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Holiness John Owen Sin

John Owen on rationalizing sin by remembering God’s faithfulness

When upon thoughts, perplexing thoughts about sin, instead of applying himself to the destruction of it, a man searches his heart to see what evidences  he can find of a good condition, notwithstanding that sin and lust, so that it may go well with him. For a man to gather up his experiences of God, to call them to mind, to collect them, consider, try, improve them, is an excellent thing—a duty practiced by all the saints, commended in the Old Testament and the New. This was David’s work when he “communed with his own heart,” and called to remembrance the former lovingkindness of the Lord [Ps. 77:6-9, 10, 11]. This is the duty that Paul sets us to practice (2 Cor. 13:5). And as it is in itself excellent, so it has beauty added to it by a proper season, a time of trial or temptation, or disquietness of the heart about sin, it is a picture of silver to set off this golden apple, as Solomon speaks [Prov. 25:11]. But now to do it for this end, to satisfy conscience, which cries and calls for another purpose, is a desperate device of a heart in love with sin. When a man’s conscience shall deal with him, when God shall rebuke him for the sinful distemper of his heart, if he, instead of applying himself to get that sin pardoned in the blood of Christ and mortified by his Spirit, shall relieve himself by any such other evidences as he has, or thinks himself to have, and so disentangle himself from under the yoke that God was putting on his neck, his condition is very dangerous, his wound hardly curable. Thus the Jews, under the gallings of their own consciences and the convincing preaching of our Savior, supported themselves with this, that they were “Abraham’s children,” and on that account accepted with God; and so countenanced themselves in all abominable wickedness, to their utter ruin.

— John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation

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Salvation Sin

John Owen on the need to be constantly fighting against sin

Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than 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 to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion. Sin doth not only abide in us, but “the law of the members is still rebelling against the law of the mind,” Rom. vii. 23; and “the spirit that dwells in us lusteth to envy,” James iv. 5. It is always in continual work; “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” Gal. v. 17; lust is still tempting and conceiving sin, James i. 14; in every moral action it is always either inclining to evil, or hindering from that which is good, or disframing the spirit from communion with God. It inclines to evil. “The evil which I would not, that I do,” saith the apostle, Rom. vii. 19. Whence is that? Why, “Because in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” And it hinders from good: “The good that I would do, that I do not,” verse 19; — “Upon the same account, either I do it not, or not as I should; all my holy things being defiled by this sin.” “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would,” Gal. v. 17. And it unframes our spirit, and thence is called “The sin that so easily besets us,” Heb. xii. 1; on which account are those grievous complaints that the apostle makes of it, Rom. vii. So that sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting. Who can say that he had ever any thing to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did? And this trade will it drive more or less all our days. If, then, sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying, we are lost creatures. He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue. If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world.

John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers

Categories
Salvation Sin

Conviction and anguish over sin cannot save you from hell – William S. Plumer

Do not believe that your convictions are too deep and too strong ever to leave you. They are perhaps not stronger than those of Felix when he trembled, of Herod when he heard John and did many things gladly, of Ahab when he humbled himself, or of king Saul when he lifted up his voice and wept. Conviction of itself, is not a saving grace. It is itself no pledge of salvation. It may leave one midway between carelessness and conversion, just as Lot’s wife was left between Sodom and Zoar. If your convictions do not lead to Christ, and that speedily, you may become familiar with them, and their effect be lost up on you. Conviction of itself, is not conversion. Conviction can save no man. Misconceive not the terms of salvation. On this point there is much danger. Be specially guarded that you do not attempt to substitute your own distress of mind for the sufferings of Christ. Sin is neither pardoned nor expelled, by the anguish of any sinful worm. The more distressed men are, the stouter is the rebellion of your sins. Your own sufferings, in this world or the next, cannot save you. No tears, no blood, no cross, no death, no intercession but those of Christ can avail for any! Never lose sight of the blessed truth, that salvation is wholly by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus.

William S. Plumer, Vital Godliness: A Treatise on Experimental and Practical Piety – Chapter 7 – Cases of Religious Distress