We are nearing the end of our project to read through John Owen’s classic book Overcoming Sin and Temptation. After this morning we will have just one chapter remaining. If you’d like to know more about this reading project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. If you are interested in participating in reading the next classic together, stay tuned to this site and we’ll choose a new book in just a week or two.
As we draw near to the end of this book, we are looking at specific instructions on how to put sin to death. We’re in the book’s second section—a section that focuses on “the nature of mortification.” Owen takes this approach:
- Show what it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively and positively, that we be not mistaken in the foundation.
- Give general directions for such things as without which it will be utterly impossible for anyone to get any sin truly and spiritually mortified.
- Draw out the particulars whereby this is to be done.
He has already shown both negatively and positively what it is to mortify a sin and has given the general directions. He is now providing a list of instructions about how to actually do the business of mortifying sin.
This week Owen challenges the reader with several exhortations under this heading: “Do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks it, but hearken to what God says to your soul.”
- God reserves the privilege to speak peace to whom, and in what degree, he pleases
- It is the prerogative of Christ to speak peace to the conscience
- Men speak peace to themselves without the detestation of sin and the abhorrence of themselves for it
- Men speak false peace to themselves when they rely upon convictions and rational principles to carry them
- We speak peace to ourselves when we do it slightly
- If one speaks peace to himself upon any one account of sin, and at the same time has another evil of no less importance lying upon his spirit, without dealing with God, that man cries “Peace” when there is none
- When men of themselves speak peace to their consciences, it is seldom that God speaks humiliation to their souls
I sat down to write about this week’s chapter and quickly found my time interrupted by the need for some high priority toilet repairs. I thought maybe I could use that as a metaphor for something, but nothing came to mind. So I proceed, but about an hour later than I would have liked! I will now have to keep my thoughts brief (for which I apologize).
This is a chapter that has intrigued me since I first skimmed through the book to get a sense of its flow. I guess the idea of peace appealed to me, and especially a peace of soul. There is a definite appeal to that. But Owen warns against speaking peace to our souls before God speaks that peace. So I have been wondering, what is this peace and how would God communicate it to us?
I thought Owen covered the subject well and without the long and parenthetical questions and answers that interrupted the last chapter a little bit. It is the prerogative to God to speak peace and the task of Christ to speak it home to the soul. We are prone to wanting to speak peace to ourselves and to salve our consciences when we have violated God’s will. But in so doing we speak a peace that is a false peace. We make a treaty with our consciences even while we have not experienced true repentance. We go on our way feeling better, but not being better. There may have been outward change, but nothing inward and lasting and real.
I saw myself as Owen described our tendency to speak peace to ourselves without hating the sin and abhorring our ourselves for committing it. Too often I allow myself off the hook, so to speak, acting as if my soul is at peace when the reality is that I have merely repented of the symptoms of sin or of my distaste for its consequences. In reality I have not repented of the sin and have not abhorred the nature that compels me to sin. God has not granted my peace. Instead, I’ve manufactured peace within my soul, but this without allowing God to speak His peace to me. How much better it is to wait for God to speak words of forgiveness and words of peace through His Word. This is the true source of peace and the true source of healing.
Next Thursday we will continue by reading the book’s final chapter. And then we’ll have to discuss where we go next!
As always, I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Please post your comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say something exceedingly clever or profound. Simply share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause. You can also post any questions that came up. Let’s be certain that we are reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been very helpful and have aided my enjoyment of the book. I have every reason to believe that this week will prove the same.