Quotes from The Mortification of Sin

Having concluded our read together through Owen’s classic The Mortification of Sin, a gathering of some of my favorite quotations from the book seems to be fitting sort of epilogue. Of course, I did the same with Thomas Watson’s book, Heaven Taken by Storm, but there is certainly a significant difference between the two. Watson is known for his short, quick, and memorable statements, whereas Owen’s sentences are long, trailing, and sometimes difficult to follow. Even so, there are plenty of wonderful quotations from Mortification that are worth recalling.

Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.

Chapter 1, p. 22

Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin, or it will be killing you.

Chapter 2, p. 27

When sin lets us alone, we may let sin alone: but as sin is never less than quiet 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 be vigorous at all times, in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.

Chapter 2, p. 29

Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness, who walks not over the neck of his lusts.

Chapter 2, p. 34

Duties are excellent food for a healthy soul; they are no physic for a sick soul.

Chapter 3, p. 42

All communications of supplies and relief, in the beginnings, increasings, actings of any grace whatever from him, are by the Spirit, by whom he alone works in and upon believers.

Chapter 3, p. 43

This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law, is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies in purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.

Chapter 3, p. 45

Every unmortified sin will certainly do two things; first, it will weaken the soul, and deprive it of its vigour; secondly, it will darken the soul, and deprive it of its comfort and peace.

Chapter 4, pp. 48-49

When a man, on some outward respects, forsakes the practice of any sin, men perhaps my look on him as a changed man; God knows that to his former iniquity he hath added cursed hypocrisy, and is got into a safer path to hell than he was in before. He hath got another heart than he had, that is more cunning: not a new heart, that is more holy.

Chapter 5, p. 55

He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others: let him not think he hath mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He hath changed his master, but is a servant still.

Chapter 5, p. 56

And the reason why a natural man is not always, perpetually, in the pursuit of some one lust, night and day, is because he hath many to serve, every one crying to be satisfied: then he is carried on with great variety, but still in general he lies toward the satisfaction of self

Chapter 6, p. 61

Such a one never thinks his lust dead because it is quiet; but labours still to give it new wounds, new blows, every day

Chapter 6, p. 67

Unless a man be a believer, that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ, he can never mortify any one sin.

Chapter 7, p. 69

A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit.

Chapter 7, p. 71

I say, then, mortification is not the present business of unregenerate men. God calls them not to it as yet. Conversion is their work; the conversion of the whole soul, not the mortification of this or that particular lust.

Chapter 7, p. 72

It grieves me oftentimes to see poor souls, that have a zeal for God and a desire of eternal welfare, kept by such directors and directions, under a hard, burdensome, outside worship and service of God, with many specious endeavours for mortification, in an utter ignorance of the righteousness of Christ, and un-acquaintedness with his Spirit, all their days.

Chapter 7, p. 80

A man finds any lust to bring him into the condition formerly described; it is powerful, strong, tumultuating, lead captive, vexes, disquiets, takes away peace. He is not able to bear it; wherefore he sets himself against it, prays against it, groans under it, sighs to be delivered. But in the mean time, perhaps in other duties, in constant communion with God, in reading, prayer, and meditation, in other ways that are not of the same kind with the lust wherewith he is troubled, he is loose and negligent. Let not that man think that ever he shall arrive to the mortification of the lust he is perplexed with.

Chapter 8, p. 81

Hatred of sin as sin, not only as galling or disquieting; a sense of the love of Christ in the cross; lie at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification.

Chapter 8, p. 82

Old neglected wounds are often mortal, always dangerous.

Chapter 9, p. 89

Now, when a man with his sin is in this condition, and there is a secret liking of the sin prevalent in his heart, so that, though his will be not wholly set upon it, yet he hath an imperfect willingness towards it, would practise it were it not for such and such considerations, and hereupon relieves himself other ways than by the mortification and pardon of it in the blood of Christ; that man’s wounds stink and are corrupt, and he will, without speedy deliverance, be at the door of death.

Chapter 9, p. 91

Can a sadder thing befall thee? Is it not enough to make any heart to tremble, to think of being brought into that state wherein slight thoughts of sin, slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven and hell, should come all in at the same season? Take heed; this is that thy lusting is working towards; even to the hardening of the heart, searing of the conscience, blinding of the mind, stupefying of the affections and deceiving of the whole soul.

Chapter 10, p. 102-103

Among those who walk with God, there is no greater motive and incentive unto universal holiness, to the preserving of their hearts and spirits in all purity and cleanness, than this, that the blessed Spirit, who hath undertaken to dwell in them as temples of God and to preserve them meet for him who so dwells in them, is continually considering what they give entertainment in their hearts unto, and rejoiceth when his temple is kept and undefiled.

Chapter 10, p. 107

Assure thyself, unless thou longest for deliverance, thou shalt not have it.

Chapter 11, p. 114

Consider what ways, what companies, what opportunities, what studies, what businesses, what conditions, have at any time given, or do usually give, advantages to thy distempers; and set thyself heedfully against them all.

Chapter 11, p. 117

Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him.

Chapter 12, p. 119

Think greatly of the greatness of God.

Chapter 12, p. 120

We speak much of God; can talk of him, his ways, his works, his counsels, all the day long: the truth is, we know very little of him; our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of him, are low, many of them unworthy of his glory, none of them reaching his perfections.

Chapter 12, p. 121

The difference between believers and nonbelievers as to knowledge, is not so much in the matter of their knowledge, as in the manner of knowing. Unbelievers, some of them, may know more, and be able to say more, of God, his perfections and his will than many believers; but they know nothing as they ought, nothing in a right manner, nothing spiritually and savingly, nothing with a holy, heavenly light. The excellency of a believer is not that he hath a large apprehension of things; but that what he doth apprehend, which perhaps may be very little, he sees in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming, and this is that which gives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts, or curious raised questions.

Chapter 12, p. 129

When men measure out peace to themselves upon the conclusions to which their convictions and rational principles will carry them, this is a false peace, and will not abide.

Chapter 13, p. 137

If the word of the Lord doth good to your souls, he speaks it. If it humbles, if it cleanse, and be useful for those ends for which promises are given, such as to endear, to cleanse, to melt and bind to obedience, to cause self-emptiness, etc.

Chapter 13, p. 144

Ponder on this, that though thou art no way able, in or by thyself, to get the conquest over thy distemper; though thou art even weary of contending, and art utterly ready to faint (Luke 18:1,7); yet that there is enough in Jesus Christ to yield thee relief (Phil. 4:13).

Chapter 14, p. 146

He will assuredly deliver thee, he will slay the lust, and thy latter end shall be peace: only look for it; at his hand expect when and how he will do it.

Chapter 14, p. 148

If Christ be chosen for the foundation of our supply, he will not fail us.

Chapter 14, p. 152

Christ, by his death, destroying the works of the devil, procuring the Spirit for us, hath so killed sin as to its reign in believers, that it shall not obtain its end and dominion.

Chapter 14, p. 155

The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts, with its sin-killing power; for by the Spirit we are baptised into the death of Christ.

Chapter 14, p. 157

Now that you’ve read some of the quotes that I liked best, I would love to hear what some of yours were.


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