"3. There is communion with God much talked of among Christians, whereby they understand the sensible presence of God refreshing the soul exceedingly. But if we speak properly, communion with God is a mutual interest between God and a man, who has closed with him in Christ. It is a commonness, or a common interest between God and a man: not only as a man interested in God Himself,but in all that is the Lord's; so the Lord has a special interest in the man, and also all that belongs to him.
There is a communion between husband and wife, whereby they have a special interest in each other's persons, goods, and concerns: so it is here. There is such a communion with God; He is our God, and all things are ours, because He is ours. This communion with God all true believers have at all times, as we shall show afterwards. I grant there is an actual improvement of that communion, whereby men do boldly approach unto God and converse with Him as their God with holy familiarity; especially in worship, when the soul does converse with a living God, partaking of the divine nature, growing like unto Him, and sweetly travelling through His attributes, and, with some confidence of interest, viewing these things as the man's own goods and property: this we call communion with God in ordinances. This indeed is not so ordinarily nor frequently made out to men, and all His people do not equally partake of it: and it is true that what is in God, goes not out for the benefit of the man to his apprehension equally at all times: yet certainly communion with God, properly so called, namely, that commonness of interest between God and a man who is savingly in covenant with Him, does always stand firm and sure; and so much of communion with God in ordinances have all believers, as that their heart converseth with a living God there, now and then, and is, in some measure, changed into that same image; and there needeth not be any further doubt about it.
3. There is also fellowship with God, which is often mistaken amongst believers. If by fellowship be meant the walking in our duty, as in the sight of a living God, who sees and hears us, and is witness to all our carriage, it is a thing common unto all gracious men; they all have it habitually, and in design--'I have set the Lord always before me.' (Psa. 16: 8.) Yea, and often they have it actually in exercise, when their spirit is in any good frame: they walk as if they saw God standing by them, and have some thought of His favour through Christ--'Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.' (1 John 1: 3.) If by fellowship we mean a sweet, refreshing, familiar, sensible, conversing with God, which does delight and refresh the soul (besides what the conscience of duty doth); it is then a walking in the light of His countenance, and a good part of sensible presence: and although it seemeth Enoch had much of it, whilst it is said, 'He walked with God' (Gen. 5: 24); yet it is not so ordinary as the former, nor so common to all Christians; for here the soul is filled as with marrow and fatness, following hard after its guide, and singularly upheld by His right hand--'My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness: and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips.My soul followeth hard after Thee, Thy
right hand upholdeth me.' (Psa. 63: 5, 8.)
4. There is also access unto God; and this I take to be the removing of obstructions out of the way between a man and God, so that the man is admitted to come near. We are said to have access to a great person when the doors are cast open, the guards removed from about him, and we admitted to come close to him: so it is here. Now this access, in Scripture, is sometimes taken for Christ's preparing of the way, the removing of enmity between God and sinners, so as men now have an open way to come unto God through Christ--'For through Him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.' (Eph. 2: 18.) Sometimes it is taken for the actual improvement of that access purchased by Christ, when a man finds all obstructions and differences which do ordinarily fall in between him and God removed: God does not act towards him as a stranger, keeping up Himself from him, or frowning on him, but the man is admitted to 'come even to His seat.' (Job 23: 3.) Of the want of which he complains, whilst he saith, 'Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backwards, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He does work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him.' (Job 23: 8, 9.) The first sort of access is common to all believers: they are brought near by the blood of the covenant, and are no more afar off, as the deadly enmity between God and them is removed; but access in the other sense is dispensed more according to the Lord's absolute sovereignty and pleasure, and it is left in the power of believers to obstruct it to themselves, until it please the Lord mercifully and freely to grant it unto them again; so it is up and down; and there needs be no question as to a man's state about it.
5. There is also liberty before God; and this properly is freedom, or free speaking unto God. Many do much question their state, because of the want of this now and then, since the Scripture has said, 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,' (2 Cor. 3: 17); but they do unjustly confine that liberty spoken of there unto this free speaking before God. I grant, where the Spirit of the Lord savingly discovers God's will in the Scriptures to a man, there is liberty from any obligation to the ceremonial law, and from the condemning power of the moral law, and from much of that gross darkness and ignorance which is naturally on men's hearts as a veil hiding Christ in the gospel from them. I grant also, that sometimes even this liberty, which is a free communing with God, and 'ordering of our cause before Him, and filling of our mouths with arguments' (Job 23: 4), is granted to the godly, but not as liberty taken in the former senses. Although the Lord has obliged Himself to 'pour out the spirit of prayer upon all the house of David' (Zech.12: 10), in some measure, yet this communication of the Spirit, which we call liberty or free speaking unto God, dependeth much on the Lord's absolute pleasure, when, and in what measure to allow it. This liberty, which we call freedom or free speaking with God in prayer, is sometimes much withdrawn as to any great confidence in the time of prayer, at least until it draw towards the close of it. It standeth much in a vivacity of the understanding to take up the case which a man is to speak before God, so that he can order his cause; and next there be words, or verbal expressions, elegant, suitable, and very emphatical, or powerful and pithy. There is also joined a fervency of spirit in prayer, of which the Scripture speaks; the soul is warm and bended, and very intent. There is also ordinarily in this liberty a special melting of the heart often joined with a great measure of the 'spirit of grace and supplication.' (Zech.12: 10.) So the soul is poured out before God as for a firstborn. Such is the liberty which many saints get before God, whilst, in much brokenness of heart and fervency of spirit, they are admitted to speak their mind fully to God, as a living God, noticing (at least) their prayer. Sometimes this liberty is joined with confidence: and then it is not only a free, but also a bold speaking before God. It is that 'boldness with confidence' (Eph. 3: 12)--'In whom we have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of Him.' This is more rarely imparted unto men than the former, yet it is ordinary: it has in it, besides what we mentioned before, some influence of the Spirit upon faith, making it put forth some vigorous acting in prayer. There is a sweet mournful frame of spirit, by which a man poureth out his heart in God's bosom, and with some confidence of His favour and good-will, pleadeth his cause before Him as a living God; and this is all the sensible presence that many saints do attain unto. There is no ground of doubt concerning a man's state in the point of liberty before God, in this last sense, because there is nothing essential to the making up of a gracious state here: some have it, some want it; some have it at some times, and not at others; so that it is much up, by a very ordinary influence, in contributing towards the attaining and retaining, or keeping of such a frame of spirit." 'The Christian's Great Interest' by William Guthrie pg.100-103 from the Banner of Truth Trust edition paperback 1969