The approach of the Puritans to the Lord's Supper is a comparatively neglected aspect of their heritage. In particular, John Owen's twenty-five sacramental discourses are little known and little read, even among those who value his massive contribution to the understanding and defence of the doctrines of the gospel. In John Owen on the Lord's Supper, Jon D. Payne has set out to rescue Owen's teaching on the Supper from this neglect. He sets the scene by outlining Owen's life and teaching. He then goes on to examine the development of Reformed teaching on the Supper-especially the part played by Calvin and Peter Martyr Vermigli-before focusing on Owen's Twenty-Five Discourses Suitable to the Lord's Supper, delivered between 1669 and 1682, and taken down by hearers. But the latter part of this volume is occupied by the Discourses themselves. Here the reader will encounter an Owen less concerned to define and defend truth than to comfort and help even the weakest of believers as they come to the Lord's Supper. The great and lasting value of this work comes from Owen's obvious desire to promote 'delight in Christ, thankfulness unto him, and the keeping of his word', in all who partake.
This is a splendid book. John Owen is a theologian to be reckoned with on most subjects, and particularly as he deals here with the hitherto somewhat neglected subject of the Lord's Supper. If you feel that the current evangelicalism is bound in a narrow focus of individual experience, this book will lead you into wider, richer biblical pastures and to a fuller biblical piety.
With an historical introduction to the Marburg Colloquy of 1529, the deep suspicion of Zwingli in an outward-focused Christianity (against trusting in tradition and ceremony - does not this ring a bell for us?), we move into 'Symbolic memorialism' which is a helpful label for Zwingli's position. We discover that it is in Calvinistic-Vermiglian tradition that Owen establishes his own sacramental position. The sacraments are, as Calvin calls them, 'instruments' of grace. It is through these that, according to Owen, God confirms and seals His covenant with His people. For Owen the exercise of faith calls us to submit to the authority of Christ, to rest on the veracity of Christ, and to understand in some measure the spiritual relation between symbols and grace.
Owen's personal library was extensive and influential in his preaching and teaching on the sacraments. May we take advantage of this wealth of deep insight into the nature and substance of Owen's theology - especially as we have the outworking of these studies in the 25 discourses, where his pastor's heart for his people shines through. This book is a 'must' for all believers, to read and read again with profit. I strongly commend it. -Aubrey Ridge (Sovereign Grace Union)