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That the saints have communion with God — 1 John i. 3 considered to that purpose — Somewhat of the nature of communion in general.
In the First Epistle of John, chap. i., verse 3, the apostle assures them to whom he wrote that the fellowship of believers “is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ:”22 Καὶ ἡ κοινωνία δὲ ἡ ἡμετέρα, etc. and this he doth with such an unusual kind of expression as bears the force of an asseveration; whence we have rendered it, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
The outward appearance and condition of the saints in those days being very mean and contemptible, — their leaders being accounted as the filth of this world, and as the offscouring of all things,33 Ὡς περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου. — 1 Cor. iv. 8–13; Rom. viii. 35–36; Heb. x. 32–34. “Christianos ad leones. Et puto, nos Deus apostolos novissimos elegit veluti bestiarios.”—Tert. de Pud., Acts xvii. 18; Gal. vi. 12. “Semper casuris similes, nunquamque cadentes.” — the inviting others unto fellowship with them, and a participation of the precious things which they did enjoy, seems to be exposed to many contrary reasonings and objections: “What benefit is there in communion with them? Is it any thing else but to be sharers in troubles, reproaches, scorns, and all manner of evils?” To prevent or remove these and the like exceptions, the apostle gives them to whom he wrote to know (and that with some earnestness of expression), that notwithstanding all the disadvantages their fellowship lay under, unto a carnal view, yet in truth it was, and would be found to be (in reference to some with whom they held it), very honourable, glorious, and desirable. For “truly,” saith he, “our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
This being so earnestly and directly asserted by the apostle, we may boldly follow him with our affirmation, — namely, “That the saints of God have communion with him.” And a holy and spiritual communion it is, as shall be declared. How this is spoken 6distinctly in reference to the Father and the Son, must afterward be fully opened and carried on.
By nature, since the entrance of sin, no man hath any communion with God. He is light,44 1 John i. 5; 2 Cor. vi. 14; Eph. v. 8; John v. 21; Matt. xxii. 32; Eph. ii. 1; 1 John iv. 8; Rom. viii. 7. we darkness; and what communion hath 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,55 “Magna hominis miseria est cum illo non esse, sine quo non potest esse.”— August. nor hope, nor God in the world, Eph. ii. 12; “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them,” chap. iv. 18. Now, two cannot walk together, unless they be agreed, Amos iii. 3. Whilst 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,66 Eccles. vii. 29; Jer. xiii. 23; Acts iv. 12; Isa. xxxiii. 14. 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 alone77 John i. 18; Heb. x. 19–21. “Unus verusque Mediator per sacrificium pacis reconcilians nos Deo; unum cum illo manebat cui offerebat; unum in se fecit, pro quibus offerebat; unus ipse fuit, qui offerabat, et quod offerebat.”— [Slightly changed from] August. de Trinit., iv. c. 14. 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. By that Spirit we have this liberty, 2 Cor. iii. 17, 18. Abraham was the friend of God, Isa. xli. 8; David, a man after his own heart; Enoch walked with him, Gen. v. 22; — all enjoying this communion and fellowship for the substance of it. But the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest whilst the first tabernacle was standing, Heb. ix. 8. Though they had communion with God, yet they had not παῤῥησίαν, — a boldness and confidence in that communion. This follows the entrance of our High Priest into the most holy place, Heb. iv. 16, x. 19. The vail also was upon them, that they had not ἐλευθερίαν, freedom and liberty in their access 7to God, 2 Cor. iii. 15, 16, etc. But now in Christ we have 88 Παῤῥησίαν καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει.boldness and access with confidence to God, Eph. iii. 12. This boldness and access with confidence the saints of old were not acquainted with. By Jesus Christ alone, then, on all considerations as to being and full manifestation, is this distance taken away. He hath consecrated for us a new and living way (the old being quite shut up), “through the vail, that is to say, his flesh,” Heb. x. 20; and “through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father,” Eph. ii. 18. “Ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ, for he is our peace,” etc., verses 13, 14. Of this foundation of all our communion with God, more afterward, and at large. Upon this new bottom and foundation, by this new and living way, are sinners admitted into communion with God, and have fellowship with him. And truly, for sinners to have fellowship with God, the infinitely holy God, is an astonishing dispensation.99 1 John iii. 1. Φίλων μὲν ὄντων, οὐδὲν δεῖ δικαιοσύνης· δίκαιοι δὲ ὄντες προσδέονται φιλίας. — Arist. Eth., lib. viii. cap. 1. To speak a little of it in general:— Communion relates to things and persons. A joint participation in any thing whatever, good or evil,1010 “Quemadmodum enim nobis arrhabonem Spiritus reliquit, ita et a nobis arrhabonem carnis accepit, et vexit in cœlum, pignus totius summæ illuc quandoque redigendæ.”— Tertul. De Resur., c. li. duty or enjoyment, nature or actions, gives this denomination to them so partaking of it. A common interest in the same nature gives all men a fellowship or communion therein. Of the elect it is said, Τὰ παιδία κεκοινώνηκε σαρκὸς καὶ αἵματος, Heb. ii. 14, “Those children partook of” (or had fellowship in, with the rest of the world) “flesh and blood,” — the same common nature with the rest of mankind; and, therefore, Christ also came into the same fellowship: Καὶ αὐτὸς παραπλησίως μετέσχε τῶν αὐτῶν. There is also a communion as to state and condition, whether it be good or evil; and this, either in things internal and spiritual, — such as is the communion of saints among themselves; or in respect of outward things. So was it with Christ and the two thieves, as to one condition, and to one of them in respect of another. They were ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ κρίματι, — under the same sentence to the cross, Luke xxiii. 40, “ejusdem dolores socii.” They had communion as to that evil condition whereunto they were adjudged; and one of them requested (which he also obtained) a participation in that blessed condition whereupon our Saviour was immediately to enter. There is also a communion or fellowship in actions, whether good or evil. In good, is that communion and fellowship in the gospel, or in the performance and celebration of that worship of God which in the gospel is instituted; which the saints do enjoy, Phil. i. 5; which, as to the general kind of it, David so rejoices in, Ps. xlii. 4. In evil, was 8that wherein Simeon and Levi were brethren, Gen. xlix. 5. They had communion in that cruel act of revenge and murder. Our communion with God is not comprised in any one of these kinds; of some of them it is exclusive. It cannot be natural; it must be voluntary and by consent. It cannot be of state and conditions; but in actions. It cannot be in the same actions upon a third party; but in a return from one to another. The infinite disparity that is between God and man, made the great philosopher conclude that there could be no friendship between them.1111 Ἀκριβὴς μὲν οὖν ἐν τοιούτοις οὐκ ἔστιν ὁρισμός, ἕως τίνος οἱ φίλον πολλῶν γὰρ ἀφαιρουμένων, ἔτι μένει, πολὺ δὲ χωρισθέντος, οἷον τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔτι. — Aristot. Eth., lib. viii. c. 7; Cicer. de Nat. Deor. lib. i. Some distance in the persons holding friendship he could allow, nor could exactly determine the bounds and extent thereof; but that between God and man, in his apprehension, left no place for it. Another says, indeed, that there is “communitas homini cum Deo,” — a certain fellowship between God and man; but the general intercourse of providence is all he apprehended. Some arose to higher expressions; but they understood nothing whereof they spake. This knowledge is hid in Christ; as will afterward be made to appear. It is too wonderful for nature, as sinful and corrupted. Terror and apprehensions of death at the presence of God is all that it guides unto. But we have, as was said, a new foundation, and a new discovery of this privilege.
Now, 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 (1 Sam. xx. 17) in love.1212 Πάντα τὰ τῶν φίλων κοινά. There was the union of love between them; and then they really communicated all issues of love mutually.1313 Καὶ ἡ παροιμία, κοινὰ τὰ φίλων, ὀρθῶς, ἐν κοινωνίᾳ γὰρ ἡ φιλία. — Arist. Eth., viii. 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.
Of the union which is the foundation of all that communion we have with God I have spoken largely elsewhere, and have nothing farther to add thereunto.
Our communion, then, with God consisteth in his communication of himself unto us, with our returnal unto him of that which he requireth and accepteth, flowing from that union1414 “Nostra quippe et ipsius conjunctio, nec miscet personas, nec unit substantias, sed affectus consociat, et confœderat voluntates.” — Cyp. de Cœn. Domini. [No treatise of Cyprian bears such a title. There is a treatise, “De Cœnâ Domini,” ascribed to Cyprian, but on grounds so questionable and insufficient that it is sometimes not included among his supposititious works. A statement referring to the union between Christ and his people, as illustrated by the sacramental elements, occurs in his letter to Cœcilius, “De Sacramento Dominici Calicis;” but the words of the above quotation are not contained in it.] which in Jesus Christ 9we have with him. And it is twofold:— 1. 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, 2. Initial and incomplete, in the first-fruits and dawnings of that perfection which we have here in grace; which only I shall handle.
It is, then, I say, of that mutual communication1515 “Magna etiam illa communitas est, quæ conficitur ex beneficiis ultro citro, datis acceptis.” — Cic. Off., lib. i. c. 17. 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, whereof we are to treat. And this we shall do, if God permit; in the meantime praying the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath, of the riches of his grace, recovered us from a state of enmity into a condition of communion and fellowship with himself, that both he that writes, and they that read the words of his mercy, may have such a taste of his sweetness and excellencies therein, as to be stirred up to a farther longing after the fulness of his salvation, and the eternal fruition of him in glory.
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