THE MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS:
CHAPTER 1: Overview of Romans 8.13
Principal text: ARom. viii.13, “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live;” and reduce the whole to an improvement of the great evangelical truth and mystery contained in them.
Context of verse: A discussion Athe holiness and consolation of believers. // Among his arguments and motives unto holiness, the verse mentioned containeth one from the contrary events and effects of holiness and sin: >If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.=@
Analysis of text:
Overview of analysis:
First, A duty prescribed: “Mortify the deeds of the body.”
Secondly, The persons are denoted to whom it is prescribed: “Ye,” ‑‑ “if ye mortify.”
Thirdly, There is in them a promise annexed to that duty: “Ye shall live.”
Fourthly, The cause or means of the performance of this duty, ‑‑ the Spirit: “If ye through the Spirit.”
Fifthly, The conditionality of the whole proposition, wherein duty, means, and promise are contained: “If ye,” etc.
[Note: the detailed analysis does not follow in the same order as the overview.]
A. Conditionals Amay denote two things@
i. The uncertainty of the event or thing promised, in respect of them to whom the duty is prescribed.
ii. The certainty of the coherence and connection that is between the things spoken of; as we to a sick man, “If you will take such a potion or remedy, you will be well.”
B. Here, the Abut if@ denotes:
i. The certain connection that is between the mortifying of the deeds of the body and living is intimated in this conditional.
ii. This use of the Aif@ does not offend against Rom. 6:23, that life is a Agift@. Mortification does not cause God to give the gift. AThe intendment, then, of this propostion as conditional is, that there is a certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live. And herein lies the main motive unto and enforcement of the duty prescribed.@
2. To whom addressed: Aye@.
A. These are believers to whom Athere is no condemnation@.
B. The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
3. The principal efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit: Mortification from a self‑strength, carried on by ways of self‑invention, unto the end of a self‑righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world. And this is a second principle of my ensuing discourse.
4. The duty: Amortify the deeds of the body@.
A. Body: The body, then, here is taken for that corruption and depravity of our natures whereof the body, in a great part, is the seat and instrument, the very members of the body being made servants unto unrighteousness thereby, Romans 6:19. It is indwelling sin, the corrupted flesh or lust, that is intended
B. Deeds of the body: though the outward deeds are here only expressed, yet the inward and next causes, from whence they spring. The apostle calls them deeds, as that which every lust tends unto; though it do but conceive and prove abortive, it aims to bring forth a perfect sin.
C. To mortify: To kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all his strength, vigour, and power, so that he cannot act or exert . . . .The intendment of the apostle in this prescription of the duty mentioned is, ‑‑ that the mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers.
5. The promise: The life promised is opposed to the death threatened in the clause foregoing, . . . . Now, perhaps the word may not only intend eternal life, but also the spiritual life in Christ, which here we have; not as to the essence and being of it, which is already enjoyed by believers, but as to the joy comfort, and vigour of it:
Conclusion: The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.
CHAPTER 2: Why Mortification is Necessary.
Principal assertion: That the choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
Scriptural warrant: Col. 3:3-5; John 15:2; 1 Cor. 9:27. And if this were the work and business of Paul, who was so incomparably exalted in grace, revelations, enjoyments, privileges, consolations, above the ordinary measure of believers, where may we possibly bottom an exemption from this work and duty whilst we are in this world?
1. Indwelling sin always abides whilst we are in this world; therefore it is always to be mortified.
A. There are some who argue against mortification
i. Some deny a difference between good & evil.
ii. Others deny original sin
iii. Some Atempering the spirituality of the law of God unto men’s carnal hearts@ Ahave invented a new righteousness that the gospel knows not of, being vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds.@
B. A[W]e say that indwelling sin lives in us, in some measure and degree, whilst we are in this world.@ Phil. 3:12, 18; 2 Cor. 4:16; 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Pet. 3:18; Gal. 5:17; 1 John 1:8; Rom. 7:24
C. Now, it being our duty to mortify, to be killing of sin whilst it is in us, we must be at work. He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, doth but half his work, Gal. 6:9; Heb 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1.
2. Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh.
A. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.
B. Proof of sin=s abiding with and acting against us: Rom. 7:19, 23; James 1:14, 4:5; Gal. 5:17
i. So that sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting.
ii. Who can say that he had ever any thing to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did?
iii. If, then, sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying, we are lost creatures. He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue. If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world.
3. Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul‑destroying sins.
A. Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.
B. Degrees: it is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presseth on to some farther degrees in the same kind. This new acting and pressing forward makes the soul take little notice of what an entrance to a falling off from God is already made;
C. Now nothing can prevent this but mortification; that withers the root and strikes at the head of sin every hour, so that whatever it aims at it is crossed in. There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.
4. This is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature is given unto us, ‑‑ that we may have a principle within whereby to oppose sin and lust.
A. Gal. 5:17; 2 Pet. 1:4,5; Rom. 7:23
B. The contest is for our lives and souls. Not to be daily employing the Spirit and new nature for the mortifying of sin, is to neglect that excellent succour which God hath given us against our greatest enemy. If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold his hand from giving us more.
C. His graces, as well as his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with. Not to be daily mortifying sin, is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who hath furnished us with a principle of doing it.
5. Exercise and success are the two main cherishers of grace in the heart; when it is suffered to lie still, it withers and decays: the things of it are ready to die, Rev. 3:2; and sin gets ground towards the hardening of the heart, Heb. 3:13. This is that which I intend: by the omission of this duty grace withers, lust flourisheth, and the frame of the heart grows worse and worse; and the Lord knows what desperate and fearful issues it hath had with many.
A. Where sin, through the neglect of mortification, gets a considerable victory, it breaks the bones of the soul, Ps. 31:10; Ps. 38:3‑5; Ps. 60:12, Isa. 33:24; 2 John 8.
B. The truth is, what between placing mortification in a rigid, stubborn frame of spirit, which is for the most part earthly, legal, censorious, partial, consistent with wrath, envy, malice, pride, on the one hand, and pretences of liberty, grace, and I know not what, on the other, true evangelical mortification is almost lost amongst us: of which afterward.
6. It is our duty to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2 Cor. 7:1; to be “growing in grace” every day, 1 Pet. 2:3, 2 Pet 3:18; to be “renewing our inward man day by day,” 2 Cor. 4:16. Now, this cannot be done without the daily mortifying of sin.
A. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness, and against every degree we grow to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts.
Conclusion: This, then, is the first general principle of our ensuing discourse: Notwithstanding the meritorious mortification, if I may so speak, of all and every sin the cross of Christ; notwithstanding the real foundation of universal mortification laid in our first conversion, by conviction of sin, humiliation for sin, and the implantation of a new principle opposite to it and destructive of it; ‑‑ yet sin doth so remain, so act and work in the best of believers, whilst they live in this world, that the constant daily mortification of it is all their days incumbent on them.
Excursus: The problem of unmortified professors. AIf vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness in men’s places, envy, strife, variance, emulations, wrath, pride, worldliness, selfishness, 1 Cor. 1, be badges of Christians, we have them on us and amongst us in abundance.@
There are two evils which certainly attend every unmortified professor; ‑‑ the first, in himself; the other, in respect of others:‑‑
1. In himself. Let him pretend what he will, he hath slight thoughts of sin; at least, of sins of daily infirmity.
A. The root of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart.
B. To use the blood of Christ (uses: 1 John 1:7; Tit. 2:11-14; Acts 5:31) to countenance sin, is a rebellion that in the issue will break the bones.
i. At this door have gone out from us most of the professors that have apostatized in the days wherein we live.
2. To others. It hath an evil influence on them on a twofold account:‑‑
A. It hardens them, by begetting in them a persuasion that they are in as good condition as the best professors.
B. They deceive them, in making them believe that if they can come up to their condition it shall be well with them . . . .
CHAPTER 3: The Spirit Must Mortify Sin
He only is sufficient for this work; all ways and means without him are as a thing of nought; and he is the great efficient of it, ‑‑ he works in us as he pleases.
1. In vain do men seek other remedies; they shall not be healed by them.
A. The greatest part of popish religion, of that which looks most like religion in their profession, consists in mistaken ways and means of mortification.
i. This, I say, is the substance and glory of their religion; but what with their labouring to mortify dead creatures, ignorant of the nature and end of their work, ‑‑
ii. Such outside endeavours, such bodily exercises, such self‑performances, such merely legal duties, without the least mention of Christ or his Spirit, are varnished over with swelling words of vanity, for the only means and expedients for the mortification of sin, as discover a deep‑rooted unacquaintedness with the power of God and mystery of the gospel.
B. Now, the reasons why Papists can never, with all their endeavours, truly mortify any one sin, amongst others, are, ‑‑
i. Because many of the ways and means they use and insist upon for this end were never appointed of God for that purpose.
ii. Because those things that are appointed of God as means are not used by them in their due place and order, ‑‑ such as are praying, fasting, watching, meditation, and the like.
a. These have their use in the business in hand; but whereas they are all to be looked on as streams, they look on them as the fountain.
b. If they fast so much, and pray so much, and keep their hours and times, the work is done.
c. In a word, they have sundry means to mortify the natural man, as to the natural life here we lead; none to mortify lust or corruption.
C. This is the general mistake of men ignorant of the gospel about this thing; and it lies at the bottom of very much of that superstition and will‑worship that hath been brought into the world.
i. Search their ways and principles to the bottom, and you will find that it had no other root but this mistake, namely, that attempting rigid mortification, they fell upon the natural man instead of the corrupt old man, ‑‑ upon the body wherein we live instead of the body of death.
D. Neither will the natural Popery that is in others do it. Men are galled with the guilt of a sin that hath prevailed over them; they instantly promise to themselves and God that they will do so no more; they watch over themselves, and pray for a season, until this heat waxes cold, and the sense of sin is worn off: and so mortification goes also, and sin returns to its former dominion. . . . .Spiritually sick men cannot sweat out their distemper with working. But this is the way of men who deceive their own souls; as we shall see afterward.
2. It is, then, the work of the Spirit. For, ‑‑
A. He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work. Isa. 57:17‑18; Ezek. 11:19, 36:26
B. We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ. John 15:5; Acts 5:31
3. How doth the Spirit mortify sin?
A. By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them. Gal. 5:17‑25; Tit. 3:5.
B. By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin, for the weakening, destroying, and taking it away. Hence he is called a “Spirit of judgement and burning,” Isa. 4:4, really consuming and destroying our lusts.
C. He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in his death, and fellowship in his sufferings.
4. If this be the work of the Spirit alone, how is it that we are exhorted to it? ‑‑ seeing the Spirit of God only can do it, let the work be left wholly to him.
A. It is no otherwise the work of the Spirit but as all graces and good works which are in us are his. Phil. 2:13; Isa. 26:12; 2 Thess. 1:11, Col. 2:12; Rom. 8:26, Zech. 12:10.
B. He doth not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it still an act of our obedience. The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience.
Conclusion: This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.
CHAPTER 4: Our Spiritual Life Depends Upon Mortification
That the life, vigour, and comfort of our spiritual life depend much on our mortification of sin.
Strength and comfort, and power and peace, in our walking with God, are the things of our desires. . . .Whatever it is that may befall a believer that doth not belong to one of these two heads, doth not deserve to be mentioned in the days of our complaints.
1. I do not say they proceed from it, as though they were necessarily tied to it.
A. A man may be carried on in a constant course of mortification all his days; and yet perhaps never enjoy a good day of peace and consolation. Ps. 138;
B. God makes it his prerogative to speak peace and consolation, Isa. 57:18,19. “I will do that work,” says God, “I will comfort him,” verse 18. But how? By an immediate work of the new creation: “I create it,” says God. The use of means for the obtaining of peace is ours; the bestowing of it is God’s prerogative.
2. In the ways instituted by God for to give us life, vigour, courage, and consolation, mortification is not one of the immediate causes of it. They are the privileges of our adoption made known to our souls that give us immediately these things.
3. In our ordinary walking with God, and in an ordinary course of his dealing with us, the vigour and comfort of our spiritual lives depend much on our mortification,
A. This alone keeps sin from depriving us of the one and the other.
Every unmortified sin will certainly do two things:‑‑ [1.] It will weaken the soul, and deprive it of its vigour. [2.] It will darken the soul, and deprive it of its comfort and peace.
i. It weakens the soul, and deprives it of its strength. Ps. 38:3; Ps 40:12. An unmortified lust will drink up the spirit, and all the vigour of the soul, and weaken it for all duties. For, ‑‑
a. 1st. It untunes and unframes the heart itself, by entangling its affections. It diverts the heart from the spiritual frame that is required for vigorous communion with God; 1 John 2:15, 3:17.
b. 2dly. It fills the thoughts with contrivances about it. Thoughts are the great purveyors of the soul to bring in provision to satisfy its affections; . . .
c. 3dly. It breaks out and actually hinders duty.
Were this my present business, to set forth the breaches, ruin, weakness, desolations, that one unmortified lust will bring upon a soul, this discourse must be extended much beyond my intendment.
i. As sin weakens, so it darkens the soul. It is a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God’s love and favour. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them: of which afterward.
Now, in this regard doth the vigour and power of our spiritual life depend on our mortification: It is the only means of the removal of that which will allow us neither the one nor the other. Hos. 5:13-15.
B. Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. . . .
C. As to our peace; as there is nothing that hath any evidence of sincerity without it . . . .
CHAPTER 5: What Mortification is not.
1. To mortify a sin is not utterly to kill, root it out, and destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts. It is true this is that which is aimed at; but this is not in this life to be accomplished.
A. Its not‑being is the thing aimed at.
B. Now, though doubtless there may, by the Spirit and grace of Christ, a wonderful success and eminency of victory against any sin be attained, so that a man may have almost constant triumph over it, yet an utter killing and destruction of it, that it should not be, is not in this life to be expected. Phil. 3:12-21; Col. 2:10.
2. I think I need not say it is not the dissimulation of a sin. . . . God knows that to his former iniquity he hath added cursed hypocrisy, and is got in a safer path to hell than he was in before.
3. The mortification of sin consists not in the improvement of a quiet, sedate nature.
A. Some men have an advantage by their natural constitution so far as that they are not exposed to such violence of unruly passions and tumultuous affections as many others are. . . . Let not such persons try their mortification by such things as their natural temper gives no life or vigour to.
B. Let them bring themselves to self‑denial, unbelief, envy, or some such spiritual sin, and they will have a better view of themselves.
4. A sin is not mortified when it is only diverted. . . . Men in age do not usually persist in the pursuit of youthful lusts, although they have never mortified any one of them. And the same is the case of bartering of lusts, and leaving to serve one that a man may serve another. He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others, let him not think that he hath mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He hath changed his master, but is a servant still.
5. Occasional conquests of sin do not amount to a mortifying of it. There are two occasions or seasons wherein a man who is contending with any sin may seem to himself to have mortified it:‑‑
A. When it hath had some sad eruption, to the disturbance of his peace, terror of his conscience, dread of scandal, and evident provocation of God. This awakens and stirs up all that is in the man, and amazes him, fills him with abhorrency of sin, and himself for it; sends him to God, . . . . and lust is quiet for a season, being run down before them; but when the hurry is over and the inquest past, the thief appears again alive, and is as busy as ever at his work.
B. In a time of some judgement, calamity, or pressing affliction; the heart is then taken up with thoughts and contrivances of flying from the present troubles, fears, and dangers. Ps. 78.
These and many other ways there are whereby poor souls deceive themselves, and suppose they have mortified their lusts, when they live and are mighty, and on every occasion break forth, to their disturbance and disquietness.
CHAPTER 6: What is Mortification?
The mortification of a lust consists in three things:‑‑
1. An habitual weakening of it. Every lust is a depraved habit or disposition, continually inclining the heart to evil. Gen. 6:5.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, . . . .
[S]inful habits impel with violence and impetuousness; whence lusts are said to fight or wage “war against the soul,” 1 Pet. 2:11, . . . Rom. 7:23.
. . . . Now, the first thing in mortification 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 1:14‑15.
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:‑‑
A. 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.
But especially, lust gets strength by temptation. When a suitable temptation falls in with a lust, it gives it a new life, . . . .
B. Some lusts are far more sensible and discernible in their violent actings than others. Paul puts a difference between uncleanness and all other sins: 1 Cor. 6:18. [&] And on this account some men may go in their own thoughts and in the eyes of the world for mortified men, . . .only their lusts are in and about things which raise not such a tumult in the soul,
I say, then, that the first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit, This is called “crucifying the flesh with the lusts thereof,” Gal. 5:24; 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. 4:16.
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; . . . Rom. 6:6.
A man may beat down the bitter fruit from a 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; then 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 head against it; . . . .Ps. 40:12. Now, sundry things are required unto and comprised in this fighting against sin:‑‑
A. 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. 1 Kings 8:38; 2 Chron. 16:10.
B. To labour to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of its success, is the beginning of this warfare. . . . So David, “My sin is ever before me,” Ps. 51:3.
C. To load it daily with all the things which shall after be mentioned, that are grievous, killing, and destructive to it, is the height 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. 3:5.
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. . . . instantly apprehends sin, and brings it to the law of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost.
Technique: 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, . . . .
CHAPTER 7: Only a Believer can Mortify Sin.
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.
1. Mortification is the work of believers: Rom. 8:1-13; Col. 3:1-5.
A. 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. . . . 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.
B. All attempts, then, for mortification of any lust, without an interest in Christ, are vain. But, poor creatures [those under conviction of the Law without repentacnce]! . . . Men may refine brass and iron long enough before they will be good silver.
C. 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. . . . When the Jews, upon the conviction of their sin, were cut to the heart, Acts 2:37, 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.
2. Why unbelievers should not attempt mortification:
A. 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.
B. 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, ‑‑
i. 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, then 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,” popish religion is made up of designs and contrivances to pacify conscience without Christ; all described by the apostle, Rom. 10:3.
ii. They know they would have the work done in sincerity, and so are hardened in a kind of self‑righteousness.
C. 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, [he despairs over even trying]. [&] 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. . . . 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.
3. 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 that hath not that instrument. Now, it is faith that purifies the heart, Acts 15:9; or, as Peter speaks, we “purify our souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit,” 1 Pet. 1:22; and without it, it will not be done.
4. 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? . . .@
1. God forbid! . . . 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.
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[i].
CHAPTER 8: Universal Obedience is Necessary for Mortification.
Without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience, there is no mortification of any one perplexing lust to be obtained.
1. A man finds any lust . . . .vexes, disquiets, takes away peace; he is not able to bear it; wherefore he sets himself against it,. . . : but in the meantime, perhaps, in other duties, . . . 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. Is. 58:2-7 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. . . . For, ‑‑
A. This kind of endeavour for mortification proceeds from a corrupt principle, ground, and foundation; so that it will never proceed to a good issue.
i. 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.
ii. Now, it is certain that that which I speak of proceeds from self‑love. . . . 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.
iii. 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 the present perplexity is their own only. 2 Cor. 7:1. . . . 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.
B. 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 . . .
C. 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:‑‑
i. As its natural effect, if I may so say. Lust, as a I showed in general, lies in the heart of every one, . . . 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 . . .it then vexes and disquiets, and is not easily to be restrained . . . .
ii. 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 judgement of another, a greater for the punishment of a less, . . . . 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? . . . .
CHAPTER 9: Consider the Nature of the Sin
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.
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 by it, for some long season, thy distemper is dangerous. . . . Ps. 38:5. . . When a lust hath lain long in the heart, . . . 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; . . .
A. [If it is inveterate] 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?
B. How can he promise himself that it shall ever be otherwise with him, . . . . 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 [which is shown as follows]:
A. When upon thoughts, perplexing thoughts about sin, instead of applying himself to the destruction of it, a man searches his heart 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 . . . is an excellent thing. 2 Cor. 13:5. . . .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.
B. 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. . . . Yea, indeed, there is nothing more natural than for fleshly reasonings to grow high and strong upon this account.
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.
4. When a man fighteth 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. [Ref. Joseph; Paul 2 Cor.7:1] But now if a man be so under the power of his lust that he hath nothing but law to oppose it withal, . . . it is most evident that sin hath possessed itself of his will and affections . . . . 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. Rom. 6:14. . . . 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. . . . 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 my be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance.
6. When thy lust hath already withstood particular dealings from God against it. Isa. 57:17. . . . 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!
7. 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.
Caution: 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.
CHAPTER 10: A Clear and Abiding Sense of the Evil That is Sin
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 are 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?” . . . . 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. Hos. 4:11, 7:11; Prov. 7:7, 23. . . . 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 judgement of its guilt in his mind. To which end take these considerations to thy assistance:‑‑
A. Though the power of sin by 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 6:1,2.
B. 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 whereinto 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. 3:15, “I know thee;” ‑‑ “Thou are 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:‑‑
A. Of being hardened by the deceitfulness. Heb.3:12-13. . . . 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, stupifying of the affections, and deceiving of the whole soul.
B. The danger of some great temporal correction, . . . . Ps. 89:30‑33. . . . If thou fearest not these things, I fear thou art under hardness.
C. 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. The Psalms; Isa. 57:17 ; Hos. 5:15 . . . Consider this a little, ‑‑ though God should not utterly destroy thee, 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 the state. Leave not this consideration until thou hast made thy soul to tremble within thee.
D. There is the danger of eternal destruction. For the due management of this consideration, observe, ‑‑
i. That there is such a connection between a continuance in sin and eternal destruction, that though God does resolve to deliver some from a continuance in sin that they may not be destroyed, yet he will deliver none from destruction that continue in sin . . . . Heb.3:12; 10:38; Gal. 6:8.
ii. That he who is so entangled, . . . .so that destruction from the Lord may justly be a terror to him; and he may, he ought to look upon it, as that which will be the end of his course and ways. “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” Rom. 8:1. True; but who shall have the comfort of this assertion? who may assume it to himself?
3. Consider the evils of it; I mean its present evils.
A. It grieves the holy and blessed Spirit, which is given to believers to dwell in them and abide with them. Eph. 4:25‑30. . . . He is grieved by our harbouring his enemies, and those whom he is to destroy, in our hearts with him. “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve us,” Lam. 3:33; and shall we daily grieve him? . . . . Num. 25:6.
B. The Lord Jesus Christ is wounded afresh by it; his new creature in the heart is wounded; his love is foiled; his adversary gratified.
C. It will take away a man’s usefulness in his generation.
This, then, is my second direction, and it regards the opposition that is to be made to lust in respect of its habitual residence in the soul :‑‑ Keep alive upon thy heart these or the like considerations of its guilt, danger, and evil; be much in the meditation of these things; cause thy heart to dwell and abide upon them; engage thy thoughts into these considerations; let them not go off nor wander from them until they begin to have a powerful influence upon thy soul, ‑‑ until they make it to tremble.
CHAPTER 11: More Directions:
This is my third direction:‑‑ Load thy conscience with the guilt of it. Not only consider that it hath a guilt, but load thy conscience with the guilt of its actual eruptions and disturbances.
I. Take God’s method in it, and begin with generals, and so descend to particulars:‑‑
1. Charge thy conscience with the guilt which appears in it from the rectitude and holiness of the law. . . . Be much, I say, in affecting thy conscience with the terror of the Lord in the law, and how righteous it is that every one of thy transgressions should receive a recompense of reward. . . .But, ‑‑
A. Tell thy conscience that it cannot manage any evidence to the purpose that thou art free from the condemning power of sin, whilst thy unmortified lust lies in thy heart;
B. Whatever be the issue, yet the law hath commission from God to seize upon transgressors wherever it find them, and so bring them before his throne, where they are to plead for themselves. This is thy present case; the law hath found thee out, and before God it will bring thee. If thou canst plead a pardon, well and good; if not, the law will do its work.
C. However, this is the proper work of the law, to discover sin in the guilt of it, to awake and humble the soul for it, to be a glass to represent sin in its colours; and if thou deniest to deal with it on this account, it is not through faith, but through the hardness of thy heart and the deceitfulness of sin. . . . This is a door that too many professors have gone out at unto upon apostasy. . . .
2. Bring thy lust to the gospel, ‑‑ not for relief, but for farther conviction of its guilt; look on Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. . . . If this make it not sink in some measure, I fear thy case is dangerous.
II. Descend to particulars. As under the general head of the gospel all the benefits of it are to be considered, as redemption, justification, and the like; so, in particular, consider the management of the love of them towards thine own soul, for the aggravation of the guilt of thy corruption. As, ‑‑
1. Consider the infinite patience and forbearance of God towards thee in particular.
2. How often hast thou been at the door of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and by the infinite rich grace of God hast been recovered to communion with him again? . . .And wilt thou venture any more to the brink of hardness?
3. All God’s gracious dealings with thee, in providential dispensations, deliverances, afflictions, mercies, enjoyments, all ought here to take place. By these, I say, and the like means, load thy conscience; and leave it not until it be thoroughly affected with the guilt of thy indwelling corruption, until it is sensible of its wound, and lie in the dust before the Lord.
Fourth Direction: Being thus affected with thy sin, in the next place get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of it. Suffer not thy heart one moment to be contented with thy present frame and condition.
1. 2 Cor. 7:11. 7:24. . . . Assure thyself, unless thou longest for deliverance thou shalt not have it.
2. This will make the heart watchful for all opportunities of advantage against its enemy, and ready to close with any assistances that are afforded for its destruction.
The FIFTH direction is, ‑‑ Consider whether the distemper with which thou art perplexed be not rooted in thy nature, and cherished, fomented, and heightened from thy constitution. A proneness to some sins may doubtless lie in the natural temper and disposition of men. In this case consider, ‑‑
1. This is not in the least an extenuation of the guilt of thy sin. . . . It is from the fall, from original depravation of our natures, that the fomes and nourishment of any sin abides in our natural temper. . . .That thou art peculiarly inclined unto any sinful distemper is but a peculiar breaking out of original lust in thy nature, which should peculiarly abase and humble thee.
2. That thou hast to fix upon on this account, in reference to thy walking with God, is that so great an advantage is given to sin, as also to Satan, by this thy temper and disposition, that without extraordinary watchfulness, care, and diligence, they will assuredly prevail against thy soul.
3. For the mortification of any distemper so rooted in the nature of a man, unto all other ways and means already named or farther to be insisted on, there is one expedient peculiarly suited; this is that of the apostle, 1 Cor. 9:27, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” . . . .The bringing of the body into subjection in the case insisted on, by cutting short the natural appetite, by fasting, watching, and the like, is doubtless acceptable to God, so it be done with the ensuing limitations:‑‑
A. That the outward weakening and impairing of the body be not looked upon as a thing good in itself, or that any mortification doth consist therein, . . . .
B. That the means whereby this is done, . . . be looked on only as ways whereby the Spirit may, and sometimes doth, put forth strength for the accomplishing of his own work, . . . .
4. This is the sum of what hath been spoken: When the distemper complained of seems to be rooted in the natural temper and constitution, in applying our souls to a participation of the blood and Spirit of Christ, an endeavour is to be used to give check in the way of this distemper.
The SIXTH direction is, ‑‑ Consider what occasions, what advantages thy distemper hath taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.
This is one part of that duty which our blessed Saviour recommends to his disciples under the name of watching: Mark 13:37, “I say unto you all, Watch;” which, in Luke 21:34, is, “Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged.” Watch against all eruptions of thy corruptions.
The SEVENTH direction is, B Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. . . . . James 1:14-15.
CHAPTER 12: More Directions
EIGHTHLY, Use and exercise thyself to such meditations as may serve to fill thee at all times with self‑abasement and thoughts of thine own vileness; as,‑‑
1. Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him. Many thoughts of it cannot but fill thee with a sense of thine own vileness, which strikes deep at the root of any indwelling sin.
2. Think much of thine unacquaintedness with him. Though thou knowest enough to keep thee low and humble, yet how little a portion is it that thou knowest of him! . . . Consider, then, I say, to keep thy heart in continual awe of the majesty of God, that persons of the most high and eminent attainment, of the nearest and most familiar communion with God, do yet in this life know but a very little of him and his glory.
You will say that Moses was under the law when God wrapped up himself in darkness, and his mind in types and clouds and dark institutions; ‑‑ under the glorious shining of the gospel, which hath brought life and immortality to light, God being revealed from his own bosom, we now know him much more clearly, and as he is; we see his face now, and not his back parts only, as Moses did.
1. I acknowledge a vast and almost inconceivable difference between the acquaintance we now have with God, after his speaking to us by his own Son, and that which the generality of the saints had under the law; . . . . Yet, ‑‑
2. That peculiar sight which Moses had of God, Exod. 34, was a gospel‑sight, a sight of God as “gracious,” etc., and yet it is called but his “back parts;” that is, but low and mean, in comparison of his excellencies and perfections.
3. The apostle, exalting to the utmost this glory of light above that of the law, manifesting that now the “veil” causing darkness is taken away, so that with “open” or uncovered “face we behold the glory of the Lord,” tells us how: “As in a glass,” 2 Cor. 3:18. “In a glass,” how is that? Clearly, perfectly? Alas, no! He tells you how that is, 1 Cor. 13:12, “We see through a glass, darkly,” saith he.
4. The apostle tells us, 1 John 3:2, that we know not what we ourselves shall be, ‑‑ what we shall find ourselves in the issue; much less will it enter into our hearts to conceive what God is, and what we shall find him to be. Consider either him who is to be known, or the way whereby we know him, and this will farther appear:‑‑
A. We know so little of God, because it is God who is thus to be known, ‑‑ that is, he who hath described himself to us very much by this, that we cannot know him.
B. For the being of God; we are so far from a knowledge of it, so as to be able to instruct one another therein by words and expressions of it, as that to frame any conceptions in our mind, with such species and impressions of things as we receive the knowledge of all other things by, is to make an idol to ourselves, and so to worship a god of our own making, and not the God that made us. . . .
C. There be some things of God which he himself hath taught us to speak of, and to regulate our expressions of them; but when we have so done, we see not the things themselves; we know them not. To believe and admire is all that we attain to. . . . We know him rather by what he does than by what he is, ‑‑ by his doing us good than by his essential goodness; and how little a portion of him, as Job speaks, is hereby discovered!
D. We know little of God, because it is faith alone whereby here we know him. . . . Heb. 11:1, 6. 2 Cor. 5:7. Hence our faith, as was formerly observed, is called a “seeing darkly, as in a glass.” All that we know this way (and all that we know of God we know this way) is but low, and dark, and obscure. But: John 1:18; 1 John 5:20; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 5:8. 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 1:3. To which I answer, ‑‑
i. The truth is, we all of know enough of him to love him more than we do, to delight in him and serve him, believe him, obey him, put our trust in him, above all that we have hitherto attained. Our darkness and weakness is no plea for our negligence and disobedience.
ii. Comparatively, that knowledge which we have of God by the revelation of Jesus Christ in the gospel is exceeding eminent and glorious [than in OT dispensation].
iii. The difference between believers and unbelievers as to knowledge is not much in the matter of their of their knowledge as in the manner of knowing. . . . The excellency of a believer is, not that he hath a large apprehension of things, but that what he doth apprehend, which perhaps may be very little, he sees it in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul‑transforming light; and this is that which gives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts or curious‑raised notions.
iv. Jesus Christ by his word and Spirit reveals to the hearts of all his, God as a Father, as a God in covenant, as a rewarder, every way sufficiently to teach us to obey him here, and to lead us to his bosom, to lie down there in the fruition of him to eternity. But yet now,
v. Notwithstanding all this, it is but a little portion we know of him; we see but his back parts. For, ‑‑ 1st. The intendment of all gospel revelation is, not to unveil God’s essential glory, that we should see him as he is, but merely to declare so much of him as he knows sufficient to be a bottom of our faith, love, obedience, and coming to him, B 2dly. We are dull and slow of heart to receive the things that are in the word revealed; . . .
Let us, then, revive the use and intendment of this consideration: Will not a due apprehension of this inconceivable greatness of God, and that infinite distance wherein we stand from him, fill the soul with a holy and awful fear of him, so as to keep it in a frame unsuited to the thriving or flourishing of any lust whatever? Let the soul be continually wonted to reverential thoughts of God’s greatness and omnipresence, and it will be much upon its watch as to any undue deportments. Consider him with whom you have to do, ‑‑ even “our God is a consuming fire;” and in your greatest abashments at his presence and eye, know that your very nature is too narrow to bear apprehensions suitable to his essential glory.
CHAPTER 13: Speaking Peace
NINTHLY, In case God disquiet the heart about the guilt of its distempers, either in respect of its root and indwelling, or in respect of any eruptions of it, take heed thou speakest not peace to thyself before God speaks it; but hearken what he says to thy soul.
To manage this direction aright observe, ‑‑
1. That as it is the great prerogative and sovereignty of God to give grace to whom he pleases . . . . Rom. 9:18; Isa. 57:16‑18.
2. As God creates it for whom he pleaseth, so it is the prerogative of Christ to speak it home to the conscience. Rev 3:14; Isa. 11:3.
Take these two previous observations, and I shall give some rules whereby men may know whether God speaks peace to them, or whether they speak peace to themselves only:‑‑
1. Men certainly speak peace to themselves when their so doing is not attended with the greatest detestation imaginable of that sin in reference whereunto they do speak peace to themselves, and abhorrency of themselves for it. . . . Zech. 12:10; Ezek. 16:60,61; 2 Cor. 7:11; Job 42:6; Ps. 78:33‑37; Isa. 57:17.
2. When men measure out peace to themselves upon the conclusions that their convictions and rational principles will carry them out unto, this is a false peace, and will not abide. . . . I shall a little explain what I mean hereby. A man hath got a wound by sin; . . . . Says he to himself, “God speaks in this promise [Isa. 55:7; Hos. 14:4]; here I will take myself a plaster as long and broad as my wound;” and so brings the word of the promise to his condition, and sets him down in peace. This is another appearance upon the mount; the Lord is near, but the Lord is not in it. It hath not been the work of the Spirit, who alone can “convince us of sin, and righteousness, and judgement,” but the mere actings of the intelligent, rational soul. . . . He doth not wait upon God, . . . .
It may be said, then, “Seeing that this seems to be the path that the Holy Spirit leads us in for the healing of our wounds and quieting of our hearts, how shall we know when we go alone ourselves, and when the Spirit also doth accompany us?”
A. If any of you are out of the way upon this account, God will speedily let you know it; Ps. 25:9 . . . You shall quickly know your wound is not healed; that is, you shall speedily know whether or no it be thus with you by the event. The peace you thus get and obtain will not abide. . . . But, ‑‑
B. This course is commonly taken without waiting; which is the grace, and that peculiar acting of faith which God calls for, to be exercised in such a condition. . . . Isaiah, 8:17, . . .
C. Such a course, thought it may quiet the conscience and the mind, the rational concluding part of the soul, yet it doth not sweeten the heart with rest and gracious contentation. Micah 2:7; Ps. 116:7.
D. Which is worst of all, it amends not the life, it heals not the evil, it cures not the distemper. When God speaks peace, it guides and keeps the soul that it “turn not again to folly.” When we speak it ourselves, the heart is not taken off the evil; nay, it is the readiest course in the world to bring a soul into a trade of backsliding.
3. We speak peace to ourselves when we do it slightly. Jer. 6:14, “They have healed the wound of the daughter of my people slightly.” And it is so with some persons: they make the healing of their wounds a slight work; a look, a glance of faith to the promises does it, and so the matter is ended. The apostle tells us that “the word did not profit” some, because “it was not well tempered” and mingled with faith.
4. Whoever speaks peace to himself upon any one account, and at the same time hath another evil of no less importance lying upon his spirit, about which he hath had no dealing with God, that man cries “Peace” when there is none. . . . God will justify us from our sins, but he will not justify the least sin in us: “He is a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.”
5. When men of themselves speak peace to their consciences, it is seldom that God speaks humiliation to their souls. God’s peace is humbling peace, melting peace, as it was in the case of David; never such deep humiliation as when Nathan brought him the tidings of his pardon.
But you will say, “When may we take the comfort of a promise as our own, in relation to some peculiar wound, for the quieting the heart?”
First, In general, when God speaks it, be it when it will, sooner or later. I told you before, he may do it in the very instant of the sin itself, and that with such irresistible power that the soul must needs receive his mind in it; sometimes he will make us wait longer: but when he speaks, be it sooner or later, be it when we are sinning or repenting, be the condition of our souls what they please, if God speak, he must be received. There is not any thing that, in our communion with him, the Lord is more troubled with us for, if I may so say, than our unbelieving fears, that keep us off from receiving that strong consolation which he is so willing to give to us.
But you will say, “We are where we were. When God speaks it, we must receive it, that is true; but how shall we know when he speaks?“
A. I would we could all practically come up to this, to receive peace when we are convinced that God speaks it, and that it is our duty to receive it. But, ‑‑
B. There is, if I may so say, a secret instinct in faith, whereby it knows the voice of Christ . . . John 10:4; Cant. 5:2,4; Luke 24.
He that hath his senses exercised to discern good or evil, being increased in judgement and experience by a constant observation of the ways of Christ’s intercourse, the manner of the operations of the Spirit, and the effects it usually produceth, is the best judge for himself in this case.
Secondly, If the word of the Lord doth good to your souls, he speaks it; if it humble, if it cleanse, and be useful to those ends for which promises are given, ‑‑ namely, to endear, to cleanse, to melt and bind to obedience, to self‑emptiness, etc. But this is not my business; nor shall I farther divert in the pursuit of this direction. Without the observation of it, sin will have great advantages towards the hardening of the heart.
CHAPTER 14: Final Directions
Now, the considerations which I have hitherto insisted on are rather of things preparatory to the work aimed at then such as will effect it. It is the heart’s due preparation for the work itself, without which it will not be accomplished, that hitherto I have aimed at.
Directions for the work itself are very few; I mean that are peculiar to it. And they are these that follow:‑‑
1. Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin‑sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.
But thou wilt say, “How shall faith act itself on Christ for this end and purpose?” I say, sundry ways:‑‑
A. By faith fill thy soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose, that all thy lusts, this very lust wherewith thou art entangled, may be mortified. By faith ponder on this, that though thou art no way able in or by thyself to get the conquest over thy distemper, though thou art even weary of contending, and art utterly ready to faint, yet that there is enough in Jesus Christ to yield thee relief, Phil. 4:13; John 1:16, Col. 1:19; Acts 5:31; John 15:3; Rom. 11:19,20. [Discussion of a prayer/mediation on our inability and Christ=s ability to save.] Isa. 40:27‑31. Isa. 35:7. 2 Cor. 12:9. The efficacy of this consideration will be found only in the practice.
B. Raise up thy heart by faith to an expectation of relief from Christ. Hab. 2:3 . . . .if thine eyes are towards him “as the eyes of a servant to the hand of his master,” when he expects to receive somewhat from him, ‑‑ thy soul shall be satisfied, he will assuredly deliver thee; he will slay the lust, and thy latter end shall be peace. Only look for it at his hand; expect when and how he will do it. “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.”
But wilt thou say, “What ground have I to build such an expectation upon, so that I may expect not to be deceived?”
1. For the necessity of it, I have in part discovered it before, when I manifested that this is the work of faith and of believers only. “Without me,” says Christ, “ye can do nothing,” John 15:5′ speaking with especial relation to the purging of the heart from sin, verse 2. Mortification of any sin must be by a supply of grace. . . . Col. 1:19; John 1:16; Eph. 3:16,17. Let this, then, be fixed upon thy heart, that if thou hast not relief from him thou shalt never have any.
Now, farther to engage thee to this expectation, ‑‑
A. Consider his mercifulness, tenderness, and kindness, as he is our great High Priest at the right hand of God. Isa. 66:13. Heb. 2:17,18, 4:15,16 . . . . Yea, let me add, that never any soul did or shall perish by the power of any lust, sin, or corruption, who could raise his soul by faith to an expectation of relief from Jesus Christ.
B. Consider His faithfulness who hath promised; which may raise thee up and confirm thee in this waiting in an expectation of relief. . . . Jer. 31:36.
Now, there are two eminent advantages which always attend this expectation of succour from Jesus Christ:‑‑
1. It engages him to a full and speedy assistance. Nothing doth more engage the heart of a man to be useful and helpful to another than his expectation of help from him, if justly raised and countenanced by him who is to give the relief. . . .
2. It engages the heart to attend diligently to all the ways and means whereby Christ is wont to communicate himself to the soul; and so takes in the real assistance of all graces and ordinances whatever. He that expects any thing from a man, applies himself to the ways and means whereby it may be obtained. . . .
Now, on this direction for the mortification of a prevailing distemper you may have a thousand “probatum est’s.” Who have walked with God under this temptation, and have not found the use and success of it? I dare leave the soul under it, without adding any more. Only some particulars relating thereunto may be mentioned:‑‑
1. An act faith peculiarly upon the death, blood, and cross of Christ; that is, on Christ as crucified and slain. Mortification of sin is peculiarly from the death of Christ, which shall assuredly be accomplished by it. He died to destroy the works of the devil. . . .Tit. 2:14; Eph. 5:25‑27;1 John 1:8; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 1:5; Heb. 9:14; Rom. 6:2, 4,6. Christ by his death destroying the works of the devil, procuring the Spirit for us, hath so killed sin, as to its reign in believers, that it shall not obtain its end and dominion.
2. Then act faith on the death of Christ, and that under these two notions, ‑‑ first, In expectation of power; secondly, In endeavours for conformity. For the first, the direction given in general may suffice; as to the latter, that of the apostle may give us some light into our direction, Gal. 3:1. Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us. Look on him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying; bring him in that condition into thy heart by faith; apply his blood so shed to thy corruptions: do this daily. I might draw out this consideration to a great length, in sundry particulars, but I must come to a close
[Directions for the work number 2]
2. I have only, then, to add the heads of the work of the Spirit in this business of mortification, which is so peculiarly ascribed to him. In one word: This whole work, which I have described as our duty, is effected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit, in all the parts and degrees of it; as, ‑‑
A. He alone clearly and fully convinces the heart of the evil and guilt and danger of the corruption, lust, or sin to be mortified. Without this conviction, or whilst it is so faint that the heart can wrestle with it or digest it, there will be no thorough work made. . . . John 16:8.
B. The Spirit alone reveals unto us the fullness of Christ for our relief; which is the consideration that stays the heart from false ways and from despairing despondency, 1 Cor. 2:8.
C. The Spirit alone establishes the heart in expectation of relief from Christ; which is the great sovereign means of mortification, as hath been discovered, 2 Cor. 1:21.
D. The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin‑killing power; for by the Spirit are we baptized into the death of Christ.
E. The Spirit is the author and finisher of our sanctification; gives new supplies and influences of grace for holiness and sanctification, when the contrary principle is weakened and abated, Eph. 3:16‑18.
F. In all the soul’s addresses to God in this condition, it hath supportment from the Spirit. . . . Zech. 12:10; Rom. 8:26. This is confessed to be the great medium or way of faith’s prevailing with God. Thus Paul dealt with his temptation, whatever it were: “I besought the Lord that it might depart from me.” What is the work of the Spirit in prayer, whence and how it gives us in assistance and makes us to prevail, what we are to do that we may enjoy his help for that purpose, is not my present intendment to demonstrate.