Time for another Puritan spotlight, on John Owen’s The Glory of Christ. This is a book that will refresh my soul every time I read it. I’ve read it twice now, and it will probably remain one of the books I read every several years until Christ takes me home. Though originally published in the 1600’s the quotes here are from the very recent Kindle edition. 1
My first John Owen read was The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. I read it when I was angry at death, especially the death of my first child. He will forever be one of my favorite teachers and theologians for the help I found in his book, for the hope and the beauty he set before me.
I would recommend starting with The Glory of Christ. This book is filled with a lot of what and why, but only a bit of ‘how to,’ and I’m thankful for that. He gives direction and guidance without creating a curriculum or program. Without further ado, a few quotes to entice you:
“For thus to behold the glory of Christ is both our privilege and our duty…It is a promise concerning the days of the New Testament that our “eyes shall see the King in his beauty” (Isaiah 33:17). We shall behold the glory of Christ in its luster and excellency. What is this beauty of the King of saints? Is it not that God is in Him and He is the great representative of His glory to us? Wherefore, in the contemplation of this glory consists the principal exercise of faith.” loc 655
Beholding the glory of Christ is a spiritual exercise Christians must engage in, according to Owen. I would agree. He begins the book by reminding us that it is but a small glimpse we have here on earth compared to what we shall see in heaven. The end of the book compares viewing His glory by faith here to viewing His glory by sight in heaven. In the meantime, as we view by faith, Owen discusses where we view this glory, how by the Spirit we can pursue this view and the benefits thereof.
“This, therefore, deserves the severest of our thoughts, the best of our meditations, and our utmost diligence in them. For if our future blessedness shall consist in being where he is, and beholding of his glory, what better preparation can there be for it than in a constant preview contemplation of that glory in the revelation that is made in the Gospel, unto this very end, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory?” loc 40
He begins by reminding his intended audience (firstly, the congregation he was pastoring) that immersing and overdrenching themselves in love of the world or present things will be a hindrance to their being able to love Christ in heart, mind, soul and body, let alone contemplating Christ in His glory. But Owen also knew that beholding His glory would convey “a sense of God’s love unto our souls; which is that alone where ultimately we find rest in the midst of all the troubles of this life.” loc 151
“Our beholding by faith things not seen, things spiritual and eternal, will alienate all our afflictions, make their burden light, and preserve our souls from fainting under them.” loc 125
“For we behold the glory of God himself ‘in the face of Jesus Christ.’ He that can at all times retreat unto the contemplation of this glory, will be carried above the perplexing prevailing sense of any of these evils…” loc 125
“It is a woeful kind of life, when men scramble for poor perishing reliefs in their distresses. Whatever presseth, urgeth, perplexeth, if we can but retreat in our minds unto a view of this glory, and a due consideration of our own interest therein, comfort and supportment will be administered unto us.”
Beholding this peculiar glory is renewing to our hearts and minds–balm to our inner man, healing to our whole being. Many of our soul’s distresses begin with what Owen calls our “over-valuation of temporal things.” But beholding His glory will enable us, in sorrow, distractions, fears, etc; to find relief. It is amusing to read Owen in light of what scientists and psychologists and philosophers teach on how the heart and brain function, training the brain, etc. As it turns out, behold the glory of the God who created us is transformational, reversing the effects of the curse, and sustaining us as we await our eternal home.
I’ll leave off here until next week’s Puritan post.