swer for him. Then it is clear, he is able to resist this pretended, irresistible temptation: and why should not the consideration of the danger of eternal torments be as persuasive against any sin, as the fear of a momentary death? But I will not make my advantage of so frightful an enemy to his pleasure, as death. Suppose, in all those circumstances beforementioned, a good sum of money were but offered him, upon condition he would abstain but that time from the execution of his filthy lust; I doubt not at all, but that upon these terms he would find strength enough to conquer this temptation. Shall Satan then be able to cast out Satan, and shall not God much more do it? Shall one sin be able to destroy the exercise of another, and shall not grace much rather?

30. Besides, if we believe, that generally it is not in our power to resist any of these temptations; how dare you, who are fathers, suffer your daughters, after they are come to years, to live unmarried? How dare you expose their souls to such dangers, unless you think, that ordinarily any man or woman is able to resist the temptations of the flesh? How dare you, who are merchants, for the hope of a little gain, live in foreign countries, as if you were divorced from your wives; if you religiously think, that, were it not for the benefit of marriage, they could not ordinarily be honest?

31. Lastly, You may remember, that our Saviour (in his descriptions of hell) seldom leaves out this phrase," where the worm dieth not;" which worm is generally by interpreters moralized into the sting of conscience, i. e. a continual vex,


ation of soul in the reprobates, caused by the consideration, how it was merely their own fault, their wilful folly, which brought them to that misery. Now this worm would die, and be quite extinguished in them, if they were of some men's opinions; that the reason why they sinned, was not because they would sin, but because they could not choose but to do it; because they wanted power to resist all the temptations which were objected to them. Such a conceit may serve indeed to vex them, but it is not possible it should trouble their conscience; for by this reason Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, might with as good reason be tormented in conscience for falling into hell, when the earth opened under them, as for their sin of rebellion against Moses; if the reason why they committed that sin, was the subtraction of Divine grace and assistance, without which it was impossible for them not to be rebels. But, indeed, why should Almighty God withdraw his grace from any man? Because (say some) by falling, they may experimentally learn their own weakness without his assistance, and so be discouraged from trusting or relying upon themselves. A strange reason, no doubt! for as long as they have the grace of God, they will not rely upon themselves; and when they are destitute of his grace, they cannot rely upon him: so that, it seems, God takes away his grace from a man for this end, that, wanting it, he may sin; and by that means, when he has got that grace again, he may perceive, that when he is destitute of God's grace, he cannot choose but sin! which was a thing which he knew at the first without all this ado. But there may be a better reason given,

why God should take away his grace from a man; and that is, because he negligently omits to make his best use of it, and so deserves that punishment. But this reason will satisfy as little as the former: for suppose (for example) a man at this instant in the state of grace, and so in the favour of God: upon these grounds, it is impossible that this man should ever sin; for surely God will not undeservedly take away his grace from him, till he merit that punishment by his sin; and till God take away his grace from him, he cannot sin; therefore he must never sin. But this discourse, though it merely concern practice, looks so like a controversy, that I am weary of it.

32. We are apt enough to slander God with too much mercy sometimes, as if he bore us so particular an affection, that, notwithstanding our never-so-many sins, yet he will still be merciful unto us. Oh that we could conceive of his mercy and goodness aright! as rather willing to prevent our sins, by giving us sufficient preservatives against the committing them. I would to God, that instead of making subtle, scholastical disputes of the power and efficacy of God's grace, we would magnify the force thereof, by suffering it to exercise its sway in our lives and conversation! we should then easily find, that we are able to "do all things through Christ that strengtheneth us."





« VorigeDoorgaan »