John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 48 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 48 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

you an example, that ye should do as I have done," John xiii. 15 ; as
he calls on all to " learn of him, for he was meek and lowly in heart,"
Matt. xi. 29, — that is, learn to be like him in those heavenly graces.
This the apostles proposed as their pattern and ours; 1 Cor. xi. 1,
" Be followers of me, as I am of Christ;" that is, ' labour with me
to imitate Christ.' And the utmost perf£Cticux^ftdiichjve_QieJbound
to aim at ittholiness^and obedience, is nothing but eonformity unto
Jesus Christ, and the pattern that he hath set before us, — to mark his
footsteps and to follow him. This is our putting on of Jesus Christ
and growing up into the same image and likeness with him.


[2.] He goes before the sons of God: iu sufferings^ and therein is
also a leader unto them by his example.-, " Ciirist/' saith Peter,
" hath suffered for us, leaving as"an example that we should follow
his steps;" that is, be ready and prepared unto patience in sufferings
when we are called thereunto, as he explains himself, 1 Epist. iv. 1,
* " Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm your-
selves therefore with the same mind," that you may follow him in
the same way/ And this our apostle presseth much in this epistle,
chap. xii. 2, 3, "Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our
faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross,
despising the shame For consider him that endured such con-
tradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint
in your minds." The sons of God are sometimes ready to think it
strange that they should fall into calamity and distresses, and are
apt to say with Hezekiah, " Remember, Lord, we beseech thee,
how we have walked before thee in truth, and with an upright heart,
and have done that which is good in thy sight," and weep sore; sup-
posing that this might have freed them from oppositions and perse-
cutions. And so it was with Gideon. When the angel told him the
Lord was with him, he replies, " Whence is all this evil come upon
us ?" But when they find it is otherwise, and begin to apply them-
selves unto their condition, yet if their troubles continue, if they are «
not in their season removed, they are ready to be " weary and faint
in their minds." But saith the apostle, 'Consider the captain of your
salvation, he hath set you another manner of example; notwithstand-
ing all his sufferings, he fainted not.' The like argument he press-
eth, chap. xiii. 12, 13. And the Scripture in many places represents
unto us the same consideration. The Jews have a saying, that a
third part of the afflictions and troubles that shall be in the world
do belong unto the Messiah. But our apostle, who knew better
than they, makes all the afilictions of the church to be the "afilictions
of Christ," Col. i. 24, who both before underwent them in his own
person and led the way to all that shall follow him. And as the
obedience of Christ, which is our patiern, did incomparably exceed /
whatever w€i,can attain unto; so the sufferings- of Christ, which are .y
our example, did incomparably exceed all that we shall be called
unto. Our pattern is excellent, inimitable in the substance and parts
of it, unattainable and unexpressible in its degrees, and he is the
best proficient who attends most thereunto.

But what is the end of all this obedience and suffering? death lies
at the door, as the ocean whereinto all these streams do run, and
seems to swallow them up, that there they are lost for ever. No;
for, — [3.] This captain of our salvation is gone before us in passing
through death, and entering into glory. He hath showed us in his
own resurrection (that great pledge of our immortality) that death


is not the end of our course, but a passage into another more abid-
ing condition. He promiseth that whosoever believeth on him,
they shall not be lost, or perish, or consumed by death, but that he
will raise them up at the last day, John vi. 39, 40. But how shall
this be confirmed unto them? Death looks ghastly and dreadful,
as a lion that devours all that come within his reach. ' Why,' saith
Christ, 'behold me, entering into his jaws, passing through his power,
rising from under his dominion; and fear not, — so shall it be with
you also.' This our apostle disputes at large, 1 Cor. xv. 12-21. He
is gone before us through death, and is become " the first-fruits of
them that sleep." And had Christ passed into heaven before, he
died, as did Enoch and Elijali, we had wanted the greatest evidence
of our future immortality. What, then, remains for the finishing
of our course ? Why, the captain of our salvation, after he had
suffered, entered into glory, and that as our leader, or forerunner,
Heb. vi. 20. Jesus as our forerunner is entered into heaven. He
is gone before us, to evidence unto us what is the end of our obe-
dience and sufferings. In all this is he a captain and leader unto
the sons of God.

I (2.) He guides them and directs them in their way. This also
belongs unto him as their captain and guide. Two tbings in this
are they of themselves defective in: — [1.] They know not the way
that leads to happiness and glory; and, [2.] They want ability to
discern it aright when it is showed unto tiiem. And in both they
are relieved and assisted by their leader; in the first by his word, in
the latter by his Spirit. [1.] Of themselves they know not the
way; as Thomas said, "How can we know the way?" The will of
God, the mystery of his love and grace, as to the way whereby he
will bring sinners unto glory, is unknown to the sons of men by na-
ture. It was a secret " hid in God," a sealed book, which none ia
heaven or earth could open. But this Jesus Christ hath fully de-
clared in his word unto all the sons that are to be brouglit unto
glory. He hath revealed the Father from his own bosom, John i. 18;
and declared those " heavenly things" which no man knew but he that
came down from heaven, and yet at the same time was in heaven,
John iii. 12, 13. In his word hath he declared the name and re-
vealed the whole counsel of God, and "brought life and immortality
to light," 2 Tim. i. 10. Whatever is any way needful, useful, help-
ful, in their obedience, worship of God, suffering, expectation of
glory, he hath taught it them all, revealed it all unto them; other
teachers they need not. Had there been any thing belonging unto
their way which he had not revealed unto them, he had not been a
perfect captain of salvation unto them. And men do nothing but
presumptuously derogate from his glory, who will be adding and
imposing their prescriptions in and about this way


[2.] Again ; the way being revealed in the word, he enables them
by his Spirit to see, discern, and know it, in such a holy and saving
manner as is needful to bring them unto the end of it. He gives
them eyes to see, as well as provides paths for them to walk in. It
had been to no purpose to have declared the way, if he had not also
given them light to see it. This blessed work of his Sj)irit is every-
where declared in the Scripture, Isa. xliii. 16. And by this means
is he unto us what he was unto the church in the wilderness, when
he went before them in a pillar of fire, to guide them in their way,
and to show them where they should rest. And herein lies no small
j)art of the discharge of his office towards us as the captain of our
salvation. Whatever acquaintance we have with the way to glory,
we have it from him alone; and whatever ability we have to discern
the way, he is the fountain and author of it. This God hath de-
signed and called him unto. And all our wisdom consists in this,
that we betake ourselves unto him, to him alone, for instruction and
direction in this matter, Matt. xvii. 5. Doth not he deservedly
wander, yea, and perish, who in war will neglect the orders and
directions of his general, and attend unto every idle tale of men
pretending to show him a way that they have found out better than
that which his captain hath limited him unto?
/ (3.) He supplies them with strength by his grace, that they may
be able to pass on in their way. They have much work lying before
them, much to do, much to suffer, and " witliout him they can do
nothing," John xv. 5. Wherefore he watcheth over them, to "succour
them that are tempted," Heb. ii. 18, and to give out "help" unto them
all "in time of need," chap. iv. 1 6 ; and hence they who have no might,
no sufficiency, "can do all things, through Christ that strengtheneth
them," Phil. iv. 13. Nothing is too hard for them, nothing can
prevail against them, because of the constant supplies of grace which
the captain of their salvation communicates unto them. And this
makes the ways of the gospel marvellous both to the world and to be-
lievers themselves. Their "life is hid with Christ in God," Col. iii. 3 ;
and they have "a new name, which no man knoweth," Rev. ii. 17.
The world seeing poor, mean, weak, contemptible creatures, willing,
ready, and able to suffer, endure, and die for the name of Christ,
stand astonished, not knowing where their great strength lies; as
the Philistines did at the might of Samson, whom they saw with
their eyes to be like other men. Let them, in the height of
their pride and rage of their madness, pretend what they please,
they cannot but be, they really are, amazed to see poor creatures,
whom otherwise they exceedingly despise, constant unto the truth
and profession of the gospel, against all their allurements and
afifrightments. They know not, they consider not the constant
supplies of strength and grace which they receive from their


leader. He gives them the Spirit of truth, which the world neither
sees nor knows, John xiv. 17; and therefore it wonders from wiience
they have their abihty and constancy. They cry, 'Wliat! will
nothing turn these poor foolish creatures out of their way?' They
try them one way, and then another, add one weight of affliction
and oppression unto another, and think surely this will effect their
design; but they find themselves deceived, and know not wliouceit
is. The ways of obedience are hence also marvellous unto believers
themselves. When they consider their own frailty and weakness,
how ready they are to faint, liow often they are surpiised, and
withal take a prospect of what opposition lies against them, from
indwelling sin, Satan, and the world, which they are acquainted
with in several instances of their power and prevalency, they neither
know how they have abode so long in their course as they have done,
nor how they shall continue in it unto the end. But they are relieved
when they come to the promise of the gospel. There they see
whence their preservation doth proceed. The}^ see this captain of
tlieir salvation, in whom is the fulness of the Spirit, and to whom
are committed all the stores of grace, giving out daily and hourly
unto them, as the matter doth require. As the captain in an army
doth not at once give out unto his soldiers the whole provision that
is needful for their way and undertaking, — which if he should, the
most of them would instantly waste it, and so quickly perish for
want, — but he keeps provision for them all in his stores, and gives
out unto them according to their daily necessities; so God gave the
people manna for their daily food in the wilderness: even so deals
this great leader of the sons of God. He keeps the stores of grace
and spiritual strength in his own hand, and fi'om thence imparts
unto them according as they stand in need.

(4.) He subdues tlieir enemies. And this belongs unto his office,
as the captain of their salvation, in an especial manner. Many
enemies they have, and unless they are conquered and sLd)dued, they
can never enter into glory. Satan, the world, death, and sin, are the
chief or heads of them, and all these are subdued by Christ; and
that two ways: — First, in his own person; for they all attempted
him, and failed in their enterprise, John xiv. 30. He bruised the
serpent's head. Gen. iii. 15, and "destroyed him that had the power
of death, that is, the devil," verse 14 of this chapter, — destroyed his
power in a glorious and triumphant manner. Col. ii. 15, " he spoiled
principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, tri-
umphing over them in his cross, ' — adding the utmost complement
unto his victory, in a triumph. And he overcame the world. John
xvi. 33, "Be of good cheer," saith he, "I have overcome the world."
Both it and the prince of it were put under his feet. Death also
was subdued by him; he "swallowed it up in victory," 1 Cor. xv. 54.


He plucked out its sting, broke its power, disannulled its peremptory
law, when he shook it off from him, and rose from under it, Acts ii.
24, Sin also set upon him in his temptations, but was utterly
foiled; as all sin is destroyed in its very being where it is not
obeyed. And all this was for the advantage of the sons of God.

For, [1.] He hath given them encouragement, in showing them
that their enemies are not invincible, their power is not uncon-
trollable, their law not peremptory or eternal; but that having been
once conquered, they may the more easily be dealt withal.

[2.] They know also that all these enemies set upon his person
in their quarrel, and as he was the great defender of the faithjul :
so that altiiough they were not conquered by their persons, yet they
were conquered in their cause; and they are called in to be sharers
in the victory, although they were not engaged in the battle.

[3.] That he subdued them by God's ordinance and appointment,
as their representative ; declaring in his person, who is the head, what
should be accomplished in every one of his members.

[4.] And that, by his personal conquest over them, he hath left
them weak, maimed, disarmed, and utterly deprived of that power
they had to hurt and destroy before he engaged with them. For
he hath thereby deprived them, \st, Of all their right and title to
exercise their enmity against or dominion over the sons of God.
Before his dealing with them, they had all right to the utmost over
mankind, — Satan to rule, the world to vex, sin to enslave, death to
destroy and give up unto hell. And all this right was enrolled in
the law and hand-writing of ordinances which was against us. This
was cancelled by Christ, and nailed to the cross, never to be pleaded
more, Col. ii. 14. And when any have lost their right or title unto
any thing, whatever their strength be, they are greatly weakened.
But he hath herein, '2.dly, Deprived them of their strength also.
He took away the strength of sin as a law, and the sting of death in
sin, the arms of the world in the curse, and the power of Satan in
his works and strongholds.

But this is not all: he not only subdues these enemies for them,
but also %7i them and by them ; for though they have neither title
nor arms, yet they will try the remainder of their power against
them also. But "thanks be to God,'"" saith the apostle, "whogiveth
us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. xv. 57. He
enables us in our oiun persons to conquer all these enemies. "Nay,"
\ saith he, "in all these things we are more than conquerors," Rom.
viii. 87 ; because we have more assurance of success, more assistance
in the contiict, more joy in the trial, than any other concjuerors
have. We do not only conquer, but triumph also. For Satan,
he tells believers " that they have overcome tlie wicked one," 1 John
■^ ii. io, 14; and shows how it came to pass that they should be able


to do so. It is " because greater is he that is in them than he that
is in the world," chap. iv. 7. The good Spirit, which he hath
given unto them to help and assist them, is infinitely greater and
nidre powerful than that evil spirit which rules in the chiklren of
disobedience. And by this means is Satan bruised even under their
feet. A conflict, indeed, we must have with him ; we must " wrestle
with principalities and powers in heavenly places;" but the success is
secured, through the assistance we receive from this captain of our

The world also is subdued in them and by them : 1 John v. 4,
"Whosoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Faith will do
this work ; it never failed in it, nor ever will. He that believeth
shall overcome; the whole strength of Christ is engaged unto his
assistance. Sin is the worst and most obstinate of all their ene-
mies. This puts them hard to it in the battle, and makes them cry
out for aid and help, Rom. vii. 24. But this also they receive
strength against, so as to carry away the day. "I thank God," saith
the apostle, "through Jesus Christ our Lord," verse 25, — namely, for
deliverance and victory. Sin hath a double design in its enmity
against us; — first, to reign in us; secondly, to condemn us. If
it be disappointed in these designs it is absolutely conquered ; and
that it is by the grace of Christ. As to its reign and dominion, it
is perfectly defeated for the present, Rom. vi. 14. The means of its
rule is the authority of the law over us; that being removed, and
our souls put under the conduct of grace, the reign of sin comes to
an end. Nor shall it condemn us, Rom. viii. 1. And what can it
then do? where is the voice of this oppressor? It abides but a
season, and that but to endure and die. Death also contends against
us, by its own sting and our fear ; but the first, by the grace of Christ,
is taken from it, and the latter we are delivered from, and so have
the victory over it. And all this is the work of this captain of our
salvation for us and in us.

(5.) He doth not only conquer all their enemies, but he avenges
their sufferings upon them, and punisheth them for their enmity.
These enemies, though they prevail not absolutely nor finally
against the sons of God, yet, by their temptations, persecutions,
oppressions, they put them ofttimes to unspeakable hardships, sor-
row, and trouble. This the captain of their salvation will not take
at their hands, but will avenge upon them all their ungodly endea-
vours, from the lowest unto the greatest and highest of them. Some
he will deal withal in this world; but he hath appointed a day
wherein not one of them shall escape. See Rev. xx. 10, 14. Devil,
and beast, and false prophet, and death, and hell, shall all together
into the lake of fire.


(6.) He provides a reiuard, a crown for them; and in the bestuw-
inr^ thereof accompUsheth this his blessed office of the captain of
our salvation. He is gone before the sons into heaven, to make
ready their glory, to "prepare a place for them;" and "he will come
and receive them unto himself, that where he is, tliere they may
be also," John xiv. 2, 3. When he hath given them the victory, he
will take them unto himself, even unto his throne, Rev. iii. 21 ; and,
as a righteous judge, give unto them a crown of righteousness and
glory, 2 Tim. iv. 8, 1 Pet. v. 4. And thus is the whole work of con-
ducting the sons of God unto glory, from first to last, committed
unto this great captain of their salvation, and thus doth he discharge
his otfice and trust therein; and blessed are all they who are under
his leading and guidance. And all this should teach us, —

First, To betake ourselves unto Jam, and to rely upon him in the
whole course of our obedience and all the passages thereof. To
this purpose is he designed by the Father; this hath he under-
taken; and this doth he go through withal. No address that is
made unto him in this matter will he ever refuse to attend unto;
no case or condition that is proposed unto him is too hard for him,
or beyond his power to relieve. He is careful, watchful, tender,
faithful, powerful; and all these properties and blessed enduwujents
will he exercise in the discharge of this oftice. What should hinder
us from betaking ourselves unto him continually? Is our trouble
so small, are our duties so ordinary, that we can wrestle with thenx
or perform them in our own strength? Alas! we can do nothing, —
not think a good thought, not endure a reproachful word. And
whatever we seem to do or endure of ourselves, it is all lost; for "in
us there dwelleth no good thing." Or are our distresses so great,
our temptations so many, our corruptions so strong, that we begin
to say, " There is no hope?" Is any thing too hard for the captain
of our salvation? Hath he not already conquered all our enemies?
Is he not able to subdue all things by his power? Shall we faint
whilst Jesus Christ lives and reigns? But, it may be, we have
looked for help and assistance, and it hath not answered our expecta-
tion, so that now we begin to faint and despond. Sin is not sub-
dued, the world is still triumphant, and Satan rageth as much as
ever; his temptations are ready to pass over our souls. But have
we sought for his help and assistance in a due manner, with faith
and perseverance; unto right ends, of his glory, and advantage of the
gospel? Have we taken a right measure of what we have received?
or do we not complain without a cause? Let us not "judge accord-
ing to outward appearance, but judge righteous judgment." What
is it to us if the world triumph, if Satan rage, if sin tempt and vex ?
we are not promised that it shall be otherwise. But are we for-
saken? Ai'e we not kept from being prevailed against? If vre


ask amiss or for improper ends, or know not what we do receive, or
think, Ijecause the strength of enemies appears to be great, we must
fail and be ruined, let us not complain of our captain; for all these
things arise from our own unbelief Let our application unto hinx
be accordiiig unto his command, our expectations from him accord-
ing to the promise, our experiences of what we receive be measured
by the rule of the word, and we shall find that we have all grounds
of assm'ance that we can desire. Let us, then, in every condition,
"l(^ok unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faitli," who hath
undertaken the leading of us in the whole course of our obedience
from first to last, and we shall not need to faint, nor shall we ever

Secondly, To look for direction and guidance from him. This
in an especial manner belongs unto him, as the captain of our salva-
tion. There are two things which we find by experience that pro-
fessors are apt to be at a great loss in whilst they are in this world,
— the worship of God, and their own troubles. For the first, we
see and find that woful variance that is among all sorts of men;
and for the latter, we are apt ourselves to be much bewildered in
them, as unto our duty and our way. Now, all this uncertainty
ariseth from the want of a due attendance unto Jesus Christ as our
guide. In reference unto both these he hath peculiarly promised
his presence with us. With the dispensers of the word he hath
promised to be "unto the end of the world," or consummation of all
things. Matt, xxviii. 20 ; and we find him walking in the midst of
his golden candlesticks. Rev. i. In that allegorical description of
the gospel church-state and worship which we liave in Ezekiel,
there is a peculiar place assigned unto the prince. Now, one end of
his presence is, to see that all things are done according unto his
mind and will. And unto whom should we go but unto himself
alone ? His word here will prove the best directory, and his Spirit
the best guide. If we neglect these to attend unto the wisdom of
men, we shall wander in uncertainties all our days. It is so also in
respect of our troubles. We are ready in them to consult with
flesh and blood, to look after the examples of others, to t;ds.e the
advice that comes next to hand, when the Lord Christ hath pro-
mised his presence with us in them all, and that as the captain
of our salvation. And if we neglect him, his example, his direction,
his teaching, it is no wonder if we pine away under our distresses.

II. We may observe, that the Lord Jesus Christ being priest,
saciifice, and altar himself, the oft"ering whereby he was consecrated
unto the perfection and complement of his office was of necessity to
be part of that work which, as our priest and mediator, he was to
undergo and perform.

When other typical priests were to be consecrated, tliere was an


offering of teasts appointed for that purpose, and an altar to offer

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 48 of 70)