Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: ~ 1 Peter 2:11, 1 Peter 1:22
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. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
~ 1 Corinthians 9:27, Titus 2:12
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. ~ Ephesians 4:22, Galatians 5:24
If Ye through the Spirit Do Mortify the Deeds of the Body, Romans 8:13, by Thomas Manton.
Doctrine. That in mortifying of sin, we and the Spirit must concur. Here I shall handle,
1. The manner of this co-operation.
2. The necessity of it.
First, To state the manner of this co-operation.
1. We must know what is meant by the Spirit; it is put either for the person of the Holy Ghost, or for his gifts and graces, the new creature, or the divine nature wrought in us. The person of the Holy Ghost: Mat. xxviii. 19, ‘ Baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.’ The new nature: John iii. 6, ‘ That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The former is here intended, the uncreated Spirit or author of grace, called the ‘ Spirit of Christ,’ ver. 11. Which leadeth and guideth us in all our ways, ver. 14, which witnesseth to us, ver. 16.
2. The Spirit is the author or principal agent in this work; for he doth renew and sanctify us. We are merely passive in the first infusion of grace: Ezek. xxxv. 25, ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your filthiness.’ Eph. ii. 1, ‘You that were dead in trespasses and sins, yet now hath he quickened; ‘ but after wards we cleanse ourselves; 1 Pet. i. 22, ‘Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit. First he worketh upon us as objects; then by us as instruments; so that we concur not as co-ordinate causes, but as subordinate agents; being first purified and sanctified by him, we purge out sin yet more and more.
3. Though the Spirit be the principal author, yet we must charge ourselves with the duty. It is our work; they destroy all human industry and endeavour, that make mortification to be nothing else but an apprehension that sin is already slain by Christ; no, it is charged on us: Col. iii. 5, ‘ Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth. And it is our act, or else we can have no comfort in it. Gal. v. 24, they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof; ‘ and 2 Cor. vii. 1 , ‘ Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Under the law, the leper was first to be cleansed by the priest, and afterwards to wash himself in running water, and shave his hair, Levit. xiv. 8. After being sprinkled by the priest, the necessary ceremony, he himself was to wash. The ceremonies which the priest used are considerable, therefore I shall explain them a little. Two sparrows were to be taken, and one of them killed in an earthen vessel over running water; the other after he was dipped in the blood of the sparrow that was killed, let loose in the open field, to fly up in the air as it were in the sight of God. There was a notable mystery couched under this type; for the bird killed over the running water signified the death of Christ, accompanied with the sanctification of the Spirit, typed by the running water, the only means to cleanse us from our leprosy; and the bird that was let go alive, having his wings sprinkled with blood, signifieth the intercession of Christ, who is gone with blood to the mercy-seat; and we are told that Christ came not by water only, but by water and blood.
No other bath for spiritual leprosy but water and blood, the merit of Christ’s sacrifice and intercession; and the Spirit of grace to heal our natures. But after all this, the man was to wash himself; which figured endeavours that God’s people should use to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
4. It being our duty, we must use the means which tend to mortification. For to dream of a mortification which shall be wrought in us without our consent or endeavours, as well whilst we are sleeping, as whilst we are waking, is to delude ourselves with a vain fancy. No, we must set a careful watch over our thoughts, affections, and works. The Spirit’s operation doth license no man to be idle; we must join with him, and obey him in his strivings against the flesh-; for the Spirit worketh not on a man as a dead thing, which hath no principle of activity in himself. Therefore those that, upon the Spirit’s doing all, will lie idle, abuse the Spirit, who both urgeth us to the duty, and quickeneth us to the use of means, or stirreth us up to use our endeavours, that the end may be obtained. Otherwise we neither obey the Spirit, nor desire the benefit. We do not obey the Spirit; for he doth first sanctify us, then quicken us to use the means, and blesseth the means so used; and we do not desire the benefit; it is but a wish, not a desire; a velleity, not a volition: as Prov. xiii. 4, the soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing, because his hands refuse to labour.’ Many a man hath wishes that he could leave his sins, especially when he thinketh of the shame and punishment; as many an incontinent person, adulterer, glutton, or drunkard, hath a wish to part with his sin, but not a will; for he doth not seriously strive against it, his love to it remaineth unconquered and unbroken. Well then, let us see how far we have gained the point in hand: First, every Christian must determine that the flesh must be mortified; secondly, mortified it must be by us, every man must mortify his own flesh; thirdly, that mortified it cannot be by us without the Spirit; the Spirit will not without us, and we cannot without the Spirit, neither when we are first to begin this work, nor can we carry it on without his assistance.
5. The Spirit mortifieth sin in us, as a Spirit of light, life, and love.
[1.] As a Spirit of light, affecting the soul with a sight and sense of sin, so as we groan under the burden of it. Nothing cometh to the heart but by the understanding; conviction maketh way for compunction, and compunction for a detestation and hatred of sin; and detestation and hatred, for the destruction and expulsion of it. Sin is always loathsome, but we have not always eyes to see it. When we look upon it through Satan’s spectacles, or the cloud of our own passions and corrupt affections, we make nothing of it; it seemeth lovely, rather than loathsome to us. But when the Spirit anointeth our eyes with his eye-salve, it is the most hateful thing to the soul, that can be imagined. Jer. xxxi 18, ‘ After I was instructed, I smote upon the thigh, yea, I was ashamed, and confounded.’ We see sin to be another manner of thing than ever we thought it before. Ps. cxix. 108, ‘ Through thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way. When the heart is thoroughly possessed of the evil of sin, we dare not dandle and indulge, or pass it over as a thing of nought. Fear of punishment may suspend the act of sin, but the sight of the evil of it doth help to mortify the root.
[2.] As a Spirit of life; for Jesus Christ to all his seed is a quickening Spirit, 1 Cor. xv. 45. We have life natural from Adam, but life spiritual and eternal from Christ, and that by the Spirit; for we are said to be born again of the Spirit, John iii. 5. The Spirit reneweth us, and maketh us partakers of the life and likeness of God, Titus, iii. 5. Now when this life is infused, there is an opposite principle set up in us to subdue the lusts of the flesh, and also to prevent the power of the objects of sense, which serve and feed them; for the flesh doth obstruct the operations of this new life, and cross the tendency of it. The operations of this new life are obstructed by the flesh; ‘ for (Gal. v. 17.) the flesh lusteth against the Spirit;’ and life is sensible of what annoyeth it. The operations of it are the serving and pleasing of God: Gal. v. 25, ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.’ And we see a weight hanging upon us, and sin doth easily beset us, that we cannot serve God with that liberty, purity, and delight, that we desire. And therefore this is an heavy grievance and burden to the new nature, that we desire to get rid of it by all means, and labour, and strive in it, and that with good effect A new life also hath a tendency; as soon as it is infused it discovereth itself by its tendency to its end and rest, which is God and heaven; so the objects of sense have the less force and power upon us. Well then, the flesh is an enemy to this new life, and this new life an enemy to it, as having contrary operations and tendencies. Now how doth this new life discover its enmity? Partly by complaining of it, as a sore burden and annoyance: Rom. vii. 24, ‘ wretched man that I am. who shall deliver me from this body of death? ‘ Paul was whipped, scourged, imprisoned, exercised with many vexations and sorrows; but the relics of the corruption were his greatest burden. Not, When shall I come out of these afflictions? but, Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Partly, by endeavours and skiving against it. There may be some dislike of sin in a natural heart, for conscience will sometimes take God’s part, and quarrel against our lusts; otherwise a wicked man could not be self-condemned, and hold the truth in unrighteousness; but checks of conscience are distinct things from the repugnancies of a renewed heart; a wicked man’s conscience telleth him he should do otherwise, when his heart inclineth him to do so still. But a renewed heart hateth sin, and therefore there is a constant earnest endeavour to get it subdued; and doth watch, pray, plead for God; use means; dare not rest in sin, or live in sin. Yea, also prevail against it so far, that the heart is never turned away from God to sin: 1 John iii 9, ‘Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.’ His heart cannot easily be brought to it; he looketh upon it as a monstrous incongruity: Gen. xxxix. 9, ‘ How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? ‘ 2 Cor. xiii. 8, ‘ For we can do nothing against the truth; ‘ and Acts iv. 20, ‘ For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. There is a natural cannot, and a moral cannot; the natural cannot is an utter impossibility; the moral cannot is a great absurdity; the new life breedeth such an aversion of heart and mind from sin, such constant rebukes and dislikes of the new nature. A child of God is never in a right posture, till he doth look upon sin not only as contrary to his duty, but his nature; they have no satisfaction in themselves till it be utterly destroyed.
[3.] As a Spirit of love. The great work of the Spirit is to reveal the love of God to us, and to recover our love to God; for the Spirit cometh to us as the Spirit of Christ, by virtue of his redemption. Now the infinite goodness and love of God doth shine most brightly to us in the face of our Redeemer; in the great things which he hath done and purchased for us, and offered to us, we have the fullest expression and demonstration of the love of God, which we are capable of, and which is most apt to kindle love in us to God again: Rom. v. 8, ‘ God commendeth his love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;’ and 1 John ii. 1, 2, ‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not; and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’ And Eph iii. 18, 19, ‘ That you may be rooted and grounded in love, and comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and may know the love of Christ which passeth all knowledge.’ Now the Spirit attending this dispensation, surely his great work and office is to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts, Rom. v. 5; and Gal. iv. 6, ‘ Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father; ‘ that being persuaded of God’s fatherly love, we may love him again, and study to please him. Therefore nothing doth stir us up against sin, so much as the sense of God’s love in Christ. Shall sin live, which is so contrary to God? Shall I take delight in that which is a grief to his Holy Spirit? cherish that which Christ came to destroy? live to myself, who am so many ways obliged to God? Displease my Father to gratify the flesh? Alas. how many read and hear of this, who are no way moved into an indignation against sin. It is not the love of God called to mind by a few cold thoughts of ours, that worketh so, but the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit. That melts the heart, maketh us ashamed of our unkindness to God, and stirreth up an hatred against sin.
6. After conversion, and the Spirit’s becoming a spirit of light, life, and love to us; after grace is put into our hearts to weaken sin, still we need the help of the Spirit. Partly, because habitual grace is a created thing; and the same grace that made us new creatures, is necessary to continue us so. For no creature can be good independently, without the influence of the prime good; all things depend in esse, conservare, operari, on him that made them. ‘ In him we live, and move, and have our being,’ Acts xvii. 28. If God suspend his influence, natural agents cannot work, as the fire cannot burn, as in the case of the three children; much less voluntary. And if there be this dependence in natural things, much more in supernatural, Phil ii. 12, 13. Will and deed are from God; first principles of operation, and final accomplishment. Partly, because in the very heart there is great opposition against it; there is flesh still, the warring law, Rom. vii. 23, Gratia non totaliter satiat; the cure is not total as yet, but partial; therefore they need the Spirit to guide, and quicken, and strengthen them. Partly, as it meeteth with much opposition within, so it is exposed to temptations without. Satan watcheth all advantages against us; and the soul is strangely deluded by the treachery of the senses, and the revolt of the passions, and our corrupt inclinations, when temptations assault us; so that unless we have seasonable relief, how soon are we overtaken or overborne. Adam had habitual grace, but gave out at the first assault. A city besieged, unless it be relieved, compoundeth and yieldeth; so without the supply of the Spirit, we cannot stand out in the hour of trial: Eph. iii. 16, ‘That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.’
Secondly. The necessity of this concurrence and co-operation,
1. Of the Spirit with us.
2. We by the Spirit.
1. Of the Spirit’s work. We cannot, without the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body.
[1.] From the state of the person who is to be renewed and healed. A Dinner lying in a state of defection from God, one that hath lost original righteousness, averse from God; yea, an enemy to him, prone to all evil, weak, and dead to all spiritual good; how can such an one renew and convert himself? There is no sound part left in us to mend the rest. It is true he hath reason left, and some confused notions and apprehensions of good and evil; but the very apprehensions are maimed and imperfect; and we often call evil good, and put good for evil, Isa. v. 20. However to choose the one and leave the other, that is not in our power. We may have some loose desires of spiritual favours, especially as apprehended under the quality of a felicity or natural good, and as separated from the means: Numb xxiii. 10, ‘0 that I might die the death of the righteous. and my last end be like his.’ They may long for the death of the righteous, though loath to live their life; but these desires are neither truly spiritual, nor serious, nor constant, nor laborious; so that if we consider what man is in his natural estate, blind in his mind, perverse in his will, rebellious in his affections; this work can only be wrought by the Spirit of God. Will a nature that is wholly carnal, ever resist and overcome the flesh? But so we are by nature, John iii. 6. Can flesh destroy itself? Can a man of himself be brought to abhor what he dearly loveth; and he that drinketh in iniquity like water, be brought to loathe sin, and expel, and drive it from him? On the other side, will he be brought to love what he abhorreth? There is enmity to the law of God in a carnal heart, till grace remove it, Rom. viii. 7. Can we that are worldly, and wholly governed by sense, look for all our happiness in an unseen world, till we receive another spirit? The scripture will tell you, No: 1 Cor. ii. 12, 14, ‘ Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given us of God; but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. And 2 Pet. i. 9, he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off.’ What man of his own accord will deny present things, and lay up his hopes in heaven? Can a stony heart of itself become tender, or a dead heart quicken itself, or a filthy heart cleanse itself, bring a clean thing out of an unclean? It cannot be.
[2.] The honour of our Redeemer requireth that our whole and entire recovery to God should be ascribed to him. Not part only, as our freedom from guilt, while the power of sin is subdued and broken by ourselves. Renewing grace is his gift, as well as reconciling grace; and we can no more convert ourselves to God, than we can reconcile ourselves to him; both go together; both are obtained by the same merit; and both are received from the same hand: Act v. 31, Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a prince and a saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins; ‘ and 1 Cor. vi. 11, ‘ And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. As by the virtue of his blood and sufferings he reconciled us to God; so by the almighty power of his grace, he doth cure and heal our natures, and imprint God’s image upon our souls. The work of redemption would have ceased for ever if Christ had not paid our ransom for us, Ps. xlix. 8. So the work of renovation: Job. xiv. 4, 1 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. Surely Christ hath purchased this grace, and purchased it into his own hands, not into another’s; and sendeth forth his conquering and prevailing Spirit to bring back the souls of men to God. This work must not be disparaged, or looked upon as a low, natural, common thing; for this is to lessen the benefit of the new creation, which is so much magnified in scripture.
2. The necessity of our co-operation, ‘ If we by the Spirit.’
[1.] We may:
[2.] We must.
[1.] We may. God hath given us gifts which are not in vain, the Christ is pure. Love, which looketh backward or forward, ‘teacheth us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts.’ Tit. ii. 11-14. So that we may, or can, if we be not wanting to ourselves, do something to the crucifying of the flesh. Certainly after regeneration, we are or may be active; otherwise there would be no difference between the renewed and the carnal, and some of God’s best gifts would be in vain. You are to improve the death of Christ to embitter sin to you by his sufferings; to improve the grace received; to pray for the supply of the Spirit; to retrench the provisions of the flesh; to walk as in the sight of God, and prepare for a better world; to maintain a constant conflict with sin, and watch over all your ways. There are means of grace appointed to weaken sin; as the word, and sacraments, and many providences, which might be of great use to you if you did improve them.
J.] We must. For two reasons, —
(1) That God may apply himself to us in our way.
(2.) That we may apply ourselves to God, and meet him in his way.
(1.) That God may apply himself to us in our way. God being our creator, doth preserve the liberty of his workmanship; he applieth himself to every creature according to the nature of it, so as to improve it, not destroy it; he offereth no violence to our natural faculties, but super-addeth grace; draweth, that we may run, Cant i. 4; not hoisteth up, as dead things by pulleys and engines. The will is not compelled, but overcome by the sweet efficacy of grace; being actuated by God, we act under God; that is, by our own voluntary motion, and in a way of operation proper to us. I say, God influenceth all things according to their natural inclination; he enlighteneth by and with the sun, burneth by and with the fire; reasoneth with man; acts necessarily with necessary causes, and freely with free causes; draweth us with the cords of a man, Hos. xi. 4. Now we pervert this order, if we lie upon the bed of ease, and cry, ‘ Christ must do all.’ Christ that doth all for you, doth all in you, and by you; he propoundeth reasons which we must consider, and so betake ourselves to a godly course; he show- th us our lost estate, the possibility of salvation by Christ, sweetly inviting us to accept of grace, that he may pardon our sins, sanctify our natures, and lead us in the way of holiness to eternal life.
(2.) That we may meet with God in his way. He hath appointed certain duties to convey and apply this grace; we are to lie at the pool, till the waters be stirred; to continue our attendance upon God with all diligence and seriousness, till he giveth grace. Mar. iv. 24, ‘And he said unto them, Take heed what you hear; with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you; and unto you that hear, shall more be given.’ God will have believers bestir and put forth themselves, and lie will help them in and by their own endeavours. We must not idly think that grace will drop to us out of the clouds; he was an evil and a slothful servant that did not improve his talent. To neglect duty is to resist grace, and to run away from our strength. God hath promised to be with us, while we are doing; therefore we are to wait for this power in the use of all holy means, that our corruption may be subdued and mortified.
The Use. Is to exhort, with all diligence, to set about the mortifying the deeds of the body, by the Spirit.
Two things I shall press you to;
1. Improve the death of Christ.
2. A right carriage towards the Spirit.
1. Improve the death of Christ. For the term, mortify, or crucify, often used in this matter, respects Christ’s death; and everywhere the scripture showeth that the death of Christ is of excellent use for the mortifying of sin. I shall single out a few places: Gal. ii. 20, ‘ I am crucified with Christ. Three propositions included: 1. Christ crucified. 2. Paul crucified. 3. With Christ. It doth not imply any fellowship with him in the acts of his mediation; there Christ was alone; only that the effects of his death were accomplished in him, a participation of the benefits of his mediation. So Rom. vi. 6, ‘ Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin may be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Then was there a foundation laid for the destruction of sin, when Christ died; then was the merit interposed, or price paid, and the obligation laid upon us to mortify it. Something there was to be done on God’s part; the body of sin was to be destroyed, which intimateth the communicating of his Spirit of grace to weaken the power and life of sin; and something done on our part, that henceforth we should not serve sin. There was a time when we served sin; but being converted, we must change masters, and betake ourselves to another service, which will be more comfortable and profitable to us. One place more: 1 Pet. iv. 1, ‘ Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin. That is, since Christ hath suffered for you, you must follow and imitate him in suffering also, or dying with him, namely, in dying to sin, as he died for sin; or mortifying our lusts and passions. For Pet. iv 1, ‘For one that hath suffered in the flesh’, or is crucified in his carnal nature, it hath not respect to suffering afflictions, but mortifying sins; for it is presently added, he hath ceased from sin,’ given over that course of life; so that he should no longer live the rest of his life in the flesh to the lusts of men, but the will of God. He inferreth the obligation of this correspondence and conformity from Christ’s dying. From all these places we collect:
 It is an obligation. This was Christ’s end, and we must not put our Redeemer to shame: 1 John iii. 8, ‘ For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil; ‘ that the interest of the devil might be destroyed in us, and the interest of God set up with glory and triumph. Shall I go about to frustrate his intention, or make void the end of his death? cherish that which Christ came to destroy? tie those cords the faster, which he came to unloose? By professing his name, we bind ourselves to die to sin: Rom. vi. 2, ‘ How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?’ not ab impossibili, but ab incongruo.
[2.] That the death of Christ was a lively and effectual pattern of our dying to sin. For the glory of God, and our salvation, Christ died a painful, shameful, accursed death. Now we must crucify sin, Gal. v. 24; be crucified to the world, Gal. vi. 14. That is to say, Christ denied himself for us, and we must deny ourselves for him; he suffered pain for us, that we should willingly digest the trouble of mortification, and suffer in the flesh, in our carnal nature, as he did in the human nature.
(1.) The death of Christ was an act of self-denial; he pleased not himself, Rom. xv. 3; minded not the interest of that nature he had assumed; parted with his life in the flower of his age, when he had most cause to love it. And will you part with nothing, make it your business to please the flesh, and gratify the flesh? He loved you, and gave himself for you, and will not you give up your lusts?
(2.) The death of Christ was an act of pain and sorrow. Of all deaths, crucifixion is the most painful and shameful. Sinful nature is not extinguished in us without trouble; as sin is rooted in self-love, self-denial is a check to it; as this self-love is mainly a love of pleasure, or the delight we take in sin, so the pains of Christ’s death check it. Shall we wallow in fleshly delights, when Christ was a man of sorrows? Christ’s sufferings are the best glass wherein to view sin. Will you take pleasure in that which cost him so dear? He was mocked, spit upon, buffeted; he bare the shame due to our vain conversation; a malefactor was preferred before him. Therefore when you remember Christ’s death, you learn how to deal with sin. The Jews would not hear of Christ’s being king: Away with him; ‘ ‘we have no king but Caesar. Such an holy indignation should there be in a renewed soul: Rom. vi. 12, ‘Let not sin reign therefore in your mortal bodies, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.’ Let it not king it; we have no king but Christ.
(3.) It was a price paid, that we might have grace. Every true Christian is a partaker of the fruits of Christ’s death; and one fruit is, that we might die unto sin: 1 Pet. ii. 24, ‘ Who his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead unto sin should live unto righteousness. This is communicated to us by the Spirit; he bought sanctification as well as other privileges: Eph. v. 25, 2, As Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. And Tit. ii. 14, ‘ Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.’ 1 Pet. i. 18, redeemed us from our vain conversations. We are ready to say, ‘ I shall never get rid of this naughty heart, renounce these sensual and worldly affections; ‘ our hearts are so wedded to the interests of the flesh; but, Mat. xix. 26, ‘ With God all things are possible.
2. Carry it well to the Spirit.
[1.] Believe that the Holy Ghost is your sanctifier, and resign up yourselves to him as such, that he may recover your souls to God. This is but fulfilling our baptismal vow: Mat. xxviii. 19, ‘Go baptize all nations, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To God the Father as your lord and happiness; to Christ as your redeemer and saviour; to the Holy Ghost as your guide, comforter, and sanctifier. We renew this consent in the Lord’s Supper, that we may bind our selves the faster to him, to submit to his spiritual discipline, that our cure may be wrought in us.
[2.] You must obey his sanctifying motions, for otherwise this resignation was in vain; therefore we must faithfully endeavour, by the power and help which he giveth us, to mortify sin. We must strive against sin, and we must strive with them. To strive against him and resist him, argueth great profaneness, Gen. vi. 3; Acts vii. 51; not to strive with him, much neglect and laziness. You must strive with your hearts, when the Spirit is striving with you; and take the season of his special help. It is not at our command, for ‘the wind bloweth as it listeth; ‘ take it when you have it. It is an offence to the Spirit, when the flesh is obeyed before him; men are easily entreated by sin, but deaf to his motions.
[3.] Use the appointed means by which the Spirit worketh. There are means of obtaining the Spirit at first, by the word and prayer. The Spirit is conveyed by some doctrine; for God’s operative power is applied to man as a reasonable creature, not for necessity. For the word: Gal. iii. 2, ‘ Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or the hearing of faith? ‘ So for prayer: If not for friendship’s sake, Luke xi. 8, 13, yet because of his importunity. ‘If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask it? ‘ Beg it of God, upon the account of Christ, Titus iii. 5, 6. But we speak now of another thing, not the gift of the Spirit at first, but the supply of the Spirit. It is gotten the same way; the Spirit joineth his power and efficacy with the proper instituted means, the word, which is the sword of the Spirit, Eph. vi. 17. This sword was made by the Spirit: Holy men spake as moved by the Holy Ghost. Used by the Spirit to vanquish Satan: 1 John ii. 14, ‘ And the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. It is used for the defence of the better part; the sword of the flesh is the excessive love of pleasures, some carnal bait. And by it the power of the Holy Ghost came upon us: Acts x. 44, ‘ While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word; ‘ a spirit of sobriety, godliness, meekness, and the fear of the Lord. We cannot make use of this sword, without the Spirit: 1 Pet. i. 22, seeing ye have purified your souls, in obeying the truth through the Spirit. So sacraments: 1 Cor. xii. 13, ‘And have been all made to drink into one Spirit. Prayer; looking up to God who helpeth us in our conflicts; openeth their ears to discipline; and commandeth that they return from iniquity, Job xxxvi. 10; and breaketh the yokeless disposition and opposition in our hearts.
[4.] To forbear those wilful sins, which grieve the Spirit: Eph. iv. 30, Grieve not the Spirit;’ 1 Thes. v. 19, ‘Quench not the Spirit;’ do not provoke him to withdraw his assistance from us; as David was sensible of his misery: Ps. li. 10, 11, 12, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within mo; cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me; restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me by thy free Spirit.’
The first use is information.
1. To show the lawful use of threatenings. 2. The folly of two sorts of people.
[1.] Of those that will rather venture this death, than leave their sinful pleasures.
[2.] Those that would reconcile God and flesh, God and the world.
1. The lawful use of threatenings.
Threatenings are necessary during the law of grace. Two arguments I shall give for the proof thereof:
(1.) If threatenings were needful to Adam in the state of innocency and perfection, much more are they useful now, when there is such a corrupt inclination within, and so many temptations without; in the best there is a double principle and many inordinate lusts, that we need the strongest bridle and curb to suppress them.
(2.) If Christ came to verify God’s threatenings, surely God hath some use of them now; but so it is, the devil would represent God as a liar in his comminations: Gen. iii. 4, ‘ Ye shall not surely die.’ Christ came to confute the tempter, and would die rather than the devil’s reproach of God’s threatenings should be found true; surely this is to check thoughts of iniquity.
[1 1 The folly of two sorts of people.
[1.] Of those that will rather venture this death than leave their sinful pleasures, and live a holy life. Carnal men think no life so happy as theirs, being escaped out of of religion and bonds of conscience, in the apostle’s expression, ‘free from righteousness,’ Rom. vi. 20. Whereas the truth is, none are more miserable; for they carry it so, as if they were in love with their own death- Prov. viii. 36, ‘He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul, and they that hate me, l6ve death.’ You hazard soul and body, and all that is near and dear to you, for a little carnal satisfaction; for the present you get nothing but the guilt of conscience, hardness of heart, and the displeasure of the eternal God; and for the future, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, when the body and soul shall be cast into hell-fire. Consider this before it be too late; there is no man goeth to hell or heaven, but with violence to conscience or lusts; those that go to hell offer violence to their conscience.
[2.] Those that would reconcile God and flesh, God and the world, and secure their interest in both; that hope to please the flesh, and yet to be happy hereafter for all that; would keep up a profession of godliness, while they live in secret league with their lusts. God will not halve it with the world, nor part stakes with the flesh; you cannot please the flesh, and enjoy God too; for you have but one happiness; if you place it in contenting the flesh, you cannot have it in the fruition of God: ‘Their end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and who mind earthly things,’ Phil. iii. 19. Worldly pleasures will end in eternal torments; and so much delight, so much more will your torments be, for contraries are punished with contraries: Kev. viii. 7, ‘How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much sorrow give her.’ Therefore, so much as you gratify the flesh, so much you endanger the soul. Will you, for a little temporal satisfaction, run the hazard of God’s eternal wrath?
The second use is to dissuade you from this course. To this end I shall lay down some motives, and some means.
1. Motives are these.
[1.] You think the flesh is your friend, do all that you can to please it; whereas indeed it is your greatest enemy. That it is one of your enemies is clear, by that place where all our enemies appear abreast, Eph. ii. 2, 3. There is ‘the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air,’ and our own flesh. If there were never a devil to tempt, or example to follow, yet, out of the heart proceed (Mat. xv. 19,) murder, adultery, theft, blasphemy.’ Among other things he reckoneth up murder, which striketh at the life of man; and blasphemy, which striketh at the being of God. If the devil should stand by and say nothing, there is enough within us to put us upon all manner of evil; other enemies would do us no harm, without our own flesh. Corruption may be irritated by God’s law, Rom. vii. 9; we may be tempted to sin by Satan, 1 Cor. vii. 5; encouraged to sin by the example and the evil conversations of others, Isa. ix. 16; enticed to sin by the baits of the world, 2 Pet. i. 4; but only inclined to sin by our own flesh; and at length no man is a sinner but by his own consent: Jam. i. 14, ‘He is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed.’ In vain do temptations knock at the door, if there were nothing within to make answer and admit them; if we could keep ourselves from ourselves, there were no danger from what is without; as Balaam by all his curses and charms could do nothing against the Israelites till he found out a way to corrupt them by whoredom, and by whoredom to draw them to idolatry; and so found a means to destroy them by themselves. So it is the domestic enemy, the flesh within us, which maketh us a prey to Satan, and doth us mischief upon all occasions; it is the flesh distracts us in holy duties with vain thoughts, and abateth our fervours; that maketh us idle in our callings; that tempts to sensuality and inordinate delight when we are repairing nature; and turneth our table into a snare, so that nature is rather oppressed than refreshed for God’s service. It is the flesh maketh us forget our great end, and the eternal interests of our immortal souls.
[2.] The more you indulge the flesh, the more it is your enemy, and the more your slavery and bondage is increased; so that still you grow more brutish, forgetful of God, and unapt for any spiritual use. By using to please the flesh, you do increase its desires, and know not at length how to deny it, and displease it; by being made a wanton, it groweth stubborn and contumacious. The more you gratify the flesh, the more inordinate it groweth, and the more unreasonable things it craveth at your hands; therefore you must hold a hard hand upon it at first. Through too much indulgence the reins are loosened to sin, and the enemy is heartened, and our liberty is every day more and more lost. Solomon was fearfully corrupted when he withheld not his heart from any joy: Eccles. ii. 10. This brought him to a lawless excess, and to fall so foully as he did; if you give corrupt nature its full scope, and use pleasures with too free a license, the heart is insensibly corrupted, and our very diseases and distempers become our necessities. Solomon saith (Prov. xx-ix. 21), ‘He that delicately bringeth up a servant, shall have him become a son at length; ‘ he will no more know his condition, but grow bold and troublesome. We are all the worse for license; therefore unless natural desires feel fetters and prudent restraints, they grow unruly; therefore that the flesh may not grow masterly, it is good to bridle it. To deny ourselves nothing, bringeth a greater snare upon the soul, and distempers are more rooted: 1 Cor. vi. 12, ‘I will not be brought under the power of any creature.’ A man is brought into vassalage and bondage, and cannot help it.
[3.] The engagement that is upon Christians to abhor carnal living. By their solemn baptismal vow, which obligeth us to take this yoke of Christ upon ourselves, even to tame and subdue the flesh: Col. iii. 3, 5, ‘ Mortify your members which are upon earth.’ All are strictly bound to mortify the deeds of the body, under pain of damnation; kings as well as subjects, nobles and base; for God is no accepter of persons; no man of what degree soever can presume of an exemption from the duty, or hope for a dispensation. We are all debtors, and this duty taketh place as soon as we come to the use of reason; we all then begin to feel the corruption and imperfection of nature; and we are bound to look after the cure of it, and to use all Christ’s healing means that it may be effected. Then we begin to perceive the enemies against whom we are to fight, and a necessity laid upon us of killing them, or being killed by them. It is our great fault that we made conscience of our solemn vow no sooner; surely we could no longer dispute it now: 1 Pet. iv. 3 ‘For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we lived in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelling, banquetmgs, and abominable idolatries.’ But set about the work, and undertake the battle against the devil, the world, and the flesh. Your first enemy is the old man; and it is the last, for it is not extinguished in us till death; therefore as soon as we pass out of infancy into youth, we must look upon ourselves under this obligation, not to live after the flesh, but after the Spirit; to weaken the corruption of nature more and more. There was but one man and no more, who was first good and afterwards bad; and that was the first Adam. Another there is, who was never bad, but always good’; and that was Christ Jesus, the second Adam, our Lord, blessed for ever. Of all the rest, none proved good that was not sometimes bad; the apostle saith, ‘ first that which was natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual.’ It is true, here first we put off a corrupt nature before we are renewed; the duty lieth upon us by our baptismal engagement, though Christ supplieth the grace.
[4.The qualities of a Christian, or his condition in the world, engageth him not to live after the flesh. I shall mention two: as they are strangers and pilgrims, or as they are racers and wrestlers. First, Sometimes it is pressed upon them as they are strangers and pilgrims, who have no continued abode: 1 Pet. ii. 11, ‘I beseech you?> as pilgrims and strangers, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.’ You are, or should be, travelling into another country, where are the spirits of just men made perfect, and where even this body of ours will become a spiritual body; and for you to please the flesh is contrary to your Christian hopes. Nothing so unsuitable for them that are going to Canaan as to hanker after the flesh-pots of Egypt; nothing is so contrary to our profession, and breedeth such an unreadiness to depart out of the world, as these vain delights; therefore if you be strangers and pilgrims, you should not lust after worldly things, lest you forget or forfeit your great hopes. Secondly, you are racers or wrestlers: 1 Cor. ix. 24, ‘ Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? so run that you may obtain.’ They that exercised in the Isthmian games had a prescribed set diet both for quality and quantity, and had their rule chalked out to them; they knew their work and their reward; so v. 27, ‘ 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 cast-away; ‘ that is, denied himself those liberties which otherwise he might enjoy, having prescribed to others the way of striving and getting the victory. They for an oaken or olive crown dieted themselves, kept themselves from all things which should hurt them, or disable them in the race or combat; and should we cocker every appetite, that have an eternal crown of glory in view and pursuit? Our danger is greater if we should miscarry and miss of it; theirs, the loss of a little vain glory; ours, of eternal glory; therefore we should strive that we be not found unworthy to receive it. There the victory was uncertain; here all that are runners may be sure of the crown.
[5.] Consider the malignant influence of the flesh, and how pernicious it is to the soul. If it were a small thing we spake to you about, you might refuse to give ear; but it is in a case of life and death, and that not temporal but eternal. We can tell you of many present and temporal inconveniences that come by the flesh. The body, the part gratified, is in many oppressed by it: Prov. v. 11, ‘ Thou shalt mourn .at last, when thy flesh and body is consumed.’ It betrayeth you to such sins as suck your bones and devour your strength, and give your years to the cruel; to such enormities and scandalous practices as bring infamy and a blot upon your name. Pleasing the flesh maketh one turn a drunkard, and the very sin carrieth its own punishment with it; a second, a wanton; a third, a glutton; a fourth, a hard-hearted worldling; and all these sins waste the conscience, and debase the body, and spend our wit, time, strength, and estates. But we have a more powerful argument to present to you; it will be the eternal loss and ruin of your souls. There will a day come when you shall be called to an account for all your vain delights and pleasures: Eccles. xi. 9, rejoice, young man, in thy youth, and let thine heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine own heart, and in the sight of thine own eyes; but know that for all these things God will bring thee to judgment.’ The young man is cited before the tribunal of God, and we think somewhat must be allowed to that age, before men have learned by experience to contemn pleasures, and the young man is spoken to in his own dialect. Let his wanton and wandering eye inflame the lusts of his heart, and smother his conscience by all manner of sensual delight; yet at length he will know the folly of this to his bitter cost. These things whiuh are now so pleasing to the senses shall gnaw and sting his conscience, when God, whom he now forgetteth, shall bring him to the judgment, and he shall have nothing to plead for his brutish folly.
[6.] What vile unthankfulness it is, and a great abuse of that liberty which we have by Christ: Gal. v. 13, ‘ Ye are called to liberty, only use it not as an occasion to the flesh. We have a great liberty to use our worldly comforts, with a respect to God’s glory, and as encouragements of God’s service, and for the sweetening of our pilgrimage; but it is strangely perverted when we use these things to please the flesh; you turn it into a bondage, and offer a great abuse to Jesus Christ. Surely he never died to promote the power of sin, or gave us these comforts to defeat the ends of his death. Was he a man of sorrows that we might live in pleasure? Did he suffer in the flesh to purchase us liberty to please the flesh? or die for sin, to give sin the mastery? Did the Lord vouchsafe these comforts that we might dishonour his name, or undo our own souls?
2. Means to come out of this estate and course of sin. I shall give you a few directions:
[1.] To those that never pretended to the spiritual and heavenly life, and are as yet to be drawn out of the common apostasy and defection of mankind to God. All that I shall say to them is to observe checks of conscience and motions of the Spirit, and what help is given to weaken the flesh.
(1.) Checks of conscience, however occasioned, either by a lapse into some sin, which is wont to scourge the soul with some remorse: Mat. xxvii. 4, saying ‘ I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. Conscience, working after the fact or by the conviction of the word: Acts xxiv. 25, ‘ And as he reasoned of righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to conic, Felix trembled.’ I)o not smother these checks; that breedeth atheism and hardness of heart. Suppose one, dissolutely bent, yet upon some loathsome concomitants which follow his riot and intemperance, beginneth to be troubled; God’s providence is to be observed as well as his own sin. This is a kind of softening his heart; if he revert to his old frame, the man is the worse. No iron so hard as that which hath been often heated. Water, after it hath been heated by the fire, congealeth the sooner after it is taken off. If he doth not take notice of God’s warnings, his soul is more unapt to be wrought to repentance; yea, God injustice may deprive him of those common helps: Hos. iv. 17, ‘ Let him alone; ‘ or give him up to his own heart’s counsels. It is dangerous not to make use of those intervals of reason and sober thoughts which arise in our minds.
(2.) The motions of the Holy Spirit, when he cometh to recover you from the flesh to God; and you are troubled not only with remorse for actual and heinous sins, but about your eternal estate; and are haunted with thoughts of the other world, -and urged to resolve upon the heavenly life. Surely, when the waters are stirred, we should put in for a cure, John v; when he draweth, we should run, Cant. i. 4; when he knocketh, we should open, Rev. iii. 20, and not obstruct the work of godliness, but seriously employ our thoughts about it: Acts xvi. 14, ‘ Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things that were spoken by Paul.’ We should not rebel against the motions of the Spirit, lest we grieve our sanctifier, and he forsake us, because we forsook him first, and so our hearts be hardened in a carnal course. Briefly, God doth all in our first conversion; yet these three things lie upon us; first, to observe the touches of God’s punishing and chastising hand reclaiming us from our wanderings: Ps. cxix. 59. ‘ Before I was afflicted I went astray. Secondly, To reflect upon the motions of his Spirit to draw us out of this estate, that we may not resist the Holy Ghost, Acts vii. 51. Thirdly, To examine every day what advantage the Spirit hath gotten against the flesh; how the interests of it are weakened, its lusts checked, its acts restrained, Gal. v. 16. Every one that doth seriously mind the business of his salvation cannot but see these things of great advantage to his spiritual estate; and there is no great difficulty in them to the serious soul that hath a mind to be saved.
[2.J To those that seem to be recovered, and to have a care of the spiritual life, that they may not revert to this bondage, and that the work may be more thoroughly wrought in them.
(1.) Look to the mind; take heed there be not flesh there, for the fleshly mind is a great enemy to godliness: Rom. viii. 7, ‘ The carnal mind is enmity to God; ‘ and it is a low poor mind, blinded with the love of present things: James iil 15, ‘ The wisdom that descendeth not from above is earthly, sensual, devilish;’ it hindereth us from discerning the reality of our hopes, and from having a true sense of our duty impressed upon our hearts: 1 Cor. ii. 14, ‘ But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;’ and also from applying our rule to particular cases, either in judging of our estate or in guiding of our actions. It is strange to see how the world, or the delusion of the flesh, do blind very knowing men, and how unacquainted they are with their own hearts, or unable to discern their duty in plain cases, when the performance of it is likely to be displeasing to the flesh. What strange disguises it puts upon temptation, and how they wriggle and distinguish themselves out of their duty, when either God must be disobeyed or the flesh displeased. The flesh is always partial for itself; therefore get a sound mind and this spiritual discerning.
(2.) Look to the heart, that there be no flesh there. Sinful inclinations must be observed and mortified. Satan doth observe them, and shall not we? He seeth which way the tree leaneth, and what kind of diet their soul-distempers crave, and suiteth his temptations accordingly. As the skilful angler suiteth his bait as the fishes will take it, every month: 1 Cor. vii. 5, ‘ Lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.’ He hath a bait of preferment for Absalom, for he is ambitious; a bait of pleasure for Samson, for he is voluptuous; a bait of money for Judas, for he is covetous. Thus will he furnish them with temptations answerable to their inclinations. A man by temper voluptuous esteems not profit much, nor an earth-worm pleasure, nor an ambitious man much either of them, but honour, and reputation, and great place. Now, it is sad that our enemy should know our temper better than ourselves. Your uprightness and faithfulness to God is seen in weakening your particular inclination to sin: Ps. xviii. 23, ‘ I was also upright before him, and kept myself from mine iniquity.’ Observe the decay of your master-sin, and other things will come on the more easily; fight not against small or great, but the king lust, the domineering sin. Satan is the more discouraged when we can deny our domineering lusts. As Samson’s strength lay in his locks, so doth the strength of sin in one lust more than another. Every man knoweth his darling commonly; but that which is our great care is to wean our hearts from it. Herod raged when John the Baptist touched his Herodias; Felix trembled when Paul touched his bribery and intemperance; and the young man goeth away sad when Christ discovereth his worldliness, Mark x. 22. We have all our tender parts, which we cannot endure should be touched. But now, when you are willing to part with this sin, pray, strive, and watch against it; grow in the contrary grace; it sheweth your self-denial and sincerity; you will not spare your Isaac. Well then, see that no worldly thing be too near and dear to you, and that God hath a greater interest in your heart than the flesh, or anything that belongeth to it.
(3.) Let not the senses cast off the government of reason, and be the ruling power in your souls. They were not made to govern, but to be governed, and to be subjected to God and reason. Man by the fall is inverted: Tit. iii. 3, ‘ hateful and hating one another.’ Man in his right constitution should be thus governed. The understanding and conscience prescribe to the will, the will according to right reason and conscience moveth the affections, the affections move the bodily spirits and the members of the body. But by corruption all is inverted and changed; pleasure affects the senses, the senses corrupt the fancy, the fancy the bodily spirits; they the affections; and the affections by their violence and impetuous inclination to forbidden things, move the will; and the will yielding, blindeth the mind; and so man is carried headlong to his own destruction; the feet are where the head should be, e contra. Well then, you must guide the senses, as Job made a covenant with his eyes: Job xxxi. 1. and David prayeth: Psal. cxix. 37, ‘ Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.’ They let in objects, and objects stir up thoughts, and thoughts affections, Mat. v. 28. Now take heed the. do not grow masterly; if they transmit temptations and stir up evil motions crush the scorpion on the wound.
(4.) Keep up a readiness for your work, which is to obey the will of God. It argueth some prevalency of the flesh, when our duty beginneth to grow troublesome and uneasy; therefore the spirit or the better part cannot so readily produce its operation. The soul in the right temper doth willingly and cheerfully obey God: I .John v. 3, ‘This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.’ Psal. xl. 8, ‘I delight to do thy will, my God: thy law is in my heart; ‘ and Psal. cxii. 1, ‘ Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.’ Therefore it is time for you to check the flesh, and overcome it, lest further mischief increase upon you.
(5.) Refer all things to your ultimate end; and consider whether what you do doth hinder or further you therein; for all things are to be regarded and valued as they conduce to God’s service and your salvation: Eccles. ii. 2, ‘ What doth it? ‘ 1 Cor. x. 31, ‘ Whether ye cat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, let all be done to the glory of God. Be true to your scope.
(6.) Take heed of the servitude and bondage which the flesh is wont to bring upon the soul where it reigneth. It maketh men very slaves; the heart groweth weak, and lust strong, Ezek. xvi. 30. They are not under the government of the Spirit, but under the tyranny of their fleshly lusts, doing whatever it commandeth, be it never so base, foolish, and hurtful. If anger provoke them to revenge, they must fight, kill, and slay, and hazard their worldly interest for anger’s sake, or at least cannot forgive injuries for God’s sake; if filthy lusts send them to the lewd woman, away they go like a fool to the correction of the stocks; and though they dishonour God, ruin their estates, stain their fame, hazard their lives, yet lust will have it so, and they must obey. If covetousness say they must be rich, however they get it; they rise early, go to bed late, eat the bread of sorrow, and pierce through themselves with many cares: yea, make no question of right or wrong, trample conscience under foot, cast the fear of God behind their backs, and all because their imperious mistress, ambition, urgeth them to it. If envy and malice bid Cain kill his brother, he will break all bonds of nature to do it; if ambition bid Absalom rebel against his father, and kill him too, it shall be done, or he shall want his will. If covetousness bid Achan take a wedge of gold, he will do it, though he know it to be a cursed thing; if it bid Judas betray his Lord and Master, though he knew if he should do it, it had been better he had never been born, yet he will do it. Thus they are not at their own command, to do what reason and conscience inclineth them to do. If, sensible of their bondage, they would think of God and the world to come, and the state of their souls, lust will not permit it; if to break off this sensual course, they are not able; they are servants of corruption. Some, God hangeth up in chains of darkness for a warning to the rest of the world of the power of drunkenness, gluttony, avarice and wretched worldliness; yea, of every carnal man it is true: (John viii. 34,) ‘ Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.’ Therefore if the slavery and imperious disease begin to grow upon you, the flesh hath prevailed very far, and you need more to look to it, and that betimes.
Third Use. Here is ground of trying your estate before God. It is a question you ought often seriously to put: shall I be saved, shall I be damned? ‘ If you have any spark of conscience left you, when you are sick or dying, you will put it with anxiousness and trembling of heart: ‘ Poor soul, whither art thou now a-going? ‘ It is better put it now, while you have opportunity to correct your error, if hitherto you have gone wrong. We see in worldly things, men would fain know their destiny; the king of Babylon stood upon the head of the ways to make divination; we would fain know what God hath hidden in the womb of futurity. No destiny deserves to be known so much as this; not whether I shall be poor or rich, good success in this enterprise, or bad; it is not of so great moment; these distinctions do not outlive time, but cease at the grave’s mouth; but it is a question of greater moment, Whether eternally miserable, or eternally happy? It is foolish curiosity to enquire into other things, when we have a good God to trust to; but it chiefly importeth us to consider whether we are in the way to salvation or damnation. Nothing will sooner determine this great question, than this text, ‘ 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.’ The latter branch we shall examine afterwards; now for the first clause.
1. Some live in defiance of the Spirit; cherish the flesh, fulfil the works of the flesh: Gal. v. 19. It is no subtle matter to find them out; they declare their sin as Sodom, while they are drinking, whoring, sporting, quarrelling, scoffing at godliness.
2. Others please the flesh in a more cleanly manner; but have no due regard to that spiritual and eternal happiness, which lieth in the enjoyment of God. Though their carriage be blameless and separated from the gross pollutions of the world, they care not whether God be pleased or displeased, honoured or dishonoured, angry or reconciled. And besides, the works of the flesh are not always interpreted in the gross sense, but according to the scale of the sanctuary. When he saith, adultery, fornication, murder, are works of the flesh; we must not only think of the gross acts, but the very first seeds of these sins, the secret inclinations and desires of the flesh in this kind, Mat. v. 27, 28. So lasciviousness; not the sinful attempt only, but every motion of tongue, heart, senses, by which the eyes and ears, the soul and consciences of ourselves and others may be polluted to idolatry, anger, inordinate affection of the heart to any creature, Eph. v. 5. So by murder, not only when it proceedeth to blood, but hatred, variance, strife, heresies, Mat. v. 21, 22. So in shoit, emulation, and affectation of applause, Gal. v. 26.
3. The prevalence of the divine or carnal principle must determine our condition. Now its reign is known:
[1.] By our savour, relish and taste, Rom. viii. 5. For every man’s gust is according to his constitution, which breedeth oblectation, or pleasure of mind. Now when we savour only the things of the flesh, that if it be pleased, quiets us in the want of other things, contents us in the neglect of God and his service; that we have no appetite after, or savour or relish any sweetness but in fleshly things; this is an ill sign.
[2.] By our course of walking; which is often insisted on in this chapter. There may be some blemishes in God’s children, some unevenness of obedience through the relics of the flesh; but their main, constant course, for which they labour and strive, is to approve themselves to God, and to be accepted with God, and to live in obedience to the motions of his sanctifying Spirit. But where there is a carelessness in the heavenly life, the influence of the fleshly life is most discovered in all our actions.
[3.] By our tendency and scope. When the heart is turned to, or alienated from God. The flesh reigneth if the world turn our hearts from him, and the flesh be pleased before him, and we mind our own things; we are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.