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 2
Nature and Causes of Apostasy from the Gospel
There is also a falling away from the gospel where we fall from the holiness of its precepts, and fail to make them our rule for obedience. This falling away equally exposes Christ to shame, and was predicted in the New Testament, where we are told that people will live in their lusts and abominable sins. The doctrine of the gospel is a doctrine of holiness, and it is the highest kind of holiness ever revealed, surpassing both the law of nature and the revelation of the law. This holiness is above human power to attain, but through the ministry of the Spirit people are truly made righteous, and this righteousness alone glorifies Christ and makes him honored in the world. When his people are not holy, he is dishonored by their witness. Falling away from this holiness happens either by multiplying other duties and inventing false ways of making oneself righteous (Rome is the prime example of this), and the other is by scorning duties for holiness and living in flagrant sin (this is the case with most of society). In the case of the former, people do not have a spirit of freedom, but a spirit of bondage and fear. The gospel is supplanted by a system of manmade rules, and they can all be performed without faith or love (e.g. repeating prayers at set times or wearing sackcloth do not require virtues). They are also proud of their false merit.
Others confine the entirety of their obedience to morality and exclude everything that comes from evangelical grace. Some see natural morality as the sum of religion and think that the light of nature is all that is required, rather than the Spirit and spiritual renovation in our souls in saving grace. True gospel morality requires grace, illumination, and revelation. None shall reach a place of complete perfection in this life, so the lifestyle of holiness is one of constant war against sin. Laziness in this warfare, or being content to mortify a sin or two, is utterly insufficient. When we do not rule over our flesh we will be overtaken, and unless we deal with the root of sin there will always be evil fruit in due course. We need to know how to make application to Christ for grace, and we need to be motivated by the gospel’s reasons for our repentance. . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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