so is my love among the young women.
As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
(Song of Solomon 2:2-4)
John Owen is one of my favorite Puritan writers. He was so in tune with our human depravity, knowing the depths and far reaching extent and deceitfulness of sin. And at the same time, he had seen glimpses of Christ in all His glory. In his classic, The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace, Owen provides for the one who longs for more of Christ’s glory and His love an insightful guide. Though he’s sometimes a little difficult to understand, at least for our modern ears, it is well worth the journey to patiently stick with our teacher. Here are some of his thoughts regarding experiencing Christ’s love.
He wrote: “Here [on earth], this love passes knowledge; there [in heaven], we shall comprehend the dimensions of it. Yet even here, if we are not slothful and carnal, we may have a refreshing prospect of it; and where comprehension fails, let admiration take place…. Moreover, be not contented to have right notions of the love of Christ in your minds, unless you can attain a gracious taste of it in your hearts; no more than you would be to see a feast or banquet richly prepared, and partake of nothing of it to your refreshment….We may [here] taste that the Lord is gracious; and if we find not a relish of it in our hearts, we shall not long retain the notion of it in our minds. Christ is the meat, the bread, the food of our souls. Nothing is in him of a higher spiritual nourishment than his love which we should always desire. In this love he is glorious … it is in this world absolutely incomprehensible.”
Owen knew there is nothing of greater value, excellence or glory to pursue. Only the Excellencies of Christ will satisfy and bring life to walking dead men. However, Owen, quickly admits that while it is one thing to talk about the love of Christ, it’s a totally different matter to desire it consistently above all else and to experience it richly. For the one in Christ, Owen set out these two directives:
1. Get Your Mind into Shape
a. “Labour that your minds may continually be fitted and prepared for such heavenly contemplations.”
b. Owen isn’t saying we need to become brainiacs. What he is stating is that our sensual, earth-bound thoughts are diametrically opposed to thoughts of Christ. A mind flooded with thoughts of the flesh is obstructed from communion with the Lord Jesus Christ.
c. Owen wrote: “A holy composure of mind, by virtue of spiritual principles, an inclination to seek after refreshment in heavenly things, and to bathe the soul in the fountain of them, with constant apprehensions of the excellency of this divine glory, are required for this.”
2. Be Specific in Your Thoughts
a. General notions (and I would add half truths which we feed on in our contemporary world) concerning the love of Christ are unimpressive to our minds—we see no glory at all in these spineless and sentimental thoughts.
b. We need to focus on distinct concepts of His divine nature and work. For example:
i. It is God’s Love for Us - “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us… In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 3:16; 4:10-12).
ii. Active in His Two Natures - “By what ways and means this wonderful love of the Son of God does act itself, namely, in the divine nature, by eternal acts of wisdom, goodness, and grace proper to that; and in the human, by temporary acts of pity or compassion, with all the fruits of them in doing and suffering for us.”
iii. We Deserved Hatred Rather than Love – “It was hatred, not love, that we in ourselves deserved; which is a consideration suited to fill the soul with self-abasement, the best of frames in the contemplation of the glory of Christ.”
iv. The Outcomes of His Love – His love is poured out into our hearts and we are no longer content with just a casual acquaintance with Him. He has pursued us, captivated us with His love and we now long for Him.
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. (Song of Solomon 5:10)