[2.] Sin that is not killed weakens and it darkens the soul. It is a cloud, a thick
cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God’s love and favour. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them.
Now, in this regard does the vigour and power of our spiritual life depend on our mortification: It grieves the Spirit leading to spiritual weakness. Men sick and wounded under the power of lust make many applications for help; they cry to God when the perplexity of their thoughts overwhelms them, even to God do they cry, but are not delivered; in vain do they use many remedies, — ” they shall not be healed.” So, Hos. 5:13,
“Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound,” and attempted various remedies: nothing will do until they come (verse 15) to “acknowledge their offence.” Men may see their sickness and wounds, but yet, if they do not confess and forsake, their cure will not be effected.
Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. The life and vigour of our spiritual lives consists in the vigour and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts. Now, as you may see in a garden, let there be a precious herb
planted, and let the ground be untilled, and weeds grow about it, perhaps it will live still, but be a poor, withering, unuseful thing. You must look and search for it, and sometimes can scarce find it; and when you do, you can scarce know it, whether it be the plant you look
for or no; and suppose it be, you can make no use of it at all. But let it be well weeded, and everything that is noxious and hurtful removed from it, — it flourishes and thrives;
you may see it at first look into the garden, and have it for your use when you please. So it is with the graces of the Spirit that are planted in our hearts. That is true; they are still, they abide in a heart where there is some neglect of mortification; but they are ready
to die, Rev. 3:2, they are withering and decaying. The heart is like the sluggard’s field, — so overgrown with weeds that you can scarce see the good corn. Such a man may search for faith, love, and zeal, and scarce be able to find any; and if he do discover that these graces are there yet alive and sincere, yet they are so weak, so clogged with lusts, that they are of very little use; they remain, indeed, but are ready to die. But now let the heart be cleansed by mortification, the weeds of lust constantly and daily rooted up (as they spring daily,
nature being their proper soil), let room be made for grace to thrive and flourish, — how will every grace act its part, and be ready for every use and purpose!
(3.) Mortification is the soul’s vigorous opposition to self, wherein sincerity is most evident and it leads to peace.
Adapted from John Owen