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to make them abuse God with his own Gifts, and blafpheme the Wisdom of their Creation, by living contrary to the Laws of it. Indeed he that commits an Error thorough ignorance or furprize, borrows fome Plea from the darker fide of his Nature, for he acts at worst, like a weak and frail Man; but then to Sin with deliberation, and choice, to court Vice and take Pleafure in it; this looks like a Confpiracy against God and Reason, and Truth, and fhews that the very Light within us is Darkness; and if fo, what should prevent our Ruin, or hinder our Sin from proving unto Death, if by a perverfe and obftinate Course of it, we implicitely declare that we will not be reclaim'd?
But 2dly, Another great aggravation of wilful Sins is, That 'tis a great affront and a moft vile indignity to the Grace of God, and the motions of his Spirit: Now this is yet an higher Principle, than the meer light of Reason and Nature, and the more Divine and Heavenly the Gift is which Men thus abufe, the heavier will be both their Guilt and Punishment; God will not
fail to refent our Bafenefs, when we oppose his Voice, when it whispers good Advice from the Confciences with in us; but he will be yet more provok'd, when we fhut our Ears to the louder calls of his Word, and Fight against those brisker Efforts of his Spirit, by which he is always ftriving to better and reform us; and yet this is the Cafe of every ftubborn and obftinate Sinner, he refifts the motions of his most friendly Monitor, rejects the Conduct of his beft Guide, and refufes to hear the Voice of the wifeft Charmer; fo that confidering the vile Ingratitude of thus ftriving against God, of thus refifting the healing Application of his gracious Spirit, nothing can carry a fouler Face than fuch chofen and wilful Sins do.
But yet 3dly, Another addition to the Guilt of them is this, that they are notorions Contempts of the Goodnefs and Patience of God; they at onee affront that bounteous Mercy, which is over all his Works, and that gracious Mercy, by which he pities and pardons the Infirmities of Mankind; 'tis a gross piece of Ignorance when Men do not,
and a monstrous piece of Ingratitude, when they act as if they did not know That the Goodness of God should lead them to Repentance, Rom. 2. 4. 'Tis St. Paul's Reafoning, and very highly concerns all ftubborn and profligate Offenders, and yet if we furvey the Nature of any wilful Sin, it feems to be a plain defiance of Gods Power, and a bold prefumption upon his Patience, and both ways 'tis a notorious Addition to our Guilt; for if we Sin on in the Belief that God cannot punish us, are downright Infidels; and if we ftill offend him, in hopes of a continuance of that Mercy, which pardon'd the last Offence, we make God unholy and unjuft, and perfectly to contradict his own Nature. But fuch Infidels and Hipocrites are all Men, who continue in Sin on any pretence whatever; for in delaying their Repentance, after fo many inward Calls, and outward Admoniti ons to it, they tacitly upbraid God with his Forbearance, and plainly turn his Grace into Wantonnefs. Does not, for Inftance, the Riotous and Luftful Perfon abuse thofe Gifts to Gods dishonour and his own, which ought to make him Humble and Thankful?
And what do the Furious and Revengeful the Covetous and worldly Minded, but charge the Wisdom of his Provideuce in placing his Benefits in the way of fuch unworthy Objects? Certainly should any Earthy Friend beftow a Favour on another, to fuch or fuch an End, and the Receiver fhould apply it to a quite contrary ufe, even to the dif credit of the Giver, it would be construed as a monftrous Indignity; and so much more heinous is the Guilt of willfully Sinning against God, as his Mercies are great and infinite, both for proportion and number, and all intended to bring Glory to him, and Happiness to us. I come then in the third place, to illuftrate and make appear the wretched State of fuch, as are involv'd in a course of Sin: And this, I prefume, may be done in good part from the laft Claufe of the Text, I do not Say that he shall pray for them. For whether we are to underftand it as implying a liberty of Difcretion in Chriftian Asfemblies, whether they will put up their Prayers for habitual Sinners, or not, or elfe, as containing a direct Prohibition, to allow fuch Perfons the
Benefit of their Prayers, it seems to speak their Cafe highly deplorable; and yet one of these things the Apoftle muft mean in this place; for it was not only ufual in his Days to cut off notorious Offenders from the Church, for fo long at least till they fhould return to God and their Duty, and make a publick amends for the Mif chief and Scandal of their Example; but 'twas his own Method and Advice to deliver incorrigible Sinners to Satan, i. e. to fhut them up under the worst and laft degree of Excommunication, That they might learn not to Blafpheme, 1 Tim. 1. 20. And to fhew that this was a Punishment as much dreaded on the Peoples fide, as any that could be inflicted, we meet in the earlier Records of the Church, with vaft Crowds of Penitents, weeping and proAtrate for their Sins, and defiring, at any expence of Hardship and Difcipline, to be reftor'd to the Peace of the Church, and the Benefit of Communion with their Fellow-Chriftians. And truly a very little Reflection may teach us, how wretched beyond all Expreffion, that Man's Condition is whofe Sins have drove him from the Altar (a Privilege