Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, ed. Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006. 464 pp. $24.00
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” This is perhaps the most famous sentence ever penned by John Owen; you hear it in sermons, you see it on Reformed t-shirts…but probably most in our day who have heard this quote have never read any of Owens’s works. Owens is notoriously difficult to read and understand, and yet virtually all who have done the hard work to read through any of his writings attest to significant impact of his thought.
In the forward to Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, John Piper writes:
Owen is especially worthy of our attention because he is shocking in his insights. That is my impression again and again. He shocks me out of my platitudinous ways of thinking about God and man…Owen loves the cross and knows what happened there better than anyone I have read. The battle with sin that you are about to read about is no superficial technique of behavior modification. It is a profound dealing with what was accomplished on the cross in relation to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit through the deep and wonderful mysteries of faith.
(Kapic & Taylor 13)
This volume was published in order to reintroduce John Owen to the contemporary church and brings together three of Owens’s classic works on sin and temptation: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It, and Indwelling Sin. Besides reading these works as originally written, the main prior options were abridgements or paraphrases. This volume is therefore unique, offering an unabridged version that is slightly updated in order to make these classic works more accessible to the modern reader. The editing work does not in any way take away from Owens’s original prose, but offers many additional helps in footnotes, parentheses, etc. In the preface, Justin Taylor notes the following changes:
- provided overviews of the thesis and arguments for all three books
- footnoted difficult vocabulary words or phrases (at their first occurrence in each book) and collected them into a glossary
- Americanized the British spelling (e.g., behaviour to behavior)
- updated archaic pronouns (e.g., thou to you)
- updated other archaic spellings (e.g., hath to have; requireth to requires)
- updated some archaic word forms (e.g., concernments to concerns, surprisals to surprises)
- corrected the text in places where the nineteenth-century edition incorrectly deviated from the original
- modernized some of the punctuation
- placed Owen’s Scripture references in parentheses
- added our own Scripture references in brackets when Owen quotes or alludes to a passage but does not provide a reference
- transliterated all Hebrew and Greek words, and provided a translation if Owen didn’t provide one
- translated all Latin phrases that Owen leaves untranslated
- provided sources for quotations and allusions where possible
- removed Owen’s intricate numbering system, which functioned as an extensive outline
- added headings and italics throughout this volume, and extensive outlines of our own at the end, to aid the reader in following the flow of Owen’s thought
(Kapic & Taylor 17-18)
This volume is truly a gift to the modern church and should be read and re-read by every Christian who has not read these three classic works or struggles in reading the originals. Especially in our day of easy-believism, these compelling and insightful writings on sin, temptation, and the believer’s call to holiness need to be widely read.