Repeated Sinning

For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
~ Romans 7:5

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
~ 1 Corinthians 9:27

The Mortified Christian Shewing the Nature, Signes, Necessity and Difficulty of True Mortification Resolving Divers Cases About Secret and Bosome Sins. With a Discovery of Sincerity: and Speciall Helps Against Men’s Speciall Corruptions. By That Faithfull Minister of Christ, Mr. Christopher Love, late minister of Lawrence Jury, London.


Rom. 8. vers. 13.

—But if ye through the Spirit do mortifie the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

There are yet three Cases of conscience more, which I intend (God willing) to speak to: the next shall be this.

3. (Case 3) Whether a man whose lusts and corruptions are truly mortified by the Spirit of God, may commit and fall often into those sins that are mortified. And,

4. ( 4) What symptomes may be given of a bosome and beloved sin that is most unmortified in a man. And,

5. ( 5) What helps may be prescribed towards the mortifying of some particular corruptions which a man is troubled withall.

I shall begin with the 3. Whether a man that hath truly mortified a sinne may fall often into that sinne that is mortified.

I shall lay down to you these 5 particulars by way of answer.

1. (Answ. 1) We have some examples in Scripture of some men that have not fallen again into those sins that are mortified in them, as first in Gen. 38.26.

* where it is said of Judah, that after he was convinced of his sin in abusing Tamar his daughter-in-law, that he acknowledged his offence, and he knew her again no more: after he saw his sin, he confessed it, and fell no more into that sin afterwards.

Another example you have in good Jehoshaphat in 2 Chr. 20.37.

* When the Prophet Eliezer came to him and told him of his sin, of making a league, and joyning himself with Ahaziah, and that the Lord was angry with him for it; after he was reproved, he would not bring the guilt of that sin upon him any more: as you may see in 1 King. 22.49.

* When Ahaziah spake unto Jehoshaphat, that his servants might go along with Jehoshaphats servants in the ships, it is said Jehoshaphat would not.

2. Take this by way of answer, ( 2) that we have no expresse example in all the Bible, that ever a mortified man did fall again into that sin which he had been humbled for, and which was subdued and mortified.

It is not my observation only, but the observation of judicious Perkins, that in all the examples of the Old and New Testament, he does not take notice of any one instance throughout the whole Book of God, that ever a man that had mortified a sin, did fall into it a second time; and therefore if thy sins be mortified, and yet you fall often into the same sins, you are a man without a pattern.

3. ( 3) Know this further by way of answer, That though there be no example in all the Scripture, of a man that did fall again into the same grosse sin which before he had mortified; yet there are divers examples of good men, that have fallen often into the same sin, before they knew it to be a sin, before they were sensible of their sin, and truly humbled and grieved for it, and seriously considered between God and their own souls, what evill they had done. Thus Solomon fell twice to doe wickedly before the Lord: and so Peter he fell thrice one after another into the sin of denying his Lord and Master: and the children of Israel, they fell 10 times into the sinne of murmuring against the Lord,* in Numb. 14.22.

Before a man hath mortified and is truly humbled for a sin, he may fall often into the same sin.

4. ( 4) Though there be no example for this in all the Scripture, yet according to reason and experience this may be true, that a man that hath mortified a sin, may fall into the same sin again, that he hath repented of and been humbled for: and this answer is given by learned Mr. Perkins, saies he, there is nothing in reason and experience, that can assure you that a corruption mortified, especially if it be an inward and secret sin, may not break forth again, after you have repented of it. As suppose the sin be passion, though you do strive against it and pray to God every day to enable you by his Spirit to subdue and keep it under, yet notwithstanding upon some speciall occasion or provocation offered, thy passion may break out again; and so inward and bosome lusts they may break out again after repentance for them.

5. ( 5) Though there be no example in all the Scripture, that a mortified man hath fallen into the same sin again after they were mortified, yet there is nothing in the whole Book of God that doth say against it, that does say expresly or by consequence that you cannot fall into the same sins after they are once mortified, and therefore this is somewhat for your comfort.

6. Take this by way of answer, ( 6) that a falling into a corruption a second time, the committing the same sin after it is mortified, argues a great deal of the strength of sin to be in the soul: though it doth not argue there is no grace in that soul, yet it argues that sin and corruptions are very strong there. And here I shall only adde a word or two by way of caution, and then proceed to the other cases of conscience.

Consider first, (Caution 1) that the falling often into the same sin, does extremely expose you to obduracy and hardnesse of heart: and therefore I dare aver it, that you that do fall often, again and again into the same sin, you lie under a state of hardnesse of heart, you have no tender and sensible hearts in you.

2. (Caut. 2) Consider, that the falling often into the same sin will cost thee many tears and prayers before thou obtainest peace of conscience; thou mayest obtain pardon, and yet want peace of conscience, and assurance of thy pardon a great while.

3. (Caut. 3) It is a deadly and a dangerous symptome, for a man to fall often into the same sins; I do not say it is a damnable, but it is a dangerous symptome, and it is a deadly symptome, a sign of death upon thee: it is in this case as it is with a relapse into the same disease, when a man is first sick, the disease feeds upon his ill humours, and if he recover he is the better and healthier for it afterward; but if the man fals again into the same disease, then the distemper feeds upon the vitall spirits, whereas before it Fed upon the corruption and ill humours in his body: So it is no lesse dangerous (to relapse into the same sins often) in regard of thy spirituall health.

4. (Case 4) I now proceed to the next case of conscience which is this, What symptomes may be given of a mans bosome and darling sin, and which of all other is the most predominant and unmortified in his soul? This is a very needfull question, 10 symptomes by way of discovery,
* and I shall give you whereby you may know which is your beloved or master sin.

1. That sin is thy bosome or master sin which thou doest most frequently act or fall into in the course of thy life. ( 1)

As those actions you are most conversant about, do seise most upon the heart, so that sin you do most frequently commit, that is the most unmortified and beloved sin; and therefore consider what sin it is you oftenest fall into, whether uncleannesse, or drunkennesse, or deceiving in your trade, spirituall pride, &c. that sin you do most frequently fall into, that is your darling and unmortified sin.

2. (Char. 2) That sin which thou doest most easily consent and yeeld to upon every temptation, that is thy bosome sin: those sins which thou doest oppose, and art hardly perswaded to, those are not thy bosome sins: but that which does easily beset thee, (as the Apostle saies) that is thy master sin: (why now) art thou easily drawn aside to drunkennesse, then that is thy master sin; or if to uncleannesse, then that is thy master sin, and the like: and therefore I beseech you, beloved, take a survey of your own heart, that so you may finde what sin is most unmortified in you, and then bend the greatest of your strength against that sin, look about you, and see what sin it is that doth most easily beset thee, and is like fire to toe to thy nature, that is thy master sinne.

3. (Char. 3) That sin is most unmortified in you that you are most unwilling of all others to part withall, and therefore a bosome sin in Scripture, is compared to the right eye, and the right hand, which implies that a mans master and beloved sins are as dear to him as the members of his body, and therefore when you are unwilling to leave a sin, conclude that that sinne is thy master sinne.

4. (Char. 4) That sin is most unmortified in thee, which of all other sins does most vex and gall thy conscience; for the conscience is Gods messenger in thee, to check thee when thou doest ill, and speak peace to thee when thou doest well: if thou doest go on in waies of sin, and haunt a sinfull course, thy conscience will haunt thee and dog thee, and never let thee be quiet. Now take a view of your own hearts. I dare say there is not a man or woman amongst you, but now and then your consciences do check you, and convince you that this is an evill course that you follow, or the like: now observe what sin it is thy conscience does most of all check thee for, and what is thy bosome and master sin.

5. (Char. 5) That sin which of all others does most insinuate its self into thy heart, when thou art in the service of God, and performing holy duties: when a sin can be so impudent as to intrude upon thy heart, when thou art in the presence of God, that is thy unmortified sin. And therefore beloved, examine your own hearts, what sin it is that of all others does most haunt thee on the Sabbath day, and does most of all trouble thee, when thou art performing thy duty to God; what sin is it that does especially dog thee to Church, and to Sermons, and on fasting daies, that sin is thy master sin.

6. (Char. 6) That sin which thy enemies does most upbraid thee for, and thy friends most perswade thee against, and yet thou hast no power to leave, that is thy bosome and beloved sin. As one saies well, saies he, I am more beholding to my enemies then to my friends, for when they are angry with me, they tell me of all my faults, and twit me in the teeth with every known sin I am guilty of.

Now what sin is it that wicked men do most upbraid thee for, and cast in thy teeth, and thy friends most perswade thee from, Oh friend walk no more in this path, be not guilty of this sin any more, &c. that sin which thy friends doe most perswade thee from, that is thy master sin, and most unmortified sin; and therefore I beseech you, beloved deal impartially with your own souls. In this regard there are a great many men and women here before the Lord this day, now let me ask you this question, Do not your enemies sometimes upbraid you with such, or such a sin, and do not your friends perswade you from it, saying, For the Lords sake follow this sinfull course no longer, or the like? you may be confident this is the sin that is most unmortified in thy heart.

7. (Char. 7) That sin that does come most fresh in thy minde to trouble and perplex thy conscience when thou art in the extremitie of any affliction upon thy sick or death-bed, or when thou art in prison or poverty, or the like: that sin which does then most of all trouble thy conscience, that most commonly is thy master sin.

You know the story of the sons of Jacob,* in Gen. 42.21. they were never troubled for their sin against Joseph their brother, till there being a famine in their own land, they went down into Egypt to buy bread, and there Joseph their brother knew them well enough, yet would not disclose himself to them, but told them they were spies, and were come thither to see the nakednesse of the Land, and cast them into prison: and when they were in prison, then they said one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us and we would not hear him, therefore is this distresse come upon us. They never thought of this sin for twenty years together till they were cast into prison and affliction, and then they remembred it, and were troubled for it. That sin which doth most of all gall thy conscience in afflictions, that is thy master lust.

8. (Char. 8) That sin for which of all others thou canst least bear a reproof, that is thy master sin: it may be thou maist bear a reproof for some sins, but when a man hits the nail upon the head, and reproves thee for thy master sin, thou canst not endure that, and hence it is that some Divines observe concerning John the Baptist, that had he reproved Herod for any other sin, but for that of Herodias his brother Philips wife, that it was not lawfull for him to have her: had he reproved him for any other sinne, it is probable Herod would have let him alone. So if Ministers do reprove sin only in the generall, men can bear this well enough, but when they come to speak home, and tell this man, thou art a drunkard, and another, thou art a whoremonger, or a deceiver, or the like; they cannot endure this reproof, which shewes that these are their master sins.

It is observed from Mat. 21.41.

* where Christ asketh what shall be done to those wicked husbandmen that had killed their masters servants, and slain his son: the chief Priests and Pharisees made answer themselves, that he would miserably destroy those wicked men, and let out the vineyard to other husbandmen, &c. but when they perceived that Christ spake this of them, that they should be destroyed, then they cryed out God forbid,

*Luk. 20.26. When he only told them in generall, that these wicked men were worthy to be destroyed, they did acknowledge it to be just and right, that they should be destroyed; but when they knew he spake this of them, they could not endure it, and from thenceforth they laboured to kill Jesus.

9. (Char. 9) That is thy bosome sin that a man does most indulge, and knowingly allow himself in: thus Naamans indulging himself in that sin,

* in 2 King. 5.18. His bowing in the house of Rimmon, declared that to be his master sin. That sin which thou doest most indulge and allow thy self in, and use least means against, that is thy master sinne.

10. That sin is thy bosome sin, (Char. 10) to which all other sins do give supplies and yeeld contribution: as suppose Pride be thy master sin, then thou wilt use deceit in thy trade, false lights, and false weights, &c. and all these sins you commit to uphold your pride, and so of any other sinne.

And thus I have done with the 4. Case of conscience. I have only now a short Use which shall be by way of Caution, from the discoveries that hath been made to you of your bosome lusts.

1. (Use 1) And first I beseech you all in the fear of God, take a survey over your own heart, to discover which is your master sin. And,

2. When you have found it out, ( 2) though you should be watchfull against all other sins, yet especially bend your strength and care against this sin, be very vigilant and circumspect over your own hearts, that you do not fall into this sin: thus David did, saies he, I have kept my self from mine iniquity.

(Oh beloved) that part of thy soul against which sin and the Devill makes the strongest assaults, there be you sure to put forth the greatest part of your strength against them: fight not so much against small or great, as against your master sin.

3. ( 3) Know and consider that it is the greatest hypocrisie in the world, to go about to mortifie other sins, and yet leave thy bosome, thy beloved sin unsubdued: Would not that man abominably dissemble, that should go about to stop a little leak in a ship, and leave a great gap unstopt? no lesse hypocrisie is it for thee to strive against small sins, and let thy great and master sins alone.

4. ( 4) Take heed of being mistaken about your bosome lust, in conceiving it is mortified when it is not: it may be wantonnesse was thy bosome sin in thy youth, and now covetousnesse or worldly mindednesse in thy old age; one sin may be thy bosome sin in thy youth, and another in thy old age: take heed of thinking thy bosome or master sin is mortified when it is only changed.

5. ( 5) When you have found out your bosome lust, then labour to root it out of thy heart and subdue it: when thy bosome lust burns in thy breast like fire, you should more especially labour to quench that, and strive against it, and mortifie that lust.