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The steps of an apostate’s departure from God

Source: Jeremiah Burroughs, An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, Chap.XIII Ver.2

There is no stop in apostacy. Let men once apostatize from God, and there is no stop then; they cannot tell whither they may go, if once they begin to roll down. A man may think thus, I will but roll thus far, and there I will stop. No, if once you begin to roll, you will roll and roll down to the bottom; you know not whither you may roll, or where you may fall. If a man should leap into the water, and say, I will sink but thus far, to the middle and no farther, this were but folly; you will sink more and more: so it is with apostates; I verily believe those that did make slight at first, did not think that they should go so far. Oh, God forbid that they should do things so vile and so abominable! yea, but when once they are rolling, when once they are sinking, they roll and sink more and more, till they roll into the bottomless pit of hell; they sink more and more, till they sink into the very bottomless gulf, into such things as they would before have shrunk from with abhorrence. There is a curse upon the wicked in Psal. xxxv. 6, "Let their way be dark and slippery; and let the angel of the Lord persecute them." When men will go out of the ways of God into slippery paths of their own, it is just with God that an evil spirit should drive them on in those ways. As in your travelling in champaign countries, a highway goes to such a town, and another lies close by it, and you, it may be, choose the wrong one, and so go on and think it will bring you to the place where you are travelling; but it winds so that you go further and further fi-om the right road, perhaps many miles before you are aware of it: so it is in apostacy; it may be, at first, when men depart from the ways of God they think it not of much moment, but then these evil ways wind gradually, and, it may be, almost imperceptibly, widening the distance between them and God. "They sin more and more."

I will give you the steps of an apostate’s departure from God.

1. Some slight sin against knowledge, though never so little, for sin of mere infirmity I cannot call apostacv; but if it be ever so little a sin against knowledge, it breaks the bond of obedience: when you will venture to do that which you know is against God, this bond of obedience being broken, no marvel though you fall and "sin more and more."

2. Every act of sin tends to increase the habit. Corruption grows by acting; as with grace, every act of grace extends grace in the heart of a man; and the way to grow in grace is, to act grace much; so that when you are acting your grace, you do not only that which is your duty, but you are growing in grace: so when you are acting of corruption, you are not only doing that which is evil, but you are increasing the tendency to it: and therefore every sin that causes us to decline from God, makes us to go more and more from God.

3. Every sin against conscience weakens the work of conscience. The authority of conscience will quickly be weakened when it is once broken; break but off the yoke of conscience, and conscience will be weaker than it was before. The first time a man sins against conscience, his conscience, having a great deal of strength in it, mightily troubles him; but having had a flaw, (as it were.) it grows weaker. I remember a notable story which that reverend and famous divine. Dr. Preston, relates of one in Cambridge, who, after having committed a great sin, had this temptation. Do the act again, and your conscience will trouble you no more: this temptation prevailed with him, he did it again, and then he grew a very sot indeed, and went on in his wickedness. Every sin does somewhat to weaken conscience, and therefore one that falls off from God will "sin more and more."

4. A man loses his comfort in God according to the degree of his departure from him. For some kind of comforts hypocrites may have; as there may be common gifts of the Spirit to enable them to do service, so there may be common gifts of the Spirit to comfort them, they may taste of the powers of the world to come. Many have some flashes of joy; but when they are departed from God they cannot have so much comfort as they were wont to have, and when they have not that comfort they must have it some way, and are fain to go sharking up and down to get it some where else: I cannot have that comfort in God which I was wont to have; I was wont, when I was troubled, to go and read the word, I could find comfort there; let me go into good company, I could find comfort there; but in the presence of God I could find comfort; but now I cannot: and so the heart must have comfort some way or other, and therefore goes more and more from God.

5. When one has sinned against God, holy duties become very unsuitable to his soul. It is a more difficult thing to engage his heart in them than before, and so he comes to neglect duties, and by neglecting them his corruption grows. They were a powerful means to restrain corruption; for when a man is abroad and inclined to licence, yet when he thinks thus, Yea, but before I go to bed I must pray, and how shall I then beg grace from God, when now! willfully sin against him? this curbs a man: so long as he can keep any kind of suitableness between his heart and holy duties, though he should fail in some things, he would quickly recover; but when he begins to have holy duties so veiled as to leave them off, then he will "sin more and more," for the curb is removed.

6. The presence of God is terrible to an apostate. He cannot think of God without some terror; before he would often think and speak of God, but now he puts off the thoughts of God, the thoughts of him and his presence being terrible; it must needs be that he must wander up and down even more and more, be as a Cain wandering away from the presence of God.

7. The thoughts of whatsoever might turn an apostate’s heart to God, are grievous to him. If he thinks of turning to God, presently will be presented to him some difficulty that will make him even put off all those thoughts, and rather give himself liberty to his own ways.

8. One sin cannot be maintained without another. As now, you find when one man has done wrong to another, he knows not how to carry it out but by doing him more wrong, to crush him if he can. And so there are divers sins that have many sins depending upon them; if a man be engaged in a business that is sinful, that he may carry it on successfully he must commit a great many other sins, and so fall off more and more.

9. The pride of men’s hearts is such, that they will attempt to justify transgression. Men love to justify what they have done; when they have sinned, they will grow more resolute and violent, that all people might think that their hearts recoil not in the least. You think many times when you see men very strong and violent in an evil way, that surely they are fully satisfied in it; oh ! you are mightily mistaken in that, they may be very violent and very strong in their way, only that they may persuade other folk, though their own consciences tell them that they are not satisfied. Thus the pride of men’s hearts makes them "sin more and more."

10. When men have gone far in sin, they grow desperate. They little hope ever to recover themselves, and therefore "sin more and more."

11. God in his just judgment withdraws himself from apostates. God withdraws those gifts and common graces that they had, and saith, Let them go on; "he that is filthy, let him be filthy still."

12. God gives up apostates to their corruptions, and to the power of the devil. It is a dreadful thing when the church does it, although it be for the salvation of the soul, and for the destruction of the flesh, 1 Cor. v. 5; but when God delivers up one to his corruptions it is for the soul’s destruction: Do you rule him, saith God, because he would not be ruled. No marvel then though an apostate "sin more and more."

O, stand with all your might against the beginning of sin; tremble, and stop on the threshold. Had this people done so, at the first they trembled, oh, had they but kept that trembling heart continually, it would have preserved them from abundance of evil: and so, do not some of you remember that there has been a heart-trembling and hesitancy at the very thought of those things which, it may be, some of you now practise? oh, happy had it been for you had you kept such a frame ! You young beginners, you tremble at temptations, you tremble at the thoughts of sin, at the first rising of corruption in your hearts; oh keep this frame, and regard not that boldness of spirit which there is in some. Some venture to the edge of the precipice, but it is a dangerous situation; rather keep a trembling, sin-fearing heart, for if you lose that, and beguile but to tamper with some sin, if the devil thus beguile you, it is most likely that after the first offence you will sin more and more, and never pause till you are wholly involved in the snares of the devil.

And let us learn, my brethren, to be more and more in the ways of God, as apostates are more and more in the ways of sin. Oh that it were so with us ! Let us not content ourselves to do a little for God, but still more and more, as David, in Psal. Ixxi. I4, "I will yet praise thee more and more," I will add to thy praise, so the original signifies: Lord, some praise thou hast had in the world, oh that I could live to add any thing to it! "I will yet praise thee more and more."

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Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal in every condition … Perhaps, some of you may say, like David, ‘It is good that I was afflicted’, but you must come to this, ‘It is good that I am afflicted.’ Not just good when you see the good fruit it has wrought, but to say when you are afflicted, ‘It is good that I am afflicted. Whatever the affliction, yet through the mercy of God mine is a good condition.’

Source: Jeremiah Burroughs, Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

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There is the fullness of Christ conveyed into the soul: so that our sanctification is not only from him meritoriously, but efficiently, yea, and in a kind materially too, for he does not only merit it, and work it by his Spirit; but through our union with him there is a kind of flowing of sanctification from him into us … through our union with Christ, he having the fullness of the Godhead in him, from him as from a fountain, sanctification flows into the souls of the Saints: there sanctification comes not so much from their struggling, and endeavours, and vows, and resolutions, as it comes flowing to them from their closing with Christ and their union with him; there may be a great deal of striving and endeavouring that may be utterly ineffectual, for want of having recourse unto Christ as the spring and well head of all grace and holiness.

There is the fuhneffe of Chrift conveyed into the foul: fo that our fanctification is not only from him meritorioufly, but efficiently, yea, and in a kinde materially too, for he doth not only merit it, and work it by his fpirit; but through our union with him there is a kinde of flowing of sanctification from him into us … through our union with Christ, he having the fulneffe of the Godhead in him, from him as from a fountaine, fanctification flowes into the souls of the Saints: there fanctification comes not fo much from their ftrugling, and endeavours, and vowes, and refolutions, as it comes flowing to them from their clofing with Christ and their union with him; there may be a great deal of striving and endeavouring that may be utterly ineffectuall, for want of having recourse unto Christ as the fpring and well head of all grace and holineffe.

Source: Jeremiah Burroughs, The Saints Treasury, 1654 A.D.

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