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but, when you hear and are convinced, that all your thoughts should be holy, and that all your discourse should be savoury, and such as should minister profit and edification unto others; if, after this,you still think it of no great moment, whether they be vain and frothy, or whether they be holy-and spiritual; believe it, this shews you to be despisers of God's dominion and authority over you, when his Commands cannot prevail against the least sin. "What a small matter was it," may some say, "for Adam to eat of an apple in paradise!" But, was it not as small a matter for him to forbear and let it alone? And, therefore, this Small Sin shewed no small contempt of God's authority, who had strictly forbidden it.
When we sin, we flatter ourselves straight with this; "Is it not a little one ?" Truly, if it be but a little one to commit, it is but a little one to refrain from. It is an aggravation of sin, rather than an excuse, to say, our sins are but little ones. It shews a heart hardened against God, and bewrays a desperate contempt of all that he can say to us or do against us, when we shall choose rather to thwart and break his commands, to venture on or rather to despise his power, wrath, and justice, than to forego our Little Sins. v V
v. Little Sins Do Greatly Deface The Image Of God in
THE SOUL. ;'-•'!'
Adam was at first created according to the similitude and likeness of God: he had the divine portraiture drawn upon his soul, by the creating finger of the Almighty: and yet we see how little a sin defaced it, and spoiled him of all his glory. In curious pictures, a small scratch is a great deformity: certainly, the image of God is such a curious piece of workmanship, that the least scratch or flaw in it by the least sin deforms and turns that, which before was the image of God, into the image of the Devil.
vi. Little Sins Have In Them, Ordinarily, Less Of TemptaTion THAN OTHER SINS HAVE; AND, THEREFORE, THEY HAVE MORE OF WILFULNESS IN THEM. - -' •
If it be no excuse of sin, yet certainly it is a ground of pity and commiseration, when those fall into the commission of sin, who are assaulted and haunted with most violent and eager temptations: when the Devil will not let them alone for a moment's time, but pursues them from place to place; and, though they once and again reject and resist him, yet still he forceth his temptations upon them. If such as these are at length overcome by those impudent importunities of that Evil One, this their yielding requires our pity; and, it may be, shall more easily obtain God's pardoning grace and mercy.
But thou, that ordinarily committest those that thou callest Little Sins, hast no such alleviation for them. What temptation canst thou plead? Doth the Devil continually dogg thee with such solicitations and persuasions, that, though thou wouldst, yet thou canst not resist. No, certainly: when the powers of hell arm themselves against a soul, it is to more advantage, than the commission of a Little Sin. Little Sins have scarce any other temptation to enforce them, besides the commonness and customariness of committing them. v.. . j
The two great arguments,..by which the Devil prevails in all his temptations, are Pleasure and Profit. Now both of these do usually attend the big and more bulky sins: but Little Sins have usually this aggravation left upon them, that, if men will commit them, they shall become sinners for nothing.
Tell me, what profit hath the profane spirit to be continually stewing and soaking a lust in his own thoughts? What profit or pleasure hath the common swearer, for to think himself to be but a little sinner, in rapping out his oaths against God and heaven? "Were I an epicure," says one both piously and ingeniously," I would hate swearing." Were men such, as sold themselves unto all manner of sensual delights; yet so little can be strained from this common sin, that it can hardly bear the countenance or pretence of a temptation. .'' . \'. '' .1
Now if it be not the violence of temptation, that makes you to sin, it can be nothing else, but your own wilfulness, that makes you thus to sin. Wilfulness is the measure of all guilt: according as your sins are more or less wilful, so are you the more or less sinful. Now it is not the Devil's temptations, but your own wilfulness, that runs you upon the commission of Little Sins; and this is it, that aggravates and heightens them: you sin voluntarily, without compulsion; and so, by mystery of iniquity, you make yourselves great sinners by committing Little Sins.
....••• ''• .. ,' . ...:vii. Little Sins Do Maintain The Trade And Course Of
SINNING. I'",'•' '.'•' ' 'r , ..
The Devil cannot expect always to receive such returns of great and crying impieties: but yet, when he keeps the stock of corruption going, and drives on the trade of sinning by Lesser Sins; believe it, corruption will be on the thriving hand, and you may grow rich in guilt and treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath, by adding those that you call Little Sins unto the heap. It is not possible, that any sinner in the world should be always raging against God, by daring and staring sins: for though the principle of corruption aims still to exertits utmost strength; yet the faculties, in which it dwells and by which it acts, cannot bear so constant an intentness. There must be, therefore, in the vilest sinners, some intermission. But, yet, in this intermission there is the continued practice and course of small sins, that tack and unite them together: betwixt the commission of one gross sin and another, intervene a constant neglect and forget fulness of God, a constant hardness of heart, a constant vanity and unfruitfulness of life; and, by these, though sinners look upon them as small sins, yet they still plod on in the way of hell and destruction without any stop or interruption. In sharp diseases, the violence of the fit doth not last so long as the disease lasts: at times, there is an intermission; but still there is a constant distemper in the body: so when the pang of a violent sin is well over; yet still there remains a constant distemper in the soul, which, though it be not outrageous, yet still continues the soul's disease, and will bring it to its death at last. In the fortification ofa city or town, all the ramparts, are not castles and strongholds; but, between fort and fort, there is a line drawn, that doth, as it were, join all together and make the placeimpregnable: so is it in the fortification of the soul by sin: all sins are not strong-holds of Satan: they are greater and grosser sins; but, between these, is drawn a line of smaller sins, so close, that you cannot find a breach.in it; and, by these, the heart is fenced against God. Now, is it nothing, that your Little Sins fill up all the void spaces of your lives? Is it nothing, that you no where lie open to the force and impression of the Holy Spirit? He, by his convictions, batters the greater and more heinous sins of your lives; but these strong-holds of Satan are impregnable, and give him the repulse. He seeks to enter in by the thoughts; but these are so fortified by vanity and earthly-mindedness, and a thousand other follies, that, though they are but little sins,yet swarms of them stop up the passage; and the soul is so full already, that there is no room for the Holy Spirit to enter. There is not a sinner here, if he will make an impartial search within himself, but will find the experience of this in his own breast. When,at any time,you have flown out into the commission of any boisterous and notorious wickedness, have you not afterwards found, that you lived in a more constant liking and allowance of Little Sins? When once a man is stunned by some heavy blow, a small nip or pinch is not then felt by him: and, when once conscience is deadened by the stroke of some great and scandalous sin, afterwards it grows less sensible of the guilt and evil that there is in smaller sins: and thus you live in them without pain and regret,till you fall into some notorious wickedness, that more hardens the heart and more sears the conscience; and what is this, but to run round from sin to sin, from a small sin to a great sin, and from a great sin to a small sin again, till hell put a period to this circle? What is this now, but for the Devil to get ground upon you by Great Sins, and to keep it by Little Sins, whereby he drives on and keeps up the trade of Sin? And, when God shall cast up your accounts for you at the Last Day, you will find that the trade hath gained you no small loss, even the loss of your immortal souls.
III. Now, although the evil and danger of committing Little Sins hath been made very apparent in the forementioned particulars, yet, because men are very prone to indulge and excuse themselves herein, I shall add SOME FARTHER DEMONSTRATIONS OF THEIR AGGRAVATED GUILT in these following particulars: which will serve greatly for the confirmation of the truth of the doctrine.
i. Consider, Little Sins Usually Are The Damning And DeStroying Sins.
There are more, beyond comparison, that perish and go down to hell by the commission of Little Sins, than by those that are more notorious and infamous.
Here, perisheth the Hypocrite; and, here, the Formal Professor. Here, perisheth your Honest, Civil, Neighbourly Man; that is so fair and upright in his dealing, that you can see nothing that is gross and scandalous by him: oh! but yet the blood of their precious and immortal souls runs out and is spilt for ever, through those insensible wounds, that Little Sins do make. Yea hereby commonly perisheth the Profane Sinner
VOL. IL J
also: for it is usually but the commission of one Small Sin more, that fills up the measure of his iniquities, and makes him fully ripe for damnation. l
Sometimes, indeed, God doth, by some signal stroke of his vengeance, strike the sinner through and through in the commission of some bold and daring sin; but, usually, the last sin of the worst of men is but of the lesser size: and, though God hath formerly borne many great impieties from such persons; yet is he, at last, so provoked by some Little Sin, that he will wait no longer, but snatches the sinner away in his wrath and throws him down into hell.
This is an argument how dreadfully provoking Small Sins are, that, usually, upon the commission of one of them, God puts an end to his patience and forbearance. It is not all the great and crying sins of a man's life, that bring so much misery upon him, as a Little Sin, that sinks him down into eternal torments, doth. Usually, the last sin, that a sinner enters into hell by, is but a Little Sin.
Take it, therefore, as a warning from God: henceforth,never more despise any sin as slight, because it is small. We have a known proverb among us, That when a beast hath his full load, one straw more will break his back. Believe it, Sirs, it is most certainly true in the present case. Many, Christians, have been a long time sinners against God and their own souls, adding iniquity to iniquity; and some of you may already have your full load: oh, beware how you ever venture upon the commission of another sin: though it be but a little and a slight sin; yet this slight and small sin,added to the rest, may sink you for ever into hell: this Little Sin may fill up the ephah of your iniquities; and, after this Small Sin, you may neither have time to sin again, nor to repent of your sin.
ii. Consider this: Small Sins, What They Want In Weight, Usually They »o MORE Than Make UP IN Number: and, therefore, are as pernicious to the soul, as the greatest sins can be.
Hence David prays, Ps. xix. 12. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret sins. Secret sins must needs be the least and smallest sins; seeing they are so small, that he, that commits them, cannot discern them: but yet, as they are small, so are they numerous: Who knows how often he thus transgresseth? Who can understand his errors? Therefore, cleanse thou me, O Lord, from these secret sins.