Owen, Of Communion With God, File 5
    (... continued from File 4)

    Chapter 4. Inferences on the former doctrine concerning 
               communion with the Father in love.   
        Having thus discovered the nature of that distinct
    communion which we have with the Father, it remaineth that we
    give some exhortations unto it, directions in it, and take
    some observations from it: -
        1. First, then, this is a duty wherein it is most evident
    that Christians are but little exercised, - namely, in holding
    immediate communion with the Father in love. Unacquaintedness
    with our mercies, our privileges, is our sin as well as our
    trouble. We hearken not to the voice of the Spirit which is
    given unto us, "that we may know the things that are freely
    bestowed on us of God." This makes us go heavily, when we
    might rejoice; and to be weak, where we might be strong in the
    Lord. How few of the saints are experimentally acquainted with
    this privilege of holding immediate communion with the Father
    in love! With what anxious, doubtful thoughts do they look
    upon him! What fears, what questioning are there, of his
    good-will and kindness! At the best, many think there is no
    sweetness at all in him towards us, but what is purchased at
    the high price of the blood of Jesus. It is true, that alone
    is the way of communication; but the free fountain and spring
    of all is in the bosom of the Father. "Eternal life was with
    the Father, and is manifested unto us." Let us, then, -
        (1.) Eye the Father as love; look not on him as an always
    lowering father, but as one most kind and tender. Let us look
    on him by faith, as one that has had thoughts of kindness
    towards us from everlasting. It is misapprehension of God that
    makes any run from him, who have the least breathing wrought
    in them after him. "They that know thee will put their trust
    in thee." Men cannot abide with God in spiritual meditations.
    He loseth soul's company by their want of this insight into
    his love. They fix their thoughts only on his terrible
    majesty, severity, and greatness; and so their spirits are not
    endeared. Would a soul continually eye his everlasting
    tenderness and compassion, his thoughts of kindness that have
    been from of old, his present gracious acceptance, it could
    not bear an hour's absence from him; whereas now, perhaps, it
    cannot watch with him one hour. Let, then, this be the saints'
    first notion of the Father, - as one full of eternal, free
    love towards them: let their hearts and thoughts be filled
    with breaking through all discouragements that lie in the way.
    To raise them hereunto, let them consider, -
        [1.] Whose love it is. It is the love of him who is in
    himself all sufficient, infinitely satiated with himself and
    his own glorious excellencies and perfections; who has no need
    to go forth with his love unto others, nor to seek an object
    of it without himself. There might he rest with delight and
    complacency to eternity. He is sufficient unto his own love.
    He had his Son, also, his eternal Wisdom, to rejoice and
    delight himself in from all eternity, Prov. 8: 30. This might
    take up and satiate the whole delight of the Father; but he
    will love his saints also. And it is such a love, as wherein
    he seeks not his own satisfaction only, but our good therein
    also; - the love of a God, the love of a Father, whose proper
    outgoings are kindness and bounty.
        [2.] What kind of love it is. And it is, -
        1st. Eternal. It was fixed on us before the foundation of
    the world. Before we were, or had done the least good, then
    were his thoughts upon us, - then was his delight in us; -
    then did the Son rejoice in the thoughts of fulfilling his
    Father's delight in him, Prov. 8: 30. Yea, the delight of the
    Father in the Son, there mentioned, is not so much his
    absolute delight in him as the express image of his person and
    the brightness of his glory, wherein he might behold all his
    own excellencies and perfections; as with respect unto his
    love and his delight in the sons of men. So the order of the
    words require us to understand it: "I was daily his delight,"
    and, "My delights were with the sons of men;" that is, in the
    thoughts of kindness and redemption for them: and in that
    respect, also, was he his Father's delight. It was from
    eternity that he laid in his own bosom a design for our
    happiness. The very thought of this is enough to make all that
    is within us, like the babe in the womb of Elizabeth, to leap
    for joy. A sense of it cannot but prostrate our souls to the
    lowest abasement of a humble, holy reverence, and make us
    rejoice before him with trembling.
        2dly. Free. He loves us because he will; there was, there
    is, nothing in us for which we should be beloved. Did we
    deserve his love, it must go less in its valuation. Things of
    due debt are seldom the matter of thankfulness; but that which
    is eternally antecedent to our being, must needs be absolutely
    free in its respects to our well-being. This gives it life and
    being, is the reason of it, and sets a price upon it, Rom. 9:
    11; Eph. 1: 3, 4; Titus 3: 5; James 1: 18.
        3dly. Unchangeable. Though we change every day, yet his
    love changeth not. Could any kind of provocation turn it away,
    it had long since ceased. Its unchangeableness is that which
    carrieth out the Father unto that infiniteness of patience and
    forbearance (without which we die, we perish), 2 Pet. 3: 9,
    which he exerciseth towards us. And it is, -
        4thly. Distinguishing. He has not thus loved all the
    world: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Why should
    he fix his love on us, and pass by millions from whom we
    differ not bye nature, - that he should make us sharers in
    that, and all the fruits of it, which most of the great and
    wise men of the world are excluded from? I name but the heads
    of things. Let them enlarge whose hearts are touched.
         Let, I say, the soul frequently eye the love of the
    Father, and that under these considerations, - they are all
    soul-conquering and endearing.
        (2.) So eye it as to receive it. Unless this be added, all
    is in vain as to any communion with God. We do not hold
    communion with him in any thing, until it be received by
    faith. This, then, is that which I would provoke the saints of
    God unto, even to believe this love of God for themselves and
    their own part, - believe that such is the heart of the Father
    towards them, - accept of his witness herein. His love is not
    ours in the sweetness of it until it be so received.
    Continually, then, act thoughts of faith on God, as love to
    thee, - as embracing thee with the eternal free love before
    described. When the Lord is, by his word, presented as such
    unto thee, let thy mind know it, and assent that it is so; and
    thy will embrace it, in its being so; and all thy affections
    be filled with it. Set thy whole heart to it; let it be bound
    with the cords of this love. If the King be bound in the
    galleries with thy love, shouldst thou not be bound in heaven
    with his?
        (3.) Let it have its proper fruit and efficacy upon thy
    heart, in return of love to him again. So shall we walk in the
    light of God's countenance, and hold holy communion with our
    Father all the day long. Let us not deal unkindly with him,
    and return him slighting for his good-will. Let there not be
    such a heart in us as to deal so unthankfully with our God.
        2. Now, to further us in this duty, and the daily constant
    practice of it, I shall add one or two considerations that may
    be of importance whereunto; as, -
        (1.) It is exceeding acceptable unto God, even our Father,
    that we should thus hold communion with him in his love, -
    that he may be received into our souls as one full of love,
    tenderness, and kindness, towards us. Flesh and blood is apt
    to have very hard thoughts of him, - to think he is always
    angry, yea, implacable; that it is not for poor creatures to
    draw nigh to him; that nothing in the world is more desirable
    than never to come into his presence, or, as they say where he
    has any thing to do. "Who among us shall dwell with the
    devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting
    burnings?" say the sinners in Zion. And, "I knew thou wast an
    austere man," saith the evil servant in the gospels. Now,
    there is not any thing more grievous to the Lord, nor more
    subservient to the design of Satan upon the soul, than such
    thoughts as these. Satan claps his hands (if I may so say)
    when he can take up the soul with such thoughts of God: he has
    enough, - all that he does desire. This has been his design
    and way from the beginning. The first blood that murderer shed
    was by this means. He leads our first parents into hard
    thoughts of God: "Has God said so? has he threatened you with
    death? He knows well enough it will be better with you;" -
    with this engine did he batter and overthrow all mankind in
    one; and being mindful of his ancient conquest, he readily
    useth the same weapons wherewith then he so successfully
    contended. Now, it is exceeding grievous to the Spirit of God
    to be so slandered in the hearts of those whom he dearly
    loves. How does he expostulate this with Zion! "What iniquity
    have ye seen in me?" saith he; "have I been a wilderness unto
    you, or a land of darkness?" "Zion said, The LORD has forsaken
    me, and my Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman," etc. The Lord
    takes nothing worse at the hands of his, than such hard
    thoughts of him, knowing full well what fruit this bitter root
    is like to bear, - what alienations of heart, - what drawings
    back, - what unbelief and tergiversations in our walking with
    him. How unwilling is a child to come into the presence of an
    angry father! Consider, then, this in the first place, -
    receiving of the Father as he holds out love to the soul,
    gives him the honour he aims at, and is exceeding acceptable
    unto him. He often sets it out in an eminent manner, that it
    may be so received: - "He commendeth his love toward us," Rom.
    5: 8. "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed
    upon us!" 1 John 3: 1. Whence, then, is this folly? Men are
    afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it a boldness
    to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving: I speak of
    saints; but for the other side, they can judge him hard,
    austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst
    affections of the very worst of men, and most hated of him,
    Rom. 1: 31; 2 Tim. 3: 3), and think herein they do well. Is
    not this soul- deceit from Satan? Was it not his design from
    the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure thyself,
    then, there is nothing more acceptable unto the Father, than
    for us to keep up our hearts unto him as the eternal fountain
    of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood
    of Jesus. And, -
        (2.) This will be exceeding effectual to endear thy soul
    unto God, to cause thee to delight in him, and to make thy
    abode with him. Many saints have no greater burden in their
    lives, than that their hearts do not come clearly and fully
    up, constantly to delight and rejoice in God, - that there is
    still an indisposedness of spirit unto close walking with him.
    What is at the bottom of this distemper? Is it not their
    unskilfulness in or neglect of this duty, even of holding
    communion with the Father in love? So much as we see of the
    love of God, so much shall we delight in him, and no more.
    Every other discovery of God, without this, will but make the
    soul fly from Him; but if the heart be once much taken up with
    this the eminency of the Father's love, it cannot choose but
    be overpowered, conquered, and endeared unto him. This, if any
    thing, will work upon us to make our abode with him. If the
    love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what
    will? Put, then, this to the venture: exercise your thoughts
    upon this very thing, the eternal, free, and fruitful love of
    the Father, and see if your hearts be not wrought upon to
    delight in him. I dare boldly say, believers will find it as
    thriving a course as ever they pitched on in their lives. Sit
    down a little at the fountain, and you will quickly have a
    farther discovery of the sweetness of the streams. You who
    have run from him, will not be able, after a while, to keep at
    a distance for a moment.
        Objection 1. But some may say, "Alas! how shall I hold
    communion with the Father in love? I know not at all whether
    he loves me or no; and shall I venture to cast myself upon it?
    How if I should not be accepted? should I not rather perish
    for my presumption, than find sweetness in his bosom? God
    seems to me only as a consuming fire and everlasting burnings;
    so that I dread to look up unto him."
        Answer. I know not what may be understood by knowing of
    the love of God; though it be carried on by spiritual sense
    and experience, yet it is received purely by believing. Our
    knowing of it, is our believing of it as revealed. "We have
    known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love,"
    1 John 4: 16. This is the assurance which, at the very
    entrance of walking with God, thou mayest have of this love.
    He who is truth has said it; and whatever thy heart says, or
    Satan says, unless thou wilt take it up on this account, thou
    does thy endeavour to make him a liar who has spoken it, 1
    John 5: 10.
        Obj. 2. "I can believe that God is love to others, for he
    has said he is love; but that he will be so to me, I see no
    ground of persuasion; there is no cause, no reason in the
    world, why he should turn one thought of love or kindness
    towards me: and therefore I dare not cast myself upon it, to
    hold communion with him in his special love."
        Ans. He has spoken it as particularly to thee as to any
    one in the world. And for cause of love, he has as much to fix
    it on thee as on any of the children of men; that is, none at
    all without himself. So that I shall make speedy work with
    this objection. Never any one from the foundation of the
    world, who believed such love in the Father, and made returns
    of love to him again, was deceived; neither shall ever any to
    the world's end be so, in so doing. Thou art, then, in this,
    upon a most sure bottom. If thou believest and receives the
    Father as love, he will infallibly be so to thee, though
    others may fall under his severity. But, -
        Obj. 3. "I cannot find my heart making returns of love
    unto God. Could I find my soul set upon him, I could then
    believe his soul delighted in me."
        Ans. This is the most preposterous course that possibly
    thy thoughts can pitch upon, a most ready way to rob God of
    his glory. "Herein is love," saith the Holy Ghost, "not that
    we loved God, but that he loved us" first, 1 John 4: 10, 11.
    Now, thou wouldst invert this order, and say, "Herein is love,
    not that God loved me, but that I love him first." This is to
    take the glory of God from him: that, whereas he loves us
    without a cause that is in ourselves, and we have all cause in
    the world to love him, thou wouldst have the contrary, namely,
    that something should be in thee for which God should love
    thee, even thy love to him; and that thou shouldst love God,
    before thou knowest any thing lovely in him, - namely, whether
    he love thee or no. This is a course of flesh's finding out,
    that will never bring glory to God, nor peace to thy own soul.
    Lay down, then, thy seasonings; take up the love of the Father
    upon a pure act of believing, and that will open thy soul to
    let it out unto the Lord in the communion of love.
        To make yet some farther improvement of this truth so
    opened and exhorted unto as before; - it will discover unto us
    the eminency and privilege of the saints of God. What low
    thoughts soever the sons of men may have of them, it will
    appear that they have meat to eat that the world knows not of.
    They have close communion and fellowship with the Father. They
    deal with him in the interchange of love. Men are generally
    esteemed according to the company they keep. It is an honour
    to stand in the presence of princes, though but as servants.
    What honour, then, have all the saints, to stand with boldness
    in the presence of the Father, and there to enjoy his bosom
    love! What a blessing did the queen of Sheba pronounce on the
    servants of Solomon, who stood before him, and heard his
    wisdom! How much more blessed, then, are they who stand
    continually before the God of Solomon, hearing his wisdom,
    enjoying his love! Whilst others have their fellowship with
    Satan and their own lusts, making provision for them, and
    receiving perishing refreshments from them, ("whose end is
    destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in
    their shame, who mind earthly things,") they have this sweet
    communion with the Father.
        Moreover, what a safe and sweet retreat is here for the
    saints, in all the scorns, reproaches, scandals,
    misrepresentations, which they undergo in the world. When a
    child is abused abroad in the streets by strangers, he runs
    with speed to the bosom of his father; there he makes his
    complaint, and is comforted. In all the hardy censures and
    tongue-persecutions which the saints meet withal in the
    streets of the world, they may run with their meanings unto
    their Father, and be comforted. "As one whom his mother
    comforteth, so will I comfort you," saith the Lord, Isa. 66:
    13. So that the soul may say, "If I have hatred in the world,
    I will go where I am sure of love. Though all others are hard
    to me, yet my Father is tender and full of compassion: I will
    go to him, and satisfy myself in him. Here I am accounted
    vile, frowned on, and rejected; but I have honour and love
    with him, whose kindness is better than life itself. There I
    shall have all things in the fountain, which others have but
    in the drops. There is in my Father's love every thing
    desirable: there is the sweetness of all mercies in the
    abstract itself, and that fully and durably."
        Evidently, then, the saints are the most mistaken men in
    the world. If they say, "Come and have fellowship with us;"
    are not men ready to say, "Why, what are you? a sorry company
    of seditious, factious persons. Be it known unto you, that we
    despise your fellowship. When we intend to leave fellowship
    with all honest men, and men of worth, then will we come to
    you." But, alas! how are men mistaken! Truly their fellowship
    is with the Father: let men think of it as they please, they
    have close, spiritual, heavenly refreshing, in the mutual
    communication of love with the Father himself. How they are
    generally misconceived, the apostle declares, 2 Cor. 6: 8-10,
    "As deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known;
    as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
    as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many
    rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." And
    as it is thus in general, so in no one thing more than this,
    that they are looked on as poor, low, despicable persons, when
    indeed they are the only great and noble personages in the
    world. Consider the company they keep: it is with the Father;
    - who so glorious? The merchandise they trade in, it is love;
    - what so precious? Doubtless they are the excellent on the
    earth, Ps. 16: 3.
        Farther; this will discover a main difference between the
    saints and empty professors: - As to the performance of
    duties, and so the enjoyment of outward privileges, fruitless
    professors often walk hand in hand with them; but now come to
    their secret retirements, and what a difference is there!
    There the saints hold communion with God: hypocrites, for the
    most part, with the world and their own lusts; - with them
    they converse and communicate; they hearken what they will say
    to them, and make provision for them, when the saints are
    sweetly wrapt up in the bosom of their Father's love. It is
    oftentimes even almost impossible that believers should, in
    outward appearance, go beyond them who have very rotten
    hearts: but this meat they have, which others know not of;
    this refreshment in the banqueting house, wherein others have
    no share; - in the multitude of their thoughts, the comforts
    of God their Father refresh their souls.
        Now, then (to draw towards a close of this discourse), if
    these things be so, "what manner of men ought we to be, in all
    manner of holy conversation?" Even "our God is a consuming
    fire." What communion is there between light and darkness?
    Shall sin and lust dwell in those thoughts which receive in
    and carry out love from and unto the Father? Holiness becometh
    his presence for ever. An unclean spirit cannot draw nigh unto
    him; - an unholy heart can make no abode with him. A lewd
    person will not desire to hold fellowship with a sober man;
    and will a man of vain and foolish imaginations hold communion
    and dwell with the most holy God? There is not any
    consideration of this love but is a powerful motive unto
    holiness, and leads thereunto. Ephraim says, "What have I to
    do any more with idols?" when in God he finds salvation.
    Communion with the Father is wholly inconsistent with loose
    walking. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk
    in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth," 1 John 1: 6. "He
    that saith, I know him" (I have communion with him), "and
    keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not
    in him," chap. 2: 4. The most specious and glorious pretence
    made to an acquaintance with the Father, without holiness and
    obedience to his commandments, serves only to prove the
    pretenders to be liars. The love of the world and of the
    Father dwell not together.
        And if this be so (to shut up all), how many that go under
    the name of Christians, come short of the truth of it! How
    unacquainted are the generality of professors with the mystery
    of this communion, and the fruits of it! Do not many very
    evidently hold communion with their lusts and with the world,
    and yet would be thought to have a portion and inheritance
    among them that are sanctified? They have neither new name nor
    white stone, and yet would be called the people of the Most
    High. May it not be said of many of them, rather, that God is
    not in all their thoughts, than that they have communion with
    him? The Lord open the eyes of men, that they may see and know
    that walking with God is a matter not of form, but power! And
    so far of peculiar communion with the Father, in the instance
    of love which we have insisted on. "He is also faithful who
    has called us to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our
    Lord;" of which in the next place.

    Owen, Of Communion With God
    (continued in File 6...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: owcom-05.txt