Reading John Owen at 34,000 feet provokes some interesting thoughts. On my way to Charlotte, NC today I reread Owen’s Mortification of Sin. It is such a helpful, theologically insightful and pastoral book. I was struck by how contemporary Owen sounds. Granted, “contemporary” is not a word that you would often find describing John Owen. But I am not talking about his style, but his analysis. He understands human nature and since human nature has not changed since the Fall, what this “Prince of the Puritans” has to say about it is as relevant and beneficial today as it was in the 17th century.
Comparing his understanding of the workings of sin and, consequently, the workings of the Gospel to that which is typically expressed today shows the incredible, doctrinal and spiritual downgrade that we have suffered in our generation. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
Here is simply one gem that shows just how helpful his biblical insights can be for us today. After acknowledging the widespread religious activity that characterized his day, he expresses concern about the depth and reality of much that passes under the name “Christian.”
If vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness in men’s places, envy, strife, variance, emulations, wrath, pride, worldliness, selfishness, be badges of Christians, we have them on us and among us in abundance.
Sounds like an accurate assessment of the contemporary scene to me.
OK; here is the reason for the title I gave to this blog. The married couple that sat next to me on the plane were more interested in sleeping than chatting for most of the flight. As we neared Charlotte, the wife noticed my reading and marking the small paperback in my lap. Finally she asked, “What are you reading?” I showed her the cover and said, “John Owen’s book on mortification; it is an explanation of how God calls people who trust in the Lord Jesus to live.”
She responded very excitedly, “Oh! Our church just studied one of his books! Oh, what was the name of it….Oh yeah! It was The Purpose Driven Life!” I gently explained the mistaken identity and couldn’t help but wonder if there was a rumble at Bunhill Fields in London, as old Owen rolled over in his grave!
HT: Rebecca Ascol, for the image