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John Owen on Brotherly Love


From "Necessity of Holiness from the Consideration of the Nature of God'" 


Dr Owen was a renowned Puritan minister of the Independent (Congregational) persuasion, whose profound and edifying works are published by The Banner of Truth Trust. C. H. Spurgeon in the 19th century said of John Owen, “It is unnecessary to say that he is the prince of divines. To master his works is to be a profound theologian.” He was born in 1616, in Stadham, Oxfordshire, England, and he died 1683 in London.  


If we, therefore, design to be holy, let us constantly, in our families, towards our relations, in churches, in our conversation in the world, and dealings with all men; towards our enemies and persecutors, the worst of them, so far as they are ours only; towards all mankind as we have opportunity, labour after conformity unto God, and to express our likeness unto him, in this philanthropy, goodness, benignity, condescension, readiness to forgive, to help and relieve; without which we neither are nor can be the children of our Father which is in heaven.  

Especially is this frame of heart, and actings suitable thereunto, required of us with respect unto the saints of God, unto believers. Even God himself, whom we are bound to imitate, and a conformity unto whom we are pressing after, doth exercise his benignity and kindness in a peculiar manner towards them: 1 Timothy 4:10, “He is the saviour of all men,” but “specially of those that believe.” There is a speciality in the exercise of his saving goodness towards believers. And in answer hereunto, we are likewise commanded to “do good unto all men,” but “especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” Galatians 6:10. Although we are obliged to the exercise of the goodness before described unto all men whatever, as we have opportunity, yet we are allowed, yea, we are enjoined, a peculiar regard herein unto the household of faith. And if this were more in exercise, if we esteemed ourselves (notwithstanding the provocations and exasperations which we meet withal, or suppose we do so, when perhaps none are given us or intended us) obliged to express this benignity, kindness, goodness, forbearance, and love towards all believers in an especial manner, it would prevent or remove many of those scandalous offences and animosities that are among us. If in common we do love them that love us, and do good to them that do good to us, and delight in them who are of our company and go the same way with us, it may advance us in the condition of Pharisees and publicans, for they did so also. But if among believers we will take this course, love them only, delight in them only, be open and free in all effects of genuine kindness towards them who go our way, or are of our party, or are kind and friendly to us, or that never gave us provocations really nor in our own surmises, we are so far and therein worse than either Pharisees or publicans. We are to endeavour conformity and likeness unto God, not only as he is the God of nature, and is good unto all the works of his hands, but as he is our heavenly Father, and is good, kind, benign, merciful, in an especial manner, unto the whole family of his children, however differenced among themselves, or indeed unkind or provoking unto him. I confess, when I see men apt to retain a sense of old provocations and differences; ready to receive impressions of new ones, or ready for apprehensions of such, where there are none; incredulous of the sincerity of others who profess a readiness for love and peace; to take things in the worst sense; to be morose and severe towards this or that sort of believers, unready to help them, scarce desiring their prosperity, or it may be their safety, I cannot but look upon it as a very great stain to their profession, whatever else it be: and by this rule would I have my own ways examined.



The Works of John Owen, Vol 3, Banner of Truth Trust 1991. pp 587-589.