Owen, Of Communion With God, File 10 (... continued from File 9) Chapter 3 (Digression 2, file 1) Digression 2. All solid wisdom laid up in Christ - True wisdom, wherein it consists - Knowledge of God, in Christ only to be obtained - What of God may be known by his works - Some properties of God not discovered but in Christ only; love, mercy - Others not fully but in him; as vindictive justice, patience, wisdom, all- sufficiency - No property of God savingly known but in Christ - What is required to a saving knowledge of the properties of God - No true knowledge of ourselves but in Christ - Knowledge of ourselves, wherein it con- sisteth - Knowledge of sin, how to be had in Christ; also of righteousness and of judgement - The wisdom of walking with God hid in Christ - What is required thereunto - Other pretenders to the title of wisdom examined and rejected Christ alone exalted. A second consideration of the excellencies of Christ, serving to endear the hearts of them who stand with him in the relation insisted on, arises from that which, in the mistaken apprehension of it, is the great darling of men, and in its true notion the great aim of the saints; which is wisdom and knowledge. Let it be evinced that all true and solid knowledge is laid up in, and is only to be attained from and by, the Lord Jesus Christ; and the hearts of men, if they are but true to themselves and their most predominate principles, must needs be engaged to him. This is the great design of all men, taken off from professed slavery to the world, and the pursuit of sensual, licentious courses, - that they maybe wise: and what ways the generality of men engage in for the compassing of that end shall be afterward considered. To the glory and honour of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, and the establishment of our hearts in communion with him, the design of this digression is to evince that all wisdom is laid up in him, and that from him alone it is to be obtained. 1 Cor. 1: 24, the Holy Ghost tells us that "Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God:" not the essential Wisdom of God, as he is the eternal Son of the Father (upon which account he is called "Wisdom" in the Proverbs, chap. 8: 22, 23); but as he is crucified, verse 23. As he is crucified, so he is the wisdom of God; that is, all that wisdom which God layeth forth for the discovery and manifestation of himself, and for the saving of sinners, which makes foolish all the wisdom of the world, - that is all in Christ crucified; held out in him, by him, and to be obtained only from him. And thereby in him do we see the glory of God, 2 Cor. 3: 18. For he is not only said to be "the wisdom of God," but also to be "made unto us wisdom," 1 Cor. 1: 30. He is made, not by creation, but ordination and appointment, wisdom unto us; not only by teaching us wisdom (by a metonymy of the effect for the cause), as he is the great prophet of his church, but also because by the knowing of him we become acquainted with the wisdom of God, - which is our wisdom; which is a metonymy of the adjunct. This, however verily promised, is thus only to be had. The sum of what is contended for is asserted in terms, Col. 2: 3, "In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." There are two things that might seem to have some colour in claiming a title and interest in this business: - 1. Civil wisdom and prudence, for the management of affairs; 2. Ability of learning and literature; - but God rejecteth both these, as of no use at all to the end and intent of true wisdom indeed. There is in the world that which is called "understanding;" but it comes to nothing. There is that which is called "wisdom;" but it is turned into folly, 1 Cor. 1: 19, 20, "God brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent, and makes foolish this wisdom of the world." And if there be neither wisdom nor knowledge (as doubtless there is not), without the knowledge of God, Jer. 8: 9, it is all shut up in the Lord Jesus Christ: "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him." He is not seen at another time, John 1: 18, nor known upon any other account, but only the revelation of the Son. He has manifested him from his own bosom; and therefore, verse 9, it is said that he is "the true Light, which lighteth every man that comes into the world," the true Light, which has it in himself: and none has any but from him; and all have it who come unto him. He who does not so, is in darkness. The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads: - 1. The knowledge of God, his nature and his properties. 2. The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us. 3. Skill to walk in communion with God: - I. The knowledge of the works of God, and the chief end of all, does necessarily attend these. 1. In these three is summed up all true wisdom and knowledge; and, 2, - Not any of them is to any purpose to be obtained, or is manifested, but only in and by the Lord Christ: - 1. God, by the work of the creation, by the creation itself, did reveal himself in many of his properties unto his creatures capable of his knowledge; - his power, his goodness, his wisdom, his all- sufficiency, are thereby known. This the apostle asserts, Rom. 1: 19- 21. Verse 19, he calls it "to gnoston tou Theou", - verse 20, that is, his eternal power and Godhead; and verse 21, a knowing of God: and all this by the creation. But yet there are some properties of God which all the works of creation cannot in any measure reveal or make known; - as his patience, long-suffering, and forbearance. For all things being made good, there could be no place for the exercise of any of these properties, or manifestation of them. The whole fabric of heaven and earth considered in itself, as at first created, will not discover any such thing as patience and forbearance in God; which yet are eminent properties of his nature, as himself proclaims and declares, Exod. 34: 6, 7. Wherefore the Lord goes farther; and by the works of his providence, in preserving and ruling the world which he made, discovers and reveals these properties also. For whereas by cursing the earth, and filling all the elements oftentimes with signs of his anger and indignation, he has, as the apostle tells us, Rom. 1: 18, "revealed from heaven his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;" yet not proceeding immediately to destroy all things, he has manifested his patience and forbearance to all. This Paul, Acts 14: 16, 17, tells us: "He suffered all nations to walk in their own ways; yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness." A large account of his goodness and wisdom herein the psalmist gives us, Ps. 104 throughout. By these ways he bare witness to his own goodness and patience; and so it is said, "He endures with much long-suffering," etc., Rom. 9: 22. But now, here all the world is at a stand; by all this they have but an obscure glimpse of God, and see not so much as his back parts. Moses saw not that, until he was put into the rock; and that rock was Christ. There are some of the most eminent and glorious properties of God (I mean, in the manifestation whereof he will be most glorious; otherwise his properties are not to be compared) that there is not the least glimpse to be attained of out of the Lord Christ, but only by and in him; and some that comparatively we have no light of but in him; and of all the rest no true light but by him: - (1.) Of the first sort, whereof not the least guess and imagination can enter into the heart of man but only by Christ, are love and pardoning mercy: - [1.] Love; I mean love unto sinners. Without this, man is of all creatures most miserable; and there is not the least glimpse of it that can possibly be discovered but in Christ. The Holy Ghost says, 1 John 4: 8, 16, "God is love;" that is, not only of a loving and tender nature, but one that will exercise himself in a dispensation of his love, eternal love, towards us, - one that has purposes of love for us from of old, and will fulfil them all towards us in due season. But how is this demonstrated? how may we attain an acquaintance with it? He tells us, verse 9, "In this was manifested the love of God, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." This is the only discovery that God has made of any such property in his nature, or of any thought of exercising it towards sinners, - in that he has sent Jesus Christ into the world, that we might live by him. Where now is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world, with all their wisdom? Their voice must be that of the hypocrites in Zion, Isa. 33: 14, 15. That wisdom which cannot teach me that God is love, shall ever pass for folly. Let men go to the sun, moon, and stars, to showers of rain and fruitful seasons, and answer truly what by them they learn hereof. Let them not think themselves wiser or better than those that went before them, who, to a man, got nothing by them, but being left inexcusable. [2.] Pardoning mercy, or grace. Without this, even his love would be fruitless. What discovery may be made of this by a sinful man, may be seen in the father of us all; who, when he had sinned, had no reserve for mercy, but hid himself, Gen. 3: 8. He did it "leruach hayom", when the wind did but a little blow at the presence of God; and he did it foolishly, thinking to "hide himself among trees!" Ps. 139: 7, 8. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," John 1: 17, - grace in the truth and substance. Pardoning mercy, that comes by Christ alone; that pardoning mercy which is manifested in the gospel, and wherein God will be glorified to all eternity, Eph. 1: 6. I mean not that general mercy, that velleity of acceptance which some put their hopes in: that "pathos", (which to ascribe unto God is the greatest dishonour that can be done him) shines not with one ray out of Christ; it is wholly treasured up in him, and revealed by him. Pardoning mercy is God's free, gracious acceptance of a sinner upon satisfaction made to his justice in the blood of Jesus; nor is any discovery of it, but as relating to the satisfaction of justice, consistent with the glory of God. It is a mercy of inconceivable condescension in forgiveness, tempered with exact justice and severity. Rom. 3: 25, God is said "to set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins;" his righteousness is also manifested in the business of forgiveness of sins: and therefore it is everywhere said to be wholly in Christ, Eph 1:7. So that this gospel grace and pardoning mercy is a]one purchased by him, and revealed in him. And this was the main end of all typical institutions, - to manifest that remission and forgiveness is wholly wrapped up in the Lord Christ, and that out of him there is not the least conjecture to be made of it, nor the least morsel to be tasted. Had not God set forth the Lord Christ, all the angels in heaven and men on earth could not have apprehended that there had been any such thing in the nature of God as this grace of pardoning mercy. The apostle asserts the full manifestation as well as the exercise of this mercy to be in Christ only, Tit. 3: 4, 5, "After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared," namely, in the sending of Christ, and the declaration of him in the gospel. Then was this pardoning mercy and salvation not by works discovered. And these are of those properties of God whereby he will be known, whereof there is not the least glimpse to be obtained but by and in Christ; and whoever knows him not by these, knows him not at all. They know an idol, and not the only true God. He that has not the Son, the same has not the Father, 1 John 2: 23; and not to have God as a Father, is not to have him at all; and he is known as a Father only as he is love, and full of pardoning mercy in Christ. How this is to be had the Holy Ghost tells us, 1 John 5: 20, "The Son of God is come and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true." By him alone we have our understanding to know him that is true. Now, these properties of God Christ revealeth in his doctrine, in the revelation he makes of God and his will, as the great prophet of the church, John 17: 6. And on this account the knowledge of them is exposed to all, with an evidence unspeakably surmounting that which is given by the creation to his eternal power and Godhead. But the life of this knowledge lies in an acquaintance with his person, wherein the express image and beams of this glory of his Father do shine forth, Heb. 1: 3; of which before. (2.) There are other properties of God which, though also otherwise discovered, yet are so clearly, eminently, and savingly only in Jesus Christ; as, - [1.] His vindictive justice in punishing sin; [2.] His patience, forbearance, and long-suffering towards sinners; [3.] His wisdom, in managing things for his own glory; [4.] His all- sufficiency, in himself and unto others. All these, though they may receive some lower and inferior manifestations out of Christ, yet they clearly shine only in him; so as that it may be our wisdom to be acquainted with them. [1.] His vindictive justice. God has, indeed, many ways manifested his indignation and anger against sin; so that men cannot but know that it is "the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death," Rom. 1: 32. He has in the law threatened to kindle a fire in his anger that shall burn to the very heart of hell. And even in many providential dispensations, "his wrath is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness of men," Rom. 1: 18. So that men must say that he is a God of judgement. And he that shall but consider that the angels for sin were cast from heaven, shut up under chains of everlasting darkness unto the judgement of the great day (the rumour whereof seems to have been spread among the Gentiles, whence the poet makes his Jupiter threaten the inferior rebellious deities with that punishment); and how Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned with an overthrow, and burned into ashes, that they might be "examples unto those that should after live ungodly," 2 Pet. 2: 6; cannot but discover much of God's vindictive justice and his anger against sin. But far more clear does this shine into us in the Lord Christ: - 1st. In him God has manifested the naturalness of this righteousness unto him, in that it was impossible that it should be diverted from sinners without the interposing of a propitiation. Those who lay the necessity of satisfaction merely upon the account of a free act and determination of the will of God, leave, to my apprehension, no just and indispensable foundation for the death of Christ, but lay it upon a supposition of that which might have been otherwise. But plainly, God, in that he spared not his only Son, but made his soul an offering for sin, and would admit of no atonement but in his blood, has abundantly manifested that it is of necessity to him (his holiness and righteousness requiring it) to render indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish unto sin. And the knowledge of this naturalness of vindictive justice, with the necessity of its execution on supposition of sin, is the only true and useful knowledge of it. To look upon it as that which God may exercise or forbear, makes his justice not a property of his nature, but a free act of his will; and a will to punish where one may do otherwise without injustice, is rather ill-will than Justice. 2dly. In the penalty inflicted on Christ for sin, this justice is far more gloriously manifested than otherwise. To see, indeed, a world, made good and beautiful, wrapped up in wrath and curses, clothed with thorns and briers; to see the whole beautiful creation made subject to vanity, given up to the bondage of corruption; to hear it groan in pain under that burden; to consider legions of angels, most glorious and immortal creatures, cast down into hell, bound with chains of darkness, and reserved for a more dreadful judgement for one sin; to view the ocean of the blood of souls spilt to eternity on this account, - will give some insight into this thing. But what is all this to that view of it which may be had by a spiritual eye in the Lord Christ? All these things are worms, and of no value in comparison of him. To see him who is the wisdom of God, and the power of God, always beloved of the Father; to see him, I say, fear, and tremble, and bow, and sweat, and pray, and die; to see him lifted up upon the cross, the earth trembling under him, as if unable to bear his weight; and the heavens darkened over him, as if shut against his cry; and himself hanging between both, as if refused by both; and all this because our sins did meet upon him; - this of all things does most abundantly manifest the severity of God's vindictive justice. Here, or nowhere, is it to be learned. [2.] His patience, forbearance, and long-suffering towards sinners. There are many glimpses of the patience of God shining out in the works of his providence; but all exceedingly beneath that discovery of it which we have in Christ, especially in these three things: - 1st. The manner of its discovery. This, indeed, is evident to all, that God does not ordinarily immediately punish men upon their offences. It may be learned from his constant way in governing the world: notwithstanding all provocations, yet he does good to men; causing his sun to shine upon them, sending them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. Hence it was easy for them to conclude that there was in him abundance of goodness and forbearance. But all this is yet in much darkness, being the exurgency of men's seasonings from their observations; yea, the management of it [God's patience} has been such as that it has proved a snare almost universally unto them towards whom it has been exercised, Eccles. 8: 11, as well as a temptation to them who have looked on, Job 21:7; Ps. 73: 2-4, etc.; Jer. 12: l; Hab. 1: 13. The discovery of it in Christ is utterly of another nature. In him the very nature of God is discovered to be love and kindness; and that he will exercise the same to sinners, he has promised, sworn, and solemnly engaged himself by covenant. And that we may not hesitate about the aim which he has herein, there is a stable bottom and foundation of acting suitably to those gracious properties of his nature held forth, - namely, the reconciliation and atonement that is made in the blood of Christ. Whatever discovery were made of the patience and levity of God unto us, yet if it were not withal revealed that the other properties of God, as his justice and revenge for sin, had their acting also assigned to them to the full, there could be little consolation gathered from the former. And therefore, though God may teach men his goodness and forbearance, by sending them rain and fruitful seasons, yet withal at the same time, upon all occasions, "revealing his wrath from heaven against the ungodliness of men," Rom. 1: 18, it is impossible that they should do any thing but miserably fluctuate and tremble at the event of these dispensations; and yet this is the best that men can have out of Christ, the utmost they can attain unto. With the present possession of good things administered in this patience, men might, and did for a season, take up their thoughts and satiate themselves; but yet they were not in the least delivered from the bondage they were in by reason of death, and the darkness attending it. The law reveals no patience or forbearance in God; it speaks, as to the issue of transgressions, nothing but sword and fire, had not God interposed by an act of sovereignty. But now, as was said, with that revelation of forbearance which we have in Christ, there is also a discovery of the satisfaction of his justice and wrath against sin; so that we need not fear any acting from them to interfere with the works of his patience, which are so sweet unto us. Hence God is said to be "in Christ, reconciling the world to himself," 2 Cor. 5: 19; manifesting himself in him as one that has now no more to do for the manifestation of all his attributes, - that is, for the glorifying of himself, - but only to forbear, reconcile, and pardon sin in him. 2dly. In the nature of it. What is there in that forbearance which out of Christ is revealed? Merely a not immediate punishing upon the offence, and, withal, giving and continuing temporal mercies; such things as men are prone to abuse, and may perish with their bosoms full of them to eternity. That which lies hid in Christ, and is revealed from him, is full of love, sweetness, tenderness, kindness, grace. It is the Lord's waiting to be gracious to sinners; waiting for an advantage to show love and kindness, for the most eminent endearing of a soul unto himself, Isa. 30: 18, "Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you." Neither is there any revelation of God that the soul finds more sweetness in than this. When it [one's soul] is experimentally convinced that God from time to time has passed by many, innumerable iniquities, he is astonished to think that God should do so; and admires that he did not take the advantage of his provocations to cast him out of his presence. He finds that, with infinite wisdom, in all long-suffering, he has managed all his dispensations towards him to recover him from the power of the devil, to rebuke and chasten his spirit for sin, to endear him unto himself; - there is, I say, nothing of greater sweetness to the soul than this: and therefore the apostle says, Rom. 3: 25, that all is "through the forbearance of God." God makes way for complete forgiveness of sins through this his forbearance; which the other does not. 3dly. They differ in their ends and aims. What is the aim and design of God in the dispensation of that forbearance which is manifested and may be discovered out of Christ? The apostle tells us, Rom. 9: 22, "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction?" It was but to leave them inexcusable, that his power and wrath against sin might be manifested in their destruction. And therefore he calls it "a suffering of them to walk in their own ways," Acts 14: 16; which elsewhere he holds out as a most dreadful judgement, - to wit, in respect of that issue whereto it will certainly come; as Ps. 81: 12, "I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts, and they walked in their own counsels:" which is as dreadful a condition as a creature is capable of falling into in this world. And Acts 17: 30, he calls it a "winking at the sins of their ignorance;" as it were taking no care nor thought of them in their dark condition, as it appears by the antithesis, "But now he commandeth all men everywhere to repent." He did not take so much notice of them then as to command them to repent, by any clear revelation of his mind and will. And therefore the exhortation of the apostle, Rom. 2: 4, "Despises thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" is spoken to the Jews, who had advantages to learn the natural tendency of that goodness and forbearance which God exercises in Christ; which, indeed, leads to repentance: or else he does in general intimate that, in very reason, men ought to make another use of those things than usually they do, and which he chargeth them withal, verse 5, "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart," etc. At best, then, the patience of God unto men out of Christ, by reason of their own incorrigible stubbornness, proves but like the waters of the river Phasis, that are sweet at the top and bitter in the bottom; they swim for a while in the sweet and good things of this life, Luke 16: 20; wherewith being filled, they sink to the depth of all bitterness. But now, evidently and directly, the end of that patience and forbearance of God which is exercised in Christ, and discovered in him to us, is the saving and bringing into God those towards whom he is pleased to exercise them. And therefore Peter tells you, 2 Pet. 3: 9, that he is "long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" that is, all us towards whom he exercises forbearance; for that is the end of it, that his will concerning our repentance and salvation may be accomplished. And the nature of it, with its end, is well expressed, Isa. 54: 9, "This is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wrath," etc. It is God's taking a course, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, that we shall not be destroyed notwithstanding our sins; and therefore, Rom. 15: 5, these two things are laid together in God, as coming together from him, "The God of patience and consolation:" his patience is a matter of the greatest consolation. And this is another property of God, which, though it may break forth in some rays, to some ends and purposes, in other things, yet the treasures of it are hid in Christ; and none is acquainted with it, unto any spiritual advantage, that learns it not in him. [3.] His wisdom, his infinite wisdom, in managing things for his own glory, and the good of them towards whom he has thoughts of love. The Lord, indeed, has laid out and manifested infinite wisdom in his works of creation, providence, and governing of his world: in wisdom has he made all his creatures. "How manifold are his works! in wisdom has 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. Eph. 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 innocence 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 wholes 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, does 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. He appears now glorious; he is known to be a God pardoning iniquity and sin, and advances the riches of his grace: which was his design, Eph. 1: 6. He has infinitely vindicated his justice also, in the face of men, angels, and devils, in setting forth his Son for a propitiation. It is also to our advantage; we are more fully established in his favour, and are carried on towards a more exceeding weight of glory than formerly was revealed. Hence was that ejaculation of one of the ancients, "O felix culpa, quae talem meruit redemptorem!" Thus Paul tells us, "Great is the mystery of godliness," 1 Tim. 3: 16, and that "without controversy." We receive "grace for grace;" - for that grace lost in Adam, better grace in Christ. Confessedly, this is a depth of wisdom indeed. And of the love of Christ to his church, and his union with it, to carry on this business, "This is a great mystery," Eph. 5: 32, says the apostle; great wisdom lies herein. So, then, this also is hid in Christ, - the great and unspeakable riches of the wisdom of God, in pardoning sin, saving sinners, satisfying justice, fulfilling the law, repairing his own honour, and providing for us a more exceeding weight of glory; and all this out of such a condition as wherein it was impossible that it should enter into the hearts of angels or men how ever the glory of God should be repaired, and one sinning creature delivered from everlasting ruin. Hence it is said, that at the last day God "shall be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe," 2 Thess. 1: 10. It shall be an admirable thing, and God shall be for ever glorious in it, even in the bringing of believers to himself. To save sinners through believing, shall be found to be a far more admirable work than to create the world of nothing. [4.] His all-sufficiency is the last of this sort that I shall name. God's all-sufficiency in himself is his absolute and universal perfection, whereby nothing is wanting in him, nothing to him: No accession can be made to his fulness, no decrease or wasting can happen thereunto. There is also in him an all-sufficiency for others; which is his power to impart and communicate his goodness and himself so to them as to satisfy and fill them, in their utmost capacity, with whatever is good and desirable to them. For the first of these, - his all- sufficiency for the communication of his goodness, that is, in the outward effect of it, - God abundantly manifested in the creation, in that he made all things good, all things perfect; that is, to whom nothing was wanting in their own kind; - he put a stamp of his own goodness upon them all. But now for the latter, - his giving himself as an all-sufficient God, to be enjoyed by the creatures, to hold out all that is in him for the satiating and making them blessed, - that is alone discovered by and in Christ. In him he is a Father, a God in covenant, wherein he has promised to lay out himself for them; in him has he promised to give himself into their everlasting fruition, as their exceeding great reward. And so I have insisted on the second sort of properties in God, whereof, though we have some obscure glimpse in other things, yet the clear knowledge of them, and acquaintance with them, is only to be had in the Lord Christ. That which remaineth is, briefly to declare that not any of the properties of God whatever can be known, savingly and to consolation, but only in him; and so, consequently, all the wisdom of the knowledge of God is hid in him alone, and from him to be obtained. 2. There is no saving knowledge of any property of God, nor such as brings consolation, but what alone is to be had in Christ Jesus, being laid up in him, and manifested by him. Some eye the justice of God, and know that this is his righteousness, that they which do such things" (as sin) "are worthy of death," Rom. 1: 32. But this is to no other end but to make them cry, "Who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire?" Isa. 33: 14. Others fix upon his patience, goodness, mercy, forbearance; but it does not at all lead them to repentance; but "they despise the riches of his goodness, and after their hardness and impenitent hearts treasure up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath," Rom. 2: 4, 5. Others, by the very works of creation and providence, come to know "his eternal power and Godhead; but they glorify him not as God, nor are thankful, but become vain in their imagination, and their foolish hearts are darkened," Rom. 1: 20. Whatever discovery men have of truth out of Christ, they "hold it captive under unrighteousness," verse 18. Hence Jude tells us, verse 10, that "in what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves." That we may have a saving knowledge of the properties of God, attended with consolation, these three things are required: - (1.) That God has manifested the glory of them all in a way of doing good unto us. (2.) That he will yet exercise and lay them out to the utmost in our behalf (3.) That, being so manifested and exercised, they are fit and powerful to bring us to the everlasting fruition of himself; which is our blessedness. Now, all these three lie hid in Christ; and the least glimpse of them out of him is not to be attained. (1.) This is to be received, that God has actually manifested the glory of all his attributes in a way of doing us good. What will it avail our souls, what comfort will it bring unto us, what endearment will it put upon our hearts unto God, to know that he is infinitely righteous, just, and holy, unchangeably true and faithful, if we know not how he may preserve the glory of his justice and faithfulness in his comminations and threatening, but only in one ruin and destruction? if we can from thence only say it is a righteous thing with him to recompense tribulation unto us for our iniquities? What fruit of this consideration had Adam in the garden? Gen. 3. What sweetness, what encouragement, is there in knowing that he is patient and full of forbearance, if the glory of these is to be exalted in enduring the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction? nay, what will it avail us to hear him proclaim himself "The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, abundant in goodness and truth," yet, withal, that he will "by no means clear the guilty," so shutting up the exercise of all his other properties towards us, upon the account of our iniquity? Doubtless, not at all. Under this naked consideration of the properties of God, justice will make men fly and hide, Gen. 3; Isa. 2: 21, 33: 15,16; - patience, render them obdurate, Eccles. 8: 11. Holiness utterly deters them from all thoughts of approach unto him, John 24: 19. What relief have we from thoughts of his immensity and omnipresence, if we have cause only to contrive how to fly from him (Ps. 139: 11, 12), if we have no pledge of his gracious presence with us? This is that which brings salvation, when we shall see that God has glorified all his properties in a way of doing us good. Now, this he has done in Jesus Christ. In him has he made his justice glorious, in making all our iniquities to meet upon him, causing him to bear them all, as the scapegoat in the wilderness; not sparing him, but giving him up to death for us all; - so exalting his justice and indignation against sin in a way of freeing us from the condemnation of it, Rom. 3: 25, 8: 33, 34. In him has he made his truth glorious, and his faithfulness, in the exact accomplishment of all his absolute threatening and promises. That fountain-threat and combination whence all others flow, Gen. 2: 17, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die the death;" seconded with a curse, Deut. 27: 26, "Cursed is every one that continueth not," etc. [Gal. 3: 10] - is in him accomplished, fulfilled, and the truth of God in them laid in a way to our good. He, by the grace of God, tasted death for us, Heb. 2: 9; and so delivered us who were subject to death, verse 15; and he has fulfilled the curse, by being made a curse for us, Gal. 3: 13. So that in his very threatening his truth is made glorious in a way to our good. And for his promises, "They are all yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us," 2 Cor. 1: 20. And for his mercy, goodness, and the riches of his grace, how eminently are they made glorious in Christ, and advanced for our good! God has set him forth to declare his righteousness for the forgiveness of sin; he has made way in him for ever to exalt the glory of his pardoning mercy towards sinners. To manifest this is the great design of the gospel, as Paul admirably sets it out, Eph. 1: 5-8. There must our souls come to an acquaintance with them, or for ever live in darkness. Now, this is a saving knowledge, and full of consolation, when we can see all the properties of God made glorious and exalted in a way of doing us good. And this wisdom is hid only in Jesus Christ. Hence, when he desired his Father to glorify his name, John 12: 24, - to make in him his name (that is, his nature, his properties, his will) all glorious in that work of redemption he had in hand, - he was instantly answered from heaven, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." He will give it its utmost glory in him. (2.) That God will yet exercise and lay out those properties of his to the utmost in our behalf. Though he has made them all glorious in a way that may tend to our good, yet it does not absolutely follow that he will use them for our good; for do we not see innumerable persons perishing everlastingly, notwithstanding the manifestation of himself which God has made in Christ. Wherefore farther, God has committed all his properties into the hand of Christ if I may so say, to be managed in our behalf, and for our good. He is "The power of God, and the wisdom of God;" he is "The LORD our Righteousness," and is "made unto us of God wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Christ having glorified his Father in all his attributes, he has now the exercise of them committed to him, that he might be the captain of salvation to them that do believe; so that if, in the righteousness, the goodness, the love, the mercy, the all-sufficiency of God, there be any thing that will do us good, the Lord Jesus is fully interested with the dispensing of it in our behalf. Hence God is said to be "in him, reconciling the world unto himself," 2 Cor. 5: 18. Whatever is in him, he layeth it out for the reconciliation of the world, in and by the Lord Christ; and he becomes "The LORD our Righteousness," Isa. 45: 24, 25. And this is the second thing required. (3.) There remaineth only, then, that these attributes of God, so manifested and exercised, are powerful and able to bring us to the everlasting fruition of him. To evince this, the Lord wraps up the whole covenant of grace in one promise, signifying no less: "I will be your God." In the covenant, God becomes our God, and we are his people; and thereby all his attributes are ours also. And lest that we should doubt - when once our eyes are opened to see in any measure the inconceivable difficulty that is in this thing, what unimaginable obstacles on all hands there lie against us - that all is not enough to deliver and save us, God has, I say, wrapped it up in this expression, Gen. 17: l, "I am," saith he, "God Almighty" (all-sufficient); - "I am wholly able to perform all my undertakings, and to be thy exceeding great reward. I can remove all difficulties, answer all objections, pardon all sins, conquer all opposition: I am God all-sufficient." Now, you know in whom this covenant and all the promises thereof are ratified, and in whose blood it is confirmed, - to wit, in the Lord Christ alone; in him only is God an all-sufficient God to any, and an exceeding great reward. And hence Christ himself is said to "save to the uttermost them that come to God by him," Heb. 7. And these three things, I say, are required to be known, that we may have a saving acquaintance, and such as is attended with consolation, with any of the properties of God; and all these being hid only in Christ, from him alone it is to be obtained. This, then, is the first part of our first demonstration, that all true and sound wisdom and knowledge is laid up in the Lord Christ, and from him alone to be obtained; because our wisdom, consisting, in a main part of it, in the knowledge of God, his nature, and his properties, this lies wholly hid in Christ, nor can possibly be obtained but by him. II. For the knowledge of ourselves, which is the SECOND part of our wisdom, this consists in these three things, which our Saviour sends his Spirit to convince the world of, - even "sin, righteousness, and judgement," John 16: 8. To know ourselves in reference unto these three, is a main part of true and sound wisdom; for they all respect the supernatural and immortal end whereunto we are appointed; and there is none of these that we can attain unto but only in Christ. 1. In respect of sin. There is a sense and knowledge of sin left in the consciences of all men by nature. To tell them what is good and evil in many things, to approve and disapprove of what they do, in reference to a judgement to come, they need not go farther than themselves, Rom. 2: 14, 15. But this is obscure, and relates mostly to greater sins, and is in sum that which the apostle gives us, Rom. 1: 32, "They know the judgement of God, that they which do such things are worthy of death." This he placeth among the common presumptions and notions that are received by mankind, - namely, that it is "righteous with God, that they who do such things are worthy of death." And if that be true, which is commonly received, that no nation is so barbarous or rude, but it retaineth some sense of a Deity; then this also is true, that there is no nation but has a sense of sin, and the displeasure of God for it. For this is the very first notion of God in the world, that he is the rewarder of good and evil. Hence were all the sacrifices, purgings, expiations, which were so generally spread over the face of the earth. But this was and is but very dark, in respect of that knowledge of sin with its appurtenances, which is to be obtained. A farther knowledge of sin, upon all accounts whatever, is giver by the law; that law which was "added because of transgressions." This revives doctrinally all that sense of good and evil which was at first implanted in man; and it is a glass, whereinto whosoever is able spiritually to look, may see sin in all its ugliness and deformity. The truth is, look upon the law in its purity, holiness, compass, and perfection; its manner of delivery, with dread, terror, thunder, earthquakes, fire; the sanction of it, in death, curse, wrath; and it makes a wonderful discovery of sin, upon every account: its pollution, guilt, and exceeding sinfulness are seen by it. But yet all this does not suffice to give a man a true and thorough conviction of sin. Not but that the glass is clear, but of ourselves we have not eyes to look into it; the rule is straight, but we cannot apply it: and therefore Christ sends his Spirit to convince the world of sin, John 16: 8; who, though, as to some ends and purposes, he makes use of the law, yet the work of conviction, which alone is a useful knowledge of sin, is his peculiar work. And so the discovery of sin may also be said to be by Christ, - to be part of the wisdom that is hid in him. But yet there is a twofold regard besides this, of his sending his Spirit to convince us, wherein this wisdom appears to be hid in him: - First, because there are some near concernments of sin, which are more clearly held out in the Lord Christ's being made sin for us, than any other way. Secondly, in that there is no knowledge to be had of sin, so as to give it a spiritual and saving improvement, but only in him. For the first, there are four things in sin that clearly shine out in the cross of Christ: - (1.) The desert of it. (2.) Man's impotency by reason of it. (3.) The death of it. (4.) A new end put to it. (1.) The desert of sin does clearly shine in the cross of Christ upon a twofold account: - [1.] Of the person suffering for it. [2.] Of the penalty he underwent. [1.] Of the person suffering for it. This the Scripture oftentimes very emphatically sets forth, and lays great weight upon: John 3: 16, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." It was his only Son that God sent into the world to suffer for sin, Rom. 8: 32. "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." To see a slave beaten and corrected, it argues a fault committed; but yet perhaps the demerit of it was not very great. The correction of a son argues a great provocation; that of an only son, the greatest imaginable. 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. If sin be imputed to the dear Son of his bosom, as upon his own voluntary assumption of it it was (for he said to his Father, "Lo, I come to do thy will," and all our iniquities did meet on him), [and] he will not spare him any thing of the due desert of it; is it not most clear from hence, even from the blood of the cross of Christ, that such is the demerit of sin, that it is altogether impossible that God should pass by any, the least, unpunished? If he would have done it for any, he would have done it in reference to his only Son; but he spared him not. Moreover, God is not at all delighted with, nor desirous of, the blood, the tears, the cries, the inexpressible torments and sufferings, of the Son of his love (for he delights not in the anguish of any, - "he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men," much less the Son of his bosom); only he required that his law be fulfilled, his justice satisfied, his wrath atoned for sin; and nothing less than all this would bring it about. If the debt of sin might have been compounded for at a cheaper rate, it had never been held up at the price of the blood of Christ. Here, then, soul, take a view of the desert of sin; behold it far more evident than in all the threatening and curses of the law. "I thought, indeed," mayest thou say from thence, "that sin, being found on such a poor worm as I am, was worthy of death; but that it should have this effect if charged on the Son of God, - that I never once imagined." [2.] Consider also, farther, what he suffered. For though he was so excellent a one, yet perhaps it was but a light affliction and trial that he underwent, especially considering the strength he had to bear it. Why, whatever it were, it made this "fellow of the LORD of hosts," this "lion of the tribe of Judah," this "mighty one," "the wisdom and power of God," to tremble, sweat, cry, pray, wrestle, and that with strong supplications. Some of the popish devotionists tell us that one drop, the least, of the blood of Christ, was abundantly enough to redeem all the world; but they err, not knowing the desert of sin, nor the severity of the justice of God. If one drop less than was shed, one pang less than was laid on, would have done it, those other drops had not been shed, nor those other pangs laid on. God did not cruciate the dearly-beloved of his soul for nought. But there is more than all this: - It pleased God to bruise him, to put him to grief, to make his soul an offering for sin, and to pour out his life unto death. He hid himself from him, - was far from the voice of his cry, until he cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He made him sin and a curse for us; executed on him the sentence of the law; brought him into an agony, wherein he sweat thick drops of blood, was grievously troubled, and his soul was heavy unto death. He that was the power of God, and the wisdom of God, went stooping under the burden, until the whole frame of nature seemed astonished at it. Now this, as I said before that it discovered the indignation of God against sin, so it clearly holds out the desert of it. Would you, then, see the true demerit of sin? - take the measure of it from the mediation of Christ, especially his cross. It brought him who was the Son of God, equal unto God, God blessed for ever, into the form of a servant, who had not where to lay his head. It pursued him all his life with afflictions and persecutions; and lastly brought him under the rod of God; there bruised him and brake him, - slew the Lord of life. Hence is deep humiliation for it, upon the account of him whom we have pierced. And this is the first spiritual view of sin we have in Christ. Owen, Of Communion With God (continued in File 11...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: owcom-10.txt .