John_Owen_by_John_GreenhillOwen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683.

—J. I. Packer

Biblical theology was his first love and passion. He would not have considered himself a philosopher or an academic, but first and foremost an expositor of God’s Word. Although a Calvinist by conviction, as were most of his peers, his thought was not dry, but alive with the Holy Spirit’s power. He maintained an intense interest in spiritual experience, harnessed by the great truths of Scripture and released through the power of God upon biblical preaching. Like most great Christian thinkers he focused on major themes — the Trinity, justification by faith, and the glory of Christ. He considered himself first and foremost a pastor of souls, not an academic.

Like most great minds he pursued knowledge for the right reasons. Owen’s reason to study theology was to further his secret communion with God. Can we say the same? He writes, “When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth; when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in … our hearts; when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for — then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God.”

Quotes by John Owen

“The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all of their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”

“Mortification of sin from a self strength, carried on my ways of self invention, unto the end of a self righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”

“The most tremendous judgment of God in this world is the hardening of the hearts of men.”

“I will not judge a person to be spiritually dead whom I have judged formerly to have had spiritual life, though I see him at present in a swoon (faint)as to all evidences of the spiritual life. And the reason why I will not judge him so is this — because if you judge a person dead, you neglect him, you leave him; but if you judge him in a swoon,(faint) though never so dangerous, you use all means for the retrieving of his life.”

“If we would talk less and pray more about them, things would be better than they are in the world: at least, we should be better enabled to bear them.”

“The mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers.”

“How can we possibly believe the promises concerning Heaven, immortality, and glory, when we do not believe the promises concerning our present life? And how can we be trusted when we say we believe these promises but make no effort to experience them ourselves? It is just here that men deceive themselves. It is not that they do not want the Gospel privileges of joy, peace and assurance, but they are not prepared to repent of their evil attitudes and careless life-styles. Some have even attempted to reconcile these things and ruined their souls. But without the diligent exercise of the grace of obedience, we shall never enjoy the graces of joy, peace and assurance.”

“A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.”

“The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.”

“Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work. Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

“Indwelling sin always abides while we are in this world,; therefore it is always to be mortified.”

“When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion”

“If sin is subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we are slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event?”

“Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, if left alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins.”

“Sin always aims at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin of every kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.”

“Sin is like a grave that is never satisfied.”

“Without absolutes revealed from without by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.”

“Not to be daily mortifying sin is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who has furnished us with a principle of doing it.”

“Let not a man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts.”

“Let no man pretend to fear sin that does not fear temptation also! These two are too closely united to be separated. He does not truly hate the fruit who delights in the root.”

“He who does not kill sin in his way takes no steps towards his journey’s end.”

“If vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness, envy, strife, variance, emulations, wrath, pride, worldliness, and selfishness are the badges of today’s Christians, we have them on us and among us in abundance.”

“If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation.”

“The custom of sinning takes away the sense of it, the course of the world takes away the shame of it.”

“All thing I thought I knew; but now confess, the more I know I know, I know the less.”

“A church full of love, is a church well built up. I had rather see a church filled with love a thousand times, than filled with the best, the highest, and most glorious gifts and parts that any men in this world may be made partakers of..I know the end of all Christ’s institutions is to increase love.”