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to live, or to have a life of its own; therefore the opposition that is made to it, for its destruction, is called Mortification. (2.) Because of the violence that is necessary in this contest. Other duties, to which we are called, may be performed in a more easy and gentle manner. Though we must wrestle with principalities and powers in our conflict with temptations, yet in this conflict which we have with ourselves, there is more of fighting, wounding, and crying out for help: there is a deeper sense of such a viðlence as is used in taking away the life of a mortal enemy, than in any thing else we are called to. (3.) Because the end designed in this duty is destruction, as it is in all killing. Sin has a life, by which it reigns in all natural men. By the entrance of grace into the soul, it loses its dominion, but not its being; its rule, but not its life. But the design of this duty is, the utter destruction of all the remains of this cursed life of sin; it is, to leave sin neither being, life, nor operation.
From hence it is evident, that the mortification of sin is a gradual work. We must be exercised in it every day, and in every duty. Sin will not die, unless it be constantly weakened. Spare it, and it will heal its wounds, and recover its strength. We must continually watch against the operations of this principle of sin; in our duties, in our calling, in conversation, in retirement, in our enjoyments, and in all that we do. If we are negligent on any occasion, we shall suffer by it; every mistake, every neglect is perilous.
It may be justly feared, that the nature of this duty is mistaken by many. Some look upon it as an easy task. But is it for nothing that the Holy Spirit expresses it by mortification or killing? Certainly this intimates a violent contest. Every thing will do its utmost to preserve its life. Let no man think to kill sin with a few gentle strokes. He who has once smitten a serpent, if he follow not his blow till it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel; and so will he who undertakes to deal with sin, if he pursue it not constantly to death; sin will revive, and the man must die. Again: The principle of sin is in us, and is called ourselves. It cannot be killed without a sense of pain. It is compared to cutting off right hands, and plucking out right eyes. Lusts, that pretend to be useful and pleasant to the flesh, will not be mortified without sensible violence. It is also a fatal mistake to make
only some particular lusts, or actual sins, the objects of this duty. Many persons will make head against particular sins, but in general with little success; sin gets ground upon them, and they groan under its power; and the reason is, because they mistake the business. Contests against particular sins, are only to comply with light and convictions. Mortification, with a design for holiness, respects the body of sin, the root and all its branches. The first will miscarry; the latter will succeed.
Thirdly: We must consider the way in which mortification of sin is effected. Now the Holy Spirit is the author of this work in us, so that though it is our duty, it is his grace whereby it is performed. This is asserted in Rom. viii. 13: If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body.' We are to mortify the flesh: but of ourselves we cannot do it; it must be done in or by the Spirit. The proof of this is the principal design of the apostle from the 2d verse of that chapter to the end of the thirteenth. That the reign of sin, in the minds of believers, is impaired, and finally destroyed by the Holy Ghost; and that this could not otherwise be effected, he both affirms and proves at large. This being sufficiently evident, it remains only that we shew the manner in which he produces this effect.
I. The foundation of all mortification of sin, is from the inhabitation of the Spirit in us. He dwells in the persons of believers as in his temple. Those pollutions which render the souls of men unfit for his abode, consisting in sin inherent in its effects, he removes and subdues, that he may dwell in them suitably to his holiness. And as this is the only spring of mortification in us, as it is a grace, so the consideration of it is the principal motive to it as a duty. Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which you have of God?' And again, Know you not that ye are the temple of God??
II. The manner of the actual operation of the Spirit in this work is to be considered. It is the vicious corrupt habit of sin that is to be mortified; and this he doth, 1. By implanting in our minds a contrary, principle, with contrary dispositions. Sin will no otherwise die but by being killed; and as this is to be gradually done, it must be by conflict. There must be something in us that is contrary to it, which, by constant opposition, gradually works out its ruin and destruction. As in a chronical
distemper, the disease continually combats with the powers of nature, till it prevails to its dissolution, so it is in this matter. The contrary principles are flesh and spirit; and their contrary actings are in warring against each other, Gal. v. 16. Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh is to mortify it; for it cannot live if its lusts be not fulfilled. And he gives a fuller account hereof, verse 17. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. If the Spirit of God is here intended, yet he lusteth not in us, but by virtue of that spirit which is born of him. The issue of the whole is, They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts:' they have fastened it to the cross, where at length it must expire. Hence he shuts up his discourse with that exhortation, If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit; that is, if we are endowed with this spiritual principle of life, then let us improve it to the ruin and mortification of sin. Growing in grace, and thriving in holiness, is the great way of mortifying sin; for the more vigorous the principle of holiness is, the more weak and infirm will be that of sin. The more frequent and lively the actings of grace, the feebler and seldomer will be the actings of sin. The more we abound in the fruits of the Spirit, the less shall we be concerned in the works of the flesh. This is the only way to ruin sin. Bring a man to the law, urge him with the purity of its doctrine, the authority of its commands, the severity of its threatenings, and the dreadful consequences of its transgression: suppose him hereby convinced of the evil and danger of sin, and of the necessity of its mortification, will he be able hereon to discharge his duty, so that sin may die and his soul may live? The apostle assures us to the contrary, Rom. vii. 7, 8, 9. The whole effect of the law, as to indwelling sin, is only to irritate and increase its guilt. This, therefore, is the first way whereby the Holy Spirit enables us to mortify sin, namely, by cherishing the principle of holiness in our souls.
2. The Holy Ghost carries on this work by actual supplies of his grace; for the same divine aids are as necessary to this as to any positive duty of holiness. So the apostle concludes his account of the conflict between sin and grace, with that good word, I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord;' namely, who supplies me with
gracious assistances against the power of sin. Temptation is successful only by sin; and it was with respect to a peculiar temptation that Christ gave that answer to the apostle; My grace is sufficient for thee.' The actual supply of the Spirit of Christ enables us to withstand our temptations, and subdue our corruptions. This is that additional supply' as occasion requires, beyond our daily provision; or grace given in seasonably on our cry made for it, Phil. i. 19. In the life of faith, the expectation and derivation of these supplies of grace, is one principal part of our duty. These things are not empty notions, as some imagine. If Christ be our head of influence; if he be our life: if our life be in him, and we have nothing but what we receive from him then is this expectation and derivation of spiritual strength from him, the way we must take for the actual mortification of sin. We must diligently seek for these supplies in the ways and means whereby they are communicated; for though the Lord Christ gives them freely, yet our diligence in duty will give the measure of receiving them. If we are negligent in prayer, meditation, reading, hearing the word, and other ordinances of divine worship, we have no ground to expect any great supplies to this end. We must also abound in the actual exercise of those graces which are most directly opposite to our peculiar corruptions; for sin and grace try their strength in particular instances. If, therefore, any are more than ordinarily subject to the power of any corruption, as pas sion, inordinate affections, love of the world, distrust of God,—unless they are constant in the exercise of those graces which are most diametrically opposed to them, they will continually suffer under the power of sin.,
3. It is the Holy Spirit who directs us to, and helps us in, those duties which are appointed to be the means of mortifying sin.
(1.) It is necessary that we be well acquainted with the nature, use, and end of those duties. For want of this knowledge, all sorts of men have wandered after foolish imaginations about this work, either as to the nature of it, or the means of effecting it. A general apprehension that something of this kind is necessary, arising from the observation of the disordered passions and wicked lives of most men, is suited even to the light of nature, and from thence was variously improved by the philosophers of old. To
this purpose they gave many instructions about moderating and conquering the disorderly passions of the mind. But while their discoveries of sin rose no higher than the actual disorder they found in the affections; while they knew nothing of the depravity of the mind itself, and had nothing to oppose to what they did discover but moral considerations, they never attained to any thing of the same kind with the due mortification of sin.
If we take a view of the appearance of this duty among the Papists, we shall find it all disappointed; for, being ignorant of the only true way of effecting it, they have invented innumerable false ones of their own. Hence arose their austerities, disciplines, fastings, and the like. But when all was done, they found them insufficient; sin was not destroyed, nor conscience pacified. This made them betake themselves to Purgatory. Here they hope all will be set right, when they are gone out of the world. These things are not said to condemn even external severities, in their proper place. Our nature is apt to run into extremes. Because we see the vanity of the Papists, in placing mortification of sin in an outward appearance of it, we are apt to think that all things of that nature are utterly needless. But the truth is, I shall much suspect their internal mortification, who always pamper the flesh, conform to the world, and live in idleness and plasure. Yea, it is high time that professors should retrench that course of life, in fulness of diet, gaiety of dress, expence of time in vain Conversation, which many are fallen into. But these outward austerities of themselves will never produce the effect designed. As to many of them, they are the inventions of men, and were never appointed or blessed of God for any such purpose. Nor is there efficacy in the rest of them, but as they are subordinate to other spiritual duties. So Jerom gives us an honest instance in himself; telling us, that while he lived in his horid wilderness in Judea, his mind would be in the sports and revels at Rome. And thus will all self-devised ways of mortification end. It is the Spirit of God alone who leads us into the exercise of those duties whereby it may be carried on.
(2.) It is necessary that those duties be rightly performed; in faith, and to the glory of God. The duties particularly appointed to this end are, prayer, meditation, watchfulness, abstinence, and wisdom, or circumspection