The reader of any work by John Owen is immediately struck by the sense of encountering an intellect of massive strength.  All the more reason, therefore, to notice the emphasis he places on the role of the affections in the life of the Christian.

Owen and many of his contemporaries thought of human nature as a psychosomatic unity of body and soul; we have both physical and spiritual dimensions.  Analyzing further how we function as human beings, they described the “spiritual” dimension in terms of mind, will, and affections.

In this threefold distinction, we find an important clue to how Owen understands communion with Christ.  It does, indeed, involve our understanding of who Christ is and what He has done; it also includes a willingness to give ourselves unreservedly to Him.  But our communion with Him also enlivens and transforms the Christian’s affections.

We are often (and rightly) reminded that we do not live the Christian life on the basis of our emotions, but we must never make the mistake of thinking that the gospel leaves our emotions untouched.  Rather, it cleanses and transforms them by its power.  We come to love what we formerly hated and to delight in what we formerly despised.  Indeed, we experience what Owen calls “suitable consequential affections” toward Christ in light of His affectionate love for us.

From: The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Sinclair B. Ferguson; A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2014), pp. 71-72.


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