The Holy Spirit: Works of John Owen- Volume IIIThe Holy Spirit: Works of John Owen- Volume III
John Owen
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Despite his other achievements, John Owen is best famed for his writings. These cover the range of doctrinal, ecclesiastical and practical subjects. They are characterized by profundity, thoroughness and, consequestly, authority. Andrew Thomson said that Owen 'makes you feel when he has reached the end of his subject, that he has also exhausted it.' Although many of his works were called forth by the particular needs of his own day they all have a uniform quality of timelessness. Owen's works were republished in full in the nineteenth century. Owen is surely the Prince of the Puritans. 'To master his works,' says Spurgeon, 'is to be a profound theologian.'

This book is divided into five sections. The first deals with the name, nature, personality, and the mission of the Holy Spirit; the second, with the operations of the Holy Spirit under the Old Testament; the third, with the Spirit's work under the New Testament; the fourth, with the work of the Spirit in sanctification; and the fifth, with the necessity of holiness and obedience.


     

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Prefatory Note
 The year 1674 saw issuing from the press some of the most elaborate productions of our author.  Besides his own share in the Communion controversy, he published in the course of that year the second volume of his exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and another folio of equal extent and importance, the first part of his work on the Holy Spirit; for what is generally known under the title of “Owen on the holy Spirit” is but the first half of a treatise on that subject.  The treatise was completed in successive publications…From the statements of Own himself, in various parts of these works, as well as on the authority of Nathaniel Mather, who wrote the preface to the last of them, we learn that they were all included in one design and must be regarded as one entire and uniform work.  In Owen’s preface to the “Reason of Faith,” he expressly states, “About three years since I published a book about the dispensation and operations of the Spirit of God.  That book was one part only of what I designed on that subject.  The consideration of the work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of illumination, of supplication, of consolation, and as the immediate author of all spiritual offices and gifts, extraordinary and ordinary, I designed unto the second part of it.”  Uncertain, as he advanced in years whether he should be spared to finish it, Owen was induced to issue separately the treatises belonging to the second part, according as he was able, under the pressure of other duties, to overtake the preparation and completion of them. 
They are now for the first time collected and arranged into the order which it is believed the author would have made them assume had he lived to publish an edition comprehending all his treaties on the Holy Spirit in the form and under the tile of one work.  No other liberty, however, is taken with the treatises than simply to number the four of them which were published separately, and which are contained in the next volume, as so many additional books continuing and completing the discussion of the subject had been and so far prosecuted in the five previous books embraced in this volume.  Thus arranged and seen in its full proportions, the work amply vindicates the commendation bestowed on it, as the most complete exhibition of doctrine of Scripture on the person and agency of the Spirit “to be found in any language.” As no author had previously attempted to treat “of the whole economy of the Holy Spirit with all his adjuncts, operations, and effects,” Owen urges the circumstance in extenuation of any want of system and lucid order in his work.  If such an attempt had never previously been made, it is equally true that no successor has been found in this walk of theology who has ventured to compete with Owen in the full and systematic discussion of this great theme.  Treatises of eminent ability and value have appeared on separate departments of it, but in the wide range embraced in this work, Owen as well in the power, depth and resources conspicuous in every chapter, it is not merely first but single alone in all our religious literature.

 The work, as we may gather from various allusions in it, was written in opposition to the rationalism of the early Socinians, especially as represented by Crellius; to the mysticism of the Quakers, a sect which had grown into notoriety within thirty years before the publication of this work; and to the irreligion of a time when the derision of all true piety was the passport to royal favour.  That, during the religious fervouse of the commonwealth, fanaticism of various kinds should appear, is no more strange than that when genuine coin is in circulation, attempts should be made to utter what is counterfeit and base.  Against such fanaticism it was natural that a reaction should ensue, and certain divines pandered to the blind prejudice of the times succeeding the Restoration by sarcastic invective against all that was evangelical in the creed of the Puritans and vital in personal godliness.    Samuel Parker, in his infamous subserviency to the malice of the Court against dissent, and even against the common interests of Protestantism, distinguished himself in this assault upon the doctrines of grace and the distinctive principles of the Christian faith.  Owen accordingly administers to him a rebuke in terms as severe as the calm dignity of his temper ever allowed him to employ in controversy; but the prominent aim in his whole work is to discriminate the gracious operations of the Spirit in the heart of believers from excesses of fanaticism on the one hand, whether as it appeared in the ruder sects of the age, or in the more genial mysticism of the Quaker, elevating his subjective experience of a spiritual light to co-ordinate authority with the objective revelation of God in the word; and on the other hand from the morality which spring from no gracious principle, scarcely brooked an appeal to the only divine code for the regulation of human conduct.