The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth

The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth

Have you ever wondered why Christ should care for you as a believer? Why should He love you after your repeated failures and sins? Since He is in heaven and exists in His exalted state, why should He care about me? We feel ourselves to be most unworthy of the least of his mercies. Yet we need to be convinced of our Lord’s goodness, kindness, and love before we draw near to Him by faith. Thomas Goodwin addresses a concern many of us might have had but may not have pondered it as deeply.

We learn from the Gospel accounts that Christ was compassionate and tender. While He was on earth, He exhibited great acts of kindness. But He is in heaven now, no longer in His estate of humiliation. He is physically removed from us and reigns in might and glory. Doesn’t He now despise the lowly things He once experienced? He performed His covenant obligations by obeying His Father unto death. Wouldn’t He be less concerned since He finished His work and reigns in His estate of exaltation? This is how Goodwin pursued the issue.

Goodwin masterfully and almost exhaustively argues that Christ’s disposition, love, tenderness, etc. has not changed in heaven. If He loved while on earth, then He surely loves in heaven. Remember, Jesus beckoned us to come to Him because He is meek and lowly of heart (Mt. 11:28). We must not think that Christ is less concerned and less meek because He has been exalted and removed from us. His nature has not changed even though His estate has. Goodwin says,

Yea, but (may we think) he being the Son of God and heir of heaven, and especially being now filled with glory, and sitting at God’s right hand, he may now despise the lowliness of us here below; though not out of anger, yet out of that height of his greatness and distance that he is advanced unto, in that we are too mean for him to marry, or be familiar with. He surely hath higher thoughts than to regard such poor, low things as we are. And so though indeed we conceive him meek, and not prejudiced with injuries, yet he may be too high and lofty to condescend so far as to regard, or take to heart, the condition of poor creatures. No, says Christ; ‘I am lowly’ also, willing to bestow my love and favour upon the poorest and meanest. (63-64)

But isn’t Christ so Holy and exalted that He could no longer tolerate all our various provocations? That is, we offend Him so often and He is so Holy, why would He take any interest in us?

We are apt to think that he, being so holy, is therefore of a severe and sour disposition against sinners, and not able to bear them. No, says He [Christ]; ‘I am meek,’ gentleness is my nature and temper. As it was of Moses [who was deemed to be meek], who was, as in other things, so in that grace his type; he was not revenged on Miriam and Aaron, but interceded for them. So, says Christ, injuries and unkindnesses do not so work upon me as to make me irreconcilable, it is my nature to forgive: “I am meek.” (63)

Underneath this argument is something Goodwin established earlier in his little treatise. Christ has been appointed to save the people whom the Father gave to Him and to love them to the end. That commission did not end with His humiliation. He willingly, as well as obediently, loves His people in both estates – in the estates of humiliation and exaltation. This pleases the Father. Therefore, we can be certain that Christ still has a heart for us (hence the title): The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth.[1] The longer title summarizes the whole treatise: “A Treatise Demonstrating The gracious Disposition and tender Affection of Christ in his Humane Nature now in Glory, unto his Members under all sorts of Infirmities, either of Sin or Misery.”

Goodwin’s little work is quite difficult to read. He is no Thomas Watson. I’ve read enough Puritans over the years and find Goodwin to be more difficult than most. His writings are dense and difficult to follow — he is creative as well as frustratingly speculative at times. Even Owen is easier (at least for me). However, expending your energy on his writings will be well worth it because it will yield great benefits to your soul as well as weighty thoughts for your mind. You have to follow him closely because he develops a string of arguments that come to a firm and helpful conclusion. If you do not follow him closely, you will not be able to appreciate the conclusions he draws. Because you didn’t see how he got there, his conclusions may not convince you. Often, I’ve had to rehearse his line of thinking to see how he came to a specific conclusion. He trudges through seemingly small and impertinent points but they are being used as little bridges to the next point. So, read him carefully with coffee in hand. Don’t rush through this book and I’m convinced you will greatly appreciate it and immensely benefit from the short treatise. The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth is a gem and probably his best work.

[1] I am using the Banner of Truth edition — Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011). This edition is only 158 pages long! Various Kindle versions are available and cheaper but the BOT edition is much easier to read.

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