Call to Worship June 2, 2024

“What it is to mortify a sin in general, which will make farther way for particular directions, is nextly to be considered.

2. The mortification of a lust consists in three things:—

(1.) An habitual weakening of it. Every lust is a depraved habit or disposition, continually inclining the heart to evil. Thence is that description of him who hath no lust truly mortified, Gen. 6:5, ‘Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually.’ He is always under the power of a strong bent and inclination to sin. And the reason why a natural man is not always perpetually in the pursuit of some one lust, night and day, is because he hath many to serve, every one crying to be satisfied; thence he is carried on with great variety, but still in general he lies towards the satisfaction of self.

We will suppose, then, the lust or distemper whose mortification is inquired after to be in itself a strong, deeply-rooted, habitual inclination and bent of will and affections unto some actual sin, as to the matter of it, though not, under that formal consideration, always stirring up imaginations, thoughts, and contrivances about the object of it. Hence, men are said to have their ‘hearts set upon evil,’ the bent of their spirits lies towards it, to make ‘provision for the flesh.’ And a sinful, depraved habit, as in many other things, so in this, differs from all natural or moral habits whatever: for whereas they incline the soul gently and suitably to itself, sinful habits impel with violence and impetuousness; whence lusts are said to fight or wage ‘war against the soul,’ 1 Pet. 2:11,—to rebel or rise up in war with that conduct and opposition which is usual therein, Rom. 7:23,—to lead captive, or effectually captivating upon success in battle,—all works of great violence and impetuousness.

I might manifest fully, from that description we have of it, Rom. 7, how it will darken the mind, extinguish convictions, dethrone reason, interrupt the power and influence of any considerations that may be brought to hamper it, and break through all into a flame. But this is not my present business. Now, the first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultuate, provoke, entice, disquiet, as naturally it is apt to do, James 1:14, 15.”[1]

[1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 28–29.