Communion with Christ (Part 2)

From John Owen’s Communion with God 2.146-152

The second part of our chaste communion with Christ consists: 

2. In cherishing that Spirit, that holy Comforter, which Christ sends to us, to abide with us in his room and stead. He tells us that he sends him to that purpose, John 16.7. He gives him to us, “vicariam navare operam,” saith Tertullian, – to abide with us for ever, for all those ends and purposes which he has to fulfill toward us and upon us; he gives him to dwell in us, to keep us, and preserve us blameless for himself.His name is in him, and with him: and it is upon this account that whatever is done to any of Christ’s is done to him, because it is done to them in whom he is and dwells by his Spirit. Now, herein do the saints preserve their conjugal affections entire to Christ, that they labor by all means not to grieve his Holy Spirit, which he has sent in his stead to abide with them. This the apostle puts them in mind of, Ephesians 4.30, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit.”

There be two main ends for which Christ sends his Spirit to believers: – (1.) For their sanctification; (2.) For their consolation: to which two all the particular acts of purging, teaching, anointing, and the rest that are ascribed to him, may be referred. So there be two ways whereby we may grieve him: – [1]. In respect of sanctification; [2.] In respect of consolation: –

(1.) In respect of sanctification. He is the Spirit of holiness, – holy in himself, and the author of holiness in us: he works it in us, Titus 3.5, and he persuades us to it, by those motions of his which are not to be quenched. Now, this, in the first place, grieves the Spirit, – when he is carrying on in us and for us a work so infinitely for our advantage, and without which we cannot see God, that we should run cross to him, in ways of unholiness, pollution, and defilement. So the connection of the words in the place before mentioned manifests, Ephesians 4.28-31; and thence does Paul bottom his powerful and most effectual persuasion unto holiness, even from the abode and indwelling of this Holy Spirit with us, 1 Corinthians 3.16,17. Indeed, what can grieve a loving and tender friend more than to oppose him and slight him when he is most intent about our good, – and that a good of the greatest consequence to us. In this, then, believers make it their business to keep their hearts loyal and their affections chaste to Jesus Christ. They labor instantly not to grieve the Holy Spirit by loose and foolish, by careless and negligent walking, which he has sent to dwell and abide with them. Therefore shall no anger, wrath, malice, envy, dwell in their hearts; because they are contrary to the holy, meek Spirit of Christ, which he has given to dwell with them. They attend to his motions, make use of his assistance, improve his gifts, and nothing lies more upon their spirits, than that they may walk worthy of the presence of this holy substitute of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(2.) As to consolation. This is the second great end for which Christ gives and sends his Spirit to us; who from thence, by the way of eminency, is called “The Comforter.” To this end he seals us, anoints us, establishes us, and gives us peace and joy. Of all which I shall afterward speak at large. Now, there be two ways whereby he may be grieved as to this end of his mission, and our chastity to Jesus Christ thereby violated: –

[1.] By placing our comforts and joys in other things, and not being filled with joy in the Holy Ghost. When we make creatures or creature comforts – any thing whatever but what we receive by the Spirit of Christ – to be our joy and our delight, we are false with Christ. So was it with Demas, who loved the present world. When the ways of the Spirit of God are grievous and burdensome to us, – when we say, “When will the Sabbath be past, that we may exact all our labors? – when our delight and refreshment lies in earthly things, – we are unsuitable to Christ. May not his Spirit say, “Why do I still abide with these poor souls? I provide them joys unspeakable and glorious; but they refuse them, for perishing things. I provide them spiritual, eternal, abiding consolations, and it is all rejected for a thing of nought.” This Christ cannot bear; wherefore, believers are exceeding careful in this, not to place their joy and consolation in any thing but what is administered by the Spirit. Their daily work is, to get their hearts crucified to the world and the things of it, and the world to their hearts; that they may not have living affections to dying things: they would fain look on the world as a crucified, dead thing, that has neither form nor beauty; and if at any times they have been entangled with creatures and inferior contentment, and have lost their better joys, they cry out to Christ, “O restore to us the joys of thy Spirit!”

[2.] He is grieved when, through darkness and unbelief, we will not, do not, receive those consolations which he tenders to us, and which he is abundantly willing that we should receive. But of this I shall have occasion to speak afterward, in handling our communion with the Holy Ghost.