Owen viewed these particulars as the “ways and means whereby a soul may proved to the mortification of any particular lust and sin…” Since none of these particulars can be accomplished without the Spirit, Owen viewed them as the means by which the Spirit works upon the heart of the believer to accomplish mortification.
Puritan theologian John Owen’s work On The Mortification of Sin in Believers is a classic that should be read by every Christian in their struggle against indwelling sin. In what follows, I provide a description of Owen’s nine ways of mortification to provide a short, clear summary for the reader to apply in his sanctification. Following is Owen’s case study:
Suppose a man to be a true believer, and yet finds in himself a powerful indwelling sin, leading him captive to the law of it, consuming his heart with trouble, perplexing his thoughts, weakening his soul as to the duties of communion with God, disquieting him as to peace, and perhaps defiling his conscience, and exposing him to hardening through the deceitfulness of sin—what shall he do? What course shall he take and insist on for the mortification of this sin, lust, distemper, or corruption, to such a degree as that, thought it be not utterly destroyed, yet, in his contest with it, he may be enabled to keep up power, strength, and peace in communion with God? (John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapters. 5-; Overcoming Sin and Temptation, Vol. 1, p. 69)
Owen offers nine particulars by which mortification may be accomplished in a believer’s life:
1. Consider the accompanying symptoms of the particular lust.
The believer should first consider the accompanying symptoms of the particular lust. If the symptoms of the sin are great, and the sin has resided in the heart for a long period of time, an extraordinary course will be needed (ch. 9; p. 89). “Old wounds are often mortal, always dangerous” (p. 90). The heart should always be examined, and the symptoms carefully considered.
2. Have a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of the sin that is unmortified.
The believer must have a clear and abiding sense upon his mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of the sin that is unmortified (ch. 10; p. 97). Since the objective of lust is to darken the mind, and divert it from a proper apprehension of its condition, a believer must fix himself upon the guilt in his mind. Sin is aggravated and heightened by a neglect of addressing guilt.
3. Your conscience must be loaded with the guilt of the sin.
The conscience must be loaded with the guilt of the sin (ch. 11; p. 103). This is accomplished by bringing the holiness of the law into the believer’s conscience so that sin might be discovered. The law has a “commission from God to seize upon transgressors wherever it finds them, and so bring them before his throne where they are to plead for themselves” (p. 104). Mortifying corruption is accomplished by binding the conscience to the law. Furthermore, the lust should be brought to the gospel in order that the believer might look upon his pierced savior and become ashamed “for defiling the heart that Christ died to wash” (p. 105).