Common-Place or “Locus Communis” — a place to remember
John Owen (1616-1683) was a theologian and Independent minister, and one of the more prolific writers of his time. He had one of the greatest minds of the seventeenth century, and engaged in the scholarly debates then current. He was a defender of high Calvinism, a chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and an administrator for the University of Oxford. His works were widely read in his lifetime and continue to be published today.
The excerpt below is from the same work by Owens, quoted in Randall J. Pederson, The Puritans Daily Readings (pp. 258-259):
“By nature, since the entrance of sin, no man has any communion with God. God is light and we are darkness; and what communion has light with darkness? He is life, we are dead; He is love, and we are enmity; and what agreement can there be between us? Men in such a condition have neither Christ, nor hope, nor God in the world, “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” (Eph. 4:18).
Now, two cannot walk together unless they be agreed, (Amos 3:3). While there is this distance between God and man, there is no walking together for them in any fellowship or communion. Our first interest in God was so lost by sin, as that there was left unto us (in ourselves) no possibility of a recovery. As we had deprived ourselves of all power for a returnal, so God had not revealed any way of access unto Himself; or that He could, under any consideration, be approached unto by sinners in peace. Not any work that God had made, not any attribute that He had revealed, could give the least light into such a dispensation.
The manifestation of grace and pardoning mercy, which is the only door of entrance into any such communion, is not committed unto any but unto Him alone in whom it is, by whom that grace and mercy was purchased, through whom it is dispensed, who reveals it from the bosom of the Father. Hence this communion and fellowship with God is not in express terms mentioned in the Old Testament. The thing itself is found there; but the clear light of it, and the boldness of faith in it, is discovered in the gospel, and by the Spirit administered therein. ‘And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.’Ephesians 5:11
Communion is the mutual communication of such good things as wherein the persons holding that communion are delighted, bottomed upon some union between them. So it was with Jonathan and David; their souls clave to one another in love, (1 Sam. 20:17). There was the union of love between them; and then they really communicated all issues of love mutually. In spiritual things this is more eminent: those who enjoy this communion have the most excellent union for the foundation of it; and the issues of that union, which they mutually communicate, are the most precious and eminent…
Our communion, then, with God consists in His communication of Himself unto us, with our returnal unto Him of that which He requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with Him. This communion is twofold: it is 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; which we shall enjoy when we see Him as He is; and second, it is initial and incomplete, in the first-fruits and dawnings of that perfection which we have here in grace.
It is, then, I say, of that mutual communication in giving and receiving, after a most holy and spiritual manner, which is between God and the saints while they walk together in a covenant of peace, ratified in the blood of Jesus. We thus pray that the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has, of the riches of His grace, recovered us from a state of enmity into a condition of communion and fellowship with Himself, that we may have such a taste of His sweetness and excellencies as to be stirred up to a farther longing after the fullness of His salvation, and the eternal fruition of Him in glory.”