into his head, but a wise man opens his mouth and speaks gravely, wisely, and with deliberation. The mouth needs to go to school, and if we would have it wise, let us get it a wise heart to be its tutor, to teach it the art and grace of speaking wisely and well. The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth.'

(b) Pray to God. For prayer is the general means for preservation and sanctification of heart, tongue and life. Lift up your heart and soul to him and pray, 'Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord' (Psalm 19.14), of which I have just spoken. Say, 'O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise' (Psalm 51.15). 'Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day' (Psalm 71.8). 'Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to any evil thing' (Psalm 141.3,4). That which God keeps is well kept, and if he does not keep the city, the watchmen watch in vain. Commit yourself to the Keeper of Israel, and all will be well (Proverbs 16.1-3).

3. Beware of sinning in deed.

Before I speak directly about living in the practice of any sin, I crave leave to say some things about and against sins of omission. This is a thing too seldom treated or taken notice of, though there is scarcely any guilt more common than this.

(i) Take heed of sins of omission. It is a sin to omit any good which is commanded, as well (or ill) as to commit any evil which is forbidden; not to do what we ought, as well as to do what we ought not. We are not only to eschew evil, but to do good also (1 Peter 3.11). I insist on this the rather because many are more apt and prone to omit duties, to be negligent at doing good, than to commit gross and palpable evils. Withal, they look upon it as a less evil, if any at all, for there are so many trifling excuses ready for it, as you may see (Luke 14.18-20). I would urge you therefore to consider these things:

(a) Some of the best men have been guilty of this, and have suffered by it. I will give but two examples. First is Jacob, who was most tender of telling a lie, although it was to get a blessing (Genesis 27.11, I2). Yet this same Jacob was so forgetful of, and for so long neglected and omitted to pay his vow, which he had made at Bethel, that God reminds him of it (Genesis 35.1), and for the omission of which it is supposed that the afflictions mentioned in the former chapter befell him. The other instance is Hezekiah, a good man and a good king, who did not render to the Lord according to the benefit he had received, nor answered the end of it, but was guilty of not being humble or thankful enough, though he sang a song of praise, it would seem annually, to God. Therefore wrath was upon him (2 Chronicles 32.25 with Isaiah 38.20). Alas, how prone good men are to neglect duties, and especially that of returning thanks! For the sake of these things the wrath of God comes on his own children, as it comes on the children of disobedience for gross sins (Ephesians 5.5,6). How dearly it cost the spouse when she did not open to her beloved (Canticles 5.6,7)!

(b) Yet generally it is a great affliction to good and godly men to be forced to omit duties, though the omission of them in this instance is no sin of theirs, as in time of sickness or in case of flight. How David mourns while he is in the wilderness, having been persecuted and driven there! How he laments his absence from the assemblies of them that kept holy day (Psalm 42.1-4). Though God in such cases of necessity dispenses with his Sabbath, and consequently his instituted worship on that day, holy men will still lament this necessity and mourn that they are restrained from sharing with others, and that they are forced to do that which otherwise would not be lawful to do on a Sabbath day. It is for that reason (not to exclude others) that, I conceive, our Saviour bade the disciples pray that their flight might not be on the Sabbath day (Matthew 24.20): for then the usual ordinances of the day could not be enjoyed, nor the ordinary duties of the day practised and performed.

(c) Just as it should be an affliction to be in a necessity, so it is a sin to be willing to omit a duty. It is an affliction not to have a head or hand, but a sin not to have a heart for duty. It is a sin to will evil, and a sin not to will good. But to be willing not to do good is more than sin. Too many people are glad of diversions, as schoolboys are when they have no mind to their books; anything will serve to put off a duty. When the flesh was weak and the spirit willing, Christ himself excused his disciples (Matthew 26.41), but if the spirit is unwilling, it is no excuse, no matter how weak the flesh is. Not to will, though we have no power, and much more not to will when we have power, is a sin. The reason why the wicked bade God depart from them was because they had no mind or desire to be acquainted with his ways (Job 21.14). They did not like to retain God in their knowledge (Romans 1.28), or to pay acknowledgments to him. They had no mind nor will nor desire to do it. This is sin, as well as the other sins with which they are charged.

(d) One omission makes way for another. He who, under pretence of unfitness for duty, puts it off, makes himself fit for nothing more than to omit again. He prepares and fits himself to be unfit for duty, and so to omit duty. To fast too much and for too long takes away and deadens the appetite. So he who omits one duty is likely to omit another and then another, until he omits all and gives up his very profession, and when that is gone, the man's religion dies and he becomes twice dead. Omissions make way for commissions, as in the case of our first parents.

It will be worth our while to observe a few texts which speak of sluggards, for from such an attitude sins of omission generally arise. 'By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through' (Ecclesiastes 10.18). The house not only lies open to wind and weather, but at last falls down, when the repairs are neglected and omitted. Our bodies are called the temples of God, of which our souls are, as I may say, the holy of holies, or as we call it, the chancel; and it is through sloth that this glorious fabric decays so much. 'He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster' (Proverbs 18.9). He who is a prodigal, a spendthrift, who spends more than he gets and more than was given him, is a man who will come to nothing and be worse than nothing very soon. This is true, and it is as true that his brother, the slothful man, will not hold out much longer than he. 'The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing' (Proverbs 20.4). A prodigal comes to nothing, and so does the sluggard.

Love is a laborious thing; we read of the labour of love (1 Thessalonians 1.3), and love never grieves to be obedient (1 John 5.2-3). Now idleness argues a lack of love, for when the angel of Ephesus left his first love, he left also his first works (Revelation 2.4,5). When love grows cold, practice becomes dead. 'The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way' (Proverbs 26.13). If you ask him, Why do you not rise up and walk with God? Why do you not go forth and serve God? O, he says, there is a lion in the way; there is danger in it. But this is only his imagination (see verse 16). 'As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed' (verse 14). How is that? Why, first one way, then another; he cannot rest on his bed of idleness, and yet he is loth to rise, and therefore he turns this way and that. And if after much ado and many a yawn he does get up, he 'hideth his hand in his bosom (it is cold weather); it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth' (verse 15). He is grieved to bring it twice to his mouth, though it is to feed himself. This is the guise of idle and slothful people, indeed of professors. We are to do what we do with our might, and how can that be while our hand is in our bosom? Take it out for shame! For as is the case with the man who, having put his hand to the plough, looks back, so also with the man who does not put his hand to the plough at all. Both will be found unfit for the work and kingdom of God; they shall beg in harvest but have nothing. In the great day of recompense, these slothful ones will learn to pray and beg, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us, but they shall have nothing, that is, of that which they beg; no door will open to let them into the House of God, where there is bread enough.

I remember I said that sins of omission make way for sins of commission, and it is only too true. When Job's friends heard such unbecoming language from him as cursing, they concluded that he omitted praying: 'Thou restrainest prayer before God' (Job 15.4). When men neglect duty, they usually fall into sin. Let us continue with the story of the slothful: 'I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding' (Proverbs 24.30). And what did he observe? 'And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down' (verse 31). Alas, Eden becomes a wilderness, and Paradise a desert; the poor soil is under the curse; it brings forth grieving thorns and pricking briars and stinging nettles, and is again nigh unto more cursing for bringing this forth (Hebrews 6.8). Sin advances by degrees; it seems modest at first: just omit, then it grows bold and bids you commit, and so from omission to commission, until at last the man becomes a man of sin and a son of perdition, a hopeless, desperate, lost and undone man. Moreover, such people are frequently given up (Romans 1.21). Their first sin was a not glorifying God as God; and then, not being thankful, they became vain; being vain they were darkened; from that they became fools, and so on to abominable idolatries, and at last it came to this, that God gave them up (verse 24). Such is the danger of sins of omission! One makes way for another, and from that they proceed to commission, until they are given up and cursed.

(e) The more knowledge of any duty we have, the more clear it is and the more we are convinced of it, the more aggravated is the omission of that duty. The clearer the light is, the greater the sin of not receiving it; this is the condemnation (John 3.19). If Christ had not come, their sin had not been so great; but now not to believe is to be without excuse (John 15.22,24). If God had not told us what we ought to do, we might have made excuse and said that had we known better we would have done better. But God hath shown thee, O man, what is good (Micah 6.8), and that not only by his works, but by his Word. And If the knowledge of him by them only aggravated men's sin, as it did (Romans 1.21), how greatly will their sin be aggravated who neglect so great salvation, which at first was preached by the Lord Jesus Christ, and afterward confirmed by them that heard him, God bearing them witness with signs and wonders, divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost (Hebrews 2.3,4).

To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is a sin, a great sin, a heinous sin, sin with a witness. It may be sin to another who does not know to do good, but not so great a sin as it is to him who knows. Therefore he who did not know his master's will was beaten with only a few stripes, but he who knew it and did not do it was beaten with many (Luke I2.47,48). The Jews were accustomed to abate one of the forty stripes which the law allowed; this they did even to St. Paul, much as they hated him, for of them twice he received forty stripes save one (2 Corinthians 11.24). But the man who knows his master's will and does not do it, nor prepares himself, shall be beaten with many stripes, with the full number without abatement or mitigation; the total sum required by the law shall be inflicted on him.

(f) Sins of omission, if done in the sight of others, are bad examples, just as sins of commission are. A man may do a great deal of harm by not doing good We are commanded to let our good works shine before others (Matthew 5.16), and to be examples of faith and charity to others, to be presidents of good works (Titus 3.8), for that is what the word signifies in that text. The world is led by the eye as much, if not more than by the ear. Men are as much prevailed with by examples as they are by precepts. They are, on the other hand, most inclined to think that they may do what others, especially their betters, do. If rich men give but little, others who are not so rich and yet able to give, think they may be excused if they give nothing to the poor. If parents neglect prayer, the children scarcely think it their duty to pray.

It is indeed an excellent thing to be an exemplary Christian; it shows that religion is practicable, for it draws men on. It is a listless hack which will not follow and strive to keep pace when another mettled horse leads the way. Similarly, it is sad to be an exemplary sinner; for such an one has more sins to answer for than his own, even those of other men which were committed through his example. It is a common plea, Such and such learned and educated men do so and so, and why may not I? O, do not follow a multitude, however wise and mighty it is, to do evil! Let us therefore provoke one another to love and good works by our example. Let us not only show, but lead the way.

(g) Consider that sins of omission are sins which God has severely judged men for in this world, and for which He will judge men in the great day. It is observable how severe God has been to men who have omitted what he commanded them to do, though they have claimed to do it for God's sake. We have an instance of this in Saul (1 Samuel 15). God sent Saul to destroy Amalek, root and branch, king and people, from head to foot, from throne to threshold, and not to leave one person alive; man, woman, infant and suckling, all must die; oxen and sheep and so on, none must escape. But Saul spared Agag and the best of the sheep and oxen, and would not utterly destroy them. The result was that the Lord repented of having set up Saul to be king (verse 11). Though Saul pretended that it was done for a sacrifice to God (verses 15,22) yet it is charged against him as rebellion and witchcraft (verse 23); and his not obeying the voice of the Lord is called doing evil in God's sight (verse 19). So he who omits a good, commits an evil; the omission of good is the commission of evil, and is judged accordingly. How dearly this sin of omission cost Saul!

Another remarkable instance is that of Eli. He is charged with honouring his sons above God (1 Samuel 2.29). How so? Eli was a good old man, and can it be thought that he preferred his sons above God? What should the meaning of this be? It is cleared up, however, in the next chapter, where God says, 'I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not' (1 Samuel 3.13). He did not give them so much as a sour look, or, as the Hebrew reads, he did not frown upon them. And yet let me tell you that Eli went so far that, had his children had any honesty or any respect to the rebukes of a priest and father, one would have thought that he had said enough. For the old man very gravely expostulated with them, 'Why do ye such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord's people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?' (1 Samuel 2.23-25). Thus he lays their sin and danger before them pretty roundly, and yet God says, that he restrained them not; there was an omission and neglect of more severe discipline. And this omission cost him dear, as dear almost as the sins of commission cost his sons, which were not to be purged with sacrifice (1 Samuel 3.14).

Another instance is that concerning the Ammonites and Moabites, who were a bastard brood, and like bastards were not to enter into the congregation of the Lord till the tenth generation {Deuteronomy 23.2-4). The reason given is the sin of omission, because they did not meet Israel with bread and water, when they came out of Egypt. It is a dreadful thing to be excommunicated from, and a dreadful thing not to be admitted into, the congregation of the Lord; and you see that a sin of omission may keep men out for a long time.

But God will also judge men for sins of omission in the great and terrible day of his righteous judgment. Not only the wicked, but the slothful servant will be judged, and the slothful will be judged wicked. We have it from the mouth of Truth itself, 'thou wicked and slothful servant (Matthew 21.26), wicked because slothful. He was no waster, but a brother to one (as we previously noted) because he was slothful. For omitting to improve his talent, he was called and judged a wicked and slothful servant, and his punishment was, beside the loss of his talent, to be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He had not turned the grace of God into wantonness, yet for being unprofitable he is sent to Hell. And again, 'He shall say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire' (Matthew 25.41); it is, says Christ, for your sins of omission, because when I was hungry and thirsty, you, like the Ammonites and Moabites we have just mentioned, you brought me no bread or water, you gave me no meat and drink. Some are ready to justify themselves thus, We never did any man harm; we have wronged and oppressed no man. Yes, but God will condemn them who have not done such evils, because they have not done good. Think of these things, then, and beware of sins of omission.

(ii) Take heed of sins of commission. We should be careful not to omit our duties, for besides all that has been said. I might add this, that to omit the weightier things of the law, though we observe the lesser, is a sign of hypocrisy (Matthew 23.23). But we should be no less careful to keep ourselves from the evil that is forbidden, from all kinds and sorts of sins, the enumeration of which would be endless.

(a) Watch against that which may be most properly called your own sin, that to which you are most inclined, and which most easily besets and conquers you. It was David's crown of rejoicing, that he had kept himself from his iniquity, 'I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity' (Psalm 18.23). He kept himself not only from that which was charged upon him by others to be his iniquity in relation to Saul, but as most interpreters take it, that which was the sin of his inclination; as one might say, from the sin of my particular complexion and constitution, my nature's darling sin. Are you young? Then avoid the sins common to this age; 'flee youthful lusts' (2 Timothy 2.22) or the lusts of youth. There are some lusts almost peculiar to youth: (i) ambition, vainglory and pride (1 Peter 5.5), which is most evident in their odd, fantastic dress and eccentric manners, as that text implies, and especially in not submitting to the elders. (ii) the gratifying of the sensual appetite and carnal inclination. They are much for the lust of the eye and of the flesh too, as well as for the pride of life. Ecclesiastes tells us that they are much set upon pleasure, the young man's favourite (11.9 and 12.1). The prodigal, who was the younger brother, in this way wasted his estate, his time and himself; he spent all on back and belly, on riotous living. It was a young man whom Solomon saw going away to her house (Proverbs 7.7) which leads to hell. (iii) Another lust of youth is self-conceit, too much proneness to be wise in their own eyes. They think old men fools, but old men know that they are fools. Their conceit puffs them up and makes them incapable of instruction and very unteachable-Rehoboam and his young counsellors will save us the labour of giving other examples (1 Kings 12). It is for this reason that the Apostle would have Titus exhort young men to be discreet or sober minded. Flee then all these and any other youthful lusts. Make the most haste you can from them; do not only creep or go or run or ride, but flee.

Are you old? Hear then, you old men (Joel 1.2). What shall we hear?, you will say. Take heed of the sins and lusts of old age (Titus 2.2). When men are dying and have one foot in the grave, when they are about to give up the ghost, yet, like the thief on the cross, they will be sinning. Take heed of Solomon's old-age sin, a kind of dotage which suffered him to apostatize (1 Kings 11.3). Be sound in the faith (Titus 2.2). Take heed of the peevishness of old age; be patient, says the text. Take heed of the covetousness of old age; be charitable, says the text. Be fruitful in your old age, that your latter end may be better than your beginning, and the better because, it may be, your beginning was bad. Seek that your last days may be your best days, and so you may die in a good old age, which may be best done when you die good in old age, and are such as St. Paul the aged who had finished his course. It is a crown and glory to be an old good disciple, as Mnason was (Acts 21.16).

(b) Take heed of the sins which men and women are guilty of, as relatives, and as they stand in relation to one another. Are you a husband or a wife? Beware of being false, or only reigning love. Are you a parent or a child? Are you a master or a servant? Beware of the sins which attend any of the relationships in which you stand. I had, indeed, intended to have detailed the sins, but they are so commonly written of and known that I shall forbear, and only suggest the direction and counsel, which I have often thought may be of great and good use, namely, that every relative person, such as husband or wife, etc., should read and, if they can, write out and pray that God would write in their hearts the several directions which the Scripture so frequently and abundantly gives to all relations; that they may keep them before their eyes, that they may walk in the truth. Relative duties are too little minded, and if we only considered that we are really that which we are relatively, it would immensely oblige and quicken us to be good in our relationships. It is not likely that they are good Christians who are bad husbands or wives, bad parents or children, bad superiors or inferiors in their places.

(c) Take heed of the sins of the age, country, and places where you live. There are sins as it were particular to some ages and countries, as to them of the latter and last days (1 Timothy 4.1-4 and 2 Timothy 3.1-5). When sin becomes an epidemic, it is the less abstained from, for few people care to be different. When sins are as it were the custom and fashion of the country, most will be sinners, especially if sin is countenanced by the example of great ones. But as we should not be conformed to this world at large, neither should we to any part of it. Is there any sin by which the land is defiled, for which the land mourns, and is ready to spew out the inhabitants thereof for it? (Leviticus 18.27, 28); take heed, then, that you are not found guilty. But be one of the mourners, whom God will set a mark upon (Ezekiel 9.4). When formality, hypocrisy and apostasy are in fashion, be cautious not to sin in any of these ways, any more than by swearing, drunkenness and uncleanness, though they are common and uncontrolled.

Beware lest you regard the favour and praise of men more than, or without, the favour and praise of God, which hypocrites and only hypocrites do (John 12.42-43). Daniel and the three children would not sin for the sake of fashion, not even though they were commanded to sin. And the Apostles made their appeal to them that would have had them sin, saying, 'Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye' (Acts 4.18-20). It is God who judges, and not man, and he only has absolute authority over us, to command what he pleases, and therefore our chief care should be to please him. We shall find that the best way to please all, or to displease any with least danger, is to please him who is all in all. Therefore, if any think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, and speak evil of you (1 Peter 4.4), answer them as Joseph did his mistress, 'How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' (Genesis 39.9). Tell them as the Apostle does that you and they must give an account to him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead; seeing therefore that the end of all things is at hand, let us be sober and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4.5,7). This David did, when they spoke evil of him, fought against him without a cause, and for his love became his adversaries (Psalm 109.2-4).

(d) Take heed of the sins that attend your callings, occupations and trades. I would premise certain things here:

(i) Every man should have a calling to follow, and should follow his calling, as was mentioned above. God has given no man a dispensation to be idle. The rule is, and that by commandment, that if any will not work, that is able to work, neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). If this rule were observed, I am afraid that more rich than poor would go with hungry stomach and empty bellies. Of idleness comes no good, but certainly a great deal of evil. They who are at work are not at leisure to sin, but they who are idle are at leisure to do nothing but to sin. Adam in innocence, that better than golden age, had his calling and employment: he was a gardener, a cultivator of the ground or a husbandman (Genesis 2.15). The angels of heaven are not without their calling; when they are abroad (here on earth), they are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1.14), and when at home in heaven, they cease not day or night from praising God. As one of the Greek Fathers expresses it, their service and calling is to sing songs and psalms of praise. I may therefore say, take heed of the sin of being without a calling, or of having no calling, especially you who are young and strong to labour.

(ii) No man's calling necessitates him to sin. There is many a trade of which I would not scruple to say that it is no calling; many make a livelihood out of trades which are no calling. Harlotry and thieving are no callings; for we are called not to uncleanness but to holiness. As to lawful callings, to sin is but accidental, and springs more from our inclination than from the callings themselves. Necessities are things that few men are competent judges of; many things are called so which are far from being so; and nothing should be called so that is a sin. He who cannot follow a calling without sinning had better lay aside his trade than live by sinning. That there is sin in callings is not from our vocation but from our corruption; it is not our calling, but our evil heart that makes us sin. There is no need to tell a lie or to steal or to cheat. There are many other better ways to live, and if we were not distrustful of God, and indulgent to the baseness of our own hearts, we might find them out.

(iii) Yet there are snares in our callings. The Devil lays his nets and baits everywhere; he lays his snares to entangle us, not only in our general, but particular callings, to turn all our duties into sins. Many men sin, and most men are liable, being tempted, to sin in their callings. There are many temptations that attend and wait on every calling. Were I to speak to men of any calling, I would follow the example of John the Baptist, who spoke to everyone according to the sin he was guilty of, or to which he was tempted in his place (Luke 3:10). The publicans were very great oppressors, and therefore he calls upon them to exact no more than their due, their stated and appointed allowance. The soldiers were boisterous and unruly, and therefore he speaks to them to do violence to no man or, as it is in the margin, to put no man in fear; do not decoy men and falsely accuse them; do not plunder and steal, but be content with your pay. But since I cannot speak to every condition, I will lay before you some things in general, which may be applied to each and every one.

(a) Take heed of lying and equivocating. This is a thing grown so common in buying and selling, that it passes as a matter of course: --It cost me more, and yet I will sell it for less; I cannot afford it, yet take the money; I will get nothing by you--as if men could buy and sell, and live by the loss! Do you think that men believe this, or do you yourselves believe it without one or another equivocal distinction? I will not undertake to tell you the words which you should use, but I tell you from the Lord that you should use but few, and speak in truth. In a multitude of words there wants not sin. For the seller to extol a commodity with a variety of words, and tell men that it is the best in town, and that there cannot be a better bought for gold is many times only a courtesy of trade. So for the buyer to say it is nought, it is nought, and when he is gone, to boast, is not short of a sin (Proverbs 20.14), or to say that he will give no more, though he intends to do so.

Words are precious commodities, and should not be exposed at such risks. What is beyond yea and nay, and reaches to excess, comes of evil, and evil comes of it (Matthew 5.37; James 5.12). If you tell untruths and lies, it is as bad as stealing; 'ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another' (Leviticus 19.11). He who lies virtually steals; and the Apostle joins liars and stealers and perjured persons together, and tells us that the law is against them all, and that they are contrary to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1.10). If man's law were as God's, there would be a recovery and restitution for what is gained by lying, as well as for what is stolen (Leviticus 6.1-5). Before you can come to God with your offering, you ought to restore that which is gained by fraud as well as that which is gained by force.

Indeed, to lie is a thing inconsistent with being a child of God. Without, among the dogs, are liars, and they shall, unless they repent, have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21.8; 22.15). 'The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death' (Proverbs 21.6). He who is not delivered from the way of lying on earth will never be delivered from lying in Hell. Surely, God says of his people, they are children that will not lie (Isaiah 63.8); that is, to be sure, they will not make a trade of it nor live in or by lying. And it is added, 'so he was their Saviour', as if God would not save a cheating hypocrite and a lying professor. Nor will he without repentance, for 'lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight' (Proverbs 12.22). Which would you rather be, abhorred or delighted in by God? Think of this in your warehouses and shops, or when you go out to buy and sell, that you may do everything in truth. Methinks I hear your wives and children begging you, Oh! do not lie to be rich; do not risk going to Hell to leave me riches! Thus I deal plainly and truly with you, that you may do so with all men, and I hope that you will not take it amiss that I endeavour to do you good. If you do, I say with the Apostle, Forgive me this wrong.

(b) Take heed of putting men off and paying them with false and unlawful money. Just as you should not buy stolen and unlawful goods, so you should not pay unlawful money, that which you would not take, and know that others will not receive, if it is discerned. The children of Abraham should be like him, who, when he had bought, weighed or told out his silver, current money with the merchant (Genesis 23.16). And this sin of paying brass and false money is so much the worse because it usually falls into the hands of the poor, who can least discern, and who suffer most by receiving it. Do as you would be done to, and do not pay that which is not payment, but an abuse and a wrong.

(c) Do not use false weights or measures, or keep your books falsely. Take heed of writing down more than was delivered or bargained for, or writing greater prices than were agreed upon. As to false weights and measures, they are utterly forbidden (Leviticus 19.35,36; Deuteronomy 25.13-16). You are to have a standard measure, and not to think it enough to have one only when the King's officer calls, but throughout the year; otherwise you, as well as your weights and measures, are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 20.10). There is a good saying, and I wish it were made good, You shall have your weight or measure or number, even though you buy it for a penny or a farthing. God says, 'Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?' (Micah 6.11). No! No! However great professors they are, I will not count them pure, but an abomination.

(d) Beware of counterfeit and false lighting. Alas, one can hardly see day by day in many men's shops: they either shut out the light, or one can scarcely see how they let it in, so that men may seek for light at noonday. Men have learnt to draw up or let down so much by the ell or by the yard, that people can scarcely see what they look at with their eyes. That which seemed very fine and fair by a false light is found to be far otherwise by a true one. Now by the same reason that weights are, lights are an abomination to the Lord, that is, because they are false and deceitful. If you tell me that it is the custom of the city and all the world, I ask you, will that answer God and make it no sin?

(e) Take heed of breaking bargains and agreements, when you see that you can buy cheaper from or sell dearer to someone else. I am almost afraid that this practical kind of religion is with many like an old almanack out of date; it is as if religion were confined to the first table--some duties to God--and the second table--duties to man--were of little concern or consequence. Yet most frequently in Holy Writ the characters of godly men are drawn from their obedience to the commands of the second table. And this that I am dealing with is one of these commandments: 'He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not' (Psalm 15.4). This ought to hold good in promises as well as oaths, in bargaining as well as swearing; for a man ought to be just, though he has not sworn to be so. But woe to them that promise and swear to, yet are not just but both false and perjured!

(f) Take heed of carnal and sinful compliance with customers and tradesmen in their swearing and drinking to excess. 'Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them' (Ephesians 5.11); do this even though you profit by those who work them. You shall not suffer sin upon your brother, nor upon yourselves (Leviticus 19.17). Otherwise it is to hate him in your heart, which is a great sin; for he who hurts his brother is a murderer (1 John 3.15). Perhaps you will say, this is the best way to lose our customers, and we may as well shut up shop and go away. If that happens, it is better to part with any one than God, and to lose anything rather than his favour and loving kindness, which is better than life, and therefore much better than a livelihood. But it may not so transpire; it is better to trust God than to be beholden to the Devil and sin. Do as you ought to do, and if bad men do not become your customers, then good men may. When your ways please the Lord, he can and will make your enemies to be friends, and at peace with you (Proverbs 16.7).

Whatever you do, keep a good conscience towards God and man, and though the children of this world shall call you fools, yet they will call themselves fools another day for calling you so now. It is undoubtedly better and more profitable to please God than men. And what will it profit you to gain the world and lose your soul! We are too prone to comply with, and to be drawn away by those from whom we make a living, and we therefore have a kindness for them. But consider what God said, 'Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee', that when they 'sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, thou eat of his sacrifice' (Exodus 34.12-15). Intimacy and familiarity and trading together may be a snare (Genesis 34.21). And when a good customer calls you, covetousness is likely to make you behave like him. Rather than men will lose their gain, they will cry up Diana, though they cry down godliness and God himself (Acts 19.23-28).

(g) Take heed of abusing and grinding the faces of the poor (Isaiah 3.15).

(i) By taking advantage of their necessity. You know they must have it because they need it, and their necessity is urgent. O, do not be cruel to them! You know that they must sell at the end of the week to buy bread, or at the end of the quarter to pay their rent. Do not oppress them and add affliction to their affliction by making them under-sell the sweat of their brow and the labour of their hands. Woe to you, if the spoil of the poor is in your house (Isaiah 3.14-15). Nor must you take advantage of their ignorance, to overcharge and defraud them. Ignorance should be pitied and the unskilful should be well treated; perhaps he refers himself to you. O, do not put a bad for a good commodity into his hands!

(ii) By keeping back the wages of poor workmen. Do not think of growing rich by the poor man's money. Do not put him off till tomorrow, when you have it by you. If you should not do it in the case of charity, much less in a case of justice. This is a crying sin, as you may read (James 5.4). Poor souls! They have worked hard, and when they have done, they go home and cry for lack of money to buy bread. Truly this cry of theirs enters into the ears of the Lord of Hosts, for so 'Sabaoth' signifies. Though you are too mighty for the poor, yet you are no match for the Lord of Hosts who takes their part and will not always bear with your covetousness and oppression. O, pay off the poor as soon as they have done their work!

(iii) By forcing on them swindling and trashy wares, because they are in your debt. You often complain that your tradesmen go bankrupt, and it is to be feared that they may complain that you break them, either by forcing too much or by putting very bad goods into their hands, which they cannot sell except to their own great loss. They are in your debt, and for fear of your displeasure, lest you should arrest them, they are willing to submit to you. But oh, for the sake of the poor, for God's sake, and for your own and for your family's sake, do not grow rich by the poor man's poverty! And if you know any more wrongs besides these, for I have but little knowledge of your mysteries, I beg you to take heed of them. If you say in your heart that he is a silly fellow who cannot tell the danger of all this, I do not care to answer your objections.

I would say this, however, that you can never evade your consciences, where it is indelibly written that you ought to do as you would be done by in justice. If you would not that others should wrong you, do not wrong them. If your conscience can be bribed, yet God cannot, and what will you do when he rises up to judgment? How will you answer God to whom you must give an account? Be not deceived, God will not be mocked. It is as cheap as it is easy to laugh at and put off such a poor thing as man is; but believe it, conscience and God will not be put off in this way. Thus I have in this matter also endeavoured to discharge my own soul and to save yours, as well as to be free from your blood. Therefore, consider! If you are not guilty, I have not condemned you, but I speak thus that you may not be guilty, and that you may pray to God to be kept from, and praise him if you have been kept from, such crying sins.

(e) Beware of such sins as the world calls little sins, peccadilloes. Some men reckon great sins to be only little ones, and little ones to be none at all or very venial. They say, what harm is there in an innocent lie or a pious fraud? Alas, what a contradiction this is! Can a lie be innocent, and fraud pious? Woe to them who call evil good, and join good and evil as if they were one, or agreed in one! Mother says, oh, it is only a trick of youth. Yes, but it is such a trick as may cost you a going to Hell. Another deceives his neighbour and, laughing while he strikes, says, 'Am not I in sport?' (Proverbs 26.19). Yes, but he who sins in jest or makes a jest of sin may be damned in earnest.

Consider that no sin against a great God can be strictly a little sin, though compared with a greater one it may be. But however little it is, to account it so makes it greater. And the nature of the greater sin is in the least; a spark of fire, a drop of poison have the nature of much more, indeed, of all (James 2.10). God has severely punished sins that have been looked upon as little sins, indeed, some of them well-meant sins, as when Uzzah took hold of the Ark when the cart shook (2 Samuel 6.6,7). When men only looked into the Ark, it cost them dear (1 Samuel 6.19). Gathering a few sticks on the Sabbath was severely punished (Numbers 15.32-36). These seem to be small matters, but in sin we must not consider so much what is forbidden as why it is forbidden, and who forbids it.

Besides, a little sin makes way for a greater, as a little boy-thief entering a house, makes way for a man-thief to enter. It is hard to sin once and only once, to commit one little sin and only one. Give the devil and sin an inch, and they will take an ell. Vain babbling increases to more ungodliness. A little leak in a ship may by degrees fill it with water and sink it. The Devil does not much care by what sins we go to Hell, whether small or great, formality or profaneness.

To conclude--he who makes no conscience of little sins makes conscience of no sins. He who breaks the least of God's commandments has none or very little love for God; for herein is love that we keep his commandments, and they are not grievous, no, not the greatest of them, much less the least (1 John 5.3). To have respect to all the commandments of God is a proof of a sound heart, and excludes shame (Psalm 119.6,80). A good conscience is a universal conscience. If a man makes no conscience of little sins, to which the temptations can be only little, how little conscience is he likely to make of great sins, to which there are greater temptations? If Judas betrays his Lord for thirty pieces, what would he not do for more? Consider what our blessed Saviour said, 'He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much' (Luke 16.10). Beware then of little sins.

(f) Take heed of what men call secret sins. There are only too many who bless themselves in their wickedness because, as they think, no one knows how wicked they are. They are drunkards, but it is in the night; they are unclean, but it is in the dark. Their mystery of iniquity trades in the works of darkness and in the dark. Indeed, if men could sin and no eye see them, they might seem to sin securely; but this is a falsehood as well as a mistake. I have met with two stories, which may perhaps help you in some way. One is of a maid who was tempted to be unchaste and unclean. The person who solicited her promised to do great things for her if she would yield. I will, he said, do anything for you. Will you? she said, then burn your hand in the fire. Oh, that is unreasonable, he answered. But, she replied, it is much more unreasonable that I should burn in Hell for your sake. Who would venture his soul to torment, to gratify his own or another's pleasure and lust? The other story, which suits the case in hand, is of a maid solicited to this same folly, who would not give her consent unless he would bring her to a place where no eye could see them. Whereupon he brought her to a very dark place and repeated his request, saying, Here nobody can see us. Oh, she said, but here God can see us.

Oh, that we would tell all the tempting courtships of men and devils, that we can never sin but there will be two witnesses present to observe and register it, our own selves and God himself. We owe a great deal of reverence to ourselves, and though no one were present. we should revere our consciences and ourselves. What, shall we be witnesses against ourselves, and be condemned by our own testimony? Yet if our hearts condemn us, God, who is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things, will much more condemn us. When St. Paul knew nothing of which to condemn himself, yet it made him very modest that the Lord was to judge him (1 Corinthians 4.4). We cannot escape the sight, any more than we can escape the judgment of God. He sees us, and what we do when under the figtree, though like Adam and Eve we cover ourselves with figleaves. And he will one day call to us, as he did to them, Adam, sinner, where art thou? If you go up to Heaven, he is there: it is his throne. If down to Hell, he is there: it is his prison. You cannot go from his presence. You may more easily hide from man and yourselves than from God. Therefore that you may not be so foolish and wicked as to sin in secret, or to think any thing or place secret from God, I urge you often and seriously to read the 139th Psalm. Then I hope you will say, for I am sure you will see cause to do so, How shall I do this wickedness and sin against God!

(g) Take heed of the occasions and even the appearances of this evil, sin. Abstain not only from apparent evil but from all appearances of evil (1 Thessalonians 5.22). Do not be so irreligious as to go into temptation, when you have been so religious as to pray God not to lead you into temptation; this is mock-prayer. Keep out of harm's way. 'Enter not (put not a foot) into the way of the wicked' (Proverbs 4.14,15). And if you have been so foolishly froward, yet do not go on in the way of evil men; but avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away. You cannot stand at too great a distance from sin. If you will not sit in the seat of the scornful, do not stand in the way of sinners nor walk in the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1.1). Touch not pitch lest you be defiled. Do not gaze, like one enamoured, on the wine, when it looks well and dances in the glass. Make a covenant with your eyes, lest by looking too much on beauty, your eyes become sore and sinful. Abhor not only the flesh or the spot, but the very garment that is but spotted with the flesh (Jude 23). Indeed, abstain from what is inexpedient as well as from what is unlawful; for in being inexpedient, it tends to become unlawful. If it is not a sin, yet if it looks like a sin, beware of it. It is next to being a sinner to be like one; to being proud and wanton to seem so or look so. An appearance of good is too little, but an appearance of evil is too much. It is the hypocrite's sin that he appears better than he is, and it may be a good man's evil to appear worse than he is. A rod is for the back of fools, and it will be laid on a wise man's back if he is found in a fool's coat.

(h) Take heed of being in any way or in any degree guilty of other men's sins. Alas, have we not many sins of our own? But will we have other men's sins to answer for? They are our-other-men's sins, as I may call them. Take heed of being an occasion of, a partaker of, or only accessory to other men's sins. God forbids it, that it may not be (Ephesians 5.7-1; 1 Timothy 1.22), and sharply reproves and punishes it where he finds it to be (Psalm 50.18; 2 Samuel 12.9; 1 Kings 21.19). In the last two places, King David and King Ahab are found guilty of murder which was done by other hands, but, alas, by their commission. It is sad to sin against God ourselves but sadder to make others sin against God too. In this way the world is made worse than it would otherwise be. Men are too prone to be vile enough of themselves, were there no Devil to tempt them, but when they have companions and brethren in iniquity, they are apt to sin more lustily.

St. Augustine confesses that he used to boast of sins he was not guilty of, that he might seem to be as bad as his companions, who thought them the best that were worst. O what sins, many and great, are committed in, with, and for company, that would otherwise probably never have been committed! There would be no stealers were there no receivers; and therefore the receiver is as bad as the thief. There would be no adulteresses, were there no adulterers. Many in Hell would probably have been less wicked than they were, and so have had less torment than they have, had they not been furthered by others their companions. Though all sins come from the heart, and may be indulged there when men are alone, yet as to the act, some sins cannot be committed by people alone, but every such sin has a double sinner, if not a greater number.

Besides, in this way men are confirmed and hardened in their wickedness. Where all go naked, none are ashamed. Examples and company steel men in their sins who were iron enough of themselves, and sometimes embolden those who were modest and tender before. 'If any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened?' (1 Corinthians 8.10); the Greek is, edified or built. He takes it for a good example, and makes a kind of conscience to do so too, as if you had instructed him to edification, when alas, it edifies him only to wound and put him in danger of perishing; for it follows, 'Ye sin against Christ', as he also does, for you make him offend (verses 11-13).

So hereby we become guilty of other men's sins, and we are likely sooner or later to regret this very grievously. Indeed, though we ourselves may be saved at last, it will certainly pain us to think that any went to Hell in whose sins we had a head or hand, and maybe a heart. Besides, it is very usual that we partake of their plagues whose sins we partake of; we are given warning of this by no less than a voice from heaven (Revelation 18.4). 'For because of these things cometh the wrath of God on the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them' (Ephesians 5.6-7). It is sad to be found on the Devil's ground; as the Devil said, he found the woman (whom he possessed) when at a play. Yet to be more specific, we may be guilty of other men's sins in several ways:

(1) In giving occasion for it beforehand. It may more than probably be said that such sins would not have been committed but for such occasions being given.

(a) By neglecting what might and ought to be done for its prevention. He who, when he can and ought, does not hinder a sin, contributes to its production, as when men neglect to instruct or teach those who are under their charge, whether they are ministers, parents or heads of families (Ezekiel 3.17-20). It was the apostle's rejoicing that in this case he was pure from the blood of all men (Acts 20. 26,27). Many a child and servant, when they have come to prison and execution, have made this sad complaint, My parents or my master never gave me warning; they never showed me the danger of sin or instructed me in the way of the Lord, the way of righteousness and holiness! Beware of this! And when sin begins to bud and blossom, nip it by reproofs and discipline, or else you may be charged with sin as old Eli was (1 Samuel 3.13) Crush the cockatrice while in the egg; dash the brats against the wall while young! If you are silent or indulgent, children and servants take it for consent and approbation, as men misinterpreted God's holding his peace (Psalm 50.21). Inclinations will come into acts, and acts into customs and habits, if not checked and restrained. But if you thus deal with them early, you may prevent a great deal of sin; indeed, it is the best proof of your love (Proverbs 13.24). And it may be that they will say, as David did to Abigail, 'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand' (I Samuel 25.32-33). In the same way someone may say, I would have been an adulterer today, and another may say, I would have been a drunkard today, if you had not given me counsel and correction; if you had not given me a helping hand, I would have sinned today; oh, blessed be thou of the Lord! Think of it, is it not better to hear them blessing you than cursing you? Therefore prevent sin all you can.

Solon, a heathen, gives good advice, 'Do not spoil your children, lest you weep in future.' Too many people laugh at their children's cunning shifts, their fibbing and lying; but this laughing may cost you weeping, when you (and before they) are old. It was a law among the Lacedaemonians, that if any of the ancients saw a young one sinning, and did not reprove him, they should undergo the same punishment with the offender.

(b) We may occasion other men's sins and be guilty of their crimes, by doing something which we ought not to do; thus acting we further other men's sinning. If we are superiors we may do this by way of command. Some men are so wicked that they command others to be wicked, who are so wicked as to obey their commands. Absalom commanded his servants to kill his brother Amnon and they obeyed (2 Samuel 13.28). Jezebel wrote letters in Ahab's name to certain elders to hire sons of Belial--for so false witnesses are called--that they might accuse Naboth of blasphemy and then stone him to death (1 Kings 21). Indeed, David himself was guilty of this sin, and therefore it is spoken of as his only sin (1 Kings I5.5). Some have made laws to command men to sin, as if they should sin cum privilegio and with authority (Daniel 3.10; 6.7-9). And how many masters command their servants to say they are not at home when they are, and to commend their commodity for one of the best no matter how bad it is, and to do that which it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day. Now, since poor servants are under awe and stand in fear, they tend to obey. Therefore, take heed what you command your servants; for every sin they commit by your command will be charged on you, as on them, if not more so.

(c) We may also be the occasion of other men's sins by counselling them to sin. They who cannot command may counsel, which is the next thing to it. In one chapter of the Bible it is recorded three times, in three successive verses, that Ahaziah walked in the ways of Ahab, and did evil in the sight of the Lord by the counsel of Athaliah and the House of Ahab to his destruction (2 Chronicles 22.3,4,5). Amnon sinned according to the counsel of Jonadab (2 Samuel 13.5,6). Jonadab is called his friend, and friends take sweet counsel together; but what bitter counsel is wicked counsel! Never counsel anyone to sin under the pretence of friendship, for it is a killing kindness. As Rebecca told Jacob, when she counselled him to lie and deceive, that upon her should the curse be (Genesis 27.6-13), so say I to you, that the curse will be on you if you advise others to sin.

(d) We may occasion other men's sins by example, and the more eminent the example, the more infectious it is. Great men cannot sin at a low rate because they are examples: the sins of commanders are commanding sins; the sins of rulers ruling sins; the sins of teachers teaching sins. There is a kind of sorcery and bewitching power in such examples (Galatians 2.12,13). When Peter and the rest of the Jews dissembled with him, Barnabas, though a good man and full of the Holy Ghost, was also carried away with their dissimulation, that is by their example and in compliance with it. Similarly, that example of which I spoke earlier, concerning a man sitting at meat in an idol's temple, has given us an example of something very catching and infectious (1 Corinthians 8.10). The world is more easily exampled into sin than into goodness, for sin finds a party within. Abraham's faith, Moses' meekness, Job's patience and Peter's courage are not so easily followed as their contraries. Therefore give no bad examples.

(e) By tempting and provoking to sin. The trumpeter does not fight, but when captured he fares as badly as the soldiers who do, because he stirs them up. When Ahab's wickedness is reckoned up, it is with this remark, that his wife Jezebel incited or stirred him up (1 Kings 2125). There was none like Ahab--he had no peer or fellow, and was second to none in wickedness, and he was irritated and provoked to this by his wife. Take heed of tempting or stirring up anyone to sin. Some men's corruptions would sleep more than they do if others did not awake and stir them up. Some are so wicked as not to sleep or to let others sleep until they have done mischief. Then they tempt others to sin in several ways.

By enticement and solicitation. It is a sad employment to be sin's solicitor, yet there are all too many of them. They are pimps, and bawds; they pander for lust and sin. And though the solicited person does not sin, as Joseph did not, yet the one who solicits is a sinner, as Joseph's mistress was. There are sinners who, like the Devil, go up and down to entice others to sin (Proverbs 1.10-16). Even flattery has force in it, and offers a kind of violence (Proverbs 7.21).

By importunity. Delilah made poor Samson almost weary of his life; she never left him until she had undone him. He stood it out a great while, but her importunity prevailed at last (Judges 16.16,17). Moreover, it was by much fair speech or importunity that the harlot prevailed with the young man, who perhaps was going about his business and thought no harm until she importuned him (Proverbs 7.13-21).

By lying to men in the name of the Lord, as the old prophet did to the young (1 Kings 13.18). The Name of the Lord is a great argument, and very taking with those who fear him. Therefore some false prophets make pretension to it and turn themselves into Angels of Light, though they are of the Devil. They quote God's authority as the Devil had the impudence to do, though falsely, to our Saviour himself (Matthew 4.3,4). This is a shrewd way of temptation.

By using improper language, and offering insults to men. Some men have lavish tongues and can hardly answer without a 'you lie'. Such is their pride and passion that they answer rudely and give such ill language as would anger a saint, as the saying is. People of quality and honour who are used to, and deserve civility will not bear such provoking words; they will not take them except on the point of their rapiers and return them to the giver's throat. Great sins are committed from such beginnings. Therefore Solomon tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15.1), as it did in Judges 8.2,3, but grievous and fierce words stir up anger, as they did in 2 Samuel 19.43, compared with 20.1. God will not allow parents to provoke their children to wrath (Ephesians 6.4). As well as ungenerous words, bad and unbecoming behaviour, abuses and affronts tempt men to sin. when Jacob's sons had deceived and thereby slain the Shechemites--they made this surly answer as an excuse to their father, 'Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?' (Genesis 34.31). It was as if Shechem's sin justified theirs, and they did well to be angry! They could not put up with such an abuse and dishonour! Therefore, do not use provoking language, to make men sin.

(f) By sending others to ensnare and trap them. Those who employ such decoys are in part guilty of their sin; and Christ Jesus called it tempting, when men of this kind were employed to entangle and ensnare him. The Pharisees sent the Herodians who should feign themselves just men and praise him into a snare and tempt him into a crime against Caesar. They pretend a case of conscience, but our Saviour says to this sort of men, 'why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?' They who were thus employed sinned, and so did those who employed them--see the story (Matthew 22; Luke 20). There are only too many more things of this kind, by which we may occasion other men's sins. But I will add only one more thing.

(g) By declaring a thing otherwise than the truth is, by mincing and equivocating. There are more than enough examples wherein good men have been guilty of this. I mention them, that saints as well as sinners may hear and fear and not do wickedly. Abraham prevailed with Sarah to say she was his sister, by which Pharaoh concluded that she was not his wife, and took her. But when God plagued Pharaoh for so doing, he reasoned the case with Abraham, 'what is this that thou hast done to me? why didst thou not tell me she was thy wife? So I might have taken her to be my wife ...' (Genesis 12). He severely expostulated with and upbraided him, and yet Abraham is at it again in Chapter 20, and meets with a more plain and homely rebuke, and is charged with no less than sin by Abimelech, 'Thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin. Thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done' (Genesis 20.9). He lays the sin at Abraham's door, and Sarah also for her suppleness had a reproof from him (verse 16). Yet after all this, Abraham's son Isaac is found remiss in the same thing, and meets with the same rebuke, and that from one who did not pretend to so much religion as Isaac did (Genesis 26). Alas, how many, by taking false oaths and bearing false witness, give occasion to judges to justify the wicked and condemn the righteous! Much more might be spoken of these things, but a word to the wise is sufficient.

(2) Take heed of being partners in other men's sins when they are committed, as co-helpers of them:

(a) As instruments to execute others' sinful designs or commands. Thus Doeg was, in executing the priests (1 Samuel 22). So are any others who serve the lusts of men. All persons who are to be obeyed, such as father and mother, are to be obeyed in the Lord (Ephesians 6.1). whosoever's will is left undone, God's will should be done, and never left undone to fulfil that of another or our own. They who put unrighteous decrees into execution are under the same woe with them who decree them; for without the execution the decree would do no harm to them against whom it was made (Isaiah 10:1,3). Those who put wicked commands into practice and execution are wicked, and are partners in the wickedness of those who command wickedness (I Kings 12.30).

(b) As confederates with others. Though the sin is not committed by you who are confederates, yet your being such makes you partakers of their sin. The counsellors and combiners are judged equally with the practisers (Psalm 83. 3-9). 'Blessed are they who walk not in the counsel of the ungodly' (Psalm 1.1). And the prophet says, The Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand'--not simply the word of the Lord came to me, or the Lord spake to me, but he spake with a strong hand! why? 'Say ye not, a confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, a confederacy' (Isaiah 8.11,12). The men of the league and association fare, because they sin, alike (Psalm 2, with Acts 4.26-28).

(c) As consenters, giving your consent to other's sin; whereas if you had denied it, perhaps they would not have sinned. when thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers' (Psalm 50.18). An adulterer is a thief, for he steals water from another's cistern, and to consent with him is to be a partaker. Therefore, 'If sinners entice thee, consent thou not' (Proverbs 1.10); enter your dissent and do not let your soul have anything to do with their secrets.

Consent may be signified by complying actions. Paul speaks of this as being once his own case: he consented to the death of the martyr Stephen, and witnesses both that he stood by and that he kept the raiment of those who slew him (Acts 22.20). In the same way, many consent to the sin of others by standing guard and watching the door; in this way they do not only wink at, but encourage and embolden others to sin.

Consent may be given by silent connivance, when we see people about to sin and do not witness against it. Silence, we say, gives consent. So it does often, though not always; for it may be the case that it would only be to throw pearls before swine to speak to some scorners. Some speak too gently, as if it were a matter of no great consequence, but will not put forth the power they have to prevent sin. Pilate seemed to witness against the Jews when they cried out for the crucifying of Christ Jesus, and washed his hands to testify his innocence (Matthew 27.24). Yet because he did not put forth his power, he is reckoned among the number of them who killed him (Acts 4.27).

Consent may be given openly and notoriously by word of mouth. Saul, afterwards Paul, gave his voice (Acts 26.10); his vote went with the rest, and he gave it with a voice, a loud voice. If anyone brings false doctrine, and a man bids him Godspeed, this man is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 10,11). when men say, as Jehoshaphat did to Ahab, 'I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war' (2 Chronicles 18.3); when we thus give consent, it is notorious.

(3) Do not be accessory to other men's sins after they are committed. You may be guilty of this in many ways, but I shall name only four.

(a) In not grieving for other men's sins. All sin is against God, and for that reason he who truly grieves for his own sin will grieve for other men's too. It was the great commendation of Lot that his righteous soul was vexed with the filthy conversation of the Sodomites; it was a torment, a kind of hell to him (2 Peter 2.7). David could not prevent men sinning and therefore he grieved for it, so much so that his eyes ran down with rivers of tears (Psalm 119.136). And this made the prophet Jeremiah wish his eyes fountains, that he might weep day and night. All these people were remembered by the Lord in mercy, when others were rewarded with misery. There is scarcely another way like this, to be kept from partaking in the ruin of sinners. God will set a mark on his weeping and mourning people, and as for the rest, they will be found as accessories if not principals in wickedness, and judged accordingly (Ezekiel 9.4-6). Oh, that there were more crying persons, when there are so many crying sins! They who grieve not and mourn not are guilty, as the apostle tells us (1 Corinthians 5.1,2); but by mourning they were cleared of this matter (2 Corinthians 7:11).

(b) By concealing that which we ought to reveal and make known. This may be easily proved from Scripture: 'If a soul sin, and hear a voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity' (Leviticus 5.1). 'whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and betrayeth it not', which he ought to do (Proverbs 29.24). Yet again, 'If thy brother, the son of thy mother or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers . . . thou shalt not consent unto him' (Deuteronomy 13.6,8). Is that enough? No! 'nor hearken unto him'. Is that enough? No! 'neither shall thine eye pity him'. Is that enough? No! 'neither shalt thou spare'. Is that enough? No! 'neither shalt thou conceal him'. Is that enough? No 'thou shalt surely kill him (by revealing him to the judges); thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death.' But you will say, is this not un-natural? what! betray a brother, one from the same womb, the son of my mother? Indeed more, my own soul Indeed more, my wife, and most of all, my friend! No matter! for all that, thou shalt not conceal him. To conceal such a sinner would be to partake of his sin (2 John 10.11). These spirits, these soul-stealers, must not be concealed, lest the receiver and be reckoned as bad as the thief.

(c) In not separating from other men when God calls you to it. Remember Lot's wife, who was loth to withdraw, and was turned into a pillar of salt--to season us, as one of the fathers said. There are people with whom we should not eat (1 Corinthians 5.11). To join in communion with known sinners is the greatest testimony you can give, either that they are saints or that you are sinners; you bear a false witness for them and a true witness against yourselves. when the apostle had reckoned up a whole troop of sinners, of whom self-love led the van, and a form of godliness brought up the rear, he adds, 'from such turn away' (2 Timothy 3.5). You may hear a voice from heaven, saying, 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins' (Revelation 18.4). Be not therefore unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6.14).

(d) If instead of reproving other men's sins, we approve of them. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them' (Ephesians 5.11). Not to reprove them, but instead to have fellowship with them, is to approve. Besides this, we declare our approbation when we take pleasure in the actions or the actors. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so' (Jeremiah 5.31); they love to have it so, that is to say, they set their seal to it, to approve and confirm what the prophets and priests do. Of the same import is the statement, 'who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them' (Romans 1.32). Men are said to help on the afflictions of God's people and to approve them by saying, Hal Ha! we would have it so (Ezekiel 25.3; 26.2). To take pleasure in such things as others do is to be accessories, as if we had done them ourselves. when the apostle Paul tells of other men's sins he does it with weeping (Philipplans 3.18), and so frees himself from the least degree of approbation. But when men laugh at, take pleasure in, and make sport of other men's sins, it is, by construction, an approbation of them. Approbation of other men's sins is also to be inferred when men flatter others and speak peace to them in their evil ways. That is, when men say 'Peace' where God says there is none, that is, to the wicked. God and man will curse him who says to the wicked, Thou art righteous (Proverbs 24.24). 'Because they have seduced (flattered) my people, saying, Peace, and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar, and they sewed pillows under their elbows; therefore, God says, will I pull down the wall, and will tear your pillows and kerchiefs' (Ezekiel 13.10,14,18,20,21). And the reason given is, because they made the heart of the righteous sad, and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way verse 22). There is a woe against such people.

Approbation is also declared when men defend and excuse the sins of others, as if they were retained like lawyers and had their fee. They who justify the wicked are equally an abomination with them who condemn the righteous (Proverbs 24.17). Some are so wicked that they defend other men's wickedness--not only like lawyers but like soldiers--by sword and force of arms; as was done for the man who had abused the Levite's concubine (Judges 17.15). But to plead for other men's sins is to be as guilty as are they who commit them.

I might add many more things, but I will forbear, because I have been somewhat lengthy on this subject. But I was more willing to do this, because it is a thing too seldom treated and too little taken notice of and laid to heart, that is, the share that we too often have in the sins of other men.

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