Mortification of Sin Excerpt

Mortification of Sin Excerpt

An Extended Excerpt from Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen:


The correct and acceptable principles of mortification will be emphasized from here on. It is hating sin as sin, not just as a painful or disturbing habit, and comprehending the love of Christ as revealed in the cross, that lie at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification. It is obvious that the selective mortification I speak of is spawned by self-love. You resolve with all diligence and earnestness to mortify a particular lust or sin. What is the reason? It bothers you. It has robbed you of your peace. It fills your heart with sorrow, trouble, and fear. You have no rest because of it. Friend, I suspect you have neglected prayer or reading. You have been conceited and loose in your conversation, or involved in things different than the lust that bothers you. These are no less sinful, and no less evil, than the one causing you pain. Jesus Christ bled for those too. Why not set yourself against them as well?


If you hate sin as sin, and every evil way that grieves and disturbs your soul, then you should be just as watchful against everything that grieves and disturbs the Spirit of God. It is obvious that you struggle against sin merely because of the trouble it causes you. If your conscience was quiet about it, you would let it alone. If it did not bother you, you wouldn’t bother it. Now, do you really think God will put up with such hypocritical endeavors? Do you not think his Spirit will testify to the treachery and falsehood of your spirit? Do you think he will relieve you of what bothers you, so you will be free to pursue something else that grieves him just as much? No, says God. “If he could be rid of this lust, I would never hear from him again. Let him wrestle with it, or he will be lost.”


No one should think to do his own work if he will not do God’s work. God’s work consists in universal obedience. To be freed of the present problem is our own work. That is why the apostle writes, “Cleanse yourselves from all pollution of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”1 If we will do anything, we must do all things. So then, what is acceptable to God is not only an intense opposition to this or that specific lust, but a universally humble frame of heart. We are to be watchful over every evil, and perform every duty.

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