Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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tiquity as to believe any such thing. Is the authority of the church
pleaded by Justin Martyr, in that fstmous dispute with Trypho the
Jew, wherein these very otgections instanced by our authcnr are tho-
roughly canvassed? Doth he not throughout his whole disputation
prove out of the Scriptures, and them alone, that Jesus was the Christ,
and his doctrine agreeable imto them? Is any smch thing pleaded
by Oiigen, Tertullian, Chrysostom, or any one that had to deal with
the Jews? Do they not wholly persist in the way traced £wr them
by Paul, Peter, and Apollos, mightily convincing the Jews out of
Scripture? Let him consult their answers ; he will not find them such
poor, empty, jejune discourses as that he supposes they might make
use of, p. 148; and to the proofe whereof, by texts of Scripture, he
says the rabbis could answer by another interpretation of them.
He will find' another spirit breathing in their writings, another effi-
cacy in their arguments, and other evidence in their testimonies, than
it seems he is acquainted with, 'and such as all the rabbis in the
world are not able to withstand. And I know full well that these
insinuations^ that Christians are not able justifiably to convince, con-
fute, and stop the mouths of Jews from the Scripture, would have been
abhorred as the highest piece of blasphemy by the whole ancient
church of Christ; and it is meet it should be so still by all Christiana

Is there no way left to deny pretences of light and q)irit but by
proclaiming, to the great scandal of Christianity, that we cannot
answer the exceptions of Jews unto the person and doctrine of our
Saviour out of tibe Scriptures? And hath Bome need of these bold
sallies against the vitals of religion? Is ^e no other way capable of a
defence? Better she perished ten thousand times than that any such
reproach should be justly cast on the Lord Jesus Christ anui his gospel
But whatever our author Uiinks of himself I have very good ground
to conjecture that he hath very little acquaintance wilii Judaical an-
tiquity, learning, or arguments, nor very much with the Scripture;
and may possibly deserve on that account some excuse, if he thought
those exceptions insoluble which more learned m^i than himself
know how to answer and remove without any considerable troubla

VOL. iiv. 6



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82 ANIMADYEBSIONS ON A TREATISE

This difficulty was fixed on by our author, that upon it there might
be stated a certain retreat and assured way of establishment against
all of the like nature. This he assigns to be the authority of the
present church; Protestants, the Scripture, — ^wherein, as to the in-
stance chosen out as most pressing, we have the concurrent suffirage
of Christ, his apostles, and all the ancient Christians: so that we need
not any farther to consider the pretended pleas of light and spirit
which he hath made use of^ as the orator desired his dialogist would
have insisted on the stories of Cerberus and Cocytus, that he mi^t
have showed his skill and activity in their confutation. For what he
begs in the way, as to the constitution of St Peter and his successors
in the rule of the church, as he produceth no other proof for it but
that doughty one, that it must needs be so; so, if it were granted
him, he may easily perceive, by the instance of the Judaical church,
that himself thought good to insist upon, that it will not avail him
in his plea against the final resolution of our faith into the Scripture,
as its senses are proposed by the ministry of the church, and ration-
ally conceived or understood.



CHAPTER IX

Protestant Pleas.

His sect siii, p. 155, entitled, ^' Independent and Presbyterians'
Pleas," is a merry one. The whole design of it seems to be, to make
himself and others sport with the miscarriages of men in and about
religion. Whether it be a good work or no, that day that is coming
will discover. The Independents he divides into two parts, — Quakers
and Anabaptists. Quakers he begins withal, and longer insists upon ;
being, as he saith, well read in their books, and acquainted with their
persona Some commendation he gives them, so far as it may serve
to the disparagement of others, and then fsdls into a fit of quaking,
so expressly imitating them in their discourses, that I fear he will
confirm some in their surmises, that such as he both set them on
work and afterward assisted them in it For my part, having un-
dertaken only the defence of Protestancy and Protestants, I am alto-
gether unconcerned in the entertainment he hath provided for his
readers in this personating of a Quaker; which he hath better done,
and k^t a better decorum in, than in his personating of a Protest-
ant, — a thing, in the beginning of his discourse, he pretended unto.
The Anabaptists, as far as I can perceive, he had not meddled with,
unless it had been to get an advantage of venting his petty answar



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£NnTLED FIAT LUX 83

to an argament against in£Etnt baptism; but the truth is, if the Ana-
baptists had no other objections against infant baptism, nor Protest-
ants no better answers to their objections, than what are mentioned
here by our author, it were no great matter what become of the con-
troversy; but it is merriment, not disputation, that he is designing,
and I shall leave him to the solace of his own £emcie&

No otherwise, in the next place, doth he deal with the Presbyte-
rians, in personating of whom he pours out a long senseless rhapsody
of words, many insignificant expressions, vehement exclamations, and
imcouth terms, such as, to do them right, I never heard uttered by
them in preaching, though I have heard many of them; nor read
written by them, though, I suppose, I have perused at least as many
of their books as our author hath done of the Quakers'. Any one
with half an eye may see what it is that galls the man and his party,
— which, whether he hath done wisely to discover, his dtl/npai ^povridsg
will inform him, — ^that is, the preaching of all sorts of Protestants,
that he declares himself to be most perplexed with; and therefore
most labours to expose it to reproach and obloquy. And herein he
deals with us as in many of their stories their demoniacs do with their
exorcists, — discover which relic, or which saint's name, or other engine
in that bustle, most afflicts them, that so they may be paid more to
the piupose. Somewhat we may learn fix>m hence: '^ Fas est et ab
hoste docerL'^ But he will make the Presbyterians amends for all
the scorn he endeavours to expose them to, by affirming, when he
hath assigned a senseless harangue of words unto them, that the Pro-
testants are not able to answer their objection& Certainly, if the
Presbyterians are such pitiful souls as not to be able any better to
defend their cause than they are represented by. him here to do, those
Protestants are beneath all consideration who are not able to deal
and grapple with thenL And this is as it should be. Roman Catho-
lics are wise, learned, holy, angelical, seraphical persons; all others,
ignorant dolts, that can scarce say bo to a goosa These things, con-
sidered in themselves, are unserious trifles, but '' seria ducunt" We
shall see presently whither all this lurry tends; for the sting of this
whole discourse is fixed in the Scriptura

Of the same importance is the next section, p. 170, entitled '' Pro-
testants' Pro and Con," wherein the differences that are amongst
many in these nations are notably exagitated. I presume, in the
intension of his mind upon his present design, he forgot that, by a
new change of name, the same things may be uttered, the same
words used, of and concerning Christians in general, ever since almost
that name was known in the world. Was there any thing more
. frequent among the Pagans of old, than to object to Christians their
differences and endless disputes? I wish our author would but con-



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a* ANIMADVERSIONS ON A TREATISE

aider that \rliicli remains of the discourse of Celsus on this subject;
particularly his charge on them, that at their beginnings, and whilst
they were few, they agreed well enough; but after they increased,
and were dispersed into several nations, they were everywhere at
variance among themselves, whereas all sorts of men were at peace
before their pretended reformation of the wordiip of (Jod: and he
will find in it the sum of this and the four following sections, to the
end of this chapter. And if he will but add so much to his pains as
to peruse the excellent answers of Orig^i in his third book, he will,
if not bo persuaded to desist fix)m urging the objections of Celsus,
yet discern what is expected from him to reply unto if he persist in
his way. But if we may suppose that he hath not that respect for
the honour of the first Christians, methinks the intestine irreconcil-
able brawls of his own mother's children should somewhat allay his
heat and confidence in charging endless differences upon Protestants,
of whom only I speak. Yea^ but you will say, "They have a certain
meaais of ending thar controversies; Protestants have none." And
have they so? — the more shame for them to trouble themselves and
Others, firom one generation unto another, with diq)utes and cdntr6-
versies, that have such a ready way to end them when they please:
and Protestants are the more to be pitied, who perhaps are ready,
,6ome of them at least, as far as they are able, to live at peace. But
why have not Protestants a sure and safe way to issue all their dif-
ferences? " Why ! because every one is judge himself, and they have
no umpire in whose decision they are bound to acquiesce." I pray,
who told you so? Is it not the fimdamental principle of Protestant-
ism, that the Scripture determines all things necessary unto faith
and obedience, and that in that determination ought all men to ac-
,quiesce? I know few Eoman Catholics have the prudence or the
patience to understand what Protestancy is ; and certain it is^ that
those who take up their knowledge of it from the discourses and
writings of such gentiemen as our author, know very little of it, if
any thmg at all : and those who do at any time get leave to read the
books of Protestants, seem to be so filled with prejudices i^inst
them, and to be so biassed by corrupt aflfections, that they seldom
come to a true apprehension of their meanings; for who so blind as
he that will not see? Protestants tell them that the Scripture con^
tains all things necessaary to be believed and practised in the worship
of God, and those proposed with that perspicuity and cleamess which
became the wisdom of its author, who intended to instruct men by
it in the knowledge of them; and in this word and rule, say they, are
all men to rest and aoquiesca But says our author, " Why then do
they not so? why are they at such feuds and differences amongst
Uiemselves?" Is tiiis, in truth, his business? Is it Protestants he



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BNTFTLED FIAT LUX. ^S

blames, and not Protestancy? men's miscarriages, and not their mleV
imperfection? If it be so, I crave his pardon for having troubled
him thus fisur. To defend Protestants for not answering the principles
of their profession is a task too hard for me to undertake, nor do I
at all like the busmess; let him lay on blame still, imtil I say, Hold.
It may be we shall grow wiser by his reviling, as Monica was cured
of her intemperance by the reproach of a servant But I would fain
prevail with these gentlemen, for their own sakes, not to cast that
blame which is due to us ixpon the holy and perfect word of Grod
We do not say, nor ever did, that whoever acknowledgeth the Scrip-
ture to be a perfect rule must upon necessity understand perfectly
all that is contamed in it; that he is presently freed from all dark-
ness, prejudices, corrupt affections, and enabled to judge perfectly
and infallibly of every truth contained in it, or deduced fix)m it
These causes of our differences belong to individual persons, not to
our conmion rule; and i^ because no men are absolutely perfect, and
some are very perverse and frx>ward, we should throw away our rule,
the blessed word of Ood, and run to the pope for rule and guidance,
it is all one as if at noonday, because some are blind and miss their
way, and some are drunk and stagger out of it, and others are
variously enticed to leave it, we should all conspire to wish the sun
out of the firmament, that we might follow a Will-with-a-wisp.

J know not what in general needs to be added farther to this seo-
tion ; the mistake of it is palpable. Some particular passages may be
remarked in it before we proceed : Page 1 78, he pronounceth a heavy
doom on the prelate Protestants, making them prevaricators, im-
postors, reprobates ; — a hard sentence, but that it is hoped it will prove
like the flying bird, and curse causeless! But what is the matter?
" Why, in dealing with the Presbyterians, they are forced to make
iise of those popish principles whidi themselves at first rejected, and
so, building them up again, by the apostle's rule deserve no better
terms." But what, I pray, are they? "Why, the difference betyrixt
clergy and laity, the e£Scacy of episcopal ordination, and the autho-
rity of a visible church, which all men are to obey,'' But there are
two things our author needs to prove to make good his charge, —
first. That these are popish principles; secondly, That as such they
were at any time cast down and destroyed by prelate Protestants.
I fear his mind was gone a little astray, or that he had been lately
among the Quakers, when he hanamered this charge against prelate
Protestants; for as these have been their constant principles ever
since the beginning of the Beformation, so they have as constantly
maintained that, in their true and proper sense, they are not popisK
Nor is the difference about these things, between any Protestants
whatever, any more than verbal For those terms of clergy and laity,



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86 ANIMADVERSIONS ON A TREATISE

because they had been abused in the Papacy, though anciently used,
some have objected against them; but for the things signified by
them, — namely, that in the church there are some teachers, some to
be taught, bishops and flocks, pastors and people, — ^no Protestant ever
questioned. Our author, then, doth but cut out work for himself,
without order from any Protestant, when he sets up an excuse for
this change in them by a relinquishment of their first principles, and
re-aBsuming popish ones for their defence against the Presbyterians.
He that set him a-work may pay him his wagea Protestants only
tell him that what was never done needs never be excused.

Nor will they give him any more thanks for the plea he interposes
in the behalf of episcopacy against Presbyterians and Independents,
being interwoven with a plea for the Papaqr, and managed by such
aiguments as end in the exaltation of the Roman see; and that
partly because they know that their adversaries will be easily able
to disprove the feigned monarchical government of the church under
one pope, and to prove that that fancy really everts the true and only
monarchical state of the church in reference to Christ, knowing that
monarchy doth not signify two heads, but one; and partly because
they have better arguments of their own to plead for episcopacy than
those that he suggests here unto them, or than any man in the world
can supply them with, who thinks there is no communication of au-
thority firom Christ to any on the earth but by the hands of the pope.
So that upon the whole matter they desire him that he would attend
his own business, and not immix their cause in the least with his,
which tends so much to their weakening and disadvantage. If this
may be granted, which is but reasonable, they will not much be
troubled about his commendation of the pope, p. 178, as the substi-
tute of Christ, our only visible pastor, the chief bishop of the Catholic
church, presiding, ruling, and directing in the plac^ of Christ, and
the like eulogiums; being resolved, when he goes about to prove any
thing that he says, that they will consider of it But he must be
better known to them than he is, before they will believe him on his
bare word in things of such importance; and some suppose that the
more he is known, the less he will be believed. But that he may
not for the present think himself neglected, we will run over the heads
of his plea, pretended for episcopa<^, really to assert the papal sove-
reignty. First, he, pleads, " That the Christian church was first
monarchical, under one sovereign bishop, when Christ, who founded
it, was upon the' earth.'' True ; and so it is stilL There is one sheep-
fold, one shepherd and bishop of our souls; he that was then bodily
present having promised that presence of himself with his church to
the end of the world, wherein he continues its one sovereign bishop.
And although the apostles afler him had an equality of power in the



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. 87

cbui'cli among themseLves, as bishops after tbem have also, yet this
doth not denominate the government of the church aristocratical, no
more than the equality of the lords in parliament can denominate the
government of this kingdom to be so. The denomination of any
rule is from him or them in whom the sovereignty doth reside, not
from any subordinate ruleia So is the rule of the church mon-
andiicaL The subversion of this ^iscopacy, we acknowledge, subverts
the whole polity of the diurch, and so all her laws and rule; with the
guilt whereof Protestants charge the Bomanists. He adds, '* It will
not su£Sce to say that the church is still under its head, Christ, who,
being in heaven, hath his spiritual influences over if It will not
indeed ; but yet we suppose that his presence with it by his Spirit
and laws will suffice? Why should it not? "Because the true
church of Christ must have the very same head she had at first, or
else she cannot be the same body/' Very good, and so she hath;
the very same Christ that was crucified for her, and not another.
*< But that head was man-Ood, personally present in both his natures
here on earth." But is he not, I pray, the same man-GkKi still ? the
same Christ, though the manner of his presence be altered ? This is
strange, that, being the same as he was, and being present still, one
circumstance of the manner of his presence should hinder him frx>m
being the same head. I cannot understand the logic, reason, nor
policy of this inferenca Suppose we should on these trifling instances
exclude Jesus Christ, " who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for
ever,'' from being the same head of his diurch as he was, will the
pope supply his room ? Is he the same head that Christ was ? Is
he Ood-man bodily present? or what would you have us to conclude?
" A visible head or bishop if the church hath not now over her, as at
first she had, she is not tiie same she was; and, consequently, in the
way to ruin." This, too, much alters the question : at &st it was, that
she must have the same head she had at first, or she is not the same ;
now, that she must have another head that is not the same, or she is
not the same, for the pope is not Jesus Christ These arguings hang
together like a rope of sand; and what is built on this foundation
(which, indeed, is so weak that I am ashamed £eyrther to contend with
it) will of its own accord fall to the ground.



CHAPTER X.

Scripture, and new principles.

The next paragraph, p. 182, is a naughty ona A buoness it is
spent in and about that I have now often advised our author to



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^ ANIMADYEBSIONS 0]f Jl THEJLTISE

meddle with no moceL If he will not for the future take advice, I
cannot help it; I hare showed mj good-will towards him. It is his
debasing of the Scripture and its authority whidi I intend. Thi^
with the intertexture of some other gentle suppositions, is the subject
of this and the following section. And, because I will not tire myself
and reader in tracing what seems of concernment in this discourse^
backward and forward, up and down, as it is by him diq)eised and
disposed to his best advantage in dealing with unwary men, I shall
draw out the principles of it; that he may know them wherever he
meets them, though never so much masked and disguised, or never
so lightly touched on; and also what judgment to pass upon them.
Their foundation being so taken away, these sections, if I mistake
not, will sink of themsdivea

Some of these principles are coincident with those general ones
insisted on in the ^itrance of oiu: discourse; others of them are pe^
culiar to the design of these paragraphs. The first I shall only point
imto, the latter bri^y discuss: —

1. It is supposed, in the whole discourse of these sections, that
from the Boman churdi, so stated as now it is, or from the pope,
we here in England first received the gospel, which is the Romanists'
own religion, and theirs, by donation from them, whom they have
here pleased to accommodate with it This animates the whole,
and is, besides, the special life of almost every sentence. A lifeless
life ! for that there is not a syllable of truth in it hath been declared
before; nor, were it so that by tiie ministry of the Roman church of
old the &ith was first planted in these nations, would that one inch
promote our author's pretensions, unless he could prove that they did
not afterward lose, or corrupt at least, that which they communicated
unto us; which he knows to be the thing in question, and not to be
granted upon request, though made in never so handsome wordsL To
say, then, '^ The gospel is the Romanists' own religion, from them
you had it; you cont^id about that whidi is none of your own; hear
them whose it is, from whom you had it, who have the precedency
before you," is but to set up scarecrows to fright fook and children.
Men who have any understanding of things past know that all this
bluster and noise comes from emptiness of any solid matter or sub*
stance to be used in the case.

2. It is also doughtily supposed, "That whatever is spoken of
^ the church in the Scripture belongs to the Roman church, and that

alone:" the privil^es, the authority, the glory of the church, are all
theirs; as the madman at Athens thought all the ships to be his that
came into the harbour. I suppose he will not contend but that, if
you deny him this, all that he hath said besides is to htUe purpose.
And I believe he cannot but take it ill that any of his readers should



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ENTITLED FIAT LXTX 89

call him to an account in that which he eyeiywhere puts out of ques*
tion. But this he knew well enough that all Protestants deny, — that
they grant no one privilege of the catholic church, as such, to belong
to Uie Bomaa All that any of them will allow her, is Init to be a
putrid, corrupt member of it; some say cut oS, dead and rotten.
But yet that the catholic churdi and the Roman are the same must
be believed, or you spoil all his market '' The church is before the
goq)el, gives testimony unto it ; none could know it but by her autho-
rity, nothing can be accepted as sudi but what she sets he^ seals
imto: so that to destroy the church is to destroy the gospd'M What
then, I pray? Suj^)ose aU this, and all the rest of his assertions
about the church, pp. 199, 200, etc., to be true, as some of them are
most blasphemously false, yet what is all this to his purpose? '*Why,
this is the Soman church of which all these things are spoken.'' It
may be the Roman church, indeed, of which much of it is spoken,
even all that is sinfully derogatory to the glory of Christ and his
apostles; upon whom and whose authority the church is built, and<
not their authority on it, Eph. ii 19, 20. But what is truly spoken
in the Scripture of the church doth no more belong to the Roman
than to the least assembly of believers under heaven, wherein the
essence of a true church is preserved, if it belongs unto it at all; and
yet this rude pretence and palpable artifice is the main engine, in ,
Uiis section, applied to the removal of men from the basis of the
Scripture. The church, the church! the Roman church, the Ro«
man church] And these, forsooth, are su{q>osed to be one and the
same; and the pope to have monopolized all the privileges of the
diurch, contrary to express statute law of the goq)el. Hence he pre-
tends, that if to go out from the catholic be e\al, then not to come
into the Roman is evil; when, indeed, the most ready way to go out



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 11 of 67)