Selection 1: The Necessity of Exposing the Evil of Particular Sins to
Selection 2: The Importance of Meditation on Your Sins
Selection 1: The Necessity of Exposing the Evil of Particular Sins to Men's Consciences
Doctrine: The doctrine from hence is this: A special application of particular sins, is a chief means to bring people to a sight of their sins, and to a true sorrow for them. The Apostle does not generally propound their sins; but he comes home to their hearts, and it is not only done in this place; but it has been the practice of all faithful ministers heretofore. As John the Baptist, he goes not cunningly to work, secretly to intimate some truths; but he deals roundly with them, and says, O generation of vipers, who forewarned you to flee from the wrath to come? And he shows them their sins in particular. And when the publicans came to be baptized, he says, Receive no more then is appointed for you; and he says to the soldiers, do violence to no man, and be content with your wages (Luke 3:13, 14); he was the minister of humiliation and preparation: and therefore he deals thus plainly with them.
When Ahab had slain Naboth, the prophet Elijah came to him and said, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, Shall dogs lick thy blood: Ahab said, Hast thou found me out, o my enemie? And he said, I have found thee out, because thou hast sold thy self to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord (I Kings 21:20); and the text says, When he heard this, he put on sackcloth and went softly. This was the power of a particular reproof, though he were a miserable, wicked man. Thus did Paul deal with Peter, when he halted before the Jews, he did plainly reprove him to his face, and that not secretly, but because he had sinned openly, therefore he reproves him openly: so also our Savior Christ shakes up the scribes and Pharisees. And this is the rule in general, as the Apostle says, Reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith (Titus 1:13)...
Many ministers can tell a grave tale, and speak of sins in general; but these common reproofs, these intimations of sin, are like arrows shot a cock height, they touch no man; but when a minister makes application of sin in particular, and says, oh all you drunkards and adulterers, this is your portion, and let this be as venom in your hearts to purge out your lusts. When our Savior Christ lapped up the Pharisees all in one speech, it is said, that they heard the parable, and knew that he meant them (Matthew 21:45).
Overly discourses that men be great sinners and the like are like the confused noise that was in the ship , when Jonah was asleep in it, which never troubled him, till at last the master came and said, Arise, O sleeper, and call upon thy God (Jonah 1:6); and as a father observes, they came about him, and every man had a blow at him, and then he did awake: so because of general reproofs of sin, and terms afar off, men come to church, and sit and sleep, and are not touched nor troubled at all. But when particular application comes home to the heart, and a minister says; this is your drunkenness, and your adultery and profaneness, and this will break your neck one day: what assurance have you got of God's mercy? And what can you say for heaven? Then men begin to look about them. There was never any convicting ministry, nor any man that did in plainness apply the Word home, but their people would be reformed by it, or else their consciences would be troubled, and desperately provoked to oppose God and his ordinances, that they may be plagued by it. The Word of God is like a sword; the explanation of the text is like the drawing out of this sword and the flourishing of it, and so long it never hits: but when a man strikes a full blow at a man, it either wounds or puts him to his fence: so the application of the Word is like the striking with the sword, it will work one way or other, if a man can fence the blow so it is: but if not, it wounds. I confess it is beyond our power to awaken the heart, but ordinarily this way does good.
Again, meditation does beset the heart of a man, that he cannot escape;
wheresoever he is, meditation brings those things to his mind, and the plagues
due thereunto; so that he cannot escape the dint thereof, it is the nature
of our own hearts, that we are loathe to read our own destiny, which will
be our bane and confusion: meditation calls over the thoughts of a man,
tells him the reasons are good, the arguments sound, the Scripture plain,
thy sins evident: conscience, you know it; therefore heart you must do it
(says meditation), take heed of drunkenness, says meditation, you heard
what the minister said; these sins are against God, and the wrath of God
is gone out against you for these sins; these will be your bane, and will
bring you to everlasting destruction. And when meditation does thus howl
at the heart, the mind still musing, and the heart still pondering of sin,
at last it is weary, therefore unburdened therewith: the issue of the arguments
is this, if meditation brings in sin more powerfully, more plainly to the
soul; if it be that which binds and fastens it, and settles it upon the
soul; then the point is clear, that serious meditation of sin is a special
means to bring a soul to the sight and sorrow for sin.
Use 1: The uses are three. If it be so that meditation is thus powerful and profitable, both for contrition of the heart, and so to bring in consolation to the heart; then what shall we think of those men that are unwilling to practise this duty? Nay, what shall we think of that untowardness of heart which is in us against the command of this duty? It falls marvellously heavy upon us all more or less in this kind: for we are marvellously guilty in this kind; a man had as good bring a bear to the stake, as a carnal heart to the consideration of his own ways, much more loathe is he to ponder seriously, and meditate continually upon his sins. Nay, men are so far from musing of their sins, that they disdain this practise, and scoff at it: what say they, if all were of your mind; what should become of us? Shall we be always poring on our corruptions? So we may have to run mad, if we were of your opinion: thus we slight and put it off, and trample on this duty, which is so profitable: the poor will not meditate on his sins, he has no time: the rich they need it not: the wicked dare not: and so no man will in this case. What, shall a man set his soul on a continual rack? (say they). Shall a man drive himself to a desperate stand, and trouble himself unprofitably? Cannot men keep themselves well when they are well? This is the course and frame of the world, and we may complain of this careless and heedless age, as Jeremiah did of his time, No man repenteth him of his wickedness, saying, what have I done? (Jeremiah 3:6). There is no questioning, no searching, no musing: no man says, these are my sins, these are my ways: no man looks over his course and conversation, he does not apprehend his sin; and that is the reason we hear of no humbling, of no repenting: but every man runs into sin, as the horse rushes into the battle; hence it is, that there are so many unclean beasts in the ark. In the old law, if there were any beasts that chewed not the cud, they were counted unclean: the chewing of the cud is serious meditation of the mercies of God to comfort us, and of our sins, to humble us: there are many ungodly persons in the bosom of the church, that muse not of their sinful ways, the prophet Jeremiah says; Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? (Jeremiah 8:12). Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush; he adds a reason in the eleventh verse, They could not be ashamed: why? Because they cry, peace, peace, let the minister speak what he can, and denounce what judgement he will, they promise themselves peace, and quietness, they consider not their ways, and therefore their hearts are not distempered therewith, nor troubled at the consideration thereof; nay, there are many that count it an excellency, a cunning skill, if they can drive away and shake off the sight of sin, if they can put out the meditation of any thing the Word reveals, they make it a marvellous excellent piece of skill, and what they do themselves they would have others do also: but they that now will not see, nor consider, nor meditate of their sins, the truth is they shall see them, as the Lord says by Isaiah 26:11. When thy hand is lifted up, they will not see; but they shall see and be ashamed: so I say, you that will not see your sins, but say, what needs all this stir; let the minister say what he will, shall we be mad men, to be troubled, and shall we be fools, to be disquieted with the consideration of our sins? Well, you will not muse upon your sins now, but the time will come, that the Lord will set all your sins in order before you, and you shall not be able to look off them.
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