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with respect to temptations. It will not suffice that we are exercised in them in general; but we must apply them to this particular case, designing in and by them the mortification of sin. No. man who wisely considers himself, his condition, and temptations, can be wholly ignorant of his special corruptions. David probably had respect to this when he said, I kept myself from mine iniquity.' Now, he could not have done this, had he not known and kept a watch upon that sin which most easily beset him. On this discovery, we are to apply these duties purposely for the ruin of the power of sin;-and as they are all useful and necessary, so circumstances will direct which of them, in particular, is most necessary. Sometimes prayer and meditation claim this place, as when our danger arises solely from ourselves, our own perverse inclinations, or unruly passions; sometimes watchfulness and abstinence, when sin takes occasion from temptations, and concerns in the world--sometimes wisdom and circumspection, when the avoidance of temptations and opportunities for sin is particularly necessary.
All these duties, rightly improved, work two ways towards the end designed. 1. Morally, as they procure assistance; and, 2. Really, by an immediate opposition to sin, whence assimilation to holiness arises.
(1.) These duties work morally. I shall instance only in prayer. The first work of prayer, with respect to sin, is complaint: the soul 'pours out its complaint to God, and sheweth before him the trouble' it undergoeth on account of it. Thus David expresseth himself, Attend unto me, and hear me; I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise.' Psalm Iv. 2. His prayer was a doleful lamentation. This part of prayer is indeed despised by profligate men, but is acceptable with God; and therein believers find ease and rest to their souls. For, let the world scoff as it pleases, what is more acceptable to God than for his children, out of pure love to him and holiness, out of fervent desires to comply with his mind and will, and thereby to attain conformity to Jesus Christ, to come with their complaints to him, of the distance they are kept at from these things by the captivating power of sin; bewailing their frail condition, and humbly acknowledging all the evils they are liable to on account thereof! He owns believers as his children, and has the bowels of a father to
wards them. Sin he knows to be their greatest enemy, and which fights directly against their souls. Will he then despise their complaints? Will he not avenge them of that enemy, and that speedily?
Prayer also includes petitions to God for supplies of grace to conquer sin: I need not prove this:-No man prays as he ought; but these petitions make a part of this prayer; especially when the mind is peculiarly engaged in the design of destroying sin. And these requests are wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, who therein maketh intercession for us according to the will of God,' and carries on this work of the mortification of sin; for his work it is.
(2.) This duty has a real efficiency to the same end: when rightly performed, it mightily prevails to the weakening and destruction of sin. For in and by fervent prayer the habit and inclinations of the soul to universal holiness, with a detestation and abhorrence of all sin, are cherished and strengthened. Believers are never raised to a higher intention of spirit in the pursuit of holiness than in prayer; and hence they often come from it above all impressions from sin, as to any inclinations and compliances. Would such a frame always continue, how happy were we! But abiding in the duty is the best way of reaching out after it.
4. The Holy Spirit carries on this work, by applying the death of Christ unto us for that end. And this also the world despises, because it does not understand it but yet, in whomsoever the death of Christ is not the death of sin, he shall die in his sins. That the death of Christ has a special influence into the mortification of sin, is plainly testified in the Scripture. By his cross, that is, his death on the cross, We are crucified unto the world;' 'Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed; that is, sin is mortified by virtue of the death of Christ. By the oblation of his death, our sins are expiated as to their guilt; and by the application of it to us, they are subdued as to their power. For it is an interest in the benefits of his death, which we call the application of it unto us. The old man is said to be crucified with Christ on two accounts :-(1.) Of conformity. Christ is the head of the new creation. Whatever God designed for us therein, he first exemplified in him; and we
are predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son.' We are, by grace, planted in the likeness of his death,' being made conformable to his death,' and so are 'dead with Christ.' Now this conformity is not in our natural death, for it is what we partake of in this life; but Christ died for our sin, which was the procuring cause of it, and he lived again by the power of God. A likeness to this, God will work in all believers. There is by nature a life of sin in them. This life must be destroyed; sin must die in us, and we thereby become dead to sin. And as he rose again, so are we to be quickened to newness of life. The same Spirit who wrought these things in Christ, will, in the pursuit of his design, work that which answers to them in all his members.
(2.) In respect of efficacy; virtue goes from the death of Christ, for the destruction of sin. It was not designed to be an inactive example, but it is accompanied with a power conforming us to its own likeness: it is the ordinance of God to that end. It is by a fellowship, or participation in his sufferings,' that we are made conformable to his death.' The death of Christ is designed to be the death of sin; let them who are dead in sin deride it while they please. If Christ had not died, sin had never died in any sinner to eternity.
If it be asked, how is the death of Christ applied to us? or, How do we apply ourselves to the death of Christ for this purpose ? I answer, we do it by faith and love.
(1) By faith. The way to derive virtue from Christ, is by touching him. So the diseased woman in the gospel touched but the hem of his garment, and virtue went forth from him to heal her. It was not her touching him outwardly, but her faith that derived virtue from him: for so our Saviour tells her in his answer: 'Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole.' But to what end was the touching of his garment? It was only a token of the particular application of the healing power of Christ to her soul, or of her faith in him for that end; for at the same time many thronged upon him; yet none was benefited but the poor sick woman; a great emblem this, of common profession on the one hand, and of special faith on the other. Multitudes throng about Christ in a profession of faith, but no virtue goeth forth
from him to heal them; but when any one, though poor, and seemingly at a distance, gets but the least touch of him by special faith, that soul is healed.
But how will sin be mortified hereby? I say, How were they healed who looked to the brazen serpent? Was it not because that was an ordinance of God, which he made effectual to that purpose? The death of Christ being so, as to the crucifying of sin, when it is looked on by faith, shall not divine virtue go forth to that end? Besides, faith itself, as acted on the death of Christ, has a peculiar efficacy to the subduing of sin; for, beholding him thereby as in a glass, we are changed into the same image.' Moreover, it is the only means whereby we actually derive from Christ the benefits of our union with him; from thence we have all grace, or, there is no such thing in the world: and the communication of it unto us, is by the exercise of faith principally. So it being acted with respect to his death, we have grace for the killing of sin, and thereby become dead with him, crucified with him, and buried with him: and those by whom this means of mortification is despised, must live under the power of sin, to whatever inventions they may look for deliverance. According as we abound herein, will be our success. Those who are careless in the exercise of faith by prayer and meditation, will find that sin will keep its ground, and maintain its power; but those who are much conversant with the death of Christ by holy actings of faith, will be implanted into the likeness of it, and experience the death of sin in them continually.
(2.) We do it by love. Christ as crucified is the great object of our love; for therein he is to sinners' altogether lovely.' In the death of Christ, his unsearchable grace, his infinite condescension, his patient suffering, his victorious power, shine forth in the most conspicuous manner. Thus he is represented in and by the gospel, 'crucified before your eyes:' and thus he is beheld by the eye of faith, as the proper object of sincere love. The soul of the believer cleaves to Christ crucified, so as to be in some sense always present with him on the cross; and hence ensues assimilation or conformity. It is in the nature of love to produce a likeness between the mind loving, and the object beloved: and so I am sure it is so in this matter. A mind filled with the love of Christ as X
crucified, will be changed into its image and likeness, by the effectual mortification of sin.
5. The Holy Ghost carries on this work, by making constant discoveries to believers of the true nature and certain end of sin, on the one hand, and the beauty, excellency, and necessity of holiness on the other, with the concerns of Christ, the gospel, and their own souls therein. Not that the rational consideration of these things is of itself sufficient for the mortification of sin; for there is an obstinacy in the heart, not conquerable by mere arguments: that conviction of sin and righteousness, which is prevalent to this end, is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. John xvi. 8. Though he makes use of our understandings and consciences in this matter, yet if he give not a peculiar efficacy to them, the work will not be effectual. When he is pleased to make use of reasons and motives taken from the nature and end of sin and holiness for the mortification of sin, they shall hold good, and bind the soul to this duty, against all temptations that would divert it.
And thus I have briefly delineated the work of the Spirit in the SANCTIFICATION of believers. Many things might have been more enlarged; but what has been said, I judge sufficient to my present purpose. What has been argued from Scripture and experience, is, I doubt not, sufficient to direct us in the practice of true evangelical holiness; and to prevail with all sober persons to reject that fulsome product of pride and ignorance, that all gospel-holiness consists in the practice of moral virtues.