By Thomas Brooks, 1669
V. Fifthly, A gracious heart sets himself most against his darling sin, his bosom-sin; against the sin of his complexion, constitution, inclination, and calling, etc., Heb. 12:1.
There is some one sinful quality that is more predominant in the heart of man than any other. There is some one Delilah, some one darling sin that a man is more apt to play with, and to hug in his own bosom—than any other. There is usually some one sin that is a favorite, some one sin which the heart is most fond of, and which the bias of the soul does most naturally and strongly incline towards.
Pliny writes of some families that had privy marks on their bodies peculiar to those of that line. And so every man has as it were his privy sin, which is most justly and peculiarly called his; as in a ground that lies untilled, among the great variety of weeds, there is usually some master weed, one among the rest that is rifer and ranker than all the rest. And as it is in the body of man, that although in some degree or other, more or less, there be a mixture of all the four elements, not any of them wholly lacking—yet there is some one of them predominant that gives the denomination; in regard whereof some are said to be of a sanguine, some of a phlegmatic, some of a choleric, and some of a melancholic constitution.
Now, thus it is in the souls of men. Though there is a general mixture and medley of all evil and corrupt qualities—yet is there some one sin that usually is paramount, more powerful and prevalent, that sways and shows forth itself more eminently and more evidently than any other of them do. And from this, therefore, more frequently and apparently discovering itself, is the designation accustomed to be given whereby some are styled ambitious, some lascivious, some envious, some malicious, some haughty, some hasty, and the like.
Or as in every man's body there is a seed and principle of death—yet some are more prone to die of a fever than of a dropsy, and others are more prone to die of a dropsy than of a fever, etc.; so though original sin has spread itself over all our noble and ignoble parts—yet every man has his particular inclinations to one kind of sin rather than another. And this may properly be called a man's own sin, his own evil way. Now mark, a gracious heart makes most battle, most opposition, against his darling sin, against his complexion sin, against those sins that were once as dear to him as his right hand, or as his right eye, or as Delilah was to Samson, Herodias to Herod, Isaac to Abraham, and Joseph to Jacob: Psalm 18:23, "I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from my iniquity;" that is, from my darling sin whereunto I was most inclined and addicted. What this bosom-sin was that he kept himself from, it is hard to say. Some suppose his darling sin was lying, dissembling, for it is certain he often fell into this sin: Psalm 119:29, "Remove from me the way of lying." [In that 1 Sam. 21:2, 8, he tells three or four round lies, and the like he did in that 1 Sam. 27:8-10.] Others suppose it to be some secret iniquity, which was only known to God and his own conscience. Others say it was uncleanness, and that therefore he prayed that God would turn away his eyes from beholding vanity, Psalm 119:37. Others judge it to be that sin of disloyalty which Saul and his courtiers falsely charged upon him. Well, be it this or that, it is enough for our purpose that his heart did rise against that very sin that either by custom or complexion, or some strong inclination, he was most naturally apt, ready, and prone to fall into. This is the laying of the axe to the root of the tree; and by this practice David gives a clear proof of the integrity of his heart.
Idolatry was the darling sin of the people of Israel; they called their idols delectable or desirable things; they did dearly love and greatly delight in their idols, Jer. 17:1-2; Hosea 2:8; Isaiah 31:6-7, 44:9, etc. But when the Lord in the day of his power wrought savingly and gloriously upon their hearts, oh! how did their hatred and indignation against their idols rise! as you may see Isaiah 30:22, "Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them—Away with you!" They were so delighted and enamored with their idols, that they would lavish gold out of the bag, or they waste or spend riotously, as the Hebrew runs, that they might richly deck them up, and set them forth in the greatest glory and bravery. Oh! but when the Lord should make a glorious turn upon their spirits, then they should readily and roundly deface, defile, and disgrace their idols, then they should hate and abhor them, then they should so detest and loathe them, that in a holy indignation they would cast them away as a menstruous cloth, and say unto them, Get you hence! pack! begone! I will never have any more to do with you, Isaiah 46:6. [After the return of the Jews out of Babylon, they so hated and abhorred idols that in the times of the Romans they chose rather to die than to suffer the eagle, which was the imperial arms, to be set up in their temple.]
"In that day, a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats." Isaiah 2:20. In the day when God shall exalt Himself in the souls of His people, and before the eyes of His people, they shall express such disdain and indignation against their idols, that they would not take only those made of trees and stones—but even their most precious and costly idols, those which were made of silver and gold—and cast them to the moles and to the bats; that is, they should cast them into such blind holes, and into such dark, filthy, nasty, and dusty corners, as moles make underground, and as bats roost in. So when Christ, and grace, and holiness comes to be set up in men's hearts and lives, then all their darling sins, their bosom lusts—which are their idols of silver and their idols of gold—these are with a holy indignation cast to the moles and to the bats! They are so loathed, abhorred, abandoned, and dismissed, that they desire they may be forever buried in oblivion, and never more see the light!
Idols were Ephraim's bosom sin: Hosea 4:17, "Ephraim is joined," or glued, as the word signifies, "to idols, let him alone." But when the dew of grace fell upon Ephraim, as it did in chapter 14:5-7, then says Ephraim, "What have I any more to do with idols?" verse 8. Now Ephraim loathes his idols as much or more than before he loved them; he now abandons and abominates them. Though before he was as closely glued to them as the lecherous man is glued to his Delilah, or as the enchanter is glued to the devil, from whom by no means he is able to stir, as the words in the original import, when it was the day of the Lord's power upon Ephraim, then Ephraim cries out, "What have I any more to do with idols?" Oh! I have had to do with them too long, and too much already! Oh! how does my soul now rise against them! how do I detest and abhor them! Surely I will never have more to do with them!
"If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, 'Let us go and worship other gods (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Deut. 13:6-10. This Scripture tells us, that if father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or kinsman, or friend, should go about to draw a man from God, his hand should be first upon him to put him to death. Now, bosom sins, darling sins—they seek to draw a man's heart from God, and therefore a gracious soul can't but rise up against them, and do his best to stone them, and to be the death of them!
"The days of mourning for my father are at hand," says bloody Esau, "then will I slay my brother Jacob," Gen. 27:41. It is a bloody speech of a vindictive spirit, which nothing would satisfy but innocent blood. So says the gracious soul, The days of mourning for the death of my dear Savior are now at hand, and therefore I will slay my bosom lusts, my constitution sins; now will I be revenged on them for all the dishonors that they have done to God, and for all the wounds that they have made in my conscience, and for all the mercies that they have embittered, and for all the favors that they have prevented, and for all the afflictions that they have procured, and for all the duties that they have hindered.
Samson pleads hard with God, that he might be avenged on the Philistines for his two eyes, Judges 16:28. And so does the gracious soul plead hard with God, that he may be avenged on his bosom lusts, on his darling sins, which have put out his two eyes, which have so blinded him who he has not for a long time been able to see God, or Christ, or the things that belong to his external, internal, or eternal peace.
The next of kin in the law was always the avenger of blood, and to him it appertained to hunt after the murderer, to bring upon his head the innocent blood that he had shed. If therefore we will show ourselves brethren or sisters of Christ, or anything of kin unto him, we must even be the avengers of his blood upon bosom sins, upon darling and complexion sins; for them as well as others was his blood shed. O sirs! What bosom sin is there so sweet or profitable that is worth a-burning in hell for, or worth a-shutting out of heaven for? Surely none! This a gracious soul seriously weighs, and accordingly he sets himself against the toad in his bosom, against his darling sins, against his complexion sins.
But now, unsound hearts are very favorable to bosom sins, to complexion sins. They say of them, as Lot of Zoar, "Is it not a little one?" Gen. 19:20. And as David once said concerning Absalom, 2 Sam. 18:5, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom;" "beware that none touch the young man Absalom," verse 12. "And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe?" verse 29. An unsound heart is as fond of his bosom sins, of his complexion sins, as Jacob was of his Benjamin; or as Jehu was of his calves; or as Naaman was of his idol Rimmon; or as Judas was of bearing the money-bag; or as Herod was of his Herodias; or as Demetrius was of his Diana; or as the Pharisees were of devouring widows' houses, and of having the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and of being saluted in the market places with those glorious titles, Rabbi, rabbi.
The besotted sinner is most engaged to his bosom sins, his complexion sins; and therefore it is as bitter a thing as death for him to part with them. He had rather part with "thousands of rams, and with ten thousand rivers of oil; yes, he had rather part with his first-born, than with his bosom sin; he is ready to give the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul," Micah 6:6. Let God frown or smile, stroke or strike, lift up or cast down, promise or threaten—yet he will hide and hold fast his bosom sin! Let God set life and death, heaven and hell, glory and misery before him—yet will he not part with his bosom sins! Let God wound his conscience, blow upon his estate, leave a blot upon his name, crack his credit, afflict his body, write death upon his relations, and be a terror to his soul—yet will he not let go his darling sins! An unsound heart will rather let God go, and Christ go, and heaven go, and all go—than he will let his darling lusts go!
But now a sound Christian, a throughout Christian, he sets himself most against the Delilah in his bosom, against the Benjamin, the son, the sin of his right hand. A sincere Christian looks upon bosom sins, upon complexion sins, as the most God-provoking sins. There are no sins so provoking to God's jealousies and justice as bosom sins! He looks upon bosom sins, complexion sins, as the most dangerous sins! He looks upon bosom sins, complexion sins, as the worst thing in all the world! He looks upon bosom sins, complexion sins, as more ugly and horrid than the devil himself, or than hell itself! He looks upon bosom sins as the great hindrance between God and his soul, and between his conscience and his comfort, Isaiah 59:1-2, Lamen. 3:8, 44! He looks upon bosom sins as those enemies that have provoked God often to turn a deaf ear to all his prayers! He looks upon his bosom sins as so many Judases that have often betrayed him into the hands of the devil! He looks upon his bosom sins as the waters of Marah, which have embittered all his mercies! He looks upon his bosom sins as the only things that have often clouded the face of God! He looks upon his bosom sins as dead flies in the box of precious ointment—which spoils all, and accordingly with all his might he sets himself against them.
(1.) He fights most against these;
(2.) he weeps most over these;
(3.) he watches and arms most against these;
(4.) he prays most against these;
(5.) he resolves most against these; and
(6.) he lays the axe of repentance most to these, etc.
But pray sir, before you close up this chapter, lay down some sure and infallible evidences of the goodness, graciousness, and happiness of their estates and conditions, who are but weak in grace, who are but babes of grace, that so they may have their portion, satisfaction, support, and consolation as well as others.