Chapter 5 is the first chapter in the second section. The central issue that Owen will direct us in this chapter is concerning the nature of mortification. In essence this section will help us answer the question, "How do I go about mortifying sin in my life?" He will do this by first showing us what mortification is and is not. Then he will give crucial instructions on what must take place in mortification. And lastly he will get specific and show us how this is to be done. Chapter 5 will deal with showing 5 things that mortification is NOT.
- Mortification is not the utter destruction and death of sin
- Mortification is not the dissumlation (becoming unlike) of sin
- Mortification is not the improvement of a quiet sedate nature
- Mortification is not the diversion of sin
- Mortification is not occasional conquests over sin
The fourth point is also especially convicting. I think there are areas in my life that have merely been diverted into other sins. Sin is so sneaky. How many times have I "conquered" a sin only to fall into pride and self-righteousness. Owen's summation of this point hits a deep chord in my heart: "He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others, let him not think that he has mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He has changed his master, but is a servant still."
A good majority of the chapter is focused on the fifth point. I would venture that Owen spends such time on this point because of its deceptive nature and frequency in occurence. I know in my own life that often after a "sad eruption" I make promises that I cannot keep. I found it especially interesting what Owen said concerning sin "hiding" during this time. "The whole man, spiritual and natural, being now awakened, sin shrinks in its head, appears not, but lies as dead before him: as when one that has drawn nigh5 to an army in the night, and has killed a principal person—instantly the guards awake, men are roused up, and strict inquiry is made after the enemy, who, in the meantime, until the noise and tumult be over, hides himself, or lies like one that is dead, yet with firm resolution to do the like mischief again upon the like opportunity." This makes me wonder how many sins are in "hiding" in my own life. My prayer is that through the power of the gospel they might be brought out and truly mortified. Oh, how desperate for Jesus' rescue I am!
John Newton's hymn "A Sick Soul" is fitting as my prayer of response:
Physician of my sin–sick soul,
To thee I bring my case;
My raging malady control,
And heal me by thy grace.
Pity the anguish I endure,
See how I mourn and pine;
For never can I hope a cure
From any hand but thine.
I would disclose my whole complaint,
But where shall I begin?
No words of mine can fully paint
That worst distemper, sin.
It lies not in a single part,
But through my frame is spread;
A burning fever in my heart,
A palsy in my head.
It makes me deaf, and dumb, and blind,
And impotent and lame;
And overclouds, and fills my mind,
With folly, fear, and shame.
A thousand evil thoughts intrude
Tumultuous in my breast;
Which indispose me for my food,
And rob me of my rest.
Lord I am sick, regard my cry,
And set my spirit free;
Say, canst thou let a sinner die,
Who longs to live to thee?