The Cheerless Attic

The Cheerless Attic

One of the books that has had a great influence on me is The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire by Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall, Scotland. I first read it when our entire family (about nine of us, I think) went to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and stayed in a rented house for a few days back in 1993.

Dr. Kennedy wasn’t converted until in college sometime after (and because of) the death of his father. He was to have a very fruitful and influential ministry in the Scottish highlands during the late 1800’s through his preaching and writing. I think this is his best book because of stories like these that he includes. The Minister of Killearnan (included in Days of the Fathers) is about his father’s ministry. In it, he relates visiting some old women who remembered his father:

I cannot forget a trying scene, into which a streak of light of those days [of my father’s ministry] was once cast to cheer my heart. Being called to see a dying woman, I found on reaching the place to which I was directed a dark filthy attic, in which I could observe nothing till the light I had carried in had quite departed from my eye. The first object I could discern was an old woman crouching on a stone beside a low fire, who, as I afterwards ascertained, was unable to move but “on all fours.” Quite near the fire I then saw a bed, on which an older woman still was stretched, who was stone blind, and lying at the very gates of death.

The two women were sisters, and miserable indeed they seemed to be; the one with her breast and face devoured by cancer, and the other blind and dying. They were from Lochbroom; and we had spoken but little when on of them referred to the days of my father’s labours in their native parish, and told of her first impression of divine things under a sermon which he preached at that time. The doctrine of that sermon was as fresh in her mind, and as cheering, as when she first heard it half a century before. Such was the humble hope of both of them, and their cheerful resignation to the will of God, that I could not but regard them, even in their dark and filthy attic, as at the very threshold of glory.

I left them with a very different feeling from that with which I first looked on them; nor could I, after leaving them, see among the happy and frivolous whom I passed on the street, any who, with all their health, cheerfulness, and comforts, I would compare in point of true happiness with the two old women in the cheerless attic.

What does John Owen think of Jesus Christ?

What does John Owen think of Jesus Christ?

Unto them that believe unto the saving of the soul, Christ is and always has been, precious – the sun, the rock, the life, the bread of their souls – everything that is good, useful, amiable, or desirable here or unto eternity. In, from, and by Him is all their spiritual and eternal life, light, power, growth, consolation, and joy here, with everlasting salvation hereafter. By Him alone do they desire, expect, and obtain deliverance from that woeful apostasy from God which is accompanied with whatever is evil, noxious, and destructive unto our nature, and which, without relief, will issue in eternal misery. By Him they are brought into the nearest relationship, alliance, and friendship with God, the firmest union unto Him, and the most holy communion with Him, that our finite natures are capable of, and so conducted unto the eternal enjoyment of Him.

You’ll need to break this down a bit to take it all in. It’s like eating a nice, big, juicy steak. It will take a while to eat and you’ll enjoy every bite. This is why I love the Puritans, and especially John Owen, so much. There is probably no one alive today that could possibly cram so much theology into so small a space and still be orthodox and evangelical.

Now that you’ve heard John Owen, what do you think of Jesus Christ? Do you agree? Do you even know what Owen is talking about? Your life here, and your life hereafter in eternity, depends on your answer.

John Owen on Assurance

John Owen on Assurance

I cannot even begin to tell how much I appreciate John Owen. I’ve been slowly working my way through Volume 6 of his works over the last year or so, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it has been life-changing. That an English Puritan who lived in the 1600’s can have such an effect on someone today, is amazing to say the least. But when the foundation for his writing is the timeless word of God, the years have no effect when the subject matter is solidly based on that word and Him who never changes.

One of the areas that Owen and the rest of the Puritans often wrote about was the subject of assurance – how can we know we are loved by God when our own sin testifies against us? In his writing on verse 4 of Psalm 130, he gives 4 rules to guide us when considering this very question. Here is part of what he writes in the first rule:

If you look to have such an evidence, light into, and absolute conviction of, this matter [of assurance], as shall admit of no doubts, fears, questionings, just occasions and causes of new trials, teachings, and self-examinations, you will be greatly deceived. Regeneration induceth a new principle into the soul, but it doth not utterly expel the old; some would have security, not assurance. The principle of sin and unbelief will still abide in us, and still work in us. Their abiding and their acting must needs put the soul upon a severe inquiry, whether they are not prevalent in it beyond what the condition of regeneration will admit. The constant conflicts we must have with sin will not suffer us to have always so clear an evidence of our condition as we would desire.

I like how Owen views assurance as being different from security. I believe that what most of us think of when we think of assurance is not really assurance, but security. This security is similar to what we think of when we think of financial security – I’ve got this much money in this secure place and I don’t really have to think about it, because it takes cares of itself. But the Scripture never views our salvation in that way – that’s why there are so many warnings to those who believe. The warnings are there not because you don’t believe, but because you do believe!

When we consider that all of Paul’s exhortations to mortifying the deeds of the flesh were addressed to churches, not the lost world, we must assume that the members of those churches had things in their lives that needed mortification. They were not already perfect and neither are we.

Our perfection is in Jesus Christ, not ourselves. Even though our felt assurance of his love may fluctuate, his actual love for us does not. In that only may we be secure.