God requireth not any thing of us whereby we should purchase or merit for ourselves life and salvation: for “by grace are we saved through faith; not of works, lest any man should boast,” Eph. 2:8, 9. God doth save us neither by nor for the “works of righteousness which we have done,” but “according to his mercy,” Tit. 3:5: so that although, on the one side, the “wages of sin is death,” there being a proportion in justice between sin and punishment, yet there is none between our obedience and our salvation; and therefore “eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rom. 6:23. God, therefore, requires nothing at our hands under this notion or consideration, nor is it possible that in our condition any such thing should be required of us; for whatever we can do is due beforehand on other accounts, and so can have no prospect to merit what is to come. Who can merit by doing his duty? Our Saviour doth so plainly prove the contrary as none can farther doubt of it than of his truth and authority, Luke 17:10. Nor can we do any thing that is acceptable to him but what is wrought in us by his grace; and this overthrows the whole nature of merit, which requires that that be every way our own whereby we would deserve somewhat else at the hands of another, and not his more than ours.
The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 3: Pneumatologia: A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 379.