In Chapter Five of The Mortification of Sin, John Owen bends over backward to delineate for his readers what mortification of sin is NOT, the better for us to recognize it for what it is: a miracle of grace. This seemed like a good place to pause for a review of the content up to this point. Pardon the places where this post loses poetic traction and slides into the ditch of doggerel, but doesn’t the discipline of rhyme and meter force you to really think about what you are trying to communicate?
“Put sin to death,” says Romans 8.
“By Spirit’s power, don’t hesitate,
“And you will live.” It’s God’s command
Declared by Paul with pen in hand.
John Owen, taking up his quill,
Exhorts that the believer will
Make this his daily task to do:
Be killing sin lest it kill you.
With stony heart by Spirit taken,
Grace abounds, sin is forsaken.
Take the Spirit’s comfort, vigor —
Gifts of mortifying rigor.
Truth be told, it’s God’s largesse
That uproots darkness and weakness.
Now, lest one think, “The dragon’s slain
And never to be seen again!” —
Remember St. Paul’s anguished cries,
“I do the evil I despise!”
Hypocrisy (or hiding well)
Is just a safer path to hell,
For sin has not been killed a whit
Nor holiness increased a bit.
A temperament sweet and sedate,
Though pleasant still does not equate
With mortified iniquity.
His heart may still a cesspool be!
Nor does the soul who (finding pride
No longer serves her) turns aside
To worldliness or vanity —
New masters do not make one free.
Amidst afflictions and distress,
The oft-resulting righteousness
That follows sin’s heinous eruption
Is likely just a brief disruption:
Cat and mouse, legerdemain,
While sinful habits still remain.
Thus, Brother Owen clarifies
Mortification by the lies
The hapless saint may swallow whole,
Sadly deceived in mind and soul.