On Tuesday mornings I and several others are working through John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. Here are a couple of quotes for today’s discussion.
From Chapter 3 on “The Work of the Holy Spirit in Mortification”,
“I might here bewail the endless, foolish labour of poor souls, who are convinced of sin, and yet not able to stand against its power They try many perplexing ways and duties, to keep down sin, but, being strangers to the Spirit of God, they find it is all in vain. They combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery, all their days. They spend their strength for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which does not profit.
This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. a soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but he has no strength for the battle. He must fight, but he can never conquer. He is like a man who thrusts himself on the sword of the enemy on purpose to be slain. The law drives him on, and then sin beats him back. Sometimes he thinks he has foiled sin, but he has only raised a dust, so that he cannot see the sin. He stirs up his natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, and this makes him believe that sin is conquered when it is not even touched. He soon must be at the battle again, and the lust which he thought to be slain is seen to be not even wounded.”
From chapter 4 on “How Life and Comfort Depend on Mortification”,
“Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. The life and vigour of our spiritual life consists in the vigour and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts. Now, as you may set in a garden, let there be a precious herb planted, and let the ground be untilled, and weeds grow about it, perhaps it will live still, but it will be a poor, withering and unuseful thing. You must look and search for it, and sometimes can scarce find it; and when you do, you can scarce know it, whether it is the plant you look for or not; and suppose it is, you can make no use of it at all. But let another of the same kind be set in the ground, naturally as barren and bad as the other, but let it be well weeded, and everything that is noxious and hurtful removed from it, it flourishes and thrives; you may see it at first glance into the garden, and have it for your use when you please.
So it is with the graces of the Spirit that are planted in our hearts. If they abide in a heart where there is some neglect of mortification, and they are about to die, they are withering and decaying. The heart is like the sluggard’s field, so overgrown with weeds that you can scarce see the good corn. Such a man may search for faith, love, and zeal, and scarce be able to find any. If he does discover these graces are there and alive, yet they are so weak and so clogged with lusts, they are of very little use; they remain, indeed, but are ready to die.
But now let the heart be cleansed by mortification, and the weeds of lust constantly and daily rooted up (as they spring daily, nature being their proper soil), there will be room for grace to thrive and flourish, the graces that God gives will act their part, and be ready for every use and purpose!”