A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
by Steve West
Editor’s Note: Most of our readers will already be at least somewhat acquainted with John Owen (1616-1683), “the prince of Puritans,” but it is not likely that many have read him extensively. His works are not only voluminous – they are tightly packed and deeply considered. Owen is neither quick nor light reading!
Today we continue our year-long series of summaries of Owen’s famous works. We trust these will be of help in introducing and/or increasing your acquaintance with this giant Puritan theologian.
Summary, Part 3
Sermon I – The Furnace of Divine Wrath
17 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 18 Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver. 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. 21 Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. 22 As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you. (Ezekiel 22:17-22)
The contrast between silver and dross as a spiritual metaphor is found in several places in Scripture. When God refines a nation it is because there is real silver to be found there—he would not waste his time refining his people if they were pure dross that could only be destroyed. To separate the silver from the dross, it is necessary that they both be cast into the same furnace. This refining furnace belongs to the covenant and is how God purifies his people. Yet notice that when God brings both the good and the bad to same furnace, it is because of his displeasure. When there is a great deal of wickedness, and where prophets, priests, princes, and people are all inclined to evil, God casts the good and bad into the furnace together. I have no special revelation concerning what I say next, but I believe that providence has made it plain for years that our entire nation must be cast into such a furnace. Be prepared for it! Neither our prayers nor our preaching have brought about a refining in the land. God will bring a sword as a trial, and it will try all of our faith and godliness. We can see workmen preparing the furnace, but we can yet pray that God will turn them to other work, and we can hope that the decree has not yet been irrevocably pronounced. Like Abraham, we can appeal to God’s mercy for Sodom on the basis of righteous ones in the city. Let us pray that if we must go into the furnace, God will also give us the covenant lamp, so that in the darkness we may have the light of Christ. Beseech God to separate the silver and the dross through the refining that may come through preaching, rather than by the fire of the furnace. . . .
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THE WORKS OF JOHN OWEN, VOLUME 16: THE CHURCH AND THE BIBLE