Mortification Preface

Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen

Christian Reader,
I shall in a few words acquaint you with the reasons that obtained my consent
to the publishing of the ensuing discourse. The consideration of the present
state and condition of the generality of professors1—the visible evidences
of the frame of their hearts and spirits—manifesting a great disability of dealing
with the temptations, from the peace they have in the world and the divisions
that they have among themselves, they are encompassed—holds the
chief place among them. This I am assured is of so great importance, that if
hereby I only occasion others to press more effectually on the consciences of
men the work of considering their ways, and to give more clear direction for
the compassing2 of the end proposed, I shall well esteem of my lot in this
undertaking. This was seconded by an observation of some men’s dangerous
mistakes, who of late days have taken upon them to give directions for the
mortification of sin, who, being unacquainted with the mystery of the gospel
and the efficacy of the death of Christ, have anew imposed the yoke of a selfwrought-
out mortification on the necks of their disciples, which neither they
nor their forefathers were ever able to bear [cf. Acts 15:10]. A mortification
they cry up and press, suitable to that of the gospel neither in respect of
nature, subject, causes, means, nor effects; which constantly produces the
deplorable issues3 of superstition, self-righteousness, and anxiety of conscience
in them who take up the burden which is so bound for them.
What is here proposed in weakness, I humbly hope will answer the spirit
and letter of the gospel, with the experiences of them who know what it is to
walk with God, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace. So that if not
this, yet certainly something of this kind, is very necessary at this season for
the promotion and furtherance of this work of gospel mortification in the
hearts of believers, and their direction in paths safe, and wherein they may
find rest to their souls. Something I have to add as to what in particular relates
unto myself. Having preached on this subject unto some comfortable success,
through the grace of him that administers seed to the sower, I was pressed by
sundry4 persons, in whose hearts are the ways of God, thus to publish what

1 those who make a religious confession; professing Christians
2 attaining, achieving
3 results, outcomes
4 various

I had delivered, with such additions and alterations as I should judge necessary.
Under the inducement of their desires, I called to remembrance the debt,
wherein I have now, for some years, stood engaged unto sundry noble and
worthy Christian friends, as to a treatise of Communion with God, some
while since promised to them;5 and thereon apprehended, that if I could not
hereby compound for the greater debt, yet I might possibly tender6 them this
discourse of variance7 with themselves, as interest for their forbearance of that
of peace and communion with God. Besides, I considered that I had been
providentially engaged in the public debate of sundry controversies in religion,
which might seem to claim something in another kind of more general
use, as a fruit of choice, not necessity. On these and the like accounts is this
short discourse brought forth to public view, and now presented unto you. I
hope I may own8 in sincerity that my heart’s desire unto God, and the chief
design of my life in the station wherein the good providence of God has
placed me, are that mortification and universal holiness may be promoted in
my own and in the hearts and ways of others, to the glory of God; that so the
gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things: for
the compassing of which end, if this little discourse (of the publishing whereof
this is the sum of the account I shall give) may in anything be useful to the
least of the saints, it will be looked on as a return of the weak prayers wherewith
it is attended by its unworthy author,
—John Owen

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