Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

branch of corruption with the same nourishment, and make it flourish into the same strength and verdure; which all your endeavours will but fruitlessly attempt to .despoil it of.

And,

Secondly. Hereupon finding no better success, but that, after all, he sees himself deluded, and that lust is not mortified; still, as thick fogs and steams of it rise within him as ever; still, it is as unruly and boisterous as ever; and more to suppress and weaken it, in his way, cannot be done: hereupon, I say, he despairingly gives over all future contendings, and abandons himself to the power and violence of his corruptions; and those, which before he strove in vain to stop, he now spurs on and drives furiously towards perdition.

This is the fearful, and yet too frequent issue, of such endeavours, as have their beginnings merely from the convictions of natural conscience: they receive no encouragement nor recruit from the decay of corruption; and, therefore, usually expire, either in a loose formality, or in a professed dissoluteness. Very sad it is to consider how much pains and industry have been lost in struggling against sin, only upon this account; that, to all their endeavours, there hath been no foundation laid, in the radical and inward weakening of the habit and body of corruption.

This inward weakening of corruption is Twofold: ,

The First proceeds from that mortal and incurable wound, which the body of sin received in the first implantation of grace. Then was the head of this serpent crushed; and, whereas before it had the power and authority of a king and sovereign in the soul, in that very moment it was deposed, and hath ever since harassed it only as a rebel and traitor.

The Second proceeds from those redoubled strokes, with which mortified Christians follow their corruptions; whereby they every day and hour draw blood and spirits from them, and so by degrees waste and weaken them. The first, indeed, is not any part of that mortification, whereof I am now treating; but rather a necessary antecedent to it: and the latter would not be mortification, did it not presuppose the former; for therefore doth a man, by opposing the motions and actings of corruption in his daily conversation, weaken the habit of it, because of that first weakening which it received in conversion. The Apostle, speaking of this weakening of sin, calls it a crucifying of it with Christ: Rom. vi. 6. Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed. Now look, how was Christ crucified? first he was hung upon the cross, and then pierced with a- spear: so, truly, it is in the mortification of corruption: our first conversion unto God hangs it upon the cross, whence it shall never come down alive; and then our constant endeavours are as so many spears continually piercing it, till the body of this Old Man becomes all over one great wound, whence daily issue out the blood and spirit, the strength and vigour, and at length life itself. This is it, which makes the keeping under of the motions of corruption, and the keeping in of its eruptions, to be true mortification in the children of God; when yet the very same endeavours, in unregenerate men, are nothing so. Sin, in them, is upon the throne, and not upon the cross: and therefore they cannot wound, nor pierce it: they cannot weaken, nor destroy it.

"Yea," but may some say, " must there, in true mortification, be not only a striving against the motions and actings of corruption, but also the weakening of its root and principle? Alas! then I fear all my endeavours have been fruitless and in vain. Some success, indeed, I have gained against the eruptions of lust; but still I find the temptations of it as strong and violent as ever: I perceive no weakenings, no decays in it; but it rather grows more rebellious and headstrong every day than other; and, therefore, all, that I have done against them, hath not been true mortification."

This, Ho question, is the case of many a mortified Christian: and, therefore, for answer hereunto,

First. Consider: possibly thou mayest be herein mistaken, that thou thinkest that corruption moves stronger than before, when only thou takest more notice of its motions than thou didst before.

When the heart is made tender and soft by a long exercise of mortification, a less temptation troubles it more, than formerly a greater would. Every the least rising of corruption in the heart seems now a desperate and heinous thing; whereas, before, through the deadness and stupidity of conscience, it was made light of and scarce regarded. This seeming strength of sin is not a sign that sin is not dying; but rather a sign that thou art spiritually alive, because so very sensible of its motions. The stronger the opposition is, which grace makes against sin, the stronger also will sin seem to work, though indeed it never was weaker. If a strong-natured man fall into a little sickness and distemper, it seems more violent and raging in him, than a greater would in another of a weak constitution; because the natural vigour conflicts more with the disease: he is unquiet and turbulent, and tosses to and fro, merely because the strength of nature is impatient till the sickness be removed. So is it here: if a gracious soul fall into any sinful distemper, what conflicts and agonies are there, as if he were in the very pangs of death 1 Doth this argue the strength of corruption? No: nothing less: it rather argues the strength of grace, which makes the soul to wrestle thus impatiently, till the corruption be overcome and removed. None so much complain of the strength and power of their sins, as those, in whom it is unto some good degree mortified; because they have that contrary principle of grace in them, which makes them sensible of the least risings and motions of it.

Secondly. Consider: corruption may act strongest in the soul, then, when it is in itself weakest. It may be very strong in acting, when it is but weak in being.

You know with what a great blaze a wasted candle goes out, and with what violent pangs and strugglings men use to depart this life: so, sometimes, a mortified lust makes such a blaze, as if it would set the whole soul on fire; when, indeed, it is but expiring: it so struggles, as if it would master grace; when, indeed, it is but its last pull and death-pang. What is said of Christ when hanging on the cross, Mark xv. 37. He cried with a loud voice, and then gave up the ghost; the same may I say of corruption hanging on the cross with a loud voice in a temptation, as if it were not only alive, but strong and vigorous: yea, but this loud voice is many times its last voice; and then it gives up the ghost, and draws its last breath crying. And,

Thirdly. Some accidental improvement may make a lust that is subdued and truly mortified, yet seem no way weakened; but rather much more active and vigorous than ever before.

Sometimes, the very crasis and temper of the body may so alter, as to cause a greater propenseness to such or such a corruption than formerly: and, sometimes, a man may lie in the way of more temptations than ever. Now, upon such advantages as these, corruption, though it be mortified, yet will be stirring: yea, and be stirring, it may be, more violently than ever it did while it was unmortified; for, though then it had more strength and power of its own, yet it had not such odds of grace, as through these external aids it hath gotten. And,

Fourthly. What is abated in the strength of lust's temptations, is many times eked out by the temptations of the Devil.

And these, though they are of different kinds, yet are so closely and so indiscernibly pieced together, that the soul, not knowing what must be imputed to the strength of its own corruption, and what to the violent assaults of the Devil, ascribes all to his lust, and then sadly looks upon himself as an unmortified sinner: and unmortified sin, when it moves and tempts only of its own accord, will not seem to be so raging and impetuous, as a mortified sin will, when it is blown up by the temptations and injections of Satan: and therefore Christians, not being able to distinguish, as indeed none sufficiently can, are necessarily troubled with many fears and doubts, whether or no corruption, which acts so strongly, be at all weakened in them. And, indeed, if the Devil helps any men's corruptions by his temptations, they are especially those, which mortification hath already dealt with and subdued. In wicked men, he sees lust able enough to subsist of itself, and to manage the affairs of its own dominions; and therefore leaves them to the plague of their own heart to destroy them: but, in the children of God, where this enemy is broken and conquered, he backs and enforces it; lends it auxiliaries of objects, and suggestions, and numberless temptations; leads it on to the combat; and, by many wiles and methods, enables it to molest, if not to foil the most conquering and mortified Christian: hereupon the soul, finding such a wonderful recruit of strength and vigour in corruption, presently concludes it is all its own, and that certainly it was 'never yet subdued, never weakened in him. That is the last thing.

So then, although where true mortification is exercised, there corruption is weakened and doth decay; yet this decay is not always discernible.

And thus much shall suffice to open to you what Mortification is.

2. The next thing is, to shew you what is of necessity required thereunto.

You have already heard, that mortification consists of two parts, the weakening of the Habit, and the constant endeavour of repressing the Motions and restraining the'Eruptions, of sin. Accordingly, two things are thereunto necessarily required:

A vital Principle of Grace, that may weaken and destroy the habit of sin. And

The Influences of the Spirit of God, that may draw forth this inward principle of grace, and act it unto the suppressing of these motions, and the restraining of these eruptions.

(1) Therefore, there cannot be any exercise of true mortification, where there is not a vital Principle and Habit of Grace, radically to weaken and destroy it.

It is not nature, it is not conscience, it is not education, it is not conviction, nor is it any other principle, but grace alone, that is a fit match for corruption. How can it with reason be supposed, that, where there is nothing else but sin, any thing should destroy the power of sin? What, though one lust quarrels with and contradicts another? and what, though conscience contradicts them both? yet the main body of lust is not concerned in these petty quarrels. Some lust or other must be chief in the soul, where grace is not advanced as the prevailing principle; and, whether this lust be set up and that pulled down, is not much material: still, the regality and tyranny of sin is equally maintained and upheld, by the one as by the other; and, till grace dissolves this government, and be laid as the axe to the root of the tree, all our endeavours after mortification will be but vain and fruitless attempts, which lust will easily baffle.

And hence, then, by way of consectary:

First. How necessary is it to our comfortable undertaking thia great work of mortification, to see that the first grace of our conversion be true and saving!

Alas! where there never was conversion wrought, there never was mortification exercised. The killing of sin is not a work, that can be done by a dead, but by a living man. 1 should be loth to cast in doubts and scruples, that should more trouble than benefit you: yet give me leave to say, that, unless the evidence of the truth of your grace be in some good proportion cleared up to you, your hands must needs be faint and feeble in conflicting against your lusts: how know you, that all your strugglings and strivings are not from weak and insufficient principles, and consequently far short of mortification? I speak it, not that you should abate your endeavours; but to quicken you, to look after the truth and sincerity of grace; which when you have assured to yourselves, you may be likewise certain, that, though in all your conflicts you may not find a visible

VOL. III. L L

« AnteriorContinuar »