There is a surfeit of ‘how to’ books today, but here is a ‘how to’ book with a difference – for it is not about techniques but about the means of grace.
John Owen is widely regarded as the greatest Puritan theologian and much he wrote makes serious demands on the reader; but those who persevere find pure gold. He could, however, write much more simply and in a way the ordinary Christian can well understand.
This is markedly true of this book. It is marvellously straightforward. It has been ‘abridged and made easy to read’ by Richard Rushing, and this has been done well, but even Owen’s original is remarkably direct and reader-friendly. Not only so, but here he deals with a subject all too familiar to every Christian, so that even newcomers to the faith will find considerable spiritual help in it.
Like all the Puritans, Owen’s concern was not just with doctrine but with application. It was said of Samuel Rutherford by one who heard him preach, that his doctrine was all application and his application was all doctrine. This is true also of this book.
Owen’s text is Matthew 26:41 and he is totally realistic in applying it. He sees temptation as a major factor in the Christian’s daily life. As a good pastor, he makes us face it, using the occasional rhetorical question to further his purpose.
The book’s general thrust is, however, by no means negative, for his great concern is for the reader’s Christ-likeness. Diagnosis leads to treatment, and we are helped to see more clearly the total adequacy of Christ’s grace for all our needs.