The Mortification of Sin
Romans 8:13
For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.


1. A breaking of the league naturally held with sin (Ephesians 5:11; Hosea 14:8).

2. A declaration of open hostility. When leagues between princes are broken war ensues. This hostility begins in cutting off all the supplies of sin (Romans 13:14, etc.).

3. A powerful resistance, by using all the weapons of the Christian armoury (Ephesians 6:13, 14, etc.).

4. A killing of sin.


1. Negatively.

(1) All cessation from some particular sin is not a mortification. It may only be —

(a) An exchange. It may be a divorce from a sin odious to the world, and an embracing another that hath more specious pretences.

(b) A cessation from some outward gross acts only, not from a want of will to sin. There may be pride, ambition, covetousness, uncleanness, when they are not externally acted; which is more dangerous, as infectious diseases are when they are hindered by cold from a kindly eruption, and strike inward to the heart, and so prove mortal.

(c) A cessation merely because of the alteration of the constitution. Lust reigns in young men, but its empire decays in an old withered body; some plants which grow in hot countries will die in colder climates. Ambition decays in age when strength is wasted, but sprouts up in a young man. A present sickness may make an epicure nauseate the dainties which he would before rake even in the sea to procure.

(d) A cessation may be forced by some forethoughts of death, some pang of conscience, or some judgment of God; which as a pain in one part of the body may take away a man's appetite, but when removed, his appetite returns.

(e) A cessation from want of opportunity.

(2) Restraints from sin are not mortification of it.

(a) Mortification is always from an inward principle, restraints from an outward. A restraint is merely a pull back, by a stronger power, but mortification is from a strength given, a new mettle put into the soul (Ephesians 3:16).

(b) Mortification proceeds from an anger with, and a hatred of, sin, whereas restraints are from a fear of the consequents of sin; as a man may love the wine, which is as yet too hot for his lips.

(c) Mortification is a voluntary, rational work of the soul; restraints are not so.

2. Positively. The signs are —

(1) When the beloved lust doth not stir upon a temptation that did usually excite, as it is a sign of the clearness of a fountain when after the stirring of the water the mud doth not appear; or as it is with a man that is sick — set the most savoury meat before him, if his appetite be not provoked, it is an argument of the strength of his distemper, and where it is lasting, of his approaching death. None will question the deadness of that tree at the root which doth not bud upon the return of the spring sun; nor need we question the weakness of that corruption which doth not stir upon the presenting a suitable temptation.

(2) When we meet with few interruptions in duties of worship. Easy compliance with diversions is a sign of an unmortified frame; as it is the sign of much weakness in a person, and the strength of his distemper, when the least blow or jog makes him let go his hold of anything.

(3) When we bring forth the fruits of the contrary graces. The more sweet and full fruit a tree bears, the more evidence there is of the weakness of those suckers which are about the root to hinder its generous productions.


1. Unsuitable to a state of glory (Colossians 1:12). Conformity to Christ is to fit us for heaven, He descended to the grave before He ascended; so our sins must die before our souls can mount. It is very unsuitable for sin's drudges to have a saint's portion. Every vessel must be emptied of its foul water before it can receive that which is clean. No man pours rich wine into old casks.

2. Such as God cannot delight in. To delight in such would be to have no delight in his own nature. To keep sin alive is to defend it against the will of God, and to challenge the combat with our Maker.

3. Against the whole design of the gospel. Rather than sin should not die, Christ would die Himself; it is therefore a high disesteem of Christ to preserve the life of sin, and if we defend what He died to conquer, how can we expect to enjoy what He died to purchase? For what the grace of the gospel doth more especially teach, read Titus 2:4; Psalm 5:4. It is an inseparable character of them that are Christ's, that "they have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."Conclusion: Let us labour to mortify sin. If we will not be the death of sin, sin will be the death of our souls.

1. Implore the help of the Spirit.

2. Listen to His convictions.

3. Plead the death of Christ, the end of which was to triumph over sin.

4. Often think of Divine precepts.

5. Be jealous of our own hearts. Venture not to breathe in corrupt air, for fear of infection.

6. Bless God for whatsoever mortifying grace we have received.

(S. Charnock, B.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Sin and Death, or Grace and Life
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