I expressed my reservations at recommending reading the Puritans here.

I would like to expand that somewhat by looking at the well-known Puritan John Owen and some things he has written.

Much as I have loved and profited from the Puritans in their pressing for a close communion with God, I have concluded that the average Christian will be more harmed than helped by reading them.

Fortunately, they are so tedious in their writings that most Christians in our fast-paced age will not bother with them.

The problem is that the Puritans in general were so influenced by creedal Law-based tradition, that they couldn’t see the forest of Grace-After-Salvation for the trees of Covenantal Legalism.

The result is that the Puritans were strong and accurate on INITIAL salvation by grace, but weak and inaccurate on our death to the Law, and grace AFTER salvation.

To be brief, I’ll just quote a couple of passages from Owen’s Mortification.

In Chapter 11, he writes:

“Load thy conscience with the guilt of it [one’s sin]….Charge thy conscience with the guilt which appears in it from the rectitude and holiness of the law. Bring the holy law of God into thy conscience, lay thy corruption to it, pray that thou mayst be affected with it. Consider the holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness, absoluteness of the law, and see how thou canst stand before it. Be much, I say, in affecting thy conscience with the terror of the Lord in the law, and how righteous it is that every one of thy transgressions should receive a recompense of reward.”

And…

“Tell thy conscience that it cannot manage any evidence to the purpose that thou art free from the condemning power of sin, whilst thy unmortified lust lies in thy heart…”

Romans 6:14 says, “Sin shall no longer be master over you, for you are no longer under Law but under Grace.”

Like other Puritans, Owen allowed Romans 6:14 to go over his head, without the slightest understanding of the Cross as regards our death to the Law, in Christ. Not just CHRIST died, but WE died WITH Him. We died to sin (Rom. 6:11), and we died to the Law (Rom. 7:6; Gal. 2:19).

That’s why there is longer any condemnation to the one in Christ (Rom. 8:1), contrary to Owen’s “condemning power of sin”.

To quote Owen in Chapter 12 of Mortification:

“Use and exercise thyself to such meditations as may serve to fill thee at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of thine own vileness.”

This is in direct contradiction to other scriptures which Owen’s Legalistic Tradition blinded him to.

Colossians 2:18 says, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement…”

Colossians 2:23 says, “These are matters which, to be sure, have the appearance of wisdom in…self-abasement…but are of no value in fleshly indulgence.”

The Puritans rightly delighted in Christ Himself and what He did FOR us on the Cross as it related to our justification. But they missed the delight of what Christ did TO us, in giving us a new spirit, making us a new creation, old things having passed away, all things having become new!

Sin is still IN us, that is, in our “members”, but sin is not US (that is, a part of our new nature), Paul said (Rom. 7:17, 20).

Bottom line: the Puritans will tend to bring condemnation, self-abasement, lack of joy and peace, and MORE sin to all but the most discerning Christian reader.

P.S. I’m well aware that this is a radical view, but only because most readers of the Puritans are blinded by their own creedal Law-based tradition.

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