John Owen.

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many other privileges, we are sealed unto the day of redemption.
This is the covenant of God, that his Spirit and the word of the
gospel shall go and shall abide together with his elect, Isa. lix. 21.
And he is given unto us by the gospel on many accounts: —

(1.) Because he is the gift and grant of the author of the gospel,
as to all the especial ends and concernments of salvation. Joim
tells us that the Spirit was not given when Jesus was not as yet
glorified, chap. vii. 39, — that is, not in such a manner as God liath
annexed unto this salvation; and therefore Peter tells us that when


the Lord Christ ascended up on high, he received of tlie Father tlie
promise of the Spirit, and poured liim forth on them which did
LeUeve, Acts ii. 33. And this he did, according to his own great
promise and prediction whilst he conversed with his disciples in
the days of his flesh. There was not any thing that he more sup-
porteil and encouraged them withal, nor more raised their hearts to
an expectation of, than this, that he would send unto them and
bestow upon them the Holy Ghost, for many blessed ends and y>ur-
poses, and that to abide with them for ever, as we may see, John
xiv. 15, 16. And this is the great privilege of the gospel, that the
author of it is alone the donor and bestower of the Holy Spirit;
which of what concernment it is in the business of our salvation, all
men know who have any acquaintance with these things.

(2.) He is 2}romised in the gos2)el, and therein alone. All the
promises of the Scripture, whether in the Old Testament or New,
whose subject is the Siairit, are evangelical; they all belong unto
and are parts of the gospel. For the law had no promise of the
Spirit, or any privilege by him, annexed unto it. And hence he is
called "The Holy Spirit of promise," Eph, i. 13; who, next unto the
person of, was the great subject of promises from the founda-
tion of the world.

(3.) By these promises are believers actually and really made
partakers of the Spirit. They are " vehicula Spiritus," the cha-
riots that bring this Holy Spirit into our souls, 2 Pet. i. 4. By these
"great and precious promises'" is the "divine nature" communicated
unto us, so far forth as unto the indwelling of this blessed Spirit. Every
evangelical promise is unto a believer but as it were the clothing of
the Spirit; in receiving whereof he receives the Spirit himself, for
some of the blessed ends of this great salvation. God makes use of
the word of the gospel, and of no other means, to this purpose. So
that herein also it is " the grace of God that bringeth salvation."

3. In our justification. And this hath so great a share in this
salvation that it is often called salvation itself; and they that are
justified are said to be " saved;" as Eph. ii. 8. And this is by the
gospel alone; which is a point of such importance that it is the main
subject of some of Paul's epistles, and is fully taught in them all.
And in sundry respects it is by the gospel: —

(1.) Because therein and thereby is appointed and constituted the
new law of justification, whereby even a sinner may come to be jus-
tified before God. The law of justification was, that he that did the
works of the law should live in them, Rom. x. 5. But this became
weak and unprofitable by reason of sin, Bom. viii. 3 ; Heb. viii. 7-1 2.
That any siimer (and we have all sinned and come short of the glory
of God) should be justified by this law or rule implies a contradic-
tion and is utterly impossible. Wherefore Gud by the gospel hath


constituted a new law of justification, even "the law of faith/' Rom.
iii. 27; which is the holy declaration of his will and grace that sin-
ners shall be justified and accepted with him by faith in the blood
of Christ, " without the works of the law," — that " he that believeth
jihall be saved/' This is equally constituted and appointed in the
law of faith to be proposed unto all that shall believe. And on the
account hereof the gospel is salvation.

(2.) Because in every justification there must be a righteousness
before God, on the account whereof the person to be justified is to
be pronounced and declared righteous, this is tendered, proposed,
and exhibited unto us in and by the gospel. This is no other but
the Lord Christ himself and his righteousness, Isa. xlv. 21, 22; Rom.
viii. 3, 4, X. 4; 2 Cor. v. 21 ; Gal. iii. 13, 14. Now, Christ with his
whole righteousness, and all the benefits thereof, are tendered unto
us, and given unto or bestowed on them that do believe, by the
promise of the gospel. Therein is he preached and proposed as
crucified before our eyes, and we are invited to accept of him ; which
the souls of believers through the gospel do accordingly,

(3.) And faith itself whereby we receive the Lord Christ for all
the ends for which he is tendered unto us, and become actually
interested in all the fruits and benefits of his mediation, is wrought
in us by the word of the gospel: for, as we have declared, it is the
seed of all grace whatever; and in especial, "faith cometh by hear-
ing, and hearing by the word of God," Rom. x. 17. Conviction of
sin is by the law ; but faith is by the gospel. And this is the way
and means which God hath appointed on our part for the giving us
an actual interest in justification, as established in the law of the
gospel, Rom. v. 1. Again, —

(4.) The promise of the gospel, conveyed unto the soul by the
Holy Spirit, and entertained by faith, completes the justification of
a believer in his own conscience, and gives him assured peace with
God. And thus the whole work of this main branch of our salva-
tion is wrought by the gospel.

4. There is in this salvation an instruction and growth in spi7-iti(al
wisdom, and an acquaintance with " the mystery of God, and of the
Father, and of Christ," Col. ii. 2 ; which also is an eftect of the gospel.
Of ourselves we are not only dark and ignorant of heavenly things,
but " darkness" itselfj — that is, utterly blind, and incomprehensive of
spiritual, divine mysteries, Eph. v 8; and so under "the power of
darkness," Col. i. 13, as that we should no less than the devils them-
selves be holden under the chains of it unto the jutlgment of the
great day. Darkness and ignorance as to the things of God them-
selves, in respect of the revelation of them, and darkness in the mind
as to the understanding of them in a right manner, being revealed,
is upon the whole world; and no heart is able to conceive, no tongue


to express, the greatness and misery of this darkness. -The removal
hereof is a mercy inexpressible, — the beginning of our entrance into
heaven, the kingdom of light and glory, and an especial part of our
salvation. For " God is light, and in him there is no darkness at
all ;" .so that whilst we are under the power of it we can have no
intercourse with him; for " what communion hath light with dark-
ness?" Now, the removal hereof is by the gospel: 2 Cor. iv. 5",
" God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shinetli
in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of his glory in
the face of Jesus Christ;" and he doth it by the illumination of
" the glorious gospel of Christ," verse 4. For not only is the object re-
vealed hereby, " life and immortality being brought to light by the
gospel," but also the eyes of our understandings are enlightened by
it, savingly to discern the truths by it revealed : for it is by it that
both the eyes of the blind are opened and light shineth unto them
that sit in darkness; whence we are said to be " called out of dark-
ness into marvellous light," 1 Pet. ii. 9. And our calling is no other-
wise but by the word of the gospel. And as the implanting of this
heavenly light in us is by the word, so the growth and increase of
it in spiritual wisdom is no otherwise wrought, 2 Cor. iii. ] 8 ; Col.
ii. 2. And this spiritual acquaintance with God in Christ, this sav-
ing wisdom in the mystery of grace, this holy knowledge and under-
standing of the mind of God, this growing light and insight into
heavenly things, which is begun, increased, and carried on by the
gospel, is an especial dawning of that glory and immortality which
this salvation tendeth ultimately unto.

5. There belongs unto it also that joy and consolation which
believers are made partakers of by the Holy Ghost in this Avorld.
Ofttimes their trials are many, their troubles great, and their temp-
tations abound, in the course of their obedience. And these things
are ready to fill them with cares, fears, sorrows, and disconsolation.
Now, though our Lord Jesus Christ hath foretold his disciples of
all the tribulations and sorrows that should attend them in this
world, and taught them to uphold and support their spirits with
the thoughts and hopes of the glory that snail be revealed; yet in
the salvation that he hath purchased for them there is provision of
comibrt, " with joy unspeakable and full of glory," even during their
pilgiimage here below. Such joy, indeed, it is as the world knoweth
not, nor can know. The principles and causes of it, its nature and
effects, are all hidden unto them. Yet such it is, that all tlie con-
tentments and enjoyments of this world are no way to be compared
with it; and such do all that have tasted of it esteem it to be. Now,
this also is wrought in us and communicated unto us by the gospel.
It is the word of promise whereby God gives "strong consolation"
uuto the heirs of salvation, Heb. vi. 17, 18. And upon the receiv-


irig of this worrl by faith it is that beUevers "rejoice with joy un-
S})eakabie and full of glory/' Not only supportment and comfort
in the bearing of troiiI)les, but glorious exultations and ecstasies of
joy, are ofttimes wrought in the hearts of believers by the gospel.
Now they can endure, now they can suffer, now they can die; joy
is upon their heads and in their hearts, and sorrow and sighing flee
away. Here is rest, here is peace, here are refresliments, here are
pleasures, here is life to be desired. The good Lord sweeten and
season all our hearts with all these consolations, these joys of his
kingdom, and that by the blessed word of his grace !

6. Lastly, to instance in no moie particulars, the gospel is the word
of salvation, and the instrument in the hand of God for the confer-
ring of it upon believers, because they shall be taken into the fall
possession and enjoyment of it at the last day, by and according
unto tlie word and sentence of it. It is the symbol and tessera that
gives men iinal admission into glory. The secrets of all hearts shall
be judged according to the gospel, Rom. ii. 16 ; and by the word of it
shall the elect receive their crown. And in these respects is the
gospel a word of salvation.

But, SECONDLY, it is said in our proposition, as in the text, to be
great salvation. Now, we have seen that the gospel is called sal-
vation metonymically, the cause being called by the name of the
effect. But in this adjunct of great, " so great," the etiect it-elf,
salvation itself, preached and tendered by the gospel, is principally
intended. That, then, in the next place, we are to declare, namely,
that this salvation preached in the gospel is "great salvation." Neither
is it absolutely said to be great salvation, but "such" (or "so")
" great salvation." And it is usual in the Scripture, when it would
suggest unto our minds. and thoughts an inconceivable greatness, to
use some such expressions as plainly intimate somewhat more than
can be expressed. See 1 Pet. iv. 17, IS; Heb. x. 29; John iii. 16.
" So great;" that is, absolutely so, and comparatively so, with respect
unto the benefits received by the law; and inconceivably so, beyond
what we can conceive or express. There ought, then, to be no ex-
pectation that we should declare the real greatness of this salvation,
which the apostle intimates to be inexpressible. We shall only
point at some of those considerations wherem the greatness of it
doth most principally consist and appear: —

First, It is great in the eternal contrivance of it. When sin had
defaced the glory of the first creation, ancl the honour of God seemed
to be at a stand, no way remaining to carry it on unto that end
which all things at first tended unto, all cieatures were, and for
ever would have been, ignorant of a way for the retrievernent of
things into the former or a better order, or the bringing forth a sai-
vatioa for that which was lost; for besides that there was such hor-


rible confusions, and such inextricable entanglements brought uviou
the creation and the several parts of it, which none could discern
how they might be jointed and set in order again, there appeared a
repugnancy in the very properties of the divine nature unto any re-
lief or salvation of sinners. Let sinners be saved, and what shall
become of the justice, holiness, and truth of God, all which are en-
gaged to see a meet recompence of reward rendered unto every
transgression? And this was enough eternally to silence the whole
creation, by reason of that indispensable obligation which is on them
always and in all things to j)refer the honour and glory of their
Maker before the being or well-being of any creatures whatever.
Should the holy angels have set upon a contrivance for the salva-
tion of sinners, upon the first discovery that it would interfere and
clash with the glory of God (as every contrivance of wisdom finite
and limited would have done undoubtedly), yea, rise up against his
very blessedness and being, they would instantly have cast it from
them as an abominable thing, and have rested eternally in the con-
templation of his excellencies; for which end they were created.
Here, therefore, infinite wisdom, infinite grace, infinite goodness,
and infinite holiness, discover themselves in that contrivance of sal-
vation which solves all those difficulties and seeming contradictions,
keeps entire the glory of God's attributes, repairs the honour lost by
sin, and reduceth the whole creation into a new order and subser-
viency to the glory of its Maker. Hence this great projection and
design is called " the wisdom of God," xar s^o-x/iv, as that wherein
he was pleased principally to lay open the fountain and spring of
his eternal wisdom, Rom. xi. 33, 1 Cor. i. 2-i; and not only so, but
" the manifold wisdom of God," Eph. iii. 10, — that is, infinite wis-
dom, exerting itself in great and unspeakable variety of means and
ways for the accomplishment of the end designed. Yea, " all the
treasures of wisdom" are said to be laid out in this matter, and laid
up in Christ Jesus, Col. ii. 3: as if he had said that the whole store
of infinite wisdom was laid out herein. And thus, though God
made all tilings in wisdom, yet that which he principally proposeth
unto our consideration in the creation of all things is his sovereion
will or pleasure, joined with infinite power. For his v^'ill or plea-
sure were all things created. Rev. iv. 11. But in this work of con-
triving the salvation of sinners, he minds us of the " counsel of his
will," Eph. i. 11, — that is, the infinite wisdom wherewith the holy
acts of his will concerning it were accompanied ; and the "mystery of
his will," wherein he designed to gather up all things into one
head by Jesus Christ, verses 9, 10. Certainly the product of infi-
nite and eternal wisdom, of the counsel of the will of the Most Holy,
wherein the treasures of it were laid out with a design to display it
in manifold variety, must needs be great, very great, so great as
VOL. XII. — 20


cannot be conceived or expressed. Might we hei'e stay to contem-
plate and admire, in our dim and dawning light, in our weakness,
according to the meanness of our apprehensions of the reflections of
it in the glass of the gospel, the eternity of this contrivance; the
transactions between Father and Son about it; the retrievement of
the lost glory of God by sin, and ruined creation in it; the security
of the holiness, righteousness, veracity, and vindictive justice of God,
provided for in it; with the abundant overflowings of grace, good-
ness, love, naercy, and patience, that are the life of it; we might
manifest that there is enough in this fountain to render the streams
flowing from it great and glorious. And yet, alas! what a little,
what a small portion of its glory, excellency, beauty, riches, is it
that we are able in this world to attain unto I How weak and mean
are the conceptions and thoughts of little children about the designs
and counsels of the wise men of the earth! and yet there is a pro-
portion between the understandings of the one and the other. But
there is none at all between ours and the infinite depth of the wis-
dom and knowledge of God which are laid out in this matter. We
think as children, we speak as children, we see darkly, as in a glass ;
and the best acting of our faith in this business is humble admira-
tion and holy thankfulness. Now, certainly it is not in the capacity
of a creature to cast greater contempt on God, than to supiDose he
would set all his glorious properties on work, and draw forth all the
treasures of his wisdom, to produce or effect that which should be
low, mean, not every way admirable. And yet unto that height of
impiety hath unbelief arrived amongst many of them unto whom
the gospel is and hath been preached, as to reject and contemn the
whole mystery of it as mere folly, as an empty notion, fit to be ne-
glected and despised. So hath the god of this world blinded the
eyes of men, that the light of the glorious gospel should not shine
into their minds. But when God shall come to be admired in all
them that believe, on the account of this design of his grace and
wisdom, they will with astonishment see the glor}'^ of it in others,
when it shall be too late to obtain any benefit by it unto them-

Secondly, The salvation preached in the gospel is great upon the
account of the tvay and means whereby it was wrought and accom-
plished, or the great effect of the infinite wisdom and grace of God
in the incarnation, sufferings, and death of his Son. Thus was it
wrought, and no otherwise could it be effected. We were " not re-
deemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold," 1 Pet. i. 18.
No such price would be accepted with God ; salvation is more pre-
cious than to be so purchased, Ps. xlix. 6, 7. ' But it may be it
might be effected and brought about by the law, which was God's
own institution? either its precepts or its sacrifices might effect this


work, and salvation may be attained by the works of the law?' But
yet neither will this suffice. For the law is weak and insufficient as
to any such purpose, Rom. viii. 2, 3; nor would the sacrifices of it be
accepted unto that end, Heb. x. 7, 8. * How then shall it be wrought ?
is there none worthy in heaven or earth to undertake this work, and
nnist it cease for ever?' No; the eternal Son of God himself, the
Word, Power, and Wisdom of the Father, the brightness of his
glory, and the express image of his person, he hath undertaken this
Avork. This renders it great and glorious, that the Son of God in
his own person should perform it; it must assuredly be the "great sal-
vation" which /iccame himself to work out. 'And how doth he do
it, — by the mighty word of his power, as he made all things of old V
No ; this work is of another nature, and in another maimer must
it be accomplished. For, —

1. To this purpose he must be incarnate, "made flesh," John i.
14; "made of a woman," Gal. iv. 4. Though he was in the form
of God, and equal to God, yet he was to humble and empty himself
unto and in the form of a man, Phil. ii. 6, 7. This is that great
" mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh," that " the angels
desire to look into." That the Son of God should take the nature of
man into subsistence with himself, in the same person, — which was
necessary for the effecting of this salvation,— is a thing that the
whole creation must admire unto eternity. And yet this is but an
entrance into this work ; For, —

2. In this nature he must be " made under the law," Gal. iv. 4 ;
obnoxious to the commands of it, and bound to the obedience which
it required. It became him to fulfil all righteousness, that he might
be our Saviour; for though he were a Sou, yet he was to learn to
yield obedience. Without his perfect obedience unto the law our
salvation could not be perfected. The Son of God must obey, that
we may be accepted and crowned. The difficulties also, tempta-
tions, and dangers, that attended him in the course of his obedience,
are inexpressible. And surely this renders salvation by him very
great. But yet there is that remains which gives it another exalta-
tion; for, —

3. This Son of God, after the course of his obedience to the whole
will of God, must die, shed his blood, and " make his soul an oftering
for sin." And herein the glory of this salvation breaks forth like
the sun in its strength. He must be " obedient unto death, the death
of the cross," Phil. ii. 8. If he will be a " captain of salvation," to
'' bring many sons unto glory," he must himself be " made perfect
throusfh sufferings," Heb. ii. 10. There were law, and curse, and
wrath, standing in the way of our salvation, all of them to be re-
moved, all of them to be undergone, and that by the Son of God :
for we were " not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,


but with the precious blood of Christ/' 1 Pet. i. 18, 19. And
therein " God redeemed his church with his own blood/' Acts xx. 28.
And herein assuredly was the love of God manifest, that " he laid
down his life for us/' 1 Johniii. 16. This belongs unto the means
whereby our salvation is procured. Nor yet is this all ; for if Christ
had only died for us, our faith in him had been in vain, and we had
been still in our sins. Wherefore, —

4. To carry on the same work, he rose from the dead, and now
lives for ever to make intercession for us, and to save unto the
uttermost them that come unto God by him.

By these means was the salvation preached in the gospel ob-
tained ; which surely manifest it to be "great salvation," Would God
have sent his Son, his only Son, and that in such a manner, were it
not for the accomplishment of a work as well great and glorious in
itself as indispensably necessary with reference unto its end? Would
the Son himself have so emptied himself of his glory, condescended
to so low a condition, wrestled with such difficulties, and undergone
at length such a cursed and shameful death, had not the work been
great wherein he was employed? the blindness, hardness, and
stupidity of the sons of men! They profess they believe these
things to be true, at least they dare not deny them so to be; but
for the effect of them, for the salvation wrought by them, they value
it the least of all things that they have any acquaintance withal.
If this salvation, thus procured, do seize on them in their sleep, and
fall upon them whether they will or no, they will not much resist
it, provided that it cross them in none of their lusts, purposes, or
pleasures. But to see the excellency of it, to put a valuation upon it
according to the price whereby it was purchased, that they are utterly
regardless of, "Hear, ye despisers! wonder, and perish." Shall
the Son of God shed his blood in vain ? Shall he obey, and suffer,
and bleed, and pray, and die, for a thing of nought? Is it nothing
unto you that he should undergo all these things? Was there want
of wisdom in God, or love unto his Son, so to employ him, so to use
him, in a business which you esteem of so very small concernment
as that you will scarce turn aside to make inquiry after it? Assure
yourselves these things are not so, as you will one day find unto
your eternal ruin.

Thirdly, This salvation will appear to be great if we shall con-
, sider what hy it we are delivered from, and tvhat we are interested
in, or made partakers of, by virtue thereof. These also may deno-
minate salvation to be great, and they may therefore be considered

1. What are we delivered from by this salvation? In a word,
every thing that is evil, in this world or that which i.s to come.
And all evil may be referred unto two heads: — (1.) That which cor-


Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 37 of 70)