And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
1. What is meant by being Christ's? To be Christ's is to accept of and have an interest in Christ, as He is offered and proposed in the gospel. Now Christ is offered and held forth to every particular person that expects to be saved by Him under three offices —
(1) His prophetical;
(2) His kingly; and
(3) His sacredotal.
2. In the next place we are to see what is meant by "the flesh, and the affections and lusts." In the meantime by flesh we are to understand the whole entire body of sin and corruption, that inbred proneness in our nature to all evil, in one word expressed by "concupiscence," usually called by the schoolmen "fomes"; that fuel or combustible matter in the soul, that is apt to be fired by every temptation; the womb that conceives and brings forth all actual impurities, styled in the next words, "affections and lusts."
I. To show WHY THIS VITIOSITY AND CORRUPT HABIT OF NATURE COMES TO HAVE THIS DENOMINATION OF "FLESH."
1. Because of its situation and place, which is principally in the flesh. Here it is placed, here it is enthroned. Concupiscence itself follows the crasis and temperature of the body; as we know the liquor for the present receives the figure of the vessel into which it is infused.
2. The vitiosity of our nature is called "flesh," because of its close, inseparable nearness to the soul. There is an intimate conjunction and union between the soul and sin; and the intimacy o! their coherence is the cause of the intimacy of their friendship. The nearness between these two, our soul and our corruption, is so great, that it arises to a kind of identity; hence to deny and conquer our sin is, in Scripture language, to deny ourselves, implying that sin adheres so dose to us, that it is a kind of second self.
3. A third reason why the vitiosity of our nature is called "flesh" is because of its dearness to us. And this founded upon the former, for vicinity is one cause of love. Now there is nothing that we prosecute with a more affectionate tenderness than our flesh; for, as the apostle says (Ephesians 5:29), "No mail ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it." Nay, take a survey of all the arts, the trades, and the most prized inventions in the world, and you will find ten to four found out and employed either to please or adorn the flesh. It is for this that the artificer labours and the merchant ventures; and we compass sea and land ten times oftener to make a gallant than to make a proselyte. Justly therefore upon this account also does the Spirit express our sin by the name of "flesh," for this has an equal share in our love.Now what has been hitherto discoursed of may, by way of inference, suggest these things to our consideration.
1. The deplorable estate of fallen man, whose condition is now such that he carries his plague about him, and wears it something nearer to him than his shirt; that he encloses a viper in his bowels, feeds and maintains, and is passionately fond of his mortal enemy; and what is the greatest misery of all, has it not in his power to be otherwise. He has a body that is not so much the instrument, or servant, as the dungeon of his soul: and sin holds him by such bonds of pleasure so strong, so suitable to his perverted and diseased inclinations, that his ruin is presented to him as his interest, and nothing gratifies, delights, or wins upon him, but that which dishonours his Maker, and certainly destroys himself.
2. The next thing offered from hence to cur thoughts is the great difficulty of the duty of mortification. This is a greater work than men are aware of. It is indeed the killing of an enemy, but of such an enemy as a man thinks his friend, and loves as his child; and-how hard it is to put the knife to the throat of an Isaac is easily imaginable. What! part with that that came into the world with me, and has ever since lived and conversed with me, that continually lies down and rises up with me, that has even incorporated itself into my nature, seized all my appetites, and possessed all my faculties, so that it is the centre and principle of all my pleasures, and that which gives a relish and a quickness to every object! This is a hard saying, and a harder undertaking. He must be a good orator that should persuade a man to stick daggers and needles in his flesh, to strip, his bones, and in a manner to tear his nature over his eyes; yet to mortify a sin is something like it. But alas! it would go near to nonplus the most artificial persuader, to bring a man to part with the covering of his body; but how much more with the vestment of his soul!
3. In the third and last place, this declares to us the mean and sordid employment of every sinner. He serves the flesh, that is, he is a drudge and a scavanger to the most inferior part of his nature.
II. WHAT IS IMPORTED BY THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE FLESH.
1. The reason of the use of the term here. It is used by way of allusion to Christ, of whose behaviour and sufferings every Christian is to be a living copy and representation. Christ will have His death an example to excite, as well as a sacrifice to save; and there is no passage in His life and death but is intended for our instruction, as well as our salvation.
2. The full force and significance of it. Crucifying therefore, as it is here applied to the corruption and depraved sinful disposition of our nature, imports these four things —
(1) The death of it. The cross is the instrument of death, and to crucify is to kill. A few interrupted assaults and combats with a man's corruption will not suffice. He that will crucify his sin must pursue it to the very death.
(2) As it implies death, so it further imports a violent death. Sin never dies of age. It is as when a young man dies in the full fire and strength of his youth, by some vehement distemper; it as it were tears, and forces, and fires his soul out of his body. Never think to dispossess him by a bare summons, or imagine that a man can recover the mastery of his heart and his affections by a few prayers and broken humiliations. The conquest had need be glorious, for it will be found by sharp experience that the combat will be dangerous.
(3) To crucify the flesh with the affections of it imports a painful, bitter, and vexatious death. Let us but reflect upon our Saviour. He was nailed to the tree, and that through those parts which were most apprehensive of pain, the hands and the feet; which members, by reason of the concurrence of the nerves and sinews there, must needs be of quickest sense. Thus He hung, in the extremity of torture, till, through the insupportable pressures of pain, He at length gave up the ghost. So the mortification of sin is to be so general and diffused as not only to fix upon the bulk and body of sin, but to stretch the inquisition to even the least desire, the most lurking and secret affection, for assuredly there is some. thing more than ordinary implied in this expression of "crucifying sin;" it cannot but import the most rugged, cruel, and remorseless dealing with it that is imaginable. And however men are nice and favourable to their corruption, yet did they consider what endless pains, what unspeakable torments, their corrupt affections and lusts prepare for them, even self-love could not but be religion enough to make them prevent such miseries, by first inflicting them upon the author.
(4) In the fourth and last place, crucifixion denotes a shameful and a cursed death; it is such a one as was marked out and signalized with a peculiar malediction, even of old, by God Himself (Deuteronomy 21:23). Thus, therefore, must the corruption and vitiosity of our nature be dealt with. God has doomed it to death without the benefit of so much as dying honourably.
3. The means for enabling us to perform this duty. Two I shall mention as conducible to this crucifixion of the flesh, with its affections and lusts.
(1) The first is a constant and pertinacious denying them in all their cravings for satisfaction. Defraudation of the appetites of sin weakens the whole body of sin and themselves also; as on the other side all satisfaction corroborates and inflames them.
(2) The other means to crucify a corrupt affection is to encounter it by actions of the opposite virtue. This differs from the former thus, that that was only the denying of fuel to a fire, but this a pouring of water upon it, and so vanquishing it by the prevalence of a contrary element.
(R. South, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.