Saturday, July 11, 2015

John Owen on the Sovereignty of God

John Owen (1616 – 24 August 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.
During the course of his exposition of Psalm 130:5-6, which was first published in 1668, John Owen set out the characteristic Reformed emphasis on the total sovereignty of God as Creator, by which every aspect of the creation has been ordered by God. Despite the disruptive effects of the Fall, Owen insists that every aspect of the creation remains under God’s sovereign authority, by which God is able to determine his will for every aspect of his creatures. For Owen, and the Reformed tradition in general, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God finds a special application in the area of election; whether an individual is saved or not depends solely upon the will and the good pleasure of God. Here, Owen explores related insights, focusing on the creation in general.

[God] made all this world of nothing, and could have made another, more, or all things, quite otherwise than they are. It would not subsist one moment without his omnipotent supportment. Nothing would be continued in its place, course, use, without his effectual influence and countenance. If anything can be, live, or act a moment without him, we may take free leave to dispute its disposal with him, and to haste unto the accomplishment of our desires. But from the angels in heaven to the worms of the earth and the grass of the field, all depend on him and his power continually. Why was this part of creation an angel, that a worm; this a man, that a brute beast? It is from their own choice, designing or contrivance, or brought about by their own wisdom? Or is it merely from the sovereign pleasure and will of God? And what a madness it is to repine against what he doth, seeing all things are as he makes them and disposeth them, nor can be otherwise! Even the repiner himself hath his being and subsistence upon his mere pleasure… All is one; whatever God doth, and towards whomsoever, be they many or few, a whole nation, or city, or one single person, be they high or low, rich or poor, good or bad, all are the works of his hands, and he may deal with them as seems good unto him.”


1) Exposition of Psalm 130; in The Works of John Owen, vol. 6, ed. W. Goold (Edinburgh: Johnson and Hunter, 1851), pp. 626-7.

2) The Christian Theology Reader, edited by Alister E. McGrath (Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1995), pp. 114-5. 
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