Of the Nature, Principle, and Necessity of Mortification. Part II
Gal. 5: 24.
"And they that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts."
From hence our observation was,
That a saving interest in Christ, may be regularly and strong(y inferred and concluded from the mortification of the flesh, with its affections and lusts.
Having opened the nature and necessity of mortification in the former sermon, and shown how regularly a saving interest in Christ may be concluded from it; we now proceed to apply the whole, by way of
First use, for information.
Inference 1. If they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh, Then the life of Christians is no idle or easy life: the corruptions of his heart continually fill his hands with work, with work of the most difficult nature; sin-crucifying work, which the scripture calls the cutting off the right hand, and plucking out of the right eye: sin crucifying work is hard work, and it is constant work throughout the life of a Christian; there is no time nor place freed from this conflict; every occasion stirs corruption, and every stirring of corruption calls for mortification: corruptions work in our very best duties, Rom. 7: 23. and put the Christian upon mortifying labours. The world and the devil are great enemies, and fountains of many temptations to believers, but not like the corruptions of their own hearts; they only tempt objectively and externally, but these tempt internally, and therefore are much more dangerous; they only tempt at times and seasons; these continually, at all times and seasons: besides, whatever Satan or the world attempts upon us, would be altogether ineffectual were it not for our own corruptions, John 14: 30. So that the corruptions of our own hearts, as they create us most danger, so they must give us more labour; our life and this labour must end together; for sin is long a dying in the best heart: those that have been many years exercised in the study of mortification, may haply feel the same corruption tempting and troubling them now, which put them into tears, and many times brought them to their knees twenty or forty years ago. It may be said of sin as it was said of Hannibal, that active enemy, that it will never be quiet, whether conquering or conquered and until sin cease working, the Christian must not cease mortifying.
Inf. 2. If mortification be the great work of a Christian, then certainly those that give the corruptions of Christians an occasion to revive, must reeds do them a very ill office; they are not our best friends that stir the pride of our hearts by the flattery of their lips. The graces of God in others, I confess, are thankfully to be owned, and under discouragements, and contrary temptations, to be wisely and modestly spoken of; but the strongest Christians do scarcely shew their own weakness in any one thing more than they do in hearing their own praises. Christian, thou knowest thou carriest gun-powder about thee, desire those that carry fire to keep at a distance from thee; it is a dangerous crisis when a proud heart meets with flattering lips; auferte ignem, &c. take away the fire, (said a holy divine of Germany, when his friend commended him upon his death bed) for I have yet combustible matter about me; faithful, seasonable, discreet reproofs are much more safe to us, and advantageous to our mortifying work: but alas, how few have the boldness or wisdom duly to administer them? It is said of Alexander, that he bid a philosopher (who had been long with him) to be gone; for, said he, so long thou hast been with me, and never reproved me; which must needs be thy fault; for either thou sawest nothing in me worthy of reproof which argues thy ignorance, or else thou durst not reprove me, which argues thy unfaithfulness. A wise and faithful reprover is of singular use to him that is heartily engaged in the design of mortification; such a faithful friend, or some malicious enemy, must be helpful to us in that work.
Inf. 3. Hence it follows, that manifold and successive afflictions are no more than what is necessary for the best of Christians: the mortification of our lusts require them all, be they never so many, 1 Pet. 1: 5. "If need be, ye are in heaviness:" it is no more than need, that one loss should follow another, to mortify an earthly heart; for so intensely are our affections set upon the world, that it is not one, or two, or many checks of providence, that will suffice to wean and alienate them. Alas, the earthliness of our hearts will take all this, it may be much more than this, to purge them: the wise God sees it but necessary to permit frequent discoveries of our own weakness, and to let loose the tongues of many enemies upon us, and all little enough to pull down our pride, and the vanity that is in our hearts. Christian, how difficult soever it be for thee to bear it; yet the pride of thy heart requires all the scoffs and jeers, all the calumnies and reproaches, that ever the tongues or pens of thy bitterest enemies, or mistaken friends, have at any time thrown upon thee. Such rank weeds as grow in our hearts, will require hard frosts and very sharp weather to rot them; the straying bullock needs a heavy clog, and so does a Christian whom God will keep within the bounds and limits of his commandments, Psal. 119: 67. Dan. 11: 35.
Inf. 4. If they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh, then the number of real Christians is very small. It is true, if all that seem to be meek, humble, and heavenly, might pass for Christians, the number would be great; but if no more must be accounted Christians, than those who crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts, O how small is the number! For, O how many be there under the Christian name, that pamper and indulge their lusts, that secretly hate all who faithfully reprove them, and really affect none but such as feed their lusts, by praising and admiring them? How many that make provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts, Who cannot endure to have their corruptions crossed? How many are there that seem very meek and humble, until an occasion be given them to stir up their passion, and then you shall see in what degree they are mortified: the flint is a cold stone, till it be struck, and then it is all fiery. I know the best of Christians are mortified but in part; and strong corruptions are oftentimes found in very eminent Christians; but they love them not so well as to purvey for them; to protect, defend, and countenance them; nor dare they secretly hate such as faithfully reprove them; as many thousands that go under the name of Christians do. Upon the account of mortification it is said, Mat. 7: 13. "Narrow is the way, and strait is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Inf. 5. If they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh, i.e. if mortification is their daily work and study; then how falsely are Christians charged as troublers of the world and disturbers of the civil peace and tranquillity of the times and places they live in; Justly may they retort the charge, as Elijah did to Ahab, "It is not I that trouble Israel, but thou and thy father's house:" It is not holy, meek, and humble Christians that put the world into confusion, this is done by the profane and atheistical; or by the designing and hypocritical world, and laid at the door of innocent Christians: as all the public calamities which from the immediate hand of God, or by foreign or domestic enemies befel Rome, were constantly charged upon Christians; and they condemned and punished, for what the righteous hand of God inflicted on the working heads of the enemies of that state without their privily contrived. The apostle James propounds and answers a question very pertinent to this discourse, James 4: 1. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" O if men did but study mortification and self denial, and live as much at home in the constant work of their own hearts as some men do; what tranquillity and peace, what blessed halcyon days should we quickly see! It is true, Christians are always fighting and quarrelling, but it is with themselves and their own corrupt hearts and affections; they hate no enemy but sin; they thirst for the blood and ruin of none but of that enemy; they are ambitious of no victory, but what is over the corruptions of their own hearts; they carry no grudge except it be against this enemy, sin; and yet these are the men who are the most suspected and charged with disturbing the times they live in; just as the wolf accused the lamb, which was below him, for puddling and defiling the stream. But there will be a day when God will clear up the innocency and integrity of his mistaken and abused servants; and the world shall see, it was not preaching and praying, but drinking, profaneness, and enmity unto true godliness, which disturbed and broke the tranquillity and quietness of the times: mean time let innocency commit itself unto God, who will protect, and in due time vindicate the same.
Inf. 6. If they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh, then whatsoever religion, opinion, or doctrine does in its own nature countenance and encourage sin, is not of Christ. The doctrine of Christ every where teacheth mortification: the whole stream of the gospel runs against sin; the doctrine it teacheth is holy, pure, and heavenly; it has no tendency to extol corrupt nature, and feed its pride, by magnifying its freedom and power, or by stamping the merit and dignity of the blood of Christ upon its works and performances; it never makes the death of Christ a cloke to cover sin, but an instrument to destroy it. And whatsoever doctrine it is which nourishes the pride of nature, to the disparagement of grace, or encourages licentiousness and fleshly lust, is not the doctrine of Christ, but a spurious offspring begotten by Satan upon the corrupt nature of man.
Inf. 7. If mortification be the great business and character of a Christian, Then that condition is most eligible and desirable by Christians, which is least of all exposed to temptation, Prov. 30: 8. "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but feed me with food convenient." That holy judicious man was well aware of the danger lurking in both extremes, and how near they border upon deadly temptations, and approach the very precipice of ruin that stand upon either ground: few Christians have an head strong and steady enough to stand upon the pinnacle of wealth and honour; nor is it every one that can grapple with poverty and contempt. A mediocrity is the Christian's best external security, and therefore most desirable: and yet how do the corruption, the pride and ignorance of our hearts grasp and covet that condition which only serves to warm and nourish our lusts, and make the work of mortification much more difficult? It is well for us that our wise Father leaves us not to our own choice, that he frequently dashes our earthly projects, and disappoints our fond expectations. If children were left to carve for themselves, how often would they cut their own fingers?
Inf. 8. If mortification be the great business of a Christian, then Christian fellowship and society duly managed and improved, must needy be of singular use and special advantage to the people of God. For thereby we have the friendly help and assistance of many other hands to carry on our great design, and help us in our most difficult business; if corruption be too hard for us, others this way come in to our assistance, Gal. 6: 1. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness." If temptations prevail, and overbear us that we fall under sin, it is a special mercy to have the reproofs and counsels of our brethren, who will not suffer sin to rest upon us, Lev. 19: 17. Whilst we are sluggish and sleepy, others are vigilant and careful for our safety: The humility of another reproves and mortifies my pride: The activity and liveliness of another awakens and quickens my deadness: The prudence and gravity of another detects and cures my levity and vanity: The heavenliness and spirituality of another may be exceeding useful, both to reprove and heal the earthliness and sensuality of my heart. Two are better than one, but wo unto him that is alone. The devil is well aware of this great advantage, and therefore strikes with special malice against embodied Christians, who are as a well disciplined army, whom he therefore more especially endeavours to rout and scatter by persecutions, that thereby particular Christians may be deprived of the sweet advantages of mutual society.
Inf. 9. How deeply has sin fixed its roots in our corrupt nature, that it should be the constant work of a Christian's whole life, to mortify and destroy it? God has given us many excellent helps, his Spirit within us, variety of ordinances and duties are also appointed as instruments of mortification: And from the very day of regeneration unto the last moment of dissolution, the Christian is daily at work in the use of all sanctified means, external and internal, yet can never dig up and destroy corruption at the root all his life long. The most eminent Christians of longest standing in religion, who have shed millions of tears for sin, and poured out many thousand prayers for the mortification of it, do, after all, find the remains of their old disease, that there is still life and strength in those corruptions which they have given so many wounds unto in duty. O the depth and strength of sin! which nothing can separate from us, but that which separates our souls and bodies. And upon that account, the day of a believer's death is better than the day of his birth. Never till then do we put off our armour, sheath our sword, and cry, victory, victory.
Second use, for exhortation.
If they who are Christ's have crucified the flesh, &c. Then as ever we hope to make good our claim to Christ, let us give all diligence to mortify sin; in vain else are all our pretences unto union with him. This is the great work and discriminating character of a believer. And seeing it is the main business of life, and great evidence for heaven, I shall therefore press you to it by the following motives and considerations.
1 Motive. And first, methinks the comfort and sweetness resulting from mortification should effectually persuade every believer to more diligence about it. There is a double sweetness in mortification, one in the nature of the work, as it is a duty, a sweet Christian duty; another as it has respect to Christ, and is evidential of our union with him. In the first consideration there is a wonderful sweetness in mortification, for dost thou not feel a blessed calmness, cheeriness, and tranquillity in thy conscience, when thou hast faithfully repelled temptations, successfully resisted and overcome thy corruptions? Does not God smile upon thee; conscience encourage and approve thee? Hast thou not an heaven within thee? whilst others feel a kind of hell in the deadly gripes and bitter accusations of their own consciences, are covered with shame, and filled with horrors. But then consider it also as an evidence of the soul's interest in Christ, as my text considers it; and what an heaven upon earth must then be found in mortification! These endeavours of mine to subdue and mortify my corruptions, plainly speak the Spirit of God in me, and my being in (Christ! and O what is this! What heart has largeness and strength enough to receive and contain the joy and comfort which flow from a cleared interest in Jesus Christ! Certainly, Christians, the tranquillity and comfort of your whole life depend upon it; and what is life without the comfort of life? Rom. 8: 13. "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live, i.e. you shall live a serene, placid, comfortable life; for it is corruption unmortified which clouds the face of God, and breaks the peace of his people, and consequently imbitters the life of a Christian.
2 Motive. As the comfort of your own lives, which is much, so your instrumental fitness for the service of God, which is much more, depends upon the mortification of your sins, 2 Tim. 2: 21. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour; sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." Where is the mercy of life but in the usefulness and serviceableness of it unto God? It is not worth while to live sixty or seventy years in the world to eat and drink, to buy and sell, to laugh and cry, and then go down to the place of silence. So far as any man lives to God an useful, serviceable life to his praise and honour; so far only, and no farther, does he answer the end of his being. But it is the purged, mortified soul which is the vessel of honour, prepared, and meet for the Master's use. Let a proud, or an earthly heart be employed in any service for God, and you shall find that such an heart will both spoil the work, by managing it for a self-end as Jehu did; and then devour the praise of it by a proud boast: Come see my zeal. When the Lord would employ the prophet Isaiah in his work and service, his iniquity was first purged: and after that he was employed, Isa. 6: 6, 7, 8. Sin is the soul's sickness, a consumption upon the inner man; and we know that languishing consumptive persons are very unfit to be employed in difficult and strenuous labours. Mortification, so far as it prevails, cures the disease, recovers our strength, and enables us for service to God in our generations.
3 Motive. Your stability and safety in the hour of temptation, depend upon the success of your mortifying endeavours. Is it then a valuable mercy in your eyes to be kept upright and stedfast in the critical season of temptation, when Satan shall be wrestling with you for the crown, and the prize of eternal life! Then give diligence to mortify your corruptions. Temptation is a siege, Satan is the enemy without the walls, labouring to force an entrance; natural corruptions are the traitors within, that hold correspondence with the enemy without, and open the gate of the soul to receive him. It was the covetousness of Judas' heart which overthrew him in the hour of temptation. They are our fleshly lusts which go over unto Satan in the day of battle, and fight against our souls, 1 Pet. 2: 11. the corruptions (or infectious atoms which fly up and down the world in times of temptation, as that word "miasmata", 2 Pet. 2: 20. imports) are through lusts, 2 Pet. 1: 4. It is the lust within, which gives a lustre to the vanities of the world without, and thereby makes them strong temptations to us, 1 John 4. 16. Mortify therefore your corruptions, as ever you expect to maintain your station in the day of trial: cut off those advantages of your enemy, lest by them he cut off your souls, and all your hopes from God.
4 Motive. As temptations will be irresistible, so afflictions will be unsupportable to you without mortification. My friends, you live in a mutable work, providence daily rings the chances in all the kingdoms, cities, and towns, all the world over. You that have husbands or wives to-day, may be left desolate to-morrow: You that have estates and children now, may be bereaved of both before you are aware. Sickness will tread upon the heel of health, and death will assuredly follow life as the night does the day. Consider with yourselves; are you able to bear the loss of your sweet enjoyments with patience? Can you think upon the parting hour without some tremblings? 0 set a heart mortified to all these things, and you will bless a taking as well as a giving God. It is the living world, not the crucified world, that raises such tumults in our souls in the day of affliction. How cheerful was holy Paul under all his sufferings! and what think you gave him that peace and cheerfulness, but his mortification to the world? Phil. 4: 12. "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where, and in all things I am instructed, both to be full, and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need." Job was the mirror of patience, in the greatest shock of calamity, and what made him so, but the mortifiedness of his heart, in the fullest enjoyment of all earthly things? Job 31: 25.
5 Motive. The reputation and honour of religion are deeply concerned in the mortification of the professors of it: For unmortified professors will, first or last, be the scandals and reproaches of it. The profession of religion may give credit to you, but to be sure you will never bring credit to it. All the scandals and reproaches that fall upon the name of Christ in this world, flow from the fountain of unmortified corruption. Judas and Demas, Hymeneus, and Philetus, Ananias and Sapphira ruined themselves, and became rocks of offence to others by this means. If ever you will keep religion sweet, labour to keep your hearts mortified and pure.
6 Motive. To conclude, what hard work will you have in your dying hour, except you get a heart mortified to this world, and all that is in it? Your parting hour is like to be a dreadful hour, without the help of mortification. Your corruptions, like glue, fasten your affections to the world, and how hard will it be for such a man to be separated by death? O what a bitter and doleful parting have carnal hearts from carnal things! whereas the mortified soul can receive the messengers of death without trouble, and as cheerfully put off the body at death, as a man does his clothes at night: Death need not pull and hale; such a man goes half way to meet it, Phil. 1: 23. "I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is far better." Christian, wouldst thou have thy death- bed soft and easy; wouldst thou have an "euthanasia", as the philosopher desired for himself, an easy death, without pain or terror; then get a mortified heart: the Surgeon's knife is scarce felt when it cuts off a mortified member.
Third use, for direction.
Are you convinced, and fully satisfied of the excellency and necessity of mortification, and inquisitive after the means, in the use whereof it may be attained; then, for your help and encouragement, I will in the next place, offer my best assistance in laying down the rules for this work.
Rule 1. If ever you will succeed and prosper in the work of mortification, then get, and daily exercise more faith. Faith is the great instrument of mortification; "This is the victory, (or sword by which the victory is won, the instrument) by which you overcome the world, even your faith," 1 John 5: 4. By faith alone eternal things are discovered to your souls, in their reality and excelling glory, and these are the preponderating things, for the sake whereof, self-denial and mortification become easy to believers; by opposing things eternal to things temporal, we resist Satan, 1 Pet. 5: 8. This is the shield by which we quench the fiery darts of the wicked one, Eph. 6: 16.
Rule 2. Walk in daily communion with God, if ever you will mortify the corruptions of nature; that is the apostle's own prescription, Gal. 1: 17. "This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." Spiritual and frequent communion with God, gives manifold advantages for the mortification of sin, as it is a bright glass wherein the holiness of God and the exceeding sinfulness of sin, as it is opposite thereunto, are most clearly and sensibly discovered, than which, scarce any thing can set a keener edge of indignation upon the spirit of a man against sin. Besides, all communion with God is assimilating and transformative of the soul into his image; it leaves also a heavenly relish and savour upon the soul; it darkens the lustre and glory of all earthly things, by presenting to the soul a glory which excelleth: it marvellously improves, and more deeply radicates sanctification in the soul; by all which means it becomes singularly useful and successful in the work of mortification.
Rule 3. Keep your consciences under the awe and in the fear of God continually, as ever you hope to be successful in the mortification of sin. The fear of God is the great preservative from sin, without which all the external rules and helps in the world signify nothing: "By the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil," Prov. 16: 6. Not only from external and more open evils, which the fear of men, as well as the fear of God, may prevent, but from the most secret and inward evils, which is a special part of mortification, Lev. 19: 14. It keeps men from those evils which no eye nor ear of man can possibly discover. The fear of the Lord breaks temptations, baited with pleasure, with profit, and with secrecy. In a word, if ever you be cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, it must be by the fear of God, 2 Cor. 7: 1.
Rule 4. Study the vanity of the creature, and labour to get true notions of the emptiness and transitoriness thereof, if ever you will attain to the mortification of your affections towards it.
It is the false picture and image of the world, in our fancy, that crucifies us with so many cares, fears, and solicitudes about it: and it is the true picture and image of the world, represented to us in the glass of the word, which greatly helps to crucify our affections to the world. O if we did but know and believe three things about the world, we should never be so fond of it as we are, viz. the fading, defiling, and destroying nature of it. The best and sweetest enjoyments in the world, are but fading flowers and withered grass, Isa. 14: 6. James 1: 10,11. yea, it is of a defiling, as well as a fading nature, 1 John 5: 19. it lies in wickedness, it spreads universal infection among all mankind, 2 Pet. 1: 4. yea, it destroys as well as defiles multitudes of souls, drowning men in perdition, 1 Tim. 6: 9. Millions of souls will wish, to eternity, they had never known the riches, pleasures, or honours of it. Were this believed, how would men slacken their pace, and cool themselves in the violent and eager pursuit of the world? This greatly tends to promote mortification.
Rule 5. Be careful to cut off all the occasions of sin, and keep at the greatest distance from temptations, if ever you would mortify the deeds of the body. The success and prevalency of sin, mainly depend upon the wiles and stratagems it makes use of to ensnare the incautious soul; therefore the apostle bids us keep off, at the greatest distance. 1 Thes. 5: 22. "Abstain from all appearance of evil. Prov. 5: 8. "Come not nigh unto the door of her house." He that dares venture to the very brink of sin, discovers but little light in his understanding, and less tenderness in his conscience, he neither knows sin nor fears it as he ought to do: And it is usual with God to chastise self-confidence by shameful lapses into sin.
Rule 6. If you will successfully mortify the corruptions of your nature, never engage against them in your own single strength, Eph. 6: 10. When the apostle draws forth Christians into the field, against sin, he bids them "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." O remember what a mere feather thou art in the gusts of temptation; call to mind the height of Peters confidence, "though all men forsake thee, yet will not I;" and the depth of his fall, shame and sorrow. A weak Christian, trembling in himself, depending by faith upon God, and graciously assisted by him, shall be able to stand against the shock of temptation, when the bold and confident resolutions of others (like Pendleton in our English story) shall melt away as wax before the flames.
Rule 7. Set in with the mortifying design of God, in the day of thine affliction; sanctified afflictions are ordered and prescribed in heaven for the purging of our corruptions, Isa. 27: 9 "By this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit to take away his sin." It is a fair glass to represent the evil of sin, and the vanity of the creature, to imbitter the world, and disgust thy affections towards it: Fall in, therefore with the gracious design of God; follow every affliction will prayer, that God would follow it with his blessing. God kills thy comforts, out of no other design but to kill thy corruptions with them: wants are ordained to kill wantonness, poverty is appointed to kill pride, reproaches are permitted to pull down ambition: Happy is the man who understands, approves, and heartily sets in with the design of God, in such afflicting providences.
Rule 8. Bend the strength of your duties and endeavours against your proper and special sin; it is in vain to lop off branches, whilst this root of bitterness remains untouched: This was David's practice, Psal. 18: 23. "I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity." We observe, in natural men, that one faculty is more vigorous than another; we find in nature, that one soil suits with some sorts of seeds rather than another: And every believer may find his nature and constitution inclining him to one sin rather than another. As graces, so corruptions exceed one another, even in the regenerate. The power of special corruption arises from our constitutions, education, company, custom, callings, and such like occasions; but from whensoever it comes, this is the sin that most endangers us, most easily besets us; and, according to the progress of mortification in that sin, we may safely estimate the degrees of mortification in other sins; Strike, therefore, at the life and root of your own iniquity.
Rule 9. Study the nature and great importance of those things which are to be won or lost, according to the success and issue of this conflict. Your life is a race, eternal glory is the prize, grace and corruption are the antagonists, and accordingly as either finally prevails, eternal life is won or lost. 1 Cor. 9: 24. "Know ye not that they which run a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain." This condition will make mortification appear the most rational and necessary thing to you in the whole world. Shall I lose heaven for indulging the flesh, and humouring a wanton appetite! God forbid. "I keep under my body, (saith Paul) and bring it into subjection; lest if that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away," 1 Cor. 9: 28.
Rule 10. Accustom your thoughts to such meditations as are proper to mortify sin in your affections, else all endeavours to mortify it will be but faint and languid: To this purpose, I shall recommend the following meditations, as proper means to destroy the interest of sin.
Meditation 1. Consider the evil that is in sin, and how terrible the appearances of God will one day be against those that obey it, in the lusts thereof. Rom. 1: 18. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," 1 Thes. 1: 7, 8, 9. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." Let your thoughts dwell much upon the consideration of the fruits and consequences of sin; it shows its fairest side to you in the hour of temptation. O but consider how it will look upon you in the day of affliction, Numb. 22: 23. in that day your sin will find you out: Think what its aspect will be in a dying flour. 1 Cor. 15: 56. "The sting of death is sin." Think what the frightful remembrances of it will be at the bar of judgement, when Satan shall accuse, conscience shall upbraid, God shall condemn, and everlasting burnings shall avenge the evil of it: such thoughts as these are mortifying thoughts.
Meditation 2. Think what it cost the Lord Jesus to expiate the guilt of sin by suffering the wrath of the great and terrible God for it in our room: the meditations of a crucified Christ are very crucifying meditations unto sin, Gal. 6: 14. he suffered unspeakable things for sin; it was a divine wrath which lay upon his soul for it; that wrath of which the prophet saith, Nahum 1: 5, 6. "The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt. Who can stand before his indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him." It was unmixed and unallayed wrath, poured out in the fulness of it, even to the last drop: and shall we be so easily drawn to the commission of those sins which put Christ under such sufferings? O do but read such scriptures as these, Luke 22: 44. Matth. 26: 36, 37. Mark 14: 33. and see what a plight sin put the Lord of glory into; how the wrath of God put him into a sore amazement, a bloody sweat, and made his soul heavy unto death.
Meditation 3. Consider what a grief and wound the sins of believers are to the Spirit of God, Eph. 4: 80. Ezek. 16: 43. Isa. 63: 10. 0 how it grieves the Holy Spirit of God! Nothing is more contrary to his nature. "O do not that abominable thing which I hate," saith the Lord, Jer. 44: 4. Nothing obstructs and crosses the sanctifying design of the Spirit, as sin does; defacing and spoiling the most rare and admirable workmanship that ever God wrought in this world; violating all the engagements laid upon us by the love of the Father, by the death of his Son, by the operations of his Spirit in all his illuminations, convictions, compunctions, renovation, preservation, obsignation, and manifold consolations. Lay this meditation upon thy heart, believer, and say, Sicne rependis? dost thou thus requite the lord, O my ungrateful heart, for all his goodness? Is this the fruit of his temporal, spiritual, common, and peculiar mercies, which are without number?
Meditation 4. Consider with yourselves, that no real good, either of profit or pleasure can result from sin; you can have no pleasure in it, whatever others may have, it being against your new nature; and as for that brutish pleasure and evanid joy which others have in sin, it can be but for a moment, for either they must repent or not repent: if they do repent, the pleasure of sin will be turned into the gall of asps here; if they do not repent, it will terminate in everlasting howlings hereafter. That is a smart question, Rom. 6: 21. "What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death." You that are believers must never expect any pleasure in sin; for you can neither commit it without regret, nor reflect upon it without shame and confusion: expect no better consequents of sin than the woundings of conscience and the dismal cloudings of the face of God; that is all the profit of sin. O let these things sink into your heart.
Meditation 5. Consider what the damned suffer for those sins which the devil now tempteth you to commit; it has deprived them of all good, all outward good, Luke 16: 25. all spiritual good, Mat. 25: 41. and of all hope of enjoying any good for ever: and as it has deprived them of all good, so it has remedilessly plunged them into all positive misery: misery from without, the wrath of God being come upon them to the uttermost; and misery from within, for their worm dieth not, Mark 9: 44. The memory of things past, the sense of things present, and the fearful expectations of things to come, are the gnawings and bitings of the worm of conscience, at every bite whereof damned souls give a dreadful shriek; crying out, O the worm! the worm! Would any man that is not forsaken by reason, run the hazard of those eternal miseries for the brutish pleasures of a moment?
Meditation 6. Bethink yourselves what inexcusable hypocrisy it will be in you to indulge yourselves in the private satisfaction of your lusts, under a contrary profession of religion: you are a people that profess holiness, and professedly own yourselves to be under the government and dominion of Christ: and must the worthy name of Christ be only used to cloak and cover your lusts and corruptions, which are so hateful to him? God forbid. You daily pray against sin, you confess it to God, you bewail it, you pour out supplications for pardoning and preventing grace; are you in jest or earnest in these solemn duties of religion? Certainly, if all those duties produce no mortification, you do but flatter God with your lips, and put a dreadful cheat upon your own souls. Nay, do you not frequently censure and condemn those things in others, and dare you allow them in yourselves? What horrid hypocrisy is this? Christians are dead to sin, Rom. 6: 2. dead to it by profession, dead to it by obligation, dead to it by relation to Christ, who died for them; and how shall they that are so many ways dead to sin, live any longer therein? O think not that God hates sin the less in you because you are his people, nay, that very consideration aggravates it the more, Amos 3: 2.
Meditation 7. Consider with yourselves what hard things some Christians have chosen to endure and suffer rather than they would defile themselves with guilt; and shall every small temptation ensnare and take your souls? Read over the 11th chapter to the Hebrews, and see what the saints have endured to escape sin; no torments were so terrible to them as the displeasure of God, and woundings of conscience; and did God oblige them more by his grace and favour than he has obliged you? O Christians, how can you that have found such mercies, mercies as free, and pardons as full as ever any souls found, shew less care, less fear, less tenderness of grieving the Spirit of God than others have done; certainly, if you did see sin with the saline eyes they saw it, you would hate it as deeply, watch against it as carefully, and resist it as vigorously as any of the saints have done before you.
Meditation 8. Consider with yourselves what sweet pleasure, rational and solid comfort is to be found in the mortification of sin. It is not the fulfilling of your lusts can give you the thousandth part of that comfort and contentment that the resistance of them, and victory over them will give you. Who can express the comfort that is to be found in the cheering testimony of an acquitting and absolving conscience? 2 Cor. 1: 12. Remember what satisfaction and peace it was to Hezekiah upon his supposed death- bed, when he turned to the wall, and said, "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart; and have done that which is good in thy sight," Isa. 38: 3.
Fourth use, for examination.
In the next place, this point naturally puts us upon the examination and trial of our own heard, whether we, who so confidently claim a special interest in Christ, have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. And because two sorts of persons will be concerned in this trial, viz. the weaker and the stronger Christians; I shall therefore lay down two sorts of evidences of mortification, one respecting the sincerity and truth, the other respecting the strength and progress of that work in confirmed and grown Christians, and both excluding false pretenders.
First, There are some things that are evidential of the truth and sincerity of mortification, even in the weakest Christians: as,
First, True tenderness of conscience as to all known sins, one as well as another, is a good sign sin has lost its dominion in the soul. O it is a special mercy to have a heart that shall smite and reprove us for those things that others make nothings of: To check and admonish us for our secret sins, which can never turn to our reproach among men: this is a good sign that we hate sin, however, through the weakness of the flesh we may be ensnared by it. Rom. 7: 15. "What I hate, that I do."
Secondly, The sincere and earnest desires of our souls to God in prayer for heart-purging and sin-mortifying grace, is a good sign our souls have no love for sin. Canst thou say, poor believer, in the truth of thy heart, that if God would give thee thy choice, it would please thee better to have sin cast out, than to have the world cast in: that thy heart is not so earnest with God for daily bread, as it is for heart-purging grace? This is a comfortable evidence that sin is nailed to the cross of Christ.
Thirdly, Do you make conscience of guarding against the occasions of sin? Do you keep a daily watch over your hearts and senses, according to 1 John 5: 18. Job 31: 1. This speaks a true design and purpose of mortification also.
Fourthly, Do you rejoice and bless God from your hearts, when the Providence of God orders any means for the prevention of sin? Thus did David, 1 Sam. 25: 33. "And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel which sent thee this day to meet me, and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with my own hand."
Fifthly, In a word, though the thoughts of death may be terrible in themselves, yet if the expectation and hope of your deliverance from sin thereby, do sweeten the thoughts of it to your souls, it will turn unto you for a testimony, that you are not the servants and friends of sin. And so much briefly of the first sort of evidences.
Secondly, There are other signs of a more deep and thorough mortification of sin, in more grown and confirmed believers, and such are these.
First, The more submissive and quiet any man is under the will of God, in smart and afflicting providences, the more that man's heart is mortified unto sin, Psal. 119: 67, 71. Col. 1: 11.
Secondly, The more able any one is to bear reproaches and rebukes for his sin, the more mortification there is in that man, Psal. 141: 5.
Thirdly, The more easily any man can resign and give up his dearest earthly comforts at the call and command of God, the more progress that man has made in the work of mortification, Heb. 11: 17. 2 Sam. 10: 25.
Fourthly, The more power any man has to resist sin in the first motions of it, and stifle it in the birth; the greater degree of mortification that man has attained, Rom. 7: 23, 24.
Fifthly, If great changes, upon our outward condition, make no change for the worse upon our spirits, but we can bear prosperous and adverse providences with an equal mind; then mortification is advanced far in our souls, Phil. 4: 11,12.
Sixthly, The more fixed and steady our hearts are with God in duty, and the less they are infested with wandering thoughts, and earthly interpositions; the more mortification there is in that soul. And so much briefly of the evidences of mortification.
Fifth use, for consolation.
It only remains, that I shut up all with a few words of consolation unto all that are under the mortifying influence of the Spirit. Much might be said for the comfort of such. In brief,
First, Mortified sin shall never be your ruin: It is only reigning sin that is ruining sin, Rom. 8: 13. Mortified sins and pardoned sins shall never lie down with us in the dust.
Secondly? If sin be dying, your souls are living; for dying unto sin, and living unto God, are inseparably connected, Rom. 6: 1l.
Thirdly, If sin be dying in you, it is certain that Christ died for you, and you cannot desire a better evidence of it, Rom. 6: 5, 6.
Fourthly, If sin be dying under the mortifying influences of the Spirit, and it be your daily labour to resist and overcome it, you are then in the direct way to heaven, and eternal salvation; which few, very few in the world shall find, Luke 13: 24.
Fifthly, To shut up all, if you, through the Spirit, be daily mortifying the deeds of the body, then the death of Christ is effectually applied by the Spirit unto your souls, and your interest in him is unquestionable: for they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts; and they that have so crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts are Christ's.
Blessed be God for a crucified Christ.
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