March 6, 2019 by directorfsm
by John Owen – March 5th, 2019
Dangerous Symptoms (Continued)
b. Secret pleas
Secret pleas of the heart for its own defense, and to keep up its peace—notwithstanding the abiding of a lust, without a vigorous gospel attempt for its mortification—is another danger-ous symptom of a deadly distemper in the heart. Now, there are several ways whereby this may be done, and I shall name some of them.
1). Searching for the good instead of mortifying the sin
It is a dangerous symptom of a deadly lust in the heart when a man has perplexing thoughts about sin, and instead of applying himself to the destruction of it, he 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.
For a man to gather up his experiences of God—to call them to mind, to collect, consider, try, and improve them—is an excellent thing. It is a duty practiced by all the saints and commended in the Old Testament and the New. This was David’s work when he communed with his own heart and called to remembrance the former loving-kindness of the Lord (Ps 77:6-9). This is the duty that Paul sets us to practice (2Co 13:5). As it is in itself excellent, so it has beauty added to it by a proper season of self-examination during a time of trial, temptation, or disquietness of the heart about sin. It is a picture of silver to set off this golden apple, as Solomon speaks (Pro 25:11).
But to do it in order to satisfy conscience, which cries and calls for another purpose, is a desperate device of a heart in love with sin. When a man’s conscience shall deal with him, when God shall rebuke him for the sinful distemper of his heart, if he—instead of applying himself to get that sin pardoned in the blood of Christ and mortified by His Spirit—shall relieve himself by any such other evidences as he has, or thinks himself to have, and so disentangle himself from under the yoke that God was putting on his neck, his condition is very dangerous, his wound hardly curable. Thus, the Jews, under the convictions of their own consciences and the convincing preaching of our Savior, supported themselves with this: that they were “Abraham’s children,” and on that account accepted with God (John 8:39), and so countenanced themselves in all abominable wickedness to their utter ruin.
This is, in some degree, a blessing of a man’s self, and saying that upon one account or other he shall have peace, although he adds “drunkenness to thirst” (Duet 29:19). Love of sin and undervaluation of peace and of all tastes of love from God, are wrapped in such a frame. Such a one plainly shows that, if he can but keep up hope of escaping the “wrath to come” (Mat 3:7), he can be well content to be unfruitful in the world, at any distance from God that is not final separation. What is to be expected from such a heart?
2). Applying grace to an unmortified sin
This deceit is carried on by applying grace and mercy to an unmortified sin, or one not sincerely endeavored to be mortified. This is a sign of a heart greatly entangled with the love of sin. When a man has secret thoughts in his heart—not unlike those of Naaman about his worshipping in the house of Rimmon (2Ki 5:18), saying in effect, “In all other things I will walk with God; but in this thing, God be merciful unto me”—his condition is sad.
It is true, indeed, that a man’s being resolved to indulge himself in any sin on the account of mercy seems to be, and doubtless in any course is, altogether inconsistent with Christian sincerity—and is a badge of a hypocrite and is the “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 1:4). Yet I doubt not but, through the craft of Satan and their own remaining unbelief, the children of God may themselves sometimes be ensnared with this deceit of sin— or else Paul would never have so cautioned them against it as he does (Rom 6:1-2). Yea, in-deed, there is nothing more natural than for fleshly reasonings to grow high and strong upon this account. The flesh would gladly be indulged upon the account of grace and every word that is spoken of mercy. It stands ready to catch at and to pervert mercy to its own corrupt aims and purposes. To apply mercy, then, to a sin not vigorously mortified is to fulfil the end of the flesh upon the gospel.
These and many other ways and wiles a deceitful heart will sometimes make use of to com-fort itself in its abominations. Now, when a man with his sin is in this condition—that there is a secret liking of the sin prevalent in his heart, and though his will be not wholly set upon it, yet he has an imperfect velleity(70) towards it—he would practice it were it not for such and such considerations, and hereupon relieves himself in other ways than by the mortification and pardon of it in the blood of Christ. That man’s “wounds stink and are corrupt” (Ps 38:5), and he will, without speedy deliverance, be at the door of death.