Owen’s Reason For Writing ‘The Mortification Of Sin In Believers’

I am reading through The Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen and as I go through it I will be posting quotes of his which stand out to me the most over at The Essential Owen blog. As I read his preface to the Christian reader, I noticed he mentions why he wrote this treatise and also mentions that this work was actually a down payment or interest payment upon another work he had previously promised to write, which he had not yet fulfilled.

In Owen’s own words, why he wrote this book:

For Encouragement

“The consideration of the present state and condition of the generality of professors, the visible evidences of the frame of their hearts and spirits, manifesting a great disability of dealing with the temptations wherewith, from the peace they have in the world and the divisions that they have among themselves, they are encompassed, holds the chief place amongst them. This I am assured is of so great importance, that if hereby I only occasion others to press more effectually on the consciences of men the work of considering their ways, and to give more clear direction for the compassing of the end proposed, I shall well esteem of my lot in this undertaking.”

For Reproof

“This was seconded by an observation of some men’s dangerous mistakes, who of late days have taken upon them to give directions for the mortification of sin, who, being unacquainted with the mystery of the gospel and the efficacy of the death of Christ, have anew imposed the yoke of a sell-wrought-out mortification on the necks of their disciples, which neither they nor their forefathers were ever able to bear. A mortification they cry up and press, suitable to that of the gospel neither in respect of nature, subject, causes, means, nor effects; which constantly produces the deplorable issues of superstition, self-righteousness, and anxiety of conscience in them who take up the burden which is so bound for them.”

Before Owen wrote this treatise for publication, he said he had already “preached on this subject unto some comfortable success, through the grace of Him that administereth seed to the sower…”

The Mortification of Sin in Believers was to be a good faith payment for Communion With God, which Owen did write, and is an exceptional work in and of itself which is in volume 2 of his Works. Owen says of this:

“I have now for some years stood engaged unto sundry noble and worthy Christian friends, as to a treatise of Communion with God, some while since promised to them: and thereon apprehended, that if I could not hereby compound for the greater debt, yet I might possibly tender them this discourse of variance with themselves, as interest for their forbearance of that of peace and communion with God.”

What did this particular writing mean for Owen personally?

“I hope I may own in sincerity, that my heart’s desire unto God, and the chief design of my life in the station wherein the good providence of God hath placed me, are, that mortification and universal holiness may be promoted in my own and in the hearts and ways of others, to the glory of God; that so the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things: for the compassing of which end, if this little discourse (of the publishing whereof this is the sum of the account I shall give) may in any thing be useful to the least of the saints, it will be looked on as a return of the weak prayers wherewith it is attended by its unworthy author,

John Owen.”

For John Owen, this was not just a book that needed to be written, but he saw that it was related to the chief design of his life; mortifying the flesh and encouraging the holiness of the bride of Christ. And how fitting it is, that before we are to have Communion With God, we are to concern ourselves with The Mortification of Sin in our lives.

God Bless You and Keep You…


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