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Chapter VIII. Mortification of sin, the nature and causes of it.
Mortification of sin, the second part of sanctification — Frequently prescribed and enjoined as a duty — What the name signifies, with the reason thereof; as also that of crucifying sin — The nature of the mortification of sin explained — Indwelling sin, in its principle, operations, and effects, the object of mortification — Contrariety between sin and grace — Mortification a part-taking with the whole interest of grace against sin — How sin is mortified, and why the subduing of it is so called — Directions for the right discharge of this duty — Nature of it unknown to many — The Holy Spirit the author and cause of mortification in us — The manner of the operation of the Spirit in the mortification of sin — Particular means of the mortification of sin — Duties necessary unto the mortification of sin, directed unto by the Holy Ghost — Mistakes and errors of persons failing in this matter — How spiritual duties are to be managed, that sin may be mortified — Influence of the virtue of the death of Christ, as applied by the Holy Spirit, into the mortification of sin.
2. There is yet another part or effect of our sanctification by the Holy Ghost, which consisteth in and is called mortification of sin. As what we have already insisted on concerneth the improvement and practice of the principle of grace, wherewithal believers are endued; so what we now propose concerneth the weakening, impairing, and destroying of the contrary principle of sin, in its root and fruits, in its principle and actings. And whereas the Spirit of God is everywhere said to sanctify us, we ourselves are commanded and said constantly to mortify our sins: for sanctification expresseth grace communicated and received in general; mortification, grace as so received, improved, and acted unto a certain end. And I shall 539be brief in the handling of it, because I have formerly published a small discourse on the same subject.138138 See vol. vi. of his works. — Ed. And there are two things that I shall speak unto:— First, The nature of the duty itself; Secondly, The manner how it is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, which I principally intend.
It is known that this duty is frequently enjoined and prescribed unto us: Col. iii. 5, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Ἐν τῷ φεύγειν, may be supplied. “‘Mortify your members which are upon the earth,’ — that is, your carnal, earthly affections; avoiding (or ‘by avoiding’) ‘fornication,’” etc.: and so a distinction is made between carnal affections and their fruits. Or, the special sins mentioned are instances of these carnal affections: “Mortify your carnal affections,” — namely, fornication and the like; wherein there is a metonymy of the effect for the cause. And they are called “our members,” — (1.) Because, as the whole principle of sin, and course of sinning which proceedeth from it, is called the “body of sin,” Rom. vi. 6, or the “body of the sins of the flesh,” Col. ii. 11, with respect thereunto these particular lusts are here called the members of that body, “Mortify your members;” for that he intends not the parts or members of our natural bodies, as though they were to be destroyed, as they seem to imagine who place mortification in outward afflictions and macerations of the body, he adds, τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, “that are on the earth,” — that is, earthly, carnal, and sensual. (2.) These affections and lusts, the old man, — that is, our depraved nature, — useth naturally and readily, as the body doth its members; and, which adds efficacy unto the allusion, by them it draws the very members of the body into a compliance with it and the service of it, against which we are cautioned by our apostle: Rom. vi. 12, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies” (that is, our natural bodies), “that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof;” — which exhortation he pursues, verse 19, “As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness;” which some neglecting, do take “the members of Christ,” — that is, of their own bodies, which are the members of Christ, — and make them the “members of an harlot,” 1 Cor. vi. 15. And many other commands there are to the same purpose, which will afterward occur.
And concerning this great duty we may consider three things:— (1.) The name of it, whereby it is expressed; (2.) The nature of it, wherein it consists; (3.) The means and way whereby it is effected and wrought.
540(1.) For the name, it is two ways expressed, and both of them metaphorical:— [1.] By νεκροῦν and θανατοῦν, which we render “to mortify ourselves.” The first is used, Col. iii. 5, νεκρώσατε, which is “mortify,” — that is, extinguish and destroy all that force and vigour of corrupted nature which inclines to earthly, carnal things, opposite unto that spiritual, heavenly life and its actings which we have in and from Christ, as was before declared. Νεκρόω is eneco, morte macto, — “to kill,” “to affect with or destroy by death.” But yet this word is used by our apostle not absolutely to destroy and to kill, so as that that which is so mortified or killed should no more have any being, but that it should be rendered useless as unto what its strength and vigour would produce. So he expresseth the effects of it in the passive word, Οὐ κατενόησε τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα ἤδη νεκερωμένον, Rom. iv. 19; — “He considered not his own body now dead,” “now mortified.” The body of Abraham was not then absolutely dead, only the natural force and vigour of it was exceedingly abated. And so he seems to mollify this expression, Heb. xi. 12, Ἀφ’ ἑνὸς ἐγεννήθησαν, καὶ ταῦτα νενεκρωμένου, which we well render, “Of one, and him as good as dead,” ταῦτα intimating a respect unto the thing treated of. So that νεκροῦν, “to mortify,” signifies a continued act, in taking away the power and force of any thing until it come to be νενεκρωμένον, “dead,” unto some certain ends or purposes, as we shall see it is in the mortification of sin. Rom. viii. 13, “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live,” — θανατοῦτε, another word to the same purpose. It signifies, as the other doth, “to put to death;” but it is used in the present tense, to denote that it is a work which must be always doing: “If ye do mortify,” — that is, “If ye are always and constantly employed in that work.” And what the apostle here calls τὰς πράξεις τοῦ σώματος, “the deeds of the body,” he therein expresseth the effect for the cause metonymically; for he intends τὴν σάρκα σὺν τοῖς παθήμασι καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, as he expresseth the same thing, Gal. v. 24, “The flesh with the affections and lusts,” whence all the corrupt deeds wherein the body is instrumental do arise.
[2.] The same duty with relation unto the death of Christ, as the meritorious, efficient, and exemplary cause, is expressed by crucifying: Rom. vi. 6, “Our old man is crucified with him.” Gal. ii. 20, “I am crucified with Christ.” Chap. v. 24, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Chap. vi. 14, By the Lord Jesus Christ “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Now, as perhaps there may be something intimated herein of the manner of mortification of sin, which is gradually carried on unto its final destruction, as a man dies on the cross, yet that which is principally intended is the relation of this work and duty to the death of Christ, whence we and our sins are said to be 541crucified with him, because we and they are so by virtue of his death. And herein do we “always bear about in the body” τὴν νέκρωσιν, “the dying of the Lord Jesus,” 2 Cor. iv. 10, representing the manner of it, and expressing its efficacy.
(2.) Thus is this duty expressed, whose nature, in the next place, we shall more particularly inquire into, and declare in the ensuing observations:—
[1.] Mortification of sin is a duty always incumbent on us in the whole course of our obedience. This the command testifieth, which represents it as an always present duty. When it is no longer a duty to grow in grace, it is so not to mortify sin. No man under heaven can at any time say that he is exempted from this command, nor on any pretence; and he who ceaseth from this duty lets go all endeavours after holiness. And as for those who pretend unto an absolute perfection, they are of all persons living the most impudent, nor do they ever in this matter open their mouths but they give themselves the lie; for, —
[2.] This duty being always incumbent on us, argues undeniably the abiding in us of a principle of sin whilst we are in the flesh, which, with its fruits, is that which is to be mortified. This the Scripture calleth the “sin that dwelleth in us,” the “evil that is present with us,” the “law in our members,” “evil concupiscence,” “lust,” the “flesh,” and the like. And thereunto are the properties and actings of folly, deceit, tempting, seducing, rebelling, warring, captivating, ascribed. This is not a place to dispute the truth of this assertion, which cannot, with any reputation of modesty, be denied by any who own the Scripture or pretend to an acquaintance with themselves. But yet, through the craft of Satan, with the pride and darkness of the minds of men, it is so fallen out that the want of a true understanding hereof is the occasion of most of those pernicious errors wherewith the church of God is at present pestered, and which practically keep men off from being seriously troubled for their sins, or seeking out for relief by Jesus Christ. Thus, one hath not feared of late openly to profess that he knows of no deceit or evil in his own heart, though a wiser than he hath informed us that “he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool,” Prov. xxviii. 26.
[3.] Indwelling sin, which is the object of this duty of mortification, falls under a threefold consideration:— 1st. Of its root and principle; 2dly. Of its disposition and operations; 3dly. Of its effects. These in the Scripture are frequently distinguished, though mostly under metaphorical expressions. So are they mentioned together distinctly, Rom. vi. 6, “Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” 1st. The root or principle of sin, which by nature possesseth all the 542faculties of the soul, and as a depraved habit inclines unto all that is evil, is the “old man,” so called in opposition unto the “new man,” which “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” 2dly. There is the inclination, actual disposition, and operations of this principle or habit, which is called the body of sin, with the members of it; for under these expressions sin is proposed as in procinctu, in a readiness to act itself, and inclining unto all that is evil. And this also is expressed by “The flesh with the affections and lusts,” Gal. v. 24; “Deceitful lusts,” Eph. iv. 22, “The old man is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts;” “The wills of the flesh and of the mind,” chap. ii. 3. 3dly. There are the effects, fruits, and products of these things, which are actual sins; whereby, as the apostle speaks, we serve sin, as bringing forth the fruits of it: “That henceforth we should not serve sin,” Rom. vi. 6. And these fruits are of two sorts:— (1st.) Internal, in the figments and imaginations of the heart; which is the first way whereby the lusts of the old man do act themselves. And, therefore, of those that are under the power or dominion of sin, it is said that “every figment or imagination of their hearts is evil continually,” Gen. vi. 5; for they have no other principle whereby they are acted but that of sin, and therefore all the figments of their hearts must be necessarily evil. And with respect hereunto our Saviour affirms that all actual sins “proceed out of the heart,” Matt. xv. 19, because there is their root, and there are they first formed and framed. (2dly.) External, in actual sins, such as those enumerated by our apostle, Col. iii. 5; Gal. v. 19–21. All these things together make up the complete object of this duty of mortification. The old man, the body of death, with its members, and the works of the flesh, or the habit, operations, and effects of sin, are all of them intended and to be respected herein.
[4.] This principle, and its operations and effects, are opposed and directly contrary unto the principle, operations, and fruits of holiness, as wrought in us by the Spirit of God, which we have before described. 1st. They are opposed in their principle; for “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other,” Gal. v. 17. These are those two adverse principles which maintain such a conflict in the souls of believers whilst they are in this world, and which is so graphically described by our apostle, Rom. vii. So the old and new man are opposed and contrary. 2dly. In their actings. The lusting of the flesh and the lusting or desires of the Spirit, walking after the flesh and walking after the Spirit, living after the flesh and living in the Spirit, are opposed also. This is the opposition that is between the body of sin with its members and the life of grace: “Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Rom. viii. 1, 4, 5. 543“We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live,” verses 12, 13. By this “walking after the flesh” I understand not, at least not principally, the committing of actual sins, but a compliance with the principle or habit of sin prevailing in depraved, unsanctified nature, allowing it a predominancy in the heart and affections. It is when men are disposed to act according to the inclinations, lustings, motions, wills, and desires of it; or it is to bend that way habitually, in our course and conversation, which the flesh inclines and leads unto. This principle doth not, indeed, equally bring forth actual sins in all, but hath various degrees of its efficacy, as it is advantaged by temptations, controlled by light, or hampered by convictions. Hence all that are under the power of sin are not equally vicious and sinful; but after the flesh goes the bent of the soul and the generality of its actings. To “walk after the Spirit” consists in our being given up to his rule and conduct, or walking according to the dispositions and inclinations of the Spirit, that which is born of the Spirit, — namely, a principle of grace implanted in us by the Holy Ghost; which hath been at large insisted on before. And, 3dly. The external fruits and effects of these two principles are contrary also, as our apostle expressly and at large declares, Gal. v. 19–24; for whereas, in the enumeration of the “works of the flesh,” he reckons up actual sins, as adultery, fornication, and the like, in the account he gives of the “fruits of the Spirit,” he insists on habitual graces, as love, joy, peace. He expresseth them both metaphorically. In the former he hath respect unto the vicious habits of those actual sins, and in the latter unto the actual effects and duties of those habitual graces.
[5.] There being this universal contrariety, opposition, contending, and warfare, between grace and sin, the Spirit and the flesh, in their inward principles, powers, operations, and outward effects, the work and duty of mortification consists in a constant taking part with grace, in its principle, actings, and fruits, against the principle, actings, and fruits of sin; for the residence of these contrary principles being in, and their actings being by, the same faculties of the soul, as the one is increased, strengthened, and improved, the other must of necessity be weakened and decay. Wherefore, the mortification of sin must consist in these three things:— 1st. The cherishing and improving of the principle of grace and holiness which is implanted in us by the Holy Ghost, by all the ways and means which God hath appointed thereunto; which we have spoken unto before. This is that which alone can undermine and ruin the power of sin, without which all attempts to weaken it are vain and fruitless. Let men take never so much pains to mortify, crucify, or subdue their sins, unless 544they endeavour in the first place to weaken and impair its strength by the increase of grace and growing therein, they will labour in the fire, where their work will be consumed. 2dly. In frequent actings of the principle of grace in all duties, internal and external; for where the inclinations, motions, and actings of the Spirit, in all acts, duties, and fruits of holy obedience, are vigorous, and kept in constant exercise, the contrary motions and actings of the flesh are defeated. 3dly. In a due application of the principle, power, and actings of grace, by way of opposition unto the principle, power, and actings of sin. As the whole of grace is opposed unto the whole of sin, so there is no particular lust whereby sin can act its power, but there is a particular grace ready to make effectual opposition unto it, whereby it is mortified. And in this application of grace, in its actings in opposition unto all the actings of sin, consists the mystery of this great duty of mortification. And where men, being ignorant hereof, have yet fallen under a conviction of the power of sin, and been perplexed therewith, they have found out foolish ways innumerable for its mortification, wickedly opposing external, natural, bodily force and exercise, unto an internal, moral, depraved principle, which is no way concerned therein. But hereof we must treat more afterward under the third head, concerning the manner how this work is to be carried on or this duty performed.
[6.] This duty of weakening sin by the growth and improvement of grace, and the opposition which is made unto sin in all its actings thereby, is called mortification, killing, or putting to death, on sundry accounts:— First and principally, from that life which, because of its power, efficacy, and operation, is ascribed unto indwelling sin. The state of the soul by reason of it is a state of death; but whereas power and operations are the proper adjuncts or effects of life, for their sakes life is ascribed unto sin, on whose account sinners are dead. Wherefore this corrupt principle of sin in our depraved nature, having a constant, powerful inclination and working actually towards all evil, it is said metaphorically to live, or to have a life of its own. Therefore is the opposition that is made unto it for its ruin and destruction called mortification or killing, being its deprivation of that strength and efficacy whereby and wherein it is said to live. Secondly, It may be so called because of the violence of that contest which the soul is put unto in this duty. All other duties that we are called unto in the course of our obedience may be performed in a more easy, gentle, and plain manner. Though it is our work and duty to conflict with all sorts of temptations, yea, to wrestle with “principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places,” yet in this which we have with ourselves, which is wholly within us and from us, there is more of warring, fighting, captivating, 545wounding, crying out for help and assistance, a deep sense of such a violence as is used in taking away the life of a mortal enemy, than in any thing else we are called unto. And, thirdly, the end aimed at in this duty is destruction, as it is of all killing. Sin, as was said, hath a life, and that such a life as whereby it not only lives, but rules and reigns in all that are not born of God. By the entrance of grace into the soul it loseth its dominion, but not its being, — its rule, but not its life. The utter ruin, destruction, and gradual annihilation of all the remainders of this cursed life of sin is our design and aim in this work and duty; which is, therefore, called mortification. The design of this duty, wherever it is in sincerity, is to leave sin neither being, nor life, nor operation.
And some directions, as our manner is, may be taken from what we have discoursed concerning the nature of this duty, directive of our own practices. And, —
First, It is evident, from what hath been discoursed, that it is a work which hath a gradual progress, in the proceed whereof we must continually be exercised; and this respects, in the first place, the principle of sin itself. Everyday, and in every duty, an especial eye is to be had unto the abolition and destruction of this principle. It will no otherwise die but by being gradually and constantly weakened; spare it, and it heals its wounds, and recovers strength. Hence many who have attained to a great degree in the mortification of sin do by their negligence suffer it, in some instance or other, so to take head again that they never recover their former state whilst they live.
And this is the reason why we have so many withering professors among us, decayed in their graces, fruitless in their lives, and every way conformed to the world. There are some, indeed, who, being under the power of that blindness and darkness which is a principal part of the depravation of our nature, do neither see nor discern the inward secret actings and motions of sin, its deceit and restlessness, its mixing itself one way or other in all our duties, with the defilement and guilt wherewith these things are accompanied; who judge that God scarce takes notice of any thing but outward actions, and it may be not much of them neither, so as to be displeased with them, unless they are very foul indeed, which yet he is easily entreated to pass by and excuse; who judge this duty superfluous, despising both the confession and mortification of sin, in this root and principle of it. But those who have received most grace and power from above against it are of all others the most sensible of its power and guilt, and of the necessity of applying themselves continually unto its destruction.
Secondly, With respect unto its inclinations and operations, 546wherein it variously exerts its power, in all particular instances, we are continually to watch against it and to subdue it. And this concerns us in all that we are and do, — in our duties, in our calling, in our conversation with others, in our retirements, in the frames of our spirits, in our straits, in our mercies, in the use of our enjoyments, in our temptations. If we are negligent unto any occasion, we shall suffer by it. This is our enemy, and this is the war we are engaged in. Every mistake, every neglect, is perilous. And, —
Thirdly, The end of this duty, with respect unto us, expressed by the apostle, is, that henceforth we should not serve sin, Rom. vi. 6; which refers unto the perpetration of actual sins, the bringing forth of the actual fruits of the flesh, internal or external also. In whomsoever the old man is not crucified with Christ, let him think what he will of himself, he is a servant of sin. If he have not received virtue from the death of Christ, if he be not wrought unto a conformity to him therein, whatever else he may do or attain, however he may in any thing, in many things, change his course and reform his life, he serves sin, and not God. Our great design ought to be, that we should no longer serve sin; which the apostle in the ensuing verses gives us many reasons for. It is, indeed, the worst service that a rational creature is capable of, and will have the most doleful end. What, therefore, is the only way and means whereby we may attain this end, — namely, that although sin will abide in us, yet that we may not serve it, which will secure us from its danger? This is that mortification of it which we insist upon, and no other. If we expect to be freed from the service of sin by its own giving over to press its dominion upon us, or by any composition with it, or any other way but by being always killing or destroying of it, we do but deceive our own souls.
And, indeed, it is to be feared that the nature of this duty is not sufficiently understood or not sufficiently considered. Men look upon it as an easy task, and as that which will be carried on with a little diligence and ordinary attendance. But do we think it is for nothing that the Holy Ghost expresseth the duty of opposing sin, and weakening its power by mortification, killing, or putting to death? Is there not somewhat peculiar herein, beyond any other act or duty of our lives? Certainly there is intimated a great contest of sin for the preservation of its life. Everything will do its utmost to preserve its life and being. So will sin do also; and if it be not constantly pursued with diligence and holy violence, it will escape our assaults. Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until he be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so will he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues 547it not constantly to death. Sin will after awhile revive, and the man must die. It is a great and fatal mistake if we suppose this work will admit of any remissness or intermission. Again, the principle to be slain is in ourselves, and so possessed of our faculties as that it is called ourselves. It cannot be killed without a sense of pain and trouble. Hence it is compared to the cutting off of right hands, and the plucking out of right eyes. Lusts that pretend to be useful to the state and condition of men, that are pleasant and satisfactory to the flesh, will not be mortified without such a violence as the whole soul shall be deeply sensible of. And sundry other things might be insisted on to manifest how men deceive themselves, if they suppose this duty of mortification is that which they may carry on in a negligent, careless course and manner. Is there no danger in this warfare? no watchfulness, no diligence required of us? Is it so easy a thing to kill an enemy who hath so many advantages of force and fraud? Wherefore, if we take care of our souls, we are to attend unto this duty with that care, diligence, watchfulness, and earnest contention of spirit, which the nature of it doth require.
And, moreover, there is no less fatal mistake where we make the object of this duty to be only some particular lusts, or the fruits of them in actual sins, as was before observed. This is the way with many. They will make head against some sins, which on one account or other they find themselves most concerned in; but if they will observe their course, they shall find with how little success they do it. For the most part, sin gets ground upon them, and they continually groan under the power of its victories; and the reason is, because they mistake their business. Contests against particular sins are only to comply with light and convictions. Mortification, with a design for holiness, respects the body of sin, the root and all its branches. The first will miscarry, and the latter will be successful. And herein consists the difference between that mortification which men are put upon by convictions from the law, which always proves fruitless, and that wherein we are acted by the spirit of the gospel. The first respects only particular sins, as the guilt of them reflects upon conscience; the latter, the whole interest of sin, as opposed to the renovation of the image of God in us.
(3.) That which remains farther to be demonstrated is, that the Holy Spirit is the author of this work in us, so that although it is our duty, it is his grace and strength whereby it is performed; as also the manner how it is wrought by him, which is principally intended:—
[1.] For the first, we have the truth of it asserted, chap. viii. 13, “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh.” It is we that are to mortify the deeds of the flesh. It is our duty, but of ourselves 548we cannot do it; it must be done in or by the Spirit. Whether we take “the Spirit” here for the person of the Holy Ghost, as the context seems to require, or take it for the gracious principle of spiritual life in the renovation of our nature, — not the Spirit himself, but that which is “born of the Spirit,” — it is all one as to our purpose; the work is taken from our own natural power or ability, and resolved into the grace of the Spirit.
And, that we go no farther for the proof of our assertion, it may suffice to observe, that the confirmation of it is the principal design of the apostle, from the second verse of that chapter unto the end of the thirteenth. That the power and reign of sin, its interest and prevalency in the minds of believers, are weakened, impaired, and finally destroyed (so as that all the pernicious consequences of it shall be avoided) by the Holy Ghost, and that these things could no otherwise be effected, he both affirms and proves at large. In the foregoing chapter, from the seventh verse unto the end, he declares the nature, properties, and efficacy of indwelling sin, as the remainders of it do still abide in believers. And whereas a twofold conclusion might be made from the description he gives of the power and actings of this sin, or a double question arise, unto the great disconsolation of believers, he doth in this chapter remove them both, manifesting that there was no cause for such conclusions or exceptions from any thing by him delivered. The first of these is, “That if such, if this be the power and prevalency of indwelling sin, if it so obstruct us in our doing that which is good, and impetuously incline us unto evil, what will become of us in the end, how shall we answer for all the sin and guilt which we have contracted thereby? We must, we shall, therefore, perish under the guilt of it.” And the second conclusion which is apt to arise from the same consideration is, “That seeing the power and prevalency of sin is so great, and that we in ourselves are no way able to make resistance unto it, much less to overcome it, it cannot be but that at length it will absolutely prevail against us, and bring us under its dominion, unto our everlasting ruin.” Both these conclusions the apostle obviates in this chapter, or removes them if laid as objections against what he had delivered. And this he doth, —
1st. By a tacit concession that they will both of them be found true towards all who live and die under the law, without an interest in Jesus Christ; for, affirming that “there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” he grants that those who are not so cannot avoid it. Such is the guilt of this sin, and such are the fruits of it, in all in whomsoever it abides, that it makes them obnoxious unto condemnation. But, —
2dly. There is a deliverance from this condemnation and from all 549liableness thereunto, by free justification in the blood of Christ, Rom. viii. 1. For those who have an interest in him, and are made partakers thereof, although sin may grieve them, trouble and perplex them, and, by its deceit and violence, cause them to contract much guilt in their surprisals, yet they need not despond or be utterly cast down; there is a stable ground of consolation provided for them, in that “there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
3dly. That none may abuse this consolation of the gospel to countenance themselves unto a continuance in the service of sin, he gives a limitation of the subjects unto whom it doth belong, — namely, all them, and only them, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, verse 1. As for those who give up themselves unto the conduct of this principle of indwelling sin, who comply with its motions and inclinations, being acted wholly by its power, let them neither flatter nor deceive themselves; there is nothing in Christ nor the gospel to free them from condemnation. It is they only who give up themselves to the conduct of the Spirit of sanctification and holiness that have an interest in this privilege.
4thly. As to the other conclusion, taken from the consideration of the power and prevalency of this principle of sin, he prevents or removes it by a full discovery how and by what means that power of it shall be so broken, its strength abated, its prevalency disappointed, and itself destroyed, as that we need not fear the consequents of it before mentioned, but rather may secure ourselves that we shall be the death thereof, and not that the death of our souls. Now this is, saith he, “by the law” or power “of the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus,” verse 2. And thereon he proceeds to declare, that it is by the effectual working of this Spirit in us alone that we are enabled to overcome this spiritual adversary. This being sufficiently evident, it remaineth only that we declare, —
[2.] The way and manner how he produceth this effect of his grace.
1st. The foundation of all mortification of sin is from the inhabitation of the Spirit in us. He dwells in the persons of believers as in his temple, and so he prepares it for himself. Those defilements or pollutions which render the souls of men unmeet habitations for the Spirit of God do all of them consist in sin inherent-and its effects. These, therefore, he will remove and subdue, that he may dwell in us suitably unto his holiness: verse 11, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Our “mortal bodies” are our bodies as obnoxious unto death by reason of sin, as verse 10; and the “quickening” of these mortal bodies is their being freed from the principle of sin, or death and its power, by a contrary principle of life and 550righteousness. It is the freeing of us from being “in the flesh,” that we may be “in the Spirit,” verse 9. And by what means is this effected? It is by “the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead,” verse 11, — that is, of the Father; which also is called the “Spirit of God,” and the “Spirit of Christ,” verse 9, for he is equally the Spirit of the Father and the Son. And he is described by this periphrasis, both because there is a similitude between that work, as to its greatness and power, which God wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and what he worketh in believers in their sanctification, Eph. i. 19, 20, and because this work is wrought in us by virtue of the resurrection of Christ. But under what especial consideration doth he effect this work of mortifying sin in us? It is as he dwelleth in us. God doth it “by his Spirit that dwelleth in us,” Rom. viii. 11. As it is a work of grace, it is said to be wrought by the Spirit; and as it is our duty, we are said to work it “through the Spirit,” verse 13. And let men pretend what they please, if they have not the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, they have not mortified any sin, but do yet walk after the flesh, and, continuing so to do, shall die.
Moreover, as this is the only spring of mortification in us as it is a grace, so the consideration of it is the principal motive unto it as it is a duty. So our apostle pressing unto it doth it by this argument: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?” 1 Cor. vi. 19. To which we may add that weighty caution which he gives us to the same purpose: chap. iii. 16, 17, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
Whereas, therefore, in every duty two things are principally considered, — first, The life and spring of it, as it is wrought in us by grace; secondly, The principal reason for it and motive unto it, as it is to be performed in ourselves by the way of duty; both these, as to this matter of mortifications, do centre in this inhabitation of the Spirit. For, — (1st.) It is he who mortifies and subdues our corruptions, who quickens us unto life, holiness, and obedience, as he “dwelleth in us,” that he may make and prepare a habitation meet for himself. And, (2dly.) The principal reason and motive which we have to attend unto it with all care and diligence as a duty is, that we may thereby preserve his dwelling-place so as becometh his grace and holiness. And, indeed, whereas (as our Saviour tells us) they are things which arise from and come out of the heart that defile us, there is no greater nor more forcible motive to contend against all the defiling actings of sin, which is our mortification, than this, that by the neglect hereof the temple of the Spirit will be defiled, 551which we are commanded to watch against, under the severe commination of being destroyed for our neglect therein.
If it be said, that “whereas we do acknowledge that there are still remainders of this sin in us, and they are accompanied with their defilements, how can it be supposed that the Holy Ghost will dwell in us, or in anyone that is not perfectly holy?” I answer, — (1st.) That the great matter which the Spirit of God considereth in his opposition unto sin, and that of sin to his work, is dominion and rule. This the apostle makes evident, Rom. vi. 12–14. Who or what shall have the principal conduct of the mind and soul (chap. viii. 7–9) is the matter in question. Where sin hath the rule, there the Holy Ghost will never dwell. He enters into no soul as his habitation, but at the same instant he dethrones sin, spoils it of its dominion, and takes the rule of the soul into the hand of his own grace. Where he hath effected this work, and brought his adversary into subjection, there he will dwell, though sometimes his habitation be troubled by his subdued enemy. (2dly.) The souls and minds of them who are really sanctified have continually such a sprinkling with the blood of Christ, and are so continually purified by virtue from his sacrifice and oblation, as that they are never unmeet habitations for the Holy Spirit of God.
2dly. The manner of the actual operation of the Spirit of God in effecting this work, or how he mortifies sin, or enables us to mortify it, is to be considered; and an acquaintance herewith dependeth on the knowledge of the sin that is to be mortified, which we have before described. It is the vicious, corrupt habit and inclination unto sin, which is in us by nature, that is the principal object of this duty; or, “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” When this is weakened in us as to its power and efficacy, when its strength is abated and its prevalency destroyed, then is this duty in its proper discharge, and mortification carried on in the soul.
Now, this the Holy Ghost doth, —
(1st.) By implanting in our minds and all their faculties a contrary habit and principle, with contrary inclinations, dispositions, and actings, — namely, a principle of spiritual life and holiness, bringing forth the fruits thereof. By means hereof is this work effected; for sin will no otherwise die but by being killed and slain. And whereas this is gradually to be done, it must be by warring and conflict. There must be something in us that is contrary unto it, which, opposing it, conflicting with it, doth insensibly and by degrees (for it dies not at once) work out its ruin and destruction. As in a chronical distemper, the disease continually combats and conflicts with the powers of nature, until, having insensibly improved them, it prevails unto its dissolution, so is it in this matter. These 552adverse principles, with their contrariety, opposition; and conflict, the apostle expressly asserts and describes, as also their contrary fruits and actings, with the issue of the whole, Gal. v. 16–25. The contrary principles are the flesh and Spirit; and their contrary actings are in lusting and warring one against the other: Verse 16, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh is to mortify it; for it neither will nor can be kept alive if its lusts be not fulfilled. And he gives a fuller account hereof, verse 17, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other.” If by the “Spirit,” the Spirit of God himself be intended, yet he “lusteth” not in us but by virtue of that spirit which is born of him; that is, the new nature, or holy principle of obedience which he worketh in us. And the way of their mutual opposition unto one another the apostle describes at large in the following verses, by instancing in the contrary effects of the one and the other. But the issue of the whole is, verse 24, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” They have “crucified” it; that is, fastened it unto that cross where at length it may expire. And this is the way of it, — namely, the actings of the Spirit against it, and the fruits produced thereby. Hence he shuts up his discourse with that exhortation, “If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit;” that is, “If we are endowed with this spiritual principle of life, which is to live in the Spirit, then let us act, work, and improve that spiritual principle unto the ruin and mortification of sin.”
This, therefore, is the first way whereby the Spirit of God mortifieth sin in us; and in a compliance with it, under his conduct, do we regularly carry on this work and duty, — that is, we mortify sin by cherishing the principle of holiness and sanctification in our souls, labouring to increase and strengthen it by growing in grace, and by a constancy and frequency in acting of it in all duties, on all occasions, abounding in the fruits of it. Growing, thriving, and improving in universal holiness, is the great way of the mortification of sin. The more vigorous the principle of holiness is in us, the more weak, infirm, and dying will be that of sin. The more frequent and lively are the actings of grace, the feebler and seldomer will be the actings of sin. The more we abound in the “fruits of the Spirit,” the less shall we be concerned in the “works of the flesh.” And we do but deceive ourselves if we think sin will be mortified on any other terms. Men when they are galled in their consciences and disquieted in their minds with any sin or temptation thereunto, wherein their lusts or corruptions are either influenced by Satan, or entangled by objects, occasions, and opportunities, do set themselves ofttimes in good earnest to oppose and subdue it, by all the ways 553and means they can think upon. But all they do is in vain; and so they find it at last, unto their cost and sorrow. The reason is, because they neglect this course, without which never any one sin was truly mortified in the world, nor ever will so be. The course I intend is that of labouring universally to improve a principle of holiness, not in this or that way, but in all instances of holy obedience. This is that which will ruin sin, and without it nothing else will contribute any thing thereunto. Bring a man unto the law, urge him with the purity of its doctrines, the authority of its commands, the severity of its threatenings, the dreadful consequences of its transgression; suppose him convinced hereby of the evil and danger of sin, of the necessity of its mortification and destruction, will he be able hereon to discharge this duty, so as that sin may die and his soul may live? The apostle assures us of the contrary, Rom. vii. 7–9. The whole effect of the application of the law in its power unto indwelling sin is but to irritate, provoke, and increase its guilt. And what other probable way besides this unto this end can anyone fix upon?
(2dly.) The Holy Ghost carrieth on this work in us as a grace, and enableth us unto it as our duty, by those actual supplies and assistances of grace which he continually communicates unto us; for the same divine operations, the same supplies of grace, which are necessary unto the positive acts and duties of holiness, are necessary also unto this end, that sin in the actual motions and lustings of it may be mortified. So the apostle issues his long account of the conflict between sin and the soul of a believer, and his complaint thereon, with that good word, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” verse 25, — namely, who supplies me with gracious assistance against the power of sin. Temptation is successful only by sin, James i. 14. And it was with respect unto an especial temptation that the Lord Christ gives that answer unto the apostle, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” 2 Cor. xii. 9. It is the actual supply of the Spirit of Christ that doth enable us to withstand our temptations and subdue our corruptions. This is the ἐπιχορηγία τοῦ Πνεύματος, Phil. i. 19, — an “additional supply,” as occasion requireth, beyond our constant daily provision; or χάρις εἰς εὔχαιρον βοήθειαν, Heb. iv. 16, — grace given in to help seasonably, upon our cry made for it. Of the nature of these supplies we have discoursed before. I shall now only observe, that in the life of faith and dependence on Christ, the expectation and derivation of these supplies of grace and spiritual strength is one principal part of our duty. These things are not empty notions, as some imagine. If Christ be a head of influence unto us as well as of rule, as the head natural is to the body; if he be our life, if our life be in him, and we have nothing but what we do receive from him; if he give unto us supplies of his 554Spirit and increases of grace; and if it be our duty by faith to look for all these things from him, and that be the means of receiving them, — which things are all expressly and frequently affirmed in the Scripture; — then is this expectation and derivation of spiritual strength continually from him the way we are to take for the actual mortification of sin. And, therefore, if we would be found in a successful discharge of this duty, it is required of us, — [1st.] That we endeavour diligently, in the whole course of our lives, after these continual supplies of grace, — that is, that we wait for them in all those ways and means whereby they are communicated; for although the Lord Christ giveth them out freely and bountifully, yet our diligence in duty will give the measure of receiving them. If we are negligent in prayer, meditation, reading, hearing of the word, and other ordinances of divine worship, we have no ground to expect any great supplies to this end. And, [2dly.] That we live and abound in the actual exercise of all those graces which are most directly opposite unto those peculiar lusts or corruptions that we are most exercised withal or obnoxious unto; for sin and grace do try their interest and prevalency in particular instances. If, therefore, any are more than ordinarily subject unto the power of any corruption, — as passion, inordinate affections, love of the world, distrust of God, — unless they be constant in the exercise of those graces which are diametrically opposed unto them, they will continually suffer under the power of sin.
(3dly.) It is the Holy Spirit which directs us unto, and helps us in, the performance of those duties, which are appointed of God unto this end, that they may be means of the mortification of sin. Unto the right use of those duties (for such there are), two things are required:— [1st.] That we know them aright in their nature and use, as also that they are appointed of God unto this end; and then, [2dly.] That we perform them in a due manner. And both these we must have from the Spirit of God. He is given to believers “to lead them into all truth;” he teacheth and instructs them by the word, not only what duties are incumbent on them, but also how to perform them, and with respect unto what ends:—
[1st.] It is required that we know them aright, in their nature, use, and ends. For want hereof, or through the neglect of looking after it, all sorts of men have wandered after foolish imaginations about this work, either as to the nature of the work itself, or as to the means whereby it may be effected; for it being a grace and duty of the gospel, thence only is it truly to be learned, and that by the teachings of the Spirit of God. And it may not be amiss to give some instances of the darkness of men’s minds and their mistakes herein.
555First, A general apprehension that somewhat of this nature is necessary, arising from the observation of the disorder of our passions, and the exorbitancy of the lives of most in the world, is suited even to the light of nature, and was from thence variously improved by the philosophers of old. To this purpose did they give many instructions about denying and subduing the disorderly affections of the mind, conquering passions, moderating desires, and the like. But whilst their discoveries of sin rose no higher than the actual disorder they found in the affections and passions of the mind, — whilst they knew nothing of the depravation of the mind itself, and had nothing to oppose unto what they did discover but moral considerations, and those most of them notoriously influenced by vainglory and applause, — they never attained unto any thing of the same kind with the due mortification of sin.
Secondly, We may look into the Papacy, and take a view of the great appearance of this duty which is therein, and we shall find it all disappointed; because they are not led unto nor taught the duties whereby it may be brought about by the Spirit of God. They have, by the light of the Scripture, a far clearer discovery of the nature and power of sin than had the philosophers of old. The commandment, also, being variously brought and applied unto their consciences, they may be, and doubtless are and have been, many of them, made deeply sensible of the actings and tendency of indwelling sin. Hereon ensues a terror of death and eternal judgment. Things being so stated, persons who were not profligate nor had their consciences seared could not refrain from contriving ways and means how sin might be mortified and destroyed. But whereas they had lost a true apprehension of the only way whereby this might be effected, they betook themselves unto innumerable false ones of their own. This was the spring of all the austerities, disciplines, fastings, self-macerations, and the like, which are exercised or in use among them: for although they are now in practice turned mostly to the benefit of the priests, and an indulgence unto sin in the penitents, yet they were invented and set on foot at first with a design to use them as engines for the mortification of sin; and they have a great appearance in the flesh unto that end and purpose. But yet, when all was done, they found by experience that they were insufficient hereunto: sin was not destroyed, nor conscience pacified by them. This made them betake themselves to purgatory. Here they have hopes all will be set right when they are gone out of this world; from whence none could come back to complain of their disappointments. These things are not spoken to condemn even external severities and austerities, in fastings, watchings, and abstinences, in their proper place. Our nature is apt to run into extremes. Because we see the vanity 556of the Papists in placing mortification of sin in an outward shadow and appearance of it, in that bodily exercise which profiteth not, we are apt to think that all things of that nature are utterly needless, and cannot be subordinate unto spiritual ends. But the truth is, I shall much suspect their internal mortification (pretend what they will) who always pamper the flesh, indulge to their sensual appetite, conform to the world, and lead their lives in idleness and pleasures; yea, it is high time that professors, by joint consent, should retrench that course of life, in fullness of diet, bravery of apparel, expense of time in vain conversation, which many are fallen into. But these outward austerities of themselves, I say, will never effect the end aimed at; for as to the most of them, they being such as God never appointed unto any such end or purpose, but being the fruit of men’s own contrivances and inventions, let them be insisted on and pursued unto the most imaginable extremities, being not blessed of God thereunto, they will not contribute the least towards the mortification of sin. Neither is there either virtue or efficacy in the residue of them, but as they are subordinated unto other spiritual duties. So Hierom gives us an honest instance in himself, telling us that whilst he lived in his horrid wilderness in Judea, and lodged in his cave, his mind would be in the sports and revels at Rome!
Thirdly, The like may be said of the Quakers amongst ourselves. That which first recommended them was an appearance of mortification; which it may be also some of them really intended, though it is evident they never understood the nature of it: for in the height of their outward appearances, as they came short of the sorry weeds, begging habits, macerated countenances, and severe looks, of many monks in the Roman church, and dervises among the Mohammedans; so they were so far from restraining or mortifying their real inclinations, as that they seemed to excite and provoke themselves to exceed all others in clamours, railings, evil- speakings, reproaches, calumnies, and malicious treating of those who dissented from them, without the least discovery of a heart filled with kindness and benignity unto mankind, or love unto any but themselves; in which frame and state of things sin is as secure from mortification as in the practice of open lusts and debaucheries. But supposing that they made a real industrious attempt for the mortification of sin, what success have they had, what have they attained unto? Some of them have very wisely slipped over the whole work and duty of it into a pleasing dream of perfection; and generally, finding the fruitlessness of their attempt, and that indeed sin will not be mortified by the power of their light within, nor by their resolutions, nor by any of their austere outward appearances, nor peculiar habits or looks, which in this 557matter are openly pharisaical, they begin to give over their design: for who, among all that pretend to any reverence of God, do more openly indulge themselves unto covetousness, love of the world, emulation, strife, contentions among themselves, severe revenges against others, than they do, — not to mention the filth and uncleanness they begin mutually to charge one another withal? And so will all self-devised ways of mortification end. It is the Spirit of God alone who leads us into the exercise of those duties whereby it may be carried on.
[2dly.] It is required that the duties to be used unto this end be rightly performed, in faith, unto the glory of God. Without this a multiplication of duties is an increase of burden and bondage, and that is all. Now, that we can perform no duty in this way or manner without the especial assistance of the Holy Spirit hath been sufficiently before evinced. And the duties which are appointed of God in an especial manner unto this end are, prayer, meditation, watchfulness, abstinence, wisdom or circumspection with reference unto temptations and their prevalency. Not to go over these duties in particular, nor to show wherein their especial efficacy unto this end and purpose doth consist, I shall only give some general rules concerning the exercising of our souls in them, and some directions for their right performance:—
First, All these duties are to be designed and managed with an especial respect unto this end. It will not suffice that we are exercised in them in general, and with regard only unto this general end. We are to apply them unto this particular case, designing in and by them the mortification and ruin of sin, especially when, by its especial actings in us, it discovers itself in a peculiar manner unto us. No man who wisely considereth himself, his state and condition, his occasions and temptations, can be wholly ignorant of his especial corruptions and inclinations, whereby he is ready for halting, as the psalmist speaks. He that is so lives in the dark to himself, and walks at peradventures with God, not knowing how he walketh nor whither he goeth. David probably had respect hereunto when he said, “I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity,” Ps. xviii. 21–23. He could have done nothing of all this, nor have preserved his integrity in walking with God, had he not known and kept a continual watch upon his own iniquity, or that working of sin in him which most peculiarly inclined and disposed him unto evil. Upon this discovery, we are to apply these duties in a particular manner to the weakening and ruin of the power of sin. As they are all useful and necessary, so 558the circumstances of our condition will direct us which of them in particular we ought to be most conversant in. Sometimes prayer and meditation claim this place, as when our danger ariseth solely from ourselves, and our own perverse inclinations, disorderly affections, or unruly passions; sometimes watchfulness and abstinence, when sin takes occasion from temptations, concerns, and businesses in the world; sometimes wisdom and circumspection, when the avoidance of temptations and opportunities for sin is in an especial manner required of us. These duties, I say, are to be managed with a peculiar design to oppose, defeat, and destroy the power of sin, into which they have a powerful influence, as designed of God unto that end; for, —
Secondly, All these duties, rightly improved, work two ways towards the end designed: first, Morally, and by way of impetration, — namely, of help and assistance; secondly, Really, by an immediate opposition unto sin and its power, whence assimilation unto holiness doth arise:—
(First.) These duties work morally and by way of impetration. I shall instance only in one of them, and that is prayer. There are two parts of prayer with respect unto sin and its power: first, Complaints; secondly, Petitions:—
[First.] Complaints. So is the title of Ps. cii., “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” So David expresseth himself, Ps. lv. 2, “Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise.” His prayer was a doleful lamentation. And Ps. cxlii. 2, “I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble.” This is the first work of prayer with respect unto sin, its power and prevalency. The soul therein pours out its complaints unto God, and showeth before him the trouble it undergoes on the account thereof. And this it doth in an humble acknowledgment of its guilt, crying out of its deceit and violence; for all just and due complaint respecteth that which is grievous, and which is beyond the power of the complainer to relieve himself against. Of this sort there is nothing to be compared with the power of sin, as to believers.
This therefore is, and ought to be, the principal matter and subject of their complaints in prayer; yea, the very nature of the whole case is such as that the apostle could not give an account of it without great complaints, Rom. vii. 24. This part of prayer, indeed, is with profligate persons derided and scorned, but it is acceptable with God, and that wherein believers find ease and rest unto their souls; for, let the world scoff while it pleaseth, what is more acceptable unto God than for his children, out of pure love unto him and holiness, out of fervent desires to comply with his mind and will, and thereby 559to attain conformity unto Jesus Christ, to come with their complaints unto him of the distance they are kept from these things by the captivating power of sin, bewailing their frail condition, and humbly acknowledging all the evils they are liable unto upon the account thereof? Would any man have thought it possible, had not experience convinced him, that so much Luciferian pride and atheism should possess the minds of any who would be esteemed Christians as to scoff at and deride these things? that anyone should ever read the Bible, or once consider what he is, and with whom he hath to do, and be ignorant of this duty? But we have nothing to do with such persons, but to leave them to please themselves whilst they may with these fond and impious imaginations. They will come either in this world (which we hope and pray for), in their repentance, to know their folly, or in another. I say, these complaints of sin, poured out before the Lord, these cryings out of deceit and violence, are acceptable to God, and prevalent with him to give out aid and assistance. He owns believers as his children, and hath the bowels and compassion of a father towards them. Sin he knows to be their greatest enemy, and which fights directly against their souls. Will he, then, despise their complaints, and their bemoaning of themselves before him? will he not avenge them of that enemy, and that speedily? See Jer. xxxi. 18–20. Men who think they have no other enemies, none to complain of, but such as oppose them, or obstruct them, or oppress them, in their secular interests, advantages, and concerns, are strangers unto these things. Believers look on sin as their greatest adversary, and know that they suffer more from it than from all the world; suffer them, therefore, to make their complaints of it unto him who pities them, and who will relieve them and avenge them.
[Secondly.] Prayer is directly petitions to this purpose. It consists of petitions unto God for supplies of grace to conflict and conquer sin withal. I need not prove this. No man prays as he ought, no man joins in prayer with another who prays as he ought, but these petitions are a part of his prayer. Especially will they be so, and ought they so to be, when the mind is peculiarly engaged in the design of destroying sin. And these petitions or requests are, as far as they are gracious and effectual, wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, who therein “maketh intercession for us, according to the will of God;” and hereby doth he carry on this work of the mortification of sin, for his work it is. He makes us to put up prevalent requests unto God for such continual supplies of grace, whereby it may be constantly kept under, and at length destroyed.
And this is the first way whereby this duty hath an influence into mortification, — namely, morally and by way of impetration.
560(Secondly.) This duty hath a real efficiency unto the same end. It doth itself (when rightly performed and duly attended unto) mightily prevail unto the weakening and destruction of sin; for in and by fervent prayer, especially when it is designed unto this end, the habit, frame, and inclinations of the soul unto universal holiness, with a detestation of all sin, are increased, cherished, and strengthened. The soul of a believer is never raised unto a higher intension of spirit in the pursuit of, love unto, and delight in holiness, nor is more conformed unto it or cast into the mould of it, than it is in prayer. And frequency in this duty is a principal means to fix and consolidate the mind in the form and likeness of it; and hence do believers ofttimes continue in and come off from prayer above all impressions from sin, as to inclinations and compliances. Would such a frame always continue, how happy were we! But abiding in the duty is the best way of reaching out after it. I say, therefore, that this duty is really efficient of the mortification of sin, because therein all the graces whereby it is opposed and weakened are excited, exercised, and improved unto that end, as also the detestation and abhorrency of sin is increased in us; and where this is not so, there are some secret flaws in the prayers of men, which it will be their wisdom to find out and heal.
(4thly.) The Holy Spirit carrieth on this work by applying in an especial manner the death of Christ unto us for that end. And this is another thing which, because the world understandeth not, it doth despise. But yet in whomsoever the death of Christ is not the death of sin, he shall die in his sins. To evidence this truth we may observe, — [1st.] In general, That the death of Christ hath an especial influence into the mortification of sin, without which it will not be mortified. This is plainly enough testified unto in the Scripture. By his cross, — that is, his death on the cross, — “we are crucified unto the world,” Gal. vi. 14. “Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed,” Rom. vi. 6; that is, sin is mortified in us by virtue of the death of Christ. [2dly.] In the death of Christ with respect unto sin there may be considered, — First, His oblation of himself; and, Secondly, The application thereof unto us. By the first it is that our sins are expiated as unto their guilt; but from the latter it is that they are actually subdued as to their power; for it is by an interest in, and a participation of the benefits of his death, which we call the application of it unto us. Hereon are we said to be “buried with him” and to “rise with him,” whereof our baptism is a pledge, chap. vi. 3, 4; not in an outward representation, as some imagine, of being dipped into the water and taken up again (which were to make one sign the sign of another), but in a powerful participation of the virtue of the death and life of Christ, in a death unto 561sin and newness of life in holy obedience, which baptism is a pledge of, as it is a token of our initiation and implanting into him. So are we said to be “baptized into his death,” or into the likeness of it, that is, in its power, verse 3. Thirdly, The old man is said to be crucified with Christ, or sin to be mortified by the death of Christ, as was in part before observed, on two accounts:—
(First.) Of conformity. Christ is the head, the beginning or idea, of the new creation, the first-born of every creature. Whatever God designeth unto us therein, he first exemplified in Jesus Christ; and we are “predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son,” Rom. viii. 29. Hereof the apostle gives us an express instance in the resurrection: “Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming,” 1 Cor. xv. 23. It is so in all things; all that is wrought in us, it is in resemblance and conformity unto Christ. Particularly, we are by grace “planted in the likeness of his death,” Rom. vi. 5, being “made conformable unto his death,” Phil. iii. 10; and so “dead with Christ,” Col. ii. 20. Now, this conformity is not in our natural death, nor in our being put to death as he was; for it is that which we are made partakers of in this life, and that in a way of grace and mercy. But Christ died for sin, for our sin, which was the meritorious procuring cause thereof; and he lived again by the power of God. A likeness and conformity hereunto God will work in all believers. There is by nature a life of sin in them, as hath been declared. This life must be destroyed, sin must die in us; and we thereby become dead unto sin. And as he rose again, so are we to be quickened in and unto newness of life. In this death of sin consists that mortification which we treat about, and without which we cannot be conformed unto Christ in his death, which we are designed unto. And the same Spirit which wrought these things in Christ will, in the pursuit of his design, work that which answers unto them in all his members.
(Secondly.) In respect of efficacy. Virtue goeth forth from the death of Christ for the subduing and destruction of sin. It was not designed to be a dead, inactive, passive example, but it is accompanied with a power conforming and changing us into his own likeness. It is the ordinance of God unto that end; which he therefore gives efficacy unto. It is by a fellowship or participation in his sufferings that we are “made conformable unto his death,” Phil. iii. 10; — this κοινωνία τῶν παθημάτων is an interest in the benefit of his sufferings; we also are made partakers thereof. This makes us conformable to his death, in the death of sin in us. The death of Christ is designed to be the death of sin, let them who are dead in sin deride it whilst they please. If Christ had not died, sin had never died in any sinner unto eternity. Wherefore, that there is a virtue and efficacy in the 562death of Christ unto this purpose cannot be denied without a renunciation of all the benefits thereof. On the one hand, the Scripture tells us that he is “our life,” our spiritual life, the spring, fountain, and cause of it; we have nothing, therefore, that belongs thereunto but what is derived from him. They cast themselves out of the verge of Christianity who suppose that the Lord Christ is no otherwise our life, or the author of life unto us, but as he hath revealed and taught the way of life unto us; he is our life as he is our head. And it would be a sorry head that should only teach the feet to go, and not communicate strength to the whole body so to do. And that we have real influences of life from Christ I have sufficiently proved before. Unto our spiritual life doth ensue the death of sin; for this, on the other hand, is peculiarly assigned unto his death in the testimonies before produced. This, therefore, is by virtue derived from Christ, — that is, in an especial manner from his death, as the Scripture testifies.
All the inquiry is, How the death of Christ is applied unto us, or, which is the same, How we apply ourselves to the death of Christ for this purpose. And I answer, we do it two ways:—
[1st.] By faith. The way to derive virtue from Christ is by touching of him. So the diseased woman in the gospel touched but the hem of his garment, and virtue went forth from him to stay her bloody issue, Matt. ix. 20–22. It was not her touching him outwardly, but her faith, which she acted then and thereby, that derived virtue from him; for so our Saviour tells her in his answer, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” But unto what end was this touching of his garment? It was only a pledge and token of the particular application of the healing power of Christ unto her soul, or her faith in him in particular for that end: for at the same time many thronged upon him in a press, so as his disciples marvelled he should ask who touched his clothes, Mark v. 30, 31; yet was not any of them advantaged but the poor sick woman. A great emblem it is of common profession on the one hand, and especial faith on the other. Multitudes press and throng about Christ in a profession of faith and obedience, and in the real performance of many duties, but no virtue goeth forth from Christ to heal them. But when anyone, though poor, though seemingly at a distance, gets but the least touch of him by especial faith, this soul is healed. This is our way with respect unto the mortification of sin. The Scripture assures us that there is virtue and efficacy in the death of Christ unto that end. The means whereby we derive this virtue from him is by touching of him, — that is, by acting faith on him in his death for the death of sin.
But how will this effect it? how will sin be mortified hereby? I 563say, How, by what power and virtue, were they healed in the wilderness who looked unto the brazen serpent? was it not because that was an ordinance of God, which by his almighty power he made effectual unto that purpose? The death of Christ being so as to the crucifying of sin, when it is looked on or applied unto by faith, shall not divine virtue and power go forth unto that end? The Scripture and experience of all believers give testimony unto the truth and reality thereof. Besides, faith itself, as acted on the death of Christ, hath a peculiar efficacy unto the subduing of sin: for, “beholding” him thereby “as in a glass, we are changed into the same image,” 2 Cor. iii. 18; and that which we peculiarly behold, we are peculiarly transformed into the likeness of. And, moreover, it is the only means whereby we actually derive from Christ the benefits of our union with him. From thence we have all grace, or there is no such thing in the world; and the communication of it unto us is in and by the actual exercise of faith principally. So it being acted with respect unto his death, we have grace for the killing of sin, and thereby become dead with him, crucified with him, buried with him, as in the testimonies before produced. This is that which we call the application of the death of Christ unto us, or our application of ourselves to the death of Christ for the mortification of sin. And they by whom this means thereof is despised or neglected, who are ignorant of it or do blaspheme it, must live under the power of sin, unto what inventions soever they turn themselves for deliverance. According as we abide and abound herein will be our success. Those who are careless and remiss in the exercise of faith, by prayer and meditation, in the way described, will find that sin will keep its ground, and maintain so much power in them as shall issue in their perpetual trouble; and men who are much conversant with the death of Christ, — not in notions and lifeless speculations, not in natural or carnal affections, like those which are raised in weak persons by images and crucifixes, but by holy actings of faith with respect unto what is declared in the Scripture as to its power and efficacy, — will be implanted into the likeness of it, and experience the death of sin in them continually.
[2dly.] We do it by love. Christ as crucified is the great object of our love, or should so be; for he is therein unto sinners “altogether lovely.” Hence one of the ancients cried out, Ὁ ἔρως ἐμὸς ἐσταύρωται; — “My love is crucified, and why do I stay behind?” In the death of Christ do his love, his grace, his condescension, most gloriously shine forth. We may, therefore, consider three things with respect unto this love:— first, The object of it; secondly, The means of the representation of that object unto our minds and affections; thirdly, The effects of it as to the case in hand.
564First, The object of it is Christ himself, in his unsearchable grace, his unspeakable love, his infinite condescension, his patient suffering, and victorious power, in his death or dying for us. It is not his death absolutely, but himself, as all these graces conspicuously shine forth in his death, which is intended.
Secondly, And there are various ways whereby this may be represented unto our minds:— (First,) Men may do it unto themselves by their own imaginations. They may frame and fancy dolorous things unto themselves about it, which is the way of persons under deep and devout superstitions; but no love in sincerity will ever be ingenerated towards Jesus Christ hereby. (Secondly,) It may be done by others, in pathetical and tragical declarations of the outward part of Christ’s sufferings. Herein some have a great faculty to work upon the natural affections of their auditors; and great passions, accompanied with tears and vows, may be so excited. But, for the most part, there is no more in this work than what the same persons do find in themselves, it may be, in the reading or hearing of a feigned story; for there is a sympathy in natural affections with the things that are their proper objects, though represented by false imaginations. (Thirdly,) It is done in the Papacy, and among some others, by images, in crucifixes and dolorous pictures, whereunto they pay great devotion, with an appearance of ardent affections; but none of these is such a due representation of this object as to ingenerate sincere love towards Christ crucified in any soul. Wherefore, (Fourthly,) This is done effectually only by the gospel, and in the dispensation of it according to the mind of God; for therein is “Jesus Christ evidently crucified before our eyes,” Gal. iii. 1. And this it doth by proposing unto our faith the grace, the love, the patience, the condescension, the obedience, the end and design of Christ therein. So is Christ eyed by faith as the proper object of sincere love. And being so stated, —
Thirdly, The effects of it, as of all true love, are, first, Adherence; secondly, Assimilation :— (First,) Adherence. Love in the Scripture is frequently expressed by this effect; the soul of one did cleave, or was knit, unto another, as that of Jonathan to David, 1 Sam. xviii. 1. So it produceth a firm adherence unto Christ crucified, that makes a soul to be in some sense always present with Christ on the cross. And hence ensues, (Secondly,) Assimilation or conformity. None treat of the nature or effects of love but they assign this as one of them, that it begets a likeness between the mind loving and the object beloved. And so I am sure it is in this matter. A mind filled with the love of Christ as crucified, and represented in the manner and way before described, will be changed into his image and likeness by the effectual mortification of sin, through a derivation of power and grace from thence for that purpose.
565(5thly.) The Holy Ghost carrieth on this work by constant discoveries unto and pressing on believers, on the one hand, the true nature and certain end of sin; and, on the other, the beauty, excellency, usefulness, and necessity of holiness, with the concerns of God, Christ, the gospel, and their own souls therein. A rational consideration of these things is all the ground and reason of mortification in the judgment of some men. But we have proved that there are other causes of it also; and now I add, that if we have no consideration of these things but what our own reason is of itself able to suggest unto us, it will never be prevalent unto any sincere or permanent attempt in the mortification of any sin whatever. Let men make the best of their reason they can, in the searching and consideration of the perverse nature and dreadful consequents of sin, of the perfect peace and future blessedness which attendeth the practice of holiness, they will find an obstinacy and stubbornness in their hearts not conquerable by any such reasonings or considerations. That conviction of sin and righteousness which is useful and prevalent unto that end and purpose is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, John xvi. 8. Although he makes use of our minds, understandings, reasons, consciences, and the best of our consideration, in this matter, yet if he give not a peculiar efficacy and power unto all, the work will not be effectual. When he is pleased to make use of reasons and motives, taken from the nature and end of sin and holiness, unto the mortification of sin, they shall hold good, and bind the soul unto this duty, against all objections and temptations that would divert it whatever.
And thus I have briefly, and I confess weakly and obscurely, delineated the work of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of them that do believe. Many things might have been more enlarged and particularly inquired into; what have been discoursed I judge sufficient to my present purpose. And I doubt not but that what hath been argued from plain Scripture and experience is sufficient, as to direct us in the practice of true evangelical holiness, so, with all sober persons, to cast out of all consideration that fulsome product of pride and ignorance, that all gospel holiness consists in the practice of moral virtues.
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