Dluxe's World

Monday, November 27

Wrap-up: Overcoming Sin & Temptation (Owen)

By God's grace, the past eight years have been a period of intense spiritual growth for me... The encouragement and fellowship of other believers has been crucial to my walk. One of the constant exhortations from these personal and distant mentors has been to find time to read the writings of the Puritans in general and John Owen in particular.

While I've managed to read the works of some other folks, I hadn't yet cracked the cover of anything by John Owen... I was thrilled when I saw that Crossway was planning to release a newly edited collection of three of Owen's classic works - "The Mortification of Sin", "Of Temptation", and "Indwelling Sin". As soon as Overcoming Sin and Temptation was released, I planned to 'Add to Cart' ASAP.*

Within the first few pages of reading, I became keenly aware of why Owen is called the Prince of the Puritans. Owen's writing is both deeply passionate and amazingly profound. More striking is the contrast of Owen's depth set against the popular spiritualists of our day (see this). I mean, who writes like this anymore?
Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head... [E]very rise of lust, might it have its course, would come to the height of villainy: it is like the grave that is never satisfied. And herein lies no small share of the deceitfulness of sin ... [I]t is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presses on to some farther degrees in the same kind. (p.52)

Or this, expounding on Paul's writing in Romans 7:
Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves. They know their outward estates, how rich they are, and the condition of their bodies as to health and sickness they are careful to examine; but as to their inward man, and their principles as to God and eternity, they know little or nothing of themselves. Indeed, few labor to grow wise in this matter, few study themselves as they ought, are acquainted with the evils of their own hearts as they ought; on which yet the whole course of their obedience, and consequently of their eternal condition, does depend. This, therefore, is our wisdom; and it is a needful wisdom, if we have any design to please God, or to avoid that which is a provocation to the eyes of his glory. (p.238)

Some of you might be saying, "Thank goodness no one writes like this anymore! It's so wordy and hard to understand!" I'll grant you that our modern reading-minds might initially grind gears on this kind of writing. First, I'd issue a challenge: Keep Reading. If you press on a little past your point of comfort, I think you'll find that you'll start getting in 'Ye Olde Gruve' and the words start to click.

Second, I'd mention that the editing in this edition is masterful. While I'm not terribly familiar with Owen's native writing, it strikes me that Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic have done some substantial smoothing to these works. By that, I don't mean that they've paraphrased or softened Owen. Instead, it appears that they've emphasized texts (mainly using italics) and split-up some of the l-o-n-g Puritan's paragraphs... The end result is that it's easy, even in the midst of a long screed, to firmly land on the main ideas Owen is expounding. Once you have those key thoughts, the rest seems to come together nicely. The editors have also carefully footnoted awkward, period vocabulary.

Be prepared to read slowly and savor this book... Owen opens the Scriptures and brings them to bear, quite pointedly, on the darkest impulses in each of us. As one of the liner notes says, a certain professor encouraged all his students to read Owen and prepare for the [surgeon's] knife. At the same time, the great grace of Gospel is proclaimed giving encouragement and strength to us in our battle against sin. This is important stuff, and we should resist the temptation to race/struggle through it. This book has been hugely valuable to me already, and I'm confident that it will continue to impact me as I return to it again and again in the future.

I'm a terrible book reviewer (my first draft started by comparing Owen's prose to a prime strip steak), and I know it. So, I'd urge you to consider my feeble praise in light of the praise of other folks far more eloquent than me.

Then, go click 'Add to Cart'.

* I am exceedingly grateful to Crossway for the opportunity to review a copy of this book!

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