by Octavius Winslow, 1856 (edited for
today’s reader by Larry E. Wilson, 2010)
“Sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth” (John 17:17).
“How may I know that sin is being mortified in me?” is the anxious inquiry of many. We reply: by a weakening of its power.
When Christ subdues your iniquities, he does not eradicate them, but rather he weakens the strength of their root. The principle of sin remains, but it is impaired.
See it in the case of Peter. Before he fell, his easily besetting sin was self-confidence: “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (Mark 4:29). Behold him after his recovery, taking the low place at the feet of Jesus—and at the feet of the disciples too—meekly saying, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (John 21:17). No more self-praise, no more self-confidence—his sin was mortified by the Spirit and he became as a different man.
In this way, often the very outbreak of your sins may become the occasion of their deeper discovery and their more thorough subjection.
As well, do not overlook the power of the truth, by the instrumentality of which the Spirit mortifies sin in us: “Sanctify them in the truth.” The truth as it is in Jesus, revealed more clearly to the mind, and impressed more deeply on the heart, transforms the soul into its own divine and holy nature. Therefore, your spiritual and experiential acquaintance with the truth—especially with him who is essential Truth—will be the measure of the Spirit’s mortification of sin in your heart.
Is the Lord Jesus becoming increasingly precious to your soul? Are you growing in poverty of spirit? Are you growing in a deeper sense of your vileness, weakness, and unworthiness? Is your pride more abased? Is your self more crucified? Is God’s glory more simply sought? Does your heart more quickly shrink from sin? Is your conscience more sensitive to the touch of guilt? And do confession and cleansing become a more frequent habit? Are you growing in more love to all the saints—even to those who, though they do not adopt your entire creed, yet love and serve your Lord and Master? If so, then you may be assured that the Spirit is mortifying sin in you.
But oh, look away from everything to Jesus. Do not look within for sanctification; look up for it from Christ. He is as much your “sanctification” as he is your “righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30). Your evidences, your comfort, your hope, do not spring from your fruitfulness, your mortification, or anything within you; they come solely and entirely from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Looking unto Jesus by faith is like removing the covering and opening the windows of a conservatory, to admit more freely the sun, beneath whose light and warmth the flowers and fruits expand and mature. Draw back the veil that conceals the Sun of Righteousness and let him shine in upon your soul. Then the mortification of all sin will follow, and the fruits of all holiness will abound.