A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ 
Chapter I. Peter's Confession; Matt.16:16--Conceits of the Papists 
thereon--The Substance and Excellency of that Confession 
Our blessed Saviour, inquiring of his disciples their apprehensions 
concerning his person, and their faith in him, Simon Peter--as he was 
usually the forwardest on all such occasions, through his peculiar 
endowments of faith and zeal--returns an answer in the name of them 
all, Matt.16:16: "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the 
Christ, the Son of the living God." 
 Baronius, and sundry others of the Roman Church, do all affirm that 
the Lord Christ did herein prescribe the form of a general council. 
"For here," say they, "the principal article of our Christian faith 
was declared and determined by Peter, whereunto all the rest of the 
apostles, as in duty they were obliged, did give their consent and 
suffrage." This was done, as they suppose, that a rule and law might 
be given unto future ages, how to enact and determine articles of 
faith. For it is to be done by the successors of Peter presiding in 
councils, as it was now done by Peter in this assembly of Christ and 
his apostles. 
 But they seem to forget that Christ himself was now present, and 
therefore could have no vicar, seeing he presided in his own person. 
All the claim they lay unto the necessity of such a visible head of 
the church on the earth, as may determine articles of faith, is from 
the absence of Christ since his ascension into heaven. But that he 
should also have a substitute whilst he was present, is somewhat 
uncouth; and whilst they live, they shall never make the pope 
president where Christ is present. The truth is, he does not propose 
unto his disciples the framing of an article of truth, but inquires 
after their own faith, which they expressed in this confession. Such 
things as these will prejudice, carnal interest, and the prepossession 
of the minds of men with corrupt imaginations, cause them to adventure 
on, to the scandal, yea, ruin of religion! 
 This short but illustrious confession of Peter, compriseth eminently 
the whole truth concerning the person and office of Christ:--of his 
person, in that although he was the Son of man, (under which 
appellation he made his inquiry, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of 
man, am?") yet was he not only so, but the eternal Son of the living 
God:--of his office, that he was the Christ, he whom God had anointed 
to be the Saviour of the church, in the discharge of his kingly, 
priestly, and prophetical power. Instances of the like brief 
confessions we have elsewhere in the Scripture. Rom.10:9: "If thou 
shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in 
thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be 
saved" 1 John 4:2,3: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ 
is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not 
that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." And it is 
manifest, that all divine truths have such a concatenation among 
themselves, and do all of them so centre in the person of Christ--as 
vested with his offices towards the church--that they are all 
virtually comprised in this confession, and they will be so as counted 
by all who destroy them not by contrary errors and imaginations 
inconsistent with them, though it be the duty of all men to obtain the 
express knowledge of them in particular, according unto the meana 
thereof which they do enjoy. The danger of men's souls lieth not in a 
disability to attain a comprehension of longer or more subtile 
confessions of faith, but in embracing things contrary unto, or 
inconsistent with, this foundation thereof. Whatever it be whereby men 
cease to hold the Head, how small soever it seem, that alone is 
pernicious: Col.2:18,19. 
 This confession, therefore, as containing the sum and substance of 
that faith which they were called to give testimony unto, and 
concerning which their trial was approaching--is approved by our 
Saviour. And not only so, but eminent privileges are granted unto him 
that made it, and in him unto the whole church, that should live in 
the same faith and confession: (verses 17,18:) "And Jesus answered and 
said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood 
has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I 
say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will 
build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." 
 Two things does our Saviour consider in the answer returned unto his 
inquiry. 1. The faith of Peter in this confession--the faith of him 
that made it; 2. The nature and truth of the confession: both which 
are required in all the disciples of Christ." For with the heart man 
believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made 
unto salvation:" Rom.10:10. 
 1. The first thing which he speaks unto is the faith of Peter, who 
made this confession. Without this no outward confession is of any use 
or advantage. For even the devils knew him to be the Holy One of God; 
(Luke 4:34;) yet would he not permit them to speak it: Mark 1:34. That 
which gives glory unto God in any confession, and which gives us an 
interest in the truth confessed, is the believing of the heart, which 
is unto righteousness. With respect hereunto the Lord Christ speaks: 
(verse 17:) "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, 
Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but 
my Father which is in heaven." 
 He commends and sets forth the faith of Peter--(1.) From its effect; 
(2.) From its cause. Its effect was, that it made him blessed in whom 
it was. For it is not only a blessed thing to believe and know Jesus 
Christ, as it is called life eternal; (John 17:3;) but it is that 
which gives an immediate interest in the blessed state of adoption, 
justification, and acceptance with God: John 1:12. (2.) The immediate 
cause of this faith is divine revelation. It is not the effect or 
product of our own abilities, the best of which are but flesh and 
blood. That faith which renders them blessed in whom it is, is wrought 
in them by the power of God revealing Christ unto their souls. Those 
who have more abilities of their own unto this end than Peter had, we 
are not concerned in. 
 2. He speaks unto the confession itself, acquainting his disciples 
with the nature and use of it, which, from the beginning, he 
principally designed: (verse 18:) "And I say also unto thee, that thou 
art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of 
hell shall not prevail against it." 
 From the speaking of these words unto Peter, there is a controversy 
raised in the world, whether the Lord Christ himself, or the pope of 
Rome, be the rock whereon the church is built. And unto that state are 
things come in religion, among them that are called Christians, that 
the greatest number are for the pope and against Christ in this 
matter. And they have good reason for their choice. For if Christ be 
the rock whereon the church is built, whereas he is a living stone, 
those that are laid and built on him must be lively stones also, as 
this apostle assures us, 1 Epist. 2:4,5; they must be like unto Christ 
himself, partaking of his nature, quickened by his Spirit, so, as it 
were, to be bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh: Eph.5:30. Nor 
can any be built on him but by a living faith, effectual in universal 
obedience. These things the generality of men like not at all; and, 
therefore, the fabric of the living temple on this foundation is 
usually but small, seldom conspicuous or outwardly glorious. But if 
the pope be this rock, all the Papists in the world, or all that have 
a mind so to be--be they ever so wicked and ungodly--may be built upon 
him, and be made partakers of all that deliverance from the powers of 
hell which that rock can afford them. And all this may be obtained at 
a very easy rate; for the acknowledgment of the pope's sovereign 
authority in the church is all that is required thereunto. How they 
bring in the claim of their pope by Peter, his being at Rome, being 
bishop of Rome, dying at Rome, fixing his chair at Rome, devoting and 
transmitting all his right, title, power, and authority, every thing 
but his faith, holiness, and labour in the ministry, unto the pope, I 
shall not here inquire; I have done it elsewhere. Here is fixed the 
root of the tree, which is grown great, like that in Nebuchadnezzar's 
dream, until it is become a receptacle for the beasts of the field and 
fowls of the air--sensual men and unclean spirits I shall, therefore, 
briefly lay an axe unto the root of it, by evidencing that it is not 
the person of Peter who confessed Christ, but the person of Christ 
whom Peter confessed, that is the rock on which the church is built. 
 1. The variation of the expressions proves undeniably that our 
Saviour intended we should not understand the person of Peter to be 
the rock. He takes occasion from his name to declare what he designed, 
but no more: "And I say also unto thee, Thou art Peter." He had given 
him this name before, at his first calling; (John 1:42;) now he gives 
the reason of his so doing; viz, because of the illustrious confession 
that he should make of the rock of the church; as the name of God 
under the Old Testament was called on persons, and things, and places, 
because of some especial relation unto him. Wherefore, the expression 
is varied on purpose to declare, that whatever be the signification of 
the name Peter, yet the person so called was not the rock intended. 
The words are, "Su ei Petros, kai epi tautei tei petrai". Had he 
intended the person of Peter, he would have expressed it plainly, "Su 
ei petros, kai epi soi, k.t.l."--"Thou art a rock, and on thee will I 
build." At least the gender had not been altered, but he would have 
said, "Epi toutooi tooi petrooi", which would have given some color to 
this imagination. The exception which they lay hereunto, from the use 
of Cephas in the Syriac, which was the name of Peter, and signified a 
rock or a stone, lies not only against the authentic authority of the 
Greek original, but of their own translation of it, which reads the 
words, "To es Petrus, et super hanc petram". 
 2. If the church was built on the person of Peter, then when he died 
the church must utterly fail. For no building can possibly abide when 
its foundation is removed and taken away. Wherefore they tell us they 
do not intend by the person of Peter, that singular and individual 
person alone to be this rock; but that he and his successors the 
bishops of Rome are so. But this story of his successors at Rome is a 
shameful fable. If the pope of Rome be a true believer, he succeeds, 
in common with all other believers, unto the privileges which belong 
unto this confession; if he be not, he has neither lot nor portion in 
this matter. But the pretence is utterly vain on another account also. 
The apostle, showing the insufficiency of the Aaronical priesthood-- 
wherein there was a succession of God's own appointment--affirms, that 
it could not bring the church unto a perfect state, because the high 
priests died one after another, and so were many: Heb.7:8,23,24. And 
thereon he shows that the church cannot be consummated or perfected, 
unless it rest wholly in and on him who lives forever, and was made a 
priest "after the power of an endless life." And if the Holy Ghost 
judged the state of the Jewish Church to be weak and imperfect-- 
because it rested on high priests that died one after another, 
although their succession was expressly ordained of God himself--shall 
we suppose that the Lord Christ, who came to consummate the church, 
and to bring it unto the most perfect estate whereof in this world it 
is capable, should build it on a succession of dying men, concerning 
which succession there is not the least intimation that it is 
appointed of God? And as unto the matter of fact, we know both what 
interruptions it has received, and what monsters it has produced--both 
sufficiently manifesting that it is not of God. 
 3. There is but one rock, but one foundation. There is no mention in 
the Scripture of two rocks of the church. In what others invent to 
this purpose we are not concerned. And the rock and the foundation are 
the same; for the rock is that whereon the church is built, that is 
the foundation. But that the Lord Christ is this single rock and 
foundation of the church, we shall prove immediately. Wherefore, 
neither Peter himself, nor his pretended successors, can be this rock. 
As for any other rock, it belongs not unto our religion; they that 
have framed it may use it as they please. For they that make such 
things are like unto the things they make; so is every one that 
trusteth in them: Ps.115:8. "But their rock is not as our rock, 
themselves being judges;" unless they will absolutely equal the pope 
unto Jesus Christ. 
 4. Immediately after this declaration of our Saviour's purpose to 
build his church on the rock, he reveals unto his disciples the way 
and manner how he would lay its foundation, viz., in his death and 
sufferings: verse 21. And thereon this supposed rock, being a little 
left unto his own stability, showed himself to be but a "reed shaken 
with the wind." For he is so far from putting himself under the weight 
of the building, that he attempts an obstruction of its foundation. He 
began to rebuke Christ himself for mentioning his sufferings, wherein 
alone the foundation of the Gospel Church was to be laid; (verse 22;) 
and hereon he received the severest rebuke that ever the Lord Jesus 
gave unto any of his disciples: verse 23. And so it is known that 
afterward--through surprisal and temptation--he did what lay in him to 
recall that confession which here he made, and whereon the church was 
to be built. For, that no flesh might glory in itself, he that was 
singular in this confession of Christ, was so also in the denial of 
him. And if he in his own person manifested how unmeet he was to be 
the foundation of the church, they must be strangely infatuated who 
can suppose his pretended successors so to be. But some men will 
rather have the church to be utterly without any foundation, than that 
it should not be the pope. 
 The vanity of this pretence being removed, the substance of the great 
mystery contained in the attestation given by our Saviour unto the 
confession of Peter, and the promise whereunto annexed, may be 
comprised in the ensuing assertions:-- 
 1. The person of Christ, the Son of the living God, as vested with 
his offices, whereunto he was called and anointed, is the foundation 
of the church, the rock whereon it is built. 
 2. The power and policy of hell will be always engaged in opposition 
unto the relation of the church unto this foundation, or the building 
of it on this rock. 
 3. The church that is built on this rock shall never be disjoined 
from it, or prevailed against by the opposition of the gates of hell. 
 The two former of these I shall speak briefly unto, my principal 
design being the demonstration of a truth that ariseth from the 
consideration of them all. 
 The foundation of the church is twofold: (1.) Real; (2.) Doctrinal. 
And in both ways, Christ alone is the foundation. The real foundation 
of the church he is, by virtue of the mystical union of it unto him, 
with all the benefits whereof, from thence and thereby, it is made 
partaker. For thence alone has it spiritual life, grace, mercy, 
perfection, and glory: Eph.4:15,16; Col.2:19. And he is the doctrinal 
foundation of it, in that the faith or doctrine concerning him and his 
offices is that divine truth which in a peculiar manner animates and 
constitutes the church of the New Testament: Eph.2:19-22. Without the 
faith and confession hereof, no one person belongs unto that church. I 
know not what is now believed, but I judge it will not yet be denied, 
that the external formal cause of the Church of the New Testament, is 
the confession of the faith concerning the person, offices, and grace 
of Christ, with what is of us required thereon. In what sense we 
assert these things will be afterwards fully cleared. 
 That the Lord Christ is thus the foundation of the church, is 
testified unto, Isa.28:16: "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in 
Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, 
a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make hasten. It is 
among the bold inroads that in this late age have been made on the 
vitals of religion, that some, in compliance with the Jews, have 
attempted the application of this promise unto Hezekiah. The violence 
they have offered herein to the mind of the Holy Ghost, might be 
evidenced from every word of the context. But the interpretation and 
application of the last words of this promise by the apostles, leaves 
no pretence unto this insinuation. "He that believes on him shall not 
be ashamed" or "confounded," Rom.9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet.2:6; that is, he 
shall be eternally saved--which it is the highest blasphemy to apply 
unto any other but Jesus Christ alone. He, therefore, is alone that 
foundation which God has laid in and of the church. See Ps.118:22; 
Matt.21:42; Mark.12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet.2:4; Eph.2:20-22; 
Zech.3:9. But this fundamental truth--of Christ being the only 
foundation of the church--is so expressly determined by the apostle 
Paul, as not to need any farther confirmation, 1 Cor.3:11: "For other 
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 2...)

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