Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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graph, — he might perhaps have got some ground on their affection and
esteem who know nothing concerning him to the contrary, which in
England are very few. But these notes above £1a,^ these transcen-
dent encomiums, have quite marred his market And if there be no
medium, but men must believe the pope to be either Christ or anti-
christ, it is evident which way the general vogue in England will go,
and that at least until fire and fagot come ; — which, blessed be Qod !
we are secured from whilst our present sovereign sways the sceptre
of this land; and hope our posterity may be so under his of&pring
for many generations.

> Ela is an old term for the hi^est note in the scale of music. See Bailey's Diet

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Sect. XXX. Our author hopes, it seems, that by this time he hath
brought his disciples to Popery. That is the title of the last paragraph
to his business, not of his book ; for that which follows, being a parcel
of the excellent speech of my lord chancellor, is about a matter
wherein his concernment lies not : this is his close and farewelL They
say there is one who, when he goes out of any place, leaves a worse
savour at his departure than he gave all the time of his abode; and
he seems here to be imitated. The disingenuity of this paragraph,
the want of care, of truth, and of common honesty, that appears in it,
sends forth a worse savour than most of those, if not than any or all
of them, that went before. The design of it is to give us a paralld of
some popish and protestant doctrines, that the beauty of the one
may the better be set off by the deformity of the other. To this end
he hath made no conscience of mangling, defacing, smd defiling of
the latter. The doctrines he mentions, he calls " the more plausible
parts of Popery," — such as he hath laboured in his whole discourse to
gild and trick up with his rhetoric; nor shall I quarrel with him for
his doting on them, only I cannot but wish it might suffice him to
enjoy and proclaim the beauty of his church without open slandering
and defaming of ours. This is not handsome, civil, mannerly, nor
conscientious. A few instances will manifest whether he hath feiiled
in this kind or no.

The first " plausible piece of Popery," as he calls it, that he pre-
sents us in his antithesis, is '^ the obligation which all have who
believe in Christ to attend unto good works, and the merit and
benefit of so doing :" in opposition whereimto he says Protestants
"teach that there be no such things as good works pleasmg unto Qod,
but all be as menstruous rags, filthy, odious, and damnable in the sight
of heaven; that if it were otherwise, yet they are not in our power to
perform.'' Let other men do what they please, or are able : for my part,
if this be a good work, to believe that a man conscientiously handles
the things of religion, with a reverence of Grod and a regard to the
account he is to make at the last day, who can thus openly calum-
niate and equivocate, I must confess I do not find it in my power
to perform it It may be he thinks it no great sin to calumniate and
falsely accuse heretics; or, if it be, but a venial one, — such a one as
hath no respect to heaven or hell, but only purgatory, which hath no
great influence on the minds of men to keep them firom vice or pro-
voke them to virtua

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Do Protestants teach, '' There are no such things as good works
pleasing to God?" or, that " those that believe are not obliged to good
works?" In which of their confessions do they so say? in what
public writing of any of their churches? What one individual Pro-
testant was ever gidlty of thinking or venting this folly ? If our
author had told this story in Rome or Italy, he had wronged him-
self only in point of morality; but telling it in England, if I mistake
not, he is utterly gone also as to reputation. But yet you will say,
that if there be good works, yet it is not in our power to perform
them. No more will Papists neither, that know what they say, or
are in their right wits, that it is so without the help of the grace of
God; and the Protestant never lived, that I know of, that denied
them, by that help and assistance, to be in our power. " But they
say, they are * all as filthy rags,' eta" I am glad he will acknow-
ledge Isaiah to be a Protestant, whose words they are, concerning
all oiu: righteousness, that he traduceth. We shall have him some
time or other denying some of the prophets or apostles to be Pro-
testants; and yet it is known that they all agreed in their doctrine
and faith. Those other Protestants, whom he labours principally to
asperse, will tell him, that although God do indispensably require
good works of them that do believe ; and they, by the assistance of
Ins grace, do perform constantly those good works which, both for
the matter and the manner of their performance, are acceptable to
him in Jesus Christ, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace;
and which, as the effect of his grace in us, shall be eternally re-
warded : yet, that such is the infinite purity and holiness of the
great God with whom we have to do, in whose sight the heavens are
not pure, and who charges his angels with folly, that if he should
deal with the best of our works according to the exigence and rigour
of his justice, they would appear wanting, defective, yea, filthy in his
siglit; so that om: works have need of acceptation in Christ no less
than our persons. And they add this to their feith in this matter,
that they believe that those who deny this know Uttle of God or

My pen is dull, and the book that was lent me for a few days is
called for. " Ex hoc uno," by this instance, we may take a measure
of all the rest, wherein the same ingenuity and conscientious care of
offending is observed as in this; that is, neither the one nor other
is so. The residue of his discourse is but a commendation of his
religion and the professors of it, whereof, I must confess, I begin to
grow weary; having had so much of it, and so often repeated, and
that from one of themselves, and that on principles which will not
endure the trial and examination. Of this sort is the suffering for
their religion, which he extols in them. Not what God calls them

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unto, or others impose upon them, in any part of the world, — ^wherein
they axe not to be compared with Protestants, nor have suffered from
all the world for their papal religion the hundredth part of what Pro-
testants have suffered from themselves alone for their refusal of it,
— doth he intend, but what of their own accord they undergo; not
considering, that as outward affliction a^d persecution from the world
have been always the constant lot of the true worshippers of Christ
in all ages, so voluntary self-macerations have attended the ways of
false worship, among all sorts of men, from the foundation of the

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Tho. Gbug, K in Christ
P. D. Humfr. Episa
Deoemb. 9, Loud, k Sao. dome.

1663. Btida.

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Thb preyiouB work of Owen did not paas without a reply from Cane^ whose " Fiat Lux*'
it 80 smartly refutes. The latter published a letter to the author of the ^ Animadyer-
sions," in which he betrayed his own sense of disoomtiture by wandering from the
subject to assail his antagonist and direot publio antipathy against him for his conduct
during the time of the Commonwealth. In 1664 Dr Owen published the following
workf — ^his chief contribution to the Popish controversy ; in which, while he incidentally
disposes of the political insinuations of Cane, he enters with greater fulness of detail on
the leading points of the controversy, and completes the argument, which he had not
time to develop in the previous treatise. The diief defect in this able work arises from
the plan which Owen was constrained to adopt It was necessary for him to review in
succession the topics which his opponent had discussed in *'Fiat Lux." A wish may
now be felt, that, since that work has passed into merited oblivion, this masterly disser.
tation on the leading errors of Romanism by our author had appeared in a shape l&s
connected with a passing dispute, and more fitted to be pf genend and standing value
in the controversy. The exigency, however, which drew from him the publication,
could not have been met, had it appeared in such a form. We would have missed the
humour with which the treatise abounds, and by which Dr Owen gives buoyancy to his
argument; although embarrassed sometimes by the extent and variety of his lore, he
reminds us in his humour of the cumbrous gambols of the whale. All the more impor-
tant subjects, too, in the controversy with Eome, are considered in the work, and some
of them handled with peculiar success. Indeed, on some points, if the facts and argu-
ments in both treatises be taken together, a more successful refutation of the claims of
the Church of Rome could not be desiderated. In one respect, moreover, the author
kept in view the desirableness of securing for his work a general value among Protest-
ants, by arguing always on ground common to all Protestants, and refiisini^ in spite of
the wily snares of his adversary, to be drawn from this ground.

Our admiration of the ability and learning in these works is incretaed when we
remember he was all the time suSbring much from a professedly Protestant government,
in spite of all these services to the Protestant cause. On the Restoration, he had retired
to bis estate at Stadham, and lived very quietly and privately. Persecution grew so hot
that he was obliged to leave it, and escape arrest by frequent removals frx>m place to
place. He came to London, and occupied himself in the publication of these treatises.
In the very year when the work which follows was published, he was so harassed that
he resolved to comply with an invitation from the brethren in New England, and in
1666 made preparations to leave the oountiy. He had great difficulty even in getting
liis " Vindication of the Animadversions" published. The bishops appointed by act of
Parliament censors of the press on theological works, refused to license the printing of
it; because "upon all occasions when he mentions the evangelists and apostles, even 8t
Peter himself he left out the title of ScdrU; '* and because *<he endeavours to prove that
it could not be determined that St Peter was ever at Rome." He yielded willingly to
the first objection, alleging, however, that apostle and evangelist was a higher appella-
tion than the term saint, which was applicable to all the family of God ; but he declared
that he would rather see his work suj^ressed than change his views on the other
point Most probably it would have been suppressed; on a representation, however, of
Sir Edward Nicholas, one of the Secretaries of State, to the Bishop of London, it was
published with the imprimatur of Thomas Greig, his lordship's domestic chaplain.

The book, when at length published, produced, like its predecessor, great efiect
Lord Clarendon sent for the author by Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke, commended his work
in high terms, and assured him that " he deserved the best of any English Protestant
of late years." — (See Asty's Memoir, p. xxiv.) Preferment in the Chimjh of England
was also offered him ; but for the particulars of this remarkable interview, we may refer
to the Life of Owen, voL i. p. Ixxx.

An analysis of the work is not required. The author adopts the order of his anta-
gonist in the discussion of the several topics. The chapters on the more important sub-
jects are so replete with argument and learning, all flavoured with a humorous expo-
sure of the character of Romanism, and the labyrinth of fallacies in which his opponent
is entangled, that the work is yet fresh in value and interest Considered as a whole,
it has undoubtedly been superseded by other works of more enlarged design; and more
adapted to the present stage of the war with Rome, but occasionally a course of admirable
thinking appears, for which we may look in vain among other kindred treatises. — ^Ea

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Christian Reader,
Although our Lord Jesus Christ hath laid blessed and stable fouxulations of unity^
peace, ^uid agreement in judgment and affection amongst all his disciples, and
given forth command for their attendance unto them, that thereby they might
glorify him in the world, and promote their own spiritual advantage ; yet also,
foreknowing what effect the crai\» of Satan, in conjunction with the darlmess and
lusts of men, would produce, that no offence might thence be taken against him
or any of his ways, he hath forewarned all men by his Spirit what diferencee,
divisions^ schisms, and heresies would ensue on the publication of the gospel, and
arise even among them that should profess subjection unto his authority and law.
And, accordingly, it speedily came to pass ; for what Solomon says that he dis^
covered concerning the first creation, — ^namely, that '< God made man upright, but
be sought out many inventions," or immixed himself in endless questions, — the
same fell out in the new creation, or erection of the church of Christ The state
of it was by him formed upright, and all that belonged unto it were of one heart
and one soul ; but this harmony and perfection of beauty, in answer to his will
and institution, lasted not long among them, — ^many who mixed themselves with
those primitive converts, or succeeded them in th&i profession, quickly seeking
out perverse inventions. Hence, in the days of the apostles themselves, there were
not only schisms and divisions made in sundry churches of their own planting, with
disputes about opinions and needless impositions by those of the circumcision who
believed, but also opposition was made unto the very fundamental doctrines of the
d&tj and incarnation of the Son of God by the spirit of antichrist, then entering
into the world ; as is evident from their writings and epistles. But yet, as all this
while our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his promise, preserved the root of love
and unity amongst them who sincerely believed in him entire (as he doth still, and
will do to the end), by giving the one and self-same Spirit to guide, sanctify, and
unite them all unto himself; so the care and authority of the apostles, during their
abode in the flesh, so far prevmled, that notwithstanding some temporary impeach-
ments of love and union in or amongst the churches, yet no single prejudice of
any long continuance befell them : for dther the miscarriages which they fell into
were quickly retrieved by them, the truth infallibly cleared, and provision made
for peace, unity, and moderation in and about things of less concernment ; or else
the evil, guilt, and danger of them, renuuned only with and upon some particular
persons, the notoriety of whose wickedness and folly cast them out, by common
consent, from the communion of all the disciples of Christ;

But no sooner was that sacred society,—i Ufis inr^vixtf x*f^h — ^^ ^^ ^*
mediate successors, as Egesippus q>eak8 in Eusebius, departed unto their rest with
God, but that the church itself, which until then was preserved a pure and uncor-
rupted virgin, began to be vexed with abiding contention, and otherwise to degene^
rate from its primitive, original purity. From thenceforward, especially after the
heat of bloody and flery persecutions began to abate, far the greatest part of ecclesi-
astical records consists in rektions of the divisions, differences^ schisms, and heresies

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that fell out amongst them who professed themselves the disciples of Christ. For
those failings, errors, and mistakes, which were found in men of peaceable minds,
the church, indeed, of those days extended her peace and unitj, — ^if Justin Martjr
and others may be believed, — ^to such as the teeming warmer zecd and really colder
charity of the succeeding ages could not bear withal. But yet divisions and disputes
were multiplied into such an excess, as that the Gentiles fetched advantage from
them, not only to reproach all Christians withal, but to deter others from the pro-
fession of Christianity. So Celsus, in his third book, deals with them ; for saith he,

'Af;^ifitt9M flip ixiyt n ^ran*, ««2 t* ipfiuvf It ifXni§s Hi w^mfkvrts mZits mZ rt/*Mvr»4 ««)
muT§hf SXiy;^«vr«y' Uif, is ^^^^79, Xti utnanwtnt, tlyi mifmtwftw trt, rtS ififtmrt' ^ rwm

fiiw lyMrmXivi^f t/imt «iV;^^«m'm*— '* At first, when there were but a few, they were
of one mind, or agreed well enough ; but being increased, and the multitude of
them scattered abroad, they were presently divided again and again ; and every
one would have his own party or division ; and, as a divided multitude^ opposed and
reproved one another; so that they had no communion among themselves but only
in name, which for shame they retain." So doth he, for his purpose, as is the
manner of men, invidiously exaggerate the differences that Yiere in those early
times amongst Christians; for he wrote about the days of Trajan the emperor.
That others of them took the same course, is testified by Clemens, Stromat. lib.
vii., Augustin. Lib. de Ovib. cap. xv., and sundry others of the ancient writers of
the church. But that no just offence as to the truth, or any of the ways Of Christy
might hence be taken, we are, as I sud before, forewarned of all these things by
the Lord himself and his apostles; as also of the use and necessity of such events
and issues : whence Origen cries out, — Uavv ^myftm^Utt i TUuXh ufnnivm fit h»u, —
** Most admirable unto me seems the saying of Paul,—' There must be heresies
amongst you, that those who are approved may be manifest.' " Nor can any just
exception be hence taken against the gospel itself; for it doth not belong unto the
excellency or dignity of any thing to free itself from all opposition, but only to
preserve itself from being prevailed against, and to remain victorious; as the sacred
truths of Christ have done, and will do unto the end. Not a few, indeed, m these
evil days wherein we live, the ends of the world, and the difficulties with which
they are attended being come upon us, — persons ignorant of things past, and re-
gardless of things to come, in bondage to their lusts and pleasures, — are ready to
make use of the pretence of divisions and differences among Christians, to give up
themselves unto atheism, and indulge to their pleasures like the beasts that perish :
** Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die." ** Quid aliud inscribi pote-
rat sepulchro bo vis I" But, whatever they pretend to the contrary^ it may be
easily evinced that it is their personcU dislike of that holy obedience which the
gospel requireth, not the differences that are about the doctrines of it, which
alienates their minds from the truth. They will not, some of them, forego all
philosophical inquiries after the nature and causes of things here bdow ; they
know well enough that there was never any agreement amongst the wisest and
severest that at any time have been engaged in that disquisition, nor is it likely
that ever there will be so. And herdn they can countenance themselves with the
difficulty, obscurity, and importance of the things inquired after. But as for the
high and heavenly mysteries of the gospel, the least whereof is infinitely of more
importance than any thing that the utmost reach and comprebenfflon of human
wisdom can attain unto, they may be neglected and despised because there are
contentions about them I

" Hie nlgm mocus loliginlsy h»o est


The truth is, this is so far from any real ground for any such conclusion, that it

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} vLit&ij iafKMsibk tint ai^ man sboald beCeve llie tnttli of Christian religion
if he had not seen, or imglit not be informed, liiat auch ooBtention and difl^enceo
had enaaed in and about it; for that tiiey ri^ioold do lo is plainly and fre^ently
foretold in those saered orades of it, wfaex«af^ if any one be found to iUft, the vera-
city and authority ef die whole may jntUy be oaUed into qnestion. . if, therefore,
men wifl have a religion so absoiotely &cke aod easy, that, withoat laying ont of
their rational nbilitaes or exercising t2)e iMMilties of their tools about it, without
Ibregoiog of their ksts and pleasores, without care of mistakes and miscarriages,
they may be secnvefy wnqipped up in it, as it were^ ii^hether th^ wiil or no, I con-
ieas they must seeic for some other where they can find it; Christianity will yield
them no relief. Ood hath not proposed anacqnamtanee wHh the bleMed ooniem-
roeots of his gfary, mod of their own eternal oonditioo, nnto the worn of men, on
any sodi terms as that they idioiild not need, with «ll diKgence, to employ and ex-
ercise the facukies of thdr soals in the investigation of them, in the ase of the
BMans by him appenited for that pnrpese, seeing this is the <:k4tf€t$ md for whieh ,
he hath made ns those ssnls. And as for them who in sinoertty give i^ their
minds and conacienoes nnto his antfaority and gmdanee, he hath not leit^thea
withoni an tnfa&mU direction for soch a discharge of their own duty as is suffi-
cient to guide and lead them in the midst of aU difl^enoes, divisions, and opposi-
tions^ onto rest with himself; and the difficnltles which are oast npon any in their
inqmcing after troth, by the error and deviation of other men from ity are aU
suffieietttiy recompensed nnto them by the excellency and sweetness which they
find in the truth itself, when songfat ont with diligence, according to the mind of
Christ. And cme said not amiss of old, 'sSwifu r^ Wi/Ukmt IMv^m vmt Xft^rrnvtr/uip
msfi^m 0»fm rm mf XfM-nM^ yuA^imf-^*^ I dsre say he is the wisest Christian who hath
most diligentfy oonsidered the various differenoes that are in and about Christian*
ity,*' as being bnilt in the knowledge of the truth upon the best and most stable

To this end hath the Lord Jesus given us his holy word, a perfect and snre
revelation of aH that he would have us to believe or do in the worship of God.
This he oommnnds us diligently to attend unto, to stndy, search, and mquh^
after, tibat we m^ know his mind and do it. It is true, in tlieir inquh^ into it,
variona apprehensions concerning the sense and mftming of snndry things refealed
therein have be&llen some men in all ages; and Origen gives this as one occasion
of the difierenoee that were in those days amongst Christians: l»wwj saith h^ ^jm-
Xti0n0t9 )«Bf «p«f ItAJ^itmv WMH Mftm «'«tfv wt^rtuHM-mt tUm dli«*f Xiyp^ ri ytfUimi

mifims. Eh. iiL Coo. CeL cap. 1 ; — '* When many were converted nnto Christianity,
aomeof them variouslynnderstanding the holy Scr^ytnre, which they joioify believed,
it came to pass that heresy ensued." For this was the whole rule (^ fiuth and nnity
in those days: the means for securing of us in them imposed on us of late by the
Boimaaists was then not beard of nor thought of in the world. But, moreover, to
obviate aU danger that' might in this matter ensue, from the manifold weakness of
onr minds in apprehending spiritual thii^^ the Lord Jesns hath promised his
Holy Spiiat nnto aU them that beHeve in him and ask it of htm, to prevent their
Bustakea and miscarriageB in the study of his word, and to ** lead tiicm into afl that
tmtli" tiie knowledge whereof is necessary, that they may bdieve in him unto the
end, and Ewe unto him. And if they who diligently and conscientious, without
pr^udioes, corrupt ends or designs, in obedience to the conmand cf Christ, shall
inquire into the S or lp tar e s , to receive from thence the wkoU citjtei of their foith
and rule of their obedience^— and who, bdiaving hisptoonse, shaU pri^for hiaSpirity
and watt to receive him in and by the means af^posnted for that end, — may not be,
and are not thereby, secured tcook all such mistakes and errors as may disiiiterest
them in the promises of the gospel, I know not how we may be brooght unto any

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Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 22 of 67)