Temptation Overview by Justin Taylor

Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen

John Owen begins this work by citing Christ’s instructions to his disciples:
“Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). Three
elements within this verse constitute the main themes of this work: (1) the evil
cautioned against (temptation); (2) the means of its prevalency (by our entering
into it); and (3) the way of preventing it (watch and pray).1
In Part 1 Owen looks at the nature of temptation itself (chapter 1). In
general, temptation is a neutral term that signifies testing something. The special
nature of temptation, on the other hand, denotes evil, whether passively
(when we are afflicted) or actively (when we enter into temptation). Owen
goes on to suggest the reasons and the means for God’s tempting, as well as
the way in which Satan tempts. His working definition of temptation is “any
thing, state, way, or condition that, upon any account whatsoever, has a force
or efficacy to seduce, to draw the mind and heart of a man from its obedience,
which God requires of him, into any sin, in any degree of it whatsoever.”
Part 2 (chapter 2) addresses the danger of entering temptation. He
explains what “entering temptation” is and is not. It is neither being tempted
nor being conquered by temptation, but rather falling into and being entangled
by the snares of temptation. He explains what must happen in order for
us to enter this state and how we might know why temptation is “at its hour.”
All of this is preparation for Owen to advance his thesis in Part 3 (chap-
1 Our section divisions don’t correspond to this exactly because Owen’s actual text is not quite this neat.
William Goold, editor of the nineteenth-century editions of Owen’s Works, wrote: “Slight defects in the
arrangement, the renewed discussion of a point after it has been quitted, and the disproportionate space
accorded to some parts of the subject, are explained, perhaps, by the circumstances that the treatise was
originally a series of discourses” (Works, 6:88). A detailed outline of Of Temptation: The Nature and
Power of It is found at the end of this volume.
ter 3), namely, that “it is the great duty of all believers to use all diligence in
the ways of Christ’s appointment, that they fall not into temptation.” He
offers a number of general considerations to demonstrate this thesis, then
entertains a series of objections and questions. Part 4 (chapters 4–9) then
looks at particular cases arising from this proposed truth. He explains how
one knows whether or not he has entered into temptation (chapter 4), how
to preserve one’s soul from entering into temptation (chapter 5), how to be
aware of the seasons wherein people usually enter into temptation (chapter
6), how to watch the heart itself (chapter 7), and how to keep Christ’s word
about patience. He then closes with some further exhortations related to the
duty of believers to watch.




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