(Owen, Christologia, Part 2)

Chapter II. Opposition made unto the Church as built upon the Person 
of Christ 
There are in the words of our Saviour unto Peter concerning the 
foundation of the church, a promise of its preservation, and a 
prediction of the opposition that should be made thereunto. And, 
accordingly, all things are come to pass, and carrying on towards a 
complete accomplishment. For (that we may begin with the opposition 
foretold) the power and policy of hell ever were, and ever will be, 
engaged in opposition unto the church built on this foundation--that 
is, the faith of it concerning his person, office, and grace, whereby 
it is built on him. This, as unto what is past, concerneth matter of 
fact, whereof, therefore, I must give a brief account; and then we 
shall examine what evidences we have of the same endeavour at present. 
 The gates of hell, as all agree, are the power and policy of it, or 
the actings of Satan, both as a lion and as a serpent, by rage and by 
subtlety. But whereas in these things he acts not visibly in his own 
person, but by his agents, he has always had two sorts of them 
employed in his service. By the one he executes his rage, and by the 
other his craft; he animates the one as a lion, the other as a 
serpent. In the one he acts as the dragon, in the other as the beast 
that had two horns like the lamb, but spake like the dragon. The first 
is the unbelieving world; the other, apostates and seducers of all 
sorts. Wherefore, this work is this kind is of a double nature;--the 
one, an effect of his power and rage, acted by the world in 
persecution--the other, of his policy and craft, acted by heretics in 
seduction. In both he designs to separate the church from its 
 The opposition of the first sort he began against the person of 
Christ immediately in his human nature. Fraud first he once attempted 
in his temptation, (Matt.4,) but quickly found that that way he could 
male no approach unto him. The prince of this world came, but had 
nothing in him. Wherefore he retook himself unto open force, and, by 
all means possible, sought his destruction. So also the more at any 
time the church is by faith and watchfulness secured against 
seduction, the more does he rage against it in open persecution. And 
(for the example and comfort of the church in its conformity unto 
Christ) no means were left unattempted that might instigate and 
prepare the world for his ruin. Reproaches, contempt, scorn, false and 
lying accusations--by his suggestions--were heaped on him on every 
hand. Hereby, in the whole course of his ministry, he "endured the 
contradiction of sinners against himself: " Heb.12:3. And there is 
herein blessed provision made of inestimable consolation, for all 
those who are "predestinated to be conformed unto his image," when God 
shall help them by faith to make use of his example. He calls them to 
take up his cross and follow him; and he has showed them what is in 
it, by his own bearing of it. Contempt, reproach, despiteful usage, 
calumnies, false accusations, wrestings of his words, blaspheming of 
his doctrine, reviling of his person, all that he said and did as to 
his principles about human government and moral oonversation, 
encompassed him all his days. And he has assured his followers, that 
such, and no other, (at least for the most part,) shall be their lot 
in this world. And some in all ages have an experience of it in an 
eminent manner. But have they any reason to complain? Why should the 
servant look for better measure than the Master met withal? To be made 
like unto him in the worst of evils, for his sake, is the best and 
most honorable condition in this world. God help some to believe it! 
Hereby was way made for his death. But, in the whole, it was 
manifested how infinitely, in all his subtlety and malice, Satan falls 
short of the contrivances of divine wisdom and power. For all that he 
attained by effecting his death, in the hour of darkness, was but the 
breaking of his own head, the destruction of his works, with the ruin 
of his kingdom; and what yet remains to consummate his eternal misery, 
he shall himself work out in his opposition unto the church. His 
restless malice and darkness will not suffer him to give over the 
pursuit of his rage, until nothing remains to give him a full entrance 
into endless torments--which he hasteneth every day. For when he shall 
have filled up the measure of his sins, and of the sins of the world 
in being instrumental unto his rage, eternal judgment shall put all 
things unto their issue. Through that shall he, with the world, enter 
into everlasting flames--and the whole church, built on the rock, into 
rest and glory. 
 No sooner did the Church of the New Testament begin to arise on this 
foundation, but the whole world of Jews and gentiles set themselves 
with open force to destroy it. And all that they contended with the 
church about, was their faith and confession of it, that "Jesus was 
the Christ, the Son of the living God." This foundation they would 
cast it from, or exterminate it out of the earth. What were the 
endeavours of the gates of hell in this kind--with what height of 
rage, with what bloody and inhuman cruelties they were exercised and 
executed--we have some obscure remembrance, in the stories that remain 
from the martyrdom of Stephen unto the days of Constantine. But 
although there be enough remaining on record, to give us a view of the 
insatiable malice of the old murderer, and an astonishing 
representation of human nature degenerating into his image in the 
perpetration of all horrid, inhuman cruelties yet is it all as nothing 
in comparison of that prospect which the last day will give of them, 
when the earth shall disclose all the blood that it has received, and 
the righteous Judge shall lay open all the contrivances for its 
effusion, with the rage and malice wherewith they were attended. The 
same rage continueth yet unallayed in its principles. And although God 
in many places restrain and shut it up in his providence, by the 
circumstances of human affairs, yet--as it has the least advantage, as 
it finds any door open unto it--it endeavours to act itself in lesser 
or higher degrees. But whatever dismal appearance of things there may 
be in the world, we need not fear the ruin of the church by the most 
bloody oppositions. Former experiences will give security against 
future events. It is built on the rock, and those gates of hell shall 
not prevail against it. 
 The second way whereby Satan attempted the same end, and yet 
continueth so to do, was by pernicious errors and heresies. For all 
the heresies wherewith the church was assaulted and pestered for some 
centuries of years, were oppositions unto their faith in the person of 
Christ. I shall briefly reflect on the heads of this opposition, 
because they are now, after a revolution of so many ages, lifting up 
themselves again, though under new vizards and pretences. And they 
were of three sorts:-- 
 1. That which introduced other doctrines and notions of divine 
things, absolutely exclusive of the person and mediation of Christ. 
Such was that of the Gnostic, begun as it is supposed by Simon the 
magician. A sort of people they were, with whom the first churches, 
after the decease of the apostles, were exceedingly pestered, and the 
faith of many was overthrown. For instead of Christ and God in him 
reconciling the world unto himself, and the obedience of faith thereon 
according unto the Gospel, they introduced endless fables, 
genealogies, and conjugations of deities, or divine powers; which 
practically issued in this, that Christ was such an emanation of light 
and knowledge in them as made them perfect--that is, it took away all 
differences of good and evil, and gave them liberty to do what they 
pleased, without sense of sin, or danger of punishment. This was the 
first way that Satan attempted the faith of the church, viz., by 
substituting a perfecting light and knowledge in the room of the 
person of Christ. And, for aught I know, it may be one of the last 
ways whereby he will endeavour the accomplishment of the same design. 
Nor had I made mention of these pernicious imaginations which have 
lain rotting in oblivion for so many generations, but that some again 
endeavour to revive them, at least so far as they were advanced and 
directed against the faith and knowledge of the person of Christ. 
 2. Satan attempted the same work by them who denied his divine nature- 
-that is, in effect, denied him to be the Son of the living God, on 
the faith whereof the church is built. And these were of two sorts:-- 
 (1.) Such as plainly and openly denied him to have any preexistence 
unto his conception and birth of the holy Virgin. Such were the 
Ebionites, Samosatanians, and Photinians. For they all affirmed him to 
be a mere man, and no more, though miraculously conceived and born of 
the Virgin, as some of them granted; (though denied, as it is said, by 
the Ebionites;) on which account he was called the Son of God. This 
attempt lay directly against the everlasting rock, and would have 
substituted sand in the room of it. For no better is the best of human 
nature to make a foundation for the church, if not united unto the 
divine. Many in those days followed those pernicious ways; yet the 
foundation of God stood sure, nor was the church moved from it. But 
yet, after a revolution of so many ages, is the same endeavour again 
engaged in. The old enemy, taking advantage of the prevalence of 
Atheism and profaneness among those that are called Christians, does 
again employ the same engine to overthrow the faith of the church--and 
that with more subtlety than formerly--in the Socinians. For their 
faith, or rather unbelief, concerning the person of Christ, is the 
same with those before mentioned. And what a vain, wanton generation 
admire and applaud in their sophistical reasonings, is no more but 
what the primitive church triumphed over through faith, in the most 
subtle management of the Samosatanians, Photinians, and others. An 
evidence it is that Satan is not unknowing unto the workings of that 
vanity and darkness, of those corrupt affections in the minds of men, 
whereby they are disposed unto a contempt of the mystery of the 
Gospel. Who would have thought that the old exploded pernicious errors 
of the Samosatanians, Photinians, and Pelagians, against the power and 
grace of Christ, should enter on the world again with so much 
ostentation and triumph as they do at this day? But many men, so far 
as I can observe, are fallen into such a dislike of the Christ of God, 
that every thing concerning his person, Spirit, and grace, is an 
abomination unto them. It is not want of understanding to comprehend 
doctrines, but hatred unto the things themselves, whereby such persons 
are seduced. And there is nothing of this nature whereunto nature, as 
corrupted, does not contribute its utmost assistance. 
 (2.) There were such as opposed his divine nature, under pretence of 
declaring it another way than the faith of the church did rest in. So 
was it with the Asians, in whom the gates of hell seemed once to be 
near a prevalence. For the whole professing world almost was once 
surprised into that heresy. In words they acknowledged his divine 
person; but added, as a limitation of that acknowledgment, that the 
divine nature which he had was originally created of God, and produced 
out of nothing; with a double blasphemy, denying him to be the true 
God, and making a god of a mere creature. But in all these attempts, 
the opposition of the gates of hell unto the church respected faith in 
the person of Christ as the Son of the living God. 
 (3.) By some his human nature was opposed--for no stone did Satan 
leave unturned in the pursuit of his great design. And that which in 
all these things he aimed at, was the substitution of a false Christ 
in the room of Him who, in one person, was both the Son of man and the 
Son of the living God. And herein he infected the minds of men with 
endless imaginations. Some denied him to have any real human nature, 
but [alleged him] to have been a phantasm, an appearance, a 
dispensation, a mere cloud acted by divine power; some, that he was 
made of heavenly flesh, brought from above, and which (as some also 
affirmed) was a parcel of the divine nature. Some affirmed that his 
body was not animated, as ours are, by a rational soul, but was 
immediately acted by the power of the Divine Being, which was unto it 
in the room of a living soul; some, that his body was of an ethereal 
nature, and was at length turned into the sun; with many such 
diabolical delusions. And there yet want not attempts, in these days, 
of various sorts, to destroy the verity of his human nature; and I 
know not what some late fantastical opinions about the nature of 
glorified bodies may tend unto. The design of Satan, in all these 
pernicious imaginations, is to break the cognation and alliance 
between Christ in his human nature and the church, whereon the 
salvation of it does absolutely depend. 
 3. He raised a vehement opposition against the hypostatical union, or 
the union of these two natures in one person. This he did in the 
Nestorian heresy, which greatly, and for a long time, pestered the 
church. The authors and promoters of this opinion granted the Lord 
Christ to have a divine nature, to be the Son of the living God. They 
also acknowledged the truth of his human nature, that he was truly a 
man, even as we are. But the personal union between these two natures 
they denied. A union, they said, there was between them, but such as 
consisted only in love, power, and care. God did, as they imagined, 
eminently and powerfully manifest himself in the man Christ Jesus--had 
him in an especial regard and love, and did act in him more than in 
any other. But that the Son of God assumed our nature into personal 
subsistence with himself--whereby whole Christ was one person, and all 
his mediatory acts were the acts of that one person, of him who was 
both God and man--this they would not acknowledge. And this pernicious 
imagination, though it seem to make great concessions of truth, does 
no less effectually evert the foundation of the church than the 
former. For, if the divine and human nature of Christ do not 
constitute one individual person, all that he did for us was only as a 
man--which would have been altogether insufficient for the salvation 
of the church, nor had God redeemed it with his own blood. This seems 
to be the opinion of some amongst us, at this day, about the person of 
Christ. They acknowledge the being of the eternal Word, the Son of 
God; and they allow in the like manner the verity of his human nature, 
or own that man Christ Jesus. Only they say, that the eternal Word was 
in him and with him, in the same kind as it is with other believes, 
but in a supreme degree of manifestation and power. But, though in 
these things there is a great endeavour to put a new colour and 
appearance on old imaginations, the deign of Satan is one and the same 
in them all, viz., to oppose the building of the church upon its 
proper, sole foundation. And these things shall be afterwards 
expressly spoken unto. 
 I intend no more in these instances but briefly to demonstrate, that 
the principal opposition of the gates of hell unto the church lay 
always unto the building of it, by faith, on the person of Christ. 
 It were easy also to demonstrate that Muhammadanism, which has been 
so sore a stroke unto the Christian profession, in nothing but a 
concurrence and combination of these two ways, of force and fraud, in 
opposition unto the person of Christ. 
 It is true that Satan, after all this, by another way, attempted the 
doctrine of the offices and grace of Christ, with the worship of God 
in him. And this he has carried so far, as that it issued in a fatal 
antichristian apostasy; which is not of my present consideration. 
 But we may proceed to what is of our own immediate concernment. And 
the one work with that before described is still carried on. The 
person of Christ, the faith of the church concerning it, the relation 
of the church unto it, the building of the church on it, the life and 
preservation of the church thereby, are the things that the gates of 
hell are engaged in opposition unto. For, 
 1. It is known with what subtlety and urgency his divine nature and 
person are opposed by the Socinians. What an accession is made daily 
unto their incredulity, what inclination of mind multitudes do 
manifest towards their pernicious ways, are also evident unto all who 
have any concernment in or for religion. But this argument I have 
laboured in on other occasions. 
 2. Many, who expressly deny not his divine person, yet seem to grow 
weary of any concernment therein. A natural religion, or none at all, 
pleaseth them better than faith in God by Jesus Christ. That any thing 
more is necessary in religion, but what natural light will discover 
and conduct us in, with the moral duties of righteousness and honesty 
which it directs unto, there are too many that will not acknowledge. 
What is beyond the line of nature and reason is rejected as 
unintelligible mysteries or follies. The person and grace of Christ 
are supposed to breed all the disturbance in religion. Without them, 
the common notions of the Divine Being and goodness will guide men 
sufficiently unto eternal blessedness. They did so before the coming 
of Christ in the flesh, and may do so now he is gone to heaven. 
 3. There are some who have so ordered the frame of objective 
religion, as that it is very uncertain whether they leave any place 
for the person of Christ in it or no. For, besides their denial of the 
hypostatical union of his natures, they ascribe all that unto a light 
within them which God will effect only by Christ as a mediator. What 
are the internal actings of their minds, as unto faith and trust 
towards him, I know not; but, from their outward profession, he seems 
to be almost excluded. 
 4. There are not a few who pretend high unto religion and devotion, 
who declare no erroneous conceptions about the doctrine of the person 
of Christ, who yet manifest themselves not to have that regard unto 
him which the Gospel prescribes and requires. Hence have we so many 
discourses published about religion, the practical holiness and duties 
of obedience, written with great elegance of style, and seriousness in 
argument, wherein we can meet with little or nothing wherein Jesus 
Christ, his office, or his grace, are concerned. Yea, it is odds but 
in them all we shall meet with some reflections on those who judge 
them to be the life and centre of our religion. The things of Christ, 
beyond the example of his conversation on the earth, are of no use 
with such persons, unto the promotion of piety and gospel obedience. 
Concerning many books of this nature, we may say what a teamed person 
did of one of old: "There were in it many things laudable and 
delectable, sed nomen Jesu non erat ibi." 
 5. Suited unto these manifest inclinations of the minds of men unto a 
neglect of Christ, in the religion they frame unto themselves-- 
dangerous and noxious insinuations concerning what our thoughts ought 
to be of him, are made and tendered. As, (1.) It is scandalously 
proposed and answered, "Of what use is the consideration of the person 
of Christ in our religion?" Such are the novel inquiries of men who 
suppose there is any thing in Christian religion wherein the person of 
Christ is of no consideration--as though it were not the life and soul 
that animates the whole of it, that which gives it its especial form 
as Christian--as though by virtue of our religion we received any 
thing from God, any benefit in mercy, grace, privilege, or glory, and 
not through the person of Christ--as though any one duty or act of 
religion towards God could be acceptably performed by us, without a 
respect unto, or a consideration of, the person of Christ--or that 
there were any lines of truth in religion as it is Christian, that did 
not relate thereunto. Such bold inquiries, with futilous answers 
annexed unto them, sufficiently manifest what acquaintance their 
authors have either with Christ himself, which in others they despise, 
or with his Gospel, which they pretend to embrace. (2.) A mock scheme 
of religion is framed, to represent the folly of them who design to 
learn the mind and will of God in and by him. (3.) Reproachful 
reflections are made on such as plead the necessity of acquaintance 
with him, or the knowledge of him, as though thereby they rejected the 
use of the gospel (4.) Professed love unto the person of Christ is 
traduced, as a mere fancy and vapour of distempered minds or weak 
imaginations (5.) The union of the Lord Christ and his church is 
asserted to be political only, with respect unto laws and rules of 
government. And many other things of an alike nature are asserted, 
derogatory unto his glory, and repugnant unto the faith of the church; 
such as, from the foundation of Christian religion, were never vented 
by any persons before, who did not openly avow some impious heresy 
concerning his person. And I no way doubt but that men may, with less 
guilt and scandal, fall under sundry doctrinal misapprehensions 
concerning it--than, by crying hail thereunto, to despoil it of all 
its glory, as unto our concernment therein, in our practical obedience 
unto God. Such things have we deserved to see and hear. 
 6. The very name or expression of "preaching Christ" is become a term 
of reproach and contempt; nor can some, as they say, understand what 
is meant thereby, unless it be an engine to drive all rational 
preaching, and so all morality and honesty, out of the world. 
 7. That which all these things tend unto and centre in, is that 
horrible profaneness of life--that neglect of all gospel duties--that 
contempt of all spiritual graces and their effects, which the 
generality of them that are called Christians, in many places, are 
given up unto. I know not whether it were not more for the honour of 
Christ, that such persons would publicly renounce the profession of 
his name, rather than practically manifest their inward disregard unto 
 That by these and the like means Satan does yet attempt the ruin of 
the church, as unto its building on the everlasting rock, falls under 
the observation of all who are concerned in its welfare. And (whatever 
others may apprehend concerning this state of things in the world) how 
any that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity--especially such as are 
called to declare and represent him unto men in the office of the 
ministry--can acquit themselves to be faithful unto him, without 
giving their testimony against, and endeavouring to stop what lies in 
them, the progress of this prevailing declension from the only 
foundation of the church, I know not; nor will it be easy for 
themselves to declare. And in that variety of conceptions which are 
about him, and the opposition that is made unto him, there is nothing 
more necessary than that we should renew and attest our confession of 
him--as the Son of the living God--the only rock whereon the church of 
them that shall be saved is founded and built. 
 "Pauca ideo de Christo," as Tertullian speaks; some few things 
concerning the person of Christ, with respect unto the confession of 
Peter, and the promise thereunto annexed--wherein he is declared the 
sole foundation of the church--will be comprised in the ensuing 
discourse. And He who has ordained strength out of the mouths of babes 
and sucklings, as he has given ability to express these poor, mean 
contemplations of his glory, can raise by them a revenue of honour 
unto himself in the hearts of them that do believe. And some few 
things I must premise, in general, unto what I do design. As, 
 1. The instances which I shall give concerning the use and 
consideration of the person of Christ in Christian religion, or of him 
as he is the foundation whereon the church is built, are but few--and 
those perhaps not the most signal or eminent which the greater 
spiritual wisdom and understanding of others might propose. And, 
indeed, who shall undertake to declare what are the chief instances of 
this incomprehensible effect of divine wisdom? "What is his name, and 
what is his son's name, if thou can't tell?" Prov.30:4. See Isa.9:6. 
It is enough for us to stand in a holy admiration, at the shore of 
this unsearchable ocean, and to gather up some parcels of that divine 
treasure wherewith the Scripture of truth is enriched. 
 2. I make no pretence of searching into the bottom or depths of any 
part of this "great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh". 
They are altogether unsearchable, unto the line of the most 
enlightened minds, in this life. What we shall farther comprehend of 
them in the other world, God only knows. We cannot in these things, by 
our utmost diligent search, "find out the Almighty unto perfection." 
The prophets could not do so of old, nor can the angels themselves at 
present, who "desire to look into these things:" 1 Pet.1:10-12. Only I 
shall endeavour to represent unto the faith of them that do believe, 
somewhat of what the Scripture does plainly reveal--evidencing in what 
sense the person of Christ is the sole foundation of the church 
 3. I shall not, herein, respect them immediately by whom the divine 
person of Christ is denied and opposed. I have formerly treated 
thereof, beyond their contradiction in way of reply. But it is their 
conviction which I shall respect herein, who, under an outward 
confession of the truth, do--either notionally or practically, either 
ignorantly or designedly, God knows, I know not--endeavour to weaken 
the faith of the church in its adherence unto this foundation. 
Howbeit, neither the one sort nor the other has any place in my 
thoughts, in comparison of the instruction and edification of others, 
who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. 

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 3...)

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