Thus, I say, God deals with his saints in great variety; some shall have all their bones broken, when others shall have only the gentle strokes of the rod. We are in the hand of mercy, and he may deal with us as seems good to him; but for our parts, great sins ought to be attended with expectations of great depths and perplexities.
(John Owen, An Exposition of Psalm CXXX)
God, being merciful, does not deal with us according to what our sins deserve. He remembers that we are but dust. Nevertheless, he does chastise us for our sins. Even so, in his inscrutable wisdom, he treats his children differently. Some who have sinned greatly he rebukes gently and allows them to recover their peace in him without the great difficulty that others have in trying to recover themselves from their backsliding. Others he treats more severely, allowing them to wallow for a long time in the depths of the misery that may justly be considered as the consequence of their sins. This might seem discriminatory, but God has his reasons, and it is not for us to question his wisdom.
At the end of day, however he deals with us, we trust that he disciplines us according to his love and wisdom, and the result of it all is that we shall come forth as gold.
“Know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and a bitter [thing], that you have forsaken the Lord your God” (Jer. 2:19). Every sin is a forsaking of the Lord our God. If the heart know not, if it consider not, that it is an evil thing and a bitter [thing] – evil in itself, bitter in its effects, fruit, and event – it will never be secured against it.
– John Owen, The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin
In ch. 8 of his The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin, John Owen elaborates on Hebrews 3:13 (“Take heed that you be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”) and discusses the role of the mind in the deceitfulness of sin:
Deceit properly affects the mind; it is the mind that is deceived… But where the mind is tainted, the prevalency must be great; for the mind or understanding is the leading faculty of the soul, and what that fixes on the will and affections rush after, being capable of no consideration but what that presents to them. Hence it is, that though the entanglements of the affections unto sin be oftentimes most troublesome, yet the deceit of the mind is always most dangerous, and that because of the place that it possesses in the soul as unto all its operations.
Thus man by nature being a willing servant of sin, is more desirous to be bound in the devil’s iron chain, than in God’s silken cords. What greater atheism can there be, than to use God as if he were inferior to the devil? to take the part of his greatest enemy, who drew all others into the faction against him? to pleasure Satan by offending God, and gratify our adversary with the injury of our Creator? For a subject to take arms against his prince with the deadliest enemy both himself and prince hath in the whole world, adds a greater blackness to the rebellion.
– Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (vol. 1), p. 119
What we call service to God is done naturally much against our wills; it is not a delightful food, but a bitter potion; we are rather haled, than run to it. There is a contradiction of sin within us against our service… Our hearts are unwieldy to any spiritual service of God; we are fain to use violence with them sometimes… Man’s nature, being contrary to holiness, hath an aversion to any act of homage to God, because holiness must at least be pretended; now as men are against the truth of holiness, because it is unsuitable to them, so they are not friends to those duties which require it, and for some space divert them from their beloved lusts. The word of the Lord is a yoke, prayer a drudgery, obedience a strange element.
– Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (Vol. 1), p. 112
The great wisdom and security of the soul in dealing with indwelling sin is to put a violent stop unto its beginnings, its first motions and actings. Venture all on the first attempt. Die rather than yield one step unto it.
John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, p. 289