Mortification a Christian Duty
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.

In the text itself there are two general parts considerable. First, a conditional threatening or dreadful commination upon supposition of miscarriage: "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." When it is said of such persons that they shall die, we must take it in the full latitude and extent of death, that is — First, as to temporal death, or natural, which consists in the mere separation of soul and body. This it holds good, according to a twofold account. First, in the course of God's justice, who hath so ordained it and appointed it (Romans 1:32). Secondly, from a connection of the cause with the effect. Sin, and especially a living and conversing in the ways of it, brings death. Secondly, spiritual death, which consists in deprivation of grace, and holiness, and peace, and spiritual comfort. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." Thirdly, there is another death, and that is death eternal. The separation of soul and body from God for ever in hell. And this is also consequent upon living after the flesh. The second is the conditional promise or comfortable intimation upon supposition of repentance and new obedience in these: "But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh," etc. Wherein again we have four particulars. First, to speak of the duty itself, which is mortification. "If ye," etc. This is a duty which lies upon every Christian, to exercise and inure himself to mortification, that is, to the killing and crucifying of sin in him. For the better opening of this present point unto us, there are two things especially which are here to be declared by us. First, wherein this mortifying of sin, whereof we now speak, does mainly and principally consist. And this we may take according to these following explications. First, it does imply an active and spontaneous opposition of sin of our own accord. Secondly, it does imply difficulty and trouble in the performance of it. Dying, it is usually with some pain: as being that which nature does struggle with and strive against, especially violent death and that which follows upon killing. This, it is painful, especially. Created nature does not more abhor natural death, the death of the body, than corrupted nature does abhor this mystical death. The killing of sin. Oh, it is that which a carnal person cannot endure to hear or think of. This arises from that strength and settlement which sin hath in the heart. As we see it is again in nature, that those who have the strongest constitutions, they have commonly the painfullest deaths. Even so is it likewise in grace: those who have the strongest corruption, they have the hardest mortification. Thirdly, this mortification, it does imply a weakening of the power and vigour of sin in us. That look as a body which is dead, it is thereby made unserviceable and unfit for the actions of life. So a man also, that is spiritually mortified, sin is in him made unactive and unfit for the former services and performances which proceeded from it. Fourthly, it implies universality, that is, a resisting of all kind of sin, without exception. Killing, it is a destroying of life in every part. There must not be only a restraining of some sins, but a fighting against all. Where any one reigns there is no true mortification. Fifthly and lastly, it implies continuance and the often renewing of this act time after time. The second is the grounds or reasons which do make for the performance of it, which may be reduced to these heads. First, the nature of sin and the thing itself, which is to be mortified, and that is our mortal and deadly enemy. "If a man find his enemy," says Saul, "will he let him go well away?" Enmity, it invites destruction as well as threatens it. Secondly, there is reason for it also from that power which is wrought in a Christian by Christ's Spirit tending thereto, and the special virtue which is contained in the death and sufferings of Christ to this purpose. Because ye are dead and risen with Christ, therefore "mortify your earthly members," etc. Thirdly, it is requisite also from that obedience which we owe to God in the whole course of our lives. No man can be alive to God, that is, perform lively service to Him, but he that is first dead to sin, that is, that hath sin and corruption first crucified and mortified in him. Fourthly, as an evidence of our justification and the forgiveness of our sins unto us. No man can be so comfortably assured that his sin is pardoned that does not find his sin mortified. Wherever sin remains in the power of it, it remains also in the guilt of it. To quicken and provoke us so much the more hereunto, let us take in these considerations with us. First, the command of God, who has laid this duty upon us. Secondly, our own interest and the great good which we reap from it, both in point of grace and comfort, and at last of salvation itself, as it follows afterwards in the text, where it is said, "Ye shall live." Thirdly, the evil of the contrary, and the great disparagement which lies upon sin unmortified. Sin it is an odious business in many respects, and hath sundry inconveniences with it. First, there is no true pleasure or contentment in it. Secondly, sin is also insatiable, and the more that men give way unto it the more it prevails still upon them. Thirdly, sin is deceitful and dangerous. It makes us slaves to Satan; it makes us enemies to God; it crucifies Christ; it fights against the soul. Now for the right performance of this duty, and that we may do it so as we should do, it is requisite for us to take notice of these three following rules, or directions, which conduce hereto. First, there must be a steadfast purpose of opposing and resisting of sin with might and main. Secondly, there must be a diligent heed for the avoiding of all occasions of sin and all inducements which lead thereunto. Thirdly, there must be a conscionable use of all such means as serve to the subduing of sin in us. What are they? First, a sober and moderate use of the creatures in those things which in their own nature are lawful and warrantable. Secondly, prayer and fasting; that is another help likewise. Thirdly, and principally, an act of faith in the death and sufferings of Christ. The second is the object of this duty, or the matter which it is conversant about. And that is here expressed to be the deeds of the body. What is the meaning of this? that is, indeed, the sins and miscarriages of the whole man. We are not here to take it in the limited sense only, but in the extended. This work of mortification, it begins first of all in the inward man, and so ends in the outward; only the outward is here mentioned and named. And it is said the deeds of the body expressly, because the body it is that wherein sin does especially show and discover itself; whereas the mind is not so easily discerned in the corruptions of it. So 2 Corinthians 5:10. The things which are done in the body, though comprehending the soul likewise, the actions of the whole person; and Colossians 3:9, the old man with his deeds. The third particular is the principle whence this duty doth proceed in us, or the means whereby we perform it. And that is here expressed to be the Spirit. "If ye by the Spirit," etc. By the Spirit we are here to understand the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit which is called so emphatically. Mortification of sin is the proper work of this Spirit in us, and is effected in no other way. The same Spirit that is active in quickening of us and in infusing of grace into us; the same Spirit is also active in mortifying of us and in killing of sin in us. This must needs be so upon these following considerations. First, from the strength and power of sin, and that rooting which it hath in the soul. None can overcome the strong man, but some one that is stronger than he indeed is. Secondly, from the proper means of the killing of sin in us, which, as we showed before, is the application of Christ's death unto us. Now, this is done only by the Spirit which is active in us to this purpose. Thirdly, from the covenant of grace which God hath made with all believers, which is to bestow His Spirit upon them to this purpose, as Ezekiel 36:27. The fourth, and last, is the benefit or reward consequent upon it. That is in these words, "Ye shall live." It holds good in all the notions and specifications of life whatsoever. First, of natural life, "Length of days is in her right hand " (Proverbs 3:16). Secondly, of spiritual life, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith," etc. Thirdly, of eternal life (Romans 6:22), "Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." And Galatians 6:8, "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption."

(Thomas Horton, D.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.

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