Sermon CIII


The second Sermon on Psalm xxxviii. 4.

For mine iniquities are gone over my head, as a heavy burden, they are too

heavy for me.

As the philosopher says, if a man could see virtue, he would love it, so if a man could see sin, he would hate it. But as the eye sees everything but itself, so does sin too. It sees beauty, and honour, and riches, but it sees not itself, not the sinful coveting, and compassing of all these. To make, though not sin, yet the sinner to see himself, for the explication, and application of these words, we brought you these two lights; first, the multiplicity of sin, in that elegancy of the Holy Ghost, supergressw sunt, Mine iniquities are gone over my head, and the weight and oppression of sin, in that, Gravatw nimis, As a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me; in the first, how numerous, how manifold they are, in the other, how grievous, how insupportable; first,

how many hands, then how fast hold sin lays upon me. The first of these two was our exercise the last day, when we proposed and proceeded in these words, in which we presented to you, the dangerous multiplicity of sin, in those pieces, which constituted that part. But because, as men, how many soever, make but a multitude, or a throng, and not an army, if they be unarmed, so sin, how manifold, and multiform soever, might seem a passable thing, if it might be easily shaked off, we come now to imprint in you a sense of the weight and impression thereof, As a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me; the particular degrees whereof, we laid down the last day, in our general division of the whole text, and shall now pursue them, according to our order proposed then.

First then, sin is heavy. Does not the sinner find it so? No marvel, nothing is heavy in his proper place, in his own sphere, in his own centre, when it is where it would be, nothing is heavy. He that lies under water finds no burden of all that water that lies upon him; but if he were out of it, how heavy would a small quantity of that water seem to him, if he were to carry it in a vessel! An habitual sinner is the natural place, the centre of sin, and he feels no weight in it, but if the grace of God raise him out of it, that he come to walk, and walk in the ways of godliness, not only his watery tympanies, and his dropsies, those waters which by actual and habitual sins he hath contracted, but that water, of which he is properly made, the water that is in him naturally, infused from his parents, original sin, will be sensible to him, and oppress him. Scarce any man considers the weight of original sin; and yet, as the strongest temptations fall upon us when we are weakest, in our death-bed, so the heaviest sins seizes us, when we are weakest; as soon as we are anything, we are sinners, and there; where there can be no more temptations ministered to us, than was to the angels that fell in heaven, that is, in our mother's womb, when no world, nor flesh, nor devil could present a provocation to sin to us, when no faculty of ours is able to embrace, or second a provocation to sin, yet there, in that weakness, we are under the weight of original sin. And truly, if at this time, God would vouchsafe me my choice, whether he should pardon me all those actual and habitual sins, which I have committed in my life, or extinguish original sin in me, I should choose to be delivered from original sin, because, though I be delivered from the imputation thereof, by baptism, so that I shall not fall under a condemnation for original sin only, yet it still remains in me, and practices upon me, and occasions all the other sins, that I commit; now, for all my actual and habitual sins, I know God hath instituted means in his church, the Word, and the Sacraments, for my reparation; but with what a holy alacrity, with what a heavenly joy, with what a cheerful peace, should I come to the participation of these means and seals of my reconciliation, and pardon of all my sins, if I knew myself to be delivered from original sin, from that snake in my bosom, from that poison in my blood, from that leaven and tartar in all my actions, that casts me into relapses of those sins which I have repented! And what a cloud upon the best serenity of my conscience, what an interruption, what a discontinuance from the sincerity and integrity of that joy, which belongs to a man truly reconciled to God, in the pardon of his former sins, must it needs be still to know, and to know by lamentable experiences, that though I wash myself with soap, and nitre, and snow-water, mine own clothes will defile me again, though I have washed myself in the tears of repentance, and in the blood of my Saviour, though I have no guiltiness of any former sin upon me at that present, yet I have a sense of a root of sin, that is not grubbed up, of original sin, that will cast me back again. Scarce any man considers the weight, the oppression of original sin. No man can say, that an acorn weighs as much as an oak; yet in truth, there is an oak in that acorn: no man considers that original sin weighs as much as actual, or habitual, yet in truth, all our actual and habitual sins are in original. Therefore St. Paul's vehement, and frequent prayer to God, to that purpose, could not deliver him from original sin, and that stimulus carnis, that provocation of the flesh, that messenger of Satan, which rises out of that, God would give him sufficient grace, it should not work to his destruction, but yet he should have it: nay, the infinite merit of Christ Jesus himself, that works so upon all actual and habitual sins, as that after that merit is applied to them, those sins are no sins, works not so upon original sin, but that, though I be eased in the dominion, and imputation thereof, yet the samo original sin is in me still; and though God do doliver mo from eternal death, due to mine actual and habitual sins, yet from the temporal death, due to original sin, he delivers not his doarest saints.

This sin is heavy in the seed, in the grain, in the acorn, how much more when it is a field of corn, a barn of grain, a forest of oaks, in the multiplication, and complication of sin in sin? And yet we consider the weight of sin another way too, for as Christ feels all the afflictions of his children, so his children will feel all the wounds that are inflicted upon him; even the sins of other men; as Lot's righteous soul was grieved with sins of others. If others sin by my example and provocation, or by my connivance and permission, when I have authority, their sin lies heavier upon me, than upon themselves; for they have but the weight of their own sin; and I have mine, and theirs upon me; and though, I cannot have two souls to suffer, and though there cannot be two everlastingnesses in the torments of hell, yet I shall have two measures of those unmeasurable torments upon my soul. But if I have no interest in the sins -of other men, by any occasion ministered by me, yet I cannot choose but feel a weight, a burden of a holy anguish, and compassion and indignation, because every one of these sins inflict a new wound upon my Saviour, when my Saviour says to him, that does but injure me, Why persecutest thou me, and feels the blow upon himself, shall not I say to him that wounds my Saviour, Why woundest thou me, and groan under the weight of my brothers sin, and my Father's, my Maker's, my Saviour's wound? If a man of my blood, or alliance, do a shameful act, I am affected with it; if a man of my calling, or profession, do a scandalous act, I feel myself concerned in his fault; God hath made all mankind of one blood, and all Christians of one calling, and the sifls of every man concern every man, both in that respect, that I, that is, this nature, is in that man that sins that sin; and I, that is, this nature, is in that Christ, who is wounded by that sin. The weight of sin, were it but original sin, were it but the sins of other men, is an insupportable weight.

But if a sinner will take a true balance, and try the right weight of sin, let him go about to leave his sin, and then he shall see how Vol. iV. 2 c

close, and how heavily it stuck to him. Then one sin will lay the weight, of silliness, of falsehood, of inconstancy, of dishonour, of ill-nature, if you go about to leave it: and another sin will lay the weight of poverty, of disestimation upon you, if you go about to leave it. One sin will lay your pleasures upon you, another your profit, another your honour, another your duty to wife and children, and weigh you down with these. Go but out of the water, go but about to leave a sin, and you will find the weight of it, and the hardness to cast it off. Gravatw sunt, mine iniquities are heavy, (that was our first) and gravatw nimis, they are too heavy, which is a second circumstance.

Some weight, some ballast is necessary to make a ship go steady; we are not without advantage, in having some sin; some concupiscence, some temptation is not too heavy for us. The greatest sins that ever were committed, were committed by them, who had no former sin, to push them on to that sin: the first angel's sin, and the sin of Adam, are noted to be the most desperate and the most irrecoverable sins, and they were committed, when they had no former sin in them. The angel's punishment is pardoned in no part; Adam's punishment is pardoned in no man, in this world. Now such sins as those, that is, sins that are never pardoned, no man commits now; not now, when he hath the weight of former sins to push him on. Though there be a heavy guiltiness in original sin, yet I have an argument, a plea for mercy out of that, Lord, my strength is not the strength of stones, nor my flesh brass1; Lord, no man can bring a clean thing out of uncleanness; Lord, no man can say after, I have cleansed my heart, I am free from sin, I could not be born clean, I could not cleanse myself since. It magnifies God's glory, it amplifies man's happiness, that he is subject to temptation. If man had been impeccable, that he could not have sinned, he had not been so happy; for then, he could only have enjoyed that state, in which he was created; and not have risen to any better; because that better estate, is a reward of our willing obedience to God, in such things, as we might have disobeyed him in. Therefore when the apostle was in danger, of growing too light, lest he should be exalted out of measure, through the abundance of revelation*,

{says that Scripture) he had a weight hung upon him; there was something given him, therefore it was a benefit, a gift; and it was angelus, an angel, that was given him; but it was not a good angel, a tutelar, a guardian angel, to present good motions unto him, but it was angelus Satanw, a messenger of Satan, sent, as he says, to buffet him; and yet this hostile angel, this messenger of Satan was a benefit, a gift, and a forerunner, and some kind of inducer of that grace, which was sufficient for him: and it would not have appeared to us, no nor to himself, that he had had so much of that grace, if he had not had this temptation. God is as powerful upon us when he delivers us from temptation, that it do not overtako us; but not so apparent, so evident, so manifest, as when he delivers us in a temptation, that it do not overcome us: some weight does but ballast us, as some enemies never do us more harm, but occasion us, to arm and to stand upon our guard. Therefore, this weight that is complained of here, is not in came, in our natural flesh; (though in that be no goodness) it is nothing that God from the beginning hath imprinted in our nature, not that peccability, and possibility of sinning; nor is it not in stimulo carnis, in these accessary temptations, and provocations which awaken, and provoke the malignity of this flesh, and put a sting into it; we do not consider this heavy weight to be the natural possibility which was in man, before original sin entered, nor to be that natural proneness to sin, which is original sin itself. But it is, when we ourselves whet that sting, when we labour to break hedges, and to steal wood, and gather up a stick out of one sin, and a stick out of another, and to make a fagot to load us, in this life, and burn us in the next, in multiplying sins, and aggravating circumstances, so it is heavy, so it is too heavy, it is too heavy for me, (for that is also another circumstance) for David himself, for any man even in David's state.

Though this consideration might be enlarged, and usefully carried into this expostulation, Can sin be too heavy for me, any burden of sin sink me into a dejection of spirit, that am wrapped up in the covenant, born of Christian parents, that am bred up in an orthodox, in a reformed church, that can persuade myself sometimes, that I am of the number of the elect; Can any sin bo too heavy for mo, can I doubt of the execution of his first purpose upon me, or doubt of the efficacy of his ordinances here in the church, what sin soever I commit, can any sins be too heavy for me? yet it is enough that in this sea, God holds no man up by the chin so, but that if he sin in confidence of that sustentation, he shall sink. But in this personal respect in our text, we consider only with what weights David weighed his sins, when he found here that they were too heavy for him. He weighed his sin with his punishment, and in his punishment he saw the anger, and indignation of God, and when we see sin through that spectacle, through an angry God, it appears great, and red, and fearful unto us; when David came to see himself in his infirmity, in his deformity, when his body could not bear the punishment here in this world, he considered how insupportable a weight the sin, and the anger of God upon that sin, would be in the world to come. For me that rise to preferment by my sin, for me that come to satisfy my carnal appetites by my sin, my sin is not too heavy; but for me that suffer penury in the bottom of a plentiful state exhausted by my sin, for me that languish under diseases and putrefaction contracted by my sin, for me upon whom the hand of God lies heavy in any affliction for my sin, for me, my sins are too heavy. Till I come to hear that voice, Come unto me all you that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you3, till I como to consider my sin in the mercy of God, and not only in his justice, in his punishments, my sins will be too heavy for me; for, though that be a good way, to consider the justice of God, yet it is not a good end; I must stop, but not stay at it, I must consider my sin in his justice, how powerful a God I have provoked; but I must pass through his justice to his mercy; his justice is my way, but his mercy is my lodging; for we cannot tell by the construction and origination of the words, whether Cain said, My sin is greater ilian can be pardoned, or, My punishment is greater than can be borne: but it needs not be disputed; for it is all one; he that considers only the anger of God in the punishment, will think his sin unpardonable, his sin will be too heavy for him. But as a fever is well spent, when the patient is fit to take physic, so if

3 Matt. xi. 28.

God give me physic, if I take his corrections as medicines, and not as punishments, then my disease is well spent, my danger is well overcome; if I have buried my sins in the wounds of my Saviour, they cannot bo too heavy for mo, for they are not upon me at all; but if I take them out again, by relapsing into them, or imagino them to riso again, by a suspicion and jealousy in God, that he hath not forgiven them, because his hand lies still upon me, in some afflictions, so, in such a relapso, so, in such a jealous mis-intcrpretation of God's proceeding with me, my sins are too heavy for me; for me, bocauso I do not sustain myself by those helps that God puts into my hands.

It is heavy, too heavy, too heavy for me, says David; if you consider the elect themselves, their election will not bear them out in their sins. But hero we consider the insupportableness, in that wherein the Holy Ghost hath presented it, quia onus, because it lies upon me, in the nature and quality of a burden, mine iniquities are as a burden, too heavy for me. When all this is packed upon me, that I am first under a calamity, a sickness, a scorn, an imprisonment, a penury, and then upon that calamity, there is laid the anger and indignation of God, and then upon that, the weight of mine own sins; this is too much to settle me, it is enough to sink me, it is a burden, in which the danger arises from the last addition, in that, which is last laid on: for, as the sceptic philosopher pleases himself in that argumentation, that either a penny makes a man rich, or ho can never be rich, for says he, if he be not rich yet, the addition of a penny more would make him rich: or if not that penny, yet another, or another, so that at last it is the addition of a penny that makes him rich; so without any such fallacious or facetious circumvention in our case, it is the last addition; that that we look on last, that makes our burden insupportable, when upon our calamity we see the anger of God piled up, and upon that, our sin, when I come to see my sin, in that glass, in that glass, not in a Saviour bleeding for me, but in a Judge frowning upon me; when my sins are so far off from me, as that they are the last thing that I see; for, if I would look upon my sins, first, with a remorseful, a tearful, a repentant eye, either I should see no anger, no calamity; or it would not seem strange to me, that God should be angry, nor strange, that I should suffer calamities, when God is angry; therefore is sin heavy as a burden, because it is the last thing, that last thing that I lay upon myself, and feel not that till a heavy load of calamity and anger be upon me before. But then, as when we come to be unloaded of a burden, that that was last laid on, is first taken off, so when we come, by any means, though by the sense of a calamity, or of the anger of God, to a sense of our sin, before the calamity itself be taken off, the sin is forgiven. When the prophet found David in this state, the first act that the prophet came to was the transulit peccatum, God hath taken away thy sin, but the calamity was not yet taken away. The child begot in sin shall surely die, though the sin be pardoned. The fruit of the tree may be preserved and kept, after the tree itself is cut down and burnt; the fruit, and offspring of our sin, calamity, may continue upon us, after God hath removed the guiltiness of the sin from us. In the course of civility, our parents go out before us, in the course of mortality, our parents die before us; in the course of God's mercy, it is so too; the sin that begot the calamity, is dead, and gone, the calamity, the child, and offspring of that sin, is alive and powerful upon us. But for the most part, as if I would lift an iron chain from the ground, if I take but the first link, and draw up that, the whole chain follows, so if by my repentance, I remove the uppermost weight of my load, my sin, all the rest, the declaration of the anger of God, and the calamities that I suffer, will follow my sin, and depart from me. But still our first care must be to take off the last weight, the last that comes to our sense, the sin.

You have met, I am sure, in old apophthegms, an answer of a philosopher celebrated, that being asked, What was the /waviest thing in the world, answered, Senex tyrannus, An old tyrant; for a tyrant, at first, dares not proceed so severely; but when he is established, and hath continued long, he prescribes in his injuries, and those injuries become laws. As sin is a tyrant, so he is got over our head, in dominio, as we showed you in the supergressa? sunt, in our former part; as he is an old tyrant, so he is the heaviest burden that can be imagined; an inveterate sin, is an inveterate sore, we may hold out with it, but hardly cure it; we may slumber it, but hardly kill it. Weigh sin in heaven; heaven could not bear it, in the angels; they fell: in the waters; the sea could not bear it in Jonas; he was cast in: in the earth; _ that could not bear it in Dathan, and Abiram; they were swallowed: and because all the inhabitants of the earth are sin itself, The earth itself shall reel to and fro,' as a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage, and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it, and it shall fall and not rise again*; there is the total, the final fall, proper to the wicked; they shall fall; so shall the godly; and fall every day; and fall seven times a day; but they shall rise again and stand in judgment; The wicked shall not do sos; they shall rise, rise to judgment; and they shall stand, stand for judgment, stand to receive judgment; and then, not fall, but bo cast out, out of the presence of God, and cast down, down into an impossibility of rising, for ever, for ever, for ever. There is a lively expressing of this deadly weight, this burden in the prophet Zechary8. First, there was a certain vessel, a measure showed, and the angel said, Hic est oculus, This is the sight, (says our first translation) This is the resemblance through all the earth, (says our second). That is, to this measure, and to that that is figured in it, every man must look, this every man must take into his consideration; What is it? In this measure sate a woman whose name was Wickedness; at first, this woman, this wickedness, sate up in this vessel, she had not filled the measure, she was not laid securely in it, she was not prostrate, not grovelling, but her nobler part, her head, was yet out of danger, she sat up in it. But before the vision departs, she is plunged wholly into that measure; (into darkness, into blindness) and not for a time; for, then, there was a cover, (says the text) and a great cover, and a great cover of lead put upon that vessel; and so, a perpetual imprisonment, no hope to get out; and heavy fetters, no ease to be had within; hard ground to tread upon, and heavy burdens to carry; first a cover, that is, an excuse; a great cover, that is, a defence, and a glory; at last, of lead; all determines in desperation. This is when the multiplicity and indifferency to lesser sins, and the habitual custom of some particular sin, meet in the aggravating of the burden: for then, they are heavier than the sand of the sea1,

says the Holy Ghost: where he expresses the greatest weight by the least thing; nothing less than a grain of sand, nothing heavier than the sands of the sea, nothing easier to resist than a first temptation, or a single sin in itself, nothing heavier, nor harder to divest, than sins complicated in one another, or than an old tyrant and custom in any one sin. And therefore it was evermore a familiar phrase with the prophets, when they were to declare the sins, or to denounce the punishments of those sins upon the people, to call it by this word, Onus visionis, onus Babylonis, onus Ninives, 0 the burden of Babylon, the burden of Nineveh, And because some of those woes, those judgments, those burdens, did not always fall upon that people presently, they came to mock the prophets, and say to them, Now, what is the burden of the Lord, what burden have you to preach to us*, and to talk of now? Say unto them, says God to the prophet there; This is the burden of the Lord, I will even forsake you. And, as it is elegantly, emphatically, vehemently added, Every man's word shall be his burden; that which he says, shall be that that shall be laid to his charge; his scorning, his idle questioning of the prophet, What burden now, what plague, what famine, what war now? Is not all well for all your crying the burden of the Lord I Every mail's word shall be his burden, the deriding of God's ordinance, and of the denouncing of his judgments in that ordinance, shall be their burden, that is, aggravate those judgments upon them. Nay, there is a heavier weight than that added; Ye shall say no more (says God to the prophet) the burden of the Lord, that is, you shall not bestow so much care upon this people, as to tell them, that the Lord threatens them, God's presence in anger, and in punishments, is a heavy, but God's absence, and dereliction, a much heavier burden; as (if extremes will admit comparison) the everlasting loss of the sight of God in hell, is a greater torment, than any lakes of inextinguishable brimstone, than any gnawing of the incessant worm, than any gnashing of teeth can present unto us.

Now, let no man ease himself upon that fallacy, sin cannot be, nor sin cannot induce such burdens as you talk of, for many men are come to wealth, and by that wealth, to honour, who, if they

8 Jer. xxiii. 23.

admitted a tenderness in their consciences, and forborne some sins, had lost both; for, Are they without burden, because they have wealth, and honour? In the original language, the same word, that is here, a burden, chabad, signifies honour, and wealth, as well as a burden. And therefore says the prophet, Woe unto him that loadeth himself with thick clay*. Non densantur nisi per laborem"; there goes much pains to the laying of it thus thick upon us; the multiplying of riches is a laborious thing; and then it is a new pain to bleed out those riches for a new office, or a new title; Et tamen lutum, says that father, when all is done, we are but rough-cast with dirt; all those riches, all those honours, are a burden, upon the just man, they are but a multiplying of fears, that they shall lose them; upon the securest man, they are but a multiplying of duties and obligations; for the more they have, the more they have to answer; and upon the unjust, they are a multiplying of everlasting torments. They possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed themn. Men are as weary of the day, upon carpets and cushions, as at the plough. And the labourers' weariness is to a good end; but for these men, they weary themselves to commit iniquity1*. Some do, and some do not; all do. The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them; Why? Because he knows not how to go to the city13. He that directs not his labours to the right end, the glory of God, he goes not to Jerusalem, the city of holy peace, but his sinful labours shall be a burden to him; and his riches, and his office, and his honour he shall not be able to put off, than when he puts off his body in his death-bed; he shall not have that happiness, which he, till then, thought a misery, to carry nothing out of this world, for his riches, his office, his honour shall follow him into the next world, and clog his soul there. But we proposed this consideration of this metaphor, that sin is a burden, (as there is an infinite sweetness, and infinite latitude in every metaphor, in every elegancy of the Scripture, and therefore I may have leave to be loath to depart from it) in some particular inconveniences, that a burden brings, and it is time to come to them.

9 Habak. ii. 9. 10 Gregory. 11 Job vii. 3.

1* Jer. ix. 5. 13 Eccles. x. 15.