Friday, April 01, 2022

John Owen ,the Preacher,




John Owen spent a good deal of his writing and preaching in Restoration England as the pastor of….. .He laboured to write on the Holy Spirit, in several  books, the chief which was A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (1674) . In 1673, 47  years old, he was working his mammoth works on the Holy Spirit which are gathered in chapter 3 of the Goold edition of his works.  He died in 1683. For him the role of the Spirit is basically the renewal and regeneration of unregenerate, fallen, people, including the preaching of the Gospel  as the means Christ has made redemption  for the elect.



In the page 295 (he had said) ,  


Preachers of the gospel and others have sufficient warrant to press upon all men the duties of faith, repentance and  obedience, although they know that in themselves they have not a sufficiency of ability for their due performance, for______(1) It is the will and command  of God that so they should do, and that is the rule all our duties. They are not to consider what men can do or will do, what God  requires. To  make a judgment of man’s ability, and  to accommodate the commands of God unto them accordingly, is not committed unto any of the sons of men. (2) They have a double end in pressing on men the observance of duties, with a supposition of the state of impotency described : -----


[1] to prevent  them from such courses of sin as would harden them, and so render their conversion more difficult, if not desperate. [2] To exercise a means appointed  of God for their conversion, or the communication of saving grace  unto them. Such are God’s commands, and such are the duties required of them. In and by them God doth use to communicate of his grace unto the souls of men; not with respect them as their duties, but as they are ways appointed and sanctified by him unto such ends.


And hence it follows that even such duties as are vitiated in their performance, yet are of advantage unto them by whom that are performed; for -- 1st By attendance unto them they are preserved from many sins. 2d. In an especial manner from the great sin of despising God, which ends commonly in that which is unpardonable. 3d. They are hereby made useful unto others, and many ends of God’s glory in the world. 4th They are kept in God’s way, wherein they may gradually be brought over unto a real conversion unto him. (Owen Works III,  295)



which occurs in the book before the one just referred to,  is an account of the temperament of an unregenerate person. As follows:

 There is in the minds of unregenerate persons a moral impotency, which is reflected on them greatly  from the will and affections, whence the mind never  will receive spiritual things, - that is, it will always and unchangeably reject and refuse them, - and that because of various lusts corruptions, and prejudices invincibly fixed in them, causing them to look on them as foolishness.  Hence it will  come to pass that no man shall be judged and perish at the last day merely on account of his natural impotency. Every one to whom the gospel hath been preached, and by whom it is refused, shall be convinced of positive actings of their minds, rejecting the gospel from the love of self, sin, and the world. Thus our Saviour tells the Jews that “no man can come unto him, except the Father draw him John vi 44. Such is their natural  impotency that they cannot. Nor is it to be cured but by an immediate divine instruction or illumination; as it is written, ’They shall be all taught of God, verse45. But this is not t all he tells them elsewhere, “Ye will not come to me that  ye might have life’, (John 6. 44) chapter.III 267.

As is usual it is necessary to take  a deep breath before the reading and the thinking of Owen. But one is repaid by a richness, or condensation. So reading these passages should  be undertaken more than once. His passage was based on I Corinthians 2.Here Paul expounds what he calls 'the natural man'. He starts by his policy as a preacher, 'For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified....and my speech and my message were. not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of  men but in the power of God' I Cor 2.4, 'we impart a secret and and hidden wisdom of God (1 Cor. 2. 7)...we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit  who is from God...we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom  but taught by the Spirit. And the apex of Paul's argument:  'The natural does not accept the things of the Spirit of God he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned......(I Cor 2.14, ) Owen had absorbed this and it warranted him saying in his earlier passage that the unregenerate possess 'a moral impotency which is reflected on them greatly from the will and affections, whence the mind (of the unregenerate) never will receive spiritual  things...(III 267) 

The unregenerate suffer from a moral impotency, yet later Owen advocates that preachers of the gospel must press upon all men, the duties of faith, repentance and obedience.

Next time I hope to take the answer of what otherwise is a conjundrum. How can the blind see?  How can a person be born again?