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of the soul, that we must chiefly mortify: the deeds of the body are sinful but at the second hand, as they are swayed and exerted by a sinful soul; yet the Scripture doth frequently call this corruption flesh, the body, the members; opposing it to the spirit, to the mind: Rom. vii. 23. I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.
And this it doth,
First. To denote the degrading malignity, that there is in sin.
It doth unspirit and unsoul a man. A sinner is called a carnal man; a man, made up of nothing but a lump of dull flesh, kneaded together without spirit, without life. And therefore the Apostle doth not bid them mortify the deeds of their souls, because wicked men act as though they had no souls, or at least not so noble a soul.
Secondly. It calls sin the deeds of the body, to denote what it is that sin tends to.
It is only to please, to pamper the body; the sensual, sordid, and baser part of man. The soul of a wicked man acts for no higher an end, than the soul of a beast doth. The soul of a beast acts not for itself, but is made a drudge and underling to the body: it serves only to carry the body to and fro to its pasture, and to make it relish its food and fodder. Thus, truly, it is with the souls of wicked men: they act not for themselves, but are only their bodies' caterers; that seek out and lay in provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof: Rom. xiii. 14,.
Thirdly. Sins are called the deeds of the body, because, though the soul be the chief seat of their abode, yet the body is the great instrument of their acting.
Rom. vi. 19. As ye have yielded your members servants to
iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness. Indeed, there are some refined sins, that hold little communion with the body, and partake but little of that gross carnality and corpulency, if I may so term it, that makes other sins swell to such a bulk; and yet these must be also mortified: and these are also the deeds of the body; because the soul, acting even these spiritual sins, acts as much below itself, as the body's actings are below the soul's.
As for the Deeds of the body, by deeds we must understand, not only the inward ebullitions and the outward eruptions of this body of sin, but also the spring and fountain itself whence these flow. The corruption of nature itself must be mortified: the body of death must be put to deatb. All these are called the deeds of the flesh: not only those, that the Apostle reckons up and tells us are manifest, Gal. v. 19. -but also the inward motions, yea the depraved root and habit itself; which are secret, because, though these be not outward acts, yet they would be so, and sin is not perfected nor finished till it be so.
Secondly. As the deeds of the flesh are the object of mortification; so, here, we have the Persons, on whom this duty of mortification is pressed: If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify: that is, ye, who have received the Spirit; ye, who are believers: for such are those, whom he describes in the foregoing part of the chapter, vv. 1, 5, 10, 11.
Both these branches are comprehended in the condition required to life: If ye.....mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
Thirdly. Here is, likewise, the Way and Means, whereby believers are enabled to mortify the deeds of the body: and that is, through the Spirit: If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify. Whatsoever other helps, either of outward or inward rigour and severity, men use against their lusts, they may indeed thereby for a time stifle and suppress them; but, if the Spirit of God do not set in with the work, it can never amount to a true mortification.
From the words thus opened many Propositions may be drawn out: as,
First. From the promise of life, if we take life for the Life of Comfort and the Life of Grace, made upon the condition of mortification, observe,
That IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THAT SOUL TO HAVE LIVELY COMFORTS AND LIVELY GRACES, WHOSE LUSTS ARE LIVELY AND UNMORTIFIED.
There is a necessity for it, that the deeds of the body be put to death, if you intend that either your grace or your comfort; should survive. I do not absolutely say that grace cannot live in the children of God, under every present neglect of mortification: but yet, certainly, this will destroy their comforts; yea, and eat out the vigour, activity, and liveliness of their graces, that, though they do live, yet they will live but a lingering and decaying life: they will but live such a life, as sin doth in those, who exercise a constant mortification, that is, they will but live, as it were, a dying life.
Secondly. If we take the life promised for Eternal Life, then observe,
That THE FUTURE LIFE OF GLORY IS INFALLIBLY ASSURED TO THE PRESENT DEATH OF SIN.
If ye mortify, ye shall live. Not that life proceeds from mortification, as the effect from the cause; but only it follows upon it, as the end upon the use of the means.
Thirdly. From the Persons, on whom this duty of mortification is pressed, observe,
That BELIEVERS THEMSELVES, WHO ARE FREED FROM THE REIGNING POWER OF SIN, HAVE YET CONTINUAL NEED TO MORTIFY THE INHERENT REMAINDERS OF IT.
Fourthly. From the Aid and Assistance, that believers must call in to this work, observe,
That WHATEVER ADVANTAGES MEN HAVE GAINED AGAINST THEIR LUSTS, EITHER IN SUPPRESSING THEIR MOTIONS, OR IN RESTRAINING THEIR ERUPTIONS; YET, IF THIS BE NOT FROM THE VVORKJNfl OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN THEM, IT IS NOT TRUE NOR RIGHT MOR
Td7ication: If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify.
I shall not handle all these Propositions, but only the Third, That the children of God have continual need to exercise mortification: and the other points will be subervient to the prosecution of this.
This the Apostle urgeth Col. iii. 5. where he speaks to those, that were risen with Christ; as you may see v. 1 : to those, who were dead with Christ, and whose life was hid with Christ in God; v. 3: to those, who shall certainly appear with Christ in gloiy; v. 4: and, yet, such as these he commands to mortify their members which are upon the earth.
And it may appear strange, if you consider what members they are, which must be mortified. Not vain thoughts; deadness of heart; uneven walkings; and those inward sins, which if men did thoroughly mortify, they would be made perfect, and become even as the angels of God: but they are the great and the visible limbs of the Old Man: they are fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affections, evil concupiscence, and covetousness: and, in v. 8. he bids them again, put ye off'all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, and lying. Strange it is, that believers of so eminent a rank should need calling upon to mortify such gross and foul sins as these; and yet it is no more than necessary: the best Christians on earth have a stock of corruption in them, which doth habitually dispose them unto these sins, as great and heinous as they are; and the Devil will so suit his temptations, as will certainly draw forth this corruption into act, unless they keep a strict hand and a strict .watch over themselves in the constant exercise of mortification. And, therefore, as we urge it upon wicked men, that they slight not sin because it is small, and say, Is it not a little one, and my soul shall live? so we must press it upon the best and greatest of saints, that they would not slight any sin because it is great and heinous; and say with themselves, " Is it not a great one, and my soul shall never commit it?" As we presume upon the pardoning mercy of God in the commission of small sins, so we are apt to presume upon our own strength to preserve us from the commission of great and crying sins; and so, by their security and carelessness, the best do sometimes find themselves surprised by them. If we should be earnest in exhorting you to beware that you murder not, that you blaspheme not, that you turn not apostates from the profession of your religion; would you not reply with Hazael, Are we dogs, that we should do this great wickedness? Yes, certainly, this great wickedness you would do, yea there is no abomination so abominable which you would not do, if you do not bring the cross of Christ into your hearts by a daily mortification.
I. But, before I can proceed farther, I must lay down this for a GENERAL PRINCIPLE, That all Mortification is the weakening of sin, in respect of some strength and power, that it formerly had over the soul.
There is, especially, a Threefold power observable in Sin.
Its Damning and Condemnatory power, whereby it makes
the soul liable to wrath. Its Ruling and Reigning power, whereby it keeps the soul under a wretched slavery and vassalage.
Its Indwelling and Captivating power, whereby, through its continual assaults, it oftentimes breaks in upon a Christian, beats him from his defence, batters his spiritual armour, routs his graces, wastes his conscience, and at last leads him into a woeful, and it may be a long captivity.
According to this Threefold Power, so we must likewise distinguish of a Threefold Mortification of Sin.
i. There is a mortification of sin, as to its Condemning power.
There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus: Rom. viii. 1. Sin, though it may still hale us before God, and make our consciences confess guilty; yet cannot now cast and sentence us, if we believe: it is still strong enough to drag us before God, to accuse us to God, to affright and terrify conscience; but it is not strong enough to drag us into hell, to adjudge us to everlasting wrath: it hath lost its power in that respect, and is become weak and mortified. Whence is it, that sin hath its condemning power, but from the Law? The strength of sin is the Law: 1 Cor. xv. 56: had not the Law threatened condemnation to the transgressor, sin could have had no strength at all to condemn him. But is this sentence of the Law still in force against believers? no, says the Apostle, we are delivered from the Law, that being dead wherein we were held: Rom. vii. 6. and, if the Law's power to condemn believers be dead, sin's power to condemn them, which was but only borrowed from the Law, must certainly be dead also. But how came the Law thus mortified? the Apostle tells us in Col. ii. 14. that Christ took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross: and no wonder, then, if it be dead: that is, the cross and the sufferings of Jesus Christ have so fully satisfied for those who believe, that the Law is as it were now dead, and hath no strength nor power left to condemn them. But this is not that mortification of which I intend to speak, and to which my text exhorts us: therefore,
ii. There is a mortification of sin, in respect of its Reigning power. ,-,
What saith the Apostle, Rom-vi. 11, 12? in v. 11. saith he, reckon yourselves to be, dead itideed' unto sin: what then? why upon this he founds an exhortation in ver. 12. Let not sin reign therefore in your mortal bodies. Now this reign of sin consists