Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Highlights of John Owen's "The Glory of Christ" (Part 3)

Click here for: Part 1, Part 2.

Chapter XI. The glory of Christ in the recapitulation of all things in him.

  • "Moreover, his being and goodness are the same. The goodness of God is the meetness of the Divine Being to be communicative of itself in its effects. Hence this is the first notion of the divine nature, -- infinite being and goodness, in a nature intelligent and self-subsistent."
  • "Being and goodness must be the first outward effects of the divine nature, which, being wrought by infinite power and wisdom, do represent unto us the glory of God in the creation of all things. Infinite being in self-subsistence, which is necessary in the first cause and spring of all things, -- infinite goodness to communicate the effect of this being unto that which was not, -- and infinite wisdom and power in that communication, -- are gloriously manifested therein."
  • "To suppose any other race of intellectual creatures, besides angels in heaven and men on earth, is not only without all countenance from any divine testimony, but it disturbs and disorders the whole representation of the glory of God made unto us in the Scripture, and the whole design of his wisdom and grace, as declared therein. Intellectual creatures not comprehended in that government of God and mystery of his wisdom in Christ which the Scripture reveals, are a chimera framed in the imaginations of some men, scarce duly sensible of what it is to be wise unto sobriety."
  • "There is no contemplation of the glory of Christ that ought more to affect the hearts of them that do believe with delight and joy, than this, of the recapitulation of all things in him. One view by faith of him in the place of God, as the supreme head of the whole creation. Moving, acting, guiding, and disposing of it, will bring in spiritual refreshment unto a believing refreshment unto a believing soul.

    And it will do so the more, in that it gives a glorious representation of his divine nature also. For that any mere creature should thus be a head of life, motion, and power, as also of sovereign rule and disposal, of the whole new creation, with all things reduced into order thereby, is not only an impious, but a foolish imagination.

    Did we live more in the contemplation of this glory of Christ, and of the wisdom of God in this recapitulation of all things in him, there is not anything of our duty which it would not mind us of, nor anything of privilege which it would not give us a sense of, as might easily be demonstrated."
  • "Whatever there is of order, of beauty, of glory, in heaven above, or in earth beneath, it all ariseth from this new relation of the creation unto the Son of God. Whatever is not gathered into one, even in him, in its place, and according to its measure, is under darkness, disorder, and the curse."

Chapter XII. Differences between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith in     this world and by sight in heaven -- the first of them explained.

  • "On the account hereof we may say at present, how little a portion is it that we know of him! as Job speaks of God, chap. xxvi. 14. How imperfect are our conceptions of him! How weak are our minds in their management! There is no part of his glory that we can fully comprehend. And what we do comprehend, -- there is a comprehension in faith, Eph. iii. 18, -- we cannot abide in the steady contemplation of. For ever blessed be that sovereign grace, whence it is that He who 'commanded light to shine out of darkness has shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of his own glory in the face of Jesus Christ,' and therein of the glory of Christ himself; -- that he has so revealed him unto us, as that we may love him, admire him, and obey him: but constantly, steadily, and clearly to behold his glory in this life we are not able; 'for we walk by faith, and not by sight.'"
  • "This displaying of the glory of Christ, called the flourishing of himself, is by the promises of the Gospel, as they are explained in the ministry of the Word. In them are represented unto us the desirable beauties and glories of Christ. How precious, how amiable is he, as represented in them! How are the souls of believers ravished with the views of them! Yet is this discovery of him also but as through a lattice. We see him but by parts, -- unsteadily and unevenly."
  • "There will be use herein of our bodily eyes, as shall be declared. For, as Job says, in our flesh shall we see our Redeemer, and our eyes shall behold him, chap. xix. 25-27. That corporeal sense shall not be restored unto us, and that glorified above what we can conceive, but for this great use of the eternal beholding of Christ and his glory. Unto whom is it not a matter of rejoicing, that with the same eyes wherewith they see the tokens and signs of him in the sacrament of the supper, they shall behold himself immediately in his own person? But principally, as we shall see immediately, this vision is intellectual. It is not, therefore, the mere human nature of Christ that is the object of it, but his divine person, as that nature subsisteth therein. What is that perfection which we shall have (for that which is perfect must come and do away that which is in part) in the comprehension of the hypostatical union, I understand not; but this I know, that in the immediate beholding of the person of Christ, we shall see a glory in it a thousand times above what here we can conceive. The excellencies of infinite wisdom, love, and power therein, will be continually before us. And all the glories of the person of Christ which we have before weakly and faintly inquired into, will be in our sight for evermore."
  • "This immediate sight of Christ is that which all the saints of God in this life do breathe and pant after. Hence are they willing to be dissolved, or 'desire to depart, that they may be with Christ,' which is best for them, Phil. i. 23. They choose 'to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord,' 2 Cor. v. 8; or that they may enjoy the inexpressibly longed-for sight of Christ in his glory. Those who do not so long for it, whose souls and minds are not frequently visited with earnest desires after it, unto whom the thoughts of it are not their relief in trouble, and their chiefest joy, are carnal, blind, and cannot see afar off. He that is truly spiritual entertains and refresheth himself with thoughts hereof continually."
  • "Should the Lord Jesus appear now to any of us in his majesty and glory, it would not be unto our edification nor consolation. For we are not meet nor able, by the power of any light or grace that we have received, or can receive, to bear the immediate appearance and representation of them."
  • "And therefore those who dream of his personal reign on the earth before the day of judgment, unless they suppose that all the saints shall be perfectly glorified also (which is only to bring down heaven to the earth for awhile, to no purpose), provide not at all for the edification or consolation of the church. For no present grace, advanced unto the highest degree whereof in this world it is capable, can make us meet for an immediate converse with Christ in his unveiled glory."
  • "Grace renews nature; glory perfects grace; and so the whole soul is brought unto its rest in God."
  • "This view of the glory of Christ which we have now spoken unto is that which we are breathing and panting after; that which the Lord Christ prays that we may arrive unto; that which the apostle testifies to be our best; -- the best thing or state which our nature is capable of, -- that which brings eternal rest and satisfaction unto our souls."
  • "This beholding of the glory of Christ given him by his Father, is, indeed, subordinate unto the ultimate vision of the essence of God. What that is we cannot well conceive; only we know that the 'pure in heart shall see God.' But it has such an immediate connection with it, and subordination unto it, as that without it we can never behold the face of God as the objective blessedness of our souls. For he is, and shall be to eternity, the only means of communication between God and the church."
  • "As believers, beholding the glory of Christ in the blessed glass of the Gospel, are changed into the same image and likeness by the Spirit of the Lord; so these persons, beholding the beauty of the world and the things that are in it in the cursed glass of self-love, are in their minds changed into the same image. Hence perplexing fears, vain hopes, empty embraces of perishing things, fruitless desires, earthly, carnal designs, cursed, self-pleasing imaginations, feeding on, and being fed by, the love of the world and self, do abide and prevail in them. But we have not so learned Christ Jesus."

Chapter XIII. The second difference between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith in this world and by sight in heaven.

  • "It is impossible, whilst Christ is in the eye of our faith as proposed in the Gospel, but that we shall labour to be like him, and greatly love him. Neither is there any way for us to attain unto either of these, which are the great concernments of our souls, -- namely, to be like unto Christ, and to love him, -- but by a constant view of him and his glory by faith; which powerfully and effectually works them in us. All the doctrinal knowledge which we have of him is useless, -- all the view we have of his glory is but fancy, imagination, or superstition, which are not accompanied with this transforming power. And that which is wrought by it, is the increase and vigour of all grace; for therein alone our conformity unto him does consist. Growth in grace, holiness, and obedience, is a growing like unto Christ; and nothing else is so."
  • "For there is nothing more certain in Christian experience than this is, that while we do really by faith behold the glory of Christ, as proposed in the Gospel, the glory of his person and office, as before described, and so abide in holy thoughts and meditations thereof, especially in our private duties and retirements, all grace will live and thrive in us in some measure, especially love unto his person, and therein unto all that belongs unto him."
  • "Do any of us find decays in grace prevailing in us; -- deadness, coldness, lukewarmness, a kind of spiritual stupidity and senselessness coming upon us? Do we find an unreadiness unto the exercise of grace in its proper season, and the vigorous acting of it in duties of communion with God, and would we have our souls recovered from these dangerous diseases? Let us assure ourselves there is no better way for our healing and deliverance, yea, no other way but this alone, -- namely, the obtaining a fresh view of the glory of Christ by faith, and a steady abiding therein. Constant contemplation of Christ and his glory, putting forth its transforming power unto the revival of all grace, is the only relief in this case."
  • "Some will say, that this must be effected by fresh supplies and renewed communications of the Holy Spirit. Unless he fall as dew and showers on our dry and barren hearts, -- unless he cause our graces to spring, thrive, and bring forth fruit, -- unless he revive and increase faith, love, and holiness in our souls, -- our backslidings will not be healed, nor our spiritual state be recovered. Unto this end is he prayed for and promised in the Scripture. See Cant. iv. 16; Isa. xliv. 3, 4; Ezek. xi. 19; xxxvi. 26; Hos. xiv. 5, 6. And so it is. The immediate efficiency of the revival of our souls is from and by the Holy Spirit. But the inquiry is, in what way, or by what means, we may obtain the supplies and communications of him unto this end. This the apostle declares in the place insisted on: We, beholding the glory of Christ in a glass, 'are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord.' It is in the exercise of faith on Christ, in the way before described, that the Holy Spirit puts forth his renewing, transforming power in and upon our souls. This, therefore, is that alone which will retrieve Christians from their present decays and deadness."
  • "While men look for their chief refreshment and satisfaction in temporal things, it is impossible they should seek after those that are spiritual in a due manner. And it must be confessed, that when we have a due regard unto spiritual, evangelical consolations and joys, it will abate and take off our affections unto, and satisfaction in, present enjoyments, Phil. iii. 8, 9.

    But there is no more sacred truth than this, that where Christ is present with believers, -- where he is not withdrawn for a season from them, where they live in the view of his glory by faith as it is proposed unto them in the Gospel, -- he will give unto them, at his own seasons such intimations of his love, such supplies of his Spirit, such holy joys and rejoicings, such repose of soul in assurance, as shall refresh their souls, fill them with joy, satisfy them with spiritual delight, and quicken them unto all acts of holy communion with himself."
  • "Now, the design of the Lord Christ, in thus withdrawing himself from us, and hiding his glory from our view, being the exercise of our grace, and to stir us up unto diligence in our inquiries after him, here lieth our guidance and direction in this case. Do we find ourselves lifeless in the spiritual duties of religion? Are we strangers unto the heavenly visits of consolation and joys, -- those visitations of God whereby he preserves our souls? Do we seldom enjoy a sense of the 'shedding abroad of his love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost?' We have no way of recovery but this alone, -- to this 'strong tower' must we turn ourselves as 'prisoners of hope,' -- unto Christ must we look, that we may be saved. It is a steady view or contemplation of his glory by faith alone that will bring in all these things in a lively experience into our hearts and souls."
  • "If we satisfy ourselves in mere notions and speculations about the glory of Christ as doctrinally revealed unto us, we shall find no transforming power or efficacy communicated unto us thereby. But when, under the conduct of that spiritual light, our affections do cleave unto him with full purpose of heart, our minds are filled with the thoughts of him and delight in him, and faith is kept up unto its constant exercise in trust and affiance on him, -- virtue will proceed from him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and to fill us sometimes 'with joy unspeakable and full of glory.'"
  • "Where light leaves the affections behind, it ends in formality or atheism; and where affections outrun light, they sink in the bog of superstition, doting on images and pictures, or the like. But where things go not into these excesses, it is better that our affections exceed our light from the defect of our understandings, than that our light exceed our affections from the corruption of our wills."
  • "This is the sum of what I do design. We have by faith a view of the glory of Christ. This view is weak and unsteady, from the nature of faith itself, and the way of its proposal unto us -- as in a glass, in comparison of what by sight we shall attain unto. But, moreover, where corrupt lusts or inordinate affections are indulged unto, where they are not continually mortified, where any one sin has a perplexing prevalence in the mind, faith will be so far weakened thereby, as that it can neither see nor meditate upon this glory of Christ in a due manner. This is the reason why the most are so weak and unstable in the performance of this duty; yea, are almost utterly unacquainted with it. The light of faith in the minds of men being impaired, clouded, darkened, by the prevalence of unmortified lusts, it cannot make such discoveries of this glory as otherwise it would do. And this makes the preaching of Christ unto many so unprofitable as it is.

    Secondly, In the view of the glory of Christ which we have by faith, it will fill the mind with thoughts and meditations about him, whereon the affections will cleave unto him with delight. This, as was said, is inseparable from a spiritual view of his glory in its due exercise. Every one that has it, must and will have many thoughts concerning, and great affections to him. See the description of these things, Phil. iii. 8-10. It is not possible, I say, that we should behold the glory of his person, office, and grace, with a due conviction of our concernment and interest therein, but that our minds will be greatly affected with it, and be filled with contemplations about it. Where it is not so with any, it is to be feared that they 'have not heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape,' whatever they profess. A spiritual sight of Christ will assuredly produce love unto him; and if any man love him not, he never saw him, -- he knows him not at all. And that is no love which does not beget in us many thoughts of the object beloved. He, therefore, who is partaker of this grace, will think much of what Christ is in himself, -- of what he has done for us, -- of his love and condescension, -- of the manifestation of all the glorious excellencies of the divine nature in him, exerted in a way of infinite wisdom and goodness for the salvation of the church. Thoughts and meditations of these things will abound in us, if we are not wanting unto the due exercise of faith; and intense, inflamed affections unto him will ensue thereon; at least they will be active unto our own refreshing experience. And where these things are not in reality (though in some they may be only in a mean and low degree), men do but deceive their own souls in hopes of any benefit by Christ or the Gospel."
  • "Security is granted to be an evil destructive of the souls of men; but then it is supposed to consist only in impenitency for great and open sins: but to be neglective of endeavouring an experience of the power and grace of the gospel in our own souls, under a profession of religion, is no less destructive and pernicious than impenitency in any course of sin."
  • "But 'as for me,' saith David, 'I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness,' Ps. xvii. 15. It is Christ alone who is the likeness and image of God. When we awake in the other world, with our minds purified and rectified, the beholding of him shall be always satisfying unto us. There will be then no satiety, no weariness, no indispositions; but the mind, being made perfect in all its faculties, powers, and operations, with respect unto its utmost end, which is the enjoyment of God, is satisfied in the beholding of him for evermore. And where there is perfect satisfaction without satiety, there is blessedness for ever. So the Holy Spirit affirms of the four living creatures, in the Revelation, 'They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,' chap. iv. 8. They are continually exercised in the admiration and praises of God in Christ without weariness or interruption. Herein shall we be made like unto angels."
  • "Wherefore, the vision which we shall have in heaven of the glory of Christ is serene, -- always the same, always new and indeficient, wherein nothing can disturb the mind in the most perfect operations of a blessed life. And when all the faculties of the soul can, without any internal weakness or external hindrances, exercise their most perfect operations on the most perfect object, -- therein lies all the blessedness which our nature is capable of.

    Wherefore, whenever in this life we attain any comfortable, refreshing view of the glory of Christ by the exercise of faith on the revelation of it, with a sense of our interest therein, we cannot but long after, and desire to come unto, this more perfect, abiding, invariable aspect of it."

Chapter XIV. Other differences between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith in this world and by sight in heaven.

  • "In the view which we have here of the glory of Christ by faith, we gather things, as it were, one by one, in several parts and parcels, out of the Scripture; and comparing them together in our minds, they become the object of our present sight, -- which is our spiritual comprehension of the things themselves. We have no proposal of the glory of Christ unto us by vision or illustrious appearance of his person, as Isaiah had of old, chap. vi. 1-4; or as John had in the Revelation, chap. i. 13-16. We need it not; -- it would be of no advantage unto us. For as unto the assurance of our faith, we have a word of prophecy more useful unto us than a voice from heaven, 2 Peter i. 17-19. And of those who received such visions, though of eminent use unto the church, yet as unto themselves, one of them cried out, 'Woe is me! I am undone;' and the other 'fell as dead at his feet.' We are not able in this life to bear such glorious representations of him, unto our edification."
  • "In the vision which we shall have above, the whole glory of Christ will be at once and always represented unto us; and we shall be enabled in one act of the light of glory to comprehend it. Here, indeed, we are at a loss; -- our minds and understandings fail us in their contemplations. It will not yet enter into our hearts to conceive what is the beauty, what is the glory of this complete representation of Christ unto us. To have at once all the glory of what he is, what he was in his outward state and condition, what he did and suffered, what he is exalted unto, -- his love and condescension, his mystical union with the church, and the communication of himself unto it, with the recapitulation of all things in him, -- and the glory of God, even the Father, in his wisdom, righteousness, grace, love, goodness, power, shining forth eternally in him, in what he is, has done, and does, -- all presented unto us in one view, all comprehended by us at once, is that which at present we cannot conceive. We can long for it, pant after it, and have some foretastes of it, -- namely, of that state and season wherein our whole souls, in all their powers and faculties, shall constantly, inseparably, eternally cleave by love unto whole Christ, in the sight of the glory of his person and grace, until they are watered, dissolved, and inebriated in the waters of life and the rivers of pleasure that are above for evermore. So must we speak of the things which we admire, which we adore, which we love, which we long for, which we have some foretastes of in sweetness ineffable, which yet we cannot comprehend."
  • "In the first operation of this light of glory, believers shall so behold the glory of Christ, and the glory of God in him, as that there with and thereby they shall be immediately and universally changed into his likeness. They shall be as he is, when they shall see him as he is. There is no growth in glory, as to parts; -- there may be as to degrees. Additions may be outwardly made unto what is at first received as by the resurrection of the body; but the internal light of glory and its transforming efficacy is capable of no degrees, though new revelations may be made unto it unto eternity. For the infinite fountain of life, and light, and goodness, can never be fathomed, much less exhausted. And what God spake on the entrance of sin, by the way of contempt and reproach, 'Behold, the man is become like one of us,' upbraiding him with what he had foolishly designed; -- on the accomplishment of the work of his grace, he says in love and infinite goodness, 'Man is become like one of us,' in the perfect restoration of our image in him. This is the first effect of the light of glory.

    Faith also, in beholding the glory of Christ in this life, is accompanied with a transforming efficacy, as the apostle expressly declares, 2 Cor. iii. 18. It is the principle from whence, and the instrumental cause whereby, all spiritual change is wrought in us in this life; but the work of it is imperfect; -- first, because it is gradual, and then because it is partial.

    (1.) As unto the manner of its operation, it is gradual, and does not at once transform us into the image of Christ; yes, the degrees of its progress therein are unto us for the most part imperceptible. It requires much spiritual wisdom and observation to obtain an experience of them in our own souls. 'The inward man is renewed day by day,' whilst we behold these invisible things, 2 Cor. iv. 16-18. But how? -- even as the outward man decays by age, which is by insensible degrees and alterations. Such is the transformation which we have by faith, in its present view of the glory of Christ. And according to our experience of its efficacy herein, is our evidence of its truth and reality in the beholding of him. No man can have the least ground of assurance that he has seen Christ and his glory by faith, without some effects of it in changing him into his likeness. For as on the touch of his garment by the woman in the Gospel, virtue went out from him to heal her infirmity; so upon this view of faith, an influence of transforming power will proceed from Christ unto the soul.

    (2.) As unto the event, it is but partial. It does not bring this work unto perfection. The change wrought by it is indeed great and glorious; or, as the apostle speaks, it is 'from glory to glory,' in a progress of glorious grace: but absolute perfection is reserved for vision. As to divine worship, perfection was not by the law. It did many things preparatory unto the revelation of the will of God concerning it, but it 'made nothing perfect:' so absolute perfection in holiness, and the restoration of the image of God, is not by the Gospel, is not by faith; -- however, it gives us many preparatory degrees unto it, as the apostle fully declares, Phil. iii. 10-14."
  • "The way on our part whereby we shall receive these communications from God by Christ, which are the eternal springs of life, peace, joy, and blessedness, is this vision the sight whereof we speak. For, as it is expressly assigned thereunto in the Scripture, so whereas it contains the perfect operation of our minds and souls in a perfect state, on the most perfect object, it is the only means of our blessedness. And this is the true cause whence there neither is nor can be any satiety or weariness in heaven, in the eternal contemplation of the same glory. For not only the object of our sight is absolutely infinite, which can never be searched unto the bottom, yea, is perpetually new unto a finite understanding; but our subjective blessedness consisting in continual fresh communications from the infinite fulness of the divine nature, derived unto us through vision, is always new, and always will be so to eternity. Herein shall all the saints of God drink of the rivers of pleasure that are at his right hand, be satisfied with his likeness, and refresh themselves in the eternal springs of life, light, and joy for evermore.

    This effect, -- that view, which we have by faith of the glory of Christ in this world, does not produce. It is sanctifying, not glorifying. The best of saints are far from a perfect or glorified state in this life; and that not only on the account of the outward evils which in their persons they are exposed unto, but also of the weakness and imperfection of their inward state in grace. Yet we may observe some things unto the honour of faith in them who have received it. As --

    (1.) In its due exercise on Christ, it will give unto the souls of believers some previous participation of future glory, working in them dispositions unto, and preparation for, the enjoyment of it.  
    (2.) There is no glory, no peace, no joy, no satisfaction in this world, to be compared with what we receive by that weak and imperfect view which we have of the glory of Christ by faith; yea, all the joys of the world are a thing of nought in comparison of what we so receive.

    (3.) It is sufficient to give us such a perception, such a foretaste of future blessedness in the enjoyment of Christ, as may continually stir us up to breathe and pant after it. But it is not beatifical."

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