Updated: Feb 18
While I am in no position to speak of the Puritan understanding of the Lord’s Supper, Payne demonstrates convincingly that Owen follows in the footsteps of Vermigli and Calvin. There does not seem to be any wedge between Calvin and this particular Calvinist. He thus has a robust view of the sacrament that is very much in keeping with the views set forth in the Westminster Standards.
I could not help but notice Owen’s conviction of the importance of the Lord’s Supper for the Christian life. His conviction pours forth from his discourses in a variety of ways. But the following quote is representative:
…It is true that here is a peculiar communion with Christ in this ordinance, which we have in no other ordinance; that there is a peculiar acting of faith in this ordinance, which is in no other ordinance. This is the faith of the whole church of Christ, and has been so in all ages. This is the greatest mystery of all the practicals of our Christian religion, — a way of receiving Christ by eating and drinking, — something peculiar, that is not in prayer, that is not in the hearing of the word, nor in any other part of divine worship whatsoever, — a peculiar participation of Christ, a peculiar acting of faith toward Christ.
I suspect it is surprising to read such a strong statement of the unique contribution of communion to the lives of believers from John Owen. Yet there it is in great clarity. He recognizes the conviction of the special communion enjoyed with Christ in the Supper as definitive of the church throughout history. If Owen is correct, as I believe he is, the Supper ought to occupy a place of importance in our conception of the Christian life that it all too often does not occupy.
We do not fail to eat simply because we breathe; we do not fail to drink just because we sleep. Neither should we neglect the special nourishment that we receive in Communion on the grounds that we hear the word preached. We need to hear the word preached and participate in Christ through the sacrament. As we come, we ought to come eager to enjoy the “peculiar communion with Christ” that God promises in the sacrament.