Call to Worship March 29, 2024

Mortification is the work of the Spirit.

“2. It is, then, the work of the Spirit. For,—

(1.) He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work. The taking away of the stony heart,—that is, the stubborn, proud, rebellious, unbelieving heart,—is in general the work of mortification that we treat of. Now this is still promised to be done by the Spirit. Ezek. 11:19, 36:26, ‘I will give my Spirit, and take away the stony heart;’ and by the Spirit of God is this work wrought when all means fail, Isa. 57:17, 18.

(2.) We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ: ‘Without Christ we can do nothing,’ John 15:5. All communications of supplies and relief, in the beginnings, increasings, actings of any grace whatever, from him, are by the Spirit, by whom he alone works in and upon believers. From him we have our mortification: ‘He is exalted and made a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto us,’ Acts 5:31; and of our repentance our mortification is no small portion. How doth he do it? Having ‘received the promise of the Holy Ghost,’ he sends him abroad for that end, Acts 2:33…to do the works that he had to accomplish in us.

The resolution of one or two questions will now lead me nearer to what I principally intend.

The first is, How doth the Spirit mortify sin?

I answer, in general, three ways:—

[1.] By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them. So the apostle opposes the fruits of the flesh and of the Spirit: ‘The fruits of the flesh,’ says he, ‘are so and so,’ Gal. 5:19–21; ‘but,’ says he, ‘the fruits of the Spirit are quite contrary, quite of another sort,’ verses 22, 23. Yea; but what if these are in us and do abound, may not the other abound also? No, says he, verse 24, ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.’ But how? Why, verse 25, ‘By living in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit;’—that is, by the abounding of these graces of the Spirit in us, and walking according to them. For, saith the apostle, ‘These are contrary one to another,’ verse 17; so that they cannot both be in the same subject, in any intense or high degree. This ‘renewing of us by the Holy Ghost,’ as it is called, Tit. 3:5, is one great way of mortification; he causes us to grow, thrive, flourish, and abound in those graces which are contrary, opposite, and destructive to all the fruits of the flesh, and to the quiet or thriving of indwelling sin itself.

[2.] By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin, for the weakening, destroying, and taking it away. Hence he is called a ‘Spirit of judgment and burning,’ Isa. 4:4, really consuming and destroying our lusts. He takes away the stony heart by an almighty efficiency; for as he begins the work as to its kind, so he carries it on as to its degrees. He is the fire which burns up the very root of lust.” [1]

[1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 18–19.