(Owen, Christologia, Part 15)

Chapter XV. Conformity unto Christ, and Following his Example 
 III. The third thing proposed to declare the use of the person of 
Christ in religion, is that conformity which is required of us unto 
him. This is the great design and projection of all believers. Every 
one of them has the idea or image of Christ in his mind, in the eye of 
faith, as it is represented unto him in the glass of the gospel: "Ten 
doxan Kuriou kataptrizomenoi k. t. l., 2 Cor. 3: 18. We behold his 
glory "in a glass," which implants the image of it on our minds. And 
hereby the mind is transformed into the same image, made like unto 
Christ so represented unto us--which is the conformity we speak of. 
Hence every true believer has his heart under the conduct of an 
habitual inclination and desire to be like unto Christ. And it were 
easy to demonstrate, that where this is not, there is neither faith 
nor love. Faith will cast the soul into the form or frame of the thing 
believed, Rom. 6: 17. And all sincere love worketh an assimilation. 
Wherefore the best evidence of a real principle of the life of God in 
any soul--of the sincerity of faith, love, and obedience--is an 
internal cordial endeavour, operative on all occasions, after 
conformity unto Jesus Christ. 
 There are two parts of the duty proposed. The first respects the 
internal grace and holiness of the human nature of Christ; the other, 
his example in duties of obedience. And both of them--both materially 
as to the things wherein they consist, and formally as they were his 
or in him--belong unto the constitution of a true disciple. 
 In the first place, Internal conformity unto his habitual grace and 
holiness is the fundamental design of a Christian life. That which is 
the best without it is a pretended imitation of his example in outward 
duties of obedience. I call it pretended, because where the first 
design is wanting, it is no more but so; nor is it acceptable to 
Christ nor approved by him. And therefore an attempt unto that end has 
often issued in formality, hypocrisy, and superstition. I shall 
therefore lay down the grounds of this design, the nature of it, and 
the means of its pursuit. 
 1. God, in the human nature of Christ, did perfectly renew that 
blessed image of his on our nature which we lost in Adam, with an 
addition of many glorious endowments which Adam was not made partaker 
of. God did not renew it in his nature as though that portion of it 
whereof he was partaker had ever been destitute or deprived of it, as 
it is with the same nature in all other persons. For he derived not 
his nature from Adam in the same way that we do; nor was he ever in 
Adam as the public representative of our nature, as we were. But our 
nature in him had the image of God implanted in it, which was lost and 
separated from the same nature in all other instances of its 
subsistence. "It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness 
dwell,"--that he should be "full of grace and truth," and "in all 
things have the pre-eminence." But of these gracious endowments of the 
human nature of Christ I have discoursed elsewhere. 
 2. One end of God in filling the human nature of Christ with all 
grace, in implanting his glorious image upon it, was, that he might in 
him propose an example of what he would by the same grace renew us 
unto, and what we ought in a way of duty to labour after. The fulness 
of grace was necessary unto the human nature of Christ, from its 
hypostatical union with the Son of God. For whereas therein the 
"fulness of the godhead dwelt in him bodily," it became "to hagion", a 
" holy thing," Luke 1: 35. It was also necessary unto him, as unto his 
own obedience in the flesh, wherein he fulfilled all righteousness, 
"did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth," 1 Peter 2: 22. And 
it was so unto the discharge of the office he undertook; for "such an 
high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate 
from sinners," Heb. 7: 26. Howbeit, the infinite wisdom of God had 
this farther design in it also,--namely, that he might be the pattern 
and example of the renovation of the image of God in us, and of the 
glory that does ensue thereon. He is in the eye of God as the idea of 
what he intends in use in the communication of grace and glory; and he 
ought to be so in ours, as unto all that we aim at in a way of duty. 
 He has "predestinated us to be conformed unto the image of his Son, 
that he might be the first-born among many brethren," Rom. 8: 29. In 
the collation of all grace on Christ, God designed to make him "the 
first born of many brethren;" that is, not only to give him the power 
and authority of the firstborn, with the trust of the whole 
inheritance to be communicated unto them, but also as the example of 
what he would bring them unto. "For both he that sanctifieth and they 
that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed 
to call them brethren," Heb. 2: 11. It is Christ who sanctifieth 
believers; yet is it from God, who first sanctified him, that he and 
they might be of one, and so become brethren, as bearing the image of 
the same Father. God designed and gave unto Christ grace and glory; 
and he did it that he might be the prototype of what he designed unto 
us, and would bestow upon us. Hence the apostle shows that the effect 
of this predestination to conformity unto the image of the Son is the 
communication of all effectual, saving grace, with the glory that 
ensues thereon, Rom. 8: 30, "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them 
he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom 
he justified, them he also glorified." 
 The great design of God in his grace is, that as we have borne the 
"image of the first Adam" in the depravation of our natures, so we 
should bear the "image of the second" in their renovation. "As we have 
borne the image of the earthy," so "we shall bear the image of the 
heavenly," 1 Cor. 15: 49. And as he is the pattern of all our graces, 
so he is of glory also. All our glory will consist in our being "made 
like unto him;" which, what it is, does not as yet appear, 1 John 3: 
2. For "he shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like 
unto his glorious body," Phil. 3: 21. Wherefore the fulness of grace 
was bestowed on the human nature of Christ, and the image of God 
gloriously implanted thereon, that it might be the prototype and 
example of what the church was through him to be made partaker of. 
That which God intends for us in the internal communication of his 
grace, and in the use of all the ordinances of the church, is, that we 
may come unto the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," 
Eph 4: 13. There is a fullness of all grace in Christ. Hereunto are we 
to be brought, according to the measure that is designed unto every 
one of us. "For unto every one of us is given grace, according to the 
measure of the gift of Christ," verse 7. He has, in his sovereign 
grace, assigned different measures unto those on whom he does bestow 
it. And therefore it is called "the stature", because as we grow 
gradually unto it, as men do unto their just stature; so there is a 
variety in what we attain unto, as there is in the statures of men, 
who are yet all perfect in their proportion. 
 3. This image of God in Christ is represented unto us in the Gospel. 
Being lost from our nature, it was utterly impossible we should have 
any just comprehension of it. There could be no steady notion of the 
image of God, until it was renewed and exemplified in the human nature 
of Christ. And thereon, without the knowledge of him, the wisest of 
men have taken those things to render men most like unto God which 
were adverse unto him. Such were the most of those things which the 
heathens adored as heroic virtues. But being perfectly exemplified in 
Christ, it is now plainly represented unto us in the gospel. Therein 
with open face we behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, and 
are changed into the same image, 2 Cor. 3: 18. The veil being taken 
away from divine revelations by the doctrine of the gospel and from 
our hearts "by the Lord the Spirit," we behold the image of God in 
Christ with open face, which is the principal means of our being 
transformed into it. The gospel is the declaration of Christ unto us, 
and the glory of God in him; as unto many other ends, so in especial, 
that we might in him behold and contemplate that image of God we are 
gradually to be renewed into. Hence, we are so therein to learn the 
truth as it is in Jesus, as to be "renewed in the spirit of our mind," 
and to "put on the new man, which after God is created in 
righteousness and true holiness," Eph 4: 20, 23, 24,--that is, 
"renewed after the image of him who created him," Col. 3: 10. 
 4. It is, therefore, evident that the life of God in us consists in 
conformity unto Christ; nor is the Holy Spirit, as the principal and 
efficient cause of it, given unto us for any other end but to unite us 
unto him, and make us like him. Wherefore, the original gospel duty, 
which animates and rectifies all others, is a design for conformity 
unto Christ in all the gracious principles and qualifications of his 
holy soul, wherein the image of God in him does consist. As he is the 
prototype and exemplar in the eye of God for the communication of act 
grace unto us, so he ought to be the great example in the eye of our 
faith in all our obedience unto God, in our compliance with all that 
he requireth of us. 
 God himself, or the divine nature in its holy perfections, is the 
ultimate object and idea of our transformation in the renewing of our 
minds. And, therefore, under the Old Testament, before the incarnation 
of the Son, he proposed his own holiness immediately as the pattern of 
the church: "Be ye holy, for the Lord your God is holy," Lev. 11: 44; 
19:2; 20:26. But the law made nothing perfect. For to complete this 
great injunction, there was yet wanting an express example of the 
holiness required; which is not given us but in him who is "the 
first-born, the image of the invisible God." 
 There was a notion, even among the philosophers, that the principal 
endeavour of a wise man was to be like unto God. But in the 
improvement of it, the best of them fell into foolish and proud 
imaginations. Howbeit, the notion itself was the principal beam of our 
primigenial light, the best relic of our natural perfections; and 
those who are not some way under the power of a design to be like unto 
God are every way like unto the devil. But those persons who had 
nothing but the absolute essential properties of the divine nature to 
contemplate on in the light of reason, failed all of them, both in the 
notion itself of conformity unto God, and especially in the practical 
improvement of it. Whatever men may fancy to the contrary, it is the 
design of the apostle, in sundry places of his writings, to prove that 
they did so, especially Rom. 1; 1 Cor. 1. Wherefore, it was an 
infinite condescension of divine wisdom and grace, gloriously to 
implant that image of him which we are to endeavour conformity unto in 
the human nature of Christ, and then so fully to represent and propose 
it unto us in the revelation of the Gospel. 
 The infinite perfections of God, considered absolutely in themselves, 
are accompanied with such an incomprehensible glory as it is hard to 
conceive how they are the object of our imitation. But the 
representation that is made of them in Christ, as the image of the 
invisible God, is so suited to the renewed faculties of our souls, so 
congenial unto the new creature or the gracious principle of spiritual 
life in us, that the mind can dwell on the contemplation of them, and 
be thereby transformed into the same image. 
 Herein lies much of the life and power of Christian religion, as it 
resides in the souls of men. This is the prevailing design of the 
minds of them that truly believe the Gospel; they would in all things 
be like unto Jesus Christ. And I shall briefly show (1.) What is 
required hereunto; and, (2.) What is to be done in a way of duty for 
the attaining that end. 
 (1.) A spiritual light, to discern the beauty, glory, and amiableness 
of grace in Christ, is required hereunto. We can have no real design 
of conformity unto him, unless we have their eyes who "beheld his 
glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and 
truth," John 1: 14. Nor is it enough that we seem to discern the glory 
of his person, unless we see a beauty and excellency in every grace 
that is in him. "Learn of me," saith he; "for I am meek and lowly in 
heart," Matt. 11: 29. If we are not able to discern an excellency in 
meekness and lowliness of heart, (as they are things generally 
despised,) how shall we sincerely endeavour after conformity unto 
Christ in them? The like may be said of all his other gracious 
qualifications. His zeal, his patience, his self-denial, his readiness 
for the cross, his love unto his enemies, his benignity to all 
mankind, his faith and fervency in prayer, his love to God, his 
compassion towards the souls of men, his unweariedness in doing good, 
his purity, his universal holiness;--unless we have a spiritual light 
to discern the glory and amiableness of them all, as they were in him, 
we speak in vain of any design for conformity unto him. And this we 
have not, unless God shine into our hearts to give us the light of the 
knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ. It is, I say, a 
foolish thing to talk of the imitation of Christ, whilst really, 
through the darkness of our minds, we discern not that there is an 
excellency in the things wherein we ought to be like unto him. 
 (2.) Love unto them so discovered in a beam of heavy light, is 
required unto the same end. No soul can have a design of conformity 
unto Christ but his who so likes and loves the graces that were in 
him, as to esteem a participation of them in their power to be the 
greatest advantage, to be the most invaluable privilege, that can in 
this world be attained. It is the favour of his good ointments for 
which the virgins love him, cleave unto him, and endeavour to be like 
him. In that whereof we now discourse--namely, of conformity unto him- 
-he is the representative of the image of God unto us. And, if we do 
not love and prize above all things those gracious qualifications and 
dispositions of mind wherein it does consist, whatever we may pretend 
of the imitation of Christ in any outward acts or duties of obedience, 
we have no design of conformity unto him. He who sees and admires the 
glory of Christ as filled with these graces as he "was fairer than the 
children of men," because "grace was poured into his lips" unto whom 
nothing is so desirable as to have the same mind, the same heart, the 
same spirit that was in Christ Jesus--is prepared to press after 
conformity unto him. And unto such a soul the representation of all 
these excellencies in the person of Christ is the great incentive, 
motive, and guide, in and unto all internal obedience unto God. 
 Lastly, That wherein we are to labour for this conformity may be 
reduced unto two heads. 
 [1.] An opposition unto all sin, in the root, principle, and most 
secret springs of it, or original cleavings unto our nature. He "did 
no sin, neither was there any guile found in his mouth." He "was holy, 
harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners". He was the "Lamb of God, 
without spot or blemish;" like unto us, yet without sin. Not the least 
tincture of sin did ever make an approach unto his holy nature. He was 
absolutely free from every drop of that fomes which has invaded us in 
our depraved condition. Wherefore, to be freed from all sin, is the 
first general part of an endeavour for conformity unto Christ. And 
although we cannot perfectly attain hereunto in this life, as we have 
"not already attained, nor are already perfect," yet he who groaneth 
not in himself after it--who does not loathe every thing that is of 
the remainder of sin in him and himself for it--who does not labour 
after its absolute and universal extirpation--has no sincere design of 
conformity unto Christ, nor can so have. He who endeavours to be like 
him, must "purify himself, even as he is pure." Thoughts of the purity 
of Christ, in his absolute freedom from the least tincture of sin, 
will not suffer a believer to be negligent, at any time, for the 
endeavouring the utter ruin of that which makes him unlike unto him. 
And it is a blessed advantage unto faith, in the work of mortification 
of sin, that we have such a pattern continually before us. 
 [2] The due improvement of, and continual growth, in every grace, is 
the other general part of this duty. In the exercise of his own 
all-fulness of grace, both in moral duties of obedience and the 
especial duties of his office, did the glory of Christ on the earth 
consist. Wherefore, to abound in the exercise of every grace to grow 
in the root and thrive in the fruit of them--is to be conformed unto 
the image of the Son of God. 
 Secondly, The following the example of Christ in all duties towards 
God and men, in his whole conversation on the earth, is the second 
part of the instance now given concerning the use of the person of 
Christ in religion. The field is large which here lies before us, and 
filled with numberless blessed instances. I cannot here enter into it; 
and the mistakes that have been in a pretence unto it, require that it 
should be handled distinctly and at large by itself; which, if God 
will, may be done in due time. One or two general instances wherein he 
was most eminently our example, shall close this discourse. 
 1. His meekness, lowliness of mind, condescension unto all sorts of 
persons--his love and kindness unto mankind--his readiness to do good 
unto all, with patience and forbearance--are continually set before us 
in his example. I place them all under one head, as proceeding all 
from the same spring of divine goodness, and having effects of the 
same nature. With respect unto them, it is required that "the same 
mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus," Phil. 2: 6; and that we "walk 
in love, as he also loved us," Eph 5: 2. 
 In these things was he the great representative of the divine 
goodness unto us. In the acting of these graces on all occasions did 
he declare and manifest the nature of God, from whom he came. And this 
was one end of his exhibition in the flesh. Sin had filled the world 
with a representation of the devil and his nature, in mutual hatred, 
strife, variance, envy, wrath, pride, fierceness, and rage, against 
one another; all which are of the old murderer. The instances of a 
cured, of a contrary frame, were obscure and weak in the best of the 
saints of old. But in our Lord Jesus the light of the glory of God 
herein first shone upon the world. In the exercise of these graces, 
which he most abounded in, because the sins, weaknesses and 
infirmities of men gave continual occasion thereunto, did he represent 
the divine nature as love--as infinitely good, benign, merciful, and 
patient--delighting in the exercise of these its holy properties. In 
them was the Lord Christ our example in an especial manner. And they 
do in vain pretend to be his disciples, to be followers of him, who 
endeavour not to order the whole course of their lives in conformity 
unto him in these things. 
 One Christian who is meek, humble, kind, patient, and useful unto 
all; that condescends to the ignorance, weaknesses and infirmities of 
others; that passeth by provocations, injuries, contempt, with 
patience and with silence, unless where the glory and truth of God 
call for a just vindication; that pitieth all sorts of men in their 
failings and miscarriages, who is free from jealousies and evil 
surmises; that loveth what is good in all men, and all men even 
wherein they are not good, nor do good,--doth more express the virtues 
and excellencies of Christ than thousands can do with the most 
magnificent works of piety or charity, where this frame is wanting in 
them. For men to pretend to follow the example of Christ, and in the 
meantime to be proud, wrathful envious, bitterly zealous, calling for 
fire from heaven to destroy men, or fetching it themselves from hell, 
is to cry, "Hail unto him," and to crucify him afresh unto their 
 2. Self-denial, readiness for the cross, with patience in sufferings, 
are the second sort of things which he calls all his disciples to 
follow his example in. It is the fundamental law of his gospel, that 
if any one will be his disciple, "he must deny himself, take up his 
cross, and follow him." These things in him, as they are all of them 
summarily represented, Phil. 2: 5-8, by reason of the glory of his 
person and the nature of his sufferings, are quite of another kind 
than that we are called unto. But his grace in them all is our only 
pattern in what is required of us. "Christ also suffered for us, 
leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps: who, when he 
was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not," 
1 Pet. 2: 21-23. Hence are we called to look unto "Jesus, the author 
and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, 
endured the cross, and despised the shame." For we are to "consider 
him, who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself," that 
we faint not, Heb. 12: 3. Blessed be God for this example--for the 
glory of the condescension, patience, faith, and endurance, of Jesus 
Christ, in the extremity of all sorts of sufferings. This has been the 
pole-star of the church in all its storms; the guide, the comfort, 
supportment and encouragement of all those holy souls, who, in their 
several generations, have in various degrees undergone persecution for 
righteousness' sake, and yet continueth so to be unto them who are in 
the same condition. 
 And I must say, as I have done on some other occasions in the 
handling of this subject, that a discourse on this one instance of the 
use of Christ in religion--from the consideration of the person who 
suffered, and set us this example; of the principle from whence, and 
the end for which, he did it; of the variety of evils of all sorts he 
had to conflict withal; of his invincible patience under them all, and 
immovableness of love and compassion unto mankind, even his 
persecutors; the dolorous afflictive circumstances of his sufferings 
from God and men; the blessed efficacious workings of his faith and 
trust in God unto the uttermost; with the glorious issue of the whole, 
and the influence of all these considerations unto the consolation and 
supportment of the church--would take up more room and time than what 
is allotted unto the whole of that whereof it is here the least part. 
I shall leave the whole under the shade of that blessed promise, "If 
so be that we suffer with him, we may be also glorified together; for 
I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be 
compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us," Rom. 8: 17,18. 
 IV. The last thing proposed concerning the person of Christ, was the 
use of it unto believers, in the whole of their relation unto God and 
duty towards him. And the things belonging thereunto may be reduced 
unto these general heads:-- 
 1. Their sanctification, which consisteth in these four things: (1.) 
The mortification of sin, (2.) The gradual renovation of our natures, 
(3.) Assistances in actual obedience, (4.) The same in temptations and 
 2. Their justification, with its concomitants and consequent; as-- 
(1.) Adoption, (2.) Peace, (3.) Consolation and joy in life and death, 
(4.) Spiritual gifts, unto the edification of themselves and others, 
(5.) A blessed resurrection, (6.) Eternal glory. 
 There are other things which also belong hereunto: as their guidance 
in the course of their conversation in this world, direction unto 
usefulness in all states and conditions, patient waiting for the 
accomplishment of God's promises to the church, the communication of 
federal blessings unto their families, and the exercise of 
loving-kindness towards mankind in general, with sundry other 
concernments of the life of faith of the like importance; but they may 
be all reduced unto the general heads proposed. 
 What should have been spoken with reference unto these things belongs 
unto these three heads:-- 
 1st, A declaration that all these things are wrought in and 
communicated unto believers, according to their various natures, by an 
emanation of grace and power from the person of Jesus Christ, as the 
head of the church--as he who is exalted and made a Prince and a 
Saviour, to give repentance and the forgiveness of sins. 
 2dly, A declaration of the way and manner how believers do live upon 
Christ in the exercise of faith, whereby, according to the promise and 
appointment of God, they derive from him the whole grace and mercy 
whereof in this world they are made partakers, and are established in 
the expectation of what they shall receive hereafter by his power. And 
that two things do hence ensue: (1st,) The necessity of universal 
evangelical obedience, seeing it is only in and by the duties of it 
that faith is, or can be, kept in a due exercise unto the ends 
mentioned. (2dly,) That believers do hereby increase continually with 
the increase of God, and grow up into him who is the head, until they 
become the fulness of him who fills all in all. 
 3dly, A conviction that a real interest in, and participation of, 
these things cannot be obtained any other way but by the actual 
exercise of faith on the person of Jesus Christ. 
 These things were necessary to be handled at large with reference 
unto the end proposed. But, for sundry reasons, the whole of this 
labour is here declined. For some of the particulars mentioned I have 
already insisted on in other discourses heretofore published, and that 
with respect unto the end here designed. And this argument cannot be 
handled as it does deserve, unto full satisfaction, without an entire 
discourse concerning the life of faith; which my present design will 
not admit of.

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 16...)

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