The year 1681, however, saw him, at sixty-five, become so ill that he expected to die.  And, while he was being nursed back to a measure of health in a nobleman’s country residence, he composed, for his own guidance and self-examination, some meditations, amounting to what we would call a treatise, on the sincerity of heart that Christians need to cultivate for a faithful walk with God.  Returning to his flock, he enlarged what he had written, preached it, and then published it as The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded.

In this, history was, in part, repeating itself in an interesting way.  Just over thirty years earlier, Richard Baxter, pastor of Kidderminster in the English Midlands, but serving as a Parliamentary Army chaplain in the Civil War, had also become desperately ill and was being nursed back to health in an aristocrat’s country mansion.  Expecting to die, he, too, wrote meditations for his own benefit.  His were on how the hope of heaven should impact our souls.  Restored to his congregation, he, too, expanded, preached, and published what he had put together, titling it The Saints’ Everlasting Rest.  Here the similarity ends, for Baxter’s book, though more than 800 pages long, became an immediate best-seller, and went through ten editions in as many years.  By contrast, however, Owen’s, though half the length of Baxter’s but, in its way, equally powerful, made no waves at all.  Yet, the two books complement each other, and we would do well to anchor both in our minds, hearts, and lives.

From: “John Owen on Spiritual-Mindedness” by J. I. Packer, in The Banner of Truth, Issue 620 (May, 2015), pp. 16-17.

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