An excerpt from Owen’s most excellent, The Glory of Christ, ch.2. My thanks to Recover the Gospel.
It is a promise concerning the days of the New Testament that our “eyes shall see the King in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17). We shall behold the glory of Christ in its luster and excellency. What is this beauty of the King of saints? Is it not that God is in Him and He is the great representative of His glory to us? Wherefore, in the contemplation of this glory consists the principal exercise of faith. And who can declare the glory of this privilege that we, who are born in darkness and deserved to be cast out into utter darkness, should be translated into this marvelous “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”?
What are all the stained glories, the fading beauties of this world? of all that the Devil showed our Saviour from the mount (Matt. 4:8)? What are they in comparison to one view of the glory of God represented in Christ and of the glory of Christ as His great representative?
The most pernicious effect of unbelief under the preaching of the gospel is that, together with an influence of power from Satan, “it blinds the eyes of men’s minds, that they should not see this glory of Christ”; whereon they perish eternally (II Cor. 4:3, 4).
But the most of those who at this day are called Christians are strangers to this duty. Our Lord Jesus Christ told the Pharisees, that notwithstanding all their boasting of the knowledge of God, they had not “heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape” (John 5:37); that is, as Moses did. They had no real acquaintance with Him, they had no spiritual view of His glory. And so it is among ourselves; notwithstanding the general profession there is of the knowledge of Christ, there are few who thus behold His glory, and therefore few who are transformed into His image and likeness.
Some men speak much of the imitation of Christ and following His example; and it were well if we could see more of it really in effect. But no man shall ever become “like unto him” by bare imitation of His actions, without that view or intuition of His glory which alone is accompanied with a transforming power to change them into the same image.
The truth is, the best of us all are woefully defective in this duty, and many are discouraged from it because a pretense of it in some has degenerated into superstition; but we are loath at any time to engage in it seriously and come with an unwilling kind of willingness to exercise our minds in it.
Thoughts of this glory of Christ are too high for us, or too hard for us, such as we cannot long delight in; we turn away from them with a kind of weariness. Yet they are of the same nature in general with our beholding the glory of Christ in heaven, wherein there shall be no weariness, or satiety, unto eternity. Is not the cause of it that we are unspiritual or carnal, having our thoughts and affections accustomed to give entertainment to other things? For this is the principal cause of our unreadiness and incapacity to exercise our minds in and about the great mysteries of the gospel (I Cor. 3:1—3).
And it is so with us, moreover, because we do not stir up ourselves with watchfulness and diligence in continual actings of faith on this blessed object. This keeps many of us at so low an ebb as to the powers of a heavenly life and spiritual joys.
If we abounded in this duty, in this exercise of faith, our life in walking before God would be more sweet and pleasant to us, and our spiritual light and strength would have a daily increase; we should more represent the glory of Christ in our ways and walking than usually we do, and death itself would be most welcome to us.
The angels themselves desire to look into the things of the glory of Christ (I Peter 1:12). There is in them matter of inquiry and instruction for the most high and holy spirits in heaven. The manifold wisdom of God in them is made known to “principalities and powers in heavenly places by the church” (Eph. 3:10). And shall we neglect that which is the object of angelic diligence to inquire into, especially considering that we are more concerned in it than they?
Is Christ, then, thus glorious in our eyes? Do we see the Father in Him, or by seeing of Him? Do we sedulously, daily contemplate the wisdom, love, grace, goodness, holiness, and righteousness of God as revealing and manifesting themselves in Him? Do we sufficiently consider that the immediate vision of this glory in heaven will be our everlasting blessedness? Does the imperfect view which we have of it here increase our desires after the perfect sight of it above?