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The object of Dr Owen in this treatise is to illustrate the mystery of divine grace in the person of Christ. It bears the title, “Christologia;” but it differs considerably from modern works of the same title or character. It is not occupied with a formal induction from Scripture in proof of the supreme Godhead of the Saviour. Owen assumes the truth of this doctrine, and applies all his powers and resources to expound its relations in the Christian system, and its bearings on Christian duty and experience.
Chapter I. of the work is devoted to an exposition of Matt. xvi. 16, as a warrant and basis for his inquiry respecting the person of Christ. Chapter II. contains some historical references to the opposition encountered by this doctrine in past ages. From Chapter III. to VII. inclusive, the person of Christ is exhibited as the origin of all true religion, the foundation of the divine counsel, the representation of the divine nature and will, the embodiment and sum of divine truth, and the source of divine and gracious efficacy for the salvation of the church. The faith of the Old Testament Church respecting it is illustrated in Chapter VIII. Then follows the second leading division of the treatise, in which the divine honours and obedience due to Christ, and our obligation to seek conformity to him, are urged at some length, from Chapter IX. to XV. It is followed in Chapters XVI. and XVII. with an inquiry into the divine wisdom as manifested in the person of Christ. The hypostatical union is explained, Chapter XVIII. Two more Chapters, XIX. and XX., close the work, with a dissertation on the exaltation of Christ, and the mode in which he discharges his mediatorial functions in heaven.
The treatise was first published in 1679. We are not informed under what particular circumstances Owen was led to prepare it. There is internal evidence in the work itself that he laboured under a strong impression of the peril in which evangelical religion would be involved, if views of the person of Christ, either positively unsound or simple vague and defective, obtained currency in the British churches. His acquaintance with the early history of the church taught him that against this doctrine the persevering assaults of Satan had been directed; and, with sagacious foresight, he anticipated the rise of heresy on this point in England. He speaks of “woeful contests” respecting it, — increasing rather than abating “unto this very day;” and intimates his conviction, in language which elucidates his main design in this work, that the only way by which they could be terminated was to enthrone Christ anew in the hearts and consciences of men.
Events ensued which justified these apprehensions of Owen. A prolonged controversy on the subject of the Trinity arose, which drew forth the works of Bull (1686), Sherlock (1690), and South (1695). In 1710, Whiston was expelled from Oxford for his Arianism. Dr S. Clarke, in 1712, published Arian views, for which he was summoned before the Convocation. Among the Presbyterian Dissenters, Pierce and Hallet (1717) became openly committed to Arianism. Dr Isaac Watts who succeeded (1702) to the charge of the same congregation in London which had been under the care of Owen, broached the Indwelling Scheme; according to which the Father is so united to the man Christ Jesus, whose human soul pre-existed his coming in the flesh, that, through this indwelling of the Godhead, he became properly God.
The Christology of Owen has always been highly valued, and will be of use to all ages of the church: — “A work,” says the late Dr M’Crie, “which, together with its continuation, the ‘Meditations on the Glory of Christ,’ of all the theological works published by individuals since the Reformation, next to ‘Calvin’s Institutions’, we would have deemed it our highest honour to have produced.” — Ed.
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