Love first proves the point by arguing from the whole to the part: The Holy Spirit makes a believer holy; that is, the Holy Spirit sanctifies a believer. Sanctification entails two movements: first a movement from sin, called “mortification”; and a second movement toward God, living unto God, called “vivification”. Seeing that the Holy Spirit superintends the whole, the Spirit must work in the parts.
Second, Love proves that mortification flows from the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who causes us to hate sin:
So you will never go about the extirpation of sin until you are sensible of the danger and guilt of yours sins. You will never be convinced of the danger and evil of sin unless the Spirit God enlightens you. The work of mortification is wholly ascribed to the Spirit of God because only He can convince us of the evil of sin so as to make us hate and abhor it and strive against it.
Which is as Jesus said:
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:7–11 (ESV)
This raises the question, Can’t an unbeliever be “good”? Well, certainly one may be well behaved irrespective of whether one believes in God or not. In fact, those who claim some sort of divine sanction are often the most unpleasant, because they couple their sinfulness to a certainty of belief and thus become dogmatic in their destruction.
While I very much believe that God restrains sin (and that the world would be unspeakably worse were it not for the restraining work of God), I do not believe that a bare belief in God makes one well behaved. That is a very different issue.
Well then, how does one distinguish between “good” behavior based upon the some moral or social concern and sin truly mortified? Love sets out eight answers. Each of these answers pivot upon the central concern of one’s life toward God: does one care primarily for God’s valuation or the valuation of other human beings. In John 5:44, Jesus says:
44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44 (ESV)
Either one lives by the valuation of God – or not (that is living by faith and not by sight). Love works that doctrine out in a practical manner.
First, the Spirit would cause one to hate the sin for itself, irrespective of restraint. “It is the same as with a thief in prison: he may be restrained form sin because he cannot act it out, but yet he loves the sin (it may be) as well as he ever did.” God hates the sin, so the subject believer must hate the sin. “You not only leave sin, but abhor it. …Therefore, judge yourselves by this difference.”
Second, his hatred stands against not merely great and obvious sins, but also small, personal, unknown sins. Any man may put off stealing and yet continue to covet; he may put off adultery and yet lust in his heart. The Spirit causes one to hate sin as – irrespective of whether it can be hidden or worn comfortably in the culture. “But a wicked man is never troubled for small sins. Those sins that almost break a godly man’s heart never break a wicked man’s sleep.”
Third, the Spirit causes one to willingly leave a sin. “Though a natural heart does not commit a sin, yet it is kept from it unwillingly….A wicked man may leave sin, but it is as a friend leaves his friend.”
Fourth, who does one respond when there is no restraint – or when the restraint has been removed? “When a man has mortifying grace wrought in him by the Spirit of God, his sins are continually dying and decaying, though they are not quite dead.”
Fifth, a carnal man is merely restrained by carnal considerations: It will look bad; I could be arrested, et cetera. The man being transformed concerns himself with the honor of God, “If I commit this sin, I shall thereby dishonor Go and scandalize the gospel and my profession and encourage other sins to break out afresh in me.”
Sixth, restraint only based upon fear of hell is not true saving change. The hatred of sin should cause on to consider it better to be in hell, than to be in a “heaven” with sin. Love alludes to a quotation of Anselm, set forth by Thomas Brooks:
Anselm used to say, ‘That if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand, and the pains of hell on the other, and must of necessity choose one, he would rather be thrust into hell without sin, than to go into heaven with sin,’ so great was his hatred and detestation of sin.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 13.
Seventh, if one will sin on the basis of any occasion or allurement, then the Spirit’s work is not evident. Love contrasts this with the mortified Christian, “But now a man who has mortified his corruptions by the power of the God’s Spirit is still opposing sin and never commits it but against his will. Sin may sometimes overtake him, but he runs from it as fast as he can.”
Eighth, the natural man finds any constraint on his sin irksome. However, “a godly man rejoices and blesses God that he is restrained from committing a sin…So those sins that matters of joy and light to the wicked are a burden, sorrow, and trouble of the godly.
This then raises a further question for the one of a troubled conscience: We can look to the perfection of this work and think I have no true saving change! Love, as an excellent and tender pastor, turns to this one and asks, Do you any change in your heart? Do you find yourself fleeing sin when you have opportunity?
Let us look to your conscience: do you see trouble in your conscience for those inward sins – sins which no one could ever see or find? “When those sins that are no bigger than molehills lie as heavy upon your heart as if they were mountains; and when your conscience can bear you witness that there is no secret lust that makes an incursion upon your soul but that you strive against it and labor to oppose it – this is an undoubted evidence that God has wrought a work of mortification in you by His Spirit.”