But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. ~ James 1:14-15
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 5:7- 8
Sins Overthrow, by John Preston, 1634.
This is an excerpt from the original Old English text:
SINS OVERTHROW: OR, A GODLY AND LEAR∣NED TREATISE OF Mortification.
Wherein is excellently handled; First, the generall Doctrine of MORTIFICATION: And then particularly, how to Mortifie
All being the substance of severall Sermons upon COLOS. III. V. Mortifie therefore your members, &c.
Delivered by that late faithfull Preacher, and worthy instrument of Gods glory,
JOHN PRESTON, Dr in Divinity, Chaplaine in Ordinary to his Majestie, Master of Emanuel College in Cambridge, and sometimes Preacher of Lincolnes-Inne.
How to Mortifie Evill Concupiscence.
COLOS. 3. 5.
Mortifie therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanenesse, inordinate affection, evill concupiscence, &c.
Now I should proceede to some application of this point, but because there is a third particular which hath much affinity with the two former, namely, fornication, and uncleanenesse, I will first speake of that which is here in my text, evill concupiscence.
By concupiscence men doe understand a degree of this lust of uncleanenesse, and it is an evill inclination in the power of the soule.
The Doctrine is, this evill concupiscence is one of the sinnes which are likewise to be mortified; we had neede give a reason for it, because men will hardly be persuaded to thinke it a sinne, thus it was with the Heathen, they thought there was no sinne in it.
The first reason is, If Concupiscence doe cleave unto a man, that is, evill inclinations which the soule by sinne is bent unto, then actuall sinne will follow, which is the fruit of this concupiscence: It is as a sparke of fire, which being let alone, will grow greater and greater, and like a leaven, though little at the first, yet doth it leaven the whole lumpe, so that it doth produce the works of the flesh, and therefore it is to be mortified.
The second reason is, although a man doe not fall into actuall sinne presently, after there is concupiscence in the heart, yet being unmortified, it hideth the sinne in a man, and so defiles him, and makes him proane to an evill disposition, and also to be abominable before God: Therefore mortifie concupiscence before it come to have vigour and strength in thee.
A man is said to be an evill man, when hee is distracted from good to evill, now evill concupiscence makes a man to be so.
There are evill inclinations in a good man, and yet it is by way of Antithesis, it is not his complexion and constitution to have them. Now an evill man hath concupiscence, and the same is his complexion, and constitution so to be: Therefore if evill concupiscence be not mortified, it makes a man to be bad, and in this regard wee ought to cleanse our selves from the pollution of this sinne.
The third reason is, evill concupiscence being in a man, it doth marre all his good actions. To mingle *water with wine, it makes the wine the worse; To mingle drosse with silver, it makes the silver the more impure; So evill concupiscence being in the soule of a man, it doth staine and blemish his good actions; when the string of an Instrument is out of tune; then the musick doth jarre. A man that hath strong concupiscence in him, he will desire to come to the execution of the works of them, and so it will have an influence to the effect, and will staine and blemish any good worke he goes about; so that evill concupiscence making a man to be evill, it doth blemish and staine all the good actions that man goes about, in that he doth performe them either with vaine-glory or selfe respect.
The fourth reason why evill concupiscence should be mortified, is, because that otherwise the commandements of God will be grievous unto us, 1. John 5. 3. For this is the love of God, that wee keepe his commandements, and his commandements are not grievous. The commandements of God are not onely to be kept of us, but so to be kept, that they may be delightfull unto us, Psalm. 103. 1. Blesse the Lord O my soule, and all that is within me blesse his holy name: when concupiscence doth lye in the soule of a man, in its full vigour and strength unmortified, it doth draw in him a reluctance from good duties, as when a man doth will one thing that is good, and an evill inclination doth set upon him, then the commandements of God will be grievous unto him, even as a man will be unwilling to carry a burden long.
Now I proceede to shew you three things observable * in this word concupiscence:
First, what the nature of it is.
Secondly, the sinfulnesse of it.
Thirdly, the operation or workes of it.
First, for the better understanding what it is, know that in the soule of man there is a facility, Secondly, there is an inclination, which doth adhere to the facultie, and thirdly there are actuall desires which flow from that inclination, by way of similitude, the better to conceive. First in the mouth there is a pal∣late, secondly, the desired humour, and thirdly the tast; So in the soule of man, First, there is the naturall affection, secondly, there is an inclination which is the tuneablenesse, or untuneablenesse of it, and thirdly, there is the desire, or actuall works of it.
By concupiscence is meant, the evill inclination, and the fruits of the evill inclination, and by it the habituall concupiscence, from whence the actuall desires of evill will follow. Rom. 6. 12. Let not sinne raigne in your mortall bodies, that ye should obey it in the lust thereof. First there is a sinne, secondly, the lust of that sinne, and thirdly the obedience, that is con∣sent to the sinne. There is a concupiscence that is naturall, and another that is morall. As there is a concupiscence that is bad, so is there another that is good, and a third that is neither good nor evill. There was in Christ a desire to live, though it were Gods will he should die, yet obeying, he did not sinne. On fast days we are commanded so to doe, yet the desire to taste corporall food on such a day is not sinne.
Secondly, it doeth proceed from sinne, and one sinne doth beget another, James 1. 15.
Concupiscence doth bring forth sinne, Rom. 6. 12. Let not sinne raigne in your mortall bodies (that is) Let not concupiscence: but to understand what the sinfulnesse of it is, know that sinne in speciall, is the transgression of the mo∣rall Law, any facultie that is capable of a fault, it is sinne, that is the defect of it; Man shall bee subject to reason, and reason should cause him to submit him∣selfe unto the will of God. The morall law is a rule * of action, not of habit. There is a double law, a law of action, and a law which we call that law, which God did stampe on the very Creature. Take an E∣pistle, or a learned writing that is made by art, there may be Logicke, Rhetoricke, and grammar rules brought in to confirme it; So in the law, there is a stampe & a rule, and every observation from it, is an error in it. If a man did al that is in him, used his best endevaour to subdue his evil concupiscences, & yet cannot, yet it is not sufficient for him, every man hath, or ought to have strength in him, to rule his affections.
If a master command his servant to go and doe such a thing, if the servant go and make himselfe * drunke, and then goeth about it, and cannot bring it to passe, although he does his good will for to do it, he is not to be excused, because he did loose his abilitie through his owne default; So we, God at the first did make us able for to subdue our lusts, but wee in Adam having lost the ability of our first estates, and yet may recover strength again, to sub∣due our lusts in Christ the second Adam, if wee doe it not, the fault is in our selves.
Now we proceed unto the third particular, to * shew unto you what is the operation, and working of this evill concupiscence.
It is an inordinate inclination, which doth cleave unto the faculties of the soule, and doth indispose a man to that which is good, and caries him on to that which is evill, and so long as it abides in the soule, it makes him fruitful to doe evill, and barren to doe good, so that evill actions the fruites of evill inclinations doe arise from it, even as water from the fountain, and sparkes from the fire.
Concupiscence doth conceive and bring forth sinne.
There is a different worke of concupiscence in man that is evill, and a regenerate man; In an evill man it hath dominion over him, so that all his actions and desires are sinnefull: In a good and holy man, there is concupiscence also, but it doth worke in him by way of rebellion, he beholdes it as a disease, and as an enemie unto him, and doth labour to mortifie it, he is enlightened by grace to see it as a disease, and therefore doth labour to cure it, more and more. An evill man thinkes it the best way for his happinesse, and that his chiefest good, doth consist in giving satisfaction to his concupiscences, and therefore doth labour to satisfie them, and not to cure them.
True it is God’s children, David, Peter, Solomon, & other holy men, have had concupiscences in them but yet were not domineered over by them; So long as a man doth strive against evill concupiscences, against the motions and stirrings of them, and that his owne conscience can beare him witnesse, he doeth resist them in sincerity of heart, they shall never beare sway over him: Take the best actions of a wicked man, the utmost end of them are to himselfe, and if the utmost end be bad, all hee doth must needes be bad, as for example. Th’end that a husbandman doeth ayme at in tilling of the ground and sowing of his seed corn, is to have a good harvest, and if his harvest prove bad, then all his labour is lost, though the beginnings of a thing be good, yet if the utmost end of that thing be naught, all is bad; So that the end of all things in morall actions, doeth make the thing either good or bad: Every wicked man doth seeke himselfe in all his actions, hee doth worshippe himselfe in the utmost ende of all his thoughts, so that all his actions, lusts, and desires, are evill continually.
Now I proceed to shew you how it is the Apo∣stle Paul would have you to mortifie, here some thing is presented, and to shew you plainely what it is, it doth consist in these two particulars.
First, the habituall concupiscence, and secondly, the inordinate lusts and desires that doe arise from it, one wee call habituall, and the other actuall. Now the Apostle would have the habituall concupiscence in nature weakened, and secondly, he would have the actes of the lust to be suppressed. Now that it is the Apostles meaning, that he would have them mortified and that which is to be mortified is sin, marke that place I did cite before, Rom. 6. 12. Let not sinne raigne in your mortall bodies. In these wordes are three things observable, First, there is a sinne, secondly, a lust to the sin, and thirdly obedience to the sin, that is a will to execute the desire of this lust. When the Apo∣stle saith, he would have thēmortified, he would have the heart to be cleansed from the habitual custom of e∣vil concupiscence, and secondly he would have them so subdued, as not to obey them. That you may know the Apostles meaning, and not to lay a straighter charge upon you, then the holy Ghost doth aim at he would have all these three to be mortified, the lust, the consent to the lust, and the act of ill. Consider the nature of the things that are to bee mortified; If you take the evill inclination, and compare it with the strength of the mind, in committing of any sin, they are all of the same nature, they differ but in degree, a lesser evill in the thought, before consent un∣to it is of the same nature as a greater, as it is in murder: He that is angry with his brother unadvisedly, committeth a degree of murder; So he that slandereth his brother by taking away of his good name, committeth a degree of murder, and is a sinne of the same nature, as if he tooke away the life of his brother. So as in taking away the comfort of a mans life, it is a degree of murder, in as much as that man would take away the life of his brother if hee might; So in lust, if a man desire to commit adultery with a woman, and cannot come to the execution of his will therein, to the committing of the actuall sinne, yet the adultery of the thoughts and affections, are degrees unto this sinne, and are of the same nature, as if he had committed the sin it selfe. The commandements say, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours’ wife, that is, in no degree at all to hurt her, or to wrong her. If all be of one nature, and differ in degree, then all are to be mortified. The same nature is in one drop of water that is in a whole Sea, and the same nature in a sparke, as there is in a great fire; If there be a right enmity betweene sinne and us, wee will abstaine from all sinne; a man doth hate the very colours of his enemie, as toades and crea∣tures that are poysonfull: If a man doe abstaine in sincerity from sinne, he will abstaine from all sinne. The reason why men abstaine from any sinne, is ei∣ther for love of themselves or of God; if for love of thy selfe thou doest abstaine from sinne, thou wert as good commit all as some; If for love of God, thou wilt abstaine from all sinnes, from little sinnes as well as great sinnes. Here may a question be asked, why men doe abstaine from murther and idolatry? The answere is, because God did forbid it; and doth not God forbid also, Thou shalt not lust: God that doth forbid the one, doth forbid the other; and for thy further consideration, know the holy Spirit of God doth hate every sinne, it doth aban∣don and hate that heart where these thoughts of lust are nourished. Now the heart is the habitation and residence of the holy Ghost, wherefore all sinnes are to be mortified, that the holy Ghost may come and dwell there.
The acts of mortification are chiefly these, the Apostle would have us take paines with our hearts, * men might doe much good unto themselves, would they but take paines to consider and ponder their their ways, but when men are carried away with the desire of riches, vaine-glory, and other inconsiderations, no marvel if it be thus with them: If they would but sit alone, meditate, and reflect their mindes upon what they should doe, it would be a great meanes to make them to alter their courses.
The Apostle when he would have them mort∣fie these lusts, he would have them consider the meanes how to suppresse them, there be strong rea∣sons in the word of God for them: Let them search the grounds they have for the committing of those lusts, and it will be an effectuall meanes for the mor∣tifying of them: If men’s judgements were rectified to see their follies, they would change their courses, and turne the bent of their affections another way; I should deliver many things unto you in this kinde concerning mortification, to let it be your care, that it may worke upon your inward affections, that you may make it profitable unto your owne soules, and that you doe let it not passe from you without doing you good.
The word of God which you heare is not lost, it shall certainly doe you hurt if not good, it shall harden if it doe not soften: It is an ill signe if a tree doe not bud in the spring, but to see it without leaves in the Winter is no wonder at all; So for any to heare the word of God powerfully preached, and not to have good wrought on them by it; they have great cause to feare their estates, It is this meditating and taking to heart, which is the first means I prescribe for mortification.
We are said, secondly, to mortifie, when we suppresse and keepe downe those lusts, if wee keepe them backe from their courses, that they doe not bring forth the fruite of sinne: All actions when any sinne is executed, they tend to evill corruptions. If we abstaine from the action of sinne, then it doth kill the very inclination. Take any sinne that a man is naturally inclined unto; whether it be the sinne of uncleanenesse, the desire of riches, or what∣soever, custome doth make his lusts to be stronger, and so doth adde to the sinne, One light doth shew a thing to be so, but more lights doe make it appeare more cleare; so there is an addition in sinne as well as in grace, the more they act in sinne, the more they encrease.
Now when men complaine they know not what to doe, they cannot be without their lusts; Let them thanke themselves for it in suffering them∣selves by custome to practise them, but by keeping downe the act of sinne, the lusts will evaporate away in time, though thy lust be strong and violent at the first; yet if thou wilt let it alone from the execution of it, it will consume and weare away at the last; Therefore keepe downe thy lusts, and suppresse them.
Thirdly, to weane these lusts, inordinate affecti∣ons, and concupiscences; the rectifying of the judgement, and applying of right meanes, doth mortifie the higher reason: Now for to mortifie the lower reason, is to turne away the bent of affection on another object: If grace be quicke and lively in a man, it turnes away the minde from Sinne, and the way to weane these lusts, is to keepe the minde fixed and bent on better things, as temperance, chastity, and sobriety; for all intemperance doth breed lust, and then the devill doth take occasion and advantage to worke upon a man; but sobrietie and temperance is a great meanes to keepe backe these evill affections.
Now I proceede to make use of what hath beene formerly delivered concerning these three Sinnes, fornication, uncleanenesse, and evill concupiscence: You may remember what hath beene said concerning the greatnesse of the sinne of uncleanenesse, It will fol∣low then if it be so great a sinne, wee should use meanes to be freed from it. Those that are guilty of it, let them give themselves no rest, their eye lids no slumber, nor God no rest, till they be delivered from the band of this iniquity. 1. Sam. 2. 25. Remember what Elie said to his sonnes, If one man sinne against another, the Judge shall judge him, but if a man sinne against the Lord, who shall entreate for him? When God doth take in hand to afflict the Creature, then it is intolerable, man shall finde it to be a•terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Take an arrowe, or a bullet, and let it be shot into the body of man, it may wound deepely, and yet be cured againe; but let the head of that arrowe be poysoned, or the bullet envenomed, then the wound proves deadly and incurable: There may be in the body of man many great gashes and deepe wounds, and yet be cured; but if affliction lyes on the creature from the wrath of God, he is not able to beare it; it doth cause him to tremble, and his conscience to be terrified within him, as wee see by men that are in despaire.
Now the reason of it is, God when he smites the creature in his wrath, he doth wound the Spirit, and as it were doth breake it in sunder, as God doth breake the Spirit, so he doth sustaine the Spirit; but when he doth withdraw himselfe from the creature, then the strong holds of the Spirit are gone. This is to shew you what a terrible thing it is, to fall into the hands of the living God. This as it doth be∣long to all, so specially to those that have received the Sacrament this day or before, that they make conscience of this sinne, if they doe not, they receive it unworthily, and he that is guilty of this, is guilty of the body and blood of Christ; Hee discernes not the Lords body, neither doth hee prize it as he should, nor esteeme of the excellencie of it as hee ought: He discernes not with what reverence he should come to the Lords Table; therefore saith the Apostle, Hee is guilty of the body and blood of Christ, that is, hee is guilty of the same Sinne that those were that did crucifie and mocke Christ Iesus. The Sacrament of the Lords Supper, is a speciall meanes, and chiefe ordinance of God for the at∣tainement of his blessings, if it be rightly received; and so it is the greatest judgement that can befall a man, if it bee not rightly received, for Christ is chiefely represented therein: The blood of Christ is the most precious thing in the world, when men shall account this holy blood of the new Testament, to be but an unholy thing, and to trample it vnder∣foote, God will not beare with this.
Now when a man doth come to the Sacra∣ments in a negligent manner, in not preparing himselfe worthily to come, he is guiltie of the blood of Christ; For ye are not only to be careful to prepare your selves, before the receiving of the Sacrament, but also of your walking afterwards. Therefore consider, you that have received the Sacrament, or intend to do it, that you doe clense your selves from this pollution of heart and spirit, and that you doe put on the wedding garment, that is required of all worthy receivers, Let your hearts be changed, and your affections, and actions be free from all kind of evill, and your hearts be turned to God, else you cannot bee worthy receivers, and so much shall suffice for this use, that seeing this sinne is so great, every man should endevour to free himselfe from it. Secondly, seeing the Apostle doth not only exhort us to abstaine from it, but also mortifie, kill, and subdue it, If there were nothing but a mere abstinence from ill, then it is not pro∣perly a mortification, for then the impurest adul∣terer should sometimes bee chast after his impure manner of committing it, and therefore the ces∣sation of it is no true mortifying of it, and that you may know mortification aright, I will give you three signes.
First, you shall know it by this, if there went a generall reformation both in heart and life before, when the heart is generally set aright, is changed and renewed to good, and from thence * doeth arise a dying to these lusts, then it is a good signe, but if otherwise there bee no particulars changed in thee, then it is but a cessation, not a mortification, but when the whole frame of the heart is altered, yea even from the very roote, when the old man in the body of sinne is wounded even to the heart, that is, when a man hath hath been soundly humbled for his sinne, and afterwards hath his heart affected to Christ, and is come to love God, and hath his mind changed, then he may truly reckon it mortification.
Secondly, you may know true mortification by this, by having a right judgement of sinne, and a true loathing and detestation of it; It is hard for a man while he hath any sinne in him, to judge rightly of it, for then a man is given to an injudicious minde, while he doeth continue in it, As when a man is in prison, if he have continued there long, though the sent bee bad, yet he cannot discerne it, but let this man be brought to fresh air, and be carried to that prison againe, then he will smell the noisomenesse of it. So when a man is in sinne, he cannot truely judge of it, but when he is escaped from it, then he can rightly and truly detest, and judge of it, when a mans soule is righteous, there is a contrariety betweene him and uncleannesse, a righteous soule doeth detest sin, both in himselfe and others; as Lots soule was vexed with the abhomination of the Sodomites. Consider how you are affected with the sinne of others, Rom. 1. verse 32. They were not onely worthy of death, who did commit sinne themselves, but also they that had pleasure in o∣thers, when a man can truely detest sinne in others, as Lot did, and doeth truely loath it in himselfe, then it is a true signe of true mortification.
The last thing to know mortification by, is an actuall abstinence from every sinne, it is one thing to dislike a sinne, and another thing, to bee wearie of it, and to hate the sinnefullnesse of it; If morti∣fication bee true, he will hate all kind of uncleannesse with an inveterate hatred, bee it of what degree it will, sheepe doe hate all kind of wolves, if a man doe truly mortifie, &c. his hatred to sinne will bee generall, not onely in abstinence from grosse sinnes, as murder, adultery, and fornication, but also from all other sinnes; For when a man forsakes sinne, out of hatred, his rancor is of iudgement more then of passion, and so likewise his hatred will be constant. Men may bee angry with their sinnes sometimes, and fall out with them at other times, and yet be friends againe, but if they doe truly hate sinne, their abstinence from sinne will be constant, when a man becomes a new crea∣ture, there will arise a contrarietie to sinne in his nature, so that if a man doe hate sin, he is truely said to mortifie.
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
Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
~ Exodus 12:15
But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
~ 1 Corinthians 5:13
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
~ Colossians 3:5-9
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
~ Ephesians 4:22