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The Works of John Owen, Vol. 6: Temptation and Sin Hardcover – April 1, 1966
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Author: John Owen
Publisher: The Banner of Truth Trust
Edition: 8th Printing
Genre: Non-Fiction - Theology
Be killing sin or it will be killing you! Owen must have gotten this idea from the Apostle Paul, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13, NKJV)
Owen's volume Temptation and Sin is probably one of the best, if not the best book, apart from the Bible on putting to death the deeds of the body. Of course the deeds of the body refer to sin. I make this statement because of the depth and clarity Owen gives to the doctrine of Sanctification. His use of Scripture, exhortation, edification, and encouragement is a major benefit to the believer who struggles with sin.
The purpose of the author if found in his opening sentence in the Preface. Owen writes, "I shall in a few words acquaint thee with the reasons that obtained my consent to the publishing of the ensuing discourse. The consideration of the present state and condition of the generality of professors, the visible evidences of the frame of their hearts and spirits, manifesting a great disability of dealing with the temptations among themselves, they are encompassed, holds the chief place amongst them."
Owen reinforces this opening statement with these words, "That what I have of direction to contribute to the carrying on of the work of mortification in believers may receive order and perspicuity...and reduce the whole to an improvement of the great evangelical truth and mystery contained in them."
Owen's theme is taken, as previous suggested, from Romans 8:13 - the putting to death of sin. His thesis is also found in the succinct sentence of, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."
Owen used both exposition and argumentation to develop his theme and thesis. Owen skilfully employed both explanation and analysis to present his argument. Owen expertly presented the facts concerning temptation, sin, and the believer's responsibility to put to death sin.
Owen also employed the technique of argumentation to instruct and persuade his readers concerning the truth of his thesis. Owen is clear in the fact that he wants his readers to be both informed and proactive in the putting to death of sinful deeds for their spiritual welfare.
As usual with Owen, I found this book to be both interesting yet difficult to comprehend. Owen is a very able expositor of the Scriptures and handles them carefully and accurately. Owen is extremely objective and uses ample Scripture to make his point (s). However, it goes without saying that one must take their time and make an effort to truly understand what Owen has said. At times I found myself reading and re-reading the same paragraph a number of times until I "got it." Though this can be somewhat tedious and taxing it is more than worth it.
The reader must take note that there are at least three (3) books or essays contained in this volume. They are On The Mortification of Sin, Temptation, and Indwelling Sin.
There is also a massive exposition of Psalms 130. They all relate to Owen's theme and thesis. Owen uses each one to build his case. Each of his arguments (contained in this main points and in the body) are scriptural and therefore true.
The scriptures make it plain that God did not save us to leave us in our sin. Sin is an ugly, evil, and destructive force that desires to destroy everything in its path. Owen fights for the reader to recognize sin, it's deceitful tactics and design in order to victoriously put it to death. Owen is clear and concise giving the reader all the necessary information and tools in order to combat sin.
John Owen was a noted pastor, lectured before English Parliament on a number of occasions, and Chaplain to Ireland and Scotland. He was an adviser to Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector of England)
Temptation and Sin format is an 8 3/4 x 5 1/2 x 1 1/4 hardback. The binding is library binding. The typography is small and single-spaced. There are no maps, no illustrations, or photographs.
This book has very few footnotes. There are no end notes, indexes, or bibliographies. The reader should be aware that Owen makes much use of the scriptures.
My general conclusions are that this book if well worth the reading. It is a book that should be next to every believer's bible. If one were to purchase a single volume of Owen I would recommend that purchase to be this Volume.
Mencken defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." This wrong-headed view, characteristic of an entire generation of scholars and social critics, has been largely discredited but still retains its strength in the collective consciousness of our culture. In truth, the Puritans had a passionate love for life, were outgoing and sociable, and had a deep appreciation for aesthetic beauty. But they did take their God and their duties to Him seriously, and that can be seen in this remarkable book.
Let us assume for the sake of argument that the following premises apply to you:
1. You love God.
2. You know that God hates sin.
Given the truth of these premises, how would you live your life?
Owen affirmed the truth of these premises, as do many of us who call ourselves Christians. But unlike most of us, he really took the matter of sin and temptation seriously. Learn from him. Surprisingly enough, this is an inspiring book, not a depressing one. It is inspiring because Owen talks about critical matters of the heart that no one in your church or in the contemporary Christian publishing scene is talking about. Christians today need to be addressing the issue of temptation perhaps more than any previous generation, but no one is talking about it. Owen DOES talk about it, and in very concrete and specific terms.
Some practical advice: Read this book with a highlighter in your hand. You will come across many insightful statements that you will want to return to quickly. Create your own little index at the front in pencil. For example, as I look at the front of my copy, I have written "Special seasons of temptation 127ff". And on p. 127 Owen writes: "A season of unusual outward prosperity is usually accompanied with an hour of temptation. Prosperity and temptation go together; yea, prosperity is a temptation, many temptations, and that because, without eminent supplies of grace, it is apt to cast a soul into a frame and temper exposed to any temptation, and provides it with fuel and food for all." (Yes, that was just two sentences, and in an English which is strange to our ears. But you'll get used to it.)
I leave you with a short but powerful quote from page 9: "[B]e killing sin, or it will be killing you."
The Puritan divine clearly sets forth the biblical case for mortification. Mortification is the duty of every believer: "The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin." Indeed, Owen adds, "The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh."
In typical Owen fashion, he leaves no stone unturned here. He describes the imperative, the motivations behind the imperative, the dangers of disobedience, the blessing of obedience, and practical principles for mortifying the flesh.
Owen leaves a God-centered legacy that stands the test of time. His writing goes to the core of indwelling sin and offers Christians a wealth of biblical ammunition that will sufficiently arm them as they engage in hand to hand combat in the area of spiritual warfare.