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The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/thomas-manton-on-psalm-119-2c/

SERMON IV

They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.—VER. 3.

Now, holiness is considered, in the parts of it, negatively and positively. The two parts of holiness are an eschewing of sin and studying to please God. You have both in this verse, ‘They also do no iniquity: they walk in His ways.’

I         They do no iniquity. You have the blessed man described negatively, they do no iniquity. Upon hearing the words, presently there occurs a doubt, how then can any man be blessed? [Because who can be without sin?]Eccles. 7:20; James 3:2, 1 John 1:8.

A      [At this point Manton considers how the doctrine may be understood by those who hear. Some may take this as a license to sin, because “who can be perfect”? Others may become discouraged.]

B      First, What it is to do iniquity? If we make it our trade and practice to continue in wilful disobedience. To sin is one thing, but to make sin our work is another: 1 John 3:9, Mat. 7:23 John 8:34, Ps. 139:24, None are absolutely freed from sin, but it is not their trade, their way, their work. When a man makes it his study and business to carry on a course of sin, then he is said to do iniquity.

C       Secondly, Who are those that are said to do no iniquity in God’s account, though they fail often through weakness of the flesh and violence of temptation? Answer—

1       All such as are renewed by grace, and reconciled to God by Christ Jesus; to these God imputeth no sin to condemnation, and in his account they do no iniquity. Notable is that, 1 Kings 14:8. It is said of David, ‘He kept my commandments, and followed me with all his heart, and did that only which was right in mine eyes.’ How can that be? We may trace David by his failings; they are upon record everywhere in the word; yet here a veil is drawn upon them; God laid them not to his charge. Rom. 8:1; 2 Sam. 12:13Rom. 13:12, Rom. 8:12. … A man is known by his custom, and the course of his endeavours, what is his business. If a man be constantly, easily, frequently carried away to sin, it discovers a habit of soul, and the temper of his heart. Meadows may be overflown, but marsh ground is drowned with the return of every tide. A child of God may be carried away, and act contrary to the bent and inclination of the new nature; but when men are drowned and overcome with the return of every temptation, and carried away, it argues a habit of sin

Well, then, the point is this:—

II. Doct. 1. They that are and shall be blessed are such as make it their business to avoid all sin.

A. Surely they shall be blessed, for they take care to remove the makebate, the wall of partition between God and them. It is sin which separates: Isa. 59:2, …This is that which hinders men from communion with God.

B. These are men fitting and preparing themselves for the enjoyment of their great hopes: Col. 1:12, ‘1 John 3:3,

C. In them true happiness is begun. There are degrees in blessedness; the angels they never sinned; the glorified saints they have sinned, but sin no more; the saints upon earth, in them sin reigns not; therefore here is their happiness begun. As sin is taken away, so our happiness increaseth;

USE

Use 1. For trial and examination, whether we may be reckoned among the blessed men, yea or nay.

A      First, Let us consider how far sin may be in a blessed man, in a child of God.

1       They have a corrupt nature, they have sin in them as well as others; it is their misery to the last: Rom. 7:24, … Such an indwelling sin is in us, though we pray, strive, and cut off the excrescences, the buddings out of it here and there, yet till it be plucked asunder by death, it continueth with us.

2       They have their daily failings and infirmities: Eccles. 7:20… There are unavoidable infirmities which are pardoned of course.

3       They may be guilty of some sins which by watchfulness might be prevented, as vain thoughts, idle, passionate speeches, and many carnal actions. It is possible that these may be prevented by the ordinary assistances of grace, and if we will keep a strict guard over our own hearts. But in this case God’s children may be overtaken and overborne; overtaken by the suddenness, or overborne by the violence of temptation: overtaken, Gal. 6:1…James 1:14,

4       They may now and then fall foully On the other side, great sins may be infirmities; …

5       A child of God may have some particular evils, which may be called predominant sins (not with respect to grace, that is impossible, that a man should be renewed and have such sins that sin should carry the mastery over grace); but they may be said to have a predominancy in comparison of other sins; he may have some particular inclination to some evil above others. … It is evident by experience there are particular corruptions to which the children of God are more inclinable: this appears by the great power and sway they bear in commanding other evils to be committed, by their falling into them out of inward propensity when outward temptations are few or weak, or none at all; and when resistance is made, yet they are more pestered and haunted with them than with other temptations, which is a constant matter of exercise and humiliation to them.

B      Secondly, Wherein doth grace now discover itself, where is the difference?

1       In that they cannot fall into those iniquities wherein there is an absolute contrariety to grace, as hatred of God, total apostasy, so they cannot sin the sin unto death, 1 John 5:16.

2       In that they do not sin with the whole heart: Ps. 119:176… When they sin, it is with the dislike and reluctancy of the new nature; it is rather a rape than a consent.

3       It is not their course; not constant, easy, and frequent.

4       When they fall they do not rest in sin: Jer. 8:4. They may fall into the dirt, but they do not lie and wallow there like swine in the mire. 1 John 2:1, humble themselves before God.

5       Their falls are sanctified. When they have smarted under sin, they grow more watchful and more circumspectPs. 51:6,

6       Grace discovers itself by the constant endeavours which they make against sin. What is the constant course a Christian takes? They groan under the relics of sin; it is their burden that they have such an evil nature, Rom. 7:24 1 John 1:9. Rev. 7,: John 13:10,

 

Use 2. If this be the character of a blessed man, to make it our business to avoid sin, then here is caution to God’s people:

A      First, To beware of all sin. The more you have the mark of a blessed man: 1 John 2:1, ‘These things I write unto you, that you sin not.’ Though you have a pardon and cleansing by the blood of Christ, though you have an advocate, yet sin not. Now the motives to set on this caution are taken from God, from ourselves, from the nature of sin.

1       From God. Sin not. Why? Because it is an offence to God… All creatures have a law: Ps. 148:6, ‘Thou hast set to them a decree, beyond which they cannot pass.’ And they are less exorbitant in their motions than we are. It is a greater violation to the law of nature for man to sin, than for the sea to break its bounds. … 2 Sam. 12:9, ‘… Christ came to take away sin, and will you bind those cords the faster which Christ came to loosen? Then you go about to defeat the purpose of his death, and put your Redeemer to shame. You seek to make void the great end for which Christ came, which was to dissolve sin. And, besides, you disparage the worth of the price he paid down; you make the blood of Christ a cheap thing, when you despise grace and holiness; you make nothing of that which cost him so dear—you lessen the greatness of his sufferings. And it is a wrong to his pattern. You should be ‘pure as Christ is pure,’ 1 John 3:3; and ver. 7, Titus 3:5. 2 Peter 1:9 Rom. 8:13;

2       By an argument drawn from ourselves; it is very unsuitable to you. We profess ourselves to be ‘regenerate’ and born of God: 1 John 3:9, ‘He that is born of God cannot sin.’ It is not only contrary to thy duty, but to thy nature, as thou art a new creature. It were monstrous for the egg of one creature to bring forth a brood of another kind, for a crow or a kite to come from the egg of a hen. It is as unnatural a production for a new creature to sin; therefore you that are born of God, it is very uncomely and unsuitable. Do not dishonour your high birth.

3       Consider the nature of sin; if you give way to it, it will encroach further. Sins steal into the throne insensibly; and being habituated in us by long custom, we cannot easily shake off the yoke or redeem ourselves from their tyranny. They go on from little to little, and get strength by multiplied acts. Therefore we should be very careful to avoid all sin.

B      The second part of the caution is, beware of gross sins, committed against light and conscience. When we are tempted to sin, say with Joseph: Gen. 39:9, ‘How can I do this wickedness, and sin against God?’ …1 Kings 15:5; it is said, ‘

C       Thirdly, Beware of continuance in sin. How may we continue in sin? In what sense? Three things I shall take notice of in sin—culpa, reatus, macula; there is the fault, the guilt, the blot; and then we continue in sin, when the fault, the guilt, or blot is continued upon us.

1       The fault is continued when the acts of it are repeated, when we fall into the same sin again and again. Relapses are very dangerous, as a bone often broken in the same place; you are in danger of this, before the breach be well made up between God and you; as Lot doubling his incest: to venture once and again is very dangerous.

2       The guilt doth continue upon a man till serious and solemn repentance, till he sue out pardon in the name of Christ. Though a man should forbear the act, never commit it more; yet unless he retracts it by a serious remorse, and humbleth himself before God, and sueth out his pardon in a repenting way, the guilt continues. ‘If we confess’—he speaks to believers—then sin is forgiven, not otherwise.

3       There is the macula, the blot, by which the schoolmen understand an inclination to sin again; the evil influence of the sin continueth until we use serious endeavours to mortify the root of it. … Therefore if you would do what is your duty, you must look to the fault, that that be not renewed; the guilt, that that be not continued by omission of repentance; and that the blot also do not remain upon you, by not searching to the root of the distemper, the cause of that sin by which we have been foiled. So much for the first part of the text, They do no iniquity.

The second note is, they walk in his ways. This is the positive part; not only avoiding of sin, but practice of holiness, is implied. Observe—

Doct. 2. It is not enough only to avoid evil, but we must do good. ‘They do no iniquity;’ then ‘they walk in his ways.’

A. Why?

1.The law of God is positive as well as negative. Amos 5:15 Rom. 12:9.

2. The mercies of God they are positive as well as privative. Our obedience should correspond with God’s mercies.

USE:

It reproves those that rest in negatives. As it was said of the emperor, he was rather not vicious than virtuous. Many men, all their religion runs upon nots: Luke 18:11, ‘I am not as this publican.’ … Judges 5:23. … Thou art no slanderer; but art thou tender of thy neighbour’s honour and credit as of thy own? Usually men cut off half their bill, as the unjust steward, when he owed a hundred, bade him set down fifty. We do not think of sins of omission. If we are not drunkards, adulterers, and profane persons, we do not think what it is to omit respects to God, and want of reverence to his holy majesty; to delight in him and his ways.

In the next place, take notice of the notion, by which the precepts of God are expressed; here they are called ways, ‘that walk in his ways;’ how is that?—not as he hath given us an example, to be holy as he is holy, just as he is just; but his ways are his precepts. Why are they his ways? Because they are appointed by God, and prescribed by him. Which shows the evil of defection and going astray from him. It is a despising God’s wisdom and authority. The great and wise God hath found out a way for the creature to walk in, that he may attain true happiness; and we must still be running out into bypaths; yea, it is a despising of his goodness: ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good;’ how to walk step by step. Then they are God’s ways, as they lead to the enjoyment of him. From thence we may learn that many that wish to be where he is, shall never come there, because they do not walk in the way that leads to him. A man can never come to a place, that will not go in the way that will bring him thither: so they will never come to the enjoyment of God in a blessed estate, that will not take the Lord’s way to blessedness, that follow not the course God hath prescribed to them in his word.