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 1
Sermon I: A Vision of Unchangeable, Free Mercy, In Sending the Means of Grace to Undeserving Sinners
[Acts 16:9 “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.”]
The Kingdom of Christ is often compared to small things that grow enormously over time and end in strength and glory. God works out his eternal decree through guiding the inhabitants of Earth. Paul was kept from going to one location and sent somewhere he had never intended on going. Today, God guides his servants not through direct revelation but through the discovered effects of his providence. God’s sovereign providence should destroy all our pride in our works.
In the past, God spoke frequently through visions. Paul received this vision—not a dream—at night, which means he was awake, likely seeking guidance from God for the preaching of the gospel. In the vision, a man of Macedonia cried out for assistance. What he wanted is not specified but it is clear it was the gospel. Why God sends his ministers to one area rather than another is found only in his own eternal purpose and will. So is the incredible variety of ways that the gospel has been proclaimed from the time of Adam until today. Exposed to the same preaching, why one believes and another rejects the message is according to God’s decree. Every event in the universe—not ignoring the nature of the secondary causes—is ultimately from the Lord. No sinner deserves gospel-pardon, and so God is free to determine whether to send the message or withhold it. Where the gospel is preached, the general purpose is conviction, and the particular purpose for some is conversion. Those whom God has chosen will have the gospel preached to them. God dispenses saving grace according to his election. Those who are not elected for salvation hear the gospel and they reject it, but this is ordained by God for the manifestation of his glorious justice.
God works as an artist, and we see the work in progress but do not understand it. Scripture reveals how God uses kings and others to accomplish his work at just the right time, though men groan in impatience. Nothing ordained will occur one moment before God has appointed it. In England, this shows us that the triumph of the gospel and the reformation in worship will only come in God’s time, so we must not grow faint. God allows variety in his work, and he suffers many obstacles in the path of the gospel, but this is so that the power of the Spirit and his wisdom in triumph will be all the more glorious. Sometimes difficulties lead to glorious deliverances; sometimes great storms lead us to wondrous shelters. Without his trials and Esau’s 400 men, Jacob would not have been Israel. . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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THE WORKS OF JOHN OWEN, VOLUME 8: SERMONS TO THE NATION