Owen, Of Communion With God, File 11
    (... continued from File 10)

     Chapter 3 (Digression 2, file 2)
        (2.) The wisdom of understanding our impotency, by reason
    of sin, is wrapped up in him. By our impotency, I understand
    two things: - [1.] Our disability to make any atonement with
    God for sin. [2.] Our disability to answer his mind and will,
    in all or any of the obedience that he requireth, by reason of
        [1.] For the first, that alone is discovered in Christ.
    Many inquiries have the sons of men made after an atonement, -
    many ways have they entered into to accomplish it. After this
    they inquire, Mic. 6: 6, 7, "Will any manner of sacrifices,
    though appointed of God, as burnt-offerings, and calves of a
    year old; though very costly, thousands of rams, and ten
    thousand rivers of oil; though dreadful and tremendous,
    offering violence to nature, as to give my children to the
    fire;" - will any of these things make an atonement? David
    does positively, indeed, determine this business, P9. 49: 7,
    8, "None of them" of the best or richest of men) "can by any
    means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him;
    for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth
    for ever." It cannot be done, - no atonement can be made; yet
    men would still be doing, still attempting: hence did they
    heap up sacrifices, some costly, some bloody and inhuman. The
    Jews, to this day, think that God was atoned for sin by the
    sacrifices of bulls and goats, and the like. And the Socinians
    acknowledge no atonement, but what consists in men's
    repentance and new obedience. In the cross of Christ are the
    mouths of all stopped as to this thing. For, -
        1st. God has there discovered that no sacrifices for sin,
    though of his own appointment, could ever make them perfect
    that offered them, Heb. 10: 11. Those sacrifices could never
    take away sin; those services could never make them perfect
    that performed them, as to the conscience, Heb. 9: 9; as the
    apostle proves, chap. 10: 1. And thence the Lord rejects all
    sacrifices and offerings whatever, as to any such end and
    purpose, verses 6-8, Christ, in their stead, saying, "Lo, I
    come;" and by him we are "justified from all things, from
    which we could not be justified by the law," Acts 13: 39: God,
    I say, in Christ, has condemned all sacrifices, as wholly
    insufficient in the least to make an atonement for sin. And
    how great a thing it was to instruct the sons of men in this
    wisdom, the event has manifested.
        2dly. He has also written vanity on all other endeavours
    whatever, that have been undertaken for that purpose. Rom. 3:
    24-26, by setting forth his only Son "to be a propitiation,"
    he leaves no doubt upon the spirits of men that in themselves
    they could make no atonement; for "if righteousness were by
    the law, then were Christ dead in vain." To what purpose
    should he be made a propitiation, were not we ourselves weak
    and without strength to any such purpose? So the apostle
    argues, Rom. 5: 6, when we had no power, then did he by death
    make an atonement; as verses 8, 9.
         This, wisdom then, is also hid in Christ. Men may see by
    other helps, perhaps, far enough to fill them with dread and
    astonishment, as those in Isa. 33: 14; but such a sight and
    view of it as may lead a soul to any comfortable settlement
    about it, - that only is discovered in this treasury of
    heaven, the Lord Jesus.
        [2.] Our disability to answer the mind and will of God, in
    all or any of the obedience that he requireth, is in him only
    to be discovered. This, indeed, is a thing that many will not
    be acquainted with to this day. To teach a man that he cannot
    do what he ought to do, and for which he condemns himself if
    he do it not, is no easy task. Man rises up with all his power
    to plead against a conviction of impotency. Not to mention the
    proud conceits and expressions of the philosophers, how many
    that would be called Christians do yet creep, by several
    degrees, in the persuasion of a power of fulfilling the law!
    And from whence, indeed, should men have this knowledge that
    we have not? Nature will not teach it, - that is proud and
    conceited; and it is one part of its pride, weakness, and
    corruption, not to know it at all. The law will not teach it:
    for though that will show us what we have done amiss, yet it
    will not discover to us that we could not do better; yea, by
    requiring exact obedience of us, it takes for granted that
    such power is in us for that purpose: it takes no notice that
    we have lost it; nor does it concern it so to do. This, then,
    also lies hid in the Lord Jesus. Rom. 8: 2-4, "The law of the
    Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law
    of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it
    was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the
    likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the
    flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in
    us." The law can bring forth no righteousness, no obedience;
    it is weak to any such purpose, by reason of the flesh, and
    that corruption that is come on us. These two things are done
    in Christ, and by him: - First, Sin is condemned as to its
    guilt, and we set free from that; the righteousness of the law
    by his obedience is fulfilled in us, who could never do it
    ourselves. And, secondly, That obedience which is required of
    us, his Spirit works it in us. So that that perfection of
    obedience which we have in him is imputed to us; and the
    sincerity that we have in obedience is from his Spirit
    bestowed on us. And this is the most excellent glass, wherein
    we see our impotency; for what need we his perfect obedience
    to be made ours, but that we have not, can not attain any?
    what need we his Spirit of life to quicken us, but that we are
    dead in trespasses and sins?
        (3.) The death of sin; - sin dying in us now, in some
    measure, whilst we are alive. This is a third concernment of
    sin which it is our wisdom to be acquainted with; and it is
    hid only in Christ. There is a twofold dying of sin: - as to
    the exercise of it in our mortal members; and as to the root,
    principle, and power of it in our souls. The first, indeed,
    may be learned in part out of Christ. Christless men may have
    sin dying in them, as to the outward exercise of it. Men's
    bodies may be disabled for the service of their lusts, or the
    practice of them may not consist with their interest. Sin is
    never more alive than when it is thus dying. But there is a
    dying of it as to the root, the principle of it, - the daily
    decaying of the strength, power, and life of it; and this is
    to be had alone in Christ. Sin is a thing that of itself is
    not apt to die or to decay, but to get ground, and strength,
    and life, in the subject wherein it is, to eternity; prevent
    all its actual eruptions, yet its original enmity against God
    will still grow. In believers it is still dying and decaying,
    until it be utterly abolished. The opening of this treasury
    [mystery] you have, Rom. 6: 3- 6, etc. "Know ye not, that so
    many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised
    into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism
    into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by
    the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
    newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the
    likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his
    resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with
    him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth
    we should not serve sin." This is the design of the apostle in
    the beginning of that chapter, not only to manifest whence is
    the principle and rise of our mortification and the death of
    sin, even from the death and blood of Christ; but also the
    manner of sin's continuance and dying in us, from the manner
    of Christ's dying for sin. He was crucified for us, and
    thereby sin was crucified in us; he died for us, and the body
    of sin is destroyed, that we should not serve sin; and as he
    was raised from the dead, that death should not have dominion
    over him, so also are we raised from sin, that it should not
    have dominion over us. This wisdom is hid in Christ only.
    Moses at his dying day had all his strength and vigour; so
    have sin and the law to all out of Jesus: at their dying day,
    sin is no way decayed. Now, next to the receiving of the
    righteousness prepared for us, to know this is the chiefest
    part of our wisdom. To be truly acquainted with the principle
    of the dying of sin, to feel virtue and power flowing from the
    cross of Christ to that purpose, to find sin crucified in us,
    as Christ was crucified for us, - this is wisdom indeed, that
    is in him alone.
        (4.) There is a glorious end whereunto sin is appointed
    and ordained, and discovered in Christ, that others are
    unacquainted withal. Sin in its own nature tends merely to the
    dishonour of God, the debasement of his majesty, and the ruin
    of the creature in whom it is; hell itself is but the filling
    of wretched creatures with the fruit of their own devices. The
    combinations and threats of God in the law do manifest one
    other end of it, even the demonstration of the vindictive
    justice of God, in measuring out unto it a meets recompense of
    reward. But here the law stays (and with it all other light)
    and discovers no other use or end of it at all. In the Lord
    Jesus there is the manifestation of another and more glorious
    end; to wit, the praise of God's glorious grace in the pardon
    and forgiveness of it; - God having taken order in Christ that
    that thing which tended merely to his dishonour should be
    managed to his infinite glory, and that which of all things he
    desireth to exalt, - even that he may be known and believed to
    be a "God pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin." To
    return, then, to this part of our demonstration: -
        In the knowledge of ourselves, in reference to our eternal
    condition, does much of our wisdom consist. There is not any
    thing wherein, in this depraved condition of nature, we are
    more concerned than sin; without a knowledge of that, we know
    not ourselves. "Fools make a mock of sin." A true saving
    knowledge of sin is to be had only in the Lord Christ: in him
    may we see the desert of our iniquities, and their pollution,
    which could not be borne or expiated but by his blood; neither
    is there any wholesome view of these but in Christ. In him and
    his cross is discovered our universal impotency, either of
    atoning God's justice or living up to his will. The death of
    sin is procured by, and discovered in, the death of Christ; as
    also the manifestation of the riches of God's grace in the
    pardoning thereof. A real and experimental acquaintance, as to
    ourselves, with all which, is our wisdom; and it is that which
    is of more value than all the wisdom of the world.
        2. Righteousness is a second thing whereof the Spirit of
    Christ convinces the world, and the main thing that it is our
    wisdom to be acquainted withal. This all men are persuaded of,
    that God is a most righteous God; (that is a natural notion of
    God which Abraham insisted on, Gen. 18: 25, "Shall not the
    Judge of all the earth do right?") they "know that this is the
    judgement of God, that they who commit such things are worthy
    of death," Rom. 1: 32; that "it is a righteous thing with him
    to recompense tribulation unto offenders," 2 Thess. 1: 6. He
    is "a God of purer eyes than to behold evil," Hab. 1: 13; and
    therefore, "the ungodly cannot stand in judgement," Ps. 1: 5.
    Hence the great inquiry of every one (who lies in any measure
    under the power of it), convinced of immortality and the
    judgement to come, is concerning the righteousness wherewith
    to appear in the presence of this righteous God. This more or
    less they are solicitous about all their days; and so, as the
    apostle speaks, Heb. 2: 15, "through the fear of death they
    are all their lifetime subject to bondage," they are perplexed
    with fears about the issue of their righteousness, lest it
    should end in death and destruction.
        (1.) Unto men set upon this inquiry, that which first and
    naturally presents itself, for their direction and assistance,
    assuredly promising them a righteousness that will abide the
    trial of God, provided they will follow its direction, is the
    law. The law has many fair pleas to prevail with a soul to
    close with it for a righteousness before God. It was given out
    from God himself for that end and purpose; it contains the
    whole obedience that God requireth of any of the sons of men;
    it has the promise of life annexed to it: "Do this, and live,"
    "The doers of the law are justified;" and, "If thou wilt enter
    into life, keep the commandments;" yea, it is most certain
    that it must be wholly fulfilled, if we ever think to stand
    with boldness before God. This being some part of the plea of
    the law, there is no man that seeks after righteousness but
    does, one time or another, attend to it, and attempt its
    direction. Many do it every day, who yet will not own that so
    they do. This, then, they set themselves about, - labouring to
    correct their lives, amend their ways, perform the duties
    required, and so follow after a righteousness according to the
    prescript of the law. And in this course do many men continue
    long with much perplexity; - sometimes hoping, oftener
    fearing; sometimes ready to give quite over; sometimes vowing
    to continue (their consciences being no way satisfied, nor
    righteousness in any measure attained) all their days. After
    they have wearied themselves perhaps for a long season, in the
    largeness of their ways, they come at length, with fear,
    trembling, and disappointment, to that conclusion of the
    apostle, "By the works of the law no flesh is justified;" and
    with dread cry that if God mark what is done amiss, there is
    no standing before him. That they have this issue, the apostle
    witnesseth, Rom. 9: 31, 32, "Israel, who followed after the
    law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of
    righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith,
    but as it were by the works of the law." It was not solely for
    want of endeavour in themselves that they were disappointed,
    for they earnestly followed after the law of righteousness;
    but from the nature of the thing itself, - it would not bear
    it. Righteousness was not to be obtained that way; "For,"
    saith the apostle, "if they which are of the law be heirs,
    faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect;
    because the law worketh wrath," Rom. 4: 14, 15. The law itself
    is now such as that it cannot give life, Gal. 3: 21, "If there
    had been a law given which would have given life, verily
    righteousness should have been by the law." And he gives the
    reason in the next verse why it could not give life; because
    "the Scripture concludes all under sin;" that is, it is very
    true, and the Scripture affirms it, that all men are sinners,
    and the law speaks not one word to sinners but death and
    destruction: therefore the apostle tells us plainly, that God
    himself found fault with this way of attaining righteousness,
    Heb. 8: 7, 8. He complains of it; that is, he declares it
    insufficient for that end and purpose.
        Now, there are two considerations that discover unto men
    the vanity and hopelessness of seeking righteousness in this
    path: -
        [1.] That they have already sinned: "For all have sinned,
    and come short of the glory of God," Rom. 3: 23. This they are
    sufficiently sensible of, that although they could for the
    time to come fulfil the whole law, yet there is a score, a
    reckoning, upon them already, that they know not how to answer
    for. Do they consult their guide, the law itself, how they may
    be eased of the account that is past? it has not one word of
    direction or consolation; but bids them prepare to die. The
    sentence is gone forth, and there is no escaping.
        [2.] That if all former debts should be blotted out, yet
    they are no way able for the future to fulfil the law; they
    can as well move the earth with a finger, as answer the
    perfection thereof: and therefore, as I said, on this twofold
    account, they conclude that this labour is lost. "By the works
    of the law shall no flesh be justified."
        (2.) Wherefore, secondly, Being thus disappointed, by the
    severity and inexorableness of the law, men generally retake
    themselves to some other way, that may satisfy them as to
    those considerations which took them off from their former
    hopes; and this, for the most part, is by fixing themselves
    upon some ways of atonement to satisfy God, and helping out
    the rest with hopes of mercy. Not to insist on the ways of
    atonement and expiation which the Gentiles had pitched on; nor
    on the many ways and inventions - by works satisfactory at
    their own, supererogations of others, indulgences, and
    purgatory in the close - that the Papists have found out for
    this end and purpose; it is, I say, proper to all convinced
    persons, as above, to seek for a righteousness, partly by an
    endeavour to satisfy for what is past, and partly by hoping
    after general mercy. This the apostle calls a seeking for it
    "as it were by the works of the law," Rom. 9: 32; not
    directly, "but as it were" by the works of the law, making up
    one thing with another. And he tells us what issue they have
    in this business, chap. 10: 3, "Being ignorant of God's
    righteousness, and going about to establish their own
    righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the
    righteousness of God." They were by it enemies to the
    righteousness of God. The ground of this going about to
    establish their own righteousness was, that they were ignorant
    of the righteousness of God. Had they known the righteousness
    of God, and what exact conformity to his will he requireth,
    they had never undertaken such a fruitless business as to have
    compassed it "as it were by the works of the law." Yet this
    many will stick on a long time. Something they do, something
    they hope for; some old faults they will buy off with new
    obedience. And this pacifies their consciences for a season;
    but when the Spirit comes to convince them of righteousness,
    neither will this hold. Wherefore, -
        (3.) The matter comes at length to this issue, - they look
    upon themselves under this twofold qualification; as, -
        [1.] Sinners, obnoxious to the law of God and the curse
    thereof; so that unless that be satisfied, that nothing from
    thence shall ever be laid to their charge, it is altogether in
    vain once to seek after an appearance in the presence of God.
        [2.] As creatures made to a supernatural and eternal end;
    and therefore bound to answer the whole mind and will of God
    in the obedience required at their hands. Now, it being before
    discovered to them that both these are beyond the compass of
    their own endeavours, and the assistance which they have
    formerly rested on, if their eternal condition be of any
    concernment to them, their wisdom is, to find out a
    righteousness that may answer both these to the utmost.
        Now, both these are to be had only in the Lord Christ, who
    is our righteousness. This wisdom, and all the treasures of
    it, are hid in him.
        1st. He expiates former iniquities, he satisfies for sin,
    and procures remission of it. Rom. 3: 24, 25, "Being justified
    freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ
    Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through
    faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the
    remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of
    God." "All we like sheep," etc., Isa. 53: 6. "Through his
    blood we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," Eph. 1: 7.
    "God spared not his own Son, but delivered," etc., Rom. 8: 32.
    This, even this alone, is our righteousness; as to that first
    part of it which consists in the removal of the whole guilt of
    sin, whereby we are come short of the glory of God. On this
    account it is that we are assured that none shall ever lay any
    thing to our charge, or condemn us, Rom. 8: 33, 34, - there
    being "no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,"
    verse 1. We are purged by the sacrifice of Christ, so as to
    have "no more conscience of sin," Heb. 10: 2; that is,
    troubles in conscience about it. This wisdom is hid only in
    the Lord Jesus; in him alone is there an atonement discovered:
    and give me the wisdom which shall cut all scores concerning
    sin, and let the world take what remains. But, -
        2dly. There is yet something more required; it is not
    enough that we are not guilty, we must also be actually
    righteous; - not only all sin is to be answered for, but all
    righteousness is to be fulfilled. By taking away the guilt of
    sin, we are as persons innocent; but something more is
    required to make us to be considered as persons obedient. I
    know nothing to teach me that an innocent person shall go to
    heaven, be rewarded, if he be no more but so. Adam was
    innocent at his first creation, but he was to "do this," to
    "keep the commandments," before he entered into "life:" he had
    no title to life by innocence. This, then, moreover, is
    required, that the whole law be fulfilled, and all the
    obedience performed that God requires at our hands. This is
    the soul's second inquiry; and it finds a resolution only in
    the Lord Christ: "For if, when we were enemies, we were
    reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being
    reconciled, we shall be saved by his life," Rom 5: 10. His
    death reconciled us; then are we saved by his life. The actual
    obedience which he yielded to the whole law of God, is that
    righteousness whereby we are saved; if so be we are found in
    him, not having on our own righteousness which is of the law,
    but the righteousness which is of God by faith, Phil. 3: 9.
    This I shall have occasion to handle more at large hereafter.
        To return, then: It is not, I suppose, any difficult task
    to persuade men, convinced of immortality and judgement to
    come, that the main of their wisdom lies in this, even to find
    out such a righteousness as will accompany them for ever, and
    abide the severe trial of God himself. Now, all the wisdom of
    the world is but folly, as to the discovery of this thing. The
    utmost that man's wisdom can do, is but to find out most
    wretched, burdensome, and vexatious ways of perishing
    eternally. All the treasures of this wisdom are hid in Christ;
    he "of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness," 1 Cor.
    1: 30.
        3. Come we to the last thing, which I shall but touch
    upon; and that is judgement. The true wisdom of this also is
    hid in the Lord Christ; I mean, in particular, that judgement
    that is for to come: so at present I take the word in that
    place, [John 16: 8.] Of what concernment this is to us to
    know, I shall not speak; - it is that whose influence upon the
    sons of men is the principle of their discriminating
    themselves from the beasts that perish. Neither shall I insist
    on the obscure intimations of it which are given by the
    present proceedings of Providence in governing the world; nor
    that greater light of it which shines in the threats and
    promises of the law. The wisdom of it is in two regards hid in
    the Lord Jesus: - (1.) As to the truth of it. (2.) As to the
    manner of it: -
        (1.) For the truth of it; and so in and by him it is
    confirmed, and that two ways: - [1.] By his death. [2.] By his
    resurrection: -
        [1.] By his death. God, in the death of Christ, punishing
    and condemning sin in the flesh of his own Son, in the sight
    of men, angels, and devils, has given an abundant assurance of
    a righteous and universal judgement to come; wherefore, or
    upon what account imaginable, could he be induced to lay such
    a load on him, but that he will certainly reckon one day with
    the sons of men for all their works, ways, and walkings before
    him. The death of Christ is a most solemn exemplar of the last
    judgement. Those who own him to be the Son of God, will not
    deny a judgement to come.
        [2.] By his resurrection. Acts 17: 31, "Pistin paraschon
    pasin", - he has given faith and assurance of this thing to
    all, by raising Christ from the dead, having appointed him to
    be the judge of all; in whom and by whom he will judge the
    world in righteousness. And then, -
        (2.) And, lastly, for the manner of it: that it shall be
    by him who has loved us, and given himself for us, - who is
    himself the righteousness that he requires of our hands; and
    on the other side, by him who has been, in his person, grace,
    ways, worship, servants, reviled, despised, condemned by the
    men of the world; - which holds out unspeakable consolation on
    the one hand, and terror on the other: so that the wisdom of
    this also is hid in Christ.
        And this is the second part of our first demonstration.
    Thus the knowledge of ourselves, in reference to our
    supernatural end, is no small portion of our wisdom. The
    things of the greatest concernment hereunto are, sin,
    righteousness, and judgement; the wisdom of all which is alone
    hid in the Lord Jesus: which was to be proved.
        III. The THIRD part of our wisdom is to walk with God.
    Now, that one may walk with another, six things are required:
    - 1. Agreement. 2. Acquaintance. 3. A way. 4. Strength. 5.
    Boldness. 6. An aiming at the same end. All these, with the
    wisdom of them, are hid in the Lord Jesus.
        1. Agreement. The prophet tells us that two cannot walk
    together unless they be agreed, Amos 3: 3. Until agreement be
    made, there is no communion, no walking together. God and man
    by nature (or whilst man is in the state of nature) are at the
    greatest enmity. He declares nothing to us but wrath, Rom. 1:
    18; whence we are said to be children of it; that is, born
    obnoxious to it, Eph. 2: 3: and whilst we remain in that
    condition, "the wrath of God abideth on us," John 3: 36. All
    the discovery that God makes of himself unto us is, that he is
    inexpressibly provoked; and therefore preparing wrath against
    the day of wrath, and the revelation of his righteous
    judgement. The day of his and sinners' meeting, is called "The
    day of wrath," Rom. 2: 5, 6. Neither do we come short in our
    enmity against him; yea, we first began it, and we continue
    longest in it. To express this enmity, the apostle tells us,
    that our very minds, the best part of us, are "enmity against
    God," Rom. 8: 7, 8; and that we neither are, nor will, nor can
    be, subject to him; our enmity manifesting itself by universal
    rebellion against him: whatever we do that seems otherwise, is
    but hypocrisy or flattery; yea, it is a part of this enmity to
    lessen it. In this state the wisdom of walking with God must
    needs be most remote from the soul. e is a "light, and in him
    is no darkness at all;" we are darkness, and in us there is no
    light at all. He is life, a "living God;" we are dead, dead
    sinners, - dead in trespasses and sin. He is "holiness," and
    glorious in it; we wholly defiled, - an abominable thing. He
    is "love;" we full of hatred, - hating and being hated. Surely
    this is no foundation for agreement, or, upon that, of walking
    together: nothing can be more remote than this frame from such
    a condition. The foundation, then, of this, I say, is laid in
    Christ, hid in Christ. "He," saith the apostle, "is our peace;
    he has made peace" for us, Eph. 2: 14, 15. He slew the enmity
    in his own body on the cross, verse 16.
        (1.) He takes out of the way the cause of the enmity that
    was between God and us, - sin and the curse of the law. He
    makes an end of sin, and that by making atonement for
    iniquity, Dan. 9: 24; and he blotteth out the hand-writing of
    ordinances, Col. 2: 14, redeeming us from the curse, by "being
    made a curse for us," Gal. 3: 13.
        (2.) He destroys him who would continue the enmity, and
    make the breach wider, Heb. 2: 14) "Through death he destroyed
    him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;" and,
    Col. 2: 15, "spoiled principalities and powers."
        (3.) He made "reconciliation for the sins of the people,"
    Heb. 2: 17; he made by his blood an atonement with God, to
    turn away that wrath which was due to us, so making peace.
    Hereupon God is said to be "in Christ, reconciling the world
    unto himself," 2 Cor. 5: 19; - being reconciled himself, verse
    18, he lays down the enmity on his part, and proceeds to what
    remains, - to slay the enmity on our part, that we also may be
    reconciled. And this also, -
        (4.) He does; for, Rom. 5: 11, "By our Lord Jesus Christ
    we do receive the atonement," accept of the peace made and
    tendered, Laying down our enmity to God; and so confirming an
    agreement betwixt us in his blood. So that "through him we
    have an access unto the Father," Eph. 2: 18. Now, the whole
    wisdom of this agreement, without which there is no walking
    with God, is hid in Christ; out of him God on his part is a
    consuming fire, - we are as stubble fully dry, yet setting
    ourselves in battle array against that fire: if we are brought
    together we are consumed. All our approaching to him out of
    Christ are but to our detriment; in his blood alone have we
    this agreement. And let not any of us once suppose that we
    have taken any step in the paths of God with him, that any one
    duty is accepted, that all is not lost as to eternity, if we
    have not done it upon the account hereof.
        2. There is required acquaintance, also, to walking
    together. Two may meet together in the same way, and have no
    quarrel between them, no enmity; but if they are mere
    strangers one to another, they pass by without the least
    communion together. It does not suffice that the enmity
    betwixt God and us be taken away; we must also have
    acquaintance given us with him. Our not knowing of him is a
    great cause and a great part of our enmity. Our understandings
    are "darkened," and we are "alienated from the life of God,"
    etc., Eph. 4: 18. This also, then, must be added, if we ever
    come to walk with God, which is our wisdom. And this also is
    hid in the Lord Christ, and comes forth from him. It is true
    there are sundry other means, as his word and his works, that
    God has given the sons of men, to make a discovery of himself
    unto them, and to give them some acquaintance with him, that,
    as the apostle speaks, Acts 17: 27, "they should seek the
    Lord, if happy they might find him;" but yet, as that
    knowledge of God which we have by his works is but very weak
    and imperfect, so that which we have by the word, the letter
    of it, by reason of our blindness, is not saving to us if we
    have no other help; for though that be light as the sun in the
    firmament, yet if we have no eyes in our heads, what can it
    avail us? - no saving acquaintance with him, that may direct
    us to walk with him, can be obtained. This also is hid in the
    Lord Jesus, and comes forth from him, 1 John 5: 20, "He has
    given us an understanding, that we should know him that is
    true;" - all other light whatever without his giving us an
    understanding, will not do it. He is the true Light, which
    lighteth every one that is enlightened, John 1: 9. He opens
    our understandings that we may understand the Scriptures, Luke
    24: 45; - none has known God at any time, "but he has revealed
    him," John 1: 18. God dwells in that "light which no man can
    approach unto," 1 Tim. 6: 16. None has ever had any such
    acquaintance with him as to be said to have seen him, but by
    the revelation of Jesus Christ. Hence he tells the Pharisees,
    that notwithstanding all their great knowledge which they
    pretended, indeed they had "neither heard the voice of God at
    any time, nor seen his shape," John 5: 37. They had no manner
    of spiritual acquaintance with God, but he was unto them as a
    man whom they had never heard nor seen. There is no
    acquaintance with God, as love, and full of kindness,
    patience, grace, and pardoning mercy (on which knowledge of
    him alone we can walk with him), but only in Christ; but of
    this fully before. This, then, also is hid in him.
        3. There must, moreover, be a way wherein we must walk
    with God. God did at the beginning assign us a path to walk in
    with him, even the path of innocence and exact holiness, in a
    covenant of works. This path, by sin, is so filled with thorns
    and briers, so stopped up by curses and wrath, that no flesh
    living can take one step in that path; a new way for us to
    walk in must be found out, if ever we think to hold communion
    with God. And this also lies upon the former account. It is
    hid in Christ. All the world cannot, but by and in him,
    discover a path that a man may walk one step with God in. And
    therefore the Holy Ghost tells us that Christ has consecrated,
    dedicated, and set apart for that purpose, "a new and living
    way" into the holiest of all, Heb. 10: 20; a new one, for the
    first, old one was useless; a living one, for the other is
    dead: therefore, saith he, verse 22, "Let us draw near;"
    having a way to walk in, let us draw near. And this way that
    he has prepared is no other but himself, John 14: 6. In answer
    to them who would go to the Father, and hold communion with
    him, he tells them, "I am the way; and no man comes to the
    Father but by me." He is the medium of all communication
    between God and us. In him we meet, in him we walk. All
    influences of love, kindness, mercy, from God to us, are
    through him; all our returns of love, delight, faith,
    obedience unto God, are all through him; - he being that "one
    way" God so often promiseth his people: and it is a glorious
    way, Isa. 35: 8, - a high way, a way of holiness, a way that
    none can err in that once enter it; which is farther set out,
    Isa. 42: 16. All other ways, all paths but this, go down to
    the chambers of death; they all lead to walk contrary to God.
        4. But suppose all this, - that agreement be made,
    acquaintance given, and a way provided; yet if we have no
    strength to walk in that way, what will all this avail us?
    This also, then, must be added; of ourselves we are of no
    strength, Rom. 5: 6, - poor weaklings, not able to go a step
    in the ways of God. When we are set in the way, either we
    throw ourselves down, or temptations cast us down, and we make
    no progress: and the Lord Jesus tells us plainly, that
    "without him we can do nothing," John 15: 5; not any thing at
    all that shall have the least acceptation with God. Neither
    can all the creatures in heaven and earth yield us the least
    assistance. Men's contending to do it in their own power,
    comes to nothing. This part of this, wisdom also is hid in
    Christ. All strength to walk with God is from him. "I can do
    all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me," saith St.
    Paul, Phil. 4: 13, who denies that of ourselves we have any
    sufficiency, 2 Cor. 3: 5. We that can do nothing in ourselves,
    we are such weaklings, can do all things in Jesus Christ, as
    giants; and therefore in him we are, against all oppositions
    in our way, "more than conquerors," Rom. 8: 37; and that
    because "from his fulness we receive grace for grace," John 1:
    16. From him have we the Spirit of life and power, whereby he
    bears, as on eagles' wings, swiftly, safely, in the paths of
    walking with God. Any step that is taken in any way, by
    strength that is not immediately from Christ, is one step
    towards hell. He first takes us by the arm and teaches us to
    go, until he leads us on to perfection. He has milk and strong
    meat to feed us; he strengthens us with all might, and is with
    us in our running the race that is set before us. But yet, -
        5. Whence should we take this confidence as to walk with
    God; even our God, who is "a consuming fire?" Heb. 12: 29. Was
    there not such a dread upon his people of old, that it was
    taken for granted among them that if they saw God at any time,
    it was not to be endured, - they must die? Can any, but with
    extreme horror, think of that dreadful appearance that he made
    unto them of old upon mount Sinai; until Moses himself, who
    was their mediator, said, "I exceedingly fear and quake?" Heb.
    12: 21, and all the people said, "Let not God speak with us,
    lest we die?" Exod. 20: 19. Nay, though men have apprehensions
    of the goodness and kindness of God, yet upon any discovery,
    of his glory, how do they tremble, and are filled with dread
    and astonishment! Has it not been so with the "choicest of his
    saints?" Hab. 3: 16; Isa. 6: 5; Job 42: 5, 6. Whence, then,
    should we take to ourselves this boldness, to walk with God?
    This the apostle will inform us in Heb. 10: 19; it is "by the
    blood of Jesus:" so Eph. 3: 12, "In him we have boldness, and
    access with confidence;" - not standing afar off, like the
    people at the giving of the law, but drawing nigh to God with
    boldness; and that upon this account: - The dread and terror
    of God entered by sin; Adam had not the least thought of
    hiding himself until he had sinned. The guilt of sin being on
    the conscience, and this being a common notion left in the
    hearts of all, that God is a most righteous revenger thereof;
    this fills men with dread and horror at an apprehension of his
    presence, fearing that he is come to call their sins to
    remembrance. Now, the Lord Jesus, by the sacrifice and the
    atonement that he has made, has taken away this conscience of
    sin; that is, a dread of revenge from God upon the account of
    the guilt thereof. He has removed the slaying sword of the
    law, and on that account gives us great boldness with God;
    discovering him unto us now, no longer as a revenging Judge,
    but as a tender, merciful, and reconciled Father. Moreover,
    whereas there is on us by nature a spirit of bondage, filling
    us with innumerable tormenting fears, he takes it away, and
    gives us "the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba,
    Father," and behave ourselves with confidence and gracious
    boldness, as children: for "where the Spirit of the Lord is,
    there is liberty," 2 Cor. 3: 17; that is, a freedom from all
    that dread and terror which the administration of the law
    brought with it. Now, as there is no sin that God will more
    severely revenge than any boldness that man takes with him out
    of Christ; so there is no grace more acceptable to him than
    that boldness which he is pleased to afford us in the blood of
    Jesus. There is, then, -
        6. But one thing more to add; and that is, that two cannot
    walk together unless they have the same design in hand, and
    aim at the same end. This also, in a word, is given us in the
    Lord Jesus. The end of God is the advancement of his own
    glory; none can aim at this end, but only in the Lord Jesus.
    The sum of all is, that the whole wisdom of our walking with
    God is hid in Christ, and from him only to be obtained; as has
    been manifest by an enumeration of particulars.
        And so have I brought my first demonstration of what I
    intended unto a close, and manifested that all true wisdom and
    knowledge is laid up in, and laid out by, the Lord Jesus; and
    this by an induction of the chief particular heads of those
    things wherein confessedly our wisdom does consist. I have but
    one more to add, and therein I shall be brief.
        SECONDLY, then, I say this truth will be farther
    manifested by the consideration of the insufficiency and
    vanity of any thing else that may lay claim or pretend to a
    title to wisdom.
        There be two things in the world that do pass under this
    account: - 1. The one is learning or literature; skill and
    knowledge of arts, sciences, tongues, with the knowledge of
    the things that are past. 2. prudence and skill for the
    management of ourselves in reference to others, in civil
    affairs, for public good; which is much the fairest flower
    within the border of nature's garden. Now, concerning both
    these, I shall briefly evince, - (1.) That they are utterly
    insufficient for the compassing and obtaining of those
    particular ends whereunto they are designed. (2.) That both of
    them in conjunction, with their utmost improvement, cannot
    reach the true general end of wisdom. Both which
    considerations will set the crown, in the issue, upon the head
    of Jesus Christ: -
        1. Begin we with the first of these, and that as to the
    first particular. Learning itself, if it were all in one man,
    is not able to compass the particular end whereto it is
    designed; which writes "vanity and vexation" upon the forehead
        The particular end of literature (though not observed by
    many, men's eyes being fixed on false ends, which compels them
    in their progress "aberrare a scopo") is none other but to
    remove some part of that curse which is come upon us by sin.
    Learning is the product of the soul's struggling with the
    curse for sin. Adam, at his first creation, was completely
    furnished with all that knowledge (excepting only things not
    then in being, neither in themselves nor in any natural
    causes, as that which we now call tongues, and those things
    that are the subject of story), as far as it lies in a needful
    tendency to the utmost end of man, which we now press after.
    There was no straitness, much less darkness, upon his
    understanding, that should make him sweat for a way to
    improve, and make out those general conceptions of things
    which he had. For his knowledge of nature, it is manifest,
    from his imposition of suitable names on all the creatures
    (the particular reasons of the most of which to us are lost);
    wherein, from the approbation given of his nomination of
    things in the Scripture, and the significance of what yet
    remains evident, it is most apparent it was done upon a clear
    acquaintance with their natures. Hence Plato could observe,
    that he was most wise that first imposed names on things; yea,
    had more than human wisdom. Were the wisest man living, yea, a
    general collection of all the wise men in the world, to make
    an experiment of their skill and ]earning, in giving names to
    all living creatures, suitable to their natures and expressive
    of their qualities, they would quickly perceive the loss they
    have incurred. Adam was made perfect, for the whole end of
    ruling the creatures and living to God, for which he was made;
    which, without the knowledge of the nature of the one and the
    will of the other, he could not be. All this being lost by
    sin, a multiplication of tongues also being brought in, as a
    curse for an after rebellion, the whole design of learning is
    but to disentangle the soul from this issue of sin. Ignorance,
    darkness, and blindness, is come upon the understanding;
    acquaintance with the works of God, spiritual and natural, is
    lost; strangeness of communication is given, by multiplication
    of tongues; tumultuating of passions and affections, with
    innumerable darkening prejudices, are also come upon us. To
    remove and take this away - to disentangle the mind in its
    seasonings, to recover an acquaintance with the works of God,
    to subduct the soul from under the effects of the curse of
    division of tongues - is the aim and tendency of literature.
    This is the "aliquid quo tendit;" and he that has any other
    aim in it, "Passim sequitur corvum testaque lotoque." Now, not
    to insist upon that vanity and vexation of spirit, with the
    innumerable evils wherewith this enterprise is attended, this
    is that I only say, it is in itself no way sufficient for the
    attainment of its end, which writes vanity upon its forehead
    with characters not to be obliterated. To this purpose I
    desire to observe these two things: -
        (1.) That the knowledge aimed at to be recovered was given
    unto man in order to his walking with God, unto that
    supernatural end whereunto he was appointed. For after he was
    furnished with all his endowments, the law of life and death
    was given to him, that he might know wherefore he received
    them. Therefore, knowledge in him was spiritualized and
    sanctified: even that knowledge which he had by nature, in
    respect of its principle and end, was spiritual.
        (2.) That the loss of it is part of that curse which was
    inflicted on us for sin. Whatever we come short in of the
    state of the first man in innocence, whether in loss of good
    or addition of evil, it is all of the curse for sin. Besides,
    that blindness, ignorance, darkness, deadness, which is
    everywhere ascribed to us in the state of nature, does fully
    comprise that also whereof we speak.
        On these two considerations it is most apparent that
    learning can no way of itself attain the end it aimeth at.
    For, -
        [1.] That light which by it is discovered (which, the Lord
    knows, is very little, weak, obscure, imperfect, uncertain,
    conjectural, for a great part only enabling men to quarrel
    with and oppose one another, to the reproach of reason, yet I
    say, that which is attained by it) is not in the least measure
    by it spiritualized, or brought into that order of living to
    God, and with God, wherein at first it lay. This is wholly
    beyond its reach. As to this end, the apostle assures us that
    the utmost issue that men come to, is darkness and folly, Rom.
    1: 21, 22. Who knows not the profound inquiries, the subtile
    disputations, the acute seasonings, the admirable discoveries
    of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and others? What, as to the
    purpose in hand, did they attain by all their studies and
    endeavours? "Emorantesan", says the apostle, - "They became
    fools." He that, by general consent, bears the crown of
    reputation for wisdom from them all, with whom to have lived
    was counted an inestimable happiness, died like a fool,
    sacrificing a cock to AEsculapius. And another [apostle
    assures us], that Jesus Christ alone is "the true Light," that
    lighteth us, John 1: 9. And there is not any that has any true
    light, but what is immediately from him. After all the
    learning of men, if they have nothing else, they are still
    natural men, and perceive not the things of God. Their light
    is still but darkness; and how great is that darkness! It is
    the Lord Jesus alone who is anointed to open the eyes of the
    blind. Men cannot spiritualize a notion, nor lay it in any
    order to the glorifying of God. After all their endeavours,
    they are still blind and dark, yea, darkness itself, knowing
    nothing as they should. I know how the men of these
    attainments are apt to say, "Are we blind also?" with great
    contempt of others; but God has blasted all their pride:
    "Where," saith he, "is the wise? where is the scribe," etc., 1
    Cor 1: 20. I shall not add what Paul has farther cautioned us,
    to the seeming condemning of philosophy as being fitted to
    make spoil of souls; nor what Tertullian with some other of
    the ancients have spoken of it; being very confident that it
    was the abuse, and not the true use and advantage of it, that
    they opposed. But, -
        [2.] The darkness and ignorance that it strives to remove,
    being come upon us as a curse, it is not in the least measure,
    as it is a curse, able to remove it or take it away. He that
    has attained to the greatest height of literature, yet if he
    has nothing else, - if he have not Christ, - is as much under
    the curse of blindness, ignorance, stupidity, dullness, as the
    poorest, silliest soul in the world. The curse is only removed
    in him who was made a curse for us. Every thing that is penal
    is taken away only by him on whom all our sins did meet in a
    way of punishment; yea, upon this account. The more abilities
    the mind is furnished withal, the more it closes with the
    curse, and strengthens itself to act its enmity against God.
    All that it receives does but help it to set up high thoughts
    and imaginations against the Lord Christ. So that this
    knowledge comes short of what in particular it is designed
    unto; and therefore cannot be that solid wisdom we are
    inquiring after.
        There be sundry other things whereby it were easy to blur
    the countenance of this wisdom; and, from its intricacy,
    difficulty, uncertainty, unsatisfactoriness, - betraying its
    followers into that which they most profess to avoid,
    blindness and folly, - to write upon it "vanity and vexation
    of spirit." I hope I shall not need to add any thing to clear
    myself for not giving a due esteem and respect unto
    literature, my intendment being only to cast it down at the
    feet of Jesus Christ, and to set the crown upon his head.
        2. Neither can the second part of the choicest wisdom out
    of Christ attain the peculiar end whereunto it is appointed;
    and that is prudence in the management of civil affairs, -
    than which no perishing thing is more glorious, - nothing more
    useful for the common good of human kind. Now, the immediate
    end of this prudence is to keep the rational world in bounds
    and order, to draw circles about the sons of men, and to keep
    them from passing their allotted bounds and limits, to the
    mutual disturbance and destruction of each other. All manner
    of trouble and disturbance ariseth from irregularity: one man
    breaking in upon the rights, usages, interests, relations of
    another, sets this world at variance. The sum and aim of all
    wisdom below is, to cause all things to move in their proper
    sphere, whereby it would be impossible there should be any
    more interfering than is in the celestial orbs,
    notwithstanding all their divers and various motions: to keep
    all to their own allotments, within the compass of the lines
    that are fallen unto them, is the special end of this wisdom.
        Now, it will be a very easy task, to demonstrate that all
    civil prudence whatever (besides the vexation of its
    attainment, and loss being attained) is no way able to compass
    this end. The present condition of affairs throughout the
    world, as also that of former ages, will abundantly testify
    it; but I shall farther discover the vanity of it for this end
    in some few observations. And the
        (1.) First is, That, through the righteous judgement of
    God lopping off the top flowers of the pride of men, it
    frequently comes to pass that those who are furnished with the
    greatest abilities of this kind do lay them out to a direct
    contrary end unto that which is their natural tendency and
    aim. From whom, for the most part, are all the commotions in
    the world, - the breaking up of bounds, setting the whole
    frame of nature on fire? is it not from such men as these.
    Were not men so wise, the world, perhaps, would be more quiet,
    when the end of wisdom is to keep it in quietness. This seems
    to be a curse that God has spread upon the wisdom of the
    world, in the most in whom it is, that it shall be employed in
    direct opposition to its proper end.
        (2.) That God has made this a constant path towards the
    advancement of his own glory, even to leaven the wisdom and
    the counsels of the wisest of the sons of men with folly and
    madness, that they shall, in the depth of their policy, advise
    things for the compassing of the ends they do propose as
    unsuitable as any thing that could proceed out of the mouth of
    a child or a fool, and as directly tending to their own
    disappointment and ruin as any thing that could be invented
    against them. "He destroys the wisdom of the wise, and brings
    to nothing the understanding of the prudent," 1 Cor. 1: 19.
    This he largely describes, Isa. 19: 11-14. Drunkenness and
    staggering is the issue of all their wisdom; and that upon
    this account, - the Lord gives them the spirit of giddiness.
    So also Job 5: 12-14. They meet with darkness in the day-time:
    when all things seem clear about them, and a man would wonder
    how men should miss their way, then will God make it darkness
    to such as these. So Ps. 33: 10. Hence God, as it were, sets
    them at work, and undertakes their disappointment, Isa. 8: 9,
    10, "Go about your counsels," saith the Lord, "and I will take
    order that it shall come to nought." And, Ps. 2: 3, 4, when
    men are deep at their plots and contrivances, God is said to
    have them in derision, to laugh them to scorn, seeing the poor
    worms industriously working out their own ruin. Never was this
    made more clear than in the days wherein we live. Scarcely
    have any wise men been brought to destruction, but it has
    evidently been through their own folly; neither has the wisest
    counsel of most been one jot better than madness.
        (3.) That this wisdom, which should tend to universal
    quietness, has almost constantly given universal disquietness
    unto themselves in whom it has been most eminent. "In much
    wisdom is much grief," Eccles. 1: 18. And in the issue, some
    of them have made away with themselves, as Ahithophel; and the
    most of them have been violently dispatched by others. There
    is, indeed, no end of the folly of this wisdom. The great men
    of the world carry away the reputation of it; - really it is
    found in few of them. They are, for the most part, common
    events, whereunto they contribute not the least mite, which
    are ascribed to their care, vigilance, and foresight. Mean
    men, that have learned to adore what is above them, reverence
    the meetings and conferences of those who are in greatness and
    esteem. Their weakness and folly is little known. Where this
    wisdom has been most eminent, it has dwelt so close upon the
    borders of atheism, been attended with such falseness and
    injustice, that it has made its possessors wicked and
        I shall not need to give any more instances to manifest
    the insufficiency of this wisdom for the attaining of its own
    peculiar and immediate end. This is the vanity of any thing
    whatever, - that it comes short of the mark it is directed
    unto. It is far, then, from being true and solid wisdom,
    seeing on the forehead thereof you may read "Disappointment."
        And this is the first reason why true wisdom cannot
    consist in either of these, - because they come short even of
    the particular and immediate ends they aim at. But, -
        Secondly, Both these in conjunction, with their utmost
    improvement, are not able to reach the true general end of
    wisdom. This assertion also falleth under an easy
    demonstration, and it were a facile thing to discover their
    disability and unsuitableness for the true end of wisdom; but
    it is so professedly done by him who had the largest portion
    of both of any of the sons of men (Solomon in his Preacher),
    that I shall not any farther insist upon it.
        To draw, then, unto a close: - if true and solid wisdom is
    not in the least to be found amongst these, if the pearl be
    not hid in this field, if these two are but vanity and
    disappointment, it cannot but be to no purpose to seek for it
    in any thing else below, these being amongst them incomparably
    the most excellent; and therefore, with one accord, let us set
    the crown of this wisdom on the head of the Lord Jesus.
        Let the reader, then, in a few words, take a view of the
    tendency of this whole digression. To draw our hearts to the
    more cheerful entertainment of and delight in the Lord Jesus,
    is the aim thereof. If all wisdom be laid up in him, and by an
    interest in him only to be attained, - if all things beside
    him and without him that lay claim thereto are folly and
    vanity, - let them that would be wise learn where to repose
    their souls.

    Owen, Of Communion With God
    (continued in File 12...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: owcom-11.txt