Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen
John Owen begins Part 1 of The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency
of Indwelling Sin with an examination of the nature of indwelling sin by looking
at Romans 7:21: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is
present with me.” Owen observes that indwelling sin is a law found in believers
despite their habitual inclination to good (chapter 1). Owen defines
indwelling sin as a powerful and effectual principle that constantly inclines,
presses, and works toward evil.
Part 2 is a lengthy look at the power and efficacy of this law of indwelling
sin. As usual, Owen starts with the general and moves to the particular,
explaining the common characteristics of every law, then showing what kind
of law indwelling sin is (chapter 2), stressing its abiding nature. Chapter 3
examines the heart as the seat and subject of this law, while chapter 4 looks
at the natural properties of the law, such as enmity and constancy.
Owen then begins to treat the actions and operations of indwelling sin,
which will occupy his attention over the next eight chapters. He focuses on
indwelling sin’s “aversation” (chapter 5) and opposition, both by force
(chapters 6–7) and by deceit (chapters 8–13). A major subset of this exposition
concerns the degrees whereby sin works from temptation to sin: (1) it
draws away the mind from its duty (chapters 8–10); (2) it entices the affections
(chapter 11); (3) actual sin is conceived in the will (chapter 12); then (4)
it is brought forth in its actual accomplishment (chapter 13).1
Part 3 concerns the effect of indwelling sin, in the lives of both believers
(chapters 14–15) and unbelievers (chapter 16). Finally Owen demonstrates
the strength of sin as evidenced by its resistance to the power of the law.
1 Of the three books reprinted in this edition, Indwelling Sin is undoubtedly the most challenging from a
structural standpoint. Consulting the extensive outline included at the end of this volume should be of assistance
for readers wanting to follow the intricacies of Owen’s arrangement.