A Brief Book Summary from Books At A Glance
By Clay Werner
About the Author
John Owen (1616-1683) was an English theologian and is considered one of the greatest European theologians to have lived. He was educated and taught at Oxford, was a chaplain in Cromwell’s army, and a pastor.
In this brief treatise, Owen considers Christ’s words to the disciples to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. He explains what it means to enter into temptation, how to know if we’ve entered into temptation, and how to prevent entering into temptation. Throughout, he seeks to give practical, gospel-centered ‘directions’ to help in this important spiritual duty to watch and pray so that we do not enter into temptation.
Chapter 1 Jesus’ Words- “Watch and Pray”
Chapter 2 What It Means To Enter Into Temptation
Chapter 3 The Duty of Watching and Praying Explained
Chapter 4 How To Know You’ve Entered Into Temptation
Chapter 5 Directions to Prevent Entering Into Temptation
Chapter 6 Specific Seasons For Entering Into Temptation
Chapter 7 Watching The Heart
Chapter 8 Keeping Christ’s Word of Patience
Chapter 9 Some General Concluding Directions
Chapter 1: Jesus’ Words to ‘Watch and Pray’
Owen begins with a brief opening, introducing his main text of Matt. 26:41 which calls believers to watch and pray. In light of the disciples’ condition, weakness, and danger, he calls them to watch. In light of these words, Owen will discuss:
- The evil cautioned against- temptation. [chapter 1]
- The means of its prevalence- by our entering into it. [chapter 2]
- The way of preventing it- watch and pray. [chapters 3-9]
Owen begins PART I: the evil cautioned against, by making some comments on the general nature of temptation by way of premise: First, understanding the various meanings of temptation. It is used generally to convey testing or proving which is why sometimes God is said to tempt, in order to try us or help us ‘search ourselves, to know what is in us.’ Second, it has a special nature which denotes anything that leads to evil. As for God’s tempting, two things should be considered: he does it to reveal what is inside someone- either grace or corruption. God also does it to reveal himself as a giver of preventing grace (he alone keeps us from sin) and renewing grace (if they have fallen). In order to try believers, God will often give them ‘great duties’ beyond their natural ability to do them (Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac). He may also give us great sufferings (1 Peter 1:6-7) or providentially allow occasions to sin (Deut. 13:3).
Temptation in its special nature is the ‘active efficiency towards sinning.’ This comes in various forms. It may come from Satan himself or as he uses the world. Satan may even seek to use our own inward corruption to tempt us to sin. Sometimes it is simply the world and our own corruption that brings about temptation. There are innumerable sources of and for temptation.
Owen concludes the chapter by giving his definition of this active temptation: “Temptation is any thing, state, way, or condition that, upon any account whatever, hath a force or efficacy to seduce, to draw the mind and heart of a man from its obedience, which God requires of him, into any sin, in any degree of it whatever.” Temptation seeks to either bring evil into the heart or draw it out, with the aim of diverting the believer from communion with God and ‘universal obedience.’
Chapter 2: What It Means To Enter Into Temptation
This chapter deals with PART II mentioned previously: what it means to enter into temptation. Temptation doesn’t simply mean to be tempted or to be conquered by sin. We can be tempted but not enter into temptation. To ‘enter into temptation’ means that there is a particular occasion or instance for sin. It means to become ‘entangled with sin’ in such a way that it begins to reason with our mind, entice our affections, and challenge our hearts.
Various things are required for us to be considered having ‘entered into temptation’: First, Satan gains an advantage by being ‘more earnest than ordinary.’ Second, the heart actually begins to consider it and wrestle with it, unable to cast it out. These things tend to happen in a couple of seasons: if God grants Satan permission and he gains a ‘peculiar advantage over the soul’ (i.e. Peter) or when our inward corruptions meet with particularly tempting objects through the condition of life that we are in. In these situations, temptation has come to its ‘hour.’
If we only stay here, we are safe. Yet, it is good to further understand temptation coming to its hour. How do we know if it has come to this point, to its strongest pull? Through long periods of insistence, the temptation causes the mind to fix itself on and consider it. It gains power when we see sin in others and are not filled with. . .[...]
Buy the books