(Owen, Christologia, Part 17)

Chapter XVII Other Evidences of Divine Wisdom in the Contrivance of 
the Work of Redemption in and by the Person of Christ, in Effects 
Evidencing a Condecency thereunto 
 That which remains of our present inquiry, is concerning those 
evidences of divine condecency, or suitableness unto infinite wisdom 
and goodness, which we may gather from the nature of this work, and 
its effects as expressed in divine revelation. Some few instances 
hereof I shall choose out from amongst many that might be insisted on. 
 1. Man was made to serve God in all things. In his person--in his 
soul and body--in all his faculties, powers, and senses-- all that was 
given unto him or intrusted with him--he was not his own, but every 
way a servant, in all that he was in all that he had, in all that he 
did or was to do. This he was made for--this state and condition was 
necessary unto him as a creature. It could be no otherwise with any 
that was so; it was so with the angels, who were greater in dignity 
and power than man. The very name of creature includes the condition 
of universal subjection and service unto the Creator. This condition, 
in and by his sin, Adam designed to desert and to free himself from. 
He would exalt himself out of the state of service and obedience 
absolute and universal, into a condition of self-sufficiency--of 
domination and rule. He would be as God, like unto God; that is, 
subject no more to him, be in no more dependence on him--but advance 
his own will above the will of God. And there is somewhat of this in 
every sin;--the sinner would advance his own will in opposition unto 
and above the will of God. But what was the event hereof? Man, by 
endeavouring to free himself from absolute subjection and universal 
service, to invade absolute dominion, fell into absolute and eternal 
 For our recovery out of this state and condition, considering how we 
cast ourselves into it, the way insisted on was found out by divine 
wisdom--namely, the incarnation of the Son of God; for he was Lord of 
all, had absolute dominion over all, owed no service, no obedience for 
himself--being in the form of God, and equal unto him. From this state 
of absolute dominion he descended into a condition of absolute 
service. As Adam sinned and fell by leaving leaving that state of 
absolute service which was due unto him, proper unto his nature, 
inseparable from it,--to attempt a state of absolute dominion which 
was not his own, not due unto him, not consistent with his nature; so 
the Son of God, being made the second Adam, relieved us by descending 
from a state of absolute dominion, which was his own--due to his 
nature--to take on him a state of absolute service, which was not his 
own, nor due unto him. And this being inconsistent with his own divine 
nature, he performed it by taking our nature on him--making it his 
own. He descended as much beneath himself in his self-humiliation, as 
Adam designed to ascend above himself in his pride and 
 The consideration of the divine grace and wisdom herein the apostle 
proposeth unto us, Pail 2: 6-8, "Who, being in the form of God, 
thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no 
reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in 
the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled 
himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." 
Adam being in the form--that is, the state and condition--of a 
servant, did by robbery attempt to take upon him the "form of God," or 
to make himself equal unto him. The Lord Christ being in the "form of 
God"--that is, his essential form, of the same nature with him-- 
accounted it no robbery to be in the state and condition of God, to be 
"equal to him;" but being made in the "fashion of a man," taking on 
him our nature, he also submitted unto the form or the state and 
condition of a servant therein. He had dominion over all, owed service 
and obedience unto none, being in the "form of God," and equal unto 
him--the condition which Adam aspired unto; but he condescended unto a 
state of absolute subjection and service for our recovery. This did no 
more belong unto him on his own account, than it belonged unto Adam to 
be like unto God, or equal to him. Wherefore it is said that he 
humbled himself unto it, as Adam would have exalted himself unto a 
state of dignity which was not his due. 
 This submission of the Son of God unto an estate of absolute and 
universal service is declared by the apostle, Heb. 10:5. For those 
words of the Psalmist, "Mine ears hast thou digged," or bored, Ps. 
40:6, he renders, "A body hast thou prepared me." There is an allusion 
in the words of the prophecy unto him under the law who gave up 
himself in absolute and perpetual service; in sign whereof his ears 
were bored with an awl. So the body of Christ was prepared for him, 
that therein he might be in a state of absolute service unto God. So 
he became to have nothing of his own--the original state that Adam 
would have forsaken; no, not [even] his life--he was obedient unto the 
 This way did divine wisdom find out and contrive, whereby more glory 
did arise unto the holiness and righteousness of God from his 
condescension unto universal service and obedience who was over all, 
God blessed for ever, than dishonour was cast upon them by the self- 
exaltation of him who, being in all things a servant, designed to be 
like unto God. 
 2. Adam was poor in himself, as a creature must be. What riches he 
had in his hand or power, they were none of his own, they were only 
trusted with him for especial service. In this state of poverty he 
commits the robbery of attempting to be like unto God. Being poor, he 
would make himself rich by the rapine of an equality with God. This 
brought on him and us all, as it was meet it should, the loss of all 
that we were trusted with. Hereby we lost the image of God--lost our 
right unto the creatures here below--lost ourselves and our souls. 
This was the issue of his attempt to be rich when he was poor. 
 In this state infinite wisdom has provided for our relief, unto the 
glory of God. For the Lord Jesus Christ being rich in himself, for our 
sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich, 2 
Cor. 8: 9. He was rich in that riches which Adam designed by robbery; 
for "he was in the form of God, and accounted it no robbery to be 
equal with God." But he made himself poor for our sakes, with poverty 
which Adam would have relinquished; yea, to that degree that "he had 
not where to lay his head"--he had nothing. Hereby he made a 
compensation for what he never made spoil of, or paid what he never 
took. In this condescension of his, out of grace and love to mankind, 
was God more glorified than he was dishonored in the sinful exaltation 
of Adam out of pride and self-love. 
 3. The sin of man consisted formally in disobedience; and it was the 
disobedience of him who was every way and in all things obliged unto 
obedience. For man--by all that he was, by all that he had received, 
by all that he expected or was farther capable of, by the constitution 
of his own nature, by the nature and authority of God, with his 
relation thereunto--was indispensably obliged unto universal 
obedience. His sin, therefore, was the disobedience of him who was 
absolutely obliged unto obedience by the very constitution of his 
being and necessary relation unto God. This was that which rendered it 
so exceeding sinful, and the consequent of it eternally miserable; and 
from this obligation his sin, in any one instance, was a total 
renunciation of all obedience unto God. 
 The recompense, with respect unto the glory of God, for disobedience 
must be by obedience, as has been before declared. and if there be not 
a full obedience yielded unto the law of God in that nature that 
sinned, man cannot be saved without an eternal violation of the glory 
of God therein. But the disobedience of him who was every way obliged 
unto obedience could not be compensated but by his obedience who was 
no way obliged thereunto; and this could be only the obedience of him 
that is God, (for all creatures are obliged to obedience for 
themselves,) and it could be performed only by him who was man. 
Wherefore, for the accomplishment of this obedience, he who, in his 
own person as God, was above the law, was in his human nature, in his 
own person as man, made under the law. Had he not been made under the 
law, what he did could not have been obedience; and had he not been in 
himself above the law, his obedience could not have been beneficial 
unto us. The sin of Adam (and the same is in the nature of every sin) 
consisted in this--that he who was naturally every way under the law, 
and subject unto it, would be every way above the law, and no way 
obliged by it. Wherefore it was taken away, unto the glory of God, by 
his obedience, who being in himself above the law, no way subject unto 
it, yet submitted, humbled himself, to be "made under the law," to be 
every way obliged by it. See Gal. 3: 13, 4: 4. This is the subject of 
the discourse of the apostle, Rom. 5, from verse 12 to the end of the 
 Unto the glory of God in all these ends, the person of Christ, as an 
effect of infinite wisdom, was meet and able to be a mediator and 
undertaker between God and man. In the union of both our natures in 
the same person he was so meet by his relation unto both;--unto God by 
filiation, or Sonship; unto us by brotherhood, or nearness of kindred, 
Heb. 2: 14. And he was able from the dignity of his person; for the 
temporary sufferings of him who was eternal were a full compensation 
for the eternal sufferings of them who were temporary. 
 4. God made man the lord of all things here below. He was, as it 
were, the heir of God, as unto the inheritance of this world in 
present, and as unto a blessed state in eternal glory. But he lost all 
right and title hereunto by sin. He made forfeiture of the whole by 
the law of tenure whereby he held it, and God took the forfeiture. 
Wherefore he designs a new heir of all, and vests the whole 
inheritance of heaven and earth in him, even in his Son. He appointed 
him "the heir of all things," Heb. 1: 2. This translation of God's 
inheritance the apostle declares, Heb. 2: 6-9; for the words which he 
cites from Ps. 8: 4-6,--"What is man, that thou art mindful of him, 
and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a 
little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and 
honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; 
thou hast put all things under his feet,"--do declare the original 
condition of mankind in general. But man forfeited the dominion and 
inheritance that he was intrusted withal; and God settleth it anew, 
solely in the man Christ Jesus. So the apostle adds, "We see not yet 
all things put under him;" but we see it all accomplished in Jesus, 
verse 8. But as all other inheritances do descend with their, so did 
this unto him with its burden. There was a great debt upon it--the 
debt of sin. This he was to undergo, to make payment of, or 
satisfaction for, or he could not rightly enter upon the inheritance. 
This could no otherwise be done but by his suffering in our nature, as 
has been declared. He who was the heir of all, was in himself to purge 
our sins. Herein did the infinite wisdom of God manifest itself, in 
that he conveyed the inheritance of all things unto him who was meet 
and able so to enter upon it, so to enjoy and possess it, as that no 
detriment or damage might arise unto the riches, the revenue, the 
glory of God, from the waste made by the former possessor. 
 5. Mankind was to be recovered unto faith and trust in God, as also 
unto the love of him above all. All these things had utterly forsaken 
our nature; and the reduction of them into it is a work of the 
greatest difficulty. We had so provoked God, he had given such 
evidences of his wrath and displeasure against us, and our minds 
thereon were so alienated from him, as we stood in need of the 
strongest motives and highest encouragements once to attempt to return 
unto him, so as to place all our faith and trust in him, and all our 
love upon him. 
 Sinners generally live in a neglect and contempt of God, in an enmity 
against him; but whenever they are convinced of a necessity to 
endeavour a return unto him, the first thing they have to conflict 
withal is fear. Beginning to understand who and what he is, as also 
how things stand between him and them, they are afraid to have 
anything to do with him, and judge it impossible that they should find 
acceptance with him. This was the sense that Adam himself had upon his 
sin, when he was afraid, and hid himself. And the sense of other 
sinners is frequently expressed unto the same purpose in Scripture. 
See Isa. 33:14; Micah 6: 6, 7. 
 All these discouragements are absolutely provided against in that way 
of our recovery which infinite wisdom has found out. It were a thing 
delightful to dwell on the securities given us therein, as unto our 
acceptance, in all those principles, acts, and duties wherein the 
renovation of the image of God does consist. I must contract my 
meditations, and shall therefore instance in some few things only unto 
that purpose. 
 (1.) Faith is not capable of greater encouragement or confirmation 
than lieth in this one consideration--that what we are to believe unto 
this end is delivered unto us by God himself in our nature. What could 
confirm our faith and hope in God, what could encourage us to expect 
acceptance with God, like this ineffable testimony of his goodwill 
unto us? The nature of things is not capable of greater assurance, 
seeing the divine nature is capable of no greater condescension. 
 This the Scripture proposeth as that which gives a just expectation 
that, against all fears and oppositions, we should close with divine 
calls and invitations to return unto God: "Last of all he sent unto 
them his son, saying, They will reverence my son," Matt. 21: 37,--they 
will believe the message which I send by him. He has "spoken unto us 
by his Son"--"the brightness of his glory, and the express image of 
his person," Heb. 1: 1-3. The consideration hereof is sufficient to 
dispel all that darkness and confusion which fear, dread, and guilt do 
bring on the minds of men, when they are invited to return unto God. 
That that God against whom we have sinned should speak unto us, and 
treat with us, in our oven nature, about a return unto himself, is the 
utmost that divine excellencies could condescend unto. And as this was 
needful for us, (though proud men and senseless of sin understand it 
not,) so, if it be refused, it will be attended with the sorest 
destruction, Heb. 12: 25. 
 (2.) This treaty principally consists in a divans declaration, that 
all the causes of fear and dread upon the account of sin are removed 
and taken away. This is the substance of the Gospel, as it is declared 
by the apostle, 2 Cor. 5: 18-21. Wherefore, if hereon we refuse to 
return unto God--to make him the object of our faith, trust, love, and 
delight--it is not by reason of any old or former sin, not of that of 
our original apostasy from God, nor of the effects of it against the 
law, [but] by the means of a new sin, outdoing them all in guilt and 
contempt of God. Such is final unbelief against the proposal of the 
gospel. It has more malignity in it than all other sins whatever. But 
by this way of our recovery, all cause of fear and dread is taken away- 
-all pretences of a distrust of the love and good-will of God are 
defeated; so that if men will not hereon be recovered unto him, it is 
from their hatred of him and enmity unto him--the fruits whereof they 
must feed on to eternity. 
 (3.) Whereas, if we will return unto God by faith, we are also to 
return unto him in love, what greater motive can there be unto it than 
that infinite love of the Father and the Son unto us, which is 
gloriously displayed in this way of our recovery? See 1 John 4: 9, 10 
"Si amare pigebat, saltem redamare ne pigeat." 
 (4.) The whole race of mankind falling into sin against God, and 
apostasy from him, there was no example left unto them to manifest how 
excellent, how glorious and comely a thing it is, to live unto God, to 
believe and trust in him--to cleave unto him unchangeably by love; for 
they were utter stranger unto what is done by angels above, nor could 
be affected with their example. But without a pattern of these things, 
manifesting their excellency and reward, they could not earnestly 
endeavour to attain unto them. This is given us most conspicuously in 
the human nature of Christ. See Heb. 12: 2, 3. Hereby, therefore, 
everything needful for our encouragement to return unto God is, in 
infinite wisdom, provided for and proposed unto us. 
 6. Divine Wisdom, in the way of our recovery by Jesus Christ, God 
manifest in the flesh, designed to glorify a state of obedience unto 
God, and to cast the reproach of the most inexpressible folly on the 
relinquishment of that state by sin. For, as God would recover and 
restore us; so be would do it in a way of obedience on our part of 
that obedience which we had forsaken. The design of man, which was 
imposed on him by the craft of Satan, was to become wise like unto 
God, knowing good and evil. The folly of this endeavour was quickly 
discovered in its effects. Sense of nakedness, with shame, misery, and 
death, immediately ensued thereon. 
 But divine Wisdom thought meet to aggravate the reproach of this 
folly. He would let us see wherein the true knowledge of good and evil 
did consist, and how foolishly we had aspired unto it by a 
relinquishment of that state of obedience wherein we were created. 
 Job 28 from verse 12 unto the end of the chapter, there is an inquiry 
after wisdom, and the place of its habitation. All creatures give an 
account that it is not in them, that it is hid from theme only they 
have heard the fame thereof. All the context is to evince that it is 
essentially and originally only in God himself. But if we cannot 
comprehend it in itself, yet may we not know what is wisdom unto us, 
and what is required thereunto? Yes, saith he; for "unto man he said, 
Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil 
is understanding," verse 28. Man, on the other hand, by the suggestion 
of Satan, thought, and now of himself continues to think, otherwise; 
namely, that the way to be wise is to relinquish these things. The 
world will not be persuaded that "the fear of the Lord is wisdom, and 
to depart from evil is understanding;" yea, there is nothing that the 
most of men do more despise and scorn, than thoughts that true wisdom 
does consist in faith, love, fear, and obedience unto God. See Ps. 14: 
6. Whatever else may be pleaded to be in it, yet sure enough they are 
that those who count it wisdom are but fools 
 To cast an everlasting reproach of folly on this contrivance of the 
devil and man, and uncontrollably to evince wherein alone true wisdom 
does consist, God would glorify a state of obedience. He would render 
it incomparably more amiable, desirable, and excellent, than ever it 
could have appeared to have been in the obedience of all the angels in 
heaven and men on earth, had they continued therein. This he did in 
this way of our recovery,--in that his own eternal Son entered into a 
state of obedience, and took upon him the "form" or condition "of a 
servant" unto God. 
 What more evident conviction could there be of the folly of mankind 
in hearkening unto the suggestion of Satan to seek after wisdom in 
another condition? How could that great maxim, which is laid down in 
opposition unto all vain thoughts of man, be more eminently 
exemplified--that "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart 
from evil, that is understanding?" What greater evidence could be 
given, that the nature of man is not capable of a better condition 
than that of service and universal obedience unto God? How could any 
state be represented more amiable, desirable, and blessed? In the 
obedience of Christ, of the Son of God in our nature, apostate sinners 
are upbraided with their folly in relinquishing that state which, by 
his susception of it, is rendered so glorious. What have we attained 
by leaving that condition which the eternal Son of God delighted in? 
"I delight," saith he, "to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is in 
the midst of my bowels," Ps. 40:8--margin. It is the highest 
demonstration that our nature is not capable of more order, more 
beauty, more glory, than consists in obedience unto God. And that 
state which we fell into upon our forsaking of it, we now know to be 
all darkness, confusion, and misery. 
 Wherefore, seeing God, in infinite grace and mercy, would recover us 
unto himself; and, in his righteousness and holiness, would do this in 
a way of obedience,--of that obedience which we had forsaken; it has 
an eminent impression of divine wisdom upon it, that in this mystery 
of God manifest in the flesh, the only means of our recovery, he would 
cast the reproach of the most inexpressible folly on our apostasy from 
a state of it, and render it amiable and desirable unto all who are to 
return unto him. 
 To bear the shame of this folly, to be deeply sensible of it, and to 
live in a constant prospect and view of the glory of obedience in the 
person of Christ, with a sedulous endeavour for conformity thereunto, 
is the highest attainment of our wisdom in this world;--and whosoever 
is otherwise minded, is so at his own utmost peril. 
 7. God, in infinite wisdom, has by this means secured the whole 
inheritance of this life and that which is to come from a second 
forfeiture. Whatever God will bestow on the children of men, he grants 
it unto them in the way of an inheritance. So the land of Canaan, 
chosen out for a representative of spiritual and eternal things, was 
granted unto Abraham and his seed for an inheritance. And his interest 
in the promise is expressed by being "heir of the world." All the 
things of this life, that are really good and useful unto us, do 
belong unto this inheritance. So they did when it was vested in Adam. 
All things of grace and glory do so also. And the whole of the 
privilege of believers is, that they are heirs of salvation. Hence 
godliness has the "promise of the life that now is, and of that which 
is to come," l Tim. 4: 8. And the promise is only of the inheritance. 
This inheritance, as was before intimated, was lost in Adam, and 
forfeited into the hand of the great Lord, the great possessor of 
heaven and earth. In his sovereign grace and goodness he was pleased 
again to restore it--as unto all the benefits of it--unto the former 
tenants; and that with an addition of grace, and a more exceeding 
weight of glory. But withal, infinite wisdom provides that a second 
forfeiture shall not be made of it. Wherefore the grant of it is not 
made immediately unto any of those for whose use and benefit it is 
prepared and granted. They had been once tried, and failed in their 
trust, unto their own eternal beggary and ruin, had not infinite grace 
interposed for their relief. And it did not become the wisdom and 
glory of God to make a second grant of it, which might be frustrate in 
like manner. Wherefore he would not commit it again unto any mere 
creature whatever; nor would it safely have been so done with security 
unto his glory. For-- 
 (1.) It was too great a trust--even the whole inheritance of heaven 
and earth, all the riches of grace and glory--to be committed unto any 
one of them. God would not give this glory unto any one creature. If 
it be said it was first committed unto Adam, and therefore to have it 
again is not an honour above the capacity of a creature; I say that 
the nature of the inheritance is greatly changed. The whole of what 
was intrusted with Adam comes exceedingly short of what God has nor 
prepared as the inheritance of the church. There is grace in it, and 
glory added unto it, which Adam neither had nor could have right unto. 
It is now of that nature, as could neither be intrusted with, nor 
communicated by, any mere crew Besides, he that has it is the object 
of the faith and trust of the church; nor can any be interested in any 
part of this inheritance without the exercise of those and all other 
graces on him whose the inheritance is. And so to be the object of our 
faith, is the prerogative of the divine nature alone. 
 (2.) No mere creators could secure this inheritance that it should be 
lost no more; and yet if it were so, it would be highly derogatory 
unto the glory of God. For two things were required hereunto,--First, 
That he in whom this trust is vested should be in himself incapable of 
any such failure, as through which, by the immutable, eternal law of 
obedience unto God, a forfeiture of it should be made;--Secondly, That 
he undertake for them all who shall be heirs of salvation, who shall 
enjoy this inheritance, that none of them should lose or forfeit their 
own personal interest in it, or the terms whereon it is conveyed and 
communicated unto them. But no mere creature was sufficient unto these 
ends; for no one of them, in and by him in the constitution of his 
nature, is absolutely free from falling from God, himself They may 
receive--the angels in heaven and the glorified saints have received-- 
such a confirmation, in and by grace, as that they shall never 
actually apostatise or fall from God; but this they have not from 
themselves, nor the principles of their own nature,--which is 
necessary unto him that shall receive this trust. For so when it was 
first vested in Adam, he was left to preserve it by the innate 
concreated abilities of his own nature. And as unto the latter, all 
the angels in heaven cannot undertake to secure the obedience of any 
one man, so as that the conveyance of the inheritance may be sure unto 
him. Wherefore, with respect hereunto, those angels themselves though 
the most holy and glorious of all the creatures of God, have no 
greater trust or interest than to be "ministering spirits, sent forth 
to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," Heb. 1: 14. So 
unmet are they to have the whole inheritance vested in any of them. 
 But all this infinite wisdom has provided for in the great "mystery 
of godliness God manifest in the flesh." God herein makes his only Son 
the best of all things, and vests the whole inheritance absolutely in 
him. For the promise, which is the court-roll of heaven--the only 
external mean and record of its conveyance--was originally made unto 
Christ only. God said not, "And to seeds as of many; but as of one, 
And to thy seed, which is Christ," Gal 3: 16. And we become again 
heirs of God only as we are joint heirs with Christ, Rom. 8: 17; that 
is by being taken into a participation of that inheritance which is 
vested in him alone. For many may be partakers of the benefit of that 
whose right and title is in one alone, when it is conveyed unto him 
for their use. And hereby the ends before mentioned are fully provided 
for. For-- 
 [1.] He who is thus made the "heir of all" is meet to be intrusted 
with the glory of it. For where this grant is solemnly expressed, it 
is declared that he is the "brightness of the Father's glory, and the 
express image of his person," Heb. 1: 2, 3; and that by him the worlds 
were made. He alone was meet to be this heir who is partaker of the 
divine nature, and by whom all things were created; for such things 
belong unto it as cannot appertain unto any other. The reader may 
consult, if he please, our exposition of that place of the apostle. 
 [2.] Any failure in his own person was absolutely impossible. The 
subsistence of the human nature in the person of the Son of God, 
rendered the least sin utterly impossible unto him; for all the moral 
operations of that nature are the acts of the person of the Son of 
God. And hereby not only is the inheritance secured but also an 
assurance that it is so is given unto all them that do believe. This 
is the life and soul of all Gospel comforts, that the whole 
inheritance of grace and glory is vested in Christ, where it can never 
suffer loss or damage. When we are sensible of the want of grace, 
should we go unto God, and say, "Father, give us the portion of goods 
that falls unto us," as the prodigal did, we should quickly consume 
it, and bring ourselves unto the utmost misery, as he did also. But in 
Christ the whole inheritance is secured for evermore. 
 [3.] He is able to preserve all those who shall be heirs of this 
inheritance, that they forfeit not their own personal interest 
therein, according unto the terms of the covenant whereby it is made 
over to them. He can and will, by the power of his grace, preserve 
them all unto the full enjoyment of the purchased inheritance. We hold 
our title by the rod at the will of the Lord; and many failures we are 
liable unto, whereon we are "in misericordia Domini," and are subject 
unto amercements/ But yet the whole inheritance being granted unto 
Christ is eternally secured for us, and we are by his grace preserved 
from such offences against the supreme Lord, or committing any such 
wastes, as should cast us out of our possession. See Ps. 89: 27-32. 
Thus in all things infinite wisdom has provided that no second 
forfeiture should be made of the inheritance of grace and glory, which 
as it would have been eternally ruinous unto mankind, so it was 
inconsistent with the glory and honour of God. 
 8. The wisdom of God was gloriously exalted in the righteous 
destruction of Satan and his interest, by the incarnation and 
mediation of the Son of God. He had prevailed against the first way of 
the manifestation of divine glory; and therein both pleased and prided 
himself. Nothing could ever give such satisfaction unto the malicious 
murderer, as the breach he had occasioned between God and man, with 
his hopes and apprehensions that it would be eternal He had no other 
thoughts but that the whole race of mankind, which God had designed 
unto the enjoyment of himself, should be everlastingly ruined. So he 
had satisfied his envy against man in his eternal destruction with 
himself, and his malice against God in depriving him of his glory. 
Hereon, upon the distance that he had made between God and man, he 
interposed himself, and boasted himself for a long season as "The god 
of this world," who had all power over it and in it. It belonged unto 
the honour of the wisdom of God that he should be defeated in this 
triumph. Neither was it meet that this should be done by a mere act of 
sovereign omnipotent power; for he would yet glory in his craft and 
the success of it,--that there was no way to disappoint him, but by 
crushing him with power, without respect unto righteousness or 
demonstration of wisdom. Wherefore, it must be done in such a way as 
wherein he might see, unto his eternal shame and confusion, all his 
arts and subtleties defeated by infinite wisdom, and his enterprise 
overthrown in a way of right and equity. The remark that the Holy 
Ghost puts on the serpent, which was his instrument in drawing man 
unto apostasy from God--namely, that he was "more sure than any beast 
of the field"--is only to intimate wherein Satan designed his attempt, 
and from whence he hoped for his success. It was not an act of power 
or rage; but of craft, counsel, subtlety, and deceit. Herein he 
gloried and prided himself; wherefore the way to disappoint him with 
shame, must be a contrivance of infinite wisdom, turning all his 
artifices into mere folly. 
 This work of God, with respect unto him, is expressed in the 
Scripture two ways:--First, it is called the spoiling of him, as unto 
his power and the prey that he had taken. The "strong man armed" was 
to be bound, and his goods spoiled. The Lord Christ, by his death, 
"destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." He 
"led captivity captive," spoiling principalities and powers, 
triumphing over them in his cross. So Abraham, when he smote the 
kings, not only delivered Lot, who was their captive, but also took 
all their spoils. Again, it is expressed by the destruction of his 
works: "For this cause was the Son of God manifested, that he might 
destroy the works of the devil." The spoils which he had in his own 
power were taken from him, and the works which he had erected in the 
minds of men were demolished. The web which he had woven to clothe 
himself withal, as the god of this world, was unravelled to the last 
thread. And although all this seems to represent a work of power, yet 
was it indeed an effect of wisdom and righteousness principally. 
 For the power which Satan had over mankind was in itself unjust. For, 
(1.) He obtained it by fraud and and deceit: "The serpent beguiled" 
Eve. (2.) He possessed it with injustice, with respect unto God, being 
an invader of his right and possession. (3.) He used and exercised it 
with malice, tyranny, and rage;--so as that it was every way unjust, 
both in its foundation and execution. With respect hereunto he was 
justly destroyed by omnipotent power, which puts forth itself in his 
eternal punishment. But, on the other side, mankind did suffer justly 
under his power--being given up unto it in the righteous judgement of 
God. For one may suffer justly what another does unjustly inflict; as 
when one causelessly strikes an innocent man, if he strikes him again, 
he who did the first injury suffereth justly, but the other does 
unjustly in revenging himself. Wherefore, as man was given up unto him 
in a way of punishment, he was a lawful captive, and was not to be 
delivered but in a way of justice. And this was done in a way that 
Satan never thought of. For, by the obedience and sufferings of the 
Son of God incarnate, there was full satisfaction made unto the 
justice of God for the sins of man, a reparation of his glory, and an 
exaltation of the honour of his holiness, with all the other 
properties of his nature, as also of his law, outbalancing all the 
diminution of it by the first apostasy of mankind; as has been 
declared. Immediately hereon all the charms of Satan were dissolved, 
all his chains loosed, his darkness that he had brought on the 
creation dispelled, his whole plot and design defeated;--whereon he 
saw himself, and was exposed unto all the holy angels of heaven, in 
all the counsels, craft, and power he had boasted of, to be nothing 
but a congeries--a mass of darkness, malice, folly, impotency, and 
 Hereon did Satan make an entrance into one of the principal parts of 
his eternal torments, in that furious self-maceration which he is 
given up unto on the consideration of his defeat and disappointment. 
Absolute power he always feared, and what it would produce; for he 
believes that, and trembles. But against any other war he thought he 
had secured himself. It lies plain to every understanding, what shame, 
confusion, and self-revenge, the proud apostate was cast into, upon 
his holy, righteous disappointment of his design; whereas he had 
always promised himself to carry his cause, or at least to put God to 
act in the destruction of his dominion, by mere omnipotent power, 
without regard unto any other properties of his nature To find that 
which he contrived for the destruction of the glory of God--the 
disappointment of his ends in the creation of all things--and the 
eternal ruin of mankind, to issue in a more glorious exaltation of the 
holy properties of the divine nature, and an unspeakable augmentation 
of blessedness unto mankind itself, is the highest aggravation of his 
eternal torments. This was a work every way becoming the infinite 
wisdom of God. 
 9. Whereas there are three distinct persons in the holy Trinity, it 
became the wisdom of God that the Son, the second person, should 
undertake this work, and be incarnate. I shall but sparingly touch on 
this glorious mystery; for as unto the reason of it, it is absolutely 
resolved into the infinite wisdom and sovereign counsel of the divine 
will. And all such things are the objects of a holy admiration--not 
curiously to be inquired into. To intrude ourselves into the things 
which we have not seen--that is, which are not revealed--in those 
concernments of them which are not revealed, is not unto the advantage 
of faith in our edification. But as unto what is declared of them-- 
either immediately and directly, or by their relation unto other known 
truths--we may meditate on them unto the improvement of faith and love 
towards God. And some things are thus evident unto us in this mystery. 
 (1.) We had by sin lost the image of God, and thereby all gracious 
acceptance with him,--all interest in his love and favor. In our 
recovery, as we have declared, this image is again to be restored unto 
us, or we are to be renewed into the likeness of God. And there was a 
condecency unto divine wisdom, that this work should, in a peculiar 
manner, be effected by him who is the essential image of God--that is, 
the Father. This, as we have formerly showed, was the person of the 
Son. Receiving his personal subsistence, and therewithal the divine 
nature, with all its essential properties, from the Father by eternal 
generation, he was thereon the express image of his person, and the 
brightness of his glory. Whatever is in the person of the Father is in 
the person of the Son, and being all received from the Father, he is 
his essential image. And one end of his incubation was, that he might 
be the representative image of God unto us. Whereas, therefore, in the 
work of our recovery, the image of God should be restored in us, there 
was a condecency that it should be done by him who was the essential 
image of God; for it consists in the communication of the effects and 
likeness of the same image unto us which was essentially in himself 
 (2.) We were by nature the sons of God. We stood in relation of sons 
unto him by virtue of our creation--the communication of his image and 
likeness--with the preparation of an inheritance for us. On the same 
accounts the angels are frequently called the sons of God. This title, 
this relation unto God, we utterly lost by sin, becoming aliens from 
him, and enemies unto him. Without a recovery into this estate we 
cannot be restored, nor brought unto the enjoyment of God. And this 
cannot be done but by adoption. Now, it seems convenient unto divine 
wisdom that he should recover our sonship by adoption, who was himself 
the essential and eternal Son of God. 
 (3.) The sum of what we can comprehend in this great mystery ariseth 
from the consideration of the order of the holy persons of the blessed 
Trinity in their operations; for their order herein does follow that 
of their subsistence. Unto this great work there are peculiarly 
required, authority, love, and power--all directed by infinite wisdom. 
These originally reside in the person of the Father, and the acting of 
them in this matter is constantly ascribed unto him. He sent the Son, 
as he gives the Spirit, by an act of sovereign authority. And he sent 
the Son from his eternal love;--he loved the world, and sent his Son 
to die. This is constantly assigned to be the effect of the love and 
grace of the Father. And he wrought in Christ, and he works in us, 
with respect unto the end of this mystery, with the "exceeding 
greatness of his power," Eph. 1: 19. The Son, who is the second person 
in the order of subsistence, in the order of operation puts the whole 
authority, love, and power of the Father in execution. This order of 
subsistence and operation thereon is expressly declared by the 
apostle, 1 Cor. 8: 6, "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom 
are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are 
all things, and we by him." The Father is the original fountain and 
spring,; "ex hou", from whom--[from] whose original authority, love, 
goodness, and power--are all these things. That expression, "from 
him," peculiarly denotes the eternal original of all things. But how 
are this authority, goodness, love, and power in the Father, whence 
all these things spring and arise, made effectual--how are their 
effects wrought out and accomplished? "There is one Lord," even Jesus 
Christ, a distinct person from the Father, "di hou", "by whom are all 
things." He works in the order of his subsistence, to execute, work, 
and accomplish all that originally proceedeth from the Father. By the 
Holy Spirit, who is the third person in order of subsistence, there is 
made a perfecting application of the whole unto all its proper ends 
 Wherefore, this work of our redemption and recovery being the 
especial effect of the authority, love, and power of the Father--it 
was to be executed in and by the person of the Son; as the application 
of it unto us is made by the Holy Ghost. Hence it became not the 
person of the Father to assume our nature;--it belonged not thereunto 
in the order of subsistence and operation in the blessed Trinity. The 
authority, love, and power whence the whole work proceeded, were his 
in a peculiar manner. But the execution of what infinite wisdom 
designed in them and by them belonged unto another. Nor did this 
belong unto the person of the Holy Spirit, who, in order of divine 
operation following that of his subsistence, was to perfect the whole 
work, in making application of it unto the church when it was wrought. 
Wherefore it was every way suited unto divine wisdom--unto the order 
of the Holy Persons in their subsistence and operation--that this work 
should be undertaken and accomplished in the person of the Son. What 
is farther must be referred unto another world. 
 These are some few of those things wherein the infinite wisdom of God 
in this holy contrivance giveth forth some rays of itself into 
enlightened minds and truly humbled souls. But how little a portion of 
it is heard by us! How weak, how low are our conceptions about it! We 
cannot herein find out the Almighty unto perfection. No small part of 
the glory of heaven will consist in that comprehension which we shall 
have of the mystery of the wisdom, love, and grace of God herein. 
 Howbeit, we are with all diligence to inquire into it whilst we are 
here in the way. It is the very centre of all glorious evangelical 
truths. Not one of them can be understood, believed, or improved as 
they ought, without a due comprehension of their relation hereunto; as 
we have showed before. 
 This is that which the prophets of old inquired into and after with 
all diligence, even the mystery of God manifest in the flesh, with the 
glory that ensued thereon, 1 Pet. 1: 11. Yet had they not that light 
to discern it by which we have. The "least in the kingdom of God," as 
to the knowledge of this mystery, may be above the greatest of them. 
And ought we not to fear lest our sloth under the beams of the sun 
should be condemned by their diligence in the twilight? 
 This the angels bow down to look into, although their concerns 
therein are not equal to ours. But angels are angels, and prophets 
were prophets; we are a generation of poor, sinfull men, who are 
little concerned in the glory of God or our own duty. 
 Is it not much to be lamented that many Christians content themselves 
with a very superficiary knowledge of these things? How are the 
studies, the abilities, the time, and diligence of many excellent 
persons engaged in, and laid out about, the works of nature, and the 
effects of divine wisdom and power in them, by whom any endeavor to 
inquire into this glorious mystery is neglected, if not despised! 
Alas! The light of divine wisdom in the greatest works of nature holds 
not the proportion of the meanest star unto the sun in its full 
strength, unto that glory of it which shines in this mystery of God 
manifest in the flesh, and the work accomplished thereby! A little 
time shall put an end unto the whole subject of their inquiries, with 
all the concernment of God and man in them for evermore. This alone is 
that which fills up eternity, and which, although it be now with some 
a nothing, yet will shortly be all. 
 Is it not much more to be lamented, that many who are called 
Christians do even despise these mysteries? Some oppose them directly 
with pernicious heresies about the person of Christ, denying his 
divine nature, or the personal union of his two natures whereby the 
whole mystery of infinite wisdom is evacuated and rejected; and some 
there are who, though they do not deny the truth of this mystery, yet 
they both despise and reproach such as with any diligence endeavor to 
inquire into it. I shall add the words used on a like occasion, unto 
them who sincerely believe the mysteries of the Gospel: "But ye, 
beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in 
the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the 
mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." And the due 
contemplation of this mystery will certainly be attended with many 
spiritual advantages. 
 [1.] It will bring in steadfastness in believing, as unto the 
especial concerns of our own souls; so as to give unto God the glory 
that is his due thereon. This is the work, these are the ends, of 
faith, Rom. 5: 1-5. We see how many Christians who are sincere 
believers, yet fluctuate in their minds with great uncertainties as 
unto their own state and condition. The principal reason of it is, 
because they are "unskilfull in the word of righteousness," and so are 
babes, in a weak condition, as the apostle speaks, Heb. 5: 13. This is 
the way of spiritual peace. When the soul of a believer is able to 
take a view of the glory of the wisdom of God, exalting all the other 
holy properties of his nature, in this great mystery unto our 
salvation, it will obviate all fears, remove all objections, and be a 
means of bringing in assured peace into the mind; which without a due 
comprehension of it will never be attained. 
 [2.] The acting of faith hereon is that which is accompanied with its 
great power to change and transform the soul into the image and 
likeness of Chris. So is it expressed by the apostle, 2 Cor. 3: 18, 
"We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, 
are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the 
Spirit of the Lord"--we all beholding--"katoptizomenoi", not taking a 
transient glance of these things, but diligently inspecting them, as 
those do who, through a glass, design a steady view of things at a 
distance. That which we are thus to behold by the continued actings of 
faith in holy contemplation, is the "glory of God in the face of Jesus 
Christ," as it is expressed, chap. 4: 6; which is nothing but that 
mystery of godliness in whose explanation we have been engaged. And 
what is the effect of the steady contemplation of this mystery by 
faith? "Metamorfoumetha"--"we are changed"--made quite other creatures 
than we were--cast into the form, figure, and image of Jesus Christ 
the great design of all believers in this world. Would we, then, be 
like unto Christ? Would we bear the image of the heavenly, as we have 
borne the image of the earthy? Is nothing so detestable unto us as the 
deformed image of the old man, in the lusts of the mind and of the 
flesh? Is nothing so amiable and desirable as the image of Christ, and 
the representation of God in him? This is the way, this is the means 
of attaining the end which we aim at. 
 [3.] Abounding in this duty is the most effectual means of freeing 
us, in particular, from the shame and bane of profession in 
earthlyminded. There is nothing so unbecoming a Christian as to have 
his mind always exercised about, always filled with thoughts of, 
earthly things and according as men's thoughts are exercised about 
them, their affections are increased and inflamed towards them. These 
things mutually promote one another, and there is a kind of 
circulation in them. Multiplied thoughts inflame affections, and 
inflamed affections increase the number of thoughts concerning them. 
Nothing is more repugnant unto the whole life of faith, nothing more 
obstructive unto the exercise of all grace, than a prevalence of this 
frame of mind. And at this season, in an especial manner, it is 
visibly preying on the vitals of religion. To abound in the 
contemplation of this mystery, and in the exercise of faith about it, 
as it is diametrically opposed unto this frame, so it will gradually 
cast it out of the soul. And without this we shall labour in the fire 
for deliverance from this pernicious evil. 
 [4.] And hereby are we prepared for the enjoyment of glory above. No 
small part of that glory consists in the eternal contemplation and 
adoration of the wisdom, goodness, love, and power of God in this 
mystery, and the effects of it; as shall afterward be declared. 
 And how can we better or otherwise be prepared for it, but by the 
implanting a sense of it on our minds by sedulous contemplation whilst 
we are in this world? God will not take us into heaven, into the 
vision and possession of heavenly glory, with our heads and hearts 
reeking with the thoughts and affections of earthly things. He has 
appointed means to make us "meet for the inheritance of the saints in 
light," before he will bring us into the enjoyment of it. And this is 
the principal way whereby he doth it; for hereby it is that we are 
"changed" into the image of Christ, "from glory to glory," and make 
the nearest approaches unto the eternal fulness of it.

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 18...)

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