Category Archives: John Owen

“His laying down His life for us was an act of inconceivable love” by John Owen

“This love of Christ which we inquire after is the love of His person,—that is, which He in His own person acts in and by His distinct natures, according unto their distinct essential properties.

And the acts of love in these distinct natures are infinitely distinct and different; yet are they all acts of one and the same person.

So, then, whether that act of love in Christ which we would at any time consider, be an eternal act of the divine nature in the person of the Son of God; or whether it be an act of the human, performed in time by the gracious faculties and powers of that nature, it is still the love of one and the self-same person,– Christ Jesus.

It was an act of inexpressible love in Him, that He assumed our nature, (Heb. 2:14, 17). But it was an act in and of His divine nature only; for it was antecedent unto the existence of His human nature, which could not, therefore, concur therein.

His laying down His life for us was an act of inconceivable love, (1 John 3:16). Yet was it only an act of the human nature, wherein He offered Himself and died.

But both the one and the other were acts of His divine person; whence it is said that God laid down His life for us, and purchased the church with His own blood.

This is that love of Christ wherein He is glorious, and wherein we are by faith to behold His glory.

A great part of the blessedness of the saints in heaven, and their triumph therein, consists in their beholding of this glory of Christ,– in their thankful contemplation of the fruits of it. (See Rev. 5:9-10)

The illustrious brightness wherewith this glory shines in heaven, the all-satisfying sweetness which the view of it gives unto the souls of the saints there possessed of glory, are not by us conceivable, nor to be expressed.

Here, this love passeth knowledge,– there, we shall comprehend the dimensions of it.

Yet even here, if we are not slothful and carnal, we may have a refreshing prospect of it; and where comprehension fails, let admiration take place.

My present business is, to exhort others unto the contemplation of it, though it be but a little, a very little, a small portion of it, that I can conceive; and less than that very little that I can express.”

–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: 336–337.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Glorification, Glory of Christ, God's Excellencies, Heaven, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Love of God, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Gospel

“The line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament” by John Owen

“It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He declared unto His disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,’ (Luke 24:27).

It is therefore manifest that Moses, and the Prophets, and all the Scriptures, do give testimony unto Him and His glory.

This is the line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament, without the conduct whereof we can understand nothing aright therein: and the neglect hereof is that which makes many as blind in reading the books of it as are the Jews,—the veil being upon their minds. (2 Cor. 4:14-16)

It is faith alone, discovering the glory of Christ, that can remove that veil of darkness which covers the minds of men in reading the Old Testament, as the apostle declares, (2 Cor. 3:14–16). I shall, therefore, consider briefly some of those ways and means whereby the glory of Christ was represented unto believers under the Old Testament.

It was represented in the institution of the beautiful worship of the law, with all the means of it. Herein have they the advantage above all the splendid ceremonies that men can invent in the outward worship of God; they were designed and framed in divine wisdom to represent the glory of Christ, in His person and His office.

This nothing of human invention can do, or once pretend unto. Men cannot create mysteries, nor can give unto anything natural in itself a mystical signification.

But so it was in the old divine institutions.

What were the tabernacle and temple?

What was the holy place with the utensils of it?

What was the oracle, the ark, the cherubim, the mercy-seat, placed therein?

What was the high priest in all his vestments and administrations?

What were the sacrifices and annual sprinkling of blood in the most holy place?

What was the whole system of their religious worship?

Were they anything but representations of Christ in the glory of His person and His office?

They were a shadow, and the body represented by that shadow was Christ.

If any would see how the Lord Christ was in particular foresignified and represented in them, he may peruse our exposition on the 9th chapter of the Epistle unto the Hebrews, where it is handled so at large as that I shall not here again insist upon it.

The sum is, ‘Moses was faithful in all the house of God, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken afterward,’ (Heb. 3:5).

All that Moses did in the erection of the tabernacle, and the institution of all its services, was but to give an antecedent testimony by way of representation, unto the things of Christ that were afterward to be revealed.

And that also was the substance of the ministry of the prophets, (1 Pet. 1:11-12). The dark apprehensions of the glory of Christ, which by these means they obtained, were the life of the church of old.

Promises, prophecies, predictions, concerning His person, His coming, His office, His kingdom, and His glory in them all, with the wisdom, grace, and love of God to the church in Him, are the line of life, as was said, which runs through all the writings of the Old Testament, and takes up a great portion of them.

Those were the things which He expounded unto His disciples out of Moses and all the Prophets. Concerning these things He appealed to the Scriptures against all his adversaries: ‘Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testily of Me.’ (John 5:39)

And if we find them not, if we discern them not therein, it is because a veil of blindness is over our minds.

Nor can we read, study, or meditate on the writings of the Old Testament unto any advantage, unless we design to find out and behold the glory of Christ, declared and represented in them.

For want hereof they are a sealed book to many unto this day.”

–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: 348-351.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Glorification, Glory of Christ, God's Excellencies, Heaven, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Gospel

“The holiness, love, compassion, care, and authority of Christ towards His church” by John Owen

“The especial design of the rule of the church in its government is to represent the holiness of Christ, love of Christ, compassion of Christ, care of Christ, and authority of Christ towards His church.

This is the great end of rule in the church, and of all the discipline which is to be exercised by virtue thereof.

Whilst this is not attended unto, when the officers and rulers of the church do not endeavour, in all the actings of their power and office, to set forth these virtues of Christ, to exemplify that impression of them which He hath left in His laws and rule, with the divine testimonies which He gave of them in His own person, they utterly deviate from the principal end of all rule in the church.

For men to act herein in a way of domination, with a visible elation of mind and spirit above their brethren; with anger, wrath, and passion; by rules, order, and laws of their own devising, without the least consideration of what the Lord Christ requires, and what is the frame of His heart towards all His disciples,—is to reflect the highest dishonour imaginable upon Christ Himself.

He who comes into the courts of the king in Westminster Hall, when filled with judges, grave, learned, and righteous, must ordinarily be allowed to judge of the king himself, his wisdom, justice, moderation, and clemency, by the law which they proceed upon and their manner of the administration of it.

But God forbid that Christians should make a judgment concerning the holiness, wisdom, love, and compassion of Christ by the representation which, as is pretended, is made of Him and them in some courts wherein church rule and discipline is administered!

When any had offended of old, their censure by the church was called the bewailing of them, (2 Cor. 12:21); and that because of the sorrow, pity, and compassion whereby, in that censure, they evidenced the compassion of the Lord Christ towards the souls of sinners.

This is scarce answered by those pecuniary mulcts and other penalties, which, with indignation and contempt, are inflicted on such as are made offenders, whether they will or no.

Certainly, those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and have a due honour for the gospel, will, at one time or another, begin to think meet that this stain of our religion should be washed away.

The rule and law of the exercise of power in the elders of the church is the holy Scripture only.

The Lord Christ is the only lawgiver of the church; all His laws unto this end are recorded in the Scripture; no other law is effectual, can oblige or operate upon the objects or unto the ends of church-rule.

If the church make a thousand rules, or canons, or laws for government, neither any of them, nor all of them in general, have any the least power to oblige men unto obedience or compliance with them, but only so far as virtually or materially they contain what is of the law of Christ, and derive force from thence: as the judges in our courts of justice are bound to judge and determine in all cases out of and according to the law of the land; and when they do not, their sentence is of no validity, but may and ought to be reversed.

But if, wilfully or of choice, they should introduce laws or rules not legally established in this nation, judging according unto them, it would render them highly criminal and punishable.

It is no otherwise in the kingdom of Christ and the rule thereof. It is by His law alone that rule is to be exercised in it. There is nothing left unto the elders of the church but the application of his laws and the general rules of them unto particular cases and occasions.

To make, to bring, to execute, any other rules, laws, or canons, in the government of his church, is to usurp on His kingly dominion.”

–John Owen, “The True Nature of a Gospel Church,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 16 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1689/1968), 16: 135-136.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Ecclesiology, Elders, Evangelism, Glory of Christ, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Church, The Gospel

“Union with Christ is the greatest and most glorious grace that we can be made partakers of in this world” by John Owen

“Union with Christ is the greatest, most honourable, and glorious of all graces that we are made partakers of. It is called ‘glory,’ (2 Cor. 3:18).

The greatest humiliation of the Son of God consisted in His taking upon Him of our nature, (Heb. 2:8-9).

And this was ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich,’—rich in the eternal glory, the glory that He had with the Father before the world was, (John 17:5), as being in Himself ‘God over all, blessed for ever,’ (Rom. 9:5),— ‘for our sakes He became poor,’ (2 Cor. 8:9), by taking on Him that nature which is poor in itself, infinitely distanced from Him, and exposed unto all misery.

All which our apostle fully expresseth, (Phil. 2:5–7), ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.’

There was indeed great grace and condescension in all that He did and humbled Himself unto in that nature, as it follows in that place, ‘And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,’ (Phil. 2:8).

But His assumption of the nature itself was that whereby most signally ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, He ’emptied’ and ‘humbled Himself, and made Himself of no reputation.’

On this all that followed did ensue, and on this it did depend. From hence all His actings and sufferings in that nature received their dignity and efficacy.

All, I say, that Christ, as our mediator, did and underwent in our nature, had its worth, merit, use, and prevalency from His first condescension in taking our nature upon Him; for from thence it was that whatever He so did or suffered, it was the doing and suffering of the Son of God.

And, on the contrary, our grace of union with Christ, our participation of Him and His nature, is our highest exaltation, the greatest and most glorious grace that we can be made partakers of in this world.

He became poor for our sakes, by a participation of our nature, that we through His poverty may be rich in a participation of His, (2 Cor. 8:9). And this is that which gives worth and excellency unto all that we may be afterwards intrusted with.

The grace and privileges of believers are very great and excellent, but yet they are such as do belong unto them that are made partakers of Christ, such as are due to the quickening and adorning of all the members of His body; as all privileges of marriage, after marriage contracted, arise from and follow that contract.

For being once made co-heirs with Christ, we are made heirs of God, and have a right to the whole inheritance.

And, indeed, what greater glory or dignity can a poor sinner be exalted unto, than to be thus intimately and indissolubly united unto the Son of God, the perfection whereof is the glory which we hope and wait for, (John 17:22-23)?

Saith David, in an earthly, temporary concern, ‘What am I, and what is my father’s family, that I should be son-in-law unto the king, being a poor man, and lightly esteemed?’ (1 Samuel 18:23)

How much more may a sinner say, ‘What am I, poor, sinful dust and ashes, one that deserves to be lightly esteemed by the whole creation of God, that I should be thus united unto the Son of God, and thereby become His son by adoption!’

This is honour and glory unparalleled. And all the grace that ensues receives its worth, its dignity, and use from hence.

Therefore are the graces and the works of believers excellent, because they are the graces and works of them that are united unto.”

–John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Volume 4, The Works of John Owen (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1667/1854), 4: 148–149.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Christology, Communion with God, Covenant, Doctrine of God, Ecclesiology, Elders, Evangelism, Glory of Christ, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, salvation, Sanctification, The Church, The Gospel, Union with Christ, Wisdom

“God in the beginning made all things good, glorious, and beautiful” by John Owen

“The Lord, indeed, hath laid out and manifested infinite wisdom in His works of creation, providence, and governing of His world: in wisdom hath he made all His creatures. ‘How manifold are His works! In wisdom hath He made them all; the earth is full of His riches,’ (Ps. 104:24).

So in His providence, His supportment and guidance of all things, in order to one another, and His own glory, unto the ends appointed for them; for all these things ‘come forth from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working,’ (Isa. 28:29).

His law also is for ever to be admired, for the excellency of the wisdom therein, (Deut. 4:7-8).

But yet there is that which Paul is astonished at, and wherein God will for ever be exalted, which he calls, ‘The depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God,’ (Rom. 11:33);—that is only hid in and revealed by Christ.

Hence, as he is said to be ‘the wisdom of God,’ and to be ‘made unto us wisdom;’ so the design of God, which is carried along in Him, and revealed in the gospel, is called ‘the wisdom of God,’ and a ‘mystery; even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world was; which none of the princes of this world knew,’ (1 Cor. 2:7-8).

In Ephesians 3:10 it is called, ‘The manifold wisdom of God.’ And to discover the depth and riches of this wisdom, he tells us in that verse that it is such, that principalities and powers, that very angels themselves, could not in the least measure get any acquaintance with it, until God, by gathering of a church of sinners, did actually discover it.

Hence Peter informs us, that they who are so well acquainted with all the works of God, do yet bow down and desire with earnestness to look into these things (the things of the wisdom of God in the gospel), (1 Pet. 1:12).

It asks a man much wisdom to make a curious work, fabric, and building; but if one shall come and deface it, to raise up the same building to more beauty and glory than ever, this is excellence of wisdom indeed.

God in the beginning made all things good, glorious, and beautiful. When all things had an innocency and beauty, the clear impress of his wisdom and goodness upon them, they were very glorious; especially man, who was made for His special glory.

Now, all this beauty was defaced by sin, and the whole creation rolled up in darkness, wrath, curses, confusion, and the great praise of God buried in the heaps of it.

Man, especially, was utterly lost, and came short of the glory of God, for which he was created, (Rom. 3:23). Here, now, doth the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God open itself.

A design in Christ shines out from His bosom, that was lodged there from eternity, to recover things to such an estate as shall be exceedingly to the advantage of His glory, infinitely above what at first appeared, and for the putting of sinners into inconceivably a better condition than they were in before the entrance of sin.”

–John Owen, “On Communion With God,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1657/1976), 2: 88-89.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Communion with God, Covenant, Ecclesiology, Elders, Evangelism, Glory of Christ, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, salvation, Sanctification, The Church, The Gospel, Wisdom

“The first and principal duty of a pastor” by John Owen

The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the Word. It is a promise relating to the New Testament, that God would give unto His church ‘pastors according to His own heart, which should feed them with knowledge and understanding,’ (Jer. 3:15).

This is by teaching or preaching the Word, and no otherwise. This feeding is of the essence of the office of a pastor, as unto the exercise of it; so that he who doth not, or can not, or will not feed the flock is no pastor, whatever outward call or work he any have in the church.

The care of preaching the gospel was committed to Peter, and in him unto all true pastors of the church, under the name of ‘feeding,’ (John 21:15–17). According to the example of the apostles, they are to free themselves from all encumbrances, that they may give themselves wholly unto the word and prayer, (Acts 6:1–4).

Their work is ‘to labour in the word and doctrine,’ (1 Tim. 5:17); and thereby to ‘feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers,’ (Acts 20:28): and it is that which is everywhere given them in charge.

This work and duty, therefore, as was said, is essential unto the office of a pastor. A man is a pastor unto them whom he feeds by pastoral teaching, and to no more; and he that doth not so feed is no pastor.

Nor is it required only that he preach now and then at his leisure, but that he lay aside all other employments, though lawful, all other duties in the church, as unto such a constant attendance on them as would divert him from this work, that he give himself unto it,—that he be in these things labouring to the utmost of his ability.

Without this no man will be able to give a comfortable account of the pastoral office at the Last Day…

Sundry things are required unto this work and duty of pastoral preaching; as,—

(1.) Spiritual wisdom and understanding in the mysteries of the gospel, that they may declare unto the church “all the counsel of God” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (See Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 2:4–7; Eph. 3:8–11).

The generality of the church, especially those who are grown in knowledge and experience, have a spiritual insight into these things, and the Apostle prays that all believers may have so, (Eph. 1:15–19); and if those that instruct them, or should do so, have not some degree of eminency herein, they cannot be useful to lead them on to perfection.

And the little care hereof or concernment herein is that which in our days hath rendered the ministry of many fruitless and useless.

(2.) Experience of the power of the truth which they preach in and upon their own souls. Without this they will themselves be lifeless and heartless in their own work, and their labour for the most part will be unprofitable towards others.

It is, to such men, attended unto as a task for their advantage, or as that which carries some satisfaction in it from ostentation and supposed reputation wherewith it is accompanied.

But a man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul.

And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself.

If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. And no man lives in a more woful condition than those who really believe not themselves what they persuade others to believe continually.

The want of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the Gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit.

And let any say what they please, it is evident that some men’s preaching, as well as others not-preaching, hath lost the credit of their ministry.

(3.) Skill to divide the word aright, (2 Tim. 2:15); and this consists in a practical wisdom, upon a diligent attendance unto the word of truth, to find out what is real, substantial, and meet food for the souls of the hearers,—to give unto all sorts of persons in the church that which is their proper portion.

And this requires, (4.) A prudent and diligent consideration of the state of the flock over which any man is set, as unto their strength or weakness, their growth or defect in knowledge (the measure of their attainments requiring either milk or strong meat), their temptations and duties, their spiritual decays or thrivings; and that not only in general, but, as near as may be, with respect unto all the individual members of the church.

Without a due regard unto these things, men preach at random, uncertainly fighting, like those that beat the air.

Preaching sermons not designed for the advantage of them to whom they are preached; insisting on general doctrines not levelled to the condition of the auditory; speaking what men can, without consideration of what they ought,—are things that will make men weary of preaching, when their minds are not influenced with outward advantages, as much as make others weary in hearing of them.

And, (5.) All these, in the whole discharge of their duty, are to be constantly accompanied with the evidence of zeal for the glory of God and compassion for the souls of men. Where these are not in vigorous exercise in the minds and souls of them that preach the Word, giving a demonstration of themselves unto the consciences of them that hear, the quickening form, the life and soul of preaching, is lost.

All these things seem common, obvious, and universally acknowledged; but the ruin of the ministry of the most for the want of them, or from notable defects in them, is or may be no less evidently known.

And the very naming of them (which is all at present which I design) is sufficient to evidence how great a necessity there is incumbent on all pastors of churches to give themselves unto the Word and prayer, to labour in the Word and doctrine, to be continually intent on this work, to engage all the faculties of their souls, to stir up all their graces and gifts, unto constant exercise in the discharge of their duty; for ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ (2 Cor. 2:16)”

–John Owen, “The True Nature of a Gospel Church,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 16 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1689/1968), 16: 74-77.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Ecclesiology, Elders, Evangelism, Glory of Christ, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Church, The Gospel

“The never-failing springs of covenant grace” by John Owen

“Besides the continual supplies of grace that constantly, according to the tenure of the covenant, are communicated unto believers, which keeps them that they thirst no more as to a total indigence, there is, moreover, a readiness in the Lord Christ to yield peculiar succour to the souls of His, according as their occasions shall require.

The apostle tells us that He is ‘a merciful High Priest,’ and ‘able’ (that is, ready, prepared, and willing) ‘to succour them that are tempted,’ (Heb. 2:18); and we are on that account invited to ‘come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,’ (Heb. 4:16)—that is, grace sufficient, seasonable, suitable unto any especial trial or temptation that we may be exercised withal.

Our merciful High Priest is ready to give out this especial seasonable grace over and above those constant communications of supplies of the Spirit which we mentioned before.

Besides the never-failing springs of ordinary covenant grace, He hath also peculiar refreshing showers for times of drought; and this is exceedingly to the advantage of the saints for their preservation and growth in grace.”

–John Owen, “Indwelling Sin in Believers,” in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: Temptation and Sin (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1681/2009), 6: 288.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, grace, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Gospel