Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Communion With John Owen.

I was extremely grateful for some of the comments that came from my post yesterday on John Owen, and particularly the specifics about "mortifying sin". A tremendous thanks to Hugh for reminding me of this outstanding biography given by Dr John Piper at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in 1994. It is a great place to start if you have never read any of John Owen before - John Piper is capable of giving you a passion for anything! And he certainly will not fail to give you a taste of getting into Owen.

Another resource devoted to John Owen that I would strongly recommend is a website devoted to him run by Justin Taylor - Piper's former Director of Theology and assistant. The website doesn't have a huge amount of Owen's writings on it yet, but Justin Taylor said that is apparantly in the pipeline. There are however, a vast amount of excellent articles about Owen written by a host of men ranging from Sinclair Ferguson to J I Packer. Again these are excellent places to begin, if the thought of going out and purchasing the Works of Owen scares you silly. However if the Spirit has given you a perculiar gift of faith and you are ready to take the plunge - you will be well advised to buy the Works from the Metropolitan Tabernacle, they offer it for £175 instead of the normal retail price of £215.

A few words on Volume 2 ...

I am really grateful to my friend Don, for reminding me of the awesomely rich Volume 2 of the Works on "Communion with God". While I did indeed want to review Volume 6 to deal with my concerns over this present interest in dealing with "indwelling sin" there is much in Owen to be relished and enjoyed! And Volume 2 is an absolutely outstanding rich experiential tome. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones called it; "One of his greatest experiential works". What does Owen mean by the term, "Communion"? We may think of the Lord's Supper or some other aspect - but Owen defined "Communion" as;

"His communication of Himself to us, with our returnal unto Him of that which He requireth and accepteth, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with Him" (Volume 2, pp8-9).

However! We must note two things concerning our communication with God;

"It is two-fold; 1. Perfect and complete in the full fruition of His glory and total giving up of ourselves to Him, resting in Him as our utmost end ... and 2. Initial and incomplete in the first fruits and dawnings of that perfection which we have here in grace". (p9).

Interestingly enough Owen seems to distinguish between two receptions of the Spirit. He argued that when we receive the Spirit as a work of sanctification it is a passive reception - very much like a vessel receiving water or indeed the wind coming upon the dead bones in Ezekiel's vision. However when that person has become a Christian, he becomes actively involved in receiving the Spirit. "It is believers that thus receive the Spirit; and they receive Him by faith" (p231).

In his sermons now posthumously published as, "Joy Unspeakable", Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones argued that "Communion with God" is the volume to approach should one want to establish Owen's views on the matter of receiving the Spirit. He complained that the more obvious volume, "A Discourse on the Holy Spirit" - Volume 3 - is not very clear at all.


jul said...

Not that we have them yet,but I thought those on this side of the Atlantic might be interested to know it is available also here http://solid-ground-books.com/search.asp?searchtext=the+works+of+john+owen for $299 u.s. You have peeked my interest in Owen. I have "Communion with God", but it's been a while since I looked at it. I remember being amazed on finding the portion about the Song of Songs because it's so obviously against the teaching I've heard here and I bought it in our church book shop.

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes absolutely Jul! I think Don pointed out that it is a very brave (or foolish) man who takes a stand against John Owen on anything, and doesn't exhaustively research his argument to disprove what Owen argued!

Quite similarly I am always amazed that noone has taken Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones to task on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in "Joy Unspeakable". He so exhausts the topic, looking at all aspects, exploring all arguments, disproving all negatives and then presents the glorious scope of the inheritance that is so rightly that of every new convert - but all seem to be silent!

Back to Owen ... I loved his comments on the Song of Solomon. What a gloriously rich experiential book!! I used it in my quiet time this morning - such a beautiful love song to God!

Anonymous said...

i happen to have acquired the complete owen works a while ago but i confess they remain largely unopened because his writing is so dense and difficult. I have no doubt there must be some wonderful stuff in there but it seems so inaccessible. Where and how do you suggest I start?!

Baxter's Boy said...

Its great that you have the Works! They're not available widely now - regretfully. It's hard for me to suggest the best book, as I find that different people respond to different books. I began with Volume 2, fell in love with it, and went from there - but that is because I respond well and warmly to rich, experiential writings.

John Piper has the following recommendations that might be more helpful for you;

By way of recommendation for one beginning to read Owen I would suggest the following list on the basis of their being especially influential doctrinally or especially inspiring practically.

Doctrinally I would suggest:

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1647)
The Doctrine of the Saint's Perseverance (1654)
A Discourse on the Holy Spirit (1674)
True Nature of the Gospel Church (1689)

Practically I would suggest:

Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656)
Of Temptation: the Nature and Power of It (1658)
The Nature, Power, Deceit and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin (1667)
The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually-minded (1681)
Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ (1684)

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Owen certainly sets the standard high for reading!! He is the hardest of the Puritan writers, is he not?

J Crossway

Baxter's Boy said...

That's very true. But I have been so challenged by John Piper's outstanding book; "Brothers, we are not professionals". He includes a chapter in there concerning reading, and wrote;

"Your people will know whether you are walking with giants or watching television".

He quotes C S Lewis who said;

"If he must read only the new (books) or the old (books), then I would advise him to read the old ...".

Walking with giants ... or watching television??! I know what I'd prefer!!