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Reading The Next Classic Together
November 01, 2007
A couple of months ago some of the readers of this site began to read some Christian classics together. We spent eight weeks reading through J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, covering one chapter per week and posting some thoughts about the book on Thursday mornings. I’m not quite sure how many people took the opportunity to read along with us, but believe it was in excess of one hundred. Holiness was a worthwhile read and we learned that it has rightly earned its position as a Christian classic. Feedback from readers assured me that this was a project we should continue as it benefited all who chose to participate.
It is time to think about our next effort. Having asked many of you what you’d be interested in reading next, I think there will be a good bit of interest in reading some John Owen. Owen is known as being one of the greatest theologians in the history of the church and certainly one who offered penetrating analysis of the human condition. His works are known as being difficult to read, but always worth the effort. C.J. Mahaney says, “No writer has taught me more about the dynamics of the heart and the deceitfulness of sin than John Owen.” Jerry Bridges writes, “To read Owen is to mine spiritual gold.” Mark Dever says, “Sin is tenacious, but by God’s grace we can hate it and hunt it. John Owen provides the mater guide for the sin-hunter.” And Phillip Ryken insists that, “John Owen is a spiritual surgeon with the rare skill to cut away the cancer of sin and bring gospel healing to the sinner’s soul. Apart from the Bible, I have found his writings to be the best books ever written to help me stop sinning the same old sins.” It’s hard to argue with all of those men!
So for the next classic we read together, I propose John Owen’s Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers. You will find this as portion of Overcoming Sin and Temptation, edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic. This edition maintains the unabridged text, but provides useful introductions and editorial assistance. For example, the editors footnote difficult or obscure words, update archaic language (i.e. they change “thee” to “you”), transliterate words that Owen provided in the original biblical languages, and so on. They maintain the full impact of Owen’s words while removing some of the hindrances experienced by the modern reader. It is this edition that I will be reading and I’d encourage you to do the same. If you order it from Westminster Books, the book should ship to you immediately and be in your hands in just a few days. It is also available at Amazon and just about anywhere else.
Those who do not wish to purchase the book, can find it at CCEL though not in the edited version.
The book is divided into three parts and fourteen chapters. The chapters are mostly quite short, though as the editors point out, the divisions are somewhat less than ideal as Owen did not use chapter divisions in the way we might today. Still, they provide useful breaks in the text and we’ll stick with them. We’ll read one chapter per week and meet right here at this site to discuss things on Thursdays.
I think we can begin with the first chapter on November 15. So if you’d like to read along with us and begin to tackle some John Owen, get a copy of the book and check in here on the fifteenth to begin some discussion. You do not need to write any discussion of your own—just check in to see what others are saying.
Please let me know if you’re interested in participating by posting a comment below.