Once again, don’t run away from this blog post just because it’s got a bit of a Puritan flavor to it. I mentioned last week that I’ve been running through John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation and trying to distill each chapter to its essence–to a few choice quotes that capture the flavor of what Owen is trying to communicate. I recently summarized the first chapter, The Foundation of Mortification. Today I want to share what I learned from the second chapter, which has the rather long and clunky title of “Believers Ought to Make the Mortification of Indwelling Sin Their Daily Work.” I shortened it to “Daily Put Sin to Death.” In this chapter Owen seeks to show that Christians need to work every day to put sin to death (Owen’s word mortification simply means put to death).
Here is how he goes about building his argument. You can see from the headings how he progresses.
“The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”
“Do you mortify?
Do you make it your daily work?
Be always at it while you live.
Cease not a day from this work.
Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
Indwelling Sin Always Lives On
“We have a ‘body of death’ (Rom. 7:24), from whence we are not delivered but by the death of our bodies (Phil. 3:20). Now, it being our duty to mortify, to be killing of sin while it is in us, we must be at work. He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, does but half his work.”
Indwelling Sin Continues to Act
“Sin does not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.”
“Sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting. Who can say that he had ever anything to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not had a hand in the corrupting of what he did?”
“There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on.”
Indwelling Sin Will Produce Soul-Destroying Sins
“Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins.”
“Sin always aims for the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin of that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.”
Indwelling Sin Must Be Opposed by the Spirit and the New Nature
“This is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature are given unto us—that we may have a principle within us whereby to oppose sin and lust.”
“Not to be daily mortifying sin is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who has furnished us with a principle of doing it.”
Neglecting to Mortify Indwelling Sin Exacts a Terrible Cost
“Negligence in this duty casts the soul into a perfect contrary to that which the apostle affirms was his: ‘Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day’ (2 Cor. 4:16). In these the inward man perishes, and the outward man is renewed day by day.”
“By the omission of this duty grace withers, lust flourishes, and the frame of the heart grows worse and worse; and the Lord knows what desperate and fearful issues it has had with many.”
It Is Our Duty to Grow in Holiness and Grace Every Day
“It is our duty to be ‘perfecting holiness in the fear of God’ (2 Cor. 7:1); to be ‘growing in grace’ every day (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18); to be ‘renewing our inward man day by day’ (2 Cor 4:16). Now, this cannot be done without the daily mortifying of sin. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness and against every degree we grow to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who does not kill sin in his way takes no steps toward his journey’s end. He who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it.”
“Sin does so remain, so act and work in the best of believers, while they live in this world, that the constant daily mortification of it is all their days incumbent on them.”