Some time ago picked up a copy of John Owen’s “The Mortification of Sin.” I literally bought it because I had a gift certificate to our church bookstore, wanted one particular book, had only a few dollars left, and Owen’s book was the cheapest one available at the time. I figured, “Hey, I always hear what a great theologian this guy was, and what a classic book this is. Why not?” I didn’t get to it for some time but picked it up due to a challenge from a friend, Travis Carden. I read the first four chapter and put it down because I am a chicken. It is a TOUGH read and it refused to let me move quickly at any point.
I’ve found few books that intimidated me in this way; his style of writing is challenging and yet the material is so compelling that you know you have to go back over and over sections because the effort proves worthwhile every time. It’s a book that I read 5 pages at a time.
After putting it down, I ended up hearing Kris Lundgaard at a church conference and ended reading his modern adaptation of Owen’s work, “The Enemy Within.” In time, Lundgaard’s book has driven me back to Owen. Because of the difficulty of the book and its grip on me that demands that I understand it completely, I knew I had to cover the first four chapters again. Upon further review, I was reminded of so many priceless quotes that I had to share them with you. I quoted “Mortification” once already. I just have to add more, and more will follow as I work my way through the book.
On the definition of ‘mortification’:
“To kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all his strength, vigour and power, so that he cannot act, or exert, or put forth any proper actings of his own.”
On the need to be thorough in the task of mortification:
“He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, doth but half his work.”
On the insidious tendency of indwelling sin to cloak itself in silence:
“When sin lets us alone, we may let sin alone: but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times, in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.”
On the need to constantly wage war against the flesh:
“He that stands still, and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue.”
Suffer me one more, on the effects of the neglect of mortification:
” Where sin, through the neglect of mortification gets a considerable victory, it breaks the bones of the soul; and makes a man weak, sick and ready to die, so that he cannot look up. And when poor creatures will take blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil, and never rouse themselves to a vigorous opposition, can the expect anything but to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and that their souls should bleed to death?”
That’s two chapter’s worth! I’ll try not to just type the whole book out. As you can see, Owen is one of the greatest Christian minds that the world has know. If nothing else, buy this book and settle yourself to harvest its fruit.
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