But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.~ Romans 8:13
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
~ 1 Corinthians 9:27
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
~ Titus 2:12
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
~ 1 Peter 2:11
Writings from the works of Christopher Love, which includes some of his material from The Mortified Christian.
If the elect could perish then Jesus Christ should be very unfaithful to His Father because God the Father hath given this charge to Christ, that whomsoever He elected, Christ should preserve them safe, to bring them to heaven. John 6:39.
How can we go about mortifying (or putting to death) the sinful inclinations of our fleshly nature?
The Necessity of Mortification
Mortifying the deeds of the body cannot be understood of the religious deeds of the body, for they are to be cherished, nor of the natural deeds of the body such as eating and drinking; but it refers to the sinful actions that are done by the body arising from the temptations and injections of Satan or the corrupt dictates of our own sinful heart.
“But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live,” Ye- see here, beloved, that the Lord walks in ways contrary to the judgments of flesh and blood. He bids us mourn and sow in tears and then we shall reap in joy. He bids us die, and tells us this is the way to live; and no way can be more contrary to flesh and blood, and yet there is no other way to live but this. We most first die to sin and the world before we can live . life of grace; and we must die a natural death before we can come to live a life of glory.
There are two observations that I shall draw from this latter part of the text:
Doctrine 1. Mortification of corruption is a necessary qualification -required in every person who shall obtain salvation.
If you mortify the deeds f the body, you shall live.
Doctrine 2. From the addition of this phrase, “through the Spirit,” observe that, though a man can commit it by his own strength, he cannot mortify but by the strength of the Spirit.
Rule 1. Count not the restraining of sin from coming into action to be a real mortifying of sin. Restraining grace is not mortifying grace. In Genesis 20:6 God said to Abimelech, “I withheld thee from sinning against Me; therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.’ He had sin restrained, but not mortified.
A lion confined within the grates- is a lion still, though he cannot go about to devour his prey; similarly, though men are restrained from acting out those sins to which they are inclined, yet the restraint of sin is not to be taken for the mortifying of sin. A man may for a time lay a curb and restraint upon his lusts, so that they do not come forth into action, even without the powers of mortifying grace. A man may bridle a lust for many years, and yet the lust remains unmortified. Therefore, I say, do not count the restraining of a sin to be the mortifying of a sin.
Rule 2. A listlessness toward any kind of sin is no infallible demonstration that such a sin is mortified. Count not a present listlessness to some sins to be a saving mortification of them. This is a great mistake that many men run into: because they have no desire to commit some sins which their education makes them averse to, therefore they think they have a work of mortification and sanctification wrought in them; whereas there are divers external causes that may make a man indisposed and averse to some sins such as sickness, old age, better of conscience, education, or a man’s natural temper. These cases are expounded in answer to the following question.
Question. Why are men more disposed to some sins than others?
Answer 1. A man my have a listlessness and unwillingness toward some sins arising from a fit of sickness, so that, though he has been a drunkard or an adulterer in former times, yet because he has thereby distempered himself and impaired his health he has no lost or desire for those sins now. Or, if he has renewed desires after these sins, yet it may be that he wants strength of body to act. Such listlessness to sin, flowing from a sick bed, does not proceed from mortifying grace.
Answer 2. This indisposition to sin may flow from old age, wherein a man’s strength is wasted and decayed, and so he is not able to commit those sins of adultery and drunkenness which formerly he committed and took pleasure in.
Answer 3. It may flow from a good education and principles of morality in men which restrain them from any gross and scandalous sins.
Answer 4. It may proceed likewise to.- better and terror of conscience. When this seizes upon a man in whose face God casts the flashes of hellfire, this may make him abstain from sin for a time while the horror lies upon him. As a thundering storm sours the beer in our cellars, so, when God thunders upon the conscience, it will sour and embitter sin to a man so that he has no desires after it for the present. Yet this is not mortifying grace upon the heart, but the horror of conscience that gnaws and grips and terrifies the man, and makes him listless after sin at such a time.
Answer 5. Another eternal cause of a man’s listlessness to some sins may be his natural temper. For, though every man has sin in him seminally, yet there are some sins which by nature he is more inclined to than others, according to his constitution. A man of a choleric disposition is most inclined to anger; a man of a sanguine disposition is most inclined to uncleanness. There are many sins that, by a man’s natural temper, he is most averse to. Luther professed of himself that he was never in all his lifetime troubled with covetousness. This did not proceed from mortifying grace, but from the natural temper of his body. It was a gift of nature given him by God, and of a gift of grace.
Give me leave to illustrate this to you by this familiar similitude. Suppose you put a dog and a sheep together, and cast flesh before the sheep and grass before the dog. Neither of them will eat anything The sheep will net eat the flesh; neither will the dog eat grass, which arises from the natural temper of the creatures. Why, so it is here. Men’s natural temper dispose them to some sin, and not to others, which therefore is not to be imputed to the power of mortifying grace.
Therefore, beloved, you are not to impute to mortifying grace what is merely the result of a violent sickness, old age, education, terror of conscience, or a man’s natural temper and constitution.
Rule 3. Let mortification be attended to inward and secret sins as well a, to outward and scandalous sins. Not only the lusts of the flesh, but those of the mind are to be mortified; not only the deeds of the body, but the thoughts of the heart and corruptions in the inward man are to be subdued. You are to extend mortification to the subduing of vicious affection, as well as base actions. Colossians 3:5 the Apostle says, “Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness,” and so on. You think, it may be, that these two are one. No, fornication is sin in action; uncleanness is sinning in affections and thought. The Apostle bids them mortify fornication, that is, uncleanness in action; but he does not stop there. He tells them they must subdue their sinful affections and inclinations to those sins. You must mortify the very first motions and secret propensities to any sin in your hearts.
Rule 4. Let mortification be especially directed to strike at those sins that act your master sins-that at, most prevalent and predominant in your heart, that yet you have most prayed against and are least able to resist, that strongly assault you and most easily beset you and are masters over you. Thus David, in Psalm 18:23, sys, “I have kept myself from mine iniquity,” that is, from my special sins, my constitutional sins, my bosom iniquities. I might give you the same advice that the King of Syria gave his captains to 2 Chronicles 18:30: “Fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel.” So I say to you, fight not so much against any sin as against your beloved, darling, constitutional sins that most easily beset you and prevail over you.
Rule 5. Think net to compass this great ,work of mortification by a general, superficial sight of sin, unless you come to a distinct and particular apprehension of your sins. If you take your sins and corruptions all together in a lump, you will never be able to break and mortify them. When a bundle of gods is knit closely one to another, the strongest man to the world is net able to break them; yet, if they are taken asunder, any man may break them all one by one with ease. So it is here: if you take sin apart and labor to have a distinct view and sight of each one, this is the way to overcome and mortify them.
Rule 6: Let your mortification extend not only to particular acts of sin, but to the whole bulk and body of sin. It is a great fault among many Christian that if they are troubled with passions, they go about to mortify them while forgetting their other sins..whenever you go about to mortify any one particular lust, you should labor to bewail the whole body of sin that is in you and to strike at the very root of sin…if you do not pull up sin by the root, the other sins will but make your corruptions rage all the more.
Rule 7: When you are setting upon the work of mortification, go about it in the strength of Christ and not in your own strength…you may commit sin by your own strength, but you cannot mortify sin by your own strength. Only an arrow fetched from Christ’s quiver can slay your lusts. Do no encounter sin with confidence in your own strength, for you are but a feather before a whirlwind.
Rule 8: Take heed of suffering sin to remain long in your heart without control, but labor to mortify it in its very first motions. When your nature first begins to close with a sin, then labor to root it out; for it’s easier to keep sin out of our souls than it is to drive out sin once it has gotten into our hearts. Sin is like a serpent, which, if he can but get his head into any place, he will soon wind in his whole body…Sin is like the overflowing of a mighty river: once the water has made a breach in the bank, if it is not presently stopped, it will soon overflow the whole meadow. If we let sin alone in its first motions, it will quickly overrun the whole man.
Rule 9: When you have, through the strength of Christ, mortified one sin or resisted one temptation, do not sit down and think your work is done, but expect another combat. Your corruption will come afresh upon you again…Though you have cut off one lust today, it may be that another will spring out tomorrow.
How May I Know If I Am in a State of Mortification?
How may I know whether the Lord has brought me into a state of mortification or not?…It may be that some of you are very desirous to be satisfied in it, so I shall give you six revealing characteristics of it and go over them very briefly. Would you know whether God has brought you into a state of mortification or not?
1. You may know it by this characteristic: if you are now more fearful of running into occasions and opportunities of sin than you have been in times past, this is an argument that you are a mortified man. An unmortified heart is bold and venturous and will rush upon occasions of sin, whereas a mortified heart is very careful to avoid all occasions of evil.
One compares a mortified man to a dove or partridge. Now such as use that game of hawking report that such an innate fear and dread doves or partridges have of the hawk that they not only fear the hawk but the very feathers of it. So a mortified man not only fears a downright sin, but also anything that may be a provocation or inlet to a sin. Now if this holy fear of displeasing and offending God is found in you, I may safely pass this sure judgment upon you: you are a mortified man when you are in such a gracious frame and temper of spirit as that in Jude 23, when you hate the garment spotted with the flesh…
2. Another discovery is this: when an occasion of committing a sin is openly offered to a man, along with concurring circumstances that might provoke him to that sin, yet he will restrain and bridle his appetite and will not commit that sin. This is a sign of a truly mortified heart, and if God has brought you into such a frame, He has thor-oughly mortified your corruptions.
Beloved, an unmortified man may abstain from a sin when there is no opportunity or occasion offered to commit that sin. But this is an argument of a mortified heart: though all occasions for acting a sin concur, yet he will abstain from it…Joseph in Genesis 39:9…had a fair occasion offered him to commit the sin of adultery. He had opportunity, for he and his mistress were alone. He had importunity, for she urged and solicited him from day to day to do it. He had secrecy, too, for the text says that the doors were shut. There was none but the two of them in the house. He might have gotten a great deal of preferment and advantage by it, for she would have made him lord over her house. You see that here was opportunity, importunity, secrecy, and advantage. All these occasions were clearly offered and concurred to invite Joseph to the sin of uncleanness. Yet, for all this, Joseph replied, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). Here you see the power of sin mortified in Joseph’s heart. Now, do you try your own hearts by this pattern, that when all occasions are offered for committing a sin, you can still say “no” to your lusts?…
3. If there is any tendency in your heart toward a greater resistance against the devil’s temptations to sin than formerly, this is a good argument that the Lord has brought you into a state of mortification. It may be that heretofore your nature was like gunpowder, apt to be in a flame upon any temptation. But now it is like green wood that will lie a great while upon the fire before it burns. So a temptation can hardly persuade you to yield to it. If it is thus with you, you have made great progress in this work of mortification.
4. If there is a fair proportion between the death of sin and the life of grace in your soul, then you are a mortified man. Beloved, the Lord’s work is not a half-work, to kill corruptions in your heart and no more; but if the Lord has savingly subdued sin in your soul, He will work a contrary work of grace in you that shall live and act in your soul. Mortification and the death of sin must come in tandem with vivification and the life of grace. So if sin is dead, grace shall live in your soul. Therefore, the Apostle joins them both together in Romans 6:11: “Reckon yourselves dead unto sin, but alive unto God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2: “For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men but to the will of God.” Here the Apostle not only enjoins us not to spend our time in fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, but to live unto God. Therefore, beloved, that is only a cessation, not a mortification of corruption, where there is a forcible restraint laid upon your lusts. They only seem to be dead, but are not so really.
5. Mortification is discovered by this characteristic: where the keeping under of any corruption is the result of a deep humiliation. The mortification that never had true humiliation preceding is but a mere cessation from sin. Your sins have never yet been truly mortified if your heart has not been truly humbled. Many men do with their sins as fencers do upon a stage: sometimes they give one another a slight blow or scare, but they never strike a deadly stroke. Some men will play with sin, but never give it a mortal wound. A truly mortified man is like a warrior: he will either kill or be killed. He will kill his sins or else his sin will kill him. Now examine yourselves in this: are you only fencers, to sport and play with your lusts, or are you warriors who fight with an implacable opposition against sin? Do you only give a slight scare to sin or have you given it a deadly wound?
6. Mortification may be discovered by its breadth, for it does not consist in the killing of any one particular sin, but in striking at the root and whole body of sin. Therefore, the Apostle exhorts us to mortify our members which are on the earth—fornication, uncleanness, etc.—and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts; to keep under the whole body of sin. It is with the mortification of sin as it is with the dying of the body. You know that death is not a seizure upon the arm or leg, or any one or two members, but upon all the members of the body—all must die. So mortification is not the killing of any one member of sin, but a seizure upon the whole body of sin. The keeping under of some particular sins does not argue mortification unless you have given a mortal wound to the very body and bulk of corruption…