What the Busy Doctor WroteMarch 13, 2017
In writing Glory in the Face,” I was not the least bit shy about my indebtedness to my "Dead Men" of the 17th and 18th centuries: John Owen (1616-1683) and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). In fact, I dedicated my book to “the memory and continuing fruitfulness” of both of them. The fruit they bore in my life was both exegetical—helping me to understand 2 Corinthians 3 and 4—AND practical—guiding me in how to go about growing in the capacity to “see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
No one should be surprised that there was a practical side to their writing. Not only was Mr. Edwards, for all of his adult life, constantly writing a wide variety of sermons, and treatises of great depth and insight, but, at the same time, he was pastoring a growing, and sometimes troubled (and even unruly) church, while not neglecting his fatherly obligations to his eight daughters and his three sons! Edwards has always been known for “the thirteen hours a day” he worked at his writing desk, but he must have discovered, and mastered, the art of being constantly interrupted.
Dr. Owen longed for the quiet but busy life of a pastor serving a church in some quiet corner of England, but he was repeatedly called away from his various pastoral assignments by opportunities to serve God that he could not bring himself to refuse. For example, he was chosen to serve as Oliver Cromwell’s personal chaplain during the Lord Protector’s military campaigns in Ireland and Scotland (1649-1651), and was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University (1652-1657) in the notorious days when the morale, and the morals, of the 500-year old school were simply scandalous. For all five decades of his adult life, he must have been constantly busy with his quill, and many bottles of ink, for his collected writings, many of them very profound (for example, his exposition of the Book of Hebrews), fill 23 volumes! Meanwhile, he attended to the needs of his wife, who not only gave birth to eleven children, but also endured the infant deaths of ten of them. Here again, we have a man who had learned and practiced a talent for “multi-tasking.”
It should be no surprise, then, that while they lived, these two remarkable men were quite able and willing to set out, and practice, “down-to-earth” principles regarding how to advance in a personal, experiential “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The first of my three short answers, in Glory in the Face, to the PRACTICAL QUESTION of "what we can do to know Christ better and so be strengthened to face anything" is worded in this way:
1. Learn as much about Christ as we can from diligent reading and study of the Bible. (John 5:39)
Here, to help readers put this principle into action, are five personal “directions” from John Owen himself [from Chapter III of “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ":
DIRECTION 1. Let us get it fixed on our souls and in our minds, that this glory of Christ in the divine constitution of his person is the best, the most noble, useful, beneficial object that we can be conversant about in our thoughts, or cleave unto in our affections.
DIRECTION 2. Our second direction unto the same end is, that we diligently study the Scripture, and the revelations that are made of this glory of Christ therein.
DIRECTION 3. Another direction unto this same end is, that having attained the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ from the Scripture, or by the dispensation of the truth in the preaching of the gospel, we would esteem it our duty frequently to meditate thereon.
DIRECTION 4. Let your occasional thoughts of Christ be many, and multiplied every day.
DIRECTION 5. The next direction is, that all our thoughts concerning Christ and his glory should be accompanied with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving.
To state these directions more succinctly, here are the five of them reworded:
1. Become and remain convinced that the glory of Christ is "the most noble, useful, beneficial truth" we can think about and love.
2. Study the Bible diligently in regard to the glory of Christ.
3. Esteem it your duty to meditate on this frequently.
4. Think about Christ a lot—and more and more all the time.
5. Admire, adore, and give thanks to God for Christ and his glory.
It is easy enough to agree with Owen that these five directions are appropriate and would be of benefit, but finding the time and energy to follow them is something else, being as busy as we are. (??? !!!) But if Owen (and Edwards) could find the time and energy for them, we just might be able to, as well.
As always, your comments, questions and reactions are welcome.