It is exceeding acceptable unto God, even our Father, that we should thus hold communion with him in his love,—that he may be received into our souls as one full of love, tenderness, and kindness, towards us. Flesh and blood is apt to have very hard thoughts of him,—to think he is always angry, yea, implacable; that it is not for poor creatures to draw nigh to him; that nothing in the world is more desirable than never to come into his presence, or, as they say, where he hath any thing to do. “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” say the sinners in Zion. And, “I knew thou wast an austere man,” saith the evil servant in the gospel. Now, there is not any thing more grievous to the Lord, nor more subservient to the design of Satan upon the soul, than such thoughts as these. Satan claps his hands (if I may so say) when he can take up the soul with such thoughts of God : he hath enough,—all that he doth desire. This hath been his design and way from the beginning. The first blood that murderer shed was by this means. He leads our first parents into hard thoughts of God: “Hath God said so? hath he threatened you with death? He knows well enough it will be better with you ;”—with this engine did he batter and overthrow all mankind in one; and being mindful of his ancient conquest, he readily useth the same weapons wherewith then he so successfully contended.
Now, it is exceeding grievous to the Spirit of God to be so slandered in the hearts of those whom he dearly loves. How doth he expostulate this with Zion! “What iniquity have ye seen in me?” saith he; “have I been a wilderness unto you, or a land of darkness?” “Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman,” etc. The Lord takes nothing worse at the hands of his, than such hard thoughts of him, knowing full well what fruit this bitter root is like to bear,—what alienations of heart,—what drawings back,—what unbelief and tergiversations in our walking with him. How unwilling is a child to come into the presence of an angry father! Consider, then, this in the first place,—receiving of the Father as he holds out love to the soul, gives him the honour he aims at, and is exceeding acceptable unto him. He often sets it out in an eminent manner, that it may be so received:—”He commendeth his love toward us,” Rom. 5:8. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us!” 1 John 3:1. Whence, then, is this folly?
Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving: I speak of saints; but for the other side, they can judge him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated of him, Rom. 1:31 ; 2 Tim. 3:3), and think herein they do well. Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not his design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure thyself, then, there is nothing more acceptable unto the Father, than for us to keep up our hearts unto him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.
– John Owen –
from Of Communion With God, volume 2 of Works, pages 34-35