March 7, 2019 by directorfsm
by John Owen – March 7th, 2019
Dangerous Symptoms (Continued)
C. Frequent success
Frequency of success in sin’s seduction, in obtaining the prevailing consent of the will unto it, is another dangerous symptom. This is what I mean: When the sin spoken of gets the con-sent of the will with some delight, even though it be not actually outwardly acted upon, yet it has success. Upon outward considerations a man may not be able to go along with sin to that which James calls the “finishing” of it (Jam 1:14-15) in outward acts of sin; yet, when the will of sinning may be actually obtained, then, I say, it has success. Now, if any lust be able thus far to prevail in the soul of any man, as his condition may possibly be very bad and himself be un-regenerate, so it cannot possibly be very good, but dangerous.
And it is all the same whether this falling into sin be done by the choice of the will or carelessly, for even carelessness is chosen, in a manner of speaking. When we are careless and negligent in areas where we are obligated to watchfulness and carefulness, that carelessness does not reduce the voluntariness of what we do; for although men do not choose and resolve to be negligent and careless, yet if they choose the things that will make them so, they choose carelessness itself—because a thing may be chosen by choosing the cause of it. Let not men think that the evil of their hearts is in any measure excused because they seem for the most part to be surprised into that consent which they seem to give unto it; for it is negligence of their duty in watching over their hearts that betrays them into that surprisal.(71)
d. Legal arguments
When a man fights against his sin only with arguments from the consequences or punishment due unto it, this is a sign that sin has taken great possession of the will and that in the heart there is a “superfluity (72) of naughtiness” (Jam 1:21). Such a man who does not oppose the seduction of sin and lust in his heart except for fear of shame among men or hell from God, is sufficiently resolved to do the sin if there were no punishment attending it. How this differs from living in the practice of sin I know not!
Those who are Christ’s and act in their obedience upon gospel principles have the death of Christ, the love of God, the detestable nature of sin, the preciousness of communion with God, and a deep-grounded abhorrence of sin as sin to oppose to any seduction of sin, to all the workings, strivings, and fighting’s of lust in their hearts. Joseph acted in this way: he said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”—that is, my good and gracious Lord (Gen 39:9). And so did Paul, “The love of Christ constraineth(73) us” (2Co 5:14); and, “Having [received] these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2Co 7:1). But now, if a man be so under the power of his lust that he has nothing but law to oppose it with—if he cannot fight against it with gospel weapons, but deals with it altogether with hell and judgment, which are the proper arms of the Law—it is most evident that sin has possessed his will and affections to a very great prevalence and conquest.
Such a person has cast off, as to the particular spoken of, the conduct of renewing grace, and is kept from ruin only by restraining grace;(74) and to the degree he is so, he is fallen from grace and is returned under the power of the Law. And can it be thought that this is not a great provocation to Christ, that men should cast off His easy, gentle yoke and rule (Mat 11:29-30) and cast themselves under the iron yoke of the Law merely out of indulgence to their lusts?
Try yourself by this also: When you are driven by sin to make a stand, so that you must either serve it and rush at the command of it into folly, like the horse into the battle, or stand against it to suppress it, what do you say to your soul? How do you argue with yourself? Is this all: “Hell will be the end of this course; vengeance will meet with me and find me out”? It is time for you to look about yourself; evil lies at the door (Gen 4:7). Paul’s main argument to convince that sin shall not have dominion over believers is that they “are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14). If your contention against sin be all on legal accounts, from legal principles and motives, what assurance can you have that sin shall not have dominion over you, which will be your ruin?
Yea, know that this reserve will not long hold out. If your lust has driven you from stronger gospel forts, it will speedily prevail against this also. Do not suppose that such considerations will deliver you, when you have voluntarily given up to your enemy those helps and means of preservation which have a thousand times their strength. Rest assuredly in this: that unless you recover yourself with speed from this condition, the thing that you fear will come upon you. What gospel principles do not do, legal motives cannot do.
(71) surprisal – being taken by surprise.
(72) superfluity of naughtiness – overflow of wickedness.
(73) constraineth us – causes us to act.
(74) renewing grace…restraining grace – Renewing grace is life-giving, fruit-bearing power God gives His people through the Spirit; restraining grace merely keeps men from sin.
Excerpts from Mortification of Sin by John Owen from:The Chapel Library • firstname.lastname@example.org