John Owen

 

 

 Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,

in His Person, Office, and Grace:

with

The Differences between Faith and Sight;

applied unto the use of them that believe.

____________

 

 CHAPTER XI

 

THE GLORY OF CHRIST IN THE RECAPITULATION
OF ALL THINGS IN HIM

 

IN THE LAST PLACE, the Lord Christ is peculiarly and eminently glorious in the recapitulation of all things in Him, after they had been scattered and disordered by sin. This the apostle proposes as the most signal effect of divine wisdom and the sovereign pleasure of God.

He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him" (Eph. 1:8—10).

For the discovery of the mind of the Holy Ghost in these words, so far as I am at present concerned, as to the representation of the glory of Christ in them, sundry brief observations must be premised; and in them it will be necessary to declare briefly the original of all these things in heaven and earth, their primitive order, the confusion that ensued thereon, with their restitution in Christ, and His glory thereby.

1. God alone has all being in Him. Hence He gives Himself that name, "I AM" (Exod. 3:14). He was eternally All, when all things else that ever were, or now are, or shall be, were nothing. And when they are, they are no otherwise but as "they are of him, and through him, and to him" (Rom. 11:36). Moreover, His being and goodness are the same. The goodness of God is the meetness of the Divine Being to be communicative of Himself in His effects. Hence this is the first notion of the divine nature—Infinite being and goodness in a nature intelligent and self-subsistent. So the apostle declares, "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder . . ." (Heb. 11:6).

2. God was, and is, eternally in Himself all that He will be, all that He can be, to eternity. He was in this state of infinite, eternal being and goodness, prior to any act of wisdom or power outside Himself to give existence to other things. For where there is infinite being and infinite goodness, there is infinite blessedness and happiness, to which nothing can be added. God is always the same. That is His name (Ps. 102 :27), "Thou art he" —always the same. All things that are make no addition to God, no change in His state. His blessedness, happiness, self-satisfaction, as well as all His other infinite perfections, were absolutely the same before the creation of anything, while there was nothing but Himself, as they are since He has made all things; for the blessedness of God consists in the ineffable mutual inbeing of the three holy Persons in the same nature, with the immanent reciprocal actings of the Father and the Son in the eternal love and complacency of the Spirit. To this nothing can be added, and no change can be made by any external work or effect of power.

Herein God acts in the perfect knowledge and perfect love of His own perfections, to an infinite acquiescency therein, which is the divine blessedness. This gives us the true notion of the divine nature prior to the manifestation of it made by any outward effects: infinite being and goodness, eternally blessed in the knowledge and enjoyment of itself by inconceivable, ineffable, internal actings, answering the manner of its subsistence, which is in three distinct Persons.

3. This being and goodness of God, by His own will and pleasure acting in infinite wisdom and power, produced the creation of all things. Herein He communicated a finite, limited, dependent being and goodness to other things outside Himself. For since all being and goodness are, as was said, in Him alone, it was necessary that the first outward work and effect of the divine nature must be the communication of being and goodness to other things. Wherefore, as when He had given to everything its being out of nothing, by the word of His power, saying, Let them be, and they were; so it is said, that He looked on all that He had made, "and, behold, they were exceeding good" (Gen. 1:31). Being and goodness must be the first outward effects of the divine nature, which, being wrought by infinite power and wisdom, represent to us the glory of God in the creation of all things. Infinite being in self-subsistence, which is necessary in the first cause and spring of all things, infinite goodness to communicate the effect of this being to that which was not, and infinite wisdom and power in that communication, are gloriously manifested therein.

4. In this state, all things that were made depended immediately on God Himself, without the interposition of any other head of influence or rule. They had the continuance of their being and its preservation from the immediate actings of these properties of the divine nature whereby they were made; and their dependence on God was by virtue of that law, which was implanted on the principles and powers of their several natures by God Himself.

5. Thus, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." He provided Himself of two distinct, rational families, that should depend on Him according to a law of moral obedience, and thereby give glory to Him; with two distinct habitations for them, cognate to their nature and use, heaven above, and the earth beneath. The earth He appointed for the habitation of man; which was every way suited to the constitution of his nature, the preservation of his being, and the end of his creation in giving glory to God. Heaven He prepared for the habitation of the angels; which was suited to the constitution of their nature, the preservation of their being, and the end of their creation, in giving glory to God. Wherefore, as man had power and dominion over all things here below, and was to use them all to the glory of God, by which means God received glory from them also, though in themselves brute and inanimate; so the angels had the like dominion over the celestial and ethereal bodies, wherewith God has fitted the place of their habitation, that through the contemplation and use of them God might have a revenue of glory and praise from them also.

To suppose any other race of intellectual creatures, besides angels in heaven and men on earth is not only without all countenance from any divine testimony, but it disturbs and disorders the whole representation of the glory of God made to us in the Scripture, and the whole design of His wisdom and grace, as declared therein. Intellectual creatures not comprehended in that government of God and mystery of His wisdom in Christ which the Scripture reveals, are a chimera framed in the imaginations of some men, scarce duly sensible of what it is to be wise to sobriety.

6. This order of things was beautiful and comely. Hence were they all said to be "exceeding good." For each of these families had their own immediate, distinct dependence on God. He was the immediate head of them. There was no other common head interposed between God and them. They were not a head to one another. There were no communications to them but what were immediate from God Himself. And their union among themselves was in this alone, that all their obedience did meet and center in God. So God made the heavens and the earth and two distinct families in them for Himself.

7. This beautiful order in itself, this union between the two families of God, was disturbed, broken, dissolved by the entrance of sin. For hereby part of the family above, and the whole family below, fell off from their dependence on God; and ceasing to center in Him as their head, they fell into variance and enmity among themselves. For the center of this union and order being removed and lost, nothing but enmity and confusion remained among them. To show that its goodness was lost, God cursed the earth and all that was in it; for it was put in subjection to man, who was now fallen from Him. Howbeit He cursed not the heavens, which were in subjection to the angels, because some of them only left their habitation; and the habitation of the residue was not to be cursed for their sakes. But mankind was wholly gone off from God.

8. The whole race of mankind He would not utterly cast off, but determined to recover and save a remnant, according to the election of grace. How He did this appropriately to all His divine perfections, I have elsewhere declared. The angels that sinned God utterly rejected forever, as an example of His severity.

9. Howbeit, He would not restore them to their former state, but would gather them both into one. He would not have again two distinct families, each in an immediate dependence on Himself, though He left them in different and distinct habitations (Eph. 3:15). But He would gather them both under a new Head, in whom the one part should be preserved from sinning, and the other delivered from sin committed.

10. This, then, is that gathering ‘‘together in one all things which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him." And Paul expresses it again (Col. 1 :20), "To reconcile all things unto himself in him, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." All things were fallen into disorder and confusion by sin; they were fallen off from God into variance among themselves. God would not restore them into their first order, in an immediate dependence on His divine perfections. He would no longer keep them in two distinct families; but He would, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, gather them up into one common Head, on whom they should have their immediate dependence, and be reconciled again among themselves.

11. This new Head is Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate. In Him, God has gathered up all things in heaven and earth into one, one body, one family, on whom is all their dependence, in whom they all now consist. (See I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:22,23.) This glory was reserved for Him; none other could be meet for it or worthy of it. (See Col. 1:17—19.)

12. To answer all the ends of this new Head of God’s re-collected family, all power in heaven and earth, all fullness of grace and glory, are committed to Him. There is no communication from God, no act of rule towards this family, no supply of virtue, power, grace, or goodness to angels or men, but what is immediately from this new Head whereinto they are gathered. In Him they all consist, on Him they depend, to Him are they subject; in their relation to Him their peace, union, and agreement among themselves consists. This is the recapitulation of all things intended by the apostle.

13. It is true that He acts distinctly and variously toward angels and men, according as their different states and conditions require. For, 1) we had need of a reparation by redemption and grace, which the angels had not; 2) angels were capable of immediate confirmation in glory, which we are not until we come to heaven. Therefore, 1) He assumed our nature that it might be repaired, which He did not [by] the nature of the angels; 2) He gives us union unto Himself by His Spirit, which exalts us into a dignity and honor meet for fellowship with them in the same family.


This is a brief account of the mysterious work of divine wisdom in the recapitulation of all things in Jesus Christ; and herein is He transcendently glorious, or His glory herein is far above our comprehension; yet some things may be observed to direct us in the view and contemplation of it.

1. He alone was a meet and capable subject of it. He alone could bear the weight of this glory. No mere creature in heaven or earth was meet to be thus made the head of the whole new creation of God. In none of them could all things consist. None of them was meet to be thus in the place of God, to have all things depend upon him and be put in subjection to him; so that there should be no communication between God and the creation but by and through Christ alone.

Wherefore, when the Holy Ghost assigns this glory to Him, He so describes Him that we may discern His singular meet-ness for it. He is "the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, upholding all things by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3). He is "the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature, by whom all things were created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Col. 1:15—17). Such a one alone, and no other, was meet to bear and uphold this glory. And the glory of His person is such, as that it is the blessedness of all creatures to center in this glory of His office.

2. This glory God designed for His only Son incarnate. It gives us a little view into the glory of that mystery, the wonderful eternal design of God to glorify Himself in the incarnation of Christ. God would have His eternal, His only-begotten Son to be incarnate, to take our nature on Him, to be made man. What is His design in this incomprehensible work of His wisdom, love, and power? Indeed, in the first place, it was for the redemption of the Church, by the sacrifice of Himself, and other acts of His mediation.

But there is that which is more general and comprehensive, and wherein all the concerns of the glory of God center. And this was, that He might "gather all things into one" in Him; that the whole creation, especially that which was to be eternally blessed, should have a new Head given unto it, for its sustenance, preservation, order, honor, and safety. All springs are in Him, and all streams are to Him, and in and by Him to God. Who can express the divine beauty, order, and harmony of all things that are in this, their recapitulation in Christ? The union and communion between angels and men, the order of the whole family in heaven and earth, the communication of life, grace, power, mercy, and consolation to the Church, the rule and disposal of all things to the glory of God, do all depend on this. This glory God designed to His Son incarnate; and it was the greatest, the highest that could be communicated to Him. For, as the apostle observes, all things are put in subjection unto Him, He only excepted who so makes them subject; that is, God the Father (I Cor. 15:27).

There is no contemplation of the glory of Christ that ought more to affect the hearts of believers with delight and joy than this—the recapitulation of all things in Him. One view by faith of Him in the place of God, as the supreme Head of the whole creation, moving, acting, guiding, and disposing of it, will bring in spiritual refreshment to a believing soul. And it will do so the more in that it gives a glorious representation of His divine nature also. For that any mere creature should thus be a head of life, motion, and power, as also of sovereign rule and disposal, of the whole new creation, with all things reduced into order thereby, is not only an impious, but a foolish imagination.

If we lived more in the contemplation of this glory of Christ, and of the wisdom of God in this recapitulation of all things in Him, there is not anything of our duty which it would not mind us of, nor anything of privilege which it would not give us a sense of, as might easily be demonstrated.

3. In particular, the Lord Christ is glorious in that the whole breach made on the glory of God in the creation, by the entrance of sin, is repaired. The beauty and order of the whole creation consisted in its dependence on God by the obedience of the rational part of it, angels and men. Thereby were the being, the goodness, the wisdom, and power of God made manifest. But the beauty of this order was defaced, and the manifestation of the divine perfections to the glory of God eclipsed, by the entrance of sin. But all is restored, repaired, and made up in this recapitulation of all things in one new Head, Christ Jesus; yea, the whole curious frame of the divine creation is rendered more beautiful than it was before.

Hence the whole of it groans for the interest of each part in this restoration of all things. Whatever there is of order, of beauty, of glory, in heaven above, or in earth beneath, it all arises from this new relation of the creation to the Son of God. Whatever is not gathered into one, even in Him, in its place and according to its measure, is under darkness, disorder, and the curse. Hence the Jews have a saying that "in the days of the Messiah all things shall be healed, but the serpent"; that is, the Devil, and wicked men, which are as his seed.

4. He is glorious in that He is appointed as the only means of exerting and expressing all the treasures of the infinite wisdom of God toward His creatures. The wisdom of God is absolutely, always, and in all things infinite. God does not, God cannot, act with more wisdom in one thing than in another; as in the creation of man than in that of any inanimate creatures. In the first creation, infinite wisdom was the inseparable companion of infinite power: "How marvelous are thy works, O Lord! in wisdom hast thou made them all." But when the effects of this divine wisdom, in their principal beauty and glory, were defaced, greater treasures of wisdom were required to their reparation. And in this re-collection of all things in Christ, God laid them forth to the utmost of whatever He will do in dealing with His creatures. So the apostle expresses it (Eph. 3:10), "To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God."

By the recapitulation of all things into this one Head, the manifold, various, unsearchable wisdom of God was made known to the angels themselves. They knew not before of the design and work of God after the entrance of sin. They could not comprehend the wisdom that might repair that loss. They knew not that divine wisdom had another way to take; at least they knew not what way that should be. But hereby the manifold wisdom of God, His infinite wisdom in the treasures of it, able by various ways to attain the ends of His glory, was made known to them. Herein—namely, in the re-collection of all things in Christ—divine wisdom has made known and represented itself in all its stores and treasures to angels and men. "In him are hid," and by Him are displayed, "all the treasures of wisdom" (Col. 2:3). Herein is He glorious, and will be so to eternity.

5. He is glorious in that hereby firmness and security are communicated to the whole new creation. The first creation in its order was a curious and glorious fabric. But everything depending immediately on God, by virtue of the principles of its own nature and the law of its obedience, all was brought to a loss by the sin of angels and men. But now everything that belongs to this new creation, even every believer in the world, as well as the angels in heaven, being gathered together in this one Head, the whole and all, and every part and member of it even every particular believer, are secured from ruin such as befell all things before. In this new Head they have an indissoluble consistency.

But manum de tabula. [the hand from the tablet, that is, I will write no more.] I shall insist on no more instances of this nature, which plentifully offer themselves in the Scripture to us. For who can declare this glory of Christ? Who can speak of these things as he ought? I am so far from designing to set forth the whole of it, that I am deeply sensible how little a portion I can comprehend of the least part of it. Nor can I attain to any satisfaction in these meditations but what issues in a humble admiration.




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