Understanding Satan’s Work in the Depravity of Man

Taken and adapted from, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ, in His Person, Office, and Grace: with the Differences Between Faith and Sight: Applied Unto the Use of Them That Believe”
Written by John Owen, 1684

k-bigpic“And even if our gospel is veiled,
it is veiled to those who are perishing.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light of the gospel
that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 

–2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)

We have interruption given unto the work of faith herein by the temptations of Satan. 

His original great design, wherever the gospel is preached, is to blind the eyes of men, that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them, or irradiate their minds, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  And herein he prevails unto astonishment.  Let the light of the gospel in the reaching of the Word be never so glorious, yet, by various means and artifices, he blinds the minds of the most, that they shall not behold any thing of the glory of Christ therein.  By this means he continues his rule in the children of disobedience.  With respect unto the elect, God overpowers him herein.  He shines into their hearts, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of Christ Jesus, verse 6.  Yet will not Satan so give over.  He will endeavor by all ways and means to trouble, discompose, and darken the minds even of them that believe, so as that they shall not be able to retain clear and distinct views of this glory. And this he does in two ways.

With some he employs all his engines…

…uses all his methods of serpentine subtlety, and casts in his fiery darts so to disquiet, discompose, and deject them, as that they can retain no comfortable views of Christ or his glory.  Hence arise fears, doubts, disputes, uncertainties, with various disconsolations.  Hereon they cannot apprehend the love of Christ, nor be sensible of any interest they have therein, or any refreshing persuasions that they are accepted with him.  If such things sometimes shine and beam into their minds, yet they quickly vanish and disappear.  Fears that they are rejected and cast off by him, that he will not receive them here nor hereafter, do come in their place; hence are they filled with anxieties and despondence, under which it is impossible they should have any clear view of his glory.

I know that ignorance, atheism, and obstinate security in sensual sins, do combine to despise all these things.  But it is no new thing in the world, that men outwardly professing Christian religion, when they find gain in that godliness, should speak evil of the things which they know not, and corrupt themselves in what they know naturally, as brute beasts.

With others he deals after another manner…

By various means he seduces them into a careless security, wherein they promise peace unto themselves without any diligent search into these things. Hereon they live in a general presumption that they shall be saved by Christ, although they know not how.  This makes the apostle so earnest in pressings the duty of self-examination on all Christians, 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves: know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?”  The rule of self-judging prescribed by him is, whether Christ be in us or no; and in us he cannot be, unless he be received by that faith wherewith we behold his glory.  For by faith we receive him, and by faith he dwells in our hearts, John 1:12; Ephesians 3:17.

This is the principal way of his prevailing in the world.  Multitudes by his seduction live in great security under the utmost neglect of these things.  Security is granted to be an evil destructive of the souls of men; but then it is supposed to consist only in impenitence for great and open sins: but to be neglectful of endeavoring an experience of the power and grace of the gospel in our own souls, under a profession of religion, is no less destructive and pernicious than impenitence in any course of sin.

These and the like obstructions unto faith in its operations being added unto its own imperfections, are another cause wherein our view of the glory of Christ in this world is weak and unsteady; so that, for the most part, it does but transiently affect our minds, and not so fully transform them into his likeness as otherwise it would.

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Taken and adapted from, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ, in His Person, Office, and Grace: with the Differences Between Faith and Sight: Applied Unto the Use of Them That Believe” by John Owen, London: Printed by A.M. and R.R. for Benjamin Alsop, 1684, p. 131.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Owen (1616 – 24 August 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.  He was briefly a member of parliament for the University, sitting in the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 to 1655.

During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into “the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology.” Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina (1653), an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God (1657), Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance (1654), his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), an introspective and analytic work; Schism (1657), one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation (1658), an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity.

In October 1653 he was one of several ministers whom Cromwell summoned to a consultation as to church union. In December, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Oxford University. In the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 he sat, for a short time, as the sole member of parliament for Oxford University, and, with Baxter, was placed on the committee for settling the “fundamentals” necessary for the toleration promised in the Instrument of Government. In the same year he was chairman of a committee on Scottish Church affairs. He was, too, one of the Triers, and appears to have behaved with kindness and moderation in that capacity. As vice-chancellor he acted with readiness and spirit when a Royalist rising in Wiltshire broke out in 1655; his adherence to Cromwell, however, was by no means slavish, for he drew up, at the request of Desborough and Pride, a petition against his receiving the kingship. Thus, when Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as chancellor, Owen lost his vice-chancellorship. In 1658 he took a leading part in the conference of Independents which drew up the Savoy Declaration (the doctrinal standard of Congregationalism which was based upon the Westminster Confession of Faith).

In 1669, Owen wrote a spirited remonstrance to the Congregationalists in New England, who, under the influence of Presbyterianism, had shown themselves persecutors. At home, too, he was busy in the same cause. In 1670 Samuel Parker’s Ecclesiastical Polity attacked the Nonconformists with clumsy intolerance. Owen answered him (Truth and Innocence Vindicated); Parker replied offensively. Then Andrew Marvell finally disposed of Parker with banter and satire in The Rehearsal Transposed. Owen himself produced a tract On the Trinity (1669), and Christian Love and Peace (1672).

On the revival of the Conventicle Acts in 1670, Owen was appointed to draw up a paper of reasons which was submitted to the House of Lords in protest. In this or the following year Harvard College invited him to become its president; he received similar invitations from some of the Dutch universities. When King Charles II issued his Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, Owen drew up an address of thanks; Owen was one of the first preachers at the weekly lectures which the Independents and Presbyterians jointly held at Princes’ Hall in Broad Street. He was respected by many of the nobility, and during 1674 both King Charles II and his brother King James II assured him of their good wishes to the dissenters. Charles gave him 1000 guineas to relieve those on whom the severe laws had pressed, and he was able to procure the release of John Bunyan, whose preaching he admired.