Advent Reflection #22: John Owen on the Glory of Christ in the Incarnation

My heart was helped this morning–all the way from the 17th century–by John Owen’s meditation on the glory of Christ in the Incarnation.  I hope and pray yours will be as well.  The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 4 of Owen’s work, The Glory of Christ.  

“But had we the tongue of men and angels, we were not able in any just measure to express the glory of this condescension [i.e. the Incarnation]; for it is the most ineffable effect of the divine wisdom of the Father and of the love of the Son–the highest evidence of the care of God toward mankind.  What can be equal unto it?  What can be like it?  It is the glory of the Christian religion, and the animating soul of all evangelical truth.  This carrieth the mystery of the wisdom of God above the reason or understanding of men and angels, to be the object of faith and admiration only.  A mystery it is that becomes the greatness of God…

” …He who was eternally in the form of God–that is, essentially so, God by nature, equally participant of the same divine nature with God the Father; “God over all, blessed for ever;” who humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth–He takes on Him the nature of man, takes it to be His own, whereby He was no less truly a man in time than He was truly God from eternity.  And to increase the wonder of this mystery, because it was necessary unto the end He designed, so humbled Himself in this assumption of our nature, as to make Himself of no reputation in this world; –yea, unto that degree, that He said of Himself that He was a worm, and no man, in comparison of them who were of any esteem.

We speak of these things in a poor, low, broken manner,–we teach them as they are revealed in the Scripture,–we labour by faith to adhere unto them as revealed; but when we come into a steady, direct view and consideration of the thing itself, our minds fail, our hearts tremble, and we can find no rest but in a holy admiration of what we cannot comprehend.  Here we are at a loss, and know that we shall be so whilst we are in this world; but all the ineffable fruits and benefits of this truth are communicated unto them that do believe.  

” …He is herein a sanctuary, an assured refuge unto all that betake themselves unto Him.  What is it that any man in distress, who flies thereunto, may look for in a sanctuary?  A supply of his wants, a deliverance from all his fears, a defence against all his dangers, is proposed unto him therein.  Such is the Lord Christ herein unto all sin-distressed souls; He is a refuge unto us in all spiritual distresses and disconsolations (Hebrews 6:18)….Are we, or any of us, burdened with a sense of sin?  Are we perplexed with temptations?  Are bowed down under the oppression of any spiritual adversary?  Do we, on any of these accounts, ‘walk in darkness and have no light’ [Isaiah 50:10]?  One view of the glory of Christ herein [i.e. in the Incarnation] is able to support us and relieve us.

“Unto whom we betake ourselves for relief in any case, we have regard to nothing but their will and power.  If they have both, we are sure of relief.  And what shall we fear in the will of Christ as unto this end?  What will He not do for us?  He who thus emptied and humbled Himself, who so infinitely condescended from the prerogative of His glory in His being and self-sufficiency, in the [assumption] of our nature for the discharge of the office of a mediator on our behalf,–will He not relieve us in all our distresses?  Will He not do all for us we stand in need of, that we may be eternally saved?  Will He not be a sanctuary unto us?  Nor have we hereon any ground to fear His power; for, by this infinite condescension to be a suffering man, He lost nothing of His power as God omnipotent,–nothing of His infinite wisdom or glorious grace.  He could still do all that He could do as God from eternity.  If there be any thing, therefore, in a [joining] of infinite power with infinite condescension, to constitute a sanctuary for distressed sinners, it is all in Christ Jesus.  And if we see Him not glorious herein, it is because there is no light of faith in us.”

John Owen, The Glory of Christ.  


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