Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The futility of mortification for the unregenerate

Chapter VII of The Mortification of Sin in the Believer focuses on some universal truths about mortification, some general rules as it were. The author, John Owen, focuses on the inability of unregenerate persons to mortify sin. Essentially, mortification of sins is a work of the Spirit and, to those who have no interest in the Spirit, Owen determines that they are without the ability to mortify their sins.

Unless a man be a believer, -- that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ, -- he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so.

Mortification is the work of believers ... An unregenerate man may do something like it; by the work itself, so as it may be acceptable with God, he can never perform ... There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.

It is true, it is, it will be, required of every person whatever that hears the law or gospel preached, that he mortify sin. It is his duty, but it is not his immediate duty; it is his duty to do it, but to do it in God's way ...

A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit. ... All attempts, then, for mortification of any lust, without an interest in Christ, are vain. Many men that are galled with and for sin, the arrows of Christ for conviction, by the preaching of the word, or some affliction having been made sharp in their hearts, do vigorously set themselves against this or that particular lust, wherewith their consciences have been most disquieted or perplexed. But, poor creatures! they labour in the fire, and their work consumeth ...

I say, then, mortification is not the present business of unregenerate men. God calls them not to it as yet; conversion is their work, -- the conversion of the whole soul, -- not the mortification of this or that particular lust. ...

This is that I aim at: unless a man be regenerate, unless he be a believer, all attempts that he can make for mortification, be they never so specious and promising, -- all means he can use, let him follow them with never so much diligence, earnestness, watchfulness, and intention of mind and spirit, -- are to no purpose. In vain shall he use many remedies; he shall not be healed.

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