Reading John Owen (Part 7): Two Keys to Killing Sin

According to John Owen's Mortification of Sin, there are two essential keys to killing sin. He gives these keys as "directions" in the final chapter of his classic book. Here are my notes:

DIRECTION 1: Set your faith upon Christ for the killing of your sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls.


1. By faith fill your heart with a right consideration of the provision that God has made in the work of Christ for the mortification of your sins. (p. 117)

Grace in Christ. John 1:16. Col. 1:19. Philip. 4:13. Exalted to give repentance. Acts 5:21. Abiding leads to purging. John 15:3. He makes us more than conquerors. Rom. 8:37.

2. Raise up your heart in faith with an expectation of relief from Christ.

“Christ is the fountain from which the new man must draw the influences of life and strength, or he will decay every day. If we are ‘strengthened with power . . . in [our] inner being’, it is by Christ’s ‘dwelling in [our] hearts through faith’ (Eph. 3:16-17).” (p. 121)

Two additional reasons for expecting relief:

i. Consider his mercy, tenderness, and kindness as He presents us as our great High Priest at the right hand of God. (p. 121); cf. Heb. 2:17-18. “He is able, having suffered and been tempted, to break through all reasons to the contrary, and to relieve poor tempted souls. Having suffered himself, he is moved to help.” (p. 122) “I shall be bold to say that this one thing of expecting relief from Christ, on the basis of His mercy as our High Priest, will be a better and speedier means of destroying your lust and the disorder of your soul than all the most rigid efforts of self-mortification that the sons of men ever engage in” (p. 123);

ii. Consider also the faithfulness of Him who has promised.

Two advantages that always attend this expectation of help from Christ.  

(a) It engages the Lord to give full and speedy assistance. 

(b) It encourages the heart to make diligent use of every means by which Christ may reveal himself to the soul.

Graces. Ordinances. “The ways and means by which Christ usually communicates Himself are His ordinances. He that is seeking help from Christ should seek Him in these!” (p. 124)


(1) Place your faith particularly upon the death, blood, and cross of Christ: that is, on Christ as crucified and slain. Titus. 2:14. Eph. 5:25-27. 1 John 1:7. Heb. 1:3. Rev. 1:5. Heb. 9:14. Rom. 6:2.

“We are dead to sin by profession; dead to sin by obligation to be so; dead to sin by participation in His virtue and power for the killing of it; dead to sin by union and interest in Christ, through whom and by whom it is killed.” (p. 126)

“Our being crucified with Him does not refer to time, but causality. His death was meritoriously the cause of our victory. By His death He secured the Holy Spirit for us to mortify sin. From His death comes virtue for our crucifying of the flesh. He was our Representative and Example. We shall surely be crucified to sin, as He was for our sin.” (p. 127)

(2) When you meditate upon the death of Christ, keep in mind the power available to us, and your desire to be conformed to Christ (Phil. 3:10; Col. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).

“Let faith gaze upon Christ as He is set forth crucified and dying for us. Look upon Him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, and dying (1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 5:1-2; Col. 1:13-14). Bring Him in that condition into your heart by faith. Apply His blood so shed to your corruptions. Do this daily.” (p. 128)

DIRECTION 2: Finally, consider the part that the Holy Spirit plays in mortification and the effects that are particularly ascribed to Him. 

In one word, this work, which I have described as our duty, is effected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit in all its parts and all its degrees.

1. He alone clearly and fully convinces the heart of the evil, guilt, and danger of the corruption, lust or sin that it may be mortified.

“This is the first work of the Spirit to bring about mortification. He convinces the soul of all its evil. He cuts off all of lust’s pleadings, uncovers all of its deceits, stops all of its evasions, and answers its self-justifications. He makes the soul to confess the abominations of its sin, and to be cast down under the guilt of it. Unless this is done, all that follows is in vain.” (p. 129)

2. The Spirit alone reveals to us the fullness of Christ our relief.

3. The Spirit alone establishes the heart in the expectation of relief from Christ.

4. The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power.

5. The Spirit is the Author and Finisher of our sanctification. He gives new supplies and influences of grace for holiness and sanctification when our resolve to resist is weakened.

6. All of our soul’s prayers to God in our need are supported by the Spirit.

Zech. 12:10. Rom. 8:26.

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