In explaining how the power of the gospel is shown in its conquering of many worldly foes in the past, Owen has to face an objection. If the past fruit of the gospel is a demonstration of its power, how come “it is not still accompanied with the same power, nor does produce the same effects?”
His answer is twofold. First, he argues, “whatever different events may fall out in different seasons, yet the gospel is the same as ever it was from the beginning.”
Second, he argues:
The cause of this event lies principally in the sovereign will and pleasure of God. For although the Scripture be his word, and he has testified it so to be by his power… it is an instrument in the hand of God unto that work which is his own, and he puts forth his power in it and by it as it seems good unto him…
Wherefore, the times and seasons of the prevalency of the gospel in the world are in the hand and at the sovereign disposal of God. And he is not obliged to accompany it with the same power at all times and seasons…
[Moreover], the preservation of it in that small remnant by whom it is obeyed in sincerity is a no less glorious evidence of his presence with it and care over it than was its eminent propagation in days of old.
– John Owen, in Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God, recently updated and reprinted by Crossway.
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