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John Owen is widely recognized as one of the premier theologians of the post-Reformation. One need not balk at placing his name alongside giants of the faith such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards. His ministry was vast and varied: preacher, statesman, political advisor, advocate, author, polemicist, and defender of faith. But perhaps his greatness is most clearly seen in his pastoral works on mortification, temptation, and sin. Since their original publication in the seventeenth-century, Christians have valued Owen's writings on sin and temptation for their uncommon insight into the wonderful depths and wild deceitfulness of the heart. These devotional writings were the product of a man who made it his chief design in life to promote the mortification of sin and the pursuit of personal holiness for the glory of God and the adornment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a day of empty purpose statements, this may not mean much. But for Owen, overcoming sin and temptation was his life - a fact confirmed by his younger colleague, David Clarkson, who at Owen's funeral sermon in 1683 stated, "I need not tell you of this who knew him that it was his great design to promote holiness in the life and exercise of it among you." In other words, Owen preached what he first practiced. Though written over three hundred years ago, this volume is relevant for any tired soul aching for victory over the inner struggle between the Spirit and the flesh. Conquest will not come easy. This civil war within is a daily battle. As Owen states, "The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin" (p. 50). And how is triumph found? "Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and you will die a conqueror; yea, you will, through the good providence of God, live to see your lust dead at your feet." Time and again in these three works, Owen outlines a battle plan for attacking sin by affixing our attention on Christ.
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About the Author
John Owen (1616-1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford. On 29 April he preached before the Long Parliament. In this sermon, and in his Country Essay for the Practice of Church Government, which he appended to it, his tendency to break away from Presbyterianism to the Independent or Congregational system is seen. Like John Milton, he saw little to choose between "new presbyter" and "old priest." He became pastor at Coggeshall in Essex, with a large influx of Flemish tradesmen. In March 1651, Cromwell, as Chancellor of Oxford University, gave him the deanery of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and made him Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University in September 1652; in both offices he succeeded the Presbyterian, Edward Reynolds. During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into "the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology." Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina, an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God, Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance, his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers, an introspective and analytic work; Schism, one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation, an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity.