Outline, John Owen *Mortification of Sin*


Foundation of the Discourse

The relationship between justification and mortification is cause and effect (Owen 6).

Our duty: The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin (7).

The efficient cause of this duty: The Holy Spirit (“if by the Spirit”).  Mortification must be done by the Spirit. Every other way is vain.

What are the deeds of the body?

The body is the seat and instrument of the corruption of our nature (7).  It is the same as “the old man” and the “body of sin.”  The power of our spiritual life depends on how much we mortify the deeds of the flesh (9).

The Necessity of Mortification

We are obligated by the ferocity of the battle to be killing sin at all times.

  1. Indwelling sin is always with us even if judicial sin is negated.
  2. This sin is still active.
  3. If left alone, it will turn into greater sins (“scandalous and soul-destroying sins”).
  4. Our new nature and the Spirit is the principle by which we oppose sin.
    1. Gal. 5.17
    2. 2 Pet. 1.4-5
    3. Our participation in the divine nature gives us an escape from the pollutions of the world.
  5. If we neglect this duty, our soul is cast into a contrary condition.
    1. “Exercise and success are the two main cherishers of grace in the heart.”
  6. It is our duty to be perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Conclusion: notwithstanding our judicial freedom from sin, indwelling sin remains in the best of believers.

False Asceticism: Vanity of Popish Mortification

  1. The Holy Spirit is sufficient for mortification
  2. Popish Mortification
    1. The ways and ends of their mortification were never insisted on by God.
    2. The means that are appointed by God, and which they do use, are not used properly.  Fasting is important, but it should flow from the Spirit’s work of mortification.  Fasting and watching are streams, not fountains.
  3. The Work of the Spirit
    1. The Spirit will take away the stony heart (Ezek. 11.19; 36.26).
    2. This is a gift of Christ, and Christ, as the head, communicates his gifts to us.
    3. How does the Holy Spirit mortify sin?
      1. He causes our hearts to abound in graces and fruits that are contrary to the flesh (Gal. 5.19-21).
      2. The Holy Spirit, as our efficient, hits sin at the root.
      3. He brings us into communion with the cross of Christ.

Chapter 4: The Usefulness of Mortification

  1. The vigor of our spiritual life depends on mortification.
    1. Success in mortification won’t always lead to happiness, though.  A godly saint can mortify sin yet still face assaults (Psalm 88).
    2. Mortification shouldn’t be confused with the privileges that flow from adoption.
    3. Unmortified sin weakens the soul (Ps. 38.3).
    4. As sin weakens, so it darkens the soul.
  2. Mortification prunes all the graces of God.

Chapter 5-6

  1. What it is to mortify a sin.
    1. A habitual weakening of it.
    2. Constant fighting and contending against it.

Chapter 7: General Rules, and Rome’s false view, again

  1. Unless a man is a believer, truly ingrafted into Christ, this isn’t possible.
  2. It is the work of faith (Acts 15.9).

Chapter 8: Universal Sincerity for mortifcation

  1. Without sincerity and an aim at universal mortification, no lust will be mortified.
    1. 2 Cor. 7.1
    2. God sometimes suffers one lust to chasten our other negligences.

Chapters 9-11

  1. A lust that isn’t “loud” is often more dangerous.  It could be a sign of inveterateness.
  2. The heart often engages in self-deception.
  3. Guilt of the Sin
    1. The power of sin is weakened by grace, but not always the guilt is weakened.
    2. Load your conscience with the guilt of sin, so that you can let the Spirit work through you.
      1. Don’t fight guilt by your own righteousness.
      2. Let the law do what it is supposed to do.
      3. And then cry to God.

Chapter 12

I am going to call this one “Study as a mode of sanctification.”

  1. Let our meditations fill us with our low estate and God’s high estate
    1. It reminds us how weak in prayer we are.
    2. Even at our best we have feeble notions of God.
  2. The being of God.
    1. We have words and notions about the “things of God,” but not the things themselves.
    2. “We know him rather but what he does than what he is.”
  3. But what of the difference between believers’ and unbelievers’ knowledge of God?
    1. Their manner of knowing is different, not the content.

Chapter 13

  1. If you are upset by sin, don’t speak peace to your heart until God speaks.
  2. If we look for healing and peace, we must look to the blood of the covenant.
  3. How shall we know that God has spoken peace to us?
    1. We’ll know.  When God gives peace, he doesn’t go halfway.
    2. But he doesn’t necessarily do it right away.
    3. There is a “secret instinct in faith.”

Chapter 14

  1. Have faith that Christ is at work killing our sin.
  2. Expect in faith for a relief from Christ.
  3. Our old man is crucified with Christ, not in respect of time but of causality. If we act on faith in the death of Christ, then we can expect
    1. Power
    2. Conformity
  4. The Spirit alone:
    1. Convinces the heart of guilt
    2. Reveals unto us the fullness of Christ for relief.
    3. Establishes the heart in expectation of relief.
    4. Brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power.
    5. Is the author and finisher of our sanctification.
    6. Supports our addresses to God.

Concupiscence in Shedd

With the PCA har forces of George Soros, and from a number of conversations I’ve had with the Revoice crowd, the question that keeps coming up: are sinful desires sinful?  The more you reflect on this, the harder a simple answer is.

Image result for wgt shedd

Someone will say, “But Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”  That’s true.  So there is a type of temptation which is not sinful.  But Jesus didn’t experience every type of temptation.  He didn’t experience the alcoholic’s desire for another drink, for example.  In any case, I wanted to look at what Shedd said on concupiscence.

Internal Part of sin

Voluntary, not volitional.  It was will as desire, not will as volition (Shedd 552).  The difference between Jesus and, say, Adam was that the former did not lust after the supposed good.  True, Satan tempted his externally, but Jesus did not secretly want to violate God’s will, even if he didn’t via actions (553).

This kind of desire is called epithumia, which St Paul labels as sin (hamartia) in Romans 7:7.

Shedd points out that concupiscence is different from natural desires such as eating and drinking.  Gluttony, by contrast, is something more.  It is not instinctive.  It involves the will.

Key point:  sin isn’t just in the act, but in the sinful inclination that precedes the act (557).

That raises another question: let’s say that someone lusts after a woman who isn’t his wife.  By the grace of God, though, he refrains from committing adultery.  Did he sin?  Well, he didn’t commit adultery and that is eternally in his favor (speaking humanly). But he did sin with the lust.  That’s why the Shorter Catechism rejects that all sins are equally heinous in God’s eyes.

Shedd continues: “Original sin as corruption of nature in each individual is only the continuation of the first inclining away from God” (571).

Summary: When temptation comes from without, it is innocent (or at least we are until we accede to it).  When it arises from within, it is already sin (though of course the sin could be compounded).

Augustine: Baptism and Forgiveness

These are some notes from Augustine’s treatise Baptism and the Forgiveness of Sins.  Once you get passed the grim assertions that unbaptized babies aren’t saved (which guaranteed that the Catholic church would come up with theories of Limbo), there are some important points on concupiscence.

Book II

  1. Infants are born with concupiscence (II.4).
  2. God works…
    1. God works our salvation in us, but not in the manner of external working on stones (II.6).
    2. Regeneration:  Augustine says the term doesn’t have a univocal sense.  When we speak of “baptismal regeneration” we don’t mean the same thing as “regeneration of the Spirit” (II.9).
  3. Perfection:  A Relative term (II.18).
    1. I can be perfect in one sense (as a scholar) but imperfect in another (giving wisdom).
  4. Does God command the impossible?  Sort of.
    1. This is how God measures righteousness to himself.
    2. Why does man not live without sin?
      1. Because of both ignorance and unwilling.
  5. Concupiscence
    1. First movement of the will is a desire for power, disobedience through pride (II.33).
    2. Man did not have concupiscence before the fall (II.36).
      1. This is the law of sin in my members (pudenda).
      2. primal righteousness: my members did not fight against the law of sin
      3. Old carnal nature = law of sin (II.45).
      4. Concupiscence remains even if the guilt is gone.  
    3. If there is the “likeness of sinful flesh” then there must be the reality of sinful flesh (II.58).