RCT: Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Ch. 6)

Chapter 5 discusses what mortification is NOT. Chapter 6 is a discussion of what mortification IS. Owen writes, “What it is to mortify a sin in general, which will make further way for particular directions, is next to be considered.”

[I’m going to try my best to type this out. This is a somewhat difficult chapter to understand. My comprehension difficulties are being compounded by music playing in the background.]

So, what is mortification?

  1. Mortification consists in a habitual weakening of sin.

    The first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit, that it shall not impel and tumultuate as formerly; that it shall not entice and draw aside…As a man nailed to the cross he first struggles and strives and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; when a man first sets on a lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when by mortification the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success.

    I’ve experienced this to some degree. There are still sins that I have to fight against a bit harder than others; they are violent, still alive and kicking. On the other hand, I can think of a few sins that do not vex me like they used to. Just yesterday a temptation raised its head, I heard its dying pang. But it was quickly over. God granted me grace to ignore the whimpering of my flesh. Success for a change!

  2. Mortification consists in constant fighting and contending against sin. First of all, I think Owen says that we have to understand that we have an enemy to fight, an enemy that we carry around with us all the time. “The contest is vigorous and hazardous–it is about the things of eternity…This is every man’s ‘knowing the plagues of his own heart’ (1 Kings 8:38).” We need to realize that we are in danger, otherwise we may feel the need to justify our behavior or ignore the wisdom of others who may admonish or reprove us. Owen also says that “to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of [sin’s] success” is the beginning of our warfare. Our goal is to be so rehearsed in the schemes our enemy takes to entice us, that we can recognize them, and say, “This is your old way and course; I know what you aim at”–that way we will always be ready. This readiness will require that we consider our enemy even when it is not seducing us. Finally, Owen writes that we ought never to think a “lust is dead because it is quiet,” rather we must attack it daily to administer a new blow, or wound. Keep sin “under the sword and dying.”
  3. Mortification consists in frequent success. “When the heart finds sin at any time at work, seducing, forming imaginations to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lists thereof, it instantly apprehends sin and brings it to the law of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost.

Owen goes on to say, and I’ll try to paraphrase, that we must meet lust with truth. Instead of sinning we can do the right thing; replace evil with righteousness. For example, when a temptation to sin arises we can counter it in the power of the Spirit with a fruit of the Spirit. If I am feeling my heart especially drawn to the things of this world, then I can fight that pull with a cry to the Spirit to help me think on heavenly things. If I am feeling that strong desire to get a job so I can make some money just to spend on worldly goods, then I can fight that with the truth that Jesus is my pearl of great price, he is the treasure in the field for which I ought to be pleased to sell all my possessions to have. I can do something that shows my satisfaction in him rather than the things of this world.

Owen doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty yet. It looks like that might be for next week. Chapter 7 is called “General Directions for Mortification.” Well, it may not be the nitty-gritty, but it’s getting close.

Find more discussion on this chapter at Challies.

2 Comments on “RCT: Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Ch. 6)

  1. Leslie, this is such good stuff. Where he talks about the first attempts of dealing with a sin, it’s a violet fight at first…..so true. It was brought to my attention recently of an area of self- righteousness and it isn’t goin without kicking and screaming. To be rehearsed in the schemes of our enemy….AMEN to that!I am really enjoying these post….waiting for the nitty gritty.


  2. I realize these particular posts can be rather dry. I’m so blessed to know that you’re enjoying RCT!


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