Itching Ears

Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him? And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up: Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us? And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation. And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
~ Numbers 16:1-3, Numbers 16:11-13, Numbers 16:19-21

And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
~ 1 Kings 22:8

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars. Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.
~ 2 Chronicles 16:9-10

And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it.
~ 2 Chronicles 24:20-22

Wherefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah, and he sent unto him a prophet, which said unto him, Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand? And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel.
~ 2 Chronicles 25:15-16

To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
~ Isaiah 28:12

The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself. Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.
~ Isaiah 33:9-11

If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.
~ Micah 2:11

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court. Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
~ Amos 7:10-17

And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.
~ Luke 20:19

Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
~ John 8:43-45

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
~ Acts 20:29-30

Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
~ 1 Kings 18:22

The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
~ Jeremiah 5:31

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
~ Jeremiah 6:16-17

Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
~ Galatians 4:16

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
~ 2 Timothy 3:1-6

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
~ 2 Peter 2:1

Men Are Exceeding Prone to Bring Their Principles to Agree With Their Lusts, by Jonathan Edwards. 1738.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

In the two foregoing verses is a very solemn charge that the Apostle gives to Timothy with respect to the work of the ministry that he was called to. I charged thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick in the dead at his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. And this charge may be observed the manner of the charge which is with exceeding solemnity, I charge thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ. As in the matter of the charge which is to be very thorough and preaching sound doctrine. Preach to the word be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. The words of the text come in as a reason why the Apostle gives such a solemn charge to Timothy to be so thorough, and preaching sound doctrine. Namely, that the time was shortly like to come and they would not endure sound doctrine but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables. We must take notice with this, of the Apostle to Timothy was the last epistle, that ever he wrote that is inserted into the Canon of the Scriptures, and what was written a little before his death, as especially appears by several passages in the last chapter. He, here expressly speaks of his death as being near at hand, verses 6 to 8.

The Epistle seems to have been written while Paul was the prisoner under the power of his persecutors, by whom he was soon after martyred. For in the sixteenth verse, he speaks of his appearing the first time before he is judged to have his trial for his life, and in the first chapter at the eighth verse, he speaks of himself as a prisoner. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner. So that we were to look upon this epistle as the Apostles dying, charged to Timothy, to whom he had always been as a father. And therefore we find that he calls him his son, 1st Timothy 1:2, in 2nd Timothy 1:2, and 2:1. Paul was now an aged person. Timothy was comparatively young, and so might live long after the Apostle’s death. And therefore, he charges Timothy to be very thorough to preach sound doctrine and to continue in it after his death, because the Apostle, by the Spirit of God, foresaw that a little after his death there would be a great defection from the truth, and there would be many that would arise that would not endure sound doctrine. The Apostle speaks of the same thing in Acts 20:29-30. For this I know that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, if your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. This is spoken by the Apostle to the Church of Ephesus where Timothy now resided, when the Apostle wrote this epistle to him.

And the Apostle John, that also resided at Ephesus long after the Apostle Paul’s death, speaks of this defection having already come to pass — first John 2:18, little children it is the last time in as if you have heard Antichrist shall come even now are there many antichrists whereby we know that it is the last time. Then the time was come when they would not endure sound doctrine. That there would soon come such a time wherein multitudes would not endure sound doctrine was a reason why the Apostle gives such a solemn charge to Timothy — to be very thorough in preaching sound doctrine on two accounts. Namely, because there was a more need of it — for the more the truth was likely soon to be opposed, the more the ministers of the gospel had need to bestir themselves to defend it. And also because there would be the greater temptation to ministers to neglect to preach sound doctrine. For when men won’t endure such doctrines but it puts them into a rage to hear it, that is a greater temptation of ministers not to preach such doctrine. And therefore Timothy had a greater need of such a solemn charge from the Apostle to continue to preach it.

In the words of the text, may be observed two things:

1. The behaviour of those corrupt persons spoken with respect to good doctrine, namely, that they would not enter it. Not only were they not receive it but they would not bear it. They would not hear it with any patience.

2. Their behaviour with respect to evil doctrine after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And this last part again we may observe two things:

Namely, what sort of doctrine or principles they would seek and embrace, and such as were agreeable to their lusts, after their own lusts. The reason why they would not endure sound doctrine was because they were contrary to their lusts, and this was the reason why they thought false doctrines, and because they were agreeable suited their lusts, and were pleasing to them.

2. The eagerness with which they sought and embraced such doctrines is expressed in two things, namely, there even to themselves teachers. One minister, the priest’s sound doctrine was too much but did not care how many teachers they had that preach doctrines agreeable to their lusts. They cannot have enough of them. They heap to themselves a multitude of them. And it is also expressed by that, they had itching ears. They had an itch after such kinds of doctrines, they were exceeding fond of them.


Men are exceeding prone to bring their principles to agree with their lusts. By principles here, I mean the things they maintain for truths that anyway respects men’s moral state or behaviour. The doctrines they maintain are any tenets they hold concerning affairs of religion in the state of the souls of men. There is a very vast variety in the principles that are embraced and maintained in the world. There is a great variety in the schemes of doctrines that they hold are the notions they have of those manners that are especially heads of their faith or belief. And also a great variety in the moral principles that they embrace. There’s a vast variety in these respects among those that live under the light of the gospel. Some hold one thing about what it is to be believed and what is to be done, and others, another. And every man is ready to conform his principles to his disposition, and there is an exceeding proneness to conform them to their lusts. They are prone to do so in these three respects:

1. They are prone to entertain such principles as are relishing to the natural corrupt habits of their souls.

2. They are prone to entertain such principles as a relishing to their wicked natural state.

3. They are prone to entertain such principles as are relishing to their wicked practices.

1. Men are prone to entertain such principles as a relishing to the natural corrupt habits of the soul. Indeed all men’s lusts or natural corrupt habits of their souls, but I now speak of the corrupt habits of the soul not with respect to those outward practices they could do, but as habits remaining in the soul, and internally influencing of it, and governing its notions apprehensions and internal workings. There are some sorts of principles that are agreeable to those inward natural habits of the soul that suit them, and are pleasing to their lusts and relish, and others that are contrary to them.

Men are exceeding prone to receive such principles as are agreeable to the internal corrupt apprehensions, and relish of the heart. Thus, for instance, men’s pride is a corrupt natural habit of the soul which works various ways. One is to make men to have an high conceit of their own understandings. Tis what men are naturally prone to — to think that they have ability to see things right or to understand them as they be, and a comprehend see through things as that their judgments are better than others. And men are exceeding prone to conform their principles to such a habit of mind. And therefore, they are ready to reject those doctrines that appear very mysterious to them. And are such as it is above their reason to comprehend. This is one reason that men are so prone to reject a doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of original sin, and of God’s eternal and absolute decrees and many mysteries of the covenant of grace. And hence there has appeared a great disposition and multitudes in the world especially of late, to be forming new schemes of doctrines such as they imagine they can comprehend and see through. And maintains that no other doctrines ought to be received, but only those that have no mystery in them. So also, it is a habit or disposition natural to the souls of men to entertain an high thought of their own strength. And hence, men are so prone to reject such doctrines this teach that men are naturally helpless and dead in trespasses and sins, and could do nothing for themselves. And hence so many embrace the doctrines of free will that any man can convert himself if he pleases, without any more than common assistance. Slight and despised those schemes of religions that teach the arbitrary and mighty influences of the Spirit of God in men’s hearts. Again to the disposition of sole natural to all men to heaven I thought of their own righteousness. And hence they are prone to reject those doctrines that teach man’s absolute dependence on the free of sovereign grace of God and salvation by the righteousness of Christ. And this also is one reason why they are prone to reject those doctrines that teach men’s natural corruption and guilt. And hence many hold of men’s souls as they come into the world or like a piece of white paper, without any writing upon it, and ready indifferently to receive anything that any please to write upon. So that the soul that forces destitute of either good or evil and indifferent to either, is much disposed to receive one as the other. And hence also they hold it men are justified, and save for their own virtue and good works.

Again another habit natural to the soul of man is to depend on the external senses. Hence men are prone to reject doctrines that are concerning things that are beyond the reach of the outward senses. Hence is one reason why men are so ready to disbelieve the being of God because they don’t see him with their bodily eyes. And so it is in regards to heaven and Hell because they never received them, therefore they don’t believe in them. And so it is of the other doctrines of Christianity that concern things spiritual and invisible. From this cause, men are naturally exceeding prone to errors it is because they are naturally under the power of these evil principles. And some men are given up to what is called a scripture, a reprobate mind — Romans 1:28, or a mindful of judgment as it is in the margin is a mind prone to error and an enemy to the truth. The reason why men are so difficultly brought in place the truth is because by reason of the evil habits of their minds. They just relish it. As there it is said, and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind. They don’t like the truth. It doesn’t suit their disposition and relish. They don’t love the light, and therefore won’t come to it.

Christ often was want to say when he revealed some spiritual or mysterious doctrine, he that has ears to hear, let him hear. But those persons don’t have ears to hear the truth. They don’t have a spiritual and sanctified mind, but a carnal mind. As the carnal mind is enmity against God, and it’s not subject to the law of God neither indeed can it be. So what carnal mind doesn’t obey the truth, it is not subject to the truth. A natural man may acknowledge the spiritual mysteries and self-abasing doctrines of the gospel from education or some other cause, but he is never properly reconciled to the truth for he is naturally an enemy to the truth. Christ is held forth in the greatest spiritual doctrines of the gospel, is an offence to natural man, a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, 1 Peter 2:8. The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, 1st Corinthians 2:14. They don’t have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The ways of the Lord, the way of salvation by Christ which has taught an adoption of the gospel appear right to the godly, but are full of stumbling blocks to wicked men. Hosea 14:9, who is wise and he shall understand the things? prudent, and he shall know of them? for the ways of the Lord are right and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall therein. Thus, men are naturally prone to entertain such principles as their relishing to the natural corrupt habits of their souls.

2. Men are naturally very prone to bring their principles to agree with that status in that are in by nature. This manner want to do two ways either by maintaining such principles as tend to represent a state of sin to be less dreadful than it is, or by entertaining such principles as allow them to flatter themselves that they are not in a state of sin, but in a state of salvation.

First, there is a proneness in natural men to embrace such principles as tend to represent a natural state to be less dreadful than it is. Natural men that hear how dreadful a natural condition is, would fain flatter themselves that their state is not so dreadful as they are told. And this is the source of many false principles. Some flatter themselves that there is no such thing as Hell and thus, believe that either that there is no future state at all, or if there be there is no Hell. But that though God threatens man with Hell, yet is only to affright them, but never intends to execute them. And if it be so that there is no Hell, than a state of sin as no such dreadful state. Others flatter themselves at the torments of Hell, or not as extreme as they are told of. They can’t realise it, that the damned in Hell did continually suffer such an exceeding degree of torment as they hear. And some persuade themselves, that the torment of Hell are not eternal, and that God after the wicked have suffered a long time will pity them, and even deliver them. So many have openly professed. If so, this mightily eases the minds of wicked men let the torments of Hell be never so great. Yet if there being an end to them, this is a vast relief to their thoughts. Let misery be continued never so long, yet if it lasts there be an end, it is nothing to that misery that is without any end in its attended with absolute and perfect despair. Others to make a natural condition less dreadful hold those principles that represents the danger of such persons of Hell to be less. As for instance, many hold that men can get out of this natural condition at any time when they please by their strength. If this be so, it is a no measure dreadful to be in a state of sin as otherwise it is. And others that don’t hold they can get delivered from a natural condition when they please by their own strength, yet hold that whenever they please to strive after it, God is absolutely obliged by His promise to give them such assistance that should be effectual for their deliverance. So that it is all one is to the certainty of the event, as if they could do it by their own strength. The first thing when they please can do so much that God is to oblige to do the rest for them. Then they can be delivered when they please. And if so, a natural condition is to know why so dreadful as if their deliverance let them do what they will, be dependent on God sovereign and arbitrary will and pleasure. If men can get deliverance from a state of sin when they please, this leads exceedingly to make men easy in a perfect neglect of endeavours after deliverance. Another principle that many entertain, whereby a state of sin looks less dreadful is that though God is not bound yet ordinarily, that it is an easy thing to be converted. That is, but a few prayers and a little reading and meditation and seriousness, and the work is done.

2. Natural men are very prone to entertain such principles as will allow them to think that they are already delivered from such a state, and of God into a state of salvation. Tis mainly so from hints that comes to pass that there is such a vast number of false principles that men hold about conversion, and a state of grace, and what is required in order to be pardoned of sin, and obtain acceptance with God. Thus, some maintain that Christ died for all of that there is actually an universal redemption of all mankind. That the curse that mankind was exposed to by Adam has brought off by Christ, for all the children of Adam. And so that all men as they are born come into the world in a state of salvation, and never get into a state of condemnation, unless it be by gross sins. If some hold that though men are born under corruption and guilt, yet that all baptised persons are regenerated in their baptism, and so brought into a state of salvation. And that all such persons, unless they fall from the grace received and baptism, shall be saved. And if they fall into gross sins, and live a long time and never sow wicked practices, yet they hold that if they at any time reform and live a better life, that brings him into a state of salvation again. And by this means men easily persuade themselves that they are in a state of salvation. The notion that a very great part of those in the world that at this day our called Christians have about conversion is nothing but this — namely, that he that before lived a vicious life considers himself and amends his life and leaves off former vicious courses, and lives in the practice of moral duties. Those that have nothing but morality are prone to flatter themselves that morality is grace, and (such) will save them. And others that have only had common illuminations, they persuade themselves into an ocean of conversion agreeable to their own experiences.

Multitudes of natural men that have only had some slight and the lesser in significant religious affections that will stand with them and no stead another day, yet bring their principles to agree with their experiences, and so make themselves easy. Some after their supposed conversions in a little time, lose all and return to be just as they were before, and there is no abiding change, they bring their principles to agree with their state. And it is their principle that all that a man must look at is, the first work, and that therefore let it be as it will with them, now and ever since, yet they’re well out because they were so and so, as they supposed once. Some to live in the practice of gross sins, they so conform their principles to their circumstances is to bring them to be such as will allow their being godly, notwithstanding. It is a principle that some maintain that a man may continue to commit gross sins, and between whiles repent and then commit them again, and so continue all its life.

Men greatly differ about the science of godliness, if they chiefly insist upon and commonly will have such signs that are most agreeable to their own state. The Pharisees of old were persons that were of this sort, that we are speaking of under this head. They brought their principles to agree with their states. They generally were men though they made a fair show outwardly, yet were rotten at heart, and their principles were agreeable to their state in this respect. For they held that an external compliance with the law of God was all that was required. They held that a man must not kill, nor commit adultery, but did not condemn inward malice and lusts. They were strict in observance of the ceremonial law and traditions of men, and it was the principle that godliness consisted in these things.

3. Men are very prone to bring their principles to agree with their practices in that three ways namely, either by entertaining such principles as shall justify their past practices, or such as tend to uphold them in the practices that they are know going on in. Or, such as, allowing those acts and practices that they are inclined, or tempted to.

First, men are ready to entertain such principles as shall justify their past practices. There is a natural disposition in them when they have committed wickedness to justify and vindicate it, both of their own consciences and others. They are disposed to justify past wickedness, to make things quiet within. If they condemn their own actions and practices, they could not rest easy. They find that so far as their conscience is at any time condemn them and tell them that they have done wickedly to provoke God, and expose themselves to his wrath by such and such things that they have done their minds are disquieted. And therefore men contrive ways to justify what they have done to keep their minds easy and quiet. And more especially men are prone to justify what they have done for men if they are practicers of acts that are known, because if those things they have done or unlawful and are, or so accounted they are just shame and reproach. An immense condemning themselves before others for their past acts or practices, there is an appearance of taking shame to themselves and humbling themselves as it were, making themselves lower than those that they confess to, which the proud heart of man is very averse to. And because there is such a disposition and men to vindicate those past wicked practices. Therefore, they are prone to such principles, and tend to justify them.

2. They are prone to entertain such principles that allow of those sins, that they are now going on in. Men are commonly exceedingly loathed to part with their sins. If they have testified against and they are exhorted to part with them then they hold them, and will not let them go, Job 20:12-13. Wickedness is sweet in his mouth, he hides it under his tongue, he spares that in for sakes and not, but keeps it still within his mouth. Some are exceeding loathed to part with their sins by reason of the sinful pleasures they have in them, and others for the profit. Some are enslaved to a lust, by a habit rooted and made strong by long custom. Being accustomed to do evil, they can’t learn to do good. And therefore instead of leaving their sin, they set themselves to plead for it, and bring their principles to agree with it, as a thing lawful, and what there is no hurt in. The wise man observed it to be a very common thing for men to justify the evil practices they went on in. Proverbs 21:2, every way of a man is right in his own eyes, and so Chapter 16:2, all the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes.

3. They are prone to bring their principles to agree with those future evil actions or practices that they are tempted to. It is common with men when they are tempted to commit any sin. To conform their principles to the practice and to plead before their own consciences, that it is no sin.


First. Use may be an instruction.

Since we may learn the main cause of such a vast variety of false opinions and principles in the world, and why there are so few that believe the truth. It arises from this disposition that men have to conform their principles to their lusts, by bringing of them to suit that corrupt relish, and to agree with the state therein and the wicked practices they are guilty of or incline to. All the erroneous principles and opinions in the world have their original, very much from this source. This is a source of hedonism and the cause why men fall off from the worship of the true God to worship idols, because the true God was an holy God contrary to their lusts, and those false gods were more agreeable to their corrupt dispositions. This, the Apostle observes when speaking of the sins of the heathen world and that forementioned place in the first chapter of Romans 1:28. And hence arose those frequent fallings away of the Israelites to idolatry. They forsook the true God the God of their fathers, for gods that were more agreeable to their lusts, as appears by Psalm 81:9-12, there shall no strange God be in thee, neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I AM the LORD thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people would not hearken to my voice in Israel would none of me, so I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts and they walked in their own counsels. And hence it is that Mohammedism and Judaism and Popery and all the innumerable heresies and false doctrines that prevail in the part of the world then enjoyed the light of the gospel take their rise. And hence is there such an aptness and men to listen to false teachers, and to forsake the truth. And hence are there so very few that hold the doctrines of the gospel, as Christ delivered them. The reason is that those doctrines have nothing in them the favour of men’s lusts, but are altogether opposite to them and utterly irreconcilable within them. There never was nor ever can be any reconciliation between the truth and the lusts of men’s hearts. And truth doesn’t at all gratify the corrupt relish of the heart but it’s opposite. It doesn’t it all flatter men in a state of sin, but shows the dreadfulness of such a state. It doesn’t in any way allow or tolerate their wicked practices, but utterly condemns them and denounces God’s wrath against them. Hence, there is a natural enmity in the hearts of men against the truth. They love not the light, neither come they to the light. The doctrines of the gospel are all holy doctrines. Their doctrines according to godliness 1 Timothy 6:3. And therefore don’t at all suit with men’s wickedness either of heart or life.

2. Hence we may learn a reason why there is so much sin committed in places of clear light.

The second use is of a warning to all to take heed to themselves that they don’t be in this way deceived. That all be by this doctrine warned that they are not led away by a disposition to conform their principles to their practices. And to the sin consider,

1. The truth is the same. Let men’s lusts and inclinations be what they will. Truth is one and is invariable and will alter to suit to men’s corrupt relish or wicked state or inclinations. Truth is, as it were, a straight line that will never bend. It won’t bend in the least degree to suit with the lusts of men. The doctrines and principles that are taught in the Bible are always and in all places the same. If the truth was this variable as men’s opinions are, it would be a mirror nose of wax that moulds into all shapes. This suits men’s inclinations, but it is not so. Therefore, being that you cannot conform the truth to your inclinations, let your inclinations be conformed to the truth.

2. Consider the great danger of having your principles conform to your lusts. They that have such principles put good for evil and evil for good. But see the woes that is denounced against such in Isaiah 5:20, they who bring the principles to agree with their lusts, that eye of the soul, by which it sees this evil in the light that is in them as darkness. But there is no darkness that is more dreadful than that which his light turned into darkness, Matthew 6:22-23.

Those doctrines and religion that are agreeable to the corrupt habits and relish of the heart are dangerous doctrines, such as were awakened in the former part of the day. Tis our natural tendency to harden the heart and pride and self-dependence and forever to prevent that saving humiliation that is absolutely necessary. And so for natural men to bring their principles to agree with their state of sin and misery, is a thing attended with the utmost danger. For how can men be more unlikely ever to be delivered out of a natural condition than when they have established themselves in it by their principles. When by the principles they hold they are already in a good estate, and therefore have no need to seek a better. Or when their principles are such that represent their condition not to be very dreadful though they are in a natural condition. And so when men embrace such principles it justifies them in wicked practices, it tends to their eternal ruin. Their pleading that such as such wicked practices are lawful, in which they shut their eyes against light, and industriously blind and delude themselves, won’t save them from eternal condemnation for their wickedness. Proverbs 14:12, there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. The Prophet Hosea observes that the children of Israel did thus, Hosea 13:9, O Israel thou hast destroyed thyself. But however they pleaded that there was no iniquity in their corrupt practices, yet see what was the end of it, verse 14, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Persons that are industrious to blind their own minds, and subtle to find out arguments to still and satisfy their consciences and wicked practices, they all the while, as it were, plotting against themselves and coming to make sure their own ruin. They do, as it were, hide themselves and use subtle stratagems and lie in ambush against themselves to catch and ensnare and undo themselves as one mortal enemy does against another. The devil is very subtle to deceive and delude them, and to draw them along that at last he may destroy them. And those that are subtle to find out arguments to justify themselves and wicked courses, do, as it were, play the devil into themselves. For they act just with themselves that the devil does with them. They lie in wait against themselves. They lay snares for themselves and use all their art and cunning to make the snare strong and persuade themselves into it. They are cunning to entice themselves along into their own ruin. They have something within them that seeks their happiness namely, reason and conscience. Those, now and then, they rise up and tell them that it is not best for them to commit such and such practices, for there are ways that will prove their ruin, as their paths that lead to Hell. But then they oppose these, they rise up against them, and stop their mouths and hearken only to the voice of their lusts that are enticing them to Hell. Therefore, let all persons be warned to take heed of entangling themselves and so dreadful of snares that conforming their principles to their lusts. Let none labour to bring their promises to suit with the proud and carnal relish of their souls. And take heed that you don’t establish yourself in a damnable state and condition by an evil principle nor encourage yourself in any wicked practices. Let none this way flatter themselves in any way defraud an injustice, or doing to others as they would not have that they should do to them. Let none flatter themselves by their living in any way of malice or revenge. Let young people take heed from hence that they don’t flatter themselves in ways of uncleanness, in vile practices in the dark, pleading with themselves that their lawful, and that there is no hurt in it. If they do their status, pleads won’t save them from eternal ruined by those practices, but there is danger that when they die their bones will be full of the sin of their youth, Job 20:11. And to these ends to tend to following directions:

1. Strictly examine yourselves whether you, hithertofore, haven’t done thus, and whether you don’t do it now.

2. When you hear instructions from God’s Word don’t consult your lusts to know whether you shall embrace those instructions or not. Doctrines concerning the state of a converted man, signs duty reproved sin.

3. Be thorough in the practice what you do know to be your duty. That is a way to know more and to be further enlightened concerning your duty, and of the minded will of God. If God sees that you improve what light you have well, that will be the way to have further light given. He that is faithful in a few things shall have many things. Christ says that if any man will do his will, he should know of his doctrine whether it be of God, John 7:17.

4. Seek to have all your lusts mortified. For by what has been said, it appears that those are the things that are your bane. These are the devils that deceive and destroy you. We read of the deceitfulness of sin in Hebrew 3:13. Labour therefore to kill those enemies that are so deceitful. Oppose them with all your might.

5. Maintain a constant jealous eye over your own heart. You have heard formerly how deceitful the heart is. He that trust his own heart is a fool.

6. Pray earnestly to God to undertake to instruct you and guide your feet in the way of truth. What has been said make sure you, your great need of it. You have heard how exceeding prone man is to be deceived. You need to know the truth, but how few know it. How many are deceived, and how small is the number of them that embrace the truth — whose principles are right concerning both the things of God, concerning their own states, and concerning their own practices. Therefore, seek to him who knows and has never deceived. James 1:5, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God.