If a man is going to mortify sin he must be a believer. If a man is to mortify sin, he must really desire to mortify sin. This is Owen’s second general principle for anyone seeking victory over sin: do you really want it? The battle with sin cannot be entered into half-heartedly. Anyone not ready battle to the death should just stay at home (Deut. 20:5-9; Luke 14:26-33; Matt. 8:21-22).
When Owen calls for total dedication, he is calling for total dedication. It is not enough to be devoted to the idea of mortification. It is not enough to be devoted to the duty of mortifying a particular sin. To secure victory, one must be devoted to mortification of all sins. It is not enough for me to devote myself to cleaning up one area of my like while I still pleasure in mud baths is other areas of life.
Key to this endeavor is hating sin as sin. Mortification of sin does not mean, just the really big sins; just the really gross sins; just the sins that are really embarrassing to me; just the sins that could really get me in trouble… We must be watchful against everything that grieves and disquiets God, not just the things that grieve us. Paul exhorts us to cleanse ourselves of every defilement and to bring holiness to completion (2 Cor. 7:1). “So…it is not only an intense opposition to this or that peculiar lust, but a universal humble frame and temper of heart, with watchfulness over every evil, and for the performance of every duty, that is accepted.”
Owen does not make it clear in so many words in this chapter; but by this counsel he is not expecting a believer to gain complete mastery over all sins simultaneously. The emphasis is on devotion to the entire task. I cannot expect to gain victory over any one sin while I am simultaneously cherishing another sin in my heart. WE are limited and finite. We are not holy- i.e. not complete in perfections. I simply cannot fight differing manifestations of the lusts of the eyes and flesh and the pride of life with equal vigor. But it is certain I am not going to mortify this lust with my right hand while I am feeding that lust with my left hand.
In my fight against sin, I need to realize that it is a fight against all sin. I cannot kill one sin while coddling another.