I admit that I write this short review as a novice in all things ‘John Owen’. And what else could be expected from someone who has only read volume 1 of what has come to be 23 volumes of collected writings? With that said, Volume 1, compiled by The Banner of Truth Trust, has been a treat to work through. I say ‘work through’ because at times it’s a commitment to read Owen. You’ve heard it said that we should leave no stone unturned. With Owen, you’re going to get every stick and leaf flipped over as well, particularly in ‘A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ,’ which is the pinnacle piece of Volume 1.
Rev. Andrew Thomson, B.A (1814-1901) provides a short, but helpful biography of Owen giving insight into some of the religious and political tensions of the day. I tremendously enjoyed this contribution from Thomson often feeling like I was standing in the same room as Owen. Not a lot of biographers can transfer you back hundreds of years and make you feel as though you were living in that period. Then follows the meaty piece ‘A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ.’ Here Owen explores and expounds on Christ in His deity and humanity. Then follows two shorter reflections and discourses on the same subject, finishing off with two short catechisms (these reflect much of Owen’s theology and ecclesiastical framework).
Owen made my mind work. I’m immensely thankful for that. I had to stop after most paragraphs (sometimes needing to translate the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew that he assumes his readers know) and chew on what Owen was serving up. His writings are not mere appetizers. They are full of substance. Many a time I just sat there and let out a sigh of adoration as Owen waxed eloquent but effectively regarding the various characteristics and attributes of Christ. Weighty doctrine and high thoughts of God giving the heart and mind wings to soar. It reminds me of what C. S. Lewis said when he wrote:
“For my own part I tend to find doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that “nothing happens” when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.” 1
Well, I’m not a pipe guy myself, but I get what Lewis is saying.
I heartily recommend this first collection of Owen’s writings. Like I mentioned above, it will seem at times a commitment, especially for the new believer. That commitment, however, is worth it. This book is available through Banner of Truth. I’ll include a link to the book at the bottom of this page. Thanks for reading!
1 C. S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” in God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 201-202.