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themselves, but only with an inclination to them, yet with a greater or less bias to particular evils; wherefore after death no one is judged or condemned for any hereditary evil, but only for those which he has actually committed: this also is evident from this statute of the Lord: "The father shall not be put to death for the son, neither shall the son be put to death for the father; every one shall be put to death for his own sin," Deut. xxiv. 16. This was also confirmed to me in the spiritual world, by those who die in their infancy, that they only incline to evils, thus will them, but still do not commit them; for they are educated under the Lord's auspices, and are saved. The above-mentioned inclination and propensity to evils, handed down from parents to their children and posterity, can only be broken by a new birth from the Lord, which is called regeneration, without which such inclination not only continues uninterrupted, but acquires new strength in every succeeding generation, and becomes more prone to evils, till at length it tends to all kinds. Hence it is that the Jews are still resemblances of their father Judah, who took to wife the daughter of a Canaanite, and committed adultery with his daughter-in-law Thamar, which two connexions gave birth to three of their families; hence too this hereditary disposition, in process of time, has increased to such a height, that they are unable, with a true faith of heart, to embrace the Christian religion: the expression, "they are unable," is made use of, because the interior will of their minds is averse to it, and it is this will which produces inability.
522. That all evil, unless it be removed, remains with man, and that man cannot be saved if he remaineth in his evils, are self-evident propositions; and that no evil can be removed, except by the Lord with such as believe on Him and love their neighbour, may appear plain from what has been said above, particularly in the chapter on faith, That the Lord, charity, and faith, make a one, like life,
will, and understanding, and that in case they are divided, each perisheth like a pearl bruised to powder; and again, That the Lord is charity and faith in man, and that man is charity and faith in the Lord. But it may be asked, How can man enter into that union? To which it is answered, By no possibility, unless he in part remove his evils by repentWe speak of man's removing them, because the Lord doth not effect such removal immediately without the co-operation of man, as was fully shewn in the same chapter, and in that which followed on FREE-WILL.
523. It is frequently urged, that none can fulfil the law, especially since he who offendeth against one commandment of the decalogue, offendeth against all. This form of speaking, however, is to be taken in a different sense from what is seems to convey; for it is to be understood in this manner, that whosoever from purpose or confirmation acts in opposition to one commandment, acteth in opposition to the rest; for so to act from purpose and confirmation, is to deny its being sin, and if told that it is, to reject the consideration as of no moment; and whosoever is guilty of such denial and such rejection, makes light of whatever is called sin. They who are unwilling to hear any thing about repentance, naturally fall into such a purposed and deliberate sinfulness; but on the other hand, they who by repentance have removed some particular evils, which are sins, are brought to the settled purpose of believing in the Lord and of loving their neighbour: these latter are kept by the Lord in the purpose of abstaining from more sins; so that supposing them to sin through ignorance, or the prevalence of some particular lust, it is not imputed to them, because they did not do it purposely, nor do they confirm it in themselves by the denial that it is a sin. This may be exemplified by the following experience: I have met with several in the spiritual world, who had lived in the natural world like other people, with respect to ornaments of dress,
delicacies of food, making interest of money by trade and merchandize, frequenting play-houses, indulging in improper conversation, with several other things of a similar nature; and yet the angels charged such things as evils of sin on some, but not so on others, declaring the former criminal, and the latter not being asked the reason of such distinction, when both had indulged themselves in similar practices, they replied, that they considered and regarded all as to their purpose, intention, and end, and distinguished them accordingly, and therefore excused or condemned those whom the end excuses or condemns, inasmuch as a good end is regarded by all who are in heaven, and a bad end by all who are in hell.
524. But these points shall be illustrated by comparisons. Where sins are suffered to remain in an impenitent man, they are like various diseases of the human body, which, unless their malignity be removed by the administration of proper medicines, prove fatal: they may especially be compared to the disease called gangrene which, if it be not cured in time, spreads its infection all around, and occasions inevitable death. In like manner, they may be compared with imposthumes and abscesses, which, unless they be brought to a head, and laid open, collect large quantities of putrid matter, so that the neighbouring parts are first infected, then the adjacent viscera, and lastly the heart, the consequence of which is death. Such unremoved sins may also be compared with tigers, leopards, lions, wolves and foxes, which, except they be confined in dens, or be bound with chains or ropes, the former would assault the flocks and the herds, and the foxes the poultry, and kill them: they may also be compared to venomous serpents, which, if they be not thrust down and crushed with a stick, or deprived of their teeth, will bite and infuse into men their deadly poison. The whole flock must perish, if it be left in fields where
there are poisonous herbs, unless the shepherd drive it thence into wholesome pastures. The silk-worm too must perish, and all the silk be lost, unless all other kinds of worms be shaken off the leaves of that tree on which it feeds. Such a state may likewise be compared with corn, kept in barns or granaries, which must needs grow musty and rancid, and thus unfit for use, unless the air be suffered to pass freely through it, to keep it clean from all impurities. A fire that is not extinguished on its first breaking out, will quickly consume a whole city or forest. A garden that is not kept clear of weeds, will soon be entirely overgrown with brambles, thistles, and thorns. Skilful gardeners know that a bad tree communicateth from its root its bad juices into the stem of a good tree ingrafted or inoculated upon it, and that the bad juices which enter from beneath, are there changed into good juices, and produce good fruits; the case is the same with man, whose evils are removed by means of repentance, for by such removal he is ingrafted in the Lord, as a branch in a vine, and beareth good fruit, John xv. 4, 5, 6.
V. THAT THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN, AND THE DISCoVERY OF SOME PARTICULAR SIN IN A MAN'S SELF, IS THE BEGINNING OF REPENTANCE.
525. No one in the Christian world can possibly be without the knowledge of sin*, for every one is taught from his earliest years what is evil, and as he advances in
*The knowledge of sin here spoken of is a mere outward historical sort of knowledge, and is to be considered as differing from that interior and experimental knowledge of sin, called acknowledgment, which alone is profitable to salvation. The former knowledge is acquired by external instruction from books and men, and is here spoken of by our author as a means of attaining the latter; but the latter is only to be acquired by a man's seeing and feeling the power of evil in himself, as he examines the thoughts and intentions of his heart, together with his outward actions, by the rule of God's holy will and commandments.
age, what is the evil of sin*: all young people learn this from their parents and masters, and likewise from the decalogue, which is the first book put into the hands of all Christian children, and in the future stages of life from public preaching, and private instruction at home, and in fulness from the Word; they learn it also from the laws of civil justice, which teach the same things as the decalogue, and the other parts of the Word: for the evil of sin is nothing else but evil against a man's neighbour, and evil against a man's neighbour is also evil against God, which is sin. But the knowledge of sin is of no avail, unless a man examine the actions of his life, and consider whether he hath committed any such thing in private or in public: prior to this, his knowledge of sin is merely notional, and whatsoever he heareth from a preacher is but like an empty sound, which enters in at his left ear and goes out at his right, and so passes away: it becomes at last a mere matter of thought, or common-place devotional phrase, proceeding only from the lungs, and is at length regarded by many persons as all imagination and chimera. But the case is altogether different, where a man examines himself according to his knowledge of sin, and discovers some particular evil in himself, and then says to himself, "This evil is a sin," and abstains from it through fear of eternal punishment; then for the first time the instruction heard in the church, both by preaching and by prayer, begins to be received with both ears, and is admitted into the heart, and the man from a Pagan becomes a Christian.
* Our author here distinguisheth between evil, and the evil of sin; by mere evil he meaneth all contrariety and opposition to what is good and right, considered only in a moral and civil view, that is, in reference to the laws and opinions of men; but by the evil of sin he meaneth all contrariety and opposition to what is good and right, considered in a spiritual and religious view, that is, in reference to the laws and counsels of God.