Andrew Thomson John Owen.

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'178 TO THE waAmnt,

certainty or assurance in the troths of Ood, or the everlasting consolation of onr
own souls. Neither, indeed, is the nature of man capable of any farther satisfac-
tion in or about these things, unless Ood should work continual mtradeSf or give
continually special revelations unto all individuals; which would utterly overthrow
the whole nature of that faith and obedience which he requires at our hands. But
once to suppose that such persons, through a defect of the means appointed by
Christ for tiie instruction and direction before mentioned, may everlastingly mis-
carry, is to cast an unspeakable reproach on the goodness, grace, and faathAilness
of God, and enough to discourage all men from inquiring after the truth. And
these things the reader will find farther cleared in the ensuing discourse, with a
discovery of the weakness, fiibeness, and insufficiency of those rules and reliefs
which are tendered unto us by the Romanists, in the lieu of them that are given
us by €k>d himself. Now, if this be the condition of things in Christian religion,
as, to any one that hath with smcerity consulted the Scripture, or considered the
goodness, grace, and wisdom of Cod, it must needs appear to be, it is manifest that
men's startling at it, or being offended upon the account of divisions and diffisrences
among them that make profession thereof, is nothing but a pretence to cloak and
hide their slotk and supine negligence, with their unwillingness to come up unto
the indispensable condition of learning the truth as in Jesus, — ^namely, obedience
unto his whole will and all his commands, so far as he is pleased to reveal them
unto us. With others they are but incentives unto that diligence and watchfulness
which the things themselves, in their nature high and arduous, and in their im-
portance of everlasting moment, require at your hands. Farther; on those who,
' by the means fore-mentioned, come to the knowledge of the truth, it is incumbent,
according as they are by God's providence called thereunto, and as they receive
ability from him for that purpose, to contend earnestly for it ; — nor is their so
doing any part of the evil that attends differences and divisions, but a means ap-
pointed by God himself for their cure and removal; provided, as the apostle speaks,
that they " strive or contend lawfully."

The will of €k>d must be done in the ways of his own appointment. Outward
force and violence, corporeal punishments, swords and f^tgots, as to any use in
things purely spiritual and religious, to impose them on the consciences of men,
are condemned in the Scripture^ by all the ancient or first writers of the church,
by sundry edicts and laws of the empire, and are contrary to the ven/ light of
recuon whereby we are men, and all the principles of it from whence mankind
consenteth and coalesceth into civil society. Explaining, declaring, proving, and
confirming the truth, convincing of gainsayers by the evidence of common prin-
ci{des on all hands assented unto, and right reason, with prayer and supplications
for success, attended with a conversation becoming the gospel we profess, is the
way sanctified by God unto the promotion of the truth, and the recovery of them
that are gone astray from it. Into this work, according as God hath imparted
of his gifts and Spirit unto them, some in most ages of the church have been
engaged ; and therein have not contracted any g^ilt of the evils of the con-
tentions and divisions in their days, but cleared themselves of them, and faith-
fully served the interest of those in their generation : and this justifies and war-
rants us in the pursuit of the same work, by the same means, in the same days
wherein we live. And when at any time men sleep in the n^lect of thdr duty,
the envious one will not be wanting to sow his tares in the field of the Lord:
which, as in the times and places wherein we live, it should quicken the diligence
and industry of those upon whom the care of the preservation of the truth is, by
the providence of God, in an especial manner devolved, and who have manifold
advantagpes for their encouragement in their undertaking ; so also it gives counte-
nance even to the meanest endeavours that in sincerity are employed in the same

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work by others in thdr more private capacity, — amongst which I hope the ensuing
brief discourse may, with impartial readers, find admittance. It is designed in
general for the defence and vindication of the tmth, and that truth which is pub-
licly professed in this nation, against the solicitation of it, and opposition made
unto it with more than ordinary yig^ilancy, and seeming hopes of prevalency; on
what grounds I know not.

This is done by those of the Roman church; who have given in themselves
as sad an instance of a degeneracy from the truth as ever the Ohrisdan world
had experience of. From insensible and almost imperceptible entrances into
deviations from the holy rule of the g^ospel, — countenanced by specious pretences
of piety and devotion, but really influenced by the corrupt lusts of ambition, love
of pre-emmence, and earthly-mindedness, in men ignorant or neglective of the
mystery and dmplicity of the gospel, — ^their apostasy hath been carried on by
various degprees, upon advantages given unto those that made the benefit of it
unto themselves, by political commodons and alterations, until, by sundry arti-
fices and sleights of Satan and men, it is grown unto that stated opposition
to the right ways of Qod which we b^old it come unto at this day. The great
Roman historian desires his reader, in the perusal of his discourses, to consider
and observe, ^ qum vita, qui mores fuerint: per quos viros, quibusqoe artibus,
domi militiffique, et partum et auctum imperium sit. Labente deinde paullatim
disciplina, velut desidentes primo mores sequatur animo ; deinde ut magis magisque
lapsi ant; tum ire co^rint prsecipites : donee ad hsBC tempera, qnibus nee vitia nos-
tra, nee remedia pati possumus, perventum est," [Liv. Pref.] ; — ** What was the
course of life, what were the manners of those men, both at home and abroad, by
whom the Roman empire was erected and enlarged ; as also how ancient disdpline
insensibly decaying, far different manners ensued, whose decay more and more in-
creamng, at length they began violently to decline, until we came unto these days
wherein we are able to bear neither our vices nor their remedies :" all which may be
as truly and justly spoken of the present Roman ecclesiastical estate. The first nders
and membm of liiat church, by their exemplary sanctity and suffering for the
truth, deservedly obtained great renown and reputation amongst the other churches
in the world ; but after a while the discipline of Christ decaying amongst them,
and the purity of his doctrine beginning to be corrupted, they insensibly fell from
their pristine glory, until at lengtii they precipitantly tumbled into that condition,
wherein, because they fear ths spiritual remedy would be their temparcU rutn,
they are resolved to iU>ide, be it never so desperate or deplorable. And hence also
it is, that of all the opposition that over the disciples of Christ had to contend
withal, to suffer under, or to witness against, that made unto the truth by the
Roman church hath proved the long^t, and been attended with the most dread-
ful consequents ; for it is not the work of any age, or of a few persons, to un-
ravel that web of falsehood and unrighteousness, which in a long tract of time
hath been cunningly woven, and closely compacted together. Besides, the heads
of this declension have prorided for their security, by intermixing their concerns
with the polity of many nations, and moulding the constitutions of their govern-
ments unto a subserviency to thdr interests and ends. But He is strong and
fiuthfU who, in his own way and time, will rescue his truth and worship from
being trampled on and defiled by them. In the meantime, that which renders
the errors of the fathers and sons of that church most pernicious unto the profes-
sors of Christianity is, that,— whether out of blind seal, rooted in that obstinacy
which men are usually given up unto who have refused to retain the truth in the
love and power of it, or from their being necessitated thereunto in their counsels
for the supportment and preservation of their present interests and secular advan-
tages, — they are not contented to embrace^ practise, and adhere unto those crooked

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180 TO 1HB BBiDSat

p^tha tluuk tfMj hftr» chotan to walk in^aikl to atftmpi th« ^wiag of others into
tiiem b; nek ways and meaaa aa the light of iialiHra» right veafoii« witbtho Sorip-
IW6| diraofe to be naai ia and aboni ^ tiung* of r^ligioA whioh relate to tho
wkids and aoi^ of nea ; baft alMi» tlMy baye pursued an unpoaition of th^ qqq-
•eptioBa aad praciioea ob othMr aiea bj fWce akd WHolwee^ uiitU tbe world in man j
places bath been made a stage of oppression, n^ine^ crueltjra a»d war^ and thajb
^R^ifeh ikty call their obnveb a very siMiablea of the sUt|gbt#red disoiples of C^uist.
So that lAmk the Uatwian aaid of tha old RomaMt in reference unto the OauU or
OfanbfiaBSyp^-^* Usqna ad naatraai mesor'uum^ Roroaai [aA«int] alk omnia virtuti sua
ptoMLeav, ena Gattb prtt saliite MA pro gWria «Qrtari»''-^we «Mj app]^
it la not tnith onlj^ bat Q«r temporil saife^ abc^ that w« are enforced to oontend
with then ahont. Aad whom thej oanaot reach wkh outward violencei tbej ea^
deavonr to load with ewrsee; and* by precipUalo censures and detennination, to
«ject them out ef Um liniilt af Ghnatianity, iwb to ths qHritiMl and eternal privi.
leges whiNwkh it k attandad* Andtheae thiaga malte all hopes of reoondliation
ftr the fiitiire^ aad of pveasnt Bioderatfan» languid and weak* aa all endeavours
after them hitherto have baea fhutleea. For whUsit tbej oontond that every pro-
pesalefthorctoreh^ every way aad mode in the worship of Qod that is in usage
aoiongst thaoH Is not only true aad righl» but of neceanty to be embraced and
snbmUted antflv a*d therefore impaaat them hgr «]i torta of penalties on the con^
aaiaaoea and praotioaa of aB Men; ia it aot «rideat that there can be no peace noc .
agveement in the world but what waale aad solitude^ arisiog Irom an extermina*
tion of penoaa otherwiae minded than thawaelvesi wiU produco? Some of them»
I coafeas, to sane th^ preaent auppoaed adwtatagefl, haiveof late declaimed about
nodaraiaon ia matters i( religion; and I wish tbi^ herein that may be auM«r€^
eadaaToorad by aoma^ wbioh^ ler ainiiler end%, la ^ftn^tpU^ pretended by otjbera.
For nuae own part» there are no anrt of men firom whose fraaie of spirit and ways
I shatt khanr a greater distance^ than theirs who aet therasehrea against that okv
deratioa towarda perwaaa differing froM then and ottoi^ m the result of their
theughtai upon an humble^ siaoere inTeBtigation of the truth aad ways of Christ
which hiBMelf and hia apoetlea eommeiid unto ua; or that vef^iao to consent unto
aaj way of recopffHiatbn «f disseatera wherein neleooa ia not offered unto the
•ammanda of €h4 aa stated in their eoneo&nioea. IM the Bomanto renounce
their prmcqifea about the dlf9oha$ aaoassily of th» sui^edaon of all persons unto
the pope^ in answer uato that groundleea and boundlesa authont^ which in thioga
aaered aad ciwl they aaaiga aato hinv with their reiolution of ia^poaing the dio-
tatea ef their ohuveh»^ par fiwet nefaa^" upon our eoaaoiencea^and we shall endea-
vours with all qaietaaaa aad modaratJOB^ to plead indth them about our remaining
diffaieneaa^ aad to joia with ^bem in the prolessioa of thoae important truths
wherein we are agreed. Bui whilai they propose ao Q/ih» Ibrma of reooncilia-
tiaQ bat oar abaohite submissiQa uato their pspal aiith<ffityk with our asaeat unto»
aad professkui of, these doctrines which wo are persuaded are contrary to the
Scripture^ wkh the seaaa of oathoBo antiquity^ dfiarogatory to the gV>ry of Qod^
and prejudicial to the sakation. of those by whom they are reeeiveda and our coi^
ourreskce with them in thoae ways of reUgieas wecAbip which themselves are fkUen
into by degveea they know not how» and which we betieve diiihonourable unto Gk)d,
aadpernieieustotfaasoukof men; I see no gronad of amy other peace wiU^ them
bat that ealy which we are boand to foUow with all men» in abstaining from mu-
tual va e tea ee , ptrfbnnlag all offices of CSiristion kyve, and in a qpeoal praying for
their r^ieataaco and coming to the acknowledgmeat of tibo truth.

Oa thkaocoant was it that aoaie while aiace^ upon the desire of aome firiends» I
undertook the esamhtttkm of adiacoarse eatitlad ** Fial Lux i" whoso author^ under
a pretenea of that BMdsaaliaaitWhtfihia indeed altogethM^inomatent with other

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prindpleB of his profession, endeavoured to insinuate a neoeauty of the reception of
Popery for the bringing of us to peace or agreement here, and the interesting of us
in any hope of eternal rest and peace hereafter. Whether that small labour were
seasonable or no, or whether any service were done therein to the interest of truth*
is left to the judgment of men unprejudiced. Not long after there was published
an epistle, pretending a reply unto that discourse, being indeed a mere flourish of
empty words, and a giving up of the cause wherdn the author of ** Fiat Lux" was
®DgAg^ M desperate and indefensible. However, I thought it not meet to let it
pass without some consideration ; partly that the design of that treatise, with
others of the like nature of late published amongst us, might be farther manifested;
and partly that the ends of moderation and peace being fixed between us, I might
farther try and examine whose and what principles are best suited unto their
pursuit and accompUshment. I have not, therefore, confined myself unto an
answer unto the epistle of the author of ** Hat Lux," — which indeed it doth not de-
serve, as I suppose, himself being judge, — ^but have only from it taken occasion to
discuss those principles and usages in reli^on wherdn the most important differ-
ences between Papists and Protestants do lie. For whereas the whole difference
between them and us is branched into two general heads, — the first concerning
those principles which they and we severally build our profession upon, and resolve
our faith into ; and the other respecting particular instances in doctrines of faith
and practice in religious worship, — I have laid hold of occasion to treat of them
both: of the former absolutely, and of the latter in things of most weight and
concernment. And because the judgment of €intiquitif is deservedly of moment
in these things, I have not only manifested it to lie plain and clear against the
Romanist, in instances sufficient to impeach thdr pretended infiiUibility, — which is
enough to dissolve that whole imaginary fitbrio that is built upon it and centres
in itr—but also in most of the material controversies that are between them and
us. These things, Christian reader, I thought meet to premise towards the pre-
vention of that offence which any may r^y take, or for corrupt ends pretend so
to do, at the diferencei in general that are amongst Christians, or those in eipe-
eicU which are between us and the Roman church ; as also to give an account of
the occasion, design, and end, of the enscdng consideration of them.

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I HAVE received your q)istle, and therein your excuse for your long
silence; which I willingly admit of, and could have been contented
it had been longer, so that you had been advantaged thereby to have
spoken any thing more to the purpose than I find you have now
done: '' Sat dto si sat bena'' Things of this nature are always done
soon enough when they are done weU enough, or as well as they are
capable of being done. But it is no small disappointment to find
&v0paxag &vri rov 3jj<rau/>oD, a firuitless flomrish of words, where a serious
debate of an important cause was expected and looked for. Nor is
it a justification of any man, when he has done a thing amiss, to say
he did it speedily, if he were no way necessitated so to do. You are
engaged in a cause, unto whose tolerable defence, ^' opus est Zephyris
et hirundine multa," Hor. Ep. vil 13 : though you cannot pretend so
short a time to be used in it which will not by many be esteemed more
than it deserves; for all time and pains taken to give countenance to
error is undoubtedly misspent Ov dwdfAtfid n xarce r^g AXfj^iiag, aXX*
\Mjnp rni iikn^iiag, s^th the great apostle [2 Cor. xiiL 8] ; — " We can do
nothing against the truth, but for the truth:'' which rule had you
observed, you might have spared your whole time and labour in this
busines& However, I shall be glad to find that you have given me
just cause to believe what you say, of your not seeing the "Animad-
versions*' on ydur book be/ore February. As I find you observant of
truth in your progress, or failing therein, so shall I judge of your vera-
city in this unlikely story; for every man gives the best measure of him-
se]£ And though I cannot see how possibly a man could spend much
time in trussing up such a fardel of tiifles and quibbles as your epistle

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is, yet it is somewhat strange, on the other side, that you shoiild not
in eight months' space — for so long were the "Animadversions"
made public before February — set eye on that which, being your
own especial concernment, was, to my knowledge, in the hands of
many of your party. To deal friendly with you, " Nolim cseterarum
rerum te socordem eodem modo." Yea, I doubt not but you use
more diligence in your other affidro; though in general the matter
in debate between us seems to be your principal concernment But
now you have seen that discourse, and, as you inform me, "have
read it over;" which I believe, and take not only upon the same
score of pres^it trust) but upon the evidence also which you give
unto your assertion, by your careful avoiding to take any farther
notice of the things that you found too diflBcult for you to reply unto.
For any impartial reader, that shall seriously consider the " Anim-
adversions" with your epistle, will quickly find that the main artifice
wherein you confide is a preteaoe of saying somewhat in general,
whilst you pass over the things of most importance, and which most
press the cause you defend, with a perpetual silence: these you turn.
boaif and £iJl upon the person of the author of the "Animadver-
sions." If ever you debated this procedure with yourself bad I been
present with you when you said with him in the poet, " Dubius sara^
quid &ciam — Tene relinquam an rem?" I should have replied with
him, "Me sodes;" but you were otherwise minded, and are gone
beficore, —

_ (( Ego (ui oonftendaro dnmm est
Ciim Tictore) sequar." Hor. Sat L 9, 42.

I will follow you with what patience I can, and make the best use I
am able of what offers itself in your discoursa

Two reasons, I confess, you add why you chose "vadimomum
deeerere," and not reply to the "Animadversions;" which, to deal
plainly with you, give me very little satisfitction. The first of them,
you say, is, "because to do so would be contrary to the very end and
design of ' Fiat Lux ;'" which shall immediately be aHundored. The
other is, "the threats which I have given you, that^ if yon dare to
write again, I will make you know what mannor of man I ank"
Sir, though it seems you dare not reply to my book, yet you dare
do that whidi is mudi worse; you dare write palpable untrutb^ and
such as yourself know to be so, as others also who have read those
papers. By such things as iheae^ with sober and ingCTUous p^rscms,
you cannot but much prejudice the interest you desir^ to promote, as
well as in yourself you wrong your comcienee and ruin your repu-
iation. Besides, all advantage sprii^^ing from untruth is fEuling;
neither will it admit of any covering but of its own kind, which can
never be so increased but that it will reun through. Only, I confess

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tkus (ar you have promoied toot design, that you have given a new
and cogent instance of the ^nU (Mending oantrovereiee in rdigion,
which you declaim about in your " Fiat;'* which yet is such as it
had been your duty to avoid. What it is thai you make use of to
give countenance unto this fiction (for '* malum semper habitat in
fdieno fundo'"), I shall have occasion aft^ward to consider. For the
present I leave you to the discipline of your own thoi^hts: —

M Prinm est hso vltio^ qiiod ae

Jndioc^ Bcrao noeens absohitiir." Jot. ziii 2.

And I tiie rather mind you of your failure at this entrance of our
discourse, that I may only remit your thoughts unto this stricture
when the like occasion offers itself; whidi I fear it will do not unfre*
quently. But, sir, it will be no advantage unto me or you to contend
for the truth which we profess, if in the meantime we am regardless
of the obs^ranoe of truth in our own hearts and spirits.

Two principal heads, the discourse whidi you premise imto the
particular consideration of the ** Animadversions^" is reducible unto:
the first whereof is your endeavour to manifest " that I understood
not the design and end of ' Fiat Lux,' a discourse'' (as you modestly
testify) " hard to deal with, and impossible to confute;" the other,
your inquiry after the author of the " Animadversions," with your
attempt to prove him one in such a conditicm as you may possibly
hope to obtain more advantage from than you can do by endeavour-
ing the refutation of his book. Some other occasional passages there
are in it also, which, as th^ deserve, shall be considered. Unto these
two general heads I shall give you at present a candid return, and
leave you, when you are free firom flies, to make what use of it you

The design of " Fiat Lux" I took to be the promotion of the
papal interest; and the whole of it, in the relation of its parts unto
one another, and the general aid aimed at in it, to be a persuasive
induction unto the embracement of the present Roman feith and
religion. The means insisted on for this end I conceived principally
to be these: — I. A declaration of the evils that attend differences in
relig^n, and disputes about it ; 2. Of the good of union, peace, love^
and concord among Christians; 3. Of the impossibility of obtaining
this good by any other wajrs or means but only by an embracement
of the Roman Catholic futh and profession, with a submission to the
dedding power and authority of the pope or your church; 4 A de-
fence and illustration of some especial parts of the Roman religion,
most commonly by Protestants excepted against This was my mis-
take; unto this mistake I acknowledge my whole discourse was suited.
In the same mistake are all the persons in England that ever I
heard q>eak any thing of that discourse, of what persuasion in reli-

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gion soever they were. And Aristotle thought it worth while to
remember out of Hesiod, Moral Nicom. lib. viL, thaty —

Amsi fnfiuitif^if. Hemod. Efy. »mi il/t.

That report which so many consent in is not altogether vain. But
yet, lest this should not satisfy you, I shaU mind you of one who is
with you, — ToXXoir &¥Td^icg iXXuv, — of as much esteem, it may be, as
all the rest; and that is yourself, You are yourself in the same misr
take : you know well enough that this was your end, this your design,
these the means of your pursuing it; and you acknowledge them im-
mediately so to have been, as we shall see in the consideration of the
evidence you tender to evince that mistake in me which you surmise.

First, You tell me, p. 4, " that I mistake the drift and design of
' Fiat Lux," whilst I take that as absolutely spoken which is only
said upon an hypothesis of our present condition here in England."'
This were a grand mistake, indeed, that I should look on any thing
proposed as an expedient for the ending of differences about religion,
without a supposition of differences about religion ! But how do you
prove that I fell into such a mistake? I plainly and openly acknow-
ledge that such differences there are; all my discourse proceeds on

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 23 of 67)