Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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ning of this your second chapter, you spend four leaves in a parallel
betwixt me and the pagan Celsus; whereof there is not any member
of it trua * Doth Fiat Lux,' say you, * lay the cause of all the
troubles, disorders, tumults, wars, within the nations of Europe, upon
Protestants ? doth he charge the Protestants, that by their schisms
and seditions they make a way for other revolts? doth he gather a
rhapsody of insignificant words ? doth he insist upon their divisions ?
doth he manage the arguments of the Jews against Christ, etc. ? — so
doth Celsus, who is confuted by Origen.' Where does * Fiat Lux,'
where does, does he, does he any such thing ? Are you not ashamed
to talk at this rate ? I give a hint, indeed, of the divisions that be
amongst us, and the frequent argumentations that are made to em-
broil and puzzle one another, with our much evil, and little appear-
ance of any good in order unto unity and peace ; which is the end of
my discourse. But must I therefore be Celsus ? Did Celsus any
such thing to such an end ? It is the end that moralizeth, and speci-
fies the action. To diminish Christianity, by upbraiding our frailties,
is paganish ; to exhort to unity, by representing the inconvenience of
faction, is a Christian and pious work. When honest Protestants in
the pulpit speak ten times more full and vehemently against the
divisions, wars, and contentions that be amongst us, than ever came
into my thoughts, must they therefore every one of them be a Celsus,
a pagan Celsus? What stuff is this? But it is not only my dehr
roation you aim at; your own glory comes in the rear. If I be Celsus,
the pagan Celsus, you then, forsooth, must be Origen that wrote
against him, honest Origen; that is the thing. Pray, sir, — it is but a
word, — let me advise you, by the way, that you do not forget yourself
in your heat, and give your wife occasion to fall out with you. How-
ever you may, yet will not your wife like it perhaps so well that her
husband should be Origen." Such trash as this must he consider
who is forced to have to do with you. These, it seems, are the medi-
tations you are conversant with in your retirementa What Utile
regard you have in them unto truth or honesty shall quickly be dis-
covered unto you. 1. Do I compare you with Celsus, or do I make
you to be Celsus? I had certainly been very much mistaken if I
VOL. XIV. 16



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842 A VINDICATION OP THE ANDCADVEBSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

had done so, S; riif *A^yay; to compare a person of so small abilities
in literature, as you discover yourself to be, with so learned a phi-
losopher, had b^n a great mistake. And I wish you give me not
occasion to think you as much inferior unto him in morals as I know
you are in yotur intellectuak But, sir, I nowhere compare you unto
him; but only show a coincidence of your objections against Protest-
ancy with some of his against Christianity; which the likeness of
your cause and interest cast you upon. 2. I did not say, *' Tou had
the same end with him:'' I expr^sed my thoughts to the contrary;
nor did compare your act and his in point of morality, but only
showed, as I said before, a coincidence in your reasoninga This you
saw and read; and now, in an open defiance of truth and ingenuity,
express the contrary. Celsus would not have done so. But I must
tell you, sir, you are mistaken, if you suppose that the end doth so
absolutely moralize an action that it of itself should render it good
or evil Evil it may, but good of itself it cannot; for, " Bonum
oritur ex integris causis, malum ex quolibet defectu.'^ Rectifying the
intention will not secure your morality. And yet, also, on second
thoughts, I see not much difference between the ends that Celsus
proposed unto himself upon his general principle, and those that you
propose to yourself upon your own ; as well as the way whereby you
proceed is the same. But yet, upon the accounts before mentioned,
I shall firee you from your fears of being thought like him. 3. When
Protestants preach against our divisions, they charge them upon the
persona of them that are guilty, whereas you do it on the principles
of the religion that they profess; so that although you may deal like
Celsus, they do not 4. The scurrilous sarcasm wherewith you dose
your discourse is not meet for any thing but the entaiainment of a
friar and his concubine ; such as in some places, formerly, men have
by public edicts forced you to maintain, as the only expedient to
preserve their fiunilies from being defiled by you. 5. Let us now
pass through the instances that you have culled out of many charged
upon you, to be the same yriih. diose of Celsus, concerning whidi you
make such a trebled outcry, '^ Does he, does he, does he?" The first is,
^'Doth * Fiat Lux' lay the cause of all tumults and disorders on Protest-
ants?" ''Clameslicet^et mare CGeloConfunda3,"Juv.vi 282. ''Fiat
Lux" doth so, chap, iv., sect 17, p. 237, sect 18, pp. 242, 243, sect 20,
p. 255, and in sundry other places. You add, " Doth he charge Pro-
testants, that by their schisms and seditions they make way for other
revolts ?" He doth so, and that firequently, chap, iil, sect 14, p. 187,
eta '' Doth he," you add, " gather a rhapsody of insignificant words,
as did Celsus ?" I say he doth, in the pretended {dea that he insists
on for Quakers, and for Presbyterians also, chap, iil, sect 13, pp. 172,
173> et& Again, '^ Doth he manage the arguments of the Jews



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SUFFICIENCT OF SCRIPTITKa ^43

against Christianity, as was done by Celsus?" He doth directly,
expressly, and at large, chap. iiL, sect 12, p. 168, etc. I confess,
because it may be you know it not, you might have questioned the
truth of my parallel on the side that concerned Celsus, which yet I
am ready at any time, if you shall so do, to give you satisfaction in;
but that you would question it on your own part, when your whole
discourse, and the most of the passages in it, make it so evident, I
could not foresee. But your whole defence is nothing but a noise or
an outcry, to deter men from ccMning nigh you to see how the case
stands with you. It will not serve your turn, iffipGfi x{iCo$' you must
abide by what you have done, or fairly retract it In the meantime,
I am glad to find you ashamed of that which elsewhere you so much
boast and glory in.

"With the sixth and seventh principles mentioned by me you deal
in like manner. You deny them to be yours; which is plainly to
deny yourself to be the author oi " Fiat Lux." And surely every
man that hath once looked serioudy into that discourse of yours will
be amazed to hear you saying that you never asserted " Our de-
parture from Rome to be the cause of the evils among Protestants;''
or that " There is no remedy for them but by a retumal thither
i^ain;" which are the things that now you deny to be q)oken or in-
tended by you. For my part, I am now so used unto this kind of
confidence, that nothing you say or deny seems strange unto me.
And whereas unto your denial you add not any thing that may give
occasion unto any useful discourse, I shall pass it by, and proceed
unto that which will afford us some better advantage unto that pur-
pose.



CHAPTER VI

Farther vindication of the second chapter of the ^ AnimadTenkms^ — Scriptnre
sufficient to settle men in the tmth — ^Instance against it, examined, removed
—^Principles of Protestants and Romanists in reference unto moderation
compared and discussed.

The eighth principle, which way soever it be determined, is of
great importance as to the cause under debate. Here, then, we shall'
stay a while, and examine the difficulties which you labour to entangle
that assertion withal; which we acknowledge to be the great and ftm-
damental principle of our profession, and you oppose. The position
I laid down as yours is, '' That the Scripture, on sundry accounts, is
insufficient to settle us in the truth of religion, or to bring us to an
igreement amongst ourselvea" Hereunto I subjoined the four headd



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244 A VINDICATION OP THE ANIMADVERSIONS ON FIAT LUX

of reasons which, in your " Fiat/' you insisted on to make good your
assertion. These you thought meet to pass by without reviving them
again to your farther disadvantaga You are acquainted, it seems,
with the old rule,

"Etqna

Desperat tractata nitescere poBse, relinqait." Hor. ad. Pis. 150.

The position itself you dare not directly deny; but you seek what
you can to waive the owning of it, contrsuy to your express discourse,
chap iii sect. 15, pp. 199, 200, eta; as fiJso in sundry other places,
interwoven with expressions exceedingly derogatory to the authority,
excellency, efficacy, and fulness of the Scripture ; as hath been showed
in the " Animadversions." But let us now consider what you plead
for yourself. Thus, then, you proceed: " You speak not one word
to the purpose, or against me at all, if I had delivered any such prin-
ciple. God's word is both the sufficient and only necessary means of
both our conversion and settlement, as well in truth as virtue. But
the thing you heed not, and unto which I only speak, is this, that
the Scripture be in two hands; for example, of the Protestant church
in England, and of the Puritan, who with the Scripture rose up and
rebelled against her. Can the Scripture alone of itself decide the
business? How shall it do it? Has it ever done it? Or can that
written word, now solitary and in private hands, so settle any in a
way that neither himself, nor present adherents, nor future genera-
tions, shall question it, or with as much probability dissent from it,
either totally or in part, as himself first set it? This is the case unto
which you do neither here nor in your whole book speak one word;
and what you speak otherwise of the Scripture's excellency, I allow it
for good.*'

1 . Because you are not the only judge of what I have written, nor
indeed any competent judge of it at all, I shall not concern myself
in the censure which your interest compels you to pass on it. It is
left unto the thoughts of those who are more impartial 2. Setting
aside your instance, pitched on " ad invidiam" ordy, with some equi-
vocal expressions, as must needs be thought t^AXa svrt'xyug, " very
artificially," to be put into the state of a question, and that which you
deny is this, " That where any persons or churches are at variance or
difference about any thing concerning religion or the worship of God,
the Scripture is not sufficient for the umpirage of that difference, so
that they may be reconciled and centre in the profession of the same
truth." I wish you would now tell me what discrepancy there is
between the assertion which I ascribed unto you, and that which
yourself here avow. I suppose they are in substance the same, and
as such will be owned by every one that understands any thing of
the matters about which we treat And this is so spoken unto in



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STTFFICIENCT OF SCRIPTCJBE. 245

the '^ Animadversions,'' that you have no mind to imdertake the exa*
mination of it; but labour to divert the discourse unto that which
may appear something else, but indeed is not so. 8. For your dis-
tinction between Protestants and Puritans in England, I know not
well what to make of it I know no Puritans in England that are
not Protestants, though all the Protestants in England do not abso-
lutely agree in every " pimctilio " relating to religion, nor in all things
relating unto the outward worship of God; no more than did the
churches in the apostles' days, or than your Catholics do. You give
us, then, a distinction like that which a man may give between the
church of Home and the Jesuits or Dominicans; or the sons of St
Bene't or of St Francis of Assisi; — a distinction or distribution of
the genus into the genus and one species comprehended under it, as
if you should have said, " That ' animal' is either * animal' or * homo.'"
4. Though I had rather, therefore, that you had placed your instance
between the church of Rome and Protestants, yet because any in-
stance of persons that have different apprehensions about things
belonging to the worship of God will suffice us as to the present pur-
pose, I shall let it pass: only I desire you once more, that when you
would endeavour to render any thing, way, or acting of men odious,
that you would forbear to cast the Scripture into a copartnership
therein; which here you seem to do. " The Puritan," you say, " with
the Scripture rose up and rebelled." Rebellion is the name of an
outrageous evil, such as the Scripture giveth not the least counte-
nance unto; and therefore when you think meet to chiarge it upon
any, you may do well not to say that " they do it with the Scripture."
It will not be to your comfort or advantage so to do. This is but my
advice; you may do as you see causa

<< Tales oasoB CasBandra canebat"— Yirg. iEn. iu. 188.

6. The differences you suppose and look upon as undeterminable by'
the Scripture, are about things that in themselves really and in truth
belong unto Christian religion, or such as do not so indeed, but are
only fancied by some men so to do. If they are of this latter sort> as
the most of the controversies which we have with you are, — as about*
yoiu* mass, purgatory, the pope, — we account that all differences about
them are sufficientiy determined in the Scriptures, because they are
nowhere mentioned in them. And this must needs be so, if the word
of God be, as you here grant, " the sufficient and only means both of
our conversion and settlement, as well in truth as in virtua" Sir, I
had no sooner written these words, in that haste wherein I treat with
you, but I suspected a necessity of craving your pardon for supposing
my inference confirmed by your concession; for whereas you had
immediately before set down the assertion supposed to be yours about



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246 A VINDICATION OF THE ANIMADVERSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

the Scriptures, you add the words now mentioned, " God's word b
the sufficient and only means of our conversioii and settlement in the
truth.'' I did not in the least suspect that you intended aay leger-
demain in the business, but that the Scripture and God's word had
been only various denominations with you of the same jH^cise thing,
as they are with us: only, I confess, at the first view, I wondered
how you could reconcile this assertion with the known principles of
your church; and, besides, I knew it to be perfectly destructive of
your design in your following inquiry. But now I fear you play
hide-and-seek in the ambiguity your church hath put upon that titie,
** God's word;" which it hath applied unto' your unwritten traditions
as well as unto the written word, as the Jews apply the same term
unto their oral law. And therefore, as I said before, I crave your
pardon for supposing my inference confirmed by your concession,
wherein I fear I was mistaken, and only desire you that for the
fixture you would speak your mind plainly and candidly, as it becomes
a Christian and lover of truth to do. But my assertion I esteem
never the worse, though it have not the happiness to enjoy your '^
approbation; eiq)edially considering that, in the particular instances
mentioned, ihere are many things delivered in Saipture inconsistent
with and destructive of your notions about them, sufficient to exter-
minate them firom the confines of the dty of God. 6. Suppose the
matters in diflference do reaUy belong unto religion and the worship
of God, and that the difference lies only in men's various conception
of them, you ask, '^ Can the Scripture alone of itself decide the busi-
ness?" What do you mean by "alone of itself?" If you mean,
without men's application of themselves unto it, and avhjecting of
their consciences unto its authoritative decisions, neither it nor any
thing else can do it The matter itself is perfectly stated in the
Scripture, whether any men take notice of it or no; but their various
apprehensions about it must be regulated by their applications imto
it in the way mentioned. On this only supposition, that those who
are at variance about things which really appertain imto the religion
of Jesus Christ will refer the determination of them unto the Scrip-
ture, and bring the conceptions of their minds to be regulated thereby,
standing unto its arbitrament, it is able alone and of itself to end sJl
their differences, and settle them all in the trutL This hath been
proved unto you a thousand times, and confirmed by most clear ies-
timonies of the Saipture itself, with argtmients taken from its nature,
perfection, and the end of its giving forth unto men ; as also from the
practice of our Lord Jesus and his apostles, with t^eir directions and
commands given unto us for the same purpose; from the practice of
the first churches, with innumerable testimonies of the ancient fathers
and doctors. Neither can this be d^ed without tihat horrible dero-



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SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTUIIB. 247

gation {torn its perfection and plenitude, so reverenced by them of
old, which is objected unto you for your so doing. Protestants sup-
pose the Scripture to be given forth by God, to be unto the church
a perfect nde of that taith and obedience which he requires at the
hands of the sons of men. They suppose that it is such a revelation
of his mind or will as is intelligible unto all them that are concerned
to know it^ if they use the means by him appointed to come unto a
right understanding of it They suppose that what is not taught
therein, or not taught so clearly as that men who humbly and heartUy
seek imto him may know his mind therein as to what he requireth
of them, cannot possibly be the necessaiy and indispensable duty of
any one to perform. They suppose that it is the duty of every man
to search the Scriptures with all diligence, by the help and assistance
of the means that Qod hath appointed in his church, to come to the
knowledge of his mind and will in all things concerning their faith
and obedience; and firmly to believe and adhere unto what they find
revealed by him. And they, moreover, suppose that those who deny
any of these suppositions are therein, and so far as they do so, in-
jurious to the grace, wisdom, love, and care of God towards his chiuxjh,
to the honour and perfection of the Scripture, the comfort and esta-
blishment of the souls of men, leaving them no assured pinciples to
build their faith and salvation upon. Now, from these suppositions,
I hope you see that it will unavoidably follow that the Scripture is
able every way to effect that which you deny unto it a sufficiency for;
for where, I pray you, li^ its defect ? I am afraid, from the next
part of your question, " Pas it ever done it V that you nm upon a
great mistaka The defect that follows the failings and miscarriages
of men, you would have imputed unto the want of suffidency in the
Scripture. But we cannot allow you herein. The Scripture in its
place, and in that kind of cause which it is, is as sufficient to settle
men, all men, in the truth, as the sun is to give light to all men to
see by; but the sun that giveth light doth not give eyes also. The
Scripture doth its work as a moral nde; which men are not necessi-
tated or compelled to attend unto or follow. And if, through their
neglect of it, or not attaidanoe unto it, or disalnlity to discern the
mind and will of God in it, — whether proceeding from their natural
impotency and blindness in their lapsed condition, or some eml habit
(/mind contracted by their giving admission imto corrupt prejudices
and traditional principles,-^the work be not effected, this is no im-
peachment of the Scriptiure s sufficiency, but a manifestation of their
weakness, and folly. Besides, all that unity in faith that hath been
at any time, or is in the world, according to the mind of God; every
decision that hath been made at any time of any difference in or
about religion, in a right way and order, — hath been by the Scripture,



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248 A VINDICATION OF THE ANIMADVERSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

which God hath sanctified unto these ends and purposes. And it is
impossible that the miscarriages or defects of men can reflect the least
blame upon it, or make it esteemed insuflScient for the end now in-
quired after. The pursuit, then, of your inquiry which now you insist
upon, is in part vain, in part ahready answered. In vain it is that you
inquire '' whether the written word can settle any man in. a way that
neither himself, nor present adherents, nor future generations shall
question?'' for our inquiry is not affcer what may be, or what shall be,
but what ought to be. It is able to settle a man in a way that none
ought to question unto the world's end : so it settled the first Christians.
But to secure us that none shall ever question the way whereinto it
leads us, that it is not designed for, nor is it either needful or possible
that it should be so. The oral preaching of the Son of Qod and of
his apostles did not so secure them whom they taught The way
that they professed was everywhere questioned, contradicted, spoken
against; and many, after the profession of it, again renounced it
And I wonder what feat you have to settie any one in a way that
shall never be questioned. The authority of your pope and church
wiU not do it: themselves are things as highly questioned and dis-
puted about as any thing that was ever named with reference unto
religion. If you shall say, " But yet they ought not to be so ques-
tioned, and it is the feult of men that they are so," you may well
spare me the labour of answering your question, seeing you have
done it yourself And whereas you add, " Or with as much proba-
bility dissent firom it, either totally or in part, as himself first set it," —
when the very preceding words do not speak of a man's own setting,
but of the Scripture's settling, the man only embracing what that
settleth and determineth, — ^it is answered already, that what is so
settled by the Scripture, and received as settled, cannot justly be
questioned by any. And you insinuate a most irrational supposition,
on which your assertion is built, — ^namely, that error may have as
much probability as trutL For I suppose you will grant that what
is settled by the Scripture is true, and therefore that which dissents
firom it must needs be an error; which, that it may be as probable
indeed as truth (for we speak not of appearances, which have all
their strength fix)m our weaknesses), is a new notion, which may well
be added to your many other of the like rarity and evidence. But
why is not the Scripture able to settle men in unquestionable truth?
When the people of old doubted about the ways of God wherein they
ought to walk, himself sends them to "the law and to the testimony"
for their instruction and settlement, Isa. viii 20; and we think the
counsel of him who cannot deceive nor be deceived is to be heark-
ened wnto, as well as his command to be obeyed. Our Saviour
assures us that if men will not hear Moses and the prophets, and



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SUFFICIENCY OF SCBIFrURE. 249

take direction from them for those wajrs wherein they may please
God, they will not do it^ whatsoever they pretend, from any other
means which they rather approve of, Luke xvi 29, 31. Yea^ and
when the great fundamental of Christian reli^on, concerning the
person of the Messiah, was in question, he sends men for their settle-
ment unto the Scriptures, John v. 39. And we suppose that that
which is sufficient to settle us in the foundation is so to confirm us
also in the whole superstructure; espedally considering that it is able
" to make the man of God perfect, and to be thoroughly furnished
unto all good works," 2 Tim. iii 1 6, 17. What more is required imto
the settlement of any one in religion we' know not, nor what can
rationally stand in competition with the Scripture to this purpose,
seeing that is expressly commended unto us for it by the Holy Ghost ;
other wajrs are built on the conjectures of men. Yea, the assurance
which we inay have hereby is preferred by Peter before that which
any may have by an immediate voice from heaven, 2 Pet i 19. And
is it not an unreasonable thing, now, for you to come and tell us that
the Scripture is not sufficient to give us an unquestionable settle-
ment in religion? '' Whether it be meet to hearken unto God or
men, judge you." For our part, we seek not for the foundation of
our settlement in long uncertain discourses, dubious conclusions and
inferences, feJlible conjectures, sophistical reasonings, such as you



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 30 of 67)