But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
~ Romans 8:9
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
~ Ephesians 3:20
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
~ Philippians 2:13
Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
~ Colossians 1:29
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
~ 1 Thessalonians 2:13
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
~ Hebrews 7:25
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
~ Romans 8:13
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
~ Ephesians 2:10
Mortification of Sin, the Nature and Causes of it, by John Owen. The following contains excerpts from his work, ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΟΛΟΓΙΑ (Pneumatologia), or, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit, Wherein An Account is Given of his Name, Nature, Personality, Operations, and Effects; His Whole Work in the Old and New Creation is Explained; the Doctrine Concerning It Vindicated from Oppositions and Reproaches. The Nature and Necessity of Gospel Holiness; the Differences Between Grace and Morality, or a Spiritual Life Unto God in Evangelical Obedience and a Course of Moral Virtues, are Stated and Declared.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
~ Philippians 1:19
Chapter VIII. Mortification of sin, the nature and causes of it.
Mortification of sin, the second part of sanctification — Frequently prescribed and enjoined as a duty — What the name signifies, with the reason thereof; as also that of crucifying sin — The nature of the mortification of sin explained — Indwelling sin, in its principle, operations, and effects, the object of mortification — Contrariety between sin and grace — Mortification a part-taking with the whole interest of grace against sin — How sin is mortified, and why the subduing of it is so called — Directions for the right discharge of this duty — Nature of it unknown to many — The Holy Spirit the author and cause of mortification in us — The manner of the operation of the Spirit in the mortification of sin — Particular means of the mortification of sin — Duties necessary unto the mortification of sin, directed unto by the Holy Ghost — Mistakes and errors of persons failing in this matter — How spiritual duties are to be managed, that sin may be mortified — Influence of the virtue of the death of Christ, as applied by the Holy Spirit, into the mortification of sin
Now, this the Holy Ghost doth, —
(1st.) By implanting in our minds and all their faculties a contrary habit and principle, with contrary inclinations, dispositions, and actings, — namely, a principle of spiritual life and holiness, bringing forth the fruits thereof.
(2dly.) The Holy Ghost carrieth on this work in us as a grace, and enableth us unto it as our duty, by those actual supplies and assistances of grace which he continually communicates unto us; for the same divine operations, the same supplies of grace, which are necessary unto the positive acts and duties of holiness, are necessary also unto this end, that sin in the actual motions and lustings of it may be mortified. So the apostle issues his long account of the conflict between sin and the soul of a believer, and his complaint thereon, with that good word, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” verse 25, — namely, who supplies me with gracious assistance against the power of sin. Temptation is successful only by sin, James i. 14. And it was with respect unto an especial temptation that the Lord Christ gives that answer unto the apostle, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” 2 Cor. xii. 9. It is the actual supply of the Spirit of Christ that doth enable us to withstand our temptations and subdue our corruptions. This is the ἐπιχορηγία τοῦ Πνεύματος, Phil. i. 19, — an “additional supply,” as occasion requireth, beyond our constant daily provision; or χάρις εἰς εὔχαιρον βοήθειαν, Heb. iv. 16, — grace given in to help seasonably, upon our cry made for it. Of the nature of these supplies we have discoursed before. I shall now only observe, that in the life of faith and dependence on Christ, the expectation and derivation of these supplies of grace and spiritual strength is one principal part of our duty. These things are not empty notions, as some imagine. If Christ be a head of influence unto us as well as of rule, as the head natural is to the body; if he be our life, if our life be in him, and we have nothing but what we do receive from him; if he give unto us supplies of his Spirit and increases of grace; and if it be our duty by faith to look for all these things from him, and that be the means of receiving them, — which things are all expressly and frequently affirmed in the Scripture; — then is this expectation and derivation of spiritual strength continually from him the way we are to take for the actual mortification of sin. And, therefore, if we would be found in a successful discharge of this duty, it is required of us, — (1st.) That we endeavour diligently, in the whole course of our lives, after these continual supplies of grace, — that is, that we wait for them in all those ways and means whereby they are communicated; for although the Lord Christ giveth them out freely and bountifully, yet our diligence in duty will give the measure of receiving them. If we are negligent in prayer, meditation, reading, hearing of the word, and other ordinances of divine worship, we have no ground to expect any great supplies to this end. And, (2dly.) That we live and abound in the actual exercise of all those graces which are most directly opposite unto those peculiar lusts or corruptions that we are most exercised withal or obnoxious unto; for sin and grace do try their interest and prevalency in particular instances. If, therefore, any are more than ordinarily subject unto the power of any corruption, — as passion, inordinate affections, love of the world, distrust of God, — unless they be constant in the exercise of those graces which are diametrically opposed unto them, they will continually suffer under the power of sin.
(3dly.) It is the Holy Spirit which directs us unto, and helps us in, the performance of those duties, which are appointed of God unto this end, that they may be means of the mortification of sin. Unto the right use of those duties (for such there are), two things are required:— (1st.) That we know them aright in their nature and use, as also that they are appointed of God unto this end; and then, (2dly.) That we perform them in a due manner. And both these we must have from the Spirit of God. He is given to believers “to lead them into all truth;” he teacheth and instructs them by the word, not only what duties are incumbent on them, but also how to perform them, and with respect unto what ends:—
(1st.) It is required that we know them aright, in their nature, use, and ends. For want hereof, or through the neglect of looking after it, all sorts of men have wandered after foolish imaginations about this work, either as to the nature of the work itself, or as to the means whereby it may be effected; for it being a grace and duty of the gospel, thence only is it truly to be learned, and that by the teachings of the Spirit of God. And it may not be amiss to give some instances of the darkness of men’s minds and their mistakes herein.
First, A general apprehension that somewhat of this nature is necessary, arising from the observation of the disorder of our passions, and the exorbitancy of the lives of most in the world, is suited even to the light of nature, and was from thence variously improved by the philosophers of old. To this purpose did they give many instructions about denying and subduing the disorderly affections of the mind, conquering passions, moderating desires, and the like. But whilst their discoveries of sin rose no higher than the actual disorder they found in the affections and passions of the mind, — whilst they knew nothing of the depravation of the mind itself, and had nothing to oppose unto what they did discover but moral considerations, and those most of them notoriously influenced by vainglory and applause, — they never attained unto any thing of the same kind with the due mortification of sin.
Secondly, We may look into the Papacy, and take a view of the great appearance of this duty which is therein, and we shall find it all disappointed; because they are not led unto nor taught the duties whereby it may be brought about by the Spirit of God. They have, by the light of the Scripture, a far clearer discovery of the nature and power of sin than had the philosophers of old. The commandment, also, being variously brought and applied unto their consciences, they may be, and doubtless are and have been, many of them, made deeply sensible of the actings and tendency of indwelling sin. Hereon ensues a terror of death and eternal judgment. Things being so stated, persons who were not profligate nor had their consciences seared could not refrain from contriving ways and means how sin might be mortified and destroyed. But whereas they had lost a true apprehension of the only way whereby this might be effected, they betook themselves unto innumerable false ones of their own. This was the spring of all the austerities, disciplines, fastings, self-macerations, and the like, which are exercised or in use among them: for although they are now in practice turned mostly to the benefit of the priests, and an indulgence unto sin in the penitents, yet they were invented and set on foot at first with a design to use them as engines for the mortification of sin; and they have a great appearance in the flesh unto that end and purpose. But yet, when all was done, they found by experience that they were insufficient hereunto: sin was not destroyed, nor conscience pacified by them. This made them betake themselves to purgatory. Here they have hopes all will be set right when they are gone out of this world; from whence none could come back to complain of their disappointments. These things are not spoken to condemn even external severities and austerities, in fastings, watchings, and abstinences, in their proper place. Our nature is apt to run into extremes. Because we see the vanity of the Papists in placing mortification of sin in an outward shadow and appearance of it, in that bodily exercise which profiteth not, we are apt to think that all things of that nature are utterly needless, and cannot be subordinate unto spiritual ends. But the truth is, I shall much suspect their internal mortification (pretend what they will) who always pamper the flesh, indulge to their sensual appetite, conform to the world, and lead their lives in idleness and pleasures; yea, it is high time that professors, by joint consent, should retrench that course of life, in fullness of diet, bravery of apparel, expense of time in vain conversation, which many are fallen into. But these outward austerities of themselves, I say, will never effect the end aimed at; for as to the most of them, they being such as God never appointed unto any such end or purpose, but being the fruit of men’s own contrivances and inventions, let them be insisted on and pursued unto the most imaginable extremities, being not blessed of God thereunto, they will not contribute the least towards the mortification of sin. Neither is there either virtue or efficacy in the residue of them, but as they are subordinated unto other spiritual duties. So Hierom gives us an honest instance in himself, telling us that whilst he lived in his horrid wilderness in Judea, and lodged in his cave, his mind would be in the sports and revels at Rome!
Thirdly, The like may be said of the Quakers amongst ourselves. That which first recommended them was an appearance of mortification; which it may be also some of them really intended, though it is evident they never understood the nature of it: for in the height of their outward appearances, as they came short of the sorry weeds, begging habits, macerated countenances, and severe looks, of many monks in the Roman church, and dervises among the Mohammedans; so they were so far from restraining or mortifying their real inclinations, as that they seemed to excite and provoke themselves to exceed all others in clamours, railings, evil- speakings, reproaches, calumnies, and malicious treating of those who dissented from them, without the least discovery of a heart filled with kindness and benignity unto mankind, or love unto any but themselves; in which frame and state of things sin is as secure from mortification as in the practice of open lusts and debaucheries. But supposing that they made a real industrious attempt for the mortification of sin, what success have they had, what have they attained unto? Some of them have very wisely slipped over the whole work and duty of it into a pleasing dream of perfection; and generally, finding the fruitlessness of their attempt, and that indeed sin will not be mortified by the power of their light within, nor by their resolutions, nor by any of their austere outward appearances, nor peculiar habits or looks, which in this matter are openly pharisaical, they begin to give over their design: for who, among all that pretend to any reverence of God, do more openly indulge themselves unto covetousness, love of the world, emulation, strife, contentions among themselves, severe revenges against others, than they do, — not to mention the filth and uncleanness they begin mutually to charge one another withal? And so will all self-devised ways of mortification end. It is the Spirit of God alone who leads us into the exercise of those duties whereby it may be carried on.
(2dly.) It is required that the duties to be used unto this end be rightly performed, in faith, unto the glory of God. Without this a multiplication of duties is an increase of burden and bondage, and that is all. Now, that we can perform no duty in this way or manner without the especial assistance of the Holy Spirit hath been sufficiently before evinced. And the duties which are appointed of God in an especial manner unto this end are, prayer, meditation, watchfulness, abstinence, wisdom or circumspection with reference unto temptations and their prevalency. Not to go over these duties in particular, nor to show wherein their especial efficacy unto this end and purpose doth consist, I shall only give some general rules concerning the exercising of our souls in them, and some directions for their right performance:—
First, All these duties are to be designed and managed with an especial respect unto this end. It will not suffice that we are exercised in them in general, and with regard only unto this general end. We are to apply them unto this particular case, designing in and by them the mortification and ruin of sin, especially when, by its especial actings in us, it discovers itself in a peculiar manner unto us. No man who wisely considereth himself, his state and condition, his occasions and temptations, can be wholly ignorant of his especial corruptions and inclinations, whereby he is ready for halting, as the psalmist speaks. He that is so lives in the dark to himself, and walks at peradventures with God, not knowing how he walketh nor whither he goeth. David probably had respect hereunto when he said, “I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity,” Ps. xviii. 21–23. He could have done nothing of all this, nor have preserved his integrity in walking with God, had he not known and kept a continual watch upon his own iniquity, or that working of sin in him which most peculiarly inclined and disposed him unto evil. Upon this discovery, we are to apply these duties in a particular manner to the weakening and ruin of the power of sin. As they are all useful and necessary, so the circumstances of our condition will direct us which of them in particular we ought to be most conversant in. Sometimes prayer and meditation claim this place, as when our danger ariseth solely from ourselves, and our own perverse inclinations, disorderly affections, or unruly passions; sometimes watchfulness and abstinence, when sin takes occasion from temptations, concerns, and businesses in the world; sometimes wisdom and circumspection, when the avoidance of temptations and opportunities for sin is in an especial manner required of us. These duties, I say, are to be managed with a peculiar design to oppose, defeat, and destroy the power of sin, into which they have a powerful influence, as designed of God unto that end; for, —
Secondly, All these duties, rightly improved, work two ways towards the end designed: first, Morally, and by way of impetration, — namely, of help and assistance; secondly, Really, by an immediate opposition unto sin and its power, whence assimilation unto holiness doth arise:—
(First.) These duties work morally and by way of impetration. I shall instance only in one of them, and that is prayer. There are two parts of prayer with respect unto sin and its power: first, Complaints; secondly, Petitions:—
(First.) Complaints. So is the title of Ps. cii., “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” So David expresseth himself, Ps. lv. 2, “Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise.” His prayer was a doleful lamentation. And Ps. cxlii. 2, “I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble.” This is the first work of prayer with respect unto sin, its power and prevalency. The soul therein pours out its complaints unto God, and showeth before him the trouble it undergoes on the account thereof. And this it doth in an humble acknowledgment of its guilt, crying out of its deceit and violence; for all just and due complaint respecteth that which is grievous, and which is beyond the power of the complainer to relieve himself against. Of this sort there is nothing to be compared with the power of sin, as to believers.
This therefore is, and ought to be, the principal matter and subject of their complaints in prayer; yea, the very nature of the whole case is such as that the apostle could not give an account of it without great complaints, Rom. vii. 24. This part of prayer, indeed, is with profligate persons derided and scorned, but it is acceptable with God, and that wherein believers find ease and rest unto their souls; for, let the world scoff while it pleaseth, what is more acceptable unto God than for his children, out of pure love unto him and holiness, out of fervent desires to comply with his mind and will, and thereby to attain conformity unto Jesus Christ, to come with their complaints unto him of the distance they are kept from these things by the captivating power of sin, bewailing their frail condition, and humbly acknowledging all the evils they are liable unto upon the account thereof? Would any man have thought it possible, had not experience convinced him, that so much Luciferian pride and atheism should possess the minds of any who would be esteemed Christians as to scoff at and deride these things? that anyone should ever read the Bible, or once consider what he is, and with whom he hath to do, and be ignorant of this duty? But we have nothing to do with such persons, but to leave them to please themselves whilst they may with these fond and impious imaginations. They will come either in this world (which we hope and pray for), in their repentance, to know their folly, or in another. I say, these complaints of sin, poured out before the Lord, these cryings out of deceit and violence, are acceptable to God, and prevalent with him to give out aid and assistance. He owns believers as his children, and hath the bowels and compassion of a father towards them. Sin he knows to be their greatest enemy, and which fights directly against their souls. Will he, then, despise their complaints, and their bemoaning of themselves before him? will he not avenge them of that enemy, and that speedily? See Jer. xxxi. 18–20. Men who think they have no other enemies, none to complain of, but such as oppose them, or obstruct them, or oppress them, in their secular interests, advantages, and concerns, are strangers unto these things. Believers look on sin as their greatest adversary, and know that they suffer more from it than from all the world; suffer them, therefore, to make their complaints of it unto him who pities them, and who will relieve them and avenge them.
(Secondly.) Prayer is directly petitions to this purpose. It consists of petitions unto God for supplies of grace to conflict and conquer sin withal. I need not prove this. No man prays as he ought, no man joins in prayer with another who prays as he ought, but these petitions are a part of his prayer. Especially will they be so, and ought they so to be, when the mind is peculiarly engaged in the design of destroying sin. And these petitions or requests are, as far as they are gracious and effectual, wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, who therein “maketh intercession for us, according to the will of God;” and hereby doth he carry on this work of the mortification of sin, for his work it is. He makes us to put up prevalent requests unto God for such continual supplies of grace, whereby it may be constantly kept under, and at length destroyed.
And this is the first way whereby this duty hath an influence into mortification, — namely, morally and by way of impetration.
(Secondly.) This duty hath a real efficiency unto the same end. It doth itself (when rightly performed and duly attended unto) mightily prevail unto the weakening and destruction of sin; for in and by fervent prayer, especially when it is designed unto this end, the habit, frame, and inclinations of the soul unto universal holiness, with a detestation of all sin, are increased, cherished, and strengthened. The soul of a believer is never raised unto a higher intension of spirit in the pursuit of, love unto, and delight in holiness, nor is more conformed unto it or cast into the mould of it, than it is in prayer. And frequency in this duty is a principal means to fix and consolidate the mind in the form and likeness of it; and hence do believers ofttimes continue in and come off from prayer above all impressions from sin, as to inclinations and compliances. Would such a frame always continue, how happy were we! But abiding in the duty is the best way of reaching out after it. I say, therefore, that this duty is really efficient of the mortification of sin, because therein all the graces whereby it is opposed and weakened are excited, exercised, and improved unto that end, as also the detestation and abhorrency of sin is increased in us; and where this is not so, there are some secret flaws in the prayers of men, which it will be their wisdom to find out and heal.
(4thly.) The Holy Spirit carrieth on this work by applying in an especial manner the death of Christ unto us for that end. And this is another thing which, because the world understandeth not, it doth despise. But yet in whomsoever the death of Christ is not the death of sin, he shall die in his sins. To evidence this truth we may observe, — (1st.) In general, That the death of Christ hath an especial influence into the mortification of sin, without which it will not be mortified. This is plainly enough testified unto in the Scripture. By his cross, — that is, his death on the cross, — “we are crucified unto the world,” Gal. vi. 14. “Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed,” Rom. vi. 6; that is, sin is mortified in us by virtue of the death of Christ. (2dly.) In the death of Christ with respect unto sin there may be considered, — First, His oblation of himself; and, Secondly, The application thereof unto us. By the first it is that our sins are expiated as unto their guilt; but from the latter it is that they are actually subdued as to their power; for it is by an interest in, and a participation of the benefits of his death, which we call the application of it unto us. Hereon are we said to be “buried with him” and to “rise with him,” whereof our baptism is a pledge, chap. vi. 3, 4; not in an outward representation, as some imagine, of being dipped into the water and taken up again (which were to make one sign the sign of another), but in a powerful participation of the virtue of the death and life of Christ, in a death unto sin and newness of life in holy obedience, which baptism is a pledge of, as it is a token of our initiation and implanting into him. So are we said to be “baptized into his death,” or into the likeness of it, that is, in its power, verse 3. Thirdly, The old man is said to be crucified with Christ, or sin to be mortified by the death of Christ, as was in part before observed, on two accounts:—
(First.) Of conformity. Christ is the head, the beginning or idea, of the new creation, the first-born of every creature. Whatever God designeth unto us therein, he first exemplified in Jesus Christ; and we are “predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son,” Rom. viii. 29. Hereof the apostle gives us an express instance in the resurrection: “Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming,” 1 Cor. xv. 23. It is so in all things; all that is wrought in us, it is in resemblance and conformity unto Christ. Particularly, we are by grace “planted in the likeness of his death,” Rom. vi. 5, being “made conformable unto his death,” Phil. iii. 10; and so “dead with Christ,” Col. ii. 20. Now, this conformity is not in our natural death, nor in our being put to death as he was; for it is that which we are made partakers of in this life, and that in a way of grace and mercy. But Christ died for sin, for our sin, which was the meritorious procuring cause thereof; and he lived again by the power of God. A likeness and conformity hereunto God will work in all believers. There is by nature a life of sin in them, as hath been declared. This life must be destroyed, sin must die in us; and we thereby become dead unto sin. And as he rose again, so are we to be quickened in and unto newness of life. In this death of sin consists that mortification which we treat about, and without which we cannot be conformed unto Christ in his death, which we are designed unto. And the same Spirit which wrought these things in Christ will, in the pursuit of his design, work that which answers unto them in all his members.
(Secondly.) In respect of efficacy. Virtue goeth forth from the death of Christ for the subduing and destruction of sin. It was not designed to be a dead, inactive, passive example, but it is accompanied with a power conforming and changing us into his own likeness. It is the ordinance of God unto that end; which he therefore gives efficacy unto. It is by a fellowship or participation in his sufferings that we are “made conformable unto his death,” Phil. iii. 10; — this κοινωνία τῶν παθημάτων is an interest in the benefit of his sufferings; we also are made partakers thereof. This makes us conformable to his death, in the death of sin in us. The death of Christ is designed to be the death of sin, let them who are dead in sin deride it whilst they please. If Christ had not died, sin had never died in any sinner unto eternity. Wherefore, that there is a virtue and efficacy in the death of Christ unto this purpose cannot be denied without a renunciation of all the benefits thereof. On the one hand, the Scripture tells us that he is “our life,” our spiritual life, the spring, fountain, and cause of it; we have nothing, therefore, that belongs thereunto but what is derived from him. They cast themselves out of the verge of Christianity who suppose that the Lord Christ is no otherwise our life, or the author of life unto us, but as he hath revealed and taught the way of life unto us; he is our life as he is our head. And it would be a sorry head that should only teach the feet to go, and not communicate strength to the whole body so to do. And that we have real influences of life from Christ I have sufficiently proved before. Unto our spiritual life doth ensue the death of sin; for this, on the other hand, is peculiarly assigned unto his death in the testimonies before produced. This, therefore, is by virtue derived from Christ, — that is, in an especial manner from his death, as the Scripture testifies.
All the inquiry is, How the death of Christ is applied unto us, or, which is the same, How we apply ourselves to the death of Christ for this purpose. And I answer, we do it two ways:—
(1st.) By faith. The way to derive virtue from Christ is by touching of him. So the diseased woman in the gospel touched but the hem of his garment, and virtue went forth from him to stay her bloody issue, Matt. ix. 20–22. It was not her touching him outwardly, but her faith, which she acted then and thereby, that derived virtue from him; for so our Saviour tells her in his answer, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” But unto what end was this touching of his garment? It was only a pledge and token of the particular application of the healing power of Christ unto her soul, or her faith in him in particular for that end: for at the same time many thronged upon him in a press, so as his disciples marvelled he should ask who touched his clothes, Mark v. 30, 31; yet was not any of them advantaged but the poor sick woman. A great emblem it is of common profession on the one hand, and especial faith on the other. Multitudes press and throng about Christ in a profession of faith and obedience, and in the real performance of many duties, but no virtue goeth forth from Christ to heal them. But when anyone, though poor, though seemingly at a distance, gets but the least touch of him by especial faith, this soul is healed. This is our way with respect unto the mortification of sin. The Scripture assures us that there is virtue and efficacy in the death of Christ unto that end. The means whereby we derive this virtue from him is by touching of him, — that is, by acting faith on him in his death for the death of sin.
But how will this effect it? how will sin be mortified hereby? I say, How, by what power and virtue, were they healed in the wilderness who looked unto the brazen serpent? was it not because that was an ordinance of God, which by his almighty power he made effectual unto that purpose? The death of Christ being so as to the crucifying of sin, when it is looked on or applied unto by faith, shall not divine virtue and power go forth unto that end? The Scripture and experience of all believers give testimony unto the truth and reality thereof. Besides, faith itself, as acted on the death of Christ, hath a peculiar efficacy unto the subduing of sin: for, “beholding” him thereby “as in a glass, we are changed into the same image,” 2 Cor. iii. 18; and that which we peculiarly behold, we are peculiarly transformed into the likeness of. And, moreover, it is the only means whereby we actually derive from Christ the benefits of our union with him. From thence we have all grace, or there is no such thing in the world; and the communication of it unto us is in and by the actual exercise of faith principally. So it being acted with respect unto his death, we have grace for the killing of sin, and thereby become dead with him, crucified with him, buried with him, as in the testimonies before produced. This is that which we call the application of the death of Christ unto us, or our application of ourselves to the death of Christ for the mortification of sin. And they by whom this means thereof is despised or neglected, who are ignorant of it or do blaspheme it, must live under the power of sin, unto what inventions soever they turn themselves for deliverance. According as we abide and abound herein will be our success. Those who are careless and remiss in the exercise of faith, by prayer and meditation, in the way described, will find that sin will keep its ground, and maintain so much power in them as shall issue in their perpetual trouble; and men who are much conversant with the death of Christ, — not in notions and lifeless speculations, not in natural or carnal affections, like those which are raised in weak persons by images and crucifixes, but by holy actings of faith with respect unto what is declared in the Scripture as to its power and efficacy, — will be implanted into the likeness of it, and experience the death of sin in them continually.
(2dly.) We do it by love. Christ as crucified is the great object of our love, or should so be; for he is therein unto sinners “altogether lovely.” Hence one of the ancients cried out, Ὁ ἔρως ἐμὸς ἐσταύρωται; — “My love is crucified, and why do I stay behind?” In the death of Christ do his love, his grace, his condescension, most gloriously shine forth. We may, therefore, consider three things with respect unto this love:— first, The object of it; secondly, The means of the representation of that object unto our minds and affections; thirdly, The effects of it as to the case in hand.
First, The object of it is Christ himself, in his unsearchable grace, his unspeakable love, his infinite condescension, his patient suffering, and victorious power, in his death or dying for us. It is not his death absolutely, but himself, as all these graces conspicuously shine forth in his death, which is intended.
Secondly, And there are various ways whereby this may be represented unto our minds:— (First,) Men may do it unto themselves by their own imaginations. They may frame and fancy dolorous things unto themselves about it, which is the way of persons under deep and devout superstitions; but no love in sincerity will ever be ingenerated towards Jesus Christ hereby. (Secondly,) It may be done by others, in pathetical and tragical declarations of the outward part of Christ’s sufferings. Herein some have a great faculty to work upon the natural affections of their auditors; and great passions, accompanied with tears and vows, may be so excited. But, for the most part, there is no more in this work than what the same persons do find in themselves, it may be, in the reading or hearing of a feigned story; for there is a sympathy in natural affections with the things that are their proper objects, though represented by false imaginations. (Thirdly,) It is done in the Papacy, and among some others, by images, in crucifixes and dolorous pictures, whereunto they pay great devotion, with an appearance of ardent affections; but none of these is such a due representation of this object as to ingenerate sincere love towards Christ crucified in any soul. Wherefore, (Fourthly,) This is done effectually only by the gospel, and in the dispensation of it according to the mind of God; for therein is “Jesus Christ evidently crucified before our eyes,” Gal. iii. 1. And this it doth by proposing unto our faith the grace, the love, the patience, the condescension, the obedience, the end and design of Christ therein. So is Christ eyed by faith as the proper object of sincere love. And being so stated, —
Thirdly, The effects of it, as of all true love, are, first, Adherence; secondly, Assimilation :— (First,) Adherence. Love in the Scripture is frequently expressed by this effect; the soul of one did cleave, or was knit, unto another, as that of Jonathan to David, 1 Sam. xviii. 1. So it produceth a firm adherence unto Christ crucified, that makes a soul to be in some sense always present with Christ on the cross. And hence ensues, (Secondly,) Assimilation or conformity. None treat of the nature or effects of love but they assign this as one of them, that it begets a likeness between the mind loving and the object beloved. And so I am sure it is in this matter. A mind filled with the love of Christ as crucified, and represented in the manner and way before described, will be changed into his image and likeness by the effectual mortification of sin, through a derivation of power and grace from thence for that purpose.
(5thly.) The Holy Ghost carrieth on this work by constant discoveries unto and pressing on believers, on the one hand, the true nature and certain end of sin; and, on the other, the beauty, excellency, usefulness, and necessity of holiness, with the concerns of God, Christ, the gospel, and their own souls therein. A rational consideration of these things is all the ground and reason of mortification in the judgment of some men. But we have proved that there are other causes of it also; and now I add, that if we have no consideration of these things but what our own reason is of itself able to suggest unto us, it will never be prevalent unto any sincere or permanent attempt in the mortification of any sin whatever. Let men make the best of their reason they can, in the searching and consideration of the perverse nature and dreadful consequents of sin, of the perfect peace and future blessedness which attendeth the practice of holiness, they will find an obstinacy and stubbornness in their hearts not conquerable by any such reasonings or considerations. That conviction of sin and righteousness which is useful and prevalent unto that end and purpose is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, John xvi. 8. Although he makes use of our minds, understandings, reasons, consciences, and the best of our consideration, in this matter, yet if he give not a peculiar efficacy and power unto all, the work will not be effectual. When he is pleased to make use of reasons and motives, taken from the nature and end of sin and holiness, unto the mortification of sin, they shall hold good, and bind the soul unto this duty, against all objections and temptations that would divert it whatever.
And thus I have briefly, and I confess weakly and obscurely, delineated the work of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of them that do believe. Many things might have been more enlarged and particularly inquired into; what have been discoursed I judge sufficient to my present purpose. And I doubt not but that what hath been argued from plain Scripture and experience is sufficient, as to direct us in the practice of true evangelical holiness, so, with all sober persons, to cast out of all consideration that fulsome product of pride and ignorance, that all gospel holiness consists in the practice of moral virtues.