Being John Owen
Michael A. G. Haykin is is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also Adjunct Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Toronto Baptist Seminary in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Haykin is the author of many books, including “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”: Andrew Fuller As an Apologist (Paternoster Press, 2004), Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005), The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality (Evangelical Press, 2007), Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011), and Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact (Christian Focus, 2014).
“The Puritan John Owen … was one of the greatest of English theologians. In an age of giants, he overtopped them all. C. H. Spurgeon called him the prince of divines. He is hardly known today, and we are the poorer for our ignorance.”1
“I Would Gladly Relinquish All My Learning”
Charles II (r. 1660–1685) once asked one of the most learned scholars that he knew why any intelligent person should waste time listening to the sermons of an uneducated tinker and Baptist preacher by the name of John Bunyan (1628–1688).2 “Could I possess the tinker’s abilities for preaching, please your majesty,” replied the scholar, “I would gladly relinquish all my learning.” The name of the scholar was John Owen (1616–1683), and this small story—apparently true and not apocryphal—says a good deal about the man and his Christian character. His love of and concern for the preaching of the Word reveals a man who was Puritan to the core. And the fragrant humility of his reply to the king was a virtue that permeated all of his writings, in which he sought to glorify the triune God and help God’s people find that maturity that was theirs in Christ.3
In his own day some of Owen’s fellow Puritans called him the “Calvin of England.”4 More recently, Roger Nicole has described Owen as “the greatest divine who ever wrote in English,” and J. I. Packer says of him that during his career as a Christian theologian he was “England’s foremost bastion and champion of Reformed evangelical orthodoxy.”5 Despite his theological brilliance, it needs noting that Owen’s chief interest was not in producing theological treatises for their own sake, but to advance the personal holiness of God’s people.6
“Bred Up from My Infancy”: Owen’s Early Years
John Owen was born in 1616, the same year that William Shakespeare died. He grew up in a Christian home in a small village now known as Stadhampton, then called Stadham, about five miles southeast of Oxford.7 His father, Henry Owen, was a Puritan and the minister of the parish church there. The names of three of his brothers have also come down to us: his older brother, William, who became the Puritan minister at Remenham, just north of Henley-on-Thames; and his two younger brothers: Henry who fought as a major in the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658), and Philemon, who was killed fighting under Cromwell in Ireland in 1649.8
Of Owen’s childhood years only one reference has been recorded. “I was bred up from my infancy,” he remarked in 1657, “under the care of my father, who was a nonconformist all his days, and a painful labourer [that is, diligent worker] in the vineyard of the Lord.”9 If we take as our cue the way that other Puritans raised their children, we can presume that as a small boy Owen, along with his siblings, would have been taught to pray, to read the Bible, and to obey its commandments. At least once a day there would have been time set aside for family worship when he would have listened to his father explain a portion of God’s Word and pray for their nation, his parishioners, and for each of his children.10 It needs noting that this is the only personal remark about his family that Owen makes in any of his published works. There was clearly a reticence on Owen’s part to open up his life to his readers. As James Moffatt remarked at the turn of the twentieth century: “Owen never trusts himself to his readers … Hence his private life and feelings remain for the most part a mystery.”11
At twelve years of age, Owen was sent by his father to Queen’s College, the University of Oxford. Here he obtained his B.A. on June 11, 1632, when he was 16. He went on to study for the M.A., which he was awarded on April 27, 1635. Everything seemed to be set for Owen to pursue an academic career. It was not, however, a good time to launch out into world of academe. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud (1573–1645), had set out to suppress the Puritan movement, which was seen as radical, even revolutionary, by the leadership of the state church. Laud thus began a purge of the churches and universities. By 1637 Owen had no alternative but to leave Oxford and to become, along with many other Puritans who refused to conform to the Established Church, a private chaplain. He eventually found employment in the house of Lord Lovelace, a nobleman sympathetic to the Puritan cause. Laud’s policies, supported by the monarch Charles I (r. 1625–1649), alienated the Puritan cause and pushed the Puritans to the point where many of them believed they had no choice but to engage in a civil war against their sovereign. In the early stages of the English Civil War, which broke out in 1642, Lord Lovelace decided to support the King, and Owen, whose sympathies were with Parliament, left his chaplaincy and moved to London.
A “Clear Shining from God”
The move to London was providential in a couple of ways. First of all, it brought him into contact with the some of the leading defenders of the Parliamentary cause, Puritan preachers who viewed the struggle between the King and Parliament in terms of the struggle between Christ and anti-Christian forces. Moreover, it was during these initial days in London that he had an experience he would never forget. By 1642 Owen was convinced that the final source of authority in religion was the Holy Scriptures and, moreover, that the doctrines of orthodox Calvinism were biblical Christianity. But he had yet to personally experience the Holy Spirit bearing witness to his spirit and giving him the assurance that he was a child of God.12
Owen found this assurance one Sunday when he decided to go with a cousin to hear Edmund Calamy the Elder (1600–1666), a famous Presbyterian preacher, at St. Mary’s Church, Aldermanbury. On arriving at this church, they were informed that Calamy was not going to preach that morning. Instead a country preacher (whose name Owen never did discover) was going to fill in for the Presbyterian divine. His cousin urged him to go with him to hear Arthur Jackson (c. 1593–1666), another notable Puritan preacher, at nearby St. Michael’s. But Owen decided to remain at St. Mary’s. The preacher took as his text that morning Matthew 8:26: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” It proved to be a message that Owen needed to hear and embrace. Through the words of a preacher whose identity is unknown, God spoke to Owen and removed once and for all his doubts and fears as to whether he was truly regenerate or not. He now knew himself to be born of the Spirit.13
The impact of this spiritual experience cannot be over-estimated. It gave Owen the deep, inner conviction that he was indeed a child of God and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that God loved him and had a loving purpose for his life, and that this God was the true and living God. In practical terms, it meant a life-long interest in the work of God the Holy Spirit that would issue thirty years later in his monumental study of the Holy Spirit, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit.14 As he later wrote: “Clear shining from God must be at the bottom of deep labouring with God.”15
Pastoral Ministry and Preaching before Parliament
In 1643 Owen was offered the pastorate in the village of Fordham, six miles or so northwest of Colchester in Essex. Owen was here till 1646, when he became the minister of the church at the market town of Coggeshall, some five miles to the south. Here, as many as two thousand people would fill the church each Lord’s Day to hear Owen preach.16 Thus, although Owen would later speak slightingly of his preaching to King Charles II—as seen in the anecdote with which this article began—it is evident that he was no mean preacher.
It is also noteworthy that this change in pastorates began an ecclesiological shift to Congregationalism. Up until this point Owen had been decidedly Presbyterian in his understanding of church government. However, Owen began to change his mind after reading The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven by John Cotton (1584–1652), which had been published in 1644, and by 1648 he was a confirmed Congregationalist. It was also at Coggeshall that he wrote the classic work on particular redemption, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1647).17 The backdrop for these early years of Owen’s pastoral ministry was the English Civil War when England knew the horrors of bloody fields of battle, and father was ranged against son and neighbour against neighbour on the battlefield. Well has this period been described as “the world turned upside down.” It needs to be noted, though, that little of the early fighting actually took place in Essex or remotely near Coggeshall; hence at this point in time, Owen saw little of the bloody horrors of civil war.18
During these tumultuous days Owen clearly identified himself with the Parliamentary cause. Like others who ardently supported Parliament in their struggle against the king, Owen would look back on some of the decisive Parliamentary victories in the 1640s as a clear vindication of their cause by God.19 He also developed a friendship with the rising military figure Oliver Cromwell and was frequently invited to preach before Parliament. By late 1648 some of the Parliamentary army officers had begun to urge that Charles I be brought to trial on charges of treason since he had fought against his own people and Parliament. Charles was accordingly put on trial in January, 1649, and by the end of that month a small group of powerful Puritan leaders had found him guilty and sentenced their king to death. On January 31, the day following the public execution of the king, Owen was asked to preach before Parliament.
Owen used the occasion to urge upon the members of Parliament that for them, now the rulers of England, in order to obtain God’s favor in the future they must remove from the nation all traces of false worship and superstition and wholeheartedly establish a religion based on Scripture alone. Owen based his sermon on Jeremiah 15. He made no direct reference to the events of the previous day, nor did he mention, at least in the version of his sermon that has come down to us, the name of the king. Nevertheless, his hearers and later readers would have been easily able to deduce from his use of the Old Testament how he viewed the religious policy and end of Charles. From the story of the wicked king Manasseh that is recorded in 2 Kings 21 and with cross references to Jeremiah 15, he argued that the leading cause for God’s judgements upon the Jewish people had been such abominations as idolatry and superstition, tyranny and cruelty. He then pointed to various similarities between the conditions of ancient Judah and the England of his day. At the heart of the sermon was a call to Parliament to establish a reformed style of worship, to disseminate biblical Christianity, to uphold national righteousness, and to avoid oppression. He assured the Puritan leaders who heard him that day that God’s promise of protection to Jeremiah was also applicable to all who in every age stood firmly for justice and mercy.20
Ireland and Oxford
Later that same year, Owen accompanied Cromwell on his campaign in Ireland, where he stayed from August 1649 to February 1650. Though ill much of this time, he preached frequently to “a numerous multitude of as thirsting a people after the gospel as ever yet I conversed withal.”21 When he returned to England the following year, he confessed that “the tears and cries of the inhabitants of Dublin after the manifestations of Christ are ever in my view.” Accordingly, he sought to convince Parliament of the spiritual need of this land and asked:
How is it that Jesus Christ is in Ireland only as a lion staining all his garments with the blood of his enemies;and none to hold him out as a lamb sprinkled with his own blood to his friends?Is it the sovereignty and interest of England that is alone to be there transacted? For my part, I see no farther into the mystery of these things but that I could heartily rejoice, that, innocent blood being expiated, the Irish might enjoy Ireland so long as the moon endureth, so that Jesus Christ might possess the Irish. I would there were for the present one gospel preacher for every walled town in the English possession in Ireland … If they were in the dark, and loved to have it so, it might something close a door upon the bowels of our compassion; but they cry out of their darkness, and are ready to follow every one whosoever, to have a candle. If their being gospelless move not our hearts, it is hoped their importunate cries will disquiet our rest, and wrest help as a beggar doth an alms.22
Although Owen’s pleas were heeded and this period saw the establishment of a number of Puritan congregations—both Congregationalist and Baptist—in Ireland, Crawford Gribben has shown that the inability of the Puritans in Ireland to work together with like-minded brethren for the larger cause of the Kingdom of Christ hindered their witness.23
By the early 1650s, Owen had become one of Cromwell’s leading advisors, especially in national affairs to do with the church. There is little doubt that Owen was a firm supporter of Cromwell in this period. As Owen told him on one occasion in 1654, for example: “The series and chain of eminent providences whereby you have been carried on and protected in all the hazardous work of your generation, which your God hath called you unto, is evident to all.”24 Two years later, though, when Cromwell was urged to become the monarch of England, Owen was among those who opposed this move. As it turned out, Cromwell did not accept the crown. But Owen’s friendship with Cromwell had been damaged, and the two men were nowhere near as close as they had been.25 This would have distressed Owen since he had viewed Cromwell with enormous admiration. This rupture in his friendship with Cromwell may well have reinforced a tendency in Owen’s character to be self-reliant.26
Cromwell had appointed Owen to the oversight of Oxford University in 1652 as its Vice-Chancellor. From this position Owen helped to re-assemble the faculty, who had been dispersed by the war, and to put the university back on its feet. He also had numerous opportunities to preach to the students at Oxford. Two important works on holiness came out of his preaching during this period. Of Temptation, first published in 1658, is essentially an exposition of Matthew 26:4. It analyzes the way in which believers fall into sin. A second work, The Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), is in some ways the richest of all of Owen’s treatises on this subject. It is based on Romans 8:13 and lays out a strategy for fighting indwelling sin and warding off temptation. Owen emphasizes that in the fight against sin the Holy Spirit employs all of our human powers. In sanctifying us, Owen insists, the Spirit works
in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself.27
Not without reason does Owen lovingly describe the Spirit in another place as “the great beautifier of souls.”28
Oliver Cromwell died in September of 1658 and the “rule of the saints,” as some called it, began to fall apart. In the autumn of that year, Owen, now a key leader among the Congregationalists, played a vital role in drawing up what is known as the Savoy Declaration, which would give the Congregationalist churches fortitude for the difficult days ahead. Only a few days after Cromwell’s death, Owen met with around two hundred other Congregationalist leaders, including men like Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680), Philip Nye (c. 1596–1672), and William Bridge (c. 1600–1671),29 in the chapel of the old Savoy Palace in London. One of the outcomes of this synod was a recommendation to revise the Westminster Confession of Faith for the Congregationalist churches. Traditionally Owen has been credited with writing the lengthy preface that came before the Savoy Declaration. In it he rightly argued, anticipating a key issue over the rest of his life:
The Spirit of Christ is in himself too free, great and generous a Spirit, to suffer himself to be used by any human arm, to whip men into belief; he drives not, but gently leads into all truth, and persuades mento dwell in the tents of like precious faith; which would lose of its preciousness and value, if that sparkle of freeness shone not in it.30
The following year Owen preached again before Parliament. But the times were changing, and this proved to be the last of such occasions.
“The Church in a Storm”: Owen, a Leader in a Time of Persecution, 1660–1683
In 1660 a number of Cromwell’s fellow Puritan leaders, fearful that Britain was slipping into full-fledged anarchy, asked Charles II, then living in exile on the continent, to return to England as her monarch. Those who came to power with Charles were determined that the Puritans would never again hold the reins of political authority. During Charles’ reign and that of his brother James II (r. 1685–1688), the Puritan cause was thus savagely persecuted. After the Act of Uniformity in 1662, which required all religious worship to be according to the letter of The Book of Common Prayer, and other legislation enacted during the 1660s, all other forms of worship were illegal.
A number of Owen’s close friends, including John Bunyan, suffered fines and imprisonment for not heeding these laws. Although Owen was shielded from actual imprisonment by some powerful friends like Lord Philip Wharton (1613–1696), he led at best a precarious existence till his death. He was once nearly attacked by a mob, which surrounded his carriage.31 Between 1663 and 1666 he was tempted to accept the offer of a safe haven in America when the Puritan leaders in Massachusetts offered him the presidency of Harvard.32 Owen, though, recognized where he was needed most and he wrote prodigiously in defense of Nonconformity.
This polemical defense, though, took its toll. In 1672, he told the New England Puritan John Eliot (1604–1690) that “there is scarce any one alive in the world that hath more reproaches cast upon him than I have” and that, as he was experiencing “a dry and barren spirit,” he begged Eliot to pray for him that God would “water me from above.”33 Two years later, in a letter to Charles Fleetwood (c. 1618–1692), one of Cromwell’s sons-in-law, he described himself as a “poor withering soul” and he expressed his fear that
we shall die in the wilderness; yet ought we to labour and pray continually that the heavens would drop down from above, and the skies pour down righteousness—that the earth may open and bring forth salvation, and that righteousness may spring up together [see Ps. 85:10–11]. …I beseech you to contend yet more earnestly than ever I have done, with God, with my own heart, with the church, to labour after spiritual revivals.34
Owen’s fears were not unfounded: he would die without seeing any turning of the tide for the Nonconformists, and the spiritual state of England would continue to decline until the revivals of the mid-1730s.
Owen’s first wife, Mary, died in 1676. When Owen remarried the following year, his second wife, Dorothy D’Oyley, was the widow of a wealthy Oxfordshire landowner whom Owen would have known from his connections to his home village of Stadhampton.35 Added to the toil, distresses and anxieties of these years were physical challenges, especially asthma and kidney stones. But these years were also ones of prodigious literary fruitfulness. His exhaustive commentary on Hebrews appeared between 1668 and 1684, which he regarded in many ways as his magnum opus.36 A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit came out in 1674 and an influential work on justification, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, in 1677. Owen’s Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ, what Robert Oliver has rightly termed “incomparable,”37 was written under the shadow of death in 1683 and represents Owen’s dying testimony to the unsurpassable value and joy of living a life for the glory of Christ.
He fell asleep in Christ on August 24, 1683. His final literary work is a letter to his friend, Charles Fleetwood, written but two days before his death. “Dear Sir,” he wrote to his friend,
I am going to him whom my soul hath loved, or rather who hath loved me with an everlasting love; which is the whole ground of all my consolation. The passage is very irksome and wearysome through strong pains of various sorts which are all issued in an intermitting fever. All things were provided to carry me to London today attending to the advice of my physician, but we were all disappointed by my utter disability to undertake the journey. I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm, but whilst the great Pilot is in it the loss of a poore under-rower will be inconsiderable. Live and pray and hope and waite patiently and doe not despair; the promise stands invincible that he will never leave thee nor forsake thee.38
He was buried on September 4 in Bunhill Fields, where the bodies of so many of his fellow Puritans were laid to rest until that tremendous Day when they—and all the faithful in Christ—shall be raised to glory.
1 J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 191.
2 This article is used with permission from Matthew Barrett and Michael A. G. Haykin, Owen and the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).
3 For the story, see Andrew Thomson, Life of Dr. Owen (The Works of John Owen [1850 ed.; repr. London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 1:xcii]; Allen C. Guelzo, “John Owen, Puritan Pacesetter”, Christianity Today, 20, no. 17 (May 21, 1976): 14; Peter Toon, God’s Statesman: The Life and Work of John Owen (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1971), 162. Subsequent references in this article to the works of Owen are cited according to the title of the work, as well as the volume and page numbers of The Works of John Owen, 23 vols. (ed.William H. Goold [1850–1855]; ed.; repr. London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965–1968). References to Owen’s commentary on Hebrews are cited in the same fashion: the title of the work will be given, then volume and page numbers in the Works, the Hebrews volumes being volumes 17–23 of the Works.
4 Guelzo, “John Owen,” 14; Richard L. Greaves, “Owen, John (1616–1683),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online ed., May 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com.libaccess.lib.mcmaster.ca/view/article/21016]).
5 Guelzo, “John Owen,” 14; Packer, Quest for Godliness, 81.
6 Guelzo, “John Owen,” 15–16.
7 For a good account of Owen’s life, see Toon, God’s Statesman and now Crawford Gribben, John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).. For his theology, the best study is undoubtedly Carl R. Trueman, The Claims of Truth: John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1998), and now Kelly M. Kapic and Mark Jones, eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen’s Theology (Farnham, Surrey/Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing, 2012). See also Sinclair B. Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987); and Robert W. Oliver, ed., John Owen—The Man and His Theology (Darlington: Evangelical Press/Phillipsburg, NJ: Evangelical Press, 2002).
8 Toon, God’s Statesman, 2.
9 A Review of the True Nature of Schism (Works, 13:224).
10 Toon, God’s Statesman, 2.
11 James Moffatt, The Golden Book of John Owen (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1904), 19–20.
12 Toon, God’s Statesman, 12.
13 Ibid., 12–13.
14 Ibid., 13. It also meant Owen would write on the doctrine of assurance. See Owen, A Practical Exposition Upon Psalm 130 (Works, 324–648).
15 Cited Peter Barraclough, John Owen (1616–1683) (London: Independent Press Ltd., 1961), 6.
16 Robert W. Oliver, “John Owen (1616–1683)—His Life and Times,” in his ed., John Owen, 16.
17 For a study of this work, see Jack N. Macleod, “John Owen and the Death of Death,” in “Out of Bondage” (London: The Westminster Conference, 1983), 70–87.
18 Tim Cooper, “Why Did Richard Baxter and John Owen Diverge? The Impact of The First Civil War,” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 61, no. 3 (July 2010): 507–511.
19 As he once stated, “Where is the God of Marston Moor, and the God of Naseby? is an acceptable expostulation in a gloomy day.” Cited Moffatt, Golden Book of John Owen, 112.
20 Righteous Zeal Encouraged by Divine Protection (Works, 8:133–162);Toon, God’s Statesman, 33–34.
21 Of the Death of Christ (Works, 10:479).
22 The Steadfastness of the Promises, and the Sinfulness of Staggering (Works, 8:235–236).
23 Crawford Gribben, The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church (Darlington, Durham: Evangelical Press, 2003), 91–115.
24 The Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance Explained and Confirmed (Works,11:5).
25 Oliver, “John Owen (1616–1683),” in his ed., John Owen, 26; Toon, God’s Statesman, 97–101.
26 See the remarks on Owen’s friendships by Moffatt, Golden Book of John Owen, 19–20 and Tim Cooper, “Owen’s Personality: The Man Behind the Theology” in Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen’s Theology, ed. Kapic and Jones, 215–226.
27 Works, 6:20. See also the comments of J. I. Packer, “‘Keswick” and the Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification,” The Evangelical Quarterly 27 (1955): 156.
28 The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers (Works, 6:188). For further discussion of this area of Owen’s teaching, see Michael A. G. Haykin, “The Great Beautifier of Souls,” The Banner of Truth, 242 (November 1983): 18–22.
29 For biographical sketches of these three men, see William S. Barker, Puritan Profiles: 54 Influential Puritans at the time when the Westminster Confession of Faith was written (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 1996), 69–94, passim.
30 “A Preface” to The Savoy Declaration in The Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff and rev. David S. Schaff (1931 ed.; repr. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1983), III, 709; emphasis original. For a recent edition of this confession, see The Savoy Declaration of Faith (Millers Falls, MA: First Congregational Church, 1998).
31 Barraclough, John Owen, 15.
32 Greaves, “Owen, John (1616–1683),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.).
33 Letter to John Eliot , in The Correspondence of John Owen, ed. Peter Toon (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1970), 154.
34 Letter to Charles Fleetwood, July 8 , in Correspondence of John Owen, ed. Toon, 159. Owen was not the only Puritan leader urging prayer for revival in the 1670s. Four years after Owen wrote this letter, John Howe (1630–1705) preached a series of sermons based on Ezekiel 39:29 in which he dealt with the subject of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In one of these sermons he told his audience (The Prosperous State of the Christian Interest Before the End of Time, By a Plentiful Effusion of the Holy Spirit: Sermon IV in The Works of the Rev. John Howe, M. A. [New York: John P. Haven, 1838], I, 575):
When the Spirit shall be poured forth plentifully I believe you will hear much other kind of sermons, or they will, who shall live to such a time, than you are wont to do now-a-days … It is plain, too sadly plain, there is a great retraction of the Spirit of God even from us; we not know how to speak living sense [i.e. felt reality] unto souls, how to get within you; our words die in our mouths, or drop and die between you and us. We even faint, when we speak; long experienced unsuccessfulness makes us despond; we speak not as persons that hope to prevail . . . When such an effusion of the Spirit shall be as is here signified . . . [ministers] shall know how to speak to better purpose, with more compassion and sense, with more seriousness, with more authority and allurement, than we now find we can.
For the explanation of “living sense” as “felt reality,” see J. I. Packer, God In Our Midst: Seeking and Receiving Ongoing Revival (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1987), 33.
35 Oliver, “John Owen (1616–1683),” in his ed., John Owen, 35.
36 See John W. Tweeddale, “John Owen’s Commentary on Hebrews in Context” in Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen’s Theology, ed. Kapic and Jones, 52, 54–55.
37 Oliver, “John Owen (1616–1683)” in his ed., John Owen, 35
38 Correspondence of John Owen, ed. Toon, 174.