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pollutions and defilements, yea, of the worst sort, as being more spiritual, filthiness of the spirit. Fleshly pollutions are things of which the devils are not capable in themselves, though they excite men to them, and so they are called unclean spirits. But the highest rank of sins, are those that are properly spiritual wickednesses. These in men are the chief strengths of Satan, the inner works of his forts and strong-holds. 2 Cor. x. 4. Many who are not much tempted to the common gross sensualities, who have, possibly, though an inclination to them, yet, a kind of disdain of them, and through education, and morality, and strength of reason, with somewhat of natural conscience, are carried above them, yet, have many of those heights the Apostle speaks of, those lofty imaginations that rise against God and the obedience of Christ, all which must be demolished.
Perfecting holiness.] Not content with low measures, with just so much as keeps from hell, but aspiring toward perfection; aiming high at self-victory, self-denial, and the love of God becoming purer and hotter, like a fire, growing, and flaming up, and consuming the earth. Though men fall short of their aim, yet, it is good to aim high: they shall shoot so much the higher, though not full so high as they aim. Thus we ought to be setting the state of perfection in our eye, resolving not to rest content below that, and to come as near it as we can, even before we come at it. Not as though I had already attained, says the Apostle, but this one thing I do; forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, I press towards the mark. Phil. iii. 11, 12. This is to act as one who hath such a hope, such a state in view, and is still advancing towards it.
In the fear of God.] There is no working but on firm ground; there are no solid endeavours in holiness where it is not founded in a deeply-felt reverence of God, a desire to please Him and to be like Him, which springs from love. This, most men are either wholly strangers to, or are but
slight and shallow in it, and therefore make so little true progress in holiness.
II. Then there is the motive. Having these promises. Being called to so fair an estate, so excellent a condition, to be the people, yea, the sons and daughters of God, therefore they are called to the coming forth from Babel, and the separating themselves from sin, and purging it out. Holiness is His image in His children: the more there is of it, the more suitable are they to that blessed relation and dignity, and the firmer are their hopes of the inheritance of glory.
Consider sin as a filthiness; hate it. Oh, how ugly and vile is lust, how deformed is swelling pride! And all sin is an aversion from God, a casting of the noble soul into the mire, the defacing of all its beauty. Turning to present things, it pollutes itself with them: he who is clad in scarlet, embraces the dunghill, as Jeremiah in another sense laments.
The purity of things is, an unmixture and simplicity corresponding with their own being; and such is the purity of the soul when elevated above the earth and sense, and united unto God, contemplating Him, and delighting in Him. All inordinate bent to the creatures, or to itself, (which is the first and main disorder,) doth defile and debase it. And the more it is sublimed and freed from itself, the purer and more Heavenly it grows, and partakes the more of God, and resembles Him the more.
This, then, is to be our main study; first, to search out our iniquities, the particular defilements of our nature; not only gross filthiness, drunkenness, lasciviousness, &c., but our love of this earth, or of air, our vanity of mind, our selfwill and self-seeking, Most persons, even most Christians, are short sighted in respect to their own secret evils, the filthinesses of the spirit especially, and use little diligence in this inquiry. They do not seek light from God, to go in before Him, and to lead them into themselves, as the Prophet had in the discovery of idolatries at Jerusalem. Oh! that
we could once see what heaps of abominations lie hid in us one behind an other!
Then, having searched out, we must follow on to purge out: we are not to pass over, nor to spare any, but to delight most in casting out the best beloved sin, the choicest idol, that hath had most of our service and sacrifices, to make room for Jesus Christ.
And never cease in this work, for still there is need of more purifying. One day's work in this, disposes for and engages to a further, to the next; for, as sin is purged out, light comes in, and more clear discoveries are made of remaining pollutions. So then, still their must be progress, less of the world, and more of God in the heart every day. Oh! this is a sweet course of life. What gain, what preferment is to be compared to it?
And in this, it is good to have our ambition growing; the higher we rise, to aspire still the higher, looking further than before, even toward the perfection of holiness. It is not much we can here attain to, but surely, it is commonly far less than we might; we improve not our condition and advantages as we might do. The world are busy driving forwards their designs. Men of spirit are animated both by better and by worse success: if any thing miscarry, it sets them on the more eagerly to make it up, in the right management of some other design: and when they prosper in one thing, that enables and encourages them to attempt further. Shall all other things seem worth our pains? Are only grace and glory so cheap in our account, that the least diligence of all goes that way? Oh, strange delusion!
Now, our cleansing is to be managed by all holy means: the word and sacrament more wisely and spiritually used than commonly they are with us; and private prayer, which purifies and elevates the soul, takes it up into the mount, and makes it shine; and particularly, supplicating for the Spirit of holiness and for victory over sin, is not in vain ;-the soul obtains its desires of God, becoming that which it is fixedly
set upon; holy resolution-Christians are much wanting in this, are faint and loose in their purposes;-the consideration of Divine truths, the mysteries of the kingdom, the hope of Christians, yea, rich and great promises, that is particularly here the motive :-these are all the means and holy means they are, as their end is, the perfection of holiness. Having these promises.] Now consider whether it is better to be the slaves of Satan, or the sons of God. Measure delight in God, with the low, base pleasures of sense. pure in heart, for they shall see God: these gradually go on together, and are perfected together.
Blessed are the
Why, then, is there such an invincible love of sin in the hearts of men? At least, why so little love of holiness, and endeavour after it, so mean thoughts of it, as a thing either indecent or unpleasant, when it is the only noble and the only delightful thing in the world? The soul by other things is drawn below itself, but by holiness it is raised above itself, and made Divine. The pleasures of sin are for a season: they are the pleasures of a moment exchanged for those of eternity. But even in the mean time, in this season, the holy soul is fed with communion with God, one hour of which is more worth than the longest life of the highest of the world's delights.
PSAL. cxix. 32.
I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.
To desire ease and happiness, under a general representation of it, is a thing of more easy and general persuasion; there is somewhat in nature to help the argument. But to find beauty in, and be taken with, the very way of holiness
that leads to it, is more rare, and depends on a higher principle. Self-love inclines a man to desire the rest of love, but to love and desire the labour of love, is love of a higher and purer strain. To delight and be cheerful in obedience, argues much love as the spring of it. That is the thing the holy Psalmist doth so plentifully express in this Psalın, and he is still desiring more of that sweet and lively affection that might make him yet more abundant in action. Thus here, I will run, &c. He presents his desire and his purpose together, q. d., The more of this grace Thou bestowest on me, the more service shall I be able to do Thee.
This is the top of his ambition, while others are seeking to enlarge their barns, their lands or estates, or their titles: and kings, to enlarge their territories or authority, to encroach on neighbouring kingdoms, or be more absolute in their own; instead of all such enlargements, this is David's great desire, an enlarged heart to run the way of God's commandments.
And these other (how big soever they sound) are poor narrow desires: this one is larger and higher than them all, and gives evidence of a heart already large. But as it is miserable in those desires, so it is happy in this, that much would still have more.
Let others seek more money, or more honour, Oh! the blessed choice of that soul that is still seeking more love to God, more affection, and more ability to do Him service; that counts all days and hours for lost, which are not employed to this improvement; that hears the word in public, and reads it in private for this purpose, to kindle this love, or to blow the spark, if any there be already in the heart, to raise it to a clear flame, and from a little flame to make it burn yet hotter and purer, and rise higher; but, above all means, is often presenting this in prayer to Him on whose influence all depends, in whose hand our hearts are, much more than in our own. It follows Him with this desire, and works on Him by His own interest. Though there can be really no