But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
I. First, I shall endeavour to represent to you THE GROWING DANGER OF SIN, and by what steps and degrees bad habits do insensibly gain upon men and harden them in an evil course. All the actions of men which are not natural, but proceed from deliberation and choice, have something of difficulty in them when we first practise them, because, at first, we are exercised in that way; but after we have practised them awhile they become more easy, and when they are easy, we begin to take pleasure in them; and when they please us we do them frequently, and think we cannot repeat them too often; and, by frequency of acts a thing grows into a habit, and a confirmed habit is a second kind of nature: and so far as anything is natural, so far it is necessary, and we can hardly do otherwise; nay, we do it many times when we do not think of it.
1. Men begin with lesser sins. No man is perfectly wicked on the sudden.
2. After men have been sometime initiated in these lesser sins they are prepared for greater; such as lay waste the conscience and offer more violence to the light and reason of their minds.
3. When a man hath proceeded thus far he begins to put off shame, one of the greatest restraints from sin which God hath laid upon human nature. And when this curb once fails off, there is then but little left to restrain and hold us in.
4. After this it is possible men may come to approve their vices. For if men's judgments do not command their wills and restrain their lusts, it is great odds, in process of time, the vicious inclinations of their wills will put a false bias upon their judgments; and then it is no wonder, if men come to boast of their sins and to glory in their vices, when they arc half persuaded that they are generous and commendable qualities.
5. From this pitch of wickedness, men commonly proceed to draw in others, and to make proselytes to their vices. But that which renders the condition of such persons much more deplorable is, that all this while God is withdrawing His grace from them. For every degree of sin causeth the Holy Spirit of God with all His blessed assistances to retire farther from them. And thus, by passing from one degree of sin to another, the sinner becomes hardened in his wickedness. For the mind of man, after it hath long been accustomed to evil, and is once grown old in vice, is almost as hard to be rectified as it is to recover a body bowed down with age to its first straightness.
II. I shall, from this consideration, take occasion to show WHAT GREAT REASON AND NEED THERE IS TO WARN MEN OF THIS DANGER, and to endeavour to rescue them out of it. If we believe the threatening of God which we declare to others, if we have any sense of our own duty and safety, we cannot but be earnest with sinners to break off their sins, and to give glory to God by repentance before darkness come.
III. I apply myself to this work of EXHORTATION — the duty commanded here in the text.
1. To persuade those who are yet in some measure innocent, to resist the beginnings of sin, lest it gain upon them by degrees. Vice may easily be discouraged at first. It is like a slight disease, which is easy to be cured, but dangerous to be neglected. As there is a connection of one virtue with another, so vices are linked together, and one sin draws many after it. When the devil tempts a man to commit any wickedness, he does as it were lay a long train of sins, and if the first temptation take, they give fire to one another.
2. To persuade those who are already engaged in a wicked course, to make haste out of this dangerous state. And there is no other way to get out of it but by repentance; that is, by a real change and reformation of our lives.
Parallel VersesKJV: But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.