John Owen counts as one of the most influential and inspiring theologians of the seventeenth century. His works capture the essence of theological inquiry in Puritan England, and have shaped and influenced theological reflection ever since. Owen was a proficient writer, composing numerous theological treatises, meditations, discourses, and sermons. His reflections are made more compelling by the context of political turmoil and religious persecution in which he wrote. God still speaks, says Owen, when the world is in flux and the church finds itself in seeming peril—words as important to his original audience as they are to contemporary readers. His writings and teachings spoke to the struggles in his time, and have continued to inspire the generations that have followed.
John Owen's works on temptation and sin stem from his pastoral concern for the church in England.
For solidity, profundity, massiveness and majesty in exhibiting from Scripture God’s ways with sinful mankind there is no one to touch him.
To have known the pastoral ministry of John Owen . . . (albeit in written form) has been a rich privilege; to have known Owen’s God an even greater one.
John [Owen], English theologian, was without doubt not only the greatest theologian of the English Puritan movement but also one of the greatest European Reformed theologians of his day, and quite possibly possessed the finest theological mind that England ever produced.
—C. R. Trueman
John Owen was born at Stadhampton, Oxfordshire in 1616. He entered Queen's College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and completed his M.A. in classics and theology in 1635 at the age of nineteen. He was ordained shortly thereafter and left the university to be a chaplain to the family of a noble lord. His first parish, in 1637, was at Fordham in Essex, to which he went while England was involved in civil war. It was here that he became convinced that the Congregational way was the scriptural form of church government. In the 1640s he became chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, the new "Protector of England," and traveled with him on his expeditions to Ireland and Scotland. Between 1651 and 1660, he played a prominent part in the religious, political, and academic life of the nation. In 1651 he was appointed dean of Christ Church and in 1652 made Vice-Chancellor of Oxford—positions which allowed him to train ministers for the Cromwellian state church. He lost his position in 1660, however, when the restoration of the monarchy began after the death of Cromwell in 1658. Owen moved to London and led the Puritans through the bitter years of religious and political persecution—experiences which shaped his theological inquiry, pastoral reflection, and preaching. He also declined invitations to the ministry in Boston in 1663, and declined an offer to become president of Harvard in 1670. He died in August, 1683.