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.