Note: I actually read this from Volume VI of The Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The book I am picturing, and the one most commonly read, is the “abridged and made easy to read” version.
For many, John Owen is a common name from the Puritan era. Even those who are not in the so-called Reformed camp are familiar with Owen largely in part because of this particular work. He was born in 1616 in Stadhampton, Oxfordshire and died in Ealing, West London, in 1683. During his sixty-seven years he lived out a life full of spiritual experience, literary accomplishment, and national influence so beyond most of his peers that he continues to merit the accolade of ‘the greatest British theologian of all time.’
In fine literary and Puritanical form, John Owen states succinctly the need to always be killing sin this side of eternity. The primary verse from which this small work is rooted is found in Romans 8:13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (I quote the KJV because that is more typical of the language Owen spoke.)
After laying the foundation of the command to kill sin, Owen proposes a number of general principles as to the means by which the Christian ought to be engaged in this daily struggle. These general principles comprise the ensuing three chapters. The first is the necessity of mortification. The second is the means by which one may engage in this battle. The third is the usefulness of mortification.
He then moves into particulars as regards how we are to actually combat sin – a total of nine “directions.” The final chapter. the fourteenth, offers the encouragement that all of this is for the Christian’s assurance of salvation but shows that it is actually the Holy Spirit working in you to mortify sin in your body.
How does one review a work that 1. has been monumental within Christendom concerning the topic of sanctification and 2. has withstood the test of time (it was published in 1656)?
Obviously, Owen writes in an form of English that most today are no longer familiar. Hence, the necessity to make this book easier to read in the Puritan Paperback. Also, it must be noted that the style of writing, as well as their preaching, is lost on many today. They do not follow a simple 3-point outline as we do today. Rather, they would look at one particular point of application and then break it down into a number of subsets and then break those down even further!
What you wind up with is a very thorough dealing with a particular topic that, once you have read the work, you have pretty much read all there is on the topic. Though that is hyperbole, it is safe to say that the treatment with which the Puritans dealt with their topic leaves the no stone unturned. It is from this work where the axiom, “be killing sin or it will be killing you” originated.
It is worth persevering through the language barrier and the length of the treatment of each point and consequent subpoint to read this excellent work.
I have reviewed this classic work in order to introduce it to those who read this website in the even that they have never heard of John Owen or this classic work. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about dealing with the sin in their life.