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Serm. the plucking out our eye is given as an inXXIV. stance, is, because it lets all the temptations of

the world in upon us; for which reason it is faid, if thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light ; and yet we must part with it, though it is one of the tendereft and most ornamental parts of the body.

And this is so far from being a hard saying, that the only intent of it is to make the practice of virtue and holiness easy to us; it would have been a very hard saying indeed, if he had required us to expose ourfelves to all manner of temptations, to be ever in the

the way of them, and yet to resist and overcome them all; if he had commanded us to be always in the midst of infection, and yet never fuffer ourselves to be tainted with it. This perhaps would have been as impossible in religion as it is in nature; for many temptations are infectious and catch ing, and we are naturally disposed to be wrought upon by them as by sicknefs, and there is a great likeness in both with respect to us : So that it is easy to keep ourselves from it, but the remedy or cure is very

hazardous and uncertain.

So that there is a necessity of depriving ourselves of any enjoyment whatever, though as dear to us as our eyes, if it be the occasion of sin to us.

Some temptations are of that nature, that they never will be conquered by any other means; if we venture upon them any other way, at the best we do but create our

felves a great deal of danger and uneasiness;S E R M. and it is ten to one but it gets the better of us

XXIV. at last. So that in many cafes we are to fhun temptation, and fly from it rather than stay and encounter it: There is a great deal of christian fortitude in flying ; for if I know my frailty to be fuch, that the presence of a temptation is too strong for me, I overcome it effectually by keeping out of the way of it, and cutting off all occasion or opportunity; and though some affection or inclination to the sin may remain, (as people may have a great tenderness for thofe infected limbs they cut off to preserve their life,) yet if I restrain myself fo far as to keep out of the reach of the temptation, which if present I have reason to fear would be too hard for me, it is but temptation Still, and

my

innocence is preferved.
Men never gain any thing by daring of their
spiritual enemies ; this vaunting hath common-
ly as ill succefs in religion as it hath in war ;
they are not to be met in the field and en-
gaged in a pitched battle, unlefs in extraordi-
nary cases, where God gives us a warrant and
unusual strength for the fight. Instead of en-
gaging them all at once in the field, in their
greatest force, we have more need of prudence,
and caution, and foresight to weaken them by
degrees; by guarding all our out-works, pre-
venting their approaches, and keeping them
always at a distance.

5. Another inference I shall make from
these words is, that no wilful fins persisted in

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SER M. can be of excusable infirmity; nothing is more XXIV. ordinary in the world, than for people upon

the strength of a lively imagination, and a warm temper, to keep up a great appearance of devotion and piety, though they at the fame time continue in the practice of wilful and deliberate fins ; and they quiet their consciences with the hopes, that they are only the unavoidable infirmities of good and regenerate persons. But let the temptation be what it will, it is absolutely necessary that we should conquer it; for if our hand offends us we must cut it off; if our very eye offends us we must pluck it out; there is nothing so dear to us that we must not part with to avoid a sin; no pleasure so great that we must not foregoe; and we must quit the greatest worldly enjoyments, which our own experience Thews us we cannot preserve without a sin; this is indispensably required from us in the words of

my text.

And it is certainly in our power to undergo the feverest methods of virtue, and to conquer the strongest temptation incident to human nature, if we will but follow our Saviour's directions, and cut off and caft

from us every thing that is a strong temptation to us; for though it may not be in our power to overcome the temptation, yet, it is certainly in our power to remove it, and this will render us inexcufable before God. How strong foever our natural inclinations to fin are, we

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must

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must suppress and restrain them, and how Ser m.
great soever the temptation is we must over- XXIV.
come it; there is no other condition of salva-
tion, and we are told plainly we cannot enter
into the kingdom of God upon any other
terms.

No excuse of weakness or infirmity will
serve our turn, for the grace of God will be
sufficient for us if we use the means ; and
this is the proper means to cut off the temp-
tation, and remove from us what we are not
able to conquer. All pretence of infirmity is
shamefully foolish and ridiculous, while peo-
ple continue the immediate causes and oppor-
tunities, and occasions of finning : This is the
true reason of that weakness they complain of,
because they will not part with the tempta-
tion; they will cherish a snake in their bosom,
and then complain they cannot prevent being
stung by it.

Let no one therefore encourage themselves
in
any

false hopes of salvation, while they re-
main in any known sin; for it is certain that
he that commits sin is of the devil, and they
that are born of God do not commit fin
there is no pleasure or advantage this world
affords, but they are ready to cut off and cast
away from them with indignation ; and they
are ready to part with all that is near and dear
to them, for the preservation of innocence and
a good conscience.

VI. Another thing I shall observe to you from these words is, that a thorough conquest Vol. II.

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SERM. of that temptation which is strongest and XXIV.most prevalent with us, is the greatest evidence w of our sincerity in religion : and indeed the

only one upon which we can build any comfortable hopes of heaven: It is true what our Saviour says here may be applied to all temptations which assault any of us; but however they plainly intimate that some one temptation in each person is most powerful, and that one person may have a hand to cut off, and another an eye to pluck out; and he seems to lay the greatest stress upon that very instance of virtue and holiness which we are aptest to transgress; and upon avoiding that very fin which we are most violently tempted to.

It is very common with people to say, by way of justification of themselves, as they ordinarily do for other people, that this is

my only great failing, and the only infirmity I have not mastered ; I am very well inclined in all other respects; and since I am not otherwise faulty, I hope God in mercy will pass by this, and accept of my obedience in all other instances ; especially since I do not persist in sin out of any designed contempt : This is too general a deceit, and a prevailing hypocrisy; but it is a fatal one, and will as surely cut them off from heaven, as if they were guilty in all other respects ; for he that offends in one point is guilty of the whole law, he is as liable to condemnation as if he had transgressed it all.

How

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