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hands in the ways of God; and therefore may be reckoned an aggravation of this sin.
Moreover, it is a farther aggravation of sin committed, when it appears to be contrary to the common good of all men. This guilt may be said to be contracted by them who endeavour to hinder the success of preaching of the gospel, 1 Thess. ii. 15. or otherwise, when the sin of one man brings down the judgments of God on a whole church or body of people; of this kind was Achan's sin, Josh. vii. 20, 21, 25.
III. Sins are aggravated from the nature and quality of the offence; if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins; if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation; if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience; public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments, and our prayers, purposes, promises; vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men ; if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
1. Sin is aggravated when it is committed against the express letter of the law, so that there remains no manner of doubt, whether it be a sin or duty. To venture on the commission of what plainly appears to be unlawful, is to sin with great boldness and presumption, whereby the crime is very much aggravated, Rom. i. 32.
2. When it contains a breach of several of the Commandments; and therefore it may be reckoned a complicated crime. Of this kind was the sin of David, in the matter of Uriah; in which he was guilty of murder, adultery, dissimulation, injustice, &c. Also Ahab's sin against Naboth; which included in it not only covetousness, but perjury, murder, oppression, and injustice.
3. Sins are more aggravated, when they break forth in words, or outward actions, than if they were only conceived in the heart. It is true, sin in the heart has some peculiar aggravations, as it takes deeper root, becomes habitual, and is entertained with a secret delight and pleasure, and as it is the source and fountain, from whence actual sins proceed. Nevertheless, when that, which was before conceived in the heart, is discovered by words or actions, this adds a farther aggravation to it, as it brings a more public dishonour to God, and often-times a greater injury to men.
4 Sins are farther aggravated, when they are of such a na
fure, that it is impossible for us to repair the injuries done thereby, or make restitution for them. Thus nothing can compensate for our taking away the life of another, or for our casting a reproach on the holy ways of God; and thereby endeavouring to bring his gospel into contempt; or, when we entice others to sin, by which means we turn them aside from God, and endeavour to ruin their souls; which is an injury that we cannot, by any means, repair; and therefore the crime is exceedingly aggravated.
5. If the sin committed be contrary to the very light of nature, such as would be offensive, even to the Heathen, 1 Cor. v. 1.
6. Sins receive their aggravations, when committed against means, mercies, and judgments; as when we break through all the fences which are set to prevent them; and the grace of God, revealed in the gospel, is not only ineffectual, to preserve from sin, though designed for that end, Tit. ii. 11, 12. but turned into lasciviousness, Jude, ver. 4. When mercies are misimproved, undervalued, and, as it were, trampled on, Rom. ii. 4. Isa. i. 3, Deut. xxii. 6. and judgments, whether threatened or inflicted are not regarded, nor were claimed thereby.
7. Sins are farther aggravated, when they are committed against the checks and convictions of conscience; which is a judge and a reprover within our own breasts. This is an offering violence to ourselves, and making many bold advanoes towards judicial blindness, hardness of heart, and a total apostacy.
8. When the sins committed are against public or private admonitions, censures of the church or civil punishments, which are God's ordinance to bring men to repentance; and if they prove ineffectual, to answer that end, they will be left more stupid than they were before.
9. Sins are farther aggravated, when they are contrary to our own prayers, vows, covenants, and promises made either to God or men. When we confess sin, or pretend to humble ourselves before God in prayer, and yet, at other times, indulge the same sins, and are proud, self-conceited, and exalt ourselves against him; or when we pray for strength against corruption, or grace to perform holy duties, when, in reality, we have no love to, nor desire after them; or when we praise him for mercies received, while we are habitually unthankful, and forgetful of his benefits. Moreover, when we are very forward to make vows, covenants, or engagements, to be the Lord's; whereby we often lay a snare for ourselves, from some circumstances that attend this action; and more especially from our disregarding it afterwards."
10. Sins are aggravated from the manner of our committing them, viz. If they are done deliberately, with fore-thought or contrivance: As when persons are said to devise mischief upon their beds; and then as to their conversation, to set themselves against that which is good, Psal. xxxiv. 5. Again, if it be done wilfully, that is, with the full bent of the will, making it the matter of our choice, and resolving to commit it, whatever it cost us. When we do it presumptuously, either when we take encouragement hereunto from the grace of God, Rom. vi. 1. or when his hand is lifted up against us, or when we see his judgments falling very heavy upon others, and are not disposed to take warning thereby; but grow more hardened and stupid than before.
Again, when sin is committed maliciously impudently, and obstinately; this argues a rooted hatred against God. Or, when it is committed with delight arising either from the thoughts we entertain thereof, before we commit it; or the pleasure we take in what we have done, afterwards. Again, when we boast of what we have done, which is to glory in our shame, Psal. x. 3. and lii. 1. when we do, as it were, value ourselves for having got rid of the prejudices of education, and all former convictions of sin, that so we may go on therein with less disturbance. And when persons boast of their overreaching others in their way of dealing in the world, Prov. xx. 14. which they very often do in their secret thoughts, when they are ashamed to let the world know how remote they are from the practice of that justice, that ought to be between man and man. Again sins are aggravated when they are frequently committed, or when we relapse into the same sin, af. ter having pretended to repent of it, 2 Pet. ii. 20,-22. Matt. xii. 43,-45.
IV. Sins are aggravated from circumstances of time, and place; if on the Lord's-day, or other times of divine worship, or immediately before, or after these, or other helps, to prevent or remedy such miscarriages, if in public, or in the presence of others who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.
When sins are committed by us on the Lord's-day, it is a profaning that time which he has sanctified for his service, and so renders us guilty of a double crime; or, when they are committed at any other time, which we occasionally set apart for divine worship; or, in those seasons, when God calls for fasting and mourning for our own sins, or those that are publicly committed in the world, Isa. xxii. 12,-14. or, at other times, when we have lately received signal deliverances,
either personal or national, Psal. cvi. 7. or, when they are committed immediately before or after we have engaged in holy duties; the former renders us very unfit for them; the latter will effectually take away all those impressions, which have been made on our spirits therein.
Again, sins receive aggravation from the place in which they are committed: As for instance, if they are committed in those places, in which the name of God is more immediately called on, which if visible, will afford great matter of scandal to some, and an ill example to others; and if secretly committed, will tend to defile our souls, and argue us guilty of great hypocrisy. Moreover, when we commit those sins, which are generally abhorred in the place where providence has cast our lot: This is to render ourselves a stain and dishonour to those with whom we converse. Thus the prophet speaks of some, who, in the land of uprightness, will deal unjustly, Isa. xxvi. 10. and especially when they are committed in the presence of others, who are likely to be provoked or defiled thereby; by which means we contract the guilt of other men's sins, as well as our own; and are doubly guilty, in that we are, in many respects, the cause of their transgressing.
There are several instances in which we may be said to contract the guilt of other men's sins, which I shall only mention briefly, viz. when superiors lay their commands on inferiors, or oblige them to do that which is in itself sinful; or, when we advise those who stand upon a level with us, to commit sin, or give our consent to the commission of it, Acts vii58. chap. vii. 1. Again, when inferiors flatter superiors, o commend them for their sin: Thus when Herod had court ed the applause of the people, by the oration which he made to them; they, on the other hand, flattered him, when they gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man, chap. xii. 22. Again, when we have recourse to those places, where sin is usually committed, and desire to associate ourselves with them, whose conversation is a reproach to religion, Prov. xiii. 20. or, when we are sharers, or partakers, with others, in their unlawful gains; first encouraging, abetting, and helping them therein; and then dividing the spoil with them, chap. i. 23,25. Again, when we connive at sin committed; or, if it be in our power, do not restrain or hinder the commission of it; or, when we conceal it, when the farther progress thereof might be prevented by our divulging it. Again, when we provoke persons to sin. And hereby draw forth their corruptions; and when we extenuate sin, whether committed by ourselves or others; which is a degree of vindicating, or pleading for it. And lastly, when we do not mourn for, or pray against those VOL. IV.
sins which are publicly committed in the world, that are like to bring down national judgments *.
QUEST. CLII. What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?
ANSW. Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and, against his righteous law, deserveth his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come, and cannot be expiated, but by the blood of Christ.
QUEST. CLIII. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law.
ANSW. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God duc to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.
N the former of these answers, we have an account of the demerit of sin; in the latter, we have the character and disposition of those who have ground to conclude that they shall be delivered from the wrath and curse of God due to it.. We have already considered one sin as greater than another, by reason of several circumstances that tend to enhance the guilt of those who commit them: Nevertheless, there is no sin so small but it has this aggravation in it, that it is a violation of the law of God, and is opposite to his holiness; and therefore it cannot but render the sinner guilty in his sight; and guilt is that whereby a person is liable to suffer punishment in proportion to the offence committed: Therefore it follows, that there is no ground for that distinction which the Papists make between mortal and venial sins; whereof the former, they suppose, deserves the wrath and curse of God both in this and another world; but as for the latter, namely, Denial sins, they conclude that they may be atoned for by human satisfactions, or penances; and that they are, in their own nature, so small, that they do not deserve eternal punishment.
These several heads, concerning the aggravations of sin, are contained in three or four lines, which are helpful to our memories. Most of the heads of this answer, are contained in that verse, Quis? Quid? Ubi? Quibus auxiliis ? Cur? Quomodo? Quando? And those that relate to our contracting the guilt of other men's sins, in the following lines; Jussu. Consilio. Consensu. Palpo. Recursu. Participans. Nutans. Non obstans. Non manifestans. Incessans. Minuens. Non mærens. Solicitansve.