The introduction from Kelly M. Kapic is quite helpful, allowing the reader to map Owen's unique thought and balance of doctrine and application. Third, they differ in this also: The love of God is like himself — equal, constant, not capable of augmentation or diminution; our love is like our selves — unequal, increasing, waning, growing, declining. His, like the sun, always the same in its light, though a cloud may som. His, like the sun, always the same in its light, though a cloud may sometimes interpose; ours, as the moon, has its enlargements and straitenings. The love of the Father is equal, etc.
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The introduction from Kelly M. Kapic is quite helpful, allowing the reader to map Owen's unique thought and balance of doctrine and application. Third, they differ in this also: The love of God is like himself — equal, constant, not capable of augmentation or diminution; our love is like our selves — unequal, increasing, waning, growing, declining. His, like the sun, always the same in its light, though a cloud may som.
His, like the sun, always the same in its light, though a cloud may sometimes interpose; ours, as the moon, has its enlargements and straitenings. The love of the Father is equal, etc. On whom he fixes his love, it is immutable; it does not grow to eternity, it is not diminished at any time. It is an eternal love, that had no beginning, that shall have no ending; that cannot be heightened by any act of ours, that cannot be lessened by anything in us. In his extended allegorical interpretation of the Song, he describes the soul's condition and actions when searching for Christ, but unable to find Him as going to the encouragement of the church:.
Not to insist upon particulars, nor to strain the parts of the allegory too far, the city here intended is the city of God, the church; and the passing through the broad and narrow streets is the diligent inquiry that the spouse makes in all the paths and ordinances given unto it.
Owen opens this section of the discourse with a wonderful treatment of the Spirit as the Comforter and Advocate, focusing on the Spirit's work in the economy of redemption. Describing the excellency of the sending of the Spirit by Christ:.
This is the sum: the presence of the Holy Ghost with believers as a comforter, sent by Christ for those ends and purposes for which he is promised, is better and more profitable for believers than any corporeal presence of Christ can be now [that] he has fulfilled the one sacrifice for sin which he was to offer. Hence is the sin against the Holy Ghost what it is I do not now dispute unpardonable, and has that adjunct of rebellion put upon it that no other sin has — namely, because he comes not, he acts not, in his own name only, though in his own also, but in the name and authority of the Father and Son, from and by whom he is sent; and therefore, to sin against him is to sin against all the authority of God, all the love of the Trinity, and the utmost condescension of each person to the work of our salvation.
It is, I say, from the authoritative mission of the Spirit that the sin against him is peculiarly unpardonable — it is a sin against the recapitulation of the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit. And from this consideration, were that our present business, might the true nature of the sin against the Holy Ghost be investigated.
Certainly it must consist in the contempt of some operation of his, as acting in the name and authority of the whole Trinity, and that in their ineffable condescension to the work of grace. This last sentence is key here.
The blasphemy of the Spirit "must consist in the contempt of some operation of his". Owen continues, showing the deep need for our individual petition of God for the gifting of the Spirit to us:. On this account we are to pray the Father and the Son to give the Spirit to us.
Now the Holy Ghost, being God, is no less to be invocated, prayed to, and called on than the Father and Son; as elsewhere I have proved. How, then, do we ask the Father for him, as we do in all our supplications, seeing that we also pray that he himself would come to us, visit us, and abide with us? In our prayers that are directed to himself, we consider him as essentially God over all, blessed forevermore; we pray for him from the Father and Son, as under this mission and delegation from them.
And, indeed, God having most plentifully revealed himself in the order of this dispensation to us, we are as Christians generally do in our communion to abound in answerable addresses [prayers]; that is, not only to the person of the Holy Ghost himself, but properly to the Father and Son for him, which refers to this dispensation.
Owen is essentially saying that we ought to routinely pray directly to the Father and the Son for the sending of the Spirit into our lives, as we also should pray for and to the Spirit Himself for His coming and assistance. Owen describes the personal activity of the Spirit, not generally in working regeneration, but specifically in the work of illumination and teaching the believer to savor doctrine, with a warning of the neglect of the use of the Spirit to this end.
We have this, then, by the Spirit: he teaches us of the love of God in Christ; he makes every gospel truth as wine well refined to our souls, and the good things of it to be a feast of fat things — gives us joy and gladness of heart with all that we know of God; which is the great preservative of the soul to keep it close to truth. The apostle speaks of our teaching by this unction, as the means whereby we are preserved from seduction. Indeed, to know any truth in the power, sweetness, joy, and gladness of it, is that great security of the soul's constancy in the preservation and retaining of it.
They will readily change truth for error, who find no more sweetness in the one than in the other. Owen so far has not mentioned any of the particular gifts of the Spirit outside of the general doctrines of the working of repentance, and common actions of comfort, consolation, advocacy, and illumination. I thought perhaps he was going to specifically avoid them, presuming what is today called cessationism although the term was not common in his day , but then he begins to issue a series of severe warnings against those who diminish the person and work of the Spirit.
Take a view, then, of the state and condition of them who, professing to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, do yet contemn and despise his Spirit, as to all its operations, gifts, graces, and dispensations to his churches and saints.
While Christ was in the world with his disciples, he made them no greater promise, neither in respect of their own good nor of carrying on the work which he had committed to them, than this of giving them the Holy Ghost. Him he instructs them to pray for of the Father, as that which is needful for them, as bread for children Luke Him he promises them, as a well of water springing up in them, for their refreshment, strengthening, and consolation unto everlasting life John ; as also to carry on and accomplish the whole work of the ministry to them committed John ; with all those eminent works and privileges before mentioned.
And upon his ascension, this is laid as the bottom of that glorious communication of gifts and graces in his plentiful effusion mentioned Eph. Especially does the whole work of the ministry relate to the Holy Ghost; though that be not my present business to evince.
He calls men to that work, and they are separated unto him Acts ; he furnishes them with gifts and abilities for that employment 1 Cor.
So that the whole religion we profess, without this administration of the Spirit, is nothing; nor is there any fruit without it of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
This being the state of things — that in our worship of and obedience to God, in our own consolation, sanctification, and ministerial employment, the Spirit is the principle, the life, soul, the all of the whole; yet so desperate has been the malice of Satan, and wickedness of men, that their great endeavor has been to shut him quite out of all gospel administrations. Owen essentially is saying without the Spirit, there is no Christianity at all whatsoever. He begins to focus on what he is briefly referring to, that there is or was a great despising of the Spirit which did through the entire Church into peril:.
First, his gifts and graces were not only decried, but almost excluded from the public worship of the church, by the imposition of an operose [laborious] form of service, to be read by the minister; which to do is neither a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost to any, nor of the ministry at all.
It is marvelous to consider what pleas and pretences were invented and used by learned men — from its antiquity, its composure and approbation by martyrs, the beauty of uniformity in the worship of God, established and pressed thereby, etc. But the main argument they insisted on, and the chief field wherein they expatiated and laid out all their eloquence, was the vain babbling repetitions and folly of men praying by the Spirit.
When once this was fallen upon, all at least as they supposed was carried away before them, and their adversaries rendered sufficiently ridiculous: so great is the cunning of Satan, and so unsearchable are the follies of the hearts of men.
The sum of all these reasonings amounts to no more but this—"Though the Lord Jesus Christ has promised the Holy Ghost to be with his church to the end of the world, to fit and furnish men with gifts and abilities for the carrying on of that worship which he requires and accepts at our hands, yet the work is not done to the purpose; the gifts he bestows are not sufficient to that end, neither as to invocation nor doctrine: and, therefore, we will not only help men by our directions, but exclude them from their exercise.
This is that I aim at, to point out the public contempt of the Holy Ghost, his gifts and graces, with their administration in the church of God, that has been found even where the gospel has been professed. By this I believe Owen to be describing the invention of ornate liturgies, performed by the clergy "minister" , exempting the common person from the worship service. They made their argument for exclusion based on classical beauty, an appeal to tradition, boxing out the operation of the Spirit in the individual believer.
Though they created these arguments, their aim "was the vain babbling repetitons and folly of men praying by the Spirit". By this phrase, although he calls it "vain babbling", I believe Owen intends the gift of tongues as he calls it "folly of men praying by the Spirit".
I do not think that he seeks to malign the practice; as he contrasts it to the ornate "beauty" of the high liturgies just previously defined. Again, it is unlikely that Owen is taking actual exception against the practice, but rather is seeking to shame the silencers for he identifies the work of these as "the cunning of Satan".
He goes on to caricaturize their doctrine, showing the folly of supplanting the gifts of the Spirit for the ornate words of men. Perhaps this make sense being that Owen was a Nonconformist? In fact, in the last half of the above section, Owen says that ordination of ministers "formal setting apart of men to the ministry" not acquainted with the giftings of the Spirit brings "innumerable evils". Owen goes on to describe the "silencing, destroying, banishing men whose ministry was accompanied with the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit" is an evil which does not need expounding; it is self-evident.
This of course necessarily presupposes that Owen has in mind some particular, public works which could be called "evidence" and a "demonstration" of the Spirit. Though he does not enumerate what these could be, it seems only simply understood as those common charismata of the Scriptures. More on this later. Having explained the disdain of those gifts of the Spirit in the context of the public worship of the Church, Owen then immediately moves to the private exaltation of the self over and against those who exercise the gifts:.
Again: it is a thing of most sad consideration, once to call to mind the improvement of that principle of contempt of the Spirit in private men and their ways. The name of the Spirit was grown a term of reproach. To plead for, or pretend to pray by, the Spirit was enough to render a man the object of scorn and reproach from all sorts of men, from the pulpit to the stage.
And if this were the frame of their spirit, what might be expected from others of professed profaneness? It is not imaginable to what height of blasphemy the process in this kind amounted.
The Lord grant there be nothing of this cursed leaven still remaining amongst us! Some bleatings [cries] of ill importance are sometimes heard. Is this the fellowship of the Holy Ghost that believers are called unto?
Is this the due entertainment of him whom our Savior promised to send for the supply of his bodily absence, so as we might be no losers thereby? Is it not enough that men should be contented with such a stupid blindness, as, being called Christians, to look no further for their comfort and consolation than moral considerations common to heathens would lead them, when one infinitely holy and blessed person of the Trinity has taken this office upon him to be our comforter, but they must oppose and despise him also?
Nothing more discovers how few there are in the world that have interest in that blessed name whereby we are all called. But this is no place to pursue this discourse. The aim of this discourse is to evince the folly and madness of men in general who profess to own the gospel of Christ, and yet contemn and despise his Spirit, in whomsoever he is manifested.
Let us be zealous of the gifts of the Spirit, not envious at them. Owen describes the private disdain and scorn which came upon those who sought to exercise the gifts, as being of a lower class or station than the official ministers.
Should anyone "plead for Clearly, he has those who hold themselves "a story or two above their brethren" in mind for rebuke. Owen goes so far as to call this "blasphemy". By "Is this the fellowship of the Holy Ghost that believers are called unto? Owen describes those who despise the Spirit as those who are concerned only with "moral considerations common to heathens". Finally, the last sentence fully discloses Owen's position: be zealous of the gifts.
Even though his condemnation and rebuke are wonderfully delivered, and rightfully so, it is interesting that his treatment of the gifts is so scarce. After four chapters, this is the first mention of the gifts, and while he does mention them, he only does so very briefly. He names 1 Corinthians 12 only once, and completely ignores 1 Corinthians 14 altogether. Owen moves on to a discussion of the importance of the Christian's duty to not grieving the Spirit, quench the Spirit, or neglect the Spirit.
He describes the work of each Christian to consider the wonderful joy and recovery that the Spirit grants in the improving of the conditions of temptations and sins, specifically calling for the personal repentance of each sin as considering it's effect in attempting to grieve the Spirit.
While this work is hundreds of years old, the editors have done a wonderful job of making it accessible. I do believe that the manner of discourse used by Owen, the traditional Ramism so common in Puritan writings , does Him a disservice in some portions.
For instance, it seems that Owen described the fundamental aspects of the Spirit as the Comforter nearly a dozen times, sometimes in the very prior page, covering ground already traveled. This is not necessarily bad, however, he does this to the neglect of major aspects of the Spirit's person and work which are distinctly related to personal communion in the Spirit e. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
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John Owen: Communion with God
Does it make a difference that the God Christians claim to worship has revealed himself as triune—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Does this fundamental truth of biblical authority have an effect on a believer's personal fellowship with God? Puritan theologian John Owen recognized the great need for every believer to understand the triune God. Communion with the Triune God revisits the truth presented by John Owen and challenges all believers to truly recognize and appreciate the ministry that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have in their lives. Beyond intellectual understanding of the various theological complexities of the Trinity, this work encourages Christians to enjoy true communion with each person of the triune God. Fill out a brief survey to download a free digital copy of Communion with the Triune God today. Experiencing the Trinity Joe Thorn.
John Owen: Communion with the Triune God
Please use the Banner of Truth UK site. No subject more exposes the poverty of our lives before God than communion with God. We feel, or we should feel, totally out of our depth. However highly other Christians might esteem you, you know only too well how weakly, how inconstantly, how poorly, how coldly your heart engages in communion with God. Even as regenerate men and women, we are spiritual enigmas! Fellowship with God, living, personal, mind-engaging, heart-affecting fellowship, is held out to us as the consummating fruit of the gospel.
Communion with God
Jump to navigation. John Owen, and before him John Calvin, and before Calvin the Cappadocian Fathers, applied their Spirit-renewed minds and hearts to exploring the immensities and infinities of the Holy Trinity. Modern evangelical, and even modern Reformed writing with a few honourable exceptions , give little thought to a doctrine that is the first and foundational truth of the Christian religion. In the Bible, fellowship with God, living, personal, mind-engaging, heart-affecting fellowship, is held out to us as the consummating fruit of the gospel.