Banner of Truth; 249 pages; £6; ISBN: 978-1-84871-036-8
When people hear a sermon which is searching and convicting, they don’t usually tell the preacher! This book is like that.
John Owen, the great seventeenth-century Puritan theologian, wrote it during a period of ill health when he was unable to preach. As with other books in the Banner’s Puritan Paperbacks series, it has been abridged and helpfully put into more modern English by R. J. K. Law.
Owen sets out to describe what a saved spiritual state (spiritual-mindedness) and an unsaved spiritual state (carnal-mindedness) are like. In making the differences clear he helps us to see where we are (Romans 8:6). He tells us that we are all in one state or the other, but ‘few are able to judge whether they have true peace or not’.
Owen shows no partiality towards fellow ministers - ’Christian ministers … are often the least spiritually-minded of all people’. This spiritual-mindedness is something that bubbles up from the new life within, not something which is brought in from the outside by the stirring of the conscience or particular troubles.
Preaching and prayer are two main means of engendering the spiritual heavenly thoughts which mark spiritual-mindedness. In the unregenerate this kind of thinking is only temporary.
Owen challenges us to compare ourselves with David and other Old Testament saints. He argues, ‘If we do not have the same delight in God, then we can have no evidence that we please God as they did or shall go to the place where they have gone’.
Owen’s argument can be summarised simply. If our spiritual life is not at a pretty high level, we might be truly saved but can have no safe assurance that it is so. Therefore, he seeks to show us how to consecrate ourselves totally to Christ and to love him above everything.
The book searches out the weaknesses and inconsistencies in our spiritual lives. The poorer our spiritual life, the more powerfully this book will shock us. But, don’t let that put you off!
Some sincere Christians who need assurance, might be better off with Guthrie’s The Christian’s great interest. But for those of us who need a wake-up call, this may be the book.
Will I enjoy it? Perhaps not. Should I read it? Definitely!
Dennis Hill, Hull