Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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seditions, they made way for others, on the same principles, to break
oflf seditiously from themselves? — so did Celsus charge the Jews and
Christians; telling the Jews that by their seditious departure from
the common worship and religion of the world they made way for
the Christians, a branch of themselves, to cast off them and their
worship in like manner, and to set up for themselves; and, following
on his objection, he applies it to the Christians, that they, departing
from the Jews, had broached principles for others to improve into a
departure from them: which is the sum of most that is pleaded, with
any fair pretence, by our author against Protestanta Doth he insist
upon the divisions of the Protestants, and, to make it evident that
he speaks knowingly, boast that he is acquainted with their persons,
and hath read the books of all sorts amongst them? — so doth Celsus
deal with the Christians, reproaching them with their divisions, dis-
cords, mutual animosities, dLsputes about Qod and his worship, boast-
ing that he had debated the matter with them, and read their books
of all sorta Hath he gathered a rhapsody of insignificant words,
at least as by him put tc^ether, out of the books of the Quakers, to
reproach Protestants with their divisions? — so did Celsus out of the
books and writings of the Gnostics, Ebionites, and Yalentiniana
Doth he bring in Protestants pleading against the sects that are
fallen from them, and these pleading against them, justifying the

' The earliest aatlunr who is known to haTO written against Christianity, and among
the ablest of its opponents. He is called bj Origen an Epicurean, thong^i some of his
Tiews haTe a greater affinity with Platonism. He floorished during the latter half of
the second century. His work against Christianity was entitled Aiyt *AXnfti$ i his
aprgoments asBome the historical verity of reTe]ation.—£i>i

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protestants agaubsfc tihem, but at length equally rejecting tliem all? —
60 dealt Celstts with the Jews^ Christians, and those that had fallen
into singular opinions of their own. Dotii he manage the argum^its
of the Jews against Christ, to intimate that we cannot well by Scrip-
ture prove him to be so? — ^ihe very same thing did Celsus, almost
in the veiy words here nsed. Doth he declaim openly about the
obscurity of divine things, the nature of God, the works of creation
and providence, that we are not like to be delivered from it by books
of poems, stories, plain letters? — so doth Celsus. Doth he insist on
the uncertainty of our knowing the Scripture to be from God, the
difficulty of understanding it^ its insufficiency to end men's differ-
ences about reUgion and t^ wordup of God?— the same doth Celsus
at large^ pleading the cause of Paganism against Christianity. Doth
our author plead, that where and frt>m whom men had their re-
Ugion of old, there and with them they ought to abide, or to re*
turn unto them? — ^the same doth Cdsus, and that with pretences
&r more specious than those of our author. Doth he plead the
quietness of all tilings in the world, the peace, the plenty, love,
union, tliat were in the days before Protestants b^an to tarouUe all,
as he supposeth, about religion? — the same cotubo steers Celsus, in
his contending against Christians in general Is there intimated by
our author a decay of devotion and reverence to religious things,
temples, etc.? — Celsus is large on this particular: the relinquishment
of temples, discouragement of priests in their daily sacrifices and
heavenly contemplations, with o&bt votaiies; contempt of holy altars,
images, and statues of worthies deceased, all heaven-bred ceremonies
and comely worship, by the means of ChristianB, he expatiates upon.
Doth he profess love and compassion to his countrymen, to draw
them off from their folly, to have been the cause of hk writing? — so
doth Celsus. Doth he deride and scoff at the first reformers, with
no less witty and biting sarcasms than those wherewiiii Aristophanes
jeeaced Socrates on tiie stage?— Oekus deals no otherwise with the
first propagators of Christiaaity. Hath he isken pains to palliate
and put new glosses and interpretations upon those opmions and
practices in his religion which seem most obnoxious to exception? —
the same woik did Cdbus undertake, in referenoe to his Pc^an
theology and worship. And in sundiy other things may the parallel
be traced; so that I may truly say, I cannot obewre any thing of
moment or impoEtanc^ oi the nature of a general head or principle,
in this whole disoourse made use of against Protestants, but that the
same wasused,a8byctiieiBof okl,8oinpeirticQlar byCelsus, against
the whole profession of Christianity. I wMl ncA be so injurious to
our author as once to surmise that he took either aim or assistance
in his work from so bitter a professed enemy of Christ Jesus, and the
religion by Hm revealed; yet b^ must^givetfe leave to reckon this-

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znnxLmt hat lux. 17

eoixietdeBoe of ftrgumentatioii lietweeu tkem amoi^ odier imtaaacot
that may be given where a sunilitude of cause hath prodnced a great
likeness, if not identity, in the reasoningB of ingenious men. I could
not satisfy myself without remarking this paralld : and, perhaps^ much
more ne€^ not to be added to satisfy an unprejudioed reader in or to
our whole business; for if he be one that is unwilling to forego his
Christianity, when he shall see that the arguments tbtt are used to
draw him from his Protestanqr are the Tery nme, in general, that
wise men of old made use of to subvert that which he is resolyed to
deave unto, he needs XM>t much deliberation with himself what to
do or say in this case, or be solicitous what he ehall anvwer, when he
is earnestly estreated to suffer himself to be deceived.

Of the pretences before mentioned, some, with their genuine in*
ferences, axe the main principles of this whole discourse. And see-
ing they bear the weight of dl the pleas, reasonings, and peisuaaons
that are drawn from them, which can have no fSaorther real strength
and efficacy than what is firom them oommunicated unto ihem, I
shall present tihem in one view to the reader, that be lose not him*
self in the maze of wards wherewith our author endeavours to lead
him up and down, still out of his way, and that he may make a dear
and distinct judgment of what is tendered to prevail upon him to
desert that profession of religion wherein he is engaged. For as I
dare not attempt to deoeive any man, thou^ in matters incompar*
ably of less moment than that treated about; so I hope no man can
jusUy be ofifended,if in this I warn him to take heed to himself that
he be not deceived. And they are these that follow: —

JL '' Tliat we, in theae nations^ first received the Christian religion
from Bome, by .the mission and authority oi the pope.^'

IL " That whence and firom whom we first received our rel%ion,
there and with them we ought to abide; to them we must repair
for guidance in all our ooncemmeots in it; and speedily return to
their rule and conduct, if we have departed fix>m them.^

III. '' That the Soman profession of religion and practice in the
worship of Qod is every way the same as it was when we first re-
ceived our religion from thence; nor can ever otherwise be."

lY. ^ That all things, as to religion, were quiet and in peace, all
men in imion and at agreement amongst themselves in the worship
of Qod, according to the mind of Christ, before the relinquishment of
the Koman see by our fore&thers.'^

V. ** That the first reformers ware the most of them sorry, con-
temptible persons, whose errors were prc^agated l^ indirect meani^
and entertained for sinister ends.'^

YL ^ That our departure from Rome hath been the cause of all
our evils, and particularly of all those divisions whidi are at this day


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found amongst the Protestants, and which have been ever since the

VII. " That we have no remedy of our evils, no means of ending
our differences, but by a return unto the rule of the Boman see/'

VIII. "The Scripture, upon sundry accounts, is insufficient to
settle us in the truth of rdigion, or to bring us to an agreement
amongst ourselves ; seeing it is, — 1. Not to be known to be the word
of God but by the testimony of the Boman church; 2. Cannot be
well translated into our vulgar language; 3. Is in itself obscure;
and, 4. We have none to determine of the sense of it''

IX. " That the pope is a good man, one that seeks nothing but our
good, that never did us harm, and hath the care and inspection of us
committed unto him by Christ"

X. " That the devotion of the Catholics far transcends that of Pro-
testants, nor is their doctrine or worship liable to any just exception."

I suj^ose our author will not deny these to be the principal nerves
and sinews of his oration; nor complain I have done him the least
ii^ury in this representation of them, or that any thing of import-
ance unto his advantage, by himself insisted on, is here omitted. He
that runs and reads, if he observe any thing that lies before him,
besides handsome words and ingenious diversions, will consent that
here lies the substance of what is offered unto him. I shall not need,
then, to tire the reader and myself with transcriptions of those many
words from the several parts of his discourse, wherein these principles
are laid down and insinuated, or gilded over, as things on all h^mds
granted. Besides, so far as tiiey are interwoven with other reason-
ings, they wiU fall again under our consideration in the several places
where they are used and improved. If all these principles, upon
examination, be found good, true, firm, and stable, it is most meet
and reasonable th^t our author should obtain his desire: and if, on
the other side, they shall appear some of them Mse ; some impertinent,
and the deductions from them sophistical; some of them destructive
to Christian religion in general; none of them singly, nor all of them
together, able to bear the least part of that weight which is laid upon
them, — ^I suppose he cannot take it ill if we resolve to be contented
with our present condition, until some better way of deliverance from
it be proposed unto us; which, to tdl him the truth, for my part, I
do not expect from his church or party. Let us, then, consider these
principles apart, in the order wherein we have laid them down; which
is the best I could think on upon the sudden, for the advantage of
him who makes use of them: —

I. The first is a hinge, upon which many of those which follow do.
in a sort depend; yea, upon the matter, all of them. Our primitive
receiving Christian religion from Bome is that which influences all

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, persuasions' for a return thither. Now, if this must be admitted to
be trae, that we in these nations first received the Christian reUgion
from Home, by the mission and authority of the pope, it either must
be 80 because the proposition carries its own evidence in its very
terms, or because our author, and those consenting with him, have
had it by revelation, or it hath been testified to them by others who
knew it so to be. That the first it doth not, is most certain: for it
is very possible it might have been brought unto us from some other
place, from whence it came to Rome; for, as I take it, it had not
there its beginning. Nor do I suppose they will plead special reve-
lation, made either to themselves or any others about this matter.
I have read many of the revelations that are said to be made to
simdry persons canonized by his church for saints, but never met with
any thing concerning the place from whence England first received
the gospel. Nor have I yet heard Revelation pleaded to this purpose
by any of his copartners in design. It remains, then, that somebody
hath told him so, or informed him of it, either by writing or by
word of mouth. Usually, in such cases, the first inquiry is, whether
they be credible persons who have made the report Now, the pre-
tended authors of this story may, I suppose, be justly questioned, if
on no other, yet on this account, that he who designs an advantage
by their testimony, doth not indeed believe what they say. For,
notwithstanding what he would fain have us believe of Christianity
coming into Britain from Rome, he knows well enough, and tells us
elsewhere himself, that it came directly by sea from Palestine into
France, and was thence brought into England by Joseph of Arima-
thea. And what was that fedth and worship which he brought along
with him we know fiill well, by that which was the faith and worship
of his teachers and^associates in the work of propagating the gospel,
recorded in the Scriptura So that Christianity found a passage to
Britain without so much as once visiting Rome by the way. '' Yea,
but one hundred and fifty years after, Fugatius and Damianus camd
from Rome, and propagated the gospel here; and four hundred years
after them, Austin the monk.'^ Of these stories we shall speak par-
ticularly afterward. But this quite spoils the whole market in hand.
This is not b. first receiving of the gospel, but a second and third at
the best; and if that be considerable, then so ought the proposition
to be laid. These nations a second and third time, aftier the first
from another place, received the gospel from Rome; but this will not
discharge that bill of following items which is laid upon it What^
ever, then, there is considerable in the place or persons from whence
or whom a nation or people receives the gospel, as far as it concerns
us in these kingdoms, it relates to Jerusalem and Jews, not Rome
and Italian& Indeed^ it had been very possible that Christian re^

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ligion might have been propagated at first from Borne into Britain,
considering what in those days was the condition of the one pkce and
the other: yet things were so ordered in the providence of the Lord,
that it fell out otherwise; and the goepel was preached here in Eng-
land probably before ever St Paul came to Bome, or St Peta: either,
if ever he came thera But yet, to prevent wra^^ing about Austin
and the Saxons, let us suppose that Christian religion was first planted
in these nations by persons coming from Bome, — if you will, men sent
by the pope, before he was bom, for that purpose; what then will
follow? "Was it the pope's religion they taught and preadied?
Did the pope first find it out and dedare it ? Did they baptize men
in the name of the pope ? or declare that the pope was crucified for
them V You know whose arguings these are, to prove men should
not lay weight upon, or cont^id about, the first ministerial revealers
of the gospel, but rest all in him who is the author of it, — Christ
Jesus. Did any come here and preach in the pope's name,— declare a
religion of his revealing, or restidg in him as the foimtedu and source
of the whole business they bad to do ? If you say so, you say some-
thing wliich is near to your purpose, but certainly very wide from
the trutL But because it is most certain that Qod had not promised
originally to send the rod of Christ's strength out of Bome, I shall
take leave to ask. Whence the gospel came thither? or, to use the
words made use of once and again by our author, " Came the gosp^
fix)m them, or came it to them coily ?'^ I suppose they will not say
so, because they speak to men that have seen the Bible. If it came
to them from others, what privilege had they at Bome, that they
should not have the same respect for them from whom the gospel
came to them, as they claim from those unto whom they plead that
it came from themselves? ^*The case is dear: St Peter coming to
Bome, brought his chair along with him; after which time that was
made the head, spring, and fountain of all religion ; and no such thing
could befall those places where the planters of the gospel had no
chairs to settle." I think I have read this story in a hundred writers;
but they were all men of yesterday in comparison, who, whatever
they pretend, know no more of this business than myself. St Peter
speaks not one word of it in his writings, nor yet St Luke, nor St
Panl, nor any one who by divine inspiration committed any thing to
remembrance of the state of the church after the resurrection of
Christ And not only are they utterly silent of this matter, but also
Clemens and Ignatius, and Justin Martyr and TertuUian, with the
rest of knowing men in those days. I confess, in after ages^ when
some began to think it meet that the chiefest apostle should go to the
then chiefest city in the world, divers began to speak of his going
thither, and of his martyrdom there, though they agree not in their

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tales about it But be it so; as for my part, I will not contend in a
matter so dark, unoertain, of no moment in religion. This I know,
that being the apostle of the circumcision, if he did go to Rome, it
was to convert the Jews that were there, and not to found that Gen-
tile church which in a short space got the start of the other. But
yet neither do these writers talk of bringing his chair thither, much
less is there in them one dust of that rope of sand which men of
latter days have endeavoured to twist with inconsistent consequences
and groundless presumptions, to draw out from thence the pope's
pr«x)gativa The case, then, is absolutely the same as to those, in
respect of the Bomans, who received the gospel from them, or by
their means; and of the Bomans themselves in respect of those from
whom they received it If they would win worship to themselves
from others, by pretending that the gospel came forth fitmi them
unto them, let them teach them by the example of their devotion
towards those from whom they received it I suppose they will not
plead that they are not now " in rerum natura,'' knowing what will
ensue to their disadvantage on that plea. For if that church is
utterly failed and gone from whence they first received the gospel,
that which others received it from may possibly be not in a much
better conditiwL But I find myself, before I was aware, fallen into
the borders of the second principle or presumption mentioned I
shall therefore shut up my consideration of this first pretence with
this only, — that neither is it true that these nations first received
Christianity from Borne, much less by any mission of the pope ; nor,
if they had done so, in the exercise of a ministerial work and autho-
rity, would this make any thing to what is pretended from it; nor
will it ever be of any use to the present Bomanists, unless they can
prove that the pope was the first author of Christian religion, which
as yet they have not attempted to do: and thence it is evident what
is to be thought of the second principle before mentioned, namely, —

II. " That whence and from whom we first received our religion,
there and with them we must abide therein; to them we must re-
pair for guidance; and return to their rule and conduct, if we have
departed from them.''

I have showed already that there is no privity of interests between
us and the Bomanists in this matter. But suppose we had been
originally instructed in Christianity by men sent from Bome to that
purpose (for unless we suppose this for the present, our talk is at an
end), I see not, as yet, the verity of this proposition. With the truth,
wherever it be, or with whomsoever, it is most certainly our duty to
abide. And if those from whom we first received our Christianity,
ministerially, abide in the truth, we must abide with them; not be-
cause they, or their predecessors, were the instruments of our con-

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version, but because tbey abide in the trutL Setting aside this
consideration of truth, which is the bond of all union, and that which
fixeth the centre, and limits the bounds of it, one people's or one
church's abiding with another in any profession of religion, is a thing
merely indifferent When we have received the truth from any, the
formal reason of our continuance with them in that union which our
reception of the truth from them gives unto us, is their abiding in
the truth, and no other. Suppose some persons, or some church or
churches, do propagate Christianity to another, and, in progress of
time, themselves fall off from some of those truths which they, or
their predecessors, had formerly delivered unto those instructed by
them (if our author shall deny that such a supposition can well
be made, because it never did nor can fall out, I shall remove his
exception by scores of instances out of antiquity, needless in so evi-
dent a matter to be here mentioned) — what in this cajse would be^
their duty who received the gospel from them? Must they abide
with them, follow after them, and embrace the errors they are fallen
into, because they first received the gospel from them? I trow not
It will be found their duty to abide in the truth, and not pin their
fiedth upon the sleeves of them by whom ministerially it was at first
communicated unto them. "But this case," you will say, "concerns not
the Roman church and Protestants; for as these abide not in the
truth, so they never did nor can depart from it" Well, then, that
we may not displease them at present, let us put the case so as I
presume they will own it Suppose men, or a church, intrusted by
Christ authoritatively to preach the gospel, do propagate the faith
unto others according to their duties; these, being converted by their
means, do afterward, through the craft and subtlety of seducers, fall
in sundry things fix)m the truths they were instructed in, and wherein
their instructors do constantly abide ("Yea," say our adversaries, " this
is the true case indeed") — I ask then, in this case, What is, and ought
to be, the formal motive to prevail with these persons to return to
their former condition, fix)m whence they were fallen? Either this,
That they are departed from the truth, which they cannot do without
peril to their souls, and whereunto, if they return not, they must
perish; or this. That it is their duty to return to them from whom
they first received the doctrine of Christianity, because they so re-
ceived it from them. St Paul, who surely had as much authority
in these matters as either the pope or church of Rome can with any
modesty lay claim unto, had to deal with very many in this case.
Particularly, after he had preached the gospel to the Qalatians, and
converted them to the faith of Christ, there came in some false
teachers and seducers amongst them, which drew them off from the
truth wherein they had been instructed, in divers important and

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some fundamental points of it What course doth the apostle pro-
ceed in towards them? Doth he plead with them about their falling
away fix)m him that first converted them? or falling away firom the
truUi whereunto they were converted? If any one will take the
pidns to turn to any chapter in that epistle, he may be satisfied as
to this inquiry: it is their falling away from the gospel, fix)m the
truth they had received, from the doctrine, in particular, of faith and
justification by the blood of Christ, that alone he blamed them for;
yea, and makes doctrines so far the measure and rule of judging and
censuring of persons, whether they preach the word first or last, that
he pronounceth a redoubled anathema against any creature in heaven
or earth, upon a supposition of their teaching any thing contrary
unto it^ chap. i. 8. He pleads not, " We preached first unto you, by
u& you were converted ; and therefore with ub you must abide, fix)m
•whom the fidth came forth unto you :'' but saith, " If we,, or an angel
from heaven, preach any other gospel, let him be accursed.'" This
was the way he chose to insist on; and it may not be judged imrea-
sonable if we esteem it better than that of theirs, who, by false pre-
tending to have been our old, would very fSun be our new masters.
But the mentioned maxim lets us know that the persons and churches
that have received the faith from the Boman church, or by means
thereof, should abide under the rule and conduct of it, and, if de-
parted from it^ return speedily to due obedience. I think it will be
easily granted, that if we ought to abide under its rule and conduct,

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 3 of 67)