(Note: Read to the end of this blog for a book giveaway!)
Puritan John Owen has been a huge help to me. Owen, perhaps best known for his books about indwelling sin and killing sin (“mortification”), presents the reality and ugliness of sin. His work on indwelling sin, more than anything else, awoke me to the idea that the remaining sin in my life–called “indwelling sin” (see Romans 7:15-20)–is always waiting to seize an opportunity to dishonor God and please the flesh. Owen paints the portrait of the believer as having an enemy within–a real, animated presence–and therefore the believer ought to never let down his or her guard.
Josh, in his sermon this week, did a great job in presenting this topic; thanks, Josh. When he quoted John Owen and asked me to put the book he referred to in the blog, I was thrilled. After all, I can’t wait to share a book that has been so extremely helpful in my own life.
However, a word of caution (and Josh referred to this in his message): Owen can be hard to read. It takes work. And the problem is not just the fact that he spoke 17th century Middle English; it’s that fact that Owen, even by Puritan standards, wrote in such a highly cerebral and structurally awkward way, his style is difficult to navigate. Be prepared to read and re-read a paragraph (or even a sentence) before finally grasping its meaning. One Puritan scholar pointed out that this was because Owen, a scholar of the highest rank, probably thought in Latin. His sentence structure, it is said, sounds like English words superimposed onto a Latin sentence structure, and for that reason, it can be hard to read.
Because of this barrier, I thought it would be helpful to not only give you the book Josh referred to, but to also provide various available versions of his book, and to rate these from beginner to advanced. Since his original work actually was in three parts, (“Of the Mortification of Sin”, “Of Temptation”, and “Indwelling Sin”) some will condense all three, some two, some one–I just put them all together here so you can see the resources available. Here we go:
This book is published by Evangelical Press, and is part of their “Great Christian Classics” series, a series where they try to abridge some classic books and edit/update the language. The focus is on making these works accessible, so this may be the most readable version of Owen’s work. However, some points and helpful illustrations will be left out.
This book is basically a book written by a modern author, using our language and illustrations, but reiterating Owen’s points. It is not a translation of Owen’s books on sin, but almost an explanation of Owen’s views on sin, presented in a way that’s helpful for modern readers.
This book contains all three Owen books on sin. The publisher says that “In this volume, the editors have made updates to the language, translated the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and footnoted difficult or unknown phrases, all without sacrificing any of the wonderful content of Owen’s work. It is a uniquely accessible edition of John Owen’s previously daunting work.”
(Note: This is the book that Josh referred to in his sermon. Probably most members at Crew should start with this book to really read Owen’s insights.)
If you would rather read Owen’s three books on sin one at a time, Banner of Truth publications has reprinted them separately. Again, these are slightly edited, to update language and improve readability.
For you beefeaters out there: Owen’s original work, with very few alterations from his original work, can be found in Volume 6 of Owen’s Works. It contains all three books.
While most may shy away from this one, let me add this comment. Several years ago a friend and I were going through Owen’s book on indwelling sin together. I read from one of the above versions, and he read from Owen’s Works, Vol. 6. As he read, I noticed that many of the most helpful illustrations were omitted from my version. I bought Vol. 6 of Owen’s Works, and benefitted tremendously from the rest of our study.
I read several book reviews of Owen on sin from Amazon’s website– nearly all of them say, “It’s hard work, but well worth the work to read it.” Fighting sin is hard work. Taking the time to plow through a tough book may just indicate that you detest sin enough to fight to kill it!
BONUS: BOOK GIVEAWAY!
As a bonus, I have one copy of John Owen, The Mortification of Sin: A Puritan Guide to give away. This is a reprint of Owen’s work on mortification. Very little language is updated in this book–but at only 83 pages in length, would be a manageable way to read Owen on mortification.
To enter simply leave a comment below. Drawing ends Saturday, Feb. 4th, at noon. I’ll pick a winner randomly from the comments section.
Caveat: Drawing is open to those in the Huntington area only; I’m too cheap to pay for postage to send this somewhere else!