Archive for the ‘John Owen’ Category

Sin will be in us; it will lust, fight, and entice us; but the great question, as unto our peace and comfort, is, whether it hath dominion over us or no. ~ John Owen

Although I’ve read bits and pieces of John Owen’s writing, this is the first that I’ve read all the way through, and I have to agree with those who say that Owen is “hard to read.” It’s not the Kings English or archaisms or extra long sentences that gave me trouble, but instead it’s what a few have referred to as his density. Owen’s writing is very dense. To clarify, I mean dense as in a large mass occupying a small volume. Just about every paragraph or two could stand on its own as a solemn warning or useful instruction. There is very little filler material here. So while reading I was alternately blown away by an insight or slapped in the face by reproof (I’m dense in the other meaning, so this is a good thing). The result is that I often lost sight of how the part fit in the whole and had to retrace the route in order to make the larger connection. And while I didn’t think of it until after finishing the piece, the solution to this problem is present in the piece itself. Owen writes in outline form (numbered sections, subsections, &c) so by keeping a notepad at your side and making an outline of your own, one could more easily see those larger connections. I intend to try this method for the next piece from Owen that I read.

As a parting shot, here’s a quote regarding an idea that I for one would do well to keep in mind.

Carefully inquire and try whether such things which you may do or approve of in yourselves do not promote the power of sin, and help on its rule in you. This method David prescribes, Ps. xix. 12, 13. “Secret sins,” such as are not known to be sins, it may be, to ourselves, make way for those that are “presumptuous.” Thus pride may seem to be nothing but a frame of mind belonging unto our wealth and dignity, or our parts and abilities; sensuality may seem to be but a lawful participation of the good things of this life; passion and peevishness, but a due sense of the want of that respect which we suppose due unto us; covetousness, a necessary care of our selves and our families. If the seeds of sin are covered with such pretences, they will in time spring up and bear biter fruit in the minds and lives of men. And the beginnings of all apostasy, both in religion and morality, lie in such pretences. Men plead they can do so and so lawfully, until they can do things openly unlawful.


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It is said of some that they have “eyes full of adultery,” and that they “cannot cease from sin,” 2 Pet. ii. 14; that is their imaginations are continually working about the objects of their unclean lusts. These they think of night and day, immiring themselves in all filth continually. Jude calls them “filthy dreamers, defiling the flesh,” verse 8. They live as in a constant pleasing dream by their vile imaginations, even when they cannot accomplish their lustful desires; for such imaginations cannot be better expressed than by dreams, wherein men satisfy themselves with a supposed acting of what they do not. Hereby do many wallow in the mire of uncleanness all their days, and for the most part are never wanting unto the effects of it when they have opportunity and advantage; and by this means the most cloistered recluses may live in constant adulteries, whereby multitudes of them become actually the sinks of uncleanness. This is that which, in the root of it, is severely condemned by our Saviour, Matt. v. 28. (emphasis added)
~ John Owen, The Dominion of Sin and Grace

It hasn’t been all that long ago since I was lead to the exact same conclusion. And here, Owen’s writing reaches through the centuries to confirm that conclusion. This understanding has lead to other unanswered questions, but it’s the Lord who has brought me this far, and I’m content to wait on the Lord for those answers.

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Can any spiritual eye behold Christ dying for sin, and continue to live in sin? Shall we keep that alive in us which he died for, that it might not eternally destroy us? Can we behold him bleeding for our sins and not endeavour to give them their death-wound?

~ John Owen, The Dominion of Sin and Grace

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