The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson is the latest installment in the Long Line of Godly Men Profile Series, edited by Dr. Steven Lawson. Ferguson presents a readable introduction to the most well-known Puritan, John Owen.
The book includes five chapters which overview Owen’s life and theological commitments. Chapter one focuses on his life as a pastor and theologian. Owen’s upbringing is discussed and his pastoral experience is surveyed. Additionally, the author touches on Owen’s tenure as vice-chancellor at Oxford University.
The remaining chapters overview Owen’s theological framework which focuses more narrowly on his robust doctrine of the Trinity. Sinclair Ferguson carefully summarizes Owen’s pursuit of the God in all his glory as expressed in the three persons – Father, Son, and Spirit. Ferguson adds, “To become a Christian believer is to be brought into a reality far grander than anything we could ever have imagined. It means communion with the triune God.” The author demonstrates how Owen regarded the Trinity as a chief cornerstone of the Christian faith. Numerous primary sources are cited and explained. In addition, Dr. Ferguson provides helpful analysis along the way. He beautifully captures the essence of John Owen’s devotion to the Trinity.
The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen is a perfect introduction for the beginning student of the Puritan divine. But this work is also suitable for veteran students of Owen as well. Ferguson bring his typical scholarly approach to the table but writes with the heart of a pastor/shepherd. This work should help revive further interest in Puritanical studies and is a welcome guest at the table of these godly men. My hope is that Ferguson’s work will catapult readers to Owen primary sources – a practice which is certain to encourage, edify, and equip a new generation of Christians.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.
4. The dead guys encourage vibrant Christian living
The dead guys have wielded a powerful force for change in my life and have encouraged my Christian growth in ways that are beyond the scope of a 500 word blog post. Four specific things emerge in particular:
- Waking Early – There was a day when I felt like waking up at 8:00 a.m. was a real sacrifice. The dead guys have taught me otherwise. For instance, Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.” There is a consistent pattern among the Reformers and Puritans; a pattern of rising early for prayer, time in the Word, and studying theology. Their pattern has rubbed off on me and has paid rich spiritual dividends.
- Fighting Sin – The Word of God is clear when it comes to waging a holy war against sin: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5, ESV). Or consider Paul’s letter to the church at Rome: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:6-8, ESV). I can’t think of anyone who has helped me more in the battle against sin than the Puritan divine, John Owen. Temptation and Sin (Vol. 6) contains an almost endless supply of ammunition to fight the world, the flesh, and the devil. Owen wisely remarks, “The life, vigour, and comfort of our spiritual life depend much on our mortification of sin.” That is to say, in Owen’s words, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” He continues, “Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us. Look on him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying; bring him in that condition into thy heart by faith; apply his blood so shed to thy corruptions: do this daily.” And daily we must if we are to successfully wage the war against sin!
- Growing in Grace – “But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:18, ESV). The dead guy that has especially helped me grow in grace is the Puritan, Thomas Watson. Watson is readable, clear, and pithy. His challenges go straight to the heart and give Christians exactly what they need to press on to gain the heavenly prize. Watson aptly writes, “The more we grow in grace, the more glory we bring to God.” Indeed, to grow in grace is never an option for a Christ-follower. Rather, it is a vital part of biblical Christianity.
- Being Happy in Christ – Finally, Richard Baxter has encouraged me to enjoy the sweet fruit of the historical Christian faith: “The principal damning sin,” Baxter writes, “is to make anything besides God our end and happiness.” Timely words that remind us of the supreme importance of being happy in Christ.
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” This crucial principle stands at the core of John Owen’s monumental work, “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers.” This marks the first of four lengthy expositions in Volume 6: Temptation and Sin.
The Puritan divine clearly sets forth the biblical case for mortification. Mortification is the duty of every believer: “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.” Indeed, Owen adds, “The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.”
In typical Owen fashion, he leaves no stone unturned here. He describes the imperative, the motivations behind the imperative, the dangers of disobedience, the blessing of obedience, and practical principles for mortifying the flesh.
Owen leaves a God-centered legacy that stands the test of time. His writing goes to the core of indwelling sin and offers Christians a wealth of biblical ammunition that will sufficiently arm them as they engage in hand to hand combat in the area of spiritual warfare.