matter and manner

John Owen on the Lord’s Supper:

Christ here [in the sacrament] hath given us a more eminent and clear representation of himself. I will name but two things:
– a representation of himself, as he is the food of our souls
– a representation of himself, as he suffered for our sins.
These are the two great ways whereby Christ is represented as the food of our souls in the matter of the ordinance; and Christ as suffering for our sins is represented in the manner of the ordinance; both by his own appointment.


There are two things in it:- there is the weak part, that is Christ’s; there is the nourishing part, that is given to us. The Lord Christ hath chosen by this ordinance to represent himself by these things that are the staff of our lives; they comprise the whole nourishment and sustenance of our bodies. He hath so chosen to represent them by breaking and pouring out, that they shall signify his sufferings. Here are both. As the bread is broken, and as the wine is poured out, there is the representation of the travail of the soul of Christ to us; as bread is received, and the cup, which is the means of the nourishment of man’s life, here is the fruit of Christ’s death exhibited unto us, and his sufferings.


From Owen’s discourses on the Lord’s Supper, gathered into one volume by Jon D Payne (John Owen on the Lord’s Supper, Banner of Truth, 2004). About a third of this volume is taken up with chapters by Payne on John Owen and his theology of the sacrament. These are useful and on their own virtually justify the volume. Then Owen’s discourses themselves are very helpful. They are brief and meaty. Instead of setting out to be ‘devotional’ in the sense of working directly on the emotions, they are primarily instructive and doctrinal, with the inevitable effect of increasing devotion. This approach (I find, anyway) can be at least as helpful as the other when you’re due to take part in the Lord’s Supper and looking for something to focus on.