SELF‑CONCEIT INCIDENT TO A MULTITUDE OF PROFESSORS; OR, THE IMAGINARY PURE GENERATION FOUND NOT WASHED FROM THEIR POLLUTION.
[The First Sermon on this Text]
This subject was bundled in several
discourses; but we are uncertain when or where delivered: though it is more than
probable, they were preached in his own church at
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Proverbs 30:12
subjects I lately treated, as formerly observed,
hold out to us, 1. The
exhibition of Christ, saying, “I have given thee for a covenant of the people.”
operation upon the hearts of the people, in order to his being known and
believed in; “He shall testify of me.” 3. The
declaration of his own excellency, as being God equal with the Father; “I and my
Father are one.” And so Father, Son, and Holy Ghost concur in their commendation
of him to us. But, 4. We treated a little of the
disapprobation of this glorious One, and their harsh entertainment of him;
“Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for
We may observe two sorts of persons in the visible church.
1. Some truly exercised persons, who, looking more to their spots and weaknesses than to their graces and privileges, are ready to conclude themselves to be hypocrites and dissemblers with God. There are a few of these.
2. There are those who have nothing but a profession of religion, being strangers to the power of it; yet entertain an high opinion of themselves: who, looking more to their seeming righteousness than to their real cases; more to their gifts than to their spots, conceive themselves to be what they really are not. They have an high conceit, a towering imagination, and raised opinion of themselves, and there is a multitude of such; “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness.
This chapter contains, 1. Augur’s confession of faith. 2. His prayer, and the parts of it. 3. His six-fold quaternary; that is, the coupling of four things together, and making a comparison between them; as you may see them divided in the contents of the chapter upon some of your Bibles.—The first four is a fourfold generation of sinners that are most detestable to God; though this be not expressed, yet it is clearly implied; and you will find a parallel where it is expressed, (Prov. 6:16). Now, of the four generations he here speaks of, the second is in our text: “A generation that are pure in their own eyes, yet are not washed from their filthiness.” The scope whereof is to show, that it is a fault incident to vast multitudes, to have an high opinion of themselves, while yet they are naught; to think themselves pure, while yet they are impure: they take external reformation for true conversion, outside holiness for inward sanctification, and common grace for saving.
In the text these persons are described two ways; both negatively and positively.
1. Negatively, from what they are not in reality; they are not washed from their filthiness: where, as the defilement of sin is expressed by the word filthiness, signifying excrement, and denoting the pollution and defilement of sin; so the necessity of purity is supposed; they are not washed: they were never cleansed in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; they never washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; their hearts and natures remain polluted, and under the power of corruption.
2. They are described positively, from what they are in their own opinion; they are pure in their own eyes; they have a spiritual pride. For it is of this, I think, the text chiefly means: because carnal pride is spoken of, (v. 13). They have an high opinion of themselves, and they are set forth by their number: there is a generation of such. This word is sometimes taken for the succession of one age to another. Sometimes it imports a multitude; and in this sense I chiefly take it; “There is a multitude of people that are pure in their own eyes, yet are not washed from their filthiness.”
The farther explication I refer to the prosecution of these three doctrines; 1. That sin is an impure thing, of a polluting and defiling nature. 2. That purity is an excellent thing, and of absolute necessity to denominate a true saint. Whatever we think of ourselves, if we be not washed from this defilement, we are naught. 3. That self‑conceit is incident to a multitude of professors. Many who are most impure, do yet look on themselves as pure, and labor under a sad and woeful delusion; a gross and damnable mistake about the state of their immortal souls; they have a good heart, they think, and yet, alas! it is the worst part about them, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness.” The two former doctrines are clearly implied, the last is plainly expressed and is what I mainly designed in fixing on the text: but I shall touch at the two other also. I begin with the first of these, and would speak a little to it at the time.
Doctrine I. That sin is a pollution and defilement.
The method we propose for handling this subject, through divine aid, shall be the following: —
I. We would consider what the scripture saith about the pollution of sin.
II. We would compare the pollution of sin with the guilt of sin, for clearing the difference between the one and other and for evidencing the greatness of this defilement.
III. Speak of the nature and qualities of this pollution.
IV. We would show whence this pollution comes, and how it is derived into the world.
V. Make application of the whole subject.
I. The First thing proposed was, To consider what the scripture saith about the pollution of sin. Indeed, the scriptures compare it to all the greatest deformities imaginable. Sometimes it is compared to the blood and pollution of a newborn infant, (Ezek. 16:4-6). Sometimes to a dead body, or a rotten carcass, hanging upon a man,— “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?” (Rom. 7:24). Sometimes to a stinking exhalation of a green open grave, and the rottenness of the land of darkness. Sometimes to the poison of asps or serpents, (Rom. 3:13). Sometimes to the vomit of a dog, and the puddle of swine, (2 Pet. 2:22). Sometimes to a canker, or gangrene, (2 Tim. 2:17). Sometimes to the dung of filthy creatures, (Phil. 3:8); or human dung: we read of the dung of men’s sacrifices, cast in their faces. Sometimes to the plague and pestilence, to a putrefying sore, (Isa. 1:6). But, not to name any more; surely, if sin had not been such a pollution and abomination, the spirit of God would not have made use of so many terms, to lay before us the odious nature of it; yet none of these things, to speak properly, are pollutions in themselves, being part of the ornament of the creation, though they be poison to man, or disagreeable to our senses; but sin is ugly in itself, and in the eye of God and holy angels.
II. The Second thing was, to compare the pollution of sin, and the guilt of sin together.
1. The pollution of sin hath a reference to the command and precept: the guilt of sin hath a reference to threatening and execution. God enjoins us to do so and so; we do it not: or he forbids us to do, and we do it: here is the stain, blot, and pollution of sin; being a deformity of soul, and contrariety to the law of God. The pollution of sin hath relation to the command; the guilt of sin looks to the sanction: whoever sins shall die, shall be punished; guilt looks to that.
2. The pollution of sin looks more directly to the holiness of God; the guilt of sin hath a relation to the justice of God. The pollution of sin is the direct opposite to that purity that is in him: it is a direct contrariety to his holiness: but guilt looks to the justice of God, which chains the moral evil and the penal evil together.
3. Though guilt of itself, properly speaking, cannot be said to be a good thing, it being evil to the rebel and criminal; yet it is a good thing that sin should be punished with suffering, and misery and hell: it is the emanation of God’s justice and sanction of his law, and obligation upon the rebel, to give God as much glory by his suffering, as he robbed him of by his sin. This guilt in a manner brings all into order again. The pollution of sin breaks the order of the universe: that moral dependence, that the intellectual reasonable world had upon their Maker, is broken by the pollution of sin: but guilt, by punishment, brings all into order again; while either the guilty man suffers in his own person, which, alas! he can never fully do; or his guilt is transferred upon a Surety.
4. The pollution of sin is inseparable from it. Though sin be pardoned, it is still pollution: but guilt may be separate from sin. There may be sin without guilt in two respects. (1.) When God gives a law, and adds no sanction with it: as the greatest of our divines assert, “that a law may be without a sanction.” (2.) When pardon comes and takes away the guilt. I say, sin may be where there is no guilt; as in the case of the pardoned sinner, who is no more liable to the punishment due to sin. And guilt may be where there is no sin, as in the case of Christ, who had no sin of his own, yet, as Surety was liable to the punishment of all the sins of an elect world. But though, I say, guilt is separable from sin, yet the pollution of sin is inseparable from sin; the very nature of sin must be destroyed, ere it can cease to be a pollution.
III. The Third thing was, to speak of the nature and qualities of this pollution. As to the nature of this pollution, there are two words I would say concerning it. There is in it a privation, or want of that beauty, which the soul had, when the image of God was upon it: it is a want of conformity to the holiness and of God’s nature and law. There is also in it a positive foulness and defiledness of mind and conscience; an introducing of the image of the devil; yea, a deformity of soul, body, and conversation. But this will further appear from the properties of this pollution: and therefore as to the qualities of it,
1. It is a natural pollution; “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean! no not one. Whatsoever is born of the flesh is flesh.” Adam, after his apostasy, begat a child after his own likeness: had he stood, he would have had children after God’s image: but having fallen, he begat a son after his own image. This is natural: “In sin was I conceived (says David); and in iniquity did my mother bring me forth,” (Ps. 51:5).
2. It is a deep and
indelible pollution: it is of a crimson hue, (Isa. 1:18). It is like the
blackness of the Ethiopian, and the spots of the leopard; much niter [sodium
nitrate] and soap cannot purge it away, (Jer. 2:22). The deluge of water did not
wash it away from the earth: the fire that came down upon
3. It is universal: it hath invaded all the faculties of the soul, and set up its trophies of victory in all the powers thereof. The understanding is polluted with ignorance, darkness, error, enmity, and prejudice: in the will, there is a contrariety to God’s will, a rebellion, a contempt; in the memory, a forgetting God; all his favors to us are written like characters in the sand: the conscience itself, God’s deputy, is defiled; “To the pure, all things are pure; but to the impure and unclean, even the very mind and conscience is defiled.” This witness is bribed to favor the rest of the polluted faculties. Soul and body are contaminated; we read of the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, (2 Cor. 7:1).
4. It is a diffusive and infectious pollution; a spreading gangrene. All the children of men are overspread with it, and defiled. The whole man is over‑run. It spreadeth itself to our best duties: all our acts of obedience are thereby rendered like filthy rags; like a menstruous cloth. It infects others that are near the polluted sinner. It is hard to be in the company of a man that hath the plague, and not to be infected; Even so, it is one of the hardest things in the world to be witness to sin, and companions to wicked sinners and not be infected; “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and not be burnt?” Yea, it infects the very timber and stones of the house where the man lies; hence they are said to cry out against him. Yea, it infects the very ground on which he treads. Yea, the whole creation groans and travails in pain, because of the sins of men.
5. It is a growing and increasing pollution: “He that is filthy let him be filthy still:” that is, more filthy, (Rev. 12:11). “Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse,” (2 Tim. 3:13). Sin, once given place to, makes gradual and successful advances upon the sinner.
6. It is a mortal pollution, a deadly pollution: “I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live: yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live.” The doubling of the expression, shows the deadly nature of the pollution “in the day when thou wast born, thy naval was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all nor swaddled at all: no eye pitied thee, to do any of these offices unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out into the open field, to the loathing of thy person in the day that thou wart born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thy blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live,” (Ezek. 16:4-6). A new‑born child, exposed in that case, would soon expire. Oh! but sin puts confusion amongst men; it puts fire into hell; it puts rottenness in the grave: it was only he that went to the grave without sin, that rose without corruption; yea, sin put wrath in the heart of God against man. It is a mortal, deadly, destructive pollution.—Many other dismal qualities of it might be assigned: but I proceed,
IV. To the Fourth thing proposed, which was, to show how this pollution is conveyed into the world, and from one to another. This is a great mystery, and we must be modest on it. Let us only consider then shortly these two things about it.
1. That Adam, once being
polluted himself, he cannot but beget a polluted child: hence we read, (Gen.
5:3), that he begat a son in his own likeness, after his image. An Ethiopian
begets an Ethiopian; and a blackamoor [a person for northern
2. Consider, when God makes the soul of a man of Adam’s race, he looks upon him as a branch and piece of the old Adam; of the old rebel and apostate, to which he gave original beauty, and made it like himself, the glorious work of his hand: but it soon deformed itself. Now, when he makes the faculties, the mind, the will, he goes no further in making them: he does not concrete the original beauty he once gave to man; he is under no obligation to restore what they threw away. Indeed, the elect soul, in the day of conversion, gets all restored to advantage, by the Lord Jesus Christ; “Then he restores that which he took not away,” (Ps. 69:4). As he restores the favor of God in justification: so the image of God in sanctification; not till then.
V. The Fifth thing proposed was the application of the subject; which we shall essay briefly in several uses.
1st, By way of information. If sin be such a pollution and defilement, then hence see,
1. Why sin keeps men out
of heaven. Sin stands directly opposite to the rectitude of God’s holy nature;
it is that abominable thing which he hates: and it is a positive law of the God
of heaven, that nothing that defileth can enter into the heavenly
2. See what matter of humiliation, before God, we have: we should lie down in our shame, and our confusion cover use crying out, Unclean, unclean; humbled to the dust. Alas! what an unreasonable thing is pride: To see a proud sinner is as ridiculous a thing as to see a man vain with a contagious distemper, boasting of bodily comeliness.
3. See hence the dreadful infatuation of the most of the children of men, that are in love with sin, for as filthy as it is: yea, the doleful state of all men by nature. It is a vile state; a state of pollution: it is a state of separation from God; a state of enmity to God, the chief good: and mad love to sin, the chief evil and pollution. Whence is it that the world are in love with dung and filth? Surely it proceeds from blindness of mind: men do not see the evil of sin. It proceeds from unbelief, the power of unbelief; men do not credit the account given of it in the word. It proceeds also from the fair and pleasant varnish that the devil puts upon sin.
4. Hence see the miserable condition of those who are under the total power of sin, and never had the pollution of it washed away: why, it renders you abominable in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil: abominable in the sight of all good men, “In whose eyes a vile person is contemned,” (Ps. 15:4): in the sight of good angels; they cannot but loath iniquity, being such spotless and holy creatures; yea, abominable in your own eyes; if ever God open them, you will loath yourself and your sin, as much as ever you loved it.
5. See what need we have to stand at a distance from sin. Sin has brought the greatest desolation upon nations and kingdoms; ruined the most famous and flourishing churches; brought destruction upon the greatest and most opulent cities; vanquished and overcome the greatest men; and turned the most fertile land into barrenness. Therefore we have much need to stand at a distance from it, seeing it has brought such devastation on the earth.
6. Hence see the righteousness of God in punishing sin. How just and righteous is he in punishing its whether here or through eternity? Damnation itself is a most holy, pure, and righteous action. The punishment is not above the fault. Thou that by sin dost trample upon God, how just is it that he should trample upon thee? Sin is an infinite evil, objectively considered; and therefore an infinite evil must follow. How unreasonable then are men’s complaints of the punishment of their sins in time? Complain not against the Lord, for anything that can come upon you: it is the punishment of your sin; accept of it: “Why should a living man complain?” So long as it is below damnation, it is far below your desert: “He hath punished us less than our iniquities deserve.”
7. Hence see the excellency of holiness: If sin be most vile, holiness is most lovely. Sin is our deformity, holiness is our beauty; sin is a shame, holiness is a glory.
8. See the impossibility of satisfying God by ourselves; and the necessity of flying to the blood of Christ. How impossible is it for you to satisfy God by your own duties, reformation, and righteousness? Can this repair the wrongs done to God, while we have cast the dung of sin upon all the perfections of God? We have, as it were, trampled God under our feet, and trodden under foot the Son of God, (Heb. 10:29). This is worse than that all the world should burn in hell. Can we then make reparation or satisfaction by our duties? or be justified by our works, while our works themselves are full of sin, and so full of pollution? No, no. See then the absolute necessity of flying to the blood of Christ: this is the only sanctuary and city of refuge for guilty sinners; the only purgatory and laver for filthy sinners to be cleansed in: “The blood of Christ [and that only] cleanseth from all sin.”
The next use that we make of the doctrine is of Examination. From this we may try, if ever we got a right sight, a saving sight of sin, so as to see it in its polluting and defiling nature. There is a law‑sight of sin that ushers in a gospel saving light. Law‑work is necessary; I do not speak of the degrees: but the bankrupt will not run to the surety, till he see himself a dyvour, quite insolvent.
The polluted soul will not fly to the fountain till he sees himself polluted and defiled.
But possibly it may be asked, How shall a person know, if, after some law‑work of this sort, he hath got a gospel saving sight of the pollution of sin?
We shall answer to this only in these two particulars following.
1. If so, then you have seen it in the gospel glass, and that is a crucified Christ: “They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn:” that is on a crucified Christ. Christ on the cross, is a glass wherein we see the sinfulness of sin more than anywhere else. Here God’s hatred against sin appears most clearly; and at the same time his love to the sinner, in giving his Son to the death for his sin: and this love melts the heart, and breaks and dissolves it more than all the terrors of the law or flames of hell could do.
2. If so, then the sight hath wrought a gospel effect, such as that upon Job, “Now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” (Job 42:5,6). This sight hath made you look upon yourself with abhorrence; and made you displeased with yourself, and even to loath yourself before God; and loath your sin, and see yourself more filthy than the most loathsome creature on earth: yea, than the blackest devil in hell: And you will also find some disposition, under a sense of daily defilement, to make a daily improvement of the fountain of the blood of Christ, for cleansing. When any pollution is contracted, you will anew find yourself uneasy, till you get a new dip in the fountain. If it be thus with you, I think the Lord hath begun to cleanse you from your pollution. But, alas! the most part who hears me, lie stinking in the filthy mire of the pollution of sin.
Therefore, in the next place, permit me to apply the doctrine in an use of Exhortation. Let me exhort you,
1. To see and be convinced of your sad, sinful, and polluted state and condition. Alas! what is your natural state, man, woman? You that are unregenerate, you are lying in the mire, and loving to wallow like swine in it. A sheep may run into the mire, but cannot rest there; till it get out: but the swine love to lie in it, to wallow in it, and seek no better place to stay in. “The whole world lieth in wickedness,” (1 John 5:19). They lie in it like a vessel in the tub, that must needs be full. They are full of sin; never emptying, but always filling: yea, when the man thinketh he is emptying of sin, when he thinketh he is repenting and reforming, then he is filling with it, and carrying a fulness of it about with him, insomuch that he is dropping off that fulness of sin wherever he goes. You will say, that beggar is so full of vermin, that he is dropping his vermin, wherever he goes: So, many people discover their fulness of sinful pollutions, by dropping this vermin wherever they go. If they come into good company, they are dropping their vermin there; if they come into bad company, they are diffusing their pernicious pollutions there. Why they are so full of pollution, so full of sin, that sometimes it drops out of their eyes in proud looks, or wanton glances; sometimes it drops out of their lips in vain discourse, or profane language, such as swearing, lying, slandering and idle words; and drops out of their whole behavior and deportment. Alas! what a miserable case and condition are they in? Their heart is the source of all corruption; a nest of vermin that was never harried, a sty that was never cleansed; and out of that receptacle creeps a multitude of noxious vermin every day, and every hour of the day; for out of the heart proceedeth all the wickedness of the heart and life: “Out of the heart proceedeth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies; these are the things that defile a man,” (Matt. 15:19,20). Oh! see and lament your sad state; and know, if ever you dwell with a holy God, you must be washed, (Ps. 26:3,4). If your filthiness remain, the filthy devil and you must lodge together in hell for ever. Therefore,
2. O seek to be washed:
“Wash ye, make ye clean,” (Isa. 1:16). This was an exhortation to the
church of the Jews, when very corrupt and degenerate. In which exhortation,
there is something supposed, namely, that the church was greatly defiled.
There is a fourfold water that God makes use of for this end; and you should improve these waters.
(1.) The water of affliction; “By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged. It was good for me that I was afflicted.” This water, indeed, washes not of itself, but only as a mean in God’s hand, when he blesses it; this water washes subserviently, as the saw hath a subserviency to cut the timber, when in the workman’s hand. Therefore, improve dispensations of providence, and cry, “Lord, let not this affliction pass without some efficacy upon my soul, to wash and cleanse me from my sin.
(2.) The water of the
word, the waters of the sanctuary; these are healing, medicinal, and cleansing
waters: “Now are ye clean, through the word that I have spoken unto you.
Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.” This water washes
instrumentally; not by an intrinsic virtue of its own, but by the power of God
accompanying it. Therefore, when you hear the word, cry for power to attend it
for washing you. The word discovers the spot of sin, (
(3.) The water of the Spirit’s saving influences; this water washes efficiently. It is only through the Spirit that we mortify the deeds of the body. O sirs, employ the Holy Ghost to wash, to cleanse, to purify, regenerate, and sanctify you: we are said to be washed, justified, and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. It is the work of the Spirit to cleanse and purify; it is his function, it is his office, and he loves to be employed.
(4:) There is the crimson
water of the Redeemer’s blood; and this water washes meritoriously: this is the
fountain opened to the house of David, and inhabitants of
In a word, employ the Lord Jesus to do all the work, who said in that context, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me.” Know you cannot wash yourselves by any of these means, unless he put to his hand, and do the whole work: put your polluted souls into his hand, saying, “Lord, wash me; apply thy cleansing blood by the power of the eternal Spirit.”