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yet their graces are but weak, and their mortification imperfect in this life; though by grace they are freed from the dominion of sin, and from the damnatory power of every sin, and from the love of all sin, yet grace does not free them from the seed of any one sin ; and therefore it is possible for a soul to fall again and again into the same sin. If the fire be not wholly put out, who would think it impossible that it should catch and burn again and again?
Rem, 2. Seriously consider that God has no where engaged himself by any particular promise, that souls converted and united to Christ shall not fall again and again into the same sins after conversion. I cannot find in the whole book of God, where he has promised any such strength or power against this or that particular sin, as that the soul should be for ever, in this life, put out of a possibility of falling again and again into the same sins; and where God has not a mouth to speak, I must not have a heart to believe. God will graciously pardon those sins to his people, that he will not in this life effectually subdue in his people. I would go far to speak with that soul that can shew me a promise, that when our sorrow and grief have been so great or so much for this or that sin, that then God will preserve us from ever falling into the same sin. The sight of such a promise would be as life from the dead to many a precious soul, who desires nothing more than to keep close to Christ, and fears nothing more than backsliding from Christ.
Rem. 3. Seriously consider that the most renowned and now crowned saints have in the days of their being on earth, relapsed into one and the same sin. Lot was twice overcome with wine. John twice worshipped the angel. Abraham did often dissemble, and lay his wife open to adultery, to save his own life, which some heathens would not have done. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother, Gen. xx. 13; xii. 13. David, in his wrath, was resolved, if ever man was, that he would be the death of Nabal and all his innocent family; and after this he fell into the foul murder of Uriah. Though Christ told his disciples, that his kingdom was not of this world, yet again, and again, and again, three several times, they would needs be on horseback, they would fain be high, great, and glorious in this world. Their pride and ambitious humour put them, who were but as so many beggars, upon striving for pre-eminence and greatness in the world, when their Lord and master told them three several times of his sufferings in the world, and of his going out of the world. Jehoshaphat, though a godly man, yet joins affinity with Ahab; and though he was saved by a miracle, yet soon after he falls into the same sin, and joins himself with Ahaziah, king of Israel, who did very wickedly. Sampson is by the Spirit of the Lord numbered among the faithful worthies, and yet he fell often into one gross sin, as is evident. Peter, you know, relapsed often, and so did Jonah ; and this came to pass, that they may see their own inability to stand, to resist, or overcome any temptation or corruption; and that they may be taken off from all false confidences, and rest wholly upon God, and only upon God, and always upon God; and for the praise, and honour of the power, wisdom, skill, mercy, and goodness of the physician of our souls, that can heal, help, and cure, when the disease is most dangerous, when the soul is relapsed, and grows worse and worse, and when others say, There is no help for him in his God, and when his own heart and hopes are dying.
Rem. 4. Consider that there are relapses into enormities, and there are relapses into infirmities. Now it is not usual with God to leave his people frequently to relapse into enormities; for by his spirit and grace, by his smiles and frowns, by his word and rod, he usually preserves his people from a frequent relapsing into enormities; yet he does leave his choicest ones frequently to relapse into infirmi. ties, (and of his grace he pardons them in course) as idle words, passion, vain thoughts. Though gracious souls strive against these, and complain of these, and weep over these, yet the Lord, to keep them humble, leaves them frequently to relapse into these; and these frequent relapses into infirmities shall never be their bane, because they are their burden.
Řem. 5. Consider that there are involuntary relapses, and there are voluntary relapses. Involuntary relapses are, when the resolution and full bent of the heart is against sin; when the soul strives with all its might against sin; by sighs and groans, by prayers and tears; and yet out of weakness is forced to fall back into sin, because there is not spiritual strength enough to overcome. Now though involuntary relapses must humble us, yet they must never discourage nor deject us, for God will freely and readily pardon them in course. Voluntary relapses are, when the soul longs and loves to return to the flesh-pots of Egypt; when it is a pleasure and a pastime to a man to return to his old courses. Such voluntary relapses speak out the man blind, hardened, and ripened for ruin.
Rem. 6. Consider that there is no such power or infinite virtue in the greatest horror or sorrow the soul can be under for sin, nor in the sweetest or choicest discoveries of God's grace and love to the soul, as for ever to fence and secure the soul from relapsing into the same sin. Grace is but a created habit that may be prevailed against by the secret, subtle, and strong workings of sin in our hearts. And those discoveries that God makes of his love, beauty, and glory to the soul, do not always abide in their freshness and power upon the heart, but by degrees they fade and wear off, and then the soul may return again to folly; as we see in Peter, who after he had a glorious testimony from Christ's own mouth of his blessedness and happiness, labours to prevent Christ from going up to Jerusalem to suffer, out of bare slavish fears, that he and his fellows could not be secure, if his master should be brought to suffer. And again, after this, Christ had him up into the mount, and there shewed him his beauty and glory, to strengthen him against the hour of temptation that was coming upon him; and yet soon after he had the honour and happiness of seeing the glory of the Lord which most of his disciples had not, he basely and most shamefully denies the Lord of glory, thinking by that means to provide for his own safety. And yet again, after Christ had broken his heart with a look of love for his most unlovely dealings, and bade them that were first acquainted with his resurrection, to yo and tell Peter that he was risen ; I say, after all this, slavish fears prevail upon him, and he basely dissembles, and plays the Jew with the Jews, and the Gentile with the Gentiles, to the seducing of Barnabas. Gal. i. 11-13.
Yet by way of caution know, it is very rare that God leaves his beloved ones frequently to relapse into one and the same gross sin; for the law of nature is in arms against gross sins, as well as the law of grace; so that a gracious soul cannot, dares not, will not frequently return to gross folly. And God has made even his dearest ones dearly smart for their relapses, as may be seen by his dealings with Sampson, Jehoshaphat, and Peter. Ah, Lord, what a hard heart has that man, who can see thee stripping and whipping thy dearest ones for their relapses, and yet make nothing of returning to folly!
The eighth device that Satan has to keep souls in a sad and questioning condition, is by persuading them that their estate is not good, their hearts are not upright, their graces are not sound, because they are so followed, vexed, and tormented with temptations. It is his method, first to weary and vex the soul with temptations, and then to tempt the soul, that surely it is not beloved, because it is so much tempted. And by this stratagem he keeps many precious souls in a sad, doubting, and mourning temper many years, as many of the precious sons of Sion have found by woful experience.
Now the remedies against this device, are these :
Rem. 1. The first remedy is, solemnly to consider that those who have been best and most beloved, have been most tempted by Satan. Though Satan can never rob a Christian of his crown, yet such is his malice, that he will therefore tempt, that he may spoil him of his comforts. Such is his enmity to the Father, that the nearer and dearer any child is to him, the more will Satan trouble him, and vex him with temptations. Christ himself was most near and most dear, most innocent and most excellent, and yet none so much tempted as Christ. David was dearly beloved, and yet by Satan tempted to number the people. Job was highly praised by God himself, and yet much tempted; witness those sad things that fell from his mouth, when he was wet to the skin. Peter was much prized by Christ; witness that choice testimony that Christ gave of his faith and happiness, and his shewing him his glory in the mount, and that eye of pity that he cast upon him after his fearful fall; and yet he was tempted by Satan : And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, Luke xxii. 31, 32. Paul had the honour of being exalted as high as heaven, and of seeing that glory that could not be expressed; and yet he was no sooner stepped out of heaven, than he is buffeted by Satan, lest he should be exalted above measure. If these who were so really, so gloriously, so eminently beloved of God; if these who have lived in heaven, and set their feet upon the stars, have been tempted, let no saints judge themselves not beloved, because they are tempted. It is as natural for saints to be tempted, who are dearly beloved, as it is for the sun to shine or a bird to sing. The eagle complains not of her wings, nor the peacock of his train, nor the nightingale of her voice, because these are natural to them; no more should saints of their temptations, because they are natural to them. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, Ephes. vi. 12.
Rem. 2. Consider that all the temptations that befal the saints, shall be sanctified to them by a hand of love. O the choice experiences that the saints get of the power of God supporting them; of the wisdom of God directing them so to handle their spiritual weapons, their graces, as not only to resist but to overcome; of the mercy and goodness of the Lord pardoning and succouring them. And therefore says Paul, lest I should be exalted, I received the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure, 2 Cor. xii. 7. Twice in that verse he begins with it and ends with it. If he had not been buffeted, who knows how his heart would have swelled? He might kave been carried higher in conceit, than he was before in his extacy. Temptation is God's school, wh rein he gives. his people the clearest and sweetest discoveries of his love; a school, wherein God teaches his people to be more fre