TRUE WISDOM: KNOWING GOD
John Owen

HIS GLORY REIGNS
B. Childress
Dec 18 2009 08:00 A.M.

A second consideration of the excellencies of Christ, serving to endear the hearts of them who stand with him in the
relation insisted on, arises from that which, in the mistaken apprehension of it, is the great darling of men, and in its true
notion the great aim of the saints; which is wisdom and knowledge.  Let it be evinced that all true and solid knowledge is
laid up in, and is only to be attained from and by, the Lord Jesus Christ; and the hearts of men, if they are but true to
themselves and their most predominate principles, must needs be engaged to him.  This is the great design of all men,
taken off from professed slavery to the world, and the pursuit of sensual, licentious courses - that they may be wise: and
what ways the generality of men engage in for the compassing of that end shall be afterward considered.  To the glory
and honour of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, and the establishment of our hearts in communion with him, the design of this
digression is to evince that all wisdom is laid up in him,  and that from him alone it is to be obtained.

The Holy Ghost tells us that 'Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God' (I Corinthians 1:24), not the essential
Wisdom of God, as he is the eternal Son of the Father (upon which account he is called 'Wisdom' in Proverbs 8:22-23);
but as he is crucified (verse 23).  As he is crucified, so he is the wisdom of God; that is, all that wisdom which God lays
forth for the discovery and manifestation of Himself, and for the saving of sinners, which makes foolish all the wisdom of
the world - that is all in Christ crucified; held out in him, by him, and to be obtained only from him.  And thereby in him do
we see the glory of God (II Corinthians 3:18).  For he is not only said to be 'the wisdom of God,' but also to be 'made to
us wisdom' (I Corinthians 1:30).  He is made, not by creation, but ordination and appointment, wisdom to us; not only by
teaching us wisdom (by a metonymy of the effect for the cause), as he is the great prophet of his church, but also
because by the knowing of him we become acquainted with the wisdom of God - which is our wisdom; which is a
metonymy of the adjunct.  This, however verily promised, is thus only to be had.  The sum of what is contended for is
asserted in terms, 'In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Colossians 2:3).

There are two things that might seem to have some colour in claiming a title and interest in this business: civil wisdom
and prudence, for the management of affairs; ability of learning and literature; but God rejects both these, as of no use
at all to the end and intent of true wisdom indeed.  There is in the world that which is called 'understanding;' but it comes
to nothing.    There is that which is called 'wisdom;' but it is turned into folly (I Corinthians 1:19-20), 'God brings to
nothing the understanding of the prudent, and makes foolish this wisdom of the world.'  And if there be neither wisdom
nor knowledge (as doubtless there is not), without the knowledge of God (Jeremiah 8:9), it is all shut up in the Lord
Jesus Christ: 'No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has
revealed Him.'  He is not seen at another time (John 1:18), nor known upon any other account, but only the revelation of
the Son.  He has manifested him from His own bosom; and therefore it is said that he is 'the true Light, which lights
every man that comes into the world' (verse 9) - the true Light, which has it in himself: and none has any but from him;
and all have it who come to him.  He who does not so, is in darkness.

The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads:

    (a)  The knowledge of God, His nature and His properties.

    (b)  The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us.

    (c)  Skill to walk in communion with God.

The knowledge of the works of God, and the chief end of all, does necessarily attend these.  In these three is summed
up all true wisdom and knowledge; and not any of them is to any purpose to be obtained, or is manifested, but only in
and by the Lord Christ.

HOW GOD REVEALS HIMSELF

God, by the work of the creation, by the creation itself, did reveal Himself in many of His properties to His creatures  
capable of His knowledge; His power, His goodness, His wisdom, His all sufficiency, are thereby known.  This the apostle
asserts  (Romans 1:19-21).  He calls this (God's) eternal power and Godhead (verse 20); and a knowing of God (verse
21): and all this by the creation.  But yet there are some properties of God which all the works of creation cannot in any
measure reveal or make known; as His patience, long-suffering, and forbearance.  For all things being made good,
there could be no place for the exercise of any of these properties, or manifestation of them.  The whole fabric of
heaven and earth considered in itself, as at first created, will not discover any such thing as patience and forbearance
in God; which yet are eminent properties of His nature, as Himself proclaims and declares (Exodus 34:6-7).

Wherefore the Lord goes farther; and by the works of His providence, in preserving and ruling the world which He made,
discovers and reveals these properties also.  For whereas by cursing the earth, filling all the elements of oftentimes with
signs of His anger and indignation, He has, as the apostle tells us, 'revealed from heaven his wrath against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men' (Romans 1:18); yet not proceeding immediately to destroy all things, He has
manifested His patience and forbearance to all.  This Paul tells us: 'He suffered all nations to walk in their own ways; yet
He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their
hearts with food and gladness' (Acts 14:16017).  A large account of his goodness and wisdom in this the psalmist gives
us (Psalm 54).  By these ways He bare witness to His own goodness and patience; and so it is said, 'He endures with
much long-suffering' (Romans 9:22).  But now, here all the world is at a stand; by all this they have but an obscure
glimpse of God, and see not so much as his back parts.  Moses saw not that, until he was put into the rock; and that
rock was Christ.  There are some of the most eminent and glorious properties of God (I mean, in the manifestation of
which He will be most glorious; otherwise His properties are not to be compared) that there is not the least glimpse to be
attained of out of the Lord Christ, but only by and in him; and some that comparatively we have no light of but in him;
and of all the rest no true light but by him.

SOME ATTRIBUTES GLIMPSED ONLY IN CHRIST

Of the first sort, of which not the least guess and imagination can enter into the heart of man but only by Christ, are love
and pardoning mercy.

Love to Sinners

Without this, man is of all creatures most miserable; and there is not the least glimpse of it that can possibly be
discovered but in Christ.  The Holy Ghost says, 'God is love' (I John 4:8,16); that is, not only of a loving and tender
nature, but one that will exercise Himself in a dispensation of His love, eternal love, towards us - one that has purposes
of love for us from of old, and will fulfil them all towards us in due season.  But how is this demonstrated?  How may we
attain an acquaintance with it?  He tells us, 'In this was manifested the love of God, because that God sent his only
begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him' (verse 9).  This is the only discovery that God has made of
any such property in his nature, or of any thought of exercising it towards sinners - in that He has sent Jesus Christ into
the world, that we might live by him.  Where now is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world, with
all their wisdom?  Their voice must be that of the hypocrites in Zion (Isaiah 33:14-15).  That wisdom which cannot teach
me that God is love, shall ever pass for folly.  Let men go to the sun, moon, and stars, to showers of rain and fruitful
seasons, and answer truly what by them they learn of this.  Let them not think themselves wiser or better than those that
went before them, who, to a man, got nothing by them.

Pardoning Mercy or Grace

Without this, even his love would be fruitless.  What discovery may be made of this by a sinful man, may be seen in the
father of us all; who, when he had sinned, had no reserve for mercy, but hid himself (Genesis 3:8).  He did it, when the
wind did but a little blow at the presence of God; and he did it foolishly, thinking to 'hide himself among trees!' (Psalm
139:7-8).  'The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (John 1:17) - grace in the truth and
substance.  Pardoning mercy, that comes by Christ alone; that pardoning mercy which is manifested in the gospel, and
wherein God will be glorified to all eternity (Ephesians 1:6).  I mean not that general mercy, that velleity of acceptance
which some put their hopes in: that (which to ascribe to God is the greatest dishonour that can be done Him) shines not
with one ray out of Christ; it is wholly treasured up in him, and revealed by him.  Pardoning mercy is God's free,
gracious acceptance of a sinner upon satisfaction made to his justice in the blood of Jesus; nor is any discovery of it,
but as relating to the satisfaction of justice, consistent with the glory of God.  It is a mercy of inconceivable
condescension in forgiveness, tempered with exact justice and severity.  God is said 'to set forth Christ to be a
propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare His righteousness in the remission of sins' (Romans 3:25), His
righteousness is also manifested in the business of forgiveness of sins: and therefore it is everywhere said to be wholly
in Christ (Ephesians 1:7).  So that this gospel grace and pardoning mercy is alone purchased by him, and revealed in
him.  And this was the main end of all typical institutions - to manifest that remission and forgiveness is wholly wrapped
up in the Lord Christ, and that out of him there is not the least conjecture to be made of it, nor the least morsel to be
tasted.  Had not God set forth the Lord Christ, all the angels in heaven and men on earth could not have apprehended
that there had been any such thing in the nature of God as this grace of pardoning mercy.  The apostle asserts the full
manifestation as well as the exercise of this mercy to be in Christ only (Titus 3:4-5), 'After that the kindness and love of
God our Saviour towards man appeared' - namely, in the sending of Christ, and the declaration of him in the gospel.  
Then was this pardoning mercy and salvation not by works discovered.

And these are of those properties of God whereby he will be known, of which there is not the least glimpse to be
obtained but by and in Christ; and whoever knows him not by these, knows him not at all.  They know an idol, and not
the only true God.  He that has not the Son, the same has not the Father (I John 2:23); and not to have God as a
Father, is not to have Him at all; and He is known as a Father only as He is love, and full of pardoning mercy in Christ.  
How this is to be had the Holy Ghost tells us, 'The Son of God is come and has given us an understanding, that we may
know him that is true' (I John 5:20).  By him alone we have our understanding to know him that is true.  Now, these
properties of God Christ reveals in his doctrine, in the revelation he makes of God and His will, as the great prophet of
the church (John 17:6).  And on this account the knowledge of them is exposed to all, with an evidence unspeakably
surmounting that which is given by the creation to his eternal power and Godhead.  But the life of this knowledge lies in
an acquaintance with his person, in which the express image and beams of this glory of his Father do shine forth
(Hebrews 1:3); of which before.

SOME ATTRIBUTES SUPREMELY REVEALED IN CHRIST

There are other properties of God which, though also otherwise discovered, yet are so clearly, eminently,and savingly
only in Jesus Christ:

    (a)  His vindictive justice in punishing sin;

    (b)  His patience, forbearance, and long-suffering towards sinners;

    (c)  His wisdom, in managing things for his own glory;

    (d)  His all-sufficiency, in himself and to others.

All these, though they may receive some lower and inferior manifestations out of Christ, yet they clearly shine only in
him; so as that it may be our wisdom to be acquainted with them.

Vindictive Justice

God has, indeed, many ways manifested His indignation and anger against sin; so that men cannot but know that it is
'the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death' (Romans 1:32).  He has in the law
threatened to kindle a fire in His anger that shall burn to the very heart of hell.  And even in many providential
dispensations, 'his wrath is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness of men' (Romans 1:18).  So that men must
say that He is a God of judgment.  And he that shall but consider that the angels for sin were cast from heaven, shut up
under chains of everlasting darkness to the judgment of the great day (the rumour of which seems to have been spread
among the Gentiles, whence the poet makes his Jupiter threaten the inferior rebellious deities with that punishment);
and how Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned with an overthrow, and burned into ashes, that they might be
'examples to those that should after live ungodly' (II Peter 2:6); cannot but discover much of God's vindictive justice and
His anger against sin.  But far more clear does this shine into us in the Lord Christ.

IN THE DEATH OF CHRIST.  In him God has manifested the naturalness of this righteousness to him, in that it was
impossible that it should be diverted from sinners without the interposing of a propitiation.  Those who lay the necessity
of satisfaction merely upon the account of a free act and determination of the will of God, leave, to my apprehension, no
just and indispensable foundation for the death of Christ, but lay it upon a supposition of that which might have been
otherwise.  But plainly, God, in that He spared not His only Son, but made his soul an offering for sin, and would admit of
no atonement but in his blood, has abundantly manifested that it is of necessity to Him (His holiness and righteousness
requiring it) to render indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish to sin.  And the knowledge of this naturalness of
vindictive justice, with the necessity of its execution on supposition of sin, is the only true and useful knowledge of it.  To
look upon it as that which God may exercise or forbear, makes His justice not a property of His nature, but a free act of
His will; and a will to punish where one may do otherwise without injustice, is rather ill-will than justice.

IN THE PENALTY INFLICTED ON CHRIST FOR SIN, this justice is far more gloriously manifested than otherwise.  To
see, indeed, a world made good and beautiful wrapped up in wrath and curses, clothed with thorns and briers; to see
the whole beautiful creation made subject to vanity, given up to the bondage of corruption; to hear it groan in pain
under that burden; to consider legions of angels, most glorious and immortal creatures, cast down into hell, bound with
chains of darkness, and reserved for a more dreadful judgment for one sin; to view the ocean of the blood of souls spilt
to eternity on this account - will give some insight into this thing.  But what is all this to that view of it which may be had
by a spiritual eye in the Lord Christ?  All these things are worms, and of no value in comparison of him.  To see him who
is the wisdom of God, and the power of God, always beloved of the Father; to see him, I say, fear, and tremble, and
bow, and sweat, and pray, and die; to see him lifted up upon the cross, the earth trembling under him, as if shut against
his cry; and himself hanging between both, as if refused by both; and all this because our sins did meet upon him; this
of all things does most abundantly manifest the severity of God's vindictive justice.  Here, or nowhere, is it to be learned.

Patience & Forbearance

His patience, forbearance, and long-suffering towards sinners.  There are many glimpses of the patience of God shining
out in the works of His providence; but all exceedingly beneath that discovery of it which we have in Christ, especially in
these three things.

FULLY ASSURED IN CHRIST.  This, indeed, is evident to all, that God does not ordinarily immediately punish men
upon their offences.  It may be learned from his constant way in governing the world:  notwithstanding all provocations,
yet he does good to men; causing his sun to shine upon them, sending them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts
with good and gladness.  Hence it was easy for them to conclude that there was in him abundance of goodness and
forbearance.  But all this yet in much darkness, being the exurgency of men's reasonings from their observations; yea,
the management of it [God's patience] has been such as that it has proved a snare almost universally to them towards
whom it has been exercised (Ecclesiastes 8:11), as well as a temptation to them who have looked on (Job 21:7; Psalm
73:2-4; Jeremiah 12:1; Habakkuk 1:13).

The discovery of it in Christ is utterly of another nature.  In him the very nature of God is discovered to be love and
kindness; and that he will exercise the same to sinners, he has promised, sworn, and solemnly engaged himself by
covenant.  And that we may not hesitate about the aim which he has in this, there is a stable bottom and foundation of
acting suitably to those gracious properties of his nature held forth - namely, the reconciliation and atonement that is
made in the blood of Christ.  Whatever discovery were made of the patience and lenity of God to us, yet if it were not
withal revealed that the other properties of God, as his justice and revenge for sin, had their actings also assigned to
them to the full, there could be little consolation gathered from the former.  And therefore, though God may teach men
his goodness and forbearance, by sending them rain and fruitful seasons, yet withal at the same time, upon all
occasions, 'revealing his wrath from heaven against the ungodliness of men' (Romans 1:18), it is impossible that they
should do anything but miserably fluctuate and tremble at the event of these dispensations; and yet this is the best that
men can have out of Christ, the utmost they can attain to.  With the present possession of good things administered in
this patience, men might, and did for a season, take up their thoughts and satiate themselves; but yet they were not in
the least delivered from the bondage they were in by reason of death, and the darkness attending it.  The law reveals
no patience or forbearance in God; it speaks, as to the issue of transgressions, nothing but sword and fire, had not God
interposed by an act of sovereignty.  But now, as was said, with that revelation of forbearance which we have in Christ,
there is also a discovery of the satisfaction of his justice and wrath against sin; so that we need not fear any actings
from them to interfere with the works of his patience, which are so sweet to us.  Hence God is said to be 'in Christ,
reconciling the world to himself' (II Corinthians 5:19); manifesting Himself in him as one that has now no more to do for
the manifestation of all his attributes - that is, for the glorifying of Himself - but only to forbear, reconcile, and pardon sin
in him.

EFFECTUAL FOR FORGIVENESS IN CHRIST.  What is there in that forbearance which out of Christ is revealed?  
Merely a not immediate punishing upon the offence, and, with, giving and continuing temporal mercies; such things as
men are prone to abuse, and may perish with their bosoms full of them to eternity.  That which lies hid in Christ, and is
revealed from him is full of love, sweetness, tenderness, kindness, and grace.  It is the Lord's waiting to be gracious to
sinners; waiting for an advantage to show love and kindness, for the most eminent endearing of a soul to himself,
'Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious to you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy
upon you' (Isaiah 30:18).  Neither is there any revelation of God that the soul finds more sweetness in than this.  When
it [one's soul] is experimentally convinced that God from time to time has passed by many, innumerable iniquities, he is
astonished to think that God should do so; and admires that he did not take the advantage of his provocations to cast
him out of his presence.  He finds that, with infinite wisdom, in all long-suffering, he has managed all his dispensations
towards him to recover him from the power of the devil, to rebuke and chasten his spirit for sin, to endear him to himself;
there is, I say, nothing of greater sweetness to the soul than this: and therefore the apostle says that all is 'through the
forbearance of God' (Romans 3:25).  God makes way for complete forgiveness of sins through this his forbearance;
which the other does not.

LEADS BELIEVERS TO REPENTANCE IN CHRIST.  They differ in their ends and aims.  What is the aim and design of
God in the dispensation of that forbearance which is manifested and may be discovered out of Christ?  The apostle tells
us, 'What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels
of wrath fitted for destruction?' (Romans 9:22).  It was but to leave them inexcusable, that His power and wrath against
sin might be manifested in their destruction.  And therefore he calls it 'a suffering of them to walk in their own ways'  
(Acts 14:16); which elsewhere he holds out as a most dreadful judgment - to wit, in respect of that issue whereto it will
certainly come; as Psalm 81:12, 'I gave them up to their own hearts' lusts, and they walked in their own counsels,' which
is as dreadful a condition as a creature is capable of falling into in this world.  And he calls it a 'winking at the sins of
their ignorance' (Acts 17:30), as it were taking no care nor thought of them in their dark condition, as it appears by the
antithesis, 'But now he commands all men everywhere to repent.'  He did not take so much notice of them then as to
command them to repent, by any clear revelation of his mind and will.  And therefore the exhortation of the apostle,
'Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God
leads you to repentance?' (Romans 2:4) is spoken to the Jews, who had advantages to learn the natural tendency of
that goodness and forbearance which God exercises in Christ; which, indeed, leads to repentance: or else he does in
general intimate that, in very reason, men ought to make another use of those things than usually they do, and which
he charges them with, 'But after your hardness and impenitent heart' (verse 5).  At best, then, the patience of God to
men out of Christ, by reason of their own incorrigible stubbornness, proves but like the waters of the river Phasis, that
are sweet at the top and bitter in the bottom; they swim for a while in the sweet and good things of this life (Luke 16:25);
wherewith being filled, they sink to the depth of all bitterness.

But now, evidently and directly, the end of that patience and forbearance of God which is exercised in Christ, and
discovered in him to us, is the saving and bringing into God those towards whom he is pleased to exercise them.  And
therefore Peter tells you that he is 'long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come
to repentance' (II Peter 3:9) - that is, all us towards whom he exercises forbearance; for that is the end of it, that his will
concerning our repentance and salvation may be accomplished.  And the nature of it, with its end, is well expressed,
'This is as the waters of Noah to me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so
have I sworn that I would not be wroth' (Isaiah 54:9).  It is God's taking a course, in His infinite wisdom and goodness,
that we shall not be destroyed notwithstanding our sins; and therefore (Romans 15:5), these two things are laid
together in God, as coming together from Him, 'The God of patience and consolation.'  His patience is a matter of the
greatest consolation.  And this is another property of 'God, which, though it may break forth  in some rays, to some
ends and purposes, in other things, yet treasures of it are hid in Christ; and none is acquainted with it, to any spiritual
advantage, that learns it not in him.

Infinite Wisdom

His wisdom, His infinite wisdom, in managing things for His own glory, and good of them towards whom He has thoughts
of love.  The Lord, indeed, has laid out and manifested infinite wisdom in His works of creation, providence, and
governing of His world: in wisdom has He made all his creatures.  'How manifold are his works!  In wisdom has he made
them all; the earth is full his riches' (Psalm 104:24).  So in His providence, His support and guidance in all things, in
order to one another, and His own glory, to the ends appointed for them; for all these things 'come forth from the Lord
of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working' (Isaiah 28:29).  His law also is for ever to be admired, for
the excellency of the wisdom therein (Deuteronomy 4:7-8).  But yet there is that which Paul is astonished at, and
wherein God will for ever be exalted, which he calls, 'the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God'
(Romans 11:33); that is only hid in and revealed by Christ.  Hence, as he is said to be 'the wisdom of God,' and to be
'made to us wisdom;' so the design of God, which is carried along in him, and revealed in the gospel, is called 'the
wisdom of God,' and a 'mystery; even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world was; which none of the
princes of this world knew' (I Corinthians 2:7-8; Ephesians 3:10), it is called, 'the manifold wisdom of God;' and to
discover the depth and riches of this wisdom, he tells us in that verse that it is such, that principalities and powers, that
very angels themselves, could not in the least measure get any acquaintance with it, until God, by gathering of a church
of sinners, did actually discover it.  Hence Peter informs us, that they who are so well acquainted with all the works of
God, do yet bow down and desire with earnestness to look into these things (the things of the wisdom of God in the
gospel, I Peter 1:12).  It asks a man much wisdom to make a curious work, fabric, and building; but if one shall come and
deface it, to raise up the same building to more beauty and glory than ever, this is excellence of wisdom indeed.  God in
the beginning made all things good, glorious, and beautiful.  When all things had an innocence and beauty, the clear
impress of His wisdom and goodness upon them, they were very glorious; especially man, who was made for His special
glory.  Now, all this beauty was defaced by sin, and the whole creation rolled up in darkness, wrath, curses, confusion,
and the great praise of God buried in the heaps of it.  Man, especially, was utterly lost, and came short of the glory of
God, for which he was created (Romans 3:23).  Here, now, does the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of
God open itself.  A design in Christ shines out from his bosom, that was lodged there from eternity, to recover things to
such an estate as shall be exceedingly to the advantage of his glory, infinitely above what at first appeared, and for the
putting of sinners into inconceivably a better condition than they were in before the entrance of sin.  He appears now
glorious; He is known to be a God pardoning iniquity and sin, and advances the riches of His grace: which was His
design (Ephesians 1:6).  He has infinitely vindicated His justice also, in the face of men, angels, and devils, in setting
forth His Son for a propitiation.  It is also to our advantage; we are more fully established in His favour, and are carried
on towards a more exceeding weight of glory than formerly was revealed.  Hence was that ejaculation of one of the
ancients, '
O felix culpa, que talem meruit redemptorem!'  Thus Paul tells us, 'Great is the mystery of godliness' (I
Timothy 3:16), and that 'without controversy'.  We receive 'grace for grace' - for that grace lost in Adam, better grace in
Christ.  Confessedly, this is a depth of wisdom indeed.  And of the love of Christ to his church, and his union with it, to
carry on this business, 'This is a great mystery' (Ephesians 5:32), says the apostle; great wisdom lies in this.

So, then, this also is hid in Christ - the great and unspeakable riches of the wisdom of God, in pardoning sin, saving
sinners, satisfying justice, fulfilling the law, repairing His own honour, and providing for us a more exceeding weight of
glory; and all this out of such a condition as where in it was impossible that it should enter into the hearts of angels or
men how ever the glory of God should be repaired, and one sinning creature delivered from everlasting ruin.  Hence it
is said, that at the last day God 'shall be glorified in His saints, and admired in them that believe' (II Thessalonians 1:
10).  It shall be an admirable thing, and God shall be for ever glorious in it, even in the believing, shall be found to be a
far more admirable work than to create the world of nothing.

All-Sufficiency

His all-sufficiency is the last of this sort that I shall name.  God's all sufficiency in Himself is His absolute and universal
perfection, by which nothing is wanting in Him, nothing to Him: no accession can be made to His fulness, no decrease or
wasting can happen thereunto.  There is also in Him an all-sufficiency for others; which is his power to impart and
communicate His goodness and Himself so to them as to satisfy and fill them, in their utmost capacity, with whatever is
good and desirable to them.  For the first of these - His all-sufficiency for the communication of His goodness, that is, in
the outward effect of it - God abundantly manifested in the creation, in that He made all things good, all things perfect;
that is, to whom nothing was wanting in their own kind; He put a stamp of His own goodness upon them all.  But now for
the latter - His giving Himself as an all-sufficient God, to be enjoyed by the creatures, to hold out all that is in Him for the
satiating and making them blessed - that is alone discovered by and in Christ.  In him He is a Father, a God in covenant,
in which he has promised to lay out himself for them; in Him has he promised to give himself into their everlasting
fruition, as their exceeding great reward.

And so I have insisted on the second sort of properties in God, of which, though we have some obscure glimpse in other
things, yet the clear knowledge of them, and acquaintance with them, is only to be had in the Lord Christ.

That which remains is, briefly to declare that not any of the properties of God whatever can be known, savingly and to
consolation, but only in him; and so, consequently, all the wisdom of the knowledge of God is hid in him alone, and from
him to be obtained.

HOW WE GAIN SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S ATTRIBUTES

There is no saving knowledge of any property of God, nor such as brings consolation, but what alone is to be had in
Christ Jesus, being laid up in him, and manifested by him.  Some eye the justice of God, and know that this is His
righteousness, 'that they which do such things' (as sin) 'are worthy of death' (Romans 1:32).  But this is to no other end
but to make them cry, 'Who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire?' (Isaiah 33:14).  Others fix upon His
patience, goodness, mercy, forbearance; but it does not at all lead them to repentance; but 'they despise the riches of
his goodness, and after their hardness and impenitent hearts treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath'
(Romans 2:4-5).  Others, by the very works of creation and providence, come to know 'his eternal power and Godhead;
but they glorify Him not as God, nor are thankful, but become vain in their imagination, and their foolish hearts are
darkened' (Romans 1:20).  Whatever discovery men have of truth out of Christ, they 'hold it captive under
unrighteousness' (verse 18).  Hence Jude tells us that 'in what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they
corrupt themselves' (Jude 10).

That we may have a saving knowledge of the properties of God, attended with consolation, these three things are
required:

    (a)  That God has manifested the glory of them all in a way of doing good to us.

    (b)  That He will yet exercise and lay them out to the utmost in our behalf.

    (c)  That, being so manifested and exercised, they are fit and powerful to bring us to the everlasting fruition of
    Himself; which is our blessedness.

Now, all these three lie hid in Christ; and the least glimpse of them out of him is not to be attained.

GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN CHRIST FOR OUR GOOD

This is to be received, that God has actually manifested the glory of all His attributes in a way of doing us good.  What
will it avail our souls, what comfort will it bring to us, what endearment will it put upon our hearts to God, to know that He
is infinitely righteous, just, and holy, unchangeably true and faithful, if we know not how He may preserve the glory of His
justice and faithfulness in His comminations and threatenings, but only in our ruin and destruction?  If we can from
thence say it is a righteous thing with him to recompense tribulation to us for our iniquities?  What fruit of this
consideration had Adam in the garden? (Genesis 3).  What sweetness, what encouragement, is there in knowing that
He is patient and full of forbearance, if the glory of these is to be exalted in enduring the vessels of wrath fitted for
destruction?  Nay, what will it avail us to hear Him proclaim Himself 'The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious,
abundant in goodness and truth,' yet, with that, He will 'by no means clear the guilty' - so shutting up the exercise of all
His other properties towards us, upon the account of our iniquity?  Doubtless, not at all.  Under this naked consideration
of the properties of God, justice will make men fly and hide (Genesis 3; Isaiah 2:21; 33:15-16); patience, render them
obdurate (Ecclesiastes 8:11).  Holiness utterly deters them from all thoughts of approach to Him (Joshua 24:19).  What
relief have we from thoughts of His immensity and omnipresence, if we have cause only to contrive how to fly from Him
(Psalm 139:11-12), if we have no pledge of His gracious presence with us?  This is that which brings salvation, when we
shall see that God has glorified all His properties in a way of doing us good.

Now, this He has done in Jesus Christ.  In him has He made His justice glorious, in making all our iniquities to meet upon
him, causing him to bear them all, as the scapegoat in the wilderness; not sparing him, but giving him up to death for us
all; so exalting His justice and indignation against sin in a way of freeing us from the condemnation of it (Romans 3:25, 8:
33-34).  In him has He made His truth glorious, and His faithfulness, in the exact accomplishment of all His absolute
threatenings and promises.  That fountain-threat and commination whence all others flow, 'In the day you eat thereof
you shall die the death' (Genesis 2:17); seconded with a curse, 'Cursed is every one that continues not' (Deuteronomy
27:26; Galatians 3:10) - is in him accomplished, fulfilled, and the truth of God in them laid in a way to our good.  He, by
the grace of God, tasted death for us (Hebrews 2:9); and so delivered us who were subject to death (verse 15); and he
has fulfilled the curse, by being made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  So that in His very threatenings, His truth is made
glorious in a way to our good.  And for His promises, 'They are all yea, and in him Amen, to the glory of God by us' (II
Corinthians 1:20).  And for His mercy, goodness, and the riches of His grace, how eminently are they made glorious in
Christ, and advanced for our good!  God has set him forth to declare His righteousness for the forgiveness of sin; He
has made way in him for ever to exalt the glory of His pardoning mercy towards sinners.  To manifest this is the great
design of the gospel, as Paul admirably sets it out (Ephesians 1:5-8).  There must our souls come to an acquaintance
with them, or for ever live in darkness.

Now, this is a saving knowledge, and full of consolation, when we can see all the he properties of God made glorious
and exalted in a way of doing us good.  And this wisdom is hid only in Jesus Christ.  Hence, when he desired His Father
to glorify His name (John 12:28) - to make in him His name (that is, His nature, His properties, His will) all glorious in that
work of redemption he had in hand - he was instantly answered from heaven 'I have both glorified it and will glorify it
again.'  He will give it its utmost glory in him.

CHRIST EXERCISES GOD'S ATTRIBUTES FOR OUR GOOD

That God will yet exercise and lay out those properties of His to the utmost in our behalf.  Though He has made them all
glorious in a way that may tend to our good, yet it does not absolutely follow that He will use them for our good; for do
we not see innumerable persons perishing everlastingly, notwithstanding the manifestation of Himself which God has
made in Christ.  Wherefore farther, God  has committed all His properties into the hand of Christ if I may so say, to be
managed in our behalf, and for our good.  He is 'The power of God, and the wisdom of God;' he is 'The Lord our
Righteousness,' and is 'made to us of God wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.'  Christ having
glorified his Father in all His attributes, he has now the exercise of them committed to him, that he might be the captain
of salvation to them that do believe; so that if, in the righteousness, the goodness, the love, the mercy, the all-
sufficiency of God, there be anything that will do us good, the Lord Jesus is fully interested with the dispensing of it in
our behalf.  Hence God is said to be 'in him, reconciling the world to himself' (II Corinthians 5:18).  Whatever is in Him,
He lays it out for the reconciliation of the world, in and by the Lord Christ; and he becomes 'The Lord our
Righteousness' (Isaiah 45:24-25).  And this is the second thing required.

THEY ARE ABLE TO FULFILL THE COVENANT

There remains only, then, that these attributes of God, so manifested and exercised, are powerful and able to bring us
to the everlasting fruition of Him.  To evince this, the Lord wraps up the whole covenant of grace in one promise,
signifying no less: 'I will be your God.'   In the covenant, God becomes our God, and we are His people; and thereby all
His attributes are ours also.  And lest that we should doubt - when once our eyes are opened to see in any measure the
inconceivable difficulty that is in this thing, what unimaginable obstacles on all hands there lie against us - that all is not
enough to deliver and save us, God has, I say, wrapped it up in this expression (Genesis 17:1), 'I
am ,' says He, 'God
Almighty' (all-sufficient); 'I am wholly able to perform all my undertakings, and to be your exceeding great reward.  I can
remove all difficulties, answer all objections, pardon all sins, conquer all opposition: I am God all-sufficient.'  Now, you
know in whom this covenant and all the promises thereof are ratified, and in whose blood it is confirmed - to wit, in the
Lord Christ alone; in him only is God an all-sufficient God to any, and an exceeding great reward.  And hence Christ
himself is said to 'save to the uttermost them that come to God by him' (Hebrews 7).  And these three things, I say, are
required to be known, that we may have a saving acquaintance, and such as is attended with consolation, with any of
the properties of God; and all these being hid only in Christ, from him alone it is to be obtained.

This, then, is the first part of our first demonstration - that all true and sound wisdom and knowledge is laid up in the
Lord Christ, and from him alone to be obtained; because our wisdom, consisting, in a main part of it, in the knowledge of
God, His nature, and His properties, this lies wholly hid in Christ, nor can possibly be obtained but by him.



Source:

COMMUNION WITH GOD, by John Owen, Copyright 2007, Christian Focus Publications.
2010 - HIS GLORY REIGNS
LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES