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it is wrong set; and till that set be altered, it will never point right. So man's nature has a wrong set, which we call the corruption of nature, whereby it comes to pass that he can never act right till that set be cured by regeneration. It is a corrupt disposition of the soul, whereby it is unapt for any thing truly good, and prone to evil.
The understanding is deprived of its primitive light and ability, unable to think a good thought, 2 Cor. iii. 5; yea, darkness is over all that region, Eph. v. 8. As for the will, it is free to evil, but not to good, utterly unable so much as rightly to will any thing truly good, Phil. ii. 13. Nay, it is averse to it as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. It is prone and bent to evil, Hos. xi. 7; but lies cross and contrary to God and goodness, Rom. viii. 7. The affections are quite disordered, misplaced as to their objects, loving what they should hate, and hating what they should love; or if right as to the objects, they can keep no bounds. But of this I have spoke largely elsewhere *.
This corruption of nature is here forbidden, for it is truly and properly sin, Rom. vi. 12. and vii. 17. It is the flesh that lusteth against the Spirit, Gal. v. 18; and if sin, it must be contrary to and forbidden by the law. And as sinful anger is forbidden in the sixth commandment, as the immediate fountain of murder, Matth. v. 21, 22; so, by a parity of reason, the corruption of nature is forbidden here, as the immediate fountain of that coveting or lusting, expressed therein.
And though it is impossible for us to prevent this sin, being born with it, it would be considered, that this law was originally given to Adam in innocency, requiring him to keep his nature pure and uncorrupted, and so discharging all corruption of it; which law, after his sin, remains in as full force as ever. And that the second Adam might answer the demands of the law in this point, he was born without this corruption and continued ever free from it. And those that are his, being regenerated are freed from the reigning power of it, and partake of a new nature.
If we look to this sin, we have a humbling view of ourselves, and must cry, Unclean, unclean.
. It is the fountain of all actual transgressions, Mark vii.
*See Fourfold State.
21. Look to all the disorders of thy heart and life; they flow natively from hence, as the poisonous streams from the impoisoned fountain. Look to the disorders appearing in the lives of others, the fountain from whence they proceed is in thee. And if the cause be there, and the effect follow not, thank God and not thyself.
2. All particular lusts are in it, as in the seed. It is the seed-plot of all particular sins. It is the cursed ground, where, let the gardener weed as he will, new ones will still spring up. It is the cage of unclean birds, the mystery of iniquity, which we will never get to the ground of till the foundations be overturned at death.
3. We never were without it, Psal. li. 5. It is a natural and hereditary disease that cannot be cured without a miracle. We dread the serpent that is naturally poisonous, more than any thing that is accidentally so. So may we dread this beyond all things else. When we were not capable of actually sinning, this made us guilty creatures.
4. We never are free of it, while awake or asleep. It is a permanent and abiding sin. Actual sins are transient, tho' not as to the guilt of them, yet as to the being of them; but whether the guilt of this be removed or not, it abides as fixed with bands of iron and brass.
Lastly, We never will be free of it while we live. If we die out of Christ it will never be cured. But even though we be in him, yet it abides till death, and will never be totally removed till then.
Thus I have now gone through the ten commands, labouring to lay before you the commandment in its exceeding breadth. And though I have been far from reaching all the particular duties commanded, and sins forbidden; yet, from the whole of what has been said, ye may see,
1. What a holy God we have to do with. We see his holiness in this law as in a glass. He can endure no evil thing; and there are many things which the world reckons not upon, which he abhors, and will punish.
2. What a holy law this law is, requiring all purity of nature, heart, lip and life; a perfection both of parts and degrees; discharging all manner of impurity and moral imperfection, not only in the substance, but in the manner of action.
3. That by the works of the law no flesh can be justified
Who can come up to the perfection this law requires? what one line is there of this law that does not condemn us? where is that one point to the perfection of which we attain.
4. The preciousness and excellency of Christ, who has fulfilled this law in all its parts, has brought in everlasting righteousness, and furnishes all that believe in him with an answer to all its demands.
5. The rule of righteousness, by which ye are to examine yourselves, to see your sins and shortcomings, the mark ye are to aim at if ye would be holy in all manner of conversa tion, which is nothing the easier to be hit that it is so broad, and the evidence of your sincerity, in a perfection of those parts, though ye cannot attain to the degrees.
Lastly, Your absolute need of Christ, of his blood to sprinkle you from guilt, and of his Spirit to sanctify you, that ye may be complete in him. And therefore let this holy law be your schoolmaster to bring you to Christ for all.
OF MAN'S INABILITY TO KEEP THE LAW PER-
ECCLES. vii. 20.-For there is not a just man upon earth, that doth good, and sinneth not.
AVING at considerable length endeavoured to open up and explain the law of God, as abridged in the ten commandments, in some measure in its spirituality and extent, by describing the several duties required, and sins for bidden therein; and shewn the absolute impossibility of yielding a perfect obedience thereto, in order to give a title to eternal life; and directed you to come to Christ by faith, as the end of the law for righteousness, that your guilt may be removed by the application of his blood to your consciences, and that ye may be sanctified by his Spirit: I now proceed to the exposition of the remaining questions in the Catechism, which I shall mostly discuss in a very short dis
course on each, as I have been so long on the former part of this excellent composition.*
Here is the undoubted character of all the human race, fixing imperfection and sinfulness on the best of the kind in this world, and so concluding all to be liable to sin, and under it. In the words there are two things.
1. A position, There is not a just man upon earth. By the just man in this text is not meant an evangelically just man, or one just in respect of parts, though not of degrees; but one who is legally so, just in the eye of the law, as having yielded perfect obedience to all its commands; this is plain from the original pointing. Compare Psal. cxliii. 2. Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." By this time the man Christ had not appeared on the earth: so it is meant of mere men. On the earth; to denote that in heaven they are just in that sense, arrived to legal perfection.
2. The explication of it: There is none who doth good, and sinneth not. There are some who do good, as all the godly; but they sin withal, and that daily, for so the word is to be understood of their using to sin.
The doctrine arising from the words is,
Doct. Legal perfection is not attainable in this life, but the best sin daily.' Or, 'No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed.'
In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall,
* As fome readers may be apt to think, in regard feveral of the fol lowing difcourfes are very fhort, that they are not fo full as they were delivered, it is necessary to inform them, that, befides what the author has here faid of his intended brevity, he was generally a fhort preacher, feldom, on ordinary occafions, exceeding half an hour, and that his delivery was fomewhat flow. Befides, we have the teftimony of his dear friends Meff. Wilfon, Davidfon, and Colden, that he generally wrote his fermons as full as he delivered them. See the preface to his fermons on afflictions. And it is believed, that the attentive reader, upon a careful perufal of this last part of the work, will find the feveral fubjects fuffici ently, though briefly, illuftrated, for promoting his beft and moit effential interefts.
I. Shew what is legal perfection, or perfect keeping of the commands.
II. Consider the attainableness of this perfection.
III. Shew how the saints sin daily, and break the commands.
IV. Confirm the point, That perfection is not attainable in this life.
V. Give the reason of this dispensation.
I. I shall shew what is legal perfection, or perfect keeping of the commands. It is a perfect conformity of heart and life to the commands of God; and implies,
1. A perfection of the principle of action, Matth. xxii. 37. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.' For if the heart and soul be not sinless and pure, as in innocent Adam and Christ, but be polluted as our nature is, there can be no perfect keeping of the commands of God. That pollution will stain all.
2. A perfection of the parts of obedience. No part must be lacking, every command of whatsoever nature must be kept: For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,' Gal. iii. 10. If one be wanting, all is wanting, all is marred. Hence says James, chap. ii. 10. ' Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.'
3. A perfection of degrees in every part, Matth. xxii. 37. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.' Sincerity is not enough in the eye of the law. In every thing one must come to the highest pitch, or there is no perfection.
4. A perfection of duration or continuance, Gal. iii. 10. forecited; without apostasy or defection, continuing to the end; for one bad trip after a course of obedience will mar all.
II. Let us consider the attainableness of this perfection.
1. Adam before the fall was able to have kept the commands perfectly; he might have attained it; for God made him upright,' Eccl. vii. 29. That law was the rule of Adam's covenant-obedience; and perfect obedience to it