This will be the first post in a series of posts that will contain all the portions of John Owen's Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ in His Person, Office, and Grace—or "The Glory of Christ" for short—that I highlighted.
This work by Owen is significant by virtue of the topic treated and the fact that it was the last book he ever wrote, thus reflecting the knowledge and wisdom of a mature, battle-worn faith that is now about to graduate into sight:
"There are some facts which impart peculiar interest to these Meditations. They were drawn up, according to the author's own statement, 'for the exercise of his own mind,' in the first instance; and illustrate, accordingly, the scope and tenor of his Christian experience. They form, moreover, his dying testimony to the truth, -- and to the truth, with peculiar emphasis, as it 'is in Jesus;' for they are the substance of the last instructions which he delivered to his flock; and they constitute the last work which he prepared for the press. It is instructive to peruse the solemn musings of his soul when 'weakness, weariness, and the near approaches of death,' were calling him away from his earthly labours; and to mark how intently his thoughts were fixed on the glory of the Saviour, whom he was soon to behold 'face to face.' On the day of his death, Mr Payne, who had the charge of the original publication of this treatise, on bidding Dr Owen farewell, said to him, 'Doctor, I have just been putting your book on the Glory of Christ to the press.' 'I am glad,' was Owen's reply, 'to hear that that performance is put to the press; but, O brother Payne, the long looked-for day is come at last, in which I shall see that glory in another manner than I have ever done yet, or was capable of doing in this world.'" (William H. Goold, Prefatory note.)
I can see these posts as being profitable to the reader as a devotional or as an introduction to Owen's theology of the beatific vision. May they serve to make Christ more glorious and beautiful—and thus desirable—to us as we look to Him now in faith, and thereafter in sight.
Preface to the reader.
- "The revelation made of Christ in the blessed Gospel is far more excellent, more glorious, and more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness, than the whole creation and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford. Without the knowledge hereof, the mind of man, however priding itself in other inventions and discoveries, is wrapped up in darkness and confusion.
This, therefore, deserves the severest of our thoughts, the best of our meditations, and our utmost diligence in them. For if our future blessedness shall consist in being where he is, and beholding of his glory, what better preparation can there be for it than in a constant previous contemplation of that glory in the revelation that is made in the Gospel, unto this very end, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory?"
- "Those who engage this nature in the service of sensual lusts and pleasures, -- who think that its felicity and utmost capacities consist in their satisfaction, with the accomplishment of other earthly, temporal desires, -- are satisfied with it in its state of apostasy from God; but those who have received the light of faith and grace, so as rightly to understand the being and end of that nature whereof they are partakers, cannot but rejoice in its deliverance from the utmost debasement, into that glorious exaltation which it has received in the person of Christ. And this must needs make thoughts of him full of refreshment unto their souls. Let us take care of our persons, -- the glory of our nature is safe in him."
- "Heaven and earth may pass away, but there shall never be a dissolution of the union between God and our nature any more. He did it, therefore, by assuming it into a substantial union with himself, in the person of the Son. Hereby the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in it bodily, or substantially, and eternally. Hereby is its relation unto God eternally secured."
- "He it is who in himself has given us a pledge of the capacity of our nature to inhabit those blessed regions of light, which are far above these aspectable heavens. Here we dwell in tabernacles of clay, that are "crushed before the moth," -- such as cannot be raised, so as to abide one foot-breadth above the earth we tread upon. The heavenly luminaries which we can behold appear too great and glorious for our cohabitation. We are as grasshoppers in our own eyes, in comparison of those gigantic beings; and they seem to dwell in places which would immediately swallow up and extinguish our natures. How, then, shall we entertain an apprehension of being carried and exalted above them all? to have an everlasting subsistence in places incomprehensibly more glorious than the orbs wherein they reside? What capacity is there in our nature of such a habitation? But hereof the Lord Christ has given us a pledge in himself. Our nature in him is passed through these aspectable heavens, and is exalted far above them. Its eternal habitation is in the blessed regions of light and glory; and he has promised that where he is, there we shall be, and that for ever.
Other encouragements there are innumerable to stir us up unto diligence in the discharge of the duty here proposed, -- namely, a continual contemplation of the glory of Christ, in his person, office, and grace. Some of them, the principal of them which I have any acquaintance with, are represented in the ensuing Discourse. I shall therefore here add the peculiar advantage which we may obtain in the diligent discharge of this duty; which is, -- that it will carry us cheerfully, comfortably, and victoriously through life and death, and all that we have to conflict withal in either of them."
- "It is a woeful kind of life, when men scramble for poor perishing reliefs in their distresses. This is the universal remedy and cure, -- the only balsam for all our diseases. Whatever presseth, urgeth, perplexeth, if we can but retreat in our minds unto a view of this glory, and a due consideration of our own interest therein, comfort and supportment will be administered unto us."
- "One real view of the glory of Christ, and of our own concernment therein, will give us a full relief in this matter. For what are all the things of this life? What is the good or evil of them in comparison of an interest in this transcendent glory? When we have due apprehensions hereof, -- when our minds are possessed with thoughts of it, -- when our affections reach out after its enjoyments, -- let pain, and sickness, and sorrows, and fears, and dangers, and death, say what they will, we shall have in readiness wherewith to combat with them and overcome them; and that on this consideration, that they are all outward, transitory, and passing away, whereas our minds are fixed on those things which are eternal, and filled with incomprehensible glory."
- "It is the way and means of conveying a sense of God's love unto our souls; which is that alone where ultimately we find rest in the midst of all the troubles of this life; as the apostle declares, Rom. v. 2-5. It is the Spirit of God who alone communicates a sense of this love unto our souls; it is 'shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.' Howbeit, there are ways and means to be used on our part, whereby we may be disposed and made meet to receive these communications of divine love. Among these the principal is the contemplation of the glory of Christ insisted on, and of God the Father in him. It is the season, it is the way and means, at which and whereby the Holy Ghost will give a sense of the love of God unto us, causing us thereon to 'rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.'"
- "None has come from the dead to inform us of the state of the other world; yea, God seems on purpose so to conceal it from us, that we should have no evidence of it, at least as unto the manner of things in it, but what is given unto faith by divine revelation. Hence those who died and were raised again from the dead unto any continuance among men, as Lazarus, probably knew nothing of the invisible state. Their souls were preserved by the power of God in their being, but bound up as unto present operations."
- "How is it like to be after the few moments which, under the pangs of death, we have to continue in this world? Is it an annihilation that lies at the door? Is death the destruction of our whole being, so as that after it we shall be no more? So some would have the state of things to be. Is it a state of subsistence in a wandering condition, up and down the world, under the influence of other more powerful spirits that rule in the air, visiting tombs and solitary places, and sometimes making appearances of themselves by the impressions of those more powerful spirits; as some imagine from the story concerning Samuel and the witch of Endor, and as it is commonly received in the Papacy, out of a compliance with their imagination of purgatory? Or is it a state of universal misery and woe? a state incapable of comfort or joy? Let them pretend what they please, who can understand no comfort or joy in this life but what they receive by their senses; -- they can look for nothing else. And whatever be the state of this invisible world, the soul can undertake nothing of its own conduct after its departure from the body. It knows that it must be absolutely at the disposal of another.
Wherefore no man can comfortably venture on and into this condition, but in the exercise of that faith which enables him to resign and give up his departing soul into the hand of God, who alone is able to receive it, and to dispose it into a condition of rest and blessedness. So speaks the apostle, 'I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him again that day.'"
- "But Jesus Christ it is who does immediately receive the souls of them who believe in him. So we see in the instance of Stephen. And what can be a greater encouragement to resign them into his hands, than a daily contemplation of his glory, in his person, his power, his exaltation, his office, and grace? Who that believes in him, that belongs unto him, can fear to commit his departing spirit unto his love, power, and care? Even we also shall hereby in our dying moments see by faith heaven opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God ready to receive us. This, added unto the love which all believers have unto the Lord Jesus, which is inflamed by contemplation of his glory, and their desires to be with him where he is, will strengthen and confine our minds in the resignation of our departing souls into his hand."
Chapter I. The explication of the text.
- "This alone, which is here prayed for, will give them such satisfaction, and nothing else. The hearts of believers are like the needle touched by the loadstone, which cannot rest until it comes to the point whereunto, by the secret virtue of it, it is directed. For being once touched by the love of Christ, receiving therein an impression of secret ineffable virtue, they will ever be in motion, and restless, until they come unto him, and behold his glory. That soul which can be satisfied without it, -- that cannot be eternally satisfied with it, -- is not partaker of the efficacy of his intercession."
- "That which at present I design to demonstrate is, that the beholding of the glory of Christ is one of the greatest privileges and advancements that believers are capable of in this world, or that which is to come. It is that whereby they are first gradually conformed unto it, and then fixed in the eternal enjoyment of it. For here in this life, beholding his glory, they are changed or transformed into the likeness of it, 2 Cor. iii. 18; and hereafter they shall be 'for ever like unto him,' because they 'shall see him as he is,' 1 John iii. 1, 2. Hereon do our present comforts and future blessedness depend. This is the life and reward of our souls. 'He that has seen him has seen the Father also,' John xiv. 9. For we discern the 'light of the knowledge of the glory of God only in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 6."
- "No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight. Where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith, it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, -- only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamoured on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but self-deceiving imaginations."
- "Yea, the soul is disturbed, not edified, in all contemplations of future glory, when things are proposed unto it whereof in this life it has neither foretaste, sense, experience, nor evidence. No man ought to look for anything in heaven, but what one way or other he has some experience of in this life. If men were fully persuaded hereof, they would be, it may be, more in the exercise of faith and love about heavenly things than for the most part they are. At present they know not what they enjoy, and they look for they know not what."
- "No man can by faith take a real view of this glory, but virtue will proceed from it in a transforming power to change him 'into the same image,' 2 Cor. iii. 18."
- "The constant contemplation of the glory of Christ will give rest, satisfaction, and complacency unto the souls of them who are exercised therein. Our minds are apt to be filled with a multitude of perplexed thoughts; -- fears, cares, dangers, distresses, passions, and lusts, do make various impressions on the minds of men, filling them with disorder, darkness, and confusion. But where the soul is fixed in its thoughts and contemplations on this glorious object, it will be brought into and kept in a holy, serene, spiritual frame. For "to be spiritually-minded is life and peace." And this it does by taking off our hearts from all undue regard unto all things below, in comparison of the great worth, beauty, and glory of what we are conversant withal. See Phil. iii. 7-11. A defect herein makes many of us strangers unto a heavenly life, and to live beneath the spiritual refreshments and satisfactions that the Gospel does tender unto us."
- "The enjoyment of God by sight is commonly called the beatifical vision; and it is the sole fountain of all the actings of our souls in the state of blessedness: which the old philosophers knew nothing of; neither do we know distinctly what they are, or what is this sight of God. Howbeit, this we know, that God in his immense essence is invisible unto our corporeal eyes, and will be so to eternity; as also incomprehensible unto our minds. For nothing can perfectly comprehend that which is infinite, but what is itself infinite. Wherefore the blessed and blessing sight which we shall have of God will be always 'in the face of Jesus Christ.' Therein will that manifestation of the glory of God, in his infinite perfections, and all their blessed operations, so shine into our souls, as shall immediately fill us with peace, rest, and glory."
Chapter II. The glory of the person of Christ, as the only representative of God unto the church.
- "The glory of God comprehends both the holy properties of his nature and the counsels of his will; and 'the light of the knowledge' of these things we have only 'in the face' or person 'of Jesus Christ.'"
- "This is the original glory of Christ, given him by his Father, and which by faith we may behold. He, and he alone, declares, represents, and makes known, unto angels and men, the essential glory of the invisible God, his attributes and his will; without which, a perpetual comparative darkness would have been the whole creation, especially that part of it here below.
This is the foundation of our religion, the Rock whereon the church is built, the ground of all our hopes of salvation, of life and immortality: all is resolved into this, -- namely, the representation that is made of the nature and will of God in the person and office of Christ. If this fail us, we are lost for ever; if this Rock stand firm, the church is safe here, and shall be triumphant hereafter."
- "Not to see the wisdom of God, and the power of God, and consequently all the other holy properties of his nature, in Christ, is to be an unbeliever.
The essence of faith consists in a due ascription of glory to God, Rom. iv. 20. This we cannot attain unto without the manifestation of those divine excellencies unto us wherein he is glorious. This is done in Christ alone, so as that we may glorify God in a saving and acceptable manner. He who discerns not the glory of divine wisdom, power, goodness, love, and grace, in the person and office of Christ, with the way of the salvation of sinners by him, is an unbeliever."
- "And it is at this day not want of wit, but hatred of the mysteries of our religion, which makes so many prone to forego all supernatural revelation, and to betake themselves unto a religion declared, as they suppose, by reason and the light of nature; -- like bats and owls, who, being not able to bear the light of the sun, betake themselves unto the twilight, to the dawnings of light and darkness."
- "Men may talk what they please of a light within them, or of the power of reason to conduct them unto that knowledge of God whereby they may live unto him; but if they had nothing else, if they did not boast themselves of that light which has its foundation and original in divine revelation alone, they would not excel them who, in the best management of their own reasonings, 'knew not God,' but waxed vain in their imaginations."
- "Herein is the Lord Christ glorious. And this is that which I shall now speak unto, -- namely, how we may behold the glory of Christ in the representation and revelation that is made of God and his glory, in his person and office, unto all that do believe. For it is not so much the declaration of the nature of the things themselves, wherein the glory of Christ does consist, as our way and duty in the beholding of them, which at present is designed."
- "We may inquire, What shall we, what do we see in him? Do we see him as 'the image of the invisible God," representing him, his nature, properties, and will unto us? Do we see him as the 'character,' the 'express image of the person of the Father,' so that we have no need of Philip's request, 'Lord, show us the Father?' because having seen him, we have seen the Father also, John xiv. 9."
- "Infinite wisdom is one of the most glorious properties of the divine nature; it is that which is directive of all the external works of God, wherein the glory of all the other excellencies of God is manifested: wherefore the manifestation of the whole glory of God proceeds originally from infinite wisdom."
- "If we have any interest in God, if we have any hopes of blessedness in beholding of his glory unto eternity, we cannot but desire a view (such as is attainable) of this infinite, manifold wisdom of God in this life. But it is in Christ alone that we can discern anything of it; for him has the Father chosen and sealed to represent it unto us. All the treasures of this wisdom are hid, laid up, and laid out in him; -- herein lies the essence and form of faith. Believers by it do see the wisdom of God in Christ, in his person and office, -- Christ the wisdom of God. Unbelievers see it not, as the apostle argues, 1 Cor. i. 22-24."
- "We no way deny or extenuate the manifestation that is made of the wisdom of God in the works of creation and providence. It is sufficient to detect the folly of atheism and idolatry; and was designed of God unto that end. But its comparative insufficiency -- with respect unto the representation of it in Christ as to the ends of knowing God aright and living unto him -- the Scripture does abundantly attest."
- "Divine love is not to be considered only in its effects, but in its nature and essence; and so it is God himself, for 'God is love.' And a blessed revelation this is of the divine nature; it casts out envy, hatred, malice, revenge, with all their fruits, in rage, fierceness, implacability, persecution, murder, into the territories of Satan."
- "How, then, shall we know, wherein shall we behold, the glory of God in this, that he is love? The apostle declares it in the next words, 1 John iv. 9, 'In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.' This is the only evidence given us that "God is love." Hereby alone is the divine nature as such made known unto us, -- namely, in the mission, person, and office of the Son of God; without this, all is in darkness as unto the true nature and supreme operation of this divine love.
Herein do we behold the glory of Christ himself, even in this life. This glory was given him of the Father, -- namely, that he now should declare and evidence that 'God is love;' and he did so, 'that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.' Herein we may see how excellent, how beautiful, how glorious and desirable he is, seeing in him alone we have a due representation of God as he is love; which is the most joyful sight of God that any creature can obtain."
- "The sum of the whole is this: If you would behold the glory of Christ as the great means of your sanctification and consolation, as the only preparation for the beholding of his glory in eternal blessedness, consider what of God is made known and represented unto you in him, wherein God purposed and designed to glorify himself in him. Now, this is all that may be known of God in a saving manner, -- especially his wisdom, his love, his goodness, grace, and mercy, whereon the life of our souls does depend; -- and the Lord Christ being appointed the only way and means hereof, how exceeding glorious must he be in the eyes of them that do believe!"
- "Wherefore, in the contemplation of this glory consists the principal exercise of faith."
- "Some men speak much of the imitation of Christ, and following of his example; and it were well if we could see more of it really in effect. But no man shall ever become "like unto him" by bare imitation of his actions, without that view or intuition of his glory which alone is accompanied with a transforming power to change them into the same image."
- "Is Christ, then, thus glorious in our eyes? Do we see the Father in him, or by seeing of him? Do we sedulously daily contemplate on the wisdom, love, grace, goodness, holiness, and righteousness of God, as revealing and manifesting themselves in him? Do we sufficiently consider that the immediate vision of this glory in heaven will be our everlasting blessedness? Does the imperfect view which we have of it here increase our desires after the perfect sight of it above?"
- "Nothing is more fully and clearly revealed in the gospel, than that unto us Jesus Christ is 'the image of the invisible God;' that he is the character of the person of the Father, so as that in seeing him we see the Father also; that we have 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in his face alone,' as has been proved. This is the principal fundamental mystery and truth of the Gospel; and which if it be not received, believed, owned, all other truths are useless unto our souls. To refer all the testimonies that are given hereunto to the doctrine which he taught, in contradistinction unto his person as acting in the discharge of his office, is anti-evangelical, anti-christian, -- turning the whole Gospel into a fable."
- "He is no Christian who believes not that faith in the person of Christ is the spring of all evangelical obedience; or who knows not that faith respects the revelation of the glory of God in him."
- "Reckon in your minds, that this beholding of the glory of Christ by beholding the glory of God, and all his holy properties in him, is the greatest privilege whereof in this life we can be made partakers. The dawning of heaven is in it, and the first-fruits of glory; for this is life eternal, to know the Father, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, John xvii. 3. Unless you value it, unless you esteem it as such a privilege, you will not enjoy it; and that which is not valued according unto its worth is despised. It is not enough to think it a privilege, an advantage; but it is to be valued above other things, according unto its greatness and excellency. 'Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears,' Job xxviii. 22. And if we do no more, we shall die strangers unto it; we are to 'cry after this knowledge, and lift up our voice for this understanding,' if we design to attain it."
- "The principal of them is fervent prayer. Pray, then, with Moses, that God would show you this his glory; pray with the apostle, that 'the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened to behold it;' pray that the 'God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.' Fill your minds with spiritual thoughts and contrivances about them. Slothful and lazy souls never obtain one view of this glory; the 'lion in the way' deters them from attempting it. Being carnal, they abhor all diligence in the use of spiritual means, such as prayer and meditation on things unto them uneasy, unpleasing, and difficult. Unto others the way partakes of the nature of the end; the means of obtaining a view of the glory of Christ are of the same kind, of the same pleasantness, with that view itself in their proportion."
- "But herein it is required that we rest not in the notion of this truth, and a bare assent unto the doctrine of it. The affecting power of it upon our hearts is that which we should aim at. Wherein does the blessedness of the saints above consist? Is it not herein, that they behold and see the glory of God in Christ? And what is the effect of it upon those blessed souls? Does it not change them into the same image, or make them like unto Christ? Does it not fill and satiate them with joy, rest, delight, complacency, and ineffable satisfaction? Do we expect, do we desire, the same state of blessedness? It is our present view of the glory of Christ which is our initiation thereinto, if we are exercised in it, until we have an experience of its transforming power in our souls."
Chapter III. The glory of Christ in the mysterious constitution of his person.
- "Let us get it fixed on our souls and in our minds, that this glory of Christ in the divine constitution of his person is the best, the most noble, useful, beneficial object that we can be conversant about in our thoughts, or cleave unto in our affections.
What are all other things in comparison of the 'knowledge of Christ?' In the judgment of the great apostle, they are but 'loss and dung,' Phil. iii. 8-10. So they were to him; and if they are not so to us we are carnal.
What is the world, and what are the things thereof, which most men spend their thoughts about, and fix their affections on? The Psalmist gives his judgment about them, in comparison of a view of this glory of Christ, Ps. iv. 6, 'Many say, Who will show us any good?' -- Who will give and help us to attain so much in and of this world as will give rest and satisfaction unto our minds? That is the good inquired after. But, saith he, 'Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.' The light of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus is that satisfactory good alone which I desire and seek after."
- "Look unto the things of this world, -- wives, children, possessions, estates, power, friends, and honour; how amiable are they! how desirable unto the thoughts of the most of men! But he who has obtained a view of the glory of Christ, will, in the midst of them all, say, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth that I desire besides thee,' Ps. lxxiii. 25; 'For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?' Ps. lxxxix. 6."
- "This principle is always to be retained in our minds in reading of the Scripture, -- namely, that the revelation and doctrine of the person of Christ and his office, is the foundation whereon all other instructions of the prophets and apostles for the edification of the church are built, and whereinto they are resolved; as is declared, Eph. ii. 20-22. So our Lord Jesus Christ himself at large makes it manifest, Luke xxiv. 26, 27, 45, 46. Lay aside the consideration hereof, and the Scriptures are no such thing as they pretend unto, -- namely, a revelation of the glory of God in the salvation of the church; nor are those of the Old Testament so at this day unto the Jews, who own not this principle, 2 Cor. iii. 13-16. There are, therefore, such revelations of the person and glory of Christ treasured up in the Scripture, from the beginning unto the end of it, as may exercise the faith and contemplation of believers in this world, and shall never, during this life, be fully discovered or understood; and in divine meditations of these revelations does much of the life of faith consist."
- "Then do we find food for souls in the word of truth, then do we taste how gracious the Lord is therein, then is the Scripture full of refreshment unto us as a spring of living water, -- when we are taken into blessed views of the glory of Christ therein. And we are in the best frame of duty, when the principal motive in our minds to contend earnestly for retaining the possession of the Scripture against all that would deprive us of it, or discourage us from a daily diligent search into it, is this, -- that they would take from us the only glass wherein we may behold the glory of Christ. This is the glory of the Scripture, that it is the great, yea, the only, outward means of representing unto us the glory of Christ; and he is the sun in the firmament of it, which only has light in itself, and communicates it unto all other things besides."
- "The mind must be spiritual and holy, freed from earthly affections and encumbrances, raised above things here below, that can in a due manner meditate on the glory of Christ. Therefore are the most strangers unto this duty, because they will not be at the trouble and charge of that mortification of earthly affections, -- that extirpation of sensual inclinations, -- that retirement from the occasions of life, which are required whereunto."
- "Let your occasional thoughts of Christ be many, and multiplied every day. He is not far from us; we may make a speedy address unto him at any time. So the apostle informs us, Rom. x. 6-8, 'Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above;) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)' For 'the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.' The things that Christ did were done at a distance from us, and they are long since past. But, saith the apostle, 'The word' of the Gospel wherein these things are revealed, and whereby an application is made of them unto our souls, is nigh unto us, even in our hearts; that is, if we are true believers, and have mixed the word with faith, -- and so it exhibiteth Christ and all the benefits of his mediation unto us. If, therefore, this word is in our hearts, Christ is nigh unto us. If we turn at any time into ourselves to converse with the word that abideth in us, there we shall find him ready to receive us into communion with himself; that is, in the light of the knowledge of Christ which we have by the word, we may have sudden, occasional thoughts of him continually: and where our minds and affections are so filled with other things that we are not ready for converse with him who is thus nigh unto us by the word, we are spiritually indisposed."
- "The Lord Christ is pleased sometimes to withdraw himself from the spiritual experience of believers; as to any refreshing sense of his love, or the fresh communications of consolatory graces. Those who never had experience of any such thing, who never had any refreshing communion with him, cannot be sensible of his absence; -- they never were so of his presence. But those whom he has visited, -- to whom he has given of his loves, -- with whom he has made his abode, -- whom he has refreshed, relieved, and comforted, -- in whom he has lived in the power of his grace, -- they know what it is to be forsaken by him, though but for a moment. And their trouble is increased, when they seek him with diligence in the wonted ways of obtaining his presence, and cannot find him. Our duty, in this case, is to persevere in our inquiries after him, in prayer, meditation, mourning, reading and hearing of the Word, in all ordinances of divine worship, private and public, in diligent obedience, -- until we find him, or he return unto us, as in former days."
- "If, therefore, we would behold the glory of Christ, the present direction is, that on all occasions, and frequently when there are no occasions for it by the performance of other duties, we would abound in thoughts of him and his glory."
- "When faith can no longer hold open the eyes of our understandings unto the beholding the Sun of Righteousness shining in his beauty, nor exercise orderly thoughts about this incomprehensible object, it will betake itself unto that holy admiration which we have spoken unto; and therein it will put itself forth in pure acts of love and complacency."
Chapter IV. The glory of Christ in his susception of the office of a mediator --first in his condescension.
- "Wherefore, the infinite, essential greatness of the nature of God, with his infinite distance from the nature of all creatures thereby, causeth all his dealings with them to be in the way of condescension or humbling himself. So it is expressed, Isa. lvii. 15, 'Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.' He is so the high and lofty one, and so inhabiteth eternity, or existeth in his own eternal being, that it is an act of mere grace in him to take notice of things below; and therefore he does it in an especial manner of those whom the world does most despise."
- "How glorious, then, is the condescension of the Son of God in his susception of the office of mediation! For if such be the perfection of the divine nature, and its distance so absolutely infinite from the whole creation, -- and if such be his self-sufficiency unto his own eternal blessedness, as that nothing can be taken from him, nothing added unto him, so that every regard in him unto any of the creatures is an act of self-humiliation and condescension from the prerogative of his being and state, -- what heart can conceive, what tongue can express, the glory of that condescension in the Son of God, whereby he took our nature upon him, took it to be his own, in order unto a discharge of the office of mediation on our behalf?"
- "Although he was then on earth as the Son of man, yet he ceased not to be God thereby; -- in his divine nature he was then also in heaven."
- "This, then, is the foundation of the glory of Christ in this condescension, the life and soul of all heavenly truth and mysteries, -- namely, that the Son of God becoming in time to be what he was not, the Son of man, ceased not thereby to be what he was, even the eternal Son of God."
- "But had we the tongue of men and angels, we were not able in any just measure to express the glory of this condescension; for it is the most ineffable effect of the divine wisdom of the Father and of the love of the Son, -- the highest evidence of the care of God towards mankind. What can be equal unto it? what can be like it? It is the glory of Christian religion, and the animating soul of all evangelical truth. This carrieth the mystery of the wisdom of God above the reason or understanding of men and angels, to be the object of faith and admiration only. A mystery it is that becomes the greatness of God, with his infinite distance from the whole creation, -- which renders it unbecoming him that all his ways and works should be comprehensible by any of his creatures, Job xi. 7-9; Rom. xi. 33-36.
He who was eternally in the form of God, -- that is, was essentially so, God by nature, equally participant of the same divine nature with God the Father; 'God over all, blessed for ever;' who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth, -- he takes on him the nature of man, takes it to be his own, whereby he was no less truly a man in time than he was truly God from eternity. And to increase the wonder of this mystery, because it was necessary unto the end he designed, he so humbled himself in this assumption of our nature, as to make himself of no reputation in this world, -- yea, unto that degree, that he said of himself that he was a worm, and no man, in comparison of them who were of any esteem.
We speak of these things in a poor, low, broken manner, -- we teach them as they are revealed in the Scripture, -- we labour by faith to adhere unto them as revealed; but when we come into a steady, direct view and consideration of the thing itself, our minds fail, our hearts tremble, and we can find no rest but in a holy admiration of what we cannot comprehend. Here we are at a loss, and know that we shall be so whilst we are in this world; but all the ineffable fruits and benefits of this truth are communicated unto them that do believe."
- "He is herein a sanctuary, an assured refuge unto all that betake themselves unto him. What is it that any man in distress, who flies whereunto, may look for in a sanctuary? A supply of all his wants, a deliverance from all his fears, a defence against all his dangers, is proposed unto him therein. Such is the Lord Christ herein unto sin-distressed souls; he is a refuge unto us in all spiritual diseases and disconsolations, Heb. vi. 18. See the exposition of the place.  Are we, or any of us, burdened with a sense of sin? are we perplexed with temptations? are we bowed down under the oppression of any spiritual adversary? do we, on any of these accounts, 'walk in darkness and have no light?' One view of the glory of Christ herein is able to support us and relieve us.
Unto whom we betake ourselves for relief in any case, we have regard to nothing but their will and their power. If they have both, we are sure of relief. And what shall we fear in the will of Christ as unto this end? What will he not do for us? He who thus emptied and humbled himself, who so infinitely condescended from the prerogative of his glory in his being and self-sufficiency, in the susception of our nature for the discharge of the office of a mediator on our behalf, -- will he not relieve us in all our distresses? will he not do all for us we stand in need of, that we may be eternally saved? will he not be a sanctuary unto us? Nor have we hereon any ground to fear his power; for, by this infinite condescension to be a suffering man, he lost nothing of his power as God omnipotent, -- nothing of his infinite wisdom or glorious grace. He could still do all that he could do as God from eternity. If there be any thing, therefore, in a coalescency of infinite power with infinite condescension, to constitute a sanctuary for distressed sinners, it is all in Christ Jesus. And if we see him not glorious herein, it is because there is no light of faith in us.
This, then, is the rest wherewith we may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshment. Herein is he 'a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.' Hereon he says, 'I have satiated the weary soul, and have refreshed every sorrowful soul.' Under this consideration it is that, in all evangelical promises and invitations for coming to him, he is proposed unto distressed sinners as their only sanctuary."
- "But my exhortation is unto diligence in the contemplation of this glory of Christ, and the exercise of our thoughts about it. Unless we are diligent herein, it is impossible we should be steady in the principal acts of faith, or ready unto the principal duties of obedience. The principal act of faith respects the divine person of Christ, as all Christians must acknowledge. This we can never secure (as has been declared) if we see not his glory in this condescension: and whoever reduceth his notions unto experience, will find that herein his faith stands or falls. And the principal duty of our obedience is self-denial, with readiness for the cross. Hereunto the consideration of this condescension of Christ is the principal evangelical motive, and that whereinto our obedience in it is to be resolved; as the apostle declares, Phil. ii. 5-8. And no man does deny himself in a due manner, who does it not on the consideration of the self-denial of the Son of God. But a prevalent motive this is thereunto. For what are the things wherein we are to deny ourselves, or forego what we pretend to have a right unto? It is in our goods, our liberties, our relations, -- our lives. And what are they, any or all of them, in themselves, or unto us, considering our condition, and the end for which we were made? Perishing things, which, whether we will or no, within a few days death will give us an everlasting separation from, under the power of a fever or an asthma, &c., as unto our interest in them. But how incomparable with respect hereunto is that condescension of Christ, whereof we have given an account! If, therefore, we find an unwillingness in us, a tergiversation in our minds about these things, when called unto them in a way of duty, one view by faith of the glory of Christ in this condescension, and what he parted from therein when he "made himself of no reputation," will be an effectual cure of that sinful distemper.
Herein, then, I say, we may by faith behold the glory of Christ, as we shall do it by sight hereafter. If we see no glory in it, if we discern not that which is matter of eternal admiration, we walk in darkness. It is the most ineffable effect of divine wisdom and grace. Where are our hearts and minds, if we can see no glory in it? I know in the contemplation of it, it will quickly overwhelm our reason, and bring our understanding into a loss: but unto this loss do I desire to be brought every day; for when faith can no more act itself in comprehension, when it finds the object it is fixed on too great and glorious to be brought into our minds and capacities, it will issue (as we said before) in holy admiration, humble adoration, and joyful thanksgiving. In and by its acting in them does it fill the soul with 'joy unspeakable, and full of glory.'"
Chapter V. The glory of Christ in his love.
- "Herein is he glorious, in a way and manner incomprehensible; for in the glory of divine love the chief brightness of glory does consist. There is nothing of dread or terror accompanying it, -- nothing but what is amiable and infinitely refreshing."
- "In this condition, the first act of love in Christ towards us was in pity and compassion. A creature made in the image of God, and fallen into misery, yet capable of recovery, is the proper object of divine compassion. That which is so celebrated in the Scripture, as the bowels, the pity, the compassion of God, is the acting of divine love towards us on the consideration of our distress and misery. But all compassion ceaseth towards them whose condition is irrecoverable. Wherefore the Lord Christ pitied not the angels that fell, because their nature was not to be relieved. Of this compassion in Christ, see Heb. ii. 14-16; Isa. lxiii. 9."
- "It is hence evident, that this glorious love of Christ does not consist alone in the eternal acting of his divine person, or the divine nature in his person. Such, indeed, is the love of the Father, -- namely, his eternal purpose for the communication of grace and glory, with his acquiescence therein; but there is more in the love of Christ. For when he exercised this love he was man also, and not God only. And in none of those eternal acts of love could the human nature of Christ have any interest or concern; yet is the love of the man Christ Jesus celebrated in the Scripture."
- "Wherefore this love of Christ which we inquire after is the love of his person, -- that is, which he in his own person acts in and by his distinct natures, according unto their distinct essential properties. And the acts of love in these distinct natures are infinitely distinct and different; yet are they all acts of one and the same person. So, then, whether that act of love in Christ which we would at any time consider, be an eternal act of the divine nature in the person of the Son of God; or whether it be an act of the human, performed in time by the gracious faculties and powers of that nature, it is still the love of one and the selfsame person, -- Christ Jesus."
- "The illustrious brightness wherewith this glory shines in heaven, the all-satisfying sweetness which the view of it gives unto the souls of the saints there possessed of glory, are not by us conceivable, nor to be expressed. Here, this love passeth knowledge, -- there, we shall comprehend the dimensions of it. Yet even here, if we are not slothful and carnal, we may have a refreshing prospect of it; and where comprehension fails, let admiration take place."
- "Be not satisfied with general notions concerning the love of Christ, which represent no glory unto the mind, wherewith many deceive themselves. All who believe his divine person, profess a valuation of his love, -- and think them not Christians who are otherwise minded; but they have only general notions, and not any distinct conceptions of it, and really know not what it is. To deliver us from this snare, peculiar meditations on its principal concerns are required of us. As, --
(1.) Whose love it is, -- namely, of the divine person of the Son of God. He is expressly called God, with respect unto the exercise of this love, that we may always consider whose it is, 1 John iii. 16, 'Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us.'
(2.) By what ways and means this wonderful love of the Son of God does act itself, -- namely, in the divine nature, by eternal acts of wisdom, goodness, and grace proper thereunto; and in the human, by temporary acts of pity or compassion, with all the fruits of them in doing and suffering for us. See Eph. iii. 19; Heb. ii. 14, 15; Rev. i. 5.
(3.) What is the freedom of it, as to any desert on our part, 1 John iv. 10. It was hatred, not love, that we in ourselves deserved; which is a consideration suited to fill the soul with self-abasement, -- the best of frames in the contemplation of the glory of Christ.
(4.) What is the efficacy of it in its fruits and effects, with sundry other considerations of the like nature."
- "Christ is the meat, the bread, the food of our souls. Nothing is in him of a higher spiritual nourishment than his love, which we should always desire.
In this love is he glorious; for it is such as no creatures, angels or men, could have the least conceptions of, before its manifestation by its effects; and, after its manifestation, it is in this world absolutely incomprehensible."