"If we Say that we have no Sin, we Deceive Ourselves, and the Truth is not in Us. "
1 John i.8. -- "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

"The night is far spent, the day is at hand," Rom. xiii.12. This life is but as night, even to the godly. There is some light in it, -- some star light, but it is mixed with much darkness of ignorance and sin, and so it will be, till the sun arise, and the morning of their translation to heaven come. But though it be called night in one sense, in regard of that perfect glorious perpetual day in heaven, yet they are called the children of light, and of the day, and are said to walk in the light, and are exhorted to walk honestly as in the day, because, though there is a mixture of darkness in them, of weakness in their judgments, and impurity in their affections, yet they are nati ad majora, "born to greater things," and aspiring to that perfect day. There is so much light as to discern these night-monsters, their own corruptions, and Satan's temptations, -- to fight continually against them. They are about this noble work, the purifying themselves from sin and darkness, so that they lie in the middle, between the light of angels and glorified spirits, that hath no darkness in it, and the midnight of the rest of the world, who are buried in darkness and wickedness, and lie entombed in it, as the word is, 1 John v.19, "The whole world, ({GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}) lieth in wickedness: but we know that we are of God," therefore the apostle subjoins here very seasonably a caution or correction of that which was spoken about the walking in the light, and fellowship with God, which words sound out some perfection, and, to our self flattering minds, might possibly suggest some too high opinion of ourselves. If we, even we that have fellowship with God, even I, the apostle, and you believing Christians, if we say, we have no sin, no darkness in us, we do but deceive ourselves, and deny the truth. But who will say that I have no sin? Solomon gives a challenge to all the world, Prov. xx.9, "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" And, indeed, there is no man so far a stranger to himself, but if he, in sobriety and calmness, retire into his own heart, the very evidence of the impurity of it will extort this confession from him. As it useth to be said of an atheist, he feels that Divine majesty within his secret thoughts and conscience which he denieth with his mouth, and he is often forced to tremble at the remembrance of him whom he will not confess.(244) So if there be any so far bewitched and enchanted into so gross and impudent a delusion, as to assert his own perfection and vacancy from sin, and freedom from obligation to any divine command (as this time is fruitful of such monsters), yet I dare be bold to say, that in the secret and quiet reflections on themselves, they find that which they will not confess. Inwardly they feel what outwardly they deny, and cannot but sometime or other be filled with horror and anguish in their consciences, by that inwardly witnessing and checking principle, when God shall give it liberty to exercise its power over them. The end of such will be, as of professed atheists. They pretend the securest contempt and most fearless disregard of God, but then, when he awakes to judgment, or declares himself in something extraordinary, they are subject to the most panic fears and terrors, because then there is a party armed within against them, which they had disarmed in security, and kept in chains. So, whensoever such men, of such high pretensions, and sublime professions, who love to speak nothing but mysteries, and presume to such glorious discoveries of new lights of spiritual mysteries; when these, I say, have flattered themselves for a season, in the monstrous exorbitant conceit of their own perfection, and immunity from sin, and, it may be, deceived some others too, when they have lived some time in this golden dream of innocency, the time will come, either when the mighty hand of God is on them here, or when they must enter eternity, that they shall awake, and find all their iniquities in battle array, mustered by the Lord of hosts, in their conscience against themselves, and then they shall be the rarest examples of fear, terror, and unbelief who pretended to the greatest confidence, clearness, and innocency. My beloved, let us establish this as an infallible rule, to discern the spirits by, and to know what religion is, -- if it tend to glorify God, and abase man, to make him more humble, as well as holy, -- if it give the true and perfect discovery of God to man, and of man to himself, -- that is true religion and undefiled. But away with those sublime speculations, those winged and airy mysteries, those pretensions to high discoveries and new lights, if they do not increase that good old light of "humble walking with thy God" &c. If they tend to the loosing of the obligation of divine commands on thee, if they ravish man so high that he seeth not himself any more to be a poor, miserable, and darkened creature, certainly that is no fellowship with the pure light, which is not continually the discovery and further manifestation of more sin and darkness in us. For what is a man's light in the dark night of this life, but the clearing light of that darkness that is in man? And his holiness what is it, but the abhorring of himself for that? It is true, something further is attained than the knowing of this, but it is always so far short of that original pattern that the best way of expressing our conformity to it, is by how much we apprehend our distance and deformity from it.

But, my beloved, this is not all that is here meant, nor must we take it so grossly, as if this did only check the open professors of a sinless, spotless sanctity. Nay, certainly, there is another way of saying this than by the tongue and many other ways of self deceiving than that gross one, many more universal and more dangerous, because less discernible. There is something of this that even true believers may fall into, and there is something of it more common to the generality of professed Christians.

Among believers in Christ there is much difference in self judging, extreme contrarieties, both between diverse persons and in one and the same, at diverse times. You know that some are kept in the open view of their own sins and infirmities, and while they aim at holiness they are wholly disabled to that worthy endeavour by their discouragements arising from the apprehension of their own weakness and infinite short coming. Now to elevate and strengthen such spirits, that word was seasonally cast in, "and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin," for it properly belongs to the comfort of such fainting souls, and it is all one as if he had said, up and be doing, and the blood of Christ shall cleanse your evil doings. He goeth not about to persuade them to have better thoughts of themselves, or lower apprehensions of their sins but only to have higher and more suitable thoughts of Christ, and the virtue of his blood, and this is the only cure, -- not to abate from that low esteem of ourselves, but to add to the esteem and grow in the lively apprehension of Christ. I would not counsel you to think yourselves better, but to think better of him, that all your confidence may arise from him.

Now there are others, (and it may be that same person at another time, -- for the wind of temptation veers about, and is sometimes in one corner, sometimes in an other, -- our adversary useth many stratagems, and will seem to flee before us, in yielding us the victory over our unbelief, that he may in his flight return and throw some other dart upon us unawares,) when they have attained any fervency of desires, and height of design after holiness and walking with God, and this is seconded with any lively endeavours, and this confirmed and strengthened with those presences of God, and accesses into the soul, that fill it with some sweetness, -- then, I say, they are ready to apprehend too highly of themselves, as if they had attained, and to look below upon others with some disdain. Then there is not that present discovery of themselves, that may intermingle humble mourning with it, but a kind of unequal measuring their attainments by their desires, which in all true Christians are exceedingly mounted above themselves. Now, indeed, this is in effect, and really to say, "we have no sin." Herein is a delusion, a self deceiving fancy, that begets too much self pleasing. Let us know where our stance is,(245) infinitely below either our duty or our desire, and remind this often, that we may not be in hazard to be drunk with self love and self deceit in this particular. Besides, are there not many Christians who, having been once illuminated, and had some serious exercises in their souls, both of sorrow for sin and fear of wrath and comfort by the gospel, and being accustomed to some discharge of religious duties in private and public, sit down here, and have not mind of further progress? They think, if they keep that stance, they are well, and so have few designs or endeavours after more communion with God, or purification from sin. Now this makes them degenerate to formality. They wither and become barren, and are exposed by this to many temptations which overcome them. But, my beloved, is not this really and indeed to say, "we have no sin?" Do not your walking and the posture of your spirits import so much, as if you had no sin to wrestle with, no more holiness to aspire unto, as if ye had no further race to run to obtain the crown? Do not deceive yourselves, by thinking it sufficient to have so much honesty and grace, as in your opinion may put you over the black line, in irregeneration, as if ye would seek no more than is precisely necessary for salvation. Truly, if ye be so minded, you give a miserable hint, that you are not yet translated from the black side of darkness. I do not say that all such are unconverted, but, if you continue thus, without stirring up yourselves to a daily conversion and renovation, ye do too much to blot out the evidence of your conversion and at length it may prove to some a self destroying deceit, when they shall find themselves not passed over that line that passeth between heaven and hell, which they were studying to find out, only that they might pass so far over it, as might keep their soul and hell asunder, without earnest desires of advancement towards heaven in conformity to God. Now, for the generality of professed Christians, though there be none who have that general confession of sin oftener and more readily in their mouths, yet, I suppose, it is easy to demonstrate that there is much of this self deceit in them, which declares that the truth is not in them. You know both God and man construct(246) of men by their ways, not by their words, and the Lord may interpret your hearts by their dispositions, and raise a collection of atheism out of all together. "The fool hath said in his heart," &c. Even so say I, many pretended Christians say in their heart, "we have no sin." How prove ye that? I seek nothing else to prove it, than your own ordinary clearings and excusings of yourselves. Ye confess ye are sinners, and break all the commands, yet come to particulars, and I know not one of twenty that will cordially or seriously take with almost any sin. Yea, what you have granted in a general, you retract and deny it in all the particulars, which declares both that even that which you seem to know, you are altogether strangers to the real truth of it, and that you are over blinded with a fond love of yourselves. I know not to what purposes your general acknowledgments are, but to be a mask or shadow to deceive you, to be a blind to hide you from yourselves, since the most part of you, whensoever challenged of any particular sin, or inclination to it, justify yourselves, and whenever ye are put to a particular confession of your sins, you have all rapt up in such a bundle of confusion, that you never know one sin by another. Certainly, ye deceive yourselves, and the truth is not in you.

Let me add, moreover, another instance. Do you not so live, and walk in sin so securely, so impenitently, as if you had no sin, no fear of God's wrath? Do not the most part contentedly and peaceably live in so much ignorance of the gospel, as if they had no need of Christ, and so, by consequence, as if they had no sin? For if you did believe in the heart, and indeed consider that your hearts are sinks of iniquity and impurity, would you not think it necessary to apply to the Physician? And would you not then labour to know the Physician, and the gospel, which is the report of him? Certainly, inasmuch as you take no pains for the knowledge of a Saviour, you declare that you know not your sin, for if ye know the one, ye could not but search to know the other. What is the voice of most men's walking? Doth it not proclaim this, that they think there is no sin in them? For if there be sin in you, is there not a curse upon you, and wrath before you? And if you did really see the one, would you not see the other? And did you see it, would it not drive you to more serious thoughts? Would it not affright you? Would it not cause you often to retire into yourselves, and from the world? And, above all, how precious would the tidings of a Saviour be, that now are common and contemptible? Would you not every day wash in that blood? Would the current of repentance dry? But, forasmuch as you are not exercised this way, give no thoughts nor time for reconcilement with God, walk without any fear of hell, and without any earnest and serious study of changing your ways, and purifying your hearts, in a word, though ye confess sin in the general, yet your whole carriage of heart and ways declare so much, that you think it not a thing much to be feared, or that a man should busy himself about it, that a man may live in it, and be well here and hereafter. And is not this to deny the very nature of sin, and to deceive your own souls?

sermon xv and the blood
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