(Owen, Christologia, Part 5)

Chapter V. The Person of Christ the great Representative of God and 
his Will 
What may be known of God, is,--his nature and existence, with the holy 
counsels of his will. A representation of them unto us is the 
foundation of all religion, and the means of our conformity unto him-- 
wherein our present duty and future blessedness do consist. For to 
know God, so as thereby to be made like unto him, is the chief end of 
man. This is done perfectly only in the person of Christ, all other 
means of it being subordinate thereunto, and none of them of the same 
nature therewithal. The end of the Word itself, is to instruct us in 
the knowledge of God in Christ. That, therefore, which I shall now 
demonstrate, is, that in the person and mediation of Christ (which are 
inseparable, in all the respects of faith unto him) there is made unto 
us a blessed representation of the glorious properties of the divine 
nature, and of the holy counsels of the will of God. The first of 
these I shall speak unto in this chapter--the other, in that which 
ensues; wherein we shall manifest how all divine truths do centre in 
the person of Christ and the consideration of sundry things is 
necessary unto the explication hereof. 
 1. God, in his own essence, being, and existence, is absolutely 
incomprehensible. His nature being immense, and all his holy 
properties essentially infinite, no creature can directly or perfectly 
comprehend them, or any of them. He must be infinite that can 
perfectly comprehend that which is infinite; wherefore God is 
perfectly known unto himself only--but as for us, how little a portion 
is heard of him! Hence he is called "The invisible God," and said to 
dwell in "light inaccessible." The subsistence of his most single and 
simple nature in three distinct persons, though it raises and ennobles 
faith in its revelation, yet it amazeth reason which would trust to 
itself in the contemplation of it--whence men grow giddy who will own 
no other guide, and are carried out of the way of truth. "No man has 
seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of 
the Father, he has declared him:" John 1: 18; 1 Tim. 6: 16. 
 2. Therefore, we can have no direct intuitive notions or 
apprehensions of the divine essence, or its properties. Such knowledge 
is too wonderful for us. Whatever is pleaded for an intellectual 
vision of the essence of God in the light of glory, yet none pretend 
unto a possibility of an immediate, full comprehension of it. But, in 
our present state, God is unto us, as he was unto Moses under all the 
external manifestations of his glory, "in thick darkness.:" Exod. 20: 
21. All the rational conceptions of the minds of men are swallowed up 
and lost, when they would exercise themselves directly on that which 
is absolutely immense, eternal, infinite. When we say it is to, we 
know not what we say, but only that it is not otherwise. What we 
*deny* of God, we know in some measure--but what we *affirm* we know 
not; only we declare what we believe and adore. "Neque sensus est 
ejus, neque phantsia, neque opinio, nec ratio, nec scientia", says 
Dionys. De Divan. Nomine, 1. We have no means--no corporeal, no 
intellectual instrument or power--for the comprehension of him; nor 
has any other creature: "Epei auto hoper estin ho Theos, ou monon 
profetai, all' oude angeloi eidon, oute archangeloi; all' ean 
erooteseis autous, akousei peri men tes ousias ouden apokrinomenous; 
doxa de en hupsistois monon aidontas tooi Theooi; kain para toon 
Cheroubim e toon Serafim epithumeseis ti mathein, to mustikon tou 
hagiasmou melos akousei, kai hoti pleres ho ouranos kai he ge tes 
doxes autou.--"For that which is God" (the essence of God) "not only 
have not the prophets seen, but neither the angels nor the archangels. 
If thou wilt inquire of them, thou shalt hear nothing of the substance 
of God, but only hear them say, 'glory to God in the highest.' If thou 
askest the cherubim and seraphim, thou shalt only hear the praise of 
holiness, 'The whole earth is full of his glory,'" says Chrysostom, on 
John 1: 18. That God is in himself absolutely incomprehensible unto 
us, is a necessary effect of our infinite distance from him. But as he 
externally represents himself unto us, and by the notions which are in 
generated in us by the effects of his properties, are our conceptions 
of him: Ps. 19: l; Rom. 1: 20. This is declared in the answer given 
unto that request of Moses: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory:" Exod. 
33: 18. Moses had heard a voice speaking unto him, but he that spoke 
was "in thick darkness"--he saw him not. Glorious evidences he gave of 
his majestatical presence, but no appearance was made of his essence 
or person. Hereon Moses desireth, for the full satisfaction of his 
soul, (as the nearer any one is unto God the more ernest will be his 
desire after the full fruition of him,) that he might have a sight of 
his glory--not of that created glory in the tokens of his presence and 
power which he had beheld, but of the untreated glory of his essence 
and being. Through a transport of love to God, he would have been in 
heaven while he was on the earth; yea, desired more than heaven itself 
will afford, if he would have seen the essence of God with his 
corporeal eyes. In answer hereunto God tells him, that he cannot see 
his face and live; none can have either bodily sight or direct mental 
intuition of the Divine Being. But this I will do, saith God, "I will 
make my glory pass before thee, and thou shalt see my back parts:" 
Exod. 33: 18-23, &c. This is all that God would grant, viz, such 
external representations of himself, in the proclamation of his name, 
and created appearances of his glory, as we have of a man whose back 
parts only we behold as he passeth by us. But as to the being of God, 
and his subsistence in the Trinity of persons, we have no direct 
intuition into them, much less comprehension of them. 
 3. It is evident, therefore, that our conceptions of God, and of the 
glorious properties of his nature, are both in generated in us and 
regulated, under the conduct of divine revelation, by reflections of 
his glory on other things, and representations of his divine 
excellencies in the effects of them. So the invisible things of God, 
even his eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seen, being manifested 
and understood by the things that are made: Rom. 1: 20. Yet must it be 
granted that no mere creature, not the angels above, not the heaven of 
heavens, are meet or able to receive upon them such characters of the 
divine excellencies, as to be a complete, satisfactory representation 
of the being and properties of God unto us. They are all finite and 
limited and so cannot properly represent that which is infinite and 
immense. And this is the true reason why all worship or religious 
adoration of them is idolatry. Yet are there such effects of God's 
glory in them, such impressions of divine excellencies upon them, as 
we cannot comprehend nor search out unto perfection. How little do we 
conceive of the nature, glory, and power of angels! So remote are we 
from an immediate comprehension of the untreated glory of Gods as that 
we cannot fully apprehend nor conceive aright the reflection of it on 
creatures in themselves finite and limited. Hence, they thought of 
old, when they had seen an angels that so much of the divine 
perfections had been manifested unto them that thereon they must die: 
Judges 13: 21, 22. Howbeit, they [the angels] come infinitely short of 
making any complete representation of God; nor is it otherwise with 
any creature whatever. 
 4. Mankind seem to have always had a common apprehension that there 
was need of a nearer and more full representation of God unto them 
than was made in any of the works of creation or providence. The 
heavens indeed declared his glory, and the firmament always showed his 
handy-work--the invisible things of his eternal power and godhead were 
continually made known by the things that are made; but men generally 
miscarried and missed it in the contemplation of them, as the apostle 
declares, Rom 1. For still they were influenced by a common 
presumption, that there must be a nearer and more evident 
manifestation of God--that made by the works of creation and 
providence being not sufficient to guide them unto him. But in the 
pursuit hereof they utterly ruined themselves; they would do what God 
had not done. By common consent they framed representations of God 
unto themselves; and were so besotted therein, that they utterly lost 
the benefit which they might have received by the manifestation of him 
in the works of the creation, and took up with most foolish 
imaginations. For whereas they might have learned from thence the 
being of God, his infinite wisdom, power, and goodness--viz., in the 
impressions and characters of them on the things that were made--in 
their own representations of him, they "changed the glory of the 
invisible God into an image made like unto corruptible man, and to 
birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things:" Rom. 1: 23. 
Wherefore this common presumption--that there was no way to attain a 
due sense of the Divine Being but by some representation of it--though 
true in itself, yet, by the craft of Satan, and foolish superstitions 
of the minds of men, became the occasion of all idolatry and 
flagitious wickedness in the world. Hence were all those "epifaneiai", 
or supposed "illustrious appearances" of their gods, which Satan 
deluded the gentiles by; and hence were all the ways which they 
devised to bring God into human nature, or the likeness of it. 
Wherefore, in all the revelations that ever God made of himself, his 
mind and will, he always laid this practice of making representations 
of him under the most severe interdict and prohibition. And this he 
did evidently for these two reasons:-- 
 (1.) Because it was a bold and foolish entrenching upon his 
provisional wisdom in the case. He had taken care that there should be 
a glorious image and representation of himself, infinitely above what 
any created wisdom could find out. But as, when Moses went into the 
mount, the Israelites would not wait for his return, but made a calf 
in his stead; so mankind--refusing to wait for the actual exhibition 
of that glorious image of himself which God had provided--broke in 
upon his wisdom and sovereignty, to make some of their own. For this 
cause was God so provoked, that he gave them up to such stupid 
blindness, that in those things wherein they thought to show 
themselves wise, and to bring God nearer unto them, they became 
contemptibly foolish--abased their nature, and all the noble faculties 
of their minds unto hell, and departed unto the utmost distance from 
God, whom they sought to bring nest unto them. 
 (2.) Because nothing that can fall into the invention or imagination 
of men could make any other but false representations of him, and so 
substitute an idol in his place. His own immediate works have great 
characters of his divine excellencies upon them, though unto us 
obscure and not clearly legible without the light of revelation. 
Somewhat he did, of old, represent of his glorious presence--though 
not of his being--in the visible institutions of his worship. But all 
men's inventions to this end, which are neither divine works of 
nature, nor divine institutions of worship, are all but false 
representations of God, and therefore accursed by him. 
 Wherefore it is granted, that God has placed many characters of his 
divine excellencies upon his works of creation and providence--many 
[characters] of his glorious presence upon the tabernacle and temple 
of old--but none of these things ever did or could give such a 
representation of him as wherein the souls of men might fully 
acquiesce, or obtain such conceptions of him as might enable them to 
worship and honour him in a due manner. They cannot, I say--by all 
that may be seen in them, and learned from them--represent God as the 
complete object of all our affections, of all the acting of our souls 
in faith, trust, love, fear, obedience, in that way whereby he may be 
glorified, and we may be brought unto the everlasting fruition of him. 
This, therefore, is yet to be inquired after. Wherefore-- 
 5. A mere external doctrinal revelation of the divine nature and 
properties, without any exemplification or real representation of 
them, was not sufficient unto the end of God in the manifestation of 
himself. This is done in the Scripture. But the whole Scripture is 
built on this foundation, or proceeds on this supposition--that there 
is a real representation of the divine nature unto us, which it 
declares and describes. And as there was such a notion on the minds of 
all men, that some representation of God, wherein he might be near 
unto them, was necessary--which arose from the consideration of the 
infinite distance between the divine nature and their own, which 
allowed of no measures between them--so, as unto the event, God 
himself has declared that, in his own way, such a representation was 
needful--unto that end of the manifestation of himself which he 
designed. For-- 
 6. All this is done in the person of Christ. He is the complete image 
and perfect representation of the Divine Being and excellencies. I do 
not speak of it absolutely, but as God proposeth himself as the object 
of our faith, trust, and obedience. Hence it is God, as the Father, 
who is so peculiarly represented in him and by him; as he says: "He 
that has seen me has seen the Father:" John 14: 9. 
 Unto such a representation two things are required:--(1.) That all 
the properties of the divine nature--the knowledge whereof is 
necessary unto our present obedience and future blessedness--be 
expressed in it, and manifested unto us. (2.) That there be, therein, 
the nearest approach of the divine nature made unto us, whereof it is 
capable, and which we can receive. And both these are found in the 
person of Christ, and therein alone. 
 In the person of Christ we consider both the constitution of it in 
the union of his natures, and the respect of it unto his work of 
mediation, which was the end of that constitution. And-- 
 (1.) Therein, as so considered, is there a blessed representation 
made unto us of all the holy properties of the nature of God--of his 
wisdom, his power, his goodness, grace, and love, his righteousness, 
truth, and holiness, his mercy and patience. As this is affirmed 
concerning them all in general, or the glory of God in them, which is 
seen and known only in the face of Christ, so it were easy to manifest 
the same concerning every one of them in particular, by express 
testimonies of Scripture. But I shall at present confine myself unto 
the proofs of the whole assertion which do ensue. 
 (2.) There is, therein, the most incomprehensible approach of the 
divine nature made unto ours, such as all the imaginations of men did 
ever infinitely fall short of--as has been before declared. In the 
assumption of our nature into personal union with himself, and our 
cognition unto God thereby, with the union which believers obtain with 
him thereon--being one in the Father and the Son, as the Father is in 
the Son, and the Son in the Father, (John 17: 20, 21,)--there is the 
nearest approach of the Divine Being unto us that the nature of things 
is capable of. Both these ends were designed in those representations 
of God which were of human invention; but in both of them they utterly 
failed. For, instead of representing any of the glorious properties of 
the nature of God, they debased it, dishonoured it, and filled the 
minds of men with vile conceptions of it; and instead of bringing God 
nearer unto them, they put themselves at an infinite moral distance 
from him. But my design is the confirmation of our assertions from the 
 "He is the image of the invisible God:" Col. 1: 15. This title or 
property of "invisible," the apostle here gives unto God, to show what 
need there was of an image or representation of him unto us, as well 
as of one in whom he would declare the counsels of his will. For he 
intends not only the absolute invisibility of his essence, but his 
being unknown unto us in himself. Wherefore, (as was before observed,) 
mankind was generally prone to make visible representations of this 
invisible God, that, in them, they might contemplate on him and have 
him present with them, as they foolishly imagined. Unto the craft of 
Satan abusing this inclination of mankind, idolatry owes its original 
and progress in the world: howbeit, necessary it was that this 
invisible God should be so represented unto us by some image of him, 
as that we might know him, and that therein he might be worshipped 
according unto his own mind and will. But this must be of his own 
contrivance--an effect of his own infinite wisdom. Hence, as he 
absolutely rejecteth all images and representations of him of men's 
devising, (for the reasons before mentioned,) and declares that the 
honour that any should think would thereby redound unto him was not 
given unto him, but unto the devil; so that which he has provided 
himself, unto his own holy ends and purposes, is every way approved of 
him. For he will have "all men honour the Son, even as they honour the 
Father;" and so as that "he who honoureth not the God, honoureth not 
the Father:" John 5: 23. 
 This image, therefore, is the person of Christ; "he is the image of 
the invisible God." This, in the first place, respects the divine 
person absolutely, as he is the essential image of the Father: which 
must briefly be declared. 
 1. The Son is sometimes said to be "en Patri", "in the Father," and 
the Father in the Son: "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, 
and the Father in me?" John 14: 10. This is from the unity or sameness 
of their nature--for he and the Father are one: John 10: 30. Thence 
all things that the Father has are his, (chap. 16: 15,) because their 
nature is one and the same. With respect unto the divine essence 
absolutely considered, wherein the Father is in the Son, and the Son 
in the Father, the one cannot be said to be the image of the other. 
For he and the Father are one; and one and the same thing cannot be 
the image of itself, in that wherein it is one. 
 2. The Son is said not only to be "en Patri", "in the Father," in the 
unity of the same essence; but also "pros ton Patera" or "Theon", 
"with the Father," or "with God," in the distinction of his person: 
"The Word was with God, and the Word was God:" John 1: 1. "The Word 
was God," in the unity of the divine essence--and "the Word was with 
God," in its distinct personal subsistence. "The Word"-- that is, the 
person of the Son, as distinct from the Fathers" was with God," or the 
Father. And in this respect he is the essential image of the Father, 
as he is called in this place, and Heb. 1: 3; and that because he 
partakes of all the same divine properties with the Father. 
 But although the Father, on the other side, be partaker of all the 
essential divine properties of the Son, yet is not he said to be the 
image of the Son. For this property of an image respects not the 
things themselves, but the manner of the participation of them. Now 
the Son receives all from the Father, and the Father nothing from the 
Son. Whatever belongs unto the person of the Son, as the person of the 
Son, he receives it all from the Father by eternal generation: "For as 
the Father has life in himself, so has he given unto the Son to have 
life in himself:" John 5: 26. He is therefore the essential image of 
the Father, because all the properties of the divine nature are 
communicated unto him together with personality --from the Father. 
 3. In his incarnation, the Son was made the representative image of 
God unto us--as he was, in his person, the essential image of the 
Father, by eternal generation. The invisible God--Whose nature and 
divine excellencies our understandings can make no approach unto--does 
in him represent, exhibit, or make present unto our faith and 
spiritual sense, both himself and all the glorious excellencies of his 
 Wherefore our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, may be considered 
three ways. 
 1. Merely with respect unto his divine nature. This is one and the 
same with that of the Father. In this respect the one is not the image 
of the other, for both are the same. 
 2. With respect unto his divine person as the Son of the Father, the 
only-begotten, the eternal Son of God. Thus he receives, as his 
personality, so all divine excellencies, from the Father; so he is the 
essential image of the Father's person. 
 3. As he took our nature upon him, or in the assumption of our nature 
into personal union with himself, in order unto the work of his 
mediation. So is he the only representative image of God unto us--in 
whom alone we see, know, and learn all the divine excellencies--so as 
to live unto God, and be directed unto the enjoyment of him. All this 
himself instructs us in. 
 He reflects it on the Pharisees, as an effect of their blindness and 
ignorance, that they had neither heard the voice of God at any time, 
nor seen his shape: John 5: 37. And in opposition hereunto he tells 
his disciples, that they had known the Father, and seen him: chap. 14: 
7. And the reason he gives thereof is, because they that knew him, 
knew the Father also. And when one of his disciples, not yet 
sufficiently instructed in this mystery, replied, "Lord, show us the 
Father, and it sufficeth us," (verse 8,) his answer is, "Have I been 
so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me? He that has 
seen me has seen the Father:" verse 9. 
 Three things are required unto the justification of this assertion. 
 1. That the Father and he be of the same nature, have the same 
essence and being. For otherwise it would not follow that he who had 
seen him had seen the Father also. This ground of it he declares in 
the next verse: "The Father is in me, and I am in the Father" namely, 
because they were one in nature and essence. For the divine nature 
being simply the same in them all, the divine persons are in each 
other, by virtue of the oneness of that nature. 
 2. That he be distinct from him. For otherwise there cannot be a 
seeing of the Father by the seeing of him. He is seen in the Son as 
represented by him--as his image--the Word--the Son of the Father, as 
he was with God. The unity of nature and the distinction of persons is 
the ground of that assertion of our Saviour: "He that has seen me, has 
seen the Father also." 
 3. But, moreover, the Lord Christ has a respect herein unto himself, 
in his entire person as he was incarnate, and therein unto the 
discharge of his mediatory work. "Have I been so long time with you, 
and hast thou not known me?" Whilst he was with them, dwelt among 
them, conversed with them, he was the great representative of the 
glory of God unto them. And, notwithstanding this particular mistake, 
they did then see his glory, "the glory of the only-begotten of the 
Father:" John 1: 14. And in him was manifested the glory of the 
Father. He "is the image of the invisible God." In him God was, in him 
he dwelt, in him is he known, in him is he worshipped according unto 
his own will, in him is there a nearer approach made unto us by the 
divine nature than ever could enter into the heart of man to conceive. 
In the constitution of his person--of two natures, so infinitely 
distinct and separate in themselves--and in the work it was designed 
unto, the wisdom, power, goodness, love, grace, mercy, holiness, and 
faithfulness of God, are manifested unto us. This is the one blessed 
"image of the invisible God," wherein we may learn, wherein we may 
contemplate and adore, all his divine perfections. 
 The same truth is testified unto, Heb. 1: 3. God spoke unto us in the 
Son, who is "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his 
person." His divine nature is here included, as that without which he 
could not have made a perfect representation of God unto us. For the 
apostle speaks of him, as of him "by whom the worlds were made," and 
who "upholdeth all things by the word of his power." Yet does he not 
speak of him absolutely as he was God, but also as he who "in himself 
purged our sins, and sat down at the right hand of the majesty on 
high;" that is, in his whole person. Herein he is "apaugasma tes 
doxes", the effulgency, the resplendency of divine glory, that wherein 
the divine glory shines forth in an evident manifestation of itself 
unto us. And as a farther explication of the same mystery, it is 
added, that he is the character or "express image" of the person of 
the Father. Such an impression of all the glorious properties of God 
is on him, as that thereby they become legible unto all them that 
 So the same apostle affirms again that he is the "image of God," 2 
Cor. 4: 4; in what sense, and unto what end, he declares, verse 6: "We 
have the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ". 
Still it is supposed that the glory of God, as essentially in him, is 
invisible unto us, and incomprehensible by us. Yet is there a 
knowledge of it necessary unto us, that we may live unto him, and come 
unto the enjoyment of him. This we obtain only in the face or person 
of Christ--"en prosoopooi tou Christou"; for in him that glory is 
represented unto us. 
 This was the testimony which the apostles gave concerning him, when 
he dwelt among them in the days of his flesh. They saw "his glory, the 
glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth:" 
John 1: 14. The divine glory was manifest in him, and in him they saw 
the glory of the Father. So the same apostle witnesses again, who 
recorded this testimony: "For the life was manifested, and we have 
seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which 
was with the Father, and was manifested unto us:" 1 John 1: 14. In the 
Son incarnate, that eternal life which was originally in and with the 
Father was manifest unto us. 
 It may be said, that the Scripture itself is sufficient for this end 
of the declaration of God unto us, so that there is no need of any 
other representation of him; and [that] these things serve only to 
turn the minds of men from learning the mind and will of God therein, 
to seek for all in the person of Christ. But the true end of proposing 
these things is, to draw men unto the diligent study of the Scripture, 
wherein alone they are revealed and declared. And in its proper use, 
and unto its proper end, it is perfect and most sufficient. It is 
"logos tou Theou--"the word of God;" howbeit it is not "logos 
ousioodes", the internal, essential Word of God--but "logos 
proforikos", the external word spoken by him. It is not, therefore, 
nor can be, the image of God, either essential or representative; but 
is the revelation and declaration of it unto us, without which we can 
know nothing of it. 
 Christ is the image of the invisible God, the express image of the 
person of the Father; and the principal end of the whole Scripture, 
especially of the gospel, is to declare him so to be, and how he is 
so. What God promised by his prophets in the holy Scriptures 
concerning his Son, Jesus Christ, that is fully declared in the 
Gospel: Rom. 1: 1-4. The gospel is the declaration of Christ as "the 
power of God, and the wisdom of God," 1 Cor. 1: 23, 24; or an evident 
representation of God in his person and mediation unto us: Gal. 3: 1. 
Wherefore three things are herein to be considered. 
 1. "Objectum reale et formale fidei"--"the real, formal object of our 
faith in this matter. This is the person of Christ, the Son of God 
incarnate, the representative image of the glory of God unto us; as in 
the testimonies insisted on. 
 2. "Medium revelans", or "lumen deferens"--the means of its 
revelation, or the objective light whereby the perception and 
knowledge of it is conveyed unto our minds. This is the gospel; 
compared unto a glass because of the prospect which we have of the 
image of God therein: 2 Cor. 3: 18. But without it--by any other 
means, and not by it--we can behold nothing of this image of God. 
 3. "Lumen praeparans, elevans, disponens subjectum"--"the internal 
light of the mind in the saving illumination of the Holy Spirit, 
enabling us--by that means, and in the use of it--spiritually to 
behold and discern the glory of God in the face of Christ: 2 Cor. 4: 
 Through both these, in their several ways of operation, there 
proceedeth--from the real object of our faith, Christ, as the image of 
God-a transforming power, whereby the soul is changed into the same 
image, or is made conformable unto Christ; which is that whereunto we 
are predestinated. But we may yet a little farther contemplate on 
these things, in some instances wherein the glory of God and our own 
duty are concerned. 
 1. The glory of God's wisdom is exalted, and the pride of the 
imaginations of men is proportionally debased. And in these two 
consists the real foundation of all religion in our souls. This God 
designed in the dispensation of himself and his will, 1 Cor. 1: 29, 
31; this he calls us unto, Isa. 2: 22; Zech 2: 13. As this frame of 
heart is prevalent in us, so do all other graces shine and flourish. 
And it is that which influences all our duties, so far as they are 
acceptable unto God. And there is no truth more instructive unto it 
than that before us. It is taken for granted--and the event has 
demonstrated it to be so--that some express representation should be 
made of God unto us, wherein we might contemplate the glorious 
excellencies of his nature, and he might draw nigh unto us, and be 
present with us. This, therefore, men attempted to effect and 
accomplish; and this God alone has performed, and could so do. And 
their several ways for this end are herein manifest. As the way 
whereby God has done it is the principal exaltation of his infinite 
wisdom and goodness, (as shall be immediately more fully declared,) so 
the way whereby men attempted it was the highest instance of 
wickedness and folly. It is, as we have declared, in Christ alone that 
God has done it. And that therein he has exalted and manifested the 
riches, the treasures of his infinite wisdom and goodness, is that 
which the Gospel, the Spirit, and the church, do give testimony unto. 
A more glorious effect of divine wisdom and goodness, a more 
illustrious manifestation of them, there never was, nor ever shall be, 
than in the finding out and constitution of this way of the 
representation of God unto us. The ways of men, for the same end, Were 
so far from giving a right representation of the perfections of the 
divine nature, that they were all of them below, beneath, and unworthy 
of our own. For in nothing did the blindness, darkness, and folly of 
our nature, in its depraved condition, ever so exert and evidence 
themselves, as in contriving ways for the representation of God unto 
us--that is, in idolatry, the worst and vilest of evils: so Ps. 115: 4- 
8; Isa. 44; Rev. 9: l9, 20, &c. This pride and folly of men was that 
which lost all knowledge of God in the world, and all obedience unto 
him. The ten commandment are but a transcript of the light and law of 
nature. The first of these required that God--the only true God--the 
Creator and Governor of all--should be acknowledged, worshipped, 
believed in, and obeyed. And the second was, that we should not make 
unto ourselves any image or representation of him. Whatever he would 
do himself, yet he strictly forbade that we should make any such unto 
ourselves. And here began the apostasy of the world from God. They did 
not absolutely reject him, and so cast off the *first* fundamental 
precept of the law of nature--but they submitted not unto his wisdom 
and authority in the *next*, which was evidently educed from it. They 
would make images and representations of him unto themselves; and by 
this invention of their own, they first dishonoured him, and then 
forsook him, giving themselves up unto the rule and service of the 
devil. Wherefore, as the way that God in infinite wisdom found out for 
the representation of himself unto us, was the only means of recovery 
from the first apostasy--the way found out by men, unto the same end, 
was the great means of casting the generality of mankind unto the 
farthest degree of a new apostasy from God whereof our nature is 
capable. And of the same kind will all our contrivances be found to 
begin what belongs unto his worship and glory--though, unto us, they 
may appear both pious and necessary. This, therefore, should lead us 
into a continual admiration of the wisdom and grace of God, with a due 
sense of our own vileness and baseness by nature. For we are in 
nothing better or wiser than they who fell into the utmost folly and 
wickedness, in their designs for the highest end, or the 
representation of God unto us. The more we dwell on such 
considerations, the more fear and reverence of God, with faith, trust, 
and delight in him, will be increased--as also humility in ourselves, 
with a sense of divine grace and love. 
 2. There is a peculiar ground of the spiritual efficacy of this 
representation of God. The revelations that he has made of himself, 
and of the glorious properties of his nature, in the works of creation 
and providence, are, in themselves, clear, plain, and manifest: Ps. 
19: l, 2; Rom. 1: 19, 20. Those which are made in Christ are sublime 
and mysterious. Howbeit, the knowledge we have of him as he is 
represented unto us in Christ is far more clear, certain, steady, 
effectual and operative, than any we can attain in and by all other 
ways of revelation. The reason hereof is, not only because there is a 
more full and extensive revelation made of God, his counsels and his 
will, in Christ and the gospel, than in all the works of creation and 
providence; but because this revelation and representation of God is 
received by faith alone, the other by reason only: and it is faith 
that is the principle of spiritual light and life in us. What is 
received thereby is operative and effectual, unto all the ends of the 
life of God. For we live by faith here, as we shall by sight 
hereafter. Reason alone--especially as it is corrupted and depraved-- 
can discern no glory in the representation of God by Chn6t; yes, all 
that is spoken thereof, or declared in the Gospel, is foolishness unto 
it. Hence many live in a profession of the faith of the letter of the 
Gospel, yet--having no light, guide, nor conduct, but that of reason-- 
they do not, they cannot, really behold the glory of God in the face 
of Jesus Christ; nor has the revelation of it any efficacy upon their 
souls. The manifestation of him in the light of nature, by the works 
of creation and providence, is suited unto their reason, and does 
affect it: for that [manifestation] which is made in Christ, they say 
of it, as the Israelites did of manna, that came down from heaven, 
"What is it?" we know not the meaning of it. For it is made unto faith 
alone, and all men hsve not faith. And where God shines into the 
heart, by that faith which is of divine operation--there, with "open 
face, we behold the glory of God, as in a glass;" or have the 
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. There is 
not the meanest believer, but--in the real exercise of faith in Christ 
has more glorious apprehensions of God, his wisdom, goodness, and 
grace, of all his glorious excellencies, than the most learned and 
wise in the world can attain unto, in the exercise of reason on the 
proper objects of it. So are these things opposed by the apostle, 1 
Cor. 1. Wherefore, faith in Christ is the only means of the true 
knowledge of God; and the discoveries which are made of him and his 
excellencies thereby are those stone which are effectual to conform us 
unto his image and likeness. And this is the reason why some men are 
so little affected with the Gospel--notwithstanding the continual 
preaching of it unto them, and their outward profession of it. It does 
not inwardly affect them, it produceth no blessed effects in them. 
Some sense they have of the power of God in the works of creation and 
providence, in his rule and government, and in the workings of natural 
conscience. Beyond these, they have no real sense of him. The reason 
is, because they have not faith--whereby alone the representation that 
is made of God in Christ, and declared in the gospel, is made 
effectual unto the souls of men. Wherefore-- 
 3. It is the highest degeneracy from the mystery of the Christian 
religion, for men to satisfy themselves in natural discoveries of the 
Divine Being and excellencies, without an acquaintance with that 
perfect declaration and representation of them which is made in the 
person of Christ, as he is revealed and declared in the Gospel. It is 
confessed that there may be good use made of the evidence which reason 
gives or takes from its own innate principles--with the consideration 
of the external works of divine wisdom and power--concerning the being 
and rule of God. But to rest herein--to esteem it the best and most 
perfective knowledge of God that we can attain--not to rise up unto 
the more full, perfect, and evident manifestation of himself that he 
has made in Christ a declaration of our unbelief, and a virtual 
renunciation of the Gospel. This is the spring of that declension unto 
a mere natural religion which discovers itself in many, and usually 
ends in the express denial of the divine person of Christ. For when 
the proper use of it is despised, on what grounds can the note of it 
be long retained? But a supposition of his divine person is the 
foundation of this discourse. Were he not the essential image of the 
Father in his own divine person, he could not be the representative 
image of God unto us as he is incarnate. For if he were a man only-- 
however miraculously produced and gloriously exalted, yet the angels 
above, the glorious heavens, the seat and throne of God, with other 
effects of creating power and wisdom, would no less represent his 
glory than it could be done in him. Yet are they nowhere, nowhere, 
jointly nor separately, styled "the image of the invisible God"--"the 
brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;" nor 
does God shine into our hearts to give us the knowledge of his glory 
in the face of them. And it argues the woeful enmity of the carnal 
mind against God and all the effects of his wisdom, that, whereas he 
has granted us such a glorious image and representation of himself, we 
like it not, we delight not in the contemplation of it, but either 
despise it or neglect it, and please ourselves in that which is 
incomparably beneath it. 
 4. Because God is not thus known it is--that the knowledge of him is 
so barren and fruitless in the world, as it manifests itself to be. It 
were easy to produce, yea, endless to number the testimonies that 
might be produced out of heathen writers, given unto the being and 
existence of God, his authority, monarchy, and rule; yet what were the 
effects of that knowledge which they had? Besides that wretched 
idolatry wherein they were all immersed, as the apostle declares, Rom. 
1, it rescued them from no kind of wickedness and villany; as he there 
also manifests. And the virtues which were found among them were 
evidently derived from other causes, and not from the knowledge they 
had of God. The Jews have the knowledge of God by the letter of the 
Old Testament; but they--not knowing him in Christ, and having lost 
all sense and apprehension of those representations which were made of 
his being in him, in the Law--they continue universally a people 
carnal, obstinate, and wicked. They have neither the virtues of the 
heathens among them, nor the power of the truth of religion. As it was 
with them of old, so it, yet continueth to be; "they profess that they 
now God, but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient, 
and to every good work reprobate:" Tit. 1: 16. So is it among many 
that are called Christians at this day in the world: great pretence 
there is unto the knowledge of God--yet did flagitious sins and 
wickedness scarce ever more abound among the heathens themselves. It 
is the knowledge of "God in Christ" alone that is effectually powerful 
to work the souls of men into a conformity unto him. Those alone who 
behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ are changed into 
the same image, from glory to glory. 

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 6...)

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