'Whenever I return to read Owen I find myself at least in part wondering why I spend time reading lesser things." In these few words I think Sinclair Ferguson has gathered up the sentiments of all who have spent serious time reading the Prince of Puritans. There are racier, more colorful, pithy penmen, but there is none who is more substantial. If theology is art, John Owen is a stark realist, producing vivid, I almost said living, writings.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm an Owen head. There is no doubt he was one cool cat, strolling from his firearm-stocked apartment in thigh-length Spanish boots and freshly powdered hair. A dangerous dandy, it seems. He saw the ups and downs of that older world and of the Puritan era. His bride Mary bore eleven children, ten of whom died in infancy. He served as chaplain to Protector Cromwell and delivered sermons to high officials from the midst of political upheaval.
The complete works of John Owen stretch 24 sizable volumes, including his massive commentary on Hebrews and perhaps an Arkenstone among the many gems of his works, what is commonly called his Biblical Theology, which mined the material from which later men like Geerhardus Vos matured the theological discipline by that name. While he is most well-known in our day for his Mortification of Sin, a most excellent and mature, experiential, searching work, his Glory of Christ, Communion with God, and Exposition of Psalm 130 are truly remarkable. Word counts would fail to speak of The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, A Dissertation on Divine Justice, Animadversions on 'Fiat Lux', and even A Review of Annotations of Grotius. Heavy-sounding titles; heavy indeed, and filled with light.
I have skipped around a bit in my reading of these old books and recently picked up volume 8 which is a compilation of sermons delivered on various occasions. I'm reading slowly and meditatively. By spending time with Dr. Owen over the years, my grasp of the administration of God's grace has been mightily enlarged and enriched. In my opinion, young preachers--indeed, Christians of all ages--can make no greater theological investment in their lives and ministries than to buy and read Owen's works. For Christ-centered, gospel-saturated, Spirit-empowered, even-handed, mature-minded experiential Christianity, Owen is second to none, save the inspired penmen themselves.