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reign of sin. And we see it so every day. Men, all whose ways and actions proclaim, that they are acted in all things by an inordinate love of the world and self, yet find nothing amiss in themselves; nothing that they do not approve of, unless it be that their desires are not satisfied according to their expectations. All the commands we have in the Scripture for self-searching, trial, and examination; all the rules that are given us unto that end, all the warnings we have of the deceitfulness of sin, and of our own hearts; they are given us to prevent this evil of shutting our eyes against the prevalent corruption and disorder of our affairs. And the issue of all our endeavours in this kind, is in the appeal of David to God himself, Psal. cxxxix. 23, 24.
(2.) When men have convictions of the irregularity and disorder of their affections, yet are resolved to continue in the state wherein they are, without the correction and amendment of them, because of some advantages and satisfaction which they receive in their present state, they seem to be under the dominion of sin. So is it with those mentioned, Isa. lvii. 10. upon the account of the present satisfaction, delight, and pleasure, that their corrupt affections do take in cleaving inordinately unto their objects, they will not endeavour their change and alteration.
(3.) This then is the sole safe rule in this case. Whatever hold sin may have got in our affections; whatever prevalency it may have in them, however it may entangle and defile them; if we endeavour sincerely the discovery of this evil, and therein set ourselves constantly unto the mortification of our corrupt affections by all due means, there is not in their disorder any argument to prove the dominion of sin in us. Our affections, as they are corrupt, are the proper objects of the great duty of mortification; which the apostle therefore calls our members that are on the earth, Col. iii. 5. This is a safe anchor for the soul in this storm. If it live in a sincere endeavour after the mortification of every discoverable corruption and disorder in the affections, it is secure from the dominion of sin. But as for such as are negligent in searching after the state of their souls, as unto the inclinations and engagement of their affections, who approve of themselves in their greatest irregularities, resolvedly indulge themselves in every way of sin to gratify
their sensual affections, they must provide themselves of pleas for their vindication; I know them not. But the meaning of our present rule will be farther manifest in what ensues.
3. It is a dangerous sign of the dominion of sin, when after a conviction of their necessity, it prevaileth unto a neglect of those ways and duties which are peculiarly suited, directed, and ordained, unto its mortification and de. struction. This may be cleared in some particulars.
(1.) Mortification of sin is the constant duty of all believers, of all who would not have sin have dominion over them. Where mortification is sincere, there is no dominion of sin; and where there is no mortification, there sin doth reign.
(2.) There are some graces and duties that are peculiarly suited and ordained unto this end, that by them and their agency, the work of mortification may be carried on constantly in our souls. What they are, or some of them, we shall see immediately.
(3.) When sin puts forth its power in any especial lust, or in a strong inclination unto any actual sin, then it is the duty of the soul to make diligent application of those graces and duties which are specifical and proper unto its mortification.
(4.) When men have had a conviction of these duties, and have attended unto them according unto that conviction; if sin prevail in them to a neglect or relinquishment of those duties, as unto their performance, or as unto their application unto the mortification of sin, it is a dangerous sign that sin hath dominion in them. And I distinguish between these things, namely, a neglect of such duties, as unto their performance, and a neglect of the application of them unto the mortification of sin. For men may, on other accounts, continue the observance of them, or some of them, and yet not apply them unto this especial end. And so all external duties may be observed, when sin reigneth in triumph, 2 Tim. iii. 5.
The meaning of the assertion being stated, I shall now name some of those graces and duties, unto whose omission and neglect sin may prevail, as unto an application of them unto the mortification of any sin.
The first is, The daily exercise of faith on Christ as crucified. . This is the great fundamental means of the mortification of sin in general, and which we ought to apply unto every particular instance of it. This the apostle discourseth at large, Rom. vi. 6–13. Our old man,' saith he, * is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.' Our old man, or the body of sin, is the power and reign of sin in us. These are to be destroyed ; that is, so mortified, that henceforth we should not serve sin; that we should be delivered from the power and rule of it. This, saith the apostle, is done in Christ; crucified with him. It is so meritoriously in his actual dying or being crucified for us; it is so virtually, because of the certain provision that is made therein for the mortification of all sin. But it is so actually by the exercise of faith on him as crucified, dead and buried, which is the means of the actual communication of the virtue of his death unto us for that end. Herein are we said to be dead and buried with him, whereof baptism is the pledge. So by the cross of Christ 'the world is crucified unto us, and we are so to the world,' Gal. vi. 14. which is the substance of the mortification of all sin. There are several ways whereby the exercise of faith on Christ crucified is effectual unto this end.
1. Looking unto him as such, will beget holy mourning in us. Zech, xii. 10. • They shall look on him whom they have pierced and mourn.' It is a promise of gospel times and gospel grace.. A view of Christ, as pierced, will cause mourning in them that have received the promise of the spirit of grace and supplication there mentioned. And this mourning is the foundation of mortification. It is that godly sorrow which works repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of, 2 Cor. vii. 10. And mortification of sin is of the essence of repentance. The more believers are exercised in this view of Christ, the more humble they are; the more they are kept in that mourning frame, which is universally opposite unto all the interest of sin, and which keeps the soul watchful against all its attempts. Sin never reigned in an humble mourning soul.
2. It is effectual unto the same end, by the way of a powerful motive, as that which calls and leads unto con
formity to him. This is pressed by the apostle, Rom. vi: 8– 11. Our conformity unto Christ, as crucified and dead, consists in our being dead unto sin, and thereby overthrowing the reign of it in our mortal bodies. This conformity, saith he, we ought to reckon on as our duty ; reckon yourselves dead unto sin ;' that is, that you ought so to be, in that conformity, which you ought to aim at unto Christ crucified. Can any spiritual eye behold Christ dying for sin, and continue to live in sin? shall we keep that alive in us, which he died for, that it might not eternally destroy us ? can we behold him bleeding for our sins, and not endeavour to give them their death wound? The efficacy of the exercise of faith herein unto the mortification of sin is known unto all believers in experience.
3. Faith herein gives us communion with him in his death, and unites the soul unto it in its efficacy. Hence we are said to be buried with him into death, and to be planted together in the likeness of his death; Rom. vi. 4,5. Our ' old man is crucified with him;' ver. 6. We have by faith communion with him in his death, unto the death of sin.
This therefore is the first grace and duty which we ought to attend unto for the mortification of sin. But where sin hath that interest and power in the mind, as to take it off from this exercise of faith, to prevent or obstruct it, as it will do, so as that it shall not dare to think or meditate on Christ crucified, because of the inconsistency of such thoughts, with an indulgence unto any lust, it is to be feared that sin is in the throne.
If it be thus with any; if they have not yet made use of this way and means for the mortification of sin; or if being convinced of it, they have been for any season driven or withheld from the exercise of faith herein, I have nothing to offer to free them from this evidence of the reign of sin, but only that they would speedily and carefully address themselves unto their duty herein; and if they prevail on themselves unto it, it will bring in its own evidence of their freedom.
Some, it may be, will say, that indeed they are unskilful in this word of righteousness, as some are, Heb. v. 13. They know not how to make use of Christ crucified unto this end, nor how to set themselves about it. Other ways of mortifi
cation they can understand. The discipline and penances assigned by the Papists unto this end are sensible. So are our own vows and resolutions, with other duties that are prescribed; but as for this way of deriving virtue from the death of Christ unto the death of sin, they can understand nothing of it. I easily believe that some may say so, yea, ought to say so, if they would speak their minds; for the spiritual wisdom of faith is required hereunto; but all men have not faith. On the loss of this wisdom the Papists have invented another way to supply the whole exercise of faith herein. They will make crucifixes, images of Christ crucified, then they will adore, embrace, mourn over, and expect great virtue from them. Without these images they know no way of addressing unto Christ, for the communication of any virtue from his death or life. Others may be at the same loss; but they may do well to consider the cause of it. For, 1. Is it not from ignorance of the mystery of the gospel, and of the communication of supplies of spiritual things from Christ thereby, of the efficacy of his life and death unto our sanctification and mortification of sin 7 Or, 2. Is it not because indeed they have never been throughly distressed in their minds and consciences by the power of sin, and so have never in good earnest looked for relief? Light, general convictions, either of the guilt or power of sin will drive none to Christ. When their consciences are reduced unto real straits, and they know not what they do, they will learn better how to “look unto him whom they have pierced.” Their condition, whoever they are, is dangerous, who find not a necessity every day of applying themselves, by faith unto Christ, for help and succour. Or, 3. Is it not because they have other reliefs to betake themselves unto ? such are their own promises and resolutions, which, for the most part, serve only to cheat and quiet conscience for an hour or a day, and then vanish into nothing. But whatever be the cause of this neglect, those in whom it is will pine away in their sins; for nothing but the death of Christ for us will be the death of sin in us. Secondly, Another duty necessary unto this end is continual prayer, and this to be considered as unto its application, to the prevalency of any particular lust, wherein sin