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The motives unto this love of Christ is the last thing, on this head of our religious respect unto him, that I shall speak unto.  When God required of the church the first and highest act of religion, the sole foundation of all others — namely, to take him as their God, to own, believe, and trust in him alone as such, (which is wholly due unto him for what he is, without any other consideration whatever,) — yet he thought meet to add a motive unto the performance of that duty from what he had done for them, Exodus 20:2, 3.  The sense of the first command is, that we should take him alone for our God; for he is so, and there is no other.

But in the prescription of this duty unto the church, he minds them of the benefits which they had received from him in bringing them out of the house of bondage.  God, in his wisdom and grace, ordereth all the causes and reasons of our duty, so as that all the rational powers and faculties of our souls may be exercised therein.  Wherefore he does not only propose himself unto us, nor is Christ merely proposed unto us as the proper object of our affections, but he calls us also unto the consideration of all those things that may satisfy our souls that it is the most just, necessary, reasonable and advantageous course for us so to fix our affections on him.  And these considerations are taken from all that he did for us, with the reasons and grounds why he did it.

We love him principally and ultimately for what he is; but nextly and immediately for what he did.  What he did for us is first proposed unto us, and it is that which our souls are first affected withal.  For they are originally acted in all things by a sense of the want which they have, and a desire of the blessedness which they have not.  This directs them unto what he has done for sinners; but that leads immediately unto the consideration of what he is in himself.  And when our love is fixed on him or his person, then all those things wherewith, from a sense of our own wants and desires, we were first affected, become motives unto the confirming and increasing of that love.  This is the constant method of the Scripture; it first proposes unto us what the Lord Christ has done for us, especially in the discharge of his sacerdotal office, in his oblation and intercession, with the benefits which we receive thereby.  Hereby it leads us unto his person, and presseth the consideration of all other things to engage our love unto him.  See Philippians 2:5-11, with chap. 3:8-11.

Motives unto the love of Christ are so great, so many, so diffused through the whole dispensation of God in him unto us, as that they can by no hand be fully expressed, let it be allowed ever so much to enlarge in the declaration of them; much less can they be represented in that short discourse whereof but a very small part is allotted unto their consideration — such as ours is at present.  The studying, the collection of them or so many of them as we are able, the meditation on them and improvement of them, are among the principal duties of our whole lives.  What I shall offer is the reduction of them unto these two heads: 1. The acts of Christ, which is the substance of them; and, 2. The spring and fountain of those acts, which is the life of them.

1. The Acts of Christ. In general, they are all the acts of his mediatory office, with all the fruits of them, whereof we are made partners.  There is not anything that he did or does, in the discharge of his mediatory office, from the first susception of it in his incarnation in the womb of the blessed Virgin unto his present intercession in heaven, but is an effectual motive unto the love of him; and as such is proposed unto us in the Scripture.  Whatever he did or does with or towards us in the name of God, as the king and prophet of the church — whatever he did or does with God for us, as our high priest — it all speaks this language in the hearts of them that believe:  O love the Lord Jesus in sincerity.

The consideration of what Christ thus did and does for us is inseparable from that of the benefits which we receive thereby.  A due mixture of both these — of what he did for us, and what we obtain thereby — compriseth the substance of these motives: “Who loved me, and gave himself for me” — “Who loved us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God” — “For thou wast slain, and hast bought us unto God with thy blood.”  And both these are of a transcendent nature, requiring our love to be so also.  Who is able to comprehend the glory of the mediatory acting of the Son of God, in the assumption of our nature — in what he did and suffered therein?  And for us, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive, what we receive thereby.  The least benefit, and that obtained by the least expense of trouble or charge, deserveth love, and leaveth the brand of a crime where it is not so entertained.  What, then, do the greatest deserve, and thou procured by the greatest expense even the price of the blood of the Son of God?

If we have any faith concerning these things, it will produce love, as that love will obedience.  Whatever we profess concerning them, it springs from tradition and opinion, and not from faith, if it engage not our souls into the love of him.  The frame of heart which ensues on the real faith of these things is expressed, Psalm 103:1-5, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who health all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Let men pretend what they will, there needs no greater, no other evidence, to prove that any one does not really believe the things that are reported in the gospel, concerning the mediatory acting of Christ, or that he has no experience in his own soul and conscience of the fruits and effects of them, than this — that his heart is not engaged by them unto the most ardent love towards his person.

He is no Christian who lives not much in the meditation of the mediation of Christ, and the especial acts of it.  Some may more abound in that work than others, as it is fixed, formed and regular; some may be more able than others to dispose their thought concerning them into method and order; some may be more diligent than others in the observation of times for the solemn performance of this duty; some may be able to rise to higher and clearer apprehensions of them than others.  But as for those, the bent of whose minds does not lie towards thoughts of them — whose heath are not on all occasions retreating unto the remembrance of them — who embrace not all opportunities to call them over as they are able — on what grounds can they be esteemed Christians?  How do they live by the faith of the Son of God?  Are the great things of the Gospel, of the mediation of Christ, proposed unto us, as those which we may think of when we have nothing else to do, that we may meditate upon or neglect at our pleasure — as those wherein our concernment is so small as that they must give place unto all other occasions or diversions whatever?  Nay; if our minds are not filled with these things — if Christ does not dwell plentifully in our heath by faith — if our souls are not possessed with them, and in their whole inward frame and constitution so cut into this mould as to be led by a natural complacency unto a converse with them — we are strangers unto the life of faith.  And if we are thus conversant about these things, they will engage our hearts into the love of the person of Christ.  To suppose the contrary, is indeed to deny the truth and reality of them all, and to turn the gospel into a fable.

Take one instance from among the rest — namely, his death.  Has he the heart of a Christian, who does not often meditate on the death of his Savior, who does not derive his life from it?  Who can look into the Gospel and not fix on those lines which either immediately and directly, or through some other paths of divine grace and wisdom, do lead him thereunto?  And can any have believing thoughts concerning the death of Christ, and not have his heart affected with ardent love unto his person?  Christ in the Gospel “is evidently set forth, crucified” before us.  Can any by the eye of faith look on this bleeding, dying Redeemer, and suppose love unto his person to be nothing but the work of fancy or imagination?  They know the contrary, who “always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,” as the apostle speaks, 2 Corinthians 4:10.  As his whole “name,” in all that he did, is “as ointment poured forth,” for which “the virgins love him,” Song of Solomon 1:3, — so this precious perfume of his death is that wherewith their hearts are ravished in a peculiar manner.

Again: as there can be no faith in Christ where there is no love unto him on the account of his mediatory acts; so, where it is not, the want of it casteth persons under the highest guilt of ingratitude that our nature is liable unto.  The highest aggravation of the sin of angels was their ingratitude unto their Maker.  For why, by his mere will and pleasure, they were stated in the highest excellency, pre- eminence, and dignity, that he thought good to communicate unto any creatures — or, it may be, that any mere created nature is capable of in itself — they were unthankful for what they had so received from undeserved goodness and bounty; and so cast themselves into everlasting ruin.  But yet the sin of men, in their ingratitude towards Christ on the account of what he has done for them, is attended with an aggravation above that of the angels.  For although the angels were originally instated in that condition of dignity which in this world we cannot attain unto, yet were they not redeemed and recovered from misery as we are.

In all the crowd of evil and wicked men that the world is pestered with, there are none, by common consent, so stigmatized for unworthy villainy, as those who are ungrateful for their benefits.  If persons are unthankful unto them, if they have not the highest love for them, who redeem them from ignominy and death, and instate them in a plentiful inheritance, (if any such instances may be given,) and that with the greatest expense of labor and charge, — mankind, without any regret, does tacitly condemn them unto greater miseries than those which they were delivered from.  What, then, will be the condition of those whose hearts are not so affected with the mediation of Christ and the fruits of it, as to give their best affections unto him!  The gospel itself will be “a savor of death” unto such ungrateful wretches.

2. His Love to Us. That which the Scripture principally insisteth on as the motive of our love unto Christ, is his love unto us — which was the principle of all his mediatory actings in our behalf.  Love is that jewel of human nature which commands a valuation wherever it is found.  Let other circumstances be what they will, whatever distances between persons may be made by them, yet real love, where it is evidenced so to be, is not despised by any but such as degenerate into profligate brutality.  If it be so stated as that it can produce no outward effects advantageous unto them that are beloved, yet it commands a respect, as it were, whether we will or no, and some return in its own kind.

Especially it does so if it be altogether undeserved, and so evidenceth itself to proceed from a goodness of nature, and an inclination unto the good of them on whom it is fixed.  For, whereas the essential nature of love consisteth in willing good unto them that are beloved — where the act of the will is real, sincere, and constantly exercised, wiyout any defect of it on our part, no restraints can possibly be put upon our minds from going out in some acts of love again upon its account, unless all their faculties are utterly depraved by habits of brutish and filyour lusts.  But when this love, which is thus undeserved, does also abound in effects troublesome and chargeable in them in whom it is, and highly beneficial unto them on whom it is placed — if there be any such affection left in the nature of any man, it will prevail unto a reciprocal love.  And all these things are found in the love of Christ, unto that degree and height as nothing parallel unto it can be found in the whole creation.  I shall briefly speak of it under two general heads.

(1.) The sole spring of all the mediatory acting of Christ, both in the susception of our nature and in all that he did and suffered therein, was his own mere love and grace, working by pity and compassion.  It is true, he undertook this work principally with respect unto the glory of God and out of love unto him.  But with respect unto us, his only motive unto it was his abundant, overflowing love.  And this is especially remembered unto us in that instance wherein it carried him through the greatest difficulties — namely, in his death and the oblation of himself on our behalf, Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2, 25, 26; 1 John 3:16; Revelation 1:6.  This alone inclined the Son of God to undertake the glorious work of our redemption and carried him through the death and dread which he underwent in the accomplishment of it.

Should I engage into the consideration of this love of Christ, which was the great means of conveying all the effects of dine wisdom and grace unto the church — that glass which God chose to represent himself and all his goodness in unto believers — that spirit of life in the wheel of all the motions of the person of Christ in the redemption of the church unto the eternal glory of God, his own and that of his redeemed also — that mirror wherein the holy angels and blessed saints shall forever contemplate the divine excellencies in their suitable operations; — I must now begin a discourse much larger than that which I have passed through.  But it is not suited unto my present design so to do.

For, considering the growing apprehensions of many about the person of Christ, which are utterly destructive of the whole nature of that love which we ascribe unto him, do I know how soon a more distinct explication and defense of it may be called for.  And this cause will not be forsaken.  They know nothing of the life and power of the gospel, nothing of the reality of the grace of God, nor do they believe aright one article of the Christian faith, whose hearts are not sensible of the love of Christ herein; nor is he sensible of the love of Christ, whose affections are not thereon drawn out unto him.  I say, they make a pageant of religion — a fable for the theater of the world, a business of fancy and opinion — whose hearts are not really affected with the love of Christ, in the susception and discharge of the work of mediation, so as to have real and spiritually sensible affections for him.  Men may babble things which they have learned by rote; they have no real acquaintance with Christianity, who imagine that the placing of the most intense affections of our souls on the person of Christ — the loving him with all our hearts because of his love — our being overcome thereby until we are sick of love — the constant motions of our souls towards him with delight and adherence — are but fancies and imaginations.  I renounce that religion, be it whose it will, that teacheth, insinuateth, or giveth countenance unto, such abominations.  That doctrine is as discrepant from the gospel as the Koran — as contrary to the experience of believers as what is acted in and by the devils which instructs men unto a contempt of the most fervent love unto Christ, or casts reflections upon it.  I had rather choose my eternal lot and portion with the meanest believer, who, being effectually sensible of the love of Christ, spends his days in mourning that he can love him no more than he finds himself on his utmost endeavors for the discharge of his duty to do, than with the best of them, whose vain speculations and a false pretense of reason puff them up unto a contempt of these things

(2.) This love of Christ unto the church is singular in all those qualifications which render love obliging unto reciprocal affections.  It is so in its reality.  There can be no love amongst men, but will derive something from that disorder which is in their affections in their highest acting.  But the love of Christ is pure and absolutely free from any alloy.  There cannot be the least suspicion of anything of self in it.  And it is absolutely undeserved.  Nothing can be found amongst men that can represent or exemplify its freedom from any desert on our part.  The most candid and ingenuous love amongst us is, when we love another for his worth, excellency, and usefulness, yough we have no singular benefit of them ourselves; but not the least of any of these things were found in them on whom he set his love, until they were wrought in them, as effects of that love which he set upon them.

Men sometimes may rise up unto such a high degree and instance in love, as that they will even die for one another; but then it must be on a superlative esteem which they have of their worth and merit.  It may be, saith the apostle, treating of the love of Christ, and of God in him, that “for a good man some would even dare to die,” Romans 5:7.  It must be for a good man — one who is justly esteemed “commune bonum,” a public good to mankind — one whose benignity is ready to exercise loving-kindness on all occasions, which is the estate of a good man; — peradventure some would even dare to die for such a man.  This is the height of what love among men can rise unto; and if it has been instanced in any, it has been accompanied with an open mixture of vain-glory and desire of renown.  But the Lord Christ placed his love on us, that love from whence he died for us, when we were sinners and ungodly; that is, everything which might render us unamiable and undeserving.  Yough we were as deformed as sin could render us, and more deeply indebted than the whole creation could pay or answer, yet did he fix his love upon us, to free us from that condition, and to render us meet for the most intimate society with himself.

Never was there love which had such effects — which cost him so dear in whom it was, and proved so advantageous unto them on whom it was placed.  In the pursuit of it, he underwent everything that is evil in his own person, and we receive everything that is good in the favor of God and eternal blessedness.

On the account of these things, the apostle ascribes a constraining power unto the love of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:14.  And if it constrains us unto any return unto him, it does so unto that of love in the first place.  For no suitable return can be made for love but love, at least not wiyout it.  As love cannot be purchased — “For if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned,” Song of Solomon 8:7, — so if a man would give all the world for a requital of love, wiyout love it would be despised.  To fancy that all the love of Christ unto us consists in the precepts and promises of the gospel, and all our love unto him in the observance of his commands, wiyout a real love in him unto our persons, like that of a “husband unto a wife,” Ephesians 5:25, 26, or a holy affection in our hearts and minds unto his person, is to overthrow the whole power of religions to despoil it of its life and soul, leaving nothing but the carcass of it.

This love unto Christ and unto God in him, because of his love unto us, is the principal instance of divine love, the touchstone of its reality and sincerity.  Whatever men may boast of their affectionate endearments unto the divine goodness, if it be not founded in a sense of this love of Christ and the love of God in him, they are but empty notions they nourish withal, and their deceived hearts feed upon ashes.  It is in Christ alone that God is declared to be love; wiyout an apprehension whereof none can love him as they ought.  In him alone that infinite goodness, which is the peculiar object of divine love, is truly represented unto us, wiyout any such deceiving phantasm as the workings of fancy or depravation of reason may impose upon us.  And on him does the saving communication of all the effects of it depend.  And an infinite condescension is it in the holy God, so to express his “glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” or to propose himself as the object of our love in and through him.  For considering our weakness as to an immediate comprehension of the infinite excellencies of the divine nature, or to bear the rays of his resplendent glory, seeing none can see his face and live, it is the most adorable effect of divine wisdom and grace, that we are admitted unto the contemplation of them in the person of Jesus Christ.

There is yet farther evidence to be given of this love unto the person of Christ, from all those blessed effects of it which are declared in the Scripture, and whereof believers have the experience in themselves.  But something I have spoken concerning them formerly, in my discourse about communion with God; and the nature of the present design will not admit of enlargement upon them.

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The motives to love Christ are the last thing that I shall speak unto.  When God required of the church the first and highest act of religion, the sole foundation of all others — namely, to take him as their God, to own, believe, and trust in him alone as such, (which is wholly due unto him for what he is, without any other consideration whatever,) — yet he thought it proper to add a motive unto the performance of that duty from what he had done for them, Exodus 20:2-3.  The sense of the first command is that we should take him alone for our God; for he is so, and there is no other.

But in prescribing this duty, he minds them of the benefits they had received from him in bringing them out of the house of bondage.  God, in his wisdom and grace, ordered all the causes and reasons of our duty, so as that all the rational powers and faculties of our souls may be engaged.  Therefore he does not only present himself to us, nor is Christ merely proposed unto us as the proper object of our affections, but he calls us also to the consideration of all those things that may satisfy our souls.  That it is the most just, necessary, reasonable and advantageous course for us so to fix our affections on him.  And these considerations are taken from all that he did for us, along with the reasons and grounds for why he did it.

We love him principally and ultimately for who he is.  But firstly and primarily, we love him for what he did.  What he did for us is first proposed unto us, and it is that with which our souls are first attracted.  For we are drawn to him by our sense of need and by our realization that he alone fulfills our desire for blessedness.  This directs us to what he has done for us as sinners.  But then we are led immediately unto the consideration of what he is in himself.  And when our love is fixed on him or his person, then all of these things, from a sense of our own wants and desires, become motives to confirm and increase that love.  This is the constant method of the Scripture: it first proposes unto us what the Lord Christ has done for us, and then it leads us to see who he is and shows us the consideration of all other things to engage our love for him.  (See Philippians 2:5-11, with chap. 3:8-11.)

Motives to the love of Christ are so great, and so many, and so diffused through the whole dispensation of God in him unto us that they can by no means be fully expressed.  Let these be ever enlarged in the declaration of them since they certainly cannot be represented in this short discourse where but a very small part is allotted unto their consideration.  The studying, the collection of them or so many of them as we are able, the meditation on them and improvement of them, are among the principal duties of our whole lives.  What I shall offer is the reduction of them unto these two headings: 1. The acts of Christ, which is their substance; and, 2. The spring and fountain of those acts, which is the life of them.

1. The Acts of Christ. In general, they are all the acts of his mediatory office, with all the fruits of them, whereof we are made partners.  There is not anything that he did or does, in the discharge of his mediatory office, from the first inception of it in his incarnation to his present intercession in heaven, except it is motivated by his love (as is proposed to us often in the Scripture).  Whatever he did or does with or towards us in the name of God, as the king and prophet of the church — whatever he did or does with God for us, as our high priest —all speaks this language in the hearts of them that believe:  O love the Lord Jesus in sincerity.

The consideration of what Christ thus did and does for us is inseparable from that of the benefits which we receive from him.  A mixture of both these — of what he did for us and what we have obtained — comprises the substance of these motives: “Who loved me, and gave himself for me” — “Who loved us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God” — “For you were slain, and have bought us unto God with your blood.”  And both these are beyond our understanding.  For who is able to comprehend the glory of the mediatory acting of the Son of God, in the assumption of our nature — in what he did and suffered on our behalf?  And for us, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive, all that we receive from it.  The least benefit we have received deserves our love and seems almost criminal were such love is not entertained.  What, then, does this greatest love deserve, which was purchased for you by the greatest expense, even the price of the blood of the Son of God?

If we have any faith concerning these things, it will produce love, and that love will produce loving obedience.  Whatever we profess concerning Christ, if it springs from tradition and opinion and not from faith, will not engage our souls to love him.  The frame of heart which ensues on the real faith and love toward these things is expressed in terms of remembering what he has done: Psalm 103:1-5, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Let men pretend what they will, there needs to be no greater and no other evidence to prove that any one does not really believe the things that are reported in the gospel, concerning the mediatory acting of Christ, or that he has no experience in his own soul and conscience of the fruits and effects of them, than this — than that his heart is not engaged by them unto the most ardent love towards his person.

Anyone who has no love for the One who has given his all for them cannot be a true believer.  Some may more abound in good deeds more than others; some may be more diligent than others in the observation of times for the solemn performance of certain duties; some may have brighter and clearer understandings than others.  But as for those whose hearts and minds do not have love for the Savior, on what grounds can they be esteemed Christians?  How do they live by the faith of the Son of God?  Are the great things of the Gospel and of the mediation of Christ as presented to us, so small as that they must give place unto all other occasions or diversions whatever?  No; if our minds are not filled with these things — if Christ does not dwell plentifully in our hearts by faith — if our souls are not possessed with them — we are strangers unto the life of faith.  But if we are conversant about these things, they will engage our hearts into the love of the person of Christ.

Take one instance from among the rest — namely, his death.  How can someone have the heart of a Christian, if he does not derive his life from it?  Who can look into the Gospel and not fix on those lines which either immediately and directly, or through some other paths of divine grace and wisdom, do lead him thereunto?  And how can anyone have believing thoughts concerning the death of Christ and not have his heart affected with ardent love unto his person?  Christ in the Gospels “is evidently set forth, crucified” before us.  How can any by the eye of faith look on this bleeding, dying Redeemer and suppose love unto his person to be nothing but the work of fancy or imagination?  Those who “always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,” (as the apostle speaks, 2 Corinthians 4:10) know the contrary.  Those whose hearts recognize this precious perfume of his death have their hearts ravished with love for this Savior.

Again: as there can be no faith in Christ where there is no love to him on the account of his mediatory acts; so, where this love is lacking, these persons are put under the highest guilt of ingratitude that our nature is liable unto.  The highest aggravation of the sin of angels was their ingratitude unto their Maker.  For why, by his mere will and pleasure, they were stated in the highest excellency, pre-eminence, and dignity, that he thought good to communicate unto any creatures — or, it may be, that any mere created nature is capable of in itself — they were unthankful for what they had so received from undeserved goodness and bounty; and so cast themselves into everlasting ruin.  But yet the sin of men, in their ingratitude towards Christ on the account of what he has done for them, is an aggravation above that of the angels.  For although the angels were originally instated in a condition of dignity which in this world we cannot attain unto, yet they were not redeemed and recovered from misery as we are.

In all the crowd of evil and wicked men that the world is pestered withal, there are none, by common consent, so stigmatized for unworthy villainy, as those who are signally ungrateful for singular benefits.  If persons are unthankful unto them, if they have not the highest love for them, who redeem them from ignominy and death, and instate them in a plentiful inheritance, (if any such instances may be given,) and that with the greatest expense of labor and charge, — mankind, without any regret, does tacitly condemn them unto greater miseries than those which they were delivered from.  What, then, will be the condition of them whose hearts are not so affected with the mediation of Christ and the fruits of it, as to engage the best, the choicest of their affections unto him!  The gospel itself will be “a savor of death” unto such ungrateful persons.

2. His Love to Us. That which the Scripture principally insists on as the motive of our love unto Christ is his love unto us — which was the principle of all his mediatory actions in our behalf.  Love is that jewel of human nature which commands a valuation wherever it is found.  Let other circumstances be what they will, whatever distances between persons may be made by them, yet real love, where it is evidenced so to be, is not despised by any except the most heartless of men.  Even if such love can produce no outward effects to them that are beloved, yet it commands at least, as it were, some kind of respect in return.

This is especially so if this love be altogether undeserved and so proves itself to proceed from a goodness of nature, and an inclination to the good of them on whom it is fixed.  If there be any such affection left in the nature of any man, it should provoke a reciprocal love.  And all these things are found in the love of Christ, unto that degree and height as nothing parallel unto it can be found in the whole creation.

I shall briefly speak of it under two general heads:

(1.) The sole reason for all the mediatory acts of Christ, both in light of our sinful nature and in all that he did and suffered for us, was his own mere love and grace, working by pity and compassion.  It is true; he undertook this work principally with respect unto the glory of God and out of love unto him.  But with respect unto us, his only motive was his abundant, overflowing love.  And this is especially remembered unto us in that instance where it carried him through the greatest difficulties — namely, in his death and the oblation of himself on our behalf, Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2, 25, 26; 1 John 3:16; Revelation 1:6.  This alone inclined the Son of God to undertake the glorious work of our redemption and carried him through the death and dread which he underwent in the accomplishment of it.

We should regularly make consideration of this love of Christ, which was the great means of conveying all the effects of dine wisdom and grace unto the church — that glass which God chose to represent himself and all his goodness in unto believers — that spirit of life in the wheel of all the motions of the person of Christ in the redemption of the church unto the eternal glory of God, his own and that of his redeemed also — that mirror wherein the holy angels and blessed saints shall forever contemplate the divine excellencies in their suitable operations.

When some raise questions about the divine nature of the person of Christ, they unwittingly destroy the whole nature of that love which we ascribe unto him.  Therefore fore, a more distinct explication and defense of it may be called for.  And this cause will not be forsaken.  Those who do so know nothing of the life and power of the gospel, nothing of the reality of the grace of God, nor do they believe aright one article of the Christian faith, whose hearts are not sensible of the love of Christ; nor is he sensible of the love of Christ, whose affections are not thereon drawn out unto him.  They often make a pageant of religion — a fable for the theater of the world, a business of fancy and opinion — whose hearts are not really affected with the love of Christ.  They do so that they might have some emotional affection toward the mediatorial work of Christ.

Many babble things which they have learned by rote but they have no real acquaintance with Christianity, who imagine that the placing of the most intense affections of our souls on the person of Christ — the loving him with all our hearts because of his love — our being overcome until we are sick of love — the constant motions of our souls towards him with delight and adherence — are but fancies and imaginations.  I renounce such a religion, whose ever it may be, that teaches, insinuates, or gives countenance to such abominations.  Such doctrine is far from the gospel and as contrary to the experience of believers as that which instructs men to a contempt of the most fervent love unto Christ or casts reflections upon it.  I had rather choose my eternal lot and portion with the weakest believer, who, being effectually sensible of the love of Christ, spends his days in mourning that he can love him no more than he finds himself on his utmost endeavors for the discharge of his duty to do, than with the best of them, whose vain speculations and a false pretense of reason puff them up unto a contempt of true love for Christ.

(2.) This love of Christ is pure and absolutely free from any alloy or mixture.  There cannot be the least suspicion of anything of self in it.  And it is absolutely undeserved.  Nothing can be found amongst men that can represent or exemplify its freedom from any desert on our part.  The most candid and ingenuous love amongst us is, when we love another for his worth, excellency, and usefulness, though we have no singular benefit of them ourselves.  But not the least of any of these things was found in those on whom he set his love, except as effects of that love which he set upon them.

Men sometimes may rise up unto such a high degree and instance in love, as that they will even die for one another; but then it must be because they esteem their worth and merit.  It may be, says the apostle in treating of the love of Christ and of God in him, that “for a good man some would even dare to die,” Romans 5:7.  It must be for a good man — one who is justly esteemed “commune bonum,” a public good to mankind — one whose benignity is ready to exercise loving-kindness on all occasions, which is the estate of a good man — it is possible that some would even dare to die for such a man.  This is the height of what love among men can rise unto; and if it has been instanced in any, it has been accompanied with an open mixture of vain-glory and desire of renown.  But the Lord Christ placed his love on us when we were sinners and ungodly; that is, everything which might render us unlovable and undeserving.  Though we were as deformed as sin could render us and more deeply indebted than the whole creation could pay or answer, yet did he fix his love upon us, to free us from that condition and to render us fit for the most intimate fellowship with himself.

Never was there love which had such effects — which cost him so dear in whom it was and proved so advantageous to them on whom it was placed.  In the pursuit of it, he underwent everything that is evil in his own person, and we receive everything that is good in the favor of God and eternal blessedness.

On the account of these things, the apostle ascribes a constraining power unto the love of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:14.  And if it constrains us to any return unto him, it does so in terms of love to him.  For no suitable return can be made for love but love, at least not without it.  As love cannot be purchased — “For if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned,” Song of Solomon 8:7 — so if a man would give all the world for a requital of love, without love, it would be despised.  To fancy that all the love of Christ unto us consists in the precepts and promises of the gospel, and all our love unto him in the observance of his commands, without a real love in him unto our persons, like that of a “husband unto a wife,” Ephesians 5:25, 26, or a holy affection in our hearts and minds unto his person, is to overthrow the whole power of religions to despoil it of its life and soul, leaving nothing but the carcass of it.

This love unto Christ and unto God in him, because of his love unto us, is the principal instance of divine love, the touchstone of its reality and sincerity.  Whatever men may boast of their affectionate endearments to divine goodness, if it is not founded in a sense of this love of Christ and the love of God in him, they are but empty notions they feed upon.  It is in Christ alone that God is declared to be love; without such an understanding, none can love him as they ought.  In him alone that infinite goodness, which is the peculiar object of divine love, and it is truly represented unto us, without any such deceiving phantasm as the workings of fancy or depravation of reason may impose upon us.  And on him alone does our salvation depend.  And it is an infinite condescension in the holy God to so express his “glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” or to propose himself as the object of our love in and through him.  For considering our weakness in even comprehending the infinite excellencies of the divine nature and his resplendent glory, it is the most adorable effect of divine wisdom and grace that we are admitted into the contemplation of them in the person of Jesus Christ.  Yet the evidence of his love is also seen in all the blessed effects of his love which believers have experienced personally.  We can only really love him for who he is when we love him rightly for what he has done!

Modernized revision of “Motives Unto the Love of Christ,” in the Works of John Owen, Vol. 1.

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The Work of the Holy Spirit by John Owen

The General Work of the Holy Spirit …

The first general work of the Holy Spirit is to bring to mind the words and promises of Christ (John 14:26). There are two promises in this verse.  There is the promise of the Spirit’s teaching, which I will deal with under his work of anointing believers, and there is the promise of “bringing to remembrance all things that Jesus said.”

The work of bringing to remembrance things that Jesus said is the first general promise concerning the Spirit’s work as comforter.

This promise first concerned the apostles.  Christ promised his apostles that the Holy Spirit would bring back to their minds, by a direct work of almighty power, the things that he had said to them, so that by his inspiration they might be enabled to write and preach them for the good and benefit of his church (2 Pet. 1:21).  The apostles had forgotten much of what Christ had said to them, or might possibly do so.  And what they did remember by their natural ability was not a sufficient foundation for them to write an infallible rule of faith for the church.  It would be by this work of the Spirit that they would be enabled to write such an infallible rule of faith.

This promise of bringing to remembrance all the things that Jesus had spoken is also for the comfort of believers.  Christ had been speaking to his disciples to comfort them by giving them precious promises of his help and strength in this life.  He told them of the love of the Father, of the glory he was providing for them, which was full of unspeakable joy.  “But,” Christ says, “I know how unable you are to make use of these things for your own comfort.  The Spirit, therefore, will bring them back to your minds in their full strength, so that you will find that comfort in them which I intended.”  And this is one reason why it was necessary for believers that Christ’s bodily absence should be more than made up for by the presence of the Spirit.  While he was with them, what little effect his promises had on their hearts!  But when the Spirit came, how full of joy did he make all things to them.  He brings the promises of Christ to our minds and hearts to comfort us, to bring us the joy of them and that far beyond the joy the disciples found in them when Christ spoke to them on earth.  The gracious influences of the promises were then restrained so that the dispensation of the Spirit might be seen to be more glorious than that of the giving of the law.

Christ told the disciples that the effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing things to their remembrance would be peace (John 14:27). They would be freed from worried, anxious minds and fearful hearts.  It is stupid to rely on our natural abilities to remember the promises of Christ.  But when the Comforter undertakes the work, then all is well.  Our Savior Christ, then, left to his Spirit the powerful effect of his promises which he personally gave his apostles in their great distress.  We may therefore see where all the spiritual comfort we have in this world comes from, and so we may have fellowship with the Holy Spirit in this his work.

The Holy Spirit does his work powerfully. A believer may be in the saddest and darkest condition imaginable.  Even so, the Holy Spirit is able to break through all this and bring to mind the promises of Christ.  By this work, the Holy Spirit enables Christians to sit in dungeons, rejoice in flames and glory in troubles.  If he brings to mind the promises of Christ for our comfort, neither Satan nor man, neither sin nor the world, nor even death itself shall take away our comfort. Saints who have communion with the Holy Spirit know this only too well.  Sometimes the heavens are black over them and the earth trembles under them.  Disasters and distresses appear which are so full of horror and darkness that they are tempted to give up in despair.  So how greatly are their spirits revived when the Holy Spirit brings the words of Christ to their minds for their comfort and joy.  Thus, believers are not dependent on outward circumstances for their happiness, for they have the inward and powerfully effective work of the Holy Spirit to whom they give themselves up by faith.

The Holy Spirit does his work sovereignly. The Holy Spirit distributes to everyone as he wills.  So the believer may at one time be full of joy and, at another, full of distress.  Every promise at one time brings great joy when troubles are great and heavy; yet at another time, when only suffering a little, he finds no joy in the promises, however much he seeks for it.  The reason is simple.  The Holy Spirit distributes as he wills.  So there are no rules or course of procedure given to us to follow in order to get peace and joy in the promises.  In this way, faith learns to wait on the sovereign will and pleasure of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit works freely and without payment. Because much of the comfort which comes by the promises depends on the sovereign will of the Holy Spirit, so we find that comfort comes unexpectedly when the heart has every reason in the world to expect distress and sorrow.  This is often the first means of restoring a backsliding soul who might justly be expecting to be utterly cast off.

The life and soul of all our comforts are treasured up in the promises of Christ.  They are the breasts from which we suck the milk of godly comfort.  Who does not know how powerless these promises are in the bare letter, even though we may meditate long on them, as well as how unexpectedly they burst in on the soul, bringing great comfort and joy.  Faith deals especially with the Holy Spirit.  Faith considers the promises themselves, looks up to the Spirit and waits for the Spirit to bring life and comfort into them.  No sooner does the soul begin to feel the life of a promise warming his heart, freeing him from fear, worries and troubles, than it may know, and it ought to know, that the Holy Spirit is doing his work.  This will add to the believer’s joy and lead him into deeper fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

The second general work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ (John 16:14). If the work of the Spirit is to glorify Christ, then we may see what sort of a spirit that is who sets himself up in the place of Christ, calling himself “the vicar of Christ” or “another Christ.”  The work of the Comforter is to glorify Christ.  So any spirit that claims to be of Christ and does not seek to glorify that Christ who spoke to his apostles is clearly a false spirit.

But how will the Comforter glorify Christ?  “He,” says Christ, “shall take of mine.”  What these things are is told us in the next verse.  “All things that the Father has are mine, therefore I said he shall take of mine.”  Christ is not speaking of the essence and essential properties of the Father and the Son, but he is speaking of the grace which is brought to us by the Father and the Son.  This is what Christ calls “my things,” because they are the “things” purchased by his mediation.  They are also the “things of the Father,” because in his eternal love, he has provided them to be brought to us by the blood of his Son.  They are the fruits of his election.  “These,” said Christ, “the Comforter shall receive.  They shall be committed to him so that he may bring them to you for your good and for your comfort in trouble.  So he shall show, declare and make them known to you.”  As Comforter, he reveals to the souls of sinners the good things of the covenant of grace, which the Father has provided and the Son has purchased.  He shows to us mercy, grace, forgiveness, righteousness and acceptance with God.  It is vital to know that these are the things of Christ which he has procured for us.  They are shown to us for our comfort and establishment.  These things the Holy Spirit effectively conveys to the souls of believers, and makes them known to them for their own good; that they were originally from the Father, prepared from eternity in his love and good will; that they were purchased for them by Christ and laid up for them in the covenant of grace for their use.  In this way, Christ is magnified and glorified in their hearts and they then fully realize what a glorious Savior and Redeemer he is.  It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that a believer glorifies and honors Christ for the eternal redemption he has purchased for him.  “No-one can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

The third general work of the Holy Spirit is to “…pour the love of God into our hearts” (Romans 5:5). That it is the love of God to us and not our love to God which is here meant is clear from the context.  The love of God is either the love of his purpose to do us good or the love of acceptance and approval by him. Both these are called the love of God in Scripture.  Now, how can these be poured into our hearts?  This can be done only by giving us a spiritual understanding of them.  God pours the Holy Spirit abundantly on us and he pours out the love of God into our hearts.  That is, the Holy Spirit so persuades us that God loves us that our souls are filled with joy and comfort.  This is his work and he does it effectively.  To persuade a poor, sinful soul that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well pleased with him and only has thoughts of kindness towards him is an inexpressible mercy.

This is the special work of the Holy Spirit and by this special work we have communion with the Father in his love, which is poured into our hearts.  So not only do we rejoice in and glorify the Holy Spirit who does this work, but in the Father also, whose love it is.  It is the same in respect of the Son, in taking the things of Christ and showing them to us.  What we have of heaven in this world lies in this work of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth general work of the Holy Spirit is to bear witness with our spirits that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). Sometimes the soul wonders whether it is a child of God or not, because so much of the old nature still remains.  So the soul brings out all the evidences to prove its claim to be a true child of God.  To support this claim, the Holy Spirit comes and bears witness that the claim is true.

The picture is that of judicial proceedings in a court of law.  The judge being seated, the person concerned lays his claim, produces his evidences and pleads his case.  Then a person of known and approved integrity comes into the court and testifies on behalf of the claimant.  This stops the mouth of all the adversaries and fills the man that pleaded with joy and satisfaction.  It is the same with the believer.  The soul, by the power of his own conscience, is brought before the law of God.  There the soul puts in his plea that he is a true child of God that he does indeed belong to God’s family, and to prove this, he produces all his evidences, everything by which faith gives him a right and title to God.  Satan, in the meantime, opposes with all his might.  Sin and the law add their opposition also.  Many flaws are found in his evidences.  The truth of them all is questioned and the soul is left in doubt as to whether he is a child of God or not.  Then the Comforter comes and by a word of promise or in some other way, overwhelms the heart with a sure persuasion, putting down all objections, showing that his plea is good and that he is indeed a child of God.  And therefore the Holy Spirit is said to “witness with our spirits that we are children of God.”

At the same time, he enables us to show our love to the Father by acts of obedience to his will, which is called “crying Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).  But as the Holy Spirit works sovereignly of his own will and pleasure, the believer may be kept in doubt for a long time.  The law sometimes seems to prevail, sin and Satan to rejoice and the poor soul is filled with dread about his inheritance.  Perhaps by his own witness, from his faith, sanctification and previous experience, he keeps up his claim with some life and comfort.  But the work is not done, the conquest is not fully won, until the Spirit, who works freely and effectively, when and how he wills, comes in with his testimony also.  Clothing his power with his promise, he makes all parties concerned listen to him and so puts an end to the whole dispute.

In this, he gives us holy fellowship with himself.  The soul knows his voice when he speaks.  There is something too great in that voice to be only the voice of some created power.  When the Lord Jesus Christ at one word stilled the storm, all who were with him knew there was divine power at work (Matt. 8:25-27).  And when the Holy Spirit with one word stills the storms in the soul, bringing calm and assurance, then the soul knows by experience that divine power is present and so rejoices in that presence.

The fifth general work of the Holy Spirit is His work in sealing us (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). To seal something is to impart the image of the seal to the thing sealed.  The character of the seal is stamped on the things sealed.  In this sense, the effective communication of the image of God to us should be our sealing.  The Spirit in believers, really communicating the image of God in righteousness and true holiness to the soul, seals us.  To have the stamp of the Holy Spirit as an evidence to the soul that he has been accepted by God is to be sealed by the Spirit. In this sense, Christ is said to be sealed by God (John 6:27).  He had impressed on him the power, wisdom and majesty of God.

“Sealing” confirms or ratifies any grant or conveyance made in writing.  In such cases, men set their seals to make good and confirm their grants.  When this is done, the grants are irrevocable.  Sealing also confirms the testimony that is given by anyone of the truth of anything. This is what the Jews did.  When anyone had given true witness to any thing or matter and it was received by the judges, they instantly set their seals to it, to confirm it in judgment.  So it is said that he who receives the testimony of Christ “sets to his seal that God is true” (AV) or “has certified that God is true” (John 3:33).  The promise is the great grant and conveyance of life and salvation in Christ to the souls of believers.  That we may have full assurance of the truth and the irrevocability of the promise, God gives us the Spirit to satisfy our hearts of it.  So the Spirit is said to seal us by assuring our hearts of those promises and the faithfulness of the God who promised.  But though many expositors take this line, I do not see how this accords with the true meaning of the word.  It is not said that the promise is sealed, but that we are sealed.  And when we seal a deed or grant to anyone, we do not say the man is sealed, but that the deed or grant is sealed.

Sealing denotes possession and assurance of being kept safe.  The object sealed is separated out from unsealed objects. Men set their seals on that which they possess and desire to keep safe for themselves.  So quite clearly, in this sense, the servants of God are said to be sealed.  They are marked with God’s mark as his special ones (Ezek. 9:4). So believers are sealed when they are marked for God to be the heirs of the purchased possession and to be kept safe to the day of redemption.  Now if this is what is meant, it does not denote the giving of assurance in the heart, but of giving security to the person.  The Father gives the elect into the hands of Christ to be redeemed. Christ having redeemed them, in due time they are called by the Spirit and marked for God, and so they give themselves up to the care of the Father.

We are sealed for the day of redemption when, from the stamp, image and character of the Spirit upon our souls, we have a fresh awareness of the love of God given to us, with an assured persuasion of our being accepted by God.

So the Holy Spirit communicates to us his own likeness, which is also the image of the Father and the Son (2 Cor. 3:18).  In this work of his, the Holy Spirit brings us into fellowship with himself.  Our likeness to him gives us boldness with him.  We look for his works.  We pray for his fruits, and when any effect of grace, any awareness of the image of Christ implanted in us persuades and assures us that we are separated and set apart for God, and then we have communion with the Holy Spirit in his work of sealing.

The sixth work of the Holy Spirit is His being an “Earnest” of “deposit” or “guarantee” (1 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13, 14).  From these verses, we learn that the Spirit himself is the “earnest, deposit or guarantee.” Each of these words denotes a pledge. A pledge is that property which anyone gives or leaves in the safe keeping of another, to assure him that he will give him, or pay him all that he has promised at some future date.  But that which is meant by “earnest, deposit or guarantee” here is a part of that which is to come.  An “earnest” is part of the price of anything, or part of any grant given beforehand to assure the person to whom it is given that at the appointed time he shall receive the promised whole.

For a thing to be an “earnest, deposit or guarantee,” it must be part of the whole.  It must be of the same kind and nature with the whole, just as if we have some money as an “earnest, deposit or guarantee” that the whole amount will be paid later.

It must be a guarantee of a promise. First, the whole is promised, then the “earnest” is given as a deposit or guarantee that the promise will be fulfilled.  The Holy Spirit is this “earnest.”  God gives us the promise of eternal life.  To guarantee this to us, he gives us his Spirit.  So the Spirit is the “earnest, the deposit, the guarantee” of the full inheritance that is promised and purchased.

The Holy Spirit is an “earnest, deposit and guarantee” on God’s part, because God gives him as the best part of the inheritance itself, and because the Holy Spirit is of the same kind and nature as the whole inheritance, as an “earnest” ought to be.  The full inheritance promised is the fulness of the Spirit in the enjoyment of God.  When that Spirit which is given to us in this world has perfectly taken away all sin and sorrow and has made us able to enjoy the glory of God in his presence, that is the full inheritance promised.  So that the Spirit given to us to make us fit for the enjoyment of God in some measure whilst we are here is the “earnest or guarantee” of the whole.

God does this to assure us of the inheritance and to guarantee it to us.  Having given us his Word, promises, covenant, oath, the revelation of his faithfulness and his immutability as guarantees, all of which exist outside us, he also graciously gives us his Spirit to dwell within us, so that we may have all the security and guarantee of which we are capable (Isa. 59:21).  What more can be done?  He has given us his Holy Spirit.  In him we have the first-fruits of glory, the utmost pledge of his love, the earnest or guarantee of the whole.

The Holy Spirit is also the “earnest, deposit or guarantee” on the part of believers because he gives them an awareness of the love of God for them. The Holy Spirit makes known to believers their acceptance with God, that he is their Father and will deal with them as with children and so, consequently, the inheritance will be theirs.  He sends his Spirit into their hearts, “crying Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).  And what inference do believers draw from this?  “Now we are not servants, but sons, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Gal. 4:7; Rom. 8:17).  So as children of God, we have a right to the inheritance.  Of this the Holy Spirit assures us.

The Holy Spirit acquaints believers with their inheritance (1 Cor. 2:9, 10). As the “earnest” is the part of the whole, so by the “earnest” we get a foretaste of the whole.  By the Holy Spirit, then, we get a foretaste of the fulness of that glory which God has prepared for those that love him and the more communion we have with the Holy Spirit as an “earnest,” the more we taste of that heavenly glory that awaits us.

The seventh general work of the Holy Spirit is to anoint believers (2 Corinthians 1:21; I John 2:20, 27). Of the many endowments of Christ which he had from the Spirit with which he was anointed, wisdom, counsel and understanding are the chief things (Isa. 11:2, 3).  On account of this, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are said to be in him (Col. 2:3).  So the anointing of believers is associated with teaching (1 John. 2:20, 27).  The work of the “anointing” is to teach us. The Spirit who anoints us is therefore the Spirit of wisdom, of counsel, of knowledge and understanding in the fear of the Lord.  So the great promise of the Comforter was that he should “teach us” (John 14:26).  Christ promised that the Comforter would “guide us into all truth” (John 16:13).  This teaching us the mind and will of God in the way in which we are taught it by the Spirit our Comforter is the chief part of our anointing by him.

The Spirit teaches by conviction and illumination. So the Spirit teaches the world by the preaching of the Word as promised (John 16:8).

The Spirit teaches by sanctification.  He opens blind eyes, gives new understanding, shines into our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and enables us to receive spiritual things in a spiritual light (1 Cor. 2:13).  He gives a saving knowledge of the mystery of the gospel.  All this is common to believers.

The Spirit teaches by comforting. He makes sweet, useful and joyful to the soul that which he, as the Spirit of sanctification, reveals of the mind and will of God.  Here the oil of the Spirit is called the “oil of gladness,” because he brings joy and gladness with his teaching.  And the name of Christ is experienced as sweet “ointment poured forth,” that causes souls to run after him with joy and delight (Song 1:3).  We see it in daily experience that very many have little taste and relish in their souls for these truths which they believe for salvation.  But when we are taught by this “anointing,” how sweet is everything we learn of God!

The Spirit teaches us of the love of God in Christ. He makes every gospel truth like well-refined wine to our souls and the good things of the gospel to be a rich feast of good things.  He gives us joy and gladness of heart with all that we know of God, which is the great way of keeping the soul close to the truth.  By this anointing, the soul is kept from being seduced into error.  Truth will readily be exchanged for error when no more sweetness and joy is to be found in it than is to be found in the error.  When we find any of the good truths of the gospel coming home to our souls with power, giving us gladness of heart and transforming us into the image and likeness of it, the Holy Spirit is then at his work.  He is pouring out his oil.

The Spirit is also the “Spirit of supplication” (Zech. 12:10).  It is he who enables us to pray rightly and effectively.   Our prayers may be considered as a spiritual duty required by God.  So they are wrought in us by the Spirit of sanctification, who helps us to perform all our duties by exalting all the faculties of the soul.  Our prayers may be considered as a means of keeping up communion with God.  The soul is never more lifted up with the love of God than when by the Spirit it is taken into communion with God in prayer.  This is the work of the Spirit as comforter.

Here, then, is the wisdom of faith.  Faith looks for and meets with the Comforter in all these works of his.  Let us not, then, lose their sweetness by remaining in the dark about them, nor fall short of the response required of us in gratitude.

The Holy Spirit and the Hearts of Believers …

The Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens the hearts of believers (Acts 9:31). This is the chief work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers.  He brings the troubled soul to rest and contentment by getting the believer to think of some spiritually good thing or actually brings some spiritually good thing to him.  This spiritual good is such that it completely overcomes that trouble which the soul has been wrestling with. Where comfort is mentioned, it is always associated with trouble or suffering (2 Cor. 1:5, 6).

This comfort is everlasting (2 Thess. 2:16).  It does not come and go.  It abides for ever, because it comes from everlasting things, such as everlasting love, eternal redemption and an everlasting inheritance.

This comfort is strong (Heb. 6:18).  As we experience strong opposition and trouble, so our comfort or consolation is strong and so unconquerable.  It confirms and strengthens the heart under any evil.  It fortifies the soul and makes it able cheerfully to undergo anything that it is called to undergo.  This comfort is strong because he who brings it is strong.

This comfort is precious. So Paul makes it the great motive to obedience to which he exhorts the Philippians (Phil. 2:1).  The fellowship we have with the Holy Spirit lies, in no small part, in the comfort or consolation we receive from him.  This teaches us to value his love, to look to him in our troubles, and to wait on him for his everlasting, strong, precious comfort.

The Holy Spirit brings peace to the hearts of believers (Rom. 15:13). The power of the Holy Spirit not only refers to “hope” but also to our peace in believing.  When Christ promised to give the Comforter to his disciples, he also promised to give them his peace (John 14:26, 27).  Christ gives his peace by giving the Comforter.  The peace of Christ lies in the soul’s assurance of being accepted by God in personal friendship.  So Christ is said to be “our peace” (Eph. 2:14). He slays the enmity between God and us, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us” (Col. 2:14).  Being assured of our justification and acceptance with God in Christ is the foundation of our peace (Rom. 5:1).  To know that we are delivered from eternal wrath, from being hated, cursed and condemned, fills the soul with joy and peace.

Nevertheless, this peace of heart is by the sovereign will and pleasure of the Holy Spirit.  A man may be chosen in the eternal love of the Father, redeemed by the blood of the Son and justified freely by the grace of God so that he has a right to all the promises of the gospel.  Yet this person can, by no reasonings or persuasions of his own heart, by no considerations of the promises of the gospel, nor of the love of God or grace of Christ in them, be brought to that peace until it is produced in him by the Holy Spirit.  “Peace” is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

The Holy Spirit brings joy to the hearts of believers. The Spirit is called “the oil of gladness” (Heb. 1:9).  His anointing brings gladness with it (Isa. 61:3).  “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).  The Thessalonians received the word with joy in the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:6; I Pet. 1:8).  To give joy to the hearts of believers is chiefly the work of the Holy Spirit.  He enables believers to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2).  This joy is produced by the Spirit pouring into our hearts the love of God and so carrying them through every kind of tribulation (Rom. 5:5).

The Holy Spirit produces joy in the hearts of believers directly by himself without using any other means.  As in sanctification he is a well of water springing up in the soul, so in “comforting” he fills the souls and minds of men with spiritual joy.  When he pours out the love of God in our hearts, he fills them with joy, just as he caused John to leap for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when the mother of Jesus approached.  This joy, the Holy Spirit works when and how he wills.  He secretly injects this joy into the soul, driving away all fears and sorrows, filling it with gladness and causing it to exult, sometimes with unspeakable raptures of the mind.

The Holy Spirit produces joy in the hearts of believers by his other works with respect to us.  He assures us of the love of God and of our acceptance with God and our adoption into his family.  When we think about this, the Holy Spirit brings the truth home to us with joy.  If we consider all the things the Holy Spirit does for us and in us, we will soon see what a strong foundation he lays in our hearts for our continual joy and gladness.  Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit works joy in us as and when he pleases according to his sovereign will and pleasure.  This way of producing joy in the heart, David describes as “having his head anointed with oil” (Psa. 23:5, 6).  And the result of this anointing, David says, is, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” In Isaiah we have a wonderful description of the work of the Comforter (see Isaiah 35).

The Holy Spirit brings hope to the hearts of believers (Rom. 15:13). The great hope of the believer is to be like Christ and to enjoy God in Christ for ever. “And,” says John, “everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). By showing “the things of Christ” to us and by “glorifying Christ” in our hearts, the Holy Spirit arouses our desires to be like Christ and so we grow and increase in our hope, which is one way by which the Holy Spirit sanctifies us.

These are the general works of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, which, if we consider them and all that they produce, will bring joy, assurance, boldness, confidence, expectation and glorying. We shall then see how much our whole communion with God is enriched and influenced by them.

From Communion With God, abridged by R.J.K. Law (published by Banner of Truth).

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‘There is one God,’ says Paul, ‘and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim. 2:5). In that great separation between God and man caused by our sin and apostasy which of itself could result in nothing but the utter ruin of the whole human race, there was none in heaven or earth who was fit or able to reconcile them and bring about a righteous peace between them. Yet this must be done and could be done only by a suitable mediator.

This mediator could not be God himself, as God only, for a mediator does not mediate for only one. But if he was God then he could be said to be biased, for there is only one God and man is not God. Man needs a mediator to represent him just as God needs a mediator to represent him (Gal. 5:20). So whatever God might do in the work of reconciliation, yet as God he could not do it as mediator.

As for man, there was no creature in heaven or earth fit to undertake this work. For ‘if one sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?’ (1 Sam. 2:25). As Job said, ‘Nor is there any mediator between us who may lay his hand on us’ (Job 9:33).

In this state of things, the Lord Christ, as the Son of God, said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God’ (Heb. 10:7). By taking our nature into union with himself, in his own divine person, he became in every way fit and able for this work and so undertakes it. How then may we behold the glory of Christ as mediator? We may behold it in his humbling himself to take up this office of mediator, in his carrying it out, and in its results.

Infinite Humility in His Incarnation

We may behold the glory of Christ in his infinite willingness to humble himself to take this office of mediator on himself, and uniting our nature to his for that purpose. He did not become mediator by chance. Nor was it imposed on him against his will. He did not have to become mediator. He freely chose to become mediator. He willingly humbled himself in order that he might make a righteous peace between God the Judge and man the sinner.

Christ, being in the form of God, says Paul, willingly took on himself the form of a servant. He willingly humbled himself. He willingly made himself of no reputation and was obedient even to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). It is this willingness to humble himself to take our nature into union with himself which is glorious in the eyes of believers.

Such is the transcendent glory of the divine nature, that it is said of God that he ‘dwells on high’, and yet ‘humbles himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth’ (Ps. 113:4-6). God is willing to take notice of the most glorious things in heaven and the lowliest things in the earth. This shows his infinite humility.

Consider the infinite distance between God’s essence, nature or being, and that of his creatures. So all nations before him ‘are as the drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance.’ Indeed, they are as nothing. They are counted to him as less than nothing and foolishness. Who can measure the distance between that which is infinite and that which is finite? It cannot be done. So, the infinite, essential greatness of the nature of God, with his infinite distance from the nature of all creatures, means that God has to humble himself to take notice of things infinitely below him.

God is so infinitely high and lofty, so inhabits eternity in his own eternal being, that it is an act of mere grace in him to take notice of things infinitely below him. Therefore he does it in a special way. He does it by taking special notice of those whom the world despises, ‘the humble and contrite ones’ (Isa. 57:15).

God is infinitely self-sufficient both in himself and in all that he does. Man is continually seeking for self-satisfaction. But no creature can find eternal blessedness or satisfaction in itself, for no creature is self-sufficient. Not even Christ’s human nature in heaven is self-sufficient. It lives in God and God in it. It continues to exist in full dependence on God and continually receives blessed and glorious communications from him. God alone lacks nothing and stands in need of nothing. Nothing can be added to him to increase his blessedness, seeing he ‘gives to all life, breath and all things’ (Acts 17:25). No creature can contribute one mite to God’s eternal blessedness. He is infinitely perfect in his own nature (Job 35:6-7).

How glorious then is this willingness of the Son of God to humble himself to be our mediator. What heart can conceive, what tongue can express the glory of that mind of Christ which brought him down from infinite glory to take our nature into union with his so that he could mediate with God on our behalf?

In order to behold the glory of Christ as mediator better, let us consider the special nature of this willingness of his to humble himself. In doing this we must first consider what he did not do when he humbled himself to be our mediator,

  1. Christ did not lay aside his divine nature.
  2. He did not cease to be God when he became man. The real glory of his willingness to humble himself lies in this great truth, that ‘being in the form of God, he did not consider it robbery to be equal with God’ (Phil. 2:6). That is, being really and essentially God in his divine nature, he declared himself to be equal with God, or with the person of the Father. He was ‘in the form’ of God, that is, he was God. He was partaker of the divine nature, for God has no form or shape. So he was equal with God, in authority, dignity and power. Because he was in the form of God, he must be equal with God, for though there is order in the divine persons, there is no inequality in the Divine Being. So the Jews clearly understood his meaning when he said God was his Father. They knew he meant that he was equal with God. For when he said this, he also claimed equal power with the Father in all his divine works. He said, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working’ (John 5:17).

    Being in the form of God, he took the form of a servant, and was found in fashion as a man (Phil. 2:7). This is his infinite humility. Paul does not say that he stopped being God, but though continuing to be God, he took ‘the form of a servant.’ That is, he took our nature upon him. He became what he was not, but he did not cease to be what he always was (see John 3:13). Although he was then on earth as Son of man, yet he was still God, for in his divine nature he was still also in heaven.

    He who is God, can never not be God, just as he who is not God can never be God. The difference between us and the Socinians (disciples of Faustus and Laelius Socinius in the 16th century who, like the Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, denied the true and eternal deity of Christ) and is this, that we believe that Christ, being God, was made man for our sakes, whereas they teach that Christ, being only a man, was made a god for own sake.

    This, then, is the glory of Christ’s willingness to humble himself. This is the life and soul of all heavenly truth and all heavenly mysteries, namely, that the Son of God, becoming in time what he was not, that is, Son of man, did not cease thereby to be what he was, even the eternal Son of God.

  3. Christ did not convert his divine nature into the human.
  4. This was what some Arians of old taught, and some still say today that the ‘Word which was in the beginning,’ by which all things were made, was in the fullness of time turned into flesh, that is, the substance of the divine nature was turned into flesh as the water in Christ’s miracle was turned into wine. By an act of divine power, it ceased to be water and was now wine only, not water mixed with wine. So these men suppose a substantial change of the one nature into the other, that is, the divine nature was changed into the human in the same way that Roman Catholics imagine the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ by transubstantiation.

    But this doctrine destroys both of Christ’s natures, and leaves him a person who can no longer be our mediator. For, according to this teaching, that divine nature in which he was in the form of God ceased to be God. Indeed, it was completely destroyed because it was substantially changed into the nature of man as the water ceased to be water when it was turned into wine. And that human nature which was made by the transformation of the divine nature into the human has no relationship to us, seeing it was not ‘made of a woman.’ but of the substance of the Word.

  5. The humbling of Christ to be our mediator did not change or alter the divine nature.
  6. Eutyches (378-454) and those that followed him taught that the two natures of Christ, the divine and the human, were mixed and compounded as it were into one. But this could not happen without the divine nature being altered, for it would be made to be essentially what it was not, for one nature has but one and the same essence.

    But as we said before, although the Lord became what he was not before, in that our nature was made to be his, yet his divine nature always remained the same. In the divine nature there is neither ‘variableness nor shadow of turning.’ It remained the same in him, in all its essential properties and in all its blessedness as it was from eternity. The Lord Christ did and suffered many things both in his life and in his death as a human being. But all that he did and suffered as a human being was done and suffered by his whole person, even although what he did and suffered as a human being was not actually done and suffered by his divine nature. Because his human nature was part of his whole person, what he did as a human being could be said to have been done by himself as God, e.g., God purchased his church ‘with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28).

  7. What did the Lord Christ do with his divine nature when he willingly humbled himself to become man?
  8. Paul tells us that he ‘humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation’ (Phil. 2:7-8). He veiled the glory of his divine nature in ours, so that there was no outward appearance or revelation of it. The world could not see that he was the true God, so it believed he was not a good man in claiming to be God. So when Christ said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ which asserted his pre-existence from eternity in another nature than what they could see, they were filled with rage, and ‘took up stones to cast at him’ (John 8:58-59). They gave as the reason for their madness that ‘he, being a man, should make himself to be God’ (John 10:33). They could not understand that one and the same person could be both God and man. It was beyond their fleshly reason. Nothing in creation had two natures.

    But this difficulty is solved by the glory of Christ in his humiliation, for although in himself, in his own divine person, he was ‘over all, the eternally blessed God’ (Rom. 9:5), yet he humbled himself for the salvation of the church. To the eternal glory of God, he took our nature and was made man. Those who cannot see a divine glory in his doing this neither know him, nor love him, nor believe in him, nor in any way belong to him.

    So, because these people cannot behold the glory of Christ in this humbling of himself to take our nature, they deny the foundation of our religion, namely the divine person of Christ. If he is willing to be made man, then he shall be treated only as a man and no more. So they reject the glory of God’s infinite wisdom, goodness and grace which concerns him more than does his whole creation. And they dig up the root of all evangelical truths which are nothing but branches growing from it.

    To the world, our Lord Jesus Christ is a ‘stumbling block and a rock of offence.’ If we should say he was only a prophet, no more than a man sent from God, there would be no opposition from the world. The Moslems and the Jews both say he was only a man, a prophet sent from God. The hatred of the Jews for Christ was because he professed himself to be God, and as such was believed on in the world. And today, there are many who are willing to say he was a prophet sent from God, who do not, who will not, who cannot, believe the mystery of his willingness to humble himself to take our nature into union with his divine nature, nor see the glory of it. But take this away, and all our religion is taken away with it. Farewell to the mystery, the glory, the truth and the power of Christianity! Let a refined heathenism be set up in its place. But this is the rock on which the church is built, and against this rock the gates of hell shall not prevail.

  9. Christ’s humbling of himself to be our mediator was not by means of some ethereal substance forming a phantasm or an appearance only.

One of the first heresies that assailed the church was the Docetic (from the Greek word, “to appear, or seem”) heresy. The Docetics taught that all that was done or suffered by Christ as a man was done or suffered by one who only appeared to be a man. His appearance as a man was like the appearance of angels in the shape of men, eating and drinking under the Old Testament. So there was only an appearance of Christ in the man Jesus at Jerusalem, in whom he suffered no more than in other believers. But this heresy was dealt with by the early church telling these heretics that an imaginary Christ gives an imaginary salvation.

We must, then, consider the true nature of this glorious divine humiliation that Christ willingly undertook in order to be our mediator. The essence of the biblical teaching is as follows: The eternal person of the Son of God, or the divine nature in the person of the Son, did, by a wonderful act of his divine power and love, take our nature into union with himself that is, to be his own even as the divine nature is his own.

This is the infallible foundation of faith, even to those who can understand very little of these divine mysteries. They can and do believe that the Son of God took our nature to be his own, so that whatever was done in that nature was done by him as a true human being would do it. The Lord Christ took that nature which is common to all men into union with his divine nature in his own person, so that it became truly his and he was truly the man Christ Jesus. This was the mind that was in him.

In this assumption of our nature in which he lived and suffered, by which he was found in fashion as a man, the glory of his divine person was veiled, and he made himself of no reputation. But this I have already dealt with.

We must also take note, that in taking human nature into union with his divine nature, Christ did not change it into a divine, spiritual nature, but preserved it in its entirety, with all its essential human properties and abilities. So Christ really lived and suffered, was really tried, tempted and forsaken in his true human nature, just as any other man might have so lived and suffered. He was exposed to all earthly evils just as every other man is.

The glory of Christ’s humiliation was the result of the divine wisdom of the Father as well as of the love of the Son. It was the highest evidence of God’s loving care towards his sinful human creatures. What can be compared to it? It is the glory of Christianity and the life-giving power of all evangelical truth. It lifts up the mystery of the wisdom of God above the reason or understanding of men and angels so that it becomes the object of faith and wonder only. It is a mystery that exalts the greatness of God. Considering the infinite distance between God and his creation, it is not surprising that all his works and ways cannot be understood by his creatures (Job 11:7-9; Rom. 11:33-36).

A Great Mystery—A Great Refuge

It is of this great mystery that that great promise concerning him is given to the church. ‘He will be as a sanctuary’ (namely to all believers as Peter tells us, 1 Pet. 2:7-8), ‘but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.’ To whom? To those who ‘stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed’ (Isa. 8:14; 1 Pet. 2:8).

Christ is a sanctuary, a sure refuge to all that put their trust in him. And what would a troubled man fleeing to a safe place be looking for? He would look for all his needs to be met, to be delivered from all his fears, to be protected from all dangers. Such is the Lord Christ to all sin-distressed souls.

Christ is a refuge to us in all our spiritual sorrows and troubles (Heb. 6:18). Are you burdened with a sense of sin? Are you weighed down under the oppression of any spiritual enemy? Do we, as a result of any of these things, ‘walk in darkness and have no light?’ One look at the glory of Christ will strengthen and comfort us.

When we go to someone for help, two questions arise. The first is, Is the person to whom we are going for help willing to help us, and secondly, Is he able to help us? We need to know that Christ is both willing and able to help us and to meet all our needs.

We may well ask, What will Christ not do for us? He who emptied and humbled himself, who came down from the infinite height of his glory to take our finite nature into union with his infinite nature, will he not meet all our needs and answer according to his infinite wisdom all our prayers for help? Will he not do all that is necessary for us to be eternally saved? Will he not be a sanctuary for us? We have no reason to fear his ability and power, for in becoming man he lost nothing of his power as the Almighty God, nor of his infinite wisdom and glorious grace. He could still do all that he could do as God from eternity. So Christ is indeed most willing and able to help us. And if we do not see his glory in this, it is because we have no faith in us.

But to unbelievers and the disobedient who stumble at the Word, Christ is a ‘stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.’ They cannot, they will not see the glory of Christ’s infinite willingness to humble himself to take our nature upon him. They have no desire to see it. They hate and despise it. It is offensive to them. So they choose to deny completely that he is God rather than admit that he humbled himself for our sakes. Rather than admit this glory, they will allow him no glory. They say he was merely a man and that this was his only glory. This is the principle of darkness and unbelief which works so effectively in the minds of many. They think it absurd that one person can be both man and God. So they see no glory in Christ and find no refuge or safety in him. But it is just here that faith triumphs against them. Faith sees that to be a glorious sanctuary which unbelief cannot see.

So I exhort you to spend much time meditating on the glory of Christ in his humiliation. Unless we are diligent in this, it is impossible to keep our faith steadily fixed on Christ or be ready for self-denial and taking up our cross, for the humbling of Christ is the chief motive for this duty (Phil. 2:5-8). And no man denies himself rightly, who does not consider the self-denial of the Son of God. For what are the things of which we are to deny ourselves? Is it not our goods, our rights and freedoms, our relations and our lives? They are perishing things from which, whether we like it or not, death will separate us. But the glory of Christ is forever. Believers will never be separated from it. So if you find yourself at any time unwilling to part with this world, then lift up your eyes and by faith behold the glory Christ who ‘made himself of no reputation.’

Slightly edited from The Glory of Christ,, the abridged and edited edition by R. J. K. Law, printed by Banner of Truth. This book is an excellent introduction to John Owen for modern readers. We highly recommend it!

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Sin works by deceit to entangle the affections. [Let us examine] the ways whereby it is done and the means of their prevention.

The second thing in the words of the apostle ascribed unto the deceitful working of sin is its deception. A man is “drawn away and enticed.” This seems particularly to respect the affections, just as the drawing away does the mind. The mind is drawn away from duty, and the affections are enticed unto sin. Thus a man is said to be “enticed,” or entangled as with a bait. For there is an allusion in it unto the bait wherewith a fish is taken on the hook holding him to his destruction. Sin deceives in this same way.

Concerning this effect of the deceit of sin, we shall briefly show: (1) What it is to be enticed; (2) What course sin takes; and (3) What way it proceeds to entice, ensnare, or entangle the soul.

Sin Entices the Emotions

The affections are entangled when they stir up frequent imaginations about the proposed object that this deceit of sin leads towards. When sin prevails, and the affections are gone fully after it, it fills the imagination with it, possessing it with images and appearances of it continually. Such persons “devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds.” In particular, 2 Peter 2:14 tells us that “they have eyes full of adultery and they cannot cease from sin.” That is, their imaginations are possessed with a continual representation of the object of their lust.

The lust of the eyes is that which by them is conveyed unto the soul. Now, it is not the bodily sense of seeing, but the fixing of the imagination from that sense on such things, that is intended. And this is called the “eyes,” because thereby things are constantly represented unto the mind and soul, as outward objects are unto the inward sense by the eyes. And oftentimes the outward sight of the eyes is the occasion of these imaginations. So Achan declares how sin prevailed with him (Josh. 7:21). First, he saw the wedge of gold and Babylonian garment, and then he coveted them. He rolled them—the pleasures and the profit of them—in his imagination, and then fixed his heart upon the obtaining of them. Now, the heart may have a settled, fixed detestation of sin; but, if a man find that the imagination of the mind is frequently solicited by it and exercised about it, he may know that his affections are secretly enticed and entangled.

Sinful Imaginations Affect the Mind

This entanglement is heightened when the imagination can prevail with the mind to lodge vain thoughts in it with secret delight and complacency. This may be before the consent of the will to sin is obtained. Although the soul would not for the world do the thing, which yet thoughts begin to lodge in the mind about it. All these thoughts are messengers that carry sin to and fro between the imagination and the affections, and increase them, inflaming the imagination, and entangling the affections more and more. Achan thinks upon the golden wedge, which makes him like it and love it. By loving it, his thoughts are infected and return to the imagination of its worth and goodly show; and so by little and little the soul is inflamed unto sin.

Sinful Deceptions Weaken the Will

We have shown, and shall yet farther evidence, that it is a great part of the deceit of sin to tender lessening and extenuating thoughts of sin unto the mind. “Is it not a little one?” or, “There is mercy provided;” or, “It shall be in due time relinquished and given over.” This is the language of sinful deceit to a deceived heart. Now, when there is a readiness in the soul to hearken and give entertainment unto such secret insinuations, it is evidence that the affections are enticed. When the soul is willing, as it were, to be tempted and courted by sin, it has lost its affections unto Christ and is entangled. When the deceit of sin has prevailed thus far on any person, then he is enticed or entangled. The will has not yet come to the actual conception of this or that sin by its consent, but the whole soul is inclined toward it.

How Sin Deceives

  1. It takes the mind off its guard.

It makes use of its former deception upon the mind by drawing it off from its watch and circumspection. Says the wise man in Proverbs 1:17, “Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird.” If the bird has eyes open to discern the snare, and a wing to carry it away, it will not be caught. In vain should the deceit of sin spread its snares and nets for the entanglement of the soul, while the eyes of the mind are intent upon what is happening. But if the eyes be put out or diverted, wings are of very little use for escape; and, therefore, this is one of the ways which is used by them who take birds or fowls in their nets. They have false lights or shows of things, to divert the sight of their prey; and when that is done, they take the season to cast their nets upon them. So does the deceit of sin—it first draws off and diverts the mind by false reasoning and pretences, as has been showed, and then casts its net upon the affections for their entanglement.

2. It makes sin appear desirable.

Taking advantage of such seasons, sin is proposed as desirable. This is the laying of a bait to which the apostle in this verse evidently alludes. Such bait seems desirable and suitable. It is proposed to the hungry creature for its satisfaction; and it is by all artifices rendered desirable and suitable. Thus sin is presented by the help of the imagination unto the soul. Hebrews 11:25 tells us that there are “pleasures of sin. Now, this pleasure of sin consists in its suitableness to give satisfaction to the flesh, to lust, and to corrupt affections. Hence there is that caution in Romans 14:14—”Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” That is, ” Do not suffer your minds, thoughts, or affections to fix upon sinful objects suited to give satisfaction to the lusts of the flesh and cherish them thereby.” In, Galatians 5:16, “Fulfil not the lust of the flesh.” When men are under the power of sin, they are said to “fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3). When, therefore, sin would entangle the soul, it prevails with the imagination to solicit the heart, by representing this false-painted beauty or pretended satisfactoriness of sin. Then if Satan provides any peculiar temptation, it often inflames all the affections and puts the whole soul into disorder.

  1. It hides the danger that attends sin.

It covers it as the hook is covered with the bait, or as the net spread over with meat. It is not, indeed, possible that sin should utterly deprive the soul of the knowledge of the danger of it. It cannot dispossess it of its notion or persuasion that “the wages of sin is death,” and that it is the “judgment of God that they that commit sin are worthy of death.” But it so takes up and possesses the mind with the desirableness of sin, that it diverts them from an actual and practical contemplation of the danger of it. What Satan did in and by his first temptation, that sin does ever since. At first, Eve guards herself with calling to mind the danger of sin: “If we eat or touch it we shall die” (Genesis 3:3). But as soon as Satan had filled her mind with the beauty and usefulness of the fruit to make one wise, how quickly did she lay aside her practical consideration of the danger of eating it and the curse due unto it; or else relieves herself with a vain hope that it should not be, because the serpent told her so.

Likewise, David was beguiled in his great transgression by the deceit of sin. His lust being pleased and satisfied, the consideration of the guilt and danger of his transgression was taken away. Now when sin presses upon the soul to this purpose, it will use a thousand wiles to hide the terror of the Lord from the soul. Hopes of pardon shall be used to hide it. Future repentance shall hide it. The present importunity of lust combined with the occasions and opportunities shall hide it. Thus sin deceives by hiding the dangers of sinning from us.

4. It raises perverse reasonings in the mind.

Sin uses many excuses—the surprise of the occasion, the present opportunity, and the balancing of duties. It will encourage the mind to sin based upon the promise of future repentance or other such reasonings. A thousand such excuses are given to lead the mind into false and perverse reasoning.

The Importance of the Heart

We must understand the importance of guarding the heart if we are to escape the deception of sin. Let us take heed of our affections which are commonly referred to in the Scripture as the heart, as the principal thing which God requires in our walking before him. Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep thy heart with all diligence,” or “Before every watch, keep thy heart.” You have many things that you watch over—you watch to keep your lives, to keep your estates, to keep your reputations, and to keep up your families. But,” he says, “above all these keepings, prefer that, attend to that of the heart, of your affections, that they be not entangled with sin.” There is no safety without it. Save all other things and lose the heart, and all is lost. You will say, then, “What shall we do, or how shall we observe this duty?”

Ways to Guard Your Affections

1. Set Your Affections on Things Above

Colossians 3:2—”Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Fix your affections upon heavenly things. This will enable you to mortify sin. Were our affections filled, taken up, and possessed with these things, as it is our duty that they should be, what access could sin, with its painted pleasures, its sugared poisons, and its envenomed baits, have unto our souls? How should we loathe all its proposals, and say unto them, “Get ye hence, abominable thing!” For what are the vain, transitory pleasures of sin, in comparison of the exceeding recompense of reward which is proposed unto us (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18)?

2. Focus on the Cross of Christ

As to the object of your affections, in an especial manner, let it be the cross of Christ, which has exceeding efficacy towards the disappointment of the whole work of indwelling sin. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). In the cross of Christ, Paul gloried and rejoiced. His heart was set upon this; and these were the effects of it—it crucified the world unto him, making it a dead and undesirable thing. The baits and pleasures of sin are all taken out of the world, and the things that are in the world entice and entangle our souls. If the heart be filled with the cross of Christ, it casts death and undesirableness upon them all. It leaves no seeming beauty, no appearing pleasure or comeliness, in them.

Labor, therefore, to fill your hearts with the cross of Christ. Consider the sorrows he underwent, the curse he bore, the blood he shed, the cries he put forth, the love that was in all this to your souls, and the mystery of the grace of God. Meditate on the vileness, the demerit, and punishment of sin as represented in the cross, the blood, and the death of Christ. Is Christ crucified for sin, and shall not our hearts be crucified with him unto sin? Shall we give entertainment unto that, or hearken unto its dalliances, which wounded, and pierced, and slew our dear Lord Jesus? God forbid! Fill your affections with the cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin.

3. Pay Attention to Care for Spiritual Things

Look to the vigor of the affections towards heavenly things. If they are not continually attended, excited, directed, and warned, they are apt to decay, and sin lies in wait to take every advantage against them. We have many examples in the Scripture of those who lost their first love by allowing their affections to decay. This should make us jealous over our own hearts, lest we also should be overtaken with backsliding. Therefore, be jealous over them. Often strictly examine them and call them to account and supply unto them due considerations for their exciting and stirring up unto duty.

From The Works of John Owen, Volume VI. Formatting and modern English by Jim Ehrhard.

Copyright Jim Ehrhard, 1999. You are permitted to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author; (2) any modifications are clearly marked; (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction; and (4) you do not make more than 100 copies without permission. If you would like to post this material to your web site or make any use other than as defined above, please contact Teaching Resources International

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