How may I know whether the Lord has brought me into a state of mortification or not?…It may be that some of you are very desirous to be satisfied in it, so I shall give you six revealing characteristics of it and go over them very briefly. Would you know whether God has brought you into a state of mortification or not?
1. You may know it by this characteristic: if you are now more fearful of running into occasions and opportunities of sin than you have been in times past, this is an argument that you are a mortified man. An unmortified heart is bold and venturous and will rush upon occasions of sin, whereas a mortified heart is very careful to avoid all occasions of evil.
One compares a mortified man to a dove or partridge. Now such as use that game of hawking report that such an innate fear and dread doves or partridges have of the hawk that they not only fear the hawk but the very feathers of it. So a mortified man not only fears a downright sin, but also anything that may be a provocation or inlet to a sin. Now if this holy fear of displeasing and offending God is found in you, I may safely pass this sure judgment upon you: you are a mortified man when you are in such a gracious frame and temper of spirit as that in Jude 23, when you hate the garment spotted with the flesh…
2. Another discovery is this: when an occasion of committing a sin is openly offered to a man, along with concurring circumstances that might provoke him to that sin, yet he will restrain and bridle his appetite and will not commit that sin. This is a sign of a truly mortified heart, and if God has brought you into such a frame, He has thor-oughly mortified your corruptions.
Beloved, an unmortified man may abstain from a sin when there is no opportunity or occasion offered to commit that sin. But this is an argument of a mortified heart: though all occasions for acting a sin concur, yet he will abstain from it…Joseph in Genesis 39:9…had a fair occasion offered him to commit the sin of adultery. He had opportunity, for he and his mistress were alone. He had importunity, for she urged and solicited him from day to day to do it. He had secrecy, too, for the text says that the doors were shut. There was none but the two of them in the house. He might have gotten a great deal of preferment and advantage by it, for she would have made him lord over her house. You see that here was opportunity, importunity, secrecy, and advantage. All these occasions were clearly offered and concurred to invite Joseph to the sin of uncleanness. Yet, for all this, Joseph replied, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). Here you see the power of sin mortified in Joseph’s heart. Now, do you try your own hearts by this pattern, that when all occasions are offered for committing a sin, you can still say “no” to your lusts?…
3. If there is any tendency in your heart toward a greater resistance against the devil’s temptations to sin than formerly, this is a good argument that the Lord has brought you into a state of mortification. It may be that heretofore your nature was like gunpowder, apt to be in a flame upon any temptation. But now it is like green wood that will lie a great while upon the fire before it burns. So a temptation can hardly persuade you to yield to it. If it is thus with you, you have made great progress in this work of mortification.
4. If there is a fair proportion between the death of sin and the life of grace in your soul, then you are a mortified man. Beloved, the Lord’s work is not a half-work, to kill corruptions in your heart and no more; but if the Lord has savingly subdued sin in your soul, He will work a contrary work of grace in you that shall live and act in your soul. Mortification and the death of sin must come in tandem with vivification and the life of grace. So if sin is dead, grace shall live in your soul. Therefore, the Apostle joins them both together in Romans 6:11: “Reckon yourselves dead unto sin, but alive unto God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2: “For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men but to the will of God.” Here the Apostle not only enjoins us not to spend our time in fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, but to live unto God. Therefore, beloved, that is only a cessation, not a mortification of corruption, where there is a forcible restraint laid upon your lusts. They only seem to be dead, but are not so really.
5. Mortification is discovered by this characteristic: where the keeping under of any corruption is the result of a deep humiliation. The mortification that never had true humiliation preceding is but a mere cessation from sin. Your sins have never yet been truly mortified if your heart has not been truly humbled. Many men do with their sins as fencers do upon a stage: sometimes they give one another a slight blow or scare, but they never strike a deadly stroke. Some men will play with sin, but never give it a mortal wound. A truly mortified man is like a warrior: he will either kill or be killed. He will kill his sins or else his sin will kill him. Now examine yourselves in this: are you only fencers, to sport and play with your lusts, or are you warriors who fight with an implacable opposition against sin? Do you only give a slight scare to sin or have you given it a deadly wound?
6. Mortification may be discovered by its breadth, for it does not consist in the killing of any one particular sin, but in striking at the root and whole body of sin. Therefore, the Apostle exhorts us to mortify our members which are on the earth—fornication, uncleanness, etc.—and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts; to keep under the whole body of sin. It is with the mortification of sin as it is with the dying of the body. You know that death is not a seizure upon the arm or leg, or any one or two members, but upon all the members of the body—all must die. So mortification is not the killing of any one member of sin, but a seizure upon the whole body of sin. The keeping under of some particular sins does not argue mortification unless you have given a mortal wound to the very body and bulk of corruption…
Take this for your comfort: in the mortification of every sin, you have Christ’s strength to help you as well as your own…He rewards us as if we had done it ourselves.
Christopher Love “The Mortified Christian” 1618-1651