Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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proud figment, and gave up himself to the sole grace and mercy of
God in Jesus Christ, on whose purchase of heaven for him he alone
relied. " Toto pectore in Deum revolutus sic ratiocinabatm:," saith
the renowned Thuanus, Hist. lib. xxl : " se quidem indignum esse qui
propriis mentis regnum coelorum obtineret; sed Dominum Deum
suum, qui illud duplici jure obtinuit, — et Putris haareditate^ et passioniei

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inerito, — altero contentum esse, alteram sibi donare, ex cujns done
illud sibi merito vindicet, h&cque fiducia fretus minime confandatur;
neque enim oleum misericordise, nisi in vase fidudae poni Hanc
hominis fiduciam esse a se defidentis et innitentis Domino sao, —
alioqui propriis meritis fidere non fidei esse, sed perfidise, — ^peccata
remitti per Dei indulgentiam, ideoqne credere nos debere, peccata
deleri non posse, nisi ab eo cui soli peccavimns, et in quem peccatum
non cadit, per quem solum nobis peccata condonantur." Words
worthy of a lasting memory; which they will not fail of where they
are recorded ! " Casting himself," saith that excellent historian,
" with his whole soul upon (Jod, he thus reasoned : That for his
part he was, on the account of any merits of his own, unworthy to
obtain the kingdom of heaven; but his Lord and Ood, who hath a
double right unto it, — one by inheritance of his Father, the other by
the merit of his own passion, — contented himself with the one, granted
the other unto him : by whose grant he rightly (or deservedly) laid
claim thereunto; and, resting in this faith or confidence, he was not
confounded; for the oil of mercy is not poured but into the vessel of
faith. This is the fiedth or confidence of a man fainting or despairing
in himself, and resting on his Lord, — ^and otherwise to trust to our
own merits is not an act of faith, but of infidelity or perfidiousness, —
that sins are forgiven by the mercy of God; and that therefore we
ought to believe that sins cannot be blotted out or forgiven but by
him against whom we have sinned, who sinneth not, and by whom
alone our sins are pardoned'' This, sir, is the faith of Protestants in
reference unto the merit of works, which that wise and mighty em-
peror, after all his military actings against them, found the only safe
anchor for his soul " in extremis," his only relief against crying out,

with Hadrian, —

** AninraU Tagula, blandnla^
Hospes, oomeaque oorporiSy
Qose nunc abibis in loca ?
PalUdola, firigida, nndula,
Neo, Qt Boles^ dabis Joooa"

— the only antidote against despair, the only stay of a soul when
once entering the lists of eternity. And I am persuaded that many
of you fix on the same principles as to your hope and expectation of
life and immortality. And to what purpose, I pray you, do you
trouble the world with an opinion^ wherein you can find no benefity
when, if true, you should principally expect to be relieved and sup-
ported by it? But he that looks to find solid peace and consolation
in this world, or a blessed entrance into another, on any other grounds
than those expressed by that dying emperor, will find himself de-
ceived. Sir, you will one day find that our ovm works or merits,
purgatory, the sufi&age of your church, or any parts of it, when we

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are dead, the surplusage of the works or merits of other sinners, are
pitiful things to come into competition with the blood of Christ and
pardoning mercy in him. I confess the inquiaitioiiif made a shift to
destroy Constantine, who was cc^fessor to the emperor, and assisted
him unto his departure. And king Philip took cajre that his son
Charles should not live in the faith wherein his father Charles died;
whereby merit, or our own righteousness, prevailed at court But, as
I said, I am persuaded that when many of you are in cold blood, and
think more d Qod than of Protestants^ and of your last account than
of your present arguments, you begin to beheve that lioercy and the
righteousness of Christ will be a better fleOy as to your own particu-
lar concernments, a4; the last day. Seeing, therefore, that Protestants
teach the necessity of good works, upon the cogent principles I
minded you of in my '^Animadversions^" I suppose it might not be
amiss in you to surcease from troubling them about their merit
which few of you are agreed about, and which, as I woiikl willingly
hc^, none of you dare trust unto. Tou have, I suppose, been
minded before now of the conclusion made in this miatter by your
great champion Bellarmine, lib* v., De Justificat, cap. 7. " Propter,"
saith he, '^ incertitudinem propriee justitise, et periculum ioanis
glorifie, tutissimum est, fiduciam totam in sola Dei misericcordia et
benignitate reponere " — "Because of the uncertainty of our own
righteousness, and the darker of vsun-glory, it is the safest course to
place all our confidence in the alone mercy and benignity of God:"
wherem, if I mistake not, he disclaimeth all that he had subtilely dis-
puted before about the merit of worka And he appears to have been
in good earnest in this conclusion, seeing he made such use of it
himself, in particular, at the close of all his disputes and days; pray-
ing, in his last will and testament, that God would deal with him,
not as "flestimator meriti," "a judge of his merit;" but "laigitor
veniflB," "a merciful pardoner;" Vit BelL per Sylvestr. a Pet San.
Impresa Antuerpise, 1631. And why is this the safest course? Cer-
tamly it must be because God hath appointed it and revealed it so
to be; for on no other ground can any course towards heaven be ac-
counted safe. And if this be the way of his appointment, that we
should trust to his mercy alone in Christ Jesus, — let them that wUl
be so minded, notwithstanding all persuasions to the contrary, as to
trust to their o\m merit, take heed lest they find, when it is too late,
that they have steered a course not so safe as they expected. And
so I desire your excuse for this diversion, the design of it being only
to discover one reason of your failing m morality, in afl&rming me to
have said that which you knew well enough I did not, — ^which is this,
that you stood in a dippery place as to the point of faith which you
were asserting, being not instructed how to speak constantly and

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evenly unto it; and to take joti off from that vain confidence ifrhich
this proud opinion of the merit of works is apt to ingenerate in jou :
whose first inventors, I fear, did uot sufficiently consider with whom
they had to do ; before whom sinners appearing in their own strength
and righteousness will one day cry, '' Who amongst us shall dwell
with devouring fire? who amongst us shall inhabit with everlasting
burnings?" nor the purity, perfection, and severity of his fiery law,
judging, condemning, cursrog every sinner for every sin, without the
least intimation of mercy or compassion. If you would but seriously
consider how impossible it is for any man to know all his seoret sins,
or to make compensation to Qod for the least of them that he doth
know, and that the very best of his works come short of that uni-
versal perfection which is required in them, so that he dares not put
the issue of his eternal condition upon any one of them singly, though
all the rest of his Ufe diould be put into everlasting oblivion; and
widial* would diligently inquire into the end of God in giving his Son
to die for sinners, with the mystery of his love and grace therein, the
liature of the new covenant, tiie importance of the promises thereof,
ihe weight that is laid in Scripture on ihe righteousness and blood
of Christ, with the redemption that is purchased thereby; or to the
whole work of our salvation, and the peremptory exclusion of the
merit of our works by Paul from our justification before Qod ;— I am
persuaded you would find another manner of rest and peace unto
your soul than all your own works, and your other pretended sup-
plements of them, or reliefs against th^ defects, are able to supply
you withal. And this I hope you will not be offended at, that I have
thus occasionally minded you o£


A defence of the second chapter of the " Animadversions" — ^Principles of ** Fiat
Lux^' re-examined— Of our receiving the gospel from Rome — Our abode
with them from whom we received it.

In the same page you proceed to the consideration of my second
chapter, and therein of liie principles which I gathered out of your
'^ Fiat Lux,'" and which I affirmed to run through and to animate
your whole discourse, and to be the foundation on which your super-
structure is built Concerning them all you say, p. 21, *' That in
Uie sense the w<Mrds do either naturally make out, or in which I
understand them, of all the whole you can hardly own any ona^
Pray, sir, remember that I never pretended to set down your wordsf

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but to express your sense in my own. And if I do not make it
appear that there is no one of the principles mentioned which you
have not, in the sense by me declared, affirmed and asserted, I will
be contented to be thought to have done you some wrong, and my-
self much more, for want of attending unto that rule of truth which
I am compelled so often to desire you to give up yourself unto the
conduct of.

The first principle imputed unto your " Fiat Lux" is, " that we
received the gospel first from Rome." To which you say, " We, that
is, we Englishmen, received it first from thence." Well, then, this
is one principle of the ten; this you own, and seek to defend. If you
do so in reference unto any other, what will become of your " hardly
one that you can own?" You have already one foot over the limits
which you have newly prescribed yourself, and we shall find you
utterly forsaking of them by-and-by. For the present you proceed
unto the defence of this principle, and say, ^' But against this you
reply that we received it not first from Rome, but by Joseph of
Arimathea from Palestine ; as ' Fiat Lux ' himself acknowledgeth. Sir,
if ' Fiat Lux' say both these things, he cannot mean them in your
&l8e, contradictory sense, but in his own true one. We, that is we
Englishmen, the now actual inhabitants of this land, and progeny of
the Saxons, received first our gospel and Christendom fix)m Rome,
though the Britons that inhabited the land before, differing as much
from us as antipodes, had some of them been christened long before
us; and yet the Christendom that prevailed and lasted among the
Britons, even they also, as well as we, bad it fix)m Rome too. Mark
this likewise." This matter must be called over again afterward;
and therefore I shall here be the more brief upon it In my first
answer, I showed you not only that your position was not true, but
also, that on supposition it were so, it would not in the least advance
your intention. Here you acknowledge that the Britons at first
received not the gospel from Rome, but reply two things: — First,
^' That belongs not unto us Englishmen or Saxons." To which I
shall now only say, that if, because the Britons have been conquered,
we, who are now the inhabitants of Britain, may not be thought to
have received the gospel from them from whom the Britons at first
received it, se^g it was never utterly extinct in Britain fix)m its first
plantation, then much less can the present inhabitants of the city of
Rome, which hath been conquered oftener than Britain, be thought
to have received the gospel from them by whom it was first delivered
unto the old Romans: for though I confess that the Saxons, Jutes,
and Angles made great havoc of the ancient Britons in some parts
of this island, yet was it not comparable unto that which was made
at Rome; which at length Totilas, after it had been taken and sacked

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more than once before, marching out of it against Belisarius, left as
desolate as a wilderness, without one living soul to inhabit it. ^^ Ipse
(Totilas) cum suarum copiarum parte progreditur, Romanos qui sena-
torii erant ordinis secum trahens; eiik omni urbanorum multitudine
vel virilis muliebrisque sexus, et pueris in Campanise agros missis:
ita ut BomsB nemo hominum restaret, sed vasta ibi esset solitude/'
saith Procopius, Hist. GotL l 3. Concerning which action, saith
Sigonius de Imper. Ocdd. lib. xix.: — " Urbs Romae, incolis omnibus
amotis, prorsus est destituta: memorandum inter pauca exempla
humanse fortune ludibrium, ac spectaculum ipsis etiam hostibus,
quanquam ab omni humanitate remotissimis, miserandum;" — '' The
city of Rome, all its inhabitants being removed, was wholly desolate,
an imparalleled reproach of human condition, and a spectacle of pity
to the very enemies, though most remote from all humanity!" The
next inhabitants of it were a mixture of Greeks, Thracians, and other
nations, brought in by Belisariu& Tou may go now and reproach
the Britons, if you please, with their being conquered by the Saxona
In the meantime, pray give me a reason why the present inhabitants
of England may not date their reception of Christianity from the first
planting of it in this island, as well as you suppose the present inha«
bitants of Rome may do theirs from the time wherein it was first
preached unto the old Romans? But you except again, " That the
Christendom that prevailed and lasted among the Britons before the
coming of the Saxons, came from Rome too."' You bid me mark that
likewise. I do consider what you say, and desire you to prove it;
wherein yet I will not be very urgent, because I will not put you
upon impossibilities: and your incompetency to give at least colour
imto this remarkable assertion shall be discovered in our farther pro-
gressw For the present I shall only mind you, that the Christianity
which prevailed in Britain was that which continued among the Bri-
tons in Wales, after the conquest of these parts of the island by the
Saxons: and that that came not from Rome is manifest from the
customs which they observed and insisted on, differing from those of
Rome, and your reftisal to admit those of that church; the story
whereof you have in Beda, lib. ii cap. 2. I know it may be ration-
ally replied that Rome might, after the time of the first preaching
of the gospel: in Britain, have invented many new customs which
might be strange unto the Britons at the coming of Austin; for in-
deed so they have done: but this exception will here take no place;
for the customs the British church adhered unto were such as, hav-
ing their rise and occasion in the east, were never admitted at Rome,
and so from thence could not be tran-smxtted hither.

But there were also other exceptions put in unto your appHcation
pf this principle unto your purpose, upon supposition that there were

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any truth in the matter of fact aaaerted by you; for, suppose that
those who from beyond seas first preached the gospel to the Saxons
came from Borne, yea^ were sent by the biabop, or, if you please, the
pope of Borne, I aisk, whether it was his religion or the religion of
Jesos Ohrist that they brought with them ? Did the pope first find
it out ? or did they puUish it in the name of the pope? Tou say,
'' It was the pope's religion, not invented but professed by him, and
firom him derived unto us by his m]Bsioner&'' Well, and what more?
for all this was before supposed in my inquiiy, and made the foun*
dation of that which we sought feirther after. I supposed the pope
professed tiie religion which he sent; and ycmr courtly expression,
'* Derived unto us by his missioners,'' is but the same in sense and
meaning with my homely {dirase, " They that preached it were sent
by him." On this I inquire, whether it were to be esteemed his re-
ligion or no, — ^that is, any more his than it is the religion of every
one that prof easeth it ? or did those that were sent baptize in hk
name, or teach us that the pope was crucified for ns? You answer,
that ** he sent them to preadb." I see

— " Nil opus est t©
Ctnctmngi : qTiendun yoIo Tisere non Ubi notvm;** Hot. Sat. i 9, 16.

you understand not what I inquire after. But if that be all you have
to say, as it was before supposed, so what matter is it, I pray, who
planted, and who watered ? it was the religion of Christ that was
preached, and God that '' gave the increase.'' Christ liveth still, his
word abideth still, but the planters and waterers are dead long ago.
Ag^: what though we received the gospel from Bome? doth it
therefore follow that we received all the doctrines of the present
chvrch of Rome at the same time ? Pope Gregory knew little of the
present Boman doctrine about the pope of Bome. What was broadied
of it he condemned in another (even John of Constantinople, who
fasted [lusted?] for a kind of poped(»n),'and professed himself an
obedient servant to his good lord the empercH*. Manyagood doctrine
hath been lost at Bome since those old days, and many a new fancy
brnarhprl '>M many a tradition of men taught for a doctrine of truth.

«<Hip|)ol7te, ne est; lliesei Toltns amo,
nios prions quoB tolit qiKmdam pner,
Quum prima pvM terba signapet geaaa^
Etora flayus teneca tingebat rubor."

We love the draich of Bome as it was in its purity and integrity, in
the days of her youth and chastity, before she was deflowered by false
worship; but what is that to the present Boman carnal confederacy?
If, then, any in this nadon did receive their religion firom Bome, — as
tnany of the Saxons had Chri^ianity declared unto them by some

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sent from Borne for that purpose, — ^yet it doth not at all follow that
they received the present religicm of Rome.

M Hd mihi quails !— — quantum mutatur ab Ola," Yiig. Mn. iL 274,

which of old she professed !

« Hulta dies Tariasque labor mutabiliB »▼!,
Bettulit in pejus." JEn. zL 426.

And this sad alteration, declension, and change, we may bewail in
her, as the prophet did the like apostasy in the church of the Jews
of old: " How is the faithful city become an .harlot ! it was full of
judgment ; righteousness lodged in it ; but now murderera Thy silver
is become dross, thy wine mixed with water." He admires that it
should be so; was not ignorant how it became so: no more are others
in reference unto your apostasy.

And what if we had received from you, or by your means, the re-
ligion that is now {urofessed at Rome, I mean the whole of it, yet we
might have received that with it, — namely, the Bible, — ^which would
have made it our duty to examine, try, and reject any thing in it for
which we saw fiom thence just cause so to do, unless we should be
condemned for that tor which the Bereans are so highly commended.
So that neither is your position true, nw, if it were so, would it at all
advantage your pretension&

I added, also, " Did not the gospel come from another place to Rome,
as .wdUi as to us? or was it first preached there ? " This you have culled
out, as supposing yourself able to say something unto it; and what is
it ? " Properly speaking, it came not so to Rome as it came to us;
for one of the twelve fountains, nay, two of the thirteen, and those
the largest and greatest, were transferred to Rome ; which they watered
with their blood. We had never any such standing founttun of our
Christian religion here, but only a stream derived unto us from
thence." It is the hard hap, it seems, of England, to daim any pri-
vilege or reputation that may stand in the way of some men's designa
No apostle nor apostoUoal person must be allowed to preach the
gospel unto us, lest we should perk up into competition with Rome.
But though Rome, it seems, must always be excepted, yet I hope
you do not in general conclude our condition beneath tiiat of any
place where the gospel at first was preached, by one or two apostles,
so as to cry, *' Properly speaking, it came not to us at alL" What
think you of Jeruaedem, where Christ himself and his, apostles, all of
them^ preached the gospel? or what think you of Capernaum, that
was " lifted up to heaven," in the privilege of tlie means of light
granted for a while unto them? Do you think our condition wors<j
than theirs? The two fountains you mentioned were opened at
Antioch in Syria, as well as at other places, before they conveyed

VOL. XIV. 14

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one drop of their treasures to Rome; which whether one of them
ever did by his personal presence, is very questionable. And by this
rule of yoursy though England may not, yet every place where St
Peter and St Paul preached the gospel may, contend with Rome as
to this privilege. And what will you then get by your triumphing
over us ? " Non vides id manticse quod in tergo est" When men are
intent upon a supposed advantage, they oftentimes overlook real in-
conveniences that lie ready to seize upon them ; as it befalls you more
than onca Besides, there is nothing in the world more obscure than
by whom, or what means, the gospel was first preached at Rome.
By St Paul it is certain it was not; for before ever he came thither
there was a great number converted to the fedth, as appears from his
epistle, written about the fourteenth year of Claudius, and the fifty-
third of Christ. Nor yet by Peter: for, not at present to insist on
the great imcertainty whether ever he was there or no, which shall
afterward be spoken unto, there is nothing more certain than that,
about the sixth year of Claudius, and forty-fifth of Christ, be was
at Antioch, Gal ii. (Baronius makes the third of Claudius and the
forty-fifth of Christ to contemporize, but upon a mistake) ; and some
say he abode there a good while, sundry yeai^, and that upon as
good authority as any is produced for his coming to Rome. But it
is generally granted that there was a chmrch founded at Rome that
year, but by whom, ^9jXoy ^avrl TXi)y ^ rp 0cp (as Socrates said of
the preference of the condition of the living or dead), — " is known to
God alone, of mortal men not to any." ^' Jam sumus ergo pares."
For, to confess the truth unto you, I know not certainly who first
preached the gospd in Britain: some say Peter, some Paul, some
Simon Zelotes, most Joseph of Arimathea, as I have elsewhere
showed, by whom certainly I know not; but some one it was, or
more, whom God sent upon his errand, and with his message.^ No
more do you know who preached it first at Rome, though in general
it appears that some of them at least were of the circumcision ; whence
the very first oonverts of that church were variously minded about
the observation of Mosaieal rites and ceremonies. And I doubt not
but God, in his infinitely holy wisdom and providence, left the springs
of Christian religion, as to matter of £EU3t, in the first introductions of
it into the nations of the world, in so much darkness as to the know-
ledge of aftertimes, to obviate those towering thoughts of j»re-emi-
nency which he foresaw that some men from external advantages
would entertain, to the no small prgudioe of the simplicity erf the
gospel, and ruin of Christian humility. As fiur as appears from story,
the gospel was preached in England before any church was founded at
Rome. It was so, saith Gildas, *' Summo tempoxe Tiberii Csesari%"

^ See note, page 96.

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— ^that 18, " extremo," about the end of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
who died in the thirty-ninth year of Christ, five or six years at least
before the foundations of the Roman church were laid ; xa) ravra fih
dii ravra. These things we must speak unto, because you suppose
ihem of importance unto your cause.

The second assertion ascribed unto your " Fiat" in the " Anim-
adversions" is, *' That whence and from whom we first received our
religion, there and with them we must abide therein ; to them we
must repair for guidance; and return to their rule and conduct, if
we have departed from thena." To which you now say, " This prin-
ciple, as it is never delivered by ^ Fiat Lux,' though you put it upon
me, so is it, in the latitude it carries, and wherein you understand
it, absolutely feJse, never thought of by me, and indeed impossible;
for how can we abide mth them in any truth, who may not, per-

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 26 of 67)