Category Archives: Doctrine of Man

“A holy admiration of what we cannot comprehend” by John Owen

“This is a short general view of this incomprehensible condescension of the Son of God, as it is described by the apostle in Phil. 2:5–8.

And this is that wherein in an especial manner we are to behold the glory of Christ by faith whilst we are in this world.

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 11:7–9; Rom. 11:33–36).

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 forever;’ 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.

It is with reference hereunto that that great promise concerning Him is given unto the church, (Isa. 8:14), ‘He shall be for a sanctuary’ (namely, unto all that believe, as it is expounded, 1 Peter 2:7-8); ‘but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence,’—’even to them that stumble at the word, being disobedient; where-unto also they were appointed.’

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 thereunto, 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 distresses and disconsolations, (Heb. 6:18).

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.’ (Isa. 32:2)

Herein He says, “I have satiated the weary soul, and have refreshed every sorrowful soul.” (Jer. 31:25)

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.”

–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: 330-331.

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“The Rock on which the church is built” by John Owen

“It may, then, be said, ‘What did the Lord Christ, in this condescension, with respect unto His divine nature?’

The apostle tells us that He ‘humbled Himself, and made Himself of no reputation,’ (Phil. 2:7-8). He veiled the glory of His divine nature in ours, and what He did therein, so as that there was no outward appearance or manifestation of it.

The world hereon was so far from looking on Him as the true God, that it believed Him not to be a good man. Hence they could never bear the least intimation of His divine nature, supposing themselves secured from any such thing, because they looked on Him with their eyes to be a man,—as He was, indeed, no less truly and really than any one of themselves.

Wherefore, on that testimony given of Himself, ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ (John 8:58)—which asserts a pre-existence from eternity in another nature than what they saw,—they were filled with rage, and ‘took up stones to cast at Him,’ (John 8:58-59).

And they gave a reason of their madness, (John 10:33),—namely, that ‘He, being a man, should make Himself to be God.’

This was such a thing, they thought, as could never enter into the heart of a wise and sober man,—namely, that being so, owning Himself to be such, He should yet say of Himself that He was God.

This is that which no reason can comprehend, which nothing in nature can parallel or illustrate, that one and the same person should He both God and man. And this is the principal plea of the Socinians at this day, who, through the Mohammedans, succeed unto the Jews in an opposition unto the divine nature of Christ.

But all this difficulty is solved by the glory of Christ in this condescension; for although in Himself, or His own divine person, He was ‘over all, God blessed forever,’ (Rom. 9:5) yet He humbled Himself for the salvation of the church, unto the eternal glory of God, to take our nature upon Him, and to be made man: and those who cannot see a divine glory in His so doing, do neither know Him, nor love Him, nor believe in Him, nor do any way belong unto Him.

So is it with the men of these abominations. Because they cannot behold the glory hereof, they deny the foundation of our religion,—namely, the divine person of Christ.

Seeing He would be made man, He shall be esteemed by them no more than a man.

So do they reject that glory of God, His infinite wisdom, goodness, and grace, wherein He is more concerned than in the whole creation. And they dig up the root of all evangelical truths, which are nothing but branches from it.

It is true, and must be confessed, that herein it is that our Lord Jesus Christ is ‘a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence’ (1 Peter 2:8) unto the world.

If we should confess Him only as a prophet, a man sent by God, there would not be much contest about Him, nor opposition unto Him.

The Mohammedans do all acknowledge it, and the Jews would not long deny it; for their hatred against Him was, and is, solely because He professed Himself to be God, and as such was believed on in the world.

And at this day, partly through the insinuation of the Socinians, and partly from the efficacy of their own blindness and unbelief, multitudes are willing to grant Him to be a prophet sent of God, who do not, who will not, who cannot, believe the mystery of this condescension in the susception of our nature, nor see the glory of it.

But take this away, and all our religion is taken away with it.

Farewell Christianity, as to the mystery, the glory, the truth, the efficacy of it;—let a refined heathenism be established in its room.

But this is the rock on which the church is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

–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: 327-328.

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“There is order in the Divine Persons, but no inequality in the Divine Being” by John Owen

“That we may the better behold the glory of Christ herein, we may briefly consider the especial nature of this condescension, and wherein it doth consist.

But whereas not only the denial, but misapprehensions hereof, have pestered the church of God in all ages, we must, in the first place, reject them, and then declare the truth.

This condescension of the Son of God did not consist in a laying aside, or parting with, or separation from, the divine nature, so as that He should cease to be God by being man.

The foundation of it lay in this, that he was ‘in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God,’ (Phil 2:6);—that is, being really and essentially God in His divine nature, He professed Himself therein to be equal with God, or the person of the Father.

He was in the form of God,—that is, He was God, participant of the divine nature, for God hath no form but that of His essence and being; and hence He was equal with God, in authority, dignity, and power.

Because He was in the form of God, He must be equal with God; for there is order in the Divine Persons, but no inequality in the Divine Being.

So the Jews understood Him, that when He said, ‘God was His Father, He made Himself equal with God.’

For in His so saying, He ascribed unto Himself equal power with the Father, as unto all divine operations. ‘My Father,’ saith He, ‘worketh hitherto, and I work,’ (John 5:17-18).

And they by whom his divine nature is denied do cast this condescension of Christ quite out of our religion, as that which hath no reality or substance in it. But we shall speak of them afterward.

Being in this state, it is said that he took on Him the form of a servant, and was found in fashion as a man, (Phil. 2:7). This is His condescension.

It is not said that He ceased to be in the form of God; but continuing so to be, He ‘took upon Him the form of a servant’ in our nature: He became what He was not, but He ceased not to be what He was.

So He testifieth of Himself, (John 3:13), ‘No man hath ascended up to heaven, but be that came down from heaven, the Son of man which is in heaven.’

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.

He who is God, can no more be not God, than He who is not God can be God; and our difference with the Socinians herein is,—we believe that Christ being God, was made man for our sakes; they say, that being only a man, he was made a god for His own sake.

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.”

–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: 325–326.

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“The deep, deep love of Jesus” by J.C. Ryle

“Mark the depth and width of our Lord’s sympathies and affections. The Saviour on whom we are bid to repose the weight of our sinful souls is one whose love passeth knowledge.

Shallow, skin-deep feelings in others, we all know continually chill and disappoint us on every side in this world.

But there is one whose mighty heart affection knows no bottom. That one is Christ.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Volume 3 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1880), 312. Ryle is commenting on John 19:26-27.

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“Turn from broken cisterns and drink from the Fountain of living waters” by Joel Beeke

“This is only a sampling of the many false views about God. Calvin rightly said, ‘Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.’ (Institutes, 1.11.8)

It is not our intention, however, to look down upon other people and thank God that we are not as other men, but to reflect upon ourselves and cry out, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:11, 13).

The sad fact is that the idols we have just exposed exist in hearts that attend Christian churches every Lord’s Day. To indulge in sin is practical atheism. If our hearts are divided in loyalty, we are guilty of polytheism.

Whenever we give our adoration to created things, we live as practical pantheists. Our trust in our own thoughts and feelings as if they had divine authority is no better than panentheism.

When we fail to trust God’s sovereign providence and plan for the future, we engage in finite theism. We might add other idols to the list, such as greed for material things (Col. 3:5).

John’s warning ‘Keep yourselves from idols’ (1 John 5:21) is directed to believers, and the only idols he specifically lists in that epistle are ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ (1 John 2:16).

How pitiful are such things compared to the true God! He is the great ‘I AM,’ the infinitely personal and immanently sovereign Lord. His beauty shines in the world that He created, but He is not the world.

Instead, He transcends the cosmos in glorious and eternal independence. Unspeakable splendor and joy dwell in His presence. And all who trust in Christ have access to His presence, the holy place, even while they sojourn on earth.

God’s wisdom, righteousness, and power radiate from the crucified Christ. At the cross, while all natural glory lay in ruins, God was redeeming the nations.

The resurrected Lord now reigns over all things as the only Mediator of the kingdom of grace. He will return with the holy angels to Judge the wicked and reward those made righteous by grace.

God’s call for men to repent of idolatry is not the death knell of human happiness, but the beginning of real life. God commands us to turn from broken cisterns and drink from the Fountain of living waters.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit say, ‘Come, eat and drink.’ The feast to which they summon us is nothing less than fellowship with the One true and living God.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology: Revelation and God, Volume 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 1: 602-603.

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“The heart of man was created for God and it cannot find rest until it rests in his Father’s heart” by Herman Bavinck

“The heart of man was created for God and that it cannot find rest until it rests in his Father’s heart. Hence all men are really seeking after God, as Augustine also declared, but they do not all seek Him in the right way, nor at the right place.

They seek Him down below, and He is up above.

They seek Him on the earth, and He is in heaven.

They seek Him afar, and He is nearby.

They seek Him in money, in property, in fame, in power, and in passion.

And He is to be found in the high and the holy places, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isa. 57:15).

But they do seek Him, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him (Acts 17:27).

They seek Him and at the same time they flee Him.

They have no interest in a knowledge of His ways, and yet they cannot do without Him. They feel themselves attracted to God and at the same time repelled by Him.

In this, as Pascal so profoundly pointed out, consists the greatness and the miserableness of man. He longs for truth and is false by nature.

He yearns for rest and throws himself from one diversion upon another. He pants for a permanent and eternal bliss and seizes on the pleasures of a moment.

He seeks for God and loses himself in the creature. He is a born son of the house and he feeds on the husks of the swine in a strange land.

He forsakes the fountain of living waters and hews out broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13).

He is as a hungry man who dreams that he is eating, and when he awakes finds that his soul is empty; and he is like a thirsty man who dreams that he is drinking, and when he awakes finds that he is faint and that his soul has appetite (Isa. 29:8).

Science cannot explain this contradiction in man. It reckons only with his greatness and not with his misery, or only with his misery and not with his greatness.

It exalts him too high, or it depresses him too far, for science does not know of his Divine origin, nor of his profound fall.

But the Scriptures know of both, and they shed their light over man and over mankind; and the contradictions are reconciled, the mists are cleared, and the hidden things are revealed.

Man is an enigma whose solution can be found only in God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (trans. Henry Zylstra; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 6–7.

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“Oh, the value and the preciousness of a child of God!” by Charles Spurgeon

“The Lord set such a value on His children that He gave His Son Jesus Christ to die sooner than He would lose one of them; and Jesus Himself chose to die on the cross that none of His little ones should perish. Oh, the value and the preciousness of a child of God!”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, Barbed Arrows from the Quiver of C.H. Spurgeon (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1896), 25.

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