And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.
~ Numbers 24:20
For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
~ Deuteronomy 32:28-29
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
~ Luke 11:24-26, 2 Peter 2:20-22
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
~ Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.
~ Philippians 3:18-19, Proverbs 26:11, Hebrew 3:11
The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalence of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers, Together With the Ways of Its Working and Means of Prevention, Opened, Evinced, and Applied With A Resolution of Various Cases of Conscience Pertaining to It, by John Owen. Chapter 16.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
~ Romans 7:24-25
The strength of indwelling sin manifested from its power and effects in unregenerate persons.
We are addressing the power and efficacy of indwelling sin, as it remains in several degrees in believers. Now, I have elsewhere shown that the nature and all the natural properties of it still remain in them. Therefore, we cannot prove directly what the strength of sin is in them, as distinct from what its power is in those in whom it is only checked and not at all weakened. Yet, from an observation of it, we may caution believers of the real power of that mortal enemy with whom they have to deal.
Say the plague violently rages in one city, destroying multitudes; and there is in another city an infection of the same kind, which does not yet rise to that height and fury there, by reason of the correction that it meets with from better air and the remedies used. Yet a man may demonstrate to the inhabitants, the force and danger of the infection that has gotten in among them, by the effects that it has and produces among the others, who do not have the benefit of the preventives and preservatives which they enjoy. This will both teach them to value the means of their preservation, and to be all the more watchful against the power of the infection that is among them. It is so in this case. Believers may be taught what is the power and efficacy of that plague of sin which is in and among them, by the effects which the same plague produces in and among others, who do not have those corrections of its poison, and those preservatives from death which the Lord Jesus Christ has furnished them with.
Having then fixed on the demonstration of the power of sin from the effects it produces, and having given a double instance of it in believers themselves, I will now further evidence the same truth or pursue the same evidence of it, by showing something of the power that acts in those who are unregenerate, and so who do not have the remedies against it which believers are furnished with.
I will not handle the whole power of sin in unregenerate persons, which is a very large field, and not the business I have in hand. But I will only intimate to believers, by a few instances of its effects in them, as I said, what they have to deal with: —
1. It appears in the violence it offers to the nature of men, compelling them to sins that are fully contrary to all the principles of the reasonable nature with which they are endued from God. Every creature of God has in its creation a law of operation implanted in it, which is the rule of all that proceeds from it, of all that it does of its own accord. So fire ascends upwards, bodies that are weighty and heavy will descend, the water flows; each according to the principles of their nature, which give them the law of their operation. What hinders them in their operation is force and violence — that is what keeps a stone from descending or the fire from going upwards. Whatever forces them to move contrary to the law of their nature, such as making a stone go upwards or causing fire to descend, is in its kind the greatest violence, of which the degrees are endless. Now all would acknowledge that what could take a great millstone and fling it upwards into the air, would be a matter of awful force, power, and efficacy.
Man also has his law of operation and working co-created with him. And this may be considered two ways — either as it is common to him along with other creatures; or as it is peculiar to him, with reference to that special end for which he was made. Some things, I say, in this law of nature are common to man with other creatures — such as to nourish their young, to live quietly with those of the same kind and race as them — to seek and follow after what is good for them in that state and condition in which they are created. These are things which all brute living creatures have in the law of their nature, and man also has.
But now besides these things, man being created in an especial manner to give glory to God by rational and moral obedience, and so to obtain a reward in the enjoyment of him, there are many things in the law of his creation that are peculiar to him — such as to love God above all, to seek the enjoyment of God as man’s chief good and last end, to inquire after God’s mind and will, and to yield obedience and the like; all of which are part of the law of his nature.
Now, these things are not distinguished so, as though a man might perform the actions of the law of his nature, which are common to him with other creatures, merely from the principles of his nature, as they do. But the law of his dependence upon God, and doing all things in obedience to God, also applies to all of them.1 Man can never be considered as a mere creature, but as a creature made for the glory of God by rational, moral obedience — it is rational, because obedience is chosen by man, and performed with reason; and it is moral, because he is regulated by a law to which his reason attends.
For instance, it is common to man with other creatures to take care for nourishing his children, of the young, helpless ones that receive their being by him. There is implanted in him, in the principles of his nature, co-created with them, a love and care for them. So it is with other living creatures. Now, let other creatures answer this instinct and inclination, and not be hardened against them like the foolish ostrich, into whom God has not implanted this natural wisdom (Job 39:13-17),2 and they fully answer the law of their creation. But with man it is not so. It is not enough for him to answer the instinct and secret impulse and inclination of his nature and kind, as in nourishing his children; but he must also do it in subjection to God, and obey him in it, and do it to God’s glory — the law of moral obedience encompasses his whole being and all his operations. In these things lie, as it were, the whole of a man: namely, in the things which are implanted in his nature as a creature, things which are common to all other living creatures, and seconded by the command or will of God, as he is a creature capable of yielding moral obedience and of doing all things for God’s glory.
That then which drives and compels a man to transgress this law of his nature must necessarily be esteemed of great force and efficacy — for it is not only like throwing millstones upward, or driving beasts from taking care of their young, or taking from kindred cattle the instinct to herd themselves quietly, but far more — to throw off what lies in him: his fundamental dependence on God, as a creature made to yield obedience to Him.
Now, this is frequently done by indwelling sin in unregenerate persons. Let us take a few instances: —
(1.) There is nothing that is more deeply inlaid in the principles of the natures of all living creatures, and so of man himself, than a love and a care for the preservation and nourishing of their young. Many brute creatures will die for them; some feed them with their own flesh and blood; all deprive themselves of that food which nature directs them to as their best, and they impart it to their young, and act in their behalf to the utmost of their power.
Now, such is the efficacy, power, and force of indwelling sin in man — which is an infection that the nature of other creatures knows nothing about — that in many, it prevails to stop up this fountain, to beat back the stream of natural affections, to root up the principles of the law of nature, and to drive them to a neglect, a destruction of the fruit of their own loins. Paul tells
1 That is, all creatures are dependent on and obedient to God in their nature: they do what they were created to do. Creatures do it by what we call “instinct”, while man does it by choice. It is assumed, therefore, that man may act contrary to his nature, contrary to the law of his nature, and thus contrary to God – this is sin at work in him.
2 Job 39:13-17 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s? 14 For she leaves her eggs on the ground, And warms them in the dust; 15 She forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may break them. 16 She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers; Her labor is in vain, without concern, 17 Because God deprived her of wisdom, And did not endow her with understanding.
us of the old Gentiles that they were astorgoi,1 Rom 1:31, “without natural affection.” What he aims at is that barbarous custom among the Romans who often — to spare themselves the trouble of educating their children and to be at liberty to satisfy their own lusts — destroyed their own children from the womb. That is how far the strength of sin prevailed to obliterate the law of nature, and to repel the force and power of it.
Examples of this (depraved) nature are common in all nations: among ourselves, of women murdering their own children through the deceitful reasoning of sin. And in this, sin turns aside the strong current of nature, darkens all the light of God in the soul, controls all our natural principles that are influenced with the power of the command and will of God.
Yet through the efficacy of sin, this evil has received a fearful aggravation. Men have not only slain but cruelly sacrificed their children to satisfy their lusts. The apostle reckons idolatry, and consequently all superstition, among “the works of the flesh,” Gal 5:20;2 that is, among the fruit and product of indwelling sin. Now, it is from this that men have offered that horrid and unspeakable violence to the law of nature mentioned. So the psalmist tells us, Psa 106:37, 38. Indeed, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to devils, 38 and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood.
The same is mentioned again in various other places of Scripture. I have declared elsewhere the whole manner of that abomination. For the present it may suffice to intimate that they took their children and burnt them to ashes in a soft fire; the wicked priests that assisted in the sacrifice afforded them this relief: that they made a noise and clamour so that the vile wretches might not hear the woeful moans and cries of the poor, dying, tormented infants. I suppose in this case we need no further evidence. Naturalists can give no rational account for this; they can only admire the secret force of that little fish which, they say, will stop a ship in full sail in the midst of the sea. And we must acknowledge that it is beyond our power to give an account of that secret force and unsearchable deceit that is in that inbred traitor, sin, that can not only stop the course of nature — when all its sails that carry it forward, are so filled as they are with affections for their children — but also drive it backward. And do so with such a violence and force as to cause men to deal with their own children in a way that a good man could not be paid to deal with his dog. It may not be to the disadvantage of the best believer to know and consider that they carry around with them, and in them, that which in others has produced these effects.3
(2.) The same may be said of all other sins against the prime dictates of the law of nature, that mankind is or has been stained and defamed with — murder of parents and children, of wives and husbands, sodomy, incest, and like enormities; in all of which sin prevails in men against the whole law of their being, and dependence upon God.
Why should I reckon up the murders of Cain and Abel, the treason of Judas, along with their aggravations; or remind us of the filth and villany of Nero, in whom sin seemed to design an instance of how far it could debase the nature of man! In a word, all the studied, premeditated perjuries; all the designed, bloody revenges; all the filth and uncleanness; all the enmity to God and his ways that is in the world — is fruit growing from this root alone.
2. It evidences sin’s efficacy in keeping men away from believing under the dispensation of the gospel. This evidence must be illustrated a little further: —
1 a;storgoi, astorgoi (NT:794)
2 Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry,
sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies…
3 See his work entitled, “A Dissertation on Divine Justice,”
(1.) Under the dispensation of the gospel, there are but few who believe. So the preachers of the gospel complain, Isa 53:1, “Who has believed our report?” which the apostle interprets to be about the paucity of believers, John 12:38. Our Saviour, Christ himself, tells us that “many are called,” — the word is preached to many — “but few are chosen.” And so the church complains of its number,
Mic 7:1 “Woe is me! For I am like those who have gathered summer fruits, like the grape gleanings of the vintage; There is no cluster to eat; my soul desired the first-ripe fruit.
There are few who enter the narrow gate; daily experience confirms this woeful observation. How many villages, parishes, indeed towns, may we go to where the gospel has been preached, it may be, for many years and perhaps scarcely meet a true believer in them, one who displays the death of Christ in his conversation! In the best places, most eminent for their profession, are not such persons like the berries under the shaking of an olive-tree — two or three in the top of the uppermost boughs, and four or five in the highest branches? Isa 17.6.
(2.) In preaching the gospel, there is proposed to men, as motives for believing, every thing in conjunction that severally prevails with men to do whatever else they do in their lives. Whatever anyone does with consideration, he does it either because it is reasonable and good for him, or profitable and advantageous, or pleasant, or lastly, necessary to avoid evil. I say, whatever men do with consideration, whether it is good or evil, whether it is in the works of this life or in things that lead to another life, they do it from one or another of the reasons or motives mentioned. And God knows, the men who are prevailed upon are often very poor and lowly in their kind. How often will men, for very little pleasure, or very little profit, be induced to do what will embitter their lives and damn their souls; and what industry they will use to avoid what they apprehend will be evil or grievous to them! Any one of these is enough to oil the wheels of men’s utmost endeavours, and set men at work to the purpose.
But now, all these things centre in the proposal of the gospel, and in the command to believe; and every one of them is of such a kind that the whole world can propose nothing like it: —
(1.) It is the most reasonable thing that can be proposed to the understanding of a man, that through his own default, he has lost that way of bringing glory to God and saving his own soul (for which ends he was made) which he was first placed in; and that he should accept and embrace that other blessed, easy, safe, and excellent way to attain the ends mentioned, which God, in His infinite grace, love, mercy, wisdom, and righteousness, has revealed and proposes to him. And —
(2.) It is the most profitable thing that a man can possibly be invited to, if there is any profit or benefit, any advantage to be had in the forgiveness of sins, in the love and favour of God, in a blessed immortality, and in eternal glory. And —
(3.) It is most pleasant also. Surely it is a pleasant thing to be brought out of darkness into light — out of a dungeon onto a throne — from captivity and slavery to Satan and cursed lusts, to the glorious liberty of the children of God, with a thousand heavenly sweetnesses not to be mentioned now. And —
(4.) It is surely necessary; and that is not only from the command of God, who has the supreme authority over us, but also indispensably so, to avoid the eternal ruin of body and soul.1 It is constantly proposed under these terms: “Believe, or you will perish under the weight of the wrath of the great God, and that is forevermore.”
1 Mat 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
But notwithstanding that all these considerations are preached to men, and pressed upon them in the name of the great God, from day to day and from one year to another, there are very few (as observed before) who so set their hearts to them, as to embrace what they lead to. Tell men ten thousand times that this is wisdom, indeed riches; tell them that all their profit lies in it, that they will assuredly and eternally perish, maybe within a few hours, if they do not receive the gospel; assure them that it is their only interest and concern; let them know that God himself speaks all this to them — yet it is all the same to them: they do not regard it, or set their hearts to it, but plainly say, as it were, “We will have nothing to do with these things.” They would rather perish in their lusts than accept mercy.
(3.) It is indwelling sin that both disenables and hinders men from believing, and indwelling sin alone. Blindness of mind, stubbornness of the will, sensuality of the affections, all concur to keep poor perishing souls at a distance from Christ. Men are made blind by sin, and cannot see his excellencies; they are obstinate, and will not lay hold of his righteousness; they are senseless, and will take no notice of their own eternal concerns.
Now, certainly what can prevail with men who are wise, and sober, and prudent in other things, to neglect and despise the love of God, the blood of Christ, the eternal welfare of their own souls, upon weak and worthless pretences, must be acknowledged to have an astonishing force and efficacy accompanying it.
Whose heart, who has once heard of the ways of God, can but bleed to see poor souls eternally perishing under a thousand gracious invitations to accept of mercy and pardon in the blood of Christ? And can we but be astonished at the power of that principle from whence it is that they run headlong to their own destruction? And yet all this befalls them from the power and deceit of sin that dwells in them.
3. It is evident in their total apostasies. Many men not really converted, are greatly worked upon by the word. The apostle tells us that they “clean escape from those who live in error,” 2Pet 2:18. They separate themselves from idolatry and false worship, owning and professing the truth. And they also escape the “pollutions of the world,” verse 20; 1 that is, “the corruption that is in the world through lust” as he expresses it in chap. 1:4 — those filthy, corrupt, and unclean ways which the men of the world walk and live in, in the pursuit of their lusts. These they escape from, in the amendment of their lives and the ordering of their conduct according to the convictions which they have from the word. For so he tells us, that all this is brought about “through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” — that is, by the preaching of the gospel. They are so far worked upon as to forsake all the ways of false worship, to profess the truth, to reform their lives, and to walk in a manner corresponding to their convictions.
By this means, they gain the reputation of professors: “They have a name to live,” Rev 3:1; and they are made “partakers” of some or all of those privileges of the gospel that are enumerated by the apostle in Heb 6:4, 5.2.
It is not my present business to show how far or in what things a man may be effectually worked upon by the word, and yet not really be worked over so as to close with Christ; or what may be the utmost bounds and limits of a common work of grace upon unregenerate men. It is
1 2Pet 2:18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
2 Heb 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…
confessed by all that it may be carried on so far, that it is very difficult to discern between the effects and productions of common grace, and those produced by special and saving grace.
But now, notwithstanding all this, we daily see many of these men fall away from God, utterly and wickedly; some into debauchery and uncleanness, some into worldliness and covetousness, some to be persecutors of the saints — all to the perdition of their own souls. How this comes about is declared by the apostle in the same passage. “They are,” he says, “entangled again.” To entice and entangle, as I have shown before from Jas 1:14, 15,1 is the proper work of indwelling sin; it is that alone which entangles the soul, as the apostle says in 2Pet 2:18, 20. They are allured from their whole profession, into cursed apostasy, through the lusts of the flesh.
It prevails upon them, through its deceit and power, to utterly relinquish their profession and their whole engagement to God. And in several ways this evinces the greatness of sin’s strength and efficacy: —
(1.) In that it stops or gives control to that exceeding greatness of power which is put forth in the word, in their conviction and reformation. We see it by experience that men are not easily worked upon by the word; most men can live under the dispensation of the word all the days of their lives, and continue as senseless and stupid as the seats they sit upon, or the flinty rock of stone.2 Mighty difficulties and prejudices must be conquered, great strokes must be given to the conscience, before this can be brought about. It is like stopping a river in its course, and turning its streams another way; or like keeping a stone from falling downwards; or turning away the wild ass when it is furiously set to pursue its way, as the prophet puts it in Jer 2:24.3 To turn men from their corrupt ways, sins, and pleasures; to make them willingly and gladly pray, fast, hear, and do many things that are contrary to the principle of flesh which is secretly predominant in them; to cause them to profess Christ and the gospel, maybe under some trials and reproaches; to give them light to see into various mysteries, and gifts to discharge their sundry duties; to make dead, blind, senseless men to walk, and talk, and do all the outward offices and duties of living and healthy men, with like attendance to conviction and reformation — these are the effects and products of mighty power and strength. Indeed, the power that the Holy Ghost puts forth by the word — in staggering and convicting sinners, in awakening their consciences, enlightening their minds, changing their affections, awing their hearts, reforming their lives, and compelling them to duties — is inexpressible.
But now there is a check and control given to all these by indwelling sin. It prevails against this whole work of the Spirit by the word, with all the advantages of providential dispensations, in our afflictions and mercies which attend it. Once sin is enraged, all these things become like the withes and cords with which Samson was bound before his head was shaven. But cry to the soul, “The Philistines are upon you! — there is a subtle, a suitable temptation upon you; now show your strength and efficacy!” — and all these things become like tow that has fed the fire. Conscience is stifled, reputation in the church of God is despised, light is supplanted, the impressions of the word are cast off, convictions are digested, heaven and hell are despised — sin makes its way through it all, and utterly turns the soul from the good and right ways of God. Sometimes it does this subtly, by imperceptible degrees, taking away all the force of former impressions from the Spirit by the word, sullying the conscience by degrees, hardening the heart, and making sensual the affections by various workings, so that the poor backslider in heart scarcely knows what he is doing, until he has come to the very bottom of all impiety,
1 Jas 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
2 Psa 114:8 Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of waters (re Deu 8.15).
3 Jer 2:24 A wild donkey used to the wilderness, That sniffs at the wind in her desire; In her time of mating, who can turn her away? All those who seek her will not weary themselves; In her month they will find her.
profaneness, and enmity against God. Sometimes, falling in conjunction with some vigorous temptation, it suddenly and at once plunges the soul into a course of alienation from God and from the profession of his ways.
(2.) It takes them away from those hopes of heaven which they had attained upon their convictions, obedience, and temporary faith or believing. There is a general hope of heaven, or at least of escaping hell, of an untroubled immortality, in the most sottish and stupid souls in the world. Either by tradition or instruction from the word, they are persuaded that there is another state of things to come after this life; but in unconvinced, unenlightened persons, it is a dull, senseless, unaffecting thing. It has no other hold on them nor power in them except to keep them free from the trouble and perplexity of contrary thoughts and apprehensions. The matter is otherwise with those who by the word are so worked upon as we declared before; their hope of heaven and of a blessed immortality, is often accompanied with great joys and exultations; and it is a relief to them under and against the worst of their fears and trials. It is such that they would not part with it for all the world; and on all occasions they retreat in their minds to it for comfort and relief.
Now by the power of sin, they are prevailed with to forego all this. Let heaven go if it will; let a blessed immortality go, with the enjoyment of God himself — for sin must be served, and provision must be made to fulfil its lusts.
Say a man, in the things of this world, had such a hope of a large inheritance and a kingdom, that he is satisfied it will not fail him, but that in the end he will surely enjoy it, and he will lead a happy and glorious life in the possession of it for many days. If someone were then to go and tell him, “It is true, the kingdom you look for is an ample and honourable dominion, full of all good and desirable things, and you may attain it; but come, throw away all hopes and expectations of it, and join with me in the service and slavery of an oppressing tyrant;” — you would easily grant that he must have some strange bewitching power over him, if this were to prevail with a man in his wits, to follow such advice.
Yet thus it is, and much more so, in the case we have in hand. Sin itself cannot deny that the kingdom of heaven, which the soul is in hope and expectation of, is glorious and excellent; nor does it try to convince him that his thoughts of that kingdom are vain and will deceive him. But it plainly prevails with him to throw away his hopes, and to despise his kingdom that he was in expectation of; and it does that upon no other motive than that he may serve some worldly, cruel, or filthy and sensual lust. Certainly, here lies a secret efficacy, whose depths cannot be fathomed.
(3.) The apostle manifests the power of the entanglements of sin in and upon apostates, in that it turns them away from the way of righteousness after they have known it, 2Pet 2:21.1 It will be found at the last day an evil thing and bitter, that men live all their days in the service of sin, self, and the world, refusing to test any of the ways of God, to which they are invited. Though they have no personal experience of their excellence, beauty, pleasantness, or safety — yet having evidence brought to them from God himself that they are so — their refusal of them will, I say, be bitterness in the end. But their condition is still far worse for those who, as the apostle says, “having known the way of righteousness,” are by the power of indwelling sin “turned aside from the holy commandment.” It will be for a lamentation to leave God for the devil, after a man has experienced God and his service — to leave heaven for hell, after a man has had some cheering, refreshing thoughts of it — to leave the fellowship of the saints for an
1 2Pe 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
ale-house or a brothel, after a man has been admitted to the saints’ communion, and tasted of its pleasantness — to leave walking in pure, clear, straight paths, to wallow in mire, muck,1 and filth. And yet sin prevails upon apostates to do this; and that against all their light, conviction, experiences, professions, engagements, or whatever may be strong upon them to sustain them in the known ways of righteousness.
(4.) It evinces its strength in them by prevailing with them to totally renounce God as revealed in Christ, and the power of all gospel truth — in the sin against the Holy Ghost.Mat 12.31 I do not now precisely determine what the sin against the Holy Ghost is, nor what it consists in; there are different apprehensions of it. But all agree in this: that by this sin, an end is put to all dealings between God and man in a way of grace. It is a “sin unto death.” 1Joh 5.16 And the hardness and blindness of many men’s hearts bring them to this; by these they are at length set out of the reach of mercy. They choose to have no more to do with God; and God swears they shall never enter into his rest: Psa 95.11 and so sin brings forth death.Jas 1.15 By this a man is brought to renounce the end for which he was made, to wilfully reject the means of coming to the enjoyment of God, to provoke Him to his face,Isa 65.3 and so to perish in his rebellion.Psa 2.12.
I have not mentioned these things as though I hoped to fully set out by them the power of indwelling sin in unregenerate men; I thought only to give a glimpse of it by a few instances. One who would have a fuller view of it need only open his eyes, to take a little view of that wickedness which reigns, indeed rages, the world over. Let him consider the prevailing flood of the things mentioned by Paul as “the fruits of the flesh,” Gal 5:19-21 2 — that is, among the sons of men, in all places, nations, cities, towns, and parishes; and then let him add to those but this one consideration: that the world, which is full of the steam, filth, and blood of these abominations as to their outward actings, is a pleasant garden, a paradise, compared to the heart of man in which they are all conceived. And hourly there are millions more vile abominations which, being stifled in the womb by some of the ways insisted on before, they are never able to bring forth to light. I say, let a man — using the law for his light and rule — take this course; and if he has any spiritual discernment, he may quickly be satisfied in this matter.
And I showed at the entrance of this discourse how this consideration fully confirms the truth proposed.
1 Originally, “draughts,” a 17th c. term for a privy, latrine, cesspool.
2 Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.