March 13, 2010
At the end of part 2 of the Mortification of Sin, John Owen responds to the question: “When God speaks it, we must receive it, that is true; but how shall we know when He speaks?” To which Owen responds –
There is, if I may so say, a secret instinct in faith, whereby it knows the voice of Christ when He speaks indeed; as the babe leaped in the womb when the blessed Virgin came to Elizabeth [Luke 1:44], faith leaps in the heart when Christ indeed draws nigh to it. ‘My sheep,’ says Christ, ‘know my voice’ (John 10:4)–“They know my voice; they are used to the sound of it,” and they know when His lips are opened to them and are full of grace. The spouse was in a sad condition (Song 5:2)–asleep in security; but yet as soon as Christ speaks, she cries, ‘It is the voice of my beloved that speaks!’ She know His voice, and was so acquainted with communion with Him, that instantly she discovers Him; and so will you also. If you exercise yourself to acquaintance and communion with Him, you will easily discern between His voice and the voice of a stranger. And take this criterion with you: When He does speak, He speaks as never man spoke; He speaks with power, and one way or other will make your ‘hearts burn within you,’ as He did to the disciples (Luke 24:32). He does it by ‘putting his hand at the hole of the door’ (Song 5:4)–His Spirit into your hearts to seize on you.
July 15, 2009
In a recent discussion with Bruce Ware I had shared that John Owen understood the mortification of sin to be relative and not absolute. Dr. Ware quickly added that there is one thing, however, that is absolute, namely, the removal of sin’s dominion in the life of a believer. I agreed and added that Owen agreed as well. Yesterday, I read the following in Owen’s work on the Holy Spirit, in which he has a brief chapter on the mortification of sin: “Who or what shall have the principal conduct of the mind and soul (chap. 8.7-9) is the matter in question. Where sin hath the rule, there the Holy Ghost will never dwell. He enters into no soul as his habitation, but at the same instant he dethrones sin, spoils it of its dominion, and takes the rule of the soul into the hand of his own grace. Where he hath effected this work, and brought his adversary into subjection, there he will dwell, though sometimes his habitation be troubled by his subdued enemy.”
John Owen, The Holy Spirit, The Works of John Owen vol. III, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1850-53, reprint 2000), 551.