John Owen, Mortification of Sin, Chapter 11

28 09 2009

Quick Note:

Due to the busyness of some in our group, we are going to take the next couple of weeks to discuss this chapter. Personally, our church has a building project that should be completed within the next 10 days or so, so I am absolutely swamped right now. Thank you all for your participation.

Summary of Chapter 11:

In chapters 9 and 10, John Owen gives two “Particular Directions for Mortification.” His first was to “consider whether your lust has these dangerous symptoms accompanying it.” His second: “Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.” Here in chapter 11, Owen lays out five more particular directions for the mortification of sin.

1) Load your conscience with the guilt of sin. In doing so, he recommends that one “begin with generals, and so descend to particulars.” He encourages all believers to “bring the holy law of God into your conscience, lay your corruption to it, and pray that you may be affected with it.” He also encourages us to bring our lust to the gospel, not for relief, but for further conviction and to be in bitterness of soul over our sin. He further exhorts his readers to consider not only the patience and forbearance of the Lord toward us but all of God’s gracious dealings with us. How could we continue in sin when we see the guilt of it in the law, the horror of it in the death of Christ, and the shamefulness of it in the gracious dealings of the Lord.

2) Consider long and breathe after deliverance from the power of sin. We should not for one moment allow ourselves to be satisfied in our current spiritual state. We should strongly desire righteousness and holiness.

3) Consider whether the distemper is rooted in your nature and increased by your constitution. This is not to excuse our sin in any way. Rather, it is so that we will know better how to, as Paul, “discipline our body and bring it under subjection.”

4) Consider the occasions and advantages your distemper has taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all. We are to carefully “consider what way, what companies, what opportunities, what studies, what businesses, what conditions” that “have at any time given, or do usually give, advantages to our distempers and set ourselves heedfully against them all.”

5) Rise mightily against the first actings and conceptions of your distemper. Owen powerfully encourages his readers to not allow lust and temptation to gain even a small foothold in their lives, for “if it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin.”

Possible Discussion Points:

1) While I am sure that he will deal with this in greater detail at a later time, what is the proper balance for looking at the law for guilt and the gospel for assurance when sin is present in our lives?

2) Interact with Owen’s statement: “Longing desires after any thing, in things natural and civil, are of no value or consideration, any farther but as they incite and stir up the person in whom they are to a diligent use of means for the bringing about the thing aimed at. In spiritual things it is otherwise. Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that hath a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after.”

3) What is the benefit of fasting with regards to mortification? How often should it be done? What would your counsel be to another who was planning on fasting for the mortification of their sin?

4) Owen’s last point in this chapter was tremendous. I could have highlighted every word of the section. That is not really a discussion point, I know. I just felt like pointing that out.


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.”




One response

3 10 2009
Jared Heatherly

D1- My thought on this is that I must look to the law constantly in relation to my life. If there is not a constant reference to God’s law, there will be no consideration of where I ought to be in relation to where I am. Romans 7:7 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” This leads into discussion point 2 about longing. Without the law and its guilt, there is no need for gospel assurance. The practice is that the law and its weight of guilt directs the sinner to Christ for salvation and the believer to Christ for that gospel assurance (Galatians 3:24).

D2- I will only say on this point that this paragraph was a great encouragement to me. Praise the Lord that longing is a grace! There is so far to go in conformity to the image of Christ. Men only see how we are on the outside. The Lord sees our longing.

D3- Fasting is a practice that has been mostly ignored in recent days. I have never spent an entire day in fasting (Andy- I know you are being tempted to post a carnal comment on that- mortify your flesh please). If we were more broken and contrite about sin, and burdened about the state of the church, maybe fasting would be more of a natural thing. I like the way Owen frames the discussion about fasting. It seems like he is writing in our day. Fasting should strengthen the inner man by focusing on the inner man to the exclusion of the flesh and its appetites. I would encourage someone to fast, but to be sure to keep the practice in the guidelines of the Lord in Matthew 6. I would not call for a fast day for everyone in the church. If there was a great burden that we were praying for, I might encourage the people to consider fasting, but I would not institutionalize it as some have.

D4- I agree- the closing paragraph was great. Great chapter, as usual.

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