John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 10

14 09 2009

Summary of Chapter 10:

In chapter 9, John Owen began a section on “Particular Directions for Mortification.” His first was to “consider whether your lust has these dangerous symptoms accompanying it.” He used chapter 9 to lay out those dangerous symptoms. In chapter 10, he turns his attention to another particular direction for mortification: get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.

Owen challenges every believer to consider the evil of their sin. What a temptation it is for us to defend or excuse our sin; to make it seem not quite so heinous as another sin or the sins in another’s life. There are so many ways that sin “diverts the mind from a right and due apprehension of its guilt.” But the simple fact is that our sin, as redeemed children of God, is even more heinous in many respects because of our position in Christ and the indwelling power and presence of the Spirit of God.

Owen challenges every believer to consider the dangers of their sin. It hardens us through its deceitfulness. It opens us up to “some great temporal correction.” It causes a “loss of peace and strength all a man’s days.” It leaves us with no “clear prevailing evidence of” our “interest in the covenant.”

Owen challenges every believer to consider the evils of their sin. It grieves the indwelling Spirit of God. It wounds afresh the Lord Jesus Christ. It will greatly hinder our spiritual usefulness in our generation. This should be an especially dreadful section for every preacher of the Word.

Possible Discussion Points:

1) Interact with Owen’s statement that just “as God sees abundance of beauty and excellency in the desires of the heart of His servants, more than in any [of] the most glorious works of other men…so God sees a great deal of evil in the working of lust in their hearts, yea, and more than in the open, notorious acts of wicked men…

2) Converse about the horrifying effects of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. While the whole chapter was challenging, this section was especially troubling and fearful to me.

3) What are some important things to consider as we counsel Christians who have experienced tremendous loss? At what point are we to explore the possibility of sin in their lives that led to that loss? How do we not become like Job’s friends in the process?

4) Interact with the awful realities of the evils of sin. I am afraid that most believers rarely or never consider some of these realities.


In the discussion of each chapter I have included a short summary of its content and some possible discussion points. Feel free to discuss whatever you want within the chapter though. So that our discussion has some organization, please identify the discussion point. For instance, if you are planning on posting a thought on the third discussion point, begin your post with “d. 3.” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, then begin with “d. general.”




2 responses

14 09 2009
Andrew Henderson


I apologize that this is getting out so late this morning. I also apologize that I have not been able to post as much over the last few weeks as I would like. Life and ministry are a bit crazy right now, as I know that it is for many. I have been truly blessed by the interaction, however. God has certainly used you all as a means of grace in my life. Thank you.

17 09 2009
Jared Heatherly

D1- I had a hard time really getting a firm handle on what he was driving at in this paragraph. I think I get it, but maybe not. It seems that he is saying that God looks to the sins of believers more directly than unbelievers. It is not that He is more knowledgeable about our sin (His omniscience denies this). It is not that He is judicially knowledgeable of our sin (the blood of Christ denies this). He sees it in the sense that He is doing a good work of sanctification in us. As such, it is the true sons that experience chastening, and not the illegitimate children (Hebrews 12:8). Because of His love for us, He purifies us even through suffering.
Let me know if I am pursuing this statement in the wrong direction.

D2- Often, as a pastor, I am engaged in preaching against sin, but it is easy to preach against other people’s sins, while never applying my own messages to myself. It is easy to become (as he puts it) “sermon-proof and sickness proof.” Right now I am preparing a message on the parable of the sower. If I am not careful to tend to my heart, even study and reading and preparing can become like the trampling feet that cause the soil to become the wayside.

D3- Great questions! God certainly does chasten Christians by tremendous loss. If I am in a counseling situation with a person who has suffered tremendous loss (Owen’s example was the death of David’s child), this person is seeking biblical guidance. I cannot give guidance without getting a concept of where this person is spiritually. I was just reading in my devotions the other day about Nathan coming to David to confront him, telling him that his child would die. He was delivering a message by direct inspiration. None of us will have this direct, authoritative cause / effect revelation from God. In this light, I believe it is best to address the sin issues, but let God reveal any connection between the sin and the loss. Certainly it cannot be denied. The way of the transgressor is hard. I like Owen’s closing statement on this. “If thou fearest not these things, I fear thou art under hardness.”

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