When engaging works from the past we do well to avoid two extremes. The first is 'chronological snobbery' which dismisses historical works as irrelevant for today. The second is antiquarianism, a misty-eyed mentality that idolizes particular bygone eras. The middle way is to remember that whilst “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”, it has much to teach us. In particular, we can learn from those pastors and teachers greatly used of God in the history of the church who, whilst facing different particulars from us, nonetheless wrestled with many of the same points of principle.
In that spirit, we can recognize this selection from the pen of the 17th Century English divine John Owen as a timely publication, speaking as it does to the issues faced by Christians during times of difficulty, both personal and national. All dating from his later ministry, these writings benefit as much from his vast practical experience as his celebrated theological acumen.
The first part of the book comprises a selection of questions and answers from congregational meetings organized by Owen to deal with some of his flock’s spiritual concerns and dilemmas. These are object lessons in “case divinity” and show a physician of souls truly at work in prescribing gospel medicine to the perplexed and troubled in conscience. The rest of the book is a selection of sermons by Owen addressing how Christians should respond in times of national adversity, and as such they have much to say to our own present situation.
Readers in 2020 can profit greatly from reading this short book, and those who struggle with Owen’s prose style will be encouraged to know this edition has been made easy to read.
This book is available to purchase from Book Depository.
Robin Gray, Gardenstown New Church