Page images

'that this should be confined to any one thing, or to things of one kind. No more seems to be intended, but that we part with every thing, of what kind soeyer it be, which would hinder us in our race. And so it is of the same import with the great command of self-denial, which our Savior gives in so strict charge to all who take on them the profession of the gospel, as that without which they would not persevere therein, Matt. xvi, 33, 34.

But because there is another great gospel-rule in the same case, which restrains this self denial to one sort of things, which the words seem to point to, and which also falls in with constant experience, it may have here an especial regard. And this rule we may learn from the words of our Savior also; Matt. xix, 23, 24, “Jesus said to his disciples, verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven;" and again, “I say unto you, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Nothing but the exceeding greatness of the power of God, and his grace, can carry a rich man safely, in a time of suffering, to heaven and glory. And it is confirmed by the apostle, 1 Tim. vi, 9, 10, “They will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition," &c.

The riches of this world, and the love of them are a peculiar obstruction to constancy in the profession of the gospel, on many accounts. These, therefore, seem to be a burden hindering us in our race in an especial manner.

And these things may be called "1 weight," not from their own nature, for they are as light as vanity; but from the consequence of our setting our hearts and affections upon

them. A man may burden himself with feathers or chaff, as well as with things in themselves more ponderous.

$5. How is this weight to be laid aside? Suppose the weight to be the good things of this life, with the engagement of our affections to them; then this laying them aside includes,

1. A willingness, a readiness, a resolution, if called thereto, to part with them cheerfully for the sake of Christ and the gospel; so was it with them who took joyfully the spoiling of their goods. When this resolution is prevalent in the mind, the soul will be much eased of the weight of those things, which would hinder it in its race. But whilst our hearts cleave to them with an undue valuation, whilst we cannot attain to a cheerful willingness to have them taken from us, or to be taken ourselves from them, for the sake of the gospel, they will be an intolerable burden to us in our course. For hence will the mind dispute every dangerous duty; hearken to every sinful contrivance for safety; be surprised out of its own power by every appearing danger; and to be discomposed in its frame on all oc- : casions. Such a burden can no man carry in a race.

2. Sedulous and daily mortification of our hearts and affections with respect to all things of this nature, is principally prescribed to us in this command of “laying them aside as a weight;" this will take out of them whatever is really burdensome to us. Mortifi-, cation is the dissolution of the conjunction, or league, that is between our affections and earthly things, which alone gives them their weight and cumbrance, see Col. iii, 1–5. Where this grace and duty are in :. their due exercise, these things cannot influence the : mind into any disorder, nor make it unready for its race, or unwieldy in it.

[ocr errors]

3. Continual observation of what difficulties and hinderances these things are apt to cast on our minds, either in our general course, or with respect to particular duties: they operate in our minds by love, fear, care, delight, contrivances; with a multitude of perplexing thoughts about them. Unless we continually watch against all these ways to obviate their insinuations, we shall find them a weight and burden in all parts of our race. In short; faith, prayer, mortification, an high valuation of things invisible and eternal; a continual preference of them to all things present and seen, are enjoined in this expression—"laying aside every weight.”

$6. The other thing to be laid aside is, (Tyv apcepies EUTEpitiałow) the sin that doth so easily beset us." We may be satisfied, that no bare consideration of the word, either as simple, or in its composition, or its use in other authors, will of itself give us the full and proper signification of it in this place; which is evident to me from hence, in that those who have made the most diligent inquiry into it, and traced it through all forms, are most remote from agreeing what is, or should be the precise signification of it; but close their disquisitions with various and opposite conjectures.

I shall therefore attend to other scripture directions and rules in the same case, with the experience of believers, who are exercised in it, and the use of those other words with which the doubtful expression is joined.

$7. The word (atoloquee) to lay aside, is never used in scripture with respect to that which is evil and sinful, but with regard to the original depravation of nature; and the vicious habits wherein it consists, with the effects of them. And why it should have another intention here, seeing that it is not only suited to the analogy of faith, but most agreeable to the design of the apostle, I know not. And the truth is, the want of a due consideration of this one word, with its use, which expositors have universally overlooked, hath occasioned many fruitless conjectures on the place.

The general nature of the evil to be laid aside, is expressed by the article prefixed (Tyuan.cpicy) that sin. Now this, if there be nothing to limit it, is to be taken in its largest, most usual, and most eminent signification. And that this is the original depravation of our natures, cannot be denied. So it is in an especial manner stated, Rom. vii, where it is constantly called by that name. And verse 17, “the sin that dwelleth in me,” is of the same force and signification with "the sin that doth so easily beset us;” though all the allusions are various. See Rom. vii, 20, 23.

But I do not judge that original sin is here abso. lutely intended; but only with respect to an especial way of exerting its efficacy, and to a certain end; namely, as it works by unbelief to obstruct us, and turn us away froin the profession of the gospel. And so the instruction falls in with the rule given us in the same case in other places of the epistle, as chap. iii, 12, &c. The sin, therefore, intended is in-dwelling sin which, with respect to the profession of the gospel, and permanency therein with patience, worketh by unbelief, whereby it exposeth us to all sorts of tempt. ations, gives advantage to all weakening, discouraging considerations, still aiming to make us faint, and at length to depart from the living God.

These things being fixed, it is all one whether we interpret (EUTEPIC1270v) “that which doth easily beset us," it being in a readiness always to do so; or, “that which doth easily expose us to eyil;" which are the two


senses of the word, with any probability, contended for. Both come to the same.

88. The sin is that which hath an easy access to our minds to hinder us in our race, or doth easily expose us to danger, by the advantage it hath to these ends; for, it is always present with us, and so is never wanting to any favorable occasion. It stands in need of no help from outward advantages to attempt our minds; dwelling in us, abiding with us, cleaving to us, it is always ready to clog, to hinder and disturb us. Doth any difficulty or danger appear in the way? it is at hand to cry, “Spare thyself,” working by fear. Is any sinful compliance proposed to us? it is ready to argue for its embracement, working by carnal wisdom. Doth the weariness of the flesh decline perseverance in necessary duties? it wants not arguments to promote its inclinations, working by the dispositions of remaining enmity and vanity. Doth the whole matter and cause of our profession come into question, as in a time of severe persecution? it is ready to set all its engines on work for our ruin; fear of danger, love of things present, hopes of recovery, reserves for a better season, the examples of others esteemed good and wise, shall all be put into the hands of unbelief, to be managed against faith, patience, constancy, and perseverance, and it hath a remaining interest in all the faculties of our souls.

$9. The last inquiry is, how we may lay it aside, or put it from us? One learned man thinks it a sufficient reason to prove, that the sin of nature is not here intended, because we cannot lay that a side, whilst we are in this life. But I have shewed that the word (@tolimus) is never used when a duty is enjoined by it, but it is with respect to this sin. Wherefore, 1. We are to lay it aside absolutely and universal



« PreviousContinue »