“Christ prizeth him more than all the world besides” by John Owen

“All the world is nothing to Him in comparison with believers.

They are His garden; the rest of the world, wilderness. Cant. 4:12, ‘A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.’

They are His inheritance; the rest, His enemies, of no regard with him. So Isa. 43:3-4, “I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”

The reason of this dealing of Christ with His church, in parting with all others for them, is, because He loves her. She is precious and honourable in His sight; thence He puts this great esteem upon her.

Indeed, He disposeth of all nations and their interests according as is for the good of believers. Amos 9:9, in all the siftings of the nations, the eye of God is upon the house of Israel; not a grain of them shall perish.

Look to heaven; angels are appointed to minister for them, Heb. 1:14.

Look into the world; the nations in general are either blessed for their sakes, or destroyed on their account,—preserved to try them, or rejected for their cruelty towards them; and will receive from Christ their final doom according to their deportment towards these despised ones.

On this account are the pillars of the earth borne up, and patience is exercised towards the perishing world.

In a word, there is not the meanest, the weakest, the poorest believer on the earth, but Christ prizeth him more than all the world besides.

Were our hearts filled much with thoughts hereof, it would tend much to our consolation.

To answer this, believers also value Jesus Christ; they have an esteem of Him above all the world, and all things in the world.

You have been in part acquainted with this before, in the account that was given of their delight in Him, and inquiry after Him.

They say of Him in their hearts continually, as David, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and none upon earth I desire beside thee.” Ps. 73:25.

Neither heaven nor earth will yield them an object any way comparable to him, that they can delight in.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 136-137.

“An inexpressible mercy” by John Owen

“The next general work of the Holy Spirit seems to be that of John 16:14, ‘The Comforter shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.’

The work of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. But what shall this Spirit do, that Christ may be glorified? ‘He shall,’ saith He, “take of Mine,”—ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήψεται.

What these things are is declared in the next verse: ‘All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore I said He shall take of Mine.’

It is not of the essence and essential properties of the Father and Son that our Saviour speaks; but of the grace which is communicated to us by them.

This Christ calls, ‘My things,’ being the fruit of His purchase and mediation: on which account He saith all His Father’s things are His; that is, the things that the Father, in His eternal love, hath provided to be dispensed in the blood of His Son,—all the fruits of election.

‘These,’ said He, ‘the Comforter shall receive; that is, they shall be committed unto Him to dispose for your good and advantage, to the end before proposed.’

So it follows, ἀναγγελεῖ,—’He shall show, or declare and make them known to you.’ Thus, then, is He a comforter.

He reveals to the souls of sinners the good things of the covenant of grace, which the Father hath provided, and the Son purchased.

He shows to us mercy, grace, forgiveness, righteousness, acceptation with God.

He letteth us know that these are the things of Christ, which He hath procured for us.

He shows them to us for our comfort and establishment.

These things, I say, He effectually declares to the souls of believers; and makes them know them for their own good;—know them as originally the things of the Father, prepared from eternity in His love and goodwill; as purchased for them by Christ, and laid up in store in the covenant of grace for their use.

Then is Christ magnified and glorified in their hearts; then they know what a Saviour and Redeemer He is.

A soul doth never glorify or honour Christ upon a discovery or sense of the eternal redemption He hath purchased for him, but it is in him a peculiar effect of the Holy Ghost as our comforter.

‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,’ (1 Cor. 12:3).

He ‘sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts,’ (Rom. 5:5). That it is the love of God to us, not our love to God, which is here intended, the context is so clear as nothing can be added thereunto.

Now, the love of God is either of ordination or of acceptation,—the love of His purpose to do us good, or the love of acceptation and approbation with Him.

Both these are called the love of God frequently in Scripture, as I have declared. Now, how can these be shed abroad in our hearts?

Not in themselves, but in a sense of them,—in a spiritual apprehension of them. Ἐκκέχυται, is ‘shed abroad;’ the same word that is used concerning the Comforter being given us, (Titus 3:6).

God sheds Him abundantly, or pours Him on us; so He sheds abroad, or pours out the love of God in our hearts.

Not to insist on the expression, which is metaphorical, the business is, that the Comforter gives a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated withal.

This is His work, and He doth it effectually.

To give a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections, that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well-pleased with him, and hath thoughts of tenderness and kindness towards him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense hereof, is an inexpressible mercy.

This we have in a peculiar manner by the Holy Ghost; it is His peculiar work.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 239-240.

“His jewel, His diadem, and His crown” by John Owen

“For their sakes Christ so humbled and emptied Himself, in taking flesh, as to become therein a servant,– in the eyes of the world of no esteem nor account; and a true and real servant unto the Father.

For their sakes He humbled Himself, and became obedient. All that He did and suffered in His life comes under this consideration; all which may be referred to these three heads:

[1.] Fulfilling all righteousness.
[2.] Enduring all manner of persecutions and hardships.
[3.] Doing all manner of good to men.

He took on Him, for their sakes, a life and course pointed to, (Heb. 5:7-8),—a life of prayers, tears, fears, obedience, suffering; and all this with cheerfulness and delight, calling His employment His “meat and drink,” and still professing that the law of this obedience was in His heart,—that He was content to do this will of God.

He that will sorely revenge the least opposition that is or shall be made to Him by others, was content to undergo any thing, all things, for believers.

He stays not here, but (for the consummation of all that went before) for their sakes He becomes obedient to death, the death of the cross. So He professeth to His Father, ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself;’ (John 17:19)—’I dedicate myself as an offering, as a sacrifice, to be killed and slain.’

This was His aim in all the former, that He might die; He was born, and lived, that He might die. He valued them above His life.

And if we might stay to consider a little what was in this death that He underwent for them, we should perceive what a price indeed He put upon them.

The curse of the law was in it, (Gal. 3:13) the wrath of God was in it, the loss of God’s presence was in it (Ps. 22:1). It was a fearful cup that he tasted of, and drank of, that they might never taste of it (Matt. 26:39).

A man would not for ten thousand worlds be willing to undergo that which Christ underwent for us in that one thing of desertion from God, were it attended with no more distress but what a mere creature might possibly emerge from under.

And what thoughts we should have of this Himself tells us, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:13)

It is impossible there should be any greater demonstration or evidence of love than this. What can any one do more?

And yet He tells us in another place, that it hath another aggravation and heightening, ‘God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Rom. 5:8)

When He did this for us we were sinners, and enemies, whom He might justly have destroyed. What more can be done?—to die for us when we were sinners! Such a death, in such a manner, with such attendancies of wrath and curse,—a death accompanied with the worst that God had ever threatened to sinners,—argues as high a valuation of us as the heart of Christ Himself was capable of.

For one to part with His glory, His riches, His ease, His life, His love from God, to undergo loss, shame, wrath, curse, death, for another, is an evidence of a dear valuation; and that it was all on this account, we are informed, (Heb. 12:2).

Certainly Christ had a dear esteem of them, that, rather than they should perish,— that they should not be His, and be made partakers of His glory,— He would part with all He had for their sakes, (Eph. 5:25-26).

There would be no end, should I go through all the instances of Christ’s valuation of believers, in all their deliverances, afflictions, in all conditions of sinning and suffering,— what He hath done, what He doth in His intercession, what He delivers them from, what He procures for them; all telling out this one thing,— they are the apple of His eye, His jewel, His diadem, His crown.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 134-136.

“The love of Christ contains within itself the whole of wisdom” by John Calvin

“By those dimensions Paul means nothing else than the love of Christ, of which he speaks afterwards. The meaning is, that he who knows it fully and perfectly is in every respect a wise man.

As if he had said, “In whatever direction men may look, they will find nothing in the doctrine of salvation that does not bear some relation to this subject.”

The love of Christ contains within itself the whole of wisdom.

Almost all men are infected with the disease of desiring useless knowledge.

Therefore this admonition is very useful: what is necessary for us to know, and what the Lord desires us to contemplate, above and below, on the right hand and on the left, before and behind.

The love of Christ is held out to us as the subject which ought to occupy our daily and nightly meditations, and that which we ought to be wholly immersed in. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

He who holds to this alone has enough.

Beyond it there is nothing solid, nothing useful, nothing, in short, that is right or sound.

Go abroad in heaven and earth and sea, you will never go beyond this without overstepping the lawful bounds of wisdom.”

–John Calvin, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, Volume 11, Trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 168-169. Calvin is commenting on Ephesians 3:18-19.

“The Seed of Abraham who existed before Abraham” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Hence, since the Virgin conceived and brought forth a Son, because of His manifest nature of servant, we read: ‘A child is born to us’ (Isaiah 9:6); but, because the Word of God, which remains forever, became flesh so that He might dwell with us, on account of His real, though hidden nature of God, we, using the words of the Angel Gabriel, call ‘his name Emmanuel.’ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)

Remaining God, He has become Man so that the Son of Man may rightly be called ‘God with us’ and so that in Him God is not one person and man another.

Let the world rejoice in those who believe, for whose salvation He came, by whom the world was made, the Creator of Mary born of Mary, the Son of David yet Lord of David, the Seed of Abraham who existed before Abraham, the Fashioner of this earth fashioned on this earth, the Creator of heaven created as Man under the light of heaven.

This is the day which the Lord has made and the Lord Himself is the bright Day of our heart.

Let us walk in His light; let us exult and be glad in Him.”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 187: On the Birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (ed. Hermigild Dressler; trans. Mary Sarah Muldowney; vol. 38; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 38: 16-17.

“Your God has become man” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“That day is called the birthday of the Lord on which the Wisdom of God manifested Himself as a speechless Child and the Word of God wordlessly uttered the sound of a human voice.

His divinity, although hidden, was revealed by heavenly witness to the Magi and was announced to the shepherds by angelic voices.

With yearly ceremony, therefore, we celebrate this day which saw the fulfillment of the prophecy: ‘Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven.’ (Psalm 84:12)

Truth, eternally existing in the bosom of the Father, has sprung from the earth so that He might exist also in the bosom of a mother.

Truth, holding the world in place, has sprung from the earth so that He might be carried in the hands of a woman.

Truth, incorruptibly nourishing the happiness of the angels, has sprung from the earth in order to be fed by human milk.

Truth, whom the heavens cannot contain, has sprung from the earth so that He might be placed in a manger.

For whose benefit did such unparalleled greatness come in such lowliness? Certainly for no personal advantage, but definitely for our great good, if only we believe.

Arouse yourself, O man; for your God has become man. ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from among the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee.’ (Eph. 5:14)

For you, I repeat, God has become man.

If He had not thus been born in time, you would have been dead for all eternity.

Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, if He had not taken upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh.

Everlasting misery would have engulfed you, if He had not taken this merciful form.

You would not have been restored to life, had He not submitted to your death; you would have fallen, had He not succored you; you would have perished, had He not come.

Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festal day on which the great and timeless One came from the great and timeless day to this brief span of our day.

He ‘has become for us righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:30-31)'”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 185: On the Birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (ed. Hermigild Dressler; trans. Mary Sarah Muldowney; vol. 38; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 38: 6-7.

“Christ has His arms outstretched to embrace us” by John Calvin

“Let everyone one of us know for his own part, how we had forgotten God and were quite turned away from Him in our dissoluteness until He called us again to Him.

When we know this, let us learn to magnify His grace for vouchsafing to reconcile us to Himself and to put away all the enmity that was between Him and us, and to make us His children who were His deadly enemies, assuring ourselves that all this is done through our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that out of that fountain we should draw all that belongs to our salvation.

And furthermore, let us consider also what encouragement we have by the helps God has given us by which to come to Jesus Christ, and to confirm us in Him in order that we may have a settled and sure doctrine.

When the gospel is daily preached to us, Jesus Christ is offered in it to us, and He, for His part, calls us to Himself. To be short, He has His arms outstretched to embrace us. Let us understand that.

And afterwards let us add the sacraments. And, seeing that Jesus Christ has not only commanded the open preaching of the gospel, by which He shows Himself to be our Shepherd and that He will have us to be His flock, but also confirms it by baptism and by the Supper, let us take good heed that we do not make those signs useless through our own evil and ingratitude.

But let us rather consider to what end God has ordained them, and let us so use them that we may grow more and more in faith and be thereby inflamed with such zeal that we may endeavor to give ourselves wholly to God, since it has pleased Him also to give Himself to us.”

–John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians (trans. Arthur Golding; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1562/1973), 183. Calvin is preaching on Ephesians 2:11-13.

“This is that which Christ came to reveal: God as a Father” by John Owen

“Communion consists in giving and receiving. Until the love of the Father be received, we have no communion with him therein.

How, then, is this love of the Father to be received, so as to hold fellowship with Him? I answer, By faith.

The receiving of it is the believing of it. God hath so fully, so eminently revealed His love, that it may be received by faith.

“Ye believe in God,” (John 14:1); that is, the Father. And what is to be believed in Him? His love; for He is “love,” (1 John 4:8).

It is true, there is not an immediate acting of faith upon the Father, but by the Son.

“He is the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Him,” (John 14:6).

He is the merciful high priest over the house of God, by whom we have access to the throne of grace: by Him is our introduction unto the Father; by Him we believe in God, (1 Pet. 1:21).

But this is that I say,—When by and through Christ we have an access unto the Father, we then behold His glory also, and see His love that He peculiarly bears unto us, and act faith thereon.

We are then, I say, to eye it, to believe it, to receive it, as in Him; the issues and fruits thereof being made out unto us through Christ alone.

Though there be no light for us but in the beams, yet we may by beams see the sun, which is the fountain of it. Though all our refreshment actually lie in the streams, yet by them we are led up unto the fountain.

Jesus Christ, in respect of the love of the Father, is but the beam, the stream; wherein though actually all our light, our refreshment lies, yet by Him we are led to the fountain, the sun of eternal love itself.

Would believers exercise themselves herein, they would find it a matter of no small spiritual improvement in their walking with God.

This is that which is aimed at. Many dark and disturbing thoughts are apt to arise in this thing.

Few can carry up their hearts and minds to this height by faith, as to rest their souls in the love of the Father; they live below it, in the troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds.

All here is serene and quiet. But how to attain to this pitch they know not.

This is the will of God, that He may always be eyed as benign, kind, tender, loving, and unchangeable therein; and that peculiarly as the Father, as the great fountain and spring of all gracious communications and fruits of love.

This is that which Christ came to reveal: God as a Father (John 1:18).”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 22-23.

“Believers can and will become holy because in Christ they are holy” by Herman Bavinck

“Naturally, God is the Almighty One, and He could, had He wanted to, have perfectly sanctified all His children in the moment of regeneration. But that apparently was not His will; in the recreation He does not deny Himself as Creator.

All the life of the creature is born, grows up, and only gradually reaches its maturity. Because the spiritual life is actually life it comes to be and it develops in this same way.

God does not inject the righteousness and holiness of Christ into us mechanically, or pour it out as one does water into a vessel, but He works it out in us in an organic way. Hence the one detail does not conflict with the other when the Scripture constantly presents the matter as though the believers must become that which they are.

The kingdom of heaven is a gift of God (Luke 12:32) and yet it is a treasure of great worth which must be sought after (Matt. 6:33 and 13:46). The believers are the branches of the vine, and they can, accordingly, do nothing without Christ, and yet they are told in His word to remain in Him, in His word, and in His love (John 15:1ff).

They were elected in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and yet they must be diligent to make their calling and their election sure (Eph. 1:4 and 2 Peter 1:10). They have been sanctified by the one sacrifice of Christ, and must nevertheless follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 10:10 and 12:14).

They are complete, and nevertheless require constant perfecting and establishment (Col. 2:10 and 1 Peter 5:10). They have put on the new man, and must nevertheless constantly put him on (Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10).

They have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts, and must nevertheless still mortify their members which are upon the earth (Gal. 5:24 and Col. 3:5). It is God who works in them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure, and yet they must work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13).

These data do not conflict with each other. The one is simply the ground and guarantee of the other. Because sanctification, like the whole of salvation, is the work of God, we are admonished, obliged, to a new obedience, and we are also qualified for it.

He grants abundant grace not that we should instantly or suddenly be holy and continue to rest in this holiness, but that we should persevere in the struggle and remain standing.

He hears our prayers but does it in accordance with the law and order which He has fixed for the spiritual life. Hence we are always of good courage, for He who has begun a good work in us will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The believers can and they will become holy because in Christ they are holy.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 484-485.

“The Christian ethic” by Herman Bavinck

“The Christian ethic is none other than the one briefly and pointedly comprised in the ten commandments and which, for the rest, is illuminated and interpreted throughout the whole of Scriptures.

In those commandments the love of God stands in the foreground, but the love of the neighbor is the second law, like unto the first.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 479.