John Brown.

The evangelical succession : a course of lectures delivered in Free St. George's Church, Edinburgh, 1883-84. Third series online

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BR 315 .E88 1884

The evangelical succession



Crown 8i"o. Price 5n-.

Delivered in Free St. Geonje's Church, Edinburrih,

Paul the Apostle. By the Rev. Principal Rainy, D.D.
Augustine. By the Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D.
COLUMBA. By the Rev. J. C. Macphail.
Anselm. By the Rev. Prof. T. Smith, D.D.
Bernard. By the Rev. Prof. T. M. Lindsay, D.D.
WiCLiF. By the Rev. Principal Brown, D.D.
Luther. By the Rev. Prof. Salmond, D.D.

"A worthy memorial of a fine coui'se of lectures." — Literary World.

" It is eminently a healthy book to read, for it stimulates thought and
it strengthens faith, exhibiting the heights of sublimity to which human
life inspired and sanctified by gospel trutli can attain, and setting before
a generation which needs to be reminded of the Christian heroism many
beautiful examples of unswerving devotion and fearless courage." — Daily

Crown Si'o. Price 4(Z. ectch, or in Vol., '»•.



Calvin. By the Rev. Prof. Candlish, D.D.
Knox. By the Rev. R. W. Barbour, M.A.
Henderson. By the Rev. G. W. Thomson, M.A.
RuTHERFURD. By Ale.x. Taylor Innes, Esq.
Leighton. By the Rev. Prof. Blaikie, D.D.
Baxter, By the Rev. James Stalker, M.A.
ZiNZENDORF. By the Rev. Prof. Binnie, D.D.

" Choice productions, and should be found upon the shelves of all
Free Churchmen, as well as of their brother Christians generally."—
Christian World.



^ Course of Hectare^

EDINBURGH, 1883-84

Third Series




The special object of these Lectures is, as
the title indicates, to exhibit the genius of the
Evangelical Principle, to trace its manifestation,
development, and vicissitudes in various ages of
the Church and human history, and to illustrate
its ruling and moulding power over diverse types
of national, intellectual, and spiritual character.

May 1884.



OWEN, .... ^ ... . 1

By the Rev. W. H. Goold, D.D.

BtJNYAN, ...>.... 41
By the Rev. W. R. Nicoll, M.A.


By the Rev. W. Scrymgeoue.

"^EDWARDS, 109

By the Rev. James Iverach, M.A.
WESLEY, ... ^ .... 145

By the Rev. J. H. Wilson, D.D.


CAREY, . . 17f>

By GEOiirxE Smith, Esq., LL.D,

VINET, 219

By the Rev. R. J. Sandeman.



By the Rev. W. C. Smith, D.D.


CHALMERS— A Fragment, . . ., . 291

By the late Rev. Sir H. Wellwood Moncreiff,
Bart., D.D.


By the Rev. W. H. Goold, D.D., Eaiuburgli.

THERE is a spot, almost in the very heart of
London, to which a peculiar and sacred in-
terest attaches, in the estimation of those who have
any sympathy with the struggles in which the
religious freedom of our country had its birth.
Streets upon streets surround it now, and, walking
from one end of it to the other, you never lose the
sound and din of busy traffic. Had we been stand-
ing near it almost exactly two centuries ago — in
September 1683 — our attention would have been
arrested by a lengthened and solemn procession,
winding upon our view from the west, and indicating
by sable trappings and the usual insignia of death,
that an interment was about to take place. It
could be no common personage the open grave
was about to receive. No fewer than sixty-seven
carriages of noblemen and gentlemen — several
mourning coaches, — and gentlemen on horseback
follow the bier to the place of sepulture. The dark
times of oppression had not 23assed away. Every
form of Protestant dissent was under the ban of
the Government, and yet this multitude, represen-


tative of all ranks in rociety, has gathered to pay
the hist tribute of respect and honour to the
greatest of Dissenters — to commit dust to dust,
ashes to ashes, all that remained on earth of John

He was worthy to whom this homage was ren-
dered, and who thus sleeps in Bunhill Fields with
other great and devout men, with Thomas Goodwin,
associated with him in the most important official
duties of his life, and with John Bunyan, whose
sanctified genius was so warmly recognised by
Owen, that he protested his willingness to part with
all his learning if he could only preach the Gosjjel
with the urgency and pathos of the tinker of
Elstow — the dreamer of Bedford Jail. In the
massive theological works which the great Puritan
divine has bequeathed to posterity, ample reason
will be fcund for the singular veneration in which
he was held by his contemporaries ; but, apart
from his writings, there is much in his character,
and in the course which he pursued in public life,
that explains and justifies the grateful renown which
embalms his memory. There are difficulties, how-
ever, besetting any attempt to sketch his career.
No biography of him appeared till nearly forty years
after his death. He has himself left on record
nothing important, in regard either to his public
conduct or private habits. Towering into a just
pre-euiinence among the leading men of his age,
he allows his actions to speak for themselves and to
find a record only so far as they belonged to the
events of his time. Calm ami self-possessed, with


his faculties and affections uniformly under wise
control, lie favours us with no disclosure of the
inward workings of his spirit, and no statement in
regard to the incidents of his life, or the public
movements with which his name was identified,
beyond a few facts gleaned from some prefaces to
his works. It is a marvellous instance of humility,
when throughout twenty-four densely printed octavo
volumes, so little of self-consciousness appears in
his works, and hardly an egotistic reference can be
found. There is but one exception to the truth of
this remark. AYhen the heart of Owen warms and
opens under the influence of his love to Christ, his
sentences sometimes glow with emotion, shedding
a solemn light upon his secret principles of action
and the real elements of his character. Otherwise
we have no diary of religious experience, no details
of domestic life, no glimpse behind the screen of
his modest privacy. His biography, in the main,
must be traced in the public events of his age, —
his personal influence is seen in the extent to
which his writings have moulded and consolidated
the religious thought of his own and subsequent

Born in 1616, and sprung from a Welsh family
of distinction, he enjoyed certain advantages in his
youth. His father was vicar of Stadham, a small
parish in Oxfordshire, and distinguished himself by
his zealous piety in the fulfilment of his duties.
His son received from him for a time instruction in
the ordinary branches of education, as well as a
happy impulse in the direction of njorality and


religion. At a private academy iu Oxford, he
afterwards made good progress in his studies, under
the care of an eminent tutor, Sylvester, till, at the
early age of twelve, he entered the University.
Kesorting to physical exercises of a manly and even
violent kind for the benefit of his health, and
solacinsj himself with lessons in music from a teacher
whom he afterwards, in the day of his power, made
Professor of Music to the University, the young
student devoted himself with ardour to the pursuit
of learning, restricting himself to four hours of
sleep in the day. For nine years, he thus toiled in
study, correct in all his habits, but without the life
of faith in his soul, and animated by no higher
motive than ambition for preferment in Church or

It does not follow that a quiet season in the
history of a nation, making no special demand on
the higlier energies of our nature, is the best for
the origination and growth of the nobler virtues,
or that absolute seclusion from public interests and
affairs is most conducive to the real development of
mind in a College. The breeze of political and
ecclesiastical commotion visited Oxford, and Owen
seems to have been awakened by it to the necessity
for decision in regard to questions on which his
conscience could not be silent. Laud sought to
enforce his new ritualism on the University, and
expulsion was the penalty which a refusal to comply
with it entailed. Owen took the momentous step
which committed him for life to the cause of the
Eoformation and of religious liberty. He had to


leave the University, where Ids great attainments
afforded every promise of office and honour in future
years, and he lost besides the favour of an uncle, by
whom he had been supported hitherto, and who so
vehemently resented the conduct of his nephew as
to cancel his will and bequeath to another the
estate originally destined for Owen. But this
outward change in his position and circumstances,
while in part connected, is not to be confounded
with a deeper change which about this time he
experienced. He had been conscious of great
spiritual perplexity and distress. It would seem
that God fits his instruments for great work by a
discipline of personal anxiety and concern. It was
so with Paul, Augustine, and Luther. It was so
with Owen, His vigorous intellect, competent to
scale the utmost heights, and master all the details
of sacred science, could not keep him from agony,
when his soul awoke to consider the relation in
which he stood to God. For three months, a
peculiar tempest of spiritual anxiety raged within
him. Oppressed wdth melancholy, he shunned all
converse with his fellow-men, and when he spoke,
the incoherency of his utterance betrayed the
intensity of his convictions. By this time, he had
received orders from Bishop Barlow, and yet his
soul was a stranger to the peace of the Gospel. The
long period of five years elapsed before he found
it. Entering Aldermanbury Church in London, in
order to hear the celebrated divine and preacher,
Calamy, he experienced no small disappointment
when an unl<nown minister officiated and preached


from Matt. viii. 2G — "Why are ye fearful, ye of
little faith]" There are instances in which the
Lord sends his people more than they sought.
Owen sought the pleasure of hearing Calamy —
the Lord sent him the peace that passeth all under-
standing. In spite of efforts to discover it, Owen
never could learn the name of the man to whose
simple preaching he owed under God his confirma-
tion in the principles of grace, and to whom
the whole Church of Christ owes so much in the
rich tide of holy instruction with which Owen has
refreshed and blessed it. The process of mental
anxiety through which he had to pass, — anxiety in
regard to the truths claiming reception from him,
as well as to his own interest in Him in whom they
all centred, and who is the Truth, — teaches an
important lesson. How often is the modern agnostic
prone to account for the faith entertained by the
general body of Christians on the principle of facile
acquiescence with traditional notions and impressions,
as if there were a species of heredity in belief!
Such a case as that of Owen, — belief cordially
embraced and tenaciously held as the result of an
agonising and prolonged conflict with difficulty and
doubt — nor is the case unusual, — serves to prove that
personal Christianity may be no dream of ignorance,
but the conclusion attained by minds alert and
awake in all their fiiculties to the legitimate demands
of evidence.

It was important to dwell on the saving change
which the great Puritan divine underwent, as it is
in reality the key to the events of his life, and to


the character of his whole theology. He believed,
and therefore he spake. The whole Eeformation of
Europe had its germ in the cell of " the solitary-
monk who shook the world." Not an argument of
the humble preacher, by whose discourse Owen's
conversion was effected, but might have been familiar
to him in his previous studies, and indeed his earliest
biographer affirms as much. Brought home to him
now, " in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much
assurance," he felt the reality of grace in its actual
influence and workings ; and the essential distinction
between nature and grace, upon which all evangelical
theology proceeds, became henceforth not merely an
article in his creed, but a fact in his experience.
Need we wonder if his future years became a reso-
lute consecration of his energies and resources to
the exposition and defence of truths in believing
which the storm within him had been changed into
a calm 1 The precious discipline, while it gave him,
amid all the waves of speculation and controversy,
an anchor for his soul both sure and steadfast, taught
him besides that pathetic tenderness in dealing with
the aAvakened and the anxious which form a marked
feature of several of his works.

Eepairing to London, after having acted as chap-
lain in some noble families, he gave his first work
to the press: The Dkplay of Arminianism. So soon
as Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury, he ex-
erted himself in support of that theological system,
between which and the ritualism he enjoined a
natural affinity may be traced. A royal prohibition
was issued aijfainst the discussion of the controverted


points in the pulpit ; and, in appointing to vacant
benefices, patronage was extended specially to such
men as evinced Arminian tendencies. Partly as the
result of his new convictions as to the necessity of
grace, partly in indignant protest against the
arbitrary power which, to use his own phrase,
" would beat poor naked Truth into a corner,"
Owen prepared this elaborate treatise against
Arminian error. It is a remarkable production for
a youth of twenty-four — replete with learning,
acumen, some humour, and occasionally a spice of
acerbity, with no tinge, however, of offensive person-
alities. It had the effect of drawing attention to
his rare abilities, and he w^as presented to the living
of Fordham, Avhich, after a year and a half, he had
to leave ; but on the earnest request of the people
of Coggeshall — a market town of Essex, five miles
distant from Ford li am — he consented to be their
pastor under a presentation from the Earl of War-
wick. Sometimes it has been affirmed that Owen
could trace no spiritual results from his ministry.
Asty, his biographer, writing under the eye and cor-
rection of Owen's j)ersonal and intimate friend, Sir
John Hartipp, declares that at Fordham " great was
the success of his labours in the reformation and
conversion of many," and at Coggeshall equal
success attended his ministry, a congregation of two
tliousand. Sabbath after Sabbath, hanging on the
lips of the preacher. Engrossed with his work,
he published on The Didij of Pastor and People, and
catechisms also for the reliirious instruction of the
young. His fame, however, began to spread beyond


tlie limits of the district in which he laboured with
such diligence, and, summoned in April IG-IG to
preach before Parliament, he delivered the " noble
sermon from the cry of the man of Macedonia,
entitled ' A Vision of Free Mercy.' " He seized the
opportunity to urge upon Parliament the duty of
providing the means of religious instruction for
destitute districts in England, with a special refer-
ence to the country of his ancestors, Wales. To the
sermon was appended a tract in which he deprecates
appeals to the civil magistrate for the erection of an
ecclesiastical polity, and yet he seems conscious of
no inconsistency, when he insists before the great
council of the nation upon the duty of sending the
Gospel where it was needed, rising, in his ardent
desire for this object, to a combination of argument
and pathos, — the vehement logic of a holy enthusiasm
— which John Howe or Eichard Baxter never sur-
passed. Illustrating how much they want who are
destitute of the Gospel, he proceeds : —

" They want Jesus Christ, for he is revealed only
by the Gospel. Austin refused to delight in Cicero's
' Hortensius,' because there was not in it the name
of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is all, and in all ; and
where he is wanting, there is no good. Hunger can-
not truly be satisfied without manna, the bread of
life, which is Jesus Christ ; — and what shall a hungry
man do that hath no bread 1 Thirst cannot be
quenched without that water or living spring, which
is Jesus Christ ; — and what shall a thirsty soul do
without water ] A captive, as we are all, cannot be
delivered without redemption, whidi is Jesus Christ;


— and what shall the prisoner do without his ran-
som ] Fools, as we are all, cannot be instructed
Avithout wisdom, which is Jesus Christ ; — without
him we perish in our folly. All building without him
is on sand, which will surely fall. All working
without him is in the fire, where it will be consumed.
All riches without him have wings or will away.
•' ^fallem mere cum Christo, quam regnare cum
Caesare," said Luther. A dungeon with Christ, is a
throne ; and a throne without Christ, a hell. Nothing
so ill, but Christ will compensate. The greatest
evil in the world is sin, and the greatest sin was the
first ; and yet Gregory feared not to cry, ' felix
culpa, quae talem meruit redemptorem !' — ' hap23y
fault, which found such a Eedeemer 1' All mercies
without Christ are bitter ; and every cup is sweet
that is seasoned but with a drop of his blood ; — he
truly is ' amor et deliciae humani generis,' — the
love and delight of the sons of men, — without whom
they perish eternally ; ' for there is no other name
given unto them, whereby they may be saved,' Acts
iv. 12. He is the Way; men without him are
Cains, wanderers, vagabonds : — he is the Truth ; men
without him are liars, like the devil, who was so of
old : — He is the Life ; without him men are dead,
dead in trespasses and sins : — He is the Light ; with-
out him men are in darkness, and go they know not
whither: — He is the Vine; those that are not
grafted in him are withered branches prepared for
the fire : — He is the Kock ; men not built on him are
carried away with a Hood : — He is Alpha and Omega,
the first and the last, the author and the ender, the


founder and the finisher of our Salvation. He that
hath not him, hath neither beginning of good, nor
shall have end of misery. blessed Jesus ! how
much better were it not to be, than to be without
thee ! — never to be born, than not to die in thee !
— A thousand hells come short of this, eternally
to want Jesus Christ, as men do that want the

Owen preached several times before the Parliament.
In one of these sermons, delivered after his return
from Ireland in 1649, while he admits the necessity
of repressing such atrocities as the Irish massacre of
1641, he urges the adoption of remedial as well as
coercive measures. If the Gospel had been sent to
Ireland at that time, in the spirit of the Gospel, —
in the spirit in which Owen would have sent it, —
modern statesmen would not have had to complain
of Ireland as their difficulty. It is thus he pleads : —

How is it that Jesus Christ is in Ireland only as a lion
staining all his garments with the blood of his enemies ; and
none to hold him out as a lamb sprinHed ivlth his own bloods
to his friends ? Is it the sovereignty and interest of England
that is alone to be there transacted ? For my part, I see no
further into the mystery of these things but that I could
heartily rejoice that, innocent blood being expiated, the Irish
might enjoy Ireland so long as the moon endureth, so that
Jesus Christ might possess the Irish. But God having
suffered those sworn vassals of the man of sin to break out
into such ways of villainy as render them obnoxious unto
vengeance, upon such rules of government amongst men as
he hath appointed ; is there, therefore, nothing to be done
but to give a cup of blood into their hands ?

Listening to one of his sermons, Cromwell had
foimed such an estimate of Owen's gifts and abili-


ties as led him to a conclusion which he carried
out with his usual tenacity. Owen must accom-
pany him to Ireland. He wrote himself to the
church at Coggeshall, insisting that it "was their
duty to acquiesce in the loss of their pastor's services
for a season. The congregation reclaimed against
the proposal, hut Cromwell was resolute, and, in the
end, Owen proceeded with him to Ireland. Resid-
ing in Trinity College, he preached frequently to
large audiences in the city of Dublin, not without
the fruits of conversion and striking testimonies to
the effects of his ministrations ; on his return to
England, under the influence of his appeals to
Parliament, various Acts for the encouragement of
religion and learning, and the extension of the
University in Dublin, were immediately passed.
Such had been the value of his counsels in Ireland,
that when in 1650 Cromwell entered Scotland at
tlie head of the army which may be said to have
turned defeat into victory at Dunbar, by an order
of the House of Commons, Owen Avas again enjoined
to accompany him. He preached in Berwick and
Edinburgh sermons afterwards printed, but beyond
this publication, it is somewhat disappointing to
Scotsmen to find no other authentic traces of the
influence and proceedings of the great Puritan
divine in their country.

The highest honour of his life was about to reach
him. He had returned to his quiet and congenial
work as a pastor in Coggeshall, when one morning he
read, to his surprise, in some newspaper of the day,
the following announcement-^'^ On the 18th March


1651, the House, taking into consideration the
worth and usefuhiess of John Owen, M.A., of
Queen's College, ordered that he be settled in the
Deanery of Christ's Church, in room of Dr.
Reynolds." In the following year, Cromwell, ha^ ing
become Chancellor of the University of Oxford,
nominated Owen Vice-Chancellor. His administra-
tration of its affairs is admitted, even by parties
opposed to the policy of the Puritans, such as even
Clarendon, to have done him the utmost credit.
The University had been a scene of ruin and con-
fusion. It settled down into order and peace
when the firm hand of Owen controlled it, buildings
shattered by the commotions of the times were
repaired, its revenues were restored and increased,
and a goodly crowd of eminent men, whether as
professors or students, frequented it, adorning its
history by the lustre of a reputation already achieved,
or soon to be achieved, in various departments of
learning. Incidents are on record, attesting the
vigour and dignity with which he secured com-
pliance with his rule. The natural benignity of the
man, however, was not lost in the assertion of his
authority. Cromwell, who generally is credited
with larger and juster views on the subject of
toleration than he really held, denied, in his " Instru-
ment of Government," liberty to Episcopalians as
well as Ilomanists, to " make profession of their
faith and enjoy the exercise of their worshii)."
Not far from the Vice-Chancellor's own door, how-
ever, Episcopalians held a meeting every Sabbath,
and had worship according to their lituig}'. Owen,


though solicited to put the laws in force against
them, would not suffer them to be disturbed. To
the Presbyterians, though in respect of ecclesiastical
polity he now differed from them, he was equally
generous, consulting with them on important
emergencies, and appointing their ablest men to
vacant livings. When the Commission, called the
Tryers', gave trouble to Pococke, the distinguished
Arabic scholar, Owen wrote warmly against his
threatened ejection, and hastened to the spot where
the Commissioners met, to use his personal influence
to the utmost in order to dissuade them from the
step they proposed to take. In the end he was
successfid. Such actions, in unison with the tenor of
his whole life, illustrate the consistent generosity of
his nature — a generosity rare at any time — rarer
still in those troublous times — to be ascribed, we
cannot but believe, to that strength of religious
principle which is the richest element in the
character of Owen.

Owen, as we have seen, had left Oxford a
friendless student, rather than violate conscience by
compliance with the schemes of Laud. He had his

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Online LibraryJohn BrownThe evangelical succession : a course of lectures delivered in Free St. George's Church, Edinburgh, 1883-84. Third series → online text (page 1 of 20)