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?
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!
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.