The Prince of the English Divines

John Owen (1616-1683)

John_Owen_by_John_GreenhillJohn Owen, called the “prince of the English divines,” “the leading figure among the Congregationalist divines,” “a genius with learning second only to Calvin’s,” and “indisputably the leading proponent of high Calvinism in England in the late seventeenth century,” was born in Stadham (Stadhampton), near Oxford. He was the second son of Henry Owen, the local Puritan vicar. Owen showed godly and scholarly tendencies at an early age. He entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and studied the classics, mathematics, philosophy, theology, Hebrew, and rabbinical writings. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1632 and a Master of Arts degree in 1635. Throughout his teen years, young Owen studied eighteen to twenty hours per day.

At the age of twenty-six, Owen began a forty-one year writing span that produced more than eighty works. Many of those would become classics and be greatly used by God.

Though he embraced Puritan convictions from his youth, Owen lacked personal assurance of faith until God directed him in 1642 to a church service at St. Mary Aldermanbury, London. He expected to hear Edmund Calamy preach, but a substitute was in the pulpit. Owen’s friend urged him to leave with him to hear a more famous minister some distance away, but Owen decided to stay. The substitute preacher chose as his text, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” God used that sermon to bring Owen to assurance of faith. Later, Owen tried in vain to learn the identity of the preacher.

In 1643, Owen published A Display of Arminianism, a vigorous exposition of classic Calvinism that refuted the Arminians by examining the doctrines of predestination, original sin, irresistible grace, the extent of the atonement, and the role of the human will in salvation. This book earned Owen nearly instant recognition as well as a preferment to the living of Fordham, a pastoral charge in Essex. His ministry was well-received in Fordham, and many people came from outlying districts to hear him. He also excelled in catechizing his parishioners and wrote two catechism books, one for children and one for adults.

At Fordham, Owen took the Solemn League and Covenant. There, too, he took Mary Rooke as his bride. Of the eleven children born to them, only a daughter survived into adulthood. After an unhappy marriage to a Welshman, the daughter returned to live with her parents. She died of consumption shortly afterwards.

When the sequestered incumbent of Fordham died, the rights of presentation reverted to the patron, who dispossessed Owen and appointed Richard Pulley instead. Owen became vicar of the distinguished pulpit of St. Peter’s, Coggeshall (1646), where his predecessor, Obadiah Sedgwick, had ministered to nearly two thousand souls. At Coggeshell, through John Cotton’s Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (1644) and other political influences, Owen openly converted from Presbyterianism to Congregationalism. He also began remodeling his church on Congregational principles.

Owen’s fame spread rapidly in the late 1640s through his preaching and writings, gradually earning him a reputation as a leading Independent theologian. While he was still in his early thirties, more than a thousand people came to hear his weekly sermons. Yet Owen often grieved that he saw little fruit upon his labors. He once said that he would trade all his learning for John Bunyan’s gift for plain preaching.

Owen was asked to preach before Parliament on several occasions, including the day following the execution of King Charles I. The sermon he preached before Parliament on Hebrews 12:27 greatly impressed Oliver Cromwell. The next day Cromwell persuaded Owen to accompany him as chaplain to Ireland to regulate the affairs of Trinity College in Dublin. Owen traveled with 12,000 psalm-singing, Puritan soldiers who descended upon Ireland. Though he spent most of his time at Trinity College reorganizing it along Puritan lines, he also did considerable preaching. He ministered to the troops during the terrible massacre at Drogheda. That dreadful event so stirred his soul that, upon his return to England after a seven-month stay, Owen urged Parliament to show mercy to the Irish.

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Book Review

Review by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Blog on Marie Durand

Durand-3DWhen you do a search on Amazon for “biographies for children,” you find a list of books about people who are famous because of things they accomplished in their lifetimes–Ben Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Ben Carson to name a few. While a faithful biography may describe the many times someone tried and failed, the account will finally bring us to that great moment when success came at last. That is the point of a biography, is it not? It gives us an account of how someone who did something extraordinary, usually something that made the world a better place for everyone, accomplished that extraordinary thing. After all, what child wants to read a biography about Mr. Gray next door who grew up, went to work at the office every day, raised three average children, retired, and died? It is the achievement that someone is famous for that makes him or her interesting. As parents and teachers, we encourage children to read biographies because a great achievement seldom occurs in a vacuum. Great achievements are the result of diligence, persistence, creativity, and other character qualities that we want our children to imitate.

As Christian parents, however, we value quiet, everyday faithfulness. We hope our children will remain faithful, especially in relation to Christian beliefs and practice, all their lives. Most of our children will never do anything as earth shaking as inventing the light bulb or developing a system to enable blind people to read. But all of our children will be called upon to believe in Christ and to live out that belief, clinging to it even in the face of gale force cultural winds that seek to loosen their grip.

In Marie Durand, Simonetta Carr has given us a biography of a woman whose greatest achievement was just that–quiet, everyday faithfulness. Marie was a young Protestant Christian in southern France at a time when Protestantism was illegal. As a child and as a teen, she witnessed firsthand–and suffered herself–the persecution that has often come to Christians who want simply to remain faithful to what Scripture calls them to believe and do. Marie had just barely grown to adulthood when, as a teen bride of three months, she was arrested and imprisoned with several other women in a tower. Marie spent the next thirty-eight years of her life in that tower. Participation in the Catholic mass would have been the key to her freedom if she had chosen to use it, but she did not. Who knows?

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Do I really believe this?

How do you view the Christian life? For Rosaria Butterfield, becoming a Christian was costly:

When I became a Christian, I had to change everything – my life, my friends, my writing, my teaching, my advising, my clothes, my speech, my thoughts. I was tenured to a field that I could no longer work in. I was the faculty advisor to all the gay and lesbian and feminist groups on campus. I was writing a book that I no longer believed in. And, I was scheduled in a few months to address all of Syracuse University’s graduate students. What in the world would I say to them? The lecture that I had planned to deliver – on Queer Theory – I threw in the trash. Thousands of students would hear my first, fledgling attempts to speak about Christian hermeneutics to a post-modern university. I was flooded with doubts about my new life in Christ. Was I willing to suffer like Christ? Was I willing to suffer like Christ? Was I willing to be considered stupid by those who did not know Jesus? The world’s eyes register what a life in Christ takes away, but how do I communicate all this it gives?…Peter, after being beaten for preaching the gospel, rejoiced that he was “counted worthy to suffer for [Christ’s] name” (Acts 5:41). I pondered this. To the world, this is masochism. To the Christian, this is freedom. Did I really believe this? Do I really believe this today?

This extract was taken from Why Should You Deny Yourself? by Ryan M. McGraw.

Read more by Rosaria Butterfield here –>

Book Review

Pentecostal__69435.1446558671.1280.1280These reviews of Pentecostal Outpourings are part of the Cross Focused Reviews Tour.

“What makes this book even more interesting is the multiple flavours of Reformed views that bring out the beauty, the unique perspectives, and the many different ways the Holy Spirit works.”
Reviewer: Conrade Yap
Rating: 5 Stars

“[Pentecostal Outpourings] is packed with detailed and well-researched information, covering revivals in both the British Isles and America.”
Reviewer: H. Marshall
Rating: 5 Stars

“Church history is a very important subject to read and study with fellow Christians. This book gives you a good detailed history of different perspectives on revival as it relates to the reformed community.”
Reviewer: Chris Land
Rating: 5 Stars

“I found this book to be balanced because it focused on the truly Christ centered revivals. It discussed the time period and happenings that may have influenced these movements and even cautioned false revivals… a great book to help fill in those gaps of what I had previously learned. ”
Reviewer: Angela Parsley
Rating: 5 Stars

“This book details exciting historical accounts of revivals. All you have to do is to look at today’s headlines to see that our nation desperately needs revival. But what is biblical revival? Is it a planned, man-centered event, such as “Revival – Saturday Night”? No, as one of the editors and contributors of this volume, Robert Smart writes, the intent of the book is to “Promote the knowledge of God, the gospel of Christ, and the great outpourings of the Spirit through a variety of Reformed authors reflecting and applying historical and biblical lessons for today’s Christian leader.”
Reviewer: Bill Pence
Rating: 5 Stars

Coming this Month!

gospGospel Evidences of Saving Faith

John Owen

Paperback, 128 pages

Retail Price: $10.00/ Our Price: $7.50

Although believers have a right to every spiritual comfort in Christ, remaining sin and temptation often hinder them from enjoying these blessings. In Gospel Evidences of Saving Faith, John Owen recognizes that faith “is the root on which all genuine comforts grow,” and these comforts “are ordinarily shared by believers in proportion to the evidences of true faith in their lives.” Owen investigates the proper operations of faith that demonstrate its genuineness, encouraging us to cling fast to Christ, pursue holiness, commune with God through worship, and bring our souls into a special state of repentance. Do you wish to glorify God more and have greater enjoyment in the comforts of Christ? Find inspiration in this pastoral consideration of the evidences of saving faith.

Endorsement  “This little book, which distills the great themes of John Owen’s long and often complex treatises on the Christian life, has been overlooked for too long. Brian Hedges’s careful and sensitive revision renews the force of its arguments. There could be no easier way to engage with Owen’s theology of the Christian life in his four hundredth anniversary year.” — Crawford Gribben, author of John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat


9781601784766Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries

Joel R. Beeke, Sinclair B. Ferguson and Michael A. G. Haykin

Paperback, 112 pages

Retail Price: $8.00/ Our Price: $6.00

Church history is important because it shows us how God’s faithful dealings with His people in the Bible continue in the ongoing life and work of Christ in our world. If you have ever wished for a short book highlighting church history’s most important events that will enlighten your mind and peak your interest, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Three prolific church historians collaborate their efforts in Church History 101 to present you with a quick read of church history’s high points.

Table of Contents:

Preface

First Century: Apostolic Foundations

Second Century: The Church of Martyrs and Confessors

Third Century: Persecution and Heresy; Origen and Tertullian

Fourth Century: The Beginnings of the Christian Empire

Fifth Century: The City of God and the City of Man

Sixth Century: Justinian, Benedict, and the Conversion of the Scots

Seventh Century: Gregory the Great and the Rise of Islam

Eighth Century: The Iconoclastic Controversy

Ninth Century: Struggle for Power in the Church; Ratramnus and Gottschalk

Tenth Century: “The Dark Ages”

Eleventh Century:  The Great Schism; Anselm of Canterbury

Twelfth Century: The Crusades, Abelard, Lombard, and the Waldenses

Thirteenth Century: Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas

Fourteenth Century: The Church’s Babylonian Captivity and John Wycliffe

Fifteenth Century:  The Renaissance, Huss, Savonarola, and Groote

Sixteenth Century: Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation

Seventeenth Century: Reforming the Church in England

Eighteenth Century: The Great Awakening

Nineteenth Century: Beginnings of Modern Theology and Kingdom Builders

Twentieth Century: The Age of Paradoxes

Endorsement  “The story of the growth of God’s kingdom is thrilling in all its aspects, and to have this brief summary available in book form will surely aid us in the assurance that absolutely nothing can prevent King Jesus from fulfilling His purpose in building His church. Thrilling to read.” — Derek W. H. Thomas, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina; Robert Strong Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology, RTS Atlanta; and Teaching Fellow of Ligonier Ministries

Devotional

Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! How long? And to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! – Habbakkuk 2:6

Not one of us wants to say the same thing about himself that he brings forward against others. For when a greedy man gathers things, whether right or wrong, or an ambitious man by unfair means advances himself, we instantly cry, “How long?” Though everyone is quick to say this about others, yet no one wants to say that about himself.

Let us therefore take heed that when we reprove injustice in others, we come without delay to ourselves and are impartial judges to our own actions and intent. Let us not be so blinded by self-love that we seek to absolve ourselves from the very faults that we freely condemn in others.

In general, people are more correct in their judgment of matters in which they are not involved, but when they consider matters in which they take part, they become blind. Honesty vanishes and all judgment is gone.

The prophet offers us this teaching based on the common feeling of nature, so that every one of us may restrain ourselves when we presume the office of a judge in condemning others. We are also given this proverb that we might condemn ourselves and restrain our desires when we find them advancing beyond just bounds.

For Meditation: It is so easy to see the faults of others while remaining completely ignorant of our own. But ignorance is no excuse. We must diligently examine ourselves and our lives to dispel our ignorance and find any sin that has not been dealt with.

– Taken from 365 Days with Calvin

“He lived his sermons.”

Joseph Caryl (1602-1673)

hqdefaultJoseph Caryl was born in London in 1602 to aristocratic parents. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where he became a noted debater, earning his Bachelor of Arts dgree in 1625 and a master’s in 1627. He first served as curate of Battersea, Surrey. From 1632 to 1648, he served as lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn, London, an appointment he received because he was “puritanically affected,” and was received with “good liking and applause” (Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, 3:979).
Caryl preached before the Long Parliament fourteen times in the 1640s. He was second only to Stephen Marshall in the number of times he appeared before that body. In April 1642, Parliament called an assembly of divines to decide the faith, government, and liturgy of the national church. The Independents hesitated, fearing their consciences would be bound. Thomas Goodwin and Joseph Caryl even used the pulpit of Parliament to preach against the adoption of a church polity that would threaten their beliefs concerning the true worship and service of God.

Caryl was appointed a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. He became known as a zealous supporter of the Solemn League and Covenant, a moderate Independent, and a defender of the view that there should be an office of church teacher (“doctor”) alongside of and distinct from the office of pastor. He was the only Independent asked by Parliament to serve on a committee to check the rise of antinomianism. Caryl became one of the triers responsible for approving ministers to fill vacant churches. He also became a licenser to approve theological material for the press.

In 1645, Caryl succeeded Cornelius Burgess as minister of St. Magnus the Martyr, near London Bridge, where he served for seventeen years. During those years, he undertook an impressive number of tasks. He published a Greek grammar in 1658, and three years later, was the principal author of an English-Greek lexicon. From 1649 to 1660, he served as one of the preachers of Westminster Abbey. He also served Parliament in a variety of ways, and became a friend of Oliver Cromwell. After the restoration of the monarchy, Caryl was ejected from his living in 1662 for his nonconformist views. For the last decade of his life, he served an Independent congregation in London. In 1672, he was licensed to preach for a congregation of 136 communicants in Leadenhall Street, London.

Caryl died peacefully, in full assurance of faith, on February 25, 1673, and was buried at College Hill. In his last moments, he asked to be alone. After his death, his congregation merged with John Owen’s in Leadenhall Street. David Clarkson and Isaac Watts succeeded him. Henry Dorney, author of Divine Contemplations, said of his colleague, “He lived his sermons.”

 

By Joseph Caryl

Practical Observations on Job, 12 Vols.

 

Book Review

These reviews of Portraits of Faith are part of the Cross Focused Reviews Tour.

portraits“These four short portraits were a great encouragement to me. This book is definitely one that could be read in a week with a chapter a day as a short devotion on faith. It will surely bless all who read it.”
Reviewer: Joey Parker
Rating: 5 Stars

“Anyone who wants to understand faith and how it is exercised in the life of a believer should read this book.”
Reviewer: Cliff VanNostrand
Rating: 5 Stars

“Portraits of Faith is a call for Christians to reflect. Joel Beeke paints a biblical picture for Christians of what it means and how it looks to live a life of faith. May we reflect that portrait.”
Reviewer: Theron St. John
Rating: 4 Stars

“I found this book to be of great value to me spiritually. It was an encouraging reminder to see the examples of faith in the lives of those saints with whom I can so easily identify.”
Reviewer: Zack Ford
Rating: 5 Stars

“Those familiar with Joel Beeke will at once recognize his pastoral love and grandfatherly affection for the church in this book. Those who are not yet familiar with him will be encouraged by his care for sinners. Portraits of Faith will encourage you in your walk and will point you to Christ to strengthen your faith.”
Reviewer: Aaron Cerda
Rating: 5 Stars

New Biography on J.C. Ryle

Ryle-Iain-Murray-Bio-CoverJ.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone (Paperback)

Iain H. Murray

Retail Price: $18.00/ Our Price: $13.50

The life of J.C. Ryle has only to be heard once to be remembered. His 84 years (1816–1900) included remarkable contrasts—the promise of a fortune, then the poverty of a bankrupt; a Suffolk country pastor, then bishop of the leading seaport of the British Empire. But there was a still greater change—from the successful youth at Eton and Oxford, who did not pray or read his Bible till he was 21, to become a Christian ‘bold as a lion for the truth of God’s Word and his Gospel’.

Although one of the most widely read evangelical authors of the nineteenth century, Ryle’s writings lost influence after his death. The world had moved on, as was supposed. Then, fifty years later a ‘rediscovery’ began. Research on his life was accomplished by able authors, and from a new wealth of material Iain Murray has put together a compelling biography. Ryle believed in definite doctrine, in a message which does not adjust to the times, in revival, and in the living Christ. He knew that all the great turning points of church history have been attended with controversy, and that ‘there are times when controversy is not only a duty but a benefit’.

J.C. Ryle’s life is convincing evidence that Christianity stands or falls depending on its relation to the word of God and to the Holy Spirit. That he is being read widely again at the present time gives hope of better days.

Endorsements  ‘Famous, outstanding and beloved exponent of the evangelical and reformed faith.’ — D. M. LLOYD-JONES

‘A single-minded Christian communicator of profound biblical, theological and pastoral wisdom, a man and minister of giant personal stature and electric force (‘unction’ was the old name for it).’ — J. I. PACKER

Prayer

The gospel produces a praying people. Christ died to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). God calls sinners into union with Christ by the gospel (1 Cor. 1:9) so that in Christ we can have fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3). God has forged in Christ an unbreakable link between the human needs of His people and His infinite resources. Yet it is not God’s will that those resources flow to us without our hearts of His children so that they cry out in prayer to the Father (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Indeed, they not only cry out to God (Ps. 57:2) but they also cry out for God (Ps. 84:2). He is their greatest desire (Ps. 73:25).

Christian prayer is a holy communication between the believing soul and heaven, a spiritual exchange of the desires and praises of God’s children for the blessings of their Father in heaven. The Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses it well: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God (Ps. 62:8), for things agreeable to his will (1 John 5:14), in the name of Christ (John 16:23), with confession of our sins (Ps. 32:5-6; Dan. 9:4), and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies (Phil. 4:6).” John Bunyan echoed that definition effectively: “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.”

Prayer is a crucial part of the Christian life and deserves our careful attention and cultivation. Praying is as natural to true Christians as breathing is to a living

child. When God’s people pray, they breathe forth the living motions of their faith, repentance, submission, obedience, hope, and love. However, just as a child needs to grow, so believers in Christ need to grow in their praying. Indeed, a child’s breathing can be dangerously hindered by illness, and at times the prayer life of a believer can be constricted and enervated by spiritual diseases. Therefore, we do well to examine ourselves and emulate the disciples, who said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Felicity Houghton writes, “Prayer is the way by which Christians express and develop the relationship that God Himself has chosen to make with them as their Father through Jesus Christ…As often as I pray, I still find I need to be taught how to pray.”

Taken from How Can I Cultivate Private Prayer by Joel R. Beeke