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Prefatory note.

The reader may be referred to the Life of Dr Owen (vol. i. p. lxxii.) for a general criticism on the merits of the following treatise. It was published in 1657, shortly after he had ceased to be Vice-Chancellor in the University of Oxford. From the brief preface affixed to it, it appears that, for a period of more than six years, he had been under some engagement to publish the substance of the work. It has been inferred, accordingly, that it is the substance of some discourses which he had preached in Oxford; but, as he became Vice-Chancellor only in September 1652, there is more probability in the supposition that they are the discourses which refreshed and cheered his attached congregation at Coggeshall.

There are two peculiarities which deserve attention in the treatise. The oversight of one of them has created some misconceptions of the author’s design, and led some to fancy that he was wandering from it, in various passages which are in strict harmony with his main and original purpose of the work. The term “Communion,” as used by Owen, is used in a wider sense than is consistent with that which is now generally attached to it in religious phraseology. It denotes not merely the interchange of feeling between God on his gracious character and a soul in a gracious state, but the gracious relationship upon which this holy interchange is based. On the part of Christ, for example, all his work and its results are described, from the atonement till it takes effect in the actual justification of the sinner.

The grand peculiarity distinguishing the treatise is its fullness of illustration with which he dilates on the communion enjoyed by believers with each person of the Godhead respectively. Fully to comprehend his views on this point, it is needful to bear in mind the meaning under which the word Communion is employed by Owen.

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