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More John Owen on the Mortification of Sin

More John Owen on the Mortification of Sin

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.

Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.

The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.

Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work? Be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work. Be killing sin or it will be killing you. Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with Him, will not excuse you from this work.

Who can say that he had ever anything to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did? And this trade will it drive more or less all our days. If, then, sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying, we are lost creatures. He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue. If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so while we live in this world.

There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.

The contest is for our lives and souls. Not to be daily employing the Spirit and new nature for the mortifying of sin, is to neglect that excellent assistance which God has given us against our greatest enemy. If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold His hand from giving us more. His graces, as well as his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with. Not to be daily mortifying sin, is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who has furnished us with a principle of doing it.

Where sin, through the neglect of mortification, gets a considerable victory, it breaks the bones of the soul, Psalm 31:10, 51:8, and makes a man weak, sick, and ready to die, Psalm 38:3-5, so that he cannot look up, Psalm 40:12, Isaiah 33:24. And when poor creatures will take blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil, and never rouse up themselves to a vigorous opposition, can they expect anything but to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and that their souls should bleed to death? 2 John 8. Indeed, it is a sad thing to consider the fearful issues of this neglect, which lie under our eyes every day.

Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who does not kill sin in this way takes no steps towards his journey’s end.

The root of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. When a man has confirmed his imagination to such an apprehension of grace and mercy as to be able, without bitterness, to swallow and digest daily sins, that man is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Neither is there a greater evidence of a false and rotten heart in the world than to drive such a trade.

– From Volume 6 of Owen’s Works

J. C. Ryle on Making Worship Services More Attractive

J. C. Ryle on Making Worship Services More Attractive

This is a great danger in these days. It is a sunken rock, on which I fear many are striking, and doing themselves immense harm. The plausible pretext of making our services more attractive, and cutting the ground from under the feet of Ritualists, too often induces Evangelical ministers to do things which they had far better let alone. New church decorations, new church music, and a semi-histrionic mode of going through church worship, are things which I suggest that we must watch most narrowly, and keep at arm’s length. They are points on which we must take heed that we do not let in the Pope and the devil. Tampering with these things, we may be sure, does no real good. It may seem to please the world, and have a “show of wisdom,” but it never converts the world, and makes the world believe. We had far better leave it alone.

Let us carefully observe how little good they do who attempt to mix up Evangelical preaching and a Ritual ceremonial. Little, did I say?—they do no good at all! The world is never won by trimming, and compromising, by facing both ways, and trying to please all. The cross of Christ is never made more acceptable by sawing off its corners, or by polishing, varnishing, and adorning it. Processions, and banners, and flowers, and crosses, and excessive quantity of music, and elaborate services, and beautiful vestments, may please children and weak-minded people. But they never helped forward heart-conversion and heart-sanctification, and they never will.

Popularity obtained by pandering to the senses or the sentiment of our hearers is not worth anything. Worshipers who are not content with the Bible, the cross of Christ, simple prayers and simple praise, are worshipers of little value. It is useless to try to please them, because their spiritual taste is diseased.

– J. C. Ryle from Knots Untied

Some Thoughts on Religious Experience

Some Thoughts on Religious Experience

In judging of religious experience, it is all important to keep steadily in view the system of divine truth contained in the Holy Scriptures; otherwise our experience, as is too often the case, will degenerate into enthusiasm. Many ardent professors seem too readily to take it for granted that all religious feelings must be good. They therefore take no care to discriminate between the genuine and the spurious, the pure gold and the tinsel. Their only concern is about the ardour of their feelings; not considering that if they are spurious, the more intense they are the further will they lead them astray.

There is no necessity for any other proof of native depravity than the aversion which children early manifest to religious instruction and to spiritual exercises.

Of two persons under conviction of sin, one of whom has had sound religious instruction, and the other none, the former will have an unspeakable advantage over the latter in many respects.

There is a common practical error in the minds of many Christians in regard to this matter. They seem to think that nothing has any relation to the conversion of the sinner but that which immediately preceded this event; and the Christian is ready to say, I was awakened under such a sermon, and never had rest until I found it in Christ; making nothing of all previous instructions and impressions. So, when a revival occurs under the awakening discourses of some evangelist, people are ready to think that he only is the successful preacher whose labours God owns and blesses; whereas he does but bring forward to maturity feelings and convictions which have been long secretly forming and growing within the soul, but so imperceptibly that the person himself was little sensible of any change.

We know very little, however, of what is passing in the minds of thousands around us. The zealous preacher often concludes and laments that there is no impression on the minds of his hearers, when, if the covering of the human heart could be withdrawn, he would be astonished and confounded at the variety and depth of the feelings experienced. Those impressions which manifest themselves by a flow of tears are not the deepest, but often very superficial; while the most awful distresses of the soul are entirely concealed by a kind of hypocrisy, which men early learn to practice to hide their feelings of a religious kind from their fellow-creatures.

If there be a truth established beyond all reasonable question by uniform experience, it is that lovers of pleasure are the enemies of God.

– Archibald Alexander, 1844, Thoughts on Religious Experience

John Owen on Mortification

John Owen on Mortification

By faith, fill your soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose – that all your lusts, even this very lust with which you are entangled, may be mortified. By faith, ponder on this – that though you are in no way able to get the conquest over your disorder by yourself, though you are weary of fighting and are utterly ready to faint, yet there is enough in Jesus Christ to yield relief to you (Philippians 4:13).

Let, then, your soul by faith be exercised with such thoughts and apprehensions as these:

‘I am a poor, weak creature. Unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me and is at the very door of ruining my soul, and I don’t know what to do. My soul is become as parched ground and a habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them. Vows and engagements have been made for nothing. Many times I have persuaded myself that I had gotten victory and been delivered, but I have been deceived. I plainly see that without some eminent support and assistance, I am lost and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God.

But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up and the weak knees be strengthened. Behold, the Lord Christ, who has all fullness of grace in His heart and all fullness of power in His hand – He is able to slay all these his enemies. There is sufficient provision in Him for my relief and assistance. He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conqueror’ (Isaiah 35:7, Isaiah 40:27-31, 2 Corinthians 12:9).

The efficacy of this consideration will be found only in the practice.

From The Works of John Owen, Volume 6, pages 79-80.