Call to Worship July 7, 2024

“II. The ways and means whereby a soul may proceed to the mortification of any particular lust and sin, which Satan takes advantage by to disquiet and weaken him, come next under consideration.

Now, there are some general considerations to be premised, concerning some principles and foundations of this work, without which no man in the world, be he never so much raised by convictions, and resolved for the mortification of any sin, can attain thereunto.

General rules and principles, without which no sin will be ever mortified, are these:—

1. Unless a man be a believer,—that is, one that is truly ingrafted unto Christ,—he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so.

Mortification is the work of believers: Rom. 8:13, ‘If ye through the Spirit,’ etc.,—ye believers, to whom there is no condemnation, verse 1. They alone are exhorted to it: Col. 3:5, ‘Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.’ Who should mortify? You who ‘are risen with Christ,’ verse 1; whose ‘life is hid with Christ in God,’ verse 3; who ‘shall appear with him in glory,’ verse 4. An unregenerate man may do something like it; but the work itself, so as it may be acceptable with God, he can never perform. You know what a picture of it is drawn in some of the philosophers,—Seneca, Tully, Epictetus; what affectionate discourses they have of contempt of the world and self, of regulating and conquering all exorbitant affections and passions! The lives of most of them manifested that their maxims differed as much from true mortification as the sun painted on a sign-post from the sun in the firmament; they had neither light nor heat. Their own Lucian sufficiently manifests what they all were. There is no death of sin without the death of Christ. You know what attempts there are made after it by the Papists, in their vows, penances, and satisfactions. I dare say of them (I mean as many of them as act upon the principles of their church, as they call it) what Paul says of Israel in point of righteousness, Rom. 9:31, 32,—They have followed after mortification, but they have not attained to it. Wherefore? ‘Because they seek it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.’ The same is the state and condition of all amongst ourselves who, in obedience to their convictions and awakened consciences, do attempt a relinquishment of sin;—they follow after it, but they do not attain it.

It is true, it is, it will be, required of every person whatever that hears the law or gospel preached, that he mortify sin. It is his duty, but it is not his immediate duty; it is his duty to do it, but to do it in God’s way. If you require your servant to pay so much money for you in such a place, but first to go and take it up in another, it is his duty to pay the money appointed, and you will blame him if he do it not; yet it was not his immediate duty,—he was first to take it up, according to your direction. So it is in this case: sin is to be mortified, but something is to be done in the first place to enable us thereunto.”[1]

[1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 33–34.