Outlines – Of Indwelling Sin

Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen

(Chapter 1)
Foundational text on indwelling sin: Romans 7:21 (p. 233)
A. Indwelling sin is a law (p. 233)
B. The law of indwelling sin is found in believers (p. 235)
C. The habitual inclination of believers’ wills is unto good (p. 236)
D. Evil is present within believers (p. 237)
(Chapter 2)
I. Characteristics of every law (p. 243)
A. Dominion (p. 243)
1. Moral authoritative dominion over a man (law of God) (p. 243)
2. Real effective dominion in a man (law of sin) (p. 243)
B. Efficacy to provoke (p. 244)
II. What kind of law indwelling sin is (p. 245)
A. Indwelling sin always abides in the soul (p. 246)
B. Indwelling sin is always ready to apply itself to its ends (p. 247)
C. Indwelling sin applies itself with great facility and ease (p. 247)
(Chapter 3)
III. The heart is the seat and subject of this law of sin (p. 249)
A. The heart is the principle of men’s good or evil actions, and also includes two other
things: (p. 251)
1. A suitableness and pleasingness unto the soul in the things that are done (p. 251)
2. Resolution and constancy in such actions (p. 251)
B. Properties of the heart (p. 251)
1. The heart is unsearchable (p. 251)
2. The heart is deceitful (p. 253)
a) The heart abounds in contradictions (p. 253)
b) The heart’s deceit lies in its full promises upon first appearances (p. 254)
C. Some considerations (p. 255)
1. Never let us reckon that our work in contending against sin is at an end (p. 255)
2. Its variety, inconsistency, and deceitfulness above all else calls for perpetual
watchfulness against it (p. 255)
3. Commit the whole matter with all care and diligence unto God (p. 256)
(Chapter 4)
IV. The natural properties of indwelling sin (p. 257)
A. Indwelling sin is enmity (p. 257)
B. Indwelling sin is enmity against God (p. 259)
1. Indwelling sin is universal (p. 260)
a) Indwelling sin is universal against all of God (p. 261)
b) Indwelling sin is universal against all of the soul (p. 261)
2. Indwelling sin is constant (p. 262)
C. Indwelling sin is constant (p. 262)
(Chapter 5)
V. The actings and operations of indwelling sin (p. 262)
A. Aversation (p. 263)
1. In the affections (p. 264)
2. In the mind (p. 265)
3. Directions with respect to our particular duty against this evil (p. 267)
a) Constantly keep the soul in a universally holy frame (p. 267)
b) Labor to prevent the very beginnings of the workings of this aversation
(p. 267)
c) Be sure this aversation never prevails to a conquest (p. 268)
d) Carry about a constant, humbling sense of this close aversation unto
spiritualness that yet lies in our nature (p. 268)
e) Labor to possess the mind with the beauty and excellency of spiritual things
(p. 269)
(Chapter 6)
B. Opposition (p. 270)
1. By force (p. 270)
a) Sin’s general inclination: it lusts (p. 271)
(1) In a hidden, close, propensity unto all evil (p. 272)
(a) Discovered in its unexpected surprises of the soul into foolish, sinful
figments and imaginations (p. 273)
(b) Manifested in its readiness and promptness to join and close with
every temptation whereby it may possibly be excited (p. 274)
(2) In its actual pressing after that which is evil, and actual opposition unto
that which is good (p. 275)
b) Sin’s particular way of contending: it fights or wars (p. 276)
(1) In its rebellion against grace, or the law of the mind (p. 277)
(a) Opposition unto the general purpose and course of the soul (p. 278)
(b) Opposition unto particular duties (p. 279)
(2) In its assaulting the soul (p. 279)
(a) Its positive actings in stirring up sin (p. 280)
(b) Its importunity and urgency (p. 280)
(c) It entangles the affections and draws them into a combination against
the mind (p. 281)
(Chapter 7)
c) Sin’s success in this contest: it leads the soul captive to the law of sin (p. 284)
(1) Success in and upon the actings of the law of sin (p. 284)
(a) Much of it is from Satan when the captivating sin has no peculiar
footing nor advantage in the nature, constitution, or condition of the
sinner (p. 285)
(b) It is from Satan when a lust is prevalent unto captivity, where it brings
in no advantage to the flesh (p. 286)
(2) It leads the soul captive not to a particular or actual sin, but to “the law
of sin” (p. 286)
(3) This leading captive argues a prevalency against the contrary actings of
the will (p. 286)
(a) The power of sin is great (p. 287)
(b) This leading captive intimates manifold particular successes (p. 287)
(c) This leading captive manifests this condition to be miserable and
wretched (p. 287)
d) Sin’s growth and rage upon success: it comes up to rage and madness (p. 288)
(1) Its nature consists in violent, heady, pertinacious pressing unto evil or sin
(p. 288)
(2) Sin does not rise to this height ordinarily, but when it has a double
advantage: (p. 289)
(a) That it be provoked, enraged, and heightened by some great
temptation (p. 289)
(b) It must be advantaged by some former entertainment and prevalency
(p. 289)
(3) What accompanies this rage, its properties, and the effects it produces
(p. 290)
(a) There is in it the casting off, for a time at least, of the yoke, rule, and
government of the Spirit and law of grace (p. 290)
(b) Madness or rage is accompanied with fearlessness and contempt of
danger (p. 291)
(i) When the soul is broken loose from the power of renewing grace,
God often deals with it by preventing grace (p. 291)
(ii) These hindrances that God lays in the way of sinners are of two
sorts: (p. 292)
(a) Rational considerations (p. 292)
(b) Providential dispensations (p. 292)
(Chapter 8)
2. By deceit (p. 293)
a) The general nature of deceit (p. 295)
(1) It hides (p. 295)
(2) It is carried on by degrees (p. 296)
b) The way, manner, and progress of sin in working by deceit (p. 296)
(1) Its ultimate aim is death (p. 297)
(2) Its general way of acting toward that end is by temptation (p. 297)
(a) Drawing away the mind from its duty (p. 299)
(i) In general, the duty of the mind is to keep itself and the whole
soul in a frame and posture that will render it ready for all duties
of obedience (p. 299)
(a) It endeavors to draw it off from a due consideration,
apprehension, and sensibleness of its own vileness and danger
(p. 299)
(b) The duty to keep the soul unto a constant, holy consideration
of God and his grace (p. 305)
(Chapter 9)
(ii) In particular, the duty of the mind is to attend to all actions
(e.g., prayer and meditation) that they may be performed as God
requires (p. 306)
(a) Meditate of God with God (p. 307)
(b) Meditate on the word in the word (p. 307)
(c) What we lack in evenness and constancy let us make up in
frequency (p. 307)
(iii)The suitableness and usefulness of this duty unto the ruining of sin
(p. 307)
(a) It is the proper work of the soul in this duty to consider all the
secret workings and actings of sin (p. 308)
(b) In this duty there is wrought upon the heart a deep, full sense of
the vileness of sin, with a constant renewed detestation of it
(p. 309)
(c) This is the way appointed and blessed of God to obtain strength
and power against sin (p. 309)
(d) Faith in prayer countermines all the workings of the deceit of
sin (p. 310)
(iv)The means whereby the deceitfulness of sin endeavors to draw off
the mind from a due attendance unto them (p. 311)
(a) It makes advantage of its weariness unto the flesh (p. 311)
(b) It makes use of corrupt reasonings (p. 312)
(c) It offers a compensation to be made in and by other duties
(p. 313)
(d) It feeds the soul with promises and purposes of a more diligent
attendance unto this duty when occasions will permit (p. 313)
(Chapter 10)
(v) For the right performance of any duty, it is not enough that the
thing itself required be performed, but that it be universally squared
and fitted unto the rule of it (p. 316)
(a) There are some special things which the rule directs unto that
the mind is to attend in every duty (p. 317)
(i) That it be full and complete (p. 317)
(ii) That it be done in faith (p. 317)
(iii) That it be done in the right manner (p. 318)
(iv) That it attend unto the ends of duties (p. 318)
(b) There are some things about sin which the mind should attend
to (p. 320)
(i) The sovereignty of God (p. 321)
(ii) The deceit of sin (p. 321)
(iii) The love and kindness of God (p. 322)
(iv) The inhabitation of the Spirit (p. 324)
(a) It is from the deceit of sin that the mind is spiritually
slothful, whereby it becomes negligent unto this duty
(p. 324)
(i) Inadvertency (p. 324)
(ii) Unwillingness to be stirred up unto its duty (p. 324)
(iii) Weak and ineffectual attempts to recover itself unto
this duty (p. 324)
(iv) Heartlessness upon the apprehensions of difficulties
(p. 325)
(b) It draws away the mind from its watch and duty in
reference unto sin by surprises (p. 325)
(c) It draws away the mind by frequency and long
continuance of its solicitations, making as it were at last
a conquest of it (p. 326)
(Chapter 11)
(b) Enticing the affections (p. 326)
(i) What it is to have the affections entangled in sin (p. 327)
(a) When they stir up frequent imaginations about the proposed
object which this deceit of sin leads and entices toward (p. 327)
(b) When the imagination can prevail with the mind to lodge vain
thoughts in it, with secret delight and complacency (p. 327)
(c) Inclinations or readiness to attend unto extenuations of sin, or
the reliefs that are tendered against sin when committed,
manifest the affections to be entangled with it (p. 328)
(ii) How sin entangles the affections (p. 328)
(a) It makes use of its former prevalency upon the mind in drawing
it off from its watch and circumspection (p. 328)
(b) It proposes sin as desirable and exceeding satisfactory to the
corrupt part of our affections (p. 329)
(c) It hides the danger that attends sin (p. 330)
(d) It raises up perverse reasonings in the mind, to fix it upon the
sin proposed, that it may be conceived and brought forth
(p. 330)
(iii)How to observe this duty (p. 331)
(a) Keep your affections as to their object (p. 331)
(i) In general: fill your affections with heavenly things (p. 331)
(ii) In particular: let the cross of Christ be the object of your
affections (p. 332)
(b) Look to the vigor of the affections toward heavenly things
(p. 332)
(Chapter 12)
(c) The conception of actual sin in the will (p. 333)
(i) The will is the principle, the next seat and cause, of obedience and
disobedience. (p. 333)
(ii) Twofold consent of the will unto sin (p. 333)
(a) That which is full, absolute, complete, and upon deliberation
(p. 333)
(b) There is a consent of the will which is attended with a secret
renitency and volition of the contrary (p. 334)
(iii)There cannot be an absolute, total, full consent of the will of a
believer unto any sin (p. 334)
(a) There is in his will a principle fixed on good (p. 334)
(b) There is also a secret reluctancy in it against its own act in
consenting unto sin (p. 334)
(iv) Repeated acts of the consent of the will unto sin may beget a
disposition and inclination in it unto the like acts (p. 335)
(v) This consent of the will may be considered two ways: (p. 335)
(a) As it is exercised about the circumstances, causes, means, and
inducements unto sin (p. 335)
(b) As it respects this or that actual sin (p. 335)
(i) The will is a rational appetite (p. 335)
(ii) It chooses nothing, consents to nothing, but as it has an
appearance of some present good (p. 335)
(iii) The reason why the conception of sin is here placed as a
consequent of the mind’s being drawn away and the
affections being entangled (p. 336)
(a) The will is imposed upon by that corrupt reasoning,
that grace is exalted in a pardon, and that mercy is
provided for sinners (p. 336)
(b) The deceived mind imposes on the will, to obtain its
consent unto sin, by proposing unto it the advantages
that may accrue and arise thereby (p. 338)
(Chapter 13)
(d) The bringing forth of sin in its actual accomplishment (p. 342)
(i) When sin is conceived, the Lord obstructs its production by his
providence, in taking away or cutting short its power (p. 343)
(a) By taking away life, which is the foundation of all power
(p. 343)
(i) God does not judicially cut off and take away the life of any
of his (p. 344)
(a) This is directly contrary to the very declared end of the
patience of God toward them (p. 344)
(b) They must perish forever who are so judicially cut off
(p. 345)
(ii) There are some cases wherein God may and does take away
the lives of his own to prevent the guilt that otherwise they
would be involved in (p. 345)
(a) In the coming of some great temptation and trial upon
the world (p. 345)
(b) In case of their engagement into any way not acceptable
to him, through ignorance or not knowing of his mind
and will (p. 345)
(b) By taking away and cutting short the power of them that had
conceived it (p. 345)
(i) It is so only in cases of extraordinary temptation (p. 347)
(ii) God does it to awaken them to their condition and what
they are doing (p. 347)
(c) By opposing an external hindering power unto sinners (p. 347)
(d) By removing or taking away the objects on whom, or about
whom, the sin conceived was to be committed (p. 348)
(e) By some eminent diversions of the thoughts of men who had
conceived sin (p. 348)
(i) This may give us a little insight into the providence of God
(p. 349)
(ii) Our own concerns will in a special manner enforce us to
adore the wisdom and efficacy of the providence of God in
stopping the progress of conceived sin (p. 349)
(iii) The miserable condition of wicked men (p. 350)
(iv) Do not despair when you see the floodgates of men’s lusts
and rage set open against the church and the interest of it
(p. 351)
(v) Those who have received benefit by any of the ways
mentioned may know to whom they owe their preservation,
and not look on it as a common thing (p. 351)
(vi) We may also see hence the great use of magistracy in the
world, that great appointment of God (p. 351)
(ii) The way whereby God obviates the production of conceived sin is
his working on the will of the sinner (p. 352)
(a) By restraining grace (p. 352)
(i) The general medium of restraining grace is in certain
arguments and reasonings presented to the mind of the
sinner (p. 353)
(ii) No arguments or reasonings as such are sufficient to stop or
hinder any purpose of sinning (p. 353)
(iii) Some of the arguments God uses toward this end (p. 354)
(a) By arguments taken from the difficulty, if not
impossibility, of doing that they aim at (p. 354)
(b) By arguments taken ab incommodo (p. 355)
(c) By arguments ab inutili (p. 355)
(d) By arguments taken ab honesto (p. 356)
(b) By renewing grace (p. 357)
(i) This is one part of the mystery of his grace and love (p. 357)
(ii) God does it by special assisting grace (p. 358)
(iii) God does it by the way of afflictions (p. 360)
(Chapter 14)
I. The effect of sin in the lives of believers (p. 363)
A. The fearful eruptions of actual sin that have been in the lives of believers (p. 363)
1. In Scripture, many of them had a peculiar eminency in them on the account of
their walking with God in their generation (p. 363)
2. These men fell not into their great sins after a long course of walking with God
(p. 363)
3. They fell when they had newly received great and stupendous mercies from the
hand of God (p. 364)
B. It manifests its power in believers’ habitual declensions from zeal and holiness (p. 365)
1. Declension from zeal (p. 366)
2. Declension from delight (p. 368)
3. Declension from the universal course of obedience (p. 368)
C. The cause of all actual sin and habitual declensions in believers is indwelling sin
(p. 369)
1. It appears to be a work of great power and efficacy from the provision that is
made against it, which it prevails over (p. 369)
a) The word itself and all the ordinances of the gospel are appointed and given
unto us for this end (p. 369)
b) That which adds weight to this consideration (p. 370)
c) Supplies of grace continually afforded the saints from their head, Christ
(p. 371)
d) There is a readiness in the Lord Christ to yield peculiar succor to the souls of
his (p. 372)
(Chapter 15)
2. The ways and means whereby indwelling sin prevails on believers unto habitual
declensions and decays as to degrees of grace and holiness (p. 374)
a) Their experience during the first conversion and calling of sinners unto God
and Christ (p. 374)
(1) They have a fresh, vigorous sense of pardoning mercy (p. 375)
(2) They have a fresh taste of spiritual things (p. 375)
(3) Indwelling sin taints these springs (p. 376)
(a) By sloth and negligence (p. 376)
(b) By unframing the soul (p. 377)
(c) By false and foolish opinions corrupting the simplicity of the gospel
(p. 378)
b) Indwelling sin does this by taking men off from their watch against the returns
of Satan (p. 379)
(1) It entangles the soul in the things of the world (p. 380)
(2) By making the soul negligent and taking it off from its watch (p. 381)
(3) By the evil examples of professors among whom they live (p. 381)
(4) By cherishing some secret particular lust in the heart (p. 383)
(5) By negligence of private communion with God in prayer and meditation
(p. 384)
(6) By growing in notions of truth without answerable practice (p. 386)
(7) By growing in carnal wisdom (p. 386)
(8) By some great unrepented sin lying long in the heart and conscience
(p. 387)
(Chapter 16)
II. The effect of sin in the lives of unbelievers (p. 388)
A. It appears in the violence it offers to the nature of men (p. 388)
1. Sins against the natural principle of love unto and a care for the preservation and
nourishing of their young (p. 390)
2. All other sins against the prime dictates of the law of nature that mankind is or
has been stained and defamed with (p. 391)
B. It evidences its efficacy in keeping men off from believing under the dispensation of
the gospel (p. 391)
1. Under the dispensation of the gospel, there are but few that do believe (p. 391)
2. There is proposed to men in the preaching of the gospel, as motives unto believing,
everything in conjunction that severally prevails with men to do whatever else
they do in their lives (p. 392)
a) It is most reasonable (p. 392)
b) It is most profitable (p. 392)
c) It is most pleasant (p. 393)
d) It is surely necessary (p. 393)
3. Indwelling sin both disenables men unto and hinders them from believing the
gospel (p. 393)
C. It is evident in their total apostasies (p. 393)
1. It gives stop or control unto that exceeding greatness of power which is put forth
in the word in their conviction and reformation (p. 394)
2. It takes them off from those hopes of heaven which, upon their convictions,
obedience, and temporary faith or believing, they had attained (p. 396)
3. It turns them off from the way of righteousness after they have known it (p. 397)
4. It evinces its strength in them by prevailing with them unto a total renunciation of
God as revealed in Christ, and the power of all gospel truth—in the sin against
the Holy Ghost (p. 397)
(Chapter 17)
III. The strength of indwelling sin evidenced by its resistance to the power of the law (p. 398)
A. The law discovers sin (p. 398)
B. The law discovers sin to be a very bad inmate (p. 399)
C. The law judges the person (p. 400)
D. The law disquiets and affrights the soul (p. 400)
E. The law slays the soul (p. 400)
1. It is not conquered (p. 401)
2. It is only enraged (p. 401)
F. Question: It seems that the preaching of the law has an effect on sin (p. 401)
G. Answers (p. 402)
1. It is acknowledged that the power of the law of God is very great and effectual
(p. 402)
2. Whatever effects it have upon some, yet we see that in the most, such is the power
and prevalency of sin, that it takes no impression at all upon them (p. 402)
3. When any of the effects mentioned are wrought, it is not from the power of the
letter of the law, but from the actual efficacy of the Spirit of God putting forth his
virtue and power for that end and purpose (p. 402)
4. Notwithstanding all that may be observed of the power of the law upon the souls
of men, yet it is most evident that lust is not conquered, not subdued, nor
mortified by it (p. 402)
a) Though the course of sin may be repelled for a season by the dispensation of
the law, yet the spring and fountain of it is not dried up thereby (p. 402)
b) In such seasons sin is not conquered, but diverted (p. 403)
(1) The great endeavors of men ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, for the
subduing and mortifying of sin, which are all fruitless, do evidence the
great strength and power of it (p. 403)
(a) They will promise and bind themselves by vows from those sins which
they have been most liable unto, and so have been most perplexed with
(p. 404)
(b) Beyond bare vows and promises, with some watchfulness to observe
them in a rational use of ordinary means, men have put, and some do
yet put, themselves on extraordinary ways of mortifying sin (p. 406)
(2) The strength, efficacy, and power of this law of sin may be further
evidenced from its life and in-being in the soul and in the continual
opposition that is made unto it by grace (p. 407)

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