John Owen on Apostasy – Part Ten

IX. Apostasy into Profaneness and Sensuality of Life- The causes and occasions of it- Defects in public teachers and guides in religion


That which yet remaineth to be considered under this head of backsliding from the commands of the gospel and the obedience required of them is of a worse kind and of a more pernicious consequence; and this is that open apostasy into profaneness and sensuality of life which the generality of them who are called Christians are in most places of the world visibly fallen into.”[1]


Chapter nine is different from the previous chapters (which have dealt with the issues of apostates, the causes and reasoning, believers fighting against apostasy, etc), as he now focuses on dealing with the actual minister and men in the church offices that fall into apostasy. Owen begins the chapter by looking at the ministry of the church for the gospel. Throughout this section, Owen shows the importance of the purity of the church and its fight against those who fall into apostasy. He does this by focusing on the duties that lie in the ministry of one who lives the life of work for the gospel. Owen’s focus is placed upon remaining pure in that which the gospel portrays. He makes the case that the purity of the gospel is the root of the church in its teaching and preaching, revealing those that fall from this, who often then fall into apostasy. This is seen in how preachers and teachers of the Word sometimes end up not teaching the whole counsel of God, and as well, often fall away from prayer in personal ministry. This is where the minister can fall when not preaching all of the truth, as that only leads to ignorant teaching that creates more apostates. Owen says it best as he makes the point that the most powerful revival and bringing people back to the gospel comes with the preaching of the whole truth as it is represented in the Scriptures, and not picking and choosing what one wants to use. This is seen at the end of this chapter when Owen states:

It cannot with any modesty be denied but that by reason of these and the like miscarriages in the spiritual guides of the people, the generality of Christians have been either led or suffered insensibly to fall into the present apostasy. When God shall be pleased to give unto the people who are called by his name, in a more abundant manner, “pastors after his own heart, to feed them with knowledge and understanding;” when he shall revive and increase a holy, humble, zealous, self-denying, powerful ministry, by a more plentiful effusion of his Spirit from above; then, and not until then, may we hope to see the pristine glory and beauty of our religion restored unto its primitive state and condition… And to suppose that it can be done any other way, that the world of professed Christians shall be recovered unto holy obedience by any other means but the ministerial dispensation of the word, is to render it a thing altogether useless. Here, then, must begin the cure of that lethargy in sin that the world is fallen into, — namely, in the renovation of a powerful evangelical ministry, or the due discharge of that office by them that are called thereunto or possess the place of it, if ever it be effected unto any purpose in this world.[2]



I. Apostasy in Ministry

A.   The Ministry of the Church for the Gospel

B.    The Ministry and its Duties

1.     Keeping the Gospel Pure

2.     Keeping the Gospel the Root of the Church

3.     Keeping the Gospel the center of Preaching

     [1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 182.

     [2] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 195-6. 


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