Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mortification of Sin in Believers - Chapter 9 Summary

In Chapter IX of The Mortification of Sin in the Believer, John Owen begins to speak about the practical application of mortification. His previous chapters had to do with "general rules"; the following chapters have to do with "particular directions to the soul for its guidance under the sense of a disquieting lust or distemper." Owen is moving on to practical steps one can take in dealing with sin.

Chapter IX

Owen begins with the following direction:

FIRST. Consider what dangerous symptoms thy lust hath attending or accompanying it, -- whether it hath any deadly mark on it or no; if it hath, extraordinary remedies are to be used; an ordinary course of mortification will not do it.

So, first we are to consider whether or not the lust we intend to mortify is of the ordinary sort or if it is more dangerous and deadly. Owen gives us several symptoms to consider in order to make this determination.

You will say, "What are these dangerous marks and symptoms, the desperate attendancies of an indwelling lust, that you intend?" Some of them I shall name:
1. Inveterateness.-- If it hath lain long corrupting in thy heart, if thou hast suffered it to abide in power and prevalency, without attempting vigorously the killing of it, and the healing of the wounds by it, for some long season, thy distemper is dangerous ... Old neglected wounds are often mortal, always dangerous. Indwelling distempers grow rusty and stubborn by continuance in ease and quiet. Lust is such an inmate as, if it can plead time and some prescription, will not easily be ejected. As it never dies of itself, so if it be not daily killed it will always gather strength.

2. Secret please of the heart for the countenancing of itself, and keeping up its peace, notwithstanding the abiding of a lust, without a vigorous gospel attempt for its mortification, is another dangerous symptom of a deadly distemper in the heart ... When upon thoughts, perplexing thoughts about sin, instead of applying himself to the destruction of it, a man searches his heart to see what evidences he can find of a good condition, notwithstanding that sin and lust, so that it may go well with him ... By applying grace and mercy to an unmortified sin, or one not sincerely endeavoured to be mortified, is this deceit carried on. This is a sign of a heart greatly entangled with the love of sin.

3. Frequency of success in sin's seduction, in obtaining the prevailing consent of the will unto it, is another dangerous symptom ... When we are inadvertent and negligent, where we are bound to watchfulness and carefulness, that inadvertency doth not take off from the voluntariness of what we do thereupon; for although men do not choose and resolve to be negligent and inadvertent, yet if they choose the things that will make them so, they choose inadvertency itself as a thing may be chosen in its cause.

4. When a man fighteth against his sin only with arguments from the issue or the punishment due unto it, this is a sign that sin hath taken great possession of the will, and that in the heart there is a superfluity of naughtiness ... But now if a man be so under the power of his lust that he hath nothing but law to oppose it withal, if he cannot fight against it with gospel weapons, but deals with it altogether with hell and judgement, which are the proper arms of the law, it is most evident that sin hath possessed itself of his will and affections to a very great prevalency and conquest.

5. When it is probable that there is, or may be, somewhat of judiciary hardness, or at least of chastening punishment, in thy lust as disquieting. This is another dangerous symptom ... Hast thou received any eminent mercy, protection, deliverance, which thou didst not improve in a due manner, nor wast thankful for? or hast thou been exercised with any affliction without labouring for the appointed end of it? or hast thou been wanting to the opportunities of glorifying God in thy generation, which, in his good providence, he had graciously afforded unto thee? or hast thou conformed thyself unto the world and the men of it, through the abounding of temptations in the days wherein thou livest? If thou findest this to have been thy state, awake, call upon God; thou art fast asleep in a storm of anger round about thee.

6. When thy lust hath already withstood particular dealings from God against it ... Unspeakable are the evils which attend such a frame of heart. Every particular warning to a man in such an estate is an inestimable mercy; how then doth he despise God in them who holds out against them! And what infinite patience is this in God, that he doth not cast off such a one, and swear in his wrath that he shall never enter into his rest!

Owen ends with some instruction considering these symptoms: "These and many other evidences are there of a lust that is dangerous, if not mortal. As our Saviour said of the evil spirit, "This kind goes not out but by fasting and prayer," so say I of lusts of this kind. An ordinary course of mortification will not do it; extraordinary ways must be fixed on. This is the first particular direction: Consider whether the lust or sin you are contending with hath any of these dangerous symptoms attending of it."

This is the first practical consideration for the mortification of sin from Edwards; consider whether or not the lust you intend to mortify is a regular sort or one which is more dangerous and deadly.

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