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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Owen on Sin and Temptation, Part 4 (More Morricone...)

Since I know you all enjoyed having Enrico Morricone's insanely catchy score for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly running through your heads during my last blog on Owen, I'll keep the same theme here... (can you hear the warbling whistle and wah-wah trumpet?)

The Good in my recent reading of Owen (I'm almost done) is how he confirms on pages 174-175 something I've always believed, that God gives us many different motivations to godliness, including fear of consequences (which is not a wrong motivation), but the best one is gratefulness for what He has done for us, because it produces the most energy for change. Also, I liked how he reminds us eloquently and repeatedly that sin is always with us in our "flesh" (see pages 246-247) so we shouldn't be surprised at its temptations and even victories over us. And last but not least I found his description of the unregenerate man on page 248 to be strangely comforting, because it gave me assurance that I have been changed from my former state and do in fact belong to God.

The Bad in the sections I've read recently, in addition to the usual discourses on fine points that don't seem that important, is the legalism that reared its head briefly, which the Puritans have been too famous for but thankfully has not made much of an appearance in this book. On page 178 he indicates that his definition of worldliness includes "to play at cards, dice, revel, dance," all things that the Bible itself does not prohibit. Fortunately in other places, however, Owen does define worldliness in a more biblical manner, like shortly after that last quote and then on page 180 when he speaks of "ambition, vain-glory, and the like." Those vices have ruined far more people than card-playing has! (For a thorough discussion of the issue of legalism, see my book Who Are You to Judge?)

The Ugly is something that I will be talking about on this coming Sunday in my message at Faith Church, and in fact will be reading the following quote from Owen, about the ugliness of "cheap grace," as Bonhoeffer called it. (By the way, have you seen the new book on Bonhoeffer by Eric Metataxas in which he proves that the German martyr was an evangelical, contrary to popular opinion and suspicion?) But back to Owen, and this great quote from pages 282-283:

"Most men love to hear of the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of free love, and suppose they find food therein; however, it is evident that they grow and thrive in the life and notion of them. But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be inquiring after the weeds and briars that grow in them, they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other. This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself. It may be some, who are wise and grown in other truths, may yet be so little skilled in searching their own hearts, that they may be slow in the perception and understanding of these things. But this sloth and neglect is to be shaken off, if we have any regard unto our own souls. It is more than probable that many a false hypocrite, who have deceived themselves as well as others, because they thought the doctrine of the gospel pleased them, and therefore supposed they believed it, might be delivered from their soul-ruining deceits if they would diligently apply themselves unto this search of their own hearts. Or, would other professors walk with so much boldness and security as some do if they considered aright what a deadly watchful enemy they continually carry about with them and in them? Would they so much indulge as they do carnal joys and pleasures, or pursue their perishing affairs with so much delight and greediness as they do? It were to be wished that we would all apply our hearts more to this work, even to come to a true understanding of the nature, power, and subtlety of this our adversary, that our souls may be humbled."


  1. Regarding "cheap grace": What actions or conduct are necessary on our part to earn and keep our salvation? What failures on our part would cause us to lose our salvation?

  2. No actions or conduct on our part could ever earn our salvation, because it is simply never earned nor can it is a gracious gift of God (Rom. 3:23, Eph. 2:8-9). When He grants that greatest of all gifts, however, he also grants the faith to receive it and the repentance that always accompanies true faith (John 6:65, Acts 11:18). So if someone does not have faith and repentance, they are not saved. Those responses of ours are never PERFECT in this life, but they must be PRESENT for us to have assurance of salvation. And they must continue to be present (though not perfect)for the rest of our lives, not because we would "lose our salvation" otherwise, but because the absence of them would prove that we never actually possessed true salvation (Heb. 3:14, 1 John 2:19).