(Owen, Christologia, Part 14)

Chapter XIV Motives unto the Love of Christ 
 The motives unto this love of Christt is the last thing, on this head 
of our religious respect unto him, that I shall speak unto. 
 When God required of the church the first and highest act of 
religion, the sole foundation of all others--namely, to take him as 
their God, to own, believe, and trust in him alone as such, (which is 
wholly due unto him for what he is, without any other consideration 
whatever,)--yet he thought meet to add a motive unto the performance 
of that duty from what he had done for them, Exod. 20: 2, 3. The sense 
of the first command is, that we should take him alone for our God; 
for he is so, and there is no other. But in the prescription of this 
duty unto the church, he minds them of the benefits which they had 
received from him in bringing them out of the house of bondage. 
 God, in his wisdom and grace, ordereth all the causes and reasons of 
our duty, so as that all the rational powers and faculties of our 
souls may be exercised therein. Wherefore he does not only propose 
himself unto us, nor is Christ merely proposed unto us as the proper 
object of our affections, but he calls us also unto the consideration 
of all those things that may satisfy our souls that it is the most 
just, necessary, reasonable and advantageous course for us so to fix 
our affections an him. 
 And these considerations are taken from all that he did for us, with 
the reasons and grounds why he did it. We love him principally and 
ultimately for what he is; but nextly and immediately for what he did. 
What he did for us is first proposed unto us, and it is that which our 
souls are first affected withal. For they are originally acted in all 
things by a sense of the want which they have, and a desire of the 
blessedness which they have not. This directs them unto what he has 
done for sinners; but that leads immediately unto the consideration of 
what he is in himself. And when our love is fixed on him or his 
person, then all those things wherewith, from a sense of our own wants 
and desires, we were first affected, become motives unto the 
confirming and increasing of that love. This is the constant method of 
the Scripture; it first proposes unto us what the Lord Christ has done 
for us, especially in the discharge of his sacerdotal office, in his 
oblation and intercession, with the benefits which we receive thereby. 
Hereby it leads us unto his person, and presseth the consideration of 
all other things to engage our love unto him. See Phil. 2: 5-11, with 
chap. 3: 8-11. 
 Motives unto the love of Christ are so great, so many, so diffused 
through the whole dispensation of God in him unto us, as that they can 
by no hand be fully expressed, let it be allowed ever so much to 
enlarge in the declaration of them; much less can they be represented 
in that short discourse whereof but a very small part is allotted unto 
their consideration--such as ours is at present. The studying, the 
collection of them or so many of them as we are able, the meditation 
on them and improvement of them, are among the principal duties of our 
whole lives. What I shall offer is the reduction of them unto these 
two heads: 1. The acts of Christ, which is the substance of them; and, 
2. The spring and fountain of those acts, which is the life of them. 
 1. In general they are all the acts of his mediatory office, with all 
the fruits of them, whereof we are made partners. There is not any 
thing that he did or does, in the discharge of his mediatory office, 
from the first susception of it in his incarnation in the womb of the 
blessed Virgin unto his present intercession in heaven, but is an 
effectual motive unto the love of him; and as such is proposed unto us 
in the Scripture. Whatever he did or does with or towards us in the 
name of God, as the king and prophet of the church--whatever he did or 
does with God for us, as our high priest--it all speaks this language 
in the hearts of them that believe: O love the Lord Jesus in 
 The consideration of what Christ thus did and does for us is 
inseparable from that of the benefits which we receive thereby. A due 
mixture of both these--of what he did for us, and what we obtain 
thereby--compriseth the substance of these motives: "Who lotted me, 
and gave himself for me"--"Who loved us, and washed us in his own 
blood, and made us kings and priests unto God"--"For thou wast slain, 
and hast bought us unto God with thy blood." And both these are of a 
transcendent nature, requiring our love to be so also. Who is able to 
comprehend the glory of the mediatory acting of the Son of God, in the 
assumption of our nature--in what he did and suffered therein? And for 
us, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart 
of man to conceive, what we receive thereby. The least benefit, and 
that obtained by the least expense of trouble or charge, deserveth 
love, and leaveth the brand of a crime where it is not so entertained. 
What, then, do the greatest deserve, and thou procured by the greatest 
expense even the price of the blood of the Son of God? 
 If we have any faith concerning these things, it will produce love, 
as that love will obedience. Whatever we profess concerning them, it 
springs from tradition and opinion, and not from faith, if it engage 
not our souls into the love of him. The frame of heart which ensues on 
the real faith of these things is expressed, Ps. 103: 1-5, "Bless the 
LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless 
the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth 
all thine iniquities; who health all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy 
life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and 
tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy 
youth is renewed like the eagle's." Let men pretend what they will, 
there needs no greater, no other evidence, to prove that any one does 
not really believe the things that are reported in the gospel, 
concerning the mediatory acting of Christ, or that he has no 
experience in his own soul and conscience of the fruits and effects of 
them, than this--that his heart is not engaged by them unto the most 
ardent love towards his person. 
 He is no Christian who lives not much in the meditation of the 
mediation of Christ, and the especial acts of it. Some may more abound 
in that work than others, as it is fixed, formed and regular; some may 
be more able than others to dispose their thought concerning them into 
method and order; some may be more diligent than others in the 
observation of times for the solemn performance of this duty; some may 
be able to rise to higher and clearer apprehensions of them than 
others. But as for those, the bent of whose minds does not lie towards 
thoughts of them--whose heath are not on all occasions retreating unto 
the remembrance of them--who embrace not all opportunities to call 
them over as they are able--on what grounds can they be esteemed 
Christians? how do they live by the faith of the Son of God? Are the 
great things of the Gospel, of the mediation of Christ, proposed unto 
us, as those which we may think of when we have nothing else to do, 
that we may meditate upon or neglect at our pleasure--as those wherein 
our concernment is so small as that they must give place unto all 
other occasions or diversions whatever? Nay; if our minds are not 
filled with these things--if Christ does not dwell plentifully in our 
heath by faith--if our souls are not possessed with them, and in their 
whole inward frame and constitution so cut into this mould as to be 
led by a natural complacency unto a converse with them--we are 
strangers unto the life of faith. And if we are thus conversant about 
these things, they will engage our hearts into the love of the person 
of Christ. To suppose the contrary, is indeed to deny the truth and 
reality of them all, and to turn the gospel into a fable. 
 Take one instance from among the rest--namely, his death. Has he the 
heart of a Christian, who does not often meditate on the death of his 
Saviour, who does not derive his life from it? Who can look into the 
Gospel and not fix on those lines which either immediately and 
directly, or through some other paths of divine grace and wisdom, do 
lead him thereunto? And can any have believing thoughts concerning the 
death of Christ, and not have his heart affected with ardent love unto 
his person? Christ in the Gospel "is evidently set forth, crucified" 
before us. Can any by the eye of faith look on this bleeding, dying 
Redeemer, and suppose love unto his person to be nothing but the work 
of fancy or imagination? They know the contrary, who "always bear 
about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus," as the apostle speaks, 
2 Cor. 4: 10. As his whole "name," in all that he did, is "as ointment 
poured forth," for which "the virgins love him," Cant. 1: 3,--so this 
precious perfume of his death is that wherewith their hearts are 
ravished in a peculiar manner. 
 Again: as there can be no faith in Christ where there is no love unto 
him on the account of his mediatory acts; so, where it is not, the 
want of it casteth persons under the highest guilt of ingratitude that 
our nature is liable unto. The highest aggravation of the sin of 
angels was their ingratitude unto their Maker. For why, by his mere 
will and pleasure, they were stated in the highest excellency, pre- 
eminence, and dignity, that he thought good to communicate unto any 
creatures--or, it may be, that any mere created nature is capable of 
in itself--they were unthankful for what they had so received from 
undeserved goodness and bounty; and so cast themselves into 
everlasting ruin. But yet the sin of men, in their ingratitude towards 
Christ on the account of what he has done for them, is attended with 
an aggravation above that of the angels. For although the angels were 
originally instated in that condition of dignity which in this world 
we cannot attain unto, yet were they not redeemed and recovered from 
misery as we are. 
 In all the crowd of evil and wicked men that the world is pestered 
withal, there are none, by common consent, so stigmatised for unworthy 
villainy, as those who are signally ungrateful for singular benefits. 
If persons are unthankful unto them, if they have not the highest love 
for them, who redeem them from ignominy and death, and instate them in 
a plentiful inheritance, (if any such instances may be given,) and 
that with the greatest expense of labour and charge,--mankind, without 
any regret, does tacitly condemn them unto greater miseries than those 
which they were delivered from. What, then, will be the condition of 
them whose hearts are not so affected with the mediation of Christ and 
the fruits of it, as to engage the best, the choicest of their 
affections unto him! The gospel itself will be "a savour of death" 
unto such ungrateful wretches. 
 2. That which the Scripture principally insisteth on as the motive of 
our love unto Christ, is his love unto us--which was the principle of 
all his mediatory actings in our behalf. 
 Love is that jewel of human nature which commands a valuation 
wherever it is found. Let other circumstances be what they will, 
whatever distances between persons may be made by them, yet real love, 
where it is evidenced so to be, is not despised by any but such as 
degenerate into profligate brutality. If it be so stated as that it 
can produce no outward effects advantageous unto them that are 
beloved, yet it commands a respect, as it were, whether we will or no, 
and some return in its own kind. Especially it does so if it be 
altogether undeserved, and so evidenceth itself to proceed from a 
goodness of nature, and an inclination unto the good of them on whom 
it is fixed. For, whereas the essential nature of love consisteth in 
willing good unto them that are beloved--where the act of the will is 
real, sincere, and constantly exercised, without any defect of it on 
our part, no restraints can possibly be put upon our minds from going 
out in some acts of love again upon its account, unless all their 
faculties are utterly depraved by habits of brutish and filthy lusts. 
But when this love, which is thus undeserved, does also abound in 
effects troublesome and chargeable in them in whom it is, and highly 
beneficial unto them on whom it is placed--if there be any such 
affection left in the nature of any man, it will prevail unto a 
reciprocal love. And all these things are found in the love of Christ, 
unto that degree and height as nothing parallel unto it can be found 
in the whole creation. I shall briefly speak of it under two general 
 (1.) The sole spring of all the mediatory acting of Christ, both in 
the susception of our nature and in all that he did and suffered 
therein, was his own mere love and grace, working by pity and 
compassion. It is true, he undertook this work principally with 
respect unto the glory of God, and out of love unto him. But with 
respect unto us, his only motive unto it was his abundant, overflowing 
love. And this is especially remembered unto us in that instance 
wherein it carried him through the greatest difficulties--namely, in 
his death and the oblation of himself on our behalf, Gal. 2: 20; Eph. 
5: 2, 25, 26; 1 John 3: 16; Rev. 1: 6, 6. This alone inclined the Son 
of God to undertake the glorious work of our redemption, and carried 
him through the death and dread which he underwent in the 
accomplishment of it. 
 Should I engage into the consideration of this love of Christ, which 
was the great means of conveying all the effects of dine wisdom and 
grace unto the church,--that glass which God chose to represent 
himself and all his goodness in unto believers,--that spirit of life 
in the wheel of all the motions of the person of Christ in the 
redemption of the church unto the eternal glory of God, his own and 
that of his redeemed also,--that mirror wherein the holy angels and 
blessed saints shall for ever contemplate the divine excellencies in 
their suitable operations;--I must now begin a discourse much larger 
than that which I have passed through. But it is not suited unto my 
present design so to do. For, considering the growing apprehensions of 
many about the person of Christ, which are utterly destructive of the 
whole nature of that love which we ascribe unto him, do I know how 
soon a more distinct explication and defence of it may be called for. 
And this cause will not be forsaken. 
 They know nothing of the life and power of the gospel, nothing of the 
reality of the grace of God, nor do they believe aright one article of 
the Christian faith, whose hearts are not sensible of the love of 
Christ herein; nor is he sensible of the love of Christ, whose 
affections are not thereon drawn out unto him. I say, they make a 
pageant of religion,--a fable for the theatre of the world, a business 
of fancy and opinion,--whose hearts are not really affected with the 
love of Christ, in the susception and discharge of the work of 
mediation, so as to have real and spiritually sensible affections for 
him. Men may babble things which they have learned by rote; they have 
no real acquaintance with Christianity, who imagine that the placing 
of the most intense affections of our souls on the person of Christ-- 
the loving him with all our hearts because of his love--our being 
overcome thereby until we are sick of love--the constant motions of 
our souls towards him with delight and adherence--are but fancies and 
imaginations. I renounce that religion, be it whose it will, that 
teacheth, insinuateth, or giveth countenance unto, such abominations. 
That doctrine is as discrepant from the gospel as the Alkoran--as 
contrary to the experience of believers as what is acted in and by the 
devils which instructs men unto a contempt of the most fervent love 
unto Christ, or casts reflections upon it. I had rather choose my 
eternal lot and portion with the meanest believer, who, being 
effectually sensible of the love of Christ, spends his days in 
mourning that he can love him no more than he finds himself on his 
utmost endeavours for the discharge of his duty to do, than with the 
best of them, whose vain speculations and a false pretence of reason 
puff them up unto a contempt of these things 
 (2.) This love of Christ unto the church is singular in all those 
qualifications which render love obliging unto reciprocal affections. 
It is so in its reality. There can be no love amongst men, but will 
derive something from that disorder which is in their affections in 
their highest acting. But the love of Christ is pure and absolutely 
free from any alloy. There cannot be the least suspicion of anything 
of self in it. And it is absolutely undeserved. Nothing can be found 
amongst men that can represent or exemplify its freedom from any 
desert on our part. The most candid and ingenuous love amongst us is, 
when we love another for his worth, excellency, and usefulness, though 
we have no singular benefit of them ourselves; but not the least of 
any of these things were found in them on whom he set his love, until 
they were wrought in them, as effects of that love which he set upon 
 Men sometimes may rise up unto such a high degree and instance in 
love, as that they will even die for one another; but then it must be 
on a superlative esteem which they have of their worth and merit. It 
may be, saith the apostle, treating of the love of Christ, and of God 
in him, that "for a good man some would even dare to die," Rom. 5: 7. 
It must be for a good man--one who is justly esteemed "commune bonum," 
a public good to mankind--one whose benignity is ready to exercise 
loving-kindness on all occasions, which is the estate of a good man;-- 
peradventure some would even dare to die for such a man. This is the 
height of what love among men can rise unto; and if it has been 
instanced in any, it has been accompanied with an open mixture of 
vain-glory and desire of renown. But the Lord Christ placed his love 
on us, that love from whence he died for us, when we were sinners and 
ungodly; that is, every thing which might render us unamiable and 
undeserving. Though we were as deformed as sin could render us, and 
more deeply indebted than the whole creation could pay or answer, yet 
did he fix his love upon us, to free us from that condition, and to 
render us meet for the most intimate society with himself. Never was 
there love which had such effects--which cost him so dear in whom it 
was, and proved so advantageous unto them on whom it was placed. In 
the pursuit of it he underwent everything that is evil in his own 
person, and we receive everything that is good in the favour of God 
and eternal blessedness. 
 On the account of these things, the apostle ascribes a constraining 
power unto the love of Christ, 2 Cor. 5: 14. And if it constrains us 
unto any return unto him, it does so unto that of love in the first 
place. For no suitable return can be made for love but love, at least 
not without it. As love cannot be purchased--"For if a man would give 
all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be 
condemned," Cant. 8: 7,--so if a man would give all the world for a 
requital of love, without love it would be despised. To fancy that all 
the love of Christ unto us consists in the precepts and promises of 
the gospel, and all our love unto him in the observance of his 
commands, without a real love in him unto our persons, like that of a 
"husband unto a wife," Eph 5: 25, 26, or a holy affection in our 
hearts and minds unto his person, is to overthrow the whole power of 
religions to despoil it of its life and soul, leaving nothing but the 
carcass of it. 
 This love unto Christ, and unto God in him, because of his love unto 
us, is the principal instance of divine love, the touchstone of its 
reality and sincerity. Whatever men may boast of their affectionate 
endearments unto the divine goodness, if it be not founded in a sense 
of this love of Christ, and the love of God in him, they are but empty 
notions they nourish withal, and their deceived hearts feed upon 
ashes. It is in Christ alone that God is declared to be love; without 
an apprehension whereof none can love him as they ought. In him alone 
that infinite goodness, which is the peculiar object of divine love, 
is truly represented unto us, without any such deceiving phantasm as 
the workings of fancy or depravation of reason may impose upon us. And 
on him does the saving communication of all the effects of it depend. 
And an infinite condescension is it in the holy God, so to express his 
"glory in the face of Jesus Christ," or to propose himself as the 
object of our love in and through him. For considering our weakness as 
to an immediate comprehension of the infinite excellencies of the 
divine nature, or to bear the rays of his resplendent glory, seeing 
none can see his face and live, it is the most adorable effect of 
divine wisdom and grace, that we are admitted unto the contemplation 
of them in the person of Jesus Christ. 
 There is yet farther evidence to be given of this love unto the 
person of Christ, from all those blessed effects of it which are 
declared in the Scripture, and whereof believers have the experience 
in themselves. But something I have spoken concerning them formerly, 
in my discourse about communion with God; and the nature of the 
present design will not admit of enlargement upon them. 

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 15...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: owlog-14.txt