John Owen on the self-evidencing efficacy of the Bible

Following on from my review of A Peculiar Glory by John Piper, here are some quotes from John Owen ‘the self-evidencing efficacy’ of the Bible

John Owen, The Divine Origins of the Scriptures (1659)

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament do abundantly and uncontrollably manifest themselves to be the word of the living God, so that, merely on the account of their own proposal of themselves unto us in the name and majesty of God, as such – without the contribution of help or assistance from tradition, church, or any thing else – we are obliged, upon the penalty of eternal damnation, (as are all to whom by any means they come, or are brought,) to receive them, with that subjection of soul which is due to the word of God. The authority of God shining in them, they afford unto us all the divine evidence of themselves which God is willing to grant unto us.

The Scripture hath all its authority from its Author … We do so receive, embrace, believe, and submit unto it, because of the authority of God who speaks it, or gave it forth as his mind and will, evidencing itself by the Spirit in and with that Word, unto our minds and consciences: or, because that the Scriptures, being brought unto us by the good providence of God, in ways of his appointment and preservation, it doth evidence itself infallibly unto our consciences to be the word of the living God.

Light manifest light … Let the least child bring a candle into a room that before was dark, and it would be madness to go about to prove by substantial witnesses – men of gravity and authority – that light is brought in … Now, the Scripture, the Word of God, is light … It is a light so shining with the majesty of its Author, as that it manifests itself to be his, ‘a light shining in a dark place.’ (2 Pet. 1.19) … Light, I confess, of itself, will not remove the defect of the visive faculty. It is not given for that end. Light is not eyes. It suffices that there is nothing wanting on its own part for its discover and revelation … I do not assert from hence, that wherever the Scripture is brought … all that read it, or to whom it is read, must instantly of necessity assent unto its divine original. Many men who are not stark blind may have yet so abused their eyes, that when light is brought into a dark place they may not be able to discern it.

Now, this light in the Scripture, for which we contend, is nothing but the beaming of the majesty, truth, holiness, and authority of God, given unto it and left upon it by its authority, the Holy Ghost – an impress it hath of God’s excellency upon it, distinguishing it by infallible signs from the product of any creature. By this it dives into the consciences of men, into all the secret recesses of their hearts; guides, teaches, directs, determines, and judges in them, upon them, in the name, majesty, and authority of God. If men who are blinded by the god of this world, will yet deny this light because they perceive it not, it shall not prejudice them who do. By this self-evidencing light, I say, doth the Scripture make such a proposition of itself as the word of God, that whoever rejects it, doth it at the peril of his eternal ruin; and thereby a bottom or foundation is tendered for that faith which it requireth to repose itself upon.

How know we that the Scripture is the word of God; how may others comes to be assured thereof? The Scripture, say we, bears testimony to itself that it is the word of God; that testimony is the witness of God himself, which whoso doth not accept and believe, he doth what in him lies to make God a liar. To give us an infallible assurance that, in receiving this testimony, we are not imposed upon by cunning devised fables, the Scriptures have that glory of light and power accompanying them, as wholly distinguisheth them by infallible sign and evidences from all words and writing not divine; conveying their truth and power into the souls and consciences of men with an infallible certainty.

From John Owen, The Divine Origin of the Scriptures, in Works, ed. William Goold, Vol. 16, T&T Clarke, 1862, 307, 309, 318-319, 319-321, 322, 324-325. Available from and

A Peculiar Glory is available from and