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 sin. [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 thereof. 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 infamous. 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 .