John Owen: Grace, a necessary preparation for glory

20 12 2011

I had a decent introduction to Owen last year, reading three of his major works.  So I decided two weeks ago to go ahead and order his complete works, which arrived in the mail last week.  So far I have read three books from this set: On the Divine Original of the Scriptures (Vol XVI); Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Vol II); and Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ (Vol I).  I will be using his commentary on Hebrews to finish out our Hebrews Bible study, so I’m looking forward to that as well.  Many say that Owen is difficult to read, I find him easier the farther along I get in him.  Let me simply say, he is worth the time.  Take the time to digest the quote below, and see if you can really understand the root of what the man is saying.  In a nutshell, the believer hopes to be with Christ in heaven because the believer has had  an experience of the glory of Christ, by faith, in this life on earth.  Those who have not had an experience of the glory of Christ on this earth, have no content for their hope for heaven.  Tease that out a bit and see where you land.  Enjoy!

No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight   hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight. Where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith, it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, – only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamoured on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but
self-deceiving imaginations.

So do the Papists delude themselves. Their carnal affections are excited by their outward senses to delight in images of Christ, – in his sufferings, his resurrection, and glory above. Hereon they satisfy themselves that they behold the glory of Christ himself and that with love and great delight. But whereas there is not the least true representation made of the Lord Christ or his glory in these things, – that being confined absolutely unto the gospel alone, and this way of attempting it being laid under a severe interdict, – they do but sport themselves with their own deceivings.

The apostle tells us concerning himself and other believers, when the Lord Christ was present and conversed with them in the days of his flesh, that they “saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John 1: 14. And we may inquire, what was this glory of Christ which they so saw, and by what means they obtained a prospect of it. For, – l. It was not the glory of his outward condition, as we behold the glory and grandeur of the kings and potentates of the earth; for he made himself of no reputation, but being in the form of a servant, he walked in the condition of a man of low degree. The secular grandeur of his pretended Vicar makes no representation of that glory of his which his disciples saw. He kept no court, nor house of entertainment, nor (though he made all things) had of his own where to lay his head. Nor, – 2. Was it with respect to the outward form of the flesh which he was made, wherein he took our nature on him, as we see the glory of a comely or beautiful person; – for he had therein neither form nor comeliness that he should be desired, “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men,” Isa. 52: 14; 53: 2, 3. All things appeared in him as became “a man of sorrows.” Nor, – 3. Was it absolutely the eternal essential glory of his divine nature that is intended; for this no man can see in this world. What we shall attain in a view thereof
hereafter we know not. But, – 4. It was his glory, as he was “full of grace and truth.” They saw the glory of his person and his office in the administration of grace and truth. And how or by what means did they see this glory of Christ? It was by faith, and no otherwise; for this privilege was granted unto them only who ”received him,” and believed on his name, John 1: 12. This was that glory which the Baptist saw, when, upon his coming unto him he said unto all that were presents “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” verses 29-33.

Wherefore let no man deceive himself; he that has no sight of the
glory of Christ here, shall never have any of it hereafter unto his
advantage. It is not, therefore, unto edification to discourse of
beholding the glory of Christ in heaven by vision, until we go
through a trial whether we see anything of it in this world by faith
or no.

John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Owen’s Works vol I pg 288-289)


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