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They that know the deceit of their bow, will not be very confident that they shall hit the mark. (6.) Unacquaintedness with heart-plagues. The knowledge of the plagues of the heart is a rare qualification. There are indeed some of them written in such great characters, that he who runs may read them; but there are others more subtile, which few do discern. How few are there, to whom the bias of the heart to unbelief is a burthen? Nay they perceive it not. Many have had sharp convictions of other sins, that were never to this day convinced of their unbelief; though that is the sin specially aimed at in a thorough conviction, John xvi. 8, 9. "He will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me.' A disposition to establish our own righteousness is a weed that naturally grows in every man's heart; but few sweat at the plucking of it up; it lurks undiscovered. The bias of the heart, to the way of the covenant of works, is a hidden plague of the heart to many. All the difficulty they find is, in getting up their hearts to duties; they find no difficulty in getting their hearts off them, and over them to Jesus Christ. How hard is it to stave men off from their own righteousness? Yet it is very hard to convince them of their leaning to it at all. Lastly, Pride and self-conceit. A view of the corruption of nature would be very humbling, and oblige him that has it to reckon himself the chief of sinners. Under greatest attainments and enlargements, it would be ballast to his heart, and hide pride from his eyes. The want of thorough humiliation, piercing to the sin of one's nature, is the ruin of many professors; for digging deep makes great difference betwixt wise and foolish builders, Luke vi. 48,49.
II. I will lay before you a few things, in which ye should have a special eye to the sin of your nature. (1.) Have a special eye to it in your application to Jesus Christ. Do you find any need of Christ, which sends you to him as the Physician of souls? O forget not your disease when you are with the Physician. They never yet knew well their errand to Christ, that went not to him for the sin of their nature; for his blood to take away the guilt of it, and his Spirit to break the power of it. Though in the bitterness of your souls, you should lay before him a catalogue of your sins of omission and commission, which might reach from earth to heaven; yet, if the sin of your nature were want
ing in it, assure yourselves you have forgot the best part of the errand a poor sinner has to the Physician of souls. What would it have availed the people of Jericho, to have set before Elisha all the vessels in their city full of the water that was naught, if they had not led him forth to the spring, to cast in the salt there? 2 Kings ii. 19, 20, 21. The application is easy. (2.) Have a special eye towards it in your repentance, whether initial or progressive, in your first repentance, and in the renewing of your repentance, afterwards. Though a man be sick, there is no fear of death, if the sickness strike not his heart; and there is as little fear of the death of sin, as long as the sin of our nature is not touched. But if ye would repent indeed, let the streams lead you up to the fountain; and mourn over your corrupt nature, as the cause of all sin, in heart, lip, and life, Psalm li. 4, 5. "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (3.) Have a special eye upon it in your mortification, Gal. v. 24. "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh." It is the root of bitterness that must be struck at, which the axe of mortification must be laid to; else we labour in vain. In vain do men go about to purge the streams, while they are at no pains about the muddy fountain: It is vain religion to attempt to make the life truly good, while the corruption of nature retains its ancient vigour, and the power of it is not broken. Lastly, Ye are to eye it in your daily walk. He that would walk aright, must have one eye upwards to Jesus Christ, and another inward to the corruption of his own nature. It is not enough that we look about us, we must also look within us. There the wall is weakest; there our greatest enemy lies; and there are grounds for daily watching and mourning.
III. I shall offer some reasons, why we should especially notice the sin of our nature.
1. Because of all sins it is the most extensive and diffusive. It goes through the whole man, and spoils all. Other sins mar particular parts of the image of God; but this doth at once deface the whole. A disease affecting any particular member of the body is ill; but that which ets the whole is worse. The corruption of nature is
the poison of the old serpent, cast into the fountain of action; and so infects every action, every breathing of the soul.
2. It is the cause of all particular lusts, and actual sins, in our hearts and lives. It is the spawn which the great Leviathan has left in the souls of men; from whence comes all the fry of actual sins and abominations. Mark vii. 21. "Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries," &c. It is the bitter fountain; particular lusts are but rivulets running from it, which bring forth into the life, a part only, and not the whole of what is within. Now the fountain is still above the streams; so where the water is good, it is best in the fountain; where it is ill, it is worst there. The corruption of nature being that which defiles all, itself must needs be the abominable thing.
3. It is virtually all sin; for it is the seed of all sins, which want but the occasion to set up their heads; being in the corruption of nature, as the effect in the virtue of its Hence it is called a body of death, Rom. vii. 24. as consisting of the several members, belonging to such a body of sins, Col. ii. 11. whose life lies in spiritual death. It is the cursed ground, fit to bring forth all manner of noxious weeds. As the whole nest of venemous creatures must needs be more dreadful than any few of them that come creeping forth; so the sin of thy nature, that mother of abominations, must be worse than any particular lusts, that appear stirring in thy heart and life. Never did every sin appear in the conversation of the vilest wretch that ever lived; but look thou into thy corrupt nature, and there thou mayest see all, and every sin in the seed and root thereof. There is a fulness of all unrighteousness there, Rom. i. 29. There is atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, and whatsoever is vile. Possibly none of these appear to thee in thy heart; but there is more in that unfathomable depth of wickedness than thou knowest. Thy corrupt heart is like an ant's nest, on which, while the stone lieth, none of them appear; buttake off the stone, stir them up but with the point of a straw, you will see what a swarm is there, and how lively they be. Just such a sight would thy heart afford thee, did the Lord but withdraw the restraint he has upon it, and suffer Satan to stir it up by temptation.
4. The sin of our nature is, of all sins, the most fixed and abiding. Sinful actions, though the guilt and stain of them may remain, yet in themselves they are passing. The drunkard is not always at his cup, nor the unclean person always acting lewdness. But the corruption of nature is an abiding sin; it remains with men in its full power by night and by day, at all times, fixed as with bands of iron and brass; till their nature be changed by converting grace; and the remains of it continue with the godly, until the death of the body. Pride, envy, covetousness, and the like, are not always stirring in thee. But the proud, envious, carnal nature, is still with thee; even as the clock that is wrong is not always striking wrong; but the wrong set continues with it, without great intermission.
5. It is the great reigning sin, Rom. vi. 12. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof." There are three things you may observe in the corrupt heart. (1.) There is the corrupt nature; the corrupt set of the heart, whereby men are unapt for all good, and fitted for all evil. This the Apostle here calls, sin which reigns. (2.) There are particular lusts, or dispositions of that corrupt nature, which the Apostle calls the lusts thereof; such as pride, covetousness, &c. (3.) There is one among these, which is (like Saul amongst the people) higher by far than the rest,namely, sin which doth so easily beset us, Heb. xii. 1. This we usually call the predominant sin, because it doth, as it were, reign over other particular lusts; so that other lusts must yield to it. These three are like a river which divides itself into many streams, whereof one is greater than the rest. The corruption of nature is the river-head, which has many particular lusts, in which it runs ; but it mainly disburdens. itself into what is commonly called one's predominant sin. Now, all of these being fed by the sin of our nature, it is evident that sin is the great reigning sin which never los eth its superiority over particular lusts, that live and die with it, and by it. But as in some rivers, the main stream runs not always in one and the same channel; so particu lar predominants may be changed, as lust in youth may be succeeded by covetousness in old age. Now, what doth it avall to reform in other sins, while the great reigning sin remains in its full power? What though some particular
Just be broken? If that sin, the sin of our nature, keep the throne, it will set up another in its stead; as when a water course is stopped in one place, while the fountain is not dammed up, it will stream forth another way. And thus some cast off their prodigality, but covetousness comes up in its stead; some cast away their profanity, and the corruption of nature sends not its main stream that way as before; but it runs in another channel, namely, in that of a legal disposition, self-righteousness, or the like, so that people are ruined by their not eyeing the sin of their na
Lastly, It is an hereditary evil, Psal. li. 5. "In sin did my mother conceive me." Particular lusts are not so, but in the virtue of their cause. A prodigal father may have a frugal son; but this disease is necessarily propagated in nature, and therefore hardest to cure. Surely then the word should be given out against this sin, as against the King of Israel, 1 Kings xxii. 31. Fight neither with small nor great, save only with this; for this sin being broke, all other sins are broken with it; and while it stands entire, there is no victory.
IV. That ye may get a view of the corruption of your nature, I would recommend to you three things. (1.) Study to know the spirituality and extent of the law of God, for that is the glass wherein you may see yourselves. (2.) Observe your hearts all times, but especially under temptation. Temptation is a fire that brings up the scum of the vile heart: Do you carefully mark the first rising's of corruption. Lastly, Go to God through Jesus Christ, for illumination by his Spirit. Lay out your soul before the Lord, as willing to know the vileness of your nature; say unto him, That which I know not, teach thou me, and be willing to take in light from the word. Believe, and you shall see. It is by the word the Spirit teacheth, but without the Spirit's teaching, all other teaching will be to little purpose. Though the gospel should shine about you, like the sun at noon-day, and this great truth be never so plainly preached; you will never see yourselves aright, until the Spirit of the Lord light his candle within your breast: The fulness and glory of Christ, the corruption and vileness of our nature, are never rightly learned, but where the Spirit of Christ is the teacher.