“The corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated (Pr. 20:9; Ec. 7:20; Rom. 7:14-18, 23; Js. 3:2; I Jn. 1:8-10), and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin (Rom. 7:5-8, 25; Gal. 5:17).” As noted in the previous sections, the corruption of our human nature is as a result of our first sin, in Adam, in transgressing a specific law of the covenant of works, as will be shown in the next chapter. This corruption remains in those who have been regenerated, even though we are nevertheless pronounced ‘justified’ through our relationship of imputation with Christ, in the one covenant of grace. ‘Mortified’ is an older term not often employed today, which means as one might suppose, in the putting to death of sin that remains in us.1 It is therefore of the purview of sanctification, and in stating that we are both pardoned and mortified through Christ, the authors are affirming that the grounds for progressive sanctification is a complete or definitive sanctification gained by Christ in his death and resurrection.
It is both the nature corrupted, and the sins flowing from this corruption, that are “truly and properly sin.” There is no other name for this condition. “Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto (I Jn. 3:4), does, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner (Rom. 2:15; 3:9, 19), whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:3), and curse of the law (Gal. 3:10), and so made subject to death (Rom. 6:23), with all miseries spiritual (Eph. 4:18), temporal (Rom. 8:20; Lam. 3:39), and eternal (Mt. 25:41; II Th. 1:9).” The fathers were quick to define sin in biblical terms as, “being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto (I Jn. 3:4),” and ‘guilt’ is a judicial pronouncement of our act in the original sin, and our corrupted nature and acts done exclusively by ourselves therefrom. As such, all humanity is also therefore subject to God’s wrath, and a covenantal curse for the transgression of his law. As such we are subject to the consequent death, with all its “spiritual miseries.” For the regenerate, the process of mortification is the putting to death of sin’s power and dominion.
Our miseries, as a result of our sinful condition, are both temporal and eternal, unless we are renewed by regeneration within the one covenant of grace. The Larger Catechism expounds on these ‘miseries’ of the reprobate further, in the 28th Question which asks, “‘What are the punishments of sin in this world?’ A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.” #29 addresses those miseries that befall the reprobate at their physical death. “The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire forever.” (See Gen. 3:17; 4:13; Dt. 28:15-68; Is. 33:14; Mt. 5:29-30; 25:41, 46; 27:4; Mk. 9:44-48; Lk. 16:24; Rom. 1:26-28; 6:21-23; 2:5; Eph. 4:18; II Th. 1:9; 2:11; Rev. 14:9-12).
The Confession clearly repudiates the false belief of perfectionism, that although we do progress in our sanctification as those regenerated by the Spirit, this process will not be complete until death, when we are made completely new in reality. The point is, in being justified we are indeed forgiven of all our sins, including those in the future, but a sign that we are truly regenerated, is that we are engaged in our sanctification daily. Furthermore, the confession also repudiates the false teaching that we are two persons and not one, i.e., the old man and the new. Rather, the old man is crucified, but the remnants of sin which remain are to be mortified. The Confession also repudiates the doctrine of the Roman Church that there are so-called ‘mortal’ sins, and ‘venial’, with the latter worse than the former. Rather the scriptures, the Confession, and the Larger Catechism (28-29), all affirm that all sin is mortal, that is, deserving of death. “The main point is that regeneration does not immediately eradicate sin. Indeed no matter how saintly a Christian may become, he never achieves sinless perfection in this life.”2
1. ‘The Mortification of Sin’ John Owen, The Banner Of Truth Trust [Abridged and made easy to read by Richard Rushing] ©2004.
2. Clark, (78)