READING OWEN FOR THE FIRST TIME
I had not read much of John Owen until recently, and like many, found his writing difficult to wade through. Dr. R.J.K. Law’s edited edition makes all the difference, and it has been a delight to read these volumes in the new boxed set from Banner of Truth. With every few pages it seems there is some shining example like this:—
“Only a steady view of Christ by faith will graciously revive from inward spiritual declensions and decays and fill with fresh springs of grace, even in old age. This truth is confirmed by Scripture, and is the joyful experience of multitudes of believers.
There are two things that elderly Christians, who have for many long years believed and lived by faith in Christ, long for when they are nearing eternity. The first is, that all their spiritual backslidings will be healed and that they may be spiritually revived and recovered from all the spiritual declensions and decays to which they were liable in their daily walk with God. The other is, that they may flourish in holiness and fruitfulness to the praise of God, the honor of the Gospel, and the increase of their own peace and joy. They value these things more than all the world. They cannot stop thinking about them and longing to experience more of them.
Those who have no interest in these things, whatever their claim to faith in Christ, are completely ignorant of their true condition. For it is the nature of grace to grow and increase to the end. Like rivers, the nearer they come to the ocean, the more is their water content increased, and they flow more swiftly. So will grace flow more freely and fully the nearer it approaches the ocean of eternal glory. Where this is not so, there is no saving grace. Paul tells us that ‘though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day’ (2 Cor. 4:16). This is of great comfort in our old age. The weaker our physical bodies become, the greater is our spiritual renewal. This promise gives great strength to elderly believers.
Owen continues. . .
There is often a late Spring in the year, a Spring in Autumn. It is faint and weak but useful to the farmer for it is a clear sign to him that if his ground is not barren it will flourish afresh towards the end of the year. So God, the good farmer, looks for the same from us, especially if we have had a summer drought in our lives (Psa. 32:4). True, the late spring does not produce the same fruit as does early spring but it is evidence that the ground is in good heart and puts forth what is right for that time of year. It may be that the graces which were active in a person newly converted will not abound in the late spring of old age. But those graces which are right for that time of life will flourish, such as spirituality, heavenly mindedness, being weaned from the world and readiness for the cross and for death. These are necessary even in old age, to prove that we have a living power of grace and to show by this that God is indeed ‘our rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.’
—John Owen, The Glory of Christ. (Abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. Law. Banner of Truth, 2020), pp. 147-148, 152.