John Owen

B. Childress
Nov 27 2009 08:00AM

The next thing that comes under consideration is, the way whereby we hold communion with the Lord Christ, in respect
of that personal grace of which we have spoken.


Now, this the Scripture manifests to be by the way of a conjugal relation.  He is married to us, and we to him; which
spiritual relation is attended with suitable conjugal affections.  And this gives us fellowship with him as to his personal

This the spouse expresses, 'My Beloved is mine, and I am his' (Song of Solomon 2:16) - 'He is mine, I possess him, I
have interest in him, as my head and my husband; and I am his, possessed of him, owned by him, given up to him: and
that as to my Beloved in a conjugal relation.'

So (Isaiah 54:5), 'Your Maker is your husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of
Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.'  This is yielded as the reason why the church shall not be
ashamed nor confounded, in the midst of her troubles and trials - she is married to her Maker, and her Redeemer is her
husband.  And in Isaiah 61:10, setting out the mutual glory of Christ and his church in their walking together, he says it
is 'as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns her with jewels.'  Such is their condition,
because such is their relation; which he also farther expresses, chapter 62:5, 'As the bridegroom rejoices over the
bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.'  As it is with such persons in the day of their espousals, in the day of the
gladness of their hearts, so is it with Christ and his saints in this relation.  He is a husband to them, providing that it may
be with them according to the state and condition into which he has taken them.

To this purpose we have his faithful engagement, 'I will,' says he, 'betroth you to me for ever; yea, I will betroth you to
me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.  I will even betroth you to me in
faithfulness' (Hosea 2:19-20).  And it is the main design of the ministry of the gospel, to prevail with men to give up
themselves to the Lord Christ, as he reveals his kindness in this engagement.  Hence Paul tells the Corinthians that he
had 'espoused them to one husband, that he might present them as a chaste virgin to Christ' (II Corinthians 11:2).  This
he had prevailed upon them for, by the preaching of the gospel, that they should give up themselves as a virgin, to him
who had betrothed them to himself as a husband.


And this is a relation wherein the Lord Jesus is exceedingly delighted, and invites others to behold him in this his glory,
'Go forth,' says he, 'O you daughters of Jerusalem, and behold King Solomon with the crown with which his mother
crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart' (Song of Solomon 3:11).  He calls
forth the daughters of Jerusalem (all sorts of professors) to consider him in the condition of betrothing and espousing
his church to himself.  Moreover, he tells them that they shall find on him two things eminently upon this account:

  1. Honour.  It is the day of his coronation, and his spouse is the crown wherewith he is crowned.  For as Christ is a
    diadem of beauty and a crown of glory to Zion (Isaiah 28:5); so Zion also is a diadem and a crown to him (Isaiah
    62:3).  Christ makes this relation with his saints to be his glory and his honour.
  2. Delight.  The days of his espousals, of taking poor sinful souls into his bosom, is the day of the gladness of his
    heart.  John was but the friend of the Bridegroom, that stood and heard his voice, when he rejoiced greatly (John
    3:29): how much more, then, must be the joy and gladness of the Bridegroom himself!  Even that which is
    expressed, 'he rejoices with joy, he joys with singing' (Zephaniah 3:17).

It is the gladness of the heart of Christ, the joy of his soul, to take poor sinners into this relation with himself.  He
rejoiced in the thoughts of it from eternity (Proverbs 8:31); and always expresses the greatest willingness to undergo
the hard task required to do that (Psalm 40:7-8; Hebrews 10:7); yea, he was pained as a woman in travail, until he had
accomplished it  (Luke 12:50).  Because he loved his church, he gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25), despising the
shame, and enduring the cross (Hebrews 12:2), that he might enjoy his bride - that he might be for her, and she for him,
and not for another (Hosea 3:3).  This is joy, when he is thus crowned by his mother.  It is believers that are mother and
brother of this Solomon (Matthew 12:49-50).  They crown him in the day of his espousals, giving themselves to him, and
becoming his glory (II Corinthians 8:23).

Thus he sets out his whole communion with his church under this allusion, and that most frequently.  The time of his
taking the church to himself is the day of his marriage; and the church is his bride, his wife (Revelation 19:7-8).  The
entertainment he makes for his saints is a wedding supper (Matthew 22:3).  The graces of his church are the ornaments
of his queen (Psalm 45:9-14); and the fellowship he has with his saints is as that which those who are mutually beloved
in a conjugal relation do hold (Song of Solomon 1).  Hence Paul, in describing these two, makes sudden and insensible
transitions from one to the other (Ephesians 5:22-32); concluding the whole with an application to Christ and the church.

It is now to be inquired, in the next place, how it is that we hold communion with the person of Christ in respect of
conjugal relations and affections, and wherein this consists.  Now, in this there are some things that are common to
Christ and the saints, and some things that are peculiar to each of them, as the nature of this relation does require.  
The whole may be reduced to these two heads: (
a) a mutual resignation of themselves one to the other; (b) mutual,
consequential, conjugal affections [chapter 4].


There is a mutual resignation, or making over of their persons one to another.  This is the first act of communion, as to
the personal grace of Christ.  Christ makes himself over to the soul, to be his, as to all the love, care, and tenderness of
a husband; and the soul gives up itself wholly to the Lord Christ, to be his, as to all loving, tender obedience.  And in
this is the main of Christ's and the saints' espousals.  This, in the prophet, is set out under a parable of himself and a
harlot (Hosea 3:3), 'You shall abide for me,' says he to her, 'you shall not be for another, and I will be for you.' - 'Poor
harlot,' says the Lord Christ, 'I have bought you to myself with the price of mine own blood; and now this is that which we
will consent to - I will be for you, and you shall be for me, and not for another.'


Christ gives himself to the soul, with all his excellencies, righteousness, preciousness, graces, and eminencies, to be its
Saviour, head, and husband, for ever to dwell with it in this holy relation.  He looks upon the souls of his saints, likes
them well, counts them fair and beautiful, because he has made them so.  'Behold, you are fair, my companion; behold,
you are fair; you have doves' eyes' (Song of Solomon 1:15).  Let others think what they please, Christ redoubles it, that
the souls of his saints are very beautiful, even perfect, through his comeliness, which he puts upon them - 'Behold, you
are fair, you are fair' (Ezekiel 16:14):  particularly,  that their spiritual light is very excellent and glorious; like the eyes of
a dove, tender, discerning, clear, and shining.  Therefore he adds that pathetic wish of the enjoyment of this his
spouse, 'O my dove,' says he, 'that are in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see your
countenance, let me hear your voice; for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is comely' (Song of Solomon 2:14)
- 'Do not hide yourself, as one that flies to the clefts of the rocks; be not dejected, as one that hides herself behind the
stairs, and is afraid to come forth to the company that inquires for her.  Let not your spirit be cast down at the weakness
of your supplications, let me yet hear your sighs and groans, your breathing and partings to me; they are very sweet,
very delightful: and your spiritual countenance, your appearance in heavenly things, is comely and delightful to me.'

Neither does he leave her thus, put presses her hard to a closer [union] with him in this conjugal bond: 'Come with me
from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Herman, from
the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards' (Song of Solomon 4:8) - 'You are in a wandering condition (as the
Israelites of old), among lions and leopards, sins and troubles; come; from thence to me, and I will give you refreshment'
(Matthew 2:28).  Upon this invitation, the spouse boldly concludes (Song of Solomon 7:10), that the desire of Christ is
towards her; that he does indeed love her, and aim at taking her into this fellowship with himself.  So, in carrying on this
union, Christ freely bestows himself upon the soul.  Precious and excellent as he is, he becomes ours.  He makes
himself to be so; and with him, all his graces.  Hence says the spouse, 'My Beloved is mine; in all that he is, he is mine.'  
Because his is righteousness, he is 'The Lord our Righteousness' (Jeremiah 23:6).  Because he is the wisdom of God,
the power of God, he is 'made to us wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30).  Thus, 'the branch of the Lord is beautiful and glorious,
and the fruit of the earth is excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel' (Isaiah 4:2).  This is the first thing
on the part of Christ - the free donation bestowing of himself upon us to be our Christ, our Beloved, as to all the ends
and purposes of love, mercy, grace, and glory; to which in his mediation he is designed, in a marriage covenant never
to be broken.  This is the sum of what is intended:  The Lord Jesus Christ, fitted and prepared, by the accomplishment
and furniture of his person as mediator, and the large purchase of grace and glory which he has made, to be a
husband to his saints, his church, tenders himself in the promises of the gospel to them in all his desirableness;
convinces them of his goodwill towards them, and his all-sufficiency for a supply of their wants; and upon their consent
to accept him - which is all he requires or expects at their hands - he engages himself in a marriage covenant to be
theirs for ever.


On the part of the saints, it is their free, willing consent to receive, embrace, and submit to the Lord Jesus, as their
husband, Lord, and Saviour - to abide with him, subject their souls to him, and to be ruled by him for ever.

Now, this in the soul is either initial, or the solemn consent at the first entrance of union: or consequential, in renewed
acts of consent all our days.  I speak of it especially in this latter sense, in which it is proper to communion; not in the
former, in which it primarily intends union.  There are two things that complete this self-resignation of the soul:  

He Is Altogether Lovely

The liking of Christ, for his excellency, grace, and suitableness, far above all other beloveds whatever, preferring him in
the judgment and mind above them all.  In the place above mentioned (Song of Solomon 5:9), the spouse being
earnestly pressed, by professors at large, to give in her thoughts concerning the excellency of her Beloved in
comparison of other endearments, answers expressly, that he is 'the chiefest of ten thousand, yea' (verse 16),
'altogether lovely' - infinitely beyond comparison with the choicest created good or endearment imaginable.  The soul
takes a view of all that is in this world, 'the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,' and sees it all to be
vanity - that 'the world passes away, and the lust thereof' (I John 2:16-17).  These beloveds are no way to be compared
to him.  It views also legal righteousness, blamelessness before men, uprightness of conversation, duties upon
conviction, and concludes of all as Paul does, 'Doubtless, I count all these my Lord' (Philippians 3:8).  So, also, does the
church (Hosea 14:3), reject all appearing assistances whatever - as goodly as Asshur, as promising as idols - That God
alone may be preferred.  And this is the soul's entrance into conjugal communion with Jesus Christ as to personal grace
- the constant preferring him above all pretenders to its affections, counting all loss and dung in comparison of him.  
Beloved peace, beloved natural relations, beloved wisdom and learning, beloved righteousness, beloved duties, [are]
all loss, compared with Christ.

Forsaking All Others

The accepting of Christ by the will, as it's only husband, Lord, and Saviour.  This is called 'receiving' of Christ (John 1:
12); and is not intended only for that solemn act by which at first entrance we close with him, but also for the constant
frame of the soul in abiding with him and owning of him as such.  When the soul consents to take Christ on his own
terms, to save him in his own way, and says, 'Lord, I would have had you and salvation in my way, that it might have
been partly of my endeavours, and as it were by the works of the law; I am now willing to receive you and to be saved in
your way - merely by grace: and though I would have walked according to my own mind, yet now I wholly give up myself
to be ruled by your Spirit: for in you have I righteousness and strength, in you am I justified and do glory' - then does it
carry on communion with Christ as to the grace of his person.  This it is to receive the Lord Jesus in his comeliness and
eminency.  Let believers exercise their hearts abundantly to this thing.  This is choice communion with the Son Jesus
Christ.  Let us receive him in all his excellencies, as he bestows himself upon us; be frequent in thoughts of faith,
comparing him with other beloveds, sin, world, legal righteousness; and preferring him before them, counting them all
loss and dung in comparison of him.  And let our souls be persuaded of his sincerity and willingness in giving himself, in
all that he is, as mediator to us, to be ours; and let our hearts give up themselves to him.  Let us tell him that we will be
for him, and not for another: let him know it from us; he delights to hear it, yea, he says, 'Sweet is our voice, and our
countenance is comely' - and we shall not fail in the issue of sweet refreshment with him.


COMMUNION WITH GOD, by John Owen, Copyright 2007, Christian Focus Publications.