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in certain damnation ; yet it will certainly deserve it. We shall thereby really deserve to be cast off, without any remedy or hope; and it can only be owing to free grace, that it will not certainly and remedilessly be followed with such a punishment. And shall we be guilty of such a vile abuse of God's mercy to us, as to take encouragement from it, the more boldly to expose ourselves to sin ?
3. It is evident that we ought not only to avoid sin, but things that expose and lead to sin: because this is the way we act in things that pertain to our temporal interest.—Men avoid not only those things that are themselves the hurt or ruin of their temporal interest, but also the things that tend or expose to it. Because they love their temporal lives, they will not only actually avoid killing themselves, but theyare very careful to avoid those things that bring their lives into danger; though they do not certainly know but they may escape.
They are careful not to pass rivers and deep waters on rotten ice, though they do not certainly know that they shall fall through and be drowned. They will not only avoid those things that would be in themselves the ruin of their estates--as setting their own houses on fire, and burning them up with their substance; taking their money and throwing it into the sea, &c.; but they carefully avoid those things by which their estates are exposed. They have their eyes about them ; are careful with whom they deal; watchful that they be not over-reached in their bargains; and that they do not lay themselves open to knaves and fraudulent persons.
If a man be sick of a dangerous distemper, he is careful to avoid every thing that tends to increase the disorder ; not only what he knows to be mortal, but other things that he fears may be prejudicial to him. Men are in this way wont to take care of their temporal interest. And therefore, if we are not as careful to avoid sin, as we are to avoid injury in our temporal inteTest, it will show a regardless disposition with respect to sin and duty ; or that we do not much care though we do sin against God.
God's glory is surely of as much importance and concern as our temporal interest
. Certainly we should be as careful not to be exposed to sin against the majesty of heaven and earth, as men are wont to be of a few pounds; yea, the latter are but mere trifles compared with the former.
4. We are wont to do thus by our dear earthly friends. We not only are careful of those things wherein the destruction of their lives, or their hurt and calamity in any respect, directly consist ; but are careful to avoid those things that but remotely tend to it. We are careful to prevent all occasions of their loss ; and are watchful against that which tends in any wise, to deprive them of their comfort or good name ; and the reason is, because they are very dear to us. In this manner, men are
wont to be careful of the good of their own children, and dread the approaches of any mischief that they apprehend they are, or may be exposed to. And we should take it hard if our friends did not do thus by us.
And surely we ought to treat God as a dear friend: we ought to act towards him, as those that have a sincere love and unfeigned regard to him; and so ought to watch and be careful against all occasions of that which is contrary to his honour and glory. If we have not a temper and desire so to do, it will show that whatever our pretences are, we are not God's sincere friends, and have no true love to him. If we should be offended at any that have professed friendship to us, if they treated us in this manner, and were no more careful of our interest ; surely God may justly be offended, that we are no more careful to his glory.
5. We would have God, in his providence towards us, not to order those things that tend to our hurt, or expose our interest ; therefore certainly we ought to avoid those things that lead to sin against him.
We desire and love to have God's providence such towards us, as that our welfare may be well secured. No man loves to live exposed, uncertain, and in dangerous circumstances. While he is so, he lives uncomfortably, in that he lives in continual fear. We desire that God would so order things concerning us, that we may be safe from fear of evil; and that no evil may come nigh our dwelling; and that because we dread calamity. So we do not love the appearance and approaches of it; and love to have it at a great distance from us. We desire to have God to be to us as a wall of fire round about us, to defend us; and that he would surround us as the mountains do the vallies, to guard us from every danger, or enemy; that so no evil may come nigh us.
Now this plainly shows, that we ought, in our behaviour towards God, to keep at a great distance from sin, and from all that exposes to it; as we desire God in his providence to us, should keep calamity and misery at a great distance from us, and not to order those things that expose our welfare.
6. Seeing we are to pray we may not be led into temptation ; certainly we ought not to run ourselves into it. This is one request that Christ directs us to make to God in that form of prayer, which he taught his disciples—“ Lead us not into temptation." And how inconsistent shall we be with ourselves if we pray to God, that we should not be led into temptations; and at the same time, we are not careful to avoid temptation; but bring ourselves into it, by doing those things that lead and expose to sin. What self-contradiction is it for a man to pray to God that he may be kept from that which he takes no care to avoid ? By praying that we may be kept from Vol. VII.
temptation, we profess to God that being in temptation, is a thing to be avoided; but by running into it, we show that we choose the contrary, viz. not to avoid it.
7. The apostle directs us to avoid those things that are in themselves lawful, but tend to lead others into sin ; surely then
; we should avoid what tends to lead ourselves into sin.-The apostle directs, 1 Cor. viii. 9, " Take heed lest—this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak." Rom. xiv. 13. " That no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way." Ver. 15. “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat.” Ver. 20, 21, “For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who cateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”—Now if this rule of the apostle be agreeable to the word of Christ, as we must suppose, or expunge what he says out of the canon of the scripture; then a like rule obliges more strongly in those things that tend to lead ourselves into sin.
8. There are many precepts of scripture, which directly and positively imply, that we ought to avoid those things that tend to sin.
This very thing is commanded by Christ, Matt. xxvi. 41, where he directs us to " watch lest we enter into temptation." But certainly running ourselves into temptation, is the reverse of watching against it.-We are commanded to abstain from all appearance of evil; i. e. do by sin as a man does by a thing
; the sight or appearance of which he hates : and therefore will avoid any thing that looks like it; and will not come near or in sight of it.
Again, Christ commanded to separate from us, those things that are stumbling-blocks, or occasions of sin, however dear they are to us. Matt. v. 29. “ If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee.” Ver. 3. “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.” By the right hand offending us, is not meant its paining us; but the word in the original signifies, being a stumbling-block; if thy right hand prove a stumblingblock, or an occasion to fall; i. e. an occasion to sin. Those things are called offences or stumbling-blocks in the New Testament, which are the occasions of falling into sin.-Yea, Christ tells us, we must avoid them, however dear they are to us, though as dear as our right hand or right eye. If there be any practice that naturally tends and exposes us to sin, we must have done with it; though we love it never so well, and are never so loth to part with it; though it be as contrary to our inclination, as to cut off our own right hand, or pluck out our own right eye; and that upon pain of damnation ; for it is inti
mated that if we do not, we must go with two hands and two eyes into hell fire.
Again : God took great care to forbid the children of Israel those things that tended to lead them into sin. For this reason, he forbade them marrying strange wives, (Deut. vii. 3, 4.) “ Neither shalt thou make marriages with them,—for they will turn away thy song from following me, that they may serve other gods.” . For this reason they were commanded to destroy all those things that the nations of Canaan had used in their idolatry; and if any were enticed over to idolatry, they were to be destroyed without mercy; though ever so near and dear friends. They were not only to be parted with, but stoned with stones ; yea, they themselves were to fall upon them, and put them to death, though son or daughter, or their bosom friend. (Deut. xiii. 6, &c.) “If thy brother, -or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods,-thou shalt not consent unto him,neither shalt thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him. But thou shalt surely kill him ; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death."
Again, The wise man warns us to avoid those things that tend and expose us to sin ; especially the sin of uncleanness. Prov. vi. 27. "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burnt? Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be burnt ?-So, whosoever touches her, shall not be innocent." This is the truth held forth; avoid those customs and practices, that naturally tend to stir up lust. And there are many examples in scripture, which have the force of precept; and recorded, as not only worthy, but demand our imitation. The conduct of Joseph is one, and that recorded of King David is another. Psal. xxxix. 1, 2. “I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good :"--even from good that is, he was so watchful over his words, and kept at such a great distance from speaking what might in any way tend to sin; that he avoided, in certain circumstances, speaking what was in itself lawful; lest he should be betrayed into that which was sinful.
9. A prudent sense of our own weakness, and exposedness to yield to temptation, obliges us to avoid that which leads or exposes to sin.
Whoever knows himself, and is sensible how weak he is, and his constant exposedness to sin ; how full of corruption his heart is, which like fuel, is ready to catch fire, and bring destruction upon him-how much he has in'him to incline him to sin, and how unable he is to stand of himself-who is sensible of this,
and has any regard of his duty, will he not be very watchful against every thing that may lead and expose to sin! On this account Christ directed us, Matt. xxvi. 41, To watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation. The reason is added, the flesh is weak! He who, in confidence of his own strength, boldly runs the venture of sinning, by going into temptation, manifests great presumption, and a sottish insensibility of his own weakness. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. Prov. xxviii. 26.
The wisest and strongest, and some of the most holy men in the world, have been overthrown by such means. So was David ; so was Solomon ;-his wives turned away his heart. If such persons so eminent for holiness were this way led into sin, surely it should be a warning to us. " Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."
What thing's lead and expose to Sin.
If any thing be made out clearly, from reason and the word of God, to be our duty, this would be enough with all Christians. Will a follower of Christ stand objecting and disputing against what is irrefragably proved and demonstrated to be his duty.
But some may be ready to inquire-How shall we know what things do lead and expose to sin ? Let a man do what he will, he cannot avoid sinning, as long as he has such a corrupt heart within him. And there is nothing a man can do, but he may find some temptation in it. And though it be true, that a man ought to avoid those things that lead and expose to sin-And that those things which have a special tendency to expose men to sin, are what we ought to shun, as much as in us lies-yet how shall we judge and determine, what things have a natural tendency to sin; or do especially lead to it?
I would answer in some particulars which are plain and easy ; and which cannot be denied without the greatest absurdity.
1. That which borders on those sins, to which the lusts of men's hearts strongly incline them, is of this sort. Men come into the world with many strong and violent lusts in their hearts, and are exceeding prone of themselves to transgress ; even in the safest circumstances in which they can be placed. And surely so much the nearer they are to that sin, to which they are naturally strongly inclined ; so much the more are they exposed. If any of us who are parents should see our children near the brink of some deep pit; or close by the edge of the precipice of i high mountain ; and not only só, but the ground upon which the child stood slippery, and steeply descending direcily toward the precipice; should we not reckon a child exposed in such a