As our sermons last week did not record I am not able to share them with you so instead for this Lord’s Day let me share some wonderful insights from John Owen. This is my second review of his works (eventually I hope to work through the whole lot!). One of my regrets in reading this book (vol 2 of his works) is that I did not read it sooner – especially the first half of the book (the latter is a defence of the first part against some who were obviously disputing against it). There is great insight and depth in Owen’s teaching – but most of all there is this wonderful meditation on the love of Christ. Again rather than repeat the whole book I thought I would just offer you some gems that I highlighted and a couple of comments.
The Great Discovery of the Gospel
“This is the great discovery of the gospel: for whereas the Father, as the fountain of the Deity, is not known any other way but is full of wrath, anger and indignation against sin, nor can the sons of men have any other thoughts of him – (Romans 1:18; Isaiah 33:13-14; Habakkuk 1:13; Psalm 5:4-6; Ephesians 2:3) here he is now revealed peculiarly as love, as full of it unto us; the manifestation whereof is the peculiar work of the gospel, (Titus 3:4). (P19)
The Love of God Illustrated in Ordinary Things
“To secure us in this, there is not anything that has a loving and tender nature in the world, and does act suitably thereto, which God has not compared himself to. Separate all weakness and imperfection which is in them, yet great impressions of love must abide. He is as a father, a mother, a shepherd, a hen over chickens, and the like.” (P.22)
The Unchangeable Love of God
“The love of God in itself is the eternal purpose and act of his will. This is no more changeable than God himself: if it were, no flesh could be saved; but it does not change, and we are not consumed. What then? Does he love his people in their sinning? Yes; people, – not their sinning. Does he alter his love towards them? Not the purpose of his will, but the dispensations of his grace. He rebukes them, he chastens them, he hides his face from them, smites them, he fills them with a sense of his indignation; but woe, woe would it be to us, should he change in his love, or take away his kindness from us!” (Page 31)
Meditating on the Love of God
“Men cannot abide with God in spiritual meditations. He loses soul’s company by their want of this insight into his love. They fix their thoughts only on his terrible majesty, severity, and greatness; and so their spirits are not endeared. Would a soul continually eye his everlasting tenderness and compassion, his thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, his present gracious acceptance, it could not bear an hour’s absence from him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with him one hour. Let, then, this be the saints first notion of the Father, – as one full of eternal, free love towards them:”(P32).
“It is exceeding acceptable unto God, even our Father, that we should thus hold communion with him in his love, – that he may be received into our souls as one full of love, tenderness, and kindness, towards us. Flesh and blood is apt to have very hard thoughts of him, – to think he is always angry, yea, implacable; that it is not for poor creatures to draw nigh to him; that nothing in the world is more desirable than never to come into his presence, or, as they say, where he has anything to do. “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Say the sinners in Zion. And, “I knew that you were an austere man,” says the evil servant in the gospel. Now, there is not any thing more grievous to the Lord, nor more subservient to the design of Satan upon the soul, than such thoughts as these. Satan claps his hands (if I may say so) when he can take up the soul with such thoughts of God: he has enough, – all that he does desire. This has been his design and way from the beginning.” (Page 34)
“How unwilling is a child to come into the presence of an angry father!” (P 35)
“If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will? Put, then, this to the venture: exercise your thoughts upon this very thing, the eternal, free, and fruitful love of the Father, and see if your hearts be not wrought upon to delight in him. I dare boldly say, believers will find it as thriving a course as ever they pitched on in their lives. Sit down a little at the fountain, and you will quickly have a further discovery of the sweetness of the streams. You who have run from him, will not be able, after a while, to keep at a distance for a moment.” (Page 36)
“Lay down then, your reasonings; take up the love of the Father upon a pure act of believing, and that will open your soul to let it out unto the Lord in the communion of love”(page 37)
The Christians Comfort
“If, now, there be grace enough for sinners in an all-sufficient God, it is in Christ; and, indeed, in any other there cannot be enough. The Lord gives this reason for the peace and confidence of sinners, Isaiah chapter 54;4-5, “you shall not be ashamed, neither shall you be confounded; for you shall not be put to shame.” But how shall this be? So much sin, and not ashamed! So much guilt, and not confounded! “Your Maker,” says he, “is your husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called”. This is the bottom of all peace, confidence, and consolation, – the grace and mercy of our Maker, of the God of the whole earth.” (Page 61)
The Love of Christ
“The love of Christ in his human nature towards his is exceeding, intense, tender, precious, compassionate, abundantly heightened by a sense of our miseries, feeling of our wants, experience of our temptations; all flowing from that rich stock of grace, pity, and compassion, which, on purpose for our good and supply, was bestowed on him: but yet this love, as such, cannot be infinite nor eternal, nor from itself absolutely unchangeable.” (Page 62)
Owen here is not disputing the power and love of Christ but he is saying that we need not just the love in his human nature but the love that is from all eternity. Both are combined in the person of Christ.
Our sin on Christ
“Never was sin seen to be more abominably sinful and full of provocation, than when the burden of it was upon the shoulders of the Son of God. God having made his Son, the Son of his love, his only begotten, full of grace and truth, sin for us, to manifest his indignation against it, and how utterly impossible it is that he should let the least sin go unpunished, he lays hand on him, and spares him not.”(Page 96)
“Hell itself is but the filling of wretched creatures with the fruit of their own devices.” (Page 101)
“For a soul to know its wants, its infirmities, is a heavenly discovery. He that has this assistance, his prayer is more than half made before he begins to pray.” (Page 123)
“When we ask pardon for sin, with secret reserves in our hearts to continue in sin, we ask the choicest mercy of the covenant, to spend it on our lusts” (Page 124)
God’s Love Covers Our Sins
“Here, indeed, is the depth of his love to be contemplated, that whereas his holy soul hates every sin (it is a burden, an abomination, a new wound to him), and his poor spouse is sinful (believers are full of sins, failings, and infirmities), he hides all, covers all, bears with all, rather than he will lose them; by his power preserving them from such sins as a remedy is not provided for in the covenant of grace. Ah, the world of sinful follies that our dear Lord Jesus bears with all on this account! Are not our own souls astonished with the thought of it? Infinite patience, infinite forbearance, infinite love, infinite grace, infinite mercy, are all set on work for this end, to answer this his valuation of us.”(page 140)
Christ Intercedes for our Suffering as well as our Sins
“Christ intercedes on our behalf, not only in respect of our sins, but also our sufferings; and when the work of our afflictions is accomplished, we shall have the relief he intercedes for. The Father always hears him; and we have not a deliverance from trouble, a recovery of health, ease of pain, freedom from any evil that ever laid hold upon us but it is given us on the intercession of Jesus Christ.” (Page 145)
As I prepare to go into hospital for surgery again – I find the thought that Christ is interceding, not only for my sins but also my sufferings, wonderful!
“They will receive nothing, practice nothing, own nothing, in his worship, but what is of his appointment. They know that from the foundation of the world he never did allow, nor ever will that in anything the will of the creatures should be the measure of his honour for the principle of his worship, either as to matter or manner.” (Page 150)
“the divine nature is the reason and cause of all worship; so that it is impossible to worship any one person, and not worship the whole Trinity.” (Page 260)
Christ for us
“He lived for us, he died for us; he was ours and all he did, in all he suffered.” (Page 165)
Forgiveness of Sins
“Many, indeed, cry “Lord, Lord,” and make mention of him, but honour him not at all. How so? They take his work out of his hands, and ascribe it unto other things; their repentance, their duties, shall bear their iniquities. They do not say so; but they do so. The computation they make, if they make any, it is with themselves. All their bartering about sin is in and with their own souls. The work that Christ came to do in the world, was to “bear our iniquities,” and lay down his life a ransom for our sins. The cup he had to drink of was filled with our sins, as to the punishment due to them. What greater dishonour then, can be done to the Lord Jesus, and to ascribe this work to anything else, – to think to get rid of our sins by any other way or means?” (Page 195)
Owen argues that there is a difference between gospel repentance and legal or bondage repentance. The latter is “full of dread, amazement, terror, self-love, astonishment at the presence of God”. The former “consisting of godly sorrow for sin, with its relinquishment, proceeding from faith, love, and abhorrence of sin, on account of Father, Son and Spirit, both law and love, –“ (page 196) Thorpe
The Freedom that Real Christians Enjoy Contrasted with the False
“There are Gibeonites outwardly attending the family of God, but do the service of his house as the drudgery of their lives. The principal they yield obedience upon, is a spirit of bondage and to fear, Romans 8:15; the rule they do it by, is the law in its dread and rigour, exacting it of them to the utmost, without mercy and mitigation; the end they do it for, is to fly from the wrath to come, to pacify conscience, and seek righteousness as it were by the works of the law. Thus servilely, painfully, fruitlessly, they seek to serve their own conviction all their days.” (Page 213)
- I wonder how many ‘Reformed’ people are under this spirit of bondage?
The Presence of The Holy Spirit Better
“the presence of the Holy Spirit with believers as a comforter, sent by Christ for those aims and purposes for which he is promised, is better and more profitable for believers than any corporal presence of Christ can be, now he has fulfilled the one sacrifice for sins which he was to offer.” (Page 226)
“I told you that the Spirit as a sanctifier comes with power, to conquer an unbelieving heart; the Spirit as a comforter comes with sweetness, to be received in a believing heart” (page 233)
“And this is his work to the end of the world, – to bring the promises of Christ to our minds and hearts, to give us the comfort of them, the joy and sweetness of them, much beyond that which the disciples found in them, when Christ in-person spoke them to them; the gracious influence being then restrained, that, as was said, the dispensation of the Spirit might be glorified.” (Page 237)
The Rejection of the Holy Spirit
“The aim of this discourse is to evince the folly and madness of men in general, who profess to own the gospel of Christ, and yet condemn and despise his Spirit, in whomsoever he is manifested. Let us be zealous of the gifts of the Spirit, not envious at them. (Page 256)
“Then Satan, would have a ministry without the Spirit; – now, a Spirit without a ministry” (page 257)
“His business is, to decry the things that Christ has spoken which are written in the word; to pretend new revelations of his own; to lead men from the written word, wherein the whole work of God and all the promises of Christ are recorded.” (Page 257).
“Wherefore the Holy Spirit is sent, and his work is to glorify the Son. Now, as I said, we have a Spirit come forth whose whole business is to glorify himself; whereby we may easily know whence he is.” (Page 258)
Humanity and the Church
“God made Eve of the rib of Adam; and his church he frames out of the very flesh, the very wounded and bleeding side, of the Son of man” (Page 282)
The Person Jesus Christ
“Jesus Christ, of whom we speak, is a person, not an office;” (Page 330)
Understanding the Truth
“All these reasonings are built upon this supposition, that that which is finite can perfectly comprehend that which is infinite,- an assertion absurd, foolish and contradictory unto itself.” (Page 412)
“It is a rule among philosophers, that if a man, on just grounds and reasons, have embraced any opinion or persuasion, he is not to desert it merely because he cannot answer every objection against it. For if the objections wherewith we may be entangled are not of the same weight and importance with the reason on which we embraced the opinion, it is a madness to forego it on the account thereof. And much more must his hold amongst the common sort of Christians, in things spiritual and divine. If they will let go and part with their faith in any truth, because they are not able to answer distinctly some objections that may be made against it, they may quickly find themselves disputed into atheism” (Page 413).