In my last post, I quoted from John Owen's work The Mortification of Sin in Believers. You can find this book at Banner of Truth, or on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library; and the book itself is right here. I also made a link to it which is on the left side of this page.
Here are some more quotes:
Urging us to the duty:
"but sin is still pressing forward, and that because it hath no bounds but utter relinquishment of God and opposition to him; that it proceeds towards its height by degrees, making good the ground it hath got by hardness, is not from its nature, but its deceitfulness. Now nothing can prevent this but mortification; that withers the root and strikes at the head of sin every hour, so that whatever it aims at it is crossed in. There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind."
How the duty is to be accomplished - by the power of the Spirit in the new man:
"This is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature is given unto us, — that we may have a principle within whereby to oppose sin and lust. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” Well! and what then? Why, “The Spirit also lusteth against the flesh,” Gal. v. 17. There is a propensity in the Spirit, or spiritual new nature, to be acting against the flesh, as well as in the flesh to be acting against the Spirit: so 2 Pet. i. 4, 5. It is our participation of the divine nature that gives us an escape from the pollutions that are in the world through lust;"
Owen laments that, in his day, a proper understanding of mortification of sin is rare. It sounds like today.
"The truth is, what between placing mortification in a rigid, stubborn frame of spirit . . . on the one hand, and pretences of liberty, grace, and I know not what, on the other, true evangelical mortification is almost lost amongst us;"
Let's not fool ourselves:
"Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who doth not kill sin in this way takes no steps towards his journey’s end. He who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it."
And a rather lengthy quote that is a poignant commentary upon the state of the church today:
Before I proceed to the consideration of the next principle, I cannot but by the way complain of many professors of these days, who, instead of bringing forth such great and evident fruits of mortification as are expected, scarce bear any leaves of it. There is, indeed, a broad light fallen upon the men of this generation, and together therewith many spiritual gifts communicated, which, with some other considerations, have wonderfully enlarged the bounds of professors and profession; both they and it are exceedingly multiplied and increased.
Hence there is a noise of religion and religious duties in every corner, preaching in abundance, — and that not in an empty, light, trivial, and vain manner, as formerly, but to a good proportion of a spiritual gift, — so that if you will measure the number of believers by light, gifts, and profession, the church may have cause to say, “Who hath born me all these?” But now if you will take the measure of them by this great discriminating grace of Christians, perhaps you will find their number not so multiplied.
Where almost is that professor who owes his conversion to these days of light, and so talks and professes at such a rate of spirituality as few in former days were, in any measure, acquainted with (I will not judge them, but perhaps boasting what the Lord hath done in them), that doth not give evidence of a miserably unmortified heart? If vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness in men’s places, envy, strife, variance, emulations, wrath, pride, worldliness, selfishness, 1 Cor. i., be badges of Christians, we have them on us and amongst us in abundance.
"And if it be so with them who have much light, and which, we hope, is saving, what shall we say of some who would be accounted religious and yet despise gospel light, and for the duty we have in hand, know no more of it but what consists in men’s denying themselves sometimes in outward enjoyments, which is one of the outmost branches of it, which yet they will seldom practise? The good Lord send out a spirit of mortification to cure our distempers, or we are in a sad condition!"