Gospel of John

by John Owen

 

I design not here to insist on the explication or confirmation of this glorious truth, concerning the constitution of the person of Christ in and by his incarnation. What I can comprehend, what I do believe concerning it, I have fully declared in a large peculiar treatise.[1] Here I take the truth itself as known, or as it may be thence learned. My present business is only to stir up the minds of believers unto a due contemplation of the glory of Christ in the sacred, mysterious constitution of his person, as God and man in one. So much as we abide herein, so much do “we live by the faith of the Son of God;” — and God can, by a spirit of wisdom and revelation, open the eyes of our understandings, that we may behold this glory unto our ineffable consolation and joy. And unto the diligent discharge of our duty herein I shall offer the ensuing directions:

Do Not Waste Your Thoughts

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.

The Scripture reproacheth the vanity and folly of the minds of men, in that “they spend their money for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which profiteth not.” They engage the vigour of their spirits about perishing things, when they have durable substance and riches proposed unto them.

What We Think About

How do men for the most part exercise their minds? what are they conversant about in their thoughts?

Some by them “make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof;” as Rom. xiii. 14. They search about continually in their thoughts for objects suited unto their lusts and carnal affections, coining, framing, and stamping of them in their imaginations. They fix their eyes with delight on toads and serpents, with all noisome, filthy objects, — refusing, in the meantime, to behold the beauty and glory of the light of the sun. So is it with all that spend their thoughts about the objects of their sinful pleasures, — refusing to look up after one view of this glory of Christ.

Some keep their thoughts in continual exercise about the things of this world, as unto the advantages and emoluments which they expect from them. Hereby are they transformed into the image of the world, becoming earthly, carnal, and vain. Is it because there is no God in Israel that these applications are made unto the idol of Ekron? That there is no glory, no desirableness in Christ for men to inquire after, and fix their minds upon? O the blindness, the darkness, the folly of poor sinners! Whom do they despise? and for what?

Some, of more refined parts and notional minds, do arise unto a sedulous meditation on the works of creation and providence. Hence many excellent discourses on that subject, adorned with eloquence, are published among us. And a work this is worthy of our nature, and suited unto our rational capacities; yea, the first end of our natural endowment with them.

What We Ought to Think About

In all these things, there is no glory in comparison of what is proposed to us in the mysterious constitution of the person of Christ. The sun has no glory, the moon and stars no beauty, the order and influence of the heavenly bodies have no excellency, in comparison of it.

This is that which the Psalmist designs to declare:

“O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” (Ps 8:1, 3-6)

He is engaged in a contemplation of the glory of God in his works; and he concludes that the fabric of heaven, with the moon and stars therein (for it was his meditation by night, when he beheld them), was exceeding glorious, and greatly to be admired. This casts his thoughts on the poor, weak, infirm nature of man, which seems as nothing in comparison of those glories above; but immediately hereon 314he falls into an admiration of the wisdom, goodness, and love of God, exalting that nature incomparably above all the works of creation in the person of Jesus Christ; as the apostle expounds in this place, Heb. ii. 5, 6.

This, therefore, is the highest, the best, the most useful object of our thoughts and affections. He who has had a real view of this glory, though he know himself to be a poor, sinful, dying worm of the earth, yet would he not be an angel in heaven, if thereby he should lose the sight of it; for this is the centre wherein all the lines of the manifestation of the divine glory do meet and rest.

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.

He himself, out of his infinite love and ineffable condescension, upon the sight and view of his church, and his own graces in her, wherewith she is adorned, does say, “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck,” Cant. iv. 9. How much more ought a believing soul, upon a view of the glory of Christ, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell, to say, Thou hast ravished my heart, taken it away from me! “O thou whom my soul loveth,” one glance of thy glorious beauty upon me has quite overcome me, — hath left no heart in me unto things here below! If it be not thus with us frequently, — if we value not this object of our minds and affections, — if we are not diligent in looking up unto him to behold his glory, — it is because we are carnal, and not in any good measure partakers of the promise, that “our eyes shall see the King in his beauty.”

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