Monday, October 14, 2013

Gospel Sobriety in Owen

In the work entitled, A Treatise of the Dominion of Sin and Grace, John Owen describes the antithesis as being in either of two possible dominions. The one who is in the dominion of sin, the person who has not been blessed with definitive sanctification, is the unbeliever. For this person, there has not occurred that epochal break with the rule of sin by virtue of faith-wrought union with Christ. The believer, while still at war with indwelling sin in progressive sanctification, has been liberated from sin's sovereignty.

The following quote is preceded by Owen's treatment of what it means for sin to have dominion in the mind. I am now on the part wherein he discusses the affections, and I found this snippet to be valuable:

"If we love any thing more than God, as we do if we will not part with it for his sake, be it as a right eye or as a right hand unto us; if we take more satisfaction and complacency in it, and cleave more unto it in our thoughts and minds than unto God, as men commonly do in their lusts, interests, enjoyments, and relations; if we trust more to it, as unto a supply of our wants, than unto God, as most do to the world; if our desires are enlarged and our diligence heightened in seeking after and attaining other things, more than towards the love and favour of God; if we fear the loss of other things or danger from them more than we fear God, -- we are not under the rule of God or his grace, but we are under the dominion of sin, which reigns in our affections...All the commands we have in the Scripture for self-searching, trial, and examination; all the rules that are given us unto that end; all the warnings we have of the deceitfulness of sin and of our own hearts, -- are given us to prevent this evil of shutting our eyes against the prevalent corruption and disorder of our affections." (The Essential Works Of John Owen)

The gravitas in Owen's words is hard to miss. The ascertaining of our right standing with God, of being not in the dominion of sin but of grace, does not appear to him as simply a matter of "getting used to our justification" but involves real hard and sacrificial work! While Owen is keen on highlighting the primacy of faith: "I call these latter evidences subordinate ones, and additional to that of faith, [and they are] of great use by way of establishment and confirmation unto believers, provided they be not abused to sole resting and reliance upon them, to the great prejudice of our life of faith: for we live by faith (so must all repenting sinners when they have attained to the highest pitch of holiness in this life), and not by sense, no, not even spiritual sense; it is a good handmaid to faith, but no good mistress to it.", it is a faith that is ever examining the heart so that its affections may solely be grounded on Christ.

I am always thankful for Owen's Gospel sobriety.

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