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and it is less than sufficient. A man, that is to wade through a deep river, will first try his footing, before he takes his step: we are to wade through the depths of Satan, as the Apostle calls them: and, certainly, it is but a requisite caution, first to try our ground, before we venture upon it; to look about, and consider whether such and such an action be grounded upon a command and secured to us by a promise; whether, if we do it, we shall not lay ourselves open to such and such temptations ; or, if we do lie open to them, whether or not we are in God's way, and may expect his protection and preservation. Truly, such circumspection as this is will prove our best security : and, though we are not able, by all our own strength and diligence, to preserve ourselves; yet, when God seés us so industriously solicitous to avoid sin, he will then come in by his almighty grace, that helps not the slothful, but the laborious, and he will keep us from those sins that we cannot keep ourselves from.
3. Now for the Application of this.
(1) If it be so, that it is the Almighty Power of God only, that can keep us from sin, this may then be convictive of that error, that now-a-days is very rife in the world, that ascribes our preservation in our standing, not so much to the Almighty Grace of God, as to the Liberty and Freedom of our own Wills.
Truly, this is an opinion, that proceeds much from the pride and stomach of such, who are loth to be too much beholden to the grace of God for their salvation. It is true, no man sins, nor does any man abstain from sin, but it is with his will; but yet, still, there is an almighty influence from God: an influence of Common Providence to the wicked, without which they could not so much as will; and an influence of Special Grace to the godly, without which they could not abstain from sin. It is God, saith the Apostle, that worketh in us both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure. It is not, whether or not the will be free in abstaining from sin : that, is acknowledged: but, whether the motion of the will be principally and primarily from God, or from itself; and this, the Apostle concludes to be from God. From him it is, that we both will and do: he gives the first beginning : he adds the progress : and he concludes. He first begets grace: then, he increases it: and, at last, he crowns it. All is from God.
(2) This may instruct us, to Whom we ought to ascribe the praise and the glory of our preservation from those foul and horrid sins, that we see others daily fall into.
Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name, be all the praise and glory. We have natures, as sinful as the worst of men ever had; and, that such sinful natures should not produce as wicked lives, whence proceeds this, but only from the miracle of God's grace ? for it is a miracle, that, when the fountain is as bitter, when our hearts are as bad as the hearts of others, yet the streams should not be so. Whence is it, since we have the same corrupt hearts with Cain and Judas and all the wicked rabble in the world, whence is it, that we have not committed the same impieties with them, or worse than they have done? Why, God hath either restrained or sanctified us. But Sanctifying Grace is not enough : for, whence is it, that we have not been drunken, with Noah; adulterers or murderers, with David; abjurers of Christ, with Peter? are we more holy than they, or are we more sanctified than they ? No: it is only our gracious God's vouchsafing to us a constant influence of Exciting Grace, that hath thus kept us from those sins, into which he suffers wicked men to fall; and, not only them, but sometimes his own dear children too. It is not a difference in our natures, it is not a difference from Inherent Grace within us, that makes this difference in our lives; but it is only a difference from the unaccountable Exciting, influencing Grace of God: there lies the difference. Well then, let not the strong man glory in his strength; but let him, that glorieth, glory in the Lord, for he is our strength and our deliverer. What have we, that we have not received ; and if we have received, why do we boast as though we had not received ? It is not what we have of ourselves; but it is what we have received from God, and what we do daily receive in a way of special influence, that makes us to differ from the vilest and most profligate sinners in the world: and, therefore, let us ascribe the glory of all to the Almighty Grace of God.
(3) To shut up all, If our preservation from sin be from God, beware then how you provoke him to withdraw and suspend the influence of his grace, whereby you have been preserved, and still are.
Indeed, if we belong to him, he will never so far depart from us, as utterly to forsake us: but, yet, he may so far depart from us, as that we may have no comfortable sense of his presence, nor any visible supports from his grace. We may be left a naked and destitute prey to every temptation; and fall into
the commission of those sins, out of which we may never be able to recover ourselves to our former strength, comfort, and stability. We may fall, to the breaking of our bones : and we may rise again, possibly; but it will be to the breaking of our hearts.
So much for this time, and for this subject.