The life and being of many things consists in union, -- separate them, and they remain not the same, or they lose their virtue. It is much more thus in Christianity, the power and life of it consists in the union of these things that God hath conjoined, so that if any man pretend to one thing of it, and neglect the other, he hath really none of them. And to hold to the subject in hand, there are three things, which, joined together in the hearts of Christians, have a great deal of force: the duty of a Christian, and his reward, and his dignity. His work and labour seems hard and unpleasant, when considered alone, but the reward sweetens it, when it is jointly believed. His duty seems too high, and his labour great, yet the consideration of the real dignity he is advanced unto, and privilege he has received, will raise up the spirit to great and high attempts, and to sustain great labours. Mortification is the work and labour, life, eternal life, is the reward. Following the Spirit is the Christian's duty, but to be the son of God, that is his dignity.
Mortification sounds very harsh at first. The hearts of men say, "It is a hard saying, who can hear it?" And indeed I cannot deny but it is so to our corrupt nature, and therefore so holden out in Scripture. The words chosen to press it express much pain and pains, much torment and labour. It is not so easy and trivial a business to forsake sin, or subdue it, as many think, who only think it easy because they have never tried it. It is a circumcision of the foreskin of the heart, and you know how it disabled a whole city, (Gen. xxxiv.) and how it enraged the heart of a tender mother, Exod. iv.26. It is the excision or cutting off a member, and these the most dear and precious, be it the right hand or right foot, which is a living death, as it were, even to kill a man while he is alive. It is a new birth, and the pains and throes of the birth are known. Regeneration certainly hath a travailing pain within it, insomuch that Paul travailed in pain till it were accomplished in these, Gal. iv.19. Though men conceive sin in pleasure, yet they cannot be rid of that deadly burden without throes and pains, and to half this work, or to be remiss or negligent in it, is as foolish and unwise as for a child to stay long in the place of breaking forth, as the Lord complains of Ephraim, Hos. xiii.13. "He is an unwise son, for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children." It is one of the greatest follies, not to labour by all means to be rid of the encumbrances of sin. Much violence offered to it, and a total resignation of ourselves to God, may be great pain, but it is short pain, then the pleasure is greater and continues; but now Christians lengthen their pain, and draw out their cross and vexation to a great extent, because they deal negligently in the business, they suffer the Canaanites to live, and these are thorns and briers in their sides continually. Then this business is called mortification, as the word is here, and Col. iii.5, which imports a higher degree of pain, for the agonies of death are terrible, and to hold it out yet more, the most painful and lingering kind of death is chosen to express it, crucifixion, Gal. v.24. Now, indeed, that which makes the forsaking of sin so grievous to flesh and blood, is the engagements of the soul to it, the oneness that is between it and our natures, as they are now fallen, for you know pain ariseth upon the dissolution or division of any thing that is continued or united, and these things that are so nearly conjoined, it is hard to separate them without much violence. And truly, as the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, so we must offer violence to ourselves, to our lusts and inclinations, who are almost ourselves, and if you would be truly Christians, this must be your business and employment, to cut off these things that are dearest unto you, to cast out the very idols your hearts sacrifice unto, and if there be any thing more one with you than another, to endeavour to break the bond with that, and to be at the furthest distance from it. It is easy to persuade men to forsake some sins and courses that they are not much inclined to, and find not much pleasure or profit by them. You may do that and be but dead in sins, but if you aim at true mortification indeed, you would consider what are the chief idols and predominant inclinations of your heart, and as to set yourself impartially against all known, so particularly against the most beloved sin, because it interrupts most the communion of God, and separates from your Beloved, and the dearer it be, the more dangerous certainly it is.
But to encourage and hearten you to this, I would have you look back to that former victory that Christ hath gained in our name, and look about to the assistance you have for the present, the Spirit to help you. Truly, my beloved, this will be a dead business, if you be not animated and quickened by these considerations, -- that Christ died to sin and lived to God, and that in this he was a public person representing you, that so you may conclude with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ," Gal. ii.20. "We are buried with him by baptism into his death," Rom. vi.4. Consider that mystical union with Christ crucified, and life shall spring out of his cross, out of his grave, to kill sin in you, -- that the great business is done already, and victory gained in our Head, "This is our victory, even faith." Believe, and then you have overcome, before you overcome, and this will help you to overcome in your own persons. And then, consider and look round about to the strong helper you have, the Spirit. "If ye through the Spirit mortify," &c. Stronger is he that is in you than he that is in the world. Though he does not vent all his power to you, yet you may believe that there is a secret latent virtue in the seed of grace, that it cannot be whole overcome or conquered, and there is one engaged in the warfare with us who will never leave us nor forsake us, who of set purpose withdraweth his help now and then to discover our weakness to us, that we may cleave the faster to him, who never letteth sin get any power or gather any strength, but out of wisdom to make the final victory the more glorious. In a word, he leads us through weaknesses, infirmities, faintings, wrestlings, that his strength may be perfected in weakness, -- that when we are weak, then we may be strongest in him, 2 Cor. xii.9. Our duty then is, to follow this Spirit wheresoever he leadeth us. Christ, the captain of our salvation, when he went to heaven, sent the Spirit to be our guider, to lead us thither where he is, and therefore we should resign and give up ourselves to his guidance and direction. The nature of a creature is dependence, so the very essence of a Christian consists in dependence and subordination to the Spirit of God. Nature itself would teach them that want wisdom to commit themselves to those that have it, and not to carry the reins of their own life themselves.
Truly, not only the sense of our own imperfection, of our folly and ignorance in these things that belong to life, should make us willing to yield ourselves over to the Spirit of God, as blind men to their leader, as children to their nurses, as orphans to their tutors;(211) but also, because the Spirit is made our tutor and leader, Christ, our Father hath left us to the Spirit in his latter will; and, therefore, as we have absolute necessity, so he hath both willingness and ability, because it is his office. "O Lord, I know," saith Jeremiah, "that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps," Jer. x.23. O it were a great point of wisdom thus to know our ignorance and folly, and this is the great qualification of Christ's disciples, simple as children, as little children, as void of conceit of their own wisdom, Mark x.15. And this alone capacitates the soul to receive the impressions of wisdom; as an empty table is fittest to write upon, so a soul emptied of itself; whereas self conceit draweth a number of foolish senseless draughts in the mind that it cannot receive the true image of wisdom. Thus, then, when a soul finds that it hath misled itself, being misguided by the wild fire of its lusts, and hath hardly escaped perishing and falling headlong in the pit, this disposes the soul to a willing resignation of itself to one wiser and powerfuller, the Spirit of God; and so he giveth the Spirit the string of his affections and judgment to lead him by, and he walketh willingly in that way to eternal life, since his heart was enlarged with so much knowledge and love. And now, having given up yourselves thus, you would carefully eye your Leader, and attend all his motions, that you may conform yourself to them. Whensoever the Spirit pulleth you by the heart, draweth at your conscience, to drive you to prayer, or any such duty, do not resist that pull, do not quench the Spirit, lest he let you alone, and do not call you, nor speak to you. If you fall out thus with your Leader, then you must guide yourselves, and truly you will guide it into the pit, if left to yourselves. Therefore make much of all the impulses of your conscience, of all the touches and inward motions of light and affection, to entertain these, and draw them forth in meditation and action, for these are nothing else but the Spirit your leader plucking at you to follow him; and if you sit when he riseth to walk, if you neglect such warnings, then you may grieve him, and this cannot but in the end be bitterness to you. Certainly, many Christians are guilty in this, and prejudge themselves of the present comfort and benefit of this inward anointing, that teacheth all things, and of this bosom guide that leadeth in all truth; because they are so heavy and lumpish to be led after him; they drive slowly, and take very much pressure and persuasion to any duty; whereas we should accustom ourselves to willing and ready obedience upon the least signification of his mind. Yea, and which is worse, we often resist the Holy Ghost. He draweth, and we hold beloved sins; -- he pulleth, and we pull back from the most spiritual duties. There is so much perverseness and frowardness yet in our natures, that there needs the almighty draught of his arm to make it straight, as there is need of infinite grace to pardon it.
Now, my beloved, if you have in your desires and affections resigned yourselves over to the guidance of this Spirit, and this be your real and sincere endeavour to follow it, and in as far as you are carried back, or contrary, by temptation and corruption, or retarded in your motion, it is your lamentation before the Lord, -- I say unto you, cheer your hearts, and lift them up in the belief of this privilege conferred upon you: you "are the sons of God" -- for he giveth this tutor and pedagogue to none but to his own children. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God." Suppose you cannot exactly follow his motions, but are often driven out or turned back, yet hath not the Spirit the hold of your heart? Are you not detained by the cord of your judgment and the law of your mind? And is there not some chain fastened about your heart which maketh it outstrip the practice by desires and affections? You are the sons of God. That is truly the greatest dignity and highest privilege, in respect of which, all relations may blush and hide their faces. What are all the splendid and glistering titles among men but empty shows and evanishing sounds in respect of this? To be called the son of a gentleman, of a nobleman, of a king, how much do the sons of men pride themselves in it? But, truly, that putteth no intrinsic dignity in the persons themselves, -- it is a miserable poverty to borrow praise from another, and truly he that boasts of his parentage, aliena laudat non sua, he praiseth that which is another's, not his own. But this dignity is truly a dignity, it puts intrinsic worth in the person, and puts a more excellent spirit in them than that which is in the world, as is said of Caleb, and, besides, it entitles to the greatest happiness imaginable.