Faith and Its Evidence: Works of John Owen- Volume VFaith and Its Evidence: Works of John Owen- Volume V
John Owen
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Owen's masterly account of justification by faith, first printed in 1677, is distinguished from the other two classical 17th-century English treatises on this subject (those of Downame and Davenant) by its non-speculative, non-scholastic character and its dominating pastoral concern. The resurgent Roman challenge, and current Protestant confusion, obliged Owen to write controversially at certain points, but the core of his discourse is straight forward biblical exposition, massive, fresh, compelling and practical.

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General Considerations Previously Necessary unto the Explanation of the Doctrine of Justification
 That we may treat of the doctrine of Justification usefully unto its proper ends, which are the glory of God in Christ with the peace and furtherance of the obedience of believers, some things are previously to be considered, which we must have respect unto in the whole process of our discourse.  And, among others that might be insisted on to the same purpose, these that ensue are not to be omitted:--

1. The first inquiry in this matter in a way of duty, is after the proper relief of the conscience of a sinner pressed and perplexed with a sense of the guilt of sin.  For justification is the way and means whereby such a person doth obtain acceptance before God, with a right and title unto a heavenly inheritance.  And nothing is pleadable in this cause but what a man would speak unto his own conscience in the that state inquiry.  Wherefore, the person under consideration (that is, who is to be justified) is one who himself is “ungodly” and thereon “guilty before God”; that is, obnoxious, subject, liable—to the righteous sentential judgment of God that “he who committeth sin,” who is any way guilty of it, is “worthy of death.”  Hereupon such a person finds himself “under the curse” and “the wrath of God” there in “abiding in him.”  In this condition he is without plea, without excuse by any thing in and from himself, for his own relief; his “mouth is stopped.”  For he is, in the judgment of God, declared in the Scripture—every way “shut up under sin” and all the consequents of it.  Many evils in this condition are men subject unto, which may be reduced unto those two of our first parents wherein they were represented.  For, first, they thought foolishly to hide themselves from God; and then, more foolishly, would have charged him as the cause of their sin.  And such, naturally, are the thoughts of men under their convictions.  But whoever is the subject of the justification inquired after, is,  by various means, brought into his apprehensions who cried, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

2.   With respect unto this state and condition of men, or men in this state and condition, the inquiry is, "What that is upon the account whereof God pardoneth all their sins, receiveth them into his favour, declareth or prounceth them righteous and acquitted from all guilt, removes the curse, and turneth away all his wrath from them, giving them right and title unto a blessed immortality or life eternal?”  This is that alone wherein the consciences of sinner in this estate are concerned.  Nor do they inquire after any thing, but what they may have to oppose unto or answer the justice of God in the commands and curse of the law, and what they may betake themselves unto for the obtaining of acceptance with him unto life and salvation.

That the apostle doth thus, and no otherwise, state this whole matter, and in an answer unto this inquiry, declare the nature of justification and all the causes of it, in the third and fourth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, and elsewhere, shall be afterward declared proved.  And we shall also manifest, that the apostle James, in the second chapter of his epistle, doth not speak unto this inquiry, nor give an answer unto it; but it is of justification in another sense, and to another purpose, whereof he treateth.  And whereas we cannot either safely or usefully treat of this doctrine, but with respect unto the same ends for which it is declared, and whereunto it is applied in the Scripture, we should not, by any pretences, be turned aside from attending unto this case and its resolution, in all our discourses on this subject; for it is the direction, satisfaction, and peace of the consciences of men, and not the curiosity of notions or subtilty of disputations, which it is our duty to design.  And, therefore, I shall as much as I possibly avoid all those philosophical terms and distinctions wherewith this evangelical doctrine hath been perplexed rather than illustrated; for more wieght is to be put on the steady guidance of the mind and conscience of one believer, really exercised bout the foundation of his peace and acceptance with God, than on the confutation of ten wrangling disputers.