It is difficult to do this book justice in a review – the only way to grasp how helpful it is will be to read it for yourself.
John Owen has a reputation for writing in a style that is difficult to work through. However, the careful light editing, and the fact that these are transcribed talks rather than theological essays, means that they are straightforward to read and comprehend. So have no worries on that front.
The content is divided into three sections, which makes reading much simpler: ‘Searching our Hearts’, ‘Difficult and Dangerous Times’, and ‘Living by Faith in Difficult Times’. Thus we are given our overall title.
Given that times are always difficult for Christians, and especially now when, in the main, Western Christianity is proving itself frit in the face of worldly concerns, this should be a book for all to read.
And so it proves. We are first led into a discussion of our own hearts and challenged about where we stand before the Lord. Indeed, Owen is really asking us whether we are standing before the Lord in the right frame of mind. Are we godly-minded, or are we led by the world?
Thus we are led into consideration of the need we have for personal repentance. In this section Owen points out that ‘all sins come under two headings, unbelief and immorality’ (p.10). That alone should set us thinking about our lives, and about how much ‘society … can inflame particular corruptions’ (p.38). One quotation is very relevant as a challenge to today’s church: ‘The true ways to worship God in His church and ordinances are those ways of worship that Christ has appointed’ (p.9).
In this first section (about half the book) Owen takes us deeper into the inner recesses of our thinking and being. If we leave these pages unmoved, then I would dare to say that we have not read it and internalised what it has to say to us.
Parts two and three then take us, in our repentant state, I hope, to apply this understanding to the way in which we relate to the difficult and dangerous times in which we live as Christians. Are we living by Christ our authority, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, or are we not?
Read it, please.