by John Owen – February 17th, 2019
Chapter 6 “WHAT MORTIFICATION IS” Continued
b. Know the enemy
To labor to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of sin’s success is the beginning of this warfare. This is the way men deal with enemies. They inquire about their counsels and designs, ponder their goals, consider how and by what means they have formerly prevailed, so that they may be prevented. In this consists the greatest skill in conduct. Take this away, and all waging of war would be brutish, even where there is the greatest use of human wisdom and industry.
Indeed, men who mortify lust deal with it in this way. Not only when lust is actually vexing, enticing, and seducing, but in their quiet moments they consider, “This is our enemy; this is his way and progress, these are his advantages, thus has he prevailed, and thus he will do, if not prevented.” So, it was with David: “My sin is ever before me” (Ps 51:3). Indeed, one of the choicest and most eminent parts of spiritual wisdom, practically applied, consists in finding out the subtleties, policies, and depths of any indwelling sin.
A good part of our warfare is to consider and know:
- wherein its greatest strength lies;
- what advantage it takes of occasions, opportunities, and temptations;
- what are its pleas, pretenses, and reasonings;
- and what are its strategies, colors,(52) and excuses.
A good part of our warfare is
- to set the wisdom of the Spirit against the craft of the old man;
- to trace this serpent in all its turnings and windings;
- to be able to say, at its most secret and (to a common frame of heart) imperceptible(53) acting’s: “This is your old way and course; I know what you aim at”;
- and so, to be always in readiness.
(52) colors – disguises; pretenses.
(53) imperceptible – so slight as not to be detected.