SELF‑CONCEIT INCIDENT TO A MULTITUDE OF PROFESSORS; OR, THE IMAGINARY PURE GENERATION FOUND NOT WASHED FROM THEIR POLLUTION.
The Nature and Excellency of Purity Opened
[The Fourth Sermon on this Text]
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Proverbs 30:2.
Civility is a very comely thing: but if it be not attended with sanctity, it but gilds a man over, and is not true gold. A man may have civility, and civil honesty, and yet go to hell: but sanctity and purity is the beginning of heaven. The one is not above the sphere of nature, the other is supernatural; for as the earth naturally can bring forth grass, but cannot bring forth corn, except it be ploughed and sown; even so, any man may naturally be civil, but he cannot attain to any life of grace, or true holiness, except God plough up the fallow ground of the heart, sow the seed of grace, and make it to take root downward, and bring forth fruit upward. Therefore, trust not to common civility and sobriety, whatever external comeliness and excellency be in it; but rather be afraid of it, lest you mistake it for real grace; why, because the sober devil carries more to hell than the profane devil; for the profane man, being in a dirty way to hell, he is sooner convinced of his filthiness and misery, and more readily reclaimed: but the civil man, being in a more cleanly way to hell, is so conceited with an opinion that he has grace already, that it is harder to bring him to true repentance—“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”
It is a very sad and a very dreadful thing, for people to be dreaming that they are going to heaven, and fancying that they are in very good terms with God, and yet are in the straight road to hell, having God for their enemy, and enemies to God; “Enemies in their minds by wicked works.” Yea, there are many such, that if ministers deal plainly with them, and tell them that they are enemies to God, and never had a spark of true love to him; all that we get of them is, “God forbid! we hope it is otherwise;” or else, say them, “We hope it will be otherwise, and God will have mercy on us:” and so there is no more of it, they remain hardened in their enmity, and yet hardened in a vain imagination, that all is well. O sirs, if that be your case, will you let the word of God sink into your conscience, for conviction; “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes; and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” I now come,
4thly, To another use of the doctrine, which shall be for trial and examination. Examine and try whether or not you have any share of this gospel‑purity; whether or not you be washed from your filthiness. It is a matter of great moment that you are called to enquire into. God calls you to examine yourselves, and prove your own selves: and seeing purity and holiness is the great preparative for everlasting happiness, a mistake in your search may make you miserable to all eternity. I shall here, 1. Offer some negative characters, pointing out those that are not washed from their filthiness. 2. Some positive evidences by which we may try, whether or not we be washed from our filthiness, and partake of this gospel‑purity which we have held forth in the nature, necessity, and excellency thereof.
(1.) We are to offer some negative characters, pointing out those that are not washed from their filthiness, but are filthy still. Upon the last use, I offered several witnesses to be produced for testifying the impurity of the day we live in; and shall not resume what I said, but offer some things further, by which we may try how impure we are, and the generation is. And, though some of the particulars I am to mention may take place, in some measure, with the godly that are washed, yet those who are under the power of these evils, the unmortified power, unlamented and unrepented dominion thereof, were never washed from their filthiness: the text says, “There is a generation that is not washed from their filthiness;” though yet they are pure in their own eyes, and self‑conceited, which is the particular sin that I reserve to be spoken to in the third and last doctrine: and therefore shall not insist upon it here. But, you see, besides this, all other sins and abominations, and impurities are included in the text; and therefore it gives us occasion to speak of all manner of sin, while it says, “There is a generation that is not washed from their filthiness.”
1. There is a generation of atheists, that neither fear God nor regard man; that say in their heart, “There is no God;” and vainly wish there were none. There is a generation of deists, which is but a second edition of atheism, whereby the providence of God is denied, and so the God of providence blasphemed: but beside the gross, contracted, and almost professed atheism of many, what a huge generation is there that was never purged from their natural atheism! And though they would take it ill to be called atheists, are evidently and practically so, while, though they profess to know God, yet in works they deny him. Surely these are not purged from their filthiness.
2. There is a generation of ignorant persons, that know not God, know not religion, know not the principles of Christianity; they are grossly and stupidly ignorant, notwithstanding the means of knowledge: they are artfully ignorant, neglecting the opportunities of instruction, diets of examination, and other seasons of learning. They are ignorant of Christ, and the way of salvation through him; ignorant both of law and gospel; the covenant of works, and covenant of grace. Are these washed from their filthiness? No; “It is a people of no understanding,” saith God; “Therefore he that made them, will not have mercy upon them; and he that formed them, will shew them no favour.” And, beside the grossly ignorant, there is a generation that hath a smattering of knowledge, some notional views of gospel‑mysteries; but they never had the eyes of their understandings opened; the God of this world having blinded their eyes: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” They are not washed from their filthiness; no, the ignorant person is filthy still.
3. There is a generation of mockers, that despise all things, serious and sacred. If they come to church to attend ordinances, they but slight and despise these ordinances in their hearts. If they hear a preaching, they but despise and contemn the word that they hear, and know not what it is to hear to edification. If public prayers be an offering up, they but despise the same; their eyes are roving, and they know not what it is to join in prayer with their souls. If public psalms be a singing, they despise that piece of worship, and can sit with their mouths close, when the mouths of others are opened, to sing praises to God. I have sometimes observed, with regret, how, while the congregation were professing at least, to praise God with open mouth, some will sit with such a close mouth, as if they were openly professing that they despised and contemned that heavenly exercise. They that love not to join with a congregation on earth, to praise God, how unfit are they for joining with the heavenly company, whose exercise is to praise him forever? There is, I say, a generation of mockers and despisers: and some that slight and despise ordinances altogether, of whom God saith, “Behold, ye despisers! wonder, and perish!” Surely these are not washed from their filthiness.
4. There is a generation of hypocrites and formalists, that surely are not washed from their filthiness, that make a fashion of reading, and hearing, and praying, and praising, and singing; and rest satisfied, with the external performance of duty, and were never acquainted with the love, the power, the life of religion; that have a name to live, but are dead. Woe to you hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside; but are not washed from your internal filthiness you are as whited sepulchers, having a fair outside; but within are full of rottenness and putrefaction.
5. There is a generation of legalists and moralists: they go about to establish a righteousness of their own, and will not submit to the righteousness of God. They are your pretenders to works, and holiness, and righteousness: but discover their want thereof, by their estrangement from, and ignorance of the righteousness of Christ. They seek heaven in a legal way; they seek to enter in, but they shall not be able, (Luke 13:24). They seek salvation, but they seek it not by faith; but, as it were, by the works of the law. They pretend respect to the law, and yet affront it by refusing the only law‑biding, law fulfilling righteousness of Christ. They profess holiness, and yet are not washed from their filthiness; for they are under the law. For that word “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace,” may be read just backward, with respect to them: Sin shall have dominion over them, because they are not under grace, but under the law.
6. There is a generation of superstitious worshippers and ceremony‑mongers, who will worship God in ways not enjoined in his word. A heathen Socrates would say, “God will be worshipped with that kind of worship which himself hath commanded:” and surely, those that profess themselves Christians should fear and learn. Now, I not only here mean, all gross superstition, of whatsoever sort, but all impurity of worship. Surely they are not washed from their filthiness, who have no concern upon their hearts to stand up for the purity of religion, in its worship and ordinances, in opposition to all mixtures and corruptions whatsoever. Nothing exasperates a holy God more than this, that there should be defilements in his worship; for mixture in his worship, not only crosses his command, but impeaches his wisdom, as if we should supply the defects of his word, by our inventions; therefore, God condemns it as ill‑worship, saying, “Their fear toward me [or their worship of me], is taught by the precepts of men,” (Isa. 39:13; Col. 2:22,23). In a word it makes God’s worship a vain worship, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men,” (Matt. 15:6). As mixing copper with gold, debaseth the metal, it cannot pass: therefore, God giveth that awful certification, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book,” (Rev. 22:18,19).
7. There is a generation of erroneous persons; that err in heart, and err in practice, and err in principle. Some have no principles at all, but Latitudinarian; they are any thing you please. Other are of abominable and corrupt principles, subversive of the gospel, and destructive to pure religion and undefiled. It was an old principle long ago, which is yet living, “That the doctrine of free grace, and justification by faith, without the works of the law, was an adversary to the law of Moses, and to holiness.” No wonder then, that some have this doctrine to defend against such a charge, when Christ himself had this ado; “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.” It is a day of error; and to speak of all the errors that are like to be imbibed and drunk in, were a task not to be managed in a passing word, but would take much time. Pollution in principle is a great pollution; and where the error is fundamentals, surely the person is not washed from his filthiness.
8. There is a generation that makes no manner of bonds of offence; to offend the generation of the righteous, is become a common and easy thing with many professors: and yet the Lord says, “Woe to the world, because of offences; better that a millstone were put about his neck, and he thrown into the midst of the sea, than to offend one of those little ones. Offences must come; but woe to them by whom they come.” Surely, these that have no regard whether they offend, and lay stumbling‑blocks in people’s way, or not, they seem not to be washed from their filthiness.
9. There is a generation that are drowned in security and stupidity, having no sense of sin or danger: though sin be imminent and danger imminent; they go on incorrigibly, in their own evil way; and live securely notwithstanding all the means of mercy, and motives of judgment, the Lord gives for their recovery. When the language of providence, and the alarms thereof cry, “Arise, O sleeper, and call upon thy God.” While the stormy tempest threatens the shipwreck of the church and state: and particularly the storm of division and animosity threatens the overthrowing the church visible: yet they sleep on, saying, all is safe: “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” When security is universal, surely it is a sign we are not washed from our filthiness.
10. There is a generation of apostates, who begin in the spirit, and end in the flesh; that begin like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, with a head of gold, but end with the feet of the image, that were feet of clay. Apostasy, and backsliding, and defection are no rarity in our day, wherein the love of many waxeth cold; and the church hath left her first love; and many backslide with a perpetual backsliding; and are, it is to be feared, or will be of these who draw back to perdition. Concerning all such, the scripture speaketh very awfully: “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways. Whoso putteth his hand to God’s plough, and looketh back, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.” Surely habitual apostates, who return with the dog to the vomit, and the sow that was washed, to the swallowing in the mire, are not washed from their filthiness. A generation that is making defection from God, his work, cause, and interest, are not washed.
11. There is a generation of lukewarm Laodiceans, who are neither cold nor hot, whom God threatens to spew out of his mouth; having no zeal for God, no public spirit, to witness faithfully for the cause and interest of Christ. Instead of this, carnal policy, under the false notion of prudence and moderation, doth carry many off their feet, while they follow the counsels of flesh and blood, and condemn, reproach, and discourage those who take other measures, and desire to be faithful. If any zeal for the declarative glory of God appear with this or the other person, in a day of general lukewarmness, no wonder that the particular person, who would make any appearance against the common defection, be flouted for singularity, as if they set up themselves, and would be reckoned eminent beyond all others: But calumny will never make zeal culpable, nor lukewarmness justifiable. However, the neutralizing temporizer is abominable to God; he who cares not whether the ark or Dagon be set up, whether Christ or antichrist prevail: “He that is not with me, is against me,” saith Christ, upon this head. I have read of Anastatius the emperor, that he was, by the hand of God, shot to death with a hot thunder‑bolt, because he was lukewarm in the catholic cause, and not zealous against the Arian faction, which became so universal, that it was said, The whole world was turned Arian.
12. There is a generation of profane persons, like Esau, who, for one morsel of meat, sold his birth‑right. Many, for a little morsel of worldly good, will sell their souls, and sell their heavenly inheritance. Many, for fear of losing any little outward inheritance, or temporal advantage in the world, will make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Many think they make a good bargain at a public market, (such as you have in view this week), though they cheat their neighbor with never so many lies and falsehoods, in buying and selling, if they may but gain a little worldly advantage upon them. They will quit with their conscience, before they quit with a sixpence. Surely these are not washed from their filthiness.
But what shall I say? There would be no end of speaking to this purpose. There is a generation that have no care of their own souls, nor the souls of others: they are running fast to hell; and by their ill example, drawing their children to hell with them: their friends and neighbors to hell with them. There is a generation of vile whoremongers, and adulterers, and unclean persons, that go on, without remorse or reformation: and to whom the custom of the sin hath worn out the conscience of the guilt. Most certainly they are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of drunkards and tipplers, that cannot mortify the lust of drunkenness unto drunkenness: it is their right hand and right eye; which, because it cannot be cut off, or plucked out, it is like to go to hell with them. They are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of horrid swearers, and profaners of the name of God, whether by broad oaths, or minced oaths: not to insist upon the open perjury, by the abominable use and abuse of state‑oaths. O the perfidy and perjury of the nation! Surely the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor knowledge of God in the land; “By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood; therefore shall the land mourn,” (Hosea 4:1‑3). There is a generation of liars, who make no conscience of speaking the truth to their neighbor: They are of their father the devil, who is the father of lies. Are they washed from their filthiness? No: There shall in no wise enter into the new Jerusalem anything that defileth, or worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. There is a generation of Sabbath‑breakers, by whom God’s holy day is as little hallowed and sanctified as any other day; though they come to the church for the fashion; yet they do not make conscience to abstain from thinking their own thoughts, speaking their own words, or doing their own works on the Lord’s day: No, if it were not for the custom, they would not make so much as any outward mark of distinction. Are they washed from their filthiness? No, by no means. There is a generation of malicious persons and fire‑brands, living in the fire of contention and discord: not living in love, nor following peace with all men: but living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another: loving to have an ill tale to tell, and an evil report to make of one another; pursuing idle clashes, and entertaining them. Surely they are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of unjust and injurious persons, who think nothing to build up their own worldly fortune upon the ruin of their neighbor’s estate; not remembering, that which is won by theft, robbery, injustice, or oppression, is won at the peril of their souls and the curse of God. Of the same nature is injustice in judging and determining of causes, at whatsoever court, whether civil or ecclesiastic, when friendship and courtesy is preferred above justice and equity; and when the decision of judges goes not by justice, but by favor, or fraud, or bribery. Surely all such are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of rotten‑hearted professors, that join in intimate society and close familiarity with stated enemies to God and religion, and monstrous swearers, profane, loose, abandoned, and malignant persons; they reckon them perhaps to be good fellows, and honest neighbors, and have not the least reluctance at intimate fellowship with them: and, it may be, prefer their company to that of the godly and serious. They walk in the counsel of the ungodly, they stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the way of the scornful, and yet would be called professors. But it seems plain that they are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of prayerless persons; they bow not a knee to God in their families, and perhaps as little in their closets. The prayerless man is an impure man; he is not washed from his filthiness. There is a generation of proud and selfish persons; if they pray, or bring forth any fruit, they are but empty vines that bring forth fruit to themselves. Spiritual pride and self is as great an enemy as God hath: and even pride of duties, pride of prayer, pride of preaching, pride of grace, proud desires of being applauded, and thought better of than others, where it is in its reign, evidences the person is not washed from his filthiness. In a word, there is a generation of unregenerate persons, which include all the Christless and graceless world, that were never convinced or converted, never drawn to Christ in a day of power. Surely all they who were never born again, of water and of the Spirit, whose operations are like water, who were never saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, they are not washed from their filthiness.
[2.] The next thing proposed, on this use of trial and examination, was to assign some positive evidences of those that are washed from their filthiness, and made partakers of gospel purity. It is possible, some may imagine, if all be excluded that I have named, there will certainly be few behind of the generation, that is washed from their filthiness. Indeed, I own, they are but few; for all are excluded who are under the power, reign, and dominion of any of those sins that I have been naming. But, for the help of the few, that they may know they have something of gospel purity, and that others may further know that they have it not, and so may be humbled, and cry to the Lord for it, I shall offer but these two means, or evidences, at the time, by which it may be tried. Try this purity then, 1. By the root of it. 2. By the fruit of it.
1st, Let this purity be tried by the root and spring of it. And,
1. This gospel purity is rooted in a divorce from the law. This may seem a paradox to some, that purity, holiness, and conformity to the law, should be rooted in a divorce from the law: Yea, but it is a truth of the eternal God. Accordingly Paul declares of his own experience, “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God,” (Gal. 2:29). No living unto God, in point of purity and sanctification, until we be dead unto and divorced from the law, in point of justification. We must renounce it as a rule of acceptance, before we improve it as a rule of obedience. We do not make it a standard of holiness, so long as we make it a condition of life: for, while we do so, we are under the law, and so under the power and dominion of sin, and strangers to the grace of God, which only doth effectually teach to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly. Now have you ever been divorced from the law, by the killing stroke of conviction, and by the mortifying stroke of humiliation? Have you been convinced of the evil of sin, the guilt of sin, the power of sin; of the righteousness of God, though he should destroy you; and of the spirituality and extent of the law, so as the commandment coming, sin hath revived and you died?
2. This gospel purity is rooted in a marriage union to Christ; “Ye are dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye might be married to another, even unto Christ, that ye may bring forth fruit unto God,” (Rom. 6:4). As there can be no lawful children before marriage, so, no acceptable fruit unto God, no true purity before marriage‑union to the Lord Jesus Christ, without engraftment into this blessed vine, without whom we can do nothing. Now, try your purity by this root of it. Know you nothing of a marriage manifestation of, and union to the Lord Jesus Christ, having been divorced from the law, by a work of humiliation laying you low? Have you got a discovery of Christ, in a gracious manifestation of his glory? For, beholding his glory, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory. Got you ever a view of the marriage contract? Did he never say to you, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people?” Did he never say, “I will betroth thee to me for ever, in loving‑kindness, in tender mercies, and in faithfulness:” declaring that his covenant is your charter, his righteousness your garment, his spirit your guide, his fulness your treasure, and his faithfulness your security? Know you nothing of the marriage proclamation? Did the Lord never say to you such a word as that, Come unto me, and you shall find rest to your souls, poor, weary, and heavy laden creatures? Did he never court you by the gospel, saying, as Rebekah’s friends concerning Abraham’s servant, with relation to Isaac, “Will you go with this man?” Know you anything of the marriage consent? “I will go with this man.” “Did he ever make you willing in a day of his power? Know you nothing of marriage embraces between Christ and your soul? Hath he ever embraced you by his love, and made you to embrace him by faith? Surely gospel purity is rooted here.
3. This gospel purity is rooted in the inhabitation and operation of the Spirit of Christ; “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,” (Ezek. 36:27). Try then, the Spirit is for accomplishing the aforementioned effects. The Spirit maketh a clear revelation of the grace of God in the gospel. The Spirit having convinced of sin and unbelief, doth beget faith, even the faith of the word of grace, the faith of the death of Christ, the faith of the mercy of God in Christ, and the faith of the promise: and by faith the believer receives the Spirit; that is, more and more of the Spirit. In the first approach of the Spirit to the heart, when he works faith, we are purely passive: but afterward the Spirit is received: “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” And now the Spirit dwelleth in the heart, as the root of all purity and holiness there; and then he works, and operates, and influences: this is the sap which comes from the root of Christ. The poor soul finds, that without new breathing, new influences of the Spirit, there can be no good motions, desires, affections; this is the well of water, put within the believer, springing up to everlasting life. Hypocrites may be fed with common influences, like pools from the clouds; but believers have a living spring within them, springing up like a spring‑well internally, even where there are no external motives many times.
4. This gospel purity, is rooted in a principal of faith: so we read, that their hearts were purified by faith, (Acts 15:9): for faith doth not only justify the person, but also purify the affections and heart of the person justified. Faith is a working grace, (1 Thess. 1:3). In what works it? It works thus, even working out filthy corruption. As unbelief and infidelity pollutes a man’s heart; and therefore Paul joins the unbelieving and the defiled together, (Titus 1:15), so also, on the contrary, it is the work of faith to sanctify the heart and therefore, as Paul, in the former place, joins unbelief and defilement together; so, faith unfeigned, and a pure heart are coupled together, (1 Tim. 1:5). Now, faith purifies by drawing water out of the wells of salvation; having united the person to Christ, the fountainhead, it draws vital influences from all Christ’s perfections and attributes; from all his offices, from all his promises, from all his providences, from all his relations; from his names, his righteousness, his fullness, his purchase, by its frequent actings through the help of the Spirit of Christ, which is given them.
And particularly, faith improves the death of Christ for this purpose. By his death he hath appeased the wrath, and satisfied justice, and hath obtained the communication of God’s favor, and all the fruits of it, whereof this of sanctification and purification is one. Christ, by his death, hath taken out of the way the great obstacle of our sanctification, and that is our conceiving of God as an enemy, and so being under the fear of God’s wrath; for now, that Christ hath died, and this is revealed to us, this may beget in us kindly thoughts of God, and deliver us from our fears; and so should we understand that word, “There is mercy with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” One would think if it were, There is wrath with thee, that thou mayest be feared: they would understand it better. Why, I tell you, while people fear the Lord and his wrath, that is no holiness: for devils fear him and his wrath: yea, they believe and tremble at his wrath, and yet have no holiness, no purity. But, while we fear the Lord and his goodness, as it is, (Hosea 3:3); while we fear him in a filial way, from the faith and belief of mercy and goodness, this is purity and holiness. Now, Christ, by his death, hath removed the great obstacle, viz. a slavish fear, and introduced the greatest encouragement, even the declaration of God’s greatest mercy, and richest grace to poor sinners: and faith’s views hereof, doth encourage us to love and serve the Lord.
In a word, faith improves and embraces, and pleads the promise of sanctification; such as, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness will I cleanse you: I will put my Spirit within them; I will put my fear in their heart; I will subdue their iniquities; I will save you from all your uncleanness: All which are Yea and Amen in Christ.—Now, try your purity thus by the root of it.
2dly, Try your purity by the fruits and effects, parts and evidences of it; such as these following.
1. Gospel purity makes a man love God, because he is pure. Can you say, from the bottom of your soul, that how ever impure and unholy you are, yet you love God because he is a pure and a holy God; a holy God that hates sin? I look upon this as a sweet evidence of one that hath the stamp of God’s holiness upon his soul. A hypocrite may love God, because he is good, merciful and the like; but can he love him because he is a holy God, that hates sin? No. Now, is that the language of thy soul, “Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness?”
2. Gospel purity makes a man love the people of God, because they are pure. A man may love the people of God, because of some other reason, and yet have no purity but to love them because of their purity; and the more pure and holy they are, the more to love them, this is an evidence of being passed from death to life, Many would rather choose to be in a drunken club and cabal, than in the company of those who fear God; they are kept under restraints while with them; but the man that is washed from his filthiness, “His delights are with the saints, the excellent ones of the earth,” (Ps. 16:3).
3. Another fruit and evidence of gospel purity is, it makes the man love the word, because of its purity: “Thy word is very pure; therefore thy servant loves it,” (Ps. 119:140). The word is the mean and instrument of purity; “Now are ye clean through the word that I have spoken. Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” Now, to love ordinances, and to love the word, for this very reason, because of its purity, is evidential of a person’s being purified in part.
4. Gospel purity makes a man hate sin, because of its impurity, and stand at a distance from it, under that consideration. He hates sin because of its impurity, and because of its opposition to holiness: and therefore he hates every sin, “I hate every false way,” (Ps. 119:104). He hates secret, as well as open sin, “I hate vain thoughts,” (Ps. 119:113). He hates little sins, as well as great, if any can be called little, seeing there is no little God to sin against, no little hell to punish sin in. Little sins have brought on great punishments: as Lot’s wife looking back to Sodom; Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit; fifty thousand men of Bethshemish slain for looking curiously into the ark; and Uzzah for touching it. The saints know that the least sin cost Christ’s precious blood; and therefore dare not think little of, or indulge themselves in any sin.—Further, gospel purity leads a man to stand at a distance from sin. It is true, the child of God may fall into sin; but his way of sinning is like the wicked man’s way of serving God. A wicked man may go to duty, he may go to his prayers! but he is only a bungler at it; he has no habit of grace, no dexterity for duty before God: so, a godly man may commit sin, and try that work sometimes; but he is a bungler at it, he has lost his habit and dexterity of sinning through grace; and therefore it is said he cannot sin: “He that is born of God cannot commit sin.”
5. Gospel purity inclines a man to make advances in religion; he forgets the things that are behind, and presseth forward; he can never be pure enough: he goes from strength to strength; “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” It is true, there are ebbings and flowings of grace; the person may be going sometimes backward, at other times forward: but his ordinary course is like the sun; it may be under a cloud, and out of view, as if there was no sun at all; but then it breaks out from under the cloud again, and always makes farther advances in his race. So, the child of God may be under a cloud; grace may be under a cloud and disappear, as if it was no grace at all; but then it breaks out again further advanced; for, the man grows in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; hath more experience of the Lord’s pity and favor; more insight into the mysteries of the gospel.
6. Gospel purity makes a man see and lament his own impurity and unholiness: he is afflicted with his want of purity, and with his own vileness and defilement, saying, with Job, “Behold I am vile;” and with Asaph, “So foolish was I, and ignorant;” and with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes;” and with Augur, “I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man;” and with Paul, “I am the chief of sinners.” The man is humble under a sense of his own vileness, and of the plagues of his own heart. Tears, instead of gems and pearls, were the ornaments of David’s bed, when he was fallen from his purity.
7. This purity makes a
man to be afflicted even for the impurity of others: this was the case with
David; “I beheld transgressors and was grieved: Rivers of water run down mine
eyes, because the wicked keep not thy law,” (Ps. 119:136,158). It had the same
effect upon Jeremiah; “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of
tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my
people!” (Jer. 9:1). “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the
city, through the midst of
8. This purity is evidenced by a conscientious and diligent use of the means of purity. The Lord works out, and carries on this work of sanctification; makes it go on by the means which he hath appointed us to use; and when we use his appointed means, though the effect does not presently and discernibly follow and appear, yet we may conclude that the work is going on. Even as when the children of Israel were compassing the walls of Jericho seven days, and seven times upon the seventh day: some of them might possibly be disposed to say, What means our compassing the walls: they do not fall by our compassing them, or using this mean? However, every compassing of the walls was a bringing down of the walks, though they fell not till after the seventh times compassing on the seventh day, (Joshua 6). Even so, the diligent use of means, in the way that the Lord hath appointed, is our indispensible duty; for, though it is not always evident that the means hath any success, for bringing down the walls and high towers of sin, yet every compassing of the walls, at God’s command, is a sign the work is going on; and at last the walls shall fall flat to the ground.