“I will pay that which I never took” by John Owen

“‘Ought not Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory?’ (Luke 24:26)

But such, were these sufferings of Christ, as that in our thoughts about them our minds quickly recoil in a sense of their insufficiency to conceive aright of them. Never any one launched into this ocean with his meditations, but he quickly found himself unable to fathom the depths of it; nor shall I here undertake an inquiry into them. I shall only point at this spring of glory, and leave it under a veil.

We might here look on Him as under the weight of the wrath of God, and the curse of the law; taking on Himself, and on His whole soul, the utmost of evil that God had ever threatened to sin or sinners.

We might look on Him in His agony and bloody sweat, in His strong cries and supplications, when He was sorrowful unto the death, and began to be amazed, in apprehensions of the things that were coming on Him,—of that dreadful trial which He was entering into.

We might look upon Him conflicting with all the powers of darkness, the rage and madness of men,—suffering in His soul, His body, His name, His reputation, His goods, His life; some of these sufferings being immediate from God above, others from devils and wicked men, acting according to the determinate counsel of God.

We might look on Him praying, weeping, crying out, bleeding, dying,—in all things making His soul an offering for sin; so was He “taken from prison, and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off from the land of the living: for the transgression,” saith God, “of my people was He smitten,” (Isa. 53:8).

But these things I shall not insist on in particular, but leave them under such a veil as may give us a prospect into them, so far as to fill our souls with holy admiration.

Lord, what is man, that Thou art thus mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Who hath known Thy mind, or who hath been Thy counsellor?

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! What shall we say unto these things?

That God spared not His only Son, but gave Him up unto death, and all the evils included therein, for such poor, lost sinners as we were;— that for our sakes the eternal Son of God should submit Himself unto all the evils that our natures are obnoxious unto, and that our sins had deserved, that we might be delivered!

How glorious is the Lord Christ on this account, in the eyes of believers!

When Adam had sinned, and thereby eternally, according unto the sanction of the law, ruined himself and all his posterity, he stood ashamed, afraid, trembling, as one ready to perish forever, under the displeasure of God.

Death was that which he had deserved, and immediate death was that which he looked for.

In this state the Lord Christ in the promise comes unto him, and says,

“Poor creature! How woful is thy condition! How deformed is thy appearance!

What is become of the beauty, of the glory of that image of God wherein thou wast created?

How hast thou taken on thee the monstrous shape and image of Satan?

And yet thy present misery, thy entrance into dust and darkness, is no way to be compared with what is to ensue. Eternal distress lies at the door.

But yet look up once more, and behold Me, that thou mayest have some glimpse of what is in the designs of infinite wisdom, love, and grace.

Come forth from thy vain shelter, thy hiding-place.

I will put myself into thy condition.

I will undergo and bear that burden of guilt and punishment which would sink thee eternally into the bottom of hell.

I will pay that which I never took.

I will be made temporally a curse for thee, that thou mayest attain unto eternal blessedness.”

To the same purpose He speaks unto convinced sinners, in the invitation He gives them to come unto Him.

Thus is the Lord Christ set forth in the Gospel, ‘evidently crucified’ before our eyes, (Gal. 3:1),—namely, in the representation that is made of His glory,—in the sufferings He underwent for the discharge of the office He had undertaken.

Let us, then, behold Him as poor, despised, persecuted, reproached, reviled, hanged on a tree,— in all, labouring under a sense of the wrath of God due unto our sins.

Unto this end are they recorded in the Gospel,— read, preached, and represented unto us.

But what can we see herein?—what glory is in these things? Are not these the things which all the world of Jews and Gentiles stumbled and took offence at?—those wherein he was appointed to be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence?

Was it not esteemed a foolish thing, to look for help and deliverance by the miseries of another?—to look for life by his death?

The apostle declares at large that such it was esteemed, (1 Cor. 1:21-25). So was it in the wisdom of the world.

But even on the account of these things He is honourable, glorious, and precious in the sight of them that do believe, (1 Pet. 2:6-7).

For even herein He was ‘the power of God, and the wisdom of God,’ (1 Cor. 1:24).”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 340-342.

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