March 18, 2019 by directorfsm
by John Owen – March 18th, 2019
Five Others (Continued)
c. Bringing the body into subjection
For the mortification of any distemper so rooted in the nature of a man, unto all other ways and means already named (or further to be insisted on), there is one expedient peculiarly suit-ed: this is that of the apostle, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1Co 9:27). The bringing of the very body into subjection is an ordinance of God tending to the mortification of sin. This gives check to the natural root of the distemper, and withers it by taking away its fatness of soil.
The papists—men ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, the work of His Spirit, and the whole business in hand—have laid the whole weight and stress of mortification in voluntary services and penances, leading to the subjection of the body, knowing indeed the true nature neither of sin nor mortification. Perhaps because of this, it may be a temptation to others to neglect some means of humiliation that are owned and appointed by God Himself. The bring-ing of the body into subjection in the case insisted on, by cutting short the natural appetite— by fasting, watching, and the like—is doubtless acceptable to God, as long as it is done with the following limitations.
1). Not good in itself
The outward weakening and impairing of the body should not be looked upon as a thing good in itself, or as if any mortification is actually contained in it—such would again bring us under carnal ordinances. It should be looked upon only as a means for the end proposed: the weakening of any distemper in its natural root and seat. A man may have leanness of both body and soul together.
2). Not able to produce mortification by itself
The means whereby bodily subjection is to be done—namely, by fasting, watching, and the like—should not be looked upon as things that in themselves, and by virtue of their own power, can produce true mortification of any sin. If they could, sin might be mortified without any help of the Spirit in any unregenerate person in the world. They are to be looked upon only as ways whereby the Spirit may, and sometimes does, put forth strength for the accomplishing of His own work, especially in the case mentioned. Lack of a right understanding and due use of these and the like considerations, has raised a mortification among the papists that may be better applied to horses and other beasts of the field, than to believers.
This is the sum of what has been spoken: If the distemper complained of seems to be rooted in the natural temperament and constitution, then when applying our souls to a participation of the blood and Spirit of Christ, we must labor in God’s way to restrain the natural root of that distemper.