Owen uses this chapter to talk about the ways and means by which men must pursue mortification. Chapter 7 is really just an exposition of his first rule "without which no sin will ever be mortified":
- There Will Be No Mortification Unless A Man Be A Believer
How shall he, then, mortify sin that has not the Spirit? A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the SpiritHow true. How many times do we in vain and in our own efforts, apart from the Spirit of God, attempt to put to death a sin in our lives and see absolutely no effectiveness in doing so. You may as well try and push a rope through a brick wall, as to take on sin apart from the Holy Spirit.
Owens continues his thoughts with this really great paragraph:
When the Jews, upon the conviction of their sin, were cut to the heart and cried out, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), what does Peter direct them to do? Does he bid them go and mortify their pride, wrath, malice, cruelty, and the like? No; he knew that was not their present work, but he calls them to conversion and faith in Christ in general (v. 38). Let the soul be first thoroughly converted, and then, “looking on him whom they had pierced” [Zech. 12:10; John 19:37], humiliationand mortification will ensue.WOW. What a statement here by Owens and how backwards do we have this is the church today. Seriously. How many times do we first tell men to go mortify their drinking, their pornography, their financial ruin, their homosexual lifestyle, their drug addiction when we should first be about the business of conversion and them saying with Peter "THOU ART THE CHRIST". This is a very damaging statement to the evangelistic modes of many individuals in the American church today.
But Owens isn't done, he continues:
And this is the usual issue with persons attempting the mortification of sin without an interest in Christ first obtained. It deludes them, hardens them—destroys them. And therefore we see that there are not usually more vile and desperate sinners in the world than such as, having by conviction been put on this course, have found it fruitless and deserted it without a discoveryof Christ. And this is the substance of the religion and godliness of the choicest formalists in the world, and of all those who in the Roman22 synagogue are drawn to mortification, as they drive Indians to baptism or cattle to water.Haven't we seen this so many times in people that at one time attended church, heard the "mortification first' preaching from the pulpit, maybe even stayed in church for a while, but under the weight of not being able to perform to standard, abandoned Christianity all together and gave themselves over to a more destructive lifestyle than they ever lived in the first place. Amazing.
Then, Owen has some words for preachers:
Let me add this to those who are preachers of the word, or intend, through the good hand of God, that employment: It is their duty to plead with men about their sins, to lay load on particular sins, but always remember that it be done with that which is the proper end of law and gospel—that is, that they make use of the sin they speak against to the discovery of the state and condition wherein the sinner is; otherwise, haply,24 they may work men to formality and hypocrisy, but little of the true end of preaching the gospel will be brought about. It will not avail to beat a man off from his drunkenness into a sober formality. A skillful master of the assemblies lays his axe at the root, drives still at the heart. To inveigh25 against particular sins of ignorant, unregenerate persons, such as the land is full of, is a good work; but yet, though it may be done with great efficacy, vigor, and success, if this be all the effect of it, that they are set upon the most sedulous26 endeavors of mortifying their sins preached down, all that is done is but like the beating of an enemy in an open field, and driving him into an impregnable castle, not to be prevailed against. Get you at any time a sinner at the advantage, on the account of any one sin whatsoever? have you anything to take hold of him by?—bring it to his state and condition, drive it up to the head, and there deal with him. To break men off particular sins, and not to break their hearts, is to deprive ourselves of advantages of dealing with them.Owens admonishes that if you're not careful, you'll preach men into a legalism and empty faith but won't see them enter into true communion with Christ. How many churches and pulpits does that describe today?
Finally, to end with his summary on Chapter 7:
What has been spoken I suppose is sufficient to make good my first general rule:
Be sure to get an interest in Christ—
if you intend to mortify any sin without it,
it will never be done.