The Works of
MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS, ETC.
28 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
The mortification of sin in particular described -- The several parts and degrees thereof -- The habitual weakening of its root and principle -- The power of lust to tempt -- Differences of that power as to persons and times -- Constant fighting against sin -- The parts thereof considered -- Success against it -- The sum of this discourse considered.
WHAT it is to mortify a sin in general, which will make farther way for particular directions, is nextly to be considered.
2. The mortification of a lust consists in three things: --
(l.) An habitual weakening of it. Every lust is a depraved habit or disposition, continually inclining the heart to evil. Thence is that description of him who hath no lust truly mortified, Gen. vi. 5, "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually." He is always under the power of a strong bent and inclination to sin. And the reason why a natural man is not always perpetually in the pursuit of some one lust, night and day, is because he hath many to serve, every one crying to be satisfied; thence he is carried on with great variety, but still in general he lies towards the satisfaction of self.
We will suppose, then, the lust or distemper whose mortification is inquired after to be in itself a strong, deeply-rooted, habitual inclination and bent of will and affections unto some actual sin, as to the matter of it, though not, under that formal consideration, always stirring up imaginations, thoughts, and contrivances about the object of it. Hence, men are said to have their "hearts set upon evil," the bent of their spirits lies towards it, to make "provision for the flesh. "1 And a sinful, depraved habit, as in really other things, so in this, differs from all natural or moral habits whatever: for whereas they incline the soul gently and suitably to itself, sinful habits impel with violence and impetuousness; whence lusts are said to fight or wage "war against the soul," 2 1 Pet. ii. 11, -- to rebel or rise up in war with that conduct and opposition which is usual therein, 3 Rom. vii. 23, -- to lead captive, or effectually captivating upon success in battle, -- all works of great violence and impetuousness.
I might manifest fully, from that description we have of it, Rom. vii., how it will darken the mind, extinguish convictions, dethrone reason, interrupt the power and influence of any considerations that may be brought to hamper it, and break through all into a flame. But this is not my present business. Now, the first thing in mor-
1 Rom. xiii 14.
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tiffcation is the weakening of this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultuate, provoke, entice, disquiet, as naturally it is apt to do, James i. 14, 15.
I shall desire to give one caution or rule by the way, and it is this: Though every lust doth in its own nature equally, universally, incline and impel to sin, yet this must be granted with these two limitations --
[1.] One lust, or a lust in one man, may receive many accidental improvements, heightenings, and strengthenings, which may give it life, power, and vigour, exceedingly above what another lust hath, or the same lust (that is, of the same kind and nature) in another man. When a lust falls in with the natural constitutions and temper, with a suitable course of life, with occasions, or when Satan hath got a fit handle to it to manage it, as he hath a thousand ways so to do, that lust grows violent and impetuous above others, or more than the same lust in another man; then the steams of it darken the mind so, that though a man knows the same things as formerly, yet they have no power nor influence on the will, but corrupt affections and passions are set by it at liberty.
But especially, lust gets strength by temptation. When a suitable temptation falls in with a lust, it gives it a new life, vigour, power, violence, and rage, which it seemed not before to have or to be capable of. Instances to this purpose might be multiplied; but it is the design of some part of another treatise to evince this observation.
[2.] Some lusts are far more sensible and discernible in their violent actings than others. Paul puts a difference between uncleanness and all other sins: I Cor. vi. 18, "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. "Hence, the motions of that sin are more sensible, more discernible than of others; when perhaps the love of the world, or the like, is in a person no less habitually predominant than that, yet it makes not so great a combustion in the whole man.
And on this account some men may go in their own thoughts and in the eyes of the world for mortified men, who yet have in them no less predominancy of lust than those who cry out with astonishment upon the account of its perplexing tumultuatings, yea, than those who have by the power of it been hurried into scandalous sins; only their lusts are in and about things which raise not such a tumult in the soul, about which they are exercised with a calmer frame of spirit, the very fabric of nature being not so nearly concerned in them as in some other.
30 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
I say, then, that the first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit, that it shall not impel and tumultuate as formerly; that it shall not entice and draw aside; that it shall not disquiet and perplex the killing of its life, vigour, promptness, and readiness to be stirring. This is called "crucifying the flesh with the lusts thereof," Gal. v. 24; that is, taking away its blood and spirits that give it strength and power, -- the wasting of the body of death "day by day," 2 Cor. iv. 16.
As a man nailed to the cross; he first struggles, and strives, and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; -- when a man first sets on a lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when by mortification the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigour and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success. This the apostle describes, as in the whole chapter, so especially, Rom. vi. 6.
"Sin," saith he, "is crucified; it is fastened to the cross." To what end? "That the body of death may be destroyed," the power of sin weakened and abolished by little and little, that "henceforth we should not serve sin;" that is, that sin might not incline, impel us with such efficacy as to make us servants to it, as it hath done heretofore. And this is spoken not only with respect to carnal and sensual affections, or desires of worldly things, -- not only in respect of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, -- but also as to the flesh, that is, in the mind and will, in that opposition unto God which is in us by nature. Of what nature soever the troubling distemper be, by what ways soever it make itself out, either by impelling to evil or hindering from that which is good, the rule is the same; and unless this be done effectually, all after-contention will not compass the end aimed at A man may heat down the bitter fruit from an evil tree until he is weary; whilst the root abides in strength and vigour, the beating down of the present fruit will not hinder it from bringing forth more. This is the folly of some men; they set themselves with all earnestness and diligence against the appearing eruption of lust, but, leaving the principle and root untouched, perhaps unsearched out, they make but little or no progress in this work of mortification.
(2.) In constant fighting and contending against sin. To be able always to be laying load on sin is no small degree of mortification. When sin is strong and vigorous, the soul is scarce able to make any
MORTIFICATION IN PARTICULAR DESCRIBED. 31
head against it; it sighs, and groans, and mourns, and is troubled, as David speaks of himself, but seldom has sin in the pursuit. David complains that his sin had "taken fast hold upon him, that he could not look up," Ps. xl. 12. How little, then, was he able to fight against it! Now, sundry things are required unto and comprised in this fighting against sin: --
[1.] To know that a man hath such an enemy to deal withal, to take notice of it, to consider it as an enemy indeed, and one that is to be destroyed by all means possible, is required hereunto. As I said before, the contest is vigorous and hazardous, -- it is about the things of eternity. When, therefore, men have slight and transient thoughts of their lusts, it is no great sign that they are mortified, or that they are in a way for their mortification. This is every man's "knowing the plague of his own heart," 1 Kings viii. 38, without which no other work can be done. It is to be feared that very many have little knowledge of the main enemy that they carry about with them in their bosoms. This makes them ready to justify themselves, and to be impatient of reproof or admonition, not knowing that they are in any danger, 2 Chron. xvi. 10.
[2.] To labour to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of its success, is the beginning of this warfare. So do men deal with enemies. They inquire out their counsels and designs, ponder their ends, consider how and by what means they have formerly prevailed, that they may be prevented. In this consists the greatest skill in conduct. Take this away, and all waging of war, wherein is the greatest improvement of human wisdom and industry, would be brutish. So do they deal with lust who mortify it indeed. Not only when it is actually vexing, enticing, and seducing, but in their retirements they consider, "This is our enemy; this is his way and progress, these are his advantages, thus hath he prevailed, and thus he will do, if not prevented." So David, "My sin is ever before me," Ps. li. 3. And, indeed, one of the choicest and most eminent parts of practically spiritual wisdom consists in finding out the subtilties, policies, and depths of any indwelling sin; to consider and know wherein its greatest strength lies, -- what advantage it uses to make of occasions, opportunities, temptations, -- what are its pleas, pretences, reasonings, -- what its stratagems, colours, excuses; to set the wisdom of the Spirit against the craft of the old man; to trace this serpent in all its turnings and windings; to be able to say, at its most secret and (to a common frame of heart) imperceptible actings, "This is your old way and course; I know what you aim at;" -- and so to be always in readiness is a good part of our warfare.
[3.] To load it daily with all the things which shall after be mentioned, that are grievous, killing, and destructive to it, is the height
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of this contest. Such a one never thinks his lust dead because it is quiet, but labours still to give it new wounds, new blows every day. So the apostle, Col. iii. 5.
Now, whilst the soul is in this condition, whilst it is thus dealing, it is certainly uppermost; sin is under the sword and dying.
(3.) In success. Frequent success against any lust is another part and evidence of mortification. By success I understand not a mere disappointment of sin, that it be not brought forth nor accomplished, but a victory over it, and pursuit of it to a complete conquest. For instance, when the heart finds sin at any time at work, seducing, forming imaginations to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, it instantly apprehends sin, and brings it to the law of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost.
Now, I say, when a man comes to this state and condition, that lust is weakened in the root and principle, that its motions and actions are fewer and weaker than formerly, so that they are not able to hinder his duty nor interrupt his peace, -- when he can, in a quiet, sedate frame of spirit, find out and fight against sin, and have success against it, -- then sin is mortified in some considerable measure, and, notwithstanding all its opposition, a man may have peace with God all his days.
Unto these heads, then, do I refer the mortification aimed at; that is, of any one perplexing distemper, whereby the general pravity and corruption of our nature attempts to exert and put forth itself: --
First, The weakening of its indwelling disposition, whereby it inclines, entices, impels to evil, rebels, opposes, fights against God, by the implanting, habitual residence, and cherishing of a principle of grace that stands in direct opposition to it and is destructive of it, is the foundation of it. So, by the implanting and growth of humility is pride weakened, passion by patience, uncleanness by purity of mind and conscience, love of this world by heavenly-mindedness: which are graces of the Spirit, or the same habitual grace variously acting itself by the Holy Ghost, according to the variety or diversity of the objects about which it is exercised; as the other are several lusts, or the same natural corruption variously acting itself, according to the various advantages and occasions that it meets withal. -- The promptness, alacrity, vigour of the Spirit, or new man, in contending with, cheerful fighting against, the lust spoken of, by all the ways and with all the means that are appointed thereunto, constantly using the succours provided against its motions and actings, is a second thing hereunto required. -- Success unto several degrees attends these two. Now this, if the distemper hath not an unconquerable advantage from its natural situation, may possibly be to
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such a universal conquest as the soul may never more sensibly feel its opposition, and shall, however, assuredly arise to an allowance of peace to the conscience, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --CHAPTER VII.
General rules, without which no lust will be mortified -- No mortification unless a man be a believer -- Dangers of attempting mortification of sin by unregenerate persons -- The duty of unconverted persons as to this business of mortification considered -- The vanity of the Papists' attempts and rules for mortification thence discovered.
II. THE ways and means whereby a soul may proceed to the mortification of any particular lust and sin, which Satan takes advantage by to disquiet and weaken him, come next under consideration.
Now, there are some general considerations to be premised, concerning some principles and foundations of this work, without which no man in the world, be he never so much raised by convictions, and resolved for the mortification of any sin, can attain thereunto.
General rules and principles, without which no sin will be ever mortified, are these: --
1. Unless a man be a believer, -- that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ, -- he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so.
Mortification is the work of believers: Rom. viii. 13, "If ye through the Spirit," etc., -- ye believers, to whom there is no condemnation, verse 1. They alone are exhorted to it: Col iii. 5, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." Who should mortify? You who "are risen with Christ," verse 1; whose "life is hid with Christ in God," verse 5; who "shall appear with him in glory," verse 4. An unregenerate man may do something like it; but the work itself, so as it may be acceptable with God, he can never perform. You know what a picture of it is drawn in some of the philosophers, -- Seneca, Tully, Epictetus; what affectionate discourses they have of contempt of the world and self, of regulating and conquering all exorbitant affections and passions! The lives of most of them manifested that their maxims differed as much from true mortification as the sun painted on a sign-post from the sun in the firmament; they had neither light nor heat. Their own Lucian sufficiently manifests what they all were. There is no death of sin without the death of Christ. You know what attempts there are
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made after it by the Papists, in their vows, penances, and satisfactions. I dare say of them (I mean as many of them as act. upon the principles of their church, as they call it) what Paul says of Israel in point of righteousness, Rom. ix. 31 32, -- They have followed after mortification, but they have not attained to it. Wherefore? "Because they seek it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." The same is the state and condition of all amongst ourselves who, in obedience to their convictions and awakened consciences, do attempt a relinquishment of sin; -- they follow after it, but they do not attain it.
It is true, it is, it will be, required of every person whatever that hears the law or gospel preached, that he mortify sin. It is his duty, but it is not his immediate duty; it is his duty to do it, but to do it in God's way. If you require your servant to pay so much money for you in such a place, but first to go and take it up in another, it is his duty to pay the money appointed, and you will blame him if he do it not; yet it was not his immediate duty, -- he was first to take it up, according to your direction. So it is in this case: sin is to be mortified, but something is to be done in the first place to enable us thereunto.
I have proved that it is the Spirit alone that can mortify sin; he is promised to do it, and all other means without him are empty and vain. How shall he, then, mortify sin that hath not the Spirit? A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit. Now, how is he attained? It is the Spirit of Christ: and as the apostle says, "If we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his," Rom. viii. 9; so, if we are Christ's, have an interest in him, we have the Spirit, and so alone have power for mortification. This the apostle discourses at large, Rom. viii. 8, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." It is the inference and conclusion he makes of his foregoing discourse about our natural state and condition, and the enmity we have unto God and his law therein. If we are in the flesh, if we have not the Spirit, we cannot do any thing that should please God. But what is our deliverance from this condition? Verse 9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you;" -- "Ye believers, that have the Spirit of Christ, ye are not in the flesh." There is no way of deliverance from the state and condition of being in the flesh but by the Spirit of Christ. And what if this Spirit of Christ be in you? Why, then, you are mortified; verse 10, "The body is dead because of sin," or unto it; mortification is carried on; tim new man is quickened to righteousness. This the apostle proves, verse 11, from the union we have with Christ by the Spirit, which will produce suitable operations in us to what it wrought
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in him. All attempts, then, for mortification of any lust, without an interest in Christ, axe vain. Many men that are galled with and for sin, the arrows of Christ for conviction, by the preaching of the word, or some affliction having been made sharp in their hearts, do vigorously set themselves against this or that particular lust, wherewith their consciences have been most disquieted or perplexed. But, poor creatures! they labour in the fire, and their work consumeth. When the Spirit of Christ comes to this work he will be "like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap," and he will purge men as gold and as silver, Mal. iii. 2, 3, -- take away their dross and tin, their filth and blood, as Isa. iv. 4; but men must be gold and silver in the bottom, or else refining will do them no good. The prophet gives us the sad issue of wicked men's utmost attempts for mortification, by what means soever that God affords them: Jer. vi. 29, 30, "The bellows are burned, and the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them." And what is the reason hereof? Verse 28, They were "brass and iron" when they were put into the furnace. Men may refine brass and iron long enough before they will be good silver.
I say, then, mortification is not the present business of unregenerate men. God calls them not to it as yet; conversion is their work, -- the conversion of the whole soul, -- not the mortification of this or that particular lust. You would laugh at a man that you should see setting up a great fabric, and never take any care for a foundation; especially if you should see him so foolish as that, having a thousand experiences that what he built one day fell down another, he would yet continue in the same course. So it is with convinced persons; though they plainly see, that what ground they get against sin one day they lose another, yet they will go on in the same road still, without inquiring where the destructive flaw in their progress lies. When the Jews, upon the conviction of their sin, were cut to the heart, Acts it. 37, and cried out, "What shall we do?" what doth Peter direct them to do? Does he bid them go and mortify their pride, wrath, malice, cruelty, and the like? No; he knew that was not their present work, but he calls them to conversion and faith in Christ in general, verse 38. Let the soul be first thoroughly converted, and then, "looking on Him whom they had pierced," humiliation and mortification will ensue. Thus, when John came to preach repentance and conversion, he said, "The axe is now laid to the root of the tree," Matt. iii. 10 The Pharisees had been laying heavy burdens, imposing tedious duties, and rigid means of mortification, in fastings, washings, and the like, all in vain. Says John, "The doctrine of conversion is for you; the axe in my hand is laid to the root." And our Saviour tells us what is to be done in this case;
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says he, "Do men gather grapes from thorns?" Matt. vii. 16. But suppose a thorn be well pruned and cut, and have pains taken with him? "Yea, but he will never bear figs," verses 17,18; it cannot be but every tree will bring forth fruit according to its own kind. What is then to be done, he tells us, Matt. xli. 33, "Make the tree good, and his fruit will be good." The root must be dealt with, the nature of the tree changed, or no good fruit will be brought forth.
This is that I aim at: unless a man be regenerate, unless he be a believer, all attempts that he can make for mortification, be they never so specious and promising, -- all means he can use, let him follow them with never so much diligence, earnestness, watchfulness, and intention of mind and spirit, -- are to no purpose. In vain shall he use many remedies; he shall not be healed. Yea, there are sundry desperate evils attending an endeavour in convinced persons, that are no more but so, to perform this duty: --
(1.) The mind and soul is taken up about that which is not the man's proper business, and so he is diverted from that which is so. God lays hold by his word and judgments on some sin in him, galls his conscience, disquiets his heart, deprives him of his rest; now other diversions will not serve his turn; he must apply himself to the work before him. The business in hand being to awake the whole man unto a consideration of the state and condition wherein he is, that he might be brought home to God, instead hereof he sets himself to mortify the sin that galls him, -- whieh is a pure issue of self-love, to be freed from his trouble, and not at all to the work he is called unto, -- and so is diverted from it. Thus God tells us of Ephraim, when he "spread his net upon them, and brought them down as the fowls of heaven, and chastised them," Hos. vii. 12, caught them, entangled them, convinced them that they could not escape; saith he of them, "They return, but not to the Most High;" -- they set themselves to a relinquishment of sin, but not in that manner, by universal conversion, as God called for it. Thus are men diverted from coming unto God by the most glorious ways that they can fix upon to come to him by. And this is one of the most common deceits whereby men ruin their own souls. I wish that some whose trade it is to daub with untempered mortar in the things of God did not teach this deceit, and cause the people to err by their ignorance. What do men do, what ofttimes are they directed unto, when their consciences are galled by sin and disquietment from the Lord, who hath laid hold upon them? Is not a relinquishment of the sin, as to practice, that they are, in some fruits of it, perplexed withal, and making head against it, the sum of what they apply themselves unto? and is not the gospel end of their convictions lost thereby? Here men abide and perish.
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(2.) This duty being a thing good in itself, in its proper place, a duty evidencing sincerity, bringing home peace to the conscience; a man finding himself really engaged in it, his mind and heart set against this or that sin, with purpose and resolution to have no more to do with it, -- he is ready to conclude that his state and condition is good, and so to delude his own soul. For, --
[1.] When his conscience hath been made sick with sin, and he could find no rest, when he should go to the great Physician of souls, and get healing in his blood, the man by this engagement against sin pacifies and quiets his conscience, and sits down without going to Christ at all. Ah! how many poor souls are thus deluded to eternity! "When Ephraim saw his sickness, he sent to king Jareb," Hos. v. 13; which kept him off from God. The whole bundle of the popish religion is made up of designs and contrivances to pacify conscience without Christ; all described by the apostle, Rom. x. 3.
[2.] By this means men satisfy themselves that their state and condition is good, seeing they do that which is a work good in itself, and they do not do it to be seen. They know they would have the work done in sincerity, and so are hardened in a kind of self-righteousness.
(3.) When a man hath thus for a season been deluded, and hath deceived his own soul. and finds in a long course of life that indeed his sin is not mortified, or if he hath changed one he hath gotten another, he begins at length to think that all contending is in vain, -- he shall never be able to prevail; he is making a dam against water that increaseth on him. Hereupon he gives over, as one despairing of any success, and yields up himself to the power of sin and that habit of formality that he hath gotten.
And this is the usual issue with persons attempting the mortification of sin without an interest in Christ first obtained. It deludes them, hardens them, -- destroys them. And therefore we see that there are not usually more vile and desperate sinners in the world than such as, having by conviction been put on this course, have found it fruitless, and deserted it without a discovery of Christ. And this is the substance of the religion and godliness of the choicest for-malists in the world, and of all those who in the Roman synagogue are drawn to mortification, as they drive Indians to baptism or cattle to water. I say, then, that mortification is the work of believers, and believers only. To kill sin is the work of living men; where men are dead (as all unbelievers, the best of them, are dead), sin is alive, and will live.
2. It is the work of faith, the peculiar work of faith. Now, if there be a work to be done that will be effected by one only instrument, it is the greatest madness for any to attempt the doing of it
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that hath not that instrument. Now, it is faith that purifies the heart, Acts xv. 9; or, as Peter speaks, we "purify our souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit," 1 Pet. i. 22; and without it, it will not be done.
What hath been spoken I suppose is sufficient to make good my first general rule: -- Be sure to get an interest in Christ; if you intend to mortify any sin without it, it will never be done.
Obj. You will say, "What, then, would you have unregenerate men that are convinced of the evil of sin do? Shall they cease striving against sin, live dissolutely, give their lusts their swing, and be as bad as the worst of men? This were a way to set the whole world into confusion, to bring all things into darkness, to set open the flood-gates of lust, and lay the reins upon the necks of men to rush into all sin with delight and greediness, like the horse into the battle. "
Ans. 1. God forbid! It is to be looked on as a great issue of the wisdom, goodness, and love of God, that by manifold ways and means he is pleased to restrain the sons of men from running forth into that compass of excess and riot which the depravedness of their nature would carry them out unto with violence. By what way soever this is done, it is an issue of the care, kindness, and goodness of God, without which the whole earth would be a hell of sin and confusion.
2. There is a peculiar convincing power in the word, which God is oftentimes pleased to put forth, to the wounding, amazing, and, in some sort, humbling of sinners, though they are never converted. And the word is to be preached though it hath this end, yet not with this end. Let, then, the word be preached, and the sins of men [will be] rebuked, lust will be restrained, and some oppositions will be made against sin; though that be not the effect aimed at.
3. Though this be the work of the word and Spirit, and it be good in itself, yet it is not profitable nor available as to the main end in them in whom it is wrought; they are still in the gall of bitterness, and under the power of darkness.
4. Let men know it is their duty, but in its proper place; I take not men from mortification, but put them upon conversion. He that shall call a man from mending a hole in the wall of his house, to quench a fire that is consuming the whole building, is not his enemy. Poor soul! it is not thy sore finger but thy hectic fever that thou art to apply thyself to the consideration of. Thou settest thyself against a particular sin, and dost not consider that thou art nothing but sin.
Let me add this to them who are preachers of the word, or intend, through the good hand of God, that employment: It is their duty to plead with men about their sins, to lay load on particular sins, but always remember that it be done with that which is the proper end of law and gospel; -- that is, that they make use of the sin they speak
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against to the discovery of the state and condition wherein the sinner is; otherwise, haply, they may work men to formality and hypocrisy, but little of the true end of preaching the gospel will be brought about. It will not avail to beat a man off from his drunkenness into a sober formality. A skilful master of the assemblies lays his axe at,,the root, drives still at the heart. To inveigh against particular sins of ignorant, unregenerate persons, such as the land is full of, is a good work; but yet, though it may be done with great efficacy, vigour, and success, if this be all the effect of it, that they are set upon the most sedulous endeavours of mortifying their sins preached down, all that is done is but like the beating of an enemy in an open field, and driving him into an impregnable castle, not to be prevailed against. Get you at any time a sinner at the advantage, on the account of any one sin whatever? have you any thing to take hold of him by? -- bring it to his state and condition, drive it up to the head, and there deal with him. To break men off particular sins, and not to break their hearts, is to deprive ourselves of advantages of dealing with them.
And herein is the Roman mortification grievously peccant; they drive all sorts of persons to it, without the least consideration whether they have a principle for it or no. Yea, they are so far from calling on men to believe, that they may be able to mortify their lusts, that they call men to mortification instead of believing. The truth is, they neither know what it is to believe nor what mortification itself intends. Faith with them is but a general assent to the doctrine taught in their church; and mortification the betaking of a man by a vow to some certain course of life, wherein he denies himself something of the use of the things of this world, not without a considerable compensation. Such men know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. Their boasting of their mortification is but their glorying in their shame. Some casuists among ourselves, who, overlooking the necessity of regeneration, do avowedly give this for direction to all sorts of persons that complain of any sin or lust, that they should vow against it, at least for a season, a month or so, seem to have a scantling of light in the mystery of the gospel, much like that of Nicodemus when he came first to Christ. They bid men vow to abstain from their sin for a season. This commonly makes their lust more impetuous. Perhaps with great perplexity they keep their word; perhaps not, which increases their guilt and torment. Is their sin at all mortified hereby? Do they find a conquest over it? Is their condition changed, though they attain a relinquishment of it? Are they not still in the gall of bitterness? Is not this to put men to make brick, if not without straw, yet, which is worse, without strength? What promise hath any unregenerate man to countenance him in
40 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
this work? what assistance for the performance of it? Can sin be killed without an interest in the death of Christ, or mortified without the Spirit? If such directions should prevail to change men's lives, as seldom they do, yet they never reach to the change of their hearts or conditions. They may make men self-justiciaries or hypocrites, not Christians. It grieves me ofttimes to see poor souls, that have a zeal for God and a desire of eternal welfare, kept by such directors and directions under a hard, burdensome, outside worship and service of God, with many specious endeavours for mortification, in an utter ignorance of the righteousness of Christ, and unacquaintedness with his Spirit, all their days. Persons and things of this kind I know too many. If ever God shine into their hearts, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of his Son Jesus Christ, they will see the folly of their present way.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --CHAPTER VIII.
The second general rule proposed -- Without universal sincerity for the mortifying of every lust, no lust will be mortified -- Partial mortification always from a corrupt principle -- Perplexity of temptation from a lust oftentimes a chastening for other negligences.
2. THE second principle which to this purpose I shall propose is this: --
Without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience, there is no mortification, of any one perplexing lust to be obtained.
The other was to the person; this to the thing itself. I shall a little explain this position.
A man finds any lust to bring him into the condition formerly described; it is powerful, strong, tumultuating, leads captive, vexes, disquiets, takes away peace; he is not able to bear it; wherefore he sets himself against it, prays against it, groans under it, sighs to be delivered: but in the meantime, perhaps, in other duties, -- in constant communion with God, -- in reading, prayer, and meditation, -- in other ways that are not of the same kind with the lust wherewith he is troubled, -- he is loose and negligent. Let not that man think that ever he shall arrive to the mortification of the lust he is perplexed withal. This is a condition that not seldom befalls men in their pilgrimage. The Israelites, under a sense of their sin, drew nigh to God with much diligence and earnestness, with fasting and prayer, Isa. lviii. many expressions are made of their earnestness in the work, verse 2 "They
UNIVERSAL SINCERITY NEEDED. 4l
seek me daily, and delight to know my ways; they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God." But God rejects all. Their fast is a remedy that will not heal them, and the reason given of it, verses 5-7, is, because they were particular in this duty. They attended diligently to that, but in others were negligent and careless.]He that hath a "running sore" (it is the Scripture expression) upon him, arising from an ill habit of body, contracted by intemperance and ill diet, let him apply himself with what diligence and skill he can to the cure of his sore, if he leave the general habit of his body under distempers, his labour and travail will be in vain. So will his attempts be that shall endeavour to stop a bloody issue of sin and filth in his soul, and is not equally careful of his universal spiritual temperature and constitution. For, --
(1.) This kind of endeavour for mortification proceeds from a corrupt principle, ground, and foundation; so that it will never proceed to a good issue. The true and acceptable principles of mortification shall be afterward insisted on. Hatred of sin as sin, not only as galling or disquieting, a sense of the love of Christ in the cross, lie at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification. Now, it is certain that that which I speak of proceeds from self-love. Thou settest thyself with all diligence and earnestness to mortify such a lust or sin; what is the reason of it? It disquiets thee, it hath taken away thy peace, it fills thy heart with sorrow, and trouble, and fear; thou hast no rest because of it. Yea; but, friend, thou hast neglected prayer or reading; thou hast been vain and loose in thy conversation in other tilings, that have not been of the same nature with that lust wherewith thou art perplexed. These are no less sins and evils than those under which thou groanest. Jesus Christ bled for them also. Why dost thou not set thyself against them also? If thou hatest sin as sin, every evil way, thou wouldst be no less watchful against every thing that grieves and disquiets the Spirit of God, than against that which grieves and disquiets thine own soul. It is evident that thou contendest against sin merely because of thy own trouble by it. Would thy conscience be quiet under it, thou wouldst let it alone. Did it not disquiet thee, it should not be disquieted by thee. Now, canst thou think that God will set in with such hypocritical endeavours, -- that ever his Spirit will bear witness to the treachery and falsehood of thy spirit? Dost thou think he will ease thee of that which perplexeth thee, that thou mayst be at liberty to that which no less grieves him? No. Says God, "Here is one, if he could be rid of this lust I should never hear of him more; let him wrestle with this, or he is lost." Let not any man think to do his own work that will not do God's. God's work consists in universal obedience; to Be freed of tim present perplexity is their own only. Hence is
42 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
that of the apostle, 2 Cor. vii. 1, "Cleanse yourselves from all pollution of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." If we will do any thing, we must do all things. So, then, it is not only an intense opposition to this or that peculiar lust, but a universal humble frame and temper of heart, with watchfulness over every evil and for the performance of every duty, that is accepted.
(2.) How knowest thou but that God hath suffered the lust wherewith thou hast been perplexed to get strength in thee, and power over thee, to chasten thee for thy other negligences and common lukewarmness in walking before him; at least to awaken thee to the consideration of thy ways, that thou mayst make a thorough work and change in thy course of walking with him?
The rage and predominancy of a particular lust is commonly the fruit and issue of a careless, negligent course in general, and that upon a double account: --
[1.] As its natural effect, if I may so say. Lust, as I showed in general, lies in the heart of every one, even the best, whilst he lives; and think not that the Scripture speaks in vain, that it is subtle, cunning, crafty, -- that it seduces, entices, fights, rebels. Whilst a man keeps a diligent watch over his heart, its root and fountain, -- whilst above all keepings he keeps his heart, whence are the issues of life and death, -- lust withers and dies in it. But if, through negligence, it makes an eruption any particular way, gets a passage to the thoughts by the affections, and from them and by them perhaps breaks out into open sin in the conversation, the strength of it bears that way it hath found out, and that way mainly it urgeth, until, having got a passage, it then vexes and disquiets, and is not easily to be restrained: thus, perhaps, a man may be put to wrestle all his days in sorrow with that which, by a strict and universal watch, might easily have been prevented.
[2.] As I said, God oftentimes suffers it to chasten our other negligences: for as with wicked men, he gives them up to one sin as the judgment of another, a greater for the punishment of a less, or one that will hold them more firmly and securely for that which they might have possibly obtained a deliverance from; 1 so even with his own, he may, he doth, leave them sometimes to some vexatious distempers, either to prevent or cure some other evil. So was the messenger of Satan let loose on Paul, that he "might not be lifted up through the abundance of spiritual revelations." 2 Was it not a correction to Peter's vain confidence, that he was left to deny his Master? Now, if this be the state and condition of lust in its prevalency, that God oftentimes suffers it so to prevail, at least to admonish us, and to humble us, perhaps to chasten and correct us for our
1 Rom, i. 26.
2 Cor. xii. 7.
SYMPTOMS OF A PARTICULAR LUST. 43
general loose and careless walking, is it possible that the effect should be removed and the cause continued, that the particular lust should be mortified and the general course be unreformed? He, then, that would really, thoroughly, and acceptably mortify any disquieting lust, let him take care to be equally diligent in all parts of obedience, and know that every lust, every omission of duty, is burdensome to God, though but one is so to him. 1 Whilst there abides a treachery in the heart to indulge to any negligence in not pressing universally to all perfection in obedience, the sold is weak, as not giving faith its whole work; and selfish, as considering more the trouble of sin than the filth and guilt of it; and lives under a constant provocation of God: so that it may not expect any comfortable issue in any spiritual duty that it doth undertake, much less in this under consideration, which requires another principle and frame of spirit for its accomplishment.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -CHAPTER IX.
Particular directions in relation to the foregoing case proposed -- FIRST. Consider the dangerous symptoms of any lust -- 1. Inveterateness -- 2. Peace obtained under it; the several ways whereby that is done -- 3. Frequency of success in its seductions -- 4. The soul's fighting against it with arguments only taken from the event -- 5. Its being attended with judiciary hardness -- 6. Its withstanding particular dealings from God -- The state of persons in whom these things are found.
III. THE foregoing general rules being supposed, particular directions to the soul for its guidance under the sense of a disquieting lust or distemper, being the main thing I aim at, come next to be proposed. Now, of these some are previous and preparatory, and in some of them the work itself is contained. Of the first sort are these ensuing: --
FIRST. Consider what dangerous symptoms thy lust hath attending or accompanying it, -- whether it hath any deadly mark on it or no; if it hath, extraordinary remedies are to be used; an ordinary course of mortification will not do it.
You will say, "What are these dangerous marks and symptoms, the desperate attendancies of an indwelling lust, that you intend?" Some of them I shall name: --
1. Inveterateness. -- If it hath lain long corrupting in thy heart, if thou hast suffered it to abide in power and prevalency, without attempting vigorously the killing of it, and the healing of the wounds
1 Isa. xliii. 24.
44 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
thou hast received by it, for some long season, thy distemper is dangerous. Hast thou permitted worldliness, ambition, greediness of study, to eat up other duties, the duties wherein thou oughtest to hold constant communion with God, for some long season? or uncleanness to defile thy heart with vain, and foolish, and wicked imaginations for many days? Thy lust hath a dangerous symptom. So was the case with David: Ps. xxxviii. 5, "My wounds stink and are corrupt, because of my foolishness." When a lust hath lain long in the heart, corrupting, festering, cankering, it brings the soul to a woful condition. In such a case an ordinary course of humiliation will not do the work: whatever it be, it will by this means insinuate itself more or less into all the faculties of the soul, and habituate the affections to its company and society; it grows familiar to the mind and conscience, that they do not startle at it as a strange thing, but are bold with it as that which they are wonted unto; yea, it will get such advantage by this means as oftentimes to exert and put forth itself without having any notice taken of it at all, as it seems to have been with Joseph in his swearing by the life of Pharaoh. Unless some extraordinary course be taken, such a person hath no ground in the world to expect that his latter end shall be peace.
For, first, How will he be able to distinguish between the long abode of an unmortified lust and the dominion of sin, which cannot befall a regenerate person? Secondly, How can he promise himself that it shall ever be otherwise with him, or that his lust will cease tumultuating and seducing, when he sees it fixed and abiding, and hath done so for many days, and hath gone through a variety of conditions with him? It may be it hath tried mercies and afflictions, and those possibly so remarkable that the soul could not avoid the taking special notice of them; it may he it hath weathered out many a storm, and passed under much variety of gifts in the administration of the word; and will it prove an easy thing to dislodge an inmate pleading a title by prescription? Old neglected wounds are often mortal, always dangerous. Indwelling distempers grow rusty and stubborn by continuance in ease and quiet. Lust is such an inmate as, if it can plead time and some prescription, will not easily be ejected. As it never dies of itself, so if it be not daily killed it will always gather strength.
2. Secret pleas of the heart for the countenancing of itself, and keeping up its peace, notwithstanding the abiding of a lust, without a vigorous gospel attempt for its mortification, is another dangerous symptom of a deadly distemper in the heart. Now, there be several ways whereby this may be done. I shall name some of them; as, --
(1.) When upon thoughts, perplexing thoughts about sin, instead of applying himself to the destruction of it, a man searches his heart
SYMPTOMS OF A PARTICULAR LUST. 45
to see what evidences he can find of a good condition, notwithstanding that sin and lust, so that it may go well with him.
For a man to gather up his experiences of God, to call them to mind, to collect them, consider, try, improve them, is an excellent thing, -- a duty practised by all the saints, commended in the Old Testament and the New. This was David's work when he "communed with his own heart," and called to remembrance the former loving-kindness of the Lord.1 This is the duty that Paul sets us to practise, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. And as it is in itself excellent, so it hath beauty added to it by a proper season, a time of trial or temptation, or disquietness of the heart about sin, -- is a picture of silver to set off this golden apple, as Solomon speaks. But now to do it for this end, to satisfy conscience, which cries and calls for another purpose, is a desperate device of a heart in love with sin. When a man's conscience shall deal with him, when God shall rebuke him for the sinful distemper of his heart, if he, instead of applying himself to get that sin pardoned in the blood of Christ and mortified by his Spirit, shall relieve himself by any such other evidences as he hath, or thinks himself to have, and so disentangle himself from under the yoke that God was putting on his neck, his condition is very dangerous, his wound hardly curable. Thus the Jews, under the gallings of their own consciences and the convincing preaching of our Saviour, supported themselves with this, that they were "Abraham's children," and on that account accepted with God; and so countenanced themselves in all abominable wickedness, to their utter ruin.
This is, in some degree, a blessing of a man's self, and saying that upon one account or other he shall have peace, "although he adds drunkenness to thirst." Love of sin, undervaluation of peace and of all tastes of love from God, are inwrapped in such a frame. Such a one plainly shows, that if he can but keep up hope of escaping the "wrath to come," he can be well content to be unfruitful in the world, at any distance from God that is not final separation. What is to be expected from such a heart?
(2.) By applying grace and mercy to an unmortified sin, or one not sincerely endeavoured to be mortified, is this deceit carried on. This is a sign of a heart greatly entangled with the love of sin. When a man hath secret thoughts in his heart, not unlike those of Naaman about his worshipping in the house of Rimmon,2 "In all other things I will walk with God, but in this thing, God be merciful unto me," his condition is sad. It is true, indeed, a resolution to this purpose, to indulge a man's self in any sin on the account of mercy, seems to be, and doubtless in any course is, altogether inconsistent with Christian sincerity, and is a badge of a hypocrite, and is
1 Ps. lxxvii. 0-9.
2 2 Kings v. 18.
46 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
the "turning of the grace of God into wantonness;"1 yet I doubt not but, through the craft of Satan and their own remaining unbelief, the children of God may themselves sometimes be ensnared with this deceit of sin, or else Paul would never have so cautioned them against it as he doth, Rom. vi. 1, 2. Yea, indeed, there is nothing more natural than for fleshly reasonings to grow high and strong upon this account. The flesh would fain be indulged unto upon the account of grace, and every word that is spoken of mercy, it stands ready to catch at and to pervert it, to its own corrupt aims and purposes. To apply mercy, then, to a sin not vigorously mortified is to fulfil the end of the flesh upon the gospel.
These and many other ways and wiles a deceitful heart will sometimes make use of, to countenance itself in its abominations. Now, when a man with his sin is in this condition, that there is a secret liking of the sin prevalent in his heart, and though his will be not wholly set upon it, yet he hath an imperfect velleity towards it, he would practise it were it not for such and such considerations, and hereupon relieves himself other ways than by the mortification and pardon of it in the blood of Christ; that man's "wounds stink and are corrupt," and he will, without speedy deliverance, be at the door of death.
3. Frequency of success in sin's seduction, in obtaining the prevailing consent of the will unto it, is another dangerous symptom. This is that I mean: When the sin spoken of gets the consent of the will with some delight, though it be not actually outwardly perpetrated, yet it hath success. A man may not be able, upon outward considerations, to go along with sin to that which James calls the "finishing" of it,2 as to the outward acts of sin, when yet the will of sinning may be actually obtained; then hath it, I say, success. Now, if any lust be able thus far to prevail in the soul of any man, as his condition may possibly be very bad and himself be unregenerate, so it cannot possibly be very good, but dangerous; and it is all one upon the matter whether this be done by the choice of the will or by inadvertency, for that inadvertency itself is in a manner chosen. When we are inadvertent and negligent, where we are bound to watchfulness and carefulness, that inadvertency doth not take off from the voluntariness of what we do thereupon; for although men do not choose and resolve to be negligent and inadvertent, yet if they choose the things that will make them so, they choose inadvertency itself as a thing may be chosen in its cause.
And let not men think that the evil of their hearts is in any measure extenuated because they seem, for the most part, to be surprised into that consent which they seem to give unto it; for it is negli-
1 Jude 4.
2 James 1. 14, 15.
SYMPTOMS OF A PARTICULAR LUST. 47
gence of their duty in watching over their hearts that betrays them into that surprisal
4. When a man righteth against his sin only with arguments . from the issue or the punishment due unto it, this is a sign that sin hath taken great possession of the will, and that in the heart there is a superfluity of naughtiness. Such a man as opposes nothing to the seduction of sin and lust in his heart but fear of shame among men or hell from God, is sufficiently resolved to do the sin if there were no punishment attending it; which, what it differs from living in the practice of sin, I know not. Those who are Christ's, and are acted in their obedience upon gospel principles, have the death of Christ, the love of God, the detestable nature of sin, the preciousness of communion with God, a deep-grounded abhorrency of sin as sin, to oppose to any seduction of sin, to all the workings, strivings, rightings of lust in their hearts. So did Joseph. "How shall I do this great evil," saith he, "and sin against the LORD?" my good and gracious God.1 And Paul, "The love of Christ constraineth us;"2 and, "Having received these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all pollution of the flesh and spirit," 2 Cor. vii. 1. But now if a man be so under the power of his lust that he hath nothing but law to oppose it withal, if he cannot fight against it with gospel weapons, but deals with it altogether with hell and judgment, which are the proper arms of the law, it is most evident that sin hath possessed itself of his will and affections to a very great prevalency and conquest.
Such a person hath cast off, as to the particular spoken of, the conduct of renewing grace, and is kept from ruin only by restraining grace; and so far is he fallen from grace, and returned under the power of the law. And can it be thought that this is not a great provocation to Christ, that men should cast off his easy, gentle yoke and rule, and cast themselves under the iron yoke of the law, merely out of indulgence unto their lusts?
Try thyself by this also: When thou art by sin driven to make a stand, so that thou must either serve it and rush at the command of it into folly, like the horse into the battle, or make head against it to suppress it, what dost thou say to thy soul? what dost thou expostulate with thyself? Is this all, -- "Hell will be the end of this course; vengeance will meet with me and find me out?" It is time for thee to look about thee; evil lies at the door. Paul's main argument to evince that sin shall not have dominion over believers is, that they "are not under the law, but under grace," Rom. vi. 14. If thy con-tendings against sin be all on legal accounts, from legal principles and motives, what assurance canst thou attain unto that sin shall not have dominion over thee, which will be thy ruin?
1 Gen xxxix. 9
2 2 Cor. v. 14.
48 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
Yea, know that this reserve will not long hold out. If thy lust hath driven thee from stronger gospel forts, it will speedily prevail against this also. Do not suppose that such considerations will deliver thee, when thou hast voluntarily given up to thine enemy those helps and means of preservation which have a thousand times their strength. Rest assuredly in this, that unless thou recover thyself with speed from this condition, the thing that thou fearest will come upon thee. What gospel principles do not, legal motives cannot do.
5. When it is probable that there is, or may be, somewhat of judiciary hardness, or at least of chastening punishment, in thy lust as disquieting. This is another dangerous symptom. That God doth sometimes leave even those of his own under the perplexing power at least of some lust or sin, to correct them for former sins, negligence, and folly, I no way doubt. Hence was that complaint of the church, "Why hast thou hardened us from the fear of thy name?" Isa. lxiii. 17. That this is his way of dealing with unregenerate men no man questions. But how shall a man know whether there be any thing of God's chastening hand in his being left to the disquietment of his distemper? Ans. Examine thy heart and ways. What was the state and condition of thy soul before thou fellest into the entanglements of that sin which now thou so complainest of? Hadst thou been negligent in duties? Hadst thou lived inordinately to thyself? Is there the guilt of any great sin lying upon thee unrepented of? A new sin may be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance.
Hast thou received any eminent mercy, protection, deliverance, which thou didst not improve in a due manner, nor wast thankful for? or hast thou been exercised with any affliction without labouring for the appointed end of it? or hast thou been wanting to the opportunities of glorifying God in thy generation, which, in his good providence, he had graciously afforded unto thee? or hast thou conformed thyself unto the world and the men of it, through the abounding of temptations in the days wherein thou livest? If thou findest this to have been thy state, awake, call upon God; thou art fast asleep in a storm of anger round about thee.
6. When thy lust hath already withstood particular dealings from God against it. This condition is described, Isa. lvii. 17, "For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart." God had dealt with them about their prevailing lust, and that several ways, -- by affliction and desertion; but they held out against all. This is a sad condition, which nothing but mere sovereign grace (as God expresses it in the next verse) can relieve a man in, and which no man ought to promise himself or bear himself
SYMPTOMS OF A PARTICULAR LUST. 49
upon. God oftentimes, in his providential dispensations, meets with a man, and speaks particularly to the evil of his heart, as he did to Joseph's brethren in their selling of him into Egypt. This makes the man reflect on his sin, and judge himself in particular for it. God makes it to be the voice of the danger, affliction, trouble, sickness that he is in or under. Sometimes in reading of the word God makes a man stay on something that cuts him to the heart, and shakes him as to his present condition. More frequently in the hearing of the word preached, his great ordinance for conviction, conversion, and edification, doth he meet with men. God often hews men by the sword of his word in that ordinance, strikes directly on their bosom-beloved lust, startles the sinner, makes him engage unto the mortification and relinquishment of the evil of his heart. Now, if his lust have taken such hold on him as to enforce him to break these bands of the Lord, and to cast these cords from him, -- if it overcomes these convictions, and gets again into its old posture, -- if it can cure the wounds it so receives, -- that soul is in a sad condition.
Unspeakable are the evils which attend such a frame of heart. Every particular warning to a man in such an estate is an inestimable mercy; how then doth he despise God in them who holds out against them! And what infinite patience is this in God, that he doth not cast off such a one, and swear in his wrath that he shall never enter into his rest!
These and many other evidences are there of a lust that is dangerous, if not mortal. As our Saviour said of the evil spirit, "This kind goes not out but by fasting and prayer," so say I of lusts of this kind. An ordinary course of mortification will not do it; extraordinary ways must be fixed on.
This is the first particular direction: Consider whether the lust or sin you are contending with hath any of these dangerous symptoms attending of it.
Before I proceed I must give you one caution by the way, lest any be deceived by what hath been spoken. Whereas I say the things and evils above-mentioned may befall true believers, let not any that finds the same things in himself thence or from thence conclude that he is a true believer. These are the evils that believers may fall into and be ensnared withal, not the things that constitute a believer. A man may as well conclude that he is a believer because he is an adulterer, because David that was so fell into adultery, as conclude it from the signs foregoing; which are the evils of sin and Satan in the hearts of believers. The seventh chapter of the Romans contains the description of a regenerate man. He that shall consider what is spoken of his dark side, of his unregenerate part, of the indwelling power and violence
50 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
of sin remaining in him, and, because he finds the like in himself, conclude that he is a regenerate man, will be deceived in his reckoning. It is all one as if you should argue: A wise man may be sick and wounded, yea, do some things foolishly; therefore, every one who is sick and wounded and does things foolishly is a wise man. Or as if a silly, deformed creature, hearing one speak of a beautiful person, should say that he had a mark or a scar that much disfigured him, should conclude that because he hath himself scars, and moles, and warts, he also is beautiful. If you will have evidences of your being believers, it must be from those things that constitute men believers. He that hath these things in himself may safely conclude, "If I am a believer, I am a most miserable one." But that any man is so, he must look for other evidences if he will have peace.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -CHAPTER X.
The SECOND particular direction: Get a clear sense of, -- 1. The guilt of the sin perplexing -- Considerations for help therein proposed -- 2. The danger manifold -- -(1.) Hardening -- (2.) Temporal correction -- (3.) Loss of peace and strength -- (4.) Eternal destruction -- Rules for the management of this con-sideration -- 3. The evil of it -- (1.) In grieving the Spirit -- (2.) Wounding the new creature -- [(3.) Taking away a man's usefulness.]
THE SECOND direction is this: Get a clear and abiding sense upon thy mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of that sin wherewith thou art perplexed --
1. Of the guilt of it. It is one of the deceits of a prevailing lust to extenuate its own guilt. "Is it not a little one?" "When I go and bow myself in the house of Rimmon, God be merciful to me in this thing." "Though this be bad, yet it is not so bad as such and such an evil; others of the people of God have had such a frame; yea, what dreadful actual sins have some of them fallen into!" Innumerable ways there are whereby sin diverts the mind from a right and due apprehension of its guilt. Its noisome exhalations darken the mind, that it cannot make a right judgment of things. Perplexing reasonings, extenuating promises, tumultuating desires, treacherous purposes of relinquishment, hopes of mercy, all have their share in disturbing the mind in its consideration of the guilt of a prevailing lust. The prophet tells us that lust will do tires wholly when it comes to the height: Hos. iv. 11, "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart," -- the heart, that is the understanding, as it is often used in the Scripture. And as they accomplish this work
A SENSE OF THE GUILT OF SIN REQUIRED. 51
to the height in unregenerate persons, so in part in regenerate also. Solomon tells you of him who was enticed by the lewd woman, that he was "among the simple ones;" he was "a young man void of understanding," Prov. vii. 7. And wherein did his folly appear? Why, says he, in the 23d verse, "tie knew not that it was for his life;" he considered not the guilt of the evil that he was involved in. And the Lord, rendering a reason why his dealings with Ephraim took no better effect, gives this account: "Ephraim is like a silly dove without heart," Hos. vii. 11; -- had no understanding of his own miserable condition. Had it been possible that David should have lain so long in the guilt of that abominable sin, but that he had innumerable corrupt reasonings, hindering him from taking a clear view of its ugliness and guilt in the glass of the law? This made the prophet that was sent for his awaking, in his dealings with him, to shut up all subterfuges and pretences by his parable, that so he might fall fully under a sense of the guilt of it. This is the proper issue of lust in the heart, -- it darkens the mind that it shall not judge aright of its guilt; and many other ways it hath for its own extenuation that I shall not now insist on.
Let this, then, be the first care of him that would mortify sin, -- to fix a right judgment of its guilt in his mind. To which end take these considerations to thy assistance: --
(1.) Though the power of sin be weakened by inherent grace in them that have it, that sin shall not have dominion over them as it hath over others, yet the guilt of sin that doth yet abide and remain is aggravated and heightened by it: Rom. vi. 1, 2, "What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" -- "How shall we, that are dead?" The emphasis is on the word "we." How shall we do it, who, as he afterward describes it, have received grace from Christ to the contrary? We, doubtless, are more evil than any, if we do it. I shall not insist on the special aggravations of the sins of such persons, -- how they sin against more love, mercy, grace, assistance, relief, means, and deliverances than others. But let this consideration abide in thy mind, -- there is inconceivably more evil and guilt in the evil of thy heart that doth remain, than there would be in so much sin if thou hadst no grace at all. Observe, --
(2.) That as God sees abundance of beauty and excellency in the desires of the heart of his servants, more than in any the most glorious works of other men, yea, more than in most of their own outward performances, which have a greater mixture of sin than the desires and pantings of grace in the heart have; so God sees a great deal of evil in the working of lust in their hearts, yea, and more than in the open, notorious acts of wicked men, or in many outward sins where-
52 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
into the saints may fall, seeing against them there is more opposition made, and more humiliation generally follows them. Thus Christ, dealing with his decaying children, goes to the root with them, lays' aside their profession: Rev. iii. 15, "I know thee;" -- " Thou art quite another thing than thou professest; and this makes thee abominable. "
So, then, let these things, and the like considerations, lead thee to a clear sense of the guilt of thy indwelling lust, that there may be no room in thy heart for extenuating or excusing thoughts, whereby sin insensibly will get strength and prevail.
2. Consider the danger of it, which is manifold: --
(1.) Of being hardened by the deceitfulness. This the apostle sorely charges on the Hebrews, chap. iii. 12, 13, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." "Take heed," saith he, "use all means, consider your temptations, watch diligently; there is a treachery, a deceit in sin, that tends to the hardening of your hearts from the fear of God." The hardening here mentioned is to the utmost, -- utter obduration; sin tends to it, and every distemper and lust will make at least some progress towards it. Thou that wast tender, and didst use to melt under the word, under afflictions, wilt grow as some have profanely spoken, "sermon-proof and sickness-proof." Thou that didst tremble at the presence of God, thoughts of death, and appearance before him, when thou hadst more assurance of his love than now thou hast, shalt have a stoutness upon thy spirit not to be moved by these things. Thy soul and thy sin shall be spoken of and spoken to, and thou shalt not be at all concerned, but shalt be able to pass over duties, praying, hearing, reading, and thy heart not in the least affected. Sin will grow a light thing to thee; thou wilt pass it by as a thing of nought; this it will grow to. And what will be the end of such a condition? Can a sadder thing befall thee? Is it not enough to make any heart to tremble, to think of being brought into that estate wherein he should have slight thoughts of sin? Slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven, and hell, come all in at the same season. Take heed, this is that thy lust is working towards, -- the hardening of the heart, searing of the conscience, blinding of the mind, stupify-ing of the affections, and deceiving of the whole soul.
(2.) The danger of some great temporal correction, which the Scripture calls "vengeance," "judgment," and "punishment." Ps. lxxxix. 30-33, Though God should not utterly cast thee off for this abomination that lies in thy heart, yet he will visit thee with the rod; though he pardon and forgive, he will take vengeance of thy inventions. O remember David and all his troubles! look on him flying into the
A SENSE OF THE DANGER OF SIN REQUIRED. 53
wilderness, and consider the hand of God upon him. Is it nothing to thee that God should kill thy child in anger, ruin thy estate in anger, break thy bones in anger, suffer thee to be a scandal and reproach in anger, kill thee, destroy thee, make thee lie down in darkness, in anger? Is it nothing that he should punish, ruin, and undo others for thy sake? Let me not be mistaken. I do not mean that God doth send all these things always on his in anger; God forbid! but this I say, that when he doth so deal with thee, and thy conscience bears witness with him what thy provocations have been, thou wilt find his dealings full of bitterness to thy soul. If thou fearest not these things, I fear thou art under hardness.
(3.) Loss of peace and strength all a man's days. To have peace with God, to have strength to walk before God, is the sum of the great promises of the covenant of grace. In these things is the life of our souls. Without them in some comfortable measure, to live is to die. What good will our lives do us if we see not the face of God sometimes in peace? if we have not some strength to walk with him? Now, both these will an unmortified lust certainly deprive the souls of men of. This case is so evident in David, as that nothing can be more clear. How often doth he complain that his bones were broken, his soul disquieted, his wounds grievous, on this account! Take other instances: Isa. lvii. 17, "For the iniquity of his covetousness I was wroth, and hid myself." What peace, I pray, is there to a soul while God hides himself, or strength whilst he smites? Hos. v. 15, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face;" -- "I will leave them, hide my face, and what will become of their peace and strength?" If ever, then, thou hast enjoyed peace with God, if ever his terrors have made thee afraid, if ever thou hast had strength to walk with him, or ever hast mourned in thy prayer, and been troubled because of thy weakness, think of this danger that hangs over thy head. It is perhaps but a little while and thou shalt see the face of God in peace no more. Perhaps by to-morrow thou shalt not be able to pray, read, hear, or perform any duties with the least cheerfulness, life, or vigour; and possibly thou mayst never see a quiet hour whilst thou livest, -- that thou mayst carry about thee broken bones, full of pain and terror, all the days of thy life. Yea, perhaps God will shoot his arrows at thee, and fill thee with anguish and disquietness, with fears and perplexities; make thee a terror and an astonishment to thyself and others; show thee hell and wrath every moment; frighten and scare thee with sad apprehensions of his hatred; so that thy sore shall run in the night season, and thy soul shall refuse comfort; so that thou shalt wish death rather than life, yea, thy soul may choose strangling. Consider this a little, -- though God should not utterly destroy thee,
54 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
yet he might cast thee into this condition, wherein thou shalt have quick and living apprehensions of thy destruction. Wont thy heart to thoughts hereof; let it know what is like to be the issue of its state. Leave not this consideration until thou hast made thy soul to tremble within thee.
(4.) There is the danger of eternal destruction,.
For the due management of this consideration, observe, --
[1.] That there is such a connection between a continuance in sin and eternal destruction, that though God does re
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