Ever read anything old? Ever read anything on doing battle with sin?
Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it whilst you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you.
I first read “Of the mortification of sin in believers” by the Puritan John Owen (1616-1683) having downloaded a copy from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and printing out all 66 pages of it on scrap paper.
“You cheapskate!” I hear someone cry. Well, I’d heard it recommended by J.I Packer and John Piper and thought I should read it, but found it hard to get my hands on an unabridged version, so I was left with no choice!
I can remember thinking as I read it what an awesome book it was, and how practically useful it was and yet also so full of God. I had never really read anyone who had such wise counsel to give concerning the Christian’s battle with sin.
Now here I need to say that John Owen has a reputation for being hard to read. My experience was that he was not that bad, but that there were three difficulties that I faced. First, some of his English is archaic. Second, he persists in using un-translated Latin and Greek phrases and finally, it’s easy to get lost in his very confusing numbering system.
“Overcoming Sin and Temptation” edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor has just been published and is a re-printing of “On the Mortification of Sin” along with “Of Temptation” and “Indwelling sin.” This presentation overcomes these difficulties. Excellent footnotes help the reader to navigate the archaic English, Latin and Greek, and a more modern approach to layout makes it easier to follow the flow of argument through the book.
Even more useful and worth the price of the volume is the simple two page summary by Justin Taylor of “On the Mortification of Sin” which provides readers with a “roadmap” to assist and help prevent them from getting lost in the work.
What is so special about John Owen? I’m not sure I can get the flavour better that to quote Sinclair Ferguson’s blurb for the book. He writes:
With a volume of Owen in your hands you may wonder why you have wasted so much time reading lesser things. True, as Dr. John Duncan once said, if you are going to read this you will need to ‘prepare yourself for the knife.’ But that knife is the scalpel of one of the finest spiritual surgeons in the history of the church. Owen understood as few have how the gospel makes us well.