The Works of
MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS, ETC.
The foundation of the whole ensuing discourse laid in Rom. viii. 13 -- The words of the apostle opened -- The certain connection between true mortification and salvation -- Mortification the work of believers -- The Spirit the principal efficient cause of it -- What meant by "the body" in the words of the apostle -- What by "the deeds of the body " -- Life, in what sense promised to this duty.
THAT what I have of direction to contribute to the carrying on of the work of mortification in believers may receive order and perspicuity, I shall lay the foundation of it in those words of the apostle, Rom. viii.]8, "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live;" and reduce the whole to an improvement of the great evangelical truth and mystery contained in them.
The apostle having made a recapitulation of his doctrine of justification by faith, and the blessed estate and condition of them who are made by grace partakers thereof, verses 1-3 of this chapter, proceeds to improve it to the holiness and consolation of believers.
Among his arguments and motives unto holiness, the verse mentioned containeth one from the contrary events and effects of holiness and sin: "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." What it is to "live after the flesh," and what it is to "die," that being not my present aim and business, I shall no otherwise explain than as they will fall in with the sense of the latter words of the verse, as before proposed.
In the words peculiarly designed for the foundation of the ensuing discourse, there is, First, A duty prescribed: "Mortify the deeds of the body. "
Secondly, The persons are denoted to whom it is prescribed: "Ye," -- "if ye mortify. "
Thirdly, There is in them a promise annexed to that duty: "Ye shall live. "
6 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
Fourthly, The cause or means of the performance of this duty, -- the Spirit: "If ye through the Spirit."
Fifthly, The conditionality of the whole proposition, wherein duty, means, and promise are contained: "If ye," etc.
1. The first thing occurring in the words as they lie in the entire proposition is the conditional note, [GREEK]; "But if." Conditionals in such propositions may denote two things --
(1.) The uncertainty of the event or thing promised, in respect of them to whom the duty is prescribed. And this takes place where the condition is absolutely necessary unto the issue, and depends not itself on any determinate cause known to him to whom it is prescribed. So we say, "If we live, we will do such a thing." This cannot be the intendment of the conditional expression in this place. Of the persons to whom these words are spoken, it is said, verse 1 of the same chapter, "There is no condemnation to them."
(2.) The certainty of the coherence and connection that is between the things spoken of; as we say to a sick man, "If you will take such a potion, or use such a remedy, you will be well." The thing we solely intend to express is the certainty of the connection that is between the potion or remedy and health. And this is the use of it here. The certain connection that is between the mortifying of the deeds of the body and living is intimated in this conditional particle.
Now, the connection and coherence of things being manifold, as of cause and effect, of way and means and the end, this between mortification and life is not of cause and effect properly and strictly, for "eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ," Rom. vi. 23, -- but of means and end. God hath appointed this means for the attaining that end, which he hath freely promised. Means, though necessary, have a fair subordination to all end of free promise. A gift, and procuring cause in him to whom it is given, are inconsistent. The intendment, then, of this proposition as conditional is, that there is a certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live. And herein lies the main motive unto and enforcement of the duty prescribed.
2. The next thing we meet withal in the words is the persons to whom this duty is prescribed, and that is expressed in the word "Ye," in the original included in the verb, [GREEK] "if ye mortify;" -- that is, ye believers; ye to whom "there is no condemnation," verse 1; ye that are "not in the flesh, but in the Spirit," verse 9; who are "quickened by the Spirit of Christ," verses 10, 11; to you is this duty prescribed. The pressing of this duty immediately on any other is a notable fruit of that superstition and self-righteousness that the world
ROMANS VIII. 13 EXPLAINED. 7
is full of, -- the great work and design of devout men ignorant of the gospel, Rom. x. 3, 4; John xv. 5. Now, this description of the persons, in conjunction with the prescription of the duty, is the main foundation of the ensuing discourse, as it lies in this thesis or proposition
The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning Power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
3. The principal efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit: [GREEK] -- " If by the Spirit." The Spirit here is the Spirit mentioned verse 11, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, that "dwells in us," verse 9, that "quickens us," verse 11; "the Holy Ghost," verse 14;1 the "Spirit of adoption," verse 15; the Spirit "that maketh intercession for us," verse 26. All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates, Rom. ix. 30-32, may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done, and do: but, saith he, "This is the work of the Spirit; by him alone is it to be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about." Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world. And this is a second principle of my ensuing discourse.
4. The duty itself, "Mortify the deeds of the body," is nextly to be remarked.
Three things are here to be inquired into: -- (1.) What is meant by the body; (2.) What by the deeds of the body; (3.) What by mortifying of them.
(1.) The body in the close of the verse is the same with the flesh in the beginning: "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye . . . . mortify the deeds of the body, " -- that is, of the flesh. It is that which the apostle hath all along discoursed of under the name of the flesh; which is evident from the prosecution of the antithesis between the Spirit and the flesh, before and after. The body, then, here is taken for that corruption and depravity of our natures whereof the body, in a great part, is the seat and instrument, the very members of the body being made servants unto unrighteousness thereby, Rom. vi. 19. It is indwelling sin, the corrupted flesh or lust, that is intended. Many reasons might be given of this metonymical expression, that I shall not now insist on. The "body" here is the same with [GREEK], and [GREEK], the "old man," and the "body of sin," Rom. vi. 6; or it may synecdochically express the
1 There seems to be an oversight here, as the expression "Holy Ghost" does not occur in the verse cited. -- ED.
8 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
whole person considered as corrupted, and the seat of lusts and distempered affections.
(2.) The deeds of the body. The word is [GREEK], which, indeed, denoteth the outward actions chiefly, "the works of the flesh," as they are called, [GREEK], Gal. v. 19; which are there said to be "manifest," and are enumerated. Now, though the outward deeds are here only expressed, yet the inward and next causes are chiefly intended; the "axe is to be laid to the root of the tree," -- the deeds of the flesh are to be mortified in their causes, from whence they spring. The apostle calls them deeds, as that which every lust tends unto; though it do but conceive and prove abortive, it aims to bring forth a perfect sin.
Having, both in the seventh and the beginning of this chapter, treated of indwelling lust and sin as the fountain and principle of all sinful actions, he here mentions its destruction under the name of the effects which it doth produce. [GREEK] are, as much as [GREEK], Rom. viii. 6, the "wisdom of the flesh," by a metonymy of the same nature with the former; or as the [GREEK] and [GREEK], the "passions and lusts of the flesh," Gal. v. 24, whence the deeds and fruits of it do arise; and in this sense is the body used, Rom. viii. 10: "The body is dead because of sin. "
(3.) To mortify. [GREEK], -- " If ye put to death;" a metaphorical expression, taken from the putting of any living thing to death. To kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all his strength, vigour, and power, so that he cannot act or exert, or put forth any proper actings of his own; so it is in this case. Indwelling sin is compared to a person, a living person, called "the old man," with his faculties, and properties, his wisdom, craft, subtlety, strength; this, says the apostle, must be killed, put to death, mortified, -- that is, have its power, life, vigour, and strength, to produce its effects, taken away by the Spirit. It is, indeed, meritoriously, and by way of example, utterly mortified and slain by the cross of Christ; and the "old man" is thence said to be "crucified with Christ," Rom. vi. 6, and ourselves to be "dead" with him, verse 8, and really initially in regeneration, Rom. vi. 3-5, when a principle contrary to it, and destructive of it, Gal. v. 17, is planted in our hearts; but the whole work is by degrees to be carried on towards perfection all our days. Of this more in the process of our discourse. The intendment of the apostle in this prescription of the duty mentioned is, -- that the mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers.
5. The promise unto this duty is life: "Ye shall live." The life promised is opposed to the death threatened in the clause foregoing,
THE DUTY OF THE BEST BELIEVERS. 9
"If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die;" which the same apostle expresseth, "Ye shall of the flesh reap corruption," Gal. vi. 8, or destruction from God. Now, perhaps the word may not only intend eternal life, but also the spiritual life in Christ, which here we have; not as to the essence and being of it, which is already enjoyed by believers, but as to the joy, comfort, and vigour of it: as the apostle says in another case, "Now I live, if ye stand fast," 1 Thess. iii. 8; -- "Now my life will do me good; I shall have joy and comfort with my life;" -- "Ye shall live, lead a good, vigorous, comfortable, spiritual life whilst you are here, and obtain eternal life hereafter. "
Supposing what was said before of the connection between mortification and eternal life, as of means and end, I shall add only, as a second motive to the duty prescribed, that, --
The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --CHAPTER II.
The principal assertion concerning the necessity of mortification proposed to confirmation -- Mortification the duty of the best believers, Col. ill. 5; 1 Cor. ix. 27 -- Indwelling sin always abides; no perfection in this life, Phil. iii. 12; 1 Cor. xiii. 12; 2 Pet. iii. 18; Gal. v. 17, etc. -- The activity of abiding sin in believers, Rom. vii. 23; James iv. 5; Heb. xii 1 -- Its fruitfulness and tendency -- Every lust aims at the height in its kind -- The Spirit and new nature given to contend against indwelling sin, Gal. v. 17; 2 Pet. i. 4, 5; Rom. vii. 23 -- The fearful issue of the neglect of mortification, Rev. iii. 2; Heb. iii. 13 -- The first general principle of the whole discourse hence con-firmed-Want of this duty lamented.
HAVING laid this foundation, a brief confirmation of the fore-mentioned principal deductions will lead me to what I chiefly intend, --
I. That the choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
So the apostle, Col. iii. 5, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." Whom speaks he to? Such as were "risen with Christ," verse 1; such as were "dead" with him, verse 3; such as whose life Christ was, and who should "appear with him in glory," verse 4. Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work. And our Saviour tells us how his Father deals with every branch in
10 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
him that beareth fruit, every true and living branch. "He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit," John xv. 2. He prunes it, and that not for a day or two, but whilst it is a branch in this world. And the apostle tells you what was his practice, 1 Cor. ix. 27, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection." "I do it," saith he, "daily; it is the work of my life: I omit it not; this is my business." And if this were the work and business of Paul, who was so incomparably exalted in grace, revelations, enjoyments, privileges, consolations, above the ordinary measure of believers, where may we possibly bottom an exemption from this work and duty whilst we are in this world? Some brief account of the reasons hereof may be given: --
1. Indwelling sin always abides whilst we are in this world; therefore it is always to be mortified. The vain, foolish, and ignorant disputes of men about perfect keeping the commands of God, of perfection in this life, of being wholly and perfectly dead to sin, I meddle not now with. It is more than probable that the men of those abominations never knew what belonged to the keeping of any one of God's commands, and are so much below perfection of degrees, that they never attained to a perfection of parts in obedience or universal obedience in sincerity. And, therefore, many in our days who have talked of perfection have been wiser, and have affirmed it to consist in knowing no difference between good and evil. Not that they are perfect in the things we call good, but that all is alike to them, and the height of wickedness is their perfection. Others who have found out a new way to it, by denying original, indwelling sin, and attempering the spirituality of the law of God unto men's carnal hearts, as they have sufficiently discovered themselves to be ignorant of the life of Christ and the power of it in believers, so they have invented a new righteousness that the gospel knows not of, being vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds. For us, who dare not be wise above what is written, nor boast by other men's lines of what God hath not done for us, we say that indwelling sin lives in us, in some measure and degree, whilst we are in this world. We dare not speak as "though we had already attained, or were already perfect," Phil. iii. 12. Our "inward man is to be renewed day by day" whilst here we live, 2 Cor. iv. 16; and according to the renovations of the new are the breaches and decays of the old. Whilst we are here we "know but in part," 1 Cor. xiii. 12, having a remaining darkness to be gradually removed by our "growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Pet. iii. 18; and "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would," Gal. v. 1 7: and are therefore defective in our obedience as well as in our light, I John i. 8. We have a "body of death," Rom. vii. 24;
CONTINUANCE AND ACTIVITY OF INDWELLING SIN. 11
from whence we are not delivered but by the death of our bodies, Phil. iii. 21. Now, it being our duty to mortify, to be killing of sin whilst it is in us, we must be at work. He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he]cave striking before the other ceases living, doth but half his work, Gal. vi. 9; Heb. xii. 1; 2 Cor. vii. 1.
2. Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion. Sin doth not only abide in us, but "the law of the members is still rebelling against the law of the mind," Rom. vii. 23; and "the spirit that dwells in us lusteth to envy," James iv. 5. It is always in continual work; "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit," Gal. v. 17; lust is still tempting and conceiving sin, James i. 14; in every moral action it is always either inclining to evil, or hindering from that which is good, or disframing the spirit from communion with God. It inclines to evil. "The evil which I would not, that I do," saith the apostle, Rom. vii 19. Whence is that? Why, "Because in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." And it hinders from good: "The good that I would do, that I do not," verse 19; -- "Upon the same account, either I do it not, or not as I should; all my holy things being defiled by this sin." "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would," Gal. v. 17. And it unframes our spirit, and thence is called "The sin that so easily besets us," Heb. xii. 1; on which account are those grievous complaints that the apostle makes of it, Rom. vii. So that sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting. Who can say that he had ever any thing to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did? And this trade will it drive more or less all our days. If, then, sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying, we are lost creatures. He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue. If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world.
I shall discharge him from this duty who can bring sin to a composition, to a cessation of arms in this warfare; if it will spare him any one day, in any one duty (provided he be a person that is acquainted with the spirituality of obedience and the subtlety of sin),
12 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
let him say to his soul, as to this duty, "Soul, take thy rest." The saints, whose souls breathe after deliverance from its perplexing rebellion, know there is no safety against it but in a constant warfare.
3. Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins. The apostle tells us what the works and fruits of it are, Gal. v. 19-21, "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." You know what it did in David and sundry others. Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head. Men may come to that, that sin may not be heard speaking a scandalous word in their hearts, -- that is, provoking to any great sin with scandal in its mouth; but yet every rise of lust, might it have its course, would come to the height of villany: it is like the grave, that is never satisfied. And herein lies no small share of the deceitfulness of sin, by which it prevails to the hardening of men, and so to their ruin, Heb. iii. 13, -- it is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presseth on to some farther degrees in the same kind. This new acting and pressing forward makes the soul take little notice of what an entrance to a failing off from God is already made; it thinks all is indifferent well if there be no farther progress; and so far as the soul is made insensible of any sin, -- that is, as to such a sense as the gospel requireth, -- so far it is hardened: but sin is still pressing forward, and that because it hath no bounds but utter relinquishment of God and opposition to him; that it proceeds towards its height by degrees, making good the ground it hath got by hardness, is not from its nature, but its deceitfulness. Now nothing can prevent this but mortification; that withers the root and strikes at the head of sin every hour, so that whatever it aims at it is crossed in. There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.
4. This is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature is given unto us, -- that we may have a principle within whereby to oppose sin and lust. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit." Well! and what then? Why, "The Spirit also lusteth against the flesh," Gal. v. 17. There is a propensity in the Spirit, or spiritual new nature, to
EVIL OF NEGLECTING THE DUTY. 13
be acting against the flesh, as well as in the flesh to be acting against the Spirit: so 2 Pet. i. 4, 5. It is our participation of the divine nature that gives us an escape from the pollutions that are in the world through lust; and, Rom. vii. 23, there is a law of the mind, as well as a law of the members. Now this is, first, the most unjust and unreasonable thing in the world, when two combatants are engaged, to bind one and keep him up from doing his utmost, and to leave the other at liberty to wound him at his pleasure; and, secondly, the foolishest thing in the world to bind him who fights for our eternal condition, [salvation?] and to let him alone who seeks and violently attempts our everlasting ruin. The contest is for our lives and souls. Not to be daily employing the Spirit and new nature for the mortifying of sin, is to neglect that excellent succour which God hath given us against our greatest enemy. If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold his hand from giving us more. His graces, as well as. his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with. Not to be daily mortifying sin, is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who hath furnished us with a principle of doing it.
5. Negligence in this duty casts the soul into a perfect contrary condition to that which the apostle affirms was his, 2 Cor. iv. 16, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." In these the inward man perisheth, and the outward man is renewed day by day. Sin is as the house of David, and grace as the house of Saul. Exercise and success are the two main cherishers of grace in the heart; when it is suffered to lie still, it withers and decays: the things of it are ready to die, Rev. iii. 2; and sin gets ground towards the hardening of the heart, Heb. iii. 13. This is that which I intend: by the omission of this duty grace withers, lust flourisheth, and the frame of the heart grows worse and worse; and the Lord knows what desperate and fearful issues it hath had with many. Where sin, through the neglect of mortification, gets a considerable victory, it breaks the bones of the soul, Ps. xxxi. 10, li. 8, and makes a man weak, sick, and ready to die, Ps. xxxviii. 3-5, so that he cannot look up, Ps. xl. 12, Isa. xxxiii. 25; and when poor creatures will take blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil, and never rouse up themselves to a vigorous opposition, can they expect any thing but to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and that their souls should bleed to death? 2 John 8. Indeed, it is a sad thing to consider the fearful issues of this neglect, which lie under our eyes every day. See we not those, whom we knew humble, melting, broken-hearted Christians, tender and fearful to offend, zealous for God and all his ways, his Sabbaths and ordinances, grown, through a neglect of watching unto this duty, earthly, carnal, cold, wrathful,
14 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
complying with the men of the world and things of the world, to the scandal of religion and the fearful temptation of them that know them? The truth is, what between placing mortification in a rigid, stubborn frame of spirit, which is for the most part earthly, legal, censorious, partial, consistent with wrath, envy, malice, pride, on the one hand, and pretences of liberty, grace, and I know not what, on the other, true evangelical mortification is almost lost amongst us: of which afterward.
6. It is our duty to be "perfecting holiness in the fear of God," 2 Cor. vii. 1; to be "growing in grace" every day, 1 Pet. ii. 2, 2 Pet. iii. 18; to he "renewing our inward man day by day," 2 Cor iv. 16. Now, this cannot be done without the daily mortifying of sin. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness, and against every degree we grow to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who doth not kill sin in his way takes no steps towards his journey's end. He who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it.
This, then, is the first general principle of our ensuing discourse: Notwithstanding the meritorious mortification, if I may so speak, of all and every sin in the cross of Christ; notwithstanding the real foundation of universal mortification laid in our first conversion, by conviction of sin, humiliation for sin, and the implantation of a new principle opposite to it and destructive of it; -- yet sin doth so remain, so act and work in the best of believers, whilst they live in this world, that the constant daily mortification of it is all their days incumbent on them. Before I proceed to the consideration of the next principle, I cannot but by the way complain of many professors of these days, who, instead of bringing forth such great and evident fruits of mortification as are expected, scarce bear any leaves of it. There is, indeed, a broad light fallen upon the men of this generation, and together therewith many spiritual gifts communicated, which, with some other considerations, have wonderfully enlarged the bounds of professors and profession; both they and it are exceedingly multiplied and increased. Hence there is a noise of religion and religious duties in every corner, preaching in abundance, -- and that not in an empty, light, trivial, and vain manner, as formerly, but to a good proportion of a spiritual gift, -- so that if you will measure the number of believers by light, gifts, and profession, the church may have cause to say, "Who hath born me all these?" But now if you will take the measure of them by this great discriminating grace of Christians, perhaps you will find their number not so multiplied. Where almost is that professor who owes his conversion to these days of light, and so talks and professes at such a rate of spirituality as
EVIL OF NEGLECTING THE DUTY. 15
few in former days were, in any measure, acquainted with (I will not judge them, but perhaps boasting what the Lord hath done in them), that doth not give evidence of a miserably unmortified heart? If vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness in men's places, envy, strife, variance, emulations, wrath, pride, worldliness, selfishness, 1 Cor. i., be badges of Christians, we have them on us and amongst us in abundance. And if it be so with them who have much light, and which, we hope, is saving, what shall we say of some who would be accounted religious and yet despise gospel light, and for the duty we have in hand, know no more of it but what consists in men's denying themselves sometimes in outward enjoyments, which is one of the outmost branches of it, which yet they will seldom practise? The good Lord send out a spirit of mortification to cure our distempers, or we are in a sad condition!
There are two evils which certainly attend every unmortified professor; -- the first, in himself; the other, in respect of others --
1. In himself. Let him pretend what he will, he hath slight thoughts of sin; at least, of sins of daily infirmity. The root of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. When a man hath confirmed his imagination to such an apprehension of grace and mercy as to be able, without bitterness, to swallow and digest daily sins, that man is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Neither is there a greater evidence of a false and rotten heart in the world than to drive such a trade. To use the blood of Christ, which is given to cleanse us, I John i. 7, Tit. ii. 14; the exaltation of Christ, which is to give us repentance, Acts v. 31; the doctrine of grace, which teaches us to deny all ungodliness, Tit. ii. 11, 12, to countenance sin, is a rebellion that in the issue will break the bones. At this door have gone out from us most of the professors that have apostatized in the days wherein we live. For a while they were most of them under convictions; these kept them unto duties, and brought them to profession; so they "escaped the pollutions that are in the world, through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Pet. ii. 20: but having got an acquaintance with the doctrine of the gospel, and being weary of duty, for which they had no principle, they began to countenance themselves in manifold neglects from the doctrine of grace. Now, when once this evil had laid hold of them, they speedily tumbled into perdition.
2. To others. It hath an evil influence on them on a twofold account --
(l.) It hardens them, by begetting in them a persuasion that they are in as good condition as the best professors. Whatever they see in them is so stained for want of this mortification that it is of no
16 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
value with them. They have a zeal for religion; but it is accompanied with want of forbearance and universal righteousness. They deny prodigality, but with worldliness; they separate from the world, but live wholly to themselves, taking no care to exercise loving-kindness in the earth; or they talk spiritually, and live vainly; mention communion with God, and are every way conformed to the world; boasting of forgiveness of sin, and never forgiving others. And with such considerations do poor creatures harden their hearts in their unregeneracy.
(2.) They deceive them, in making them believe that if they call come up to their condition it shall be well with them; and so it grows an easy thing to have the great temptation of repute in religion to wrestle withal, when they may go far beyond them as to what appears in them, and yet come short of eternal life. But of these things and all the evils of unmortified walking, afterward.
-- -- -- -- -- -CHAPTER III.
The second general principle of the means of mortification proposed to confirmation -- The Spirit the only author of this work -- Vanity of popish mortification discovered -- Many means of it used by them not appointed of God -- Those appointed by him abused -- The mistakes of others in this business -- The Spirit is promised believers for this work, Ezek. xi. 19, xxxvi. 26 -- All that we receive from Christ is by the Spirit -- How the Spirit mortifies sin -- Gal. v. 19-23 -- The several ways of his operation to this end proposed -- How his work and our duty.
THE next principle relates to the great sovereign cause of the mortification treated of; which, in the words laid for the foundation of this discourse, is said to be the Spirit, -- that is, the Holy Ghost, as was evinced.
II. He only is sufficient for this work; all ways and means without him are as a thing of nought; and he is the great efficient of it, -- he works in us as he pleases.
1. In vain do men seek other remedies; they shall not be healed by them. What several ways have been prescribed for this, to have sin mortified, is known. The greatest part of popish religion, of that which looks most like religion in their profession, consists in mistaken ways and means of mortification. This is the pretence of their rough garments, whereby they deceive. Their vows, orders, fastings, penances, are all built on this ground; they are all for the mortifying of sin. Their preachings, sermons, and books of devotion, they
SPURIOUS MORTIFICATION OF SIN. 17
look all this way. Hence, those who interpret the locusts that came out of the bottomless pit, Rev. ix. 3, to be the friars of the Romish church, who are said to torment men, so "that they should seek death and not find it," verse 6, think that they did it by their stinging sermons, whereby they convinced them of sin, but being not able to discover the remedy for the healing and mortifying of it, they kept them in such perpetual anguish and terror, and such trouble in their consciences, that they desired to die. This, I say, is the substance and glory of their religion; but what with their labouring to mortify dead creatures, ignorant of the nature and end of the work, -- what with the poison they mixed with it, in their persuasion of its merit, yea, supererogation (as they style their unnecessary merit, with a proud, barbarous title), -- their glory is their shame: but of them and their mortification more afterward, chap. vii.
That the ways and means to be used for the mortification of sin invented by them are still insisted on and prescribed, for the same end, by some who should have more light and knowledge of the gospel, is known. Such directions to this purpose have of late been given by some, and are greedily catched at by others professing themselves Protestants, as might have become popish devotionists three or four hundred years ago. Such outside endeavours, such bodily exercises, such self-performances, such merely legal duties, without the least mention of Christ or his Spirit, are varnished over with swelling words of vanity, for the only means and expedients for the mortification of sin, as discover a deep-rooted unacquaintedness with the power of God and mystery of the gospel. The consideration hereof was one motive to the publishing of this plain discourse.
Now, the reasons why the Papists can never, with all their endeavours, truly mortify any one sin, amongst others, are,: --
(1.) Because many of the ways and means they use and insist upon for this end were never appointed of God for that purpose. (Now, there is nothing in religion that hath any efficacy for compassing an end, but it hath it from God's appointment of it to that purpose.) Such as these are their rough garments, their vows, penances, disciplines, their course of monastical life, and the like; concerning all which God will say, "Who hath required these things at your band?" and, "In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the traditions of men." Of the same nature are sundry self-vexations insisted on by others
(2.) Because those things that are appointed of God as means are not used by them in their due place and order, -- such as are praying, fasting, watching, meditation, and the like. These have their use in the business in hand; but whereas they are all to be looked on as streams, they look on them as the fountain. Whereas they effect and
18 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
accomplish the end as means only, subordinate to the Spirit and faith, they look on them to do it by virtue of the work wrought. If they fast so much, and pray so much, and keep their hours and times, the work is done. As the apostle says of some in another case, "They are always learning, never coming to the knowledge of the truth;" so they are always mortifying, but never come to any sound mortification. In a word, they have sundry means to mortify the natural man, as to the natural life here we lead; none to mortify lust or corruption.
This is the general mistake of men ignorant of the gospel about this thing; and it lies at the bottom of very much of that superstition and will-worship that hath been brought into the world. What horrible self-macerations were practised by some of the ancient authors of monastical devotion! what violence did they offer to nature! what extremity of sufferings did they put themselves upon! Search their ways and principles to the bottom, and you will find that it had no other root but this mistake, namely, that attempting rigid mortification, they fell upon the natural man instead of the corrupt old man, -- upon the body wherein we live instead of the body of death.
Neither will the natural Popery that is in others do it. Men are galled with the guilt of a sin that hath prevailed over them; they instantly promise to themselves and God that they will do so no more; they watch over themselves, and pray for a season, until this heat waxes cold, and the sense of sin is worn off: and so mortification goes also, and sin returns to its former dominion. Duties are excellent food for an unhealthy soul; they are no physic for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation. Spiritually sick men cannot sweat out their distemper with working. But this is the way of men who deceive their own souls; as we shall see afterward.
That none of these ways are sufficient is evident from the nature of the work itself that is to be done; it is a work that requires so many concurrent actings in it as no self-endeavour can reach unto, and is of that kind that an almighty energy is necessary for its accomplishment; as shall be afterward manifested.
2. It is, then, the work of the Spirit. For, --
(1.) He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work. The taking away of the stony heart, -- that is, the stubborn, proud, rebellious, unbelieving heart, -- is in general the work of mortification that we treat of. Now this is still promised to be done by the Spirit, Ezek. xi. 19, xxxvi. 26, "I will give my Spirit, and take away the stony heart;" and by the Spirit of God is this work wrought when all means fail, Isa. lvii. 17, 18.
WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN MORTIFICATION. 19
(2.) We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ: "Without Christ we can do nothing," John xv. 5. All communications of supplies and relief, in the beginnings, increasings, actings of any grace whatever, from him, are by the Spirit, by whom he alone works in and upon believers. From him we have our mortification: "He is exalted and made a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto us," Acts v. 31; and of our repentance our mortification is no small portion. How doth he do it? Having "received the promise of the Holy Ghost," he sends him abroad for that end, Acts it. 33. You know the manifold promises he made of sending the Spirit, as Tertullian speaks, "Vicariam navare operam," to do the works that he had to accomplish in us.
The resolution of one or two questions will now lead me nearer to what I principally intend.
The first is, How doth the Spirit mortify sin?
I answer, in general, three ways --
[1.] By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them. So the apostle opposes the fruits of the flesh and of the Spirit: "The fruits of the flesh," says he, "are so and so," Gal. v. 19-21; "but," says he, "the fruits of the Spirit are quite contrary, quite of another sort," verses 22, 23. Yea; but what if these are in us and do abound, may not the other abound also? No, says he, verse 24, "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." But how? Why, verse 25, "By living in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit;" -- that is, by the abounding of these graces of the Spirit in us, and walking according to them. For, saith the apostle, "These are contrary one to another," verse 17; so that they cannot both be in the same subject, in any intense or high degree. This "renewing of us by the Holy Ghost," as it is called, Tit. iii. 5, is one great way of mortification; he causes us to grow, thrive, flourish, and abound in those graces which are contrary, opposite, and destructive to all the fruits of the flesh, and to the quiet or thriving of indwelling sin itself.
[2.] By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin, for the weakening, destroying, and taking it away. Hence he is called a "Spirit of judgment and burning," Isa. iv. 4, really consuming and destroying our lusts. He takes away the stony heart by an almighty efficiency; for as he begins the work as to its kind, so he carries it on as to its degrees. He is the fire which burns up the very root of lust.
[3.] He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in his death, and fellowship in his sufferings: of the manner whereof more afterward.
20 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
Secondly. If this be the work of the Spirit alone, how is it that we are exhorted to it? -- seeing the Spirit of God only can do it, let the work be left wholly to him.
[1.] It is no otherwise the work of the Spirit but as all graces and good works which are in us are his. He "works in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure," Phil. ii. 13; he works "all our works in us," Isa. xxvi. 12, -- " the work of faith with power," 2 Thess. i. 11, Col. ii. 12; he causes us to pray, and is a "Spirit of supplication," Rom. viii. 26, Zech. xii 10; and yet we are exhorted, and are to be exhorted, to all these.
[2.] He doth not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it still an act of our obedience. The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself. And, indeed, I might here bewail the endless, foolish labour of poor souls, who, being convinced of sin, and not able to stand against the power of their convictions, do set themselves, by innumerable perplexing ways and duties, to keep down sin, but, being strangers to the Spirit of God, all in vain. They combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery all their days. They spend their strength for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which profiteth not.
This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back. Sometimes they think, indeed, that they have foiled sin, when they have only raised a dust that they see it not; that is, they distemper their natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, which makes them believe that sin is conquered when it is not touched. By that time they are cold, they must to the battle again; and the lust which they thought to be slain appears to have had no wound.
And if the case be so sad with them who do labour and strive, and yet enter not into the kingdom, what is their condition who despise all this; who are perpetually under the power and dominion of sin, and love to have it so; and are troubled at nothing, but that they cannot make sufficient provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof
USEFULNESS OF MORTIFICATION. 21
The last principle; of the usefulness of mortification -- The vigour and comfort of our spiritual lives depend on our mortification -- In what sense -- Not absolutely and necessarily; Ps. lxxxviii., Heman's condition -- Not as on the next and immediate cause -- As a means; by removing of the contrary -- The desperate effects of any unmortified lust; it weakens the soul, Ps. xxxviii. 3, 8, sundry ways, and darkens it -- All graces improved by the mortification of sin -- The best evidence of sincerity.
THE last principle I shall insist on (omitting, first, the necessity of mortification unto life, and, secondly, the certainty of life upon mortification) is, --
III. That the life, vigour, and comfort of our spiritual life depend much on our mortification of sin.
Strength and comfort, and power and peace, in our walking with God, are the things of our desires. Were any of us asked seriously, what it is that troubles us, we must refer it to one of these heads: -- either we want strength or power, vigour and life, in our obedience, in our walking with God; or we want peace, comfort, and consolation therein. Whatever it is that may befall a believer that doth not belong to one of these two heads, doth not deserve to be mentioned in the days of our complaints.
Now, all these do much depend on a constant course of mortification, concerning which observe, --
1. I do not say they proceed from it, as though they were necessarily tied to it. A man may be carried on in a constant course of mortification all his days; and yet perhaps never enjoy a good day of peace and consolation. So it was with Heman, Ps. lxxxviii.; his life was a life of perpetual mortification and walking with God, yet terrors and wounds were his portion all his days. But God singled out Heman, a choice friend, to make him an example to them that afterward should be in distress. Canst thou complain if it be no otherwise with thee than it was with Heman, that eminent servant of God? and this shall be his praise to the end of the world. God makes it his prerogative to speak peace and consolation, Isa. lvii. 18, 19. "I will do that work," says God, "I will comfort him," verse 18. But how? By an immediate work of the new creation: "I create it," says God. The use of means for the obtaining of peace is ours; the bestowing of it is God's prerogative.
2. In the ways instituted by God for to give us life, vigour, courage, and consolation, mortification is not one of the immediate causes of it. They are the privileges of our adoption made known to our souls that give us immediately these things. "The Spirit bearing witness
22 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
with our spirits that we are the children of God," giving us a new name and a white stone, adoption and justification, that is, as to the sense and knowledge of them, -- are the immediate causes (in the hand of the Spirit) of these things. But this I say, --
3. In our ordinary walking with God, and in an ordinary course of his dealing with us, the vigour and comfort of our spiritual lives depend much on our mortification, not only as a "causa sine qua non," but as a thing that hath an effectual influence thereinto. For, --
(1.) This alone keeps sin from depriving us of the one and the other.
Every unmortified sin will certainly do two things: -- [1.] It will weaken the soul, and deprive it of its vigour. [2.] It will darken the soul, and deprive it of its comfort and peace.
[1.] It weakens the soul, and deprives it of its strength. When David had for a while harboured an unmortified lust in his heart, it broke all his bones, and left him no spiritual strength; hence he complained that he was sick, weak, wounded, faint. "There is," saith he, "no soundness in me," Ps. xxxviii. 3; "I am feeble and sore broken," verse 8; "yea, I cannot so much as look up," Ps. xl. 12. An unmortified lust will drink up the spirit, and all the vigour of the soul, and weaken it for all duties. For, --
1st. It untunes and unframes the heart itself, by entangling its affections. It diverts the heart from the spiritual frame that is required for vigorous communion with God; it lays hold on the affections, rendering its object beloved and desirable, so expelling the love of the Father, I John. ii. 15, iii 17; so that the soul cannot say uprightly and truly to God, "Thou art my portion," having something else that it loves. Fear, desire, hope, which are the choice affections of the soul, that should be full of God, will be one way or other entangled with it.
2dly. It fills the thoughts with contrivances about it. Thoughts are the great purveyors of the soul to bring in provision to satisfy its affections; and if sin remain unmortified in the heart, they must ever and anon be making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. They must glaze, adorn, and dress the objects of the flesh, and bring them home to give satisfaction; and this they are able to do, in the service of a defiled imagination, beyond all expression.
3dly. It breaks out and actually hinders duty. The ambitious man must be studying, and the worldling must be working or contriving, and the sensual, vain person providing himself for vanity, when they should be engaged in the worship of God
Were this my present business, to set forth the breaches, ruin, weakness, desolations, that one unmortified lust will bring upon a soul, this discourse must be extended much beyond my intendment.
USEFULNESS OF MORTIFICATION. 23
[2.] As sin weakens, so it darkens the soul. It is a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God's love and favour. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them: of which afterward.
Now, in this regard doth the vigour and power of our spiritual life depend on our mortification: It is the only means of the removal of that which will allow us neither the one nor the other. Men that are sick and wounded under the power of lust make many applications for help; they cry to God when the perplexity of their thoughts overwhelms them, even to God do they cry, but are not delivered; in vain do they use many remedies, -- " they shall not be healed." So, Hos. v. 13, "Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound," and attempted sundry remedies: nothing will do until they come (verse 15) to "acknowledge their offence." Men may see their sickness and wounds, but yet, if they make not due applications, their cure will not be effected.
(2.) Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. The life and vigour of our spiritual lives consists in the vigour and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts. Now, as you may see in a garden, let there be a precious herb planted, and let the ground be untilled, and weeds grow about it, perhaps it will live still, but be a poor, withering, unuseful thing. You must look and search for it, and sometimes can scarce find it; and when you do, you can scarce know it, whether it be the plant you look for or no; and suppose it be, you can make no use of it at all. When, let another of the same kind be set in the ground, naturally as barren and bad as the other, but let it be well weeded, and every thing that is noxious and hurtful removed from it, -- it flourishes and thrives; you may see it at first look into the garden, and have it for your use when you please. So it is with the graces of the Spirit that are planted in our hearts. That is true; they are still, they abide in a heart where there is some neglect of mortification; but they are ready to die, Rev. iii. 2, they are withering and decaying. The heart is like the sluggard's field, -- so overgrown with weeds that you can scarce see the good corn. Such a man may search for faith, love, and zeal, and scarce be able to find any; and if he do discover that these graces are there yet alive and sincere, yet they are so weak, so clogged with lusts, that they are of very little use; they remain, indeed, but are ready to die. But now let the heart be cleansed by mortification, the weeds of lust constantly and daily rooted up (as they spring daily, nature being their proper soil), let room be made for grace to thrive and flourish, -- how will every grace act its part, and be ready for every use and purpose!
24 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
(3.) As to our peace; as there is nothing that hath any evidence of sincerity without it, so I know nothing that hath such an evidence of sincerity in it; -- which is no small foundation of our peace. Mortification is the soul's vigorous opposition to self, wherein sincerity is most evident.
-- -- -- -- --CHAPTER V.
The principal intendment of the whole discourse proposed -- The first main case of conscience stated -- What it is to mortify any sin, negatively considered -- Not the utter destruction of it in this life -- Not the dissimulation of it -- -Not the improvement of any natural principle -- Not the diversion of it -- Not an occasional conquest -- Occasional conquests of sin, what and when; upon the eruption of sin; in time of danger or trouble.
THESE things being premised, I come to my principal retention, of handling some questions or practical cases that present themselves in this business of mortification of sin in believers.
The first, which is the head of all the rest, and whereunto they are reduced, may be considered as lying under the ensuing proposal: --
Suppose a man to be a true believer, and yet finds in himself a powerful indwelling sin, leading him captive to the law of it, consuming his heart with trouble, perplexing his thoughts, weakening his soul as to duties of communion with God, disquieting him as to peace, and perhaps defiling his conscience, and exposing him to hardening through the deceitfulness of sin, what shall he do? what course shall he take and insist on for the mortification of this sin, lust, distemper, or corruption, to such a degree as that, though it be not utterly destroyed, yet, in his contest with it, he may be enabled to keep up power, strength, and peace in communion with God?
In answer to this important inquiry, I shall do these things --
I. Show what it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively and positively, that we be not mistaken in the foundation.
II. Give general directions for such things as without which it will be utterly impossible for any one to get any sin truly and spiritually mortified.
III. Draw out the particulars whereby this is to be done; in the whole carrying on this consideration, that it is not of the doctrine of mortification in general, but only in reference to the particular case before proposed, that I am treating.
I. 1. (1.) To mortify a sin is not utterly to kill, root it out, and
MORTIFICATION NEGATIVELY CONSIDERED. 25
destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts. It is true this is that which is aimed at; but this is not in this life to be accomplished. There is no man that truly sets himself to mortify any sin, but he alms at, intends, desires its utter destruction, that it should leave neither root nor fruit in the heart or life. He would so kill it that it should never move nor stir any more, cry or call, seduce or tempt, to eternity. Its not-being is the thing aimed at. Now, though doubtless there may, by the Spirit and grace of Christ, a wonderful success and eminency of victory against any sin be attained, so that a man may have almost constant triumph over it, yet an utter killing and destruction of it, that it should not be, is not in this life to be expected. This Paul assures us of, Phil. iii. 12, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect." He was a choice saint, a pattern for believers, who, in faith and love, and all the fruits of the Spirit, had not his fellow in the world, and on that account ascribes perfection to himself in comparison of others, verse 15; yet he had not "attained," he was not "perfect," but was "following after:" still a vile body he had, and we have, that must be changed by the great power of Christ at last, verse 21. This we would have; but God sees it best for us that we should be complete in nothing in ourselves, that in all things we must be "complete in Christ;" which is best for us, Col. ii. 10.
(2.) I think I need not say it is not the dissimulation of a sin. When a man on some outward respects forsakes the practice of any sin, men perhaps may look on him as a changed man. God knows that to his former iniquity he hath added cursed hypocrisy, and is got in a safer path to hell than he was in before. He hath got another heart than he had, that is more cunning; not a new heart, that is more holy.
(3.) The mortification of sin consists not in the improvement of a quiet, sedate nature. Some men have an advantage by their natural constitution so far as that they are not exposed to such violence of unruly passions and tumultuous affections as many others are. Let now these men cultivate and improve their natural frame and temper by discipline, consideration, and prudence, and they may seem to themselves and others very mortified men, when, perhaps, their hearts are a standing sink of all abominations. Some man is never so much troubled all his life, perhaps, with anger and passion, nor doth trouble others, as another is almost every day; and yet the latter hath done more to the mortification of the sin than the former. Let not such persons try their mortification by such things as their natural temper gives no life or vigour to. Let them bring themselves to self-denial, unbelief, envy, or some such spiritual sin, and they will have a better view of themselves.
26 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
(4.) A sin is not mortified when it is only diverted. Simon Magus for a season left his sorceries; but his covetousness and ambition, that set him on work, remained still, and would have been acting another way. Therefore Peter tells him, "I perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness;" -- "Notwithstanding the profession thou hast made, notwithstanding thy relinquishment of thy sorceries, thy lust is as powerful as ever in thee; the same lust, only the streams of it are diverted. It now exerts and puts forth itself another way, but it is the old gall of bitterness still." A man may be sensible of a lust, set himself against the eruptions of it, take care that it shall not break forth as it has done, but in the meantime suffer the same corrupted habit to vent itself some other way; as he who heals and skins a running sore thinks himself cured, but in the meantime his flesh festereth by the corruption of the same humour, and breaks out in another place. And this diversion, with the alterations that attend it, often befalls men on accounts wholly foreign unto grace: change of the course of life that a man was in, of relations, interests, designs, may effect it; yea, the very alterations in men's constitutions, occasioned by a natural progress in the course of their lives, may produce such changes as these. Men in age do not usually persist in the pursuit of youthful lusts, although they have never mortified any one of them. And the same is the case of bartering of lusts, and leaving to serve one that a man may serve another. He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others, let him not think that he hath mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He hath changed his master, but is a servant still.
(5.) Occasional conquests of sin do not amount to a mortifying of it. There are two occasions or seasons wherein a man who is contending with any sin may seem to himself to have mortified it: --
[1.] When it hath had some sad eruption, to the disturbance of his peace, terror of his conscience, dread of scandal, and evident provocation of God. This awakens and stirs up all that is in the man, and amazes him, fills him with abhorrency of sin, and himself for it; sends him to God, makes him cry out as for life, to abhor his lust as hell, and to set himself against it. The whole man, spiritual and natural, being now awaked, sin shrinks in its head, appears not, but lies as dead before him: as when one that hath drawn nigh to an army in the night, and hath killed a principal person, -- instantly the guards awake, men are roused up, and strict inquiry is made after the enemy, who, in the meantime, until the noise and tumult be over, hides himself, or lies like one that is dead, yet with firm resolution to do the like mischief again upon the like opportunity. Upon the sin among the Corinthians, see how they muster up themselves
MORTIFICATION NEGATIVELY CONSIDERED. 27
for the surprisal and destruction of it, 2 Epist. chap. vii. 11. So it is in a person when a breach hath been made upon his conscience, quiet, perhaps credit, by his lust, in some eruption of actual sin; -- carefulness, indignation, desire, fear, revenge, axe all set on work about it and against it, and lust is quiet for a season, being run down before them; but when the hurry is over and the inquest past, the thief appears again alive, and is as busy as ever at his work.
[2.] In a time of some judgment, calamity, or pressing affliction; the heart is then taken up with thoughts and contrivances of flying from the present troubles, fears, and dangers. This, as a convinced person concludes, is to be done only by relinquishment of sin, which gains peace with God. It is the anger of God in every affliction that galls a convinced person. To be quit of this, men resolve at such times against their sins. Sin shall never more have any place in them; they will never again give up themselves to the service of it. Accordingly, sin is quiet, stirs not, seems to be mortified; not, indeed, that it hath received any one wound, but merely because the soul hath possessed its faculties, whereby it should exert itself, with thoughts inconsistent with the motions thereof; which, when they are laid aside, sin returns again to its former life and vigour. So they Ps. lxxviii. 32-37, are a full instance and description of this frame of spirit whereof I speak: "For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and inquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant." I no way doubt but that when they sought, and returned, and inquired early after God, they did it with full purpose of heart as to the relinquishment of their sins; it is expressed in the word "returned." To turn or return to the Lord is by a relinquishment of sin. This they did "early," -- with earnestness and diligence; but yet their sin was unmortified for all this, verses 36, 37. And this is the state of many humiliations in the days of affliction, and a great deceit in the hearts of believers themselves lies oftentimes herein.
These and many other ways there are whereby poor souls deceive themselves, and suppose they have mortified their lusts, when they live and are mighty, and on every occasion break forth, to their disturbance and disquietness.
Go back to INDEX of Psalm 130
Go back to BOOKS page