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insist upon it again. All indisposition unto duty, wherein communion with God is to be obtained; all weariness of duty, all carnality or formality unto duty, it all springs from this root. The wise man cautions us against this evil, Eccles. v. 1. When thou goest to the house of God, keep thy foot.' Hast thou any spiritual duty to perform, and dost thou design the attaining of any communion with God ? look to thyself, take care of thy affections, they will be gadding and wandering, and that from their aversation to what thou hast in hand. There is not any good that we would do, wherein we may not find this aversation exercising itself. “When I would do good, evil is present with me;' at any time, at all times, when I would do any thing that is spiritually good, it is present; that is, to hinder me, to obstruct me in my duty, because it abhors and loaths the thing which I have in hand, it will keep me off from it if it be possible. In them in whom it prevails, it comes at length unto that frame which is expressed, Ezek. xxxiii. 31. It will allow an outward bodily presence unto the worship of God, wherein it is not concerned, but it keeps the heart quite away
It may be some will pretend, they find it not so in themselves, but they have freedom and liberty in and unto all the duties of obedience that they attend unto. But I fear this pretended liberty will be found upon examination to arise from one or both of these causes. First, ignorance of the true state and condition of their own souls, of their inward man and its actings towards God. They know not how it is with them, and therefore are not to be believed in what they report. They are in the dark, and neither know what they do, nor whither they are going. It is like the Pharisee knew little of this matter, which made him boast of his duties to God himself; or, secondly, it may be, whatever duties of worship or obedience such persons perform, they may, through want of faith, and an interest in Christ, have no communion with them : and if so, sin will make but little opposition unto them therein. We speak of them, whose hearts are exercised with these things; and if under their complaints of them, and groanings for deliverance from them, others cry out unto them, Stand off, we are holier than ye; they are willing to bear their condition, as knowing that their way may be safe, though it be troublesome; and being willing to see their own dangers, that they may avoid the ruin which others fall into.
Let us then a little consider this aversation in such acts of obedience, as wherein there is no concernment but that of God and the soul. In public duties there may be a mixture of other considerations; they may be so influenced by custom and necessity, that a right judgment cannot from them be made of this matter; but let us take into consideration the duties of retirement, as private prayer and meditation, and the like; or else extraordinary duties, or duties to be performed in an extraordinary manner.
1. In these will this aversation and loathing oftentimes discover itself in the affections. A secret striving will be in them about close and cordial dealing with God. Unless the hand of God in his Spirit be high and strong upon his soul, even when convictions, sense of duty, dear and real esteem of God, and communion with him, have carried the soul into its closet, yet if there be not the vigour and
power of a spiritual life constantly at work, there will be a secret loathness in them unto duty; yea, sometimes there will be a violent inclination to the contrary, so that the soul had rather do any thing, embrace any diversion, though it wound itself thereby, than vigorously apply itself unto that which in the inward man it breathes after. It is weary before it begins, and says, when will the work be over? Here God and the soul are immediately concerned, and it is a great conquest to do what we would, though we come exceedingly short of what we should do.
2. It discovers itself in the mind also: when we address ourselves to God in Christ, we are, as Job speaks, 'to fill our mouths with arguments;' Job xxiii. 4. that we may be able to plead with him, as he calls upon us to do, Isa. xliii. 26. • Put me in remembrance, let us plead together.' Whence the church is called upon to take unto itself words or arguments in going to God, Hos. xiv. 2. The sum is, that the mind should be furnished with the considerations that are prevailing with God, and be in readiness to plead them, and to manage them in the most spiritual manner to the best advantage. Now is there no difficulty to get the mind into such a frame, as to lay out itself to the utmost in this work?
to be clear, steady, and constant in its duty ? to draw out, and make use of its stores and furniture of promises and experiences ? It starts, wanders, flags, all from this secret aversation unto communion with God, which proceeds from the law of indwelling sin. Some complain that they can make no work of meditation, they cannot bend their minds unto it. I confess there may be a great cause of this, in their want of a right understanding of the duty itself, and of the ways of managing the soul in it, which therefore I shall a little speak to afterward. But yet this secret enmity hath its band in the loss they are at also, and that both in their minds and in their affections. Others are forced to live in family and public duties, they find such little benefit and success in private. And here hath been the beginning of the apostacy of many professors, and the source of many foolish sensual opinions. Finding this aversation in their minds and affections from closeness and constancy in private spiritual duties, not knowing how to conquer and prevail against these difficulties, through him who enables us, they have at first been subdued to a neglect of them, first partial, then total, until having lost all conscience of them, they have had a door opened unto all sin and licentiousness, and so to a full and utter apostacy. I am persuaded there are very few that apostatize from a profession of any continuance, such as our days abound withal, but their door of entrance into the folly of backsliding, was either some great and notorious sin that blooded their consciences, tainted their affections, and intercepted all delight of having any thing more to do with God; or else it was a course of neglect in private duties, arising from a weariness of contending against that powerful aversation which they found in themselves unto them. And this also, through the craft of Satan, hath been improved into many foolish and sensual opinions, of living unto God without, and above, any duties of communion. And we find, that after men have for awhile choked and blinded their consciences with this pretence, cursed wickedness or sensuality hath been the end of their folly. And the reason of all this is, that the giving way to the law of sin in the least, is the giving strength unto it: to let it alone is to let it grow, not to conquer it is to be conquered
As it is in respect of private, so it is also in respect of public duties, that have any thing extraordinary in them. What strivings, strugglings, and pleadings are there in the heart about them, especially against the spirituality of them? Yea, in and under them, will not the mind and affections sometimes be entangled with things uncouth, new, and strange unto them, such as at the time of the least serious business, a man would not deign to take into his thoughts? But if the least loose, liberty, or advantage be given unto indwelling sin, if it be not perpetually watched over, it will work to a strange and unexpected issue. In brief, let the soul unclothe any duty whatever, private or public, any thing that is called good, let a man divest it of all outward respects which secretly insinuate themselves into the mind and give it some complacency in what it is about, but do not render it acceptable unto God, and he shall assuredly find somewhat of the power and some of the effects of this aversation. It begins in loathness and indisposition, goes on with entangling the mind and affections with other things, and will end, if not prevented, in weariness of God, which he complains of in his people, Isa, xliii. 22. They ceased from duty because they were weary of God.
But this instance being of great importance unto professors in their walking with God, we must not pass it over without some intimations of directions for them in their contending against it, and opposition to it. Only this must be premised, that I am not giving directions for the mortifying of indwelling sin in general, which is to be done alone by the Spirit of Christ, by virtue of our union with him, Rom. viii. 13. but only of our particular duty, with reference unto this especial evil or effect of indwelling sin that we have a little insisted on, or what in this single case the wisdom of faith seems to direct unto and call for; which will be our way and course in our process upon the consideration of other effects of it.
1. The great means to prevent the fruits and effects of this aversation, is the constant keeping of the soul in a universally holy frame. As this weakens the whole law of sin, so answerably all its properties; and particularly this aversation. It is this frame only that will enable us to say with the psalmist, Psal. lvii. 7. My heart is fixed, O God, my
heart is fixed. It is utterly impossible to keep the heart in a prevailing holy frame in any one duty, unless it be so in and unto all and every one. If sin entanglements get hold in any one thing, they will put themselves upon the soul in every thing. A constant even frame and temper in all duties, in all ways, is the only preservative for any one way. Let not him who is neglective in public persuade himself that all will be clear and easy in private, or on the contrary. There is a harmony in obedience; break but one part and you interrupt the whole. Our wounds in particular arise generally from negligence as to the whole course. So David informs us, Psal. cxix. 6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have a respect unto all thy commandments. A universal respect to all God's commandments is the only preservative from shame. And nothing have we more reason to be ashamed of, than the shameful miscarriages of our hearts in point of duty, which are from the principle before mentioned.
2. Labour to prevent the very beginnings of the workings of this aversation; let grace be beforehand with it in every duty. We are directed, 1 Pet. iv. 7. to watch unto prayer;' and as it is unto prayer, so'unto every duty; that is, to consider and take care that we be not hindered from within, nor from without as to a due performance of it. Watch against temptations to oppose them; watch against the aversation that is in sin to prevent it. As we are not to give place to Satan, no more are we to sin. If it be not prevented in its first attempts, it will prevail. My meaning is, whatever good, as the apostle speaks, we have to do, and find evil present with us, as we shall find it present, prevent its parlying with the soul, its insinuating of poison into the mind and affections, by a vigorous, holy, violent stirring up of the grace or graces that are to be acted and set at work peculiarly in that duty. Let Jacob come first into the world, or, if prevented by the violence of Esau, let him lay hold on his heel to overthrow him, and obtain the birthright. Upon the very first motion of Peter to our Saviour, crying, • Master, spare thyself,' he immediately replies, Get thee behind me, Satan.' So ought we to say, Get thee gone, thou law of sin, thou present evil, and it may be of the same use unto us. Get grace then up betimes unto duty, and be early in the rebukes of sin.