The Method of Grace

by John Flavel

The Mortification of Sin

 
"And they that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the
 affections and lusts." Galatians 5:24     
     
                   From hence our observation was,
That a saving interest in Christ, may be regularly and strongly
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
    1. Information.
    2. Exhortation.
    3. Direction.
    4. Examination.
    5. Consolation.
     
                     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, Romans 7: 23. and put the Christian upon
mortifying labors. 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
labor; our life and this labor 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.
    Inference. 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 show their own weakness in any one thing more than they do
in hearing their own praises. Christian, you know you carry
gun-powder about you, desire those that carry fire to keep at a
distance from you; it is a dangerous crisis when a proud heart
meets with flattering lips, &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 you have been with me, and never reproved me;
which must needs be your fault; for either you saw nothing in me
worthy of reproof which argues your ignorance, or else you dared not
reprove me, which argues your 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.
    Inference. 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, you 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 you to bear it; yet the pride of your heart
requires all the scoffs and jeers, all the calumnies and reproaches,
that ever the tongues or pens of your bitterest enemies, or mistaken
friends, have at any time thrown upon you. 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, Psalm. 119: 67. Dan. 11: 35.
    Inference. 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 fulfill 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, until 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 leads unto life, and few there be that find it.
    Inference. 5. If they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh, that is
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 tranquility 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 you and your 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 befell 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
tranquility and peace, what blessed halcyon days should we quickly
see! It is true, Christians are always fighting and quarreling, 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 tranquility and quietness of the times:
mean time let innocency commit itself unto God, who will protect,
and in due time vindicate the same.
    Inference. 6. If they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh, then
whatever religion, opinion, or doctrine does in its own nature
countenance and encourage sin, is not of Christ. The doctrine of
Christ everywhere teaches mortification: the whole stream of the
gospel runs against sin; the doctrine it teaches 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 cloak to cover sin, but an
instrument to destroy it. And whatever 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.
    Inference. 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, Proverbs 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 honor; nor is it everyone
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?
    Inference. 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, you 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. While 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 woe 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 endeavors to rout and scatter by
persecutions, that thereby particular Christians may be deprived of
the sweet advantages of mutual society.
    Inference. 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 until then do we put
off our armor, 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 pretenses 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 do you not feel a
blessed calmness, cheeriness, and tranquility in your conscience,
when you have faithfully repelled temptations, successfully resisted
and overcome your corruptions? Does not God smile upon you;
conscience encourage and approve you? Have you not an heaven
within you? while 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 endeavors 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 tranquility
and comfort of your whole life depend upon it; and what is life
without the comfort of life? Romans 8: 13. "If you through the Spirit
do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live, that is 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 embitters 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
honor; 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 honor; 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 honor, 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, Isaiah 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 labors. 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 endeavors. Is it then a
valuable mercy in your eyes to be kept upright and steadfast 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, laboring 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 luster 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 tomorrow: 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; everywhere, 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 honor 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, labor 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, would you have your death-
bed soft and easy; would you 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
you shall not fulfill 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 savor upon the soul; it darkens the luster and glory of
all earthly things, by presenting to the soul a glory which
excels: it marvelously 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,"
Proverbs 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 labor 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,
namely, the fading, defiling, and destroying nature of it. The best and
sweetest enjoyments in the world, are but fading flowers and
withered grass, Isaiah 14: 6. James 1: 10,11. yes, 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. yes, 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 honors
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. Proverbs 5: 8. "Come not near unto the door of her
house." He who 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 you are in the gusts
of temptation; call to mind the height of Peters confidence, "though
all men forsake you, 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
your affliction; sanctified afflictions are ordered and prescribed
in heaven for the purging of our corruptions, Isaiah 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 embitter the world,
and disgust your 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 your comforts, out
of no other design but to kill your 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 endeavors against
your proper and special sin; it is in vain to lop off branches,
while this root of bitterness remains untouched: This was David's
practice, Psalm. 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
you not that they which run a race, run all, but one receives the
prize? So run that you 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
humoring a wanton appetite! God forbid. "I keep under my body,
(says 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 endeavors 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. Romans 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 says, 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 unalloyed wrath, poured out in the fullness 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. Matthew. 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. Isaiah
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," says 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, and manifold consolations.
Lay this meditation upon your heart, believer, and say,
do you 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 sordid 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, Romans 6:
21. "What fruit had you in those things whereof you 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 tempts 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 forever: 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 dies 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, Romans 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 favor 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, show 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 you, how I have walked before you in truth, and with a
perfect heart; and have done that which is good in your sight,"
Isaiah 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, namely, 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. Romans 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. Can you say, poor believer, in
the truth of your heart, that if God would give you your choice, it
would please you better to have sin cast out, than to have the
world cast in: that your 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 you this day to meet me, and
blessed be your advice, and blessed be you which have 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, Psalm. 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,
Psalm. 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, Romans 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, Romans 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, Romans 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, Romans 6: 5-6.
    Fourthly, If sin be dying under the mortifying influences of
the Spirit, and it be your daily labor 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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