Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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yield them no solid gospel consolation in what they may endure or
undergo.



CHAPTER XV.

Blessed Virgin.

Sect xxiiL p. 267. The 22d paragraph, concerning the blessed
Virgin, is absolutely the weakest and most disingenuous in his
whole discourse. The work he hath in hand is to take off offence
from the Roman doctrine and practice in reference unto her. Find-
ing that this could not be handsomely gilded over, being so rotten
and corrupt as not to bear a new varnish, he turns his pen to the
bespattermg of Protestants for contempt of her, without the least
respect to truth or common honesty. Of them it is that he says,
''That they vilify and blaspheme her, and cast gibes upon her;''
which he sets oflf with a pretty tale of " a Protestant bishop and a
Catholic boy:" and lest this should not suflSce to render them odious,
he would have some of them thought to ''taimt at Christ himself;"
one of them " for ignorance, passion, and too much haste for his
breakfast" Boldly to calumniate, that something may cleave, is a
principle that too many have observed in their dealings with others
in the world; but as it contains a renimciation of the religion of
Jesus Christ, so it hath not always well succeeded. The horrid and
incredible reproaches that were cast by the Pagans on the primitive
Christians occasioned sundry ingenuous persons to search more into
their way than otherwise they would have done; and thereby their
conversion. And I am persuaded this rude charge on Protestants, as
remote from truth as any thing that was cast on the first Christians
by their adversaries, would have the same effects on Roman Catholics,
might they meet with the same ingenuity and candour. That any
Protestant should be moved or shaken in his principles by such
calumnies is impossibia Every one that is so knows, that as the
Protestants believe every thing that is spoken of the blessed Virgin
in the Scripture or creed, or whatever may be lawfully deduced
from what is so spoken, so they have all that honour and respect for
her which God will allow to be given to any creature. Surely a
confident accusation of incivility and blasphemy for not doing that
which they know they do, and profess to all the world they do, is
more like to move men in their patience towards their accusers than
to prevail with them to join in the same charge against others, whom



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX 121

they know to be innocent as themselvea Neither will it relieve our
author, in point of ingenuity and truth, that it may be he hath
heard it reported of one or two bram-sick or j&antic persons in Eng-
land, that they have cast out blasphemous reproaches against the bless-
ed ** Mother of Qod." It is credibly testified that pope Leo should,
before witnesses, profess his rejoicing at the advantages they had at
Rome by the " fable of Christ" Were it handsome now in a Protest-
ant to charge this blasphemy upon all Papists, though uttered by
their head and guide; and to dispute against them from the confes-
sion of the Jews, who acknowledge the story of his death and sufier-
ing to be true, and of the Turks, who have a great honour and vene-
ration for him unto this day ? Well may men be counted Catholics
who walk in such paths, but I see no ground or reason why we should
esteem them Christiana Had our author spoken to the purpose, he
should have proved the lawfulness, or, if he had spoken to his own
piurpose with any candour of mind or consistency of purpose in the
pursuit of his design, have gilded over the practice, of giving divine
honoiu: to the holy Virgin, or worshipping her with adoration, as Pro-
testants say, due to Qod alone ; of ascribing all the titles of Christ unto
her, turning Lord in the Psalms in most places into Lady; praying to
her, not only to entreat, yea^ to command her Son to help and save
them, but to save them herself, as she to whom her Son hath committed
the administration of mercy, keeping that of justice to himself; with
many other the like horrid blasphemies, which he shall hear more of
if he desire it But instead of this difficult task, he takes up one
which, it seems, he looked on as far easier, — ^£alsely to accuse Protest-
ants of blaspheming her. We usually smile in England at a short
answer that one is said to have given Bellarmine's works; I hope I
may say without oflfence, that, if it were not uncivil, it might suJEce
for an answer to this paragrapL But though most men will suppose
that our author hath overshot himself, and gone too far in his charge,
he himself thinks he hath not gone far enough ; as well knowing there
are some bounds, which when men have passed, their only course is
to set a good face upon the matter, and to dare on stilL Wherefore,
to convince us of the truth of what he had delivered concerning Pro-
testants reviling and blaspheming the blessed Virgin, he telk us that
it is no wonder, seeing some of them, in foreign parts, have uttered
words against the very honour of Jesus Christ himself To make
this good, Calvin is placed in the van, who is said '' to taunt at his
ignorance and passion, and too much haste for his breakfast, when
he cursed the fig-tree ; who, if, as is pretended, he had studied Catholic
divines, they would have taught him a more modest and pious inter-
pretation." It is quite beside my purpose and nature of the present
discourse to recite the words of private men, and to contend about



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1 22 ANIMADVEI^OKS ON JL TBEATISE

their sense and meaiiing. I shall therefore only dedre the reader
that thinks himself ooncemed in this Tq)ort to consult the place in
Calvin pointed unto; and if he finds any such taunts as our author
mentions, or any thing delivered concerning our Lord Christ but'
what may be confirmed by the judgment of all tiie andent fathers
and many learned Bomanists, I will be cont^it to lose my reputation
with him for any skill in juc^ing at the meaning of an author. But
what thoughts he will think meet to retain for Uiis informer, I leave
to himself What Catholic divines Calvin studied, I know not; but
I am sure, if some of those whom his adviser accounts so had not
studied him, they had never stole so much out of his comments on
the Scripture as they have done. The next primitive Protestants
that are brought in to make good this charge are Servetus, Gribaldus,
LismaninuB, and some other antitrinitarian heretics; in <^)po6ition to
whose errors, both in their first rise and after progress, under the
management of Faustus Sodnus and his followers, Protestants, all
Europe over, have laboured fisur more abundantly, and wiA hi greater
success, than all his Roman Catholics. It seems they must now all
pass for primitive Protestants, because the interest of the Catholic
cause requires it should be so. This is a communicable branch of
papal omnipotency, to make things and persons to be what they
never were. From them a return is made again to Luther, Brentius,
Calvin, Zuinglius, who are said to nibble at Arianism, and shoot
secret darts at the Trinity; though all impartial men must needs
confess that they have asserted and proved the doctrine of it far
more solidly than all the schoolmen in the world were able to do.
But the main weight of the discourse of this paragraph lies upon the
pretty tale in the close of it, about a Protestant bishop and a Catholic
boy; which he must be a very Cato that can read without smiling.
It is a little too long to transcribe, and I cannot tell it over again
without spoiling of it, having never had that fticulty in gilding of
little stories wherein our author excelletL The sum is, that the boy,
being reproved by the bishop for saying a prayer to her, boggled at
the repetition of her name when he came to repeat his creed, and
cried, " My lord, here she is again; what shall I do with h^ now?''
To whom the bishop replied, " You may let her pass in your creed,
but not in your prayers;" whereupon our author subjoins, " As
though we might have faith, but neither hope nor charity for her.**
Certainly, I suppose, my countrymen cannot but take it ill that any
man should suppose them such stupid blockheads as to be imposed
on with sophistry that they may feel through a pair of mittens. " Tam
vacui capitis populum Phseaca putavit ?" [Juv. xv. 23.] For my part,
I can scarce think it worth the while to rel ieve men that will stoop to
so naked a lure. But, that I may pass on, I will cast away one word,



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XXTVTVBJ) FIAT tXHL 123

which nothing but gross stupidity can countenance, £rom heedlessnes&
The blesaed Virgm is mentioned in the creed as the person of whom
our SaTiour was bom, and we have therefore faith for her, — ^that is,
we believe that Christ was bom of her; but do we therefore believe
in her ? Certainly no more than we do in Pontius Pilate, concern-
ing whom we believe that Christ was cmcified imder him. A bare
mention in the creed, with reference to somewhat else believed in, is
a thing in itself indifferent; and, we see, oocagionally befell the best of
women, and one of the worst of men: and what hope and charity
should we thence conclude that we ought to have for her ? We are
past charitable hopes that she is for ever blessed in heaven, having
full assurance of it. But if by hope for h^, he means the placing of
our hope, trust, and confidence in her, so as to pray unto her, as his
mecoiing must be, how well this follows from the place she hath in
the creed, he is not a man who is not able to judga



CHAPTEB XVL

Images.

Sect xxiv. Thb next excellency of tiie Roman church, which so
exceedingly delighted our author in his travels, is their images. It
was well for him that he travelled not in the days of the apostles, nor
for four or five hundred years after their decease. Had he done so,
and, in his choice of a religion, would have been influenced by images
and pictures, he had undoubtedly turned Pagan, or else a Gnostic
(for those pretended Christians, indeed wretches worse than Pagans,
as Epiphanius informs us, had got images of Christ, which, they said,
were made in the days of Pontius Pilate, if not by him); their
temples being richly furnished and adorned with them, whilst Chris-
tian oratories were utterly destitute of them. To forward also his
incUnation, he would have found them, not the representations of
ordinary men, but of famous heroes, renowned throughout the whole
world for their noble achievements and inventions of things necessary
to human life; and those portrayed to the life, in the performance
of tiiose actions which were so useful to mankind, and by which they
had stirred up just admiration of their virtue in all men. Moreover,
he would have found their learned men, profoimd philosophers, de-
vout priests and virgins, contemning the Christians for want of those
helps to devotion towards God which in those images they enjoyed,
and objecting to them their rashness, fury, and ignorance in demoli^-



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124 ANDCADVEBSIONS ON A TREATISE

ing of them. As £ar as I can perceive, by his good indination to
this excellency of religion (the imagery of it), had he lived in those
days, he would have as easily bid adieu to Christianity as he did in
these to Protestantism.

But the excellent thoughts, he tells us, that such pictures and
images are apt to cast into the minds of men makes them come to
our " mount Zion, the city of the living God, to celestial Jerusalem,
and society of angels," and so onward, as his translation somewhat
uncouthly and improperly renders that place of the apostle, Heb. xiL
A man, indeed, distraught of his wits, might possibly entertain some
such fancies upon his entering of a house fidl of fine pictures and
images; but that a sober man should do so is very unlikely. It is a
sign how well men imderstand the apostle's words, when they sup-
pose themselves furthered in their meditation on them by images and
pictures; and yet it were well if this abuse were all the use of them
in the Romish church. I wish our author would inform us truly,
whether many of those whom, he tells us, he saw so devout in their
churches, did not lay out a good part of their devotion upon the fine
pictures and images he saw them fall down before? Images began
first in being ignorant people's books, but they ended in being their
gods or idols. Alas, poor souls ! they know little of those many curious
windings and turnings of mind, throi]^h the meanders of various dis-
tinctions, which their masters prescribe to preserve them from idola-
try, in that veneration of images which they teach them, when it is
easy for them to know that all they do in this kind is contrary to
the express will and conmiand of God. But, that our author may
charge home upon his coimtrymen for removing of images out of
churches, he tells us that it is die judgment of all men that the viola-
tion of an image redoimds to the prototype. True, provided it be an
image rightly and duly destined to represent him that is intended to
be injured. But suppose any man, against the express command of
a king, should make an image of him, on purpose to represent him
deformed and ridiculous to the people; would he interpret it an injury
or dishonour done xmto him if any one, out of allegiance, should
break or tear such an image in pieces? I suppose a wise and just
king would look on such an action as a rewardable piece of service, and
would in time take care for the punishment of him that made it The
hanging oi traitors in effigy is not [merely] to cast a dishonour upon
the person represented, but a declamtion of what he doth deserve and
is adjudged unto. The psalmist, indeed, complains that they broke
down the 0^0^^ > or carved works, on the walls and ceiling of the
temple ; but that those " apertiones," or " incisurse," were not pictures
and images for the people to adore and venerate, nor were appointed
for their instruction, if our author knows not> he knows whither to



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ENTITLED FLLT LUX. 125

repair to be iustnicied, — ^namely, to any comment, old or new, extant
on that pealm. And it is no small confidence, to use Scripture out
of the Old Testament for the religious use of images of men's find-
ing out and constitution, whereas ihej may find as many testimonies
£Dr more gods, — enough, indeed, wherein tiie one are denied, and the
other forbidden.

Nor will the ensuing contemplation of the means whereby we come
to learn things we know not, — namely, by our senses, whence images
are suited to do that by the eye which sermons do by the ear, and
that more eflfectually, — yield him any relief in his devotion for them.
There is this small difference between them, that the one means of
instruction is appointed by God himself; the other, that is pretended
to be so, absolutely forbidden by him.

And tiiese fine discourses of the " actuosity of the eye above the
ear,'' and its &cu]ty of administering to the fancy, are but pitiful,
weak attempts, for men that have no less work in hand than to set
up their own wisdom in the room of and above the wisdom of God.

And our author is utterly mistaken if he think the sole end of
preaching the cross and death of Christ is to work out such repre-
sentations to the mind as oratory may effect for the moving of cor-
responding affections. This may be the end of some men s rhetorical
declamations about it If he will a little attentively read over the
epistles of Paul, he will discern other ends in his preaching Christ
and him crucified, which the fancies he speaks of have morally little
affinity withal

But what if Catholics have nothing to say for their practice in the
adoration of images, seeing the Protestants have nothing but '^ simple
pretences" for their removal out of churches? These simple pretences
are express, reiterate commands of Grod; which what value they are
of with the Bomanists, when they lie against their ways and prac-
tice, is evident The arguments of Protestants, when they deal with
the Bomamsts, are not directed against this or that part of their doc-
trine or practice about images, but the whole; that is, the making of
them (some of God himself), the placing of them in churches, and giv-
ing them religious adoration: not to qpeak of the abominable mis-
carriages of many of their devotiomstB in teaching, or of their people
in committing with them as gross idolatry as ever any of the ancient
heatheiis did; which shall at large be proved, if our author desires it
Against this principle and whole practice one of the Protestants'
^pretences," as they are called, lies in the second commandment,,
wherein the making of all images for any such purpose is expressly
forbidden. " But the same God," say they, " commanded cherubims
to be made, and placed over the ark." He did so; but I desire to
know what the cherubs were images of^ and that they would show



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126 ANmADVEBaiONS ON A TSEATISE

he ever appointed them to be adored, or to be the immediate oljects:
of any veneration, or to be so much aa historical means of instruction,
being always shut up firom the view of the peofde, and representing
nothing that ever had a real subsistence ^* in rerum naturab'' Be^*
sides, who appointed them to be made? As I take it, it was Crod
himself, who did therein no more contradict himself than he did when
he commanded his people to spoil the Egyptians^, having yet forbid
all men to steal. His own speciat dispensation of a law constitutes
no general rule; so that (whoever are blind or fools) it is certain
that the making of images for religious veneration is expressly for^
bidden of God unto the sons of men. . But, alas ! '^ They were foreign
images, the ugly faces of Mojoch, Dagon, Ashtaroth; he forbade not
his own."' Yea, but they are images or likenesses of himself that, in
the first place and principally, he farbids them to make; and he en-
forceth his command upon them from hence, that when be spake
unto them in Horeb they "saw no mamaer of similitude," Deut iv. 15;
which surely concerned not " the ugly face of Moloch" And it is a
very pretty fancy of our author, and inferior to none of the like kind
that we have met with, that they have in their Catholic churcheB
both, " Thou shalt not make graven images," and, " Thou shalt make
graven images;" because they have the image of St Peter, not of
Simon Magus ; of St Benedict or good St Franjcis, not of LulJi^ and
Calvin. I desire to know where they got that command, " Thou
shalt make images?" In the original, and all the translations lately
published in the " Biblia Polyglotta," it is, " Thou shalt not;" so it
is in the writings of all the ancients. As for this new command,
" Thou shalt make graven images," I cannot gi^ss from whence it
OQmes; and so shall say no more about it Only I shall ask him one
question in good earnest, desiring his resolution the next time he
shall think fit to make the world meny with his witty diseouises,
and it is this : Suppose the Jews had not made the images of Jannes
and Jambree, their Simon Maguses, but of Moses and Aaron, and
had placed them in the temple and worshipped them, as Papists do
the images of Peter or the blessed Virgin, whether he thinks it would
have been approved of God or no? Ifear he will be at a stand. But
I shall mot discourage him by teUing him beforehand what will be&U
him, on what side soever he determines the questiim.

He will not yet have done, but tells us the precept lies in this^
^ That ' mexi shall not make to themselves:' as if he had said, ^ When
you come into the land among the Gentiles, let none g£ you make to
himself any of the images he shall see there set up by the inhabitants
contrary to the law of Moses, and the pcaetice of the synagogue, which
doth so honour her dberubtms that Att abominates aQ idols and iheif
sculpture.' And thus, if any Catholic should make to hJmsdf^ contrary



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BNnXLBD riAT LUX. 127

to what is allowed, any peculiar image of the planets,^' eta But that
'' Nil admirari"" relieves me, I should be at a great loss in reading
these things; for truly a man would think that he that talks at
this rate had read the Bible no otherwise than he would have our
people to do it ; that is, not at alL I would I could prevail with
him for once to read over the book of Deuteronomy. I am per-
suaded he will not repent him of his pains, if he be a lover of truth,
as he pretends he is; at least he could not miss of the advantage of
being delivered firom troubling himself and others hereafter with such
gross mistake& If he will believe the author of the Pentateuch, it
was the image of the true Qod that was principally intended in the
prohibition of all images Ydiatever to be made objects of divine adora-
tkm, and that without any respect unto the cherubims over the ark,
everlastingly secluded from the sight of the people. And the images
of the false gods are but in a second place forbidden, the gods them*
selves being renoimced in the first commandment; and it is this
making unto a man's self any image whatever, without the appoint-
ment of God, that is the very substance of the conmiand. And I
desire to know of our author how any image made in his church
comes to represent him to whom it is assigned, or to have any reli-
gious relation to him; for instance, to St Peter rather than to Simon
Magus or Judas, so that the honour done unto it should redound to
the one rather than to the other? It is not from any appointment
of Qod, nor from the nature of the thing itself, for the carved piece
of wood is as fit to represent Judas as Pet^; not from any influence
of virtue and efficacy from Peter into the statue, as the heathens
pleaded for their imi^e-worship of (dd. I think the whole relation
between the image and the pretended prototype depends solely on
the imagination, of him that made it, or him that reverenceth it
This creative &cttlty in the imagination is that which is forbidden to
all the sons of men in the " Non fiacies tibi,'' — " Thou shalt not make
to thyself f and when aH is done, the relation supposed, which is the
pretended ground of adoration, is but imaginary and fantastic, — sorry
basis for the building erected on it This whimsical termination of
the worship in the prototype, by virtue of the imagination's creation
of a relation between it and the image, will not free the Papists from
downright idolatry in their abuse of images; much less will the pre-
tence that it is the true Qod they intend to worship, that true Qod
having declared all images of himself, set up without his command,
to be abominable idola



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128 ANIMADVEBSIONS ON A TREATISS

CHAPTER XVIL

Latin service.

Sect XXV. p. 280. The next thing he gilds over in the Boman
practice is that which he calls their ^^ Latin service;'' that is, their
keeping of the word of God and whole worship of the church (in which
two all the general concernments ol Christians do lie) from their
understanding in an unknown tongua We find it true, by continual
experience, that great successes and confidence in their own abilities
do encourage men to strange attempts; what else could make them
persuade themselves that they should prevail with poor simple mor-
tals to believe that they have nothing to do with that wherein, in-
deed, all their chieiest concenmients do lie; and that, contraiy to
express direction ot Scripture, imiversal practice ot the churches of
old, common sense, and the broadest light of that reason whereby they
are men, they need not at all understand the things wherein their
communion with God doth consist, the means whereby they must
come to know his will, and way wherein they must worship him?
Nor doth it suffice these gentlemen to suppose that they are able to
flourish over their own practice with such pretences as may free it
from blame; but they think to render it so desirable, as either to get
it embraced willingly by others^ or countenance themselves in impos-
ing it upon them whether they will or no. But as they come short
of those advantages whereby this matter in former days was brought
about, or rather came to pass; so, to think at once to cast those
shackles on men, now they are awake, which were insensibly put
upon them when they were asleep, and rejected on the first beam of
gospel light that shined upon them, is, I hope, but a pleasing dream.
Certain I am, there must be other manner of reasonings than are in-
sisted upon by our author, or have been by his masters as yet, that
must prevail on any who are not, on the account of other things, will-



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 16 of 67)