CHAP.  5.

Thirteen other Considerations to keep Men from Sin.

8. LET the consideration and compassion upon the immortality and dearness of that precious soul that lies in thy bosom, curb thy corruptions at the very first sight of sin, and make thee step back as though thou wert ready to tread upon a serpent. Not all the wicked men upon earth, nor all the devils in hell, can possibly kill and extinguish the soul of any man; it must needs live as long as God himself, and run parallel with the longest line of eternity. Only sin wounds mortally that immortal spirit, and brings it into that cursed case, that it had infinitely better never have been, than be for ever. For by this means, going on impenitently to that last tribunal, it becomes “immortally mortal, and mortally immortal,” as one of the ancients speaks. “It lives to death, and dies to life;” never in state of life or death, yet ever in the pains of death and the perpetuity of life; its death is ever living and its end is ever in beginning; death without death; end without end.” Ever in the pangs of death, and never dead; not able to die, nor endure the pain; pain exceeding not only all patience, but all resistance. No strength to sustain, nor ability to bear that, which hereafter, whilst God is God, for ever must be borne. What a prodigiously mad cruelty is it then for a man, by listening to the syren songs of this false world, the lewd motions of his own treacherous heart, or the devil’s desperate counsels, to embrue his hands in the blood of his own everlasting soul, and to make it to die eternally! For a little paltry pleasure of some base and rotten lust, and fleeting [[84]] vanity, which passeth away in the act, as the taste of pleasant drink dieth in the draught, to bring upon it in the other world torments without end and beyond all compass of thought! And his madness is the more; because, besides its immortality, his soul is incomparably more worth than the whole world. The very sensitive soul of a’ little fly, saith Austin truly, “is more excellent than the sun.” How ought we then to prize and preserve from sin our understanding, reasonable souls, which make us in that respect like unto the angels of God!

9. What a horrible thing is sin, whose weight an omnipotent strength, which doth sustain the whole frame of the world, is not able to bear! Almighty God complains even of the sacrifices and other services of his own people, when they were performed with polluted hearts; and professes that “he was weary to bear them” (Isa. i, 19). And how vile is it, that stirs up in the dearest and most compassionate bowels of the all-merciful God such implacable anger; that threw down so many glorious angelical spirits, who might have done him so high honour for ever in the highest heavens, into the bottom of hell, there most justly to continue devils, and in extremest torment everlastingly! Cast all mankind out of his favour, and from all felicity, for Adam’s sin! Caused him who delighteth in mercy (Micah vii, 18) to create all the afflicting miseries in hell; eternal flames, streams of brimstone, chains of darkness, gnashing of teeth, a lake of fire, the bottomless pit, and all those horrible torments there! And that which cloth argue., and yet further amplify the implacableness and depth of Divine indignation, the infiniteness of sin’s provocation and desert, “Tophet is said to be ordained of old” (Isa. xxx, 33), “everlasting fire to be prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. xxv, 41); as if the all-powerful Wisdom did deliberate, and as it were sit down and devise all stinging terrible ingredients, a temper of greatest torture, to make that dreadful fire, hellish pains, most fierce and raging, and a tit instrument for the justice of so great and mighty a God to torment eternally all impenitent reprobate rebels. God is the “Father of spirits;” our souls are the immediate creation of his almighty hand; and yet to everyone that goeth on impenitently in his trespasses, he hath appointed, as it were, a threefold hell. There are three things considerable in sin. (1.) Aversion from an infinite, sovereign, unchangeable good. (2.) Conversion to a finite, mutable, momentary good. (3.) Continuance in the same. To these three several things in sin, there are answering three singular stings of extremest punishment. To aversion from the chiefest [[85]] good, which is objectively infinite, there answereth pain of loss, privation of God’s glorious presence, and separation from those endless joys above, which is an infinite loss. To the inordinate conversion to transitory things, there answereth pain of sense, which is intensively finite, as is the pleasure of sin; and yet so extreme, that none can conceive the bitterness thereof but the soul that suffers it; nor that neither, except it could comprehend the almighty wisdom of him that did create it. To the eternity of sin, remaining for ever in stain and guilt, answereth the eternity of punishment. For we must know, that “every impenitent sinner would sin ever, if he might live ever, and casteth himself by sinning into an impossibility of ever ceasing to sin of himself; as a man that casteth himself into a deep pit can never of himself rise out of it again: and therefore naturally eternity of punishment is due to sin.” How prodigious a thing then is sin, and how infinitely to be abhorred and avoided, that by a malignant meritorious poison and provocation doth violently wrest out of the hands of the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” the full vials of that unquenchable wrath, which brings easeless, endless, and remediless torments upon his own creatures, and those originally most excellent!

10. The height and in estimableness of the price that was paid for the expiation of it, doth clearly manifest, nay infinitely aggravate the execrable misery of sin, and extreme madness of all that meddle with it. 1 mean the heart’s blood of Jesus Christ, blessed for ever, which was of such preciousness and power, that being let out by a spear, it convulsed the whole frame of nature, darkened the sun miraculously (for at that time it stood in direct opposition to the moon), shook the earth, which shrunk and trembled under it, opened the graves, clave the stones, rent the veil of the temple from the bottom to the top, &c. Now it was this alone, and nothing but this could possibly cleanse the filth of sin. Had all the dust of the earth been turned into silver, and the stones into pearls; should the main and boundless ocean have streamed nothing but purest gold; would the whole world and all the creatures in heaven and earth have offered themselves to be annihilated before his angry face; had all the blessed angels prostrated themselves at the foot of their Creator: yet in the point of redemption of mankind and purgation of sin, not any, nor all of these could have done any good at all. Nay, if the Son of God himself, which lay in his bosom, should have supplicated and solicited (I mean without suffering and shedding his blood) the Father of all mercies, he could not [[86]] have been heard in this case. Either the Son of God must die, or all mankind be eternally lost. Then, when, thou art provoked to sin, think seriously and sensibly of the price that upon necessity must be paid for it before it be pardoned.

11. Sinful pleasures are attended with a threefold bitter sting (whereof see my Directions for Walking with God), which though the devil hides from them in the heat of temptation; yet in his seasons, to serve his own turn, he sets them on with a vengeance.

12. Compare the vast and invaluable difference between yielding to the enticement, and conquering the temptation to sin. For which purpose look upon Joseph and David, two of God’s dearest servants, and consider the results. What a deal of honour and comfort did afterward crown the head and the heart of the one, and what horrible mischiefs and miseries fell upon the family, and grisly horrors upon the conscience of the other. Survey also the distinct stories of Galeacius Caracciolus and Francis Spire, than which in their several kinds there is nothing left to the memory of the latter times more remarkable; and you shall find in them as great a difference as between a heaven and hell upon earth. The one withstanding unconquerably variety of mighty enticements to renounce the gospel of Jesus Christ and return to popery; besides the sweet peace of his soul, attained that honour in the church of Gad that he is in some measure paralleled even with Moses, and recommended to the admiration of posterity by the pen of that great and incomparable glory of the Christian world, blessed Calvin[1]. The other, conquered by an unhappy temptation to turn from the truth of God and our true religion to the synagogue of Satan and abominations of the “scarlet whore,” besides the raging and desperate confusion he brought upon his own spirit, became such a spectacle to the eye of Christendom as bath been hardly heard of.

13. Compare the poor, short, vanishing delight of the choicest sensual, worldly contentment, if thou wilt, of thy sweetest sin, with the exquisiteness and eternity of hellish torments. Out of which might an impenitent reprobate wretch be assured of enlargement after he had endured them so many thousand, thousand years as there are sands on the sea-shore, hairs upon his head, stars in the firmament, grass piles upon the ground, creatures both in heaven and earth, he would think himself happy, and as it were [[87]] in heaven already. But when all that time is past, and infinite millions of years besides, they are no nearer the end than when they began, nor he nearer out than when he came in. The torments of hell are most horrible; yet I know not whether this incessant, desperate cry in the conscience of a damned soul, “I must never come out,” doth not outgo them all in horror. What an height of madness is it then to purchase a moment of fugitive follies and fading pleasures with extremity of never-ending pains.

14. When thou art stepping over the threshold towards any vile act, lewd house, dissolute company, or to do the devil service in any kind (which God forbid); suppose thou seest Jesus Christ coming towards thee as he lay in the arms of Joseph of Arirnathea, newly taken down from the cross, woefully wounded, wan and pale; his body all gore, the beauty of his blessed and heavenly face darkened and disfigured by the stroke of death, speaking thus unto thee, “Oh! go not forward upon any terms; commit not this sin by any means. It was this and the like that drew me down out of the arms of my Father, from the fulness of joy and fountain of all bliss, to put on this corruptible and miserable flesh; to hunger and thirst, to watch and pray, to groan and sigh, to offer up-strong cries and tears to the Father in the days of my flesh, to drink off the dregs of the bitter cup of his fierce wrath, to wrestle with all the forces of infernal powers, to lay down my life in the gates of hell with intolerable, and, save by myself, unconquerable pain; and thus now to lie in the arms of this mortal man all torn and rent in pieces with cruelty and spite, as thou seest.” What a heart hast thou, that darest go on against this dear entreaty of Jesus Christ!

15. When thou art unhappily moved to break any branch of God’s blessed law, let the excellency and variety of his incomparable mercies come presently into thy mind; a most ingenuous, sweet, and mighty motive to hinder and hold off all gracious hearts from sin. How is it possible but a serious survey of the “riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, leading thee to repentance,” to more forwardness and fruitfulness in the good way; the public miracles of mercy which God bath done in our days for the preservation of the gospel, this kingdom, ourselves and our posterity, especially drowning the Spanish invincible armada, discovering and defeating the powder-plot, shielding Queen Elizabeth, the most glorious princess of the world, from a world of antichristian cruelties, saving us from the papists’ bloody expectations at her death, &c.; the particular and private catalogue of thine own personal [[88]] favours from God’s bountiful hand, which thine own conscience can easily lead thee unto, and readily run over, from thine infancy to the present, wonderful protections in thine unregenerate time; that miracle of mercies, thy conversion, if thou be already in that happy state; all the motions of God’s holy Spirit in thine heart; many checks of conscience, fatherly corrections; excellent means of sanctification, as worthy a ministry in many places as ever the world enjoyed; sermon upon sermon, sabbath after sabbath; bear Ong with thee after so many times breaking thy covenants; opportunities to attain the highest degree of godliness that ever was; — I say, how can it be. but that the review of these and innumerable mercies more should so soften thy heart, that thou shouldst have no heart at all; nay, infinitely abhor to displease or any way dishonour that high and dreadful Majesty, whose free-grace was the well-head and first fountain of them all.

Let this meditation of God’s mercies to keep from sin be quickened by considering: (1.) That thou art far worthier to be now burning with the most abominable wretch in the bottom of hell, than to be crowned with any of these loving kindnesses; that if thou wert able to do him all the honour, service, and worship, which all the saints both militant and triumphant do, it would come infinitely short of the merit of the least of all his mercies unto thee in Jesus Christ. (2.) Flow unkindly God takes the neglect of his extraordinary kindnesses unto us. 2 Sam. xii, 7-9; 1 Sam. ii, 27-30; Ezek xvi.

16. Mark well, and be amazed at thine own fearful and desperate folly. When thou fallest deliberately into any sin, thou layest as it were in the one scale of the balance the glory of Almighty God, the endless joys of heaven, the loss of thine immortal soul, the precious blood of Christ, &c.; and in the other, some rotten pleasure, earthly pelf, worldly preferment, fleshly lust, sensual vanity; and sufferest this (prodigious mad ness! “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid!”) to outweigh all those.

17. Upon the first assault of every sin, say thus unto thyself. If I now yield and commit this sin, I shall either repeat or not repent. lf I do not repent, I am undone; if I do repent, it will cost me incomparably more heart’s grief than the pleasure of the sin is worth.

18. Consider, that for that very sin to which thou art now tempted (suppose lying, lust, over-reaching thy brother, &c.), many millions are already damned, and even now burning in hell. And when thy foot is upon the brink, stay and think upon the wages, and know for a truth, that if [[89]] thou fallest into that sin, thou art fallen into hell, if God help not out.

19. Never be the bolder to give way unto any wickedness, to exercise thy heart with covetousness, cruelty, ambition, revenge, adulteries, speculative wantonness, uncleanness, or any other solitary sinfulness,’ because thou art alone, and no mortal eye looks upon thee. For “if thine heart condemn thee, God is greater than thy heart, and knoweth all things;” and will condemn thee much more. If thy conscience be as a thousand witnesses; God, who is the Lord of thy conscience, will be more than a million of witnesses; and thou mayest be assured, howsoever thou blessest thyself in thy secrecy, that what sin soever is now acted in the very retiredst corner of thine heart, or any ways most solitarily by thyself; though in the meantime it be concealed and lie hid in as great darkness as it was committed, until that last and great day, yet then it must most certainly appear, and be as legible on thy forehead as if it were written with the brightest sun-beam upon a wall of crystal. Thou shalt then in the face of heaven and earth be laid out in thy true colours, and without confessing and forsaking while it is called to-day, be before angels, men, and devils, utterly, universally, and everlastingly shamed and confounded.

20. Consider the resolute resistance and mortified resolutions against sin and all enticements thereunto of many, upon whom the sun of the gospel did not shine with such beauty and fulness as it doth upon us; neither were so many heavenly discoveries in the kingdom of Christ made known unto them as our days have seen. For upon our times (which makes our sins a great deal more sinful) hath happily fallen an admirable confluence of the saving light and learning, experience and excellency of all former ages, besides the extraordinary additions of the present, which with a glorious noontide of united illuminations doth abundantly serve our turn for a continued further and fuller illustration of the great mystery of godliness and secrets of sanctification. Hear Chrysostom: “But I think thus, and this will I ever preach, that it is much more bitter to offend Christ than to be tormented in the pains of hell.” He that writes the life of Anselm, saith thus of him; “He feared nothing in the world more than to sin. My conscience bearing me witness I lie not; for we have often heard him profess, that if on the one hand he should see corporally the horror of sin, on the other the pains of hell, and must necessarily be plunged into the one, he would choose hell rather than sin. And another thing also no less perhaps [[90]] wonderful to some, he was wont to say, that he “would rather have hell, being innocent and free from sin, than polluted with the filth thereof, possess the kingdom of heaven.” It is reported of another ancient holy man, that he was wont to say, “he would rather be torn in pieces with wild horses, than wittingly and willingly commit any sin.” Jerome, also, in one of his epistles tells a story of a young man of most invincible courage and constancy in the profession of Christ under some of the bloody persecuting emperors, to this purpose. They had little hope, it seems, to conquer him by torture, and therefore they take this course with him. They brought him into most fragrant gardens flowing with all pleasure and delight; there they laid him upon a bed of down, softly enwrapped in a net of silk, amongst the lilies and the roses, the delicious murmur of the streams, and the sweet whistling of the leaves. They all depart, and a beautiful strumpet enters, and useth all the abominable tricks of her impure art to ensnare him. Whereupon the young man, fearing that he should now be conquered by folly, who was conqueror over fury, out of an infinite detestation of sin, bites off a piece of his tongue with his own teeth, and spits it in her face, and so hinders the hurt of sin by the smart of his wound. I might have began with Joseph, who did so bravely and blessedly beat back and trample under his feet the sensual solicitations of his wanton and wicked mistress. He had pleasure and preferment in his eye, which were strongly offered in the temptation; but lie well knew that not all the offices and honours in Egypt could take off the guilt of that filth; and therefore he resolved rather to lie in the dust, than rise by sin. “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” I might pass along to the mother and seven brethren (2 Mac. vii), who chose rather to pass through horrible tortures and a most cruel death, than to eat swine’s flesh against the law; and so I might come down to that noble army of martyrs in Queen Mary’s time, who were contented with much patience and resolution to part with all, wife, children, liberty, livelihood, life itself; even to lay it down in the flames, rather than to submit to that man of sin, or to subscribe to any one point of his devilish doctrine.

Thus, as you have heard, I have tendered many reasons to restrain from sin, which by the help of God may serve to take off the edge of the most eager temptation, to cool the heat of the most furious enticement, to embitter the sweetest bait that draws to any sensual delight. Now, my most thirsty desire and earnest entreaty is, that everyone into whose hands, by God’s providence, this book of mine [[91]] shall fall, after the perusal of them would pause awhile, that he may more solemnly vow and resolve that ever hereafter, when he shall be set upon and assaulted by allurement to any sin, he will first have recourse unto these twenty considerations, which I have here recommended unto him to help in such cases; and with a punctual seriousness let them sink into his heart before he proceed and pollute himself. I could be content, if it were pleasing unto God, that these lines which thou now readest were writ with the warmest blood in mine heart, to represent unto thine eye the dear affectionateness of my soul for thy spiritual and eternal good, so that thou wouldst he thoroughly persuaded, and now, before thou pass any further, sincerely promised so to do.

Thirdly. the point may serve to set out the excellency of that high and heavenly art of comforting afflicted consciences. The more dangerous and desperate the wound is, the more doth it magnify and make admirable the mystery and method of the cure and recovery; which, were it well known and wisely practised, what a world of unnecessary slavish torture in troubled minds would it prevent? So many thousands of poor, abused, deluded souls should not perish by the damning flatteries and cruel mercies of unskilful daubers. What a heaven of spiritual lightsome-ness and joy might shine in the hearts and show itself in the faces of God’s people! Until it please the Lord to move the hearts of my learned and holy brethren in populous cities and great congregations, who must needs have much employment and variety of experience this way; or some special men extraordinarily endowed and exercised herein, to put to their helping hands and furnish the church with more large and exact discourses in this kind;—take in good part this essay of mine.

[1] See Crashaw's Life of Caracciolus.