My Dear Friends,
Two years ago a young friend of mine died. Before he died he penned a “Parting Letter” to his wife (175 pages). The Letter is a moving testimony of God’s grace to a dying believer. As my friend concluded his Letter he quoted these words of John Owen: “Jesus Christ is all, and in all; and where he is wanting (lacking) there can be no good. Hunger cannot truly be satisfied without manna, the bread of life, which is Jesus Christ;- and what shall a hungry man do that hath no bread? Thirst cannot be quenched without that water or living spring, which is Jesus Christ;- and what shall a thirsty soul do without water? A captive, as we are all, cannot be delivered without redemption, which is Jesus Christ;- and what shall the prisoner do without his ransom? Fools, as we are all, cannot be instructed without wisdom, which is Jesus Christ; - without him we perish in our folly. All building without him is on the sand, which will surely fall. All working without him is in the fire, where it will be consumed. All riches without him have wings, and will away... A dungeon with Christ is a throne; and a throne without Christ, a hell. Nothing so ill, but Christ will compensate.”
Owen’s words are worthy of careful meditation as we look out into another year of God’s grace. He is impressing on us that none but Christ can satisfy. He is reminding us that our Lord Jesus “is all in all.” He is encouraging us to make our Saviour our all in all. Surely we can never be reminded too often of the excellencies of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only too easy to allow the routine of life with its struggles and trials to keep us “earthbound”. And yet our great need is to cultivate heavenly-mindedness. But how are we to do this? Owen’s words help us. The essence of biblical heavenly-mindedness is a mind taken up with the glory of Jesus Christ. One of the (many) benefits of reading men like Owen (and others of his ilk) is that they had expansive views of the greatness and glory of Christ. I am not saying we should yearn for days that are past. Solomon warns us against such folly: “Do not say, ‘why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Our calling is not to ape past days, nor to wish wistfully they could return. They are past. However, we can and surely should, long to enjoy the deep spirituality that men like John Owen appeared to enjoy. And at the heart of their deep spirituality were expansive views of the grace and glory of the Saviour. Samuel Rutherford, a contemporary of Owen’s, wrote such of the soul-satisfying excellency of Christ: “Give to Christ your virgin love; you cannot put your love and heart into better hand. Oh! If ye knew Him, and saw His beauty, your love, your liking, your heart, your desires would close with Him and cleave to Him ... O Fair sun, and fair moon and fair stars, and fair flowers, and fair roses, and fair lilies and fair creatures, but O ten thousand thousand times fairer Lord Jesus.” In another letter he wrote, “Christ is a well of life; but who knoweth how deep it is to the bottom? ... And oh, what a fair one, what an only one, what an excellent, lovely, ravishing one is Jesus.” The majesty and loveliness of Christ is the outstanding theme of his Letters. For Rutherford, the incomparable loveliness of Christ is the supreme delight of his heart: “Oh, but Christ is heaven’s wonder, and earth’s wonder! What marvel that His bride saith, ”He is altogether lovely,“ ... Oh, pity for evermore, that there should be such a one as Christ Jesus, so boundless, so bottomless, and so incomparable in infinite excellency and sweetness and so few to take him.”
Throughout the ages of eternity, God’s people will be “lost in wonder, love and praise” as we endlessly worship our great God and King. There can surely then be no better preparation for heaven than learning here and now to find our “all in all” in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the heavenly manna; he is the living water. Having him we have everything. It is only when we see this world in the light of the incomparable excellencies of our Saviour that we can see through its painted glamour and realise that “Solid joy and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know.”
My friend knew that the best legacy he could leave his wife was the vision of an all-glorious Christ. This he did.
Yours as ever in Christ