Of the Nature, Principle, and Necessity of Mortification
Galatians 5:24
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Here is what St. Paul says to these Galatians. You all profess yourselves to be members of Christ, to be followers of Him; but how incongruous are these practices to such a profession? Is this the fruit of the dove-like spirit of Christ?

1. The subject of the proposition, they that are Christ's, viz., true Christians, real members of Christ; such as truly belong to Christ, such as have given themselves up to be governed by Him, and are, indeed, acted by His spirit; such, all such persons (for the indefinite is equipollent to an universal), all such, and none but such.

2. The predicate; they have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts. But he chooses in this place to call it crucifixion, to show, not only the conformity there is betwixt the death of Christ and the death of sin, in respect of shame, pain, and lingering slowness, but to denote also the principle, means, and instrument of mortification, viz., the death, or cross of Jesus Christ, in the virtue whereof believers do mortify the corruptions of their flesh, the great arguments and persuasives to mortification being drawn from the sufferings of Christ for sin. The observation followeth: That a saving interest in Christ may be regularly and strongly inferred and concluded from the mortification of the flesh, with its affections and lusts.

I. WHAT THE MORTIFICATION, OR CRUCIFIXION OF SIN, IMPORTS. And for clearness sake I shall speak to it, both negatively and positively, showing you what is not intended, and what is principally aimed at, by the Spirit of God in this expression.

1. Negatively.

(1) The crucifying of the flesh doth not imply the total abolition of sin in believers, or the destruction of its very being and existence in them, for the present. Sanctified souls so put off their corruptions with their bodies at death. This will be the effect of our future glorification, not of our present sanctification. —

(2) Nor doth the crucifixion of sin consist in the suppression of the external acts of sin only, for sin may reign over the souls of men whilst it doth not break forth into their lives in gross and open actions (2 Peter 2:20; Matthew 12:43).

(3) The crucifixion of the flesh does not consist in the cessation of the external acts of sin, for, in that respect the lusts of men may die of their own accord, even a kind of natural death.

(4) It does not consist in the severe castigation of the body, and penancing it by stripes, lastings, and pilgrimages.

2. Positively.

(1) It implies the soul's implantation into Christ, and union with Him.

(2) It implies the agency of the Spirit of God in that work, without whose assistances and aids all our endeavours must needs be fruitless.

(3) The crucifixion of sin necessarily implies the subversion of its dominion in the soul.

(4) A gradual weakening of the power of sin in the soul.

(5) The crucifying of the flesh denotes to us the believer's designed application of all spiritual means, and sanctified instruments, for the destruction of it.


1. The death of the cross was a painful death, and the mortification of sin is very painful work (Matthew 25:29).

2. The death of the cross was universally painful. Every member, every sense, every sinew, every nerve was the seat and subject of tormenting pain. So is it in the mortification of sin. 'Tis not this or that particular member or act, but the whole body of sin that is to be destroyed (Romans 6:6).

3. The death of the cross was a slow and lingering death, denying unto them that suffered it, the favour of a quick dispatch. Just so it is in the death of sin, though the Spirit of God be mortifying it day by day.

4. The death of the cross was a very opprobrious and shameful death. They that died upon the cross were loaded with ignominy. The crimes for which they died were exposed to the public view. After this manner dieth sin, a very shameful and ignominious death. Every true believer draws up a charge against it in every prayer, aggravates and condemns it in every confession, bewails the evil of it with multitudes of tears and groans, making sin as vile and odious as they can find words to express it, though not so vile as it is in its own nature.

5. In a word, the death of the cross was not a natural, but a violent, death. Such also is the death of sin. Sin dies not of its own accord, as Nature dieth in old men, in whom the balsamum radicale, or radical moisture, is consumed, for if the Spirit of God did not kill it, it would live to eternity in the souls of men.


1. From the inconsistency and contrariety that there is betwixt Christ and unmortified lust (Galatians 5:17).

2. The necessity of mortification appears, from the necessity of conformity betwixt Christ the head and all the members of His mystical body, for how incongruous and uncomely would it be to see a holy, heavenly Christ leading a company of unclean, carnal, and sensual members? (Matthew 11:29). "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly."

3. The necesity of crucifying the flesh appears from the method of salvation, as it is stated in the gospel.

4. The whole stream and current of the gospel puts us under the necessity of mortification. Gospel-precepts have respect unto this (Colossians 3:5; 1 Peter 1:15). Gospel-presidents have respect unto this (Hebrews 12:1). Gospel-threatenings are written for this end, and do all press mortification in a thundering dialect (Romans 8., 13; 1:18). The promises of the gospel are written designedly to promote it (2 Corinthians 7:1). But in vain are all these precepts, presidents, threatenings, and promises written in the Scripture, except mortification be the daily study and practice of professors.

5. Mortification is the very scope and aim of our regeneration, and the infusion of the principles of grace (Galatians 5:25). In vain were the habits of grace planted if the fruits of holiness and mortification be not produced; yea, mortification is not only the design and aim, but it is a special part, even the one-half of our sanctification.

6. If mortification be not the daily practice and endeavour of believers, then the way to heaven no way answers to Christ's description of it in the gospel.

IV. In the next place we are to INQUIRE INTO THE TRUE PRINCIPLE OF MORTIFICATION. 'Tis true there are many ways attempted by men for the mortification of sin, and many rules laid down to guide men in that great work, some of which are very trifling and impertinent things. But I shall lay down this as a sure conclusion that the sanctifying Spirit is the only effectual principle of mortification, and without Him no resolutions, vows, abstinences, castigations of the body, or any other external endeavours can ever avail to the mortification of one sin. This work of mortification is peculiar to the Spirit of God (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:17), and the Spirit becomes a principle of mortification in believers two ways, namely —

1. By the implantation of contrary habits.

2. By assisting those implanted habits in all the times of need.

V. The last query to be satisfied is, HOW MORTIFICATION OF SIN SOLIDLY EVINCETH THE SOUL'S INTEREST IN CHRIST; and this it doth divers ways, affording the mortified soul many sound evidences thereof. As evidence —

1. Whatsoever evidences the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God in us must needs be evidential of a saving interest in Christ, as hath been fully proved before; but the mortification doth plainly evidence the indwelling of the Spirit of God, for it can proceed from no other principle.

2. That which proves a soul to be under the covenant of grace evidently proves its interest in Christ, for Christ is the head of that covenant, and none but sound believers are under the blessings and promises of it. But mortification of sin is a sound evidence of the soul's being under the covenant of grace, as is plain from those words of the apostle in Romans 6:12-14.

3. That which is the fruit and evidence of saving faith must needs be a good evidence of our interest in Christ, but mortification of sin is the fruit and evidence of saving faith (Acts 15:9; 1 John 5:4).

4. In a word, there is an intimate and indissoluble connection betwixt the mortification of sin and the life of grace (Romans 6:11). And the life of Christ must needs involve a saving interest in Christ.Application:

1. For information.

(1) If they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh, then the life of Christians is no idle or easy life. The corruptions of the heart will continually fill the hands with work of the most difficult nature.

(2) If mortification be the great work of a Christian, then certainly those that give the corruptions of Christians an occasion to revive must needs do them a very ill office. They are not our best friends who stir the pride of our hearts by" the flattery of their lips.

(3) Manifold and successive afflictions are no more than what is necessary for the best of Christians. The mortification of our lusts requires them all, be they never so many.

(4) How deeply hath sin fixed its roots in our corrupt nature that it should be the constant work of a Christian's whole life to mortify and destroy it.

2. For exhortation.

(1) The comfort and sweetness resulting from mortification should effectually persuade every believer to more diligence about it.

(2) As your comfort depends upon this, so does your fitness for the service of God,

(3) Your stability and safety in the hour of temptation depends upon the success of your mortifying endeavours.

(4) As temptations will be irresistible, so afflictions will be unsupportable to you without mortification.

(5) The reputation and honour of religion is deeply concerned in the mortification of the professors of it, for unmortified professors will, first or last, be the scandals and reproaches of it.

(6) What hard work will you have in your dying hour, except you get a heart mortified to this world and all that is in it? Your parting hour is like to be a dreadful hour without the help of mortification. Your corruptions, like glue, fasten your affections to the world, and how hard will it be for such a man to be separated by death. O what a bitter and doleful parting have carnal hearts from carnal things I whereas the mortified soul can receive the messengers of death without trouble, and as cheerfully put off the body at death as a man doth his clothes at night. Death need not pull and hale; such a man goes half-way to meet it (Philippians 1:23).

3. For direction.

(1) If ever you will succeed and prosper in the work of mortification, then get and daily exercise more faith. Faith is the great instrument of mortification.

(2) Walk in daily communion With God if ever you will mortify the corruptions of nature. That is the apostle's own prescription (Galatians 5:16).

(3) Keep your consciences under the awe and in the fear of God continually, as ever you hope to be successful in the mortification of sin. The fear of God is the great preservative from sin, without which all the external rules and helps in the world signify nothing.

(4) Study the vanity of the creature, and labour to get true notions of the emptiness and transitoriness thereof.

(5) Be careful to eat off all the occasions of sin, and keep at the greatest, distance from temptation.

(6) Never engage against the Corruptions of your nature in your own single strength. Seek God's assistance; then you will succeed, and then only.

(7) Set in with the mortifying design of God in the day of -thine affliction; sanctified afflictions are ordered and prescribed in heaven for the purging of our corruptions (Isaiah 27:9).

(8) Bend the strength of your duties and endeavours against your proper and special sin. 'Tis in vain to lop off branches while the root of bitterness remains untouched.

(9) Study the nature and great importance of those things which are to be won or lost according to the success and issue of this conflict. Your life is as a race, eternal glory is the prize; grace and corruption are the antagonists, and, accordingly as either finally prevails, eternal life is won or lost (1 Corinthians 9:24).

(10) Accustom your thoughts to such meditations as are proper to mortify sin in your affections, else all endeavours to mortify it will be but faint and languid.(i.) Consider the evil that is in sin, and how terrible the appearances of God will one day be against those that obey it in the lust thereof (Romans 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:7-9).(ii.) Think what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to expiate the guilt of sin by the suffering the wrath of the great and terrible God for it in our room. The meditations of a crucified Christ are very crucifying meditations unto sin (Galatians 6:14).(iii.) Consider what a grief and wound the sins of believers are to the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30).(iv.) Consider with yourselves that no real good, either of profit or pleasure, can result from sin. If they do repent, the pleasure of sin will be turned into the gall of asps here; if they do not repent, it will terminate in everlasting howlings hereafter. That's a smart question, Romans 6:21.(v.) Consider what the damned suffer for those sins which the devil now tempteth you to commit.(vi.) Bethink yourselves what inexcusable hypocrisy it will be in you to indulge yourselves in the private satisfaction of your lusts under a contrary profession of religion. You are a people that profess holiness, and professedly own yourselves to be under the government and dominion of Christ. And must the worthy name of Christ be only used to cloak and cover your lusts and corruptions, which are so hateful to Him? God forbid.(vii.) Consider with yourselves what hard things some Christians have chosen to endure and suffer, rather than they would defile themselves with guilt; and shall every small temptation ensnare and take your souls?

(Bishop Hacker.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

WEB: Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.

Moral Crucifixion
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