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 
        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 
        [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 
        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 
        (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 
        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...)

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