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to the Case of Sins of Infirmity : For the Excuse from Infirmity is made up of Willingness, and Want of Power ; Willingness to obey, and Want of Power to withstand the Temptations and powerful Impressions of Sin. In all moral Actions there is a Proportion between the Ability to perform, and the Guilt of not performing; and the one must be estimated by the other : But, if we consider ourselves as Christians, who do not depend purely on our own Strength, but likewise on the Affistance of God, the Measure of which depends on the Application we use to obtain it, the Terms of the Proportion will be altered, and the Guilt of our Disobedience will be measured by the Ability, we might have had to perform our Duty. For, if we fail in Ability through our own Default in using the Means prescribed by God to enable us, the Guilt of our Sins will be according to the Ability we might have had; and therefore the Excute may be true, and

and yet insignificant. It may


had not Power to withstand the Temptations you fell under and yet this may be no Justification, because it was your own Fault that


had not Power. The not observing which, is the true Foundation of Men's relying so much


be true,


for Excuse upon their Infirmities. They are .conscious to themselves how violent the Temptation to Sin was, and how much it overpowered their Strength ; upon which they ground their Excuse : But then they leave out of the Consideration, how much more Strength they might have had, if they had not neglected the Means of obtaining it. St. Paul tells us, We are not in the Flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in us; and therefore we shall be judged, not according to the Strength of the Flesh, but of the Spirit, which we have, or may have, if it be not our own Fault. A Man may as justly be punished for not being able to perform his Duty, when he had it in his own Hands to make himself able, as for not doing his Duty when he was able. And there is not much Difference between these two; for it is one Part of our Duty to enable ourselves to perform our Duty, and all the Consequences of our Weakness and Infirmity are justly chargeable upon the Neglect of it. This is but little more than what all Moralists have agreed in the Case of vici; ous Habits : It is hardly to be imagined, how great a Necefsity an ill Habit brings us under; yet no Man ever urged this as an Ar



gument to excuse Sin; but thought the first Neglect in suffering the Habit to grow up, entitled Men very justly to the Guilt of all the Sin consequent upon it. If we know how to remedy our Infirmities, why do we still boast of them, or place our Security in them? St. Paul complains of a Thorn given him in the Flesh, for the Removal of which he thrice prayed; to which he had no other Answer from the Lord, than my Grace is sufficient for thee, for my Strength is made perfečt in Weakness. Upon which St. Paul triumphed and gloried in his Infirmity. But how? Not as we glory in our Infirmities, using them as an Excuse for Sin; but, because tbrough his Infirmity the Power of Christ rested on him. The Law of the Spirit of Life having then so plentifully provided against this Weakness and Depravity of the Flesh, there can no longer any Colour of Excuse be had from it.

Next to this general Sense of Infirmity come the particular Infirmities included in it, As every Disease of the Body is called an Infirmity, as our Saviour, when he healed the Sick of their particular Distempers, is faid to cure their Infirmities ; fo, by the fame Analogy, every particular Sin may be called an Infirmity. Thus David, speaking


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of his Distrust of God's Goodness, calls it his Infirmity. So the Author of the Hebrews, speaking of the Jewish High-Priests, says, the Law maketh Men High-Priests which bave Infirmities. But in the Scripture it is no where used in this Sense as an Alleviation of Guilt.

But the Sense of Scripture is the least thing regarded in setting up this Plea of Infirmity, which has been invented and used to shelter some particular darling Sins, and seldom of never for the universal Imperfection of all, even the best of our Actions, in which Sense only it can be reasonably used; but that Men think not worth excusing. The Bosom Şin is the Thing to be defended : In which Case two Things are generally urged, a natural Passion, and the Violence of the Parfion. A natural Paffion has the same Author with Nature, and belongs to us as we are Men, and therefore not to be avoided. For the Violence of the Passion, the particular Constitution and Temperament of Body are alledged, which expose some more to this or that Passion than others perhaps are liable to. But it is the Misfortune of some Arguments to prove too much, and, like an Arrow too strongly drawn, miss the Mark by going be



yond it. What Sin is there that may not thus be excused ? St. Paul reckons among the Works of the Flesh, Adultery, Fornication, Uncleanness, Lasciviousness, Hatred, Variance, Emulations, Wrath, Strife, Envyings, Murders, Drunkenness, Revellings, and the like ; then adds, they which do such Things Shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Now try these round, they all immediately, or by Consequence, arise from Passions which are called natural, and, as they meet with a suitable Temper, some may prevail in one, fome in another; and then either the Excuse is vain, or the Apostle's Judgment is vain, that they which do such Things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The Scripture uses Weakness in another Sense, as opposed to Knowledge; as weak Christians are those newly converted, and not yet confirmed in the Knowledge and Mysteries of Christianity : But this Sense is nothing to our Purpose.

So likewise Weakness is applied to them who have weak and tender Consciences, easily offended, who scrupled eating Meat offered to Idols, the Use of which the Apostle allows to such as had Sense enough not to be offended at it. Their Infirmity was a nice


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