(Owen, Christologia, Part 8)

Chapter VIII. The Faith of the Church under the Old Testament in and 
concerning the Person of Christ 
A brief view of the faith of the church under the Old Testament 
concerning the divine person of Christ, shall close these discourses, 
and make way for those that ensue, wherein our own duty with respect 
whereunto shall be declared. 
 That the faith of all believers, from the foundation of the world, 
had a respect unto him, I shall afterwards demonstrate; and to deny 
it, is to renounce both the Old Testament and the New. But that this 
faith of theirs did principally respect his person, is what shall here 
be declared. Therein they knew was laid the foundation of the counsels 
of God for their deliverance, sanctification, and salvation. Otherwise 
it was but little they clearly understood of his office, or the way 
whereby he would redeem the church. 
 The apostle Peter, in the confession he made of him, (Matt.16: 16,) 
exceeded the faith of the Old Testament in this, that he applied the 
promise concerning the Messiah unto that individual person: "Thou art 
the Christ, the Son of the living God"--he that was to be the Redeemer 
and Saviour of the church. Howbeit Peter then knew little of the way 
and manner whereby he was principally so to be. And therefore, when he 
began to declare them unto his disciples--namely, that they should be 
by his death and sufferings--he in particular was not able to comply 
with it, but, saith he, "Master, that be far from thee," verse 22. As 
"flesh and blood" that is, his own reason and understanding--did not 
reveal or declare Him unto Peter to be the Christ, the Son of the 
living God, but the Father which is in heaven; so he stood in need of 
fresh assistance from the same almighty hand to believe that He should 
redeem and save his church by his death. And therefore he did refuse 
the external revelation and proposition of it, though made by Christ 
himself, until he received internal aid from above. And to suppose 
that we have faith now in Christ or his death on any other terms, is 
an evidence that we have no faith at all. 
 Wherefore, the faith of the saints under the Old Testament did 
principally respect the person of Christ--both what it was, and what 
it was to be in the fulness of time, when he was to become the seed of 
the woman. What his especial work was to be, and the mystery of the 
redemption of the church thereby, they referred unto his own wisdom 
and grace;--only, they believed that by him they should be saved from 
the hand of all their enemies, or all the evil that befell them on the 
account of the first sin and apostasy from God. 
 God gave them, indeed, representations and prefiguration of his 
office and work also. He did so by the high priest of the law, the 
tabernacle, with all the sauces and services thereunto belonging. All 
that Moses did, as a faithful servant in the house of God, was but a 
"testimony of those things which were to be spoken after," Heb. 3: 5. 
Howbeit the apostle tells us that all those things had but a "shadow 
of good things to come, and not the very image of the things 
themselves," Heb. 10: 1. And although they are now to us full of light 
and instruction, evidently expressing the principal works of Christ's 
mediation, yet were they not so unto them. For the veil is now taken 
off from them in their accomplishment, and a declaration is made of 
the counsels of God in them by the gospel The meanest believer may now 
find out more of the work of Christ in the types of the Old Testament, 
than any prophets or wise men could have done of old. Therefore they 
always earnestly longed for their accomplishment--that the day might 
break, and the shadows fly away by the rising of the Sun of 
Righteousness with healing in his wings. But as unto his person, they 
had glorious revelations concerning it; and their faith in him was the 
life of all their obedience. 
 The first promise, which established a new intercourse between God 
and man, was concerning his incarnation--that he should be the seed of 
the woman, Gen. 3: 15; that is, that the Son of God should be "made of 
a woman, made under the law," Gal. 4: 4. From the giving of that 
promise the faith of the whole church was fixed on him whom God would 
send in our nature, to redeem and save them. Other way of acceptance 
with him there was none provided, none declared, but only by faith in 
this promise. The design of God in this promise--which was to reveal 
and propose the only way which in his wisdom and grace he had prepared 
for the deliverance of mankind from the state of sin and apostasy 
whereinto they were cast, with the nature of the faith and obedience 
of the church will not admit of any other way of salvation, but only 
faith in him who was thus promised to be a saviour. To suppose that 
men might fall off from faith in God by the revelation of himself in 
this promise, and yet be saved by attending to instructions given by 
the works of creation and providence, is an imagination that will no 
longer possess the minds of men than whilst they are ignorant of, or 
do forget, what it is to believe and to be saved. 
 The great promise made unto Abraham was, that He should take his seed 
upon him, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed, Gen. 
12: 3; 15: 18; 22: 18; which promise is explained by the apostle, and 
applied unto Christ, Gal. 3: 8. Hereon "Abraham believed on the Lord, 
and it was counted unto him for righteousness," Gen. 15: 6; for he saw 
the day of Christ, and rejoiced, John 8: 56. 
 The faith that Jacob instructed his sins in was--that the Shiloh 
should come, and unto him should be the gathering of the nations, Gen. 
49: 10. Job's faith was--that his Redeemer was the Living One, and 
that he should stand on the earth in the latter day, Job 19: 25. 
 The revelations made unto David principally concerned His person, and 
the glory thereof. See Ps.2; 45; 68; 110; 118; especially Ps. 45 and 
82 compared, which give an account of their apprehensions concerning 
 The faith of Daniel was, that God would show mercy, for the Lord's 
sake, Dan. 9: 17; and of all the prophets that the "Redeemer should 
come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob," 
Isa. 59: 20. 
 Of the same nature were all his personal appearances under the Old 
Testament, especially that most illustrious representation made of him 
unto the prophet Isaiah, chap. 6, and the glorious revelation of his 
name, chap. 9: 6. 
 It is true that both these and other prophets had revelations 
concerning his sufferings also. For "the Spirit of Christ that was in 
them testified beforehand of his sufferings, and the glory that should 
follow," 1 Peter 1: 11;--an illustrious testimony whereunto we have 
given us Ps. 22, and Isa. 53. Nevertheless their conceptions 
concerning them were dark and obscure. It was his person that their 
faith principally regarded. Thence were they filled with desires and 
expectations of his coming, or his exhibition and appearance in the 
flesh. With the renewed promises hereof did God continually refresh 
the church in its straits and difficulties. And hereby did God call 
off the body of the people from trust in themselves, or boasting in 
their present privileges, which they were exceedingly prone unto. 
 In process of time this faith, which wrought effectually in the 
Church of Israel, degenerated into a lifeless opinion, that proved the 
ruin of it. Whilst they really lived in the faith of him as the 
Saviour and Redeemer of the church from all its spiritual adversaries, 
as he who was to make "an end of sin, and bring in everlasting 
righteousness," unto whom all their present ordinances were 
subservient and directive; all grace, love, zeal, and patient waiting 
for the accomplishment of the promise, flourished among them. But in 
process of time, growing carnal, trusting in their own righteousness, 
and the privileges which they had by the law, their faith concerning 
the person of Christ degenerated into a corrupt, obstinate opinion, 
that he should be only a temporal king and deliverer; but as unto 
righteousness and salvation they were to trust unto themselves and the 
law. And this prejudicate opinion, being indeed a renunciation of all 
the grace of the promises of God, proved their utter ruin. For when he 
came in the flesh, after so many ages, filled up with continued 
expectations, they rejected and despised him as one that had neither 
form nor comeliness for which he should be desired. So does it fall 
out in other churches. That which was faith truly spiritual and 
evangelical in their first planting, becomes a lifeless opinion in 
succeeding ages. The same truths are still professed, but that 
profession springs not from the same causes, nor does it produce the 
same effects in the hearts and lives of men. Hence, in process of 
time, some churches continue to have an appearance of the same body 
which they were at first, but--being examined--are like a lifeless, 
breathless carcass, wherein the animating Spirit of grace does not 
dwell. And then is any church, as it was with that of the Jews, nigh 
to destruction, when it corrupts formerly professed truths, to 
accommodate them unto the present lusts and inclinations of men. 

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 9...)

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