John Owen Quotes

John Owen (1616 – 1683) was an English theologian and “was without doubt not only the greatest theologian of the English Puritan movement but also one of the greatest European Reformed theologians of his day, and quite possibly possessed the finest theological mind that England ever produced” (“Owen, John”, in Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, p. 494)


“Let no man pretend to fear sin that does not fear temptation also! These two are too closely united to be separated. He does not truly hate the fruit who delights in the root.” ~ John Owen


“If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: ‘God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.’ When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage.” ~ John Owen


“Without absolutes revealed from without by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.” ~ John Owen


“Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” ~ John Owen


“Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.” ~ John Owen


“The vigor and power and comfort of our spiritual life depends on our mortification of deeds of the flesh.” ~ John Owen


“A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.” ~ John Owen


“See in the meantime that your faith brings forth obedience, and God in due time will cause it to bring forth peace.” ~ John Owen


“If we would talk less and pray more about them, things would be better than they are in the world: at least, we should be better enabled to bear them.” ~ John Owen


“All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless, it must be done by the Spirit.” ~ John Owen


“In the divine Scriptures, there are shallows and there are deeps; shallows where the lamb may wade, and deeps where the elephant may swim.” ~ John Owen


“Leanness of body and soul may go together.” ~ John Owen


“Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction.” ~ John Owen


“The custom of sinning takes away the sense of it, the course of the world takes away the shame of it.” ~ John Owen


“The house built on the sand may oftentimes be built higher, have more fair parapets and battlements, windows and ornaments, than that which is built upon the rock; yet all gifts and privileges equal not one grace.” ~ John Owen


“The most tremendous judgment of God in this world is the hardening of the hearts of men.” ~ John Owen


“When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all.” ~ John Owen


“Did you never run for shelter in a storm, and find fruit which you expected not? Did you never go to God for safeguard, driven by outward storms, and there find unexpected fruit?” ~ John Owen


“It is not the glorious battlements, the painted windows, the crouching gargoyles that support a building, but the stones that lie unseen in or upon the earth. It is often those who are despised and trampled on that bear up the weight of a whole nation.” ~ John Owen


“I will not judge a person to be spiritually dead whom I have judged formerly to have had spiritual life, though I see him at present in a swoon (faint) as to all evidences of the spiritual life. And the reason why I will not judge him so is this – because if you judge a person dead, you neglect him, you leave him; but if you judge him in a swoon, (faint) though never so dangerous, you use all means for the retrieving of his life.” ~ John Owen


“It is not the distance of the earth from the sun, nor the sun’s withdrawing itself, that makes a dark and gloomy day; but the interposition of clouds and vaporous exhalations. Neither is thy soul beyond the reach of the promise, nor does God withdraw Himself; but the vapours of thy carnal, unbelieving heart do cloud thee.” ~ John Owen


“When someone acts weak, negligent, or casual in a duty – performing it carelessly or lifelessly, without any genuine satisfaction, joy, or interest – he has already entered into the spirit that will lead him into trouble. How many we see today who have departed from warmhearted service and have become negligent, careless, and indifferent in their prayer life or in the reading of the Scriptures. For each one who escapes this peril, a hundred others will be ensnared. Then it may be too late to acknowledge, “I neglected private prayer,” or “I did not meditate on God’s Word,” or “I did not hear what I should have listened to.” ~ John Owen


“See in the meantime that your faith brings forth obedience, and God in due time will cause it to bring forth peace.” ~ John Owen


“Let our hearts admit, “I am poor and weak. Satan is too subtle, too cunning, too powerful; he watches constantly for advantages over my soul. The world presses in upon me with all sorts of pressures, pleas, and pretenses. My own corruption is violent, tumultuous, enticing, and entangling. As it conceives sin, it wars within me and against me. Occasions and opportunities for temptation are innumerable. No wonder I do not know how deeply involved I have been with sin. Therefore, on God alone will I rely for my keeping. I will continually look to Him.” ~ John Owen


“To believe that He will preserve us is, indeed, a means of preservation. God will certainly preserve us, and make a way of escape for us out of the temptation, should we fall. We are to pray for what God has already promised. Our requests are to be regulated by His promises and commands. Faith embraces the promises and so finds relief.” ~ John Owen


“Your state is not at all to be measured by the opposition that sin makes to you, but by the opposition you make to it.” ~ John Owen


“Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before.” ~ John Owen


“A church full of love, is a church well built up. I had rather see a church filled with love a thousand times, than filled with the best, the highest, and most glorious gifts and parts that any men in this world may be made partakers of..I know the end of all Christ’s institutions is to increase love.” ~ John Owen


“Poor souls are apt to think that all those whom they read or hear of to be gone to heaven, went there because they were so good and holy..Yet not one of them, not any one that is now in heaven (Jesus Christ alone excepted), did ever come there any other way but by forgiveness of sins.” ~ John Owen


“What do we want? What would we be at? What do our souls desire? Is it not that we might have a more full, clear, stable comprehension of the wisdom, love, grace, goodness, holiness, righteousness, and power of God, as declared and exalted in Christ unto our redemption and eternal salvation?” ~ John Owen


“God sometimes marvelously raiseth the souls of his saints with some close and near approaches unto them – gives them a sense of His eternal love, a taste of the embraces of His Son and the inhabitation of the Spirit, without the least intervening disturbance; and then this is their assurance. But this life is not a season to be always taking wages in; our work is not yet done; we are not always to abide in this mount; we must down again into the battle – fight again, cry again, complain again. Shall the soul be thought now to have lost its assurance? Not at all. It had before assurance with joy, triumph, and exultation; it hath it now, or may have, with wrestling, cries, tears, and supplications. And a man’s assurance may be as good, as true, when he lies on the earth with a sense of sin, as when he is carried up to the third heaven with a sense of love and foretaste of glory.” ~ John Owen


“Christ is the meat, the bread, the food of our souls. Nothing is in him of a higher spiritual nourishment than his love, which we should always desire.” ~ John Owen


“How many plead for their “freedom,” as they call it. They argue that they can do what they like and try what they want, so they run here and there to every seducer and salesman of false opinions. And what is the result? Few go unhurt, and the majority lose their faith. Let no one fear sin without also fearing temptation. They are too closely allied to be separated. Satan has put them so close together that it is very hard to separate them. He hates not the fruit, who delights in the root.” ~ John Owen


“Being steadfast in belief does not exclude all temptations from without. When we say a tree is firmly rooted, we do not say the wind never blows upon it.” ~ John Owen


“On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.” ~ John Owen


“To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” ~ John Owen


“Sin also carries on its war by entangling the affections and drawing them into an alliance against the mind. Grace may be enthroned in the mind, but if sin controls the affections, it has seized a fort from which it will continually assault the soul. Hence, as we shall see, mortification is chiefly directed to take place upon the affections.” ~ John Owen


“Before the work of grace the heart is ‘stony.’ It can do no more than a stone can do to please God.” ~ John Owen


“When we realize a constant enemy of the soul abides within us, what diligence and watchfulness we should have! How woeful is the sloth and negligence then of so many who live blind and asleep to this reality of sin. There is an exceeding efficacy and power in the indwelling sin of believers, for it constantly inclines itself towards evil. We need to be awake, then, if our hearts would know the ways of God. Our enemy is not only upon us, as it was with Samson, but it is also in us.” ~ John Owen


“Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing and living out the gospel in our souls.” ~ John Owen


“The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to Him is not to believe that He loves you.” ~ John Owen


“Clearly the Holy Spirit is not merely a quality to be found in the divine nature … He is a holy intelligent person.” ~ John Owen


“When the Holy Spirit does His work of regeneration in the hearts of men He does not come on them with great powerful feelings and emotions which cannot be resisted. He does not possess men as evil spirits take possession of their victims.” ~ John Owen


“He that has slight thoughts of sin never had great thoughts of God.” ~ John Owen 


“Trying to be holy from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.” ~ John Owen


“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, not vindictive; for healing, not destruction.” ~ John Owen



“Slothful and lazy souls never obtain one view of the glory of Christ.” ~ John Owen


“There is only one way to be revived and healed from our backslidings so that we may become fruitful even in old age. We must take a steady look at the glory of Christ in His special character, in His grace and work, as shown to us in the Scripture.” ~ John Owen


“Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it is a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving. I speak of saints. They can judge Him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated by God). Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not His design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure yourself, then, there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep up our hearts unto Him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.” ~ John Owen


“We have so much of the Pharisee in us by nature, that it is sometimes well that our good is hid from us… It is a good life which is attended with a faith of righteousness and a sense of corruption. While I know Christ’s righteousness, I shall the less care to know my own holiness. To be holy is necessary; to know it, sometimes a temptation.” ~ John Owen


“Love precedes discipline.” ~ John Owen


“The Comforter gives a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated withal. This is His work, and He does it effectually. To give a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections, that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well pleased with him, hath thoughts of tenderness and kindness towards him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense hereof, is an inexpressible mercy.” ~ John Owen


“A man may love another as his own soul, yet his love may not be able to help him. He may pity him in prison, but not relieve him, bemoan him in misery, but not help him, suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the greatest desire of our soul… But the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effective and fruitful in producing all the good things which He wills for His beloved. He loves life, grace and holiness into us; He loves us into covenant, loves us into heaven.” ~ John Owen


“How many millions of sins in every one of the elect, every one of which is enough to condemn them all, hath this love overcome! What mountains of unbelief doth it remove! Look upon the conduct of any one saint, consider the frame of his heart, see the many stains and spots, the defilements and infirmities with which his life is contaminated, and tell me whether the love that bears with all this is not to be admired. And is not the same towards thousands every day? What streams of grace, purging, pardoning, quickening, assisting, do flow from it every day! This is our Beloved.” ~ John Owen


“We are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement at His unspeakable love.” ~ John Owen


“Thoughts of the glory of Christ are too high and too hard for us. We cannot delight in them for very long without becoming weary and turning away from them. We are unspiritual, our thoughts and desires being taken up with other things. If we would stir ourselves to believe “the things the angels desire to look into”, our spiritual understanding and strength would increase daily. We would then show more of the glory of Christ by the way we live and death itself would be welcome to us!” ~ John Owen


“The heart in the Scripture is variously used; sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they concur in our doing good or evil…the seat and subject of the law of sin is the heart of man.” ~ John Owen


“If we do not have some knowledge by faith of the glory of Christ here and now, it means that we have no real desire for His presence in heaven.” ~ John Owen


“We shall not benefit from reading the Old Testament unless we look for and meditate on the glory of Christ in its pages.” ~ John Owen


“I do not understand how a man can be a true believer, in whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow and trouble.” ~ John Owen


“A sermon is not made with an eye upon the sermon, but with both eyes upon the people and all the heart upon God.” ~ John Owen


“Satan’s greatest success is in making people think they have plenty of time before they die to consider their eternal welfare.” ~ John Owen


“The best duties of unbelievers are but white lies.” ~ John Owen


“Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.” ~ John Owen


“This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in (fighting against sin without the Holy Spirit).   A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the contest.  They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain.  The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.” ~ John Owen


“There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.” ~ John Owen



“The purpose of our holy and righteous God was to save His church, but their sin could not go unpunished. It was, therefore, necessary that the punishment for that sin be transferred from those who deserved it but could not bear it, to one who did not deserve it but was able to bear it.” ~ John Owen


“The Lord Christ comes to convinced sinners with His invitation: “Poor creatures! How sad is your condition! What has become of the beauty and glory of the image of God in which you were created? You are now in the deformed image of Satan and even worse, eternal misery lies before you. Yet look up once more; behold Me! I will put Myself in your place. I will bear that burden of guilt and punishment which would sink you to hell for ever. I will be made temporarily a curse for you, that you may have eternal blessedness.”” ~ John Owen


“When He took on Him the form of a servant in our nature, He became what He had never been before, but He did not cease to be what He always had been in His divine nature. He who is God cannot ever cease to be God.” ~ John Owen


“There is an infinite distance between God and His creatures, and it is an act of sheer grace for Him to take notice of earthly things. Christ, as God, is completely self-sufficient in His own eternal blessedness. How great, then, is the glory of His self-humiliation in taking our nature that He might bring us to God! Such humiliation was not forced on Him; He freely chose to do it.” ~ John Owen


“He who prays as he ought will endeavor to live as he prays.” ~ John Owen


“We cannot enjoy peace in this world unless we are ready to yield to the will of God in respect of death. Our times are in His hand, at His sovereign disposal. We must accept that as best.” ~ John Owen


“Unless we are thoroughly convinced that without Christ we are under the eternal curse of God, as the worst of His enemies, we shall never flee to Him for refuge.” ~ John Owen


“Only what God has commanded in His word should be regarded as binding; in all else there may be liberty of actions.” ~ John Owen


“The nearer anyone is to heaven, the more earnestly he desires to be there, because Christ is there.” ~ John Owen


“Why does the Lord Christ sometimes hide Himself and His glory from the faith of believers? There are many reasons but I will mention only one. He does it to stir us up to search for Him with all our heart. Our wretched laziness so often makes us neglect meditation on heavenly things. But Christ is patient with us. He knows that those who have seen something of His glory, although they have not valued it as they ought, cannot bear His absence for long.” ~ John Owen


“God speaks by the Church (the true Church we mean); but He speaks nothing by her but what He speaks in the Scriptures, which she does only ministerially declare to us; and therefore the authority of God and His law is above hers, who, though she publish, yet did not make it, but is herself subject to it.” ~ John Owen



“He that is more frequent in his pulpit to his people than he is in his closet for his people is but a sorry watchman.” ~ John Owen


“The person who never meditates with delight on the glory of Christ in the Scriptures now will not have any real desire to see that glory in heaven. What sort of faith and love do people have who find time to think about many other things but make no time for meditating on this glorious subject?” ~ John Owen



“If I have observed anything by experience, it is this: a man may take the measure of his growth and decay in grace according to his thoughts and meditations upon the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and of His love.” ~ John Owen