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we return and repent: for true repentance will reinstate us, and reconcile us to God, even after wilful, and deliberate, and crying sins.

But to return to our point: there is the greatest reason and equity imaginable here shewn in making such distinction between sins of infirmity and deliberate sins: because this is estimating of men according to their sincerity, and according to the turn of their hearts, of which God alone is the unerring judge, and which he has chiefly respect to ; because indeed the heart is the principal thing, the mind is the man. In this state of weakness and darkness, a man may easily be conceived to fall into several errors, or slight offences; though at the same time he retains a prevailing fear of God, and is sincerely endeavouring to please him in all things. Men who love money ever so well, may yet sometimes, contrary to their principle, and beside their main intention, take false measures, whereby they shall suffer damage; or may not be sharp enough, or sufficiently diligent, in taking all advantages of gain. It is no argument that a man does not value his health, if he accidentally and unwarily either draws distempers upon himself, or forgets now and then to use the means proper to prevent or cure them. In like manner, it is no argument of a man's disregard to religion, or of his casting off the fear or love of God, that he sometimes unwarily and indiscreetly falls short of his duty, or is not altogether so careful and punctual in his religious porformances as he might have been. God will wink at such failures, and connive at such deviations, well knowing that men are men, and that sincerity of the heart is all that is necessary to be required or exacted of them.

The result then of what hath been said under this head is, that sins of infirmity are very consistent with a state of grace, do not break our peace with God, nor endanger our salvation. But it remains still thirdly,

III. To inquire what kind of conduct or management, on our part, is prudent or proper in regard to them. As to which I may presume to say, that though sins of infirmity are not the most dangerous, nor in their nature damning; yet it concerns us highly to repent of them, and to pray against them, and to labour what we can to be free from them, and to get above them. Ι.Ι say

it concerns us to repent of them, that is, to express our sorrow and contrition for them, and to humble ourselves before God on the account of them. That they are sins is supposed, though not wilful or deliberate sins: and as they are sins, they will stand in need of pardon ; and if they need pardon, they will also require repentance ; which is the condition on which pardon is promised, and by means of which it will be given. But then the question is, what kind of repentance? And the answer is, a general repentance may suffice, not extending to every particular : nor is it necessary that such repentance be completely practical, amounting to an entire cessation from the sins of that kind. Both these things shall be explained presently.

6 Who can

First I say, a general repentance may suffice. We need not, we cannot be particular in all our sins of infirmity. “ tell how oft he offendeth in this kind ?" We are not aware perhaps of one half or a tenth part of our failures; and therefore cannot particularly repent of them : and even those which we have been aware of, while fresh and new, yet easily slip out of our memories; and the very number of them, as they happen daily or hourly, is much too great to be distinctly considered or retained. David says of his own sins, that “ they were more in 6 number than the hairs of his head.” I suppose he took in his sins of infirmity to raise the account; otherwise this expression of his is by no means reconcilable with Scripture history, or the character of so good a man as David was. But from hence we may judge of the number of those slighter sins, which human frailty is ever liable to, and which therefore are sometimes called sins of daily incursion. It cannot be necessary either to remember them distinctly, or to make particular confession of them. It is sufficient if we think and speak of them in general as deviations from our duty, as imperfections known or unknown, repenting of them in the lump, and humbling ourselves before God for them. Wilful and deliberate sins, as they are knowingly committed, and as they leave a wound upon the conscience, as they are further very provoking and grievous, and make a fatal breach between the offender and Almighty God; these therefore require a very particular repentance, and a more especial sorrow and humiliation. They are very easily remembered, being few in comparison, and of such a kind as cannot easily be forgotten; and therefore a man ought, in his confession of, and humiliations for, sins of that nature, to be as particular and distinct as possible: but sins of infirmity are too many to be recounted, or

even to be observed, and very slight in comparison; and therefore it is that they neither require, nor indeed admit of any thing more than a general repentance.

But there is a further difference between the repentance proper to wilful sins, and the repentance required for human frailties. A man must not be content merely to confess and to declare his sorrow for wilful sins ; but he must renounce and forsake them, and never rest satisfied till he has divested himself of them. But as to sins of infirmity, the case is different : they are such as a good man may be content to live with and die with ; and that, because he never can entirely remove them from him. They are inseparable from flesh and blood, are interwoven into our very frame, and are as natural and necessary, in some degree at least, as it is to be weak or frail, unthinking or unobserving; or, as it is to be liable to forgetfulness, fatigue, weariness, and the like. We are never to expect to get above every infirmity, or to correct every failing. The best of men cannot do it; the greatest of God's saints have not : and therefore it is that we say of this case, that it is not necessary for our repentance to be completely practical. We may express our sorrow and concern even for the sins of infirmity which we fall into : but as we can never hope to gain the entire mastery over them, or to get above them ; so neither is it required of us, in order either to our peace here or happiness hereafter. But then,

2. Besides a general repentance, though not completely practical, for sins of this kind; we should further add our devout prayers to God, to make us every day less and less liable to them, and not to impute them. The prayer of the holy Psalmist in this case is very observable, though a very short one : “Who

can tell how oft he offendeth? O cleanse thou me from my “ secret faults !” So the words run in our old translation, Psal. xix. 12.

The secret faults are well interpreted here to mean sins of infirmity, as opposed to known presumptuous sins, which he prays to be kept from in the verse next following. When he prays to be cleansed from secret faults, we may understand two things : first, to be acquitted, pardoned, justified, through the mercy of God, not imputing to him those smaller offences; and secondly, to be more and more strengthened by God's grace to conquer the infirmities he laboured under. Upon the whole, it is a petition for pardon of past sins, and for greater degrees of perfection for the future: and such a prayer may well become every good man now, with regard to sins of infirmity. He ought to beg pardon of God for them, as they are really sins : and it is of near concernment to us, to pray to God daily for his grace to enable us to arrive to still higher and higher degrees of perfection. The greater perfection we attain to, the more secure are we against falling back; and not only so, but we thereby become qualified for a higher and nobler reward. Even sins of infirmity, the more numerous they are, and the oftener they occur, so much the more dangerous are they ; and if they be not carefully watched against, they may gradually sink us into an ill state, may pave the way to wilful, deliberate sins. For this reason principally we ought to pray against them, and to implore God's mercy and assistance, that he may please to pardon and forgive what is past, and to guard and strengthen us for the time to come. 3.

The third and last article of our conduct, is to use our best endeavours along with our prayers, to guard, as much as possibly we can, even against those smaller sins, lest they should

lead to greater.

Sins of infirmity, if indulged, if consented to, if suffered to rest upon us, are no longer sins of mere infirmity, but grow up into wilful, deliberate sins. Their very name and nature sup- : poses some unavoidable weakness, and not wilfulness, to have the principal hand in them. They are infirmities, because, though we strive against them, and do our best to avoid them, yet we are surprised into them, and overcome by them. When we have done, and still continue to do, as much as lies in our power to correct our failings, and to fill up our defects; we may then very fairly give the name of infirmities to what remains : but if we use not the proper means to correct and amend, so far as may be, such our failings; those very failings will be imputed to us as wilful and deliberate sins. For the purpose : wandering and distraction in prayer may, in the general, be justly reckoned among the sins of infirmity: but if a man tamely suffer such a habit to grow upon him, and take no pains to prevent or lessen it; if he neither strive against it, nor so much as endeavour to correct it, in such measure at least as it may

be corrected; to him it shall be imputed as a wilful sin, and shall no longer pass under the soft name of human frailty. So again : angry and passionate words, upon some occasions, exceeding the bounds of moderation and meekness, may be rightly enough numbered among the sins of infirmity: but yet, if a man frequently fall into such irregular heats; if he choose so to do, and use not his best endeavours to subdue his passions, and to reform his tongue ; to him such intemperate sallies will be imputed as presumptuous sins, and not sins of infirmity. The same is the case in all other sins called sins of infirmity; they are no otherwise such, but as a man has done his best to correct them, and yet sinks under them : it is therefore absolutely necessary for every good man to labour, strive, and endeavour what he can, against every the smallest sin, or slightest offence, (as it is thought,) because it is this striving and endeavouring against it which at length renders it slight and pitiable in the sight of God : for this is our apology, this our plea, for our committing sins of that kind ; that we did what we could to avoid them; and at length fell into them by surprise, by inadoertency, by weakness, when we did not intend it, when we intended otherwise.

Upon the whole then, we are obliged constantly to watch, pray, and endeavour against all kinds of sins, sins of infirmity as well as others; and that in order to stand clear of wilful sin, and to preserve our peace with God. Venture not upon any sin, under the notion of its being a small sin only: for it is not small if it be wilful, or if it be readily and fully consented to. Wilful disobedience, even in a slight matter, is no slight thing. The wil fulness shewn in it makes the offence grievous : and however small the matter of it may seem, the contempt is great, and is itself a high crime. Let us therefore make it our conscientious care to avoid, as much as possible, all sins whatever, great and small, and to approach every day nearer and nearer to religious perfection. And may God enable us, by his grace, to get ground of our infirmities, and to improve daily in every good word and work.

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