by John Owen
Modernized version, formatted, corrected, and annotated by William H. Gross www.onthewing.org © March 2015
THE NATURE, POWER, DECEIT, AND PREVALENCY OF THE REMAINDERS OF INDWELLING SIN IN BELIEVERS TOGETHER WITH THE WAYS OF ITS WORKING AND MEANS OF PREVENTION, OPENED, EVINCED, AND APPLIED WITH A RESOLUTION OF SUNDRY CASES OF CONSCIENCE THEREUNTO APPERTAINING
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” – Romans 7:24, 25
THAT the doctrine of original sin is one of the fundamental truths of our Christian profession hath been always owned in the church of God; and all especial part it is of that peculiar possession of truth which they enjoy whose religion towards God is built upon and resolved into divine revelation. As the world by its wisdom never knew God aright, so the wise men of it were always utterly ignorant of this inbred evil in themselves and others. With us the doctrine and conviction of it lie in the very foundation of all wherein we have to do with God, in reference unto our pleasing of him here, or obtaining the enjoyment of him hereafter, it is also known what influence it hath into the great truths concerning the person of Christ, his mediation, the fruits and effects of it, with all the benefits that we are made partakers of thereby. Without a supposition of it, not any of them can be truly known or savingly believed. For this cause hath it been largely treated of by many holy and learned men, both of old and of latter days. Some have labored in the discovery of its nature, some of its guilt and demerit; by whom also the truth concerning it hath been vindicated from the opposition made unto it in the past and present ages. By most these things have been considered in their full extent and latitude, with respect unto all men by nature, with the estate and condition of them who are wholly under the power and guilt of it. How thereby men are disenabled and incapacitated in themselves to answer the obedience required either in the law or the gospel, so as to free themselves from the curse of the one or to make themselves partakers of the blessing of the other, hath been by many also fully evinced. Moreover, that there are remainders of it abiding in believers after their regeneration and conversion to God, as the Scripture abundantly testifies, so it hath been fully taught and confirmed; as also how the guilt of it is pardoned unto them, and by what means the power of it is weakened in them. All these things, I say, have been largely treated on, to the great benefit and edification of the church. In what we have now in design we therefore take them all for granted, and endeavor only farther to carry on the discovery of it in its actings and oppositions to the law and grace of God in believers. Neither do I intend the discussing of any thing that hath been controverted about it. What the Scripture plainly revealeth and teacheth concerning it, — what believers evidently find by experience in themselves, — what they may learn from the examples and acknowledgments of others, shall be represented in a way suited unto the capacity of the meanest and weakest who is concerned therein. And many things seem to render the handling of it at this season not unnecessary. The effects and fruits of it, which we see in the apostasies and backslidings of many, the scandalous sins and miscarriages of some, and the course and lives of the most, seem to call for a due consideration of it. Besides, of how great concernment a full and clear acquaintance with the power of this indwelling sin (the matter designed to be opened) is unto believers, to stir them up to watchfulness and diligence, to faith and prayer, to call them to repentance, humility, and self-abasement, will appear in our progress. These, in general, were the ends aimed at in the ensuing discourse, which, being at first composed and delivered for the use and benefit of a few, is now by the providence of God made public. And if the reader receive any advantage by these weak endeavors, let him know that it is his duty, as to give glory unto God, so to help them by his prayers who in many temptations and afflictions are willing to labor in the vineyard of the Lord, unto which work they are called.
Modernized version description:
While this is a restatement and simplification of Owen’s original work; it is not a paraphrase or a condensed version. The old English wording has been updated, so that “thee” and “thou” are now “you” and “yours.” Owen’s wordiness is made economical. The difficult structure and syntax are simplified. Obscure passages have been reworded as necessary to clarify his ideas – which other modernizations have perhaps left undone. Rarely-used words have been replaced with simpler ones as well. Sentences have been shortened, and in many cases split into several sentences for clarity. Parallelism has been employed to maintain rhythm and clarity. Unreferenced pronouns and “understood” words are made explicit. The passive voice has been changed to active in most cases. Again, this is not a synopsis, but the entire treatise presented in the original work. As a result, the expository style remains.
The old King James passages of Scripture are often been employed but modernized. This was to ensure that Owen’s rendering of the biblical text would be largely maintained, as well as the scriptural basis for his statements. Where Owen cites the Greek, it has been footnoted and Anglicized, along with bracketed Strong’s numbers [NT:xxxx]. Many referenced but unquoted verses are fully quoted in footnotes for your convenience; many remaining verses that had no reference are now referenced in the body of the text using superscripts.
Note: A number of Scripture citations were added by editor William Goold in 1853; Owen simply quoted the bible verses. Goold also moved some verses from the body of the text into footnotes. Those verses have been restored to the body as constituting part of Owen’s arguments, proved by Scripture. I felt this was necessary because of today’s widespread unfamiliarity with the content of the bible. It also relieves the reader from constantly checking the footnotes.
My purpose is to preserve Owen’s original text as much as possible, but more importantly, to make his teaching and wisdom more accessible to a modern audience. It would be a shame if that modern audience did not benefit from his labors because the language was too complex or arcane to comprehend. This book is an exceptional help in understanding the incessant conflict in our hearts and minds between the law of sin (which has an accomplice in our flesh), and the law of grace (which operates through the Spirit). These two laws are ever at work in the believer, operating against each other. That makes it necessary to fight the good fight of faith day by day.
And so I hope the restatement of this helpful work reveals the depth and seriousness of the war that began at our conversion between the flesh and the Spirit. In taking this to heart, may the outcome be a life of increasing godliness in those who have taken up their cross to follow after Christ. He is always at work in his people, so we are always to be at work in him, to God’s glory.
Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; (Rom 1:5-6 NKJ)
William H. Gross
© Mar 2015
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Indwelling sin in believers treated of by the apostle.
Chapter 2: Indwelling sin a law .
Chapter 3: The seat or subject of the law of sin
Chapter 4: Indwelling sin enmity against God
Chapter 5: Nature of sin farther discovered as it is enmity against God
Chapter 6: Enmity against God by way of opposition
Chapter 7: The captivating power of indwelling sin
Chapter 8: Indwelling sin proved powerful from its deceit
Chapter 9: The deceit of sin in drawing off the mind from duties of obedience
Chapter 10: The deceit of sin, in drawing off the mind from particular duties
Chapter 11: The working of sin by deceit to entangle the affections
Chapter 12: The conception of sin through its deceit
Chapter 13: Several ways conceived sin is obstructed
Chapter 14: The power of sin demonstrated by its effects on professors
Chapter 15: Decays in degrees of grace caused by indwelling sin
Chapter 16: The strength of indwelling sin manifested in the unregenerate
Chapter 17: The strength of sin evidenced from its resistance unto the power of the law