Daily Devotional – Mortification of Sin

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March 21, 2019 by directorfsm

by John Owen – March 21st, 2019

Chapter 12
Meditations upon God

1). Objection: Moses was under the Law

You will say that Moses was under the Law when God veiled Himself in darkness and His mind(86) in types(87) and clouds and dark institutions. Under the glorious shining of the gospel— which has brought life and immortality to light, God being revealed from His own bosom—we now know Him much more clearly, and as He is. We see His face now and not His back parts only, as did Moses.


1. I acknowledge a vast and almost inconceivable difference between the acquaintance we now have with God, after His speaking to us by His own Son (Heb 1:2), and that which the generality of the saints had under the Law. For although their eyes were as good, sharp, and clear as ours, their faith and spiritual understanding not behind ours, and the object as glorious unto them as unto us—yet our day is more clear than theirs was, the clouds are blown away and scattered (Song 4:6), the shadows of the night are gone and fled away, the sun is risen, and the means of sight is made more eminent and clear than formerly.

2. This being so, yet that peculiar sight which Moses had of God was a gospel-sight, a sight of God as “gracious,” etc., and yet it is called but his “back parts”—that is, but low and more common in comparison to His excellencies and perfections.

3. The apostle exalts to the utmost this glory of light above that of the Law, making clear that now the “vail” causing darkness is taken away (2Co 3:15-16), so that “we all, with open [or uncovered] face [are] beholding…the glory of the Lord” (3:18). And he also tells us how: “as in a glass.” “In a glass”—how is that? Clearly, perfectly? Alas, no! He tells you how that is: “We see through a glass, darkly” (1Co 13:12). It is not a telescope, which helps us to see things afar off, concerning which the apostle speaks. (And yet what poor helps are they; how short do we come of the truth of things notwithstanding their assistance!) It is a looking-glass(88) to which he alludes, where are only obscure forms and images of things, and not the things themselves. He compares our knowledge to a sight therein.

2). We see but little

   He tells you also that all that we do see “through [or by] this glass” is in darkness and obscurity, that is, in a riddle. And speaking of himself, who surely was much more clear-sighted than any now living, he tells us that he saw but “in part.” He saw but the back parts of heavenly things (1Co 13:12) and compares all the knowledge he had attained of God to that he had of things when he was a child (13:11). It is only a “part,” short of “that which is perfect,” such as will be “done away” or destroyed. We know what weak, feeble, uncertain notions and apprehensions children have of things of any abstract consideration; how when they grow up with good training, those incomplete conceptions vanish and they are ashamed of them. It is the commendation of a child to love, honor, believe, and obey his father; but the father knows his child’s childishness and folly in knowledge and ideas.

   Notwithstanding all our confidence of high attainments, all our notions of God are but childish in respect of His infinite perfections. We lisp and babble, and say we know not what, for the most part, in our most accurate conceptions and notions of God, as we think. We may love, honor, believe, and obey our Father; and therewith He accepts our childish thoughts, for they are but childish. We see but His back parts; we know but little of Him. Hence is that promise wherewith we are so often supported and comforted in our distress: “We shall see him as he is” (1Jo 3:2); we shall see Him “face to face” and “know even as also [we are] known” (that is, comprehend that for which we are comprehended, 1Co 13:12); and positively, “Now [we] see him not” (1Pe 1:8). All this is concluding that here we see but His back parts; not as He is, but in a dark, obscure representation—not in the perfection of His glory.

   The queen of Sheba had heard much of Solomon and framed many great thoughts of his magnificence in her mind; but when she came and saw his glory, she was forced to confess that not half the truth had been told her (1Ki 10:1-7). We may suppose that we have here attained great knowledge, clear and high thoughts of God; but, alas, when He shall bring us into His presence, we shall cry out: We never knew Him as He is; the thousandth part of His glory, perfection, and blessedness never entered into our hearts!

(86) mind – purpose.
(87) types – patterns pointing to greater things.
(88) looking-glass – mirror.
Excerpts from Mortification of Sin by John Owen from: The Chapel Library •  chapel@mountzion.org

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