Colossians 3:5-6

Edward Bass
Episcopal; Newbury, Massachusetts 1755-02-16, 1758-07-19, 1759-04-01, 1763-02-20, 1777-03-09, 1790-02-28, 1800-03-09
Mss. Boxes S, Sermons Collection, 1640-1875, American Antiquarian Society

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B Sermon of Edward Bass first Bishop of Massachusetts

Mortify therefore your Members which are upon the Earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, Evil concupiscence, & covetousness, which is Idolatry: — for which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience (Colossians 3:5-6) . —

The Apostle begins this chapter with telling the Colossians that if they were risen with Christ, if after his example they were truly risen also, i. e. become Christians indeed, by rising from the death of Sin unto the life of righteousness — they ought to Set their affection on things above, not on things on the Earth (Colossians 3:1-2) . —

& because their principal life lay with Christ in God, with whom, at his appearance, they also should appear in glory,— that therefore, as it is in my text they ought to mortify their Members that were upon the Earth (Colossians 3:3-5) . —

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Ever since the first corruption of our nature, our bodies are become the instruments of Sin; & the desires & appetites, that arise from thence, are in a great measure, our prompters & Seducers to it.

These are the lusts, which war against the soul, as the Apostle declares; & yet they have the good luck fortune to be thought our dearest friends, & looked upon as part of ourselves. —

in them, when accomplished, We account ourselves happy; in them, when crossed, We account ourselves miserable; & in them, when unheard, We account ourselves affronted. —

We allow them indeed to do any thing with us; they can put out our Eyes, & be welcome; — they can blind our judgments, & make stupefaction please us.

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our holy religion however teaches us another lesson: — it informs us, that, notwithstanding this dear union & commerce between Soul & body, there are no two in the world at greater Enmity with one another; none that drive on such different interests, as they.

our fleshly lusts are in a State of rebellion against our reason; & to listen to them, is to be confederates to our own ruin. —

Some of them are actually Evil; & the rest are inclinable to be so; & therefore the business of religion is to destroy the one, & restrain the other.

Now from hence arises this great Christian duty of Mortification, in treating of which in the following discourse, — I propose to show you in the first place —

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1st. wherein consists the nature of it

2dly. that it is a great Christian duty.

3dly. that it is necessary to our future happiness.

4thly. & lastly, to point out to you the means & instruments of performing it.

1st. I am to show you wherein consists the nature of mortification: or what it is to mortify our members which are upon the Earth.

St. Paul observing in Galatians 5:17, that the flesh lusteth against the spirit, & the spirit against the flesh, & that these are contrary the one to the other (Galatians 5:17) — gives us a long muster roll of that formidable army of wickedness, against which we engaged ourselves at our baptism, to contend. —

the works of the flesh, Says he, are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, Emulations, wrath, strife, Seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21) —

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now to Some or more of these, Every one of us, by our depraved nature, is inclined, & perhaps have run great lengths in the commission of them.

the inclination or appetite therefore whereby We have been instigated to do these things, We must so totally extirpate & destroy, as, if possible, to leave no remains of it in our nature. —

for it is not enough that We neither practice any of these sins, nor consent to the practice of them, unless We make it our constant Endeavor likewise, to wean ourselves from those Evil tendencies & inclinations, which We have contracted by our adhering to them.

these inclinations indeed are no farther our sins, than We yield or consent to them, "yet while We patiently harbor them in our bosom, without Endeavoring to Smother & extinguish them, they are in some measure chosen & voluntary; + & may be said to have in them the bane & formality of Sin. 1

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tho, We should not think it proper (for instance) to run into the same acts of lasciviousness, that We have formerly done,— yet while We retain with delight, our inclination towards it, & quietly please ourselves in the fantastic joys of it,— while We freely Entertain its lewd & filthy Ideas, & Suffer them to walk to & fro upon the stage of our fancies, without check or control,— We are still incontinent in the Sight of God, to whom our lust is as obvious within the closet of our minds, as upon the theatre of our practice.

We must not think therefore, that our Sin is mortified, because We neither practice, nor consent to the practice of it,—

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for while We have any inclinations to sin remaining in us, We must strive to Subdue & conquer them; — otherwise We have only forced our Enemy into his last retreat, from where, by our own neglect, We give him an opportunity to rally, & reinforce himself against us: —

our Sin still lives in our inclination to Sin, & will Soon, "if it be not beaten thence, cover its broken forces, & become as formidable again, as ever. —

If ever therefore, We mean to mortify our vicious inclination, We must not only abstain from the Sin itself, but avoid all occasions that lead to it; deny ourselves those lawful liberties that too nearly approach it, & impose upon ourselves Such voluntary restraints & Severities, as have a natural tendency to starve & root it out. — 2

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now in the second place — to show you that mortification, in this Sense, is a great Christian duty, will not, I Suppose, need many words. — for, Christians, at their first initiation into the Service of Christ, "renounce all the Sinful lusts Of the flesh; and, at the Sacred altar, when They ratify their baptismal vows, "offer & present unto God, themselves, their Souls & bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, & lively Sacrifice unto him. —

We are frequently, in the old testament, called upon To cease to do Evil, to learn to do well (Isaiah 1:16-17) , to circumcise ourselves to the Lord, & to take away the fore-Skin of our hearts (Jeremiah 4:4) : & incessantly in the new, to purge out the old leaven, in order to become a new lump (1 Corinthians 5:7) ; & to put off, concerning our former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt accord ing to the deceitful lusts, & to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:22-23) . 3

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add to this, how dismal a prospect is set before us if We continue our vicious inclinations, — but how blessed & joyful a one, if We abandon & destroy them: —

for, this is a decree that should always be Sounding in Every Christian Ear, if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye thro, the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live (Romans 8:13) .

3. in the third place, I am to show you the necessity of Mortification, in order to our future happiness.

now if We consider the present depravation of our nature, together with the nature of those felicities, which God has provided for us in a future life, We shall find it morally impossible for us ever to attain the one, without Endeavoring to correct & amend the other. —

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our future felicity will consist in the beatific vision of God & his Christ; in the happy Society of Saints & Angels; & in Such rational pleasures & employments, as the beauty of the objects, & other circumstances of the place, may be Supposed to Supply. —

but now allowing the case, that all the great hindrances of impiety were removed; that God were so easy & indulgent, as to pass by, in the other world, all the affronts that wicked Souls have offered him in this;

"yet Such is the incongruity between their temper & the temper of heaven, — that hWe could not be make them happy there, without creating in them having a new heart, created in us, for them or a new heaven created for us. 4

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for alas! "if we consider the matter rightly, how could Souls of their relish & complexion, 5 find a proper Employment for them Selves in the regions of bliss?! —

Where the entertainments are rational & divine, & so totally different from those gross & beastly Satisfactions in which they have always made their Happiness to consist / p12th.—

"there are no wanton amours, among those heavenly lovers, no rivers of wine, among their rivers of pleasure, to gratify their unbounded Sensuality,— no Parasite to flatter their lofty pride, — no miseries to feed their meager Envy,— "no mischiefs to tickle their devilish revenge: — but all the felicities with which that heavenly state abounds, (viz. praise, love, & contemplation) are such, that they would loath & nauseate them, as too pure & refined for their depraved appetites: "& not improbably, (if they had their own option) desire to fly to hell for shelter, & to spirits of their own depravity, rather than stay to be tormented in a heaven so incongruous disagreeable to their nature. — 6

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so that +

& hence We may observe, that,

+ as necessary as it is to obtain heaven & avoid hell,— so necessary it is for us to crucify the flesh (as the Apostle speaks) with the affections & lusts; —

"because God has reduced us to this short issue, either our Sins or our Souls must die; either We must shake hands with heaven, or with our depraved appetites:— So that, unless We value Eternal happiness so little, as to exchange it for the Sordid trifling pleasures of Sin —, & unless We love our Sins so well, as to ransom them with the blood of our immortal Soul, it very nearly concerns us To practice this duty of mortification. — 7

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Let us therefore consider in the 4th & last place, by what means & instruments, We may best be Enabled to perform it.

Now considering the infirmity of our natures, & the many temptations We have to Encounter, how We are habituated to a Sensual life, before We are capable of exercising our reason,— & how much our wills are biased & led aside by our carnal inclinations—

"it is hardly to be imagined, that We should ever be able to retrieve ourselves from the power & dominion of our lusts, — without some supernatural aid & assistance. — 8

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We want not indeed an understanding, capable of distinguishing between Good & Evil, — nor is our will so far determined to Evil, as not to be able to comply with the dictates of right reason; —

We can deliberate what is best to choose, & choose what We find best upon deliberation: but then We are like a man, standing between two contrary roads, naturally indeed free to turn either to the right hand or the left;

"but on the left hand way there are so many temptations, perpetually beckoning to us, & inviting us to that which is Evil, & our carnal passions & appetites are so ready upon all occasions to yield & comply with them, that We should certainly attend to their enticements, 9

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did not the holy spirit, with very strong arguments, "importune us to turn to the right hand way of virtue & goodness. —

the great principle then, which is to begin & conduct the work of our mortification, is the spirit of God, operating upon our minds; Sometimes by the arguments & motives of the gospel; Sometimes by external providences, that excite us to our duty; [symbol]— Sometimes (as the Scriptures not obscurely intimate) by the aids & assistances of his holy Angels;

[circled dot] & many times, by those internal motions & suggestions, which He himself immediately infuses. — but how great a share soever this Blessed Agent may have in this work, yet Since We are Enjoined to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh & spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, there is certainly some part of it incumbent upon us. 10

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as We are naturally dead in trespasses & Sins, We cannot indeed give the first motions to our minds, in the business We are now speaking of,—

"but when once We perceive it given, We have the means & instruments in our power, that are proper to continue it, &, by the Blessing of God, to bring it to perfection:

+ indeed: men that are naturally dead in trespasses & Sins must be Supposed to be extremely unfit for spiritual exertions

We can however upon any Sudden conviction of the Sinfulness of our ways, (We can) Sit ourselves down, & consider the motives & arguments, which our holy religion has provided against the most pleasant & alluring, the most profitable & advantageous of our lusts: When We have weighted these in a just balance, 11

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the momentary pleasures & profits of this life, with that Eternity of happiness or misery, that waits us in the next —

We can then take a Survey of the road that leads to our duty, & view carefully all the difficulties & temptations, that lie in our way;

& when We have made a proper Estimate of both, ask our hearts Seriously, whether for the joys, that are Set before us, in a distant Country State, they are willing to Surmount the one, & renounce the other. —

After We have thus calmly considered 12 with ourselves all the arguments against our lusts, & all the difficulties of forsaking them, & have reasoned our wills into an express consent to abandon them forever, — 13

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We can then fall down upon our bended knees, &, in a Solemn manner, devote ourselves to God’s Service; most religiously vowing & promising, that whatever We have done amiss, We will never do so any more. —

in obedience to this resolution, We can keep ourselves at a wary distance from our lusts, & Every thing that may prove an excitement to them;

"at least, till We have so far gotten the mastery of them, that their nearness ceases to be a temptation to us; — &, to complete this mastery, We can draw off from the Enemy their Succors, by fasting & abstinence; 14

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can confirm our party, by a religious observation of God’s holy ordinances; & procure fresh auxiliaries from above, by constant invocation & prayer. —

this is certainly what any of us can do: & if We continue to do this, with an hearty purpose to extricate ourselves from the paths of destruction —

"there is no doubt, but that God’s grace will be Sufficient for us. —

by the concurrence of this principle with our own faculties, this holy resolution was at first begotten in us; — & therefore ‘twill injure the character of our heavenly Father, to think, that, for want of any assistance (so long as our own Endeavors are not want ing) He will Suffer his own offspring to become abortive. 15

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thus have I very briefly shown you— what it is to Mortify ourselves. — that it is a great Christian duty. — that it is necessary to our future happiness, & also pointed out to you the means & instruments of performing it. —

& now if mortification be an affair of so much consequence — how grossly deficient are they in their duty, nay how directly do they go astray from it, who give full Scope & indulgence to their appetites & passions?

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who never restrain their desires at all, but perpetually Enjoy, if they can, whatever they take a fancy to? — whatever their depraved nature craves?

how far are they from practicing mortification, "who make it their business to pursue all the pleasures & gratifications that are to be had in this life, without troubling their heads about any other?— 16

there are many people, who, if We may judge by their conduct, think they have nothing else to do here, but eat & drink & rise up to sport & to play: — they indulge themselves in all manner of delicacies that are pleasing to the outward senses, without any kind of restraint.

they chant to the Sound of the viol turn over

they lie upon beds of Ivory, & stretch themselves upon their couches, & eat the lambs out of the flock, & the calves of the midst of the stall; — "they drink wine in bowls, & anoint themselves with the chief ointments (Amos 6:4-6) . —

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Such men indeed do, in one Sense, practice mortification; i.e. they kill themselves with Eating & drinking Sensual indulgence. —

& this, methinks, should be an argument & motive to temperance, if no considerations of religion can be of any force. —

would a man then See many good & healthful days, let him attend always to the calls & demands of nature; Eat when he is hungry & drink when he is adry: —

whatsoever is more than this these cometh of Evil (Matthew 5:37) , & tends to death. —

the Xian indeed will govern himself by a higher consideration; — not merely the health of his body but likewise that of his Soul. —

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temperance & mortification will keep his reason clear & bright, & all his passions in due Subordination thereto: —

& this is the true health & vigor of the Soul. —

Let us therefore keep under our bodies & bring them into Subjection; &, as We are striving for the mastery, be temperate in all things (1 Corinthians 9:25) . —

We have a Christian race to run, whose goal is heaven (1 Corinthians 9:24) ; Let us therefore lay aside Every weight, Every thing that may clog & encumber us,— & run with patience the race that is Set before us (Hebrews 12:1) . —

our prize is noble, our hope is glorious; "let us not therefore Suffer our vile Sordid appetites to disappoint us, & make us fall short.

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let us part with our dearest lusts, cut off our right hand, & pluck out our right Eye sins; for it is better for us to Enter into heaven with one hand, or one Eye, — than having two hands & two eyes, to be cast into hell: (Matthew 5:29-30)

there the worm dieth not, & the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44, 46, 48) . —

from this, good Lord, deliver us, for thy mercy’s sake in Christ Jesus, to whom etc. —

Newbury— February 16th, 1755. morning 1st. Sunday in Lent. &

February 19th, 1758. morning —

April 1st, 1759—Evening—

February 20, 1763. do—

March 9th, 1777. —

February 28, 1790

March 9, 1800

From Mrs. E. G. Kelley of Newburyport July 1872.


1. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 977.

2. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 977.

3. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 977.

4. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 977.

5. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 977.

6. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 978.

7. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 978.

8. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 978.

9. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 978.

10. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 978.

11. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 978.

12. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 978.

13. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 979.

14. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 979.

15. Thomas Stackhouse, A Complete Body of Divinity (London: 1729), 979.

16. Bass seems here to paraphrase Matthew Henry, The Pleasantness of a Religious Life Opened and Proved, 14th edition (London: 1787), 88.