John Owen on Apostasy – Part Eight

VII. Instance of a peculiar defection from the truth of the gospel; With the reasons of it


“Besides the reasons insisted on, which have a general influence into all apostasies from the doctrine or mystery of the gospel, each especial defection in every kind hath reasons and causes peculiarly suited unto its rise and furtherance… And every age giveth us, in one place or another, renewed evidence, that, — where either secular interest or weariness of the truth, through the love of the present world and hatred of holiness or strict evangelical obedience, doth give a propensity unto a declension from any doctrines of the gospel unto persons whose grandeur and outward advantages are sufficient to attract a compliance from the minds of men under the power of ambition, or any importunate desire of earthly things, — multitudes of all sorts suppose there is nothing left for them but to crowd who shall come nearest the leaders in the apostasy. And it is not seldom that, meeting with new temptations, they outrun both them and themselves also into such extremes as at first they designed not; for hence it is that so many do even at present issue their recessions from the truth, under the conduct of those “ignes fatui” or erratic exhalations of countenance and favor, in the undesigned bogs of Popery on the one hand, or Socinianism on the other.”[1]


Chapter seven shows the gospel as the center of belief. Simply put into five main sections, Owen gives a number of doctrines that he is convinced are impossible to ignore, or not believe, by anyone who calls themselves a believer of the gospel. Owen deals with the person (namely Rome) who makes less of the need of Christ as their priest and mediator in order to lift man’s religion higher. He takes the time to show how Christ’s work and victory over sin is a necessity in order to receive the great grace of God to wash away sins. Halfway through this chapter is found the greatest gospel truth, as Owen takes the time to explain that the ignorance of man often forgets the importance of the righteousness of God. Given here are three key thoughts of living a gospel-centered life, which are important for one to continue in obedience everyday so as not to fall into apostasy:

1. Owen gives a section describing exactly what God’s righteousness is.
2. How the Law of God requires righteousness from man.
3. Then how the righteousness of Christ is provided in the gospel because of the work of Jesus Christ.

Owen then ends with a brief section on the importance of knowing the Scriptures so that one does not fall away from these truths that lie in it.[2]


I. Apostasy from the Truths of the Gospel

A.   Ignorance of the Need of Christ

B.    Ignorance of Christ Work

C.    Ignorance of Christ Grace over Sin

D.   Ignorance of God’s Righteousness

1.     The Law Requires

2.     The Gospel Gives

E.    Ignorance of Knowing the Scriptures

     [1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 144-5.

     [2] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 153-9. 


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