March 5, 2019 by directorfsm
by John Owen – March 5th, 2019
For the practical aspects of mortification of sin, we are considering three main heads:
I. What it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively (Ch. 5) and positively (Ch. 6), that we be not mistaken in the foundation.
II. General rules without which it will be utterly impossible for anyone to get any sin truly and spiritually mortified (Ch. 7 and 8).
III. Particular directions and actions whereby this is to be done.(67)
Now we come to the third head. Having considered the foregoing general rules, we will now propose particular directions to the soul for its guidance when under a disquieting lust or dis-temper, being the main thing, I aim at. Now, of these some are previous and preparatory, and in some of them the work itself is contained.(68) Of the first sort are the following.
1. Consider Dangerous Symptoms
The first direction is this:
Consider if your lust has dangerous symptoms attending or accompanying it: whether it has any deadly mark on it or not.
If it has, extraordinary remedies are to be used; an ordinary course of mortification will not do it. You will say, “What are these dangerous marks and symptoms, the desperate attendants of an indwelling lust that you intend?” Some of them I shall name as follows.
Your distemper is dangerous if your lust has lain long corrupting in your heart, if you have suffered it to abide in power and prevalence, without attempting vigorously the killing of it and the healing of the wounds you have received by it for some long season. Have you permit-ted worldliness, ambition, or greediness of study to eat up other duties, the duties wherein you ought to hold constant communion with God, for some long season? Or uncleanness to defile your heart with vain, foolish, and wicked imaginations for many days? If so, your lust has a dangerous symptom.
So was the case with David: “My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness” (Ps. 38:5). When a lust has lain long in the heart, corrupting, festering, cankering, it brings the soul to a woeful condition. In such a case, an ordinary course of humiliation will not do the work. Whatever it be, it will by this means gradually make its way more or less into all the faculties of the soul and make the affections comfortable with its company and society. It grows familiar to the mind and conscience so that they do not startle at it as a strange thing but are bold with it as that to which they are accustomed. It will get such advantage by this means as oftentimes to exert and put forth itself without having any notice taken of it at all, as it seems to have been with Joseph in his swearing by the life of Pharaoh (Gen 42:15-16). Unless some extraordinary course be taken, such a person has no ground in the world to expect that his latter end shall be peace.
For, first, how will he be able to distinguish between the long abode of an unmortified lust, and the dominion of sin, which cannot befall a regenerate person (Rom 6)? Secondly, how can he promise himself that it shall ever be otherwise with him, or that his lust will cease disturbing and seducing, when he sees it fixed and abiding, having done so for many days and having gone through a variety of conditions with him? It may be the sin has been tested by mercies and afflictions, and those possibly so remarkable that the soul could not avoid taking special notice of them. It maybe it has weathered out many a storm and passed under much variety of gifts in the administration of the Word. It never proves an easy thing to dislodge a resident who is pleading title to a property after long dwelling there. Old neglected wounds are often mortal, and always dangerous. Indwelling distempers grow rusty and stubborn by continuance in ease and quiet. Lust is such a resident as, if it can plead time and some right by length of occupation, will not easily be ejected. As it never dies of itself, so if it be not daily killed it will always gather strength.